Daily Archives: January 21, 2018

([London] Times) France gets baby blues as birthrate falls another 2.1% last year

A three-year fall in the birth rate in France is threatening its title as Europe’s most fertile nation and government policies are being blamed.

France has prided itself on policies promoting a high level of childbirth since the 1960s, and particularly in the past 20 years when populations in Europe have aged and shrunk.

The statistics office said the numbers were a delayed reaction to the financial crisis in 2008 because generous social and family benefits had cushioned a demographic impact noticed far earlier elsewhere in Europe. France has taken longer to recover than its neighbours.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Marriage & Family

CS Spurgeon–‘the gospel which Christ preached was, very plainly, a command’

I shall commence by remarking that the gospel which Christ preached was, very plainly, a command. “Repent and believe the gospel.” Our Lord does condescend to reason. Often His ministry graciously acted out the old text, “Come, now, and let us reason together; though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as wool.” He does persuade men by telling and forcible arguments, which should lead them to seek the salvation of their souls. He does invite men and oh, how lovingly He woos them to be wise! “Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He does entreat men. He condescends to become, as it were, a beggar to His own sinful creatures, beseeching them to come to Him. Indeed, He makes this to be the duty of His ministers, “As though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ’s place, be you reconciled to God.” Yet, remember, though He condescends to reason, to persuade, to invite, and to beseech, still His gospel has in it all the dignity and force of a command; and if we would preach it in these days as Christ did, we must proclaim it as a command from God, attended with a divine sanction, and not to be neglected except at the infinite peril of the soul! When the feast was spread upon the table for the marriage supper, there was an invitation—but it had all the obligation of a command—since those who rejected it were utterly destroyed as despisers of their king! When the builders reject Christ, He becomes a stone of stumbling to “the disobedient.” But how could they disobey if there were no command? The gospel contemplates, I say, invitations, entreaties, and beseeching—but it also takes the higher ground of authority. “Repent and believe,” is as much a command of God as, “You shall not steal.” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” has as fully a divine Authority
as, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Think not, O man, that the gospel is a thing left to your option to choose or not! Dream not, O sinners that you may despise the Word from heaven and incur no guilt! Think not that you may neglect it, and no ill consequences shall follow! It is just this neglect and despising of yours which shall fill up the measure of your iniquity. It is this concern for which we cry aloud, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” God commands you to repent! The same God before whom Sinai was moved, and was altogether on a smoke—that same God who proclaimed the law with sound of trumpet, with lightning, and with thunder, speaks to us more gently, but still as divinely, through His only begottenSon, when He says to us, “Repent and believe the gospel.”

Read it all (quoted by yours truly in the morning sermon).

Posted in Church History, Preaching / Homiletics, Soteriology, Theology: Scripture

(Wash Post) Michael Gerson–Abortion rights go against the spirit of civil rights

Why does this issue refuse to fade from our politics? One reason concerns Roe itself, which was (as Justice Byron White put it in his dissent) “an exercise in raw judicial power.” Blackmun’s ruling does not hold up well on rereading. His system of trimesters and viability was (and is) arbitrary and medically rootless, a fig leaf covering an almost limitless abortion right. Blackmun’s weak argument largely substituted for the democratic process in 50 states. Fiat replaced deliberation and democratic legitimacy. This was a recipe for resentment and reaction.

But judicial fiat can’t be a sufficient explanation. The Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage in every state was also sweeping. It has produced almost no political reaction. The contrast to Roe could hardly be starker. And the explanation is rather simple: All the great civil rights movements have been movements of inclusion. The first modern civil rights campaign — militating for the end of the British slave trade — set the pattern with its slogan: “Am I not a man and a brother?” Susan B. Anthony asked: “Are women persons?” In the most rapidly successful civil rights movement of our time, gays and lesbians came out to show their communities that LGBT people were their friends and family members. All these efforts expanded the circle of social welcome and protection.

The abortion rights movement, in contrast, is a movement of autonomy. Its primary appeal is to individual choice, not social inclusion. And the choice it elevates seems (to some people) in tension with the principle of inclusion. A fetus is genetically distinct from the mother, is biologically human and has the inherent capacity to develop into a child. This makes it different from a hangnail or a tumor. At what point does this developing human life deserve our sympathy and protection? When neurological activity develops? When the fetus can feel pain? When a child is born? When an infant can think and reason? All these “achievements” are, in fact, scientifically and ethically arbitrary. They don’t mark the start of a new life, just the development of an existing life.

It is the antiabortion movement that appeals to inclusion. It argues for a more expansive definition of the human community. It opposes ending or exploiting one human life for the benefit of another. There are heart-rending stories that prevent the simplistic application of this approach. But most of the antiabortion men and women I know have the genuine and selfless motivation of trying to save innocent lives.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Theology

(Telegraph) Peal for England! Church bells to be protected in planning rules from noise complaints

Church bells are to win protection under new planning rules to stop people who move into towns and villages forcing councils to silence them, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Ministers said official planning guidance in England would be changed for new homes to show that the Government is now “standing up for churches”.

Churches have repeatedly had to comply with noise abatement orders to silence church bells after complaints from often only a handful of homeowners despite the fact that they have tolled for decades.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry

(BBC) Meet the religious social media stars–Their Instagrams are all about god and spirituality

Official religious bodies have long been making the most of technology. Last Easter, the Church of England encouraged followers to share “photos of baptisms, dawn services, church celebrations and more using the hashtag #EasterJoy” on all forms of social media. On Facebook, the page ‘Ask a Catholic Nun’ has almost 270,000 followers, while a Christian-based ad agency found more than 30% of churches said they updated Facebook each day. The Dalai Lama is arguably the leader in this field; he has had a Twitter account since 2008, now with 17.3 million followers.

Now, ordinary individuals are following suit. In the same way as people interested in particular diets or exercise regimes use social media to promote the lifestyles they espouse, social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are providing a platform for spiritual influencers to spread the word. These individuals can have virtual congregations of thousands, who often follow them with passionate loyalty. In many ways, they’re the digital successors to American TV preachers who used to reach their audiences in their living rooms.

In the UK and America, Christian believers appear to be those accruing the largest fanbases. One of the most prominent Christian influencers in the UK is the fashion and textiles student Dephne Madyara, with 100k subscribers on YouTube and 20k followers on Instagram. In America, influencers such as Sadie Robertson (5m followers, across Instagram and Twitter), Heather Lindsey (350,000 followers) and Emma Mae Jenkins (130,000 followers) amass thousands of likes on their videos extolling the benefits of their faith.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, England / UK, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

A Prayer to Begin the Day from the Pastor’s Prayerbook

Almighty God, who hast given us powers which our fathers never knew, to probe thine ancient mysteries, and to discover thy hidden treasures: Quicken our conscience, we beseech thee, as thou dost enlighten our understanding; lest, having tasted the fruits of knowledge, we perish through our own pride and disobedience. We ask it for Jesus Christ’s sake

–Robert W. Rodenmayer, ed., The Pastor’s Prayerbook: Selected and arranged for various occasions (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960)

Posted in Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

O God, thou art my God, I seek thee, my soul thirsts for thee; my flesh faints for thee, as in a dry and weary land where no water is.
So I have looked upon thee in the sanctuary, beholding thy power and glory.
Because thy steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise thee.

–Psalm 63:1-3

Posted in Theology: Scripture