Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sundry Musings

Have WMDs been found In Iraq? Are wicked MSM outlets covering it all up? Congressman Peter Hoekstra and Rick Santorum claim that the public has been "deceived" and that, in fact, hordes of WMDs have been found in Iraq. All of this flim-flam has been debunked by, among others, Scott Richert. Scott Ritter comments:

Regardless of what Sen. Rick Santorum and the lunatic neoconservative fringe want to think, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. Citing a classified Department of Defense report that claims some 500 artillery shells have been found in Iraq by U.S. forces since the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq in March 2003, Santorum and his cronies in the right-wing media have been spouting nonsense about how Bush got it right all along, that there were WMD in Iraq after all. He conveniently fails to report that there is nothing "secret" about this data, it has all been reported before (by the Bush administration, nonetheless), and that the shells in question constitute old artillery munitions manufactured well prior to 1991 (the year of the first Gulf War, and a time after which the government of Saddam Hussein stated -- correctly, it turned out -- that no WMD were produced in Iraq). The degraded sarin nerve agent and mustard blister agent contained in the discovered munitions had long since lost their viability, and as such represented no threat whatsoever. Furthermore, the haphazard way in which they were "discovered" (lying about the ground, as opposed to carefully stored away) only reinforces the Iraqi government's past claims that many chemical munitions were scattered about the desert countryside in remote areas following U.S. bombing attacks on the ammunition storage depots during the first Gulf War. Having personally inspected scores of these bombed-out depots, I can vouch for the veracity of the past Iraqi claims, as well as the absurdity of the claims made today by Santorum and others, who continue to hold personal political gain as being worth more than the blood of over 2,500 dead Americans.

By the way, The Opinion Journal piece linked to above was brought to my attention via a daily email from Albert Mohler. I also see that Andrew Sandlin linked to the Fox News story on the "missing" WMDs and said, "Chalk one up for George W. Bush, and take a point away from the lefties." As you can see, Christians are buying this all lock, stock, and barrel--which should come as no surprise.

Speaking of Christian warmongers, World Magazine interviewed Chris Hitchens. Hitch may or may not have been sober during the discussion, but he did manage to spew out this little bit of blasphemy: "[Jesus on the cross] is scapegoating that absolves one of all responsibility in return for the acceptance of the incredible and the undesirable. And then with the other shoe, the other hand, says if you don't believe it, then we have a real program of torture that will go on forever. It's disgusting." Though a Christ-hater, Hitchens has gained many admirers on the Right, "Christian" and Neocon, for his unabashed bloodthirstiness. As Gene Healy says, "Insult our Savior, defame our religion, support the president: you're pretty swell, all things considered. The war must be very, very important to Christian conservatives."

It isn't really that strange, I suppose, that Neocons have embraced Hitch. To paraphrase Richard Nixon, they're all Trotskyists now. But here is a recent essay by Albert Mohler on Hitchens that, while generally critical, makes this startling claim, "Rejecting this moral relativism as both dangerous and intellectually bankrupt, Christopher Hitchens took many observers in the literary and political worlds by surprise when he became an ardent supporter of the 'War on Terror' and declared himself the sworn enemy of any relativistic ideology that would confuse the evil of terrorism with the good of freedom."

So here are a couple of quick examples of Hichen's moral sturdiness. When asked about "9-11," Hitchens explained his sense of excitement and exhiliration:

Watching the towers fall in New York, with civilians incinerated on the planes and in the buildings, I felt something that I couldn’t analyze at first and didn’t fully grasp (partly because I was far from my family in Washington, who had a very grueling day) until the day itself was nearly over. I am only slightly embarrassed to tell you that this was a feeling of exhilaration. Here we are then, I was thinking, in a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate. Fine. We will win and they will lose. A pity that we let them pick the time and place of the challenge, but we can and we will make up for that.

Speaking of the Iraq war, Hitch said, "It is glorious and it IS my war because it needed Paul Wolfowitz and myself to go and convince the President to go to war. And we are going to kill every Al Qaida terrist and Baathist in the country and that's a good thing. They need to be killed and we will kill them."

Dismissing "moral relativsim," Hitchens also claims Mother Teresa "helped to kill millions of people" and blames Pope John Paul for the deaths of "millions" from AIDS. Meanwhile, Hitch venerates the likes of Trotsky, Lenin, and Stalin. Yet according to Mohler, this joker has become "the sworn enemy of any relativistic ideology that would confuse the evil of terrorism with the good of freedom."

Gary North concludes that home schools are better than private schools. Chad Degenart's comments on North's revelation are of interest.

It was no surprise that Sunni's would oppose occupation.

I'll probably throw up some quotes later, but Aaron Wolfe has a funny little essay poking fun at "church growth" wackiness in the latest issue of Chronicles. Effectively, Wolfe says that catering to the whims of "church shoppers" and the ever present "unchurched" does little more than foster a cultue of individualism. From the NY Times is an example of marketing the church, "Mr. Hur and the other pastors at the church are big soccer fans, and in their quest for new missionary methods, they have organized the viewings of games in this year's tournament in the hope of drawing new members to the church, and to Christ. Some of the games have drawn more than 1,000 fans, they said."

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Quick Note

I'm sure that both my readers will be disappointed, but I think posting may be slight for the next couple of weeks. We'll see. On the other hand, I did manage to make some updates to my website. The links page has been revised, and hopefully our family page will finally be updated again soon. Please feel free to check out some of my archived pieces.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

SBC Silliness

A quick recap of events from the Southern Baptist Convention...

The week began with a "debate" over Calvinism pitting Al Mohler against Paige Patterson. Doctor Mohler crowed that at least in the SBC there was debate over weighty theological matters when the issue could be the ordination of homosexuals.

So instead of a debate over homosexuality, the SBC Resolutions Committee had a knock-down fight over the ever so serious issue of...alcohol consumption. No, I'm not making this up. Here is a bit from the Baptist Press coverage:

When the back-and-forth on alcohol finally ended, the messengers passed with about a four-fifths majority a resolution not only opposing the manufacture and consumption of alcohol but urging the exclusion of Southern Baptists who drink from election to the convention’s boards, committees and entities. Like other resolutions, it is not binding on SBC churches and entities.

The resolution’s supporters contended the action was needed because some Christians believe they may drink based on a wrong interpretation of the believer’s "freedom in Christ." They said abstaining from alcohol preserves a Christian’s purity and testimony, while drinking can be a "stumbling block" for others and has destructive results.

Tom Ascol rose to remind everyone that Jesus Himself was in the wine-manufacturing business, but to no avail. Nor was there great concern that the committee was condemning activity actually condoned in Scripture. Of course, man-made additions to Holy Writ undermine our position on the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. But never mind, alcohol is bad, bad, bad. Evidently, we're to believe in a literal hermeneutic unless it's inconvenient to do so.

Meanwhile, several other resolutions went down to defeat. The aforementioned Ascol offered a resolution urging SBC churches to practice Biblical discipline and make a reasonable effort to provide accurate membership statistics. Does that sound controversial? According to the SBC, there are 16 million born-again believers occupying the pews of our churches. It's a good thing truth in advertising laws don't apply.

The other major resolution that went down was offered by Roger Moran and Bruce Shortt, a Houston authority who is the author of "The Harsh Truth About the Public Schools," proposing an "exit strategy" from the public schools. Turning Moran and Shortt out to pasture, the Resolutions Committee instead adopted a resolution commending "the hundreds of thousands of Christian men and women who teach in our public schools" and recommending that Southern Baptists "engage the culture."

I'm not even sure what to say, so let me quote Chris Ortiz instead. "Apparently, Christian children being taught by the secular sodomites is tolerable, but a leader in the SBC that drinks wine or beer is impeding the message of Jesus Christ. This is the height of Phariseeism -- you gag on a knat while swallowing a camel. What should be an issue, isn't. What isn't an issue, you make paramount. God help us!"

Messengers also elected a "reformer" as president of the SBC. His name is Frank Page. No, no you didn't read that correctly, he's a "reformer," not Reformed. In fact, in 2000, he penned an 80-page booklet entitled, "The Trouble with the TULIP: A Closer Examination of the Five Points of Calvinism." Wow, it only took 80 pages to refute Calvin!

Among other typical mis-representations, Page offers up the old canard that Calvinism kills evangelism:

If one does follow the logic of Calvinism, then a missionary or evangelistic spirit is unnecessary. If irresistible grace is the truth, then there is no need to share Christ with anyone, since those persons whom God has elected are irristibly going to be drawn into his kingdom anyway. If one studies the pages of history, one will see that Calvinistic theology (Five Point) has encouraged a slackening of the aggressive evangelistic and missionary heartbeat of the church.

To conclude the week, messengers enthusiastically cheered on Condi Rice--Nuremburg style, with seven standing ovations and a spontaneous outburst of "God Bless America." Is that harsh? Perhaps. On the other hand, Southern Baptists have become the political shock-troops in the Bush coalition for moral imperialism and democratic crusading.

Hmm, maybe it is time to consider an "exit strategy."

Monday, June 12, 2006

Miscellaneous Stuff

A couple of interesting ecclesiastical items in the Washington Post. First, the Post has taken note of the increasingly popular option of home churches. I'm not entirely sure what to make of the trend. My church has home groups that meet periodically, similar to the fashion described herein, except that the taking of the sacraments isn't part of the deal. I guess my concern is with the maintenance of orthodoxy. I would be interested in any comments from readers who actually home church.

Secondly, WAPO published an item on the feminization of the American church. The article quotes a Presbyterian elder to the effect that the theology and practices of Judaism, Buddhism and Islam offer "uniquely masculine" experiences for men. Leon Podles made a similar case in "The Church Impotent." Podles also claimed that the gender breakdown in Orthodox American churches was pretty close to 50-50. EO is looking better all the time.

For a nice polemic on the feminization of the church, check out this essay by Aaron Wolf. Here is a taste:

Jesus taught us to pray "Our Father" not because He lived in a male-dominated society but because His saving mission involved granting us a share in His Divine Sonship through the "adoption of sons." Therefore, the very essence of Christianity is masculine, an expression of patriarchal authority and the place and inheritance enjoyed by the Firstborn Son. Such authority has long been maligned by the liberal mainline churches in America, which are happy to ordain women and, now, open homosexuals. Yet it is not merely the Scripture-denying mainlines who have been infected by this disease. The image of the effeminate clergyman is nearly universal in America—not just among liberals but among self-identified conservatives. The myriad queer priests on the Catholic side have as their counterpart the femmy Protestant pastor who must rely on silly stories and Dr. Phil psychobabble to carry his sermons. Vasectomized fathers of 1.5 children make their vestments look like dresses as they tug at the heart-strings of men and women. Evangelical megachurch pastors, with their khakis and polo shirts, take up the role of vicar of Jesus-the-Boyfriend, as their sermons or chats insist on fanning the flames of passion for Christ instead of proclaiming the Passion of Christ. One popular conservative pastor even champions something he calls "Christian hedonism," in a book entitled, appropriately, Desiring God.

Gone are the liturgies that place the crucified Christ and His Body and Blood at the center, and gone are hymns that call God "a bulwark never failing." In their place are the ubiquitous and repetitive choruses that distort the message of historic Christianity and replace it with a celebration of feminine emotions: "The simplest of all love songs / I want to bring to you / So I let my words be few / Jesus I am so in love with you."

The modern "praise and worship" experience resembles a soft-rock concert (a genre made for women), where the "worship leader" and his swooning sidekicks, the praise band, take center stage. Each stands gazing into the middle distance (where the Spirit of God seems to be hovering above the congregation), his (or, more often, her) heels tapping while one hand grips the wireless microphone and the other is lifted toward the ceiling, as if serving as a conduit of sacramental grace.

This campy environment is supplemented by something called "small groups," a method of spiritual cognitive dissonance perfected by Bill Hybels at suburban Chicago’s Willow Creek Community Church. Unlike the authoritarian "I-talk-and-you-listen" environment in which Christians traditionally learned the Scriptures and teachings of the Church, small groups are a "safe" environment in which believers can take turns interpreting the Bible and sharing all of their deepest traumas and experiences while a leader guides the conversation. The emphasis here is on vulnerability and openness, which, when coupled with group "accountability," have always been the hallmarks of behavior-modification therapy.

What happens when the self-identified "conservative" churches encourage men to behave as women, swooning "in the garden" and "knowing" Jesus in an imaginary romance, or in "safe" small groups, or in effeminate "praise and worship" experiences? What happens to families when a church professes belief in the authority of the Bible and in the undeniable fact that marriage is between one man and one woman, then teaches husbands and fathers that the essence of the Faith is found within, in the desires of their own hearts?

The answer is all around us. Christian churches in America have long lost their authority to speak prophetically both to the culture and to their own children. Christian fathers no longer see themselves as heads of households. And, as concerned women rise up and try to fill the void that these men leave, they often end up forsaking their own natural roles as childbearers, childrearers, and “keepers at home,” as Saint Paul called them. In conservative churches, in which homosexuality is still called sin, Christian men forsake the natural use of their wives not for other men but for contracepted sex, which Martin Luther called “sodomy.” They, too, become “God haters.”

John Derbyshire calls right-to-lifers cultists and eats a bit of crow on Iraq.

"Stephen F. Hayes has made quite a career for himself peddling war lies for his neocon publishing boss Bill Kristol." Here, Paul Sperry dissects just one of his falsehoods.

Hmm, I think Steve Sailer will get into trouble for this:

The reason you almost never hear about the Ukrainian Holocaust, unlike, say, the Armenian Holocaust of 1915, is that among "Stalin's Willing Executioners" (to use Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine's phrase in his landmark 2004 book, The Jewish Century, which restores the dignity of Jews, after decades of being portrayed solely as passive victims of history, by showing how Jews, qua Jews, were among the most dynamic actors in the central events of the 20th Century) in the Ukraine, secular Jews were vastly over-represented in proportion to their small numbers

Stalin went out of his way to assign Jewish secret policemen to the homicidal collectivization of Ukrainian agricultural because, being a close student how he could exploit all that is twisted and hate-ridden in history, he knew that Jewish Communists would be the least likely to show mercy to the Ukrainian peasants due to the ancient ethnic animus between the farmers and the Jews employed by the ruling Polish nobles as rent and tax collectors, a hostility which culminated in the pogroms of the 1648 anti-Polish uprising in the Ukraine.

Here are a couple of good reasons that pastors shouldn't blog.

PCA pastor Tim Bayly, living in that bastion of multiculturalism, Bloomington, Indiana, says that white Christian parents who have decided that God gives them the authority to educate their own children are sinning by protecting their kids from the godlessness and violence of the local re-education camp:

Much of the discussion this past week under the aforementioned blog post has mentioned the choices we all make about where we’re going to live and raise our families. An under-discussed aspect of this same issue is the parallel question of where and how we’re going to educate our children. Without entering that debate here, I can say with firmness that when we Christians make choices concerning where we live and where our children are taught in such a way that we are able to maintain our pristine lives without threat from the outside, we are going directly against the command of our Lord Jesus Who warned that the loveless would always protest, "Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or sick or naked?"

Not only that, but you need to avoid "whitebread" churches, too.

Whitebread schools and neighborhoods and churches are, after all, quite dangerous for Christians because they rob us of our Lord Jesus. The loveless aren’t lying when they say, "Lord, we never saw you!" They didn’t see Him because they made a choice not to see Him.

Look, let's be honest enough to admit that race matters and to deny that fact is a denial of our humanity--it is a contemporary form of Gnosticism. I've attended churches (I currently attend an inner-city church, by the way) and worked in areas of cities which were far from whitebread, and while I desire to see such places transformed by the power of the Gospel, I would like to see the Reverend Bayly cite scripture demanding that I invest my personal property and the safety and education of my children in such communities. Indeed, Scripture commands that I pray for civil authorities so that there will be peace, allowing me to lead a peaceful life, minding my own business, living to the glory of God (I Thess. 4:11). I will take Bayly seriously when he plants a church in Anacostia.

Meanwhile, Baptist pastor Jim West says that homeschoolers misunderstand the theology of the cross:

In my estimation, the problem with homeschooling from a theological point of view is that it embodies a "theology of glory" and ignores, or even discounts the "theology of the cross". It fears; it lives in fearfulness, and it has forgotten that "perfect love casts out fear". The theology of homeschooling calls for a withdrawal from society because, at its heart, it does not believe. Not really. Not that God can change people and thereby change society through the Gospel. And finally it supposes that society, social structures, and God ordained offices are evil. Indeed, it calls what God has ordained evil and withdrawal good. It errs in so doing, theologically.

Here West says, "The only people who pull their kids from public schools out of fear are the same sort who haven't ever read the Bible in Greek or Hebrew. In other words, they are the sort of people who get all their information second hand. This whole crusade is nothing but another in the long line of senseless crusades entered into by frenzied, uninformed, twaddling and prattling mobs of unwashed peasants." Well, isn't that pastoral?

This Baptist pastor says that we shouldn't "cut-and-run" from the public schools:

I would like to submit another scriptural argument for believers to remain in the public school for the purpose of redemption. In His final prayer for His disciples Jesus said, "I am not praying that You take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by the truth, Your Word is truth. As You have sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world"(John 17:15-18). In this prayer, we hear the heart of Jesus as He intercedes for those who will have to live in and deal with this world. He specifically asks God NOT to remove is from the world but to prepare us for engaging the world by protecting us from the evil one and sanctifying us in the Truth.

Contra Dr's West and Beam, homeschoolers don't flee statist education because of they are ignorant. Nor are they attempting to create a cult out of family life. Rather, it is out of love for our kids that we must educate them in a Christian environment.

Our children, says the Psalmist, "are a heritage from the Lord," indeed, "the fruit of the womb is a reward." We are called to elicit from our children those things that are pleasing to God. Ultimately, they belong to Him, and that is why Christian education is imperative.

Moreover, education is not a neutral activity. It is inescapably ethical and religious in nature. The apostle Paul says that even natural functions like eating and drinking (I Cor. 10:31) must be done to the glory of God. Our Lord Himself said, "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters" (Luke 11:23). R. L. Dabney arued that it is impossible to teach ANYTHING without reference to some worldview:

"The instructor has to teach history, cosmogony, psychology, ethics, the laws of nations. How can he do it without saying anything favorable or unfavorable about the beliefs of evangelical Christians, Catholics, Socinians, Deists, pantheists, materialists or fetish worshippers, who all claim equal rights under American institutions? His teaching will indeed be the play of Hamlet, with the part of Hamlet omitted…Since all truths converge towards God, he who is not to name God, must have all his teachings fragmentary; he can only construct a truncated figure. In history, ethics, philosophy, jurisprudence, religious facts and propositions are absolutely inseparable."

Teachers play a powerful and vital role in shaping the worldview of their pupils. Jesus points to this truth in Luke 6:40: "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher." As a student matures and becomes "fully trained," says Jesus, he will become like his teacher.

Likewise, Scripture warns against identifying too closely with the world and its philosophies. Paul says in Romans 12:1-2: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Yet Dr. West and Dr. Beam would have me give MY children to those who hate or ignore God, mock His Law, and love the world. These Christian clergymen believe parents can turn their beloved children over to an avowed a(nti)theistic educational establishment for 30 hours a week and undo the damage by spending a handful of hours teaching Christian truths. They would apparently have us believe that our kids can be just as worldly as your average pagan as long as we toss in a little Jesus here and there or at most proffer a slightly different view of creation. But in the end our children become rag dolls, "tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes."

If our kids are taught to see the world as unbelievers see the world, they will ultimately be conformed to the world. We must not turn over our children to those who deny and mock our God.

Finally, contra Dr. West, homeschoolers perfectly understand the theology of the cross, and the theology of glory--God's glory! Ultimately, we desire that our children become Christians and that the Holy Spirit uses our efforts toward that end. At the same time, we do not see that ALONE as the goal of "Christian" education, for "by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy" (Col. 1:15-18).

Education must be Chistocentric, for in the falling rain and the rotation of the earth we see the power and supremacy of God. In the beauty of a Shakespearean sonnet or a Bach concerto we glimpse God’s glory. In the narrative of history we take note of the merciful providence of God. In mathematics we see the order of God. In government we glimpse the justice of God. So our duty as parents is to ensure that our children are not taken captive "through hollow and deceptive philosophy," but that they learn to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (Col. 2:8, I Cor. 10:5).

Should Christians Be Optimistic? Part II

In my previous post, I considered certain attributes of God's character and His purposes that should incline Christians toward historical optimism.

Likewise, consider Jesus and His ministry. Christ came to earth to accomplish the purpose of His Father in establishing the kingdom of God.

Before departing to the right hand of the Father, Jesus promised to empower His disciples, and He gave them their marching orders. "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 18:18-20).

After this, Jesus ascends to heaven and is enthroned at the right hand of God. I've often wondered why I've never heard a single sermon on the ascension and its significance. Not once in my entire life do I recall having been taught about this doctrine. The reason, I've concluded, is that it conflicts with the predominant eschatological framework of the modern evangelical church. The idea that Jesus is king NOW and has been given all authority in heaven and ON EARTH does not neatly comport with the notion that the church will fail, and that Satan's authority and power will increase over time.

Jesus has been exalted at the right hand of God and the promised Holy Spirit was poured out on the church to empower it with gifts (Acts 2:30-36). Scripture affirms that Jesus will, indeed must, reign until he has put ALL his enemies under his feet (I Cor. 15:25). But does this victory occur through a catastrophic return, or is the process slow and gradual with Jesus working out His will through His People?

Paul says that the Father "seated him [Jesus] at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all" (Eph. 1:19-23).

Jesus said to Peter, "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." Our Lord paints a picture of a militant and empowered body of elievers, with Jesus in the lead working through the Holy Spirit, taking the Gospel into the world and scattering the darkness. It is the forces of evil manning the barricades against the Church, not visa versa.

Thus, if Jesus has been given all authority, and has been made head of the church, then He is responsible to bring the world into submission. Is it possible that He will fail? And why would such a victory only come about AFTER the church, the Body of Christ, has been raptured out of the world?

Having said that, let me offer a qualification. The kingdom of God has not reached its ultimate fulfillment. There is indeed an "already, not yet" dichotomy at work. However, is it not reasonable to expect that during the period between inauguration and consummation there will be growth in the kingdom of God?

When Jesus describes the Kingdom in His parables, he paints a picture of a mustard seed sown in a field. "It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree," says Jesus (Matt. 13:31-33). Likewise the kingdom is like leaven that over time permeates the entire loaf of bread. So the development is progressive and slow, not catastrophic or in some sense post-historical.

This is not altogether different from a traditional understanding of sanctification. There is a moment of definitive sanctification in the life of the believer. However, the process of growing into Christ-likeness takes place in history, on earth, practically in the life of the believer. And though sin is not completely eradicated, it should wield less influence over the believer. Why shouldn't this principle apply to the broader context of God's kingdom?

Next time, I will briefly consider Christ's humiliation.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Should Christians Be Optimistic? Part I

As a Calvinistic Southern Baptist, it dawned on me recently how crabbed we sound when synthesizing our understanding of God's sovereignty, or decretive will, with historical pessimism.

Over the course of several brief posts, I would like to consider how our understanding of God's sovereignty, Christology, and Pneumatology should provide a framework for historical optimism.

First, let us consider some basic purposes of the Father. God has promised to bless the nations and all families of the earth. "Now the LORD said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed'" (Gen. 12:1-3)

Second, the Father has promised to establish His Son's Kingdom over the whole earth (see Ps. 110). In Daniel 2, we read, "God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever."

Through Christ, the Kingdom of God comes to fruition. According to Isaiah there will be no end to the increase of His government, and from His throne justice and righteousness will be established and upheld.

We also know some other things about God’s attributes. In His dealings with man, God is gracious and merciful. "The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love" (Ps. 145:8). Similarly, God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live" (Ezek. 18:32; see also Ezek. 18:23).

On the other hand, we also know that God decrees EVERYTHING that comes to pass for His glory and pleasure (see Eph. 1:3-14). According to the London Baptist Confession (1689), "God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass."

Does God’s decretive will, expressed above, come into conflict with his graciousness toward men? The primary eschatological approaches of the day, which tend toward historical pessimism, typically posit that the vast majority of mankind will be lost. But if God does not take pleasure in the deaths of men, why would he foreordain to punish the majority of them?

More to come...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Samuelson on Immigration

Robert Samuelson continues his excellent coverage of the immigration issue. Writing in the Washington Post, Samuelson chides the big media for ignoring the impact of legislation passed in the Senate. "You might think that the first question anyone would ask is how much it would actually increase or decrease legal immigration," writes Samuelson. "But no. After the Senate approved the bill by 62 to 36, you could not find the answer in the news columns of The Post, the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Yet the estimates do exist and are fairly startling. By rough projections, the Senate bill would double the legal immigration that would occur during the next two decades from about 20 million (under present law) to about 40 million."

In fact, the bill could more than double the amount of legal immigration. The bill expands many of the categories by which people can get a green card (i.e., stay permanently) and also authorizes 200,000 guest workers annually, plus their spouses and minor children.

In short, unless the House rejects the odious legislation crafted by Teddy Kennedy and a treasonous band of Republicans, the nation will undergo a demographic transformation which will forever change our character as a people.

Why Are We in This Mess?

In a recent column, Fred Reed asks why we manage to find ourselves in guerrilla-style wars so frequently. "Why, since WWII, have so many first-world armies gotten into drawn-out guerrilla wars in bush-world countries, and lost? Examples abound: France in Vietnam, America in Vietnam, France in Algeria, Russia in Afghanistan, Israel in Lebanon, etc. Why don’t they learn?"

Fred lays the blame for this sad state of affairs at the feet of what he calls "The Warrior." "The Warrior is emotionally suited to pitched, Pattonesque battles of moral clarity and simple intent," says Fred. "I don’t mean that he is stupid. Among fighter pilots and in the Special Forces for example it is not uncommon to find men with IQs of 145. Yet emotionally the Warrior has the uncomplicated instincts of a pit bull. Intensely loyal to friends and intensely hostile to the enemy, he doesn’t want any confusion as to which is which. His tolerance for ambiguity is very low. He wants to close with the enemy and destroy him."

The mindset described by Fred is fine for WWII, but problematic for waging war against Fourth Generation opponents in Vietnam or Iraq.

However, while I think Fred's description of the mindset driving the "warrior" is essentially correct and insightful, it nonetheless misses the point. The modern warfare-state has largely been created by a managerial, verbalist class. Would anyone consider McGeorge Bundy, Bob McNamara, or Dean Acheson warriors? Could one confuse Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle or Bill Kristol with Doug MacArthur?

In truth, it was warriors like Anthony Zinni, David Hackworth, Bill Odom, and James Webb who sounded the alarm prior to the Iraq war, taking on the Neocon technocrats who have taken over the national security apparatus. What the warrior ethos symbolizes is indeed wielded by Neocons, whose nearest experience with warfare is a mean game of Risk, as a means of squashing dissent.

"To the Warrior," says Fred, "to doubt the war is treason, aiding and supporting, liberalism, cowardice, back-stabbing, and so on. He uses these phrases unrelentingly. We must fight, and fight, and fight, and never yield, and sacrifice and spend. We must never ask why, or whether, or what for, or do we want to."

Again, I think Fred is wrong here. Mindless chatter of this sort does emanate from Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Cal Thomas, and the insidious warmongers that inhabit the dark corners of the blogosphere. But I don't hear similar flim-flam from my neighbor, for example, a career military man who taught desert tactics and fought in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

In short, "the warrior" understands the cost of war. He isn't in any great hurry to forfeit his life, or the life of his brethren, for abstractions like "democracy" or "freedom." Such carelessness is reserved for laptop bombardiers unleashing the dogs of war from the safety of their tony DC offices.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Iraq Continued

I've been taking a bit of a blogging hiatus of late. Hopefully, I'll turn it up a bit in days to come.

Things are going so fabulously in Iraq that the middle class is scurrying away. According the New York Times, "In the past 10 months, the state has issued new passports to 1.85 million Iraqis, 7 percent of the population and an estimated quarter of the Iraqi middle class."

Christians in the United States have been the most vocal supporters of preemptive war. Meanwhile, Christians in Iraq are running for their lives. Lawrence Kaplan writes:

With the remnant of Iraq's Jewish population having long since fled the country, Christians have become today's victims of choice. Sunni, Shia, and Kurd may agree on little else, but all have made sport of brutalizing their Christian neighbors, hundreds of whom have been slaughtered since the U.S. invasion. As a result, Iraq's ancient Christian community, now numbering roughly 800,000 and consisting mostly of Eastern rite Chaldean Catholics and Assyrian Orthodox Christians, dwindles by the day. According to Iraqi estimates, between 40,000 and 100,000 have fled since 2004, many following their own road to Damascus across the Syrian border or to Jordan, while many more have been displaced within Iraq. As for the country that loosed the furies against them, the United States refuses to provide Iraqi Christians protection of any kind.

The stories of attacks on Iraqi civilians continue to mushroom. Marines may have killed civilians, including five children, execution-style in Haditha. The BBC has video implicating Americans in the death of 11 civilians in Abu Sifa. Two Iraqi women were shot attempting to get to the local maternity ward. The prime minister of Iraq says violence against civilians is a daily phenomenon. "They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion," he said. "This is completely unacceptable."

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in Iraq has jumped to 60%.

War Street Journal editor Daniel Henninger is concerned that an "Iraqi syndrome" will cause "a loss of confidence in the efficacy of American military engagement" and "feed the dark, inward-turning sentiments already poisoning the country's mood."

Over the past three months, weekly attacks by insurgents averaged more than 600, a 13 percent rise over the previous six months. What pinko mainstreammedia outlet is putting out that bad news? Oh, it's the Pentagon.