A Royal Visit to Our Home, Fifty Years Out

I mentioned a short time ago that the “fives” were well equipped with anniversaries.  I just realised that I have missed one: the 20 January 1965 visit of Belgian Prince Alexandre de Rethy to our business and home in Palm Beach, complete with a reception at the Colony.  You can view the account of that visit here.

The reception at the Colony. Prince Alexandre is in the foreground, to the left of the “gap” in the table. clockwise from the Prince is my mother Mrs. Vernell Warrington, Mr. Willy Nilens, Mrs. Wiggs, Mr. Georges van de Velde, Mrs. Rolande Nilens, my father Mr. Henry Warrington, Mrs. Marguerite van de Velde, Mr. Earle Evans (my father’s sales manager,) Mrs. Lee Evans, and Mr. Ken Wiggs, whose construction company built our offices and plant in Florida. Standing in the back is “Van,” the Colony’s maitre d’ and a Belgian himself. (Photo by Mort Kaye Studios, Palm Beach)

Prince Alexandre sadly passed away in 2009.

"Man Clothed in the Omnipotence of God": Bossuet on Faith and Prayer

I’m briefly interrupting my posts from Bossuet’s Elevations to deal with a subject that Matt Kennedy at Stand Firm takes up: the meaning of Mark 11:23-24.  I honestly think that Bossuet, “the Eagle”, (who was very Augustinian) has a much more accurate and inspiring treatment of the passage.

The following comes from Bossuet’s Meditations on the Gospel, from the part entitled “The Last Week of the Saviour”, XXI.  This work was written about 1694-5. He is meditating on Matthew 21:21-22 and Mark 11:22:24, which (for my readers’ convenience) I will reproduce:

“I tell you,” replied Jesus, “if you have faith, without ever a doubt, you will do what not only what has been done to the fig tree, but, even if you should say to this hill ‘Be lifted up and hurled into the sea!’ it would be done. And whatever you ask for in your prayers will, if you have faith, be granted you.” (Matthew 21:21-22 TCNT)

“Have faith in God!” replied Jesus. “I tell you that if any one should say to this hill ‘Be lifted up and hurled into the sea!’, without ever a doubt in his mind, but in the faith that what he says will be done, he would find that it would be. And therefore I say to you ‘Have faith that whatever you ask for in prayer is already granted you, and you will find that it will be.’  (Mark 11:22-24 TCNT)

The apostles were astonished by the sudden effect of Our Lord’s words to the fig tree.  They were much more so when He told them that they could do as much, and even more, provided they had faith.  If you have faith, He said to them, and stagger not, not only this of the fig tree will you do, but also if you shall say to this mountain, Take up and cast thyself into the sea, it shall be done. (Matthew 21:21)

Behold the wonder of wonders: man clothed in the omnipotence of God.

Go, said the Saviour, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, case out devils: freely have you received, freely give.  (Matthew 10:8) Who ever gave such a command?

And he sent them to preach the Kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. (Luke 9:2) Who ever sent his ministers with such commands? Go, He said, into this house and heal those whom you will find there.  All were filled with wonder at such commands. And yet, he proceeded even further: All that you ask in my name, you shall receive. (John 14:14) You will be able to do all that I am able to do. You will do all of the greatest things that you have seen me do, and you will do even greater things. In fact, if one was cured on touching the edge of the robe of Jesus Christ while He was wearing it, weren’t even greater miracles being performed by St. Paul, when there were even brought from his body, to the sick, handkerchiefs and aprons, and the diseases departed from them? (Acts 19:12) And not only the linens which had touched the apostles had that power, but their very shadow: when Peter came, his shadow at the least, might overshadow any of them, and they might be delivered from their infirmities. (Acts 5:15)

Here, therefore, is the greatest miracle of Jesus Christ. Not only is He all-powerful, but here He renders man all-powerful and, if possible, more powerful than He Himself is, performing constantly greater miracles, and all through faith and through prayer: and all things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive. (Matthew 21:22)  Faith, therefore, and prayer are all-powerful, and they clothe man with the omnipotence of God. If you can believe, said the Saviour, all is possible to him who believes. (Mark 9:22)

The performance of miracles, therefore, is not the difficulty.  Rather, the difficulty is to believe.  If you can believe.  This is the miracle of miracles; to believe absolutely and without hesitation. I believe, Lord, help my unbelief (Mark 9:23), said the man to whom Jesus said: If you can believe.

Lord, augment our faith within us, said the apostles. (Luke 17:5) We need only faith, for with it we can do all things. Oh! if you had faith, said the Lord, like a grain of mustard seed, you would say to the mulberry tree: Be thou rooted up, and be thou transplanted into the sea: and it would obey you. (Luke 17:6) And it would find a bottom in the waves to spread there its roots.

Thus the great miracle of Jesus Christ is not to make us all-powerful men.  Rather, it is to make us courageous and faithful believers who dare to hope all from God, when it is a question of his glory.

We must understand, therefore, that this faith which can do all, is inspired. In order to dare to make this act of faith which can do all, it is necessary that God give us effective motion, the power to act. And the fruit of these precepts of the Gospel, which we read today, is to abandon ourselves to this divine motion which makes us feel that God wishes something from us. No matter how great it might be, one must dare, and not hesitate an instant.

When it is a question of asking God for the things necessary to salvation, we do not need any of this particular motion from God, who tells us what He wishes that we do in order to obtain his power. We know very definitely through the Gospel that God wishes that we ask Him for our salvation and conversion. Let us ask then without hesitating, assured that if we do it with the necessary perseverance, all will be possible.

Let us dare all things, and no matter how slight our faith will be, let us fear nothing. A small grain of faith, the size of a mustard seed, enables us to undertake anything. Grandeur has no part in it, said the Saviour. I ask only for truth and sincerity; if it becomes necessary that this small grain grow, God Who has given it, will make it grow.  Act then with the little you posses, and much will be given you: And this grain of mustard seed and this budding faith, will become a great tree, and the birds of the air will dwell in the branches thereof. (Matthew 13:31,32) The must sublime virtues will not only come there, but will make their abode therein.

God, His Unity and Perfection: The Unity of God

Continuing in Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, 1,4:

Hear, Israel: the Lord your God is one God, because he is who is, he who is indivisible.  All which is not perfect, degenerates from perfection.  Thus the Lord your God being the perfect one is alone and there is no other God but him.  All that is not him who is by his essence and nature, is not and will not be eternal, if he who is along does not give him being.

If there is more than one God, there will be an infinity of them: if there is an infinity, there are none: because each is not what he is, and are finite, and there will be no point where the infinite is not lacking, or it would be necessary to hear one who has all and who from that will be alone.  Hear Israel: hear at your deepest, do not hear from the place where fantasies are forged.  Hear from the place where the truth is heard, where one puts together pure and simple ideas.  Hear there, Israel, and there, in the secret of your heart where truth is heard, keep this word without noise: The Lord your God is one God alone: before him the heavens are not: all is before him as it were not: all is counted for nothing, like a void, like a pure inanity, because he is who is, who sees all, who knows all, who does all, who orders all and calls that which is not as if it were.

Women Bishops in the Church of England: The Chickens Are In the Roost

Matt Kennedy at Stand Firm finds Archbishop John Sentamu’s response about the propriety of women bishops disconcerting:

His appeal is to the supreme authority of scripture. How does the Archbishop of York answer?

Setamu calmly continued with the service, stating that the appointment of a female bishop was now “part of the law of the land…

The “law of the Land” is apparently of sufficient authority for the Archbishop and all those present to overrule an appeal to the bible. Nothing but Jesus’ return could have stopped this consecration from going forward – I understand that – but knowing the objection would be raised you might think Archbishop Setamu might have prepared some semblance of a biblical response (and there could only be a semblance) rather than simply appealing the authority of the state. I understand that England is, legally speaking, a “Christian” government and the Church of England a state church but she is supposedly and theoretically a state church under the supreme authority of the word of God.

As I said, the chickens have come home to roost.

That’s basically the bargain any state church like England’s (and to that we might add Germany and Russia) makes: we get a privileged status, but we’ll support you even when what you’re doing is against Divine authority.  I’ve predicted for a long time (and here also) that the Government, one way or another, would push for the ordination of women bishops, and now is “fast-tracking” them for the House of Lords.  And I felt that the Government would succeed.  Why should it be any other way with a state church?  And why do we expect a different result for same-sex civil marriage?

To some extent, all of this became clear in the thought experiment that is my fiction.  In the part that is online, the king of an absolute monarchy orders his Bishop and Primate to ordain a woman to the ministry:

“We have one more matter that needs to be settled here today,” Adam said, handing the Bishop yet another envelope.  The Bishop opened it; reading it produced a look of shock almost comparable to Desmond’s just a few minutes earlier.

“This is impossible,” the Bishop declared, looking at Adam.

“No, it’s not, and you know it,” Adam calmly replied.

“We don’t ordain women in this church—it’s against the laws of God.  Besides, we would have to change our canon law at our Convention.”

“I’m not asking for a change in canon law, if you would read the document carefully,” Adam replied. “I’m issuing a waiver so that Terry can fully be the chaplain to the Crown Prince and Princess.  It is well within my rights as head of this Church to issue such a waiver, which includes skipping making her a deacon, to save you a ceremony.”

In places where “democratic institutions” exist, it usually isn’t this direct.  But that just makes the process longer and more expensive.

My objections to women bishops in Anglican churches stem from two things: that most are revisionists and the issue of authority, something I went back and forth with the late “Ugley Vicar”, John Richardson.  Both can be solved, but not within the bounds many Anglicans can accept.

In any case, for a state church to be faithful to the Scriptures–with or without WO–requires that the sovereigns be likewise, and that’s scarce in the West these days.

God, His Unity and Perfection: More on the Being of God and His Eternal Beatitude

Continuing on in Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, in this case 1,3 (the previous one is here):

I AM WHO AM. HE WHO IS, hath sent me to you. It is so that God defined himself.  It is to say that God is he in which non-being has no place, who thus is always, and always the same; who thus is unchangeable: who thus is eternal: all terms which have no explanation of themselves.  I AM WHO AM. And it is God who gives himself this explanation by the mouth of Malachi, when he said this through the prophet: For I am the Lord, and I change not.

God is thus an intelligence who cannot be ignorant of anything, neither doubt anything, neither learn anything, neither lose or acquire any perfection: for all of this is part of non-being.  Now God is he who is, him who is by essence.  How thus can one think that he who is, not be? Or that the idea which encompasses all being is not real? Or that, while one sees that the imperfect is, one could say, one could think, in hearing that which one thinks, that the perfect not be?

He who is perfect is happy, because he knows his perfection, for to know his perfection is a too essential part of perfection to miss being perfect.  O God, you are happy! O God, I rejoice in your eternal happiness! All of the Scripture preaches that the man who hopes in you is happy.  For a stronger reason, are you happy, yourself, O God, in whom one hopes.  Also St. Paul calls him expressly happy when he said to Timothy (I Tim 1:11;6:15,16): I announce to you these things according to the glorious Gospel of happy God; and then, It is he who has shown you in his time he who is happy and the only powerful: King of Kings and lord of lords, who along possesses immortality and is clothed in an inaccessible light, to whom belongs glory and an eternal empire.  O happy God, I adore you in your happiness.  Be praised forever for having me to be acquainted and know that you are always and changelessly happy.  Only you alone are happy and those who, knowing your eternal happiness, make it theirs.  Amen. Amen.

Then, We Couldn't Get Married. Now, We're Forced To.

Oh, the web we weave when we get charged up for a cause before we think things through:

Until recently, same-sex couples could not legally marry. Now, some are finding they must wed if they want to keep their partner’s job-based health insurance and other benefits.

With same-sex marriage now legal in 35 states and the District of Columbia, some employers that formerly covered domestic partners say they will require marriage licenses for workers who want those perks.

Now the “advocacy” people wake up:

Requiring marriage licenses is “a little bossy” and feels like “it’s not a voluntary choice at that point,” said Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, an organization advocating for gay, lesbian and transgender people.

The LGBT leadership had a choice: it could have advocated for the abolition of civil marriage or the extension of the franchise.  They opted for the latter.  Now they feel the downside of their decision, including marriage penalties in the tax code and loss of some government benefits with marriage (especially if they make it to old age, an issue opposite-sex couples deal with extensively).

Another downside, of course, is that some people’s “domestic partners” are in fact relatives who are dependent on them for many things.  This exclusion is written into many domestic partner benefit programs to mimic the consanguinity prohibitions of marriage, which are absurd to either domestic partner programs or same-sex civil marriage.  That’s why, for example, I opposed Chattanooga’s domestic partner benefit ordinance, which was overturned in referendum.

But that’s what happens when you start bawling for “freedom to marry” and end up with more restrictions and red tape than you started with.

God, His Unity and Perfection: The Perfection and Eternity of God

This is from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, 1,2.  The previous elevation is here.

It is said: the perfect is not, it is only an idea of our spirit which goes rising from the imperfect which one sees with one’s eyes to a perfection which only has reality in thought.  This is the reasoning which the impious wants to do in his heart, senseless who does not dream that the perfect is the first itself and in our ideas and that the imperfect in all respects is nothing but a degradation.  Tell me, my soul, how do you hear nothing unless you are? How is privation, if not from the form it is taken from? How is imperfection, if not from the perfection it has fallen from?  My soul, do you not hear that you have reason, but imperfect, as she does not know things, she doubts, she goes astray and is mistaken? But how do you hear error, if it is not the privation of truth, and how is doubt and obscurity, if it is not from privation of intelligence and light?  Or how is ignorance, if it is not from privation of perfect knowledge? How is there dissoluteness and vice in the will if it is not from privation of rectitude, uprightness and virtue? Primitively there is an intelligence, a certain knowledge, a truth, a firmness, an inflexibility in good, a rule, an order before there is a decay of all things: in a word, there is perfection before there is a fall.  Ahead of all dissoluteness, there must be a thing which is itself a rule and which, unable to leave itself, can neither fail nor faint.  Here is a perfect being; here is God, perfect and happy nature.  The rest is incomprehensible and we can neither understand where it is perfect and happy nor where it is incomprehensible.

From where does the idea come that the impious does not know God and that nations and soon the entire world has not known him, since we carry inside of ourselves the idea of perfection? From where does this come, if not from a lack of attention and because man, given up to the senses and imagination, does not want, or cannot bring himself, to pure ideas as his spirit, weighed down with gross images, cannot carry simple truth?

Man, ignorant so that he knows change before changelessness, because he expresses change with a positive term and changelessness as the negation of change, does not want to dream that being changeless is being and to change is to not be.  Now being is, and it is known by its privation which is not being. Before those things which are not always the same, there is one which, always the same, does not suffer decline: and this one not only is, but also is always known, although not always picked out or distinguished by lack of attention.  But when recalled in ourselves, we become attentive to immortal ideas of which we carry in ourselves the truth, we will find that perfection is that which we know the first, then when we have seen, we only know the defect as a decline from perfection.

Sometimes We Wish Our Opponent's Predictions Came True

I’ll bet that the Obama White House wishes that about this:

In March 2012, on the floor of the United States Senate, Mike Lee (R-UT) predicted that if Obama was reelected gas would cost $5.45 per gallon by the start 2015. Lee said that gas prices would rise 5 cents for every month Obama was in office, ultimately reaching $6.60 per gallon.

Raising the price of petrol is a long-term liberal dream, for a variety of reasons.  Doing so would carry out a number of their goals: making mass transit more attractive, making suburban sprawl less attractive, reducing carbon emissions.  European petrol prices are largely there because of high taxation.  But the left has been stymied in getting this done in the U.S., so they’ve resorted to other means, including impeding exploration and development of fossil fuels of all types, blocking the Keystone pipeline, etc.  The EPA’s “carbon dioxide as pollutant” initiative is the next phase of this effort.

Unfortunately the confluence of two events has set back this strategy.  The first is the development of fracking and the opening up of previously unavailable oil and natural gas reserves, which is making the U.S. energy self-sufficient for the first time in many years.  The second is the Saudis’ “go ahead, make my day” flooding of the market with oil, aimed primarily at the Iranians and secondarily at the Russians.

For the left, the drop in petrol prices is a classic case of “defeat snatched out of the jaws of victory”.

And there’s another prediction that needs some clarification, at least:

In September 2012, Mitt Romney predicted that if Obama is reelected “you’re going to see chronic high unemployment continue four years or longer.” At the time, the unemployment rate was 8.1% and had been between 8.1% and 8.3% for the entire year.

The only reason why we don’t have high unemployment rates these days is that, in the U.S., unemployment rates don’t take into consideration workers who have basically left the workforce.  Workforce participation is at its lowest since the late 1970’s; if people who have left the workforce were factored in, we’d have higher unemployment rates.  The high exit from the workforce has been facilitated by current “loose” policies on allowing people to go on disability and Obamacare’s indirect promotion of Medicaid.

Southern Republicans in particular need to go light on this issue.  With constituencies which are, to a large extent, descendants of people who didn’t come here to do the work or have been influenced by these people, both of these expansions have been popular down here.  We’ve already seen some pushback on the Medicaid issue in Louisiana; expect it elsewhere.

As far as the other two predictions are concerned, never underestimate the ability of the 1% to hold their deal together when the situation calls for it.

God, His Unity and Perfection: The Being of God

I am starting another series from Jaques-Bénigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, starting with the first one. This would be 1,1.

From all eternity, God is: God is perfect: God is happy: God is one. The impious asks: why is God? I answer him: why shouldn’t he be? Is it because he is perfect and perfection is an obstacle to being? Silly error! To the contrary perfection is the reason for being. Why should the imperfect be and the perfect not? It is to say: why is that which is more than nothing is, and that which is nothing is not? What is called perfect? A being to which nothing is lacking. What is called imperfect? A being to which something is lacking. Why is a being which lacks nothing non-existent, sooner than a being to which something is lacking? From where comes the idea that something is and that it cannot make nothing exist, if it is not because being is worth more than nothing; and, that nothing cannot prevail against being, and cannot prevent a being from being? But for the same reason, the imperfect cannot be worth more than the perfect, neither prevent the being from being.  Who can thus hinder that God is not and why the nothing of God which the impious imagines in his senseless heart, why, I say, this nothing of God carries itself on God’s being and is it worth more that God is not than he is? O God! One is lost in such a great blindness.  The impious loses himself in the nothing of God which he prefers to the being of God; and himself, this impious, does not dream to ask himself why he is.  My soul, reasonable soul, but whose reason is weak, why do you want to be and God is not?   Alas, are you worth more than God? Weak soul, ignorant soul, astray, full of errors, and uncertain of her intelligence; full in your will of weakness, of wandering, of corruption, of bad desires, is it necessary that you be and that certitude, comprehension, the full knowledge of the truth and the changeless love of justice and of rectitude not be?

Why I Support the Idea of Believers' Baptism

My church’s news site recently noted a gathering down in Jamaica which was a consultation on believers’ baptism.  There were a couple of ministers from my church there, along with representatives of the World Council of Churches.

I’m always nervous when our ministers get involved with WCC people and events.  They are like young Siegfried, innocent and without fear, but unaware of the dangers that lurk.  (I used a Wagnerian analogy about my church in another context here.)  Most Pentecostal churches, as is the case with “Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology“, simply continued with believers’ (adult) baptism, although in this case the results were better.

My own saga with this is complicated.  The “five” years in decades seem to be replete with anniversaries good and bad alike.  Fifty years ago this year I was baptised in the Episcopal Church after a direct encounter with God which, among other things, made me ask whether I had been baptised or not.  My mother excused her lack of having me baptised as an infant on my poor health.  But it was an excuse; I think she, raised Southern Baptist, was deeply conflicted about pedobaptism, and used that (and my father’s indifference) to skip it.

In any case, we went to our Rector, Robert Appleyard, who later was Bishop of Pittsburgh and performed the first “legal” ordinations of women in the Episcopal Church.  He even agreed with my mother’s request for a private baptism.  He was unimpressed with my direct encounter with God, and well he should have been; it’s jaundiced my view of any kind of “preacher religion” since.

In any case most “Main Line” churches (along with their Catholic and Orthodox counterparts) practice pedobaptism, while most Evangelical and Pentecostal ones practice adult or “believers’ baptism” after a conscious profession of faith.  It seems to me that this is the New Testament pattern which got changed with changes in the church, most of them not for the better.  It’s an issue that is, in many ways, the “stickiest wicket” between me and my Anglican and Catholic roots.  Yet these and other churches are very insistent that infants be baptised.

The strongest theological justification of this came from Augustine, who taught that everyone comes into this world with original sin and that baptism cleanses this.  The alternative (I’m not sure whether it’s Augustinian or not, but the RCC taught it for many years) is that unbaptised infants, guilty of no other sins, literally ended up in Limbo, as Dante vividly illustrated.

Reformed types, while getting away from Limbo and in some cases a sacramental concept of baptism, nevertheless continued the practice of pedobaptism.  These churches, along with just about everyone else in Europe, regarded the concept of believers’ baptism that the Anabaptists set forth with horror, persecutions following.

In recent times we’ve seen even the RCC backtrack on the Limbo business, which in turn backtracks on the original sin problem.  But that’s lead to the emphasis (obsession?) with another aspect of baptism: the marking of a person as a Christian, albeit an infant with no decision-making capacity.  It’s analogous in some ways to the Islāmic concept that, once you’re born of a Muslim parent, you’re a Muslim and that’s it.  Christianity has never benefited from picking up bad Islāmic habits.  The most egregious manifestation of this is the Episcopal Church’s “Baptismal Covenant”, which I describe as “the Contract on the Episcopalians”.  Sometimes I think that the radical left in TEC thinks that this commits the faithful from the cradle to join every left-wing cause and vote Democrat.

The things that divide people on baptism, such as sacrament vs. ordinance, or immersion vs. sprinkling, or any of the others, in many ways obscure what is, as far as I am concerned, the central issue with baptism.  That central issue centres around how people become Christians and the nature of the church.

To be a Christian is a decision which is made possible by the grace of God.  That’s more obvious to people who have to prove and defend being a Christian more than those who either float along with the culture or don’t venture much outside their Christian circles.  Baptism, by all considered the initiation rite into Christianity, needs to be connected with that decision, which can only be done by someone with enough faculties to do so.  (And I’m not one to set the lower age limit too high on that, it depends on the person.)  To do otherwise is to make cultural Christianity–which is becoming a rarer and rarer bird these days–normative.  A reasonable reading of the New Testament should make it clear this is not the case.

Once a person has made such a decision and has been baptised, the next question comes up: what kind of church are they joining?  The Greek term ecclesia means the “called out ones”, but many have argued that restricting the church to true believers is too exclusivistic.  They use the “wheat and tares” parable to back themselves up.  But we need to ask the serious question: is the church a wheat field with tares, or a tare field with wheat?  Too many churches have been the latter, but we really don’t have the luxury of that any more, if we ever did.

This is why I think that believers’ baptism is the best.