Tag Archives: culture

Unity of Churches? What Does the Bible Say?

I think modern calls to unity and ecumenism are wrongheaded. Al Kresta talked about it in the podcast below calling Evangelicals “separated brethren” and I believe Steven Greydanus has said that evangelicals are “sheep outside of the fold” and/or a younger brother of RCC. Thus, we don’t experience the “fullness of the Gospel” because we are not under the umbrella of the RCC. These RCC can correct me if I’m wrong but it seems as if they hope for a formal unity where everyone, including the Orthodox are under the RCC. Evangelicals work with the same assumptions. George Yancey has written about it in, “One Body, One Spirit: Principles of Successful Multiracial Churches” and in other places. And progressives actually seem to have no problem coercing others into what they believe. They want everyone to follow their liberal agenda’s, ie., everyone SHOULD be welcoming and accepting of LGBT and SSM (not just between races and ethnicities but anyone who is different). This was something that really struck me as I read, Skillen’s “Recharging the American Experiment.” In there, Skillen’s said that the government should not coerce theological conscience. There are some churches that believe in SSM and some that do not. As we live in a pluralistic society, all should be allowed to exist in their differentiation. By implication, this could be the same for churches between themselves. Churches don’t tell others churches what they should believe with regard to a host of issues. So it should be the same with SSM. Churches are not united for a myriad of reasons—theological, moral, worship style, ethnic, etc. The problem with calls for unity, it seems, is that this is:

1.An ideological utopian vision influenced by modern Kumbaya culture.

2.It is not what Jesus had in mind in John 17.

Here is D.A. Carson on John 17. The John 17 unity prayer needs to be understood within the greater context of the Father’s protection for those who would be followers of the Messiah.

“The constant goal is that the disciples be one as Jesus and his Father are one. Like any analogy, this cannot legitimately be pressed without limit. The unity enjoyed by Jesus and his Father has numerous features that could not be duplicated in the unity among believers. For instance, Jesus and his Father are but two; the believers are many. Jesus and his Father stand together in their creative work (1:1–3); this cannot be predicted of the disciples. Jesus and his Father enjoyed the brilliance of pretemporal glory (17:5); but obviously that unity could not in the nature of the case be shared by temporal creatures. Many other such distinctions suggest themselves on the basis of the fourth Gospel alone. Yet clearly the analogy is important, and must not be robbed of all content by endlessly peeling the onion. Many of the relational ties between Jesus and his Father described by John’s Gospel are functional in nature. Moreover, as chapter 2 of this book demonstrated, if Jesus stands with his Father with respect to man in revelation and authority, he simultaneously stands with man with respect to his Father in dependence and obedience. Within this framework, the Father and the Son enjoy a perfect unity of love, of purpose, of holiness of truth. Now, Jesus prays, so protect these people you have given me that they may be one as we are one: one in love (a theme already stressed, 13:34f.; 15:13), one in purpose (obedience, fruit bearing, witness—all prevalent themes in these chapters), one in holiness (it is not for nothing that Jesus here addressed his Father as “Holy Father,” and will shortly ask him to sanctify the believers), one in truth (they, unlike the world, have come to recognize the fundamental truth that Jesus is the revelation of God). This theme of unity is an important one in Jesus’s prayer. It is picked up again and repeated (17:21, 22, 23), and so we shall return to it in the last chapter of this book—at which time its relevance to the modern church may be usefully explored. For the moment, it may be helpful to note that if the prayer is a request that Jesus’s disciples be protected in order that they may be one in love, purpose, holiness, and truth, it follows that the greatest dangers lie in those things that seek to destroy unity in love, in purpose, in holiness, and in truth. An adequate catalog of such evils, coupled with a careful assessment of their danger, would immediately double the length of this book. Such a catalog would include jealousy, hate, friction, arrogant isolation, selfishness, bitterness, an unforgiving spirit, a wretched tongue; for these vices seek to destroy the unity of love. The catalog would go on to mention one-upmanship, an uncooperative spirit, brinkmanship and impatience (which threaten unity of purpose), all kinds of sin (which abhors holiness), and lies, dogmatic half-truths, unwillingness to admit error or sympathetically learn from one another, chronic unbelief (which conspires to obliterate unity in truth). From all such evils, good Lord, deliver us.”

If this is the case, as I believe it is, Sunday morning is not the most segregated hour in America. That is an ideological utopian vision of how one believes things ought to be. James Kalb and of late, Jared Taylor have spoke about some of the sociological aspects of human communities where they expound on the idea of “birds of a feather flock together” and “where we find ourselves naturally.” Let’s face it, it’s right there in front of our faces EVERYDAY. Diversity. Diversity is with us as a constant—as the way of the world. Why do we still have the black race? Why do we Asian peoples? Why do we still have Anglo-Saxon European peoples? Spanish and the sub varieties therein. As said above, people group together for various and myriad reasons. It is still basically the same in schools, in marriages, and in friendships. This is not to say that persons from one group will not venture into another group, but if it is done, it will be done organically without changing the distinctions of that particular group.


Separation of Powers and Religious Liberty

I have been interested in religion/faith and politics from as far back as I can remember. Mostly from my early 20’s. These are the kinds of questions I lose sleep over. Not in an anxious sort of way, just in an OCD sort of way. 🙂 One question that seems to come up time and time again has to do with equal treatment between religion and non-religion in the public square.

A number of years ago, I came across the Kuyperian view of things that gave explanatory power to these questions, however, (at least the materials I have read) they didn’t seem to respond to this question in substantial ways.

Kuyper, if you may recall, talked about the different spheres of society, each having distributive authority from God. For an example, the police have their own authority and a union has it’s own authority. Neither authority should be “omni-competent” taking over the other sphere’s authority. The police can’t take over the union and carry out their responsibility nor should the union do the job of the police. This is essentially what Kuyperians say is an injustice. I personally can bear this out with my job and that of Canadian Customs whom, in the past have expected me to do their job for them at times (I crossed the border fourteen times a night on a round trip. I have never had a problem with American Customs in this regard).

What you see here is what conservatives have always talked about and of which you can read in many of the writings of conservative websites and think tanks from some of their brightest thinkers—a separation of powers— plain and simple. I’m all for this because of my view of human nature. I believe that power can corrupt (not that it does so necessarily) and thus too much power in the hands of a particular sphere or authority is detrimental to the common good.

As an aside, Kuyperian political philosophy is actually conservative in this manner and I came to see this the more I delved into sphere sovereignty. Interestingly, I have a friend of mine who comes to LIBERTARIANISM from a Kuyperian position. Yet, Kuyperians will tell you that sphere sovereignty is different from conservatism and surely different from libertarianism. However, the reason I think Kuyper and conservatism are closer is not because of something I’ve discovered on my own but because it has actually been written about in books like Mark Larson’s book: “Abraham Kuyper, Conservatism, and Church and State’’ where he lays this out very succinctly.

It seems to me that where Kuyperians, conservatives and libertarians all lay their heads down is in this area of separation of powers. They may do so for various reasons but one of the underpinning reasons has to do with justice over-all.

Having said that, I think this touches on the first paragraph of the equal treatment of religion and non-religion in the public square stated above. It’s not so much a question of fairness (for life is hardly ever fair) but one of justice. How do we, as a society, do justice to religious belief and non-religious belief in the public square without establishing one or the other? Again, it comes up time and time again in battles that take place in the courts. For an example, the statue of Satan being placed next to the Ten Commandments in a public square-how does a society do justice to both?

An aside: Satanism is most assuredly a belief system and so I would not say it is UNBELIEF, thus I think it would differ from atheism which seeks to be free OF religious experience. Concerning belief and non-belief though, how does a government seek to do justice to both of those?

At the moment, I’m reading, “Secular Government/Religious People” by Ira C. Lupu and Robert W. Tuttle

I can’t say much about the book because I’ve just gotten into it other than this:

In there, they argue that a “secular government” is not necessarily hostile to religion and establishes an official religion of secularism. Kuyperianism will tell you that in many respects the role of government is to act in a judicial manner between the differing spheres (something the authors recognize). A further implication of this separation of authorities (authorities here can mean the different religious authorities as well) is that government:

“…does not promote religious worship, oversee religious indoctrination, or exercise religious authority. Instead, that responsibility belongs solely to the people and their voluntary religious communities.”

That being the case then, my question is, can the public “space” be filled with religion or no religion? So coming back to our example of belief and non-belief in the public square, would it be the case of government, not endorsing any particular religion per-se, but by allowing religious belief in the public, is that not essentially a violation of government backed religion? Would it violate the rights of those with “no religion?”

The authors as far as I can tell may get into this question but for now they say that each side:

“…ignores half of the “Constitution’s distinctive way of connecting secular government and religious people.”

That is,

“One group exalts the secularity of the state but dismisses the religious character of the people, and the government’s legitimate responsiveness to that character. The other group denies the distinction between the government and the people, and expects the government to mirror and celebrate the community’s (usually the majority’s) religious identity.”

For me, at this point, “no-religion” IS religion. It IS religious. That to me seems to be an important question I hope the authors address. For there really is no violation of establishment of religion when all is religious. If the character of the people is religious, as the authors say, then atheist or theist, a government is ultimately going to violate, at a fundamental level, one party’s religion.


Yeah…Jesus Didn’t Condemn Having Wealth and Resources

I saw two pieces on Facebook about five days ago about the top 1% of the richest in the US. The first was by fiscal Marxist David Fitch a professor of theology at Northern Seminary 🙂. I kid, I kid…you can see that article here.

The other was by my Facebook friend, Dwayne Polk, whom for purposes of credentials worked for Greg Boyd and is a graduate of ORU (Oral Roberts University) in theology. Here is what he posted:

“If I were President, Id just make a public call to the 1% to help *personally* fund the things we cant get past Congress that are needed. I mean, go straight to them. And on television. Social media. All that. Call out names. And id appeal to them as Americans and Americans OF FAITH and talk about the Golden Rule…and Loving the Neighbor as Oneself. I would put overt pressure on them to help the American people in a failing governmental system.

But thats just me.”

Eric Reitan, a professor of philosophy at Oklahoma State University had this to say:

“And then realize that Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk both have well over 100 billion in personal wealth. Making $100k a year without taxes and it would take you a *million years* to achieve that level of wealth. Or invert it: Elon Musk could spend $1 million a year on his own pleasure (meaning about $950,000 a year on mere luxuries) and it would take him a hundred thousand years to exhaust his wealth–and he’s unlikely to live more than 40 more years. While money does add to happiness in the sense of ensuring needs are met, lifting away anxiety, enabling one to pursue meaningful activities and develop talents, and providing resources for sustaining meaningful relationships, the amount needed for this falls well short of a million a year. Meaning if Bezos gave away to those in need 99.99% of his personal wealth, he’d be left with far more than the maximum wealth required for optimal human happiness (and might be more likely to be able to access the other necessary conditions for true happiness, such as the cultivation of benevolence).”

Now, let me start off saying this.

A. Christians should struggle with their wealth and riches INTERNALLY. However, most of what passes for critical self (or otherwise ie., Christian community as a whole) is negative. It sees it FIRST in terms of what is said in the quotes above or, to put those quotes another way, it sees wealth and riches and capitalism in general, in terms of exploitation, or class warfare or oppression.

B. I’m a believer in “free markets” as far as markets are free. What I mean by that is not that a society can’t have government regulation, (I am not wholly put off by the government regulating when it should. This is really not much different than what Roger Scruton talks about when he spoke at his website about the environment. That is, for an example, if a private company spills waste into a river and pollutes it, it should bear the brunt of the costs of what it has done. This is only proper from a conservative point of view because at a base instinctual level one should care about the community to which they are attached to. However, this doesn’t rule out government intervention if need be. You can read Roger Scruton’s post here) but rather the market itself is very much one sided in terms of corporate pressure in marketing of said product(s) ie., as Cavanaugh asks, “When is the market free? How can we judge when any particular transaction is free?” Freedom isn’t merely negative ie., freedom from coercion (as Milton Friedman would have us believe).

Here’s my main point though that I posted to Facebook of which I think really get’s to the some of the assumptions that guys like my Dwayne and Eric Reitan are working with.

From Facebook:

“I’m not a full fledged libertarian, though I do think libertarianism makes some valid points, especially as it concerns economic inequalities. I mean there is this sin called, “envy” and it rears its ugly head in more ways than one—not just between individuals but between those who say they are advocating for the poor by criticizing those who have resources (which, for me, is quite a relative measure ie., one can complain about Bezos EXTRA BILLIONS that could go to the poor, which I’ve seen done even this week on FB, but those same folks have extra that they don’t need either and when you consider all us middle to upper-middle folks whom have “more than we need” then I wonder why there is no complaints or voluntary giving of THEIR over-and-above resources of which no one can really say what that amount should be). Anyhoo, most of what passes for “critical self-analysis” is negative in nature, as if there is nothing positive to ownership of wealth and resources. It is ASSUMED, as pointed out in question 40 in the book, that there is a connection between those who have wealth and those who don’t when in reality the problem isn’t Bezos’ billions but personal and social/governmental complexities.”

And then I go on to quote from the book mentioned above:

“38. What about the inequalities that capitalism creates? Economic inequality has always existed wherever there have been economies. In pre-capitalist days, having wealth often (but not always) entailed exploiting others who then remained poor. This is one reason we see so many admonitions against wealth in the Bible. It is also why many early church leaders and theologians decry wealth. It is only recently that being wealthy has not been associated with unjust acquisition of wealth but instead with the indication that mutually beneficial trade is occurring. Under free market capitalism, wealth must be obtained by effectively and efficiently providing value to others in exchange for their money. Whenever inequality indicates that the few are exploiting others and leaving them worse off, we should stand against it. But under conditions where everyone is better off and some are “more better off,” we can appreciate, if not applaud, the gains through exchange. Christians are often concerned about the well-being of others, yet it is all too common that concern over inequality is not about the wellbeing of those with less but a suppressed envy that arises because of perceived reasons behind the injustice. We must be mindful that we are not suppressing our envy when we advocate for the wellbeing of others. All too often the concern over inequality is not about the wellbeing of those with less but the perceived reason behind the perceived injustice. For example, while the purchasing power of the average worker’s wages has improved dramatically for several decades, the top I% have seen even greater gains. Many have pointed out that this is the reason to institute redistributive schemes to rectify the perceived injustice of inequality, even though everyone has gained financially (see Question 40).”—Faith Seeking Freedom: Libertarian Christian Answers To Tough Questions

And of course, Jesus NEVER condemned those who were wealthy but those who were wealthy by ill-gotten means or by exploiting others.


Divisions, Divisions, Divisions!!!

Some years ago I picked up a couple of books, one put out by Randall L. Frame and Alan Tharpe entitled, “How Right is the Right?” and one by Ronald Nash, entitled, “Why the Left is Not Right”

Even in today’s political climate these books are still a relevant read as they both critically expound on the positions of their opponents views (as well as their own) which have not changed since the time they were written (though some political situations have changed). One may try to package things differently and or say it slightly afresh today (we see this with regard to Marxist class theory from the working class to “identity politics” ie., the working class based butt hurt has shifted towards the sexual arena or racism) and yes, in some cases, the intent to do this is to deceive those who are not aware that these ideas have been around for quite some time now (the younger folk). Why they would do so has to do with political power. That is, they would like to get their way enshrined not only in law but the minds of the aforementioned un-informed or the gullible (which can impact law).

For me, one of the most important ideas that I understood, prior to ever reading it in Nash’s book, was that it is not that both Left and Right wing Christians don’t love their neighbour but that they both have different solutions or answers to social and political problems that exist in society. It really is a sad state of affairs that uncivilized national discourse has crept into the Christian community as a whole where one or both sides is either claiming who is loving as Jesus did or claims God’s answer to a particular social ill is “the Christian response.” One use to see this from the right back in the day but now one sees it from the left. This is not to make a judgment on the rightness or wrongness of left/right policy positions but rather to mention the bad faith between Christian brothers and sisters.

So politics divides Christians.

(As an aside, I’m OK with that, for I’ve usually been comfortable with tribalism. Tribalism in the Church, in politics and in society. I’m not completely against openness to other people, groups, nations, churches, etc, as long as others are open to each other “naturally,” (James Kalb) where the feeling is mutual and it is not forced whether by government or one another and where the goal is not to change the other. End of aside)

But to the point above, let me be a little more precise about the civil discourse (not so much the uncivilized aspect as much as the argument itself).

Basically it goes something like this:

Progressive Christian: Jesus said, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

Me: This is a broad neutral statement. For me the important question is, “What does this look like in the concrete reality of life?” If, say, we wanted to improve the economic standing of the poor (which is a loving thing to do), how would we do that? Would we do that via a socialist scheme or a free market capitalist one? The answer doesn’t reside in the raw theology of the Bible for the Bible is not a comprehensive economic guide. Like science. It doesn’t tell us which way to go on these things. It only gives us the raw data, broad neutral statement of “loving our neighbour.” We need to go “beyond the Bible” if you will to economic theory.

(As an aside, what I mean when I say the above concerns “full fledge” free-market capitalism as opposed to a simple base line one. That is, I believe the Bible does provide the “seeds” of a capitalist economic system, ie., ownership of property, free buying and selling of goods, etc, and not the seeds of a socialist one. For me, socialist interpretations of scripture are rather strained. End of aside)

That alone should be enough for us to bring up our level of discourse. The problem is not in theology. The problem is in reality. The “facts” if you will. What we have is basically two parties wedding economic theory to the Bible. Even if you wanted to say that the Bible supported a democratic socialism or socialism or communism (as we understand them today) one would still have to contend with the individual economic theories. Here is a quote by Ronald Nash on all of this:

Is There a Religious Left?

Why Should We Care

Years ago, I supposed conservative Christians would have been surprised—even shocked—that self-professed evangelicals were supporting and even actively promoting liberal causes But those were the days when evangelicals—better known as fundamentalists—separated themselves from societal affairs at large. On still encounters people like this. But most evangelicals themselves care deeply about what is happening in America’s schools, government, and abortion clinics. They also care about racial justice, the environment, the poor, the elderly, and the homeless. As indicated by the charities they support, they also care about poor, sick, and starving people in other nations. For most of my lifetime, liberals have been telling this nation that caring in these ways **must translate**into voting for liberal politicians and supporting liberal social policies. The evangelical liberals have been part of this liberal establishment. But I contend that liberalism is an exercise in fraud and deceit. The more than five trillion dollars of taxpayers’ money the federal government spent in the vain hope that it would put an end to poverty in America did not simply fall short of the goal. It actually made the situation worse. We now have more poor people in the United States than there were before the start of the War on Poverty pr-grams in the mid-sixties—and they are also worse off today. Some in the evangelical Left now tell us they no longer support the liberal welfare state. They admit that it has failed, and they propose to provide new leadership and direction in the next decade. The past record of these people needs to be known so we can better judge their claims about the present and their promises for the future. Why do they attack evangelical conservatives? What do they believe? Are they really centrists, and if not, why do they claim they are.

A WORD ABOUT RELIGIOUS CONSERVATIVES

The secular and religious Left find it convenient to demonize politically conservative Christians. It is true that many evangelicals were unconscionably inattentive thirty or forty years ago; of course, the world was a different place back then.

Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., observes:

It is strange that twentieth-century evangelical Christian, would have ever needed to be convinced that they should be concerned about social problems. Many of their spiritual forebears always were. Their compassion and fervor animated the campaigns against the slave trade and child labor in England and, one could argue, was the basis of most reform initiatives of the early nineteenth century. The claims that the faith of American Christians should always be an intensely private affair between the individual and Cod would have been news to such diverse persons as the Pilgrims, from John Winthrop to Jonathan Edwards, Abraham Lincoln and the abolitionists of slavery.

Whatever their shortcomings may have been back then, Michael Cromartie observes, “Evangelicals of every perspective no longer need convincing that political and social concern is an important part of Christian discipleship. It is a settled issue that `the least of these’ among us should be treated with both charity and justice. The debates now revolve around prudential questions regarding which policies are in fact the most effective in meeting the normative standards of justice.” The members of the evangelical Left are wrong to claim that they hold the monopoly on concern for peace and justice. The more central issue for evangelicals today is what those terms mean. The evangelical Left has appeared to some to have simply assumed the standard liberal understanding of the words and then discredited anyone (including their politically conservative brethren) who understood the terms differently and who pursued the objectives of peace and justice in a different way. There is no evidence to support liberal insinuations that being a conservative entails opposition to racial and social justice means being unconcerned about unjust social structures. What the Left does is simply assume, for example, that concern for poverty **must manifest itself in unqualified support for misguided liberal social programs.** They simply take it for granted that concern for racial justice **must translate into support for so-called Affirmative Action programs** that turn out to be exercises in reverse discrimination. It is time to strip away the false front that the evangelical Left has hidden behind and see what they really stand for.”

This is a most important point that colours everything you read in these volumes and for me personally, it colours my view of politics as a whole. Even if one were to disagree, why the name calling or ad hominem, especially from Christians is beyond me. For all they are really doing, it seems to me, is arguing over political philosophy not theology. And it is the theology that holds them together as brothers and sisters.


No Revolution After The 2020 Election? Depends On How You See It.

Kevin Williamson writes an interesting piece in National Review entitled, The Revolution Isn’t Coming. I think it is a thought provoking piece but right away, I thought two things:

A.Williamson has either been lulled asleep by the forces around him or like the proverbial frog, in this case, is being boiled alive in a pot of water. Or:

B. Are my expectations too high?

Well, I don’t happen to believe my expectations are too high. I think he, in this article, is blind to the liberal incrementalism, in which case he has moved the political goal posts and is happy with the status quo as is.

You can also see the problem in this video here.


McCarthyism and Truth

Back in the day (1940-1950’s) there use to be political concern (more like hysteria?) about communists and communism in America. It was known as McCarthyism, named after Joseph McCarthy.

Under McCarthyism there was a:

heightened political repression and a campaign spreading fear of communist influence on American institutions and of espionage by Soviet agents. (From the Wikipedia page above under McCarthyism)

McCarthyism would spread over into the TV and Hollywood worlds as it was a political witch-hunt for communist and communist influence in America and what better way to influence America but through these channels.

Today, McCarthyism is pretty much all but forgotten except for by some liberals who mostly want to remind conservatives that witch hunts always get out of hand and are silly fear-mongering. (Personally, I think it would make for some great tv or film via the likes of Steven Spielberg).

Regardless, whatever one thinks of this “red scare,” one thing I think we as a society can learn from McCarthyism is this.

Whether we are looking for Communism, Marxism, socialism, jihadism, “Islamism,” or whatever “ism,” we should not lie about our neighbour. We should be smart and accurate about these ideologies or evil “isms” because to not do so hurts what one is trying to TRUTHFULLY SAY about these things. One discredits themselves when they OVERSTATE the case. Kinda like how some folks see racism everywhere or under every rock.

Lastly, however, this should also tell us something else. That something else is this. We should not deny the fact that McCarthy was. on. to. SOMETHING. It is not to deny that among the excesses there was something TRUTHFUL in his hunt. Let’s face it, Hollywood, at the time, was shot through and through with communists and communist sympathizers. It is this that seems to be a point that behooves those moderns who write off McCarthyism.


Racism, Abortion and the Constitution

To add to the conversation from my last post, I mentioned that my buddy Dwayne had problems with States Rights because of racism. Dwayne mentioned that there were a few individual states calling to keep people segregated. For an example we had the infamous Jim Crow Laws where blacks and whites, were not allowed to marry or drink at the same fountains, sit at the front of a bus or move or get off the bus if there was no room for whites, etc. Thus, there are some problems with States Rights or so many on the left think.

Such laws are not only foreign to our way of thinking and behaving (legally) today, but the question needs to be asked how we got from there to where we are now. Why is the state (on the federal level) allowed to say, no to slavery but not to abortion? The answer to that is in the founding document, “The Declaration of Independence.” In there it says:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The basis of the US Constitution is found in this document and this portion of that document. It is one of the reasons, that some on the right say leaving abortion to the states is a half-way measure. It doesn’t fulfill that portion of the document. Why, if the unborn are full persons, don’t they have these inalienable equal rights?

The problem of saying that blacks were not created equal (as other human beings, namely white) was based on the arbitrariness of skin colour. So that had to change and eventually did via the US Civil War. Again, to say that blacks are not human and to keep them enslaved via state rights is so unpopular today to be as unthinkable as making state laws against people driving cars or telling people what toppings they can put on their pizza for dinner tonight. (In a sense we DO tell people what to put and not put on their pizza’s, like, for example, bleach, but we don’t make laws covering every contingency. Even bleach is covered under personal harm to another or murder laws).

In relation to abortion, both concern humanization and dehumanization and how it intertwines with state and federal law. In some philosophical/metaphysical respects, they overlap, (personhood/humanness) in others they don’t.

In the case of abortion, the thing in question is (going back to what was asked above in the second paragraph):

  • Is the state, in this case the federal government, allowed to make a sweeping law for dehumanization and thus death? Or should that be left to the individual states?

In the case of slavery and blacks, the thing in question is:

  • Is the state, in this case the federal government, allowed to make a sweeping law declaring dehumanization on all blacks so as to enslave them or should/can that be left to the individual states?

This is essentially what my buddy Dwayne was asking. Why is it left to individual states to declare who is a person in one case but not in the other? The answer goes back to the Declaration of Independence where all men are created equal. In the case of slavery and blacks, they are humans persons created equally as other human persons.

In the case of abortion, the question would, it seems, hinge on whether the Founders INTENDED the unborn to be INCLUDED in the statement of them being created equal (as the already living) and having inalienable rights (as the already living).

If one wants to argue that the “spirit” of the Declaration of Independence should include the unborn, and thus be reflected in a sweeping law in which all states CANNOT have abortions, then all I can say is, GOOD. LUCK. WITH. THAT! Hence, the reason that abortion is and should be left to the individual states and not the question of blacks and slavery. If one really sought to make the unborn as a part of the spirit of the Declaration of Independence then the next level battle would have to be Amendments to the US Constitution of which I really don’t see that happening. Most of the population today would not allow for a federal law or state law declaring other already living human beings non-persons based on the Declaration of Independence, the 14th Amendment and a Civil War. It would be hard to make that shift with regard to abortion through the process of amendments to the US Constitution and I doubt pro-lifers are going to start a war over it. Thus, the question should be left up to the individual states.


Bringing Christian Ethics and Theology to Bear on Culture, Politics or Otherwise

Was talking with my buddy Dwayne Polk (he used to work at Greg Boyd’s church in St. Paul MN, Woodland Hills) privately about politics on Facebook Messenger. He wanted me to put forth my BEST argument for voting for Trump.

“I want to truly go at the best BIBLICAL and THEOLOGICAL grounds for supporting Trump for 2021 President. I mean the best.”

For D, everything hinges on the “Great Commandments”—loving God and your neighbour. I told him that we would need to look at individual issues and then I picked one—abortion. So he asks,

“Lets start right here:

Are the GCs *ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY* for being a disciple of Jesus? Yes or no?”

After a little finagling I said, that they were. Then I asked him, “How the GC (Great Commandments) would work out CONCRETELY with regard to Roe v Wade. He went into the abortion issue at which point I said that I had asked him a specific question about Roe v Wade and not abortion. I was asking about the LEGAL judgment of RvW and not all the arguments or ethics surrounding abortion.

Essentially, my argument was, it is not loving God or your neighbour by forcing a sweeping claim on everyone in a country that says, “No state can determine their own abortion laws”—some across the board, “right to privacy” that is not found in the US Constitution. The Great Commandments don’t allow a federal branch to strike down laws of individual states in which legal tradition for over 200 YEARS was just swept under the carpet JUST. LIKE. THAT. (snaps fingers). While that isn’t full blown communism, it is the federal government exceeding it’s authority. Could you imagine if a federal court said, “You shall not grow cucumbers?” Or “People cannot ride tricycles?” If it’s not mentioned in the Constitution then each state should decide these things. The reason why you never hear about states making laws against the things mentioned above is because, well, they would be so unpopular. Actually, they ARE unpopular.

Well, the same thing applies to same sex marriage. The high court makes a law legalizing SSM in all states. There is absolutely NOTHING loving here about the Court striking all laws down by fiat in all states. This isn’t loving God or your neighbour—ruling over others in such a way. Think about all those churches that don’t believe in SSM. Across the board, if you are against SSM or you don’t support SSM, then you are discriminating and if you are discriminating, you should lose your non-profit status and/or whatever other penalty they can throw on you with the eventuality of non-existence. Relatedly, if you don’t believe in gay priests, you are discriminating and thus you should lose your non-profit status and/or whatever other penalty they throw on you as well as, ultimately, non-existence. THAT’S THE GOAL. In both cases (abortion and SSM), freedom of religion is at risk.

Let’s turn this around a bit. If a church said, we don’t believe in heterosexual marriage (as strange as that seems because even the most liberal of churches insist on both homosexual and heterosexual marriages which they think is the middle/neutral ground, (it’s all about the love man!) while conservative churches (said they) believe in heterosexual marriages, both should be allowed to practice what they believe. They should be allowed to practice and exist without governmental interference ie., blessing or having their own “weddings” or “marriages.” They should be able to hire the gay priests they want instead of heterosexual ones. That is TRULY following the GC of loving God and neighbour. It’s pluralistic. It’s truly the neutral ground. I’ll put up a part two hopefully this weekend because Dwayne then responded with what he thought was the problem of States rights: Racism.

For me, the truly problematic issue with liberals, progressive Christians or the radical left is their inept understanding when it comes to legal and Constitution questions. I get that they want to bring what Jesus or the Bible has to say to bear on the issues of the day, (obviously the Great Commandments was of concern to my progressive Christian brother) but in order to do that you have to understand “the facts” of the issue (the actual Constitutional and political issues) in order to integrate your Christian ethics or theology in it. For example, it would not help (to use an example that John Stott used so many years ago) to bring the GC to bear on the law for people being attacked on the side of the road (the Good Samaritan story) if in fact it is not the case that people are NOT being attacked. Dwayne and I can agree that love is the ultimate standard to be brought to bear on the culture, legal and otherwise, but it is justice that helps with discerning how that might be so. And that requires looking at the facts of the issue or reality first (not meant chronologically).

So far, the question about legal abortion is not the “best” argument (as if that isn’t a category mistake—how is one question on one issue supposed to be the best reason to vote for a candidate? The word “best” doesn’t seem appropriate here. If I was only allowed to vote on ONE AND ONLY ONE issue in voting for Trump and that was abortion, then I would bring forth one of the strongest arguments for voting for him: the Constitutionality of RvW.


Cultural/Political Engagement: Let’s Be Realistic Shall We?

20140310-214502.jpgI was looking at this picture on the internet which shows these stick people trying to convince each other of the rightness or the wrongness of their position. My problem with the picture is that it doesn’t seem to accurately reflect the way that sociological movements work. For an example, if I were to draw a line in the sand and put 99 people on one side of the line and then put one person on the other side of the line, similar to the picture, you may be able to convince a few people to come over to your side and agree with your position and that may simply be on just one issue, but it’s hardly the case that you are going to get whole swaths of people coming over to your side to agree with your position as if it’s all going to be one-sided, again, as the picture shows. It doesn’t seem to work that way in real life. People usually don’t line up on one side of the fence or the other. What you have are a lot of people on both sides of the fence whom are a mixture of different positions on various issues. So, somebody might stand with you on one particular issue but they might feel the opposite of you on another issue and just because of that reason alone, you’re not going to have a consensus amongst people because you prioritize your issues, strong feelings get in the way, you have strong reasons for the other stances you take, etc. etc. etc. Basically, you’re going to have a whole mixture of individuals whom are going to be on both sides of the fence. We call that a spectrum. How this spectrum looks is another quite interesting question. Personally, I prefer to see an arch as oppose to a straight line that is more or less compartmentalized such that there are no clear dividing lines between say, “right,” “left” and “center.” The problem of this picture as I see it, is that it has a triumphalist tone to it. Essentially, “Come over to my side and everything will be alright in the world as long as we have everybody agreeing.” Well, yes this is true, I mean, if everybody agrees on something, agreement is always much better and much less tenuous then disagreement (socially speaking). But again, that’s problematic because it’s just not reality. That’s not the way the world really works. And if the world doesn’t work this way, people despair because, if, for an example, you have something like racism that not everyone can agree on, say, in terms of specific policies ie., affirmative action, or immigrant policies that one might think, are, at core, racist, then there is a lot of injustice going on (according to them). Now, there is a response to this and I’ll talk about that more in the next post, but for now, in closing, it is the expectation itself, that everybody is going to come over to your side and as a result everything is going to be okay, that is a part of the problem of why “nothing seems to get done.” We really have to be more realistic with our expectations.


Evangelicals: On Reading History Sympathetically

I was reading Rachel Held Evan’s blog about the Bible here.

My buddy, Brent L. White deals with her hermeneutical approach here. See also, Glenn Peoples post here that Brent refers to.

My approach is going to be slightly different in this post. I’m not going to deal with her hermeneutical approach but more with her historical approach or lack thereof and her point of hindsight. In her blog, Evans makes several quotes on different issues found within the Church in general, as well as evangelicalism and more specifically fundamentalism. She has quotes about inter-racial marriage, slavery, science (specifically the Galileo controversy ie., the terra centric and thus a anthropological view of the universe), the annihilation of North American tribal peoples, women’s suffrage, and lastly segregation.

The whole project of RHE’s is that she wants to show that we cannot have certainty as certainty about something has not only been shown to be wrong upon further enquiry but has also been the condition that is present wherein we commit atrocities in the name of God. It also seems to be the case that if we can be shown to be inconsistent in one place, we may be inconsistent in another. Personally, I’m rather sympathetic to the certainty issue and not so much with the inconsistency one.

Regardless, there seems to be an inconsistency on her part because, well, she is a product of evangelicalism itself and as a result could be even more charitable than she makes herself out to be (“Look at the history of the church! [in those quotes] Terrible!”). What I mean by that is this. Evangelicals are notorious for being ahistorical. For example, this is seen in our churches when we come together to worship. Our buildings are rid of liturgical artifacts and we don’t realize when it comes to Bible reading that we read with rose coloured glasses– ie., that our biblical approach is not “objective.” And the same could be applied to what RHE is bringing up in her post. That is, she basically takes history out of it’s historical context. It’s not all about hindsight or progress. What we might want to do is ask about RHE’s and those who look at history the same way she does if they make a proper “distinction between those who love(d) history and those who use(d) history” for their own ideological purposes.

In other words, LOOKING BACK on history we might see what we think is an inconsistency but it is only an inconsistency with OUR times and not necessarily with their OWN times. History is a complex art. Not only must we get our facts right (which I’m not so sure RHE’s does even here on some if not most of those quotes) but we need to balance those facts against the wider backdrop of the times in which those acts took place much of which can come up with significant different interpretations which is ultimately why we have different volumes of books on specific events and persons of history.

One of the things that irks me about evangelicals deals specifically with the ahistorical and thus uncharitable view of that “bastard child” fundamentalism. Yes, there is progression. Yes, we move on to other questions. But I’m not referring to that. I’m referring to looking specifically at the HISTORY of fundamentalism with charitable eyes. Let me provide an example of this.

The other day I was reading a bit of a book called, “The Sword of Lord” by Andrew Himes. The book is an excellent part biography (as Himes was related to some of the big names within fundamentalism as a movement) part history book of fundamentalism. The nice thing about Himes’ book, is that it is sympathetic towards fundamentalism. It’s not that he agrees with fundamentalism it’s that he seems to realize that nothing occurs within a vacuum of sorts especially, in this case, a historical vacuum. Here are a few paragraphs I found interesting in the book.

“In general, a fundamentalist outlook made a lot of sense in a world in which you needed to be certain where to stand in order to survive the next day and to defend the lives and welfare of your family. Fundamentalism was a rational, and emotional, response to a dangerous world where you needed to know who was a sheep and who was a goat, who was for you and who was against you, who might slip a blade between your ribs and who would love you back.

Likewise, fundamentalist religion has reflected the absolutism of fundamentalist politics. Historically, Christian fundamentalists in America focused on identifying and proclaiming the set of doctrines or beliefs that have been held by orthodox Christians since about the fourth century the blood atonement, the virgin birth, the inerrancy of Scripture, the resurrection of Jesus, and his awaited return. Fundamentalists then militantly defended those doctrines against perceived heretical threats from liberals and modernists in the early twentieth century. It is striking, however, that those doctrines deemed “fundamental” did not include such core Christian doctrines as the Triune nature of God. They did not include the doctrine of salvation by faith through grace (the heart of the Protestant Reformation). And they included nothing from the revolutionary teachings of Jesus during his earthly ministry.

It is evident that the selection of ‘The Fundamentals” a century ago was time-bound, driven by the specific terms of a battle over doctrine fought by two groups of people bitterly opposed to each other.

But what happens to fundamentalism when its original enemies have succumbed to the passage of time or have been replaced by new opponents and the specific terms of the debate of a century ago become irrelevant? How does fundamentalism remain relevant in a world of evidently breathtaking diversity an array of different spiritual practices, philosophies, and explorations of the meaning of God and spirit none of which can seemingly claim to be authoritative? What does fundamentalism evolve into when the children of fundamentalists turn out to be more interested in following Jesus and practicing Christian, love than arguing over arcane points, of doctrine?”

I think RHE could not only be a better historian (not someone who uses history for ideological purposes) but someone who realizes the complexity of history and tries to balance it with a more charitable and sympathetic understanding.