Monday, September 25, 2017

On Taking A Knee, SOBs And White Supremacists Hiding Under Your Bed

Everyone else is weighing in on the kneeling for the anthem thing, it even trended on Twitter with dueling hashtags, #TakeTheKnee and #TakeAStandNotAKnee, so I might as well too.

I am going to "get real" as the hep cats say these days when cutting a rug at the sockhop so hold onto your hats.

Let me state at the outset that I believe anyone can speak their mind on any topic at any time. If you want to kneel during the National Anthem, that is your right as a citizen of the United States. I don't put my hand over my heart when it is sung for the same reason I don't say the Pledge, my loyalty is to my King, not a specific country, but I do remove my hat out of respect for this nation.

Also, Trump weighing in on this controversy in his normal brash New York style is unhelpful but that is what we expect from him. If you taunt a bull, he is going to charge and a lot of people in America are the political equivalent of rodeo clowns, on several levels.

On the other hand, NFL players are employees representing their employers who pay them millions to entertain fans. The NFL has a compelling interest in protecting their brand which is one of the most valuable in the world. When I worked for a place like Fidelity Investments back in the day and was on business, or wearing their logo on my shirt, I kept controversial opinions to myself. A business lunch is not the place to discuss controversial topics. I was on my employer's dime and was representing them to clients with tens or hundreds of millions invested in that organization, so I didn't have any First Amendment right to endanger that relationship. I used to quietly pray before meals at business lunches but I didn't try to proselytize my clients. The NFL would be well within their rights to fine or otherwise punish players that are clearly doing damage to the relationship between the NFL and their customers, i.e. the fans and the advertising sponsors.

Also on a different other hand, while it is not required, it would be nice if the NFL players kneeling had a clue what it is they are protesting other than vague references to "racism" and "police brutality" and of course "White supremacy". The last is my favorite. "White supremacy" has entered the meaningless and counter-productive word lexicon. Everything is White supremacy. Trump winning? White supremacy. People who are understandably upset at players seeming to disrespect the flag and the police that they expect to protect them while playing? White supremacy. I put together a handy infographic about this over the weekend....

Perhaps an exaggeration but not a huge one. Colin Kapernick, who is an utter idiot and mediocre quarterback by the way, at least has clumsily tried to explain why he was kneeling (hint, it had something to do with cops like the ones depicted as pigs on his socks. Classy!). The rest of these guys I think are just doing it to virtue signal or as a more polite middle finger to Trump, which I can't really blame them for.

A particular scene stood out for me yesterday from the Detroit Lions game against the Atlanta Falcons. Rico Lavelle, who I have never heard of,  the guy who sang the national anthem which is a great honor for any singer, took the opportunity to kneel at the end and toss up the black power fist salute.

Let me be clear. The black power fist symbolizes a lot of things to me and none of them are very positive. It brings to mind things like the Black Panthers, black nationalism, the violence of the radical movements of civil rights era. To me and many White Americans, right or wrong, the black power salute is a tacit threat. In a way it is a gesture symbolic of racial animus like a skinhead giving the Nazi salute. Think that is an exaggeration? The black man who allegedly murdered one and shot multiple other White churchgoers in Antioch, Tennessee yesterday, Emanuel Kidega Samson, is a Sudanese immigrant who has on his (not taken down yet but soon to be) Facebook profile this picture that was once his cover photo:

I pulled the above screenshot from his page myself lest you think this is some conspiracy theory or photoshopping. I don't think everyone throwing up a black power salute is a potential mass shooter but I also don't think that anyone who is a White nationalist is one step away from tossing Jews in an oven. So don't tell me there isn't a more sinister meaning behind the black power salute, even if most people don't realize it.

What I found even worse is that there are four little black boys in the picture, all looking at Mr. Lavelle, while he kneels and throws up the black power salute. The little boy on the right especially is looking at that raised fist. I wonder what they were thinking? Here is the harsh reality of life for young black boys that live in Detroit....

Detroit has long been one of the most murder prone cities in the country. The raw number of murders might not be as high as Chicago but that is thanks only to the plummeting population of Detroit. The per capita rate of murder in Detroit is often at the top and this year is in second place thanks to the ongoing slaughter in St. Louis, ironically home to the most recent racial unrest. Check out this chart:

What do the top five cities on this list, with widely outsized murder rates, have in common? In 2010 Detroit's population was 82.7% black. St. Louis was 49.2% black, the largest racial group. New Orleans was over 60% black. Baltimore is around 63% black. Newark is over 52% black.

You want to know who is getting murdered in Detroit?

Young black men.

You want to know who is murdering them?

Young black men.

This is the truth that everyone knows but no one wants to say speak out loud. Let me be even more uncharacteristically blunt. When those four black boys in that photo grow up, there are statistically at far greater risk of harm from each other than they are from any White person or any cop for that matter. Cops killing black men without cause is an issue but compared to black men killing other black men it is way down on the list.

While people like Ta-neshi Coates get wealthy selling books and essays about the "White supremacist" bogeyman, and the number of actual White supremacists as distinguished from the more common White nationalists is tiny, the real threat to the lives of black men is primarily and almost exclusively from other black men.

I hope someone sits down with those four young boys and explains to them that killing each other over drug turf and personal insults is a certain way to end up in jail, dead or eventually both and that perpetuating this cycle of violence is destroying any future for blacks in America. It is easier, more politically expedient and more personally enriching to blame all of your community's problems on the "other" of "White supremacy" but the overriding problem in the black community is a lack of personal responsibility. You are free to dismiss that assertion but I stand by it nonetheless. Playing the perpetual victim card has led us to where we are today and the black community desperately needs voices to stand up and say "Stop blaming other people for your problems and for crying out loud stop shooting each other!". Saying stuff like that won't get you published in the elite newspapers and magazines and probably won't get you book deals but if enough black men start to speak up and say to each other that enough is enough it might be what their community needs to pull back from the abyss.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

It's Your Time!

The United Methodist Church in the nearest decent sized town has started a new worship service and is trying something revolutionary: a 30 minute service!

There are signs for this all over the place around town. I think the message is clear:
"You feel obligated to 'go to church' but you don't want to invest anymore time than is absolutely necessary"
I wonder how long the sermon is. You can't really get much more than a welcome, quick prayer, a couple of songs and then a 10 minute sermon.

Seriously though, if I am going to go to the effort of getting dressed and rounding up my family, I at least want to hear someone spend more time on his talk than it takes the average church-goer to flip to the correct chapter and verse. I don't think that monologue sermons are the best way to teach and equip but that is what the vast majority of Christians seem to like so if you are going to do a worship service with (I assume) a sermon, please make it worth the effort to come listen to. 

We can't be far away from this video becoming a reality.

Church: It's YOUR Time!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

I Will

This morning in Sunday school we were looking at the beginning of the episodes in Exodus that precede the Passover. Here was a critical juncture I saw that reveals God's plan for the Pharaoh and for His people:
But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. (Exodus 7:3-4)
I will harden Pharaoh's heart so he will not let the people go in spite of the incredible deeds I will perform. Then in spite of this I will nevertheless bring My people out of the land of Egypt. This entire event is not some sort of contest between Moses and Pharaoh with God acting to tilt the balance for Moses as we seem to think it is based on movies and cartoons. It is all about God.

God is very clear about his intent. He says exactly what is going on and why right after these verses:
The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” (Exodus 7:5)
Later Paul recounts the reason God raised up Pharaoh in the first place:
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Romans 9:17)
Pharaoh existed in that time and place and had the power that he did for the sole reason that God raised him up so He could harden his heart and dash him down to show his own glory. The world was created so that God can demonstrate His glory to His creatures and the Scriptures exist to record this. The only proper response of man is to worship God and glorify His name, as the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism famously says:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Everything God does in the Scriptures, culminating in His crowning moment of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of His Son, is done for the sole purpose of glorifying Himself, not in a self-serving or narcissistic way but as a means of rightly demonstrating His infinite and perfect glory.

Over 300 times in the Pentateuch alone God uses the phrase "I will" and it appears almost innumerable times in Scripture as a whole, the exact phrase appearing over 2000 times in the ESV. One of my favorite is in God's prophecy against the shepherds of Israel. After scourging them for their selfishness He steps in and gives the prefiguring vision of His Son coming to be the Good Shepherd of His sheep....
“For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. (Ezekiel 34:11-16)
I will, I will, I will.....the only worthwhile promises in this world are those made by the Covenant-Making Lord.

And of course the most powerful use of "I will" in the Scriptures is in the New Covenant promise, emphasis mine....
For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:8-12)
I will remember their sins no more. That is the promise of the Gospel that is inextricably linked with the New Covenant. This is what God is working toward through every "I will" in Scripture, bringing to pass redemption for His elect people by His own Hand through the cross-work of His Son and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.

It is so vital that we read things like the plagues leading up to the Passover with an eye on Jesus. Too often we treat the Bible as if it were a series of unrelated religious stories, an Aesop's Fables but with a cross, instead of an interconnected series of revelations of God intervening in His Creation to bring to fruition His ultimate will. The Bible is God enforcing His will on His creation as is His utter right to do so.

We can know that what God said He would do in Scripture really happened and what He has promised will yet come will likewise come to fruition because it is His will. When God says "I will" he cannot do anything but make this come to pass. This is the story of redemption that is the spine of the Bible, God saying "I will" and then doing it. I am comforted that our God is a God of "I will" instead of a God of "I might" or "Gee I wish I could". The distinction makes all of the difference for eternity.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sixteen Years Later

With the news of hurricanes and the endless political squabbling among the spoiled children that "represent" us in Congress and the White House, it is perhaps understandable that we neglect September 11th. But it is not forgotten in our home. My wife and I talked about how raw the emotions still are today, how videos of that day still give me that feeling of being punched in the stomach. I still remember being on the phone with my wife from work and her telling me another plane hit the World Trade Center and just like that we all knew this was no accident.

The days that followed were like a waking nightmare as we learned more, or at least thought we learned more. Three days after the attacks President Bush gave a speech at the National Cathedral. Like pretty much every American I watched our President speak from the pulpit and offer both soothing words and the threat of violence to come.

Some of the language he used that night was inspiring at the time but seems almost ominous now...
Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history, but our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil. War has been waged against us by stealth and deceit and murder. This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others; it will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing.
A Christian man standing in a pulpit pledging to rid the world of evil, something that he and I should have known was foolish. Just three days had passed but the wheels of vengeance were already turning. Not just vengeance toward those that had carried out the September 11th attacks but those we felt helped or inspired them, those that supported terror or those we just didn't like. I went as far as getting a military physical in Columbus, Ohio and was really just days away from going into the Air Force Officer Candidate School, inspired by a need for vengeance.

Weeks after September 11th, U.S. and NATO forces entered Afghanistan. By the end of January 2002 President Bush gave his "Axis of Evil" speech. About a year later we invaded Iraq.

Osama bin Laden is long dead, killed in Pakistan while living like an animal. Saddam Hussein is dead, executed by his people, after being captured and dragged from his hole. Taliban leader Mullah Omar is dead of natural causes. We have killed and killed and killed.

We won!


The images above are the sort of images that have dominated the last 16 years. My son that was 2 at the time is now old enough to enlist, although he absolutely is not, to fight in the wars we started after September 11th and that we still are fighting. Three of my kids were not even born yet. Almost 7000 Americans have died in the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and untold tens of thousands more are wounded and maimed in body and mind. The butcher's bill for Iraq and Afghanistan among their civilians is staggering. Still there is no end in sight, especially in Afghanistan, a nation rightly called the place where empires go to die.

The current instability of the Middle East is a direct result of our meddling in the area. When you look at the conflagration in Syria, Libya, Yemen, etc. along with the rise of ISIS and the endless sectarian wars in Iraq, you can draw a line straight back to the decision to use 9/11 as cover to invade and "liberate" Iraq. The Taliban in Afghanistan are poised to take back over the moment we leave and this has led to a deadly standoff where we can't afford to stay when we have no mission but we don't dare leave and allow the Taliban to take back over.

You can say many things about the aftermath of September 11th and most of them are some variation of "We screwed up" and thanks to that screw-up, tens of thousands of people are dead. Radicalism is ascendant across the Middle East. Terror attacks are a weekly occurrence in Europe. I and many other suspect very strongly that there is a lot about September 11th itself as well as the aftermath that we don't know and could only guess at but it is certainly true that our trust in our government is at an all-time low.

Decades of meddling in the Middle East led to the September 11th attacks and the years following have only made things worse. I can only hope that at some point we finally learn our lessons before something even worse than 9/11 happens. I can't say I am terribly optimistic that will be the case.

Never forget September 11th and never forget what happens when a nation uses a tragedy to start an even greater tragedy.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Real Misogynists Are Far Left Men

One of my working theories is that many men on the political far Left who proclaim the loudest that they respect womyn and are "male feminists" actually hate women. I think the reason for this is that modern feminism is basically man hating. That sounds kind of Rush Limbaugh-esque but it also happens to be true. Contemporary feminism seems mostly concerned less with women having equal opportunities as men and more with the absolute degrading of men. What this leads to is a weird self-loathing from liberal men who are forced to despise and hide their own maleness to appear properly "woke". What it doesn't do is eliminate their maleness, as much as they might try to make it appear that way. What it simply does is force it below the surface where it boils up from time to time when there is an "acceptable" female target. You saw this a lot with Sarah Palin who so incensed liberals that there were lots of sexually violent insults hurled at her. Playboy Magazine ran an article by Guy Cimbalo, since deleted, listing conservative women that the author would like to rape. Even leftist luminary J.K. Rowling went on a Twitter rampage about the way liberal men attack women that are "safe targets" because of their politics. Here is the money tweet, number 3 of 14:

The "mask slipping" is a perfect way to describe it. It is very sad and disturbing but not surprising. These "men" hate women because of what they perceive women have done to them in the name of feminism.

Enter ambulance chaser and pro-rape lawyer Robert Ranco of the Carlson Law Firm in Texas that specializes in "personal injury" (i.e. ambulance chasers), medical malpractice, divorce, etc. In other words a pretty garden variety sleazy law firm. Mr. Ranco is obviously a top-notch lawyer and you can reach him by calling 512-346-5688. Mr. Ranco is a graduate of the prestigious University of Maine School of Law and is an undergraduate music major from Dartmouth. Maine is ranked the 139th best law school by U.S. News and World Report which places it in high class company like the University of Akron, the Universities of both North and South Dakota and the University of the Pacific. In fact since they only gave out numerical rankings from 1-148, Mr. Ranco graduated from a law school ranked in the bottom 7%. It is hard to imagine how he ended up an ambulance chaser instead a Supreme Court Justice with credentials like that. Maybe he just cares too much about people who get rear-ended in Texas to bother with a trifle like the Constitution. What is really funny is how his bio describes him:

If you missed it here is the critical sentence:

The quick witted, Ivy League educated lawyer with an easy going attitude and an appreciate for the arts...

Apparently an Ivy League education (an undergrad music degree from Dartmouth) doesn't mean much as they don't teach grammar these days.

Anyway, Mr. Ranco fired off the following tweet, followed very quickly by making his account private and then deleting it entirely but not quickly enough. You can't undo what you say on the internet, something you would think an "Ivy League educated lawyer" would have known.

Quick witted and easy going indeed! Nothing says quick witted like posting a pro-rape tweet about a Cabinet Secretary and nothing says easy going like sort of wishing someone you don't even know would get raped because she holds the primitive and patriarchal notion that college men should have some basic legal protections when accused of a felony. I guess they didn't cover that sort of stuff in the rarefied air of the University of Maine School of Law. They must have been too busy talking about coaching plaintiffs to show maximum discomfort and emotional distress on the stand.

When someone tells you how liberals respect women and how conservatives hate women, just remember that when the "mask slips" you see an awful lot of liberal men demonstrating a misogyny that puts Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump to shame.

I don't advocate rape but I am pretty much OK with it

Saturday, September 09, 2017

The Twin (Fatal?) Weaknesses Of The Organic Church Movement

My wife and I did something last Sunday that we haven't done in a long time. We not only went to a Sunday morning service, we went back for the evening service. It was nice. It was the closest Southern Baptist affiliated church to us and as we came to Christ and spent much of our early journey in SBC churches, it was very familiar. We didn't feel like outsiders and that was a nice change of pace.

We knew the hymns. We understood what they were saying. We get where they were focused. I went to a men's breakfast this morning at this same felllowship and we are going tomorrow as a family. It is not lost on me that it was pretty much the opposite of what I have been searching for these many years. I just simply have come to the point where I am waving the white flag.

I largely gave up on the house church model for us for two reasons and neither of them is based on finding that what I have been talking about to be incorrect.

The first problem is that there are not nearly enough mature believers to make it work. This includes a lot of house church types I have run into, one group locally especially. House churches require strong, mature believers to work properly because it is far too easy to fade into the background. I have been guilty of expecting the rank and file of Christians to embrace a church model when so many of them are lacking in basic foundations. I know that the reason they are lacking those foundations is largely because of the weakness of the institutional church model but on the other hand I have met quite a few advocates of organic church that are mostly marked by rejecting the institutional church not entirely because it is a principled stand but because they are disaffected and disgruntled. More on that disaffection in a moment. My expectation has been that if I can find a group that meets in the right way, they will naturally be mature or at least eager to become mature. That hasn't been the case and a big reason for that is the second problem.

The second problem is that there simply are not many Christians interested in an organic church setting where we live. Most of the Christians we know, including many very devout, loving, service and evangelism oriented and mature Christians, are perfectly fine with the institutional church setting. Many of them are doing great work for the Kingdom while I am spending time telling institutional churches why what they are doing is wrong. I don't think I am wrong for pointing out where we stray from Scripture, God forbid I think such a thing in the year we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation! It simply isn't doing much good for others and for me it has been spiritually damaging, for me personally and for my wife and kids. Being largely disengaged from the broader church coupled with my own mental health issues has left my family rather adrift these last several years. Meanwhile the people I have talked to have often even agreed with me but are not looking to radically break with the traditional church model. So I for the most part am spending Sunday mornings sitting at home "being right" while people who are "doing it wrong" are fellowshipping and worshiping and serving. Somehow that doesn't seem to be a worthwhile trade-off for me.

As I have warned in the past the general disaffection of too many house church types leads a lot of organic or house-church types of groups to embrace anyone that is also anti-institutional which opens the door for wolves of all sorts. From people with a particular drum to bang to garden variety false teachers to out and out heretics, the leadership of the house church/organic church movement is a pretty shaky bunch. I have run into some serious egomaniacs personally as well as people with outright erroneous theology and even more with shaky practice especially as it applies to gender. For every New Testament Reformation Fellowship which I think comes the closest of any group, house church or not, to joining really rock solid theology with proper practice, there are people who embrace radical egalitarianism, open theism, possess critical spirits and prickly personalities and many who have an ego that puts megachurch pastors to shame. Not everyone of course but enough that it seems to be a pattern that has turned me off of the entire movement. That led to trying the Anabaptist route but as I have blogged before that is a tough nut to crack if you aren't raised in it and I have just gotten tired of trying and being made to feel, rarely intentionally, as if we just weren't good enough for conservative Anabaptists.

The organic/house church movement seems to be sort of the ecclesiastical equivalent of libertarianism. It sounds great in theory, and is fun to argue about and makes for decent blogging but in practice it just hasn't worked for us. It absolutely has for other people and that is great, and I envy them, but after years of trying I find that as the father and husband, the head of the household, I need to do what is healthiest for my family now.

That doesn't mean that what I have been talking about is not Scripturally accurate. I think that ideally a lot of these things I have been advocating for are the closest to the Scriptural model and command than traditional institutional church models.

I think ideally communion in the church should be a full meal, breaking actual bread and passing an actual cup as part of a love feast in the church. A mostly silent passing of a plate with a scrap of some baked product and a little plastic cup of wine or grape juice completely misses the joyous celebration and the pre-figuring of the Wedding Supper of the Lamb that the Lord's Supper is supposed to represent. Having a communal meal around a table facing one another is completely different from silently eating an oyster cracker staring at the head of the person in the pew in front of you.

I think ideally church should be far more participatory. I don't mean chaotic where everyone is just hollering out whatever comes to their mind but in the sense where multiple brothers are involved substantively in the gathering ministry of the church. I don't think everyone would participate every gathering but I do think that every brother should have a significant part to play on a regular basis in keeping with their talents and comfort.

I think ideally far fewer men should be paid for ministry and that the primary reason men would be paid is to support them during the work of evangelism and church planting while they are training and equipping the local elders of the church before moving on. The model of Paul would be what I have in mind, lower case "a" apostolic workers that plant local churches and teach there until that local church is ready to strike out without him. In other words every pastor should be preaching himself out of a job. That is why I also think that ideally pastors should be bi-vocational so that they have job skills and income not dependent on being a minister. When you rely on the giving of a local church to feed and house your family it cannot but subtly change what you are saying and doing. Paul was a tent-maker and supported himself while preaching the Good News:
After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. (Acts 18:1-4)
He took pains to remind others that he earned his own way (Acts 20:33-35) and that although as an apostle (not an elder/pastor) he had the right to ask for financial support, he chose not to and supported himself to avoid being a stumbling block to the Gospel. In the one place where he does mention receiving financial support while ministering in Corinth he also called it robbing from the churches in Macedonia that we supporting him (2 Corinthians 11:8).

I think ideally local gatherings should be fairly limited in size. When you get more than 150 people it can be easy to start to lose track of one another. The goal should not be to see how big you can grow one church but for churches to be self-replicating, growing in size and then starting a new fellowship. A church that is ever larger only serves to pad the ego of the pastor and enable the attendees to remain anonymous.

I think ideally the local church gathering should be mostly focused on equipping and encouraging rather than worshiptainment. The point of the church gathering is not to sing some songs and have an emotional experience that makes you feel good about God for an hour, it is to equip you for the work of ministry. In other words, the week is not a six day interlude between church services, the church service is a preparatory training session to send men and women into the mission field that is all around each of us.

So yeah, all of that.

I will never stop seeking to see the church reformed and reforming. Semper reformanda for me means always holding up the Scriptures to ensure we have not strayed, rather than asking "What would Calvin do?". For now that means just getting into a fellowship, finding support and supporting fellow believers, asking the local church to come alongside and help us in discipling ourselves, our children and in turn discipling others. A fellowship that is loving and centered around the Scriptures beats a fellowship of one.

So we will see. I admit to being equal parts excited and concerned. Once you let the genie of questioning our established church traditions out of the bottle, you can't put it back. The real issue is what you do with it going forward and that is what I am about to find out, starting in about 13 hours.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

A DACA Parable

A father and his three children live in a somewhat ramshackle home in a neighborhood that is crime ridden, has poor schools and few decent job prospects within reasonable commuting distance. The dad is a good guy and wants the best for his kids but doesn't feel as though he has the opportunities he might want in his neighborhood. He could relocate within his neighborhood and perhaps get into better schools for his kids and be closer to decent work but he can’t help but look to the suburbs to the north where the schools are much better, there is far less crime and there are good jobs a-plenty. It is pretty far away but they seem to have it better.

So this dad, in the interests of his kids, decides to break into the nice home of a person that lives in the northern suburbs and happens to be away on vacation. Perhaps the dad jimmies the lock or perhaps the door was left unlocked, either way they do not have permission to be in this house. The kids might not realize they are doing something wrong but the dad certainly does. They help themselves to the contents of the fridge, hook up to the wifi, watch some cable TV and crash on the couch. Let us even assume that they clean up their dishes and generally tidy up themselves, perhaps even doing some minor repairs around the house. They are not trashing the place or doing any lasting damage but they are without question breaking the law. This goes on for a week.

Well a neighbor sees people in the house and she knows no one should be there as she was asked to keep an eye on the place. She calls the police and they show up at the house. There isn’t any sort of scuffle, the dad knows he is busted and is going away. His concern of course is for his kids. At the same time the home owners show up, having been contacted by the watchful neighbor. They are shaken up as anyone would be upon finding their home had been broken into. They watch as the police put the dad into the back of a patrol car to be taken to the station for processing. Another officer asks them to come inside to make a statement.

The shaken husband and wife bring their kids into the house and head for the living room so they can sit and make their statement but upon arriving in the living room they are shocked to see the three kids have been left behind after their father was arrested. The home owners are startled and look at the cop in dismay. “Why are the kids still here?” they demand?

The cop scowls at them. “Hey, they didn’t do anything wrong. Their dad is the one that brought them into your house. They have dreamed for years of living in this suburb and who are you to quash their dreams!”.

The owners look at each other. “When is someone coming to get them? Don’t they have family that can take them in?” The cop sneers back at them “Of course they have family back in their own neighborhood but now they are comfortable and like it here. You can’t make them leave now. So they are staying here from now on.”.

“Well who is going to care for them?”, cries the homeowner.

“You are of course. They will live here now. You will feed and clothe them. You need to provide them with health insurance. Some of your kids will have to double up in their bedrooms so there is room for these kids. Oh, and they want to go to the same private school as your kids so you will need to pony up tuition for all three of them. After all, they are dreaming of a better life and you are going to give it to them. Jerks.”.

Sure it is kind of a stretch and this is a complex issue but the substance is the same. Just as someone who steals a car with their kids doesn’t expect their kids to get to keep the car if they get arrested, someone who is brought here as a “child” should not get a free pass to avoid our laws.

Ultimately the blame here for the discomfort and possible dislocation of these “DREAMers” is not with President Trump or xenophobic and racist Americans. The fault is entirely with their parents that brought them to this country knowing full well that they put themselves and their kids in great risk to do so. The parents willfully broke the law and did so regardless of the risk to their children. 

If it seems unreasonable to allow 3 children to continue to live in a house that their father broke into and demand the lawful inhabitants of the home to pay their living expenses, why it is not likewise unreasonable for the United States to absorb the 800,000 teens and young adults that entered this country legally at the direction of their parents? What we choose to do about those impacted by DACA now is a complex issue but it is critical to keep perspective here. The wrongs inflicted on the DACA kids is entirely the fault of their parents, not on the citizens or government of the United States.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Here Is The Alternative To The Nashville Statement

James White posted this on Twitter:

So a yogi chick is calling people who don't like the Nashville Statement to embrace "progressive Xnty" where you get stuff like "queer, embodiment and ecofeminist theologies". Well sign me up! Oh, and here is good news "You are perfect as you are". Now if that isn't sound theology I don't know what is. Who needs that dirty, nasty old cross with the dead Jewish guy, you are already perfect!

The usual suspects from Patheos and Jen Hatmaker to Nadia Bolz-Weber are out in full force. People would love Christianity if it just jettisoned all of that messy doctrine! Of course they would because it would cease to be Christianity at all. That is the whole point anyway for a lot of these folks.

On a more serious note, the response from the "progressive" religious camp is actually proof positive that statements like the Nashville Statement are necessary because there are far too many people given a platform by heretics and the secular media alike that espouse things like queer, embodiment and ecofeminist theologies. I had to look up embodiment theology and I still don't quite get it but it is pretty much as nonsensical as I assumed.

If the church chooses to hide in our seminaries and argue about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, we leave the public discourse to foul mouthed "theologians" like Nadia Bolz-Weber and other assorted doctrinal hacks and wolves. The Nashville Statement is not perfect nor are the signers but a solid, Bible based statement on a critical topic is preferable to silently abandoning the field of discourse.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Some Thoughts On The Nashville Statement

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, now apparently known as CBMW: A Coalition For Biblical Sexuality, released the results of a council in Nashville titled, somewhat unoriginally, The Nashville Statement. The work of CBMW is something I have supported for a long time, their old logo and a link to their webpage has been incorporated in my blog for many years. I prefer the specificity of the old name but I understand where they are going with this. The statement is signed by a Who's Who of conservative evangelicals, mainly drawn from the ranks of the Reformed. The names include people like John Piper, J.I. Packer, Al Mohler, Wayne Grudem, Al Mohler and the whole T4G crew, R.C. Sproul, etc. as well as people like James Dobson, Francis Chan, Johnny Hunt and Russell Moore.

On to the statement. From the preamble:
We are persuaded that faithfulness in our generation means declaring once again the true story of the world and of our place in it—particularly as male and female. Christian Scripture teaches that there is but one God who alone is Creator and Lord of all. To him alone, every person owes glad-hearted thanksgiving, heart-felt praise, and total allegiance. This is the path not only of glorifying God, but of knowing ourselves. To forget our Creator is to forget who we are, for he made us for himself. And we cannot know ourselves truly without truly knowing him who made us. We did not make ourselves. We are not our own. Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God. It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be.
That is a perfectly valid and true statement. At the heart of both the homosexual and "transgender" movements is the simple statement "Did God really say?" that echoes the words of the Enemy to Eve in the Garden. It is not coincidental that in every case of heresy, the underlying issue is always doubting God's Word. The great issue of the day is the perversion of human sexuality in ways that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. Who in the early 2000's with the exception of some extreme radicals would have thought that college sports conferences would boycott entire states over the issue of not letting men use women's restroom and locker facilities? But here we are. To my everlasting sadness, many people who profess Christ as Lord also deny His teaching on human sexuality, a contradiction that can never be resolved.

The statement itself is pretty standard stuff, 14 affirmations and denials. It is not nor is it intended to be an exhaustive theological treatise. It is a simple listing of what Bible believing Christians ought to affirm the Bible teaches about sexuality and what the Bible denies about sexuality. I am not going to go through all of them, they are common Bible sense statements. I did want to point out one of the articles though, number 10 which is already proving to be the most controversial. Here is a screenshot because I couldn't copy and paste it and I am too lazy to write it out.

That is also pretty straightforward. Sin is sin and approving of sin is also sin. That is just straight Romans 1 stuff, emphasis mine.
They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:29-32)
Approving of sin is condemned just as sinning itself. Proclaiming your approval of what God declares is sinful and deserving of death is to rebel against God, getting back to that same question "Did God really say?".

My view of the Nashville Statement is that it is an unfortunate necessity, a statement of common sense and basic Biblical doctrine that sadly needs to be reaffirmed today especially since so many "Christians" seem determined to virtue signal by approving of the grossest of sins.

It is pretty obvious that some left-wing groups encouraged people that just as obviously haven't read the statement to go the Facebook page of CBMW and leave silly, vacuous comments. I left a comment that suggested that people had not read the statement and was responded to by a Gunnar Sherrill (on a public post) who accused me of advocating theocracy. I was not biting.

Mr. Sherrill's comment is what passes for civil and thoughtful discourse among Americans today. As an aside he posted comments on a number of posts including the obligatory accusations of CBMW being Nazis and/or the KKK. Many comments seem to come from people who either object to the interpretative conclusions of the authors of the Nashville statement without any actual attempt to interact with the statement from Scripture or, as I suspect is the case, what they really object to is people having a position on human sexuality that uses the Bible as their authoritative source rather than the current culture. In other words, they don't so much object to the opinion itself as they do object to having an opinion in the first place.

At the risk of sounding partisan, you have to realize that the same people "punching Nazis" in the streets will be happy to "punch patriarchs" in the streets or perhaps even in churches. Placating and compromising with these people or virtue signaling in the hope that they will persecute you last is not going to work and worse it is dishonoring to God and cowardly.

Bottom line for me, if you can't agree in principle with the essence of what is written here, I have to question if you have even a cursory understanding of the Scriptures in general and what they have to say uniformly about human sexuality in particular. Denny Burk in a follow-up post wrote:
Anyone who persistently rejects God’s revelation about sexual holiness and virtue is rejecting Christianity altogether, even if they claim otherwise.
I agree wholeheartedly. Sexual morality is not the Gospel but you cannot understand the Gospel apart from an understanding of the seriousness of sin and the Scriptures are crystal clear that sexual sin is an area of critical emphasis when it comes to human depravity and rebellion against God.

I unapologetically endorse the Nashville Statement. There is nothing I find in substantive error in the statement. I am no one but a simple blogger but I believe the entire church needs to stand up for the Biblical design for human sexuality that stands counter to all forms of sexual immorality: adultery, divorce, homosexuality, pedophilia, gender dysphoria, incest, etc. While some of those sins carry more weight culturally and are more grevious Scripturally because of the harm they cause to others, they all are violations of God's created order and all are sins that must be repented of.

The Nashville Statement is a statement that shouldn't be necessary but it is also a statement that absolutely is necessary. If the church cannot stand courageously and without apology for something as clearly taught in Scripture as human sexuality, there is little hope for the church to be faithful in any areas.

I have signed the statement, nobody that I am, and I encourage you to first read the statement in its entirety, ponder it and if you are in agreement add your own name to the statement.

Why Do We Make Education So Complicated?

These are the two governing documents for Amish run parochial schools in Indiana....

As you can tell, they aren't very thick. One is about 30 pages and the other is around 10 pages. Somehow the Amish manage to educate thousands of kids each year in Indiana, even though they only attend school (generally) through the 8th grade and none of their teachers has a degree in education (or a degree in anything or a high school diploma).

Granted, there aren't really Amish doctors, scientists and engineers. There certainly is a need for more complex, high level academic training at the high school level for kids heading into technical fields in college. Amish grammar and spelling is often poor but then again they are pretty much 100% bi-lingual. On the other hand, almost every really nice house in our vicinity is owned by an Amish family and most every small business is likewise Amish run. Virtually every child is raised in an intact family, divorce is basically non-existent and family/community ties are very strong.

So if this community can consistently churn out thousands of students with an 8th grade education that are industrious, family oriented and not a drain on society, why do "English" pubic schools need to have every teacher obtain a Master's degree (usually in education rather than the subject they teach)? Why does the U.S. Department of Education need an annual budget of $68,000,000,000 for 50,000,000 children, or about $1,360 per student when no one in the Dept. of Education actually teaches any children? Why do we need a Federal Department of Education in the first place? Why have historic trends shown an ever increasing percentage of our GDP spent on education but have a correspondingly poorer output?

Why are we not allowed to ask these questions without being accused of not caring about The Children!!!!

I am not recommending we go to a system of 8th grade education governed by a couple of what amount to pamphlets. But I do wonder why we have turned "education" into an industry that seems at times to be a giant jobs machine for people with education degrees and is so incredibly complex and cumbersome that parents and students alike appear to just be carried along by the torrent, hoping for the best. What the Amish have that is missing from the general public education is real local control. The schools are smaller and the parents via the school board have pretty absolute control over what goes on. As I will show in a future post, when the parents volunteer their time to actually build the school building, they tend to be pretty invested in the school!

As parents get further and further from the running of the school and more and more people from outside of the school district, including a lot of people that never have been to the school district in the first place and probably have never even heard of it, exert more control over the school, it becomes ever more complicated. It becomes an arcane world of experts and jargon, meetings and conferences, teaching methods and human resources.

Maybe the solution is not more and more advanced education degrees and fancier teaching methods but simply moving control back to the local school and the parents of the kids and for crying out loud just making it less complicated.

A (Sort Of) Defense Of Joel Osteen

Mark this down because you won't see those words again. I don't feel a need to defend Joel Osteen as a brother in Christ, because he pretty clearly is not, but the attacks on him have a different motivation.

A lot of people, including me, poked at Joel Osteen because "his church" in Houston didn't open up to shelter people. My point was that Osteen was a heretic and a false teacher long before Hurricane Harvey but the reality of the story behind Lakewood church, including Twitter attacks and videos from guys who are pretty clearly homosexual and have an ulterior motive, is a little more complex.

Lakewood "Church" is just a giant auditorium. In a report that gets to the real story better than some angry ranting on Twitter, you read the following:
And considering that Houston officials had set up shelters throughout the city — including a massive location at the George R. Brown Convention Center just five miles from Lakewood — Iloff said that the church had planned to host people in the event that those locations were full or at capacity.
“We had warning with this storm, so they set up shelters around the city … that convention center is 5 or 6 times bigger [than Lakewood],” he told Faithwire. “They set that up with everything from the cots, food, triage.”
Iloff also noted that, while Lakewood was more than willing to make-do and house people, unlike the convention center, Lakewood has “no showers” and no kitchen, making the church more of an emergency shelter than anything else. Initially, the church waited to hear from city officials and planned to respond if needed.
So the city already has emergency shelters and Lakewood was willing to serve as an overflow. It isn't like there isn't historical evidence of what happens when you try to house people in mass somewhere that is not properly equipped.

This is the description of the Superdome in New Orleans in August of 2005, right after Hurricane Katrina, from a story in the New York Times, Superdome: Haven QuicklyBecomes an Ordeal.
They had flocked to the arena seeking sanctuary from the winds and waters of Hurricane Katrina. But understaffed, undersupplied and without air-conditioning or even much lighting, the domed stadium quickly became a sweltering and surreal vault, a place of overflowing toilets and no showers. Food and water, blankets and sheets, were in short supply. And the dome's reluctant residents exchanged horror stories, including reports, which could not be confirmed by the authorities, of a suicide and of rapes.
By Wednesday the stink was staggering. Heaps of rotting garbage in bulging white plastic bags baked under a blazing Louisiana sun on the main entry plaza, choking new arrivals as they made their way into the stadium after being plucked off rooftops and balconies.
The odor billowing from toilets was even fouler. Trash spilled across corridors and aisles, slippery with smelly mud and scraps of food.
Even a "church" like Lakewood is not equipped to handle even 500 displaced people. No kitchens, no showers, an staff untrained in dealing with medical issues and possible criminal behavior, it isn't really an ideal place to house people or even a suitable place except in case of emergency. Obviously when you have a building that cost tens of millions of dollars and is lavishly outfitted, you don't want hordes of people messing it up. That is a lesson for a different day, when your "church" is treated like a religious museum instead of a Kingdom outpost, that is a problem and one that is true at Lakewood, in fancy cathedrals and in many orthodox Christian churches alike.

There is an important message here. Even having a completely neutered "Gospel" is not going to insulate you from social media attacks by people with blue check marks and rainbow flags in their Twitter profile. Make no mistake, the guys tweeting and posting videos in the parking lot of Lakewood don't give a fig about the false teaching of Lakewood because they aren't there on every Sunday when heresy is being proclaimed from the stage. They simply see this as an easy way to paint "Christians" as hypocrites to provide cover for their own wanton sin and rebellion against God.

Again let me be clear. Joel Osteen is not a Christian as far as I can tell. He is a false teacher and espouses "another gospel" of the same severity as that anathematized by Paul in his letter to the Galatians. But the attacks on him by many people are aimed not at him but at genuine Christians being lumped in with him. While the church in America is mobilizing via volunteer and financial donations in a huge way, there are still those that will wag an accusing finger at Christians as well as religious non-Christians like Osteen and the Mormons and claim they are not doing their part. It is an obvious lie and one we should expect but a lie repeated often enough serves the dishonest better than the truth. By all means call out Joel Osteen for his heretical teaching but be careful about siding with unbelievers in your attack because often the real target is you.