Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Feelin' Sick

Well, I've been feeling sick today, so I had to take the day off work. This is, of course, the cruel paradox of human existence - that sick days are actually wasted by the fact that you are sick. My day has consisted of sleeping and reading, with the one meal I felt able to consume at lunch. I apologise for not providing my usual sparkling commentary today, since I simply don't have the energy or the inclination at the moment to do so. Hopefully, I will feel refreshed after a good sleep, which will allow us to resume normal transmission tomorrow ...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Evangelicals are Really Closet Docetists

With the abovementioned title in mind, I'm thinking that I have to start employing a rating system for my blog posts. Posts such as this one may be rated TO - that is "Theologians Only". If some of my evangelical bloggers resent the idea that some readers will be exposed to alternative points of view, I could rate these types of posts PBR - that is, "Pastoral Brainwashing Recommended", so as to ensure that my ideas don't even get a hearing in the first place. Almost certainly, I will have to have to add a disclaimer something along the lines of "Warning: this post may contain theological themes that may be unsuitable for evangelical readers. Take cover ... and pray for my soul."

With that out of the way, I am able to tell you that I attended the second week of "Branches" tonight - a ten week program exploring Catholic practice and spirituality. Tonight's topic was "Who is Jesus?" and the speaker was Dr Robert Tilley of the Aquinas institute. The first thing I'll point out is that I don't really think that there was anything the Protestants, even conservative Protestants could have disagreed with in tonight's talk. This wasn't entirely unsurprising, given that the Nicean Creed is a common starting point (I guess depending upon the way you define "starting point") for both Catholic and Protestant Christology. Still, I'll be quite interested in seeing where the two roads eventually do diverge.

Even though tonight's talk was relatively uncontroversial, it got me thinking about one of my objections to evangelicalism. It occurred to me that one of my major gripes was and is in practice, I believe, that the Christ of evangelicalism is primarily spiritual and eschatological figure. By this, I mean that the focus of evangelicalism seemed so heavily focused upon the post-resurrection Christ that the pre-resurrection Christ hardly gets a look in. If I had to explain this, I would have to suggest that this is because evangelicals would like to see themselves as being "cruci-centric" - that is, that the Christian gospel is all about the Cross. What this means is that the evangelicals tend to focus rather heavily on the Pauline epistles, which talk about the implications of the Cross for the believer, while neglecting the earthly ministry of Jesus. It would seem, for many evangelicals, that Jesus' earthly ministry is merely a prelude to the main event, with no real significance of itself, and indeed, no contribution whatsoever to the salvific schema.

The problem with the above approach is that it risks seeing Jesus in purely divine terms - a heresy originated in the late first or early second century known as Docetism. Of course, evangelicals would assert that they believe that Jesus was fully human, but whether this intellectual assertion means anything in practice is fairly debatable. If you disagree with my assessment, I'd suggest you'd do well to look at writings on Jesus in the evangelical subculture. I would suggest that this trend is even true of evangelical theologians, who seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about the post-resurrection Christ compared to the pre-resurrection Christ.

I should point out that I think that the over-emphasis of Jesus' divinity by evangelicalism is probably an understandable reaction to attacks upon the divinity of Jesus originating in 19th century liberal scholarship. Indeed, to the extent that they reject the liberals' rejection of Jesus' divinity, I agree with them. However, I would suggest that evangelicals have tended to overcompensate to such and extent that we wouldn't know that the evangelical Jesus really was human except for the odd Easter and Christmas sermon.

I believe that evangelicals would experience a much more rich faith by spending more time focusing upon the humanity of Christ. It is only because of the incarnation that we are able to speak about the practice of discipleship, quite simply because Christ needs to be human for us to be able to speak of following in his footsteps. If we take the earthly ministry of Jesus out of the picture, we are left with the God of Mount Sinai - the cosmic judge and the transcendent law-giver, a being who seems to be removed from the muck of our every day lives. In short, without the humanity of Jesus we remain with the legalistic code of the Law, rather than the Law of Love, personified so clearly in our Exemplar for us to emulate.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Great Expectations of Romantic Chemistry

A few nights ago I was reading through "Great Expectations" as I came across this charming passage:

I asked myself the question whether I did not surely know thyat if Estella were beside me at the moment instead of Biddy, she would make me miserable? I was obliged to admit that I did know it for a certainty, and said to myself, "Pip, what a fool you are!"

We talked a good deal as we walked, and all that Biddy said seemed right. Biddy was never insulting, or capricious, or Biddy today and somebody else tomorrow; she would have derived only pain; and no pleasure, from giving my pain; she would far rather have wounded her own breast than mine. How could it be, then, that I did not like her much the better of the two?

"Biddy," said I, when we were walking homeward, "I wish you could put me right."

"I wish I could!" said Biddy.

"If I could only get myself to fall in love with you - you don't mind me speaking so openly to such an old acquaintance?"

"Oh, dear, not at all!" said Biddy. "Don't mind me."

"If I could only get myself to do it, that would be the thing for me."

"But you never will, you see," said Biddy.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this exchange is that Pip knows all too well that he loves someone who is not very pleasant towards him, while is unable to become attracted to the girl whose qualities he most admires. It would seem that he is a slave to his desires.

I must admit, I find the whole concept of romantic chemistry most perplexing. I'd be most appreciative if some of my readers could give this confused soul some insight into the following questions:

Just what are the symptoms of chemistry?

How do you know if there is chemistry between you and another person?

Does chemistry change over time?

Can chemistry be manufactured, or does it simply exist on a random basis?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Great Expectations

I'm reading "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens at the moment. In short, Great Expectation is a bildungsroman about the story's protagonist, Pip. Pip is a simple orphan from the country who has Great Expectations of making something of himself. One day, he is given an opportunity to do just that, because of a mysterious benefactor unknown to him, who will financially support his social betterment. The second part of the story deals with his sudden climb up the social ladder from poor rural lad without connections, to socialite.

I'm currently about half way through the novel and the way in which Pip seemlessly makes the transition into high society grates upon me somewhat, but not as much as the fact that he quickly becomes embarrassed by the humble circumstances of his upcoming. Of course, there also truth in the fact that it is good I feel outraged, because this is precisely what Dickens is trying to evoke in his audience. Of particular interest in Pip's desire to improve Joe, a kindly but rather dull blacksmith who raises him. Biddy, who helps out in the home insightfully points out that Joe feels self-sufficient in his humble calling and he would merely be embarrassed by the inadequacy he would feel in high society. I found this to be a particularly clever challenge to the elitism and smugness that high society often takes towards those who move in other circles.

Upon reflecting I tend to think that this part of the story is cutting a bit too close, considering my own life circumstances. While I'm certainly not embarrassed upon my upbringing, I seem to be fighting strongly against my change in circumstances at times, while not at all at other times. While I'm certainly not rich by any estimation, I realise that I am becoming one of those people on the inside of the system I used to rail against. Sometimes it is quite easy to stop fighting and simply take my newly found social status for granted, becoming complacent to the causes that I once eagerly fought for. I must confess that it is a fine balancing act sometimes, and even harder when you struggle to feel empathy for those things that you know should be important.

Of course, I haven't read the second half of the novel yet, by which stage I will probably come to quite a different impression. I guess it is the same thing with respect to my life. I know all too well in my head that life is by no means a constant journey and that there will be times of waxing and waning enthusiasm for those things that were once important to me. What's more, you can be in the forrest and not see where you are because all the trees get in your way. It is all too cliched to say that things will be more understandable with the benefit of hindsight, because this doesn't help me much now. Whether one plods along aimlessly or carefully charts a path, one doesn't always know whether they are choosing the wisest course. I guess it is during those times that we are to "walk by faith", whatever that means ...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mark Latham on Social Capital

Today, however, the biggest problems in society, the things that cause hardship and distress for people, tend to be relationship-based - social issues, not economic. The paradox is stunning: we live in a nation with record levels of financial growth and prosperity, yet also with record levels of discontent and public angst.


A striking aspect of this phenomenon has been the way in which it has affected all parts of society, regardless of their economic standing. Poor communities, after several generations of long-term unemployment and financial disadvantage in Australia, now face the further challenge of social disintegration, a loss of self-esteem and solidarity. Thirty years ago, these communities where financially poor but socially rich. Today they face poverty on both fronts.

While the middle class in Australia has experienced the assets and wealth of an unprecedented economic boom, its social balance sheet has moved in the opposite direction. The treadmill of work and the endless accumulation of material goods have not necessarily made people happier. In many cases, they have denied them the time and pleasures of family life, replacing strong and loving social relationships with feelings of stress and alienation.

This is the savage trade-off of middle-class life: generating financial wealth but at a significant cost to social capital. Thus social exclusion needs to be understood as more than just financial poverty; it also includes the poverty of society, the exclusion of many affluent Australians from strong and trusting personal relationships.

- Mark Latham, "The Latham Diaries", (2005)

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Pacifist Perspective on Anzac Day

Anzac Day seems to be somewhat of a religious holiday in Australia, even moreso than Easter and Christmas, which have largely become a conduit for commercialism. Perhaps the appeal of Anzac Day to our largely secular nation is that it is somewhat of a religious observance for those that are repelled by institutional religion. I remember waking up in my Scouting days to go down to the local dawn service, long before the sun had dawned. Freezing in my Scout's uniform, straining to see in front of me and hearing the solemn words of old men seemed to be sacred stuff. Add the moments of silence, interrupted only be a lone trumpet playing "The Last Post", and you have a liturgy that engages most of the population more than your average church service.

Some fifteen years later as an avowed and unashamed pacifist, it is difficult to know what to make of Anzac Day. There are times that I feel that my pacifism will be received as a mark of ingratitude, a dismissive "thanks, but no thanks" to the fallen Australian soldiers who died on the fields of Gallipoli. And yet I must acknowledge that I did not ask these individuals to fight on my behalf, and would not wish anybody to fight on my behalf if we faced the same situation today. Surely, I would hope, there is a way of both denouncing war in all of its forms and respecting the convictions of the Anzacs?

Firstly, Anzac Day should not be regarded as a glorification of war. Even those who believe in the efficacy of war as a means of settling disputes generally regard such action as a necessary evil and as a last resort. Accordingly, those who use Anzac Day to promote their militaristic agendas should be roundly condemned for their rhetoric and we should make it clear that these people do not represent the Anzac spirit they profess to represent. Anzac Day is a celebration of those who responded to the perceived call that their country needed them, rather than a celebration of the bureaucrats who made the decision to send us off to war.

Secondly, the fact that the Anzacs chose to go to war to fight the enemy is not the reason we choose to venerate them. Rather, it is the fact that these individuals were willing to lay down their lives in the belief that this would bring freedom to their families back in Australia. As Jesus said "Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay his life down for his friends" (John 15:13). That is disagreeing with the belief that war can ever bring freedom will never change the fact that these soldiers were willing to die for others.

Thirdly, I believe that Anzac Day can serve as an effective and an appropriate vehicle to express the virtues of pacifism. Anzac Day reminds us not only of the sacrifices of those who went to war, but also of the evils of war. War, more than any other phenomenon has tragically cut short the lives of people in their prime, whether they be solidiers or civilians. Indeed, it is for this reason that a great number of those fought in the World Wars and saw the senseless distruction of war for themselves became pacifists. Perhaps it is their voices that need to be heard and their opinions that need to be respected on a day like today.

I'd like to think that the above considerations are able to give proper respect to the fallen Anzac soldiers, while nonetheless condemning the atrocity of war. While unlike the Anzacs, there is no cause that I could ever regard worthy of killing for, I'd like to think that there are some things that I would be prepared to die for. And simply because I will not kill, does not mean that I will not fight for what I believe in. It is simply that my battle is not with flesh and blood, but rather with powers and principalities, with structures of greed, power and intolerance. No amount of killing will ever excise these dark places of the human soul.

Lest we forget.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Kierkegaard's "Attack on Christendom"

The Christianity of Christendom...takes away from Christianity the offense, the paradox, etc., and instead of that introduces probability, the plainly comprehensible. That is, it transforms Christianity into something entirely different from what it is in the New Testament, yea, into exactly the opposite; and this is the Christianity of Christendom, of us men.

- Soren Kierkegaard, (1854) "Attack on Christendom"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Weekend at Virgie's

Two New York men have taken the term "dole bludger" to new heights after they tried to cash in the social security cheque of their dead friend. The men, James O'Hare and David Daloia were charged with wheeling the corpse of their friend around Manhattan to cash in an office chair to cash in his benefits. Apparently, when they went into the Social Security office, the clerk asked to see the man named on the cheque, Virgilio Cintron. The pair agreed to bring him in, but by the time they went back to the sidewalk where they had left him, a crowd of people had gathered around the deceased man. During court proceedings the two men maintained their innocence, insisting that when they wheeled their friend out the front door he was very much alive. Because the autopsy was not conclusively able to pinpoint a time of death, the pair were acquitted on the basis that prosecuters could not prove that the deceased was actually dead at the time.

The story has been circulating around radio stations on the east coast of America, with shock jocks expressing their outrage at the event. It is disgraceful, they say, that this man was receiving social security cheques in the first place, since it is clear that he wouldn't work in an iron lung ...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Becoming Whole

Tonight I attended the first evening of Branches, an introduction to the Catholic faith that seems to operate very much along the lines of evangelical programs such as "Introducing God". I'm quite interested in seeing the way that Catholics present their faith to non-Catholics, so I thought I'd go along to see what it's like. In particular, I wanted to see if the whole tradition of natural theology in Catholicism, as opposed to special revelation in evangelicalism, would mean that the respective programs would diverge very quickly into different paths. The first thing that I discovered was that I was probably one of the few non-Catholics there, although no doubt that there were many Catholics there who had only a peripheral relationship with the Church.

Tonight was a very general introduction that couldn't necessarily be identified as esoterically Catholic. The focus was upon the desires of the heart - that is, what are our most instinctive yearnings and what is the basis of this existential angst. While the things that we desire may be explained in different ways depending upon one's worldview, I would suggest that Catholic and Protestant alike yearn for wholeness, whether it be in our relationships, our knowledge or our sense of self. Almost by definition, we yearn for wholeness because we are not whole. We seem to have an instinctive sense of our own fallenness and brokenness. Of course, once we reach that realisation, existential angst sets in and we try to do things to make ourselves whole. A lot of the times, we chase after things that do nothing to really to permanently address our brokenness. At its worst, chasing after certain things will be quite self-destructive and will only serve to make us more broken than before.

With that in mind, I think I might soon partake in my Tuesday night indulgence - going to see a movie at the cinemas. I think I'll watch "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", a film about a guy's attempt to repair the brokenness that becomes evident after a relationship break up. I must admit that I am looking forward to the prospect of seeing someone else's misery to alleviate aspects of my own brokenness. Disturbingly it would appear that deep down I have rather sadistic tendencies ...

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Best Books Ever Banned

After reading a novel, I usually tend to read the corresponding Wikipedia article for a more general background and then Spark Notes to hone in on some of the more specific features of the text I wanted to examine. When I finished "To Kill a Mockingbird" and underwent this procedure, I was surprised to learn about the varied reactions to the book. It turns out that while Harper Lee's classic was typically well received by white audiences, black audiences were much more critical. On the face of it, this would seem to be quite strange, considering that one of the main aims of the novel is to condemn racism and intolerance. However, once one begins to examine the substance of the complaints against the novel, one becomes more sympathetic. Some of the criticisms levelled at the novel include the depiction of black people as uneducated and as victims, as well as suggestions that Calpurnia plays the role of the "contented slave". It is also noted that the racial epithet "nigger" is used some 48 times in the novel. Most of the time, this is used in a derogatory fashion by white people, although at other times the used of the term is neutral. In particular, there is a scene in the novel where Atticus, the hero, chastises his children for using the term, who apparently use the term without any real understanding of its cultural baggage.

My enquiries into "To Kill a Mockingbird" sent me onto a tangent in which I looked at some of the most challenged and banned books in American classrooms. The American Library Foundation has published a list of some of the most famous novels to face the axe and the reason for which it was proposed that they should be banned from the High School curriculum. Having read quite a few of those novels, it would appear that many of the criticisms levelled at these works are hardly justified, although I can understand the concern with exposing one's children to such content. It is certainly possible that if one is not old enough to understand some of the underlying irony behind a certain novel, it is quite possible that they may get the wrong idea about what the novel is trying to convey. At the same time, the novels have the capacity to encourage students to reflect upon important issues in a new way.

Personally, I'd like any children I may have in the future to be avid readers. In particular, I'd want them to be exposed to some of the great texts that I have been had the good fortune to read. When in their childhood such novels would be appropriate for them I would only be able to assess at the time, but I think that sometimes we give children much less credit than we ought to when it comes to understanding some fairly adult issues. By preventing them from being exposed to things that are potentially unpleasant, I believe we infantilise them and prevent their emotional and spiritual development. At the same time, perhaps it would be appropriate to oversee this reading process in order to help my future children understand these issues in their proper context.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

All Hail Prince Roy of Sealand

Last night I found myself at a 50th birthday for one of my friend's mothers. The whole point of my attendance was simply to make this evening somewhat more tolerable for my friend. Fortunately, we both made it through unscathed, although watching people in the late forties and early fifties who had had a little too much to drink was a little bit scary.

Last night was spent talking about our school days and the speculative science that is psychology. I also found out about Sealand, a micronation lying ten kilometres off the coast of England, near the English Channel. The principality, which covers an area of 4,000 square metres, is located on what used to be known as HM Fort Rough, a now disused World War II fort that lies in international waters beyond the maritime exclusion zone of the United Kingdom. Sealand apparently has its own national anthem, its own currency (fixed at one U.S. dollar) and a constitution. Independance was declared from the United Kingdom in 1967.

Two events have shaped Sealand's short but proud history. The first event was the war with the United Kingdom in 1990, when the United Kingdom aimed to take possession of waters around Sealand after the redefinition of territorial waters according to international law in 1989. It is reported that a citizen of Sealand shot at one of the approaching naval vessels. Rather than risk a diplomatic incident, the United Kingdom army turned around in defeat. A "state" of some two dozen people had defeated the British Empire. The second event occurred on 23 June 2006, being the Great Fire of Sealand. The top platform of the Roughs Tower caught fire due to an electrical failure. But this was not to deter the proud nation, who were able to complete the rebuilding process by the November of that year.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Road Less Travelled

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- Robert Frost (1920)

Friday, April 18, 2008

To Kill a Mockingbird

After spending a fair period of time in 19th century Europe, I've decided to cross the Atlantic and travel forward in time a century to read "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. I know that I've made some fairly critical comments about 20th century literature in the past, but I'm really enjoying this book. I'm about a hundred or so pages through "To Kill a Mockingbird" so far and I'm really enjoying what I am reading. In particular, the narrative of the story through the eyes of a six year old girl is a particularly interesting approach, considering that innocence and ignorance are two major themes the author is trying to convey.

It's also worth recognising the comparative youth of America as a nation and the framing narratives around which American identity derives its existence. It is perhaps for this reason that the whole "coming of age" paradigm seems to be so prominent in the history of American literature. Youth, innocence and the corruption thereof seem to be fairly standard metaphors for the development of the collective American conscience. It is interesting in this respect that there seems to be a dearth of these paradigms in European literature, which seems to focus upon much broader metanarratives. Perhaps the whole "coming of age" genre is idiosyncratically American partly due to the strong emphasis on individualism in American culture.

I must admit that I haven't read a great deal of Australian literature yet, but I suspect that the abovementioned paradigm would also exist, albeit with somewhat of a colonial twist. From the little that I know, the Australian environment seems to be a prominent feature of our literature. Again, the harshness of the Australian environment is a profoundly apt metaphor for our history, especially with respect to our indigenous brothers and sisters. The wounds of history are still quite deep at present, so I suspect that perhaps the best Australian work may be some decades away, hopefully when the legacy of our past can be looked upon in proper perspective.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Madame Bovary

A few nights ago I finished Madame Bovary, the infamous 1857 novel by Gustave Flaubert. It took me a little while to get into the book, but once I did, I realised that it was well worth the effort. Flaubert's use of language and imagery is very clever, but there were times when it was so subtle I was only able to appreciate the significance of what was going on with the benefit of hindsight. That said, the novel gave me plenty to think about.

In short, the novel is about a middle-class woman who has because bored with her provincial life and her rather dull husband. In search of excitement, she throws herself into two love affairs, seeks to purchase pretty things well beyond her means, and seeks to escape by reading literature of graduating intensity, starting with fairly innocuous women's fashion magazines and ending with violent pornography. In particular, it is her debts which cause her the most trouble, culminating in the financial ruin of both her and her family. The story gets more depressing from there, but I don't want to spoil the plot too much.

Perhaps the most interesting theme that is explored in the novel is that of fantasy and reality. In many respects, this novel seems to be a forerunner for novels of more recent vintage - the best example being "Requiem For a Dream". Each character in "Madame Bovary" seems to have their particular dreams which may or may not accord with reality. In Emma Bovary's case, it leads to disaster. In the case of Homais, it leads to a somewhat affected narcissism and this character convinces himself that he is more worthy and thus more self-entitled than those around him. Charles Bovary, the least ambitious of all of the characters, has found his dream in Emma Bovary and can imagine nothing else being necessary in life. While this contentment seems to be positive, it also blinds Charles to the deceit that is occurring around him, and the precarious nature of his financial position. Ignorance is not always bliss, especially when one wakes up from his or her hangover.

The whole exploration of fantasy and reality also reflects Flaubert's enduring contribution to the history of literature. If early nineteenth century European literature is guilty of anything, it is its overly romanticised and saccharine nature. Flaubert's novel is a landmark in that unlike the literature of his predecessors, it produces a story of gritty and perhaps even jarring reality. While even today the romanticism of the "Hollywood ending" is popular, the realism of "Madame Bovary" was quickly reflected in classic works such as Fyodor Dostoevsky's "The Idiot" (1869) and Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" (1877). In this respect, Flaubert was able to produce a work which ushered in an era in which literature would be not merely a form of escapism, but could rather be a sharp criticism of contemporary society.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Honourable Paedophile?

In response to my recent post about Calvinist soteriology, Craig asked an excellent question, the answer to which I believe deserves its own blog entry. Responding to my criticism that Calvinists seem to believe that coming to the wrong conclusion on homosexuality is a "hanging offence", Craig asks:

Let's take another example. Say someone searched their conscience and the Scriptures, and told you that molesting young children was ok, and so they were going to continue doing that, as well as proclaiming they were a practicing Christian.

Would this cause you a problem? Would you have some doubt about their salvation?

The first thing is should point out is that at least on one level, the evangelical schema does not make any distinction between different types of sin. According to the evangelical schema, the 7 year-old who disobeys his parents is no less under the judgment of God than the fully grown adult who molests him, for both have sinned and as evangelicals are quick to assert, "the wages of sin is death". It is simply that something like child molestation is something that causes a profoundly greater sense of moral outrage in most people.

With the abovementioned consideration taken into mind, I feel that I am more effectively able to answer the questions that Craig asks me. So to take each question separately:

Would this cause you a problem?

The first thing to point out is that child molestation troubles me greatly. Obviously, it is a criminal offence - and so it should be, regardless of whether or not the perpetrator is aware of the gravity of his or her offence. This is because one of the objects of the criminal law is protect potential victims, as well as to punish offenders. This said, if an individual was truly unaware of the gravity of his or her actions in this respect, this consideration might be considered a mitigating factor at sentence, although its also possible that the lack of remorse could be considered to be an aggravating factor.

To get back to the theological side of the equation, I don't see how the existence of a child molester who was unaware of the sinfulness of his or her behaviour should alter my original concern that if ignorance of one sin should be a hanging offence, that ignorance of any sin, no matter how seemingly malign, would also be a hanging offence. That is, if we insist that the child molester who is unaware that he is sinning but calls himself a Christian in good faith is in actual fact unrepentant, we would have to conclude that the person who disregarded the scriptural exhortation to head coverings would be unrepentant if it turned out that the had got the wrong end of the stick on this issue. Both are sinning despite their ignorance, and thus both are under the judgment of God in the evangelical schema.

Would you have some doubt about their salvation?

The issue, as I see it, is not whether I have doubt about their salvation, but whether I can emphatically state that a person cannot simultaneously be a child molester and a Christian, just as most Calvinists seem to emphatically state that a person cannot be homosexual and Christian at the same time. At this point, I'd like to remark that I find any moral equation of consentual adult homosexuality to child molestation deeply distasteful and I shall have to assume that Craig was not meaning to relate the two concepts in this manner. But to digress from this observation, who am I to make the emphatic declaration that anyone who claims to be a Christian, even a child molester, is not who he or she claims to be? It could very well be that their declaration of ignorance is a facade, but how am I to make this assessment? I must admit that most of the time I have enough trouble trying to work out my salvation with fear and trembling to make declarations on the spiritual status of others. Quite simply, it is God alone who is capable and entitled to make a judgment of the hearts of people, and anything that I should think cannot be but mere speculation and profoundly irrelevant.

I should say in closing that the point of my previous post is to highlight what I see as the inconsistency in Calvinist praxis with respect to doctrinal disagreement. Quite often, they seem to be quite happy to believe that their sweet, but racist grandmother was still a Christian because her racism needs to be understood in the context of the era in which she lived. They are happy to believe that their loving, but slightly sexist father was still a Christian because he lived in a culture where he simply didn't know any better. But, presuming that homosexuality is a sin, they are not willing to extend the same grace to the gay man who honestly believes in the propriety of his sexual orientation. Why this seemingly obvious inconsistency? What is it about homosexuality that makes it the one great, unforgivable sin to Calvinists?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Does Calvinist Soteriology Equate to Salvation by Faith ... in Correct Doctrine?

Recently I've been engaging with a few Reformed Christians on the question of homosexuality. While I am happy to concede that these people honestly believe homosexuality to be a sin, I have pushed them on the question of whether one can be both gay and Christian at the same time. Almost unanimously, I have received a reply to the negative. To use their oft used euphemism, they would suggest that actively gay and lesbian people "are still under the judgment of God". As I understand it, here is their process of reasoning:

1. The gospel requires an individual to repent of their sins
2. Homosexuality is a sin
3. Therefore, homosexuals are still sinning
4. Therefore, homosexuals have not repented
5. Therefore, homosexuals, by very definition cannot be Christians and are still under the judgment of God

I find this perspective problematic for a number of reasons. According to this argument, it doesn't matter that some gay people have searched their consciences and the Scripture and honestly do not believe that their homosexuality is a sin. Nor does it matter that these people have identified those aspects in their lives that they understand to be sin, have repented of these sins and have elected to follow Christ. All of this is irrelevant in the abovementioned worldview. According to those who hold this worldview, an individual is not a Christian if, notwithstanding the fact that they have acted in all good faith, they have gotten their doctrinal position on homosexuality wrong. In short, this is salvation by belief in correct doctrine.

To take this position to its logical, but rather unconsidered conclusion, I wonder what might happen if it turned out that Calvinist climate change skeptics were wrong about the responsibilities they had to the environment. Using more or less the same process of reasoning I've described above, the result is rather scary:

1. The gospel requires an individual to repent of their sins
2. An irresponsible use of carbon is a sin
3. Driving a V6 is an irresponsible use of carbon
4. Therefore, people who drive V6s are still sinning
5. Therefore, people who drive V6s have not repented
6. Therefore, people who drive V6s, by very definition cannot be Christians and are still under the judgment of God

I should make it very clear at this point that I certainly do not believe that driving a V6 automatically excludes one from the community of the faithful and that they have not, by very definition bought themselves a one-way ticket to Hell. This said, if Calvinists are right in their assertion that homosexuals cannot be Christians, then each and every one of us should be extremely concernly about our status as part of the elect. Quite simply, if they are correct in this assertion, then any person who calls themselves a Christian and has even the slightest blind spot with respect to any sin, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is in real trouble and is headed straight to the eternal pit of fire.

POSTSCRIPT: In the comments section, Craig has asked an excellent question about my stance on the child molester who believes that he is not sinning and that he is a Christian. I think that this was a question worthy of a proper response, which I've done so here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Great Sola Scriptura Debate

I hate having to start an article like this, but I want to preface my comments by suggesting that I am feeling rather exhausted this evening. That said, I wished to share a few of my thoughts on the subject, so hopefully what I write will come into some sort of coherent order ...

Perhaps one of the things that remains difficult about the whole doctrine of Sola Scriptura is the notorious ambiguity concerning its definition. To be perfectly honest, I'm not entirely sure where Sola Scriptura stops and the three-pronged emphasis on "Scripture, Tradition, Reason" starts. I think the least I could say is that the conception of Sola Scriptura where the Bible is interpreted in a vacuum simply does not exist in any kind of historical context. If one goes to the famous Diet of Worms, Martin Luther is recorded as saying:

Unless I am convicted by the testimony of Scripture or by evident reason - for I trust neither in popes nor in councils alone, since it is obvious that they have often erred and contradicted themselves - I am convicted by the Scripture which I have mentioned and my conscience is captive by the Word of God.

This certainly places Scripture in a high position, but what kind of Sola Scriptura is it really? Certainly Luther seems to have rejected the infallibility of tradition, but he clearly sees reason as an important element in the interpretive process. Importantly, Luther sees that a correct understanding of Scripture is not always self-evident and thus that the interpretation of the Scriptures does not occur in a vacuum. Indeed, shortly thereafter Luther and Melanchthon are responsible for the creation of the Augsburg Confession, a statement that extensively quotes the Church Fathers. I can't imagine any reason for doing this if Luther did not see the importance and authority of tradition.

Perhaps the question I'd like to know is whether Scripture is truly the definitive authority when tradition and reason are used in the interpretive process? Of course, the common appeal is that tradition and reason are merely aids to understanding the authoritative text and so in this way it is said that the doctrine of Sola Scriptura is preserved. But once any text (for example, Calvin's "Institutes") is understood to be a reliable exposition of Scripture, doesn't this become the authority in the place of the Bible? And perhaps even beyond this, is it not the individual making the determination about what tradition correctly understands Scripture and what type of reason (think different approaches to systematic theology) achieves this purpose? What then can be said to the Catholic accusation that Protestants have merely replaced the authority of the Church and the magisterium with the convictions of the individual? That is quite literally, that each and every Protestant is a pope of his or her own? I would tend to suggest that some 30,000 protestant denomination attest to this fact, rather than to the proposition that it is Scripture alone that is regarded as authoritative in the Protestant worldview.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Don't Trust Your Satellite Navigator

But more on that later ...

Unfortunately I lost my first round this morning - I ran out of time, no less. Had I actually realised that I was so short of time, I would have been able to secure a draw fairly easily. Not to worry, because these things happen. After all, I was reasonably happy with the way I played.

After the upset of the first round, I bounced back with a fairly quick win in the penultimate round. This gave me the theoretical opportunity to come equal first if I won my last round and the leader lost his. I was able to complete the first half of the equation, albeit not without a considerable degree of difficulty. Both myself and my opponent were down to a minute each on our clocks in a very messy position. However, I managed to hold my nerve, while my opponent lost his. The player who beat me then won his final game to score a deserved win in the tournament, while I had to be content with equal second. And content I was, considering how I played throughout the tournament.

On my trip back all was travelling smoothly until my sattelite navigator told me to take an unexpected route which was meant to be a short cut. I was a bit skeptical about the directions given, but decided to obey the Sat Nav because he seemed to know what he was talking about. Little did I know that this route would take me along a narrow road, partly unsealed and very foggy. To make matters more interesting I had to negotiate a kangaroo that jumped out in front of my car. I did so successfully, thankfully. And so, I managed to survive unscathful and with another adventure to cap off an enjoyable weekend.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

So Far, So Good in Dubbo

Well, it's been a fairly fun twenty-four hours or so. After work I came back to the Central Coast before a five hour drive to Dubbo. Cessnock and Branxton were fairly interesting little places, but once I got onto the Golden Highway the trip was pretty boring. Still, I love driving long distances by myself because it gives me a real chance just to relax and reflect on things, all while listening to some of my favourite music.

As expected, I am top seed in the this tournament. It's not necessarily a place I like to be, since everyone thinks that you will win the tournament. Anything less is underperforming. Not that I care all that much - playing in the tournament is just an excuse for me to get out of Sydney for a weekend. That said, it's not as if I want to deliberately try to lose games!

So far we've had three rounds, and I've had three wins. Considering that I haven't really played chess in about nine months, I'm playing really well. Two of the opponents I've had so far can be quite tricky if you're not careful, but I managed to dispatch them fairly easily. I am joined by two other players on 3 out of 3, one of which I have to play tomorrow morning. If I can win the game tomorrow morning, I should be well on my way to winning the tournament.

After the final round in the main tournament, the Dubbo Open continued its tradition of having a meal together, followed by a lightning tournament. I could have just as easily picked something up from Red Rooster, but I didn't want to be antisocial, so I just paid for my overpriced bistro meal in the company of the other chess players. I won the lightning tournament with 6 out of 6, which was also nice.

Friday, April 11, 2008

On the Road Again

This weekend I think I might drive to Dubbo to play in a chess tournament. I must admit that I haven't played competitively for some time, but that really isn't the point. To be honest, it's just a good excuse to get away for the weekend before a fairly busy week coming up where I will be in court for the next five days.

Not entirely sure what my access to the internet will be like, but I will keep you posted. Or not, as the case may be ...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Minister Embarrasses Sydney Diocese with Gay Slur on Kirby

For conservatives in the Sydney Diocese, His Honour Michael Kirby must be their worst nightmare. Kirby is proud to call himself a Christian and an Anglican. He is also openly gay. However, unlike the many gay Christians that have been beaten into submission by the prevailing Diocesan line, Kirby is not afraid to stand up and be counted. He is clearly an articulate thinker and knows his Bible well. And He's not the type of individual who can be quietly taken out of play by the Sydney Anglican thought police. In short, he is a worrying prospect for those ministers who are scared that their parishioners will think for themselves.

Last year, Michael Kirby suggested in an interview on the ABC that Cardinal Pell and Archbishop Jensen, of the Sydney Catholic and Anglican Dioceses respectively, made it hard for people to take a more tolerant attitude to gays. Enter Reverend Richard Lane, an obscure Eastern Suburbs Anglican minister. Rather than extend some degree of hospitality to Kirby to demonstrate that conservative Christians could indeed be loving towards the homosexual community, he manages to systematic validate Kirby's concerns by launching into a violent personal attack against the High Court judge. Likening Kirby to the infamous Herod of the gospel narratives, Lane then proceeds to suggest that Kirby is a "coward, liar [and] a deceiver". Charming, isn't it? And Lane has the audacity to suggest that this is "speaking to you the truth in love".

The one thing that I find rather shocking about Reverend Lane's malicious attack is its pure senselessness. I'd really love to know what he was hoping to achieve when he sent the letter. Even if Reverend Lane happens to be right on the issue of homosexuality, was he really naive enough to believe that Kirby did not know that his practice was condemned by many other Christians? And was he really so arrogant to think that Kirby had never examined the texts that conservative Christians so love to use to promote their homophobic agenda for himself? Reverend Lane's behaviour in this respect shows astounding ignorance. The only right thing for him to do under these circumstances would be to resign from his position as an Anglican minister if he truly loves the Lord and wishes not to further undermine the Sydney Diocese. Sadly, I suspect that Reverend Lane will not repent.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Tribute to a Bygone Era for my Complementarian Friends

Yes, you know who you are ...

The world might be a scary place today for people who believe that wives should submit to their husbands when they see women at the very top of the professional world, but it wasn't always like that. If you're a complementarian who believes that a woman should be in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant, the following article might take you back to a more peaceful place.

1943 Guide to Hiring Women

Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees: There's no longer any question whether transit companies should hire women for jobs formerly held by men. The draft and manpower shortage has settled that point. The important things now are to select the most efficient women available and how to use them to the best advantage.

Here are eleven helpful tips on the subject from Western Properties:

1. Pick young married women. They usually have more of a sense of responsibility than their unmarried sisters, they're less likely to be flirtatious, they need the work or they wouldn't be doing it, they still have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public efficiently.

2. When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some time in their lives. Older women who have never contacted the public have a hard time adapting themselves and are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy. It's always well to impress upon older women the importance of friendliness and courtesy.

3. General experience indicates that "husky" girls - those who are just a little on the heavy side - are more even tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.

4. Retain a physician to give each woman you hire a special physical examination - one covering female conditions. This step not only protects the property against the possibilities of lawsuit, but reveals whether the employee-to-be has any female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job.

5. Stress at the outset the importance of time the fact that a minute or two lost here and there makes serious inroads on schedules. Until this point is gotten across, service is likely to be slowed up.

6. Give the female employee a definite day-long schedule of duties so that they'll keep busy without bothering the management for instructions every few minutes. Numerous properties say that women make excellent workers when they have their jobs cut out for them, but that they lack initiative in finding work themselves.

7. Whenever possible, let the inside employee change from one job to another at some time during the day. Women are inclined to be less nervous and happier with change.

8. Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. You have to make some allowances for feminine psychology. A girl has more confidence and is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day.

9. Be tactful when issuing instructions or in making criticisms. Women are often sensitive; they can't shrug off harsh words the way men do. Never ridicule a woman - it breaks her spirit and cuts off her efficiency.

10. Be reasonably considerate about using strong language around women. Even though a girl's husband or father may swear vociferously, she'll grow to dislike a place of business where she hears too much of this.

11. Get enough size variety in operator's uniforms so that each girl can have a proper fit. This point can't be stressed too much in keeping women happy.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Crimes Act 1914

4G Indictable offences

Offences against a law of the Commonwealth punishable by imprisonment for a period exceeding 12 months are indictable offences, unless the contrary intention appears.

4H Summary offences

Offences against a law of the Commonwealth, being offences which:

(a) are punishable by imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months; or

(b) are not punishable by imprisonment;

are summary offences, unless the contrary intention appears.

4J Certain indictable offences may be dealt with summarily

(1) Subject to subsection (2), an indictable offence (other than an offence referred to in subsection (4)) against a law of the Commonwealth, being an offence punishable by imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years, may, unless the contrary intention appears, be heard and determined, with the consent of the prosecutor and the defendant, by a court of summary jurisdiction.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply in relation to an indictable offence where, under a law of the Commonwealth other than this Act, that offence may be heard and determined by a court of summary jurisdiction.

(3) Subject to subsection (6), where an offence is dealt with by a court of summary jurisdiction under subsection (1), the court may impose:

(a) where the offence is punishable by imprisonment for a period not exceeding 5 years—a sentence of imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months or a fine not exceeding 60 penalty units, or both; or

(b) where the offence is punishable by imprisonment for a period exceeding 5 years but not exceeding 10 years—a sentence of imprisonment for a period not exceeding 2 years or a fine not exceeding 120 penalty units, or both.

(4) A court of summary jurisdiction may, if it thinks fit, upon the request of the prosecutor, hear and determine any proceeding in respect of an indictable offence against a law of the Commonwealth if the offence relates to property whose value does not exceed $5,000.

(5) Subject to subsection (6), where an offence is dealt with by a court of summary jurisdiction under subsection (4), the court may impose a sentence of imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months or a fine not exceeding 60 penalty units, or both.

(6) A court of summary jurisdiction shall not impose under subsection (3) or (5):

(a) a sentence of imprisonment for a period exceeding the maximum period that could have been imposed had the offence been tried on indictment;

(b) a fine exceeding the maximum fine that could have been imposed had the offence been so tried; or

(c) both a sentence of imprisonment and a fine if the offence is punishable on trial on indictment by a sentence of imprisonment or a fine, but not both.

(7) This section does not apply to an offence against:

(a) section 24AA or 24AB or subsection 79(2) or (5) of this Act; or

(b) Division 80 or section 91.1 of the Criminal Code.

Just thought you should know - I should have.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Back in Sydney

Back in Sydney. Back to reality ...

Fortunately enough, I was able to get a window seat this time, so I was able to set Sydney from 200 metres above sea level. It really is a beautiful city at night. As The Whitlams say, "You've got to love this city ... for it's body and not it's brains".

Didn't get to see too much of Brisbane this weekend, but hopefully that will change in the not too distant future.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Another Update from the Sunshine State

It's been a lovely weekend up in Brisbane so far, albeit that I am feeling rather exhausted. Last night I went to a pub for karaoke with my sister and some of her friends. I found out they were really nice people. This thought reassured me because it means that my sister has some good people around her.

I'm genuinely thinking at the moment that I wouldn't mind moving up to Brisbane on a more permanent basis. People seem to be much friendlier than they are in Sydney, rental prices are lower, and the petrol excise means that petrol is cheaper too. I can't imagine any more compelling reasons than that, although for all I know that could change in the not too distant future. Stay tuned for further updates.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Reporting Live Via Satellite from Brisbane

I am currently at my sister's place and have visited her and her partner, as well as my two nieces, aged three and two. I wasn't entirely sure if I'd have internet access in Brisbane, but it turns out I do, so I am able to write about my adventures.

After a fairly uneventful flight I arrived at my destination, the land of the Canetoad. Straight away I felt like I had entered into a parallel universe. There wasn't anything particularly negative about this alternative plain of existence, but it felt strangely different. I'm not entirely sure why I felt this way, but I may as well have landed in New Delhi.

This morning I awoke late to find the complex politics of female interaction in High School in the movie "Bratz". Clearly a movie aimed at the 12-14 year old female demographic, I had no business continuing to watch this movie. From the viewpoint of dictum and discourse, it was a loathsome and offensive affair, but I could not look away. Staying there to watch the movie was a strangely masochistic experience.

This afternoon I got a haircut, enjoyed a long, slow mocha, and performed my uncle duties with distinction. I felt pretty good about it all. It's been nice to get away from Sydney for the weekend.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Viva Bris Vegas

I'm heading up on a plane to Brisbane for the weekend. I can't exactly tell people the reason for doing so at the moment, but with any luck I might be able to disclose such information in due course ...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Hitting a Raw Nerve

I had to go to a surgeon today to consult with him about two wisdom teeth I need removed. It turned out that I would be only partly covered under my scheme, so the process is going to cost $500, which I understand is fairly cheap, all things considered. It's always interesting what your instinctive response is when you hear a response like that. And to tell you the truth, I was quite pleased with mine. Basically, my response ran along along the lines "That's a bit annoying, but that's life". I can remember some years back when I'd had to pay the excess of $850 for a car accident and I thought that it was the end of the world. But then of course, I was an impoverished student at that point in time.

For the most part, I'm fairly comfortable with my attitude towards money. I've never been a particularly materialistic person, and I don't really see that changing anytime in the near future. If I wanted to, I would have the capacity to significantly increase my income over the next few years, but the truth is that even now I am living well below my means. I realise all too well that were I to have a family later on in life, my costs would more than likely skyrocket. That said, if a married couple in the Western Suburbs with three children on a combined income of $40,000 can make ends meet, albeit only barely, how is it that so many families on a combined income of twice that find themselves over their head? I really do think that we've become a very consumerist culture, where so many of the things that people regard of necessities are really the luxuries of yesteryear.

The other interesting thing was when the surgeon advised that I might experience some pain over the following week and that I might have to be off work during this time. My instinctive response? Quite simply "But I get to take this time off work, right?" Not that I hate my job by any stretch of the imagination, but I've been feeling fairly worn out lately. You keep complaining about this like it's a badge of honour, but you don't do anything about it until such time as circumstances force you to take time off to rest. I can imagine that week as being a strange one, in which I enjoy the fact that I get some time off, but experience this alongside physical pain. And hopefully when I return back, I'll feel refreshed and ready to work to full capacity again.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

An Explanation Concerning my Faux Conversion

Okay, so most of you worked out fairly quickly that I haven't become a Calvinist. Obviously it was an April Fools joke. Funnily enough though, the joke has been on me, since the twenty-four hours that I spent as a Calvinist made me think about my relationship to Calvinism and Calvinists. But more of that later ...

I must admit that since I had come up with the idea of pretending to convert to Calvinism about a week ago, I wasn't entirely sure of the propriety of the plan. I mean, isn't joking about religion a little taboo? Can one really make jokes about this kind of thing? Regardless, I ploughed on with my plan, first by writing a few entries where I spoke about Calvinist authors in a moderately positive way to give my "testimony" some veneer of credibility. Secondly, my aim with the testimony was certainly not to be sarcastic about Calvinism, but to make the conversion sound as realistic as possible. Use a few Calvinist cliches, throw in a few strawperson attacks on liberal Christianity, and I was set. I think that I did a fairly good job of writing a testimony that could have been believed - that is, if it wasn't written by myself and if it wasn't written on April 1st. The joke was not levelled at Calvinism so much as the idea that I had become Calvinist. Thankfully, most people were able to see the funny side. I offer my apologies to those who were offended.

I guess my second reservation was that in writing this faux testimony, there would be grains of truth in what I wrote. Indeed, it's probably true that I envy the simple type of faith that many Calvinists possess and their steadfast conviction that they are part of the elect. There have been times when I have resented the fact that I am such an intensely analytical being who is not satisfied with formulaic answers. Even when I was evangelical, I possessed a complex faith. I think I've more or less come to the conclusion that God didn't make me to have a simple, easy faith. Rather, I was created as I was created for a purpose; perhaps one which I will never truly grasp as I constantly double guess myself.

Planning and writing this faux testimony also helped me to realise that I have not always been so loving in my responses to Calvinists. I say in my defence that I believe that the environment of a blog can contribute to this situation. The point is, I am selective in my posts and as such, it is generally only when I have something of substance to say that I will comment. Generally speaking, this tends to be when I disagree (strongly) with a position, quite simply because simply saying "Right on - I agree with you 100 percent" doesn't seem to further a conversation all that much. That said, I wish to take responsibility for my comments and I apologise for the remarks I have made that have been unduly offensive. I will strive to do better in future, and would appreciate your grace in understanding that I will slip up from time to time.

All of the above said, I cannot deny that there are aspect of Calvinism that I find deeply, deeply disturbing. I don't think it would be right for me to apologise for this viewpoint. I can't help but speak out about those aspects of Calvinism that I believe to have been deeply hurtful for many people I know and love, as well as those I believe to be quite destructive of the legacy of Christ. The challenge on one hand is to avoid associating the belief with the believer and the act with the actor. On the other hand, I am aware that some people find it patronising when I suggest that a particular Calvinist should be treated with compassion because they are simply acting in line with their Calvinistic convictions. I'm honestly not sure how I should respond in such circumstances, but would love to receive advice from Calvinists themselves about how I should best respond.

Well, with that little saga out of the way, please standby to resume normal programming ...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I've Become a Calvinist

I have a bit of a confession to make. Over the last few weeks I've been secretly reading some of the Calvinist authors. I can't exactly say that I was trying to read these authors with an open mind - rather, I was reading the likes of Spurgeon, Ryle, Whitefield and of course, Calvin himself, in the attempt to demonstrate how silly their arguments were. But as I read more and more, I discovered that their arguments about the character of God and the nature of His election actually made sense. Moreover, as my eyes were being opened, I could see that their understanding of God showed the most faithfulness to Scripture and more highly esteemed Him. I began to recognise that I was to be honest with myself and I allowed God to be God, he really wasn't the grandfatherly figure that I had constructed as a liberal Christian. The Calvinist God, on the other hand was a God or substance and of justice. Just because I didn't like the idea of Hell, or the idea of God punishing people didn't mean that these things didn't exist.

These realisations didn't bring about my conversion, but they intrigued me and caused me to probe deeper. A few nights ago I began to marvel at my change of perspective. I realised then and there that it was only God who had opened my eyes to these truths. And as I probed further, I discovered new truths. For the first time I became convicted of the infallibility of the Scriptures, a position I realised that I had never truly held. It was this that shook me the most. I realised that if I was to be faithful to this revelation then I would have to change the way I lived my life. I realised that I would have to relinquish control and truly give my life over to God's control, rather than simply saying that I did that and fooling myself. Being the control freak that I am, I bucked against this idea more strongly than I ever had before, conscious that God was not indeed the ruler of my life. In order to prove that I was not under the control of God I decided that I would be even more aggressive towards those who called themselves Calvinist. But it was all to little avail - even against my will, God was beginning to change me.

I guess my resentment towards Calvinists was their sense of assurance about their salvation. I'd never experienced that, so I decided that their assurance must surely be arrogance on their part. However, when I started to think anew, I realised that this accusation did not fit, since they did not appear to be arrogant people in other respects. And in addition to their humility, I realised that they shown me a great deal of love, even though I had mocked and belittled them. But now that I have experienced this conviction myself, the feeling that God's Holy Spirit lives within me, I no longer needed to view Calvinists with jealousy and suspicion because I now I have experienced the grace that they have experienced. What's more, how can I possibly hold this attitude when I too, albeit very much against my will, have become a Calvinist myself?

POSTSCRIPT: For people that are still confused about the whole thing, an explanation is in order.