The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the tag “current-events”

The Abuse of Power and the Power of Abuse: Dealing with an Inconvenient Truth

By Uri Brito

Republicans are the party of small government. Democrats are the party of big government. These distinctions no longer hold true. Reagan’s first term, perhaps, in recent history, is the last to come close to the type of small government Republicans say they envision. But for too long the scenery of the political landscape is replete with big government towers. We, the people, stare hopelessly at those babel-like towers wondering if any of them have read Genesis 11. We are Tolkien’s hobbits wanting to be left alone smoking our tobacco and drinking the finest beer, but alone they will not let us be.

David Shipler’s The Rights of the People: How our Search for Safety Invades our Privacy (2011) detailed some of these abuses. Shipler wrote that the Bill of Rights were “embedded in the first ten amendments to the Constitution…to climb and counter the might state, to keep their speech free, their confessions true, their trial fair, their homes and files sealed from cavalier invasion by police.” We are losing that right as speedily as the government (NSA) is tracking your e-mail or Verizon phone call right now.

What we are seeing today is more than the undermining of the Constitution; we are seeing the undermining of morality. And this implies that we need the objectivity of Christendom. We can no longer amen the actions of any party, because both major parties do not care about the shire. They will make deals with anyone. We need the boldness to assert the foolish actions of our party and then condemn them each election.

Obama’s promise to secrecy and the respecting of civil liberties in 2007 has quickly derailed into a Mordor-like crystal ball. They have looked and accessed every conceivable file. They have found what they wanted and used that information for their own purposes. “We cannot have 100% safety without inconvenience,” the president argues. Inconvenience? An absurdly burdensome tax system,  the waste of our taxpayer money, TSA, a destructive economic policy, reckless wars led by reckless leaders, the murder of the unborn? This is more than inconvenience; this is abuse; and all in the name of an agenda.

What we are witnessing is not the era of inconvenience; those days were relatively comfortable. At least we knew when the inconveniences would come. We are entering the era of abuse. We are in an era where the words “abuse of power” have become redundant. In an abusive society, led by abusive leaders, we do not know what to expect. Power corrupts, but absolute power in the hands of fools leads to abuse.

We are not claiming that this is a distinctly Obama problem. Bush’s Patriot Act opened the doors to this type of infringement. The tyranny of technology began long ago. And we are now recipients of a president who is continuing those policies.

The Economist observed in 2007, that in the past, information was gathered by drawing conclusions about citizens from fragmented reports by party loyalists. They would tap phones, send informers to workplaces, and follow people around. Today, “data about people’s whereabouts, purchases, behavior, and personal lives are gathered, stored, and shared on a scale that no dictator of the old school ever thought possible.”

We are living in a new era. This is an era where privacy is becoming extinct. The security of e-mail exchanges, counselor to counselee phone calls, and a host of other matters are sacrificed at the altar of safety. But are we safe? The answer to that is an inconvenient truth to our president.

The Righteous Anger of a Four-Year Old

By Uri Brito

Response to Comments: I am pleased with the enormous response. As of now there have been over 500 views. The vast majority of responses were very supportive and expressed in one way or another the sadness, but also the hope that a new generation will turn this evil tide in our country.

As I expected there were a couple of negative responses. The responses can be summarized in the following manner: “Abortion is such a difficult issue, and to expose a four year old to such an issue can be unhealthy.” One comment referred to the topic of abortion as “intense.” I do not wish to spend too much time with a lengthy response, except to say the following: Read more…

Double Vision Check

by Sean Johnson
eye test lenses double-vision anagogical vision
Recently, some comments from Peter Leithart got me thinking about the ways different folks interpret Revelation, which in turn got me thinking about the ways they interpret current events. It seemed, in my armchair musings, that our interpretations of the news have a lot to do with our eschatology, and I’m not just talking about the 666-handbasket-of-the-whore-of-Babylon-Five folks, either. Read more…

Bill O’Reilly, Robert Jeffress, “The Bible,” and the Truth of God’s Revelation

Bill O’Reilly had on Pastor Robert Jeffress of The First Baptist Church of Dallas, TX. Jeffress gained a lot of attention during the 2012 presidential elections when he opposed Romney—in favor of Perry—on the grounds that Romney was a Mormon. Jeffress argued that we needed an evangelical in the White House.

O’Reilly’s segment focused on whether the Bible should be understood literally or allegorically. The unstable Fox News host began the segment with an irresponsible remark:

“The Bible,” which was co-created by Mark Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey, “highlights fundamentalist Christian beliefs.”

The History Channel show can be debated (at another time), but the opening assumption already triggers the insult of ignorance of anyone who believes such events to be literal. “Fundamentalist Christian beliefs” is the media’s way of perpetuating evangelical Christians as theological dinosaurs. Further, it carries on the abusive stereo-types usually addressed towards Islamic radicals. If you are a fundamentalist, you are in some way capable of doing things the typical enlightened human being would never do. Read more…

The Battle in Bear Country » Sullivan v Wilson: Is Civil Marriage for Gay Couples Good for Society?

The University of Idaho hosted a public debate, to a crowd of over 800, on February 27, 2013. The debate was participated in by Andrew Sullivan, blogger and former senior editor of The Atlantic, and Douglas Wilson, pastor of Christ Church of Moscow, ID, author and educator. The topic of the debate: Is Civil Marriage for Gay Couples Good for Society?

Battle of the Beards

Battle of the Beards

Read more…

A New Conservative Manifesto?

DonQuixoteunhorsed

“How to revive the flagging fortunes of the Republican Party might matter to some people, but it’s not a question that should concern principled conservatives. Crypto-conservatives aplenty stand ready to shoulder that demeaning task.”

Several weeks ago a piece appeared over at The American Conservative touting itself as a manifesto-of-sorts for a re-envisioned and reinvigorated conservatism: “Counterculture Conservatism: the right needs less Ayn Rand, more Flannery O’Connor.” Before the literary among you get excited, I should warn you that author Andrew J. Bacevich interacts with O’Connor nowhere in the article; in fact, by the end, I felt a little like Inigo Montoya (“you keep using that name; I do not think it means who you think it means”). Anyway, Bacevich’s opening lines (quoted above) are one measure consolation, one measure exhortation, and just a splash of knowing self-congratulation

True enough, a lot of people predicted that if and when Republicans lost the 2012 election, the party would attempt to reinvent itself, distancing itself from “loser issues” like the sanctity of biblical marriage, or the fight against abortion (of course, the party had already begun to do this when they put Mitt Romney in the race, but what’s a few months one way or the other to the long memory of history?). ‘Republican’ and ‘Conservative’ might be related terms, but fortunately they are not perfect synonyms, and many of the latter woke up and found themselves too “principled” to remain attached to the former. I followed the author this far because, truthfully, I was in that number and could say, without irony, “thank God for conservatism,” but he (in this case, the article’s author) wasn’t finished yet.

What, then, is Bacevich’s vision of conservatism in the coming epoch?

“The conservative tradition I have in mind may not satisfy purists. It doesn’t rise to the level of qualifying as anything so grandiose as a coherent philosophy. It’s more of a stew produced by combining sundry ingredients. The result, to use a word that ought warm the cockles of any conservative’s heart, is a sort of an intellectual slumgullion.”

His recipe for this mess of pottage includes, among other thinkers, heavy doses of Flannery O’Connor (he drops her name a second time, but by now I’m even more skeptical that he could explain satisfactorily why she belongs in the discussion) and Wendell Berry (who recently came out in support of gay marriage, which will seem more relevant in a minute)—“don’t skimp” he writes.

Next, there are the sweeping, inspirational value statements about the human responsibility of stewardship—“preserving our common inheritance and protecting that which possesses lasting value”—the importance of community—“ Conservatives understand that the most basic community, the little platoon of family, is under unrelenting assault”—awareness of pain and suffering—“conservatives also believe in Original Sin, by whatever name”—and patriotism—“America is amber waves of grain, not SEAL Team Six.”

Bacevich finally descends to the level of clear details in outlining the task that is before the next generation conservative.

“The key to success will be to pick the right fights against the right enemies, while forging smart tactical alliances. (By tactical, I do not mean cynical.) Conservatives need to discriminate between the issues that matter and those that don’t, the contests that can be won and those that can’t….So forget about dismantling the welfare state. Social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and, yes, Obamacare are here to stay. Forget about outlawing abortion or prohibiting gay marriage. Conservatives may judge the fruits produced by the sexual revolution poisonous, but the revolution itself is irreversible.”

He warns against a Quixotic tilting at windmills, while adopting for himself the conciliatory tone of the Don on his deathbed, claiming that there are no birds in last year’s nests. I mention Don Quixote, but the reader may also be reminded of the first-century Sadducees with their “smart tactical alliances.” This conservatism begins to sound less countercultural and more concultural or syncultural. One could hope that the author simply intends the Church to play a larger role than the State in transforming culture, but churches are mentioned as a kind of afterthought in the close of his manifesto and largely as a sheepish concession that they all “may be flawed.” The piece reads instead, as if conservatives simply have bigger (largely financial) fish to fry.

More recently, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman wrote an article (also for The American Conservative) entitled “Marriage Equality Is a Conservative Cause,” arguing,

“There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship [a happy marriage] with the person they love.”

But his essay’s final remarks strike a now familiar chord that complicates the simplicity of that emotional appeal:

“We are at a crossroads. I believe the American people will vote for free markets under equal rules of the game—because there is no opportunity or job growth any other way. But the American people will not hear us out if we stand against their friends, family, and individual liberty.”

Neither Bacevich nor Huntsman is the force behind this shift, but they are both good indications of where the winds are blowing. Both outline a strategy that feigns compassion (or possibly misunderstands real compassion as a secondary end) in order to gain influence, especially in financial/economic arenas. These Conservatives are simply maneuvering to become the new Republicans and making moderate the new conservative.

Fortunately, the Christian remains more conservative than the Conservative. Kuyper would remind us that the state is meant to restrain sin out of love for the nation and concern for its culture; love and concern based in and upon the truly charitable, Gospel-oriented mission of the Church, where liberty and equality truly abide.

So, how to revive the flagging fortunes of the conservative movement might matter to some people, but it’s not a question that should concern principled Christians. Crypto-conservatives aplenty stand ready to shoulder that demeaning task.

 

Sean Johnson is a graduate student of Literature at the University of Dallas (TX) and husband to a beautiful pregnant woman.

Former Pro-Life Surgeon General C. Everett Koop dead at age 96

Dr. Charles Everett Koop, MD (October 14, 1916 – February 25, 2013)

Former surgeon general C. Everett Koop


USA today
is reporting that Pro-Life bulwark C. Everett Koop has now passed:

“C. Everett Koop, the former surgeon general who brought frank talk about AIDS into American homes, has died at his home in Hanover, N.H., officials at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth announced Monday. He was 96.

Koop, a pediatric surgeon with a conservative reputation and a distinctive beard, was surgeon general from 1981 to 1989 during the Reagan administration and the early months of the administration of George H.W. Bush.”

A Pro-Life Legacy

For us in the Pro-life world, Dr. Koop has had a significant impact in the debate about abortion and the value of human life. For more than a quarter of a century he specialized in the care and surgical treatment of physically impaired children. His work was devoted to restoring and saving lives. He worked alongside thousands of parents and understood the economic and social burdens associated with “right to live” decisions. His experiences encouraged him to speak up for the unborn and his work has inspired an entire generation of pro-life activists.

Whatever Happened to the Human Race?Whatever Happened to the Human Race?

Koop teamed up with Francis Schaeffer to analyze the widespread implications and frightening loss of human rights brought on by today’s practices of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. They produced a book and a video series on the issue. Koop understood that choices were being made that undermine human rights at their most basic level. Practices once labeled “unthinkable” by physicians were now considered acceptable. They pleased for the end of the destruction of human life, young and old, which being sanctioned on an ever-increasing scale by the medical profession, by the courts, by parents, and by silent citizens. Koop also authored a book called, The Right to Live: The Right to Die continuing to appeal to the American public as a pro-life physician.

Buy Whatever Happened to the Human Race? (Revised Edition)

A Few Quotes

“We live in a schizophrenic society. We will fly a deformed newborn baby four hundred miles by airplane to perform a series of remarkable operations on such a youngster, knowing full well that the end result will be far from perfect. We will ship food to a starving nation overseas, and, at the same time, supply arms to its enemy…While we struggle to save the life of a three pound baby in a hospital’s newborn intensive care unit, obstetricians in the same hospital are destroying similar infants yet unborn.”

“Wherever and whenever the respect for human life is cheapened and diminished there is an educational effect upon that culture and society.”

“Protection of the life of the mother as an excuse for an abortion is a smoke screen. In my 36 years of pediatric surgery, I have never known of one instance where the child had to be aborted to save the mother’s life. If toward the end of the pregnancy complications arise that threaten the mother’s health, the doctor will induce labor or perform a Caesarean section. His intention is to save the life of both the mother and the baby. The baby’s life is never willfully destroyed because the mother’s life is in danger.”

Lent, Ligon Duncan, and Legalism

Collin Hansen wrote an article for the Gospel Coalition entitled Should You Cancel Good Friday? which has brought to the attention of many a conversation they have never had before. What is Lent? Why celebrate it?

As a committed Protestant, I am committed to the Church Calendar, not because I want to be a slave to it, but because I am aware of its inevitability. We all follow some calendar. The question is which calendar? I ask that question because Protestantism is grounded in a Trinitarian view of the world. In its best expression it does not isolate ideas; it brings ideas together to form a coherent system.

I suggest that Lent is highly Trinitarian. As the Trinity is a communion of love, so Lent provides a means to express that love to one another in the community. Where sins are confronted and battled, there you find a vigorous Trinitarian community and vision. Lent is service to the community by giving us a season of determined battle against sin for the sake of our neighbors.

It offers a vision of history that undergirds the biblical history and that reflects the normal routines, liturgies, and rituals of human beings. Lent is a form of restructuring our lives. All Christians need a re-structuring of order in their own lives. All Christians need to re-balance and re-form areas where there is disproportionate indifference. We all undergo a Psalmic journey of lamentation and feasting. Lent draws us into this journey.

In essence, Lent reveals the God who suffers in the Person of Jesus Christ. God’s image-bearers are formed from the dust of a fallen Adam to the glorification of the risen Final Adam. To disconnect Lent from the Church Calendar is to disparage history.

It is true we live in the age of an ascended Lord, but this same Lord guides a Church that is still broken, suffering, and healing from brokenness and suffering again and again. The removal of Lent is to proclaim an over-realized eschatology.

It is true that Lent can be abused, and history teaches us that it has. But it is also true, as Luther so memorably stated, “the abuse of something is not an argument against its proper use.” So if Lent can be proven to be profitable, then is there a legitimate way to benefit from it without falling into some its former abuses. Protestant Christians are not bound by Romish structures of food or rituals. We use wisdom in forming healthy habits for a Church and individuals while not binding the Church or the individual to a particular habit.

Lent and Wilderness

Lent teaches us that Satan’s gifts are easy to master. They come with first grade instruction manuals. They are made to be mastered quickly and enjoyed rapidly (fornication, drugs, alcohol; various temptations). God’s gifts are a little harder to master. They require self-control and patience. They anticipate spiritual growth; they demand a kingly attitude to grasp kingly wisdom. God’s instructions mean you have to seek others in the community to understand them properly. You have to exercise and express a theology of patience built into a theology of blessings.

In the wilderness, a garden stripped of colors, fruit, and water, Jesus faced the devil again in a re-match. He knew well that temptation had a triumphant history of subtly winning arguments. Jesus wasted no time and rebuked temptation. just like He would do with the demons and the demonic-like religious teachers of the day.

We are not to sit in temptation’s classroom. God already said we are to flee it; to rebuke it with the only source of authority that is permanent and stamped with divine truth.

The Church finds herself in a wilderness scenario. She is stripped of her former glory. But she is destined to journey from glory to glory like her Lord and Master. As in Luke four, we need to sit in Yahweh’s school house. We need to be instructed by the two-edged sword that muzzles the Tempter and tells him to not come back again. He is not welcome and neither are his offers.

Lent offers us a 40 day class on temptations and the glories and rewards of resisting it.

But Why 40 Days?

Lent follows the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. His fasting for 40 days speaks to the evil and the hardness of heart of the Israelites who succumbed to the Serpent’s whispers. So as the Church walks with Jesus from wilderness to Golgotha she re-lives the messianic journey. The 40 days are symbolic for that wilderness testing, and as a result it is chronologically set before the Great Paschal Feast, commonly referred to as Easter.

Should Lent be Observed?

Ligon Duncan and others in the Southern Presbyterian tradition argue that Lent has a meritorious history. Lent was a way to earn something. The Reformation fixed this soteriological error, and therefore Lent is no longer to be observed.

Duncan and others also go on to say that celebrating Easter and Christmas offer no such harm (he also believes that a National Holiday like Thanksgiving is also a uniquely American holiday to be celebrated). There is no doubt Easter and Christmas, and even Thanksgiving–to a lesser degree–offer wonderful benefits. But the question and the opening presupposition is that Lent is not biblical therefore it should not be practiced in the Church. If that is the case, then the question is not whether one day (or Season) is more beneficial than the other, but rather is it explicitly stated in the Bible or not? If the “explicit reference” argument is used, then Duncan will have to conclude that this is faulty reasoning.

I concur with Vance Freeman that “each of his (Duncan’s) reasons for not observing Lent are undercut by the observance of Christmas and Easter.” Mr. Freeman also concludes:

The biggest threat to Christianity today is not the church in Rome, or that Americans are prone to elevate traditional Christian rituals, like Lent, over discipleship. The biggest threat to the church is that our rituals are increasingly only secular ones. We are Americans before we are Christians. Super Bowl Sunday not only competes with the Lord’s Day, it dominants it. And when we relegate the Christian life to a mere facet of our American lives we fall into Moral Therapeutic Deism.

The formation of godly habits is the issue at hand. In other words, is there an adequate time of the year where the Church should have an explicit focus on the cross of Jesus and how that cross must shape our understanding of sin? Is there room for setting aside a season for a cruciform hermeneutic? I believe there is.

As Peter Leithart so ably summarizes:

Lent is a season for taking stock and cleaning house, a time of self-examination, confession and repentance.  But we need to remind ourselves constantly what true repentance looks like.  “Giving up” something for Lent is fine, but you keep Lent best by making war on all the evil habits and sinful desires that prevent you from running the race with patience.

If this is true, then Lent serves an enormously important role in the life of the Christian. Naturally, to quote Luther’s first thesis, “the Christian life is a life of daily repentance.” A faithful understanding of the Lord’s Service provides that for us weekly. However, an extended period where our sins are deeply brought to our attention by the preaching of the Word and prayer (and fasting) are regularly considered, practiced and meditated upon can provide great benefits for all Christians on each Lord’s Day and throughout the week.

The legalism concern is legitimate. We are all tempted to fall into this trap, but it does not have to be so. If we view Lent as a time to additionally focus our attention on mortifying our sins and killing those habits that so easily entangle us, we can then consider the cross in light of the resurrection, not apart from it. If we do so, Lent will become legalism’s greatest enemy and repentance’s best friend.

Tim Tebow Cancels Speech at First Baptist Church of Dallas

The New York Jets backup quarterback has cancelled his appearance at the Baptist mega-church in Dallas. The well-known Christian athlete tweeted a short time ago:

 “While I was looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ’s unconditional love with the faithful members of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas in April, due to new information that has been brought to my attention, I have decided to cancel my upcoming appearance.

“He continued, “I will continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope and Love to all those needing a brighter day. Thank you for all of your love and support. God Bless!”

The Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Robert Jeffress, has been an outspoken critic of Mitt Romney and suggested in the last campaign that he would prefer to see an orthodox Christian in the White House instead of a Mormon. He has also spoken out against homosexuality and Islam, which has made him a detested name in the politically-correct media.

Undoubtedly there is much that could be said about the star-driven ventures of the evangelical world, and I stand firmly behind critiquing it, however, Tebow’s bailing out of his commitment due to what is perceived to be a strategically wise move for the NFL superstar in unwise. My appreciation for Tebow is known and I can only hope that there are other motives involved, rather than simply avoiding the controversy of associating with a  pastor that has in actuality spoken publicly and truthfully about a host of issues over these last years.

Why Your Christian World View Blinds You

worldviewYou are a committed Christian. You’re not just nominal. And you aren’t simply emotive or thoughtless. You know you are supposed to love the Lord with all your mind. The Bible applies to all of life. You want to take every thought captive to Christ. You have a Christian worldview.

And for that reason, you may be blind.

This is not because the Christian world view is false (thought the visual metaphor may need some balancing). It is because you are taking shortcuts and are too confident in what you know to think that you need to check yourself.

Just because the Christian world view is essential to fully understanding the truth doesn’t mean you need nothing else to learn the truth. You are called to take God’s word and apply it to all of life. But you are perfectly capable of taking God’s word and applying it to your imagination—or to some fictional constructs that you have been taught and have never investigated for yourself.

Think of the culture war and American politics. There are people who need your vote in order to gain their place in the political structure of the United States of America. They know you are a Christian. They know they need the support (at least on Election Day) of people who possess a Christian World and Life View. Do you really think that, even if they plan to go in an entirely different direction, they don’t have ways of appealing to you to deceive and manipulate you to get your endorsement? If you wave the Bible, you are inviting people to use your values to lead you in a direction that might end up being the exact opposite of where they claim they are going.

It is simply not enough to know the truth about God, Jesus, and his ethical directions. You have to know something about your world, your time in history, and the people around you.

Is Islam the biggest threat to Christianity? Knowing that Islam is a false religion and that Christianity is true does not mean you have enough information to decide that question. If Islam is an independent international power, it may be such a threat. If, in fact, Islamic power is dependent on the cooperation and sponsorship of Western governments, then you might need to adjust your estimate and give first place to modern secular totalitarianism.

Should American Christians support Israel (or to what extent and in what way)? Should they support the Federal Government’s containment policy against China? Should Christians regard Putin as a thug and demand more civil liberties for Russians, or perhaps regard him as a thug and figure he shouldn’t worry about “Western” secular civil liberties? Unless they have done due diligence on the history, Christians have no right to hold an opinion on such topics. Knowledge of the importance of the Trinity to the question of the one and the many or the importance of private property to a social order won’t be enough to tell you anything.

Another complication is that Christians may not correctly understand the Christian world view, and they might actually profit from correction on those points from a non-Christian, despite the non-Christian’s central error. It is quite easy to prevent a Christian from receiving such correction by pointing to the unbeliever’s destructive beliefs and practices. I think virtually every Christian critique of Ayn Rand I have seen on the web could easily be used in this way.

One might recommend that Christians simply confess their ignorance and stay out of matters they know nothing about. But that is impossible for Americans today. Everyone—everyone—is recruiting Christians to a foreign policy or domestic cause on the basis of the alleged demands of the Christian worldview. If man-made global warming is real, then Christians must participate and support whatever scheme might fix it on the basis of “stewardship.” But the Bible doesn’t tell you whether it is real or not. If the agricultural developments of the twentieth century were the natural and spontaneous progress of scientific development providing cheaper food on the free market, that will demand one stance from Christians. If those developments were a patent monopoly used by US cold war policy to destroy indigenous agriculture and make other nations dependent on petroleum fertilizers and other purchases from a cartel, that will demand a different stance. Again, the Bible doesn’t tell you any of it.

And many don’t want to face up to how complex our situation really is. They want to add the Bible to a few unquestionable facts. You learn what those facts are, typically, when you hear your favorite Bible teacher or worldview think tank leader refer to anyone who questions or denies them as an “idiot.”

Calling people idiots and denying that they should ever be heard or considered has a far greater role in the “Christian world and life view” as it is actually practiced by Christians than anyone wants to admit.

I realize no one can know everything. But if you’re going to express an opinion on what God thinks about something, you’re going to have to study not only God’s Word but also that “something.” As much as Americans need to read more of the Bible, they also need to read more history and international politics. There’s no way to do otherwise and still claim to have a Christian view of the world as it actually is.

John Calvin famously compared the Bible to the lenses of eyeglasses. That is the point. You are supposed to look through them at the world. Too many Christians stare at the lenses or use them to stare at pictures a few influential Christians have painted for them.

(Cross-posted at Christendom Underground)

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