Monday, June 30, 2014

Small wins but we'll take 'em!

It has been a rough week for President Obama in the highest court but more importantly it has been a good week for the rule of law and individual liberty over government overreach. The Supreme Court ruled against his recess appointments to stack the National Labor Relations Board with union cronies. Also a ruling last week against so called abortion clinic "buffer zones" that made certain public spaces off limits to free speech and expression. Today the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby over the government's attempt to force them to provide certain types of contraception, certainly a good sign for non-profits and Christian colleges. If a private business cannot be forced to provide certain types of contraception, certainly other organizations will not have to either. Finally the Court ruled that unions cannot force non-members to pay dues, kind of a "well duh" ruling but it was being attempted as a way to refill union coffers so it was a necessary decision.

The Hobby Lobby decision was probably the most tenuous leading up to today because it deals with some esoteric ideas. A business is not a person (legally it is but you know what I mean) but it usually has people behind it. For a family business like Hobby Lobby it is part of their identity. Having worked in banking and dealing with a lot a business owners I can attest that it can be hard to distinguish where the family ends and the business begins. Telling families that they have no say in what sort of non-critical insurance they provide to employees is a sure way of getting people out of business. More critically this gets to the question of whether the Federal government can force people to engage in economic activity. That issue, which is really the critical one, is still up in the air.

It is worth stating that these are pretty small wins in the face of a tide that is headed the other way. Every week a new judge finds a "right" for homosexuals to marry and overturns the will of the people. We should also be cautious to note that these are secular wins for liberty, not Kingdom victories. I am still concerned about the church banding together with unbelievers and heretics for the purpose of fighting Caesar. Regardless as I have said before it is better for people to live where there is more liberty rather than less so I will cautiously enjoy the small wins today.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Little Bit Of LInkage

It has been an interesting week in the news and on the web.

Lots and lots of stuff on the militarization of the American police force. The ACLU a very large and comprehensive report, War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing. Now the ACLU is often on the wrong side of issues, although fewer than I used to think, but they are on the money here. I haven't read the report but I have read some excerpts and have it saved for later reading. Radley Balko put together a nice summary here. Even the normally "law and order uber alles" publication National Review has been getting in on the increasing alarm, check out Barney Fife meets Delta Force, in spite of the silly and kind of insulting title it makes some great points including some on an issue I am greatly concerned with, namely that the increased militarization via the transfer of military grade weapons to local police departments is a subtle but real violation of the prohibition on a standing army in our community.

Attention hound Frank Schaefer is back in the news. For a guy who seems to loathe his father's legacy he sure milks it for all the attention it garners him. After being "defrocked" by the United Methodist for conducting a "marriage" ceremony for his son and his male partner in an uncharacteristic show of spine by the UMC, the decision has been reversed and Mr. Schaefer has been reinstated as an elder in the church. He was interviewed on NPR's Here & Now and was simply crowing. Tellingly it was all about him, how he will "never be silent again", as if he has ever been silent about anything, and how his reinforces "his" ministry. I don't see how a) Methodists who take the Bible seriously can stay in the UMC and b) how the UMC survives very long into the future. Whatever happens we can be sure to keep hearing from Frank as long as he says the sort of stuff the media wants to hear.

Matt Walsh has a great post on illegal immigration, Isn’t it mean and hateful to deport illegal immigrants? His best point has to do with the hypocrisy of appeals to caring for children by people who generally celebrate the murder of children:

Yes, the children. It’s always funny (in a morbid, nauseating kind of way) when progressives pull the “THINK OF THE CHILDREN” card. Apparently, in their view, it’s immoral to refuse children entry into the United States, as long as they’re attempting to enter through the southern border. However, if they wish to enter through their mother’s birth canal (a southern border of its own, you might say), we can not only refuse them, but suck their brains out of their skulls and incinerate them for fuel.

Perhaps we should think of babies as ‘birth immigrants’ and then they’d be protected from murder with the same fervor that we protect born children from being put on a bus and brought back to their families in their home countries.

Illegal immigration is another issue where those who generally advocate for the most sinister and diabolical institutions known to man all of a sudden become ‘compassionate’ and ‘empathetic.’ But this compassion and empathy is just a mask they wear to cover up the fact that, in truth, their hearts are numb to human suffering, which is why they feel nothing as millions of dead children pile up beneath their feet.

Personally, I do feel great compassion for these kids, but the law can’t be put to the side for them. Besides, maybe they’re better off elsewhere. We don’t exactly treat children with humanity and respect in this country.

I have an idea: let’s concentrate on granting human rights to our own kids before we worry about granting citizenship to kids across the globe.

Yeah, that.

The American Spectator asks the question, Is There Really An Epidemic of Mass Shootings? The answer may surprise you.

There are more but I am too lazy to link them now....

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

John Piper Is Coming: A Response To Piper and Game of Thrones

I was going to title this post "You Know Nothing John Piper" as an homage to Game of Thrones but I thought that was disrespectful and he has some legit points.

About a week ago John Piper posted 12 Questions to Ask Before You Watch ‘Game of Thrones’ in response to the enormous popularity of the HBO series that is an adaptation of the George R.R. Martin book series. As you would expect, John Piper isn't a fan of the series (although I am quite sure he hasn't seen any of the episodes) and he is pretty concerned that a lot of Christians are watching something he assumes is unhealthy. A lot of my fellow believers have been reposting his article with varying degrees of commentary including one that assumed that every single person who watched the TV series was lost, a breathtakingly arrogant and theologically ignorant statement.

Full disclosure. I own all of the published books and have read them all at least twice, as has my wife. We own the released seasons on DVD and have watched them. They are full of violence and gore and sex because they depict a world that is not a neat and tidy, black and white world but one that is full of violence and gore and sex, rather like how things probably were in a similar era in our world and ironically much like the world described in the Bible that likewise describes sex, extra-marital sex, incest, rape, war, murder, etc. No Game of Thrones is not on par with the Bible. That is silly to even say but hey this is the internet and sure enough some knucklehead would suggest I was saying that. What I am saying is that the presence of sex or violence in a book is not in and of itself a disqualifier, indeed cannot be for Christians. People have sex. War and rape go hand in hand, not just in Game of Thrones, but in World War II and Vietnam and even today. People kill and torture and maim one another. The world depicted in the storyline of GoT is a dark one but not all books can have settings like Rivendell and the Shire.

There are legitimate concerns about GoT. Like I said, Game of Thrones, both the books and the TV adaptation, are full of violence, sex and atrocious language. I understand that. I don't let my kids read the books. I especially don't let them watch the show or even be around when we are. I fully understand that this is a pastime that requires some discernment. I do wish Martin had left some of this stuff out of the books and that the producers of the show on HBO did the same. I think that the violence and sex is integral to the story even though the story is not about them, if that makes sense. In other words these aren't books about sex and violence, they are books about complicated people who live in a world full of sex and violence, kind of like our world. For a people of the Book who revere flawed men like Noah and Abraham and David and Paul and Peter, you would think that

However I reject the notion proposed by John that people watch because we want to be "hip, cool, savvy, culturally aware". I read the first book in the series long before HBO started filming the series. I don't read them because of the coolness factor nor for the titillation factor. I read them because they are incredibly compelling. The storylines, the characters (until Martin kills them off), the vivid imagery. They are some of the best written books I have read and the TV series is a pretty decent adaptation with incredible acting on a limited budget. Unlike the horrific CGI heavy The Hobbit adaptation, Game of Thrones relies on characters for the story rather than characters being props in the latest CGI excess. I would read the books whether they were "hip" or not.

I do wonder how many of the people jumping on the "Game of Thrones is evil" bandwagon would say the same thing about other cultural entertainment? It is easy for those who don't watch GoT to stand afar and cast stones. What about movies and TV shows that glamorize and glorify warfare? Christians love those. A lot of Christians love the TV show 24 where hero Jack Bauer tortures people and violates their civil rights for our entertainment. How about entertainment that subtly or not reinforces greed and envy? We certainly have a more widespread problem with that in the church than we do Christians beheading each other. Then of course there are sports which certainly rise to the level of idolatry for many a Christian and especially so with football which not only is idolatrous for many Christians but is a sport based on violence and one in which many players, from children to adults, are injured every year for our entertainment. Christian men flock to TVs to spend hours watching modern gladiators slam into one another while women in provocative "clothing" gyrate in high definition to....well to titillate because no one at an NFL game can hear them "cheer". Of course these televised games are interspersed with many advertisements extolling the virtues of alcohol or others that appeal to the insatiable need for the latest pick-up truck or car or the latest, greatest smart phone or an erectile dysfunction medication. That stuff is apparently OK. After all America is specially blessed by God with material wealth so why shouldn't I have the latest smartphone or a brand new car?

So here is my point. I think John Piper raises some legitimate concerns, some that I share and my wife and I have talked about. On the other hand I think a lot of Christians wagging their fingers at their fellow Christians might be a touch hypocritical. I absolutely think their are some cautions about Game of Thrones but I think that the writing is compelling enough to warrant reading. It is not for everyone. It is not for children. I will keep watching Game of Thrones, even if it stops being "hip, cool, savvy, culturally aware" and I will continue to exercise discernment on the issue. I appreciate John Piper asking hard questions and I have given them thought. I just don't agree on this one. Perhaps I will change my mind later on. Perhaps not. It wouldn't be the first time and won't be the last.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A news story with a breathtaking amount of theological error in just five short paragraphs

I am reproducing this article in its entirety....

Transgender priest to preach at National Cathedral

WASHINGTON –  An openly transgender Episcopal priest is set to preach at Washington National Cathedral.

The Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, the Episcopal chaplain at Boston University, will be a guest preacher on Sunday. He'll be the first openly transgender priest to preach from Canterbury Pulpit at the cathedral.

The Right Rev. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, will preside at the service. It's part of the cathedral's celebration of LGBT pride month.

The service will also include readings and prayers from members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the cathedral, says he hopes Partridge's appearance "will send a symbolic message in support of greater equality for the transgender community."


A human priest?

A national cathedral?

A "transgender" elder?

A practicing homosexual bishop?

An ostensibly Christian cathedral celebrating a month of taking pride in open rebellion and sin against God?

A dude presuming to carry the title "Very Reverend"?

I am not sure which "readings" will be read but I am pretty sure which ones will not be. Or maybe some contemporary modifications like this one:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them except for some people that he made male that were really female and female that were really male assuming that at some point in the future they cold apply for gender reassignment surgery. Hey, just because he is God doesn't mean he doesn't make a mistake now and then. (Genesis 1:27, New Revised Kindler Gentler Version)

Honestly, in a news story that short I am not sure you could fit more error into it unless you added in a sentence about child sacrifice.

I need to go back to bed.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Haven't we already read this news before?

Presbyterian Church Votes To Allow Gay Marriages

I guess God didn't get a vote....

These sort of news articles have become so common place that they are blurring together. I can't keep track of which "mainline church" has taken the next step in "inclusion" of sinful behavior anymore in their race to the bottom.

What does this mean for the church? We share a cultural assumption that we are all basically on the same team even though groups like the PC-USA and ELCA have been talking about something very different for a very long time. Standing for the opposite of Scripture and tossing the name "Jesus" into your website occasionally doesn't work for mormonism and it doesn't work for "mainline" denominations. As the church we need to "come out from among them". That is not an advocacy of disunity in the church, it is a call for the church to disentangle itself from those who advocate for what the Bible condemns. We can't have "meaningful dialogue" with those who would rather give a damning approval to someone rather than risk their reputation to tell them a hard truth.

What is the end game here for those stampeding back to the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah? What will happen when the novelty of being permitted to "marry" wears off and is no longer the cause du jour? Will these so-called progressives find a new cause to champion? Full inclusion for polygamists? Joyful embrace of serial adulterers and fornicators (although that already seems to have happened)? More likely they will simply fade away into nothingness, a cultural relic that served a purpose and is no longer needed.

When a faith can mean anything you want it to mean, it stops meaning anything at all and that my friends is the definition of meaningless. If you think people will keep investing time on Sunday morning and money in offering plates for something that they and everyone else knows is meaningless you are fooling yourself. You only need to look to Europe to see that lived out, where cathedrals are the tombs of dead religion, good only for tourists. The ultimate goal here is not "inclusion", it is the undermining of a Gospel that makes claims that are unpalatable. I don't think "LGBT" advocates really care about getting married in the eyes of a God they feel free to remake in their own image at will. They simply don't want anyone else to think that what they do in their bedroom is sinful and evil. Many sincere but tragically wrong religious people have happily helped them on the way to this goal and are no  longer useful.

It is time we keep the oil in our lamps and prepare for a world that looks a lot more like what we should expect as followers of Christ, a world where we will see, as we have so many times in the history of the church, God's people beset on all sides and no where more so than by the most religious people of the culture. Wake up church, the world has changed and we are in danger of being caught unaware. Perhaps we already have.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

When Did Modesty Become An Ironically Dirty Word?

We live in interesting times. Even as the religious culture collapses around us, the church is responding in wildly different ways. In some corners we have the church stubbornly insisting on doing the same things we have done for centuries and expecting somehow that the world will suddenly find it appealing. Other corners are hunkering down and withdrawing, content to be glad that we are not subject to the harsh reality of the world around us. An even larger segment, and one that seems to be growing, is the Quisling wing that has surrendered to the world and eagerly joined it, embracing every fad and whim of the world in a vain attempt to gain the approval of the world.

This mindset tells us that whatever is traditional is bad and must be not only be rejected but the opposite is to be embraced. Far be it from me to discourage anyone from questioning tradition and rejecting what is not Scriptural but it seems many of us are missing that critical step of looking to Scripture.

One idea that is getting increasing attention is what I would call the "anti-modesty" movement. The thought process seems to be: dressing in skimpy clothing is considered "cute" and "normal" by the culture. Being counter-culturally modest is "traditional". Therefore no one dares imply that it is neither wise nor helpful for young women to dress in ways designed to be sexually provocative. I can sort of get some of it, there is a bit of an understandable backlash against the "modest is hottest" stuff, but what it has predictably turned into is a rejection of any suggestion of modesty as being a praiseworthy in spite of what seems to be pretty powerful and clear Biblical advocacy for modesty. We of course have 1 Timothy 2:9-10 which calls on sisters to be modest and respectable in their attire, which would seem to include both eschewing fancy clothing and jewelry but also  immodest attire. Then there is 1 Corinthians 11 commends not just women covering their heads but also condemns women wearing their hair short and men wearing their hair long. These are just a few examples but neither gets much play in the church. Can you imagine the average pastor suggesting that the women in the pews wearing expensive outfits, adorned with jewelry and make-up and with fashionably short hair cuts might want to rethink their ensemble? No better way to get a handful of change rather than a nice check in the offering plate doing that sort of stuff, not to mention the irate emails or awkward after sermon conversations!

My issue with this is that it is not just some fairly obscure theological position. I read the paper thin critiques of penal substitutionary atonement and while I think they are way off the mark and perilously so, the vast majority of Christians don't have an opinion one way or the other and those we are trying to reach with the Gospel don't have a clue what we are talking about. The anti-modesty movement? That has a very real and negative impact on young women in the church, women who are getting a message from the culture that is increasingly reinforced by vocal portions of the church that dressing in a sexually suggestive manner is not only OK but it is actually laudable.

We need to set aside the contemporary debate for a second and look to the Bible and what it has to say about modesty. As I am prone to do, crazy fundie that I am, I like to go to Genesis because there is nowhere in Scripture that we can get a better look at the foundations of virtually any issue. Of course if you are one of those that dismisses Genesis as an allegory that has no historical value and no relevance to the church, please feel free to skip the rest of this post. The very first thing that Adam and Eve did after eating the fruit was not to ponder their role in white privilege or how to advance social justice or advocate for increasing the minimum wage. No it was this....

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself."  (Gen 3:7-10)

Their nakedness was the first thing they noticed. I think that might be important. Notice that in response God doesn't say "Hey drop those leaves and let it all hang out! If ya got it, flaunt it!' He instead does something that seems unexpected in our modern culture:

And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. (Gen 3:21)

He replaced their fig leave coverings with better garments made of skin. Presumably the animal had to die first and that has some interesting implications to be explored at a different time. More to the point here. God provided the means to cover their nakedness which would seem to imply that post-fall this was an important issue.

Yeah but we aren't talking about nudity, just tank tops and short shorts!

True but honestly the line between being nude and some outfits young women wear is getting pretty hard to distinguish. There was a time when it was called "underwear" because you would wear it under your clothing.

Now I am not a woman but I can't help but think that wearing the tiniest of shorts and shirts that expose a lot of flesh as well as most of your undergarments can't be that comfortable to wear. I am also pretty sure that the difference in comfort when the temperature rises between say a modest length lightweight skirt and tiny shorts is not that dramatic. So what is really on display (pun intended) is clothing that is designed to be sexually provocative being trumpeted as healthy for young women and that any man who notices the sexually provocative nature of clothing intended to be sexually provocative is a pervert or a Puritan or some combination thereof. Yes men need to be cognizant of the effect women in skimpy clothing has on them and it is a good idea to avoid settings where you are exposed to it but the idea that women should expose themselves at will and men just have to stare at the ground is ludicrous and one that in saner times wouldn't be given a reasonable hearing in the church. Alas we don't live in sane times.

Somehow much of the church has bought wholesale into the notion that any sort of restraint on baser human behavior is somehow repressive and unhealthy. If the Bible teaches anything, it teaches that the natural state of mankind is unhealthy and abhorrent to God. That is why Christ came, not to give us a "sin all you like" card but to redeem humanity, saving us from our own base instincts and the just wrath of God in response. To respond to our freedom in Christ by embracing that which is hateful to God seems like ingratitude to me.

What qualifies as modest is kind of a broad topic but using some common sense and some historical perspective broader than last week should help. Some would say women wearing pants at all is immodest. I don't necessarily agree but certainly skin tight jeans or those ridiculous leggings that serve as "pants" or the even worse jeans cut in such a way that your butt crack is hanging out are clearly not modest. Low cut tops that expose a lot of cleavage are the same. What purpose does a blouse that is low cut serve if not drawing attention to your cleavage? To get all outraged because men are looking where your shirt is designed to draw their attention seems just a tad hypocritical. Again I am not a woman but if you have to spend all day hiking up your jeans and tugging up your top, perhaps a more appropriate outfit might be in order? I am also pretty sure that young women who are wearing comfortable, modest clothes that don't expose the vast majority of their skin might have fewer issues with body image.

My intent here is not to create an exhaustive list of what Christian women can or cannot wear. In fact this is not an exclusively female issue, although it is more obvious with women. Men can certainly dress immodestly as well, although dressing in poor taste is probably a lot more common than dressing immodestly. Modesty is also more than just showing skin, Paul is at least as concerned with women wearing expensive clothes, jewelry and styled hair as he is with fleshly immodesty. There is, or ought to be, something jarring about a gathering of the church where men and women alike are wearing costly garments and jewelry, where women are wearing make-up and styled hair, in order to demonstrate just how serious they are about following a King who rode a donkey in Jerusalem and spoke favorably of the poor and not so much of the rich. Try going to a nice suburban conservative church some time in ratty, dirty clothes and see how you are welcomed. As it applies to clothing that is revealing however I am deeply concerned by possibly well-meaning (and quite possibly less than well-meaning) folks who are exhibiting knee-jerk reactions to any hint that women, especially our daughters, should consider their own dignity and safety when choosing the clothes they wear. As parents get pushed out of the lives of their children in ever more comprehensive ways and at earlier ages, the church should be the exception rather than a willing participant. Parents, mothers and fathers alike, should be comfortable in saying "Uh no, back upstairs and try again" when our children are dressed in ways that dishonor God and themselves. We should be just as comfortable in gently saying no to the latest request for a brand new phone or expensive tennis shoes or any of the other worldly, immodest trappings of the modern world. Being a parent is not a spectator sport. Parents ought to model modesty for their children and expect it from them as they grow old enough to start making decisions on their own. We aren't doing our children, our witness or ourselves any favors when we intentionally dishonor God with our attire and do so in the misguided name of "Christian liberty".

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Rainy Day Linkage

Kinda of a rainy day here, so why not post some links?

If you haven't, you should check out Eric Carpenter's series on homosexuality. Thanks to the politically charged nature of the issue and the sudden cultural collapse we are seeing the debate is often reduced to those who reflexively reject homosexuality and those who are determined to embrace it.

In Michigan is seems that parents taking their 12-17 year old children to the doctor will need to turn their children over to a five minute private discussion where they are not welcome. One need not have an active imagination to figure out what topics are being discussed when parents are banned. This is the latest in a series of small moves with a larger purpose, namely to keep creating a distance between parents and children to keep parents from exposing their children to unacceptable ideas and notions.

There are many people that think they are better able to parent children than the actual parents. There are no doubt a multitude of better parents than I. Regardless these are my children, not the state's. If the state has proven anything throughout history it is a demonstrable incompetence and corruption. The last source of advice on really any topic I would recommend for any situation is the government. I am all for rendering to Caesar what is his but my children clearly fall into the "render unto God" category. More on that topic in an upcoming post.

Ed Stetzer has a good post on the church and mental illness. This is a serious topic and one that makes a lot of Christians uncomfortable because it shatters the "everything is great" illusion we like to portray. We need to be more aware and talk about it because many of us are suffering amidst a culture that sees it as a weakness and a distraction.

Two good posts from National Review on the state of American academia, one from George Will (who seems to have experienced a late in life conversion to common sense), The Fruits of Progressivism, and one from Victor Davis Hanson, America's Medieval Universities.

Richard Mourdock, former GOP candidate for the Senate in Indiana was such a poor candidate that he lost to a Democrat in my state, something that is nearly impossible. He lost largely because of some clumsy comments about rape, a topic is far too emotional and serious for a sound-byte political world. He made a small stir yesterday by comparing the conditions in America to the conditions in German leading to World War II. In our current political culture that is simply not going to fly but I think he is on to something. I have raised the specter of the potential for the rise of a totalitarian government in America for some time now. The combination of a huge military and a debt that we can never pay back plus an increasing population that is taking rather than giving to the economy and you have an explosive mix. No one wants to talk about it but if we don't face it now, we will certainly face it in the

Interfaith prayer alert! Oh dear, Jorge (aka "the pope") is having Muslim prayers and a reading from the Quran in the Vatican today. The end is nigh! Some will see this as another sign that Jorge is a durn lib'ral! Others on the fuzzy ecumenical left will weep tears of joy. Me? My reaction is kinda "so what?". There have been prayers offered to Mary and countless other deceased humans for centuries at the Vatican. This is hardly any worse.

Speaking of Jorge, Ryan McMaken at systematically dismantles a statement by the "archbishop" on Honduras, Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, writing to defend the call by Jorge for income redistribution. Ironically Mr. Maradiaga was introduced by union thug AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka which certainly suggests that this is more about forcible seizure of property than legitimate concern about "workers". Anyway, Ryan just mauls the risible speech by Mr. Maradiaga and shows that ignorance at the Vatican goes beyond theology and into economics. I really liked this brief, simple but powerful summary:

Before we begin, let’s first define what libertarianism means. Historically known as classical liberalism, it is simply the position that it is immoral to employ violence to force one’s will on others. That is, it is immoral to steal and kill to obtain goods or services from other people. Libertarians also, to varying degrees, maintain that this same prohibition applies to states and that there is nothing magic that takes place when one becomes a government employee. Therefore, a government job does not give one a right to use violence against others whether it be theft in the form of taxation or murder in the form of war. 

 Thus, when we see people like Maradiaga criticize “free markets” what they are really criticizing is freedom itself. Markets, after all, are nothing more than the phenomenon of persons freely exchanging goods and services. Markets are not an ideology or a sentient being or some sort of planned phenomenon. They are simply what naturally arise in any society in which persons exercise their free will. Markets can exist at any time in any place where freedom is allowed. Markets are not a new invention, and they are not the product of any particular ideology. Unfortunately, the history of humanity is mostly the history of potentates crushing the exercise of free will, and thus throughout history, we see the suppression of markets everywhere we look. 

Give Pope’s Right-Hand Man Joins Anti-Market Crusade a read.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The Reformed Heartland

I read Doug Wilson with a great deal of caution and copious grains of salt. He can be both wonderfully thoughtful but he can also be way off the mark. I loved what he had to say today about unity in the Reformed camp in his post Centers and Edges:

The fact is that the center of the Westminster Assembly was so obvious that we easily overlook the fact that it had edges. The Assembly is identified by its center, and not by its edges. The exact shape of the United States is changing all the time, as the tide goes in and out. Nevertheless, Nebraska remains right where it is. We should labor to identify the Reformed heartland, and take our time working our way out to the beaches.
Our modern form of tending to orthodoxy errs (in my view) by running concertina wire around the edges instead of building up the center. This is not to say that border security should be entirely neglected (of course it should not), but that is not where the central action is. The central action should be — and this is admittedly my own view — at the center.

That is good stuff. Many of my fellow Reformed believers are so caught up in defending this minutiae of doctrine or that one that they miss the center of what makes the Reformed...reformed.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Book Review: Bonhoeffer the Assassin?: Challenging the Myth, Recovering His Call to Peacemaking

The German theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed by the Third Reich in the waning days of World War II, is enjoying something of a posthumous renaissance in the evangelical world even though he might not really qualify as an evangelical. Much of this is attributable to the risible but wildly popular biography of Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. Unfortunately this renewal of interest in Bonhoeffer presents as an ironclad fact his supposed involvement in one of the myriad plots within the Third Reich to assassinate Hitler.

The narrative of Bonhoeffer as an active participant in the plots to assassinate Adolf Hitler is a commonly referenced trump card in discussions of redemptive violence. This is especially true with the contemporary co-opting of Bonhoeffer as an honorary American evangelical hero. That is why this book, Bonhoeffer the Assassin?: Challenging the Myth, Recovering His Call to Peacemaking by Mark Thiessen Nation, Anthony Siegrist and Daniel Umbel, is such an important counter-balance to the Bonhoeffer as assassin narrative.

The great strength of this book is the systematic dismantling of the "facts" that form the evidence for Bonhoeffer as a participant in the assassination plots. By first unraveling the flimsy historical evidence. notable mostly for what is not there, namely any concrete evidence that directly supports the contention that he was involved directly in assassination plots, what is left is an examination of what we do have, his writings. When you read Bonhoeffer, and note the entire scope of his writing, what you are left with is a man who is hardly the model of a would-be assassin.

The great weakness of this book, in my opinion, is the pretty technical nature of several chapters. For someone unfamiliar with Bonhoeffer's works as well as unfamiliar with philosophical fundamentals and writers such as Karl Barth, several chapters will be difficult slogs to get through. I am more comfortable with theology proper than I am what I consider more esoteric philosophical conversations and while important I am not sure that the average reader will benefit much from these chapters.

More fundamentally it is important to remember that while the alleged evidence of Bonhoeffer's involvement in the assassination plotting is pretty flimsy, even if he were involved it really doesn't matter because our standard is Scripture, the example of Christ and the witness of the Biblical teaching. Bonhoeffer, whether he did or did not actively seek to be involved in the assassination attempt, is still just a redeemed sinner and while he was brilliant he was also still very much a work in progress when it came to his own theological positions. In spite of that caveat this is still an important book that serves as a serious, scholarly corrective to the "heroic assassin that justifies killing" paradigm that surrounds Bonhoeffer in popular literature. When a man who was as brilliant as Bonhoeffer and still has so much to teach the church is primarily known as the pastor who plotted to kill Hitler in spite of a decided lack of concrete evidence, something is wrong and I believe Bonhoeffer himself would be aghast. You might not find the argument compelling but it at the very least deserves examination.