Saturday, December 31, 2016

The State Of The Church 2016

What a very odd year. It was odd in general and it was particularly odd for the church. It was a year that seemed to be the dawn of a new Dark Ages for the church, an era of spiritual darkness. Conservative Orthodox writer Rod Dreher wrote hundreds of essays about what he calls "The Benedict Option", a plan for religious conservatives to preserve the best of Western religious culture for a day in the future when things didn't suck so much, to the point of absurdity because he managed to insert the topic into every post he wrote. Other stories focused on the rise of the religiously unaffiliated, with collective hand-wringing over the rapid diminishing of religious affiliation and public practice in America. As it became apparent that Donald Trump, a man who sucked all of the oxygen out of the room/nation like a single person never has in my lifetime, was going to clinch the Republican nomination for President, it seemed also likely that the reprehensible Hillary Clinton would become the 45th President. For many "leaders" in the church that was an impending apocalypse that warranted what at the time seemed an awfully far-fetched Hail Mary pass by leaders of the Religious Right to throw their support behind Trump in the hope that he would somehow pull out a victory. Well as it turns out he did manage to win and suddenly the Religious Right and rank-and-file Christians alike were collectively like a man who had received a last second pardon from the Governor with the hangman's noose already around his neck. Visions of replacing Antonin Scalia not with a far left judge but instead with a reliable conservative danced in their imaginations and it wasn't long before people started to look at the ages of the remaining liberal justices and start to ponder, if not openly hope, what might happen if one or more of them were to retire or die. It does take a math genius or a Constitutional scholar to add two vacancies plus a Republican controlled Senate and come up with Roe v Wade being overturned along with Obergefell and other cultural shifting decisions. Given the emotional state of the church six months ago, we have seen a pretty serious about-face in optimism levels. For a lot of people, and I admit I have been far too active in this even as someone who didn't vote for Trump, what put the icing on the cake was the absolute meltdown by "progressives" especially among the coastal elites and special snowflake college students. Much of it was risible and deserving of scorn but a lot of it is also pretty ugly and has led to the end of friendships, rifts within families and a general sense that the acrimonious election never really ended and in fact promises to continue into 2017 and beyond. I need to constantly remind myself of the need to be a peacemaker while also being a voice calling attention to places attention needs to be paid.

What is missed in the post-election exuberance is that the same ills we bemoaned prior to Trump winning the election are still there. As far as American culture, many American cities are extremely violent, with Chicago on pace for 800 murders this year. Homosexual marriage is the law of the land and other sexually deviant behaviors are clamoring for their own acceptance. The participation of men in the workforce, especially men in prime working years, continues to plummet at the same time that more and more children are born out of wedlock and in many cases are the latest in a multigenerational pattern of children born out of wedlock and often the corresponding life of poverty. We have an unimaginable number of children and young adults who have no idea what a stable family looks like, and especially no clue what a home with both a mother and a father looks like. A record number of Americans are out of the workforce entirely, a statistic missed in the rosy announcements of a low "unemployment rate". In almost every possible way, American life is coarser than it has been in years past and this is especially unhealthy for children.

For the church in America, the malaise continues in spite of (partly because of?) the victory of Donald Trump. I think virtually every ill in the church in America can be attributed to one major and one related factors. The biggest issue is and continues to be the obscene level of general Biblical illiteracy in the church. It seems to me, just from personal observation, that many Christians in America grow up in the church, live their entire lives in the church as "good" church members and go to the grave with only the most rudimentary understanding of critical issues of the faith like justification and the new covenant. The related factor that goes along with this is that very few people in America, and not just in the secular media, really seem to understand what Christianity is, what the church is and who is or is not part of it. Like most nations with essentially no cost to public identification with Christianity, it is common for people to assume they are part of the church by virtue of occasional church attendance, baptism as a child or simply many years previously, coming from a family that identifies as Christian or just being a generally moral person who lives in America.  This is compounded by a lot of "pastors" who refuse to disabuse people of the false notion of their personal salvation as long as they keep showing up and "tithing". If there is one serious flaw in our discipleship that I want to see and to help overcome it is our tendency to focus on symptoms of Biblical illiteracy instead of the actual problem of Scriptural illiteracy itself.

From a more personal standpoint, since I have written about the church quite extensively for years, if I can sum up my feelings about the church right now it is this.

How the church should operate is rarely how the church does operate because how Christians really behave is rarely how they should behave because the way humans should be is rarely the way they actually are, even for those of us who are new creations in Christ.

I don't see what is commanded and modeled in Scripture as an unattainable Utopian ideal but I do see it is something we should strive for, as the church, together. My mistake has been seeking the ideal first. Others err in making the church form primary which, as I have said over and over, has led to a number of pretty sketchy teachers or even outright heretics getting favorable treatment because they do church "the right way" or at least talk as if they do. Church form is not the ultimate

That doesn't mean that church form is unimportant because it absolutely is and it also doesn't mean that many church forms that are most common are largely not only unhelpful to the mission of the church but actually harmful to the spiritual growth of Christians because they are. What I am saying is that when it comes to reforming and renewing a spiritually vibrant church, the form of the church and specifically the gathering is one of many factors of health. A highly institutional church where the people love one another and are equipped and the teaching is orthodox is superior in every way to a non-institutional church where the teaching is heterodox and the people are only equipped to preach a false gospel.

The church in 2016 here in America had all sorts of problems that are going to carry over into the new year: widespread biblical illiteracy, an unhealthy obsession with money and political power, denominational divisions that never cease, professional clergy that are more concerned with building their own little kingdoms and preserving their jobs than they are with shepherding the flock. We face many headwinds like an increasingly militant atheism and an correspondingly hostile culture.

On the other hand, the church is still the Bride of Christ. We still have the promises of God that we can rely on absolutely. The church in America is full of kind, loving, humble servants who don't seek personal acclaim but are content to serve in relative anonymity. We have more access in more ways to the Bible and a seemingly infinite number of resources, many that are free, to aid our Bible study. Compared to the church in the rest of the world and throughout all of history, we have more access to an embarrassment of riches when it comes to God's revealed and preserved written Word than our forefathers could even dream about.

So we have reason to be optimistic heading into 2017 even amid the concern. We know that God is faithful and that He is victorious even though the actual timing is shrouded from our sight. I am hopeful that 2017 can be a year when our witness is more clear and our discernment is even sharper but that it is in all ways more tempered by love and patience with those who are sincerely seeking the truth. If the church will let Scripture be our guide we can accomplish much for the Kingdom of God, indeed we have no excuse for anything else given the advantages we enjoy. So happy new year to you and yours. Keep your eyes open, your mind sharp and your heart open to the Spirit and let everything we do be done to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Masculaphobia: Fear Of Men

Remember when MTV was a legitimate news source? Me neither.
2016 will go down as a year when a lot of stuff happened, pretty much like every year in history. I have a more comprehensive post upcoming but I want to look at one issue specifically. Along with being a year when a seemingly unusual number of celebrities died, mostly either directly from drug abuse or as a result of drug/alcohol abuse (see 2016 Is Not Killing People) and there might have been an important election that got people riled up or something, it is also the year that should be remembered as the launch of the war on gender. Not the gender wars but the war on gender itself. It is a war that has been festering for a long time with the lead up in decades of feminism and the gradual embrace of homosexual behavior but in 2016 the simmering guerrilla war broke into all out war. National Geographic devoted a cover to a young boy who is being abused by his parents by being encouraged to act out on a confusion about gender. The University of Kansas is jumping on the pin wearing bandwagon and "will now offer students, staff and visitors the choice of wearing “gender inclusive” buttons identifying their preferred gender pronouns, in order to help promote a “welcoming environment” on campus". This is the reasoning....

The buttons, which read, “He/Him/His,” “She/Her/Hers” or “They/Them/Theirs” are part of a year-long effort on behalf of the KU library’s “You Belong Here” marketing campaign touting the school as warm, welcoming, and tolerant.

“Because gender is, itself, fluid and up to the individual, each person has the right to identify their own pronouns, and we encourage you to ask before assuming someone’s gender,” a sign in the library above the available buttons reads, according to local media.

The library signs go on to explain that “misgendering” someone “can be hurtful” and lead to emotional distress as that person contemplates their ultimate exclusion from modern society, or struggle with “invalidation” of their life choices.

Ah. Let me reassure the ladies at the University of Kansas that if I am on campus you will not a need a pin to identify which gender I "identify with". This sort of empty-headed nonsensical rhetoric is what passes for deep and nuanced intellectualism on America's campuses, which is a big reason why you should stay as far away from them as possible unless you have no other choice.

Gender, which is the most critical and fundamental biological fact that distinguished human beings and the most basic building block of human society, is now seen as a means of oppressing people. Let that sink in for a moment. Gender is not "fluid", in fact it is the least fluid thing there is outside of the basic reality of our shared humanity. My gender is not "up to me" anymore than being a human being or being white or who my parents are is up to me.

In his post Feathering the Frosting On With A Canoe Paddle, Doug Wilson makes an interesting observation amid a general discussion of the grotesque sin of encouraging children to change their genders. The whole thing is great but what I really liked was this comparison between the common Islamic fear of female sexuality and the Western fear of male sexuality, emphasis added:

But the secularist wants to protest right at the outset that what they are celebrating has to be distinguished from the genital mutilation that other cultures practice—you know, the backward kinds of culture. For example, in such backwater Muslim societies, girls are often forced to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM). This has been done to upwards of 200 million people. The World Health Organization defines it as “the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

The emphasis there is mine, for the simple reason that “non-medical reasons” include the West’s fear of masculine sexuality, just as Islam fears feminine sexuality. Non-medical reasons would include our culture’s  current lunatic warp spasm.

That is actually pretty accurate. Islam is terrified of women. Theirs is not a simple recognition of the differences in role and biology of men and women but an actual fear and loathing of femininity combined with an all too often primitive and violent posture toward women. 

Our culture is terrified of men, at least men who look and act in ways that are traditionally understood to be masculine. While not as overt as the violence of "female circumcision", the attempt to emasculate and mutilate men to transform them into something less threatening is just as real. Whether it is the cultural effort to paint men, and especially dads, as imbeciles barely tolerated by their wives and children or the subtle but powerful ways men are pushed out of the workforce or the endless assault on men acting like men and preferring that women act like women, somehow men, at least white men, have been ironically painted as the enemy of civilization and a far greater danger to civil society than Islamic terrorists. All men are potential rapists and all notions of masculine sexuality contribute to the "rape culture".

Even in the church this is true. In many circles of the church the idea of masculine sexuality is seen as something to be avoided and there is nothing much more horrifying than the outdated notion that God intended men to be the leaders of home and church. Church pews are often dominated by women, increasingly without a man present, and the same is true in a lot of pulpits.

It is certainly true that in Western civilization a lot of bad stuff can be attributed to white males but it is just as true that all of the great stuff is also attributed to white males. For every Hitler there is a Beethoven, a DaVinci, a Michelangelo, a Shakespeare. Western civilization has been dominated by white men, for good and for ill, but I would argue that for all of the many faults and weaknesses of Western civilization it is still preferable by a wide margin to any other civilization that does or has existed on a large scale.

You don't need to be afraid of men. Most of us are just trying to get by, to care for our families and to maybe make our communities and country a little better place. We make mistakes but we also built the greatest civilization the world has known. So please stop trying to make us into something we are not. If you ask us nicely we might even pick up that heavy box for you.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Three Mile Island Disaster Was The Result Of America Not Supporting Israel And Other Nonsense

I wrote a piece the other day about the Israeli-UN resolution-U.S. vote abstention kerfuffle, Keeping The Issues Clear When Talking About Contemporary Israel. and it contained a total of zero prophecy charts or references to Genesis 12:3.

Anyway I continue to see people commenting on social media about how outrageous it was for "Christian America" to "stab Israel in the back" and some of the links I have seen are just outrageous. For example: 10 Previous Times America Faced Major Disaster After Attempting To Divide Israel. This is their reasoning:

I am sure that there will be a tremendous amount of debate about to what extent the U.S. was involved in creating and drafting this resolution, but there is one thing that is exceedingly clear.

The ultimate decision as to whether or not this resolution would be adopted was in the hands of one man. Barack Obama knew very well that he had this power, and in the end he ultimately decided to betray Israel.

And now that our government has cursed Israel at the UN, our entire nation will be cursed as a result.

In the Scriptures we are repeatedly told that God will bless those that bless Israel and will curse those that curse Israel.

When Barack Obama blocked a similar resolution that France wanted to submit for a vote in September 2015, it resulted in America being blessed, and we definitely have been blessed over the past 16 months.

But now that Barack Obama has reversed course and has betrayed Israel, we will most assuredly be cursed. In the days ahead we will see how this plays out, and perhaps we can get some hints about what may happen by reviewing recent history.
The UN Security Council resolution that was passed on Friday is the biggest betrayal of Israel in modern history. As I explained in my last article, I believe that America's reprieve is now over and all hell is about to break loose in this country.

When Barack Obama blocked the UN Security Council from dividing the land of Israel in September 2015, according to the Word of God we should have been blessed as a nation as a result, and we were blessed.

But now Barack Obama has cursed Israel by stabbing them in the back at the United Nations, and according to the Word of God we should be cursed as a nation as a result.

And as surely as I am writing this article, we will be cursed.

So in essence, God's mood as it relates to one nation populated mostly by unbelievers outside of any national covenant relationship with God is determined almost exclusively that nation's diplomatic actions at an international body toward another nation populated mostly by unbelievers outside of any national covenant relationship with God. That makes perfect sense, provided you read the Bible without the slightest awareness of the context of the Bible as a whole, the record of redemptive history or even the most rudimentary exegetical ability or effort. Here is one of the 10 iron clad examples:

#1 The last time the U.S. government refused to veto an anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council was in 1979. On March 22nd, 1979 the Carter administration chose not to veto UN Resolution 446.

Four days after that on March 26th, the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty was signed in Washington. As a result of that treaty, Israel gave up a tremendous amount of territory. Two days later, on March 28th, the worst nuclear power plant disaster in U.S. history made headlines all over the globe.

Ah, that explains the Three Mile Island accident. It wasn't mechanical failures as we were led to believe, no it was the hand of God subtly causing a relief valve to stick open. God is known for His subtlety when He judges a nation, like that whole Sodom and Gomorrah thing.  Lest you brush this off as some crackpot website (although it clearly is), their Facebook page has over a quarter million likes including 7 people I am friends with on Facebook. The Facebook link to the story itself generated more than 11,000 responses, almost 1000 comments and was shares over 8,800 times!

In contrast. Grace To You has about 50,000 fewer likes (but a lot more of my friends) and MacArthur is a dispensationalist! Crazy "prophetic" interpretation and hysterics over current events seems to be a lot more popular in some circles than sober Biblical exegesis. Honestly you get better Biblical scholarship at the Babylon Bee than at "Prophecy News Watch" but people for some reason just love to try to find sense in current events by clumsily cramming them into the Bible. 

Of course not all of the responses are this outrageously unscriptural but there is a general sense among a lot of the church that a) America is somehow a unique nation in the eyes of God with an unwritten covenant that other nations are not either bound by or blessed by and b) Christians, especially in America, are likewise obligated to support without question any action by the modern nation called Israel at the risk of incurring God's wrath if we don't. Neither of these is correct and neither has a shred of Biblical support if you move past single verse "exegesis".

Christians have got to get this right and quickly. We look foolish for all the wrong reasons and we risk, and often more than simply risk, making the wrong decision or at least making decisions while only looking at one side of an issue, one that is fraught with diplomatic, religious and military perils.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Some Thoughts On Russell Moore And The ERLC.

Russell Moore, courtesy of ERLC
I wanted to take a moment to talk about a popular topic among more conservative minded Christians, especially of the evangelical stripe, and that topic is Russell Moore and some of the growing chorus from within the Southern Baptist Convention to get rid of Dr. Moore from the ERLC (the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention), to withhold funds from the ERLC or just get rid of it all together.

The problem some people have with Moore is his very vocal opposition to the support of Donald Trump by evangelicals which contrasts very sharply with the unadulterated endorsement of Trump by evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr. Mike Huckabee and James Dobson. What is also happening is an "old guard" versus "new vanguard" thing. Moore gave a speech at the Erasmus Lecture put on by the good folk at First Things. The title of his talk was Can the Religious Right Be Saved? and it was not highlighted by many punches being pulled. Needless to say this didn't sit well with many of the Old Guard Religious Right types, especially since it seems that their gamble (pun intended) paid off and the Trump win heralded a new era of influence for them. I have watched much of his lecture and to be completely blunt, as someone who has been disgusted by the fawning behavior of Falwell and others, I thought Moore seemed a little unpleasant and if I identified with the Religious Right I would have been understandably upset and felt like he was taking shots at the provincial hicks back home while being fêted in Gomorrah, aka New York City. It might make me question why I keep sending checks from our local church budget to someone who seems to dislike me so much.

Shortly after the election, some noise started from prominent leaders in the SBC. By prominent I mean some of the old time power brokers, people I have largely not heard of even though I spent a long time in the SBC. People like William Harrell and Will Hall, guys I had never heard of have vocally expressed concern that Moore doesn't represent the beliefs of Southern Baptists. The thing about the SBC is that it is a grassroots group. Individual churches decide how much to contribute and where. One doesn't get to demand a cut from a massive central budget to be decided by a few executive directors. I am not sure where this fight is going to go but it looks bad all around. People from all over the spectrum from Doug Wilson, a Presbyterian, and Rod Dreher, an Orthodox have weighed in. Mike Huckabee was quoted at NPR as saying: "I am utterly stunned that Russell Moore is being paid by Southern Baptists to insult them,". It certainly doesn't help Moore that he used to work for a Democratic Congressman, which forever leaves him in a place of suspicion for a lot of Southern Baptists.

Dr. Moore has attempted to address these concerns in a post titled Election Year Thoughts at Christmastime. In the most salient part he wrote:

First, try to see where there are misunderstandings. I remember one situation where I witnessed a handful of Christian political operatives excusing immorality and confusing the definition of the gospel. I was pointed in my criticisms, and felt like I ought to have been. But there were also pastors and friends who told me when they read my comments they thought I was criticizing anyone who voted for Donald Trump. I told them then, and I would tell anyone now: if that’s what you heard me say, that was not at all my intention, and I apologize. There’s a massive difference between someone who enthusiastically excused immorality and someone who felt conflicted, weighed the options based on biblical convictions, and voted their conscience. In a heated campaign season focused on sound bites, this distinction can get lost in the headlines, so it bears repeating.

As for me, I think that is where the rubber hits the road. I did not support Donald Trump, although I considered voting for him and might have if I lived in less of a slam-dunk state than Indiana, and I certainly did not support Hillary Clinton who was as thoroughly corrupt as any politician in my lifetime and was an enthusiastic evangelist for the death cult of abortion. I was pretty critical of evangelical leaders who supported Trump while excusing his behavior or explaining it away or appealing to a sudden conversion he allegedly had. But it seemed at times that Moore, whether intentionally or not, was condemning anyone who voted for Trump. Everyone who was paying attention during this election knows that many people faced some pretty agonizing decisions when it came to who to cast their vote for. If Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio had been the nominee, it would have been an easy decision for most of us but faced with the prospect of a dystopian future under Hillary Clinton, a lot of Christians made the decision to vote for a man they had little personal respect for. I don't think Moore fully realized that or at least he wasn't very open about it.

In the part of his Erasmus Lecture speech I watched Moore seemed a little too aware of his surroundings and seemed to be a little too aware of being under the bright lights of big city New York. I found his tone a little off-putting, which is partly why I didn't watch the whole thing. It seems to be part of a subtle shift on Moore's part since moving to the ERLC. I don't agree with a lot of what Tim Bayly says here but I do think there is some truth to this: On a number of levels, Russ's writing and speaking have demonstrated a yearning of the heart to be taken more seriously by the chattering classes of the eastern seaboard. That is a pretty common phenomenon in academia where "Christian" colleges and especially "Christian" academics want to be treated like grown-ups by the real academics and so they slowly but surely jettison orthodoxy hoping beyond hope that if they get rid of just one more doctrine the cool kids at Harvard and Stanford will accept them as one of their own and invite them over to share a microbrew and make fun of people in Oklahoma. I write this as someone who used to listen to Dr. Moore when he was "just" filling in for Albert Mohler's radio program, before his books started coming out and he got moved to the ERLC and I have always liked him, read his books and his blog, etc. I just am concerned about where he is going.

We definitely need voices like Russell Moore to help keep us honest in the days and years to come. His voice is a contrast to the Dobson's and Franklin Graham's and others who embraced Trump so enthusiastically. I would just caution him, if he cared what I thought, to remember that the people he is being critical of are on the same side as him, even when we disagree with them, but the people at the New York Times and the Washington Post and NPR are not on our side, don't want to be and never will be apart from a movement of the Holy Spirit. In our family squabbles which will inevitably happen it helps to remember that after all, we are family.

Keeping The Issues Clear When Talking About Contemporary Israel

In his ongoing effort to be as juvenile as possible before leaving office, the Obama administration abstained from a vote at the United Nations that essentially condemned Israel in a bunch of ways, allowing it to pass without the courage of an actual vote from the U.S. one way or the other. This has led to the expected angry backlash online from conservative media sources with articles like this from pro-Zionism Frontpage Mag: President Obama Throws Israel To The Wolves.

Of course a UN resolution is as impotent as everything else the UN does. It has no real impact other than serving as a diplomatic black eye and with what appears to be an overwhelmingly pro-Israel administration about to take over in a few weeks, there is little doubt that this resolution will be yet another empty gesture of the sort that has generally marked the utterly useless body of yammering, self-important bureaucrats that bears the risible and inaccurate name "United Nations". In fact it might backfire spectacularly as many Republicans are using this as an excuse to push for defunding the UN, a move I would be all in favor of. For example former Trump Presidential rival Senator Ted Cruz said that he will push to withhold U.S. funding of the UN until the resolution if reversed. As I posted on Facebook, the U.S. pays billions of dollars in UN funding and foots the bill for 22% of the entire budget, a percentage more than double that of Japan with the next highest percentage at 9.68%. The total sum of over $3,000,000,000 is more than 185 other countries pay combined. When you add in the huge amounts we spend on our military the bill gets a lot higher. So much for "United Nations". A more appropriate name would be more like "Bags of Cash From American Tax-Payers To Be Spent By Other Nations In Foolish Ways" but the acronym BOCFATTBSBONIFW doesn't have quiet the same ring to it.

The response is understandable in many ways. Coming as it does at the very end of the Obama reign it smacks of the same sort of petulance that has marked his entire administration and doubly so the month since it was apparent that the American electorate rejected his legacy and replaced him with someone who, at least on the surface, couldn't be more different. But it also raises the same concern that I usually have when the topic of the contemporary nation of Israel is at the forefront of the news, namely the response of American evangelicals.

I want to be crystal clear on this. Whether or not you support the secular nation-state of Israel as a matter of geopolitical preference, a democratic ally of sorts of the United States in an otherwise largely hostile region and whether or not you think the resolution that was passed and the U.S. decision to abstain (itself a cowardly act of inaction, if we supported the resolution we should have voted for it and if we didn't we should have voted against it. Abstention was the cowardly response.) was wise or foolish is a matter of geopolitics and U.S. national security. It is not a theological question, at least insofar as it is not a theological question about specific loyalty from one secular nation toward another.

There are not many issues in American evangelicalism which are more confused and more potentially costly to our witness than the mass misunderstanding of the theological nature of ancient and now extinct Israel as opposed to the contemporary secular nation-state of Israel. When you combine the "America as God's chosen nation" misplaced patriotic fervor with the dispensational confusion over the nature of Israel, you end up with a toxic mix that is dangerous and misguided. The ancient Old Covenant nation of Israel was a covenant-breaking unfaithful people (Jeremiah 31:32). God replaced that Old Covenant, making it obsolete (Hebrews 8:13), with a New Covenant that is in every way better (Hebrews 8:6). People of ethnic Jewish ancestry who are born-again are part of the New Covenant. Those that are not born-again are cut off (Romans 11:13-24 esp. verse 20) and their fate is no different from any other unbelieving people. As such there is no special place for the contemporary nation of Israel as it exists in redemptive history and there is no obligation for Christians to show deference to the secular covenant breaking leaders of Israel over any other nation. We are often reluctant to make that case, even from non-dispensational church leaders, for fears of raising the specter of "anti-semitism" but it is dishonest to pretend that there is a sharp distinction between the historic Old Covenant nation of Israel and the secular reconstituted contemporary nation that bears the same name.

When we associate the church and the Gospel with a secular nation and favor that nation and that ethnicity over others we make a mockery of the Great Commission and tell other people groups that they are second-class citizens of the world even though the overwhelmingly unbelieving citizens of Israel have no special standing with God compared to the people of any other contemporary nation and indeed believers in places like Syria and China have a relationship with God unlike that which any Israelite ever had under the Old Covenant. We do the people of Israel no favors when we extend to them the promise of covenant blessings that they do not possess instead of preaching the Gospel of the New Covenant in Christ to them no differently than we do any other nation or ethnicity.

I think that the behavior of the President via his surrogates was cowardly and petulant toward Israel and pandering toward other nations that are no friend of the United States. I also believe that there are many troubling questions in general about the relationship between the U.S. and Israel that need sober reflection. The entire relationship between the United States, Israel, the rest of the Middle East, the "Palestinian" people and so many other variables is excruciatingly complex. That complexity and the peril of missteps is far too great for Christians to interject a clumsy hermeneutic into it that further muddies water already roiled by decades of antagonism. We should encourage our leaders in America to be even-handed toward all other nations, showing deference where warranted by friendship and mutual benefit but not based on erroneous theological assumptions. It is fine, proper and necessary to have our theological convictions inform our understanding and involvement in contemporary secular issues but let's make sure we have the proper theological framework to make those decisions.

For more on this topic see a couple of prior posts,  Israel, Gaza and the Gospel and One of the best summaries of the relationship between Christians and the modern state of Israel I have ever read.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Word Became Flesh

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14

I love this video from John Piper, one of his best sermons I have watched and the reason I say that is that he does such a great job of pulling the pieces together, all of the pieces we so often read as if they were unrelated little moral stories instead of a seamless story that covers the entirety of human history that culminated in the resurrection of Christ but that also continues to unfold today as we wait for the coming of eternity.

It might seem odd to look at the Gospel according to John for the "Christmas story" since it pretty much is covered in one verse, John 1:14, but as beautiful and important as the recounting of the events surrounding the birth of Christ are for the church I can say, with not a little trepidation and trembling at the suggestion, that the why of the Incarnation is more crucial than the how of the Incarnation.

I weep at how we need this sort of thinking in the church, the pulling together all of these threads to show the entire tapestry of the covenant fulfillment of the God who is glorified. Oh how desperately we need to move past the theology of the felt animals of Noah's Ark from the children's room at church and get into the deep and weighty questions of God. One of the great needs of the church in the days to come is to encourage and teach the church to think. To really think for ourselves. A dangerous pitfall in church leadership is that it is far easier to tell people what to think instead of helping people learn to think. It is especially dangerous because it is not only easier because so many people seem to want that but it appeals deeply to the ego of leaders who are supposed to be equipping the saints, not telling them what to think.

The manger leads to the cross. If it did not, then it was meaningless. A baby born to a virgin is a historical novelty but a baby who grows into the Son of Man who dies for the sins of His people and rose again changes history forever. Jesus is the innocent babe who would one day walk into Jerusalem in order to suffer and then be cast out to be murdered on a cross. The way His life ended and miraculously was resurrected is the real "reason for the season". Enjoy your Christmas season with family and friends but ponder what it all means while you drink your eggnog. Nothing makes the season more rich than to see the Incarnation in light of the totality of redemptive history.

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." - Matthew 1:21

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Progressive Indoctrination ≠ Education

There is no topic in America that is more emotionally charged and less fact based than public education. The endless calls for more money and more money and more money ad nauseum are always accompanied by pleas infused with a heaping dose of guilt "Don't you care about the CHILDREN?!" One cannot so much as ask a question about the amount of money currently spent or increased spending being proposed without being painted as a cold-hearted ogre and a pox on your house for nine generations if you inquire as to the results of all of that spending. Along with this is a small but vocal cottage industry of people banging the drum about teacher's being underpaid. That teachers are underpaid is an absolute article of faith for modern America and no one is permitted to push back on it at all. The topic of teacher pay is an interesting one but the broader topic of public "education" is a completely different beast. Case in point, a recent essay from the Washington Post with the sure to be a tear jerker title: Why so many teachers need a second job to make ends meet. Please ignore the fact that many people have to have second jobs to make ends meet, this is about the children you fools!

The essay is written by one Nínive Calegari and she is introduced as follows (emphasis mine):

This is a post about what teachers face when it comes to making an adequate living. It was written by Nínive Calegari, a former classroom teacher who is the founder of the Teacher Salary Project, a nonpartisan organization whose mission is to raise awareness about the effects on the country of underpaying and undervaluing teachers. She is also co-founder of 826 Valencia/National, a nonprofit that provides support to seven writing and tutoring centers around the country.

What does that fumy word, "nonpartisan" mean? Well according to Wiktionary it means unbiased, impartial, etc.

Ah, so this group, the Teacher Salary Project, is unbiased and not partisan. Well that is a relief! She makes a mildly interesting case for increasing teacher pay, although she ignores glaring logical fallacies like comparing teachers to doctors when the reality is that getting an education degree is far less competitive and less demanding than becoming an M.D. But then we get to the end of the "nonpartisan" plea for higher teacher wages where she tells us how important paying teachers well is for....well, just read it for yourself.....

Finally, now, more than ever, if we want to fight global warming, racism, illiteracy, poverty, sexism and homophobia, we need to elevate the teaching profession to the financially viable and prestigious one it deserves to be. Elevating teachers is our chance to show what our values truly are. Let’s pay teachers what we think our students, democracy and future are worth.

Weird, I thought public schools were supposed to teach children basic skills like math and spelling and history, the building blocks of an educated and functional society. Apparently not. Ms. Calegari, I guess in places like Washington, D.C. equipping "teachers" to indoctrinate children on subjects like normalizing sexual perversion and made-up "science" like global warming (low temp tonight where I live is forecast at around -8 to -10 Fahrenheit) qualifies as "nonpartisan" but in the rest of the country the only thing in your final paragraph that counts as education is fighting illiteracy and none of it is "nonpartisan". The rest of that is simple nonsense and shockingly people who work for a living don't want to pay people more to be teachers if being a teacher means pushing that sort of partisan political agenda on our children.

If you needed another example of why people who are self-styled elites in our culture have no idea why Trump won or why the citizens of this country rejected their agenda, here it is. The debate over "education" in every aspect has had next to nothing to do with actual education for a long time and is now simple indoctrination carried out in government camps called "public schools", paid for by people that public school advocates (not teachers necessarily) think are too stupid to make decisions for their own children. The attitude is "Shut up, pay what we say and don't ask any questions about what we do". It is amazing that so many people in a few urban enclaves just assume that schools should be pushing a highly biased, partisan set of political positions instead of actual education.

The widening chasm in our country between two completely separate and distinct people grows wider every day and nowhere is this more apparent than in the differing notions of "education". I am glad we can homeschool our kids even if we do a poor job at it because I simply refuse to have my kids being force fed ideological nonsense under the guise of education. Let's hope that the next four years and beyond see some sort of common sense returned to the education debate.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Many Faces Of John Piper

I was watching John Piper and needed to pause the video and this was the face he was making. I might just leave the video paused indefinitely, the man has more facial expressions than Jim Carrey.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

More On Sarah Pulliam Bailey

I posted a pretty harsh response to Ms. Bailey and her essay on the dangerous lack of faith in the media last night. I stand by what I wrote but for a more nuanced and polite and thoughtful response check out Albert Mohler's The Briefing from yesterday.

(oops, forgot the link to Mohler initially, fixed now)

Friday, December 09, 2016

Sarah Pulliam Bailey Defends An Institution That No Longer Exists (And Probably Never Did)

Sarah Pulliam Bailey, a journalist who covers religion and who professes to be a Christian, seems angry that her fellow Christians are insufficiently obsequious toward "The Press". Her piece, Evangelicals, your attacks on ‘the media’ are getting dangerous, essentially places The Media on some sort of mystic higher level and borders on hysteria.

Why are these "attacks" by evangelicals getting "dangerous"? Because, as she starts her piece out, some deranged guy shot up a pizza place. He was (cue the ominous music) "......influenced by the book “Wild at Heart,” by John Eldredge about faith and masculinity, a popular one for some evangelicals." Um, so what? Well she never says why that was important to point out. I haven't read it but it is a hugely popular book that has sold, I assume, millions of copies. So why was it pertinent to mention it? No idea other than it is popular among some evangelicals and this guy claimed to be influenced by it. Wild at Heart has been out since 2001 and I don't recall it being linked to a guy firing his gun in a pizza place very often. So why bring it up right at the beginning of her article? The only possible reason it to impugn evangelicals who like a book by lumping them in with a deranged guy, in other words poisoning the conversation right at the outset with the people she is allegedly trying to reach. That is only the beginning of the irony.

Ms. Bailey's basic premise is that evangelicals are wrong to dismiss the "mainstream" media in favor of what she no doubt considers "fake news" sites like....cue the ominous music again....Breitbart. As an aside I literally never read Breitbart (or watch Fox News or listen for more than five minutes to Rush Limbaugh, etc.) prior to this election but now I click on every single story they post just out of spite. She then undermines her own argument by pointing out, even while trying to soften the blow, that the mainstream media has done plenty to undermine their own credibility.

To Sarah, a "professing Christian" let's remember, the newspaper is how we understand the world (emphasis mine).

I was raised in both a religious home and a newspaper home. My parents would pull out books for Bible study in the morning and plop them next to the local newspaper. The Bible and newspaper went together like cereal and milk. I grew up believing journalism was a noble profession because the best journalism is based on the relentless pursuit of truth.

Your quick dismissal of the entire “mainstream media” feels deeply inaccurate to me as a Christian and a journalistat least the kind of Christianity I was raised on, where the newspaper informed how we understood the world. The act of doing journalism is a way to live out my faith, a way to search for and then reveal truth in the world around me.

It wasn't "quick", as if we as a group are so easily swayed that we just started reading Breitbart this year and stopped reading the New York Times on a whim. This distrust of the media has been a long, long time coming. Of course it feels "inaccurate" to someone who places an apparent inordinate amount of trust in the media and is part of that group herself. The more important point is that from what she is saying, she grew up where the newspaper had equal or at least equivalent standing with the Bible to inform our worldview. Notice in the second paragraph she goes back to the newspaper as the source of how to understand the world but the Bible doesn't make a return mention. Here is where she goes wrong. The newspaper or other sources of news help to inform us of what is happening in the world but the why things happen is the province of the Bible. I can read about terrorism in the newspaper (maybe) but for all of the pontificating about why the terrorists do what they do, from American troops in the Middle East to oil to blow-back to global warming, the real why of what they do is found in the Bible. The big, "Capital W" WHY is sin and that is central to the entire Biblical narrative, Maybe she should have put the newspaper down and picked the Bible up more often. 

Many people involved in the press and especially those in the media friendly bastions of New York, Washington, D.C. and Chicago hold the media in an almost mystical regard. Let me amend that, they (ironically) hold certain traditional media outlets in the highest regard, like the New York Times, NPR/PBS and the Washington Post, as well as a rather jarring combination of far left, openly agenda driven sources like the Huffington Pot and Jon Stewart that are as far as you can get from the genteel and proper format of largely white, upper crust people in expensive suits reading the Washington Post on the Metro in D.C. while on their way to Important Jobs™ that tell people in flyover country why what they think is wrong and irrelevant.

This sort of almost religious reverence for The Media is a large reason why so many of us reject the narratives they try to force down our throats. To people like Sarah with a deep and abiding faith in the media, the media is out for Truth and Justice, acting as a check and balance against the powerful. In reality the press is not that and hasn't been for a long time. It now is a largely agenda driven media enterprise that seeks to mold and change public opinion, not in favor of objective truth but rather in favor of a certain ideological viewpoint. What is especially ironic in her essay is that she thinks that you get a broad viewpoint from the mainstream media that you don't get from "Breitbart"!

The “mainstream media” is collectively valuable because it presents a range of information and viewpoints, while the Breitbarts of the world present a singular voice to a targeted group of people.

Come on. Does anyone actually think that is true? One of the mainstream media's most respected sources is NPR and this is a radio station that has E.J. Dionne and David Brooks on for their Friday political round-up as if they represent different sides of the political spectrum but as Brooks showed in his extremely nasty and partisan commentary on Election night, he is only slightly less liberal than E.J. People like David Brooks are captive, token "conservatives" who are allowed to cluck their tongues and shake their heads sadly at the ignorance of regular conservative yokels who lack their enlightenment. 

Sarah says some stuff like this:

I sympathize with some frustrations you have, including a lack of ideological diversity within some media outlets. Some reporters have unfortunately stepped into more advocacy-oriented journalism and we’ve seen a blurring of opinion with reporting. 

Could the media do a better job of covering various topics — including religion — with nuance? Absolutely. 

But immediately dismisses them as real concerns and anyway you should stay away from Breitbart! I don't expect the media to cover religion with more "nuance" because the media for the most part considers sincere religious faith to be primitive, scary and more than a little dangerous. What Sarah apparently considers "legitimate" media is almost exclusively centered in highly secular, deeply liberal urban centers that are every bit as much in an ideological bubble as us huckleberries in rural Indiana live in.

It also bears mention that sort of like a preacher who depends on the offering plate to make his living preaching about tithing, someone who writes for the mainstream media and probably gets paid lots of money and gets a lot of exposure and fame for doing so has something of a vested interest in having evangelicals who number in the tens of millions in America buying newspapers that pick up her columns.

The press still serves an adversarial role like it used to when they were muckrackers in the early days of America but not in the way expected. Their adversary now Not specifically me but people like me, people who live outside of certain urban enclaves, who have faith, Christian faith of course, and take it seriously and not only allow but insist that it inform our decisions on matters beyond what to take to the church potluck, people who think that laws matter, that borders are necessary, that government is too big and too intrusive. We are their enemy and they are the ones who made us into adversaries. You can only mock and denigrate what people hold dear and at the same time beat them over the head with the nobility of things that are abhorrent to them for so long before they will stop spending their hard earned money to subsidize the abuse. Ask ESPN and their collapsing viewer base about that.

Ms. Bailey makes an impassioned but hollow call for people who don't think like she does to think like she does anyway because, like too many people who control the media and entertainment world, she thinks she knows better for us than we do. We aren't having it anymore. I am not having it anymore and haven't for some time. Listening to news sources that don't meet the mythical  "journalistic standards" as declared by people living in Washington and New York and Chicago isn't something I feel the slightest obligation to do and trying to guilt by association me into it by some wild attempt to link a lone disturbed individual with anyone who doesn't dutifully buy the New York Times every day is cheap, clumsy and intellectually lazy. In fact it is precisely the sort of stuff that makes people like me no longer care what people from the WaPo or Chicago Tribune think.

If you want to read someone who actually seems to get what is going on, check out this essay from right after the election at by Will Rahn, The unbearable smugness of the press. His whole essay is on the money but check this part out:

The mood in the Washington press corps is bleak, and deservedly so.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that, with a few exceptions, we were all tacitly or explicitly #WithHer, which has led to a certain anguish in the face of Donald Trump’s victory. More than that and more importantly, we also missed the story, after having spent months mocking the people who had a better sense of what was going on.

This is all symptomatic of modern journalism’s great moral and intellectual failing: its unbearable smugness. Had Hillary Clinton won, there’d be a winking “we did it” feeling in the press, a sense that we were brave and called Trump a liar and saved the republic.

So much for that. The audience for our glib analysis and contempt for much of the electorate, it turned out, was rather limited. This was particularly true when it came to voters, the ones who turned out by the millions to deliver not only a rebuke to the political system but also the people who cover it. Trump knew what he was doing when he invited his crowds to jeer and hiss the reporters covering him. They hate us, and have for some time.

And can you blame them? Journalists love mocking Trump supporters. We insult their appearances. We dismiss them as racists and sexists. We emote on Twitter about how this or that comment or policy makes us feel one way or the other, and yet we reject their feelings as invalid.

It’s a profound failure of empathy in the service of endless posturing. There’s been some sympathy from the press, sure: the dispatches from “heroin country” that read like reports from colonial administrators checking in on the natives. But much of that starts from the assumption that Trump voters are backward, and that it’s our duty to catalogue and ultimately reverse that backwardness. What can we do to get these people to stop worshiping their false god and accept our gospel?

We diagnose them as racists in the way Dark Age clerics confused medical problems with demonic possession. Journalists, at our worst, see ourselves as a priestly caste. We believe we not only have access to the indisputable facts, but also a greater truth, a system of beliefs divined from an advanced understanding of justice.

Read the whole thing and compare someone who understands the actual problem with the media is the media themselves, not "dangerous" evangelicals who don't subscribe to the newspaper anymore to Ms. Bailey. If I didn't know better I might think that Ms. Bailey's essay is not directed at her "fellow evangelicals" at all but instead was designed to soothe her fellow media types and reassert her intellectual street cred. If I didn't know better that is but then how would I know better since I don't listen to my betters in the mainstream media?

Thursday, December 08, 2016

If You Like Your Money, You Can Keep Your Money And Other Lies

I mentioned in a previous post about the Wells Fargo debacle my past experience as a bank manager and I ran across an interesting article today that I think would be enlightening for a lot of people who are not experienced in how our financial systems work.

A lot of people think banks work in the same way they (also erroneously) think Social Security works. Here is the thought process. Arthur goes to the bank and makes a deposit of $200 in cash (for the record, Arthur never has $200 in cash at one time). The very nice teller takes the cash, gives Arthur a receipt and then puts Arthur's $200 in a box in the vault marked "Arthur's Money". When Arthur comes back to withdraw $100 of it, they go get his cash out of his box and give it to him with a smile and perhaps a lollipop if he behaved in line (Arthur has yet to receive a lollipop). That isn't how it works.

You would think that a bank would want to have lots and lots of cash on hand. Who doesn't love a lotta cash? That is actually not the case. A local branch of a bank, big or small, does have a lot of cash in the building between teller drawers, the ATM and the vault compared to what you have in your wallet. They do not have a lot of cash on hand relative to the amount of deposits they have on the books. When I was a bank manager it was a regular chore to ship out money so that we had enough for the tellers, the ATM (which usually stocks only $20 bills) and the vault so we could cash checks and process withdrawals as needed but not too much. It was an expense for the branch to have too much cash in the building and if it happened we would get a nasty phone call or email from the goblins at Gringotts Wizarding Bank the bean counters in corporate. In fact if someone wanted a large withdrawal of cash we would usually ask for a few days to get it in so we didn't get too low on cash and even then we were kind of leery in case we got in an extra hundred grand and they changed their mind. The Federal reserve sets guidelines for how much cash banks have to have relative to deposits, called Reserve Requirements.

Reserve requirements are the amount of funds that a depository institution must hold in reserve against specified deposit liabilities. Within limits specified by law, the Board of Governors has sole authority over changes in reserve requirements. Depository institutions must hold reserves in the form of vault cash or deposits with Federal Reserve Banks.

Notice the emphasized words above. They see your money not as cash on deposit at the bank but as a deposit liability, in other words money shown as owed to customers on a balance sheet but not actually present in the bank. More on that in a moment. If you look at the chart from the Federal Reserve, the most a bank has to have on hand in cash reserves is 10%. So let me break that down for you. If all of the depositors at a bank would show up and ask for all of their money in cash, 90% of that money is not there. You can't have it, at least not without a substantial delay. So in comes this article from Mark Nestmann, Carrying Cash? Be Ready To Lose It. Nestmann writes a lot about the way the government is able to simply steal your money if you have it laying around or on your person via civil asset forfeiture and that is absolutely a must-read on a ridiculous process but his opening paragraph has an important nugget (emphasis mine):

From a legal standpoint, the money you deposit in a bank no longer belongs to you. Instead, the bank owns it. You are merely just another one of their unsecured creditors. What’s more, in the event of future bank failures, the US government has now signed an international agreement confirming that it will not pay off depositors. Instead, it will force them to submit to a “bail-in” regime, like bank depositors in Cyprus experienced in 2013. 

Catch that? When you take your cash to your bank, ostensibly because it is "safer", you give up your right of ownership to that cash. Your deposited cash becomes part of a line item on the financial statement, a liability. They have borrowed your money but you have no security to guarantee their loan. Sure they say they will give it back on demand ("checking accounts" are actually known as demand deposit accounts or DDAs) and that is generally true but like our entire monetary system it is all based on trust and promises. You take deposits of your pay to the bank because businesses will accept payments in the form of drafts against the money the bank borrowed (writing a check) or via a promise to pay using a credit or debit card. You use cash to buy and sell and accept it as inherently valuable because everyone else also agrees that it has value even though a piece of paper backed by the increasingly risible "full faith and credit" of the U.S. government has no value in and of itself.

You might be thinking, so what? The system works, it has generally always worked for almost everyone. The point is just that we all need to be aware and to educate ourselves. There is far too much of our life that just happens and more often happens to us, When it comes to something as important as the money we earn for our labor, shouldn't we know the real way that things work in the background, the way things work that we absolutely depend on for paying for food, shelter, clothing, etc.? I think so. Take the time to learn something about the way things work, especially things we take for granted because those are the things that are most likely to bite us in our collective butts if things go sideways.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

One Of These Was A Date Which Will Live In Infamy

A quick lesson in history and perspective.

This is a scene from the attack on Pearl Harbor 75 years ago.

December 7, 1941 was the date of the Japanese sneak attack on U.S. naval forces at Pearl Harbor. It propelled the U.S. into World War II, leading to thousands of American and civilian deaths immediately countless followed by thousands more in the Pacific theater, culminating in the use of two atomic bombs on civilians in Japan leading to the deaths of yet tens of thousands more. That day was an attack on America and a national crisis, a rightful day of mourning.

This a scene from the Presidential election in 2016, just a month ago.

The election of Trump, even if you didn't vote for him like me or hate his guts like so many others, was not a tragedy or a day which will live in infamy. It was the result of our Republic working as intended, the will of the electorate being expressed. He might be a great President, he might be an awful President. Who knows? What is for certain is that his election should be seen for what it was, a lawful and proper working out of our electoral process.

Some people think that the election of Trump was the worst thing EVER. A lot of those same people no doubt haven't a clue what today is the anniversary of or if they do why it is important. We suffer from an overabundance of hyperbole in America and a scarcity of perspective.

As a refresher in case you haven't been paying attention. Pearl Harbor Day, an actual tragedy and a day we should remember in perpetuity. The election of Donald Trump, while it may turn out to be a huge mistake following 8 years of another huge mistake, is not a tragedy and shouldn't be treated like one.

History matters.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

I Think They Are Starting To See The Light

It ought to come as little surprise that I mostly despair for the more traditional manifestations of the church in the years to come. Most of what I call the institutional church is so incredibly inwardly and selfishly focused that it seems that they have no idea that the world has changed and is changing all around them while they blithely fiddle in tune to the sound of our culture burning down around them.

So in light of that I was pleasantly surprised to see some interesting thoughts in what I thought was an unlikely place, namely the BaylyBlog, a pretty hardcore Presbyterian kinda blog. The post in question, Is there a Christian ghetto in our future... , is actually a transcript of a talk given recently by Ken Patrick of Trinity Presbyterian in Ludlow, Kentucky at the Boniface Conference. While much of it was pretty boilerplate doom and gloom (I don't think he was wrong about it), I did want to look at a couple of his "What Now" points. The first one that jumped out at me was pretty startling:

3. Third, let’s abolish seminary degrees. No, really. However they may have begun, many of our seminaries have become co-opted by the heresies of feminism and egalitarianism. They turn out men who are culturally hip and, if our own session is to be believed, biblically ignorant. These graduates become our pastors and teaching elders, and it is these same pastors/teaching elders who crave the approbation of the world. After all, they’re the ones constantly pushing the envelope with regard to liberalizing tendencies. I think it’s fair to say many of our pastors have bought into the desire to be credentialed and respected within the broader academic community. Unfortunately, the broader academic community has become stridently anti-Christian, so what’s a pastor desperately seeking intellectual street cred to do? Well, in the PCA they winsomely (can we retire this word?) set up study committees to examine, once again, the role of women in the church with an eye towards the eventual ordination of women to at least one office, if not more. Why do we put up with this? Why do we allow our General Assembly to be dominated by the professional theologians? Why do we restrict the votes of ruling elders, those men who work in a secular profession all week and don’t often have the luxury of attending a GA hundreds of miles away? Why can’t we broaden the suffrage of ruling elders by allowing remote electronic voting on GA overtures? It’s hard to imagine the PCA would allow the shenanigans it currently permits if the more conservative class of ruling elders were enabled to vote en masse. But this is just one denominational example; if you think I exaggerate, go talk to the remnant of God-fearers in the PCUSA, the ELCA, the UCC, or the Episcopal Church. But back to my suggestion. How would abolishing the credential help us? It would thin the ranks of teaching elders to those who have a greater desire to shepherd than study. No credentials mean lack of academic standing. This means there’s no intellectual status to defend because such men won’t have any academic standing to begin with. We will be liberating our pastors from the temptation to pursue worldly recognition—at least to some extent. Now don’t mistake my zeal for abolishing seminary degrees with a desire to eliminate good, rigorous biblical training for church leaders. I’m all for it, but let the culmination of the training be ordination rather than some earthly credential or degree. Let the amount of training be split between the training institution and the church. Let us make our own shepherds, and perhaps we can train them to be warriors to boot.

You might not care for his talk about seminaries being infiltrated by feminism and egalitarianism, although that is true. What is really startling is the admission that the pursuit of what I would consider to be worldly acclaim via academic accolades is unhealthy. I have argued for a long time that elders should be trained in the local gathering (See my post Repost: Home Cookin' for more details). I mean this is something that I had a hard time believing I was reading from a hardcore Presbyterian. I am not kidding when I said I had to back up and read some of this twice to make sure I understood. The church of the near future is going to need men, regular men, to step up and lead without the "benefit" of shipping them off to spend tends of thousands of dollars and years of their lives pursuing the right to put a couple of letters after their names. There us definitely a place for the academy in the church, just not as a proving ground for professionalized clergy.

His second "What now?" is another subject near and dear to my heart although I am an utter failure at it and that is Christian education:

4. Fourth, the church should more actively promote Christian education. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on propounding the evils of the public schools. If you don’t already understand that they are the primary vehicle by which Satan has indoctrinated millions, then you haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on. You don’t understand that Christian education is a form of fulfilling the Great Commission, a form of discipleship. Any further rant by me won’t make much of a difference. As they are presently constituted, I firmly believe our covenant children should not be in public schools. I think earnest evangelicals agree with this assertion, but we have many families who are in circumstances where obtaining a Christian education is not possible. So let me ask a few questions. First, is our education of our children impossible because we don’t have the facilities in which to educate the children? That can’t be true because the number of edifices owned by the Evangelical church nationwide has to be in the hundreds of thousands. We have the buildings and they go largely unused five to six days a week. This is a scandal. We have the facilities to provide the space for education and discipleship. Second question: is our education of our children impossible because Christian parents can’t afford the tuition? Perhaps, and this too is a scandal. It’s a scandal that the Evangelical church expects young parents to foot the entire bill for the education of covenant children. Ironically, even the pagans understand that the entire community benefits from “educated” children, and thus they spread the cost around the community in the form of property taxes. Typically in this country, the Christian school movement is solely dependent on its customers (parents of school-age children) and has no recourse or connection to the greater Christian community for funding and resources. Our parsimoniousness in this area is a scandal. Is it expensive to pay teachers. Yes, it can be, especially if we expect to have male teachers who are heads of households responsible for raising a family. But what about all the resources of the Baby Boomers in our midst, whether it’s cash, expertise, time—or all three? How many evangelical Boomers are retired in their mid-60s with plenty of time on their hands and nothing really constructive to do, other than their leisure pursuits? If the evangelical church is in a fight for its very existence, why aren’t we using all of our resources? Why don’t we have too many volunteers to educate our children? And I haven’t even touched on homeschooling…

Pay particular attention to this part: "First, is our education of our children impossible because we don’t have the facilities in which to educate the children? That can’t be true because the number of edifices owned by the Evangelical church nationwide has to be in the hundreds of thousands. We have the buildings and they go largely unused five to six days a week. This is a scandal. We have the facilities to provide the space for education and discipleship.". 

Yep. We insist on investing in buildings and then leave them empty for most of the week while our kids go to public schools to be taught the precise opposite of what their parents believe. I tried to figure it up a few years again and estimated that the Southern Baptist Convention alone owns property valued at more than $40 billion (see Banging This Drum Again) and that is just the SBC! The problems he highlights get to the core of what I have been barking about for years, the way that the church is so event focused that we miss the people, the community, the family of God.

One of the areas he speaks about that really gets to where I am is his repeated concern about the use of our resources, both money and manpower, in ways that aid the body for more than just making Sunday morning more comfortable. We have so much money and so much untapped talent. Can't we use that to help mentor men and women who have not had godly parental role-models? Can't we, as he mentions, use our resources to help young Christian families with children provide Christian education to those children? What about those that have to choose between a job and standing for the truth: " If you have men who might be losing their jobs due to their faith, what can the Church do to care for these men? When these situations arise, do you know how you will counsel these men? Will you be ready with funds, food, clothing, and shelter? ". I don't have to agree with everything he is saying here to applaud where he is going on this train of thought. Thinking about our financial and human resources as more than just an inward, Sunday morning focused issue and starting to think about those resources strategically is such a great thing to read.

There is still a lot of work to be done but I am encouraged to start seeing men thinking about the ways the church can and indeed must function in the future. We have a long way top go but I think the churches that start thinking this way now are going to be far better positioned for  the uncertain but likely difficult future.

Tony And Shane's Adventures In Missing The Point

I am not sure how I missed this, The Evangelicalism of Old White Men Is Dead. Maybe because I generally don't have time to waste reading the New York Times, all the liberal news that's fit to print. Anyway, two noted non-partisans, Tony Campolo of Sojourners and Shane Claiborne, have declared that the evangelicalism of old, white men is dead. That might come as a surprise to many old, white male evangelicals who have and are and continue to serve Jesus Christ as their Lord and loving their neighbor as themselves.

Now there are some decent points being made in their editorial. It is absolutely true that evangelical Christianity is far too deeply embedded with Republican politics, even when those politics run counter to Biblical teaching (I would point to the love of all things militaristic in the GOP but not to declining to take from some by force to give to others). I have written a lot about that very issue. Unfortunately as is often the case with people like Tony and Shane, the diagnosis is one thing, the cure is another.

Here is one example:

As white male evangelists, we have no problem admitting that the future does not lie with us. It lies with groups like the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, led by Gabriel Salguero, or the Moral Monday movement, led by William Barber II, who has challenged the news media on its narrow portrayal of evangelicals. For decades, we have worked within evangelicalism to lift up the voices of these “other evangelicals.”

But we cannot continue to allow sisters and brothers who are leading God’s movement to be considered “other.” We are not confident that evangelicalism is a community in which younger, nonwhite voices can flourish. And we are not willing to let our faith be the collateral damage of evangelicalism.

Weird. I thought that the future lies with Jesus Christ and His people around the globe from every tribe, nation and tongue. I am not interested in being told that the future has no place for people like me by people who complain about people who don't look like me being described as "others". Which is it? Should we all seek to work together regardless of race or ethnicity to serve our Lord or should we replace one alleged system that divides the church based on race with another system that divides the church based on race? When Claiborne and Campolo laud an ethnicity identified group like the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, they get applauded by the readership of the New York Times or at least are given a bemused pat on the head. If I were to form a group and call it the National White Evangelical Coalition I would be branded a racist, a member of the "alt-right" and a likely reader of Breitbart. What is the difference? Many would say that evangelicalism has always been identified with whites and having a Latino branded group helps to give them a voice but I say that it is nothing less than ethnic identification that serves no purpose other than cementing the divide between the racial and ethnic communities in the church.

Here is another, emphasis mine.

We want to be clear: We are not suggesting a new kind of Christianity that simply backs the Democratic Party. Jesus is neither a Democrat nor a Republican — even if, as William Sloane Coffin Jr. once said, his heart leans left. Many faithful Christians did not vote for Hillary Clinton because of their commitment to a consistent pro-life agenda. True faith can never pledge allegiance to anything less than Jesus.

Did you catch that? Sure, we have to say that Jesus isn't conservative or liberal but we all know He is kind of liberal. If you can read the New Testament and come away with the impression that Jesus Christ was in favor of homosexual "marriage", the church subcontracting our calling to aid the poor to Caesar and his thugs, to abortion on demand, the replacement of worship of God as Creator with the creation as God, then one of us is reading the wrong way. There is nothing quite so sneaky as making a great show of being politically non-partisan while slipping in politically partisan statements. A lot of Christians didn't vote for Hillary Clinton because she was an unapologetic cheerleader for infanticide and on top of that every single policy proposal she put forward was bad for America. Notice also the dig at "a consistent pro-life agenda", which I assume is code for only accepting your reasons for voting against Hillary if your pro-life agenda includes more than abortion. I agree that it should but I also think that opposing someone for no other reason than her slavish devotion to the death cult called "Choice" is sufficient reason by itself. As I have said before, if your idea of social justice doesn't start with justice for the unborn, you have no idea what the word justice means.

Then there is this:

Next year marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, one of the most significant moments in the history of Christianity. The reformers were navigating many of the same currents and contradictions that we face today. Perhaps we need a new reformation — one that invites Christians to return to the teachings of Jesus and offers our neighbors a truer vision of how he lived and moved in the world.

I suppose it would be in poor taste to point out that the Reformers were uniformly white men so I won't. Finally there is this:

The words of Jesus — which are printed in red in many Bibles — could not be more relevant today. Despite the terrible things done in the name of Jesus, a Christianity that stays true to his words has survived for 2,000 years. Maybe this is a moment in our history for evangelicals to repent and be “born again” again as Red Letter Christians.

There are few movements more arrogant than the "Red Letter Christian" movement, a movement which by their very name presumes that they and they alone are "truly" following the teachings of Christ, as if His teachings for the church are only found in the red letters and presuming further that only their decidedly leftist interpretation of very selective passages in red are correct. In fact with this final paragraph it becomes apparent that the entire op-ed is little more than a thinly veiled recruitment ad for their "progressive" "ministries". One of the sure signs of a cult is an assumption that they alone have a monopoly on truth and also a demonizing those who disagree with them. I am not saying that the Red Letter Christians are a cult but I am saying that if the shoe sort of fits.....

The calling of the church is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a Gospel that is not a "social gospel" of sexual libertinism, gender confusion and forcible income redistribution just as it is not a "gospel" of militarism, capital gains tax cuts and crony capitalism. Being born again is a theologically critical doctrine, one that ought not be clumsily hijacked to imply that the rest of the church needs to get on the social justice warrior bandwagon to save us from THE TRUMP. Being born again is not a shift of political allegiances or a change of racial identity politics, it is a completely unmaking of the old man (oops, that sounds patriarchal, the old person) into a new creation in Christ. The church will survive Donald Trump just as it has survived Barack Obama and would have survived Hillary Clinton. 

It is precisely the sort of identity politics being engaged in by Campolo and Claiborne that is decried by them in the editorial. Being old and white and male is bad, being a "person of color" and a woman is great. I am sure the irony is lost on them because they are every bit as intractably dogmatic as Jerry Falwell, Jr., a man who I have very little respect for. Telling people that identity politics are bad and then engaging in identity politics on the pages of the New York Times of all places is wantonly hypocritical and that is something else people catch on to pretty easily.

The real future of the church is found wherever Jesus Christ is declared to be Lord. Jesus is Lord in a church that is entirely white, led by old, white men. Jesus is Lord in a multi-ethnic church. Jesus is Lord in a predominantly black or Latino church. Jesus is Lord everywhere and for all time. Where His Holy Name is lifted up in love and in truth, there He is among them and there His church is found. Our Lord has His winnowing fork in His hand and the chaff is being separated from the wheat even now before our eyes. While some play identity politics and seek the bemused approval of man, the rest of the church has a mission to carry out.