Thursday, January 29, 2009

You can have some of your own money back. Gee, thanks!

To the shock of no one who is paying attention, the Congress is ramming the “stimulus” package through as fast as they can. Little wonder. The last thing the Democrat leaders on Capitol Hill want is for anyone to look under the hood and find that instead of an economy driving engine we see a bunch of bacon and pork chops. The handcuffs are off and every liberal interest group has been given a check to write for whatever misguided social cause they represent. Stimulus has nothing to do with what is going on here. This is all payback to liberal interest groups, donors, lobbyist and the most senior members of Congress. Luckily for liberals, their lackeys and willing accomplices in the media are helping run interference for them until they can get this thing on Obama’s desk.

The “stimulus package” is basically taking our money, filtering it through the Washington D.C. bureaucracy, taking out huge loans with 300 million co-signers and then giving us back some of our own money that comes from our pockets and from debt we have to pay back. Brilliant! I am sure President Obama and Nancy Pelosi would be OK with me taking $100 out of their wallets, giving them back $50 of it and then applying for a credit card in their name, maxing it out and sharing some of what I bought with them. Sure I spent $5000 on your credit card, but you get the $2000 TV you didn’t need. So what if Joe in Nebraska also gets a TV with your credit and I keep $1000 for “administrative costs”.The “stimulus” is not coming from some magic pot of money the government has been sitting on for a rainy day. It is not coming by socking it to the rich. It is being funded by tax dollars from regular, working class Americans who pay taxes and by an enormous debt load that will be passed on for generations to come.


Why not cut payroll taxes and leave working people with more money in their wallets? Two reasons:

1. Doing that would take control away from politicians to spend our money as they see fit. What is the point of being a politician if you can’t get your hand in the cookie jar?

2. Politicians think we are too stupid to spend our own money. Why wouldn’t they? They think we are too stupid to educate and raise our own kids.

Wake up America. The government is coming into your house, stealing your car, trading it in and giving you a Yugo in exchange and then expects you to be grateful for their generosity with your money.

Are you feeling stimulated yet? I am feeling something but I can’t say it is stimulated. Maybe “nauseated” is a better word for what I am feeling.

A Call for a New Reformation in the church: Membership, schmembership

Time for a dogmatic overstatement! The very institution of local church membership has become essentially meaningless. My reason for saying this is multifold but it starts out of the gate with my contention that formal church membership in a local church has no Scriptural support. I am not convinced at all by references to 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31 where it seems to me that Paul is making an analogy between the different members of our (physical) body and comparing it to the different members of the Body of Christ. I don’t see how we can make the leap from the use of the word “member” and apply it to a tradition of membership rolls in local organizations.

The key for me is verse 13: For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Cor 12: 13. Then Paul goes on to speak of members of that body. We certainly are all members, but not because we have our names on the rolls of a local church but because we are baptized into that one Body, the Body of Christ. Nor are references to lists of widows getting a distribution at all convincing and to suggest that the one confirms the other (lists of widows in need and formal membership lists) is ridiculous. Really, what we see is just the opposite. Christians A, B and C in membership at First Baptist and Christians X,Y and Z in membership at First Presbyterian are not members of the same local bodies but they are all members of “The Church”. In fact they share something with one another that many people in “membership” in their respective bodies do not share, that is being members of the Body of Christ. I am far more concerned with my standing in the Body of Christ than I am with my, or anyone else’s for that matter, standing in a local church organization.

But even beyond that (as if we can or should get beyond the lack of Biblical support), the practical working out of the system of membership has failed to achieve any useful purpose. I make that claim for two main reasons:

First, in any given church a substantial portion of the membership is unregenerate. That is a bold claim. I stand by it wholeheartedly. I base that in part on my experience, which granted is limited to less than a decade as a Christian, and in part on the methods by which we enable church membership. In paedobaptist churches, infants are brought into the covenant community by virtue of having parents who are believers. Little wonder that many of those darling infants being sprinkled turn out to be unbelievers and go to judgment lost in their sins. It is not because the church failed to catechize them or take them to Sunday evening services. It is because they are not elect and there was never any way that they were going to come to faith. In spite of that reality, thousands of churches keep sprinkling babies in a misguided attempt to maintain a sentimental church tradition. Credobaptist churches are often little better, baptizing young children and adults alike after they “make a decision” and pray a prayer. In a well-meaning but misguided quest to carry out the Great Commission, they are inviting people into a local church body as members and giving them a false assurance of salvation. Given the two headed monster of infant baptism and “decisional evangelism”, it is little wonder that the membership rolls of local churches are full of people who never go to a particular church (I would be willing to bet that our names are listed as members in at least two Baptist churches we haven’t attended for some time) or worse people who have never exhibited Biblical faith and repentance but think that they have based on baptism as an infant or praying a “sinners prayer”.

Second, the most common and probably most Scriptural objection is that without membership how can we have Biblical church discipline? That objection makes two major assumptions. First it assumes that if you are not formal members in a local church, then you cannot be disciplined. Second it assumes that in churches with formal membership lists, discipline of any sort actually happens. I think that both of these assumptions are highly suspect and faulty. I would argue that any Christian can be disciplined by whatever assembly they are part of. If they are a Christian they will accept loving discipline from the church. I am far more apt to listen to rebuke from men who I respect as mature brothers in Christ because they are my brothers than I am from someone who is in a position of contrived ecclesiastical authority but shows no sign of humble servant leadership. For discipline to be Biblical it is not required that a man with a seminary degree and a formal ordination be leading it. If Joe or Josh, men who are pastors but not “my pastor” rebuke me, or men like Rick or John who are not “pastors” at all rebuke me I would listen to their words. I may still not heed their words, but I at least will consider them!

On the flip side, in those churches that do have formal church membership rarely enforce church discipline. In some it is just not practical. How can someone in a church with 500 members effectively discipline members? Even in smaller churches, there is often little or no church discipline. There are a number of reasons for this but I think ultimately it comes down to this: if you are going to welcome into membership unregenerate people either by baptizing them as infants or leading them to make an emotional “decision”, then you are going to have little basis upon which to discipline them. Are you going to discipline a pagan for acting like a pagan?

Really, what does being a member of a local church do for you? There is no Scriptural mandate for it. You get to vote on the budget. You get to teach Sunday school (even though many “members” are unregenerate and not apt to teach, and some “non-members” or “regular attenders” are regenerate and are apt to teach. But I digress. ). You can submit to church discipline, which you should do regardless of your membership status. But local church membership seems to me to be contrived and worthless. There is nothing that supporters of church membership cite that cannot be accomplished without church membership.

The idea of formalized church membership with lists goes hand in hand with infant baptism as holdovers from Roman Catholicism. I may do more on this linkage later as time permits, but there is a great deal of background information that points to infant baptism and membership lists as being mechanisms invented by Rome as a means of control. In the good old days, if you were not a member of the Roman Catholic church you were outside of the body of Christ. In other words, membership in good standing in the visible local body was a prerequisite for being a member of the universal church, the Body of Christ (hmmm, now where have I heard that argument before). That is a strongly worded and vaguely supported statement, so I will have to beg your forbearance until I can dig my church history books out to gather support for it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Well that was fun

Just got back from a business trip of about 36 hours, 11 hours driving, 7 hours sleeping in a hotel and a day full of meeting clients in my old home town. I am wiped out.

The twisted logic of the Left

More people bad, less people good.

From the Wall Street Journal

One of the more curious items in the $825 billion House "stimulus" is $87 billion to help states with Medicaid, specifically including an expansion of family-planning services. The implication is that more people mean less economic growth.

Following a White House meeting with President Obama on Friday, Republican John Boehner, the House Minority Leader, asked how spending millions of dollars on birth control will help stimulate the economy. On Sunday, George Stephanopoulos of ABC's "This Week" repeated the question to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who responded that "family planning services reduce costs."

She added: "The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now, and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help states meet their financial needs. One of those -- one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception -- will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government."

Why go part way? If birth control is good, if abortion is the cornerstone of our system of government, if euthanasia is the wave of the future and the “humane” choice why stop there? Think of the money we could save on disability insurance if we just euthanized permanently disabled workers! How about forced sterilization for people with sub-par intelligence? Heck, maybe every American should be required on an annual basis to submit to testing and questioning by the government and prove that they still have worth to our society!

This is dangerous stuff, both for the moral issues raised by reducing human life to economic units as well as the looming issue of the Social Security system running out of money, too few workers paying in compared to the elderly taking out, etc. Europe is running out of people to work and to pay taxes so they are being forced to import workers from overseas, many of whom are Muslim and that is having a predictable and ominous impact on their society. So our new leadership in Washington seems bent on running us down the same road of economic ruin and societal disintegration that Europe is on.

This is the brave new world we were promised?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Has the world forgotten? Have we?

As we march in a seemingly inexorable fashion towards socialism, I have to wonder if people remember what life under a truly socialistic society is like? Younger people don’t because for them the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact are things of the past they probably have barely heard of (especially in a public school). I know I am going to sound really old here, but people under 30 really have never lived with the threat of totalitarianism. Sure we have terrorism, but blowing up buildings is not going to lead to a full scale war or conquest. Growing up as I did in the 80’s, the threat of the Soviets was a very real one. Movies like Red Dawn that depicted a Soviet invasion of America resonated with us. We know now that the Soviets were far less militarily adept than we gave them credit for, but they still had land based nuclear ICBMs, submarines with nuclear missiles and an enormous military that was facing our forces across Europe. It is in vogue now, especially among detractors of Ronald Reagan to pooh pooh the military capability of the Soviets, but I remember vividly the parades through Red Square, column after column of troops, tanks and trucks towing Soviet ICBMs. I went to an elementary school with nuclear fallout shelter signs on the wall, a daily reminder that there was a nation bent on world conquest with nuclear weapons. I still have a book from the 80’s on Soviet military power and overblown a bit or not, the Soviets were a formidable force and the last national power that really came close to rivaling the United States. So I remember all too well what rotten fruits come from the various branches of socialism /communism/ Marxism.

To hear people today, wearing their Che Guevara t-shirts and praising Cuban health care, socialism is the way to go. But outside of the comfy confines of Hollywood and universities full of overindulged college kids, lifelong “grad students” and professors who teach because they are unable to get real jobs, people realize that socialism doesn’t work and hasn’t worked. Ever. Americans do not flee from Miami and take rickety boats to Cuba, not even the slovenly Michael Moore who thinks that Cuba is some sort of paradise but still chooses to live in luxury in New York. Nobody got shot trying to climb the Berlin Wall going from west to east. Taiwan is not threatening to retake mainland Red China by force.

Socialism invariably leads to authoritarian government and history has demonstrated again and again that authoritarian government inevitably leads to totalitarianism. Look at the worst human rights violators of the past century and the present age: Nazi Germany. Stalinist Soviet Russia. Fascist Italy under Mussolini. The Khmer Rouge. Maoist China. Castro’s Cuba. These are not nations led by Jerry Falwell-esque conservative Christians. They are lead universally by totalitarian regimes, every one some version of socialism. Even Nazi Germany fits this bill. What was the full name of the Nazi Party? The National Socialist German Workers' Party. People label conservatives “Nazis” all the time, but Adolf Hitler has a lot more in common with socialists in this country than he does with Rush Limbaugh.

The more responsibility and freedom people abdicate to the government, the more it seeks. It feeds upon itself because it is an unsustainable system. As systems fail, more and more power is consolidated into the government. This causes more systems to fail as the inefficiencies of centralized governmental bureaucracies spawn more instability. Eventually the only thing holding it together is brute force and fear. For all of the talk about being a “Worker’s Paradise”, the only thing keeping Russians in the Soviet Union was the threat of the KGB, Siberian gulags and barbed wire.

The more power shifts away from the people and into the hands of the government, the less free those people become. We have apparently forgotten this in our headlong quest to abdicate as much personal freedom and responsibility as possible into the hands of our benevolent government in the hope that by doing so we can trade freedom for security. That is a false hope as those political prisoners languishing in Castro’s prisons and the women who stood for hours in bread lines in Soviet Russia can attest. Socialism doesn’t improve the financial security of all people, it drags everyone down into the same impoverished state except for the bureaucrats who run everything. Far from an egalitarian society, socialism merely replaces the middle class and the upper class with powerful bureaucrats at the top and a bunch of miserable workers at the bottom. The rich capitalist is replaced by the tin pot dictator government official.

So we find ourselves in America in 2009 facing a precarious situation: we are in a dangerous world with enemies all about seeking to overthrow our nation. We have virtually unimpeded illegal immigration at the same time that we have growing unemployment and instability in the financial markets. In our national commercial institutions, the two of the three main drivers of our economy are in serious trouble, i.e. the auto industry and our financial markets (the agricultural industry is the third). People are afraid, they are losing jobs, cars, houses. I expect a massive wave of bankruptcies, personal and business, in 2009 as job losses mount. There are far too many people looking for a quick fix and far too many power hungry politicians more than willing to give them just that. That is a recipe for protectionism and socialism and eventually totalitarianism.

Once in place, the shackles of totalitarianism are hard to throw off without bloodshed. America stands at a precipice and is in danger of falling. Don’t expect to hear voices of sanity coming out of Washington, D.C. because it is in the hands of people who have an ideology that at its intellectual core is hard to distinguish from Marxism. They may not advocate totalitarianism now but it is the inevitable end result of the policies they do advocate. At some point everyone comes to a point of resistance to authoritarianism and it is at that point that socialism enforces its ideology at the end of a gun barrel. If America falls to socialism, there is not a free nation out there to fight for us, there are no Ronald Reagan’s in China. We must make a stand, here and now, or lose the freedoms that so many men have died for forever.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Being fruitful

Last Friday Dr. Russ Moore filled in for Dr. Mohler (he is on a missions trip to Turkey) and the show, Encouraging the Blessing of Children, was just chock full of wisdom. The topic was on how the church can encourage Christian couples to embrace families, even large families with lots of children. Given my recent focus on abortion, I thought it was a very pertinent topic of conversation. How should the church approach children? Shouldn’t the church be counter-cultural and say that even as the world rejects the blessing of children, the church embraces and desires to receive that blessing as much as possible?

The evangelical church in all its forms is mighty quick to condemn homosexual marriage as sinful and reject the world’s interpretation of its normalcy, but when it comes to kids? Not so much. It could just be that it is always easier to preach against “them”. “They” are doing this or that and it is wrong, but it is harder to say things that impact those in the pews. I think that is true of lots of stuff that rarely makes it into sermons. Why not speak out about modest dress? What about headcovering? Because it makes people in the pews uncomfortable to talk about issues that reflect poorly on them instead of pointing the finger at the vague, amorphous “other”. Virtually every church is dominated by married couples and those are the people that need to hear that children are a blessing, a great wealth. When you say to people that children are usually the natural result of and one of the primary reasons for marriage, that might just prick the conscience of the couple that is “waiting for the right time” to have kids or who is limiting their family size to just a couple, a “nice little family”. It is sad that saying that children are a blessing and exhorting families to not shy away from but instead to prayerfully seek out those blessings is something of a controversy in the church. The world says wait until you accumulate financial blessings and then accept kids. The Word tells us that children are a blessing. There is nothing a married couple can do, nothing, that will truly prepare them for having children.

One of the most important things we can do is raise our children up to view having children as a great blessing. I worry that we are doing a poor job of this in our home. The last thing I want is for our kids to see us viewing a large family as being a burden and not wanting to have a large family of their own. So we are trying to do more as a family. Our new home will help, we are unable to all fit around the table in our current place because the dining area is so small, so we are looking forward to breaking out the big table that seats 12, putting in all of the leaves and all sitting down for meals again. We are also working out a pretty hard and fast weekly schedule so that we have more of a plan instead of letting the week happen to us. We are looking to schedule time for dad and daughter, mom and son, mom and daughter, dad and son time. That will mean that I will have to set aside doing some of the things that I do to unwind, but since I am driving all of 2 minutes to work starting next week I hardly have an excuse to need time to “unwind”. The incredible importance of family is something is that is Scriptural but is also passed on generationally. If your parents discouraged you from having kids, you are probably less inclined to have them. If you don’t encourage your children to have children and show them from the Word of God that children are a blessing, not a burden and that waiting for the “right time” to have kids in your marriage is kind of missing one of the key components of marriage, you can expect your children to emulate the world’s view that children are a necessary evil, an expense to have but not until as late in life as possible.

One of the things that the mormon church does very well is encouraging marriage in their young people. Show me a mormon missionary and I will show you a 20 year old guy who values marriage and is eager to get home, get married and start a family. Now the theological reasons behind that are seriously flawed and heretical, but what mormons have created is a marriage and family culture within their church. I am not recommending we emulate the mormon church, but we can and should do a better job in teaching our children to value marriage. Not just don’t have sex until you get married, but to value marriage, to seek it out, to have a culture of marriage that has as an integral component having and raising children. If we treat marriage and children as separate components, I think we are doing a disservice to our children. Just as I would strenuously reject my child marrying an unbeliever, I would be very hesitant to see my children marry someone who does not share their views of children. Once you are married, it is a pretty poor time to figure out what your spouse thinks or desires regarding children. That is not to say that there are not circumstances of infertility (an issue I want to discuss in the near future and the proper Christian response to it) or couples that for a variety of reasons get married later than usual. But for an average couple getting married in their twenties, the priority should not be vacations to Europe now and putting off children until later.

As Dr. Moore’s guests demonstrate vividly, this is where the older Christians should be discipling the younger. That is such a vital part of a healthy church and has clear Scriptural mandates (Titus 2: 2-8), but what do we do? In many churches we segregate the young couples from the old, the married from the single. What a shame that is! Where should young Christian couples learn about marriage? From other young couples or from older, more experienced couples? Where should Christian singles learn about and see demonstrated the blessings of a Christian marriage? From other singles or from married couples? Let’s look at it from a secular source. Where do you want your doctor to learn to perform heart surgery, from an experienced heart surgeon or another medical school student? Older saints with forty, fifty or more years of marriage are a treasure trove of wisdom, but instead we let younger couples just stumble along and figure it out on their own.

The church must take the Scriptural teachings on the blessings of children seriously. Not just in passing but as a core value of its doctrine. If we are going to sponsor Dave Ramsey seminars, which are fine, we ought to be spending far more time on encouraging the blessing of children among Christian couples than we do about making budgets. We should teach on money so that it doesn’t become an impediment to Christian families, but we should teach on the blessing of children because that is one of the main points of having a family and an integral part of the church and of God’s plan for humanity. What good is a family with a great financial plan that rejects the blessing of children in their home? We are not commanded to leave our mother and father and cleave to a financial plan, we are to cleave to our spouse and become one flesh and be fruitful and multiply.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)

The abortion – daycare connection

I have been giving some thought to this whole issue as it relates to President Obama’s “Zero to Five” plan for families. That name is not accidental; the Zero to Five initiative really seeks to widen the influence of the government over families and especially children at an ever earlier age. The logical end result of this initiative is to reduce women to baby incubators just long enough to give birth and then get back to work.

Some people in the abortion debate are advocating a “Third Way”, where we recognize that abortion is the law of the land even though it is not pleasant so our focus should be on reducing the number and need for abortions instead of seeking to ban abortion outright or at least overturning Roe v. Wade.

I hope that Christians do not embrace this idea.

This is a false choice fostered by a socialist mindset. So the trade off is either more abortions or more kids in government sponsored daycare? While murder is certainly the less palatable option, neither of these options should be seen as appealing. The carrot being dangled here is that if you decide to go ahead and have children instead of aborting them, the government will take care of that child in subsidized daycare. Abortion and government daycare/ universal preschool are two sides of the same socialist coin. Christians should support women who get pregnant, either in marriage or out of wedlock. Pregnancy resource centers around the country do a wonderful work in helping frightened moms-to-be to prepare for successful motherhood. But there is a world of difference between helping expectant moms so that they keep and raise their children and buying into a worldview that sees women as units of production and pregnancy as a barrier to productivity.

Either way, abortion or state subsidized and controlled daycare, the cause of socialism is advanced. Either women abort their children and stay in the workforce or they have their children, get government mandated time off and then ship their kids into government subsidized daycare and go back to work. How about this option? Woman gets pregnant, woman keeps child, woman stays home and cares for child while husband works? Now that is a novel and radical idea if I have ever heard one!

April asked a very pertinent question in a previous comment:

Seriously...moral debate over abortion aside, why are we funding it IN OTHER COUNTRIES when our own country is on the brink of economic collapse?

I believe the reason is simple and chilling. Abortion at its core is not a health care issue or a women’s issue or any of that other garbage. It is a socialism issue. By giving people a sense of control over reproduction and child rearing, the socialist agenda achieves its goal of controlling human behavior to benefit the state. Ironically the state controls people while making them think they are enjoying new found freedoms. There is little fundamental difference between the abortion clinics in America and the killing fields of Cambodia or the gulags of the Soviet Union. In all of these cases, the lives of people who are a threat to the state are destroyed, sacrificed in a misguided and twisted desire to serve the common good. In essence these human lives are being snuffed out, one by one, by the millions to further a cause that at its heart is not about health care but is about rejecting God’s pattern for humanity and replacing it with the idol of the state where we will all be called one day to bow down and worship. When that day comes, where will you stand? Where do you stand today?

Leadership we can believe in!

Yessiree Bob! When America needs leadership, we have Barack Obama at the helm. We are fighting a war on two major fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan against an enemy that is spreading throughout the world. Our economy is in shambles with daily reports of new layoffs (today it is Caterpillar laying of 20,000 and Sprint Nextel eliminating 8,000). America is teetering on the brink. So what are some of the first few acts of our new leader, the man who is bringing us “change”? Sweeping economic reforms? A renewed emphasis on fighting the war on terror?

Well, no.

What we got in the first week was a kneejerk declaration that we were going to close down the Guantanamo Bay detention center and a reversal of rules that prevent U.S. tax dollars from funding abortions overseas. So let’s break that down…

Closing down Gitmo means that we will have a bunch of men, some of the most dangerous men in the world, men captured in combat operations against U.S. forces, men who are not welcome in their home countries, men who will almost certainly take up arms and seek to spill American blood as soon as they get loose, given the due process of law guaranteed to American citizens and quite likely set free. It has been argued, with a straight face, that closing Gitmo will make America safer. Safer how?! That is like saying that duct taping a t-bone steak to a baby in front of a pack of ravenous pit bulls will make that baby safer. That is not leadership, that is capitulation to the far left fringe of the Democrat party that doesn’t seem to realize that we are at war and Islamic terrorists don’t care about civil rights.

Then we have the changes to the so-called Mexico City policy . So in a time when we are struggling with our own economy, President Obama sees fit to make it easier for us to send money overseas to promote abortion. Well, we are planning on a trillion dollars in new “stimulus” spending, so in order to build the American economy we will fund abortions overseas. Brilliant! You can hear the sputtering engine of the American economy gaining new life with every Brazilian or Nigerian kid that is aborted.

Obama said in a statement that family planning aid has been used as a "political wedge issue," adding that he had "no desire to continue this stale and fruitless debate."

I guess those babies being aborted may question whether or not this is a stale or fruitless debate. Or maybe this whole thing is just “above his paygrade” as President. Luckily, President Obama is being praised by some groups for this move.

The group Population Action International praised Obama's move, saying in a statement that it will "save women's lives around the world."

Um, it will save women’s lives? I guess they only abort males overseas because abortion is almost never about saving lives, it is about taking lives. Candidate Obama made a big fuss about reducing the number of abortions during the campaign, but one of his first acts will result in more abortions, abortions paid for in part with U.S. taxpayer dollars. I guess complete reversals of campaign promises is not “above his paygrade”.

There is no change here. It is the same old liberalism, the same old Democrat party cronyism. The only “change” is that we have a new face and a new name. The politics are the same, the paybacks are the same. Wake up America, you got sold a bill of goods and now we have a far left puppet in the White House for the next four years getting his strings pulled by the most liberal factions in America. Is that really “change” you can believe in?


The temperature?


That is it. Just 1.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

BAM! John MacArthur laying it out!


You simply are not going to get a much better, more direct presentation of the core of the Gospel than in John MacArthur laying it out fro 2 Cor 5:21

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

This is just great stuff, presented like only MacArthur does.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Another reason to not like goats

Apparently they steal cars...

Newspaper claims suspect transformed into a goat

LAGOS, Nigeria – One of Nigeria's biggest daily newspapers reported that police implicated a goat in an attempted automobile theft. In a front-page article on Friday, the Vanguard newspaper said that two men tried to steal a Mazda car two days earlier in Kwara State, with one suspect transforming himself into a goat as vigilantes cornered him.

The paper quoted police spokesman Tunde Mohammed as saying that while one suspect escaped, the other transformed into a goat as he was about to be apprehended.

The newspaper reported that police paraded the goat before journalists, and published a picture of the animal.

Police in the state couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Belief in black magic is widespread in Nigeria, particularly in far-flung rural areas.

You don't read about sheep stealing cars. I am just sayin'.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Magnifying God: The Legacy of John Calvin - East Lansing, MI Feb 20-21

Just in time for us moving in there is a pretty cool sounding conference that will be all of 3 ½ miles from our new home. The speakers should be good, somewhat different from some of the, ahem, older speakers you normally get at conferences…

Conference Speakers

Collin Hansen, Keynote Speaker

An editor at large for Christianity Today, Hansen is the author of the book, Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists, which was published in March, 2008.

Adam Barr

A graduate of Hope College, Adam earned a ThM from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and did PhD work at Westminster Theological Seminary. Adam is currently a pastor at Corinth Reformed Church (Grand Rapids) and president of Borderlands.

Kevin DeYoung

A graduate of Hope College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Kevin is the co-author of Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be and is the senior pastor of University Reformed Church (East Lansing).

Jason Helopoulos

A graduate of Eastern Illinois University, Jason earned a ThM in Historical Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. Currently he is the founding pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church (East Lansing).

Doug Phillips

A graduate of Cedarville University and Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, Doug currently serves as executive pastor for ministries at South Church (Lansing).

The downside is that day two of the conference is my wedding anniversary, I am sure my wife won’t mind me going to a conference that day though…

Magnifying God: The Legacy of John Calvin - East Lansing, MI Feb 20-21

Time to wake up!

I liked this quote from Peggy Noonan in today’s Wall Street Journal

As for Mr. Obama, some thoughts that start with a hunch. He has the kind of self-confidence that will serve him well or undo him. He has to be careful about what he wants, because he's going to get it, at least at the beginning. He claimed a lot of moderate territory in his Inaugural Address (deepen and expand our alliances, put aside debates on size of government and aim for government that is competent and constructive), but no one is certain, still, what governing philosophy guides him. He would be most unwise to rouse the sleeping giant that is American conservatism. One thing that would rouse it, and begin to bring its broken pieces back together, would be radical movement on abortion, such as pushing the so-called Freedom of Choice Act.

We can only hope that Ms. Noonan is correct, and that in his hubris and his “messiah complex”, President Obama will arrogantly overreach and waken the majority of Americans who are socially conservative.

We have grown lazy on the Right in America, especially among Christians. We were comfortable because “one of our own” was in the White House, and because “our guy” was President we began to lose cohesion and focus, our will was sapped, our strength atrophied. In large part, that lapse has led to where we are today with an unqualified, rabidly pro-abortion President and congress. We became concerned about our pocketbooks, 401k balances, mortgages and the other cares of life and forgot about defending life. The huge numbers of professing Christians who voted for Obama must face the fact that in doing so and helping to elect Obama they are complicit in his actions which will inevitably and tragically lead to more abortions in America.

Admiral Yamamoto, commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy in World War II, is famously (perhaps apocryphally) quoted after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor as saying: “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”. I pray fervently that like the sleeping giant we will awaken from our slumber, be filled with resolve and zeal and drive the stain of abortion from our nation.

The Obama education plan: Control over people from cradle to grave

Voddie Baucham is speaking the truth yet again.

Voddie Baucham doesn’t post anything on his blog very often, but when he does it is always “must read” material. The latest post is no exception. You should read his post And So It Begins and get a quick synopsis of the Obama agenda. Here is a clue, it is not pretty.

One of the scariest points Voddie brings up is the Obama Zero to Five plan to expand daycare, Head Start and other programs. From the White House webpage:

Early Childhood Education

• Zero to Five Plan: The Obama-Biden comprehensive "Zero to Five" plan will provide critical support to young children and their parents. Unlike other early childhood education plans, the Obama-Biden plan places key emphasis at early care and education for infants, which is essential for children to be ready to enter kindergarten. Obama and Biden will create Early Learning Challenge Grants to promote state Zero to Five efforts and help states move toward voluntary, universal pre-school.

• Expand Early Head Start and Head Start: Obama and Biden will quadruple Early Head Start, increase Head Start funding, and improve quality for both.

• Provide affordable, High-Quality Child Care: Obama and Biden will also increase access to affordable and high-quality child care to ease the burden on working families.

Even the name of the program is creepy, Zero to Five Plan. As Voddie points out, that really amounts to this: “that’s right, the government not only wants to indoctrinate your children, they want to start the moment they are born”. Maybe even earlier, it might be a good idea for the state to grab them while they are still in the fetal stage. That way the very best genetic material will be allowed to develop to birth, and the others can be experimented on or just destroyed. Who wants people running around that limp, or have poor eyesight, or maybe are not as smart as other people? The best thing they can do for our society is to be used for experiments to improve life for the more worthy, productive members of society.

Oddly one of the biggest drivers to this blog are people who do a Google search on "Obama universal preschool" and the end up at my post Obama and universal preschool. But that is not surprising, the Obama vision for universal preschool really one of the dreams of the secularist movement, to get their hands on our children at a younger and younger age to begin to instill in them their worldview and to counteract the pernicious influence of their parents. Many parents are willing participants in this because they have bought into the idea of preschool being a valuable and necessary part of a child’s education. After all it is just an extension of modern American parenting. Have a kid, put them in daycare so mom can go back to work, get them to preschool and then public school and finally send them away to college. The net result of this system of “education” is that the state will watch our children and mold them into productive units in society until they finally get old enough to move out on their own and join the workforce.

Welcome to Obamanation!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pray for repentance

Today is the anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history, the landmark and criminal Roe v. Wade decision that overrode the laws of every state and created a “right” to abortion. The right to an abortion doesn’t exist in the Constitution yet it has become the law of the land in America and tens of millions have paid the horrible, ultimate price. Thirty six years ago on January 22, 1973 by a seven to two majority, the Supreme Court of the United States made murder legal by judicial fiat. These are the seven justices who made this the law of the land:

Chief Justice Warren E. Burger. Associate Justices William O. Douglas, William J. Brennan, Jr., Potter Stewart, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, Lewis F. Powell, Jr.

These seven men have the blood of millions on their hands. Their names should be remembered in the same way we remember Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Hitler, Pol Pot, Joseph Stalin and all of the other mass murderers in human history. That may seem a harsh comparison but the death toll of abortion is staggering and was made possible by these seven men. Adolf Hitler didn’t personally kill a single Jew in a concentration camp, but he made it all possible. In the same way, these seven men may have never performed an abortion but their dishonesty and callous disregard for the law and human life has set this nation of a path of infanticide.

We stand today in a nation awash in the blood of innocents and two days ago we watched a man sworn into the office of President with the words “So help me God”, a man who supports every form of abortion no matter how hideous.

So help him God?! That man should be trembling on his knees for invoking the name of God while supporting abortion!

So help us all God, for the holocaust in our land

More stuff from the New York Times

This time the subject is Darwinian dogma in the Texas public school curriculum. It kills me how the apostles of evolution speak so confidently of how accepted and airtight Darwinian evolution is, yet when it is suggested that a public school textbook designed for practical education of a variety of students of various backgrounds actually look at various theories on the origin of life, they flip out. How dare anyone not blindly accept a given theory! Don’t you people know that every scientific advancement has been made by asserting one “scientific” fact to be true and excluding the discussion or even consideration of any other ideas! Exploring various theories and ideas in science, bah! From the article:

In Texas, a Line in the Curriculum Revives Evolution Debate

AUSTIN, Tex. — The latest round in a long-running battle over how evolution should be taught in Texas schools began in earnest Wednesday as the State Board of Education heard impassioned testimony from scientists and social conservatives on revising the science curriculum.

The debate here has far-reaching consequences; Texas is one of the nation’s biggest buyers of textbooks, and publishers are reluctant to produce different versions of the same material.

Many biologists and teachers said they feared that the board would force textbook publishers to include what skeptics see as weaknesses in Darwin’s theory to sow doubt about science and support the Biblical version of creation.

“These weaknesses that they bring forward are decades old, and they have been refuted many, many times over,” Kevin Fisher, a past president of the Science Teachers Association of Texas, said after testifying. “It’s an attempt to bring false weaknesses into the classroom in an attempt to get students to reject evolution.”

In the past, the conservatives on the education board have lacked the votes to change textbooks. This year, both sides say, the final vote, in March, is likely to be close.

But several biologists who appeared in the hearing room said the objections raised by Mr. Meyer and some board members were baseless. The majority of evidence collected over the last 150 years supports Darwin, and few dissenting opinions have survived a review by scientists.

What is really being dealt with here is whether or not a textbook can include opposing viewpoints on a controversial and far from universally accepted theory on the origins of life. I would think that a real academic who was convinced that the questions surrounding Darwinian evolution would want the chance to interact with and show conclusively that evolution is the only possible explanation for the origins of life. Especially when you consider how many people, a huge percentage of Americans, believe in some variation of the creation narrative or at least the existence of an intelligent designer who was behind it all. Instead they refuse to even consider opposing viewpoints, which really makes it look like they are afraid of the debate and are hiding behind their own dogma. Huh, and I though religious folks were the closed-minded ones…

More from the article…

“Every single thing they are representing as a weakness is a misrepresentation of science,” said David M. Hillis, a professor of biology at the University of Texas. “These are science skeptics. These are people with religious and political agendas.”

Whew, it is good to know that there is not an agenda among the academics and scientists!

Of course we also see the most grotesque of scare tactics, the notion that somehow having a textbook that seeks to ask question and explore knowledge will drive employers away…

Business leaders, meanwhile, said Texas would have trouble attracting highly educated workers and their families if the state’s science programs were seen as a laughingstock among biologists.

“The political games we are playing right now are going to burn us all,” said Eric Hennenhoefer, who owns Obsidian Software.

“Yeah we were going to build a $250 million dollar steel plant in your state, but then we looked at you high school science curriculum and pulled the plug.” I couldn’t find much about Obsidian Software other than it was founded in 1997 by three engineers. I looked into Obsidian’s hometown of Austin, Texas and it doesn’t even list them as one of Austin’s biggest employers, much less Texas. So I am not sure what qualifies Mr. Hennenhoefer as a “business leader”.

Really, in the grand scheme of things do employers really look at high school textbooks when deciding whether or not to relocate their business to a state? Even if they did, would the mere suggestion that perhaps the case for Darwinism is not as airtight as the dogma of the evolutionist priesthood makes it out to be serve as a signal for poor preparation and academic achievement? Those sorts of arguments are unserious and shrill, but all too often unchallenged. Give a company enough tax breaks and other incentives and they will move to your state. You can have the image of Charles Darwin branded on every high school student's forehead and if your business climate stinks, no one is moving there.

I don’t really have a dog in this fight. The public schools are free to do whatever they want. After all, no rational person sends their kid to a secularist government school and expects them to learn anything other than a secularist worldview that runs contrary to Christianity and the Bible. The only reasons I bring this up for comment are to remind parents that you cannot think that your kids in public schools are getting an education that is God-honoring and indeed what they are getting denies Christ and His Word, and also that your kids really aren’t getting much of an education at all when you look at how narrowly they define what knowledge is or is not approved and how much political and dogmatic agendas play into what your kids are learning. Text books, curriculum, teacher training, education programs at colleges, teachers unions all have an agenda and not much of it is supportive of the Christian worldview. There is a definite and intentional agenda defined by a secular worldview that drives what kids are learning in public schools and parents who choose to send their kids off to those schools need to get their collective heads out of the sand and realize not only what your kids are not getting (i.e. a Christian worldview education) but also what they are getting (i.e. an education that has as its core a denial of the basic truths of Christianity). There is no such thing as a value neutral educational choice, where and how your kids are educated may be one the most important decisions that a Christian parent makes. You and your kids will have to deal with the aftermath of that decision, one way or the other.

Here is a tricky and dangerous question

Dr. Mohler mentioned a recent article in the New York Times dealing with faith healing, parents refusing medical care for their minor children. This issue pops up periodically, typically when a child is severely injured or in this case dies. It sounded chilling, so I went to the article and read it in its entirety. The event cited in the NYT happened in Wisconsin…

WESTON, Wis. — Kara Neumann, 11, had grown so weak that she could not walk or speak. Her parents, who believe that God alone has the ability to heal the sick, prayed for her recovery but did not take her to a doctor.

After an aunt from California called the sheriff’s department here, frantically pleading that the sick child be rescued, an ambulance arrived at the Neumann’s rural home on the outskirts of Wausau and rushed Kara to the hospital. She was pronounced dead on arrival.
The county coroner ruled that she had died from diabetic ketoacidosis resulting from undiagnosed and untreated juvenile diabetes. The condition occurs when the body fails to produce insulin, which leads to severe dehydration and impairment of muscle, lung and heart function.
About a month after Kara’s death last March, the Marathon County state attorney, Jill Falstad, brought charges of reckless endangerment against her parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann. Despite the Neumanns’ claim that the charges violated their constitutional right to religious freedom, Judge Vincent Howard of Marathon County Circuit Court ordered Ms. Neumann to stand trial on May 14, and Mr. Neumann on June 23. If convicted, each faces up to 25 years in prison.

Set aside for a moment the issue of refusing any sort of medical care for Christians. That is a whole can of worms that really isn’t pertinent to the bigger question. There are precedents in the Bible for treatment of medical conditions, not necessarily a slew of antibiotics every time your kid gets a cold, but some kind of treatment beyond prayer. For example, Paul urges Timothy to take a little wine for his frequent stomach ailments in 1 Timothy 5:23. So setting aside the issue of modern medicine or natural remedies, the issue I want to look at has less to do with the specific example of this case (faith healing) and more to do with the general practice and protection of religious beliefs in a pluralistic, secular society. The statement that Dr. Mohler pointed out and that really struck me as well was this statement from the presiding judge:

“The free exercise clause of the First Amendment protects religious belief,” the judge wrote in his ruling, “but not necessarily conduct.”

So what this judge is saying is that the First Amendment protects your right to believe whatever you want, but not necessarily to practice your religion however you want. I don’t want to be Chicken Little here, because I know that the law exempts parents in a lot of circumstances. But also there is the issue that while the laws of an individual state protect parents, those laws can be reversed and the underlying issue is the Constitutional expression of religion and what that does or does not apply to.

What does the First Amendment say? A lot of people appeal to the First Amendment but not many actually look to see what the wording was or ask "what does it really say"? People throw the word “rights” around cavalierly but there are certain rights enumerated in the Constitution and there are lots of things that are not spoken of. This is what the First Amendment actually says and concerns:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Note that the key here is religious expression or exercise. Exercise necessarily implies not just belief but outward expression. People often say that the First Amendment protects our “freedom of religion”, but what is at stake here is not merely belief but practice as well.

Where I am troubled is the tension between parental rights and the perceived obligation of the state toward children. It is pretty easy to look at seemingly obvious cases of neglect and say the state should step in. It is harder though when you alter the fundamental ideal that the default is that parents have the right to make decisions for their children. It is not a stretch, and in fact has become law in many places, to see this intrusion spreading beyond merely issues where parents withhold medical treatment and into determining what is or is not appropriate discipline for children. Beating a child to death is not discipline but many assume that any sort of corporal correction for children is inherently child abuse. We have administered stern correction to our children on a fairly regular basis (eight kids=lots of discipline!) and there are some who would say that what we do, while commonplace a generation ago and for most of human history, amounts to child abuse. There is a stream of thought in some circles of academia that seems to be gaining credence that even religious instruction amounts to abuse of children. In other words, you are free to breed if you must but the state and the academics will decide what your kids will think, learn and how they will behave. It is not difficult to see where applications of a narrow interpretation of the First Amendment as merely protecting belief and not practice can lead to outlawing of corporal punishment and homeschooling. A perfect example of this was the raid on the polygamist compound in Texas where one unsubstantiated rumor of abuse led to armed law enforcement officials swooping in and removing hundreds of children from their homes. It took weeks for these children to be reunited with their parents. I am sure that the members of the FLDS cult assumed that could never happen, but it did and we had better be vigilant in our suburban homes and orderly mainstream churches because the same thing could happen to us.

Thus our quandary. No one likes to see an 11 year old die from a very treatable disease. The impulse can very easily be to wonder why the state didn’t step in. But when you read words like: ““The free exercise clause of the First Amendment protects religious belief, but not necessarily conduct.”, it can be chilling. Where do we draw the line? What is to regulate the well-meaning, in some cases, intrusion by the state into parental rights? The law runs on precedent and if the precedent becomes that the First Amendment, especially as it pertains to parents and children, only covers belief and not practice, what will stop the state from mandating public school for homeschooled kids, from banning any sort of corporal discipline in families, ultimately from banning religious instruction for children as being unhelpful to the promulgation of a pluralistic society? These are not alarmist statements, these are real questions we need to ask and think through before we look around and see our children being taken away.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The potential cost of "choice"

How many great people have been lost to "choice"?

(HT Joe VonDoloski)

Obama Administration Day One: Socialism is already on the march!

The Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning that the Obama administration is rushing to get more assistance to troubled banks…

Shares of the biggest names in American banking plunged Tuesday as some investors feared that the government would need to nationalize the most deeply wounded financial institutions, wiping out stockholders.

The hours-old administration of President Barack Obama is expected to move swiftly to try to stabilize the financial system by pumping more capital into weakened banks and buying bad assets. Nationalization appears to be a last resort, but other options on the table move the U.S. in that direction. In one idea under consideration, the government could buy convertible securities from financial institutions, an approach that could ultimately leave the government owning large chunks of many firms' common shares.

The scary part of that is the word “nationalization”. What does that mean?

James Smith, CEO of Webster Financial Corp., a Waterbury, Conn., lender whose shares fell 21% Tuesday, said investors seem rattled by the prospect that the government could nationalize banks and wipe out shareholders in the process. He said nationalization will likely be a last resort. "That last resort doesn't seem so far removed at this point, particularly because of valuations," Mr. Smith said. "There's a lot of fear out there."
U.S. officials are wary about taking the most extreme step -- nationalizing banks altogether -- worried about the government's ability to run them. The challenges of running Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two large mortgage-finance firms the government took over last fall, are seen as evidence of that.

But as the market value of many firms evaporates, they may be left with no other alternatives to raise cash. From a political standpoint, there's not much support for protecting shareholders of banks when the government is pouring billions of dollars into the institutions and in some cases guaranteeing their debt.

So in essence, if you own shares of stock in a bank my understanding is that your shares would lose all of their value. That would permanently wipe out a lot of wealth. If you own, as I do, shares in banks that have lost a ton of value the hope is that they will recover their value over time. But if I am understanding this correctly, nationalizing these banks means that Uncle Sam takes over and you lose your equity forever. That is not going to hurt just the fat cat bankers in pinstriped suits, smoking cigars. Lots of pension funds, mutual funds and individual investors also invest in banks and they will lose a ton of money. How confident do you feel that the same government that let Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac collapse and that handled the Hurricane Katrina aftermath will make super-great bankers? Me, not so much.

I do not think that there is not an easy answer to this problem. The fact remains that banks are one of the economic drivers of our economy, especially since we are so dependent on credit to fuel the economy. If you want to buy a car, you typically need access to credit. If you want to buy a house, same thing. Because people can’t get credit, they cannot buy and sell houses freely, leaving more and more houses in foreclosure. People can’t buy cars, so the auto plants sit empty. As I drive around the Detroit metro area, it is weird to see all these huge auto plants sitting with empty parking lots. It is going to take a lot more than empty rhetoric about “hope” and “change” to fix what ails us, it is going to take some backbone and a willingness to let things get worse before they get better. Otherwise the economic downturn will turn into a permanent state of malaise, dumping trillions of dollars in debt onto future generations and leaving much of our nation’s economy in the hands of the Federal government which will be disastrous. Some other nation will eventually fill in the vacuum whether China or India or some as yet unseen future economic power. If we abdicate control of the economy to the government, we will go the way of Western Europe as a fading power.

I would say that I got out of banking just in time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Nice political speech

But I thought it was supposed to be a prayer? Rick Warren asked for forgiveness for everything but our sins before God. At least he invoked Jesus in about a dozen different languages...

Never thought I would see the day

Setting aside, just for a second, his politics did you ever think you would see a black man standing on the steps of the Capitol taking the oath of office as President of the United States?

More on the Supper

The Assembling of the Church: What makes a meal the Lord's Supper?

Alan Knox took my previous post and launched an excellent discussion. There is a particularly interesting exchange between Alan and a guy named Todd about the nature, authority, parameters of the local church where we see the impact of traditional church definitions coloring the understanding of not just who the church is but who and what can participate in the Lord's Supper. The idea is that if an unbeliever takes the cracker and juice in a local church body, that doesn't mean he is observing the Lord's Supper because he is not one of Christ's sheep. Likewise believers in a home who are gathered in fellowship together are observing the Supper even though they are not in a church building. I particularly liked this comment from Alan:

To be completely honest, I am not interested at all in how unrengerate people approach the Lord's Supper, because they cannot partake of the Lord's Supper, even if they eat and drink. Instead, I am concerned with the church. I am not concerned with a particular church organization - with membership decided by some group or bylaws or whatever. I'm talking about God's children - the regenerate, the saved, believers, whatever you want to call them. As far as I can, in Scripture, the only requirement for being part of the church is being a child a God - being regenerate.

Check it out, this is good stuff!

A media free zone

I am declaring myself to be in a media free zone today. I listened to regular radio last night on my drive home and it was wall to wall Obama. The nonstop breathless comparisons of Obama to Lincoln, FDR, JFK and Reagan all in one are ridiculous for a man who hasn't even been sworn in yet. People are going to be awfully disappointed tomorrow morning when they find out the economy is still in the doldrums, the is still war and hatred in the world and their mortgage company still expects a payment this month.

At around noon today Obama takes office. I wish I could be as excited as so many other people, but I really wish that someone other than an far left, rabidly pro-abortion black man was the first to break the color barrier. In other words, somebody other than Barack Obama (J.C. Watts would have been nice...) This is a "historic event" (perhaps the most overused term of the year, every inauguration is a historic event) but it is also a sad one. It is a great testimony to our nation that since John Adams assumed the Presidency from George Washington in 1797 we have an unbroken string of peaceful transfers of power. Even when Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy were assassinated, our system worked and it is working again today. But it is sad that this man, of all men, is the one taking office today.

I am planning on spending some time at noon today in prayer, praying that God in His sovereign mercy will change the heart of Barack Obama as it pertains to the murder of the unborn. Proverbs 21:1 says: The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. God can change Barack Obama's heart. In fact only God can change his heart. I am praying for our nation to repent for the blood of millions of unborn innocents that has been shed in this country, sacrificed on the altar of choice and profit. I know these verses in Ezekiel are speaking of Israel and not directly applicable to America, but the theme is similar and the words are chilling.

20 And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your whorings so small a matter 21 that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them? 22 And in all your abominations and your whorings you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, wallowing in your blood. Ezekiel 16: 20-22

So let us pray today for repentance, for forgiveness, for the changed heart of a ruler. If today is not a day that inspires prayer, what day is?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Confessions, priests and control

One of the great verses concerning the forgiveness of our sins achieved at the cross of Christ is 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. How sweet are those words to the sinner! How magnificent and glorious is our Savior, faithful and just and forgiving! Unfortunately there have always been some who wish to add conditions and structures around this passage.

A new report is out that the church in Rome is seeking to reinvigorate the doctrine of penance by opening up the archives of the really bad sins that only the "pope" can forgive.

ROME – One of the Vatican's most secrecy shrouded tribunals, which handles confessions of sins so grave only the pope can grant absolution, is giving the faithful a peek into its workings for the first time in its 830-year history.

The Vatican has long lamented that fewer and fewer Catholics are going to confession, the sacrament in which the faithful can receive forgiveness if they sincerely confess their sins to a priest.

To combat the decline, the so-called "tribunal of conscience" invited the public into the frescoed halls of its imposing 16th-century palazzo for a two-day conference that ended Wednesday.

The aim was to explain what the Apostolic Penitentiary actually does, and thereby encourage more of the faithful to go to confession, said Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, the tribunal's No. 2 official.

"Even though it's the oldest department of the Holy See, it's very little known — specifically because by its nature it deals with secret things," he said. "We want to relaunch the sacrament of penance."

I found it interesting that the biggest sins are not genocide or other horrific crimes but sins that strike at Roman dogma, tradition or ceremonies.

Confessions of even the most heinous of crimes and sins — such as genocide or mass murder — are handled at the local level by priests and their bishops and are not heard by the tribunal.

Its work involves those sins that are reserved for the pope — considered so serious that a local priest or bishop is not qualified to grant absolution, said Cardinal James Francis Stafford, an American who heads the Apostolic Penitentiary.

These include defiling the Eucharist, which Catholics believe is the body and blood of Christ. Stafford said this offense is occurring with more and more frequency, not just in satanic rites but by ordinary faithful who receive Communion and then remove the host from their mouths and spit it out or otherwise desecrate it.

Others include a priest breaking the seal of the confessional by revealing the nature of the sin and the person who sought penance, or a priest who has sex with someone and then offered forgiveness for the act.

These sins bring automatic excommunication from the church. Once absolution is granted, the excommunication is lifted, Stafford said.

So what is the problem? Shouldn’t we confess our sins, isn’t that what 1 John 1:9 says? Absolutely we should confess our sins, but is it a requirement that we confess those sins to a Roman priest? For that matter do we need or should we seek a human priest at all?

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:14-16)

Christ and Christ alone is our only priest, and we no longer have nor do we need nor should we desire to have another. Is Christ sufficient or is He not?

I may not be representing the "official" dogma of the Roman church on penance, but the practical interpretation is that in order for sins to be confessed and forgiven, one must appear before a Roman official, and only a Roman official, and confess them and receive some sort of penance. From the Catholic Encyclopedia

The Sacrament of Penance

Penance is a sacrament of the New Law instituted by Christ in which forgiveness of sins committed after baptism is granted through the priest's absolution to those who with true sorrow confess their sins and promise to satisfy for the same. It is called a "sacrament" not simply a function or ceremony, because it is an outward sign instituted by Christ to impart grace to the soul. As an outward sign it comprises the actions of the penitent in presenting himself to the priest and accusing himself of his sins, and the actions of the priest in pronouncing absolution and imposing satisfaction. This whole procedure is usually called, from one of its parts, "confession", and it is said to take place in the "tribunal of penance", because it is a judicial process in which the penitent is at once the accuser, the person accused, and the witness, while the priest pronounces judgment and sentence. The grace conferred is deliverance from the guilt of sin and, in the case of mortal sin, from its eternal punishment; hence also reconciliation with God, justification. Finally, the confession is made not in the secrecy of the penitent's heart nor to a layman as friend and advocate, nor to a representative of human authority, but to a duly ordained priest with requisite jurisdiction and with the "power of the keys", i.e., the power to forgive sins which Christ granted to His Church. (Emphasis Added)

We not only don't have but we don't need a human priest nor do we worship a God unfamiliar with human suffering. He opened the way, He intercedes for His people. The idea that we need to confess a sin to a priest, or that certain sins require different levels of human intercession are foreign to the Bible and illegitimate. The only “duly ordained” priest that exists or we need is the great High Priest Jesus Christ, our only intermediary: For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (1 Tim 2:5) Why does Rome even have these sorts of dogmas when they serve no purpose and are so clearly directly contradictory with the Scripture? One word: control.

The confessional is but one of the control methods exerted by Rome. By making the institution of the church essential for all aspects of the Christian life, the institution begins to exert control over individuals. The institution of the church is the sole source for so much in the Catholic's life. Have sins you want to confess? You have to go to the priest. Baptism and communion? Available only though the institution of the church and the intermediaries it appoints. Seeking to hear the Gospel? You need a priest to declare it and interpret it for you. How can a regular Joe without a seminary degree and a priestly collar hope to read the Word and understand it? From birth through your whole life to the Last Rites at death, you are controlled by the institutional Roman church and she controls you completely because you have abdicated all control to that organization.

There are many who wish to gloss over the differences of doctrine and core beliefs between Rome and orthodox Christianity. They urge us to focus on social issues, to find common ground. Christian leaders lined up to praise deceased disciples of Rome from “Pope” John Paul to “Mother” Theresa. However there can be no common ground among those who affirm and those who deny the Gospel, a Gospel that proclaims that sinners are justified by faith alone by grace alone in Christ alone. I am all for reconciliation with Rome, just as soon as Rome rejects the anathemas of Trent, when the “pope” stops having men bow before him and kiss his ring, when Rome declares that sinners are not and cannot be justified by anything other than the blood of Christ. Isn’t that harsh, don’t we all believe in the same basic things? No, we don’t. Christians recognize that a sinner is made right with God only one way, through faith alone in Christ. That essential, core doctrine is not only not taught by Rome, it is rejected as anathema.

Canon 9: "If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema."

Canon 12: "If any one shall say that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy pardoning sins for Christ's sake, or that it is that confidence alone by which we are justified ... let him be accursed"

Canon 30: "If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema."

(for a complete list of these anathemas and the Scriptural refutation of them, see CARM’s article Council of Trent: Canons on Justification)

So what the Roman leaders at the Council of Trent declared almost 500 years ago, and has never been refuted or reversed by Rome, is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ of the unmerited justification of sinners by faith alone is anathema. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is declared accursed. How can we have any sort of fellowship with an institution that declares the Gospel anathema?

Unfortunately there are some creeping intrusions and some vestiges of Romanism in many Christian institutions and organizations.

Try becoming a member at a local Baptist church without having been properly baptized in a like-minded church. Try telling them that your friend Steve, who is a mature and committed Christian lay person, witnessed to you of Christ and after much prayer and wrestling with the Word you were born again by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit and submitted to baptism by Steve in a local river in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. See if that flies. Why, how can that be? Your friend Steve has not been duly ordained by a registered, incorporated 501(c)(3) church body! You need a pastor to interview you to make sure you are really saved, as if a pastor is more apt to recognize the fruit of conversion than a lay person. As if men with seminary degrees are not baptizing people who show no sign of regeneration outside of walking an aisle every Sunday across this nation. The heresies of Rome are insidious and seductive. The only defense against them is the Word. Stray from that and start placing your trust in men, in confession, in organizations and the slippery slope becomes almost inevitable.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

Consider yourself warned

I am trying to clean out the 80 draft blog posts I have accumulated over the last year or so and I am feeling feisty and full of (self) righteous indignation, so it is going to be blogging fast and furious and more than a little smarmy.

You have been warned.

Two thoughts on headcovering

So I keep beating this drum, and I imagine that those few hardy souls who read this blog are getting sick to death of hearing about it and frankly I am getting a little weary of writing about it. Having said that, I find myself writing about head covering again because I really think that this issue is one that exposes the disconnect between what is said and what is practiced in so many churches. It is said that this church or that is all about the inerrancy and infallibility of the Scripture, but there are still places where church traditions run contrary to the Word, and too often the tradition wins. The wearing of headcovers is kind of my poster child for the need for reformation in the church, not because I think that if all Christian women start to cover their heads it will fix all of the problems in the church but because it is an issue that really gets under the skin of the traditionalists in the institutional church. It is interesting the reaction some people have to this issue. Many people give it careful and prayerful study and consideration. Not all of them come to the same conclusion but at least they are working through the issue. However some people see this issue as a threat to their traditions and as such seek to quash it. Often times the source of this hostility is the pulpit or the pen of “learned” men. Some men preach on this text when they come across it through expository preaching and some men preach on it to make some sort of point. When you preach with a personal agenda instead of preaching the Word, you are on shaky ground.

What kind of set me off again was that I read John MacArthur in a sermon dealing with the first half of 1 Corinthians 11 called The Subordination and Equality of Women . One of his opening paragraphs says:

To try to understand exactly what the situation was in the city of Corinth secularly, what it was in the church of Corinth in terms of the spiritual life, what was going on in the mind of Paul and push all of that up into the modern day is not easy. We don't have a lot of background.

It is intersting that Dr. MacArthur admits that we don't have a lot of the background on Corinth, but that doesn't stop him from using that limited knowledge to deny what Paul wrote. Dr. MacArthur’s mantra regarding headcovering is: It's cultural, it's cultural, and it’s cultural! But in other places, he argues just the opposite about other Scriptural issues regarding men and women. Biblical complementarians have a rocky path when affirming Biblical roles for men and women against the prevailing culture on one hand but then appealing to cultural norms and practices to reject women covering their heads on the other.

So I have two points that have come to mind regarding the practice of head covering.

The first goes back to the primary argument against headcovering, the culture of Corinth argument. The argument that headcovering is cultural and reserved for Corinth at that time and in that place only can sound great on the surface, and indeed much of the reasoning is sound. There is only one problem. The culture argument doesn't exist. Paul nowhere in 1 Corinthians 11 refers to head covering as a cultural issue or one reserved for Corinth. He barely speaks of Corinth at all. The language he uses is anything but specific to Corinth but is instead appealing to universal doctrines of creation order, of Biblical headship, of submission.

What the “it is only cultural” arguments try to do is impose a cultural framework, a cultural explanation for headcovering where one doesn't exist in the Scriptures. It may be true that headcovering was a tradition of Corinth, but that is irrelevant to the text because Paul does not appeal to or refer to that cultural tradition of Corinth at all. In fact the traditions he does refer to are traditions that he taught them, not local traditions: …maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.(1 Cor 11:2, emphasis added). Paul certainly did not deliver the traditions of Corinth to the Corinthian people. That would be like someone from India flying to Boston on St. Patrick’s Day to deliver the traditional Irish celebration of that holiday. So how does it make any sense to assume that Paul is speaking of Corinthian traditions when he explicitly says to maintain the traditions he brought and makes no mention of the alleged Corinthian traditions at all? All throughout the New Testament we make universal applications of teachings addressed to specific locales. Even in 1 Corinthians 1 we see the admonition of Paul against factions within the church. That was a problem apparently in Corinth because he specifically says it was an issue, but the application is universal. What about 1 Corinthians 5? I assume that no one brushes off the admonition against having relations with your step-mom as being a cultural issue!

What we see is the taking of a cultural norm, and I am not sure if it really is a cultural norm in Corinth or not, I am just taking their word for it, and then assuming that is what the Scripture is speaking of. I would hazard that many of the men who throw the “Corinthian culture” argument out really don’t know a thing about the culture in Corinth outside of what they have read someone else say about Corinthian culture. Good, solid, conservative Christian teachers would reject the idea of applying external culture to the Scripture in issues ranging from women teachers to divorce to homosexuality. Yet they will stumble over themselves in finding alleged cultural norms in Corinth to explain away headcovering. The modus operandi is to throw out some assertions about life in Corinth, say that is what Paul is talking about, quote a couple of famous contemporary Bible teachers and then slip out the back door. There is a logical fallacy here. Just because a condition exists does not in and of itself require that it is the underlying issue especially when Paul makes no mention of the culture of Corinth in relation to head covering. None.

The second point is this. Even if you say that 1 Corinthians 11 is speaking of headcovering as a cultural manifestation of a wife's Biblical submission to her husband, which I reject but go with it for a second, doesn't that mean that even if headcovering itself is not a universal principle, then the principle of a wife exhibiting submission publicly to her husband is a universal principle? Verse 10 says: That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. (1 Cor 11:10). If we say that headcovering itself was a cultural symbol, the underlying universal principle is that women should exhibit some sort of sign of the authority of her husband. But what symbol of submission do we see in our culture? Honestly, outside of headcovering there isn't one. I have already dealt with the wedding ring, that is clearly not a sign of submission. Some of the most cowed men in America have wives wearing rings. So what else is there? Is there a suitable substitute? Can proper behavior substitute for a sign or symbol of authority? If an angel or messenger or visitor sees women in church with heads bowed and praying, how can they tell who are living under the Biblical authority of their husbands without a visible sign? How can we tell a woman who accepts and embraces the authority of her husband from one who doesn’t? Maybe they can wear little buttons with an “S” for submissive? Or maybe, just maybe, they could wear a covering on their head.

I can assure you of this, within the church, a woman who is wearing a headcovering is seen as exhibiting submission to her husband. Many of the feminized, egalitarian, "submissive in name alone" women in church will pity the poor thing but they will understand what she is doing even in today's Biblically illiterate church. I am one of the few male bloggers who speak of headcovering, most of the advocates of headcovering are women and their husbands are the reluctant ones. Those women are not poor repressed creatures, they are seeking to walk more closely in accord with the Word and that should be praiseworthy and not downtrodden by self-proclaimed learned men. Would that more Christians sought a closer walk of obedience to Scripture in deed and not just word! I am convinced that for the majority of women in the church, the issue has little to do with head covering in and of itself, rather it is a visceral reaction to being told what to do coupled with a reluctance on the part of men to tell them what they should be doing. I get nauseous when I listen to or read of men from the pulpit dealing with Ephesians 5:22 or 1 Timothy 2:12 stammering or wringing their hands or telling jokes or worst of all apologizing to avoid the wrath of women because they are afraid to preach what God's Word says for fear of offense. Man up and preach the Word boldly or sit down and be quiet! If you cause offense to the unruly and disobedient and they stop giving, get a job and keep preaching!

Ultimately the practice of headcovering should have one goal, that is of giving glory to God. 1 Corinthians 10: 31 says So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. What we do, we ought to do for the glory of God. If you cover your head or if your wife covers her head, it ought to be done out of obedience to the Word in command and out of Biblical submission. But above all it should be done to the glory of God. Not so you can seem externally more pious than your neighbor, or so you can use it as an exclusion of others but as a humble submission to the apostle’s teaching.

(To those who rail against headcovering, how is doing so bringing glory to God?)

Just in time for the Coronation

I am not a big bumper sticker person and I am not a big unsolicited email person, but I saw an email ad in my spam folder, checked it out and had to order it. I am proudly sporting this bumper sticker on my truck. It kind of says it all.

You can order yours here, only a buck for shipping and handling!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Political free speech is un-American?

Tom Hanks is one of America's most beloved actors and directors. He has always struck me as someone apolitical, you just never heard him making inane political comments as so many other Hollywood types feel inclined and empowered to do because they have become rich and famous pretending to be someone else.

But apparently he thinks that only certain free speech is acceptable and by his statements shows himself to be just another one of Hollywood's self-declared cultural prophets. Mr. Hanks recently expressed his opinion of the mormon church and California's Proposition 8 at the premier of Big Love, his show about a polygamous family in Utah.

Tom Hanks, an Executive Producer for HBO’s controversial polygamist series “Big Love,” made his feelings toward the Mormon Church’s involvement in California's Prop 8 (which prohibits gay marriage) very clear at the show’s premiere party on Wednesday night.

“The truth is this takes place in Utah, the truth is these people are some bizarre offshoot of the Mormon Church, and the truth is a lot of Mormons gave a lot of money to the church to make Prop-8 happen,” he told Tarts. “There are a lot of people who feel that is un-American, and I am one of them. I do not like to see any discrimination codified on any piece of paper, any of the 50 states in America, but here's what happens now. A little bit of light can be shed, and people can see who's responsible, and that can motivate the next go around of our self correcting Constitution, and hopefully we can move forward instead of backwards. So let's have faith in not only the American, but Californian, constitutional process.”

Apparently the "constitutional process" doesn't mean that the people should be able to make their will law, but instead means that the courts can feel free and be encouraged to overturn the will of the people, declaring constitutional amendments to be unconstitutional. As I have mentioned before and what should be clear from my writings is that theologically I have no allegiance with mormonism, nor do I consider them suitable allies in any sort of cultural crusades. Mormons, members of the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" are a lost people group nor different than Muslims or Hindus. "Enemy of my enemy is my friend" doesn't work with the Gospel. We can have no fellowship nor friendship with enemies of the Gospel.

Having said that, the idea that mormons using their own resources to stand up for a cause that they believe strongly in qualifies as "un-American" demonstrates the opinion of someone who is obscenely ignorant. The right to free speech and free religious expression is foundational to our republic. I think the Founding Fathers might have had a comment or two about that...

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

So where do we see that mormons do not have the right, individually or collectively, to express their political will? Where is it un-American? Mr. Hanks has a disturbing and quite dangerous idea of what American Constitutional government is founded upon. His sort of freedom is the same sort of freedom we saw in every totalitarian government that has ever existed. Certain ideas are approved by the elites, and other ideas are considered dangerous and deserving of being suppressed. What he is counting on, the California Supreme Court overturning the will of the people, is an intrusion in the democratic process that is unprecedented.

Bill McKeever from the Mormonism Research Ministry is quoted in the Fox News article and I affirm what he says:

Bill McKeever, a rep for the Mormonism Research Ministry, added, “Personally, I find it un-American to tell people that they shouldn’t vote their conscience. Hanks said he doesn’t ‘like to see any discrimination codified on any piece of paper.’ Considering that just about every law discriminates in some form or another, makes this comment ridiculous. Hanks’ comment shows that he very much believes in discriminating against people with whom he disagrees. I may not agree with Mormon theology, but I certainly defend their right to express their opinion.”

Our differences with mormons does not mean that they do not have the same rights as any other Americans, and as a religious group they have even greater protections under our system of government. We should witness to mormons with the Gospel of Jesus Christ but we should also defend their right to free speech as vociferously as we would any other Americans.