Saturday, April 14, 2007

Miscellaneous Reading

Chuck Baldwin on treasonous charlatans in the White House: "I believe there is another area of malfeasance committed by G.W. Bush that is equal to anything Bill Clinton did: his determination to facilitate a Mexican invasion of the United States and the decision to merge America into a trilateral North American Community."

Scott Ritter on treasonous charlatans in Congress: "I am troubled by the recent actions of Speaker Pelosi and other members of Congress who have not only abrogated their collective responsibility to uphold and defend the Constitution but have taken actions which, under normal circumstances and involving any other nation, would border on treasonous."

Karen Kwiatkowski is learning about the wonders of Hannitization.

Paul Gottfried on Conservatives, Neoconservatives, and Paleoconservatives.

Alvin Plantinga, an actual philosopher, on the ravings of the Dawkins delusion. My favorite line--"Now despite the fact that this book is mainly philosophy, Dawkins is not a philosopher (he's a biologist). Even taking this into account, however, much of the philosophy he purveys is at best jejune. You might say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores; the fact is (grade inflation aside), many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class. This, combined with the arrogant, smarter-than-thou tone of the book, can be annoying. I shall put irritation aside, however and do my best to take Dawkins' main argument seriously."

Buchanan gets to the central issue discussing the needless persecution of Imus: "The issue here is not the word Imus used. The issue is who Imus is – a white man, who used a term about black women only black folks are permitted to use with impunity and immunity."

and Bahnsen on theocracy.

Hang Together, Not Separtetly

God does not leave His people defenseless in the world. He sends a comforter and counselor in the Holy Spirit, we have the assurance of Christ’s righteousness imputed to our account, the peace which flows from the Gospel, and the sword of God’s infallible Word.

We also have the people of God living together in the church. Our brethren provide love and encouragement, not to mention the occasional rebuke, preaching the Gospel to us in word and deed.

I discovered this truth again recently in the seemingly innocuous closing words of First Peter. The beauty of Holy Scripture is that even in the ostensibly banal and trite there are nuggets of gold and great wisdom.

Consider I Peter 5:12-14: “By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. Greet one another with the kiss of love.”

The theme of suffering and tribulation is a consistent subject throughout I Peter. He was writing to Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor who were undergoing persecution. Moreover, they would face greater strife in the near future. Peter desired to see them live well in the face of trouble. His hope was that suffering would serve as an iron, melding the people of God together rather than ripping them apart.

And it is crucial that Christians learn to handle suffering. Suffering is certain, it will happen. “Beloved do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (I Peter 4:12). Whether physical suffering associated with the slow decaying and dying of our bodies, grief connected to watching our family and loved-ones suffer, problems stemming from sin—our own and others, we will in fact suffer. We may struggle not merely with physical maladies, but also emotionally—the pangs of loneliness or despair, worry or anger, feelings of inadequacy or condemnation, etc. Faith in Christ will not protect us entirely from struggle or difficulty. "Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Suffering is certain, and how we handle it has consequences, temporal and eternal.

Think for a moment of the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:1-9, 19-23:

"A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear…When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."

The “seed” was sown on three types of soil. First, there is good soil that produces a yield of 30, 60, and 100-fold. Then there is rocky soil where the seed immediately springs up, but it has no established root so when persecution and trouble come it is followed by falling away. Likewise there is soil that is filled with thorns. Those thorns are the worries and anxieties of this life that choke out the word so that it does not bear fruit. In short, if we don’t know how to handle worries and afflictions, we will not persevere as believers.

Throughout the letter, Peter has been comforting his readers with the truth of the Gospel by emphasizing their standing before God. But in his closing greeting he shows that growing strong through suffering requires standing with other saints.

The fact that we are not merely suffering alone, but together, should give us hope and buttress our faith during a time of trouble. Moreover, it is not merely believers in local bodies, but believers all over the world. Peter says that we should be spurred to resist by the fact that “the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (v. 9).

Peter is saying that throughout the world believers are undergoing similar trials and similar stresses. And like soldiers going to war, we are not suffering and battling alone, but are fighting the devil with our spirit-filled brethren.

I was reminded of this truth reading Dave Black’s blog recently. In his April 2nd entry, Dr. Black posted pictures of evangelists serving in Ethiopia. These brethren are suffering and being persecuted for their faithfulness, and yet they face trials with “supernatural, Spirit-given joy and exultation.” The lives of these brethren are a living apology for the transforming power of Christ’s redemption. And though I have never met these men, nor Dr. Black, they are my brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I will spend eternity, and I if I love them as my brethren (which is the mark of a believer), I must support them in whatever way that I can via gifts of money and intercession.

Peter also commends “Silvanus,” who we know as Silas. He calls Silas a “faithful brother.” Silas likely carried Peter’s letter to these churches as a means of encouraging them. He was also with Paul on his second missionary journey where he faithfully taught and encouraged many churches. For his faithfulness he suffered beatings, hardship, and even imprisonment. When Peter says “stand firm” in the grace of God, he was in the company of a man who had done just that and could serve as a worthy example.

Peter also sends greetings to the churches of Asia Minor from, “She who is at Babylon, chosen together with you sends you greetings.” Peter is using Babylon as something of a code name to protect believers in Rome and he is also attempting to communicate the wickedness associated with the enemies of God by comparing the Roman regime to Babylon. But he is also speaking of a real group of Christians gathered in Rome. Even there in the middle of “Babylon” existed a group of believers linked with churches throughout the world in the great cause of the Gospel.

There was also Mark, who Peter calls his son. He wasn’t a physical son, but a son in the faith. Mark, who was so afraid of persecution that he had earlier abandoned Paul and Banabas, had grown into a faithful and godly man, ready to endure hardship for the cause of God’s Kingdom

Peter closes by saying, he “written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God” and encouraging them to “Greet one another with the kiss of love”

In other words, extend the peace and love of Christ to your brothers and sisters. Peter has been emphasizing suffering, and he is encouraging us to go through trials together rather than individually. In our suffering, God is often preparing us to help others during their time of stress and difficulty. Our aim is to comfort one another, support one another and spur one another on to love and good deeds. Peter’s letter is a testimony to the grace of God in Jesus and he urges them to “stand strong” in that grace.

There are many reasons to join and actively support a local church. But one reason is that during trouble, we need brothers and sisters. Moreover, we are called to minister to those who are suffering. We have been given the comfort and grace of God so “that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ” (I Cor. 1:4-5).

Friday, April 13, 2007

Utter Insanity

Aside from the "I-Man" imbroglio and Larry Birkhead's paternity in the ever unfolding Anna Nicole saga, very little "news" has penetrated the Dow Compound in recent days.

Friday morning, I woke up and meandered into the basement, hopping on-line to see what was actually going on out there.

That's when I saw this, this, this, and this.

An Iraqi suicide bomber managed to slyly snake through eight levels of security to detonate a bomb while other "insurgents" blew up a bridge on the Tigris River that connects Baghdad's Shia and Sunni enclaves.

Is there anyone out there besides the maniacal John McCain and our delusional president who thinks the "surge" will bring stability, freedom, democracy, peace, love and Fox News to Baghdad and the rest of Iraq?

I quickly turned on the television to see if there was any coverage of these events. Might there be pictures of the parliament or perhaps an explanation of exactly how the bomber managed to get to his intended target? The obvious supposition is that the help of many members of the security forces would have been necessary, and points to the fact that the Iraqi government and our military cannot secure the country.

Instead, I was greeted with more commentary about the sins of Imus, and the need to satisfy the vengeful god of political correctness by offering up a haggard 66-year-old man on the altar of collective guilt.

Baghdad burns as a result of "Coalition" actions in bringing down an existing state and unleashing disorder and revolution, all in the name of "freedom." Meanwhile, the Fourth Estate, who was asleep at the switch in 2002 and 2003 no longer even bothers, flooding the airwaves day and night with inanities and salacious gossip.

If I spent more than five minutes watching MSNBC, CNN, or Fox which would I be more likely to see? A press coference with Nouri al-Maliki or Larry Birkead? An analysis of the breakdown of Iraq's security procedures or the latest on Sanjaya Malakar? An explanation of the issues at the heart of the Shia/Sunni divide or an overview of breakdown in the friendship between Britney and Paris?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Moralism and Hypocrisy

Beware the language of moralism from political and religious leaders when their words are grounded in a syrupy and abstract doctrine of love. Be particualrly alamred when their "love" will be financed with other people's money and directed at strangers rather than imbued by personal charity and financed by their own resources.

In a recent interview on the website, presidential wannabe and former North Carolina senator John Edwards was asked, "What parts of American life do you think would most outrage Jesus?"

Edwards, who has amassed a small fortune by making his country a more litigious place, I mean looking out for the little guy who's standing against institutional corporate oppression, responded, "Our selfishness." "Our resort to war when it's not necessary. I think that Jesus would be disappointed in our ignoring the plight of those around us who are suffering and our focus on our own selfish short-term needs. I think he would be appalled, actually," said Edwards.

I want to be charitable for a moment and forget that Edwards voted for the Iraq war and concede that he is right about the morality of American interventionism. (Unfortunately, he has also proven very hawkish on Iran.) Let me also hasten to add to that I'm not the least bit concerned that Edwards has hit it big. God has indeed been gracious to him, and I certainly offer up no ill will based on his good fortune. Good for him.

But this is the same John Edwards who recently purchased a 28,000-square-foot estate on 102 acres while running a presidential campaign driven by class envy rooted in covetousness. The Edwards compound has 5 bedrooms and 6.5 baths, which is connected by a covered walkway to a bright red addition that includes its own living facilities along with a handball court, an indoor pool and an indoor basketball court with a stage at one end. Nearby, a number of trees have been sacrificed to build a private soccer field.

Meanwhile, I recently watched Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." I confess to being a scientific ignoramus and largely found Gore's presentation to be convincing. The movie was also a grand example of propaganda at its best in that it succeeded at the impossible--it humanized Al Gore, who seemed a more interesting man at the end of the movie than prior to pushing the "Play" button.

Gore makes a moral argument largely grounded in what Reformed theologians call the Cultural Mandate. Man, as God's vice-regent, has an obligation to be a steward of His creation. Clearly, this is a corporate obligation, but it also begins with individual action. Gore himself calls on Americans to become carbon neutral, in particular by decreasing energy consumption at home.

The problem is that he isn't taking his own scolding to heart. It was reported recently that last August the Gore family home burned 22,169 kWh, more than twice the electricity in one month that a typical family uses in an entire year.

Finally we have Richard Land. Joined at a press conference by Hispanic evangelical leaders and a bible-quoting Ted Kennedy, Land called for "comprehensive immigration reform," by which he means he amnesty for 12 to 20 million law-breakers.

Land said Christians must look beyond how illegals entered the country. "We also have a Biblical mandate to act compassionately for those that are in need, Matthew 25," Land said. "To love our neighbors as ourselves. Matthew 22. And to do onto others as we would have them do onto us, Matthew chapter 7, verse 12."

But how does one love? By fulfilling the law. The apostle Paul said, "He who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law." Continuing, God's great apostle said, "The commandments, 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal," 'Do not covet,' and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:8-10). In other words, what we owe to our neighbors is the love and justice summed up perfectly in God's law.

Love and law are inextricably linked, and failure to enforce the law is not love, but fundamentally an attack on a holy God. And Scripture is clear that aliens may plunder a disobedient people as punishment for their failure to obey God's Law. "The alien who lives among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower...You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the LORD your God" (Deut. 28:43, 62).

Moreover, by following Dr. Land's prescriptions Americans would be asked to subsidize outsiders at the expense of their own countrymen, children, and posterity. Studies estimate that two thirds of illegal immigrants lack a high school degree and Robert Rector of the Heritage foundation found that "the average immigrant without a high school degree will impose a net cost of nearly $100,000 on U.S. taxpayers over the course of his or her life."

Rector continues: "This means that the six million immigrants lacking a high school diploma and legally residing in the U.S. today will cost taxpayers more than a half trillion dollars over their lifetimes. Moreover, if the five million illegal immigrants who lack a high school education are granted amnesty and citizenship, as proposed by the Bush Administration and legislated in a Senate-passed immigration bill (S. 2611), overall costs would rise considerably; the overall net cost to government of immigrants without a high school diploma could reach one trillion dollars or more. If the cost of educating immigrants’ children is included, the figure could reach two trillion dollars."

Edwards, Gore, and Land all make moral arguments couched in scriptural half-truths. All three wind up being statists, seeking to redistribute wealth and resources to further one "moral" cause or another, never concerned that the ends they use are unbiblical. Beware the churchman and politico preaching doctrines of love and grace disconnected from the realities of sin and the necessity of repentance and restitution.