Times Colonist Omits Resurrection

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is held in Christian tradition as  sitting on the site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection. In recent years the news media has reported events related to this as the site of his burial alone. News media don’t have to “buy into” Christian belief to report as fact just as I did above–that Christians believe this is the site of Christ’s resurrection. it’s a fact and an important one. As Paul, without it, “Our faith is in vain.” One of my favourite website,Getreligion.org,  regularly reports these gaffes: here is its latest such report, this time, in the New York Times but it started with National Geographic.
Our own Times Colonist picked up the National Geographic error and I responded with a letter which the TC has not published yet. Here is my letter:

Editor
In Saturday’s paper you ran a picture of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and a caption describing it as the place where the body of Jesus Christ was laid after his crucifixion. True enough, but Christianity exists because Christians believe this is the site of his resurrection.”For if Christ is not arisen, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain.”
Steve Weatherbe
Victoria, BC

Here is an earlier letter responding to an earlier mistake.

Story on Holy Sepulchre Omits Key Christian Belief

Your  June 11 story on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre stating it is where “Christians believe Jesus was buried” leaves out the most important part of what Christians believe. That is, that, wherever precisely in Jerusalem Jesus was buried, on the third day afterwards, He rose, alive again. Your story makes it seem like once they get their act together the Catholic and Orthodox should start digging for the bones.

Steve Weatherbe

Victoria

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.getreligion.org/search?q=Holy%20Sepulcher

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Times Colonist Flunks Balance Test

Not for the first time, but recently again, the Victoria Times Colonist failed the balance test of mainline journalism, presenting one side of the euthanasia issue and ignoring (my) repeated efforts to provide a rebuttal. Hence –as we pedants like to say–hence this blog and Vancouver Island Christian News and Comment’s return to the Internet waves.

WHat they ran two weeks ago or so what this piece by a pro-euthanasia law prof at the University of Ottawa, Daphne Gilbert. I explain its gist in the comment I submitted and which they refused to run.

Several news organs across Canada, including the Times Colonist, recently carried an opinion piece by Daphne Gilbert, an  Ottawa University law professor, arguing that faith-based hospitals, hospices and extended care institutions be forced to participate in  providing  euthanasia and assisted suicide, even though it would violate their moral convictions.

Quite apart from her stand-alone arguments  about the rights of patients to medical aid in dying, I want to challenge her misuse and misrepresentation  of the Loyola High School vs.Quebec ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada.

But back to her main argument first. Gilbert argues thus: The Supreme Court ruling in Carter recognized a right to medical aid in dying, while acknowledging that individual doctors had a right to conscientiously object. But no such right to object and abstain was assigned to institutions in Carter.

But horror of horrors, Catholic hospitals are nonetheless claiming such a right, making them, according to Gilbert, at once “one of the biggest impediments” and “the Achilles heel in government efforts to breathe life into a right to die.”

Gilbert denies such a right exists. She cites the minority opinion in Loyola to justify this, without ever mentioning it is the minority view. This deserves some elaboration. All seven justices agreed that the Quebec government had violated the religious rights of Loyola, a private Catholic school, to teach its students the Catholic faith from a Catholic perspective.

The majority of judges simply ruled that “the communal character of religion means that protecting the religious freedom of individuals requires protecting the religious freedom of religious organizations, including religious educational bodies such as Loyola.”

However, the minority agreed Quebec had violated Loyola’s rights, but in a much longer judgement they sought to pare that right down to nearly nothing.

Most importantly, the minority ruled that such an institution can assert religious rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms only if “it is constituted primarily for religious purposes.”

This leads Gilbert to claim that “publicly funded hospitals do not satisfy this test and therefore have no institutional claim to freedom of religion.”

The first thing to say about that is that it is hard to see how Loyola High School could meet this criterion any better, or any worse, than a hospital. If the primary purpose of a hospital is to provide health care, the primary purpose of a private school is to provide a general education.

But if the motives of the founders and current operators are considered, then Loyola is dedicated to providing education from a Catholic teaching. The motive of the operators of Catholic hospitals remains that of the religious orders that founded and for a century staffed their hospitals across Canada: to implement the command of Jesus Christ  to care for the sick (and clothe the hungry, comfort the widow, etc.)

The majority of judges wanted no part in the minority’s restrictions on religious freedom and so these restrictions cannot be found in the majority judgement. The majority described religious freedom more expansively, writing,  “Religious freedom under the Charter must therefore account for the socially embedded nature of religious belief, and the deep linkages between this belief and its manifestation through communal institutions and traditions.”

So Gilbert’s view is not the view of the Supreme Court. What of her second argument? That Catholic—or Jewish—or Protestant hospitals that receive public money are therefore disqualified from claiming a right to conscientiously object.

But surely doctors who conscientiously object are also paid entirely through Medicare without it abrogating their right to dissent and abstain.

What’s more, hospitals and doctors that accept public funds are obliged only to deliver the services they are paid to deliver: it does not mean they have sold their souls as well. It has long been conceded that Catholic hospitals do not do abortions, for example. Not that Gilbert would agree this is a good thing. But she cannot deny it is a real thing.

Gilbert’s view is certainly shared by the Obama Administration in the U.S., it must be noted. The idea is that religious freedom applies to churches and private life only but not to the institutions created by religious people.

Nobody complained, however, about religious overreach when the Sisters of Misericordia and the  Sisters of Providence and the Sisters of St. Ann were founding half the hospitals across Western Canada and the U.S.

Right here in Victoria, the first nurses, during a catastrophic smallpox epidemic, were Catholic sisters who came as teachers. But they were motivated by the commands of Christ, and they served from the first anybody who needed help, as did their fellow religious across Canada, the U.S., Europe and, now, Africa, regardless of their patients’faiths.

But according to the Obama Administration and a minority of Supreme Court judges in Canada, that actually works against those institutions claiming religious rights. Better they had served only fellow believers and turned the general public away at the door.

Gilbert says she is all about the rights of people to die in dignity. But she is ignoring two other groups: nurses who want nothing to do with killing their patients, and patients who want to die at their bodies’ own pace, without fear of being pressured into accepting medical aid in dying. Two such groups have combined to start a petition for their rights too.

Steve Weatherbe is a member of Choose Life Victoria Society and past president

………..

Then a random TC reader chimed in with similar view to Gilbert’s in a letter to the editor.  By then the Comox Catholic Hospital issue had arisen: it was refusing to abet euthanasia or assisted suicide. The TC gave it a big story. Here’s my reply, which the TC also chose not to run. It must be said: St. Joseph’s administration did a weak, even limp job defending itself. To do so in the courts, it may have to make a case for how Catholic it is. The hospital’s statement doesn’t do the job. My guess is the staff would be just as happy to fall into step on euthanasia but are constrained by the fact the Diocese of Victoria owns the building. here’s my unpublished letter:

Letter writer Peterson implies Catholic hospitals disobey the laws of Canada by refusing to euthanize patients. Not true , because the laws do not compel them to do so.
The fact they get public funds does not place an obligation on them to do so either. They have a voluntary  contract with Island Health to deliver certain services and get paid when they do so.It does not oblige them to deliver other services not in the contract, like euthanasia, or, for that matter, garbage collection.Like most hospitals, they don’t deliver every service medically or legally available.
The argument about gays is just stupid.There is no example of a Catholic hospital refusing to care for a gay person.
Too soon have many people forgotten that Catholics across Western Canada built and paid for the first hospitals in many communities and sisters under vows of poverty provided care to all regardless of race, religion or sexuality long before any human rights code was dreamed  of.

Steve Weatherbe

 

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David Hume’s Famous (and Failed) DIsproof of Miracles

DAVID HUME’S SELF-CONTRADICTORY REJECTION OF MIRACLES By the Rev. Colin Liske January 10, 2015
Many academics in our universities and colleges have rejected the reality of miracles as reported in the Bible. Their view is usually that all reality is ultimately reducible to physical things which are governed by the laws of nature. Further, they say that the laws of nature cannot be broken or suspended., as would be required by miracles.
Thus the laws of nature trump the existence of miracles. Alternatively, some of these academics may say that there may be two realities, one physical and the other spiritual, but the spiritual cannot have anything to do with the physical. Therefore, even here, because miracles undoubtedly would have to impact the physical world, miracles still cannot be real. They then further conclude that the miracles reported in the Bible were simply stories that must have been invented by human beings, especially by the earliest Christian communities.
Academics who these days almost universally hold to this perspective base it largely on an eighteenth century Scottish philosopher by the name of David Hume who in his ‘Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding’ developed this idea in his epistemology, his theory of knowledge.
Over against these notions, it will be the position of this essay that David Hume’s own epistemology essentially refutes his rejection of miracles, and that his rejection of all positive testimony for miracles belies a faulty understanding or application of the traditional principles of historiography.
We might first of all recall Hume’s definition of a miracle and the manner in which he contrasts miracles and the laws of nature. In the ‘Of Miracles’ section in his ‘Enquiry concerning Human Understanding’ Hume says, ‘A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined (Allen and Springsted, Primary Readings, p. 158).
Thus Hume defines a miracle as a ‘violation of the laws of nature.’ We might object to the term ‘violation,’ because such an appellation would appear to cast a negative light on the issue. We might rather in a preliminary manner restate Hume’s definition of a miracle as a ‘suspension’ of the laws of nature. At least that would be a more neutral term.
But aside from that, a miracle may not necessarily be a violation or suspension of the laws of nature at all. One possibility might instead be that miracles on the one hand and the regularities of nature on the other could come from one basic activity or substance underlying both such manifestations in nature, expressed in two different ways. Thus it might be said that a miracle is one particular expression of the substance underlying nature, and the ordinary regularity of nature is a different manifestation of the same substance underlying nature. Thus miracles and the regularities in nature might be similar to the manner in which Spinoza suggested that substance manifests itself in two ways, mind and matter, without any contradiction between the two, yet having their dual manifestations rooted in one basic substance.
Theologically speaking, it might be held that miracles and the ordinary regularities in nature are simply two different manifestations of God’s one underlying creation and preservation of the natural world. There would then mean that there is no Newtonian ‘god of the gaps.’
But let us take Hume’s definition as he himself puts it, that a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature. According to Hume, miracles cannot occur because they purportedly run contrary to human experience and therefore contrary to the laws of nature.
Hume’s claim here is based on the role that experience plays in his epistemology. Hume says that knowledge is formed in three stages. First of all, every particular sense-perception that one has he calls an ‘impression.’ These particular impressions arise in our minds, and then as the second step, our minds create copies of these impressions which he calls ‘ideas.’ The difference appears to be that we can recall these ‘ideas’ after the particular sense impressions themselves disappear. We can, as it were, picture these ideas in our minds without the sense-perceptions or impressions themselves.
The third stage in Hume’s epistemology is that our minds then associate these ideas, one with the other. This he of course calls this the ‘Association of Ideas.’ This association occurs by way of three different kinds of activity of the mind, by resemblance, contiguity, and by cause and effect. (Allen and Springsted, Philosophy, pp. 143-144).
That one idea might resemble or be like another, and that our minds would notice this, is not particularly difficult for our understanding. This might indeed be the way that our minds have the capability of organizing things we perceive, giving general classifications to things whether they be people or sheep or houses. There are ways in which all persons more or less resemble others. The same is true of sheep or houses. Thus our minds are able to come up with the activity of associating one idea of a house or person with another house or person.
That our minds can also notice that one idea is normally contiguous to or next to another idea is something that is common to our everyday lives. It is often the case that a car and a person are in the same place, and thus it is common for us to conclude more generally then that the person has something to do with that particular car.
But the major issue for Hume is causality, cause and effect. We normally conclude that, just because one sense-perception or impression comes after another, that the latter is caused by the former. When I quickly move my foot toward and then touch a football, and the football then moves rapidly down the turf, then surmise that my kicking of the football has ‘caused’ the football to move so rapidly. Hume’s famous example of the impacting of billiard balls says exactly this. (Allen and Springsted, Philosophy, p. 144).
This kind of thing occurs again and again, and if this occurs often enough, repeatedly and without exception, we naturally and finally seem to conclude, not only that this happens regularly, but that it happens universally, that there is a ‘necessary connection’ between the kicking of my foot and the motion of the football, and that this occurs because of a universal law of nature.
But Hume objects that we never actually experience or have an impression of this presumed necessary connection. In another of his most famous examples, Hume says that the rising of the sun occurs regularly every morning, but we can never be totally sure that it will rise again tomorrow morning. While we can speak of a regularity in our impressions, we cannot speak of a necessary connection between those impressions because we do not actually have an impression of the necessary connection itself.
One question that Hume does not seem to address here is how the very notion of cause and effect or necessary connection can arise in the mind as an ‘idea’ at all if there is no impression of the necessary connection in the first place. If all ideas are rooted in impressions, and there is no impression of a necessary connection, how is it possible for the idea of a necessary connection to be formed ? Yet we do have this idea of causality or necessary connection in our minds.
It would seem that, following on all this, one might then suspect that Hume himself ought not to believe that laws of nature actually exist. But this does not seem to be the case. Hume does, after all, in his definition of miracles speak of the laws of nature. Thus Hume seems to think that there are indeed laws of nature, but he simply cannot prove that there are laws of nature because he is not able to prove that there is a necessary connection between our impressions. (Allen and Springsted, pp. 146-147)
But it seems that if Hume were to be consistent here, his own epistemology ought actually to prevent him from concluding that miracles are not possible. If he cannot prove that there are laws of nature, including the necessary connection of cause and effect between impressions, then by his own definition of miracles, it follows that he cannot prove that there are no miracles because he cannot prove that there are laws of nature which can be violated. If he cannot prove that there is a necessary connection of cause and effect between appearances, or impressions, then he also cannot contend that miracles are impossible.
Exactly the opposite is true. For Hume, one appearance simply follows after another, and the fact that there is no necessary or causal connection between these impressions means that miracles may indeed be possible. The fact that Hume cannot prove the existence of the laws of nature must lead to the conclusion that miracles may indeed occur. There can be no violation of laws of nature that cannot be proven to exist. This is our first criticism of Hume on miracles.
Thus Hume realized that he could not prove the existence of a necessary connection between impressions, and that he therefore could not prove that laws of nature actually exist. One wonders why Hume himself does not appear to have further realized that he could therefore also not deny miracles on the basis of this lack of a necessary connection, and that in fact his own epistemology therefore contradicted his notion that miracles cannot occur.
In any case, Hume turns to another approach to substantiate his denial of miracles. He simply speaks about regular human experience in the present and throughout history, and the notion that this regularity of human experience implies that miracles are not probable and therefore do not occur.
In Part II in ‘Of Miracles’ Hume notes that ‘. . . in our reasoning as historians all we have to go on are our experiences of today. In our experience nature operates with regularity. Because of the common course of nature, it is always more likely that reports of miracles in the past are not correct than that they are.’ (Allen and Springsted, Philosophy, p. 147).
We of course might wish to ask how Hume would know that reports of miracles in the past are more likely incorrect than not. How does Hume know that there are no unique events in the past? This is circular reasoning, or the logical fallacy of petitio principii, that is, begging the question. Hume here sets out to prove that which he already assumes, namely, that events in the past never included miracles. Hume did not have the capability of checking every event in the present or in the past to see if there were any miracles or not. He is simply saying that there are no miracles in the past because there have never been any miracles in the past.
Hume goes on to present four basic arguments for the probability that miracles cannot occur. We now present some of the basic elements of these arguments here. Firstly, he says that ‘there is not to be found, in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good sense, education, and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves; of such undoubted integrity, as to place them beyond all suspicion of any design to deceive others; of such credit and reputation in the eyes of mankind, as to have a great deal to lose in case of their being detected in any falsehood; and at the same time, attesting facts performed in such a public manner and in so celebrated a part of the world, as to render the detection unavoidable. All which circumstances are requisite to give us a full assurance in the testimony of men.’ (Allen and Springsted, Readings, p. 160).
Hume’s argument here is illogical because it is fundamentally an ad hominem argument. He claims that there simply is no sufficient evidence in the case of any reported miracles by upstanding men to guarantee that we would not be misled by them. But he does not tell us exactly what the qualifications for their education, standing, etc., would be, or how many such men would be needed. Nevertheless, he does claim to know that there are no situations where there are such trustworthy men who might be believed about miracles. He seems to conclude that most people are untrustworthy.
One wonders what Hume thought about the appearance of the risen Christ to over 500 people at one time In I Corinthians 15:6, including finally an appearance to one as educated as St. Paul.
Secondly, Hume argues that ‘The maxim, by which we commonly conduct ourselves in our reasoning, is that the objects of which we have no experience resemble those of which we have; that what we have found to be most usual is always most probable; and that where there is an opposition of arguments, we ought to give the preference to such as are founded on the greatest number of past observations.’ (Allen and Springsted, Readings, p. 160).
But how does such a criterion assure us of what is possible in the occurrence of past events? Hume here denies the possibility of the unique in history. We might ask how Hume could know that there could not be anything unique in history, that there could not be miracles in history. To apply the historian Von Ranke’s dictum in a manner in which he likely did not intend, we might ask how Hume would know by definition that miracles cannot happen and instead that the occurrence of a miracle might in fact be ‘wie es eigentlich gewesen war,’ ‘ how it actually happened.’
One of Hume’s mistakes here is that he argues from the probability of miracles instead of addressing the matter of the possibility of miracles. It is of course generally true that miracles are not probable. By definition, miracles would be extraordinary and unique occurrences. Thus the fact that miracles do not normally occur in our human experience does not mean that they could not occur in certain cases. The real issue is the possibility of miracles as unique or possible occurrences in history, not the probability of miracles.
Hume then in the last part of this second section and in the third section of Part II in his ‘Of Miracles’ goes on to indict those who testify to miracles as people who are emotional, influenced by surprise and wonder, and who generally are ignorant and barbarous. His argument here is essentially that the presumed universal experience of human beings against miracles far outweighs the questionable testimony of easily influenced human beings who claim in particular cases to have experienced or witnessed miracles. (Allen and Springsted, Primary Readings, pp. 161-163).
This is again the same ad hominem argument. While it might certainly be true to say that there are some people who might be easily influenced and are rather gullible, it is surely unwarranted to paint almost everyone with this brush. (Allen and Springsted, Readings, pp. 161-163).
Finally, Hume argues that, if the miracles recounted in Christianity are to be accepted, the miracles recorded in other religions must also be acknowledged. But how does he know this? Again, he assumes that reality must be the same everywhere, that if miracles occur in one religion, then they must also occur in another. This again disregards the possibility of the uniqueness of miracles.
Hume goes on to claim the witness of history (Allen and Springsted, p. 160), but he betrays a lack of knowledge of the traditional criteria of historiography. John Warwick Montgomery in his book ‘Where is History Going?’ indicates that there are traditionally three basic criteria that must be followed in writing history. The first one concerns bibliographic or documentary evidence, that is, reference to and giving a fundamental priority to the received texts from history, to the primary sources. The number of such documents and their closeness to the events described must be taken into account.
The Bible is one such set of documents, and in particular, a set of documents which report a number of miracles, and especially the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. (Montgomery, Where is History Going?, p. 44ff.)
Montgomery indicates that there are some 8,000 manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate and at least 1,000 earlier versions. There are over 4,000 Greek manuscripts and some 13,000 copies of portions of the New Testament.. Among others the major codices of the fourth and fifth centuries A.D., the Vaticanus, the Sinaiticus, and the Alexandrinus are perhaps the most important of various texts in Greek, and there are many papyri as well, such as P52 and P66 which come from the second century A.D. P52, the John Rylands papyrus, a portion of John 18, is acknowledged by most scholars to be the earliest extent manuscript, dating from around 125 A.D.
However, in addition to this, it is still important to consider P64, the so-called Magdalen or Jesus Papyrus, more recently redated by Carsten Thiede to sometime prior to 70 A.D. or earlier. (Carsten Thiede, The Jesus Papyrus.150). In addition, the scholarly community still awaits publication by the Green Scholars Initiative of an apparently recently discovered manuscript of a First Century Gospel of Mark. (Earliest Christianity website).
The second criterion of doing history is that the traditional historian must respect the internal evidence of these texts, that which the document itself claims to be. Citing Aristotle’s ‘Art of Poetry,’ Montgomery reminds us that the ‘benefit of the doubt is to be given to the document itself, not arrogated by the critic to himself. This means that one must listen to the claims of the document under analysis, and not assume fraud or error unless the author disqualifies himself by contradictions or known factual inaccuracies.’ (Montgomery, Ibid., p. 46). Thus the historian cannot legitimately put his own criticism of the documents forward regarding what the text says of itself unless he can prove that there are errors in the text.
A practical application of this fundamental criterion of doing history would be to regard what the Bible says about miracles and the miracle of the resurrection of Christ as indeed historical unless it can be proven otherwise. St. Luke tells us in 1:1-4 that he is reporting the things in his Gospel on the basis of ‘those who from the first were eyewitnesses of such things,’ as also does the Apostle John in I John 1:1, where he says, ‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched –this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.’ Hume does not give the internal evidence of the Bible this sort of respect.
The third criterion of doing history is that the historian must also pay attention to the external evidence for the claims of the documents under consideration. External evidence may also be called ‘secondary sources.’ Such external evidence for the Bible is the documents written by the Early Church Fathers, as well as various pagan sources at the time.
There are many such secondary sources or external evidences in history which report to one extent or another on the evidence about Christ from the Scriptures, including the resurrection of Christ. Among those from the Early Church are Papias, Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Quadratus of Athens, Aristides the Athenian, and Hegesippus. External evidence regarding Christ from outside of the church is to be found in Suetonius, Tacitus, Celsus, Pliny the younger, Lucian , Serapion, Josephus, and the Talmud and other rabbinical documents.
Thus there is in history, in the Bible and in the Early Church, a considerable amount of evidence which points to the reality of miracles, and especially of the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Christ in particular fits these criteria of historiography exceedingly well. The documentary evidence is especially close to the events, and the number of such documents is vast, when one considers other ancient events and their documentation by comparison. The documents of Scripture by way of internal evidence themselves claim that these miracles actually occurred, and there is considerable external evidence from the earliest church as well, both from within and without the church, including hostile witnesses.
Is it not very odd that a miracle as profound as that of Christ’s resurrection has such great historical evidence for it? If one does not exclude miracles by definition, the historical conclusion must be that the miracle of the resurrection of Christ has indeed occurred.
We therefore conclude against Hume that a proper application of the traditional criteria of doing history to the Bible and the Early Church shows that miracles may indeed occur, albeit they may be unique or few in number.
We also conclude against Hume that the general regularity or probability of our experiences of nature does not argue against the possibility of miracles. Miracles by definition are not probable. Hume argues in a circle. He contends that miracles are not possible because they are not probable, and they are not probable because we do not have regular experiences of miracles. But much like he cannot by his own epistemology prove the laws of nature to exist, so also he cannot prove that the unique, miracles, do not occur in history.
We also conclude that Hume’s epistemology itself not only does not point to the rejection of miracles, but in fact on the contrary must be open to the possibility of miracles. Because Hume cannot demonstrate any necessary connection or causality in nature, there is in Hume’s epistemology no empirically provable laws of nature for miracles to violate. Because Hume cannot prove the existence of the laws of nature, miracles are therefore actually possible.

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Vancouver Island Christian Schools Won’t Profit from Public System Strike

st.patricks kindergartenBy Steve Weatherbe

Although some Christian schools on Vancouver Island face a tough fight maintaining enrolment due to shrinking numbers of children in the population at large, they are making no efforts to attract parents concerned about a threatened closure of public schools this coming fall.
Says Stuart Hall, headmaster of the Christ Church Cathedral School in Victoria. “We don’t want people to come for the wrong reasons. We don’t want parents who are angry.” Nor does Hall want private schools seen as “sheep-stealers.” “Our province depends on good public schools and we wish them well. Our teachers are worried about their friends who teach in the public system.
Hall can count perhaps two enquiries caused by the teacher’s strike. “The woman lives near our school, attends Christ Church and has thought about our school for years. Now, because of the strike, she calls.” And there was a father who had a checklist of grievances against the public system—classroom size, too many students with special needs—“That’s where I drew the line,” admits Hall. “I told him we have special needs students too. It is our responsibility as a Christian school to accept them.” The man left.
David O’Dell, principal at Pacific Christian School, says Victoria’s largest by far K-12 Protestant school is making no effort to attract worried or disgruntled parents and their children.
“We’re not about stealing kids,” says O’Dell. PCS expects parents and children to be believers and churchgoers and once enquirers learn the school is serious about this, they politely withdraw. “We tell we are not judging them for their beliefs but we are a faith community.” Even when there is no strike action imminent, some parents come to PCS hoping it can “fix” their problem-child. “That’s not what we do either,” says O’Dell.
Bev Pulyk, the new superintendent of Vancouver Island’s Catholic schools, agrees. She says her system won’t be doing anything to attract public system pupils, “though certainly there will be a discernable increase in interest in private schools in the province overall,” she says. Enrolment could increase, but only from families that are already committed to the Catholic faith. “We exist to pass on our Catholic faith. We’re not going to dumb that down to appeal to greater numbers.” While Catholic schools do accept non-Catholics, as with Protestant schools, all students must attend all school events, including religious instruction and services.
But in places in the province where there is population growth and, relatedly, income growth, a strike will boost Christian school enrolment, says the head of B.C.’s chief private school organization. “Without a doubt, says Peter Froese, the executive director of the B.C. Federation of Independent School Associations, “ a strike will definitely have an impact.” Already FISA is fielding more than the average number of inquiries from worried parents, but Froese’s prediction is based on past experience.
While public school enrolment is declining year over year as the population ages, Christian schools are bucking the trend and growing at 2 percent a year across the province. And in 2012, the last time labour unrest darkened the educational horizons, Christian school enrolment climbed 4 percent.
“It pushes parents who’ve been thinking about our schools for years over the edge,” says Froese. So does prosperity. When natural resource activity increased in Northern and Central British Columbia in recent years, so did Christian school enrolment: the parents could finally afford it the fees, which vary from $2,500 (for Catholic schools) to $5,500 (for Protestant).
Conversely, Vancouver Island’s relatively stagnant economy has stalled enrolment at most Christian schools here, while public systems have shrunk. In Campbell River, where a pulp and paper mill recently shut down, enrolment at Campbell River Christian School is struggling. There is another factor, according to staff person who talked to the Vancouver Island Christian News: people are immigrating to the region, but they are retirees; they bring income, but not children.
The story is different in Vancouver, which is not only booming, it is booming with young Christian immigrants and is one of the places in Canada where church attendance has actually increased lately. That’s why, Doug Lauson, superintendent of the Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver schools, says a public-system strike will have no impact. “The reason is simple. We already have a waiting list of Catholics and have had for years.” Lauson guesses the reason is immigration, especially “the influx from South East Asia, which has large Catholic populations who are used to having their own schools.”

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Moral Foolishness from the Worldly Wise

Simon Anholt Helsinki May 2009 01(1)Countries are rated by an ‘expert’ ignorant of morality, history and Christianity

By Steve Weatherbe

The “goodest country in the world” is Ireland, says a British consultant named Simon Anholt, and I don’t disagree. He and “a team of experts” have rated all the countries using some objective criteria they assembled to assess how altruistic each country is towards people outside its own boundaries and Ireland comes up as the most selfless.

But there are two things that ought to appall Christians in the TED talk Anholt gave to an adoring audience about his annual goodness rating. First, he appears to believe he has “discovered” a new idea—that countries ought to do good in the world and not merely act out of self-interest.

This is not new: it is the Christian ideal of statehood and international relations. This ancient view sees states bound by morality as they act as individuals, as parents, really, protecting their own children first, while acting towards other individuals with loving kindness.  Just as parents might have to resort to violence to defend themselves or their families, or others,  from harm, so governments must go to war to protect their citizens—or their allies. Just as parents give generously in service and money and prayer to other individuals and families in need, so states help those beyond their borders. So it’s not new, Simon Anholt.

True, Machiavelli promoted the idea of the amoral king and state and he was backed up by philosophers like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Today this view of the conduct of states is still popular. It even prevails. But it is not the Christian view. It is appalling that a well-informed person and one self-billed as an international advisor would not know it, or, knowing it, would conceal it.

The second appalling thing is Anholt’s view of morality. His goodness criteria has “nothing to do with morality,” he reassures his Ted audience. It has to do with altruism. My confident guess is that he thinks morality only deals with sex, possibly along with other things his parents forbade him to do when he was a kid—smoking? Slow dancing? Of course, altruism is a form of moral behaviour, called charity or caritas.

In separating the two, he expresses the popular view that we can cherry-pick morality, and that the way the people of a country choose to behave in terms of sexual morality has no impact on their conduct in other areas. We think this is wrong.

So here is a man with good intentions and even a good point to make basing it all on an  exceedingly shallow understanding of morality,  political thought and history. Apparently, he has simply excised Christianity from his understanding. He typifies our intelligentsia in the media and university.Can much good come from this?

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Home from Prison: the island’s pro-life heroine

mary-wagnerMary Wagner ‘s mission takes her into abortion clinics and behind bars

Mary Wagner, Vancouver Island’s pro-life crusader, was released from an Ontario prison jail after doing 22 months for entering a Toronto abortion clinic, interfering with the lawful conduct of its business, and breaching probation.
She was released at her sentencing hearing, sentenced to time already served. After “three to five” convictions, she must await trial in jail, because she always returns to the clinic while on probation.
For now, though she is back visiting her siblings in Victoria and parents in Nanaimo. They are supportive of the 40-year-old woman though they expect she will soon return to her calling—witnessing to women seeking abortion—and so to jail.
Mary faces the prospect of every lengthening sentences for her crimes with philosophical aplomb. “I’m not trying to get thrown in jail,” she says. “But if it were a 10-year sentence, then that would at least serve to highlight even more what is at stake–that each unborn baby is unique. What mother or father wouldn’t give their lives to save their own child’s life? Or go to jail? And just as each poor person was Jesus to Mother Theresa, each unborn baby is Jesus to me.”
While others have broken these laws by demonstrating within the bubble zones set up around clinics in Ontario and B.C., Mary Wagner has always gone right into the clinics, not she says, to protest, but to minister and witness.
Her usual modus operandi is to give whomever she finds in the waiting room a flower and talks to whoever will listen. If no one does, she talks softly to the room at large. At Christmas, before police came, she gave the patients little, brightly-wrapped gifts. If they asked what was inside, she replied, “You have to wait, just like to have to wait for what’s inside your womb.” The women she finds there are not usually very receptive, she admits. But occasionally, there is a positive reaction. “Once, when I talked about how 17 dead fetuses were found in a Lansing, Michigan dumpster, discarded by an abortion clinic, and how the bishop held a mass funeral for them, a woman who had been ignoring me looked up, held my gaze in shock , gathered her things and left. I think she finally got it.”
It is the crowning irony of Mary’s ministry that her time in jail—always the Madame Vanier Institute for Women in Mississauga, just west of Toronto—is well spent and may well be more effective than her witness in clinics. “The women in jail are way more receptive. Maybe because they have fallen so low, so much has been stripped away. Maybe God makes His love known to them out of His love for the poor,” she says. “Many have told me they have seen His hand in their lives at crucial moments.” She does not proselytize. The women come to Mary, attracted by her regular prayer life. The Catholics join her in the Rosary. Protestants join in study and meditation on Scripture. Mary does not actively proselytize, but women do talk about why they are inside, and most of her fellow inmates who do talk admit to having had abortions. “Unlike women in the clinics, these women know they took a life.”
Though they know Mary is likely to spend much of her life behind bars, her parents are accepting. “I’ve never had a problem with what she does,” says father Frank Wagner. “Mary is called to do what she does. Who could ask for anything different from their children?I wish she weren’t in jail so much, but she does good work while she’s there.”

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Why Even Atheists Should Fight For The Trinity Western University Law School

Comment By Dan Rutherford[1]

The ongoing fracas over the intention of Trinity Western University (TWU), Canada’s only Evangelical Protestant university, to open a law school has now been met with a new challenge, the recent refusal of both Ontario and Nova Scotia’s Law Societies to recognize any l­aw graduates from TWU. While this may please some secularists,  I would argue that those concerned for a flourishing civil and pluralistic society will find this turn of events disturbing.

There is a significant reason why all Canadians might hope for the success of an institution such as TWU in its Law School application. That reason is the benefit to  Canada as a whole of a healthy, growing religious community. This idea may seem suspect in an age where so many people seem to resonate with the words of the late Christopher Hitchens, that “religion poisons everything.”  However, as renowned Harvard Sociologist Robert Putnam and co-researcher David Campbell have stated, and demonstrated through extensive research on religion and society; “Individual citizens who are members of religious groups are better neighbors and more civically active than their secular counterparts.”

To demonstrate the point, Putnam and Campbell’s research looks at three specific measures of good neighborliness: levels of charitable giving, volunteerism and civic engagement. In each of these areas the remarkable findings are that those who are religiously engaged provide substantially more to the social good (social capital) than those who are non-religious. These areas of volunteering, giving and serving are not confined to the walls of their religious institutions, but spill over in significant ways into the margins of society. Putnam and Campbell point out that 91% of those who volunteer for religious causes also volunteer for at least one secular cause. “69% who did not volunteer for a religious group did not volunteer for a secular one either”. Further, ‘in round numbers regular churchgoers are more than twice likely to volunteer to help the needy compared to … (those) who rarely if ever attend church.”  [2]

Similar measures have been explored in the Canadian context by Researchers Paul B. Reed and L. Kevin Selbee in their work titled, “The Civic Core in Canada: Disproportionality in Charitable Giving, Volunteering, and Civic Participation”. Their findings are quite remarkable and somewhat disturbing noting that, “six percent of Canadian adults account for 35% to 42% of all civic involvement.” They have called this small group of individuals the “civic core” in Canada. When they explore the make up of this civic core, they find that “The profile of characteristics of people in the civic core includes those that are customarily found among elites: elevated levels of occupational status, education, and income. Others of their characteristics are not associated with elites: a strong religious orientation…”[3]

 

The work of Ida Berger, “The Influence of Religion on Philanthropy in Canada”[4] also confirms the impact of the religiously inclined in Canadian society. “Religious affiliation and self-perceived religiosity appear to be important as influences on philanthropic variance. Those who are non-religiously affiliated are the least philanthropic, while those who identify themselves, as conservative Protestants are the most philanthropic.

If religious people and the institutions they support are forced to embrace the values of a non-religious majority, then society ceases to be truly pluralistic. Ultimately all Canadians will lose the valuable and generous contributions of an, albeit small, but vital part of its society. Surely even those who do not share the religious convictions of an institution like TWU would do well to advocate for them, so as not to diminish the provisions that many, both secular and religious, enjoy as a result.

This is not an appeal to make all of society more religious or to say that religious people are better people than secular ones. Nor is this article or the application of TWU an assault on the freedoms of those of any sexual orientation, which by the way is not mentioned in the TWU student covenant. Instead, it is recognition of the significant role that religion plays in our society. In fact, this is a plea to consider how all Canadians are the poorer in every measure when the wider culture seeks to curtail the religious freedoms of a vital part of society.

 

[1] The Rev. Dan Rutherford is currently a Community Sabbatical Fellow as The Center for the study of Religion and Society at The University of Victoria. His recent study has been on the Millennial Generation and Social Capital.

[2] Putnam, Robert D., and David E.

Campbell, American Grace. Simon and

Shuster, 2010. pp. 445-446, 627-628

[3] Reed and Selbee 775

[4] Berger, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, June 2006, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 110-127

 

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