American Vision

Syndicate content American Vision
a Biblical Worldview Ministry
Updated: 13 min 31 sec ago

And then there’s the “you professed it all right, but still missed by a mile” Jesus

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 12:09

Kevin DeYoung recently asked and answered afresh the most important question in the world, and I totally agree with his answer; yet for all its orthodoxy, it leaves me a bit sideways.

The question is, of course, Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” Peter’s answer was and still is the correct one: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This answer received the blessing from Jesus Himself, and His revelation that His church is built upon this foundation.

‘Nuff said. Or, apparently not.

In this season approaching the celebration of Christ’s Incarnation among us, it is certainly appropriate to reflect upon all that “Christ, Son of the living God” means. And it means a lot. DeYoung gives us His expanded answer:

And then there’s Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Not just another prophet. Not just another Rabbi. Not just another wonder-worker. He was the one they had been waiting for: the Son of David and Abraham’s chosen seed, the one to deliver us from captivity, the goal of the Mosaic law, Yahweh in the flesh, the one to establish God’s reign and rule, the one to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, freedom to the prisoners and proclaim good news to the poor, the lamb of God come to take away the sins of the world.

This Jesus was the Creator come to earth and the beginning of a new creation. He embodied the covenant, fulfilled the commandments, and reversed the curse. This Jesus is the Christ that God spoke of to the serpent, the Christ prefigured to Noah in the flood, the Christ promised to Abraham, the Christ prophesied through Balaam before the Moabites, the Christ guaranteed to Moses before he died, the Christ promised to David when he was king, the Christ revealed to Isaiah as a suffering servant, the Christ predicted through the prophets and prepared for through John the Baptist.

All of this is true, good, and beautiful—and it all resonates. But part of the point DeYoung makes with it does not so much. Aside from seasonal paeans, he wishes to correct a problem in our culture. It is the problem that we too often see Jesus as “a reflection of the current mood or the projection of our own desires.” DeYoung wants to help us instead find “the real Jesus.” He says, “The question is doubly crucial in our day because not every Jesus is the real Jesus.”

Well, he’s absolutely right about that. But we must be careful when pontificating about our own real Jesus and criticizing that of another. DeYoung has a long list he seems to find inadequate (though he didn’t directly say this, it is implied, I believe). Here are a few samples:

There’s Republican Jesus who is against tax increases and activists judges, and for family values and owning firearms.

There’s Democrat Jesus who is against Wall Street and Walmart, and for reducing our carbon footprint and spending other people’s money. . . .

There’s Starbucks Jesus who drinks fair trade coffee, loves spiritual conversations, drives a hybrid and goes to film festivals. . . .

There’s Touchdown Jesus who helps athletes run faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls. . . .

There’s Hippie Jesus who teaches everyone to give peace a chance, imagine a world without religion, and helps us remember all you need is love.

There’s Yuppie Jesus who encourages us to reach our full potential, reach for the stars, and buy a boat. . . .

There’s Platitude Jesus, good for Christmas specials, greeting cards, and bad sermons; he inspires people to believe in themselves, and lifts us up so we can walk on mountains.

There’s Revolutionary Jesus who teaches us to rebel against the status quo, stick it to the man, and dream up impossible utopian schemes. . . .

There’s Good Example Jesus who shows you how to help people, change the planet, and become a better you.

Before we go any further, let me just say that if you believe Jesus does not determine the outcomes of Super Bowls, then you have denied the Reformed faith. As Calvin would say, “Mark that for one point.”

Nevertheless, there is no doubt that many factions and persons in our culture—and in all cultures of all times—have created many an idol under the name of Jesus. But looking over DeYoung’s list of correctables, I don’t find a whole lot that is in itself objectionable given a little perspective.

You see, from the perspective of Jesus’ unfathomable perfection, Lordship, love, mission, providence, and so much more—of all those things DeYoung listed in his own theological answer—Jesus can and often is all of these other things to all of these other people in different ways, times, and stations of life.

While in no circumstance is Jesus ever limited or circumscribed by any of those things (thinking so is what makes the idol), He nevertheless is many of those things—and it is just as much idolatry to deny this as it is to reduce Him to a purely Starbucks or Touchdown Jesus.

This is the great tragedy of saying “not that but this” in regard to Christ, the Son of the living God. No matter how theologically correct we get, we can never be exhaustive and perfect enough.  If we’re going to be serious about the game of criticizing other people’s Jesus-facets, we need to be aware that even our own super-creedal, super-scriptural, super-orthodox definitions will also fall if we are so brave as to apply the same standard to ourselves. It is simply a fact, especially for us theologians, that our purely theological definitions of Jesus are sometimes “a reflection of the current mood or the projection of our own desires,” as much as anything else can be.

This reminds me of a quip once repeated by N. T. Wright, which he said he had heard from another theologian (I paraphrase): “The problem with theology is that if you don’t say everything all the time, someone will accuse you of leaving something out on purpose.”

Yes, and they will also sometimes accuse you of intending things you didn’t say that they themselves imply unnecessarily. Proof of these problems is the fact that some readers are (probably) uncomfortable right now merely because I just quoted N.T. Wright.

DeYoung rightly wants us to know the “real Jesus,” and everything He said about Jesus is correct, but it’s not nearly enough—not if you’re going to hold people accountable for their inadequate answers to that question.

But if we’re more understanding as to why Jesus reaches people through mundane ways and even, gasp, popular culture, then we will probably learn a few things about His omnipotence and His character that we’ve neglected so far.

Years ago, I read the book The Real Jesus written by cult leader Garner Ted Armstrong. By no means do I endorse his heresy, the Arianism, millenarianism, etc. But there was a lot in that book that I still find very helpful and corrective to the super-righteous, overly pietistic, or overly theologized—in short, traditional—portrayals of who Jesus is. There are simply some boxes outside of which we need to think.

It was enough for Jesus himself to hear the answer, “Christ, the Son of the living God.” He required nothing more in order to give one of the most memorable blessings in all of Scripture. That should content us, too. Because from that short title, Jesus goes on to reach, save, and inspire all kinds of people in a million different ways and walks of life—even some with which we are sometimes uncomfortable. Like Paul being all things to all men that by all means he might save some, we need to learn to let our periphery be a bit more relaxed and adaptive, even while the core of our orthodoxy remains immovable.

Categories: Worldview

“Passionate” hero cop turns out to be rabid gun-grabbing tyrant

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 09:56

Milwaukee police chief Edward Flynn is being portrayed as something of a flash hero as he blasted reporters with what has been described as “passionate authority.” But no one has yet noted the far more important issue that surfaced in his tirade: his passionate anti-gun agenda.

Flynn was allegedly “verbally attacked” for paying attention to his cell phone during a press conference last week. Since the conference was to discuss the officer-related shooting of a black individual, Flynn’s cell-phone focus was taken as “disrespectful,” and, it has been assumed, perhaps reporters were fishing for him to say something they could interpret as racially disrespectful. But Flynn exploded on them:

Well I was on my phone, yes. That is true. I was following developments about a 5-year-old girl sitting on her dad’s lap who just got shot in the head by a drive-by shooting. If some of the people gave a good g****mn about the victimization of people in this community by crime, I’d take some of their invective more seriously.

The greatest racial disparity in the city of Milwaukee is getting shot and killed. Hello! Eighty percent of my homicide victims every year are African-American. . . .

Now they [protesters] know all about the last three people who’ve been killed by the Milwaukee Police Department over the course of the last several years. There’s not one of them that can name one of the last three homicide victims we’ve had in this city.

The last two sentences are, of course, an indictment of both the protesters and the media who inform them. And everybody loves it when the liberal media get a hypocrisy wedgie and have it pulled up over their heads. But wait just a minute, something stinks far worse here.

These outlets even related the words, and yet gave no notice of what Flynn said next:

[T]his community’s at risk all right. And it’s not because men and women in blue risk their lives protecting it. It’s at risk because we have large numbers of high-capacity, quality firearms in the hands of remorseless criminals who don’t care who they shoot. . . .

[The cops are] the ones who are going to be out there patrolling and stopping suspects who may have guns under the front seat.

The community’s at risk because of a prevalence of “high capacity” firearms. Sound like political trade language to anyone? You bet it is.

Some will note that he only objected to the firearms in the hands of “remorseless criminals,” but note that he also referred to the implied threat of mere “suspects” who “may” have guns. I am getting a clearer picture of this guy’s agenda.

But then it gets really clear. Flynn has an outspoken history of anti-gun activism.

Back in 2009, when the Wisconsin attorney general affirmed the state’s recognition of open carry laws as a clear Second Amendment right, Flynn spoke up in tyrannical defiance. You won’t believe how far he took it:

My message to my troops is if you see anybody carrying a gun on the streets of Milwaukee, we’ll put them on the ground, take the gun away and then decide whether you have a right to carry it. . . . It’s irresponsible to send a message to them that if they just carry it openly no one can bother them.

Flynn is so rabid against guns that even liberals cringed when he was chosen to testify before Congress when liberals recently tried to leverage Sandy Hook to renew an assault weapons ban. No not this guy! He’ll actually spill the whole liberal agenda and make it look bad! Huffington Post shuddered:

Flynn was openly boasting that he had instructed Milwaukee police officers to harass, assault, and willfully violate the rights of Milwaukee citizens when Flynn knew they weren’t violating any laws. . . . That he was never really held accountable for his comments is bad enough. That he’s now being put forward as a spokesman for gun control is really pretty awful.

But spokesman he was. In that 2013 hearing, Flynn eagerly lectured Congress on the need for strict gun control: “The notion that innocent, law-abiding citizens will use an assault weapon or high-capacity firearm to protect themselves is not our experience.”

When pushed on enforcing the laws we have rather than expanding new ones, Flynn interrupted, spoke over, and rebuked the Senator: “If you think we’re going to do paperwork prosecutions, you’re wrong!”

After the hearing, Flynn continued his pontifications with reporters:

Don’t sit there crying crocodile tears for the victims of mass murders and the number of police officers shot every year and then blithely say, “Oh, and by the way, we can’t do anything about it. It would inconvenience someone.”

Imagine that: a police chief who believes your stand for Second Amendment rights— God-given rights—is nothing more than an excuse to do nothing and a petty personal “convenience.”

And now, just a few months ago in the midst of the Ferguson furor, Flynn found a way to squeeze his name into the media spotlight again on the same issue. Surprise, there was that same calculated political language again: “We have remorseless, reckless criminals in possession of high-quality firearms.”

At that time, Flynn boasted his officers were confiscating as many firearms from people as was done in the much larger NYPD:

As of July 6th, the New York City Police Department had confiscated approximately 1,350 firearms from the streets of a city of 9 million. . . . So far this year, the Milwaukee Police Department in a city of 600,000—15 times smaller than New York—has seized 1,340 firearms from the streets of this city.

Remember, this is the guy who promised to put people “on the ground” and take their guns regardless of their rights to begin with.

Flynn’s anti-gun activism and statements have been so bad in the past, that his own Sheriff (the county jurisdiction above the City of Milwaukee), apologized to the Senate committee Flynn had disrespected.

David A Clarke, Jr., the Sheriff of Milwaukee County who became famous when he instructed all law-abiding citizens to arm themselves, sent the following letter to the committee chairman Lindsey Graham. In it, Clarke apologized “on behalf of my constituents” for Flynn’s “embarrassing behavior,” stating,

Please do not see his arrogance as exemplary of the people in Milwaukee County. His views on gun control are his and he is entitled to them, but he has no constituency of his own. He is an appointed bureaucrat. I do not remember him emphasizing that fact and I want to you to know that his viewpoint does not represent either my view on gun control nor countless other law-abiding citizens and gun owners in Milwaukee County. Chief Flynn has been a mouthpiece for the Mayors Against Guns group that has made no secret of their desire to obliterate the Second Amendment. Chief Flynn should have made his bias clear before speaking.

This recent “blast the media” story was upheld by TheBlaze and other alternative news outlets for Flynn’s daring to confront the assumed racist implications of reporters’ questions. Perhaps that is true and laudable to a degree. But it should be viewed mainly as one rabid leftist chiding other leftist pawns regarding what their real issue of the day needs to be: not racism, but gun control.

We should get on the side of Sheriff Clarke and see through the façade of these biased bureaucrats and activists, and focus on the real important issue.

Categories: Worldview

We have returned to ground zero for liberty; fix this or else

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 13:30

Dear friends, you are watching Washington politicians wrangle about the exigencies of tyranny under the banner of the land of the free, and meanwhile the real castle walls of freedom have already crumbled and fallen around you. You toss and banter canned news articles like grand artillery in the war of the worlds, yet in the trenches around you, the most important death of liberty trolls unimpeded, in virtual silence, busily preparing your graves.

What I am talking about is the issue on which John Adams chronicled as none other than the issue by which “American independence was born,” “the seeds of patriots and heroes were sown.” He meant no exaggeration by this. This was literally ground zero for liberty from arbitrary government.

And we’ve totally blown it.

And we virtually ignore it in the headlines. Of all major news stories about liberty, this one gets less traction than any. At stake is nothing less than the practical abolition of the fourth amendment. I have detailed this before case in my exclusive interview with James Otis, Jr. If ever we have been serious, now must be the time.

Last week, I related an article on the topic of civil forfeiture in which police and attorneys at a private seminar boasted of how they can abuse these laws to the max. The article had been run in the New York Times. Perhaps that’s what turned people off. It got little notice.

But now, news outlets all over—conservative, liberal, and libertarian alike—have picked it up. Still, few of these, even from major sources like National Review, got much traction at all, considering. Maybe it’s because “civil forfeiture” just doesn’t make stimulating headlines for the masses addicted to political rage porn. “Obama kills babies,” works better, I suppose.

But move over mainstreamers: by far the best analysis has come from a freelancer who posted on BuzzFeed. His diligent review of conference video reveals that the unconscionable hubris among these police and prosecutors is far worse than all the other articles combined led us to imagine. Combing through over ten hours of video, the editor found nuggets like this:

1. City attorney Pete Connelly muses about “what a trap” it will be to seize property in states where marijuana sales have been legalized.

Imagine that: it’s profitable enough where pot is illegal. But even where it’s legal, it will still be illegal to sell it privately—though many won’t know that or won’t care. The increase in low-level circulation will be a paradise for seizure parasites. Oh, what a wonderful trap!

Connelly quips: “You know, ten bucks of marijuana, and you get a $300,000 house. What a deal! That’s really exciting.” He adds, “What’s theirs is yours.”

And boy what a trap the system is. Connelly revels that they have designed their program to eliminate objections or oversight by involving other agencies in the share: “We’ve tried to make it so that everybody’s intertwined. The police department, they run the hearings; we don’t have attorneys go to the hearings unless there’s some exceptional circumstance, like . . . the defense bar will show up and all of the sudden start to raise the Constitution. . . .”

Imagine that: a defense attorney appealing to the Constitution is considered an “exceptional circumstance.”

He admits that he police departments, as policy, don’t even consider the Constitution. They only care whether or not their own ordinances give them cover to seize.

And in the maze of civil ordinances that give such cover, there is ample opportunity to weave and deceive and spring this trap:

2. Connelly brags that his legal filings are a “masterpiece of deception.”

While defense lawyers and defendants may not like that, the practice is useful to place impediments and legal mazes between rightful owners and the predatory department that seized their property. And the practice is very effective:

3. The government wins 96 percent of its cases.

In the few percent that it doesn’t win, it makes deals, often resulting in the sale of the property anyway and splitting the proceeds with the rightful owner. Thus the innocent owner gets back only a portion of their wrongfully seized property.

And in all of this seizing, they know that they’re not really punishing the real bad guys:

4. Connelly quips, “We’re not dealing with the Beemer crowd.”

The article’s author notes why this is important. It reveals the racket is against the common folk, not the real drug dealers they want us to believe:

If civil forfeiture truly targeted drug kingpins, then police would regularly seize all kinds of high-end, flashy cars. But according to Connelly, “we’re not dealing with the Beemer [BMW] crowd so much. We deal with just down-to-earth human beings that have their cars seized.”

He even joked, “Under our ordinance, we have cornered the 1978 Cadillac motor vehicle part of southern New Mexico.”

In addition to the “good car” anecdote covered last week, there is much more:

6. Civil Forfeiture is “self-serving.” . . .

But that’s OK, he says, “that’s why you’re doing the ordinance to begin with.

He argues that it will be difficult to eradicate these self-dealing laws, too, because of political spin. Your city council or governing body “has to be supportive” because “it will be very hard politically . . . for a . . . politician not to be for ridding the streets of nuisances that injure people, cause damage, and so forth.” Even though injury and damages are not what a large portion of the cases really deal with, it makes for potent propaganda.

He goes on to silence some critics of civil forfeiture profiteering by citing a U.S. Appeals Court decision that says it’s a good thing to have laws that simultaneously raise revenue and enforce traffic laws—as if that was apples and apples for civil forfeiture. He soothes cops’ consciences, however, saying, that the “Supreme Court” says, “It’s OK. Don’t feel bad.”

So cops, be happy, be assured, and seize! Just don’t tell the public:

7. The Government Doesn’t Want To Disclose Data on Civil Forfeiture Because It Might Help “People That Are Trying to Fight the Program”

When an Albuquerque officer asked, literally laughing, “How much do you pull in per year?,” a panelist clammed up: “I think they would rather not talk about those numbers because then it starts becoming more of a bullet-point for people that are trying to fight the program.”

The officer, Stanley Harada, then said straight-faced: “What we’re talking about are salaries for people who administer the program.”

We can’t subject self-serving to public awareness, now, can we? But we can train our officers about it in private:

8. New Jersey Legal Academy Offers “Entertaining” Course on Civil Forfeiture.

While this may seem like a more trivial point, the substance of this “entertaining” course is not. In it, a New Jersey prosecutor reveals his policy for civil forfeiture in general: “IF IN DOUBT … TAKE IT!” (all caps in original).

The BuzzFeed author notes,

[T]he presentation reveals the government’s “WORST CASE SCENARIO” for property seized under civil forfeiture: “WE GIVE IT BACK.”

Give it back, that is, after putting the owner through months of legal hurdles, hoping they’ll give up and just quit. And remember, only a few percent actually get their property back.

A different, nearly 2-hour, video reveals more:

9. Police departments now target valuable items desired for their own use or pure cash value (such as flat-screen TVs).

10. Most of the cars seized belong to innocent third parties, not the criminals. The government keeps them anyway, as much as it can.

11. A prosecutor explains how to defeat the “innocent owner” defense in court, which he calls “very weak” and “easy” to overcome.

And there’s more:

12. One Philadelphia bureaucrat in an interview announces that even if you’re acquitted of a crime, you’re not innocent, you’re just “not guilty,” and the city can, and will, still proceed against the property.

13. When asked if the proceeds from forfeiture might go to pay her salary, the same bureaucrat clammed up: “I cannot comment on that.”

14. One lecturer declares that the civil forfeiture racket is a “gold mine,” proclaiming, “We could be Czars.”

He muses: “Just think what you could do as the legal department. We could be czars. We could own the city. We could be in the real estate business. . . . [I]t’s amazing that is going on.”

We could go on and on. This is being done, and is being expanded rapidly, all around us. It means the walls of liberty have crumbled and we have returned to the same position our forefathers bled and died to save us from. The only difference is, we don’t have a distant tyrant searching and seizing, we are doing it from within, to ourselves.

And our police and greedy city attorneys are bragging about having destroyed it behind our backs. In the face of critics who cry that it’s openly unconstitutional, destroying the fourth amendment, Connelly has nothing but contempt. He laments, sarcastically, the fact that “there is a limit,” because we are still somewhat bound by Common Law theories of our founding and heritage from ancient England. Oh what a hindrance! Connelly retorted in dry sarcasm, ridiculing the Constitutional framers:

The founders all say—the institutors of the Constitution, the framers and all—they knew all about atomic bombs and everything else—so why can’t our city people have the same foresight. Because we started in 1987. We’re up to date.

This confusing joke—which no one in the room seemed to have gotten—was meant to say that the founders and their Constitution are outdated and no longer relevant today. The implication is that since these men could not have imagined the progress of society today—e.g. atomic bombs, etc.—their Constitution and legal theory must be just as behind the times as they are in comparison to our technology. Let’s forget our Common Law heritage and the Constitutional protections against search and seizure enshrined within it. Let’s scrap those protections. Goodbye fourth amendment. Goodbye privacy. Good bye “yours,” and hello “mine,” says this city attorney—and all the thousands of police and attorneys who are watching, being trained, and ready to imitate him.

Folks, this is ground zero for liberty. If we cannot stop and change this system, then our nation is already gone. All the wrangling in the world about Obama, Boehner, 2016, or whatever else means absolutely nothing until this issue is addressed—and remedied.

It is time for a major reassessment of our land. It is time for a major reassessment of our liberty, and of We, the People, who have allowed it to be destroyed.

Categories: Worldview

Police departments boast about civil forfeiture abuse

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 09:21

There’s a fine article in the NY Times regarding police abuses with civil forfeiture laws. Not only are some police departments conscious they’re abusing people with these laws, but they boast about it and even cover in seminars how best to abuse it and get away with it.

Legal activist group the Institute for Justice caught at least three departments nationwide passing along tips for purposeful and selective asset forfeiture during seminars and conferences. The article relates:

Much of the nuts-and-bolts how-to of civil forfeiture is passed on in continuing education seminars for local prosecutors and law enforcement officials, some of which have been captured on video. The Institute for Justice, which brought the videos to the attention of The Times, says they show how cynical the practice has become and how profit motives can outweigh public safety.

In the sessions, officials share tips on maximizing profits, defeating the objections of so-called “innocent owners” who were not present when the suspected offense occurred, and keeping the proceeds in the hands of law enforcement and out of general fund budgets. The Times reviewed three sessions, one in Santa Fe, N.M., that took place in September, one in New Jersey that was undated, and one in Georgia in September that was not videotaped.

Officials offered advice on dealing with skeptical judges, mocked Hispanics whose cars were seized, and made comments that, the Institute for Justice said, gave weight to the argument that civil forfeiture encourages decisions based on the value of the assets to be seized rather than public safety. In the Georgia session, the prosecutor leading the talk boasted that he had helped roll back a Republican-led effort to reform civil forfeiture in Georgia, where seized money has been used by the authorities, according to news reports, to pay for sports tickets, office parties, a home security system and a $90,000 sports car.

The article relates an interview with Sean McMurtry, chief of police of Mercer County, NJ (Trenton area), who says, “We’re very proud of our forfeiture operation,” because it’s a good deterrent to crime. But the conference talk captured on video reveals perhaps the real reasons he favors the “operation” so much:

[I]n the video, Mr. McMurtry made it clear that forfeitures were highly contingent on the needs of law enforcement. In New Jersey, the police and prosecutors are allowed to use cars, cash and other seized goods; the rest must be sold at auction. Cellphones and jewelry, Mr. McMurtry said, are not worth the bother. Flat screen televisions, however, “are very popular with the police departments,” he said. . . .

Mr. McMurtry said his handling of a case is sometimes determined by department wish lists. “If you want the car, and you really want to put it in your fleet, let me know — I’ll fight for it,” Mr. McMurtry said, addressing law enforcement officials on the video. “If you don’t let me know that, I’ll try and resolve it real quick through a settlement and get cash for the car, get the tow fee paid off, get some money for it.”

In another video, Harry Connelly Jr., city attorney of Las Cruces, N.M., referred to seized assets as “little goodies,” and said, “We always try to get once in a while, maybe, a good car.” He advised police officers to be mindful of legal loopholes that could allow people to regain their property easily. He detailed one incident that occurred outside a local bar:

“A guy drives up in a 2008 Mercedes, brand new,” he explained. “Just so beautiful, I mean, the cops were undercover and they were just like ‘Ahhhh.’ And he gets out and he’s just reeking of alcohol. And it’s like, ‘Oh, my goodness, we can hardly wait.’”

But, he goes on to say, the cops in question arrested the guy as he exited the bar, and just before he actually touched his vehicle. Since he had not yet touched it, he was not legally “in control” of the vehicle, and it therefore could not legally be seized. Connelly laments:

Lo and behold, we finally get the facts that he didn’t have control [of the vehicle], and so we, like, “gulp”—back goes his car, because . . . we didn’t wait. We should have let the door open, sit down, “hello?” pop! [simulating handcuffs]. Then we’d have been alright. But so, we gave it back.

Further,

Prosecutors boasted in the sessions that seizure cases were rarely contested or appealed. But civil forfeiture places the burden on owners, who must pay court fees and legal costs to get their property back. Many seizures go uncontested because the property is not worth the expense.

And often the first hearing is presided over not by a judge but by the prosecutor whose office benefits from the proceeds, and who has wide discretion in deciding whether to forfeit the property or return it, sometimes in exchange for a steep fine.

The article relates that, despite growing popular opposition to such laws, “many cities and states are moving to expand civil seizures of cars and other assets.” Indeed, from just what is related here, it is clear that the practice that was first justified specifically as part of the War of Drugs has now been expanded to more common issues such as DWI and domestic abuse.

Yes, we all want such things to stop, but further expanding already unconstitutional police powers to do so is a recipe for destroying civilization in the name of deterring a few criminals. And laws that give police departments financial incentives—indeed, party incentives!—to expand tyranny is socially insane. It is social suicide. Folks, with these laws, we are subsidizing the trampling of the Constitution and freedom in general.

Categories: Worldview

ObamaCare architect admits it’s a fraud, just in time for repeal effort

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 10:09

The Daily Caller has a great post with a clip from one of the ObamaCare architects spilling the beans on the dirty tricks used to hoodwink America while forcing the takeover of healthcare on the public. But the article emphasizes only part of what was said. The brief clip shows this cocky professor very candidly proclaiming at least three damning admissions about the process of deception.

Jonathan Gruber, technical consultant to the creation and process of ObamaCare, was captured during a panel discussion lauding the “lack of transparency” of the bill:

This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that.  In terms of risk rated subsidies, if . . . you made explicit healthy people pay in and sick people get money—it would not have passed. . . . Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass. . . . Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.

First of all, “lack of transparency” when done by design is not “lack of transparency.” It’s fraud. It’s outright deception. This makes it doubly sick that he speaks of “the stupidity of the American voter.” It was not stupidity. It was being hoodwinked by a parade of bureaucrats and legislators, one of whom has now openly admitted that they lied to both the American voter and the government agency in charge of accountability.

And look at what the lies were about: taxation and socialism. The first admitted lie is that the mandate was a tax. We knew this from the beginning. We all knew that the liars knew this from the beginning too. Now one of them tells us they did. So, the lie was “critical” to getting it passed.

The second admitted lie is about the element of direct wealth transfer. You can’t call socialism socialism. You can’t call the redistribution of wealth the redistribution of wealth. We all knew it was this, but it was purposefully written in obscure, befuddled, evasive language for the purpose of playing stupid and deception. We all knew it, and we all knew they knew it too, but we could do nothing about it the time.

Well, if it’s worth anything at this point, this type of admission could be a very useful tool in a repeal campaign. If these newly “victorious” Republicans are at all serious, they will target repeal of ObamaCare immediately, highlighting the angle “we were lied to” and “fraud against the American people.” Obama would veto it, of course. But enough pressure could be mounted during an override effort that a few more Senate seats could be taken in ’16.

The point about Republicans being serious is, of course, a big “if.”

Categories: Worldview

Dispensationalism confesses: God is in “exile”

Fri, 11/07/2014 - 11:36

A friend posted to me yesterday a quotation from a leading dispensational author describing the “kingdom of heaven.” His view of the present reign of Christ is actually quite startling. He writes,

The third phase may be referred to as the interim kingdom, the kingdom that resulted because of Israel’s rejection of her King. The King returned to heaven and His kingdom on earth now exists only in a mystery form. Christ is Lord of the earth in the sense of His being its Creator and its ultimate Ruler; but He does not presently exercise His full divine will over the earth. He is, so to speak, in a voluntary exile in heaven until it is time for Him to return again.

First of all, there is no surprise here, except perhaps that the writer was abnormally aware and candid of the implications of his views. This is classic dispensationalism, perhaps just with the curtains pulled back more than normal. What is called the “third phase” or “interim” kingdom here is nothing less than the classic dispensational “church age” in which the real kingdom program is put on hold until Jesus returns to knock heads, literally.

Second, however, candor can be a damaging thing to theological positions. The more some people try to elaborate, the more problems their position creates. In this case, the author ends up exposing the classic dispensational “church age” as a time in which God has all but checked out—a classic “absentee landlord.” This is the Holy One on hiatus, Christ on sabbatical, God on paid leave.

The statement above may include lip-service to Christ as Lord, but the qualifiers pretty much take it away. This is not a Ruler under whose feet all things have been subjected. This is not a Ruler who has all power in heaven and on earth. This is a King-in-name-only. As such, any view of the Kingdom—“interim” or whatever—from this perspective will only be just as limited, or even incoherent. Witness: the author’s claim that the kingdom presently exists only “in a mystery form.”

This “mystery” view of the kingdom seems to me to be at odds with Scripture. Paul says that while the kingdom had been kept a mystery up until his days, the mystery is now revealed to everyone:

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:8–9; Cf. Col. 1:26–27; 2:2; 4:3).

Our author goes so far as to say his Absentee God is literally in self-imposed “exile.” It’s bad enough that the amillennialists have doubled-down on the “exile” motif to describe the nature of Christians in this world. Now the premil dispys have gone and made God Himself an Exile. Perhaps it could be argued in defense that this is only a temporary self-imposed exile. But even this has serious implications.

Thus, third, consider what this view does to the doctrine of God, particularly His sovereignty and providence. The author states that during this present “interim” non-kingdom exile, Christ “does not presently exercise His full divine will over the earth.” This is a Christ who is no more interested or involved in history than the God of the deists.

Worse, this view really impinges upon the rest of what Scripture teaches about Divine Providence. When Christ had resurrected, He announced His receipt of total power in heaven and over all the earth (Matt. 28:18–20). He then gave us the Great Commission in light of that fact. When He ascended, he was not vacating the premises, His power, His will, His rule, His authority, or anything else in any way. He remained the same Divine Creator and Omnipotent Ruler as described, for example, in the London Baptist Confession (or its parent, the Westminster Confession of Faith):

God the good Creator of all things, in His infinite power and wisdom, upholds, directs, disposes and governs all creatures and things, from the greatest to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, to the end for which they were created (5.1).

That’s the Scriptural doctrine: whether Christ is physically present or not, He rules in His full will such that nothing falls outside of it. As the Confessions go on to say, the scope of this divine rule is absolute and total, extending to everything: “there is not anything befalls any by chance, or without His providence. . . .”

From the perspective of such robust Reformed theology, the teaching of some dispensationalists becomes quite untenable. I mean, I can just hear a Reformed Baptist like John MacArthur groan in frustration that a fellow dispensationalist would let his eschatological presuppositions tweak his doctrine of God so violently, can’t you?

Except, this is from John MacArthur. Friends, witness what happens when eschatology drives your theology. It is not a pretty sight. Even generally solid teachers can end up making absurd theological statements when pursuing bad eschatology to its logical conclusions.

In this case, you end up in something like a deism, or Manichaeism regarding the doctrines of God and providence. Yet it’s classic dispensationalism down the line: Christ has no kingdom here on earth, only in the private hearts of His believers. There can be no outward expression of that kingdom until Christ physically returns.

But what of His power and authority in the meantime? What of Christ presently reigning at the right hand of the Majesty on high, and currently “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3)? Is this “voluntary exile in heaven”? And what of Christ’s promise to be with us always throughout the Great Commission (Matt. 28:20)? What encouragement is it for the task of discipling the nations if He has taken His “all power in heaven and in earth” into voluntary exile in heaven? What His promise some kind of joke?

I prefer to acknowledge that Christ is reigning just as He claimed, and that we are seated and reigning with Him, just as Paul taught (Eph. 2:5–7). And while evil still exists in this earth, rest assured that Christ has already triumphed over it, and exercises full control over every detail of history according to His will. We live in faith knowing that He will manifest His kingdom as He wills, and that He will perform all His will, not leaving that heavenly throne until the last enemy is destroyed.

Folks, it is a long, uphill climb from our perspective, but that’s no reason to give up half-way, or to claim that Christ has abandoned the world and left it to the devil. It is indeed true that God’s inscrutable will is a mystery to us as we look forward, but the fact of His kingdom is no mystery. It is here, and it is here to stay.

Categories: Worldview

Jefferson’s law of castration and maiming: the tyranny of humanistic law

Mon, 11/03/2014 - 12:59

So you think God’s law is negative, harsh, and cruel? Then you haven’t considered what cruelty men engage when they are not bound by it. Witness one Thomas Jefferson—Mr. Wall of Separation himself.

I saw this a while back, and filed it away. Then I saw it pop up again yesterday in a couple conservative blogs. But instead of analyzing it from the perspective of biblical law, conservatives who find this seem to use it just to show liberals that even the “founding fathers” rejected homosexuality in society.

Fine. But they instituted an even worse tyranny in law by departing from biblical law in the process. Let’s acknowledge that, too.

In 1776, Thomas Jefferson and a group of other Virginian legislators drafted a revision of law, certainly in view of independence. In large part, they consulted ancient English Common Law, which was to a large degree based upon biblical law. At other points, however, Jefferson noted that they specifically departed from biblical principle and gave way to “public sentiment.”

This departure is clear in regard to sexual crimes. In regard to sodomy, Jefferson and “public sentiment” apparently called for torture and maiming. Section 14 of “crimes and punishments” proclaims:

Whosoever shall be guilty of rape, [polygamy,] or sodomy with man or woman, shall be punished; if a man, by castrationif a woman, by boring through the cartilage of her nose a hole of one half inch in diameter at the least.

And you thought theonomy was harsh.

Whatever else could be said about such punishments, Scripture does not mention any penalty for a woman involved in “sodomy”—whatever that means. Maiming as criminal punishment in general is not allowed per biblical law. Such a law is disproportionate and tyrannical. To institute a penalty of boring a minimum 1/2″ hole in the cartilage of her nose is radically cruel.

Despite its modern detractors of all sorts, biblical law is actually a protection to the life, person, and liberties of individuals superior to the unbounded cruelties possible under humanistic codes. Especially when informed by “public sentiment,” there is no limit to the terrors that could be—for the voice of the mob is often close to madness.

But it is a heritage among theologians to decry biblical law and thus open the door to unbelievable nonsense such as Jefferson’s maiming laws. Going all the way back to Calvin (and far beyond), we hear arguments that Mosaic penalties are not required for the express reason that sometimes, penalties harsher and more draconian than Moses are needed! Yes, that is in part what Calvin argued:

The law of God forbids to steal. The punishment appointed for theft in the civil polity of the Jews may be seen in Exodus 22. Very ancient laws of other nations punished theft by exacting the double of what was stolen, while subsequent laws made a distinction between theft manifest and not manifest. Other laws went the length of punishing with exile, or with branding, while others made the punishment capital [for theft!]. Among the Jews, the punishment of the false witness was to “do unto him as he had thought to have done with his brother” (Deut. 19:19). In some countries, the punishment is infamy, in others hanging, in others crucifixion. All laws alike avenge murder with blood, but the kinds of death are different. In some countries, adultery was punished more severely, in others more leniently. Yet we see that amidst this diversity they all tend to the same end. For they all with one mouth declare against those crimes which are condemned by the eternal law of God—viz. murder, theft, adultery, and false witness; though they agree not as to the mode of punishment. This is not necessary, nor even expedient. There may be a country which, if murder were not visited with fearful punishments, would instantly become a prey to robbery and slaughter. There may be an age requiring that the severity of punishments should be increased. . . . One nation might be more prone to a particular vice, were it not most severely repressed.

What we see here is the rejection of biblical standards for punishment, and with Jefferson, the tyranny that can ensue. What may seem to some like leniency and progress opens the door to cruelty, inequity, and vengeance. Men think they can handle crime better than God. Men think they can be more merciful, more just, or wiser than God. And they fail. Next thing you know, the entire society is turned upside down and all justice—even the very institution of marriage—are perverted at their legal root.

Why? Because men abandoned God’s law—which is to say that men abandoned God. Men decided they could play lawgiver, which is to say men decided they could play God. And in the area of crime and punishment, this is a play with deep historical roots. Soon, you have a wall of separation so absolute and unfounded, humanists are unhinged and their cruelty roams the earth with them.

Justice is not defined by the age, the public, the nation, or the sentiment. It is defined by God. Until Christians accept this humanists will rule and tyranny with them. As long as Christians let humanism define crime and punishment, they are cutting off their nose to spite their face—or at least boring a half inch hole in it.

Categories: Worldview

Dominion and Halloween

Fri, 10/31/2014 - 20:19

A few words on Halloween from Joel, interviewed on local radio, WLBB 1330 am.

Categories: Worldview

What Would Jesus Do? Not what this liberal says He would do

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 08:17

There is no doubt that many people, including many Christians, imagine a Jesus that never existed. And usually, the Jesus they imagine so often looks just like them. And it goes on today, all the time.

This problem only begins with the classic images—Jesus the long-haired, blondish Florentine—by which we have been traditionally bombarded. Those images, historically accurate as they may or may not be, exist because they arose amidst a particular culture at a particular time, and the people who produced them were creating a Jesus that looked like them—or at least their patrons. But that it illustrative of the problem. We do the exact same thing—on both individual and social levels.

Beyond Jesus’ mere appearance—of which we actually know very little—we do the same thing regarding His person, manners, beliefs, and teachings. It’s a great (as well as cheap and lazy) way to bolster our own beliefs and culture with divine authority, without the trouble of so much comparing them to the records of Jesus in the Bible.

A great example of this appears in a recent column on HuffPost, by a liberal religious writer Mick Mooney. He asks, “What Would Jesus Do? Do You Really Want to Know?,” assuring us by implication that he really knows and we don’t—and the truth is about to shock us!

Then follows a modern parable: a mother gives her child a WWJD bracelet and implores him to live by it. He promptly begins to behave in ways that shock her sensibilities and values:

A week later she was shocked to see that her son had become friends with prostitutes, was hanging out with ‘sinners’ — even buying people who were already drunk yet another round of beers!

Worse still, he had walked into their church the previous Sunday and tore down the book store, overturned the tables and threw the cash register through the window, he then made a whip and chased the pastor out of the building, declaring he was turning God’s house into a den of thieves.

Most shocking was what happened when his mother went to picket the local abortion clinic. To her embarrassment, her son was also there, but he was standing with the women who just had an abortion, and yelled at the protesters: “You who are without sin, throw the first stone!”

Then, in an awkward and ironic attempt at a sermonette, Mooney brings in the twist. The mother then fashions a new bracelet to get the lad to act the way a good conservative fundamentalist is really supposed to. Out with the WWJD, and in the WWAPD. That stands for “What Would a Pharisee Do?”

Usually, the liberal intellectual elite are a bit more subtle and sophisticated. I was disappointed here. But back to the story. That new bracelet straightened things right up:

Since her son has been wearing the new wristband, looking at it to help him make his decisions, he has become a dedicated tither, a public prayer warrior, an active condemner of ‘sinners,’ a passionate defender of the Old Covenant law, and has a great reputation as a godly young man amongst other religious people.

Like I said, it is a bit awkward.

And of course, there’s a bit of truth here and there to it. I can grant to a certain degree that Jesus produced wine for a party that had by implication already “drunk freely” (John 2:10). I can certainly grant that He gave the moneychangers in the temple a bad day (twice actually). (Indeed, I reported the only known non-canonical eyewitness account of that event.) I can even go so far as to say that Jesus would show compassion to certain sinners—perhaps in some situations even to abortive mothers after the fact—whom many are naturally inclined to condemn.

But would Jesus have bought and paid for drunkenness? Would he have denounced church bookstores and cash registers wholesale (no pun intended)? Do Christians really picket abortion clinics targeting mainly those walking out (or is it rather trying to stop those walking in, and those running the place)? These and other questions need to be qualified before undertaking such a liberal crusade.

The overwrought analogies are bad enough, but with the twist of the alleged “Pharisee,” the liberal becomes more transparent than he wishes. The only accounts we have of Jesus are in the Bible. These accounts are situated within the context of Old Covenant history. Jesus was the culmination and fulfillment of—not the abolition or negation of—all Old Covenant law and promises. Yet the good Jesus in Mooney’s story looks doesn’t look very much like the law and promises; He looks a whole lot like a modern liberal. Why it just so happens that this Jesus’ values line up exactly with those we would expect of a liberal writer like Mick Mooney. Hmm.

It is here that the punch line goes from clumsy to ironic. What was the sin of the Pharisees after all? It was adding to the word of God. It was nullifying the law in the name of their own pious culture: being wiser, purer, or even more compassionate, than God Himself (see Matt. 15; Mark 7:1–13). The irony is that in the name of condemning alleged Pharisees, it is Mooney himself who has become the self-righteousness one.

And the worst part of this self-righteousness is that for Mooney, the alleged Pharisee is “a passionate defender of the Old Covenant law.” Unfortunately, many people, including many conservative Christians, are conditioned to think that high esteem for God’s law equals Pharisaism. But this is as far from the biblical record as Florence is from Jerusalem.

Think about it: Jesus did not come to destroy the law but fulfill it (Matt. 5:17–18). Where do you think His teachings came from? Was His teaching about love a new thing? Here’s what Jesus taught:

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:35–40).

On these two commandments (about “love”) depend—literally “hang”—the entirety of the Old Covenant law. What’s the hook? The hook is that both of these commandments themselves come straight from the heart of “Old Covenant law.” The first is from Deuteronomy 6, and the second is from the dreaded Leviticus, chapter 19 verse 18.

Jesus did not rebuke the Pharisees for dwelling on God’s law, but for not dwelling on all of it—especially its most important parts: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matt. 23:23).

According to John’s Gospel, Jesus did not rebuke the Pharisees for following Moses; He rebuked the Pharisees for not following Moses: “There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:45–46).

And we could go on. Despite the derisive parable of our subject liberal, Jesus Himself was a passionate defender of Old Covenant law, and He commands us to be also.

So what would Jesus do? Not what this liberal says (dreams) He would do. Jesus would “do” Old Covenant ethics. Anything else is more like what a Pharisee would do. To be sure, modern conservatives are often quite Pharisaic in their personal and political ethics. That hardly means liberals, humanists, have the solution. Theirs is usually far worse. Let’s not fashion a Jesus after ourselves, but ourselves after God’s Word.

Categories: Worldview

Common Core revolt, or legitimizing the trap? TAC needs to wise up.

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 10:15

A writer for the Tenth Amendment Center lauds Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett for defying Common Core testing standards, but the writer does not notice the real problems: the money, and the strings. This is not a story about effective decentralized power; it is a story about how unpopular efforts at centralization become legitimized.

The TAC post follows a Politico report, “Common Core revolt goes local,” arguing that the CEO’s stance “shows bottom-up change is effective.” From TAC’s post:

Politico reports that Chicago, the nation’s third-largest district, students will not “take the federally funded PARCC exam, which will debut next spring in 11 states, including Illinois.”

Her defiance was striking in a district that has long been viewed as a national leader in test-based accountability. It was also rich in symbolism because Chicago public schools were once run by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a huge cheerleader for both the Common Core and the new exams, developed with $370 million in federal funds.

The hope is that such “defiance” will go viral:

More important than the political backlash of rejecting the program in the home turf of the education secretary is the domino effect it could create:

Chicago’s stance could well inspire copycat insurrections in other districts, analysts said — and that could undermine not just the Common Core, but more than a decade of public policy that relies on standardized tests to hold schools and teachers accountable for helping kids learn.

This shows the power that individuals can have in taking on the federal and even a state agenda. Without our compliance, their programs have an extremely difficult path forward.

And here’s the author’s final pitch:

Federal programs desperately need state and local help to succeed. Without that support and compliance, they’ll run into a brick wall.  Getting active and involved locally can make all the difference in the world.

So pick an issue important to you, contact your state and local politicians and urge them to do something about it.  Contact us if you are looking for help with model legislation for your area.

While I certainly support genuine Tenth Amendment resistance and defiance, there’s a proverbial 900-pound gorilla in the room here. What has been missed? For starters: the money. The state and local authorities have already taken the money. This in and of itself has legitimized Common Core. Any gripes and moans about the system in light of this are just window dressing.

But it’s worse now. Any gripes and moans now from within the system, about particulars of the system, only serve to further legitimize the system. This is the classic next step in the centralized takeover of public education. The first step, as I have argued, was to dangle the money. That step has largely been a success. The bait has been swallowed and the hook set. The bait is no longer the issue; it is swallowed; it is out of sight. That’s why it does not appear in this part of the debate. It is assumed as a given.

The second step is merely the reeling-in process. The fish tugs and pulls, and the fisherman tugs and pulls back, slowly winning. The local school districts complain about the details of the standards. There will be some form of push back or slack from the other side. It may come in the form of threats to pull funding, or it may come in revised standards. Either way, the complaint gives the central authority an opportunity to voice itself as the authority. The complaint itself assumes that the central authority is the central authority—i.e., it legitimizes that which it is complaining against.

Before long, this fish will be in the boat. When this step has been completed, Common Core will be the new normal, and any problem locals have with the Core they will automatically appeal to the central authority for reform and change. The only difference is, real fish would rather get away. Public school fish love their captors. I’ll bet that by this time the central agency will a nice acronym by which local affectionately refer to it: like “Central Agency Reforming Education” or C.A.R.E.

TAC’s mission is supposed to be “focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power as required by the Constitution.” But the Tenth Amendment is null and void the moment a state or local government agrees and accepts the money. You take the money, you have voluntarily entered a contract with the central government, and you have voluntarily accepted the strings attached. Rearranging the strings a bit does not solve the problem, and does not decentralize power. It rather encourages and justifies it.

The TAC author here does point to that original Tenther philosophy, stating that without our support and compliance, federal and state intrusions will “run into a brick wall.” Now the writer just needs to acknowledge where in this issue that wall has already been demolished: when the states took the money. If you want to get real about decentralized government and restoring liberties, you better start here. To omit that premise in this debate is to concede the legitimacy of Common Core. Don’t do that.

You want to stay out of the trap? Don’t take the cheese. For once the trap is sprung, it’s too late to complain about the brand of cheese. Those guarding us against the traps need to be more vigilant.

Categories: Worldview

The Truth about Matthew Shephard

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 10:43

A gay author has debunked the myth of Matthew Shephard. In a new book, The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard, investigative journalist Stephen Jimenez tells the rest of the story that the press and LGBT activists suppressed at the time, much of which was not investigated by police, though known, or allowed into the court case.

According to a fascinating article by Julie Bindel for the Guardian, Jimenez “has spent 13 years interviewing more than 100 people with a connection to the case.” The result is a whole different picture than the now-famous bigoted, anti-gay “hate crime” placarded by the media.

Bindel relates,

When he started he was convinced that Matthew died at the hands of homophobes, but he soon discovered that Matthew’s tragedy began long before the night he was killed.

Jimenez found that Matthew was addicted to and dealing crystal meth and had dabbled in heroin. He also took significant sexual risks and was being pimped alongside Aaron McKinney, one of his killers, with whom he’d had occasional sexual encounters. He was HIV positive at the time of his death.

“This does not make the perfect poster boy for the gay-rights movement,” says Jimenez.

In 2009, Obama signed the Matthew Shephard Act, enshrining the legacy of the alleged “hate crime” victim by including sexual orientation as a category of hate crime, thus stiffening penalties, increasing federal intervention, and incentivizing police investigations for crimes allegedly committed due to motivations of “hate” against homosexuals.

Shephard, a slight, blonde, homosexual, 21-year old man, was kidnapped in 1998, beaten, and brutally murdered by two young men who had pistol-whipped him, tied him to a fence, and lit him on fire.

With then-president Bill Clinton’s agenda to include homosexuals in “hate crime” already in place the year prior, local leftist activists wasted no time politicizing the event—literally blaming the fatal attack on the failure to have such legislation in place! And this reaction was immediate. As Bindel says,

[W]hen Matthew’s friends Walt Boulden and Alex Trout heard of the attack they rushed to the hospital. They contacted the Associated Press and a number of local gay organisations that same day. Boulden, a 46-year-old college instructor who says he was the last person to talk to Matthew before he met McKinney and Henderson, linked the attack to Wyoming legislature’s failure to pass a hate-crimes bill. Boulden later said the assault was identified as a hate crime by a policeman.

“A policeman,” maybe, but apparently not one close to the facts. Jimenez cuts through the politicized agenda and focuses on the facts—facts that render the anti-gay motivation doubtful at best, and show a far more powerful and reasonable motive.

Such things include the fact that one of Shephard’s killers was also a former sexual partner.

And the fact that this killer was known by police to be a homosexual.

And the fact that Matthew Shephard was a meth addict formerly involved in buying and selling drugs with his killers.

Yet, “Matthew’s drug abuse, and the fact that he knew one of his killers prior to the attack, was never explored in court. Neither was the rumour that the killers knew that he had access to a shipment of crystal meth with a street value of $10,000 which they wanted to steal.” Also, “The police did not investigate the killers’ relationship to the gay community.”

They didn’t investigate it, but they knew. Despite the alleged anonymous policeman whom the college professor and gay legislation activist cited on “hate crime,” the officer who actually arrested the killer knew better:

After leaving Matthew tied to the fence, McKinney and Henderson headed for Matthew’s home, but on the way encountered two young Hispanic men, Emiliano Morales and Jeremy Herrera, slashing tyres for fun. The men got into a fight, resulting in McKinney cracking open Morales’s head with the same gun he had used on Matthew. Police officer Flint Waters arrived, grabbed Henderson (he and McKinney had run in different directions), and found the truck, the gun, Matthew’s shoes and credit card.

I spoke to Waters, who has since retired from the police, having seen him praise The Book of Matt on social media. “I believe to this day that McKinney and Henderson were trying to find Matthew’s house so they could steal his drugs. It was fairly well known in the Laramie community that McKinney wouldn’t be one that was striking out of a sense of homophobia. Some of the officers I worked with had caught him in a sexual act with another man, so it didn’t fit – none of that made any sense.”

We must thank journalist Bindel for reporting what does make sense. She continues:

Stephen Jimenez is an award-winning journalist and gay man. So why has he put such time and effort into attempting to prove that Matthew’s murder was not a hate crime, especially as it has seen him accused of being an ally to the rightwing Christian fundamentalists who deny the reality of homophobia?

She lets Jimenez tell the story:

“The view was that homophobic rednecks walked into a bar and saw an obviously gay man with money and targeted him and beat him to death for that reason,” says Jimenez. “But that isn’t what happened. Nothing in this book takes away from the iniquity and brutality of the crime or the culpability of his murderers, but we owe Matthew and other young men like him the truth.

“Aaron and Matthew had a friendship. They’d been involved sexually, they bought and sold drugs from each other. That complicates the original story of two strangers walking into a bar and targeting Matthew – someone they [allegedly] did not know – because he was gay.”

Although McKinney has never acknowledged that he knew Matthew, Jimenez found a dozen sources that had seen them together. . . .

I don’t buy new popular books very often, but I will be checking this one out. I not only love investigative journalism when done right, I love it when someone who cares about the truth uproots the entire propaganda machine of the leftist establishment.

While it may seem that mind control has never been easier than it is today, the more important truth is that undermining mind control has never been easier. The government establishment and its propaganda arms, such as the Associated Press, the major University systems, local lapdog newspapers, all the activists disguised as college professors and instructors, as well as most politicians, can be irrefutably overturned by a persistent and sacrificial reporter who has an internet connection and some guts. Major waves can follow.

Matthew Shephard did not deserve to be murdered, nor to be kidnapped or beaten. But the public does not deserve to be lied to and pimped by politicians and leftists whose dream is to exalt perversion and suppress truth and righteousness.

There is also something about standing among one’s own “side” for whose little white lies one is supposed to cover, and instead speaking truth and conscience. That, I know something about.

Even if I don’t agree with the lifestance of the messenger, I applaud those who take risks to fight for the truth.

Categories: Worldview

Party time! Or is it?

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 09:57

A great new article by Bruce Bartlett for The American Conservative makes the case that “Obama is a Republican.” Shocking as that may sound to many conservatives who believe Obama is the worst communist since Stalin, the facts of the case should lead us to consider a deeper problem.

While I agree with the “Republican” measures the article says Obama has either instituted or continued, the real problem is not so much that Obama is really a “moderate Republican” in disguise. The real problem is that on many issues that really matter, there is no difference between the two major parties. And while this in itself is nearly a worn-out meme—true as it may be—articles like this really ought to awaken us to our real political problems. For it is only then that we can begin to plan real strategies for lasting changes (hint: “the next election” is not really a good one).

And this has been true for a long time. Those more experienced in the political system ought to be wiser and more forthright. I remember, for example, when an acquaintance of mine was sent into alarm mode by Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016: Obama’s America. It was the most important and inspiring documentary ever. It exposed the real depravity of the true plans and beliefs of the real Obama. Everyone needs to see this or else we could lose the country! But I smelled a rat.

Sure enough, a day later Gary North published a review of that flick: “A Whitewash of Bush: The Underlying Message of D’Souza’s Documentary, 2016: Obama’s America.” North argued that the propaganda film “misses the fundamental political fact of the last dozen years: the Obama Administration is the operational successor of the Bush Administration. In Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Guantanamo, on Wall Street, Barack Obama is George W. Bush in blackface. . . . This fact has been deliberately ignored for almost four years by both the neoconservative Right and the grin-and-bear-it Left. Neither side will admit what I regard as the fundamental fact of this documentary. It is a long whitewash of the policies of George W. Bush.”

His conclusion is right:

So, all things considered, I did not think much of the documentary. It is artistically pretty good, and it gets its neoconservative message across to the assembled choir. But on the issues that really matter, it is either wrong-headed or silent. On foreign policy, it is a defense of the neoconservatives’ version of Middle Eastern foreign policy. . . . On the real federal deficit — unfunded liabilities — it is silent. On the on-budget deficit, it ignores Bush and Congress. The deficit is a bipartisan disaster. To suggest otherwise is not just misleading, it is deceptive. It raises hope where there is none. “If only we will not re-elect Obama!” On the deficits — on-budget and off-budget — it makes not a whit of difference. There will be a Great Default.

He fails to pursue the obvious — the influence Jeremiah Wright — while he promotes his own peculiar thesis of Obama as an anti-colonialist son of his absent father. I kept thinking, “Anti-colonialist? If only it were true. If only his foreign policy were not an extension of Bush’s.”

The movie gets very close to the truth of the history of modern American foreign policy. D’Souza spends time interviewing a Hawaiian historian who identified the turning point in American foreign policy: McKinley’s decision to annex Hawaii in 1898. That was the birth of the American Empire, contemporaneous with the Spanish-American War, which the movie does not mention. Apparently, D’Souza expects the viewers to recoil in horror from the idea that it was a bad idea to annex Hawaii. The movie implies that Obama was taught this when he was in high school in Hawaii. “How could Obama believe such a thing?” I kept thinking, “If only he did.”

North argues the point leading to these conclusions convincingly. I linked the article to the enthralled fellow I mentioned. He is literate. He is not dumb. He is by many accounts a successful entrepreneur. He is a millionaire and political activist. He read it. But it literally did not compute with him. “I just can’t see how Obama and Bush are alike,” he said. He had just read how, but could not think outside the box of his party’s propaganda machine.

So when I read Bartlett’s piece this morning, I thought, “Man, we need a whole lot more of this.” Bartlett had even called it before it happened. How so? Because several former Reagan and Bush officials were supporting Obama already in 2008 as a “classic conservative.” Bartlett writes,

I wrote a piece for the New Republic soon afterward about the Obamacon phenomenon—prominent conservatives and Republicans who were openly supporting Obama. Many saw in him a classic conservative temperament: someone who avoided lofty rhetoric, an ambitious agenda, and a Utopian vision that would conflict with human nature, real-world barriers to radical reform, and the American system of government.

Among the Obamacons were Ken Duberstein, Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff; Charles Fried, Reagan’s solicitor general; Ken Adelman, director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency for Reagan; Jeffrey Hart, longtime senior editor of National ReviewColin Powell, Reagan’s national security adviser and secretary of state for George W. Bush; and Scott McClellan, Bush’s press secretary. There were many others as well.

According to exit polls in 2008, Obama ended up with 20 percent of the conservative vote. Even in 2012, after four years of relentless conservative attacks, he still got 17 percent of the conservative vote, with 11 percent of Tea Party supporters saying they cast their ballots for Obama.

They were not wrong. In my opinion, Obama has governed as a moderate conservative—essentially as what used to be called a liberal Republican before all such people disappeared from the GOP. He has been conservative to exactly the same degree that Richard Nixon basically governed as a moderate liberal, something no conservative would deny today.

Fast forward to today, and Bartlett is able to cite national security policy, terrorism policy, stimulus and deficit policy, health reform, the drug war, transparency, race, and corporatism, among other things, as major similarities.

Like North’s argument above, this list is absolutely correct. But both are fundamentally abbreviated. In 2012, a kid writing for IVN.us noted in detail “100 Ways Republicans are Just Like Democrats.” It is an impressive research effort. It will take you a while just to read the whole list. You will get discouraged along the way and want to quit. You will return only to verify by clicking through the links, and you will be even more educated and perhaps angered. I counsel you to take the time and read through this carefully, read also some of the links as you go.

Among the examples are the obvious: both support NDAA; both support endless wars and extrajudicial drone killings; both support the Federal Reserve and Keynesian economics; both increase deficits and national debt, etc. But consider some of the lesser-known facts:

The Republican hypocrisy regarding the trillions of Obama “stimulus”:

33. Republicansand Democrats can agree that the economic stimulus package helped the economy. Romney has stated that he believes an economic stimulus package was necessary and many Republicans have spoke[n] of the success of the Democratic economic stimulus package. Think Progress reports that over half of the opposing GOP — 110 members from the House and Senate — returned to their home states to either claim credit for popular stimulus programs or to tout its success.

And consider how the revolving door of wolves between the federal government and the lobbyists:

32. At least 360 former Democratic and Republicancongresspeople have left office and accepted jobs as lobbyists for corporations or special interest groups who then attempt to influence the same federal government they once worked for. As many as5,400 congressional staffers have done the same in the past 10 years alone. Referred to as the  “revolving door,” members of both parties routinely move between influential private sector positions and policy-making positions in the executive or legislative branches.

This is not a partisan problem. This is an issue of wolves preying upon sheep. It is a problem which will not be solved by either of the beneficiaries—the Republican and Democrat Parties.

And consider the outright war on those who perhaps could help solve it: third parties. There is a veritable “War on Third Parties” waged by the tag team of the Republican and Democrat Parties:

19. Both Democrats and Republicans seem to believe that voting for a third party is equivalent to throwing away your vote while in reality, if everyone voted their conscience and avoided voting for the “lesser of two evils,” which46 percentof those polled said they would be doing this election, the two-party stranglehold may actually be broken.

20. TheDemocraticand Republican parties have both sued third parties to prevent them from appearing on the ballot in key states.

21. Both the Democratic and Republican partiesexcludethird parties from the presidential debates. In 1987, the Democratic and Republican parties founded the nonprofit Commission on Presidential Debates to regulate the presidential debates, which excludes third party candidates from participating in the only nationally televised presidential debates.

22. The Democratic and Republican parties have both been suedfor conspiring to exclude third parties from the quadrennial presidential debates.

It has got to be one of the greatest ironies of American politics that proponents of both parties dismiss third parties are fringe and waste, but then see it necessary to erect a vast array of regulations, laws, double standards, dirty tricks, and subsidies to keep them out of view of the mainstream public.

Now it could possibly be true that the author of this list of 100 traits of bipartisan tyranny is a libertarian youth who smokes pot, watches porn, lives in his parent’s basement, and has never accomplished anything in his life, and therefore we can summarily dismiss everything he has said, including all the evidence to which he has linked. I for one do not believe a single thing he says. I am also almost never sarcastic.

Perhaps for the same reasons I am sarcastic, Bartlett concludes on a pessimistic note:

I don’t expect any conservatives to recognize the truth of Obama’s fundamental conservatism for at least a couple of decades—perhaps only after a real progressive presidency. In any case, today they are too invested in painting him as the devil incarnate in order to frighten grassroots Republicans into voting to keep Obama from confiscating all their gunsthrowing them into FEMA re-education camps, and other nonsense that is believed by many Republicans. But just as they eventually came to appreciate Bill Clinton’s core conservatism, Republicans will someday see that Obama was no less conservative.

Again, I would not put it in those terms. Obama is not so much a conservative as both parties are absolutely sold out to socialism and interventionism. Yes, there are some obvious differences in regard to social issues such as the LGBT agenda, homosexual marriage, abortion, etc. But contending about these issues while we unquestioningly perpetuate the decades of entrenched, biblically-proclaimed abominations financial, military, and others, will have no impact. Our moral authority before both God and man is nonexistent until we get consistent.

The kings of the earth take counsel together again the Lord and His Anointed (Ps. 2), and Christians are kissing the kings of the earth instead of kissing the Son.

At this point, the solution will not come through the system. The system is the problem—and the two parties are deeply invested in continuing the problem. The solution will only come through radical alternatives based upon biblical freedoms, radically decentralized, and for which we will probably have to sacrifice in terms of fights with government tyranny and bureaucracy and the state and local levels. Until we’re able to get serious about that, the pessimism may be true.

The glimmer of hope comes in the form of the homeschool movement. It is one such alternative that has already scraped and clawed, fought its legal battles and largely won. As long as it can stay viable and vibrant, and protect itself from being coopted by any single voice, personality, or organization, it can remain a potent force and a true inspiration. But it must remain decentralized and faithful.

Christians need to replicate this effort in a dozen other areas. My Restoring America was a very beginning effort along these lines. We absolutely must break outside of the mental box created by the system (the “we” here includes all millionaire political activists). For the two parties who keep entreating us, the system is like one big frat Party. For those who keep saying “yes” and showing up for it, it’s more like date rape. For those of us wed to Christ, it is spiritual adultery to keep showing up. It’s time to get faithful to Christ and tell the kings of the earth what to do.

Categories: Worldview

Kirk Cameron, Halloween, Christmas, Oh my!

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 11:27

Kirk Cameron has stirred the ghouls and goblins to manifest prematurely this “Hallowe’en” season, especially in the press. The funny part is, he has done nothing but resurrect a fairly traditional view of Halloween, and little more than hint at a deeper theological view of Christmas symbols; and for this, a mad Grinch mob composed of secularists and fundamentalists alike has assailed the man.

The secularists howl because Kirk dared suggest a traditional Christian rationale for Halloween: Christian mockery of the forces of evil that are defeated by Christ. Secularists, like the editors at Raw Story, HuffPost, and the foul-mouthed Jezebel.com, can’t stand to hear Kirk’s view because they know the real history of Halloween—the Celtic worship of death and departed spirits, Samhain. And these Jezebels won’t let that history stay buried, probably because their secularist readers need it to make it feel meaningful when they play Wicca and Ouija boards in their mom’s basement. I mean, black nail polish alone only goes so far.

But behold, a greater than Samhain has arrived. Of course, even the name “Hallowe’en” speaks of Christian influence. It is from “All Hallows Eve,” the evening before All Saints Day on the old liturgical calendar. And while the ancient part of the history is generally true, Samhain (and other similar pagan) celebrations of the dead did precede Halloween, the Halloween interpretations western history remembers are all Christian and infused with Christian meanings. And there’s good reason for that: it’s called dominion.

An excerpt from my book Manifested in the Flesh will help explain how the adoption and reinterpretation of certain pagan rituals was both pastoral and triumphal:

[S]ince these pagan appendages to Christian practice did not come along until the fourth century, they certainly speak of a certain idea of evangelism, and not of any of the earliest formative ideas of the Church.

This hits on the question of why Christianity later adopted certain pagan practices. The simple answer is that the Church remained immovable on essential doctrines, but quite flexible on the outward forms and expressions of worship. The leaders had no problem coopting pagan symbols and gestures where they could be reinterpreted without threatening the purity of the faith. Yale historian Roland Bainton explains that converts from pagan religions would tend to see parallels in parts of the Christian faith as well, because they would bring the baggage of the pagan mysteries with them and interpret Christian doctrine by their experience. He wrote that they would “tend to think of the resurrection as the rebirth of a nature god, and Easter would become a fertility rite centering on eggs and rabbits.” He continues,

Against such misreadings the Church was required to be on guard. Her general principle was one of intransigence at the core and flexibility at the periphery. The cardinal doctrines could not be recast, but there was no objection to setting the celebration of the birth of Jesus on December 25, the winter solstice on Julian calendar, the birthday of the sun god Mithras. By setting the Christian festival on the same day, converts from Mithraism were preserved from relapsing on that occasion.62

Thus the practice was one of pastoral concern for new converts. It is quite possible that a convert would have been at a mithraic meal one week and then in Christ’s kingdom the next. These people required special discipleship.

Add to this that the adoption of some practices was a mark of the triumph of Christianity over the pagan religion. One case in point, the Syrian version of the Astarte and Adonis myth had its own regional peculiarities. Drawing from ancient Canaanite culture, their religion used the term “baal” to describe their gods. “Baal” appears commonly throughout the Old Testament as it was a general title meaning “lord” or “master.” One false “baal” in the Old Testament is “Ashtaroth” (also known by “Astarte” or “Ishtar”). From “Ishtar” it is quite evident that we derive the word “Easter,” but we have no reason to gasp at such a fact. While atheists would love to point to it as “proof ” that Christianity borrowed its religion from paganism, their simplistic understanding needs a bit of basic historical education. Christians did not adopt paganism, but conquered it by using its own symbols. The pagan mysteries are dead and gone for a reason. True, we may have a hard time fitting eggs and rabbits into any mental picture of Christian worship, but we do only think of Easter as a season of the Christian Church. The reason Astarte and Ishtar sound like strange names dug up out of obscure history books is because they are. Christ conquered what those false gods had hold of, and now they have long since gone down the memory hole. The only place they live on is in the fictional works of neo-gnostics and pagans who have to ignore or reinterpret the best parts of history in order to write their books.

Add to that list of conquered pagan superstitions one called Samhain—properly pronounced “Sah-win,” as in “sawin’ off the branch you’re sitting on.” That’s what all non-Christians systems of life and thought do: they are self-destructive in the long-run.

Scary Hermeneutics!

It’s probably apparent, given Kirk’s newfound positive outlook on biblical theology and history—see his movies Monumental and Unstoppable—that this theological view of Halloween reflects the influence of James B. Jordan, as once posted here on American Vision as “Concerning Halloween.” I am not sure I agree with every point Jordan makes there (and certainly not in general), but the general thrust of the dominion of Christ in that article is right. Whether or not certain pagan practices preceded Halloween games makes little difference if they are sanitized and reinterpreted in the light of Christ.

I will let parents decide whether any given game is prudent in this day and age. I personally prefer church-based Reformation Day celebrations, but some neighborhoods may not be too bad for other things.

And James is right: the rise in awareness of pagan “origins” of things like Halloween, Easter, Christmas, etc., is nothing less than a facet of a culture war. Modern pagans want Christianity swept out of cultural practice, and they try hard with every article, news segment, law, encyclopedia article, TV show, movie, etc. Let one movie or article from Kirk peep the opposite, and you’ll see what hissing little witches those secularist writers really are.

But the most surprising (to some) element in the mix is the people who are the secularists’ greatest allies in this pagan reprisal: Christians. These are certain fundamentalist Christians, mostly dispensationalists and premillennialists, who have a form of godliness but deny its power.

For example, one MacArthurite criticized Kirk’s comments on Christmas as “a contrived allegorized reintepretation of Christmas trees.” This critic then picked a Twitter fight with Darren Doane, the movie’s producer, arguing among other things that “Christmas trees have an historical meaning attached to them. You can’t change that.”

Since when can Christians not change meanings in history to reflect biblical theology? The idea is ludicrous, of course, but Christians should understand that it reflects the defeatist, ghetto mentality of premillennialists like this critic, and others who promoted his article. These people believe the forces of evil will prevail in the world. Everything must go downhill. These believers actually want society and all culture to degrade into the hands of the forces of evil because it means their view of prophecy will be confirmed and Jesus that much closer to returning for the rapture.

The worse society gets, the more confirmed they are. Thus, when someone like Kirk comes along with a positive view and announces that there can be legitimate Christian influence in the world, it throws a wrench in the Grinchworks.

Worse yet, when a Kirk or Doane suggests we read the Bible with new, biblically-enlightened eyes, and see aspects of creation through the lenses of biblical theology, the premillennialists flail like they’re lost in space: “Does not compute.” They have confined themselves (on most issues anyway), to an overly-simplistic hermeneutical box in which a tree cannot have any other biblical meaning than a literal tree.

Now that’s about a wooden-literal as it gets.

But then again, these are the type of people who have argued the scorpion-tailed locusts of Revelation are really Cobra attack helicopters; so one can never be too certain where some professing literalists will be coming from. Some believe their literalism to a fault: for example, that the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 will be a literal 1500-mile-high pyramid (or cube, it’s unclear) with Jesus literally sitting on top. That’s no exaggeration; a leading dispensational author wrote that.

These leaders and pundits can’t think outside of their self-imposed box. When coupled with their intense demand of the inevitable demonic dominion of the world, they intensely fear any effort of dominion, cultural renewal, etc. Since, in their minds, the world is given over to the dominion of the Devil, these guys are deathly afraid to touch it. But that’s not what Christ’s New Testament authority is about. The forces of evil do not contaminate us when we they touch us culturally speaking. We don’t have to huddle fearfully into ghettos because some pagan once worshipped trees, or another thought a black cat was a witch. These things don’t harm us—because an idol is nothing, all paganism and humanism is defeated at the cross, and the devil is under the thumb of our Father. The power of Christ flows outward, so to speak, sanctifying that which it touches, and which touches it.

Lose hope, lose members

But in the symbiotic relationship between secularists and dispensationalists, the Christians won’t acknowledge that they are enabling and justifying the dominion of the pagans. It’s not so much that if they disagree with us, they’ll just step out of the way; they think they must stop us so that unbelief may steamroll the world as prophesied (so they construe it). In doing so, they roll out the red carpet for demonic Halloweens, commercialized Christmas, and every other encroachment of paganism around us.

Well excuse us if we acknowledge that God created this world, and Christ redeemed it definitively, such that He announced before His ascension to the throne, “All power in heaven and in earth has been given to me.” And yes, that includes over days, holidays, trees, pumpkins, cotton-tails, lights, and everything else, as well as all men. There is not a single area of the universe over which Christ does not claim, “Mine!” All His followers in any and every celebration should take whatever fun or historical vestige of whatever we like and reinterpret it according to His glory and dominion—pagan hopes and dreams notwithstanding.

And while these dispensational leaders are deathly afraid, many of their followers are beginning to understand the power of Christ and the optimistic projections Scripture actually teaches. The foundations of the old dispensational system are long crumbled. Young people especially are asking hard questions, and they are looking for a more biblical system by which to live their long lives in light of Christ’s declarations of power and direction for living—out from under the oppressive shadows of gloom and superstition. They are leaving dispensationalism. In reality, they are already gone; they are just looking for a more biblical system to help understand why they already see the old pessimism as nonsense.

And it is perhaps this phenomenon that has these premillennialist leaders most alarmed. Years ago they would likely have cared little about a movie on the Christian meanings of holidays and the biblical theology behind them. But today, let a former dispensational face like Kirk Cameron speak up, and they know they will lose more of their audience. Well, let me break the news to you: more will follow. Just as Christ has broken the grip of fear ancient pagans once held on masses of people, so too will He break the grip of fear that bad eschatology and theology hold over Christians within the body. We are seeing it happen. It is only a matter of time and circumstance.

And as for me, I can’t think of a better holiday to celebrate dispensationalism’s passing, when it comes, than Halloween—the day of remembrance of the dearly departed. The theology of these brethren will do its best service ever for the kingdom through its epitaph, R.I.P., in the dark, misty graveyard of bad ideas.

Categories: Worldview

“The defense of godliness”: Calvin on Deut. 13:5

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 09:59

But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst (Deut. 13:5).

Many Reformed Christians have been taught by their pastors and seminary professors to reject or neglect such Old Testament laws as this for various reasons. Mainly we hear that the New Testament has somehow abrogated such laws—perhaps due to the “spiritual” nature of the kingdom of Christ. But Calvin here answers this objection, and his answer is noteworthy for more than one reason. First, it is noteworthy because we so often hear Calvin quoted as an enemy of Mosaic law. And while I argue that he was inconsistent at some points in this doctrine (and I explain why, also), Calvin was obviously at his best and most accurate when he simply expounded Scripture word for word. His commentaries, such as here, are often good examples of this.(1)

Second, and more importantly, Calvin himself often exalted the “spiritual” nature of the kingdom over against certain other constructions. He even acknowledges the point here. Yet despite that, he does not see any contradiction between the spiritual rule of Christ and the administration of justice in the earth according to the law of God. Those therefore who appeal to Calvin’s doctrine of the spiritual rule of Christ in order to abrogate the thrust of the Mosaic judicials have not understood Calvin as well as they think. To those who say “our condition under the Gospel is different from that of the ancient people under the law,” Calvin retorts plainly, “I deny that on that account its nature is changed.” He explains,

But it is questioned whether the law pertains to the kingdom of Christ, which is spiritual and distinct from all earthly dominion; and there are some men, not otherwise ill-disposed, to whom it appears that our condition under the Gospel is different from that of the ancient people under the law; not only because the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, but because Christ was unwilling that the beginnings of His kingdom should be aided by the sword. But, when human judges consecrate their work to the promotion of Christ’s kingdom, I deny that on that account its nature is changed. For, although it was Christ’s will that His Gospel should be proclaimed by His disciples in opposition to the power of the whole world, and He exposed them armed with the Word alone like sheep amongst wolves, He did not impose on Himself an eternal law that He should never bring kings under His subjection, nor tame their violence, nor change them from being cruel persecutors into the patrons and guardians of His Church. Magistrates at first exercised tyranny against the Church, because the time had not yet come when they should “kiss the Son” of God, and, laying aside their violence, should become the nursing fathers of the Church, which they had assailed according to Isaiah’s prophecy, that undoubtedly refers to the coming of Christ. (Isaiah xlix:6, 23.)

Indeed, when a magistrate is converted and religion established in a land, Calvin argues, it would be “the greatest perfidy and cruelty” not to uphold these penal sanctions. And while many commentators would cite New Testament passages only to justify the magistrate’s only duties as maintaining “peace” or “safety,” Calvin argues that the Old Testament laws against willful, rebellious false prophecy and apostasy are “part of their duty.” He continues,

Nor was it causelessly that Paul, when he enjoins prayers to be made for kings and other worldly rulers, added the reason that under them “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Tim. ii:2.) Christ, indeed as He is meek, would also, I confess, have us to be imitators of His gentleness, but that does not prevent pious magistrates from providing for the tranquility [sic] and safety of the Church by their defense of godliness; since to neglect this part of their duty, would be the greatest perfidy and cruelty. And assuredly nothing can be more base than, when we see wretched souls drawn away to eternal destruction by reason of the impunity conceded to impious, wicked, and perverse impostors, to count the salvation of those souls for nothing.

Is it possible that such law could be abused? Yes, but then again, all laws and punishments can be abused. But Calvin replies that no abuse should deter us from following what God has commanded us to follow. Moreover, God has given us checks and safeguards for criminal justice for the sole purpose of preventing abuse. It follows, then, that the law is not to be blamed on account of the abuser, but the abuser on account of the law. The tyrant is condemned by the justness of the law which he does not follow, and the law is exonerated in that it condemns the tyrant for his abuse. Calvin writes,

But, if under this pretext the superstitious have dared to shed innocent blood, I reply that what God has once commanded must not be brought to nought [sic] on account of any abuse or corruption of men. For, if the cause alone abundantly distinguishes the martyrs of Christ from malefactors, though their punishment may be identical, so the Papal executioners will not bring it to pass by their unjust cruelty that the zeal of pious magistrates in punishing false and noxious teachers should be otherwise than pleasing to God. And this is admirably expressed in the words of Moses, when he reminds them that judgment must be passed according to the law of God. I have already said that this severity must not be extended to particular errors, but where impiety breaks forth even into rebellion. When it is added, “to thrust thee out of the way, which the Lord thy God commanded thee,” we gather from it that none are to be given over to punishment, but those who shall have been convicted by the plain word of God, lest men should judge them arbitrarily. Whence it also appears that zeal will err in hastily drawing the sword, unless a lawful examination shall have been previously instituted.

To be sure, Calvin notes the strict guidelines under which such laws should be enacted and applied. Needless to say, he is not unrealistic in the big picture. I’ll comment on this more in a separate post.Endnotes:

  1. The accounts which follow come from Calvin, Commentaries on the Last Four Books of Moses, arranged in a harmony, 2:77–78.
Categories: Worldview

Back when sermons were not off-limits. . . .

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 10:28

So you think sermons are off-limits, eh? Think they can’t be entered, and to that end subpoenaed, as evidence in a lawsuit? Think it is trampling First Amendment rights to make legal or political hay of a pastor’s sermons? Yeah? Well, I got two words for ya:

Jeremiah Wright.

The year was 2008—before the sleeping giant had awakened, then fallen back to sleep again, and then tried to run in his dream, only to drag along as if through quicksand, but kicked his leg in his sleep such that we thought, for a moment, he had awakened again. In that era, we faced a monumental election the likes of which had the EEOC on the edge of its seat: the potential election of America’s first Kenyan, Muslim, and actually inhaling, president who happened also to be biracial.

In that dark hour leading up to the 2008 election, evidence of the most damning sort surfaced in the media. It could potentially end the bid of this towering community menace, for it was openly treasonous and proved as clearly (and just as effectively) as anything until Dinesh D’Souza’s 2016 that this candidate truly hated America. And it was nothing short of . . .

. . . a sermon.

The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, pastor of candidate Barack Obama for twenty years, graced the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, and more importantly graced YouTube, with the now-scandalously-famous absolute proof of America-hating:

“Not God Bless America. God damn America.”

And for rhetorical good measure, the “God damn America” was repeated with ghusto. He didn’t want us to miss this.

And when this surfaced, conservative politicians and Christian leaders and organizations across the country . . . united to squash the undue politicization of pastors sermons. Right? It was unfair that the media had focused upon a sermon for political reasons. This was an attack on First Amendment rights! I mean, if a pastor is not free to preach his conscience, and falls under political scrutiny, then all pastors and all Christians are under attack.

Except . . . conservatives didn’t unite like that. Instead, they held up the contents of this pastor’s sermon everywhere throughout the conservative media for all of its seditious and hateful glory. In fact, for example, Sean Hannity noted the church had overstepped its bounds with the IRS:

[T]he church is raising questions with the IRS because of how they’re campaigning for Obama at the pulpit. . . . First of all, I will not let up on this issue, Jeanine Pirro. If his pastor went to Libya, Tripoli with Louis Farrakhan, a virulent, anti-Semitic racist, his church gave a lifetime achievement award to Louis Farrakhan. That’s been Barack Obama’s pastor for 20 years. And we will continue to expose this until somebody in the mainstream media has the courage to take this on. Do you agree this should be an issue?

His guest—now Fox News fav Judge Jeanine—agreed: “They shouldn’t be politicking from the pulpit. That’s why the IRS is getting involved.”

Forgive me, but that sounds ominously like lesbian mayor Parker’s now-condemned Tweet, “If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game.”

But perhaps the astute reader will note that while this was politics, true, it was not the government subpoenaing sermons in the same way as with Houston today. Surely the First Amendment protects us from this, no? In my original post on this story, I argued that this was not the case, even if the pastors are not party to the case. Some readers understood this; others were simply confused from hearing the opposite from so many other outlets they trust. Many, however, were downright insulting, defiant, and ugly: I’m apparently not saved and hate America, not to mention just plain stupid, if this segment of the crowd is to be believed. Well, let me put this in language to which we can hopefully all relate:

What if, during that Jeremiah Wright controversy, Barack Obama moved against some conservative pundits somewhere and sued them for defamation for trying to associate him with Wright’s views? Obama would have been unwise to do so, but suppose he did anyway. Such a case would have made Obama the plaintiff and the conservative pundits the defendants. And it would have made the pastor, Jeremiah Wright himself, a nonparty in the suit. Yet he would be relevant to the case because it was his sermons that caused the whole ruckus to begin with. And his sermons would be relevant to the case, because they could contain evidence that support the conservatives’ original claims which are under litigation. Wright would be nonetheless a nonparty in the filed suit.

Now let me ask you the $100k question: in the discovery phase of such a suit, what types of evidence do you think the defense lawyers would be interested in, and would in fact go after? It would probably include a wide swath of communications between Obama and Wright. But whatever the breadth of the requests would be, I can guarantee you one thing it would have included: Jeremiah Wright’s sermons. In fact, an ambitious lawyer would probably attempt to go after Wright’s sermons for the entire 20 years Obama attended there. They may not get that much, or anywhere near it, but they probably would have tried.

And how do you think they would have obtained those sermons? Yes, Youtube is open and free, but suppose most of them, or the most relevant of them, had not been recorded or posted in this way. How do you think the lawyers would get the evidence to exonerate their claims in such a case? Only by subpoenas.

Because at the end of the day, if you want to enter evidence, you must either have possession of it already or you must issue a subpoena to get it. You can issue a subpoena for documents, recordings, etc., or you can issue one for a person to testify. But to get it, you must motion the court to do so.

And I can guarantee you that in such a case, many if not most of the conservative and Christian world—incuding Ted Cruz had he been in office—would have lined up in support of the subpoenas, and called for Wright to be outed and his sermons held up to scrutiny in court.

The simple fact is that almost any speech, except that directly protected by attorney-client privilege or similar matters, if associated with a lawsuit, can be subpoenaed. Leading conservative legal scholars have confirmed this. For example, the now widely-quoted Eugene Volokh: “In principle, I don’t think there’s a First Amendment bar to subpoenaing the text (or video or audio recordings) of sermons, if they are sufficiently relevant to a case or an investigation.”

Now, we can be sure some readers are still fuming and don’t wish the laws to be applied evenly to our opponents. I understand. Some of these will condemn this post for the shameful audacity (can we still use that word today?) to compare our beloved Houston pastors to the dreadful Jeremiah Wright. Please note, I did no such thing. I compared the law and the likely motions of lawyers in two similar cases with the ideological sides reversed. If that upsets you, then God’s word upsets you: the rule of law upsets you (Ex. 21:24–27; Deut. 6; 19:21), equality of all people under one law upsets you (Ex. 12:49; Lev. 19:34; 24:22; Num. 9:14; 15:15, 16, 29), and equal justice according to the law with no respect of persons upsets you (Lev. 19:15; Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; James 2).

All of this means, among other things, that if Christians want to make progress in society in the way they seem to in practice (not the way much of their theology dictates that they stay out of it), then they need to take biblical law seriously, and this will mean they have to get to the real hearts of the matters—not the overly emotional wolf-crying in certain media. Instead, there are real substantial problems at the heart of this crisis as with most others—and the big-shot media and activists are often scared to death to go there for fear of bad PR. Among those problems is the way in which Christians and pastors hamstring themselves at the outset with 501c3 status, R2K theology, fear of preaching God’s law, acceptance of bad precedents regarding civil rights and property, government schools, and much more—especially concrete applications of the ones listed.

Hopefully I can talk about this more in the near future. In fact, it might make a good sermon.

Categories: Worldview

Hamfisted on Houston or not?: A response to Tim Bayly

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 14:04

Tim Bayly of BaylyBlog did not appreciate my perspective on the headlines hyping the now-infamous Houston subpoena. For arguing that the conservative media angles read “as if the city has made some move to start monitoring all pastors’ sermons,” Bayly busted me: “McDurmon’s set up a straw man.”

I’d be cool with that, and even with the spirited tone of the rest of it (Lord give us more spirited voices in the church, and thicker skin among those listening!), but I don’t think my argument was a straw man. Mainly because I have enough experience of how and why some of the people who write headlines for the consumption of Christian conservatives write them, and how that audience often understands those headlines and reacts to them, I was fairly certain that the two headlines to which I linked in particular would be taken.

And it turns out, I was right. One commenter on a particular Facebook thread is representative. She rejected my view and said, “I do not see anything Basic or Routine about demanding to read sermons before Pastors preach them.” Did you read that? From those headlines she deduced that Houston was demanding pastors turn in their sermons for approval before they preached them.

And she was not alone. Another wrote,

The city only wants to monitor those sermons of pastors that it disagrees with and who oppose them and their agenda.

And another,

If anyone thinks, for one moment, she isn’t glorying in her ability to monitor sermons, and influence future sermons . . . then someone fell off the turnip truck very recently.

And another,

[T]his “discovery” now becomes quite clearly a persecution of any who see things differently than does this excuse of a mayor.

And another,

With this kind of logic it seems that pastors’ sermons could be subpoenaed in any number of cases.

And another,

The purpose of this tactic is to try to censor pastors from preaching about the sin of sodomy.

And another,

[T]hey will seek to apply the rule to all pastors and especially if they win the case.

Think I created a straw man? The defense rests.

But like I said, I appreciate Bayly’s style, despite the fact that he thinks I work for an organization called “American Values.” Oops. But I can appreciate it especially when his blogging colleague submitted a counterpoint arguing for my case: Bayly showed far more manliness and integrity than most critics I’ve seen when he posted it. I tip my hat to that.

Even in the counterpoint, however, the author, Craig French, is at pains to say where he “diverges significantly from Joel McDurmon,” because “it a gross exaggeration to imply Houston’s request is semi-reasonable.”

But both Bayly and French seem to agree on what Bayly called my “ham-fisted” naiveté. In reviewing their criticism, I agree that there is a straw man in the room—but it isn’t my creation.

Where did I say the subpoenas were “semi-reasonable”? I argued why they are not surprising and are even understandable, but that is hardly the same as the condoning adjective of “reasonable” even if modified by “semi-.” I would not say that. In fact, I said the opposite. Both responders seem to have missed the fact that I said the following in that original article:

There is no doubt that the Mayor and City Council are radical and aggressive LGBT activists trying to advance their agenda against all morality and the will of the people in the actual subject matter behind these headlines.

And,

In my opinion, it [the scope of the subpoena] is unnecessarily broad. In my opinion, the vast nature of demands violates several of the checks and precedents built into the court’s rules for discovery.

. . . which is the exact same position that both Bayly and French expressed.

Bayly also seems to think that I intended to assume the “superior” position of “the smart ones among us who love to correct the simple.” Let me be quick to apologize to Tim for coming across in that way. That was not my intention. It will probably not sound less insulting to say that I had no idea he had written on the topic. I don’t mean to sound insulting here, either, but things happen. Bayly wrote a headline close enough to those I criticized to see himself swept up in the same criticism. I understand the phenomenon. But just because he didn’t mean what I was aiming at with others doesn’t mean my position was a straw man or attempting to act superior to him. I wrote, in fact, for the Christian layman and against those in the media who did write in such a way that laymen could easily be misled.

Not only was I vindicated in this regard by the number of people who did interpret the headlines the way I expected, but Bayly also does not take note of the fact that exactly what I said would happen has happened: the city reissued the subpoenas in a more limited scope. I think it will be even further limited yet, but I’ll say more about that later.

Bayly then lined up a real heavy hitter against me. He notes that a widely respected (and conservative) constitutional scholar and columnist, Eugene Volokh, confirms his case against me because Volokh sees the dangerous potential and overly broad nature of the subpoenas. But again, I noted those things too, as quoted above, so this is hardly a criticism.

What Bayly did not note was that Volokh clearly confirms my positions that this is not an attack on first amendment rights, that sermons are not off-limits to subpoenas, and that what nonsense there is in the subpoenas is remedied by reissuing them in with narrowed demands. Nothing he says contradicts anything I wrote, but actually vindicates a lot of it.

Finally, all of this misunderstanding aside, I would like to say clearly that Bayly is absolutely right when he spotlights the areas of “persecution” here in the U.S. I will write more on this in the near future, but let me just quote him while lending my 100 percent agreement:

At this point the persecution we face here in North America is somewhat veiled to those who prefer to sleep as long as possible. It hides behind state’s Child Protective Services, EEO rules, human resources departments, faculty senates, tenure committees, public school teachers, principals and superintendents, city councils, university diversity policies, military rules, and the legal departments of mayors such as Houston’s own Annise Parker.

Now those are some hard-core discernments on some hard-core issues, and he’s absolutely right. These things need to resound from every pulpit. These things deserve well-funded foundations exposing them across the land. These things deserve our direst efforts and greatest sacrifices. I would be thrilled to see targeted evangelical foci upon CPS and public schools. Thrilled. And I will join Bayly in all efforts to do so. I hope we actually could work together on such things.

Aside from that, I stand by what I wrote, especially since most of it came to pass as I expected, with the caveat that I certainly did not mean to insinuate Rev. Bayly is not doing his pastoral duty or doing it well. This is especially true in light of the list of things just mentioned—things most pastors would never touch on in public. Far from being insulted, I am encouraged by his article for just this reason.

Categories: Worldview

Is Houston demanding oversight of pastors’ sermons? No.

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 11:59

Several people have contacted me over the recent Fox News headline, “City of Houston demands pastors turn over sermons.” WND.com was even broader: “Houston demands oversight of sermons.” There is no doubt that the Mayor and City Council are radical and aggressive LGBT activists trying to advance their agenda against all morality and the will of the people in the actual subject matter behind these headlines. But the actual case does not warrant these alarming headlines, and our activists ought to be more responsible.

I write this only to calm some of the unnecessary alarm, and to introduce some reason and understanding into the mix. The headlines read as if the city has made some move to start monitoring all pastors’ sermons, and this simply is not the case. It also gives the impression that this is some out-of-the-blue, general attack tactic by the activists upon the pulpit. It is not. It is not out-of-the-blue, it is not broad and general as far as the implicated pastors goes, and it should not be a surprise at all.

The City is not making a move to monitor sermons. The city is merely responding to a lawsuit against it and using standard powers of discovery in regard to a handful of pastors who are implicated as relevant to the lawsuit. The issue is here: once you file a lawsuit, you open up yourself and potentially your friends and acquaintances to discovery. This is the aspect that has not been reported, but it is an important part of the context.

This is basic court procedure. But the headlines make it sound like a surprise attack by leftists advancing their agenda on unsuspecting Christians.

Even the Alliance Defending Freedom’s (they are representing the plaintiffs who filed suit) write up gives the impression that this is an attack on irrelevant bystanders, saying “the pastors are not even involved.” That’s not necessarily true. The pastors are not a party in the lawsuit, true, but at least some of them are quite possibly “involved,” and that’s a significant point. To the extent they are involved, Texas court rules (like most court rules) give allowance for discovery of evidence in their associations with the parties to the suit and the subject matter of it.

What is “discovery of evidence”? Is this some liberal tactic that has perverted our legal system? No, it is civil legal procedure 101. Granted, I am not a lawyer, but that’s the point: this is basic stuff. Once a case enters litigation, both sides have fairly broad—although protected and defined—allowances to demand papers, communications, etc., related to or potentially related to the subject matter of the case. Why? Because any relevant or related material may produce evidence crucial to the case. It’s a basic legal right that is important to justice in the big picture.

Further, it is not unprecedented at all for people who are not party to the case to be ordered by the court either to testify or produce materials during the discovery phase. That is what a subpoena is. It happens all the time, because even if you’re not actually a party in the suit, you may in fact have interacted with them in such a way and on relevant topics that your interactions are crucial, or at least relevant, to the case.

Let’s consider an example to which Christians can relate. Suppose an openly Christian mayor attended, during office hours, a Day of Prayer event outside the Mayor’s Office Building on a given date. I have no problem with that, of course, but suppose a local atheist group objected and filed a lawsuit. Let’s suppose further that behind the scenes, a Marxist nonprofit group, members of which are friends and colleagues with the atheist group, was possibly helping fund and coordinate the lawsuit for the purposes of destroying the mayor’s reputation and taking over the local city council. Yet the Marxist group is not a party to the suit. Would the mayor, now a defendant under fire, be legally interested in the communications taking place between those groups? Could those correspondences and even group speeches be relevant to the case? Could they exonerate the mayor? Maybe, maybe not. What if, possibly, those communications contain the only evidence that could exonerate the accused? Is it reasonable that those communications could at least lead to the discovery of relevant evidence important to the mayor’s defense? Depending on the nature of the claims filed, absolutely.

Now just flip the ideological sides in the scenario, and you have, essentially, the case before us. The Mayor is an open lesbian and LGBT activist. The City Council recently passed an ordinance that would allow transgenders to cross bathrooms in public. Predictable and rightful outrage ensued from Christians and conservatives. A local group of 400 pastors opposed the measure. Some of them apparently have connections with a petition drive, organization, coordination, and possibly even funding of the petition drive to overturn the ordinance. Then, when the mayor apparently overstepped her authority in rejecting signatures on the petition (that were already certified), a group of Christians and conservatives allegedly connected with this group of pastors filed a lawsuit. Do you think the defendants might be interested in the communications between those groups?

And what happens when you file a lawsuit? You open up yourself and your relevant friends to discovery. Are the correspondences between these pastors and the Christian parties who filed the suit relevant to the case? It is possible that a judge could determine this is the case. That is what this subpoena is about.

And as any savvy lawyer would do, the defendants’ attorneys cast the largest net possible in requesting information. In my opinion, it is unnecessarily broad. In my opinion, the vast nature of demands violates several of the checks and precedents built into the court’s rules for discovery. Even the Houston Chronicle called it “an unusual step.” But that’s part of what’s good about it. Those checks are there for a reason. Let’s be calm and file a demand that they be followed first before we cry end of the world. And sure enough, ADF’s motion to quash, or at least modify the subpoena, cites these very principles and checks. I think it is both perfectly justified and will be upheld by the court.

I think the court will probably not quash the subpoena entirely. I believe it will, however, require it to be modified with a much stricter scope. Of course, this will also depend upon the nature of the charges made in the original suit (which I have not yet been able to access), and the nature of the defense being made against those charges. But I doubt these pastors will ultimately be required to submit anything anywhere near what the defense demanded, if anything.

But what bothers me most here are the fear-mongering headlines. This is not an attack on all Houston area pastors, and no impression should be allowed in that regard. It is a routine court procedure, not even final yet, against a handful a pastors—and only because they are implicated in a court case filed.

But here’s the kicker in this particular case: as with all cases, all parties and their lawyers knew these rules before they filed suit. The city’s move should have been no surprise to anyone. They should have expected it—especially from liberal activists, who as we all know, are ruthless, restless, and play dirty.

So why are the headlines giving a different impression? I don’t know, but I can say that such fear-mongering could be used for some killer fundraising. I hope this is not the motivation.

It also plays into the overarching premillennial narrative of declining Christian influence in society. But actually, in this case, the reverse true. The orderly rules of discovery and evidence we have in place are the heritage of a Christian society which values rule of law and fair play—especially for the accused. Is it the case that miscreants can use these laws to their advantage, or even abuse them to a degree? Yes, but I would prefer that to the alternatives. As Paul Scofield said, for Sir Thomas More, in A Man for All Seasons, “I’d give the devil benefit of law for my own safety’s sake.”

Fear mongering is not needed, and in fact is unwarranted and damaging to the Kingdom of Christ in general. It is irresponsible to the real task at hand. What we need on this particular issue right now is a bit of courageous patience. It may be worth noticing that a former attempt to defeat the bathroom ordinance in question directly via a separate court order was rejected by the court because it believed adequate remedy was available through the appeals process with the current suit filed. Like it or not, such remedies sometimes take time.

Categories: Worldview

Hall of shame: new critics of Theonomy, same old fallacies

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 12:45

I post the following article in view of recent and vociferous critiques of theonomy and Christian reconstruction made by Reformed Baptist podcaster J. D. Hall. I have secured agreement for a moderated discussion with Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio to discuss the charges Hall has leveled against our position. I will save my own direct responses to him for that date.

As for his specific charges, for now I’ll just say there is a wide disparity between the air of confidence (several actually said “arrogance”) with which he exposed the “Errors of Theonomy” and the substance of what he actually produced. To many of us listening to him, it was obvious he was not very much at all familiar with the literature or actual positions theonomists have taught; as a result he repeats straw men and misrepresentations so obtuse that did we not know he was serious we would think they were hyperbolic.

While Hall did admit he is not an “expert” on theonomy, he also quipped, laughing, it would not be difficult to “read every single book that there is on theonomy,” because there “is not much—there’s not very many books on it because it such a strange, peculiar belief and it’s actually not that old.” Considering that there are over a hundred volumes between North and Rushdoony alone (not even counting all the other authors, articles, and journals), a statement like that only reveals how out of touch with the issue he really is.

Nevertheless, he went on for well over two hours spanning two podcasts (here and here) in order to critique our positions. The result, as I said, was to repeat the worst and most fallacious of errors for which previous critics long ago were refuted. The simple fact that Hall did not even realize the arguments he was making—again, confidently—had been refuted over twenty years ago, testifies to how little homework he actually did on the subject.

And the worst part of this is that he is friends and associates with theonomists who warned him not to do this prior to doing it. They told him he was off base and not representing us accurately: please, read some our actual stuff before you do this!, they pleaded. But he did not listen.

At the behest of some, I moved to secure an opportunity to discuss these things with him on air sometime in mid-December (TBA). And it seems he has already begun to realize just how much homework he has not done, and yet needs to do. Last night he took to a Facebook group of his followers to announce our upcoming “debate” (I have not called it that), and announced his need for help: “I need 2-3 people to help do some research assistance.”

Yes, you do. For the level of argument so far has only repeated old errors, such as these gems from Hall:

1) Theonomists believe that changing culture is the (singular) goal of the faith.

2) Theonomists may say they believe in preaching the Gospel, but that is only secondary to what they really want to do.

3) Theonomists are “obscure,” “abberant,” and “strange” extremists who hide their real agenda like cult members, engaging in “deceit and dishonesty.”

4) Theonomists want to start killing children—to stone to death 10-year-old children who disobey their parents.

5) Theonomists want to reinstitute “slavery.”

6) Theonomists believe in “cruel and unusual punishment.”

7) Theonomists believe in “the letter of the law” such as requiring “rails on top out house.”

8) Theonomists believe in “imposing” Mosaic law.

9) Theonomists teach “heresy.”

10) Theonomy is like sharia law.

11) Theonomy is “eschatologically driven.”

I could go on, but you get the point. There is nothing new under the sun, especially among Theonomy’s eager but unlearned critics. It is for this reason that I offer this morning an excerpt from Greg Bahnsen’s response to critics back in 1991—twenty-three years ago—No Other Standard: Theonomy and Its Critics, which is available in full for free here. (I would recommend Mr. Hall to read it, and its footnotes, closely.)

Virtually all of the points in Hall’s podcast were addressed already directly in this book. Several of them are reproduced below. For the sake of length, I did not include others, but you can find them in the PDF. For example, the arguments regarding the alleged horrors of a theonomic society are addressed on pages 62–65, and arguments from silence (e.g. “The New Testament doesn’t say this.”) on 67–69. But many of the others you will notice are addressed in the excerpt below, from pages 40–54.

It is an absolute shame and disappointment that theonomy’s critics continue in this way. The absurd positions attributed and condemnations leveled—especially in the face of direct warnings and brotherly checks against doing so—speak more of a witch hunt than any serious reflection. But again, we’ve seen this before. As I have always said, 1) our critics don’t quote us, 2) when they do they don’t present us in context, and 3) as a result, they misrepresent our positions. Hall has risen to the level of quoting us in a couple places; but, unfortunately, he has not surmounted the second two besetting sins. The result is what Bahnsen referred to, in part, as “sloganized, ambiguous criticism.”

(I have attempted to reformat as well as possible, but may have missed a hyphenation or character here or there.)

***

Overkill, Vehemence, Name-calling

The critics of theonomy have hardly been a model of restraint in speaking of their opponents. Gary Long has accused theonomy of Judaizing the New Testament; Albert Dager asserts that it is promoting “a modern Phariseeism.”[9]Ice and House published that theonomy should be rejected simply because of the “possibility” that it might be guilty of moralism, unprincipled pragmatism, apostasy, compromise with the world, and permeating the faith with humanism![10]Walter Chantry accuses theonomists of speaking perverse things, of having deformed and distorted views, of propounding a twisted theology which is a threat to the church, of mutilating Biblical doctrine, of being sinister and aberrant. Chantry says we are unlearned. He comes very close to asserting they we do not belong to God’s kingdom at all.[11]I have hardly ever encountered such vitriolic name-calling under the guise of Christian scholarship, unless it was found in Meredith Kline’s review-article of Theonomy.[12]He calls theonomy “a delusive and grotesque perversion” of the teaching of Scripture which has been rejected as “manifestly unbiblical” by virtually all students of Scripture -something which “must be repudiated as a misreading of the Bible on a massive scale.” The “blatantly unbiblical results” which theonomic politics inevitably produces afford a ”startling warning of the utter falseness” of the thesis. “What we are talking about here is not something illusively subtle or profound, but big and plain and simple.” In my “obfuscation of the lucid biblical picture” I miss what is “simple, obvious, all­important” and “clear” in the Bible. Kline charges that I manage to miss a “simple message … written large across the pages of the Bible so that covenant children can read and readily understand it.” In his estimation, I can hardly be a child of the covenant. My “delusive and grotesque perversion” of the Bible must be evidence that I am either a dangerous heretic or someone virtually devoid of common intelligence.

But come now. Could things really be that extreme? Are the critics perhaps increasing the emotional volume and rhetoric to compensate for a lack of cogent analysis and substantial criticism? Are they engaging in proof or pontification? In studying further in this book, the reader can judge for himself. The issues before us ought to be decided on the exegetical and logical merits of the case (made one way or the other) and not encumbered with personal antagonism, appeals to emotion, fallacious tactics of criticism, or caricatures. “Even the Gentiles” who are engaged in scholarly work know better than to behave and speak in the way illustrated above. Those of us who represent the Lord who claims “Truth” as His very own title should certainly maintain at least as high a standard of scholarly integrity, accuracy, and concern for sound reasoning (rather than name-calling) as those who make no profession of following Him. The amazing thing is that you would expect, in the face of the kind of uncharitable and unscholarly lambasting of theonomists as we have seen above, that the refutation of this horrible error would carry a compelling cogency commensurate with the personal condemnations. But such has not been forthcoming (especially from those critics who have been the nastiest in their name-calling). One might think that if theonomy is as ridiculous and misguided as critics wish to suggest, the critics would not have needed to waste time stooping to the weak and beggarly maneuvers of maligning theonomists. They could have simply gone to the heart of the matter and openly refuted the obvious error in the position itself.

The Notable Extent of Counterfeiting

The above call for scholarly integrity goes hand in hand with a demand that our opponent’s viewpoint not be counterfeited by misrepresentation. I realize that anybody who undertakes to be a writer or public instructor of any kind must expect a measure of erroneous reporting of what he or she teaches. This is an occupational hazard. With some grace and a sense of humor, minor occurrences of false depiction of your views can be endured. The problem I have with many, many critics of theonomic ethics goes way beyond that, however. The extent of the misrepresentations and the severity of the falsehoods taken to the general public are so startling (and repeated)—and made the basis for rejecting the position as false—that one must now indignantly criticize the critics for their irresponsibility (both intellectual and moral). The reader should appreciate the fact that theonomists are not crying out against this offense simply because they are thin-skinned. Space does not permit a full detailing here; so let me simply warn the reader to beware of claims which are commonly made about theonomicethics.[13]Read the position for yourself.

Refinement Rather than Refutation

Sometimes theonomy has been criticized for having the “wrong emphasis” in terms of the overall scope of Christian theology or Christian living. It has been faulted for laying stress on socio­political morality and in particular the issue of penology (and most dreadfully, capital punishment). Critics make the point that there are more important things than this in the full range of Biblical doctrine. They have insisted that the life of the believer has more fundamental concerns than crime and its punishment. To be brief, there are two things I would say in reply to this line of criticism. First, I don’t disagree that the issues taken up in Theonomy are of subordinate importance in the Christian life, preaching of the church, range of theological loci, etc. Second, there is no indication (as far as I know) in my writings, lecturing, or preaching which would indicate any other estimate than that. This is a criticism which creates a problem that does not exist. Surely the fact that some Christians take up the question of God’s law and its relation to modern penology—and that some write on the subject—does not mean that they believe that subject is the most vital issue for all believers (or even for themselves).

Another way in which people have attempted to criticize the theonomic position is by accusing it of simplistic thinking—not taking into account how complicated the application of God’s word is to our modern world, or not giving enough attention to related aspects of Christian theology, or not recognizing enough of the situational factors which bear upon the different uses of the law between Old Testament Israel and the New Covenant, etc. Some critics have thought that the argumentation in support of theonomic conclusions is too simplistic. What would I say to these kinds of remarks? Well, perhaps there is some truth to them; I certainly would not want to distort the precious truth of God by mishandling it in an incorrect or oversimplified fashion. But there is some satisfaction in knowing that for over a decade now, not one critic who has leveled this kind of charge has given any example of an overlooked, relevant factor which could not already be found in my writings or lectures. (There may still be some, of course.) Those who have suggested oversimplified reasoning have not pinpointed the fallacious logic or poorly conceived premises (as yet anyway).

These two different kinds of criticism have something in common: namely, neither one of these criticisms refutes the theonomic position, even if the criticisms turned out to be warranted.[14]That is, in the nature of the case, such criticisms do not undermine the truth of the basic theses of theonomic ethics. They simply show that there is more to say about the subject or that it should be given less emphasis. And that is fine. I would simply insist that we say as much as theonomy maintains, when (and where) it is appropriate to deal with God’s law or the subject of the civil magistrate.

Is the Appeal to God’s Immutability Simplistic?

The theonomic approach to ethics has been thought to be too simplistic when it appeals to the immutability of God’s character as proof that the law of God, which reveals that character, is unchanging in its validity. For instance, John Frame writes: “if God’s unchangeability is compatible with changes in the applicability of ceremonial laws, as it is for Bahnsen, why may it not also be compatible with such changes among the judicial laws?”[15]The answer is clear. The only changes in God’s law which are indeed compatible with His unchanging moral character are those which He Himself has revealed. Theonomists find such changes revealed in Scripture regarding the ceremonial laws, whereas theonomic critics do not adduce such Biblical grounding for the changes they propose in the judicial laws.

Moreover, it should not be thought that theonomists move simply from the immutability of God to a definite conclusion about the validity of any particular law without giving consideration to relevant Biblical teaching that might affect the use or application of that law. (That would be a simplistic understanding of theonomy!) We move from the theological premise, giving a presumption of continuing validity, through Biblical exegesis to our applications—or at least we are supposed to! Finally, theonomists recognize (as some critics do not) that the immutability of God is not completely the same thing with respect to His essential character (which the moral law reflects on a creaturely level) and with respect to His eternal purposes or choices (reflected in the plan and accomplishment of redemption, and expressed in the foreshadows of ceremonial law, but realized in the substance which is Christ and His work on our behalf). Frame’s rhetorical question should not be taken as suggesting that there is no underlying rationale for distinguishing the character of judicial laws (presumed to have continuing validity) from that of ceremonial laws (expected to be modified in the course of redemptive history).[16]

Doug Chismar[17] considers the “case laws” (e.g., Exodus 21-22) of the Old Testament to pose some tremendous difficulty for upholding the immutability of God’s commands. These laws were expressed in terms of very specific, cultural details (e.g., goring ox, flying axehead, rooftop railing). Chismar wonders how theonomists can maintain the immutability, not only of the summary laws (e.g., love commands, the Decalogue), but also of these very specific case laws “despite apparent radical changes in application.” He finds the resolution of this problem, however, in my own teaching (and even quotes me). According to Chismar, the case laws epistemically “provide paradigm instantiations of the principles or summary laws. Only the principles, however, are morally binding for all times ….Thus we are not bound to put fences around our roofs today, but we may be bound to put them around our swimming pools.” Do the underlying principles illustrated by the case laws of the Old Testament explicate, qualify, and show us how to obey the more general commands of Scripture, as theonomists say? In his article Chismar admits that they do. They do not reduce simply to the more general commands (e.g., “love your neighbor”), but play a definitional role, illustrating the application of those commands, and thus helping generate new laws from the summary principles. This is just the theonomic position expressed in Chismar’s language.

Chismar correctly notes that there are “massive cultural/technological/geographical differences” between the society of Old Testament Israel and our own- differences which make the translation of Old Testament demands into contemporary applications a difficult and challenging task. Although the difficulty has sometimes been exaggerated, Chismar is right that there will even be some difficulty “in determining which principle is being instantiated” by specific case laws. But what Chismar has pointed out is not a unique hermeneutical problem for theonomic ethics. Such remarks apply to every effort to bring the ancient literature of the Bible (whether from the Mosaic, prophetic, or even New Testament periods) to bear upon our very different, modern age. Relativists insist that it is impossible. The alternative of abandoning God’s ancient, written revelation of His will in favor of modern wisdom may have greater simplicity, but it is treason against the King of heaven and earth. Let us not allow the difficulty of the task make us hesitant to give it our best, sanctified efforts.

The Schoolboy Error of “Direct” Application?

The editors, Barker and Godfrey, charge that theonomy “over-emphasizes the continuities and neglects many of the discontinuities between the Old Testament and our time.”[18] This kind of ambiguous and overgeneral remark is of little help. We are rarely told precisely what discontinuities the theonomist has actually overlooked or how exactly the continuities are overemphasized. A verbal standoff can be created by simply responding that no, rather, itis the case that non-theonomists overlook the continuities and overemphasize the discontinuities! It would be a whole lot more profitable for everybody if theologians (in general) got out of the habit of criticizing each other’s “emphasis” and paid constructive attention to the actual premises and conclusions advanced by each other.

Something which would make the job of theonomic critics much, much easier is if theonomists did not try to draw careful distinctions, qualifications, and detailed evaluations regarding their own basic tenets and the text of Scripture—or if they just did not believe (as they do) in a redemptive-historical reading of the Bible.[19](It would be hard to explain why they write such long and detailed books, though.) Vern Poythress acknowledges: “We do not merely assume that no changes can ever be entertained. Bahnsen instructs us to examine patiently the particular texts and warns us of the complexities involved.” Again: “Theonomy at its best takes considerable note of discontinuities introduced by redemptive history and in particular by the coming of Christ.”[20]

If theonomy can be portrayed as obtuse to these obvious complications in using the whole Bible for socio-political ethics today, it would be a very easy job for the critic to dismiss the position as simplistically appealing to the Old Testament and “directly” and thoughtlessly applying it to the modern scene.[21]For instance, Christopher J. H. Wright has misconceived and thus badly misrepresented the “theonomic” approach as calling for a “literal imitation of Israel” which simply lifts its ancient laws and transplants them into the vastly changed modern world.[22]It amazes me sometimes that some theonomic critics, especially those who have not done their reading, can just assume that they alone are bright enough to be conscious of situational changes which must be taken into account in the use of the Old Testament[23]—or are concerned to read the Old Testament in a “covenantal Christological” fashion.

Theonomists do not practice nor advocate anything like a “direct” move from the unchanging character of God, or the old covenant code, to modern law-codes. As Poythress notes, it is a mistake “to insist on straight-line continuity of application for all the Mosaic laws except those that are explicitly altered in the New Testament.”[24]The assumption of “direct” or “abstracted” application, though, is a linchpin in many arguments against theonomy, making the critic’s job an all-too-easy shortcut to serious interaction and analysis.

Otherworldly Criticisms

Some critics of the theonomic position seem (at first glance anyway) to hold that matters of socio-political morality ought to be of no concern to the Christian—that Christ’s kingdom does not concern temporal, material or external matters. They write that we should simply be strangers and pilgrims in this passing vain world, so that matters of evangelism and personal piety should occupy the Christian’s concern, not cultural and political affairs—as though true spirituality is purely otherworldly in character.[25] Given such premises, interest in the validity of the Old Testament civil laws is impertinent, seeing that God has not called us to reform our societies in the first place. Believers ought to be more heavenly-minded, interested in the church rather than the world.

Despite the intense rhetoric that often attends this kind of criticism, readers must realize that the critics cannot be taken at face value. In most cases, these same writers will turn around elsewhere and admit that, well yes, Christians cannot turn away completely from this world but must live responsibly and righteously with respect to cultural affairs too—thus reintroducing the relevance of theonomic ethics “through the back door” (as it were). It is hard to avoid the New Testament witness that holiness is supposed to characterize not only personal and ecclesiastical aspects of life, but rather “all manner of living” (1 Pet. 1:15), that God’s glory is to be pursued not only in home and church but also in “whatsoever you do” (1 Cor. 10:31). Christ calls His followers to be the salt “of the earth,” not merely in the church! In the end, the critics of theonomy do not renounce any and all Christian involvement in social affairs and political reform after all. At best, their complaint is with the “wrong emphasis” found in theonomic ethics, and at best this complaint is slippery and poorly conceived. We may readily grant that socio-political reconstruction has less urgency than personal spirituality or the church, but this does not bear whatsoever upon the truth or error of the theonomic standard for politics.

Theonomists do not, as theonomists anyway, diminish, under­value or obscure the surpassing importance of personal salvation, a pious walk with God, and the life of the church. We would not for a moment suggest that the New Testament message of the accomplishment and application of redemption to God’s people by Jesus Christ—with a view to the individual’s standing before God and his eternal destiny—is of secondary importance or merely a means for getting to what is “really” important, namely social transformation. We cry out with Paul: “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14).

This-worldly Criticisms

The thesis of theonomic ethics is not logically tied to any particular school of millennial eschatology. Accordingly, the article by Richard Gaffin in the recent book by the Westminster Seminary faculty opened with a conceptual faux pas by stating in its first sentence: “Essential to the emergence of theonomy . . . has been a revival of postmillennialism.”[26]He adds the equally inaccurate remark that postmillennialism “is plainly integral” to the position, whether logically or psychologically. These claims are factually mistaken. Dr. Clair Davis [Gaffin’s fellow-critic] offers this corrective: “One does not need to share an ‘optimistic’ postmillennial perspective to see the value in theonomy.”[27]Critics trip themselves up by confusing the question of what ought to take place in the world (ethics) with the question of what will in fact take place in the world (eschatology).

Millennial critics (like Gaffin) often make a further mistake by unfairly representing the theonomic and/or postmillennial position as forgetting the theology of the cross and—in “triumphalist” notes of progress or victory—obscuring or removing the constitutive dimension of suffering from the present triumph of the church. The question is not whether the people of God shall suffer in this age (or a time when the ruling powers are more favorable to a Biblical perspective). The questions are rather: (1) do our inevitable sufferings issue in greater or lesser manifestation of Christ’s saving rule on earth, breaking the power of sin, and (2) do our inevitable sufferings as obedient followers of the Messiah deter us from striving to persuade men and societies to submit to His rule (and rules)? Scripture teaches us that our laboring is not in vain and that tribulation is not incompatible with greater manifestation of Christ’s saving dominion. Scripture teaches us that persecution and hardship are no obstacles to the commission that we teach the nations to obey all that Christ has commanded. I do not see how any legitimate charge of triumphalism can be laid at our feet for believing these Biblical truths.

Nevertheless, this sloganized, ambiguous criticism continues. Indeed, the threat of triumphalism in many forms seems to be the unifying concern of the recent book written about theonomic ethics by the faculty of Westminster Seminary. The editors offer this commentary: “Even to some sympathetic observers of theonomy the most troubling aspect of the movement, besides its application of the penal sanctions of the Old Testament judicial law, is the triumphalist tone of much of its rhetoric.”[28]Connected with this is a concern of a few authors that theonomists might be too dogmatic in making their case.[29]Such cautions are well-meant and should be taken to heart by theonomists (cf. Rom. 2:17-20). We all have much to learn, and nobody has all the right answers, to be sure. On the other hand, we must not portray the task God has given us as overly difficult and virtually impossible to do. My admonition is against a kind of functional agnosticism that easily becomes the theologian’s (and seminarian’s) self-inflicted paralysis. We do not want to suggest that the Great Commission is really too great to carry out by the church! So let’s not overstate the case for caution and teachability, and let’s not become disobedient to the task Christ has given His people to do in this world out of concern for a pseudo-danger called “triumphalism” (cf. Rev. 2:26; Matt. 16:18).

Finally, it can hardly be a well-reasoned criticism of theonomic ethics that some “potentially dangerous ideas” could arise from following the holy laws of God in Scripture. We live in a fallen world where adherents of any and every political philosophy (including attempted Biblical ones) will err in carrying out their ideals. That being the case, it only makes sense to err on the side of the angels, starting with the best (indeed, infallible) ideals available to men—the revealed laws of God! Just imagine what “potentially” (no, actually!) dangerous ideas have stemmed from not following God’s law, but rather the human speculations found in worldly philosophers and politicians. The world is a dangerous place—too dangerous for human authorities (or their theoreticians) not to be restrained and regulated by the justice of God’s laws.

(Read the rest.)

Notes:

 

[9] Gary Long, “Biblical Law and Ethics: Absolute and Covenantal,” presented to a Baptist Council in 1980, serialized in Sword and Trowel (1980-81), and published by Backus Books of Rochester, New York; Dager, p. 200.

[10] Dominion Theology, pp. 335, 339, 340, 341, 342, 344, 349-350, 356, 374-375, 377, 388, 390.

[11] God’s Righteous Kingdom (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1980), pp. 9, 10, 11, 17, 18, 21, 23, 25, 26, 29, 47, 54, 87, 100, 123.

[12] Meredith G. Kline, “Comments on an Old-New Error,” Westminster Theological Journal, vol. XLI, No. 1 (Fall, 1978), p. 173.

[13] In the “Foreword” to Gary DeMar’s book, The Debate Over Christian Reconstruction (Atlanta: American Vision Press, 1988), pp. xiv-xv, the occasion was afforded for me to issue a moral admonition to fellow-believers about the extensive maligning and false claims which were being made concerning the theonomic (reconstructionist) school of thought. It bears reading at this point.

[14] This is repeatedly the case in a recent “critique” of theonomy by certain faculty members at Westminster Theological Seminary. Readers have been given the impression that Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, ed. William S. Barker and W. Robert Godfrey, is a decisive refutation of the theonomic position. Advertisements say that they have “written the book” (the book, not “a book”) on the subject of theonomy. However, much of the book is given to questions of emphasis in Biblical theology, cautions against simplistic hermeneutics, or exhortations that all parties not be lazy but do their difficult homework in properly interpreting and applying the Old Testament law today (e.g., articles by Frame, Poythress) -all of which may be well and good, without demonstrating whatsoever that the distinctive tenets of theonomic ethics are objectively mistaken. The “critique” turns out to be of certain possible dangers that could arise from the position, not of theonomy as a theological position as such. After warning that theonomists (and intrusionists of the Kline-variety) should not be satisfied with their “initial impressions” of a particular text but understand the “whole warp and woof of God’s revelation,” Poythress recognizes that, nevertheless, the theonomic reading of Scripture may be “true as far as [it] goes” (p. 119).

[15] John Frame, “The One, the Many, and Theonomy,” Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, p. 90.

[16] House and Ice, chapter 5, have also demurred at the theonomic argument from God’s unchanging moral character. But an analysis of their reasoning reveals that they have only tripped themselves up through lack of conceptual clarity, equivo­ cation over the use of the word “law,” and misrepresentation of the theonomic viewpoint. They declare: “the idea that the unchangeableness of God requires that the specific details of the Mosaic code be transferred to all times and cultures simply does not follow.” But of course theonomists do not argue for transferring “the specific details” of the Mosaic code to all other cultures (e.g., the specific detail of rooftop railings is not relevant to much of modern American culture). For my analysis of the equivocations and contradiction in the position of House and Ice, see House Divided, chapter 6, where among other things I note their tendency to slide from the theologi­ cal concept of God’s essential character to the logically different concept of God’s eternal purposes. The presumption of continuing and universal validity for the moral provisions (underlying demands, not specific cultural details) of God’s law does indeed “follow” from their reflection of His essential and unchangeable character.

The same problem undermines Lightner’s criticism. He says: “The problem, however, with theonomy is that it makes God’s immutability to be immobility” (Robert P. Lightner, “A Dispensational Response to Theonomy,” Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 143 Uuly-Sept., 1986], p. 231). This is a linguistic muddle. (We are supposed to believe that God does not “change” but He does “move”?) Lightner goes on to ask, “Why does it follow that since God is unchanging in His essence, He cannot deal differently with His creatures at different times?” The answer should have been obvious. If the two different moral standards both reflect the essence of God, then either God’s essence has an inner contradiction (between one standard and the other), or God’s essence changes (from one standard to the other). Lightner has not sufficiently grappled with the philosophical and theological problem inherent in his dispensational ism.

[17] I pursued the argument from God’s immutability in a lecture delivered at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society at Toronto in 1981. (A tape of the lecture is available from Covenant Tape Ministry, 24198 Ash Court, Auburn, CA 95603.) Doug Chismar subsequently offered a critique of this line of thought (Douglas E. Chismar and David A. Rausch, “Concerning Theonomy: An Essay of Concern,” Journal ojthe Evangelical Theological Society, vol. 27, no. 3 [Sept., 1984], pp. 315-323). My response to Chismar can be found in “Should We Uphold Unchanging Moral Absolutes?,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, vol. 28, no. 3 (September, 1985), pp. 309-315.

[18] “Preface” to Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, p. 11.

[19] John Muether, p. 251, tries (simplistically) to dismiss the theonomic outlook for its alleged “unwillingness to make important redemptive-historical distinctions.” He offers no argumentation to support that judgment and gives no indication of what important distinctions theonomists miss from scripture. Likewise, Tremper Longman claims: “Theonomy tends to grossly overemphasize continuity to the point of being virtually blind to discontinuity” (“God’s Law and Mosaic Punishments Today,” Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, p. 49). “Virtually blind” to discontinuity? Longman does not tell us just exactly what he sees that is relevant to refuting the theonomic approach, but which theonomists blindly overlook. Longman’s co-author, Dennis Johnson, readily enough corrects this accusation of gross blindness: “Both theonomists and their critics acknowledge continuity and discontinuity between the old covenant and the new…. No theonomist of whom I am aware actually contends that the law’s applicability remained utterly unchanged by the coming of Christ. . . . So the difference between theonomists and non-theonomists is not that one group sees nothing but continuity between the Mosaic order and the new covenant, while the other sees nothing but discontinuity” (“The Epistle to the Hebrews and The Mosaic Penal Sanctions,” Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, pp. 172, 173). Johnson easily offers a number of such important discontinuities spoken of in my writings.

[20] “Effects of Interpretive Frameworks on the Application of Old Testament Law,” Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, pp. 121, 109. The article by Poythress is not intended as a refutation or critique of the theonomic position itself “in its best form” and calls for no further response.

[21] At two critical junctures in his polemic against theonomic ethics, Dan Mc­ Cartney tries to distinguish himself from his opponents by suggesting that they, unlike himself, want to apply the Old Testament case law or civil law “directly” (“The New Testament Use of the Pentateuch: Implications for the Theonomic Movement,” Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, pp. 146, 148). In backing away from the impression his anti-theonomic comments have made, he says for instance: “This is not to say that Old Testament law does not apply to unbelievers”- yet it must not be forgotten: “but only that it does so very indirectly” (p. 148, emphasis mine). The “direct” and “indirect” polemic is a pointless begging of the question, since the terms have no predictable meaning or application. Whatever McCartney does with the Old Testament law will count to him as “indirect,” but surely whatever his theonomic opponents are doing must be the dreaded “direct” use. James Skillen’s overworked and ambiguous criticism of theonomy is that it makes a “direct” move from the character of God, or the Old Covenant code, or Il.rael’s ancient state to modern politics (The Scattered Voice [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990], pp. 171, 172, 174, 177, 178).

[22] “The Use of the Bible in Social Ethics: Paradigms, Types and Eschatology,” Transformation, vol. 1, no. 1 Qanuary/March, 1984), p. 17.

[23] For instance, Bruce Waltke chides theonomists: “Similarities between Israel’s anointed kings and uncircumcised pagan kings do not establish their equivalence. One must also note the many dissimilarities between these kings” (“Theonomy in Relation to Dispensational and Covenant Theologies,” Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, p. 83)- as though theonomists do not see those dissimilarities! Well then, what specific dissimilarities do these simple-minded theonomists actually overlook? Waltke offers only one (only one!) illustration, the dissimilarity that Israel had special principles to observe for holy war- precisely a leading illustration of uniqueness which is pointed out right in theonomic literature!

[24] Poythress, p. 105. He correctly observes that in some cases where the obser­ vance of Old Testament commands is modified or set aside, the affected law is “never explicitly altered in the New Testament” (pp. 105-106), thus reminding us to use sophisticated hermeneutical (and theological) principles of interpretation rather than “strict wooden” ones. It must be noted as well, however, that there is a world of difference between altering an Old Testament command on the basis of some specific and textually based line of theological reasoning and altering an Old Testament command with no textual tether whatsoever in one’s reasoning (and just a meat cleaver dismissal of Old Testament civil commands as a whole). Theonomy calls for the control principle of what the Biblical text actually says (“ex-plicit”) rather than interpretative frameworks imposed upon the text from outside. The way in which the Biblical text publicly teaches alteration in an Old Testament command, however, need not be by means of explicit enumeration, flagging, or direct comment.

[25] E.g., Chantry, pp. 15, 16, 18, 20-21, 27, 51, 59, 62; Neilson, pp. 19-20; Dan McCartney, Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, pp. 142, 148; Dager, pp. 175, 189; Peter Masters, “World Dominion: The High Ambition of Reconstructionism,” Sword & Trowel (May 24, 1990), pp. 16, 18-19.

[26] Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., “Theonomy and Eschatology: Reflections on Post­ millennialism,” Theorwmy: A Reformed Critique, p. 197. The same error is made by Robert P. Lightner, “Theonomy and Dispensationalism,” Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 143 Uan-March, 1986), pp. 30-31, 142-143; House and Ice, p. 9; Meredith G. Kline, pp. 172-173; Lewis Neilson, where one-fifth of his booklet is actually directed against postmillennialism.

[27] D. Clair Davis, “A Challenge to Theonomy,” Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, p. 391. Davis also corrects another misunderstanding which arises in Gaffin’s article when Davis comments: “Is it impossible to harmonize the theonomic vision of a biblical society and the New Testament picture of a persecuted church? Not necessar­ ily.” Although I expressed my own postmillennial convictions in Theonomy (pp. 191-193, 424-425, 428-429, 432, 486), I also indicate that even premillennial futurists can agree with the ethical point being made (e.g., p. 397).

[28] Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, ed. William S. Barker and W. Robert Godfrey, p. 193. The title of section 4 is “Theonomy and Triumphalist Dangers,” but the whole book is permeated with this theme. The spirit of it all is captured by Bruce Waltke’s plea: “May the church boast in its weakness, not in its might!” (p. 85). Of course, one must be careful not to run to the opposite extreme from triumphalism and seek a kind of spiritual and social masochism for the church!

[29] E.g., the editors, p. 10; Poythress, pp. 117, 123; Frame, p. 99; Johnson, pp. 172, 191. Davis cautions theonomists against portraying their own perspectives as “the only correct ones” in the church; he reminds them of “political ambiguity” in this world (chapter 16).

Categories: Worldview

Ed Stetzer versus the real men of Issachar

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 11:02

I have to confess, I struggle with anger when I read certain posts, especially when they come from men who have as much profile and influence and Ed Stetzer. This latest prophecy of doom, complacency, cultural withdraw and surrender is disguised as a statistically-informed cultural analysis topped with a call for Christians to grow “more committed,” “get stronger,” and have “real hope.”

Stetzer’s piece is a confused ruse of a prophecy that accomplishes three things: 1) it demands Christians give up on social activism and withdraw from influencing law, government, or political activism; 2) it ironically assures the same Christians they are the salt and light of the world around them; 3) it speaks authoritatively that all these things “will” happen in the future.

The main thrust is a demand for withdrawal (which in reality is a call for most of his readers to maintain their status quo). As with most calls of this nature from evangelicals and fundamentalists of this nature, there is enough caveat in the article to deny this charge. He does say, after all, things like this:

I desire for the church and Christians to be examining the Scriptures daily to know the Word of God and also to know the times, the context, and the Spirit’s wisdom to address the culture with the Good News.

Likewise he suggests we should “be more focused on protecting religious liberty.” Doesn’t this all mean we should not withdraw from society? Ostensibly, it could be interpreted that way; but I believe this is little more than plausible deniability.

Why attribute that? Because the whole thrust of the piece is that “Christian influence on culture will begin to wane.” He repeats this phrase more than once. He argues that Christianity once influenced culture in such a way that even the large number of “nominal Christians”—Christians in name only—nevertheless identified themselves as Christians, but this is no longer the case. A growing number of Christians-in-name-only are now revealing their true colors: answering “none of the above” on religious surveys. With this development, allegedly Christian influence will wane.

But then he says what he really means by this:

As the Nones rise in their number, Christian influence on culture will begin to wane. The minority of Christians in a culture will begin to feel even more like a minority when more nominals become Nones. As people no longer claim to be Christians, Christianity will be further marginalized, which should change the way we think about engaging culture. . . .

Those who aggressively fight this as a culture war will find it hard to reach people. . . .

As I see it, some Christians will go down fighting. Other Christians, will go on loving. But either way, convictional Christians will increasingly see they are not the moral majority and will advocate less for the legislation or traditional values and be more focused on protecting religious liberty.

Here are the notes of the swan song of pessimism. If you continue to fight this “culture war,” you will go down fighting. In other words, “prepare for defeat.” And since we are not the majority, we must stop advocating for legislation. We must preach to society about traditional values (i.e. biblical values). Instead, we must merely protect religious liberty.

Here is what this means: surrender the institutions of society to pagan masters, then turn around and plead with those masters to let us practice our faith freely in quiet. Part of such a bargain will be a promise on our part that we will not advocate for any legislation or social values based upon our now-quieted and marginalized religion.

So while there is some language in here that could be construed as a call for standing for the faith in the public square, it is really denuded and qualified by a larger agenda that wants Christians out of legislation and declares surrender in culture.

But here’s why I say this piece is so confused. With small, regional exceptions, convictional Christians have never been the majority. Not even at the high points of American “Christian” history was the majority of the population composed of such convictional Christians as defined here. In all of western history and the heights of Christendom, the majority of the population has always been closer to nominal Christian, if not merely nominal, than convictional. And yet there was never an emergency or need to withdraw from legislation and government, and to focus inwardly.

And what extra good does it do for society to have such a surplus of Christians in name only? Do Christians in name only vote like convictional Christians? Do they uphold biblical values and advocate biblical law? No. And they rarely ever have. Why not? Because they were never Christians. They are Christians in name only—not in worldview. So why all the alarm over a change in the trend of self-identification among people who were non-Christians to begin with?

But worse yet, these pietistic Christians whom Stetzer is calling the true believers, convictional Christians, have rarely been convictional in any sense that made lasting impact on the culture or worldview either. And they will probably not do so in the future. Yet these are the ones—as opposed to those “aggressively fight this as a culture war”—that Stetzer hopes will “stand for the good, advocate for cultural realities that engender human flourishing, and do so in a loving way” (that is, of course, without defining what any of these platitudes means).

But think about it for a moment: Stetzer mourns that a “collapse of nominalism” is evidenced by “no religious preference” responses from college students rising as high as 30 percent recently. But whose children do you think these are? Where did they come from? If we had so much Christian influence in culture in the past, who did we produce a generation of students like this? At least someone of them are the lapsed children of so-called “convictional” Christians, who turned their children over to pagans. They are children whose parents were never really convictional enough to pull them out of government schools that years ago abandoned Christian worldview. These parents and grandparents were never convictional enough to create alternatives of the growth of pagan institutions in society since, say, 1965, let alone 1935 or 1913—all of which institutions these parents depend upon and refuse to change themselves.

The wane of Christian influence in society has been the result of the pietism of the parents and pulpits upon which Ed Stetzer is now pinning the last hopes of the Christian future. These people were never culturally convictional to begin with. They were never salt and light to begin with.

And that’s why I say this whole piece is a ruse. All Stetzer is doing here is confirming, once again, the tenets of eschatology held by the majority of these evangelicals and fundamentalists: gloom and doom, the waning of Christian influence in society, the withdrawal of Christians from the public square, the increase of pagan dominion, and the retreat of Christians into private devotion with their tail between their legs.

And make no mistake, this is indeed eschatologically driven, even if not backed by the classic references of Scripture. The language throughout is not “may” or “could,” it is “will.” In Stetzer’s mind, all of his predictions “will” happen indeed. This is not the language of studied opinion or even scholarly statistics. This is the language of prophecy.

I just so happen to think it is both confused and dangerous to speak like this, although it probably soothes many consciences of Christians dedicated to their own complacency or fear. But it is certainly confused, especially when at the end he attempts to reverse the language he had already used throughout. In the future, he concludes, Christians

will either become a cultural church that allows the societal trends to dictate their ever-changing beliefs. Or they will become a counter-cultural church that faithfully adheres to Scripture and proclaims the gospel in a carefully considered way.

It is the latter on whom he pins the future. But note the change in description. The latter are the retreatists and defeatists culturally that he has been describing. The first group is those that insist on activism in law and government. But this group he describes as allowing societal trends to dictate their beliefs. Ha! The other retreatists and private-only-religion types he calls “counter-cultural” which “faithfully adheres to Scripture.” I think he’s got a few things backward, or is at least leaving out a few key elements.

There is indeed something left out: those who wish to remain faithful to Scripture must indeed find themselves upholding biblical law as societal norms (even if unpopular, as it has almost always been to some degree). Christians who engage—and indeed find it necessary as Christians to do so—in political activism and the public square need not necessarily be guilty of allowing society to dictate their “ever-changing beliefs”—nonsense! We are the ones doing just the opposite: standing for biblical law when the rest of the Christian world is running from the battle, or compromising their beliefs to support neoconservative nonsense at home and abroad.

And on the contrary, it is the Ed Stetzers of the world that are auguring the tea leaves of current events and fashioning their response in kind. For all the talk of standing firm and real hope in this piece, there is no hope except in following the alleged retreat that his reading of society dictates for us.

And that, I believe, is the subtext of this whole piece. Whether consciously or unconsciously, it is designed to keep Christians at bay, out of social influence, and assured that their complacent and pagan-dominated lifestyle, and lack of concern to change it, is the fulfillment of being salt and light.

I just preached this weekend on David’s mighty men (2 Sam. 23:8–39). One of the outstanding features of that group is that they stood and fought even when the rest of the nation fled. Of Eleazar it says:

He was with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel withdrew. He rose and struck down the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clung to the sword. And the Lord brought about a great victory that day, and the men returned after him only to strip the slain.

Of Shammah, it says similarly:

The Philistines gathered together at Lehi, where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the men fled from the Philistines. But he took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and struck down the Philistines, and the Lord worked a great victory.

Even if it were the case that the pagans were going to take over, we must be like Eleazar who stood and fought when everyone else fled. We must be like Shammah, and stand alone, fighting even for the smallest things of society—a patch of beans.

And it is here that Stetzer is misguided even on Scripture. In the midst of his view of a cultural retreat, he calls us to be like the men of Issachar, “who understand the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron. 12:32). I have heard this example used countless times, but have never heard the context given as part of the example. Read the context beginning in 1 Chron. 12:23: it was not about retreat from culture; it was not about surviving hostility and persecution; it was about influencing the government and putting David on the throne. Remember, Israel and Judah were divided after Saul died. David had his hands full cleaning up the political mess. Issachar was part of Israel, not Judah. Their kinsmen in the northern ten tribes were averse to David and in part openly hostile—there was a rival throne under Ishbaal, Saul’s son. But these men of Issachar knew that for the advance of the kingdom ofGod, they must stand against the popular trend and support David, support unification under the Davidic throne.

So I would agree with Ed on this point: we should indeed be like the men of Issachar. In the midst of a society of men who think we should turn and retreat, fight at best a rear-guard action, remain separate from the world, or live out the status quo, we should instead stand up and support the Davidic Throne: occupied by king Jesus; and we should pronounce his rule and reign among our society, and we should persuade them to join the nation under that throne, just as the men of Issachar did.

Categories: Worldview

Good cop shows charity is better than coercion

Fri, 10/10/2014 - 08:19

File this one under “random acts of kindness.” An Emmett Township, Michigan, police officer demonstrates the road to a free society: charity, not coercion.

On a routine traffic stop, Officer Ben Hall noticed a 5-year-old passenger was not in a child restraint. Her mother knew she was breaking the law, but she explained she simply could not afford to buy a car seat at the moment. What happened next was a big surprise:

“When I spoke to [DeLorenzo], she was very forthcoming and knew that the child should be in a booster seat,” Officer Hall told FOX 17 News. “She admitted that she was wrong and that she had recently fallen on hard times.”

Instead of ticketing DeLorenzo, Officer Hall told her to meet him at a nearby Walmart so he could buy a booster seat for her daughter.

“It was the easiest 50 bucks I ever spent,” said Officer Hall. “It’s something that anybody in the same position, in our position, would do.”

Hall explained, “I was in a spot where I could help her.”

It is not told whether Mr. Hall is Christian or not, but his actions are a good example of the teaching of Scripture:

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you (Prov. 3:27–28).

Hall added what should be obvious to everyone: “A ticket doesn’t solve the situation. What solves it is the child being in the booster seat like she should be.”

These two ideas together give us a glimpse of the scriptural view of a free society: coercion doesn’t solve the situation; charity solves the situation.

Confrontations, fines, bullying, threats, inquisitions, searches, detentions, invasions, confiscations, surveillance—all of which can be summarized under the headings of legalized violence and theft—do not solve the vast majority of problems pervading society, yet which are found criminal in various ways and details, and penalized every day.

This traffic stop could have easily ended with a fine or worse. Perhaps CPS could even have been alerted and further problems created for the mother. All kinds of anguish and oppression could have resulted—according to the law—and any afflicting agent could have walked away assuring him- or herself they had upheld the common good of society. Yet it would have been evil and unnecessarily so.

And the truth is that just about anyone, anytime can be the victim of such a scenario. If it’s not child restraint laws, it can be any of a myriad of moving or non-moving violations—and that’s just the traffic code. There are a thousand other sections of code that can get you.

As the detective in this now-famous lecture explains, you are guilty of something:

Are any of you guilty of anything? How many of you drove here today? Anybody go above 55 on the interstate? Anybody driving home and go above 55 on the interstate? . . .

Everybody does something they can get in trouble for. . . . When I was a police officer, a uniform, I could follow a car however long I needed to, and eventually they’re going to do something illegal, and I can pull them over—and justifiably illegal to pull them over.

This is not good; this is an evil. Our legal system is not a safeguard of liberty, but a complex and inescapable revenue-generation system designed in part to keep its agents funded by the revenue it generates. A modicum of true criminal justice remains within it almost as a byproduct, but average people live under constant threat, fear, and coercion at every moment as well.

What happened in this case, however, was a good and not an evil. Someone, perhaps even underserving, perhaps even justifiably illegal, was in need, and another person was in a position to do good. That person was an armed agent of the system who could have, justifiably, imposed further affliction, but he did rightly. He withheld the evil and did not withhold the good.

Now, if we can follow Gary DeMar’s suggestion—which is the way of biblical law—and find a way to run the entire system of justice on voluntary payments instead of coerced taxes, we would truly be on the path to a free society. DeMar writes,

Police and fire protection could be financed through a service fee, similar to insurance premiums. . . . A fund could be established by neighborhood charity agencies and church groups to help those unable to pay the fee (God and Government, 2012, pp. 324, 326).

When we begin to think like this once again, we can make some progress and solve situations. Officer Hall’s act of kindness is a small step in that direction, and a small ray of light pointing to a better path that begs us to walk it, if we only will.

Categories: Worldview

Your membership & donations make this ministry possible.
If you have been helped please:

Join Us  or  Donate

Contact Us