Josiah Audette

"Aware of the past, curious about the future, ready to argue the present." Tocqueville

Tag: Culture

King Alfred the Great

alfred the great

Wash you, make you clean, take away the evil of your works from before mine eyes: cease to do evil. Learn to do well: seek judgment, relieve the oppressed: judge the fatherless, and defend the widow. come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins were as crimson, they shall be made white as snow: though they were red like scarlet, they shall be as wool, If ye consent and obey, ye shall eat the good things of the land. But if ye refuse and be rebellious, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

Isaiah 1. 16-20

INTRODUCTION

This passage is increasingly relevant to the plight of western Christendom today. Our local and supreme courts have forsaken the divine justice in its exercise of its judgments, our statist, welfare society has fostered an individualism under which no one fares well, we murder the fatherless, and we commercially institutionalize the widow. Consequentially, as the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it, we are being devoured religiously by immigrant invasion, devoured economically by an all-consuming state, devoured morally by the sexual revolution, devoured ethically by the supreme court zeitgeist, devoured politically by a mobocracy, and aesthetically by a culture of death. However, these things will not be the cause of our nation’s overthrow. They are the result. The result of a lethargic apostasy in the  Christian worship of local churches.

This is not the first time the church, or English speaking peoples have relinquished themselves to be devoured in such a manner. To this end, we may look back 1200 years ago to the time of the England of the Anglo-Saxons under King Alfred the Great. Who took an almost entirely defeated and devoured nation back from the viking invaders, enlightened a practically illiterate and ignorant Christian people, built a diversified and thriving economy, reformed the laws of justice in the land, and revived a latent church. He was a King David in his deliverance of Israel from the vikings, a King Solomon in his teaching and legislating wisdom and justice to the people, and a King Josiah in reforming a dying church. Truly, he was Alfred… the Great.

PROPHET OF NORTHUMBRIA

Alcuin, a native of Northumbria (Northern England) wrote the following indictment depicting the state of the nation to the king of northern England. “Carefully consider, brothers, and diligently note: lest this extraordinary and unheard of evil might be somehow merited by the habit of some unspoken wickedness. I am not saying that the sin of fornication never appeared before among the people. But since the days of King Alfwold, fornications, adulteries, and incest have inundated the land, such that these sins have been perpetrated without any shame, even against nuns who have been dedicated to God. What can I say about greed, robbery, and perverted judgments? When it is clearer than daylight, how much these crimes have flourished everywhere and it is witnessed by a plundered people.” Firstly, what was this extraordinary and unheard evil being merited? It was the viking raids. At the time of Alfred’s birth in 849 the vikings had terrorized the inhabitants of the land in their savage raids of murder, rapine, and plunder. Religious communities especially were their targets of choice. Monasteries and churches full of wealth were plundered by the vikings who then made hasty retreats evading the sluggish saxon military. Their violence was nothing less than terrorizing, where for them the crueler the death the greater the story. They preyed on the Saxon’s weaknesses of community isolation, defenceless monasteries, and Christian holidays. One record depicts the viking execution of the defeated king of East Anglia, king Edward. “First the king was bound to a tree, where he was scourged and beaten. Then the Vikings shot arrows at him until he ‘bristled like a hedgehog.’ Annoyed at his continued calling out to Christ, the Vikings finally beheaded him.” This “extraordinary and unheard evil” referred to by that native of Northumbria is sadly not a foreign reality to us 1200 years later where Christian leaders are still being tortured and beheaded by eastern invaders. No less familiar to our society is this “habit of some unspoken wickedness” in the devoured land of England. What was this unconfessed, secret national sin that the native of Northumbria was referring to which merited such plunder? Prior to the viking invasions, England had witnessed a time of prosperity. To which the Christian people had become both indolent, ignorant, and insolent. Their love of Christian works and Christian work wained so much so that at the time of King Alfred hardly any church or statesman could understand the Latin tongue. This intellectual lethargy in the church gradually digressed into paganism in the society. Paganism marked by sexual revolution, oppression, and the abandonment of justice. Just as the native of Northumbria, who patterned his speech after the prophet Isaiah, passed judgment on the land. The native of Northumbria warns even us today that the cause of this “extraordinary and unheard evil” [of eastern invaders] is merited by our “habit of some unspoken wickedness.” Where sexual revolution has “inundated the land, such that these sins have been perpetuated without any shame.” And what too can we say of the “greed [Of people rich in debt], robbery [Of wealth redistribution], and perverse judgments  [Of the courts and parliament]? When it is clearer than daylight, how much these crimes have flourished everywhere and is witnessed by a plundered people.”

O Guide, if Thou wilt not steer fortune amain

But lets her rush so self-willed and vain,

I know that the world will doubt of Thy might,

And few among men in Thy rule will delight.

My Lord, overseeing all things from on high

Look down on mankind with mercy’s mild eye,

In wild waves of trouble they struggle and strive,

Then spare the poor earthworms, and save them alive!

“A Psalm to God” by King Alfred the Great

BATTLE OF ASHTOWN

As the native of Northumbria forewarned, in the autumn of 866 the kingdom of Northumbria fell to the vikings, followed by the kingdom of Mercia in 867, and the kingdom of East Anglia in 869. The only Anglo-Saxon kingdom remaining was the kingdom of Wessex ruled by king Ethelwulf, whose son was Alfred. Like David of Jesse, Alfred was the youngest and fifth born son of king Ethelwulf. Like Joseph, he was favoured by his parents. Like Christ, he grew in wisdom and stature. Of his childhood the Bishop of Assar writes, “He was loved by his father and mother, and even by all the people, above all his brothers, and was educated altogether at the court of the king. As he advanced through the years of infancy and youth, his form appeared more comely than that of his brothers; in look, in speech, and in manners he was more graceful than they.” Alfred developed a love for the poetry of the Saxon tongue, together with the disciplines of hunting and fighting. All of which would serve him well in his future reign. However, Alfred’s family was plagued by the treachery of the eldest son against the kingship of his father together with the deaths of many of his brothers in battle against the vikings, and ultimately the death of his father in 858. Only Alfred and his older brother Ethelred remained of the royal family. Both of whom would fight valiantly against the vikings. One of the brothers most notable engagements was the Battle of Ashdown. Alfred was a mere twenty-two years of age, neither a king or seasoned soldier. Notwithstanding he lead his men to the place where the vikings had gathered for their attack on the last standing kingdom of Wessex. In this battle Alfred was not only lacking in age, kingship, and experience, but also lacked the better ground in the battle. The vikings had positioned themselves at the top of a hill and thus began the first formality of viking battle to the Saxons assembled bellow, namely, the flyting. Flyting, was an exchange of insults, ranging from accusations of cowardice, to graphic depictions of what would be done to their corpses and womenfolk waiting in Wessex. After this demoralizing assault of words, began the assault advance of the vikings tumbling down the hill towards Alfred’s men. Alfred commanded his men to form a shieldwall where the front line overlaps their shields, brace each other shoulder to shoulder, and the ranks of men behind lean into the front line for support. Once Alfred had commanded such a formation he joined the front line wall. Much to the surprise of both the Vikings and Saxons the shield wall held the initial impact and furthermore began to push the Vikings backwards up the hill from whence they descended. This initial success worked an almost animal rage in Alfred in cutting down the Vikings. His men later would depict him in battle as a wild boar on the battlefield, razing through the enemy lines as a bloody beast. Alfred and his ability to command was stuck in the shieldwall, from which no man could depart lest the vikings break through the gap. As a Saxon fell on the front line another would immediately step up from behind him to fill the wall. Naturally the length of the battle up the hill began to put a strain not he shieldwall. Alfred’s brother, Ethelred, was to join him in battle, but was delayed by a prolonged morning mass. When his aid was most needed, Ethelred accompanied by his men appeared over the ridge and attacked the vikings from the side. The Battle of Ashtown was among the first notable victories for the Saxons. After which the bulk of their men returned home to tend to their home and work leaving the two kingly brothers with a meagre army. Despite this great victory, the armies of Wessex continued to loose in battle with the Vikings. In one of which loses, Ethelred was gravely wounded an shortly went the way of all flesh. Upon the death of his last family member Alfred received the crown of Wessex. He was their only and last defender.

None would think the daylight dear

If dim night they did not fear;

So, to every one of us,

On the broad earth dwelling thus, 

Joy more joyous still is seen

After troubles once have been.

“Uses of Adversity” by King Alfred the Great

A SIGHT OF DESPAIR

One could imagine the sorrow and anguish Alfred must have felt, especially, as melancholy had been his disposition from youth. One record recounts, “The aforesaid Alfred often fell into such great misery, that sometimes none of his subjects knew where he was or what had become of him.” Beyond this mental anguish of internal anxieties, kingly burdens, and continual invasions by the Vikings, Alfred was plagued by physical pain. During his youth, Alfred found himself greatly tempted by the lewdness of the sexual revolution about him and prayed daily for God to give him some sort of physical affliction (So long as it was not deforming or disabling) to curb his sinful affliction. God delivered him from the lusts of a young man with the excruciating disease of piles. Gradually, depleted by the misery and agony of the disease Alfred asked God deliver him, which the Lord was pleased to do. Until the day of his marriage to Ealswith, where in the middle of the marriage feast Alfred doubled over in incapacitating pain. This mysterious internal torment would not leave Alfred until his death. King Alfred took great relief in the Psalms of David and wrote poetry of his own to combat his melancholy. We can glimpse something of his agony in his poem, “A Sight of Despair.”

Alas! in how grim

A gulf of despair,

Dreary and dim

For sorrow and care,

My mind toils along

When the waves of the world

Stormy and strong

Against it are hurled.

When in such strife my mind will forget

Its light and its life

In worldly regret,

And though the night

Of this world doth grope

Lost to the light

Of heavenly hope.

Thus it hath no

Befallen my mind

I know no more how

God’s goodness to find,

But groan in my grief

Troubled and tost,

Needing relief

For the world I have lost.”

Alfred’s contemporary biographer, the Bishop of Assar, wrote of this aspect of Alfred with the following: “But the Almighty not only granted to the same glorious king victories over his enemies, but also permitted him to be harassed by them, to be sunk down by adversities, and depressed by the low estates office followers, to the end that he might learn that there is one Lord of all things, to whom every knee doth bow, and in whose hand are the hearts of kings; who puts down the mighty from their seat and exalteth the humble; who suffers his servants when they are elevated at the summit of prosperity to be touched by the rod of adversity, that in their humility they may not despair of God’s mercy, and in their prosperity they may bot boast of their honours, but may also know, to whom they owe all the things which they possess.”

THE RESURRECTION OF ALFRED

This despair was only the beginning for King Alfred. Of the many battle and skirmishes waged against the raiding army after Ashdown, the victory had gone to the Viking marauders, whose ultimate victory seemed eminent. However, of all the other Saxon kingdoms none other had resisted the Vikings so strong or cost them so much as King Alfred’s Wessex. But neither resistance nor extortion payment could keep them off, so that in the end (Or what seemed to be the end) the nobles of Wessex betrayed King Alfred and took oaths of Submission to the Viking commander, Guthrum. As one biographer morbidly notes, “Cut off from his throne, his court, and his armies, Alfred, betrayed and abandoned, wandered into the moors, wastelands, and fens of Wessex, moving into the marshes and woods of Somerset.” As once King David was, so too now was King Alfred cut off and betrayed by his own people. Nonetheless, he refused to abandon his kingdom as they had abandoned him. Alfred conducted a rather successful campaign of guerrilla warfare against Guthrum from his secret headquarters in the marshlands. Alfred’s resistance at this time where he was hid away in the dark, black forest of the moors engendered a Robin Hood like fame of him among the oppressed and those still loyal to the king. One biographer records the legend of “How Alfred dressed himself up as a juggler and walked openly into the camp of the Danes, who, not recognizing him and thinking he was some sort of entertainer, welcomed him into their camp and demanded that he perform. The disguised king obliged them and performed for the Viking camp for several days, delighting them thoroughly. During this time he was able to walk freely through the camp, spying out their numbers, checking on their state of readiness, and collecting all the information necessary for forming his own straggles of attack.” Such tales inspired those loyal to the throne, both peasant and noble, and discomforted those base nobles who had betrayed Alfred. During these darkest days the betrayed king used surprise attacks, secret networks of communication with nobles still loyal, spying, and surveillance to raise an army once again to face Guthrum in battle.  Alfred’s legendary example instilled a nobility and principle in the people of Wessex. Through the continued inspiration of Alfred and the persecution of the Vikings it was clear to the people that freedom would be worth fighting for. Their sense of self-rule had been reinstated by their secret king’s example of self-discipline, preparation, and retrospection. Alfred sent a secret communication summoning those loyal to battle. The secret reunion of Alfred with his loyal nobles and armies of 5,000 men in the misty forest was a spectacular moment. “It was as if the king had been restored to life after a terrible tribulation.” 

“He that wishes power to win,

First must toil to rule his mind,

That himself the slave to sin

Selfish lust may never bind:

Let him haste to put away

All that fruitless heap of care:

Cease while they sighs to-day,

And thyself from sorrow spare.

How shall he seem great or strong,

If himself he cannot save,

Word and deed against all wrong,

But to sin is still a slave?”

“Of Self-Rule” by King Alfred the Great

DELIVERANCE OF ENGLAND

King Alfred and his army of 5,000 met the Viking tyrrant, Guthrum to wage battle. The two enemies formed their respective shieldwalls and marched on each other. When they were within a short distance, both sides flew javelins into the sky destined for their enemies ranks. The silent soar of so many spears was said to blacken the sky as they slowly rose and then dove into the arms, torsos, and shields of those fateful souls in their trajectory. Both shield walls were weakened as the dead and wounded fell to the ground, quickly being replaced by those from behind. Axes were readied for the next stage of combat. At this juncture the Vikings unleashed a special force of maniacal madmen called the Berserkers. Before battle these men would conduct a heathen dancing ritual and consume a hallucinogenic mushroom turning them into a ravenous craze with the strength of wolves and beasts. They painted their faces into distorted, grotesque forms and went naked into battle. Yet now the men of Wessex remained noble to their great nobleman, King Alfred, and quickly dispensed with the demonic lives of the Berserkers, broke the Viking shieldwall, and gained the victory over Guthrum after so many long years of oppression. What Alfred was to do next though would be more marvellous to the people of Wessex than any battle victory could display. Guthrum offered total surrender to Alfred, never before had such terms been submitted by an invading Viking. Any time an English king had surrendered to a Viking no mercy was shown. The Vikings had in previous victories bound the king of East Anglia to a tree and packed his body with arrows and in Northumbria they ritually sacrificed the defeated king. If Alfred was to exact the same treatment on Guthrum which Guthrum had exacted from Alfred’s brethren, he too would be brutally executed. Alfred had been merciful before in his terms of surrender; settling for oaths, hostages, and extortion payments, but the Vikings continually break such oaths of peace. Alfred shocked all when he demanded Guthrum and his thirty best men be baptized into the Christian faith. This was no mere outward ceremony though. The medieval church believed as we do that the Christian faith was a rebirth. Alfred and the Christians of his day took this imagery seriously and incorporated many elements of the first, physical birth. As in the first, physical birth their are physical parents, so too in the second, spiritual rebirth their are spiritual parents. Consequently, at each baptism there was a man or woman who sponsored the new baptized Christian as a sort of spiritual godparent. This too was no empty ritual. To be a spiritual godparent was much the same as to be a physical parent. You accepted them into your family, your home, your wealth, influence, and power. Hence, when Alfred summoned Guthrum, his mortal enemy, to be baptized he was entering into a spiritual covenant, a spiritual adoption, and become a spiritual mentor to this viking. Guthrum accepted Alfred’s gesture and was baptized by Alfred himself. One biographer records, “Alfred treated his godson, along with Guthrum’s thirty Danish companions, to twelve days of Anglo-Saxon feastng. The Viking guests, once the mortal enemies of the Wessex throne, now sat in Alfred’s races mead hall, white-robed, banqueting on roasted boar and veinison draining horns of mead, and listening to the Saxon stop thrumming on his lyre and singing poems of the glory of long-dead warriors, mingled with lyrics of praising the most high God who had created the wonder-filled world.” Guthrum’s testimony of faith remained true to his death. In the future he refused to join viking raiders in planned attacks on Wessex, he preserved peace with Alfred, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records his death as King Alfred’s godson with no mention of his life as a Viking or his wars against Alfred. From his youth, Alfred, despite all odds against him, discipled himself in the Christian faith though he was racked in pain and misery. He discipled a disloyal, difficult, people in the Christian faith. He discipled his greatest nemesis in the Christian faith and delivered England as King David.

Thus quoth Alfred, England’s love,

‘Would ye live for God above?

Would ye long that He may show

Wiselike things for you to know,

That you may world’s worship gain,

And your souls to Christ attain?’

Wise the saying Alfred said:

‘Christ the Lord I bid thee dread

Meekly, O mine own dear friend,

Love and like him without end;

He is Lord of life and love,

Blest all other bliss above,

He is man, our Father true,

And a meek mild Master too;

Yea, our borther; yea our king;

Wise and rich in everything,

So that nought of His goo will

Shall be aught but pleasure still

To the man who Him with fear

In the world doth worship here.’

Thus quoth Alfred, our delight:

‘He may be no king of right

Under Christ, who is not filled

With book lore, in law well skilled,

Letter he must understand,

And know by what he holds his land.”

REVIVAL AND REFORMATION

Alfred sought to know by what he held the land. Having secured the deliverance of England as King David he sought as King Solomon in times of peace to retrieve the lost scholars, revive the floundering education, restore the justice system, raise the debased church, restart a broken economy, and reinstate a better currency, reinforced broken defences, retrained a new army, and rectify a new navy. Alfred understood as the native of Northumbria that the vikings were not the cause of England’s overthrow. They were the result. The result of an apostate people dwelling on formally Christian soil. He devoted himself as King Josiah to a revival of Christian learning and Christian worship. He translated several great works of Christendom into the Anglo-Saxon tongue such as The Consolation of Philosophy, Soliloquies of Augustine, Pastoral Care, and the first fifty psalms of the Bible. He also tasked the nobles to learn the scholarly Latin tongue. One biographer records, “Alfred orchestrated a tremendous revival of literacy, a revival that culminated in the greatest literary renaissance ever experienced in Anglo-Saxon Britain.” The end of literacy for Alfred was the Solomon-like, kingly virtue of wisdom. Thus any man presently holding or aspiring to office must attain this royal skill. Alfred composed the most comprehensive set of laws in his Domboc, or Book of Dooms. These would set the foundation for the English Common Law, the Magna Carta, and the legal systems of Canada, America, Australia, and New Zealand. His Domboc drew from the ten commandments and other prohibitions of Moses for sins and transgressions which would doom the nation of Israel. He applied the principles of Moses’ dooms and commandments to the nation of England. Justice was thereby established on the Bible and Law of God. “Of this one law” wrote Alfred, “a man can think, that he must judge all in justice; he needs no other book-book. He thinks that he should not judge to any man which he would not have judged to himself; if he then sought judgment over him.” Alfred’s laws were marked by the principle of restitution, and that the punishment must fit the crime. His laws insisted on keeping oaths and pledges, forbidding sedition and treason, offenders making restitution to victims, sexual morality, ending honour killings and family feuds. After twenty eight years of reigning, at the age of 50, in 899 King Alfred echoed Isaiah in his dying words to his throne heir and son.

“Thus quoth Alfred: “My dear son, come near;

Sit thou beside, and I will teach thee here.

I fell mine hour is well-nigh come, my son’

My face is white, my days are almost done:

And thou in all my state shalt stand alone:

I pray thee, for mine own dear child thou art,

Lord of this people, play their father’s part,

Be thou the orphan’s sire, the widow’s friend,

Comfort the poor man, and the weak defend;

With all thy might

Succour the right,

And be strong

Against the wrong:

And thou, my son, by law thyself restrain,

So God shall be thy Guide, and glorious Gain;

Call thou for help’s Him in every need,

And He shall give thee greatly to succeed.”

The Bachelor’s Wife

Tobacco Pipe Smoking

A most astute observation on pipe smokers (Among whom I happen to be) from Cecil B. Hartley’s 1860 work, “The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness.”

“But what shall I say of the fragrant weed which Raleigh taught our gallants to puff in capacious bowls; which a royal pedant denounced in a famous “Counterblast”; which his flattering laureate, Ben Jonson, ridiculed to please his master; which our wives and sisters protest gives rise to the dirtiest and most unsociable habit a man can indulge in; of which some fair favourers declare that they love the smell, and others that they will never marry an indulger (which, by the way, they generally end in doing); which has won fame over more space and among better men than Noah’s grape has ever done; which doctors still dispute about, and boys still get sick over; but which is the solace of the weary labourer; the support of the ill-fed; the refresher of overwrought brains; the soother of angry fancies; the boast of the exquisite; the excuse of the idle; the companion of the philosopher; and the tenth muse of the poet. I will go neither into the medical nor the moral question about the dreamy, calming cloud. I will content myself so far with saying what may be said for everything that can bless and curse mankind, that, in moderation, it is at least harmless; but what is moderate and what is not, must be determined in each individual case, according to the habits and constitution of the subject…

…In another point of view, I am inclined to think that smoking has conduced to make the society of men, when alone, less riotous, less quarrelsome, and even less vicious than it was. Where young men now blow a common cloud, they were formerly driven to a fearful consumption of wine, and this in their heads, they were ready and roused to any iniquity. But the pipe is the bachelor’s wife. With this he can endure solitude longer, and is not forced into low society in order to shun it. With it, too, the idle can pass many an hour, which otherwise he would have given, not to work, but to extravagant revelries. With it he is no longer restless and impatient for excitement of any kind. We never hear now of young blades issuing in bands from their wine to beat the watch or disturb the slumbering citizens, as we did thirty or forty years ago, when smoking was still a rarity; they are all puffing harmlessly in their chambers now. But, on the other hand, I foresee with dread a too tender allegiance to the pipe, to the destruction of good society, and the abandonment of the ladies. No wonder they hate it, dear creatures; the pipe is the worst rival a woman can have, and it is one whose eyes she cannot scratch out; who improves with age, while she herself declines; who has an art which no woman possesses, that of never wearying her devotee; who is silent, yet a companion; costs little, yet gives much pleasure; who, lastly, never upbraids, and always yields the same joy. Ah! this is a powerful rival to wife or maid, and no wonder that at last the woman succumbs, consents, and rather than lose her lord or master, even supplies the hated herb with her own fair hands.”

Idolatrous Iconoclasts

Devil's DictionaryThis message is borrowed heavily from Rev. Douglas Wilson’s message at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, “The Politics of Sodomy IV: Remember Lot’s Wife.” Worth the listen.

ICONOCLAST

“I is the first letter of the alphabet, the first work of the language, the first thought of the mind, the first object of affection. In grammar it is a pronoun of the first person and singular number. Its plural is said to be We, but how there can be more than one myself is doubles less clear to the grammarians than it is to the author of this incomparable dictionary. Conception of two myselfs  is difficult, but fine.” You will read this excerpt in a favoured book of mine from the Scottish satyrical writer Ambrose Bierce, “The Devil’s Dictionary.” I have often perused this book since its first introduction to me through the frequent references of it in the debates of the reputable polemic Christopher Hitchens and theologian, Douglas Wilson. As you may deduce, this brief excerpt in the volume of satyrical word definitions is from the introduction in the alphabetical category of the letter “I”. The other week I interested myself in the second word listed in the category, namely, Iconoclast. In its serious definition and modern connotation Iconoclast means a person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions. It was love at first sight for me. After all, the dictionary is a book of love and one giant romance novel to the effervescent bibliophile. “A person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions. Iconoclast.”  Its historical meaning refers to A breaker or destroyer of images; a name which Catholics gave to those who reject the use of images in religious worship. Indeed I should like to conceive of myself as an Iconoclast after the Puritans and reformers before me. More specifically, as a Christian Iconoclast modelled after that peerless Iconoclast in Biblical history, King Josiah. “Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord.” As I perceived it, Christians ought and are the congregation of Iconoclasts bringing about the decimation of societies’ idolatrous abominations. Removing every revered institution, dismantling every venerated ideology which abrogates the law of God. So the Christian is either an Iconoclast or an Idolator. As Mr. Amberson observed in his last message, their are several and sundry idolatries without the Church that if we as Iconoclasts do not crush, they shall doubtless crush us.

IDOLATER

By idol or idolatry I mean something beyond some conception of a pagan figure or object, I mean rather a created thing which endeavours to place itself where only the uncreated God is. In “The Anatomy of Melancholy” Robert Burton writes, “We are thus bad by nature, bad by kind, but far worse by art, every man the greatest enemy unto himself. We study many times to undo ourselves, abusing those good gifts which God hath bestowed upon us, health, wealth, strength, wit, learning, art, memory to our own destruction.” So we can be idolatrous with our without images. Idolatry as such is strictly forbidden, “Turn ye not unto idols, more make to yourselves molten gods: I am the Lord your God.” For we are doomed if we do so. “I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you. And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.” I wonder if we realize just how doomed our society is by its idolatrous abominations. If we are blind or just ever belligerent optimists to the present and future state of our culture. Now I am no fan of optimism or its denomination. In the words of Ambrose Bierce, optimism, “Is a blind faith, it is inaccessible to the light of disproof – an intellectual disorder, yielding to no treatment but death. It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.” As Douglas Wilson illustrates, two days before the destruction of Sodom was it possible for Lot’s wife to say, “Well, its all right so far.” We may even confess to ourselves, Yes, we have some issues in our city, a looming crises in politics, and other problems in the economy, but its not so bad.” Thus we join the company of the idols which are reserved by God for complete annihilation. However I don’t see that being the common response to the state of the nation in our church. I don’t think any of us are saying, All right so far.” I believe rather that each of us are concerned with responding to the current situation. We all want to do something about it. The question merely, is, “What is something constructive which we can do?” How can we be Christian Iconoclasts? How can we effectively and actively quell the present judgment?

WORSHIP

The one thing which we can do, and indeed the only thing which we can do is worship God as we have the privilege of doing every Lord’s Day.  “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Not just the iconoclasts maxim, but also our prayer and model. Since idolatry is placing ourselves where God belongs we know to combat idolatry in our hearts we must place ourselves at the feet of where God is. When we worship we rise to the courts of the Lord in heaven. When we worship we ascend that holy hill, we boldly enter into the holy of holies, we have entrance into the heaveanlies. In response to our worship, God in heaven comes to us. We do not pray, “Thy Kingdom go” because it is coming. Heaven only comes through worship. His Kingdom only comes only as we hallow our heavenly Father’s name. How do you hallow God’s name on earth? Hallow it in heaven. How does God’s Kingdom come to us? We go to it. How do we go to it? Worship our Father in the name of is Son in the power of his Holy Spirit in the heavenly places with the congregation of God. Our church’s mission statement rightly begins with the simple declaration that we exists “For the right worshipping of God.” This is the central function of Christ’s Church and its local, visible expression here in Grace Haven.

WEAPON OF WORSHIP

The statement, “Thy Kingdom come” doesn’t just infer it does not “go” but rather “comes” through hallowing worship. It also infers that here on earth we are under an entirely different and opposing kingdoms and kings. The Christian Iconoclast comprehends this reality more so than others. The Christian Iconoclast knows what the Kingdom of God actually is. Morecraft writes, “Christ’s mediatorial kingdom is the manifestation of the sovereign rule of God in power and grace which establishes a new civilization of righteousness and blessedness in history by the power of the Holy Spirit in, under and through the Lord Jesus Christ in fulfillment of God’s covenantal promises.” It is establishing the crown rights of King Jesus for all of life, for all the world. Thus the Christian iconoclast as they read the news realizes it is far from being so. The troublesome problems, the idolatrous ideologies, the crisis and catastrophes, we have done on earth as it is not done in heaven. They comprehend the extent the Kingdom of God has to come just in order to be realized. The Christian iconoclast realizes how our nation is enclosed and fortified within the bulwarks of hell. But the Christian Iconoclasts also knows what weapon the parapets of hell cannot withstand. As states just a few Sundays ago, it is the church. “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” So you want to do something? You read the news and ask what equips you to stop that stuff? You browse the internet and wonder what to do with all the stupidity out there? You want to storm the gates of hell? Well every seven days Grace Haven gathers at their castle gates and has the privilege of taking up the battering ram of worship and taking another swing. Our one weapon and our only weapon is the right worship of God. But it is no small weapon. Rather against its force, “The gates of hades will not prevail.” 

God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shin upon us; Selah.

That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.

Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.

O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah.

Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.

Then shall the earth yield ehr increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us.

God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.

SPOILS OF BATTLE

When we prevail against these gates there will be many consequences. We will experience change and reform in economics where we take credence to the seventh commandment and no longer steal through inflation or redistribution. We will experience political consequences as we begin to recognize God’s order of state, local, church, family, and individual government. We will experience social consequences in dealing with the poor, widows, and orphans and exercising restitution through justice in the courts. We will experience cultural consequences as we shed the ideals of humanism and statism. We will experience artistic consequences as we stop thinking outside the Bach and in the Cage. However, we must keep in mind that these areas are the spoils of battle and nor our weapons.

IDOLATROUS ICONOCLASTS

This is where the Iconoclast can made an idol out of his very iconoclasm. Politics, economics, arts, sciences, education, food, culture are what we are fighting over and for, but they are not what we are fighting with. It is a form of idolatry for the Iconoclast to think he is going to change anything by advancing particular economic policies, advocating certain educational conventions, applying a political agenda, or adjudicating on artistic or cultural methods.  “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” “Confused be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols.” Christopher Hitchens quipped on stage with his Jack Daniels whiskey flask in hand, “I don’t believe we need better politicians. I believe we need a better electorate.” Close, but no cigar. Conservative politics, family economics, home education, multi-generational families, artistry or culture are not our saviours, but they do still need saving. How are they to be saved? Who is their saviour? The only saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ. How do we appeal to our only Saviour? Through the triune worshipping God in Jesus’ name, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in the heavenly places. Worship is our weapon in the battle. These things are the spoil of battle and not our weapons. As Douglas Wilson exhorts, “So, you want to do something constructive? Its right before you. You have a Bible? A Car? You got a hymnal? You can go to church and worship God.” If you are watching the news during the week and wonder what you are able to do about it all you should say, “Well today’s Friday… Sunday’s coming.” But instead what do we often do as misguided Iconoclasts? We watch the news first thing in the week, are horrified, encounter the urge to bring resolution, and imbue our week with all kinds of activities. On Monday we study the weapon of political agendas. Tuesday we really hone in on our home education pedagogy. Wednesday we start to overtake the artistic scene. Thursday we maneuver ourselves into becoming a cultural influence in the community. Friday we experiment with family economics. Saturday we busy ourselves with social engagements and ministry. Sunday we engage with raising our multi-generational homes, and oh wait a minute…. what about church worship. Right, this too is idolatry. This is backwards. Politics, family, economics, education, social welfare, the arts and sciences are the spoils of battle not the weapons. Worship is our one and only weapon effectual to prevailing against the bastion of hades.

ENGAGEMENT & INTEGRATION

Douglas Wilson illustrates worship in the local Church on Sunday as the centre or the engine of reformation and revival. There are some dualist, gnostic Christians who are all about majestically liturgical worship but disavow any engagement in the nitty-gritty of politics, economics, education of the world. This is like starting a big engine, but without ever putting it into gear. There are other Christians who are all about cultural integration, political agendas, artistic influence, social engagements but this whole worship thing just weighs the car down. Their Christianity is never any good at going up hill. Worship is the engine with which we engage all of life with and furthermore integrate with all God’s people for. The right worship of God is our only pure, entire, whole, and peaceful common ground. If you make anything other than worship your engine for reform you commit idolatry and your car falls apart. When you make anything other than worship your integration point your fellowship divides and everyone exits the vehicle. If you make politics your engine then your will integrate based on your political agendas. If you make generations of children your engine you will collect passengers based on their family discipline and educational customs. The problem is not that these pursuits are intrinsically bad, but rather such prioritization is idolatry (Placing the created where the uncreated God is) and are insufficient grounds for full fellowship and effective reform. You will never fully integrate on political agendas, artistic influence, social engagements, culture, educational conventions, or child raising principles. These things do not produce worship. These things are not the ladder by which we ascend into heaven. These things are not the red carpet upon which the Kingdom of God proceeds. Rather, when you worship God on the Lord’s Day in the local church His kingdom comes as promised in Christ. He makes you right with Him. He makes you a charitable Christian, a hospitable disciple, a submissive wife, an honouring child, an industrious daughter, a godly patriarch, an epistemologically self-conscious educator, an inspired artistic influence, and so on. These are the fruits of worship, not the works of worship. These are the spoils of battle, not the weapons of battle. So ask yourselves why do we hang out together? What bring us together? Is it our common practice of home education? Is it our calvinistic theology? Is it our multigenerational family model? Or is it ultimately and unfailingly the triune worship of God in the name of His Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in the heavenly places? If it were not for Jesus Christ would you be hanging out with these people? No. Then why do you qualify your fellowship with others on any other basis than worshiping the One who was whole that was made broken that we who are broken may be made whole?

REFORMATION & REVIVAL

Judgment begins in the house of the Lord. Francis Schaeffer writes, “The church in our generation needs reformation, revival, and constructive revolution. At times men think of the two words reformation and revival as standing in contrast one to the other, but this is a mistake. Both words are related to the word restore. Reformation refers to a restoration to pure doctrine; revival refers to a restoration in the Christian life. Reformation speaks of a return to the teachings of Scripture; revival speaks of a life brought into its proper relationship tot the Holy Spirit. The great moments of church history have come when these two restorations have simultaneously come into action so that the church has returned to pure doctrine and the lives of the Christians in the church have known the power of the Holy Spirit. There cannot be true revival unless there has been reformation; and reformation is not complete without revival.” This brings us to the second portion of the Lord’s Prayer we have before us. “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Reformation and revival as Schaeffer writes, doing the will of God as Mr. Johnson last spoke about, rightly worshiping God as was covered today is not possible without the Holy Spirit. We live in the Spirit and the Spirit in us by regeneration and continually receive him through prayer and the Scriptures. “It is the Spirit that quickeneth… the words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit and they are life.” “How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” How do we walk in the Spirit? Romans 8:5, “They that are after the Spirit mind the things of the Spirit.” What are the things of the Spirit we are to be mindful of? “Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodnesss, faith, meekness, temperance.” What does the Spirit do in our worship? “He shall testify of me.” “For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” “The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” “Now we have received… the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”

CONCLUSION

Want to be a Christian Iconoclast? First repent of being an idolatrous one. Restore through reformation and revival worship as the engine of all of life and the integration of all God’s people. Avail yourself of the weapon of worship and gather with the congregation of Iconoclasts each Lord Day to prevail against the gates of Hades. In the fullness of the Spirit realize God’s transformation in your life. Worship God the Father in the name of the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit with the assembly of God in the heavenly realms.