Thursday, November 08, 2012

Reflections on the Election

Elections are a way of taking the temperature of a nation and America clearly has a very high fever.  Obama has been a disaster from the start, but it is important to recognize that Romney, and even the majority of Republican presidential candidates were all terrible.  But this is not a new phenomenon.   Christians ought not to simply mourn that President Obama was reelected, but that the election came down to two un-Christian socialists.  This is the larger calamity.

But the election results were much bigger than just the presidential race.  So very few candidates are willing to speak to the issues of the day and lack the moral courage to lead.  Candidates are only willing to discuss issues within the accepted cultural narrative.  None really challenge the nature of the debate.
No one is willing to truly discuss the truly frightful nature of government debt and spending.  No candidates are willing to challenge pro-abortion candidates for supporting the murder of babies.  No one is willing to speak the truth about the wicked income tax.  No one speaks against the socialist redistribution of wealth in the administration of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, and other entitlement programs.  Candidates are silent in speaking against militarism and the massive empire built on hubris and debt.  No one speaks against the wicked monetary policy of the Federal Reserve.  No one opposes the illegal bombing and murdering of innocents by drones in undeclared wars.  The truthful nature of the war in Afghanistan is left unmentioned.  None speak out against the disgusting actions of the Transportation Security Administration.  None are willing to truly defend the God-given right to self-defense and the possession of firearms.  I could continue, but I suspect I’ve made my point.

So while we mourn the outcome of the election and our sorrow is acute in seeing the results—it is the very nature of the political discourse in our nation that we ought to mourn.   This election cycle saw the advancement of the homosexual lobby in unprecedented ways.  We ought to mourn this, but the fact that we’ve come so far as to actually discuss homosexual marriage at all, let alone legitimize it, is a sign of the dramatically declining influence of the Church in society.

This is what is truly of interest in this election—the declining influence of the Church upon our culture.  Indeed, this is the perennial challenge of the Church—how to speak truthfully to a culture while remaining faithful to Christ.  Until the Church accepts its cultural mandate, culture will erode, and face crisis after crisis—blindly searching for a savior, all the while it suppresses the truth in unrighteousness, and rejecting the only true Savior.

There is no Savior apart from Christ.  There is no political solution to the problems our nation faces.  Republicans and Democrats alike are guilty of idolatry in proclaiming they have the solutions to our nation’s problems.  If the Church faithfully proclaims the gospel and perseveres in disciple-making, the political solutions will naturally follow.  “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”  If we seek political solutions apart from Christ we will lose the solutions and Christ.  This is the critical component to cultural renewal—seek Christ first, and only, and you will find that which you need.

America does face grave threats and the situation will likely get much worse before it gets better.  But those afraid of “Armageddon America” need to return to their Bibles.  Kingdoms rise and fall, and America is no different in this regard.  America’s problems are not a portent of the Apocalypse, but a sign of God’s judgment.  We are being judged, and the judgment will continue until we are purified of our iniquity.  But there is hope—Jesus is Lord!  “…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV) 

As I began, America has a high fever.  But fevers are the means of defeating infection.  A fever is necessary for healing.  Christians (all people really) too often fall into a defeatist mentality—thinking the fever will lead to death.  But let us remember the Psalms.  Psalm 10 begins, “Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”  Yet it concludes, “The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land.  O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”  Our God is not a defeated God—he is triumphant!

Not only is God triumphant, but his enemy is suicidal—for they are those who hate death. (Prov. 8:36)  The enemies of God cannot prevail because theirs is a cult of death and barrenness.  Ponder for a moment the nature of leftist ideology.  They love abortion—the killing of babies.  They want to see the widespread use of contraceptive devices and abortifacient drugs.  They would love to see infertile homosexual “marriages.”  They would love to see government grow at the expense of the productive economy.  This is a philosophy of death—an inherently suicidal belief system.  Such a system cannot win.

With this in mind, look around you.  Christians are having babies—lots of them!  They are taking them out of the Godless public school system and educating them at home or in Christian schools.  Reformed theology is increasingly popular and ascendant.   There is a reformation movement afoot in the churches.  It is advancing slowly, at least from our perspective, but it is advancing.  This is the system that will win.

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Monday, October 01, 2012

Biblical Principles for the Ballot Box

The American political system is one of the more interesting of paradoxes in America.  On the one hand—the nation is proud, and rightly so, of its political heritage.  We Americans take pride in the system left to us by the founding fathers—we are a nation of a written law passed down generation to generation.   Yet, paradoxically, politicians and bureaucrats—the ministers of that legacy are lampooned on television, in the press, in books, and in casual conversation.   So why the disconnect?  Perhaps the most obvious of answers is that we see too stark a contrast between the brilliance of the Constitution and the corrupt, self-serving politicians and bureaucrats sworn to uphold it.  As John Adams, second President of the United States so famously said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
So if the Constitution is made for a moral people—dare I say, a Christian people—how ought we Christians think and act biblically as citizens of this earthly republic?  How ought a Christian vote?  Rather than deal in names or even specific issues, I want to offer principles to help answer this question.  These principles, when rightly applied, will assist the Christian in exercising the solemn duty of expressing his Christian convictions in the ballot box.
First, all law is derived from God—not man.  God is the law-giver; therefore all law is either an expression of God’s law, a distortion of God’s law, or atheistic man-made law.  This is evident from the beginning—in the Garden of Eden, God commands of Adam, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  (Genesis 2:16-17).  Satan then distorts this law by saying, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  (Genesis 3:1)  The Scriptures are clear—God is the law-giver, Satan the law-distorter.  All law is God’s law, and is therefore our law.
Voddie Baucham, in preaching on Romans 13 [1]argues that many in the church are “Political Pelagians.”  He argues that Christians admit the necessity of God’s law in salvation, but dismiss the necessity of God’s law in government.  This political Pelagianism says that apart from the Word of God, we can use reason to discover natural law.  This thoroughly unbiblical proposition undermines the Word of God and his Lordship over all of life. 
This first principle requires that Christian voters examine a candidate’s understanding of law, and necessarily his theological commitments.  This is not to say that Christians can only vote for Christians, but at the minimum, candidates that think like a Christian.  Does the candidate act as one under the authority of God?
Law, of course, is important in maintaining order in a society—but Christians believe that the law is not redemptive, that is to say, salvation comes through Christ alone.  This leads to the second principle—that no human institution can, or should, attempt to offer itself as redeemer.  While this is obvious at the outset, the American system has slowly transformed itself into a messianic nation state.  What this means, is that the American government has assumed to itself religious functions that make it a rival to the One True God.  Herbert Schlossberg argues in his book Idols for Destruction that the modern American system believes that, “Salvation is to be found in the messianic state, or it is to be found nowhere.  Therefore, the only branch of human endeavor that can save us is politics…[2]
The messianic nation state does not merely attempt to bring order and rule to its people, as it ought, but attempt to feed its people through welfare programs and food subsidies, educate them in public schools and universities, reform criminals, and spread democracy across the world.  The messianic nation-state works to create people in its own image—people who accept the materialist assumptions that all that life has to offer is before us—there is no life after death, that the there is no final appeal beyond the state.
The messianic nation-state is not a man-serving institution ordained by God, but instead turns itself into a god that demands the service of people.  This new god requires its own blood sacrifice, too—men and women willing to “die for their country” with promises for “eternal glory.”
Were the paradox of the American system more widely recognized, perhaps we would better understand that good government is not the result of good law, but of good people.  The third principle is that the American form of government—the representative republic—is prone to corruption like all forms of government.  To believe that a particular system of government can solve a society’s ills is to fall into the materialist trap—believing that the human condition is not the result of sin, but of a system failure.  Christians know that the human “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick…” (Jeremiah 17:9).  At the root, all evil, oppression, and injustice are the result of sin ruling the human heart.
Yet it is true that certain types of government are more prone to corruption and injustice than others.  A good form of government will recognize that the greater the concentration of power, the greater the chance corruption and tyranny.  For example, King Rehoboam, after the death of his father Solomon, said, “My little finger is thicker than my father's thighs. And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’”(1 Kings 12:10-11)  The state in the hands of one man is at his mercy.
On the other hand, if power is spread to broadly, as in a democracy, the majority of a society can tyrannize a minority.  It is helpful to remember that nations like Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia all used the nation’s legal system to engage in the murder and oppression of their own people.  
It is no coincidence that the American Republic was founded with three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) with a system of checks and balances to seek a balance of power and keep one branch from exercising too much power.  For a time this system worked, but history shows us that the American Republic is not immune to injustice.  There are countless examples in American history of people using the government to advantage themselves and oppress others.  Southern slavery, conscription, the mistreatment of American Indians, segregation, and abortion are some of the more notable scandals in American history. 
Christians know better than to place their faith in a system of government—do not be deceived into thinking America is immune to the same ailments as any other nation.  Americans were given a remarkable legacy, but like any inheritance, it may be squandered by a wicked and imprudent generation.
As the American system has evolved, it has become binary—a two-party political system of Democrats and Republicans.  Of course there have been, and still are successful third parties, but these are largely at the fringes and the exception in a political race.  This binary system results in the mournful refrain of voters deciding between “the lesser of two evils.”  The fourth principle is that the lesser of two evils is still evil.  The prophet Isaiah says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)
If all the choices on the ballot are evil, Christians must recognize that their responsibility to forsake the evil.  The Apostle Peter quotes Psalm 34, “For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.  But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”  (1 Peter 3:11-12)
If voting for a particular candidate is to participate in evil, Christians must resist, and instead seek a different path.  This may mean voting for a different party than you are accustomed to.  It may mean voting for a third party candidate, it may mean not voting for a particular office. 
Christians must be careful in allying themselves with a particular political party.  Herbert Schlossberg writes,
It may be… that the only healthy relationship the church can have with the political parties is one of mutual suspicion, with a willingness to undertake short-term alliances of limited scope.  Since each side is marching to a different drummer, it is difficult to see how the relationship can be any firmer, unless one or the other capitulates…  If we are successful, no party could lightly legislate or enforce the law in ways that are repugnant to Christians.  They may finally do so, but only at political cost. [3] 
Ultimately, Christians must be “salt and light” in their culture.  Christians need to be cautious in the political realm—and must not get ahead of the moral and religious inclinations of the constituency.  Schlossberg cautions Christians:
One of the most serious dangers we face in seeking to influence the political sphere is that we, too, may succumb to the delusion that we possess the "solution" to the dilemmas of peace and justice, requiring only that we grasp the reins of power.  If that should happen, we are only a step away from seeking to bring into being our own version of the messianic state.  For it would imply that our salvation lies in yet another reformation of institutional arrangements.  This society will have peace and justice when it repents and overthrows the idols, and not before.[4]
                In voting, as in all of life, the Christian faces a moment of moral clarity—to be faithful to Christ or to conform to the world.  The decision is not always a simple one, as there are countless variables in weighing a decision, but the wisdom of Christ is ours, should we ask for it.  (James 1:5)  So as you approach the voting booth this fall, ask yourself these questions:
§  Does this candidate profess faith in Christ and act as one under his authority?
§  Does this candidate promise things that only God can do? 
§  Does this candidate have faith in America, or in God? 
§  Am I promoting evil by supporting this candidate?”
Do not despair when political candidates fail to meet these requirements.  As Herbert Schlossberg argues, “If we are to change the temporal in keeping with the eternal, then it will have to be done by changing the powers that control events.  This means that we must work toward bringing the political, economic, and cultural landscape into conformity with the divine intention.”  [5]  This is not something that will be done in a mere election cycle, but over generations as a small bit of leaven leavens a ball of dough.  (1 Corinthians 5:6)

[2] Herbert Schlossberg, Idols For Destruction p. 178
[3] Herbert Schlossberg, Idols For Destruction, p. 330
[4] Herbert Schlossberg, Idols For Destruction, p. 330
[5] Herbert Schlossberg, Idols For Destruction, p. 327-328

Friday, March 30, 2012

Reflections on the Supreme Court and Obamacare

The Left is in hysterics over the prospect of the Supreme Court ruling Obamacare as unconstitutional.  The court makeup is currently four consistent conservatives (Alito, Scalia, Roberts, Thomas), two consistent liberals (Breyer and Ginsburg), two recently appointed judges anticipated to be liberals (Kagan and Sotomayor), and then the flip-flop vote of Kennedy.  Naturally all eyes are on Justice Kennedy.  He was very critical during the court hearing making the liberal court watchers rage.

I actually took the time to listen to the hearings via mp3 recordings available online (Monday and Tuesday).  Now, I didn't listen to every minute or understand all the lingo, but I have some observations based on what I heard that are evident to any critical listener willing to take the time to listen to the arguments.

First, the court has been increasingly tolerant of a very liberal reading of the commerce clause for at least a century.  This is not news.  What is relevant here, is an observation that Justice Ginsburg made regarding Social Security.  She noted that it is "constitutional" which most conservatives and certainly any strict constitutionalist would object to.  But, from the perspective of the court, it is constitutional.  Justice Ginsburg noted that Congress required all workers to be enrolled in Social Security to subsidize the older recipients.  Obviously, enacting a program like Social Security without existing funds requires a subsidy--so that is what happened.  All workers were required to contribute even if they didn't want to.

How is this relevant to Obamacare?  Well the required Social Security subsidy was required to fix a problem observed by Congress.  Essentially it was pragmatically required and subsequently given the constitutional blessing by the Supreme Court.  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) argued that Obamacare is needed to resolve the healthcare crisis in our country.

It is evident that the crux of the argument concerning the mandate and the tax/penalty for not purchasing a qualified health plan revolves around the uninsured and the burden they place upon the government and the healthcare system.  Following the logic of the HHS and the need to resolve the financial burden the uninsured place upon the "system" takes us to Obamacare.  This is a critical point--the logic of Obamacare already exists in our current healthcare system.

When the government began interfering in an otherwise free-market system, unintended consequences resulted.  The unintended consequences have now necessitated that the uninsured become insured.  The mandate resolves this problem along with the corresponding tax.

So the problem is not Obamacare.  The problem is the government's involvement in healthcare.  If the government is to be involved in the healthcare industry, as they are, and have been for a long time, the government must take measures to reduce costs.  This is why so many are concerned about death panels.  Death panels are the natural consequence of the government's interest in cost containment.

Whether or not Obamacare is ruled unconstitutional later this year, the logic of it is already in the system and the problem of uninsured in our current system must somehow be resolved.  The United States does not now possess the moral character required to state the real problem nor to trust in a free-market solution.  What this tells me is that if Obamacare is ruled unconstitutional, the fight is not over.  Something like Obamacare will, barring some sort of national revival, return and be ruled constitutional if any fight is even required.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Two Great Articles for Your Edification

Here are two excellent and edifying resources.  The first is the text of a speech given by Franklin Sanders.  The second is an interview that Sanders did with Joel Salatin.  I highly recommend them both.  The interview is the first that I've found of Salatin being interviewed by a fellow Christian.

Restoring Freedom in Tennessee

Franklin Sanders interviews Joel Salatin

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Diagnosing the Church

This quote is from an article called Teaching the Whole Counsel of God by Bojidar Marinov.  I have come to a similar conclusion myself, though having not fully understood the causes, as Marinov has.  I believe, perhaps Marinov would as well, that this is just as rampant in self-described reformed churches as arminian.

While Marinov portrays this "fence-riding" as losing faith, in self-proclaimed reformed circles, the perspective is instead doubting one's position.  I've observed this phenomenon for a number of years myself, and I'm sure many others have as well.  Here's the quote from Marinov:

"The impact of semi-pelagianism on the quality of the believers should not be underestimated. The practical consequences of a theology that says that man’s effort in making the decision to be saved is crucial have seldom been discussed in theological circles but the results after a century of Arminian prevalence in Evangelicalism are everywhere around us. A Christian who is taught that by his decision he can gain salvation is by necessity also taught that by his decision he can lose it. The promise that he is safe in God’s hands applies to him only conditionally; only insofar as he makes the decision to stay there. But decisions come from the heart, and the heart is “deceitful above all else.” The life of such a believer then becomes introvert, a constant struggle to keep a deceitful heart on the right side of the fence of that life-saving decision. His energy is mainly spent not on obeying God and glorifying God but on examining his own heart everyday. In the final account, semi-pelagianism can’t produce culture, or society, or any kind of comprehensive knowledge about the world because it is too exhausted of fighting with the most deceitful of all things."

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Friday, January 06, 2012

The Prophetic Paul

The establishment is trying to paint Ron Paul as an extremist. Newt Gingrich calls his ideas "dangerous." But watch this video and you'll see a man who predicted the future--not because of prophetic powers, but because he understands the consequences of American foreign policy.

Paul was deadly accurate in 2002, shouldn't we listen to him now?

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Rickards and Grant on Bloomberg

What do you get when you get Jim Rickards and Jim Grant together?  Excellence.

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