29 December 2017

Remembering Expo 67

The past year’s celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday reminded me of another anniversary: that of my first visit to this country, which occurred 50 years ago. I was 12 years old, and my father had promised us that we would be seeing Expo 67, the world’s fair in Montréal. We had been expecting this all summer, but school rolled around and we hadn’t yet made the trip. We children knew that the fair would not last forever, and we feared missing it if we waited too long.

October rolled around and still no fair. As Expo would be wrapping up at the end of the month, we got more nervous. But then, on the fifth day of the month, I came home from school to learn that we would be getting in our family’s Buick Electra and leaving for the fair in only two hours! I can no longer recall whether my mother had already packed for all eight of us, but we soon headed off into the night, as prepared as we were ever going to be.

28 December 2017

What’s in a name? Fundamentalism, evangelicalism and the fickleness of labels

A good friend of mine in graduate school was an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). A confessionally Reformed Christian, he admitted to me that he sometimes liked to call himself a fundamentalist just to see how others would respond. Though we were on the same page in so many ways, I personally didn’t think I could go quite that far.

Nevertheless, I was raised in what might well be regarded as the first fundamentalist denomination, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Established in 1936 by John Gresham Machen and others, it grew out of the controversies of the 1920s and ’30s in the former Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Confessional liberals, who elevated personal experience and rationalism above both the Bible and the Westminster Standards, gradually moved into the ascendancy, with the more conservative elements increasingly on the defensive. These trends had already begun in the post-Civil War era, gaining speed around the turn of the 20th century and achieving dominance after the end of the Great War.

27 December 2017

The Queen's Christmas Message, 2017

Exactly sixty years after the Queen first aired her annual Christmas message on television, the Palace posted this fresh message:

We who have faithfully listened to her broadcasts year after year have noticed that their content is more explicitly christian than in the past, as pointed out in this article from The Guardian: How the Queen – the ‘last Christian monarch’ – has made faith her message. The turn of the millennium appears to have marked the start of this unmistakable trend.

To the royal household, it is known as the QXB – the Queen’s Christmas broadcast. To millions of people, it is still an essential feature of Christmas Day. To the Queen, her annual broadcast is the time when she speaks to the nation without the government scripting it. But in recent years, it has also become something else: a declaration of her Christian faith. As Britain has become more secular, the Queen’s messages have followed the opposite trajectory.

This is how she closed her message two days ago:

We remember the birth of Jesus Christ, whose only sanctuary was a stable in Bethlehem. He knew rejection, hardship and persecution. And, yet, it is Jesus Christ's generous love and example which has inspired me through good times and bad. Whatever your own experience is this year, wherever and however you are watching, I wish you a peaceful and very happy Christmas.

God save the Queen! Let us pray that, when the time arrives, her heirs and successors will see fit to continue this emphasis in their own Christmas messages.

Harry Blamires, 1916-2017

Harry Blamires (pronounced BLAMers) was not one of the best known of Christian apologists, overshadowed as he was by the likes of his mentor C. S. Lewis and, among Reformed Christians, Cornelius Van Til. Nevertheless, he was a scholar and theologian of the first rank, and he will be remembered for a single book he published in 1963, The Christian Mind. Because there have been so many books published in recent decades on the subject of a Christian worldview, we may forget that there was a time when the need to think in a distinctively christian way was unfamiliar even to regular church-goers, as it was to me when I was growing up. I acquired my copy back in June 1976 (so I wrote inside the front cover), and underscored those passages that leapt out at me. Blamires makes no mention of Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch polymath and statesman with whom I was becoming acquainted and increasingly sympathetic, but, with some exceptions, I saw them as co-belligerents in the effort to alert believers to the comprehensive sovereignty of God in Christ over the whole of life. Here is a wonderful sample of Blamires' writing:

It may be that the dominant evil of our time is neither the threat of nuclear warfare nor the mechanization of society, but the disintegration of human thought and experience into separate unrelated compartments. For a feature of the diseased condition of modern society is the parcelling out of human faculties—physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual—into distinct categories, separately exploited, separately catered for. Man is dismembered. In the high incidence of mental disease you can measure something of the cost of this dismemberment. In so far as the Church nurtures the schizophrenic Christian, the Church herself contributes to the very process of dismemberment which it is her specific business to check and counter. For the Church's function is properly to reconstitute the concept and the reality of the full man, faculties and forces blended and united in the service of God. The Church's mission as the continuing vehicle of divine incarnation is precisely that—to build and rebuild the unified Body made and remade in the image of the Father. The mind of man must be won for God (TCM, p. 81).
Christianity Today carries an obituary of Blamires here: Died: Harry Blamires, the C. S. Lewis Protégé Who Rediscovered ‘The Christian Mind’. May he rest in peace until the resurrection.


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