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Posts Tagged ‘Scripture’

Hebrews says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled…” In the United States, our legal system calls things “marriage” that the Bible most certainly would not. But if we only looked at that one verse from Hebrews, we could believe that the thing called marriage that isn’t, is “honorable”. We could pull in other teachings about marriage and how great it is and what it means spiritually, and encourage people to accomplish those great things and represent those great truths by practicing the thing falsely called marriage. If this stood for a few generations, most people would forget that it is a perversion of what the Bible calls marriage.

What if there are other Christian practices that this has happened to, in the forgotten past? How do we trust that what we understand to be the biblical and Christian practices of Church gatherings, pastoring, church leadership and decision-making, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, speaking in tongues, laying on of hands, ordination, etc. are the things the Bible is discussing?

Like we can with marriage, we can compare other Scriptures to our practices, right? We can ask, “Did God say anything else about these practices? Did God address what we are doing, regardless of what it is called, in positive or negative ways?”

I believe it is possible for God to reveal corrections to us* if we are humbly seeking Him, and if He wants to at the moment. It seems like sometimes He doesn’t want to, and I’m not quite clear why.

I want to have respect for generations of believers who have been inviting God’s discernment, and to value their conclusions. I don’t see any honest way to do this without acknowledging that there have been stretches of time where Christianity (the public institution, anyway) has promoted false understandings of things, and it has taken a long time to straighten some of them out. I have to acknowledge that different parts of the Church, distanced by geography (at least) have for long periods of time held different beliefs from one another.

How much weight should we put on our own experiences? If our experiences seem to line up with a teaching, and be fruitful for the Kingdom of God, does that indicate that these understandings and practices are the things God intends?

*Who ought “us” to be, though? Is it my job, without holding a position of authority in the Church, to discern these things? For myself? For the Church? For society? Is it my job to say anything to others if I believe I have discerned that our conventional practice is wrong?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Response to Dr. Wayne Grudem’s Endorsement of Donald Trump, July 2016

A missionary I know, Cal Zastrow, said, “If the primary goal of voting is winning, instead of being a faithful witness for Christ, then all kinds of evil grows.” I believe that as Christians, more than being patriotic to our nation, we are called to be faithful ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, and to further that kingdom.  We do this, in part, through involvement in earthly matters like grocery shopping, like changing diapers, like giving food to the poor, and like voting.

This week, respected theologian Wayne Grudem endorsed Donald Trump for president in an article, “Why Voting for Donald Trump is a Morally Good Choice”.  A friend shared the article on Facebook.  I admit that I was shocked at how much I disagree with such an influential evangelical Christian.  I was overwhelmed by how many things seemed 1) unsubstantiated; 2) rational leaps; and most grievingly, 3) misinterpretations of Scripture.  There were other things that may be qualified as more differences of opinion. These do not surprise me; I am used to being in a minority in what I believe about how government should function.  For a brief discussion of these things, see Footnote [1].

The first category of concern, things that seem to me to be unsubstantiated, mostly fall into three subsections.  They are either wild speculations or what I believe to be delusions of fear.  Most of these have to do with the future.  The third subsection is ignoring relevant truths.

The treatment of third parties at least excludes some truth: the truth of why our political system allows third parties; the truth of what some third party candidates (with far more demonstrable integrity and intelligence than Trump or Hillary) have said they will do as president[2],[3]; the truth of history, that parties have fallen and risen[4], including the Republican Party which was a new, third party when Lincoln was elected president[5]; the truth that the reason we don’t presently see third parties as viable is because we have consistently refused to vote for third party candidates who better represent us; and the truth that votes for third parties have impacts on future elections.

This year’s election is not an unusual opportunity.  Every year there is an evil candidate, or rather many evil candidates (for many third parties put forward evil candidates), which we the people have an opportunity of defeating.  Sort of:  I can try to persuade you to help me to defeat evil.  I can pray.  And I can vote.  It may not actually be within my power to defeat the Democrat or any other candidate.

Grudem believes that Trump sincerely wants what is best for America.  I am not in a position to say that this is false.  I don’t have evidence that Trump is plotting the demise of the United States.  I get a different impression, though, that Trump actually wants to further his own interests and to build his own ego.  I am wondering what evidence Dr. Grudem has for his belief in Trump’s motives.

Will the election be close?  (If he didn’t believe the election will be close, would the arguments in his article be the same?)  We’re three months from Election Day.  Polls of the popular vote, even when factoring in the Libertarian and Green Party candidates, show Hillary Clinton neck and neck with Donald Trump[6].  But elections in the United States are not decided by the popular vote.  They are decided by electors in each state.  News outlets[7],[8], analyzing polling data and voting patterns in previous cycles, have Hillary in the lead by about 50 electoral votes likely to go to her.  Estimates have her with around 200, Trump with around 150, and around 180 votes from a number of states too close to guess.  But if you look at the breakdown of how strong each candidate is in the votes analysts think they are likely to get, you can see that Hillary has far more votes in the “almost certain” and “very likely” categories, whereas about half of Trump’s fall into the “leans towards” Trump description.  If third party campaigns are somewhat successful, as many Republicans fear, more of the independent voters will go to the Libertarian or other conservative parties than would be persuaded to vote Republican, and Hillary’s lead could be even bigger.

Given the extent of the criminal behavior already documented on Hillary Clinton, without producing prosecution or sufficient public outrage[9], it is very unlikely that “additional shocking email disclosures” would have any new effect.  Obama has endorsed her[10] and has nothing to lose (except before God) from standing behind her and abstaining from prosecution.

The article gives a description of liberalism, “pro-abortion, pro-gender-confusion, anti-religious liberty, tax-and-spend, big government…”  The author applies it to Clinton and Obama, but the definition can just as honestly be applied to Trump[11]Therefore, we will not defeat “that kind of liberalism” by voting for Trump.  He is that kind of liberal.  He may practice it to a different degree, but the essence is the same.

The judicial supremacy described in this article may be a dominant theory, but it is not true, constitutionally speaking.  We should hold judges accountable for the subversion they commit by usurping the rule of law (the US Constitution) and exceeding their jurisdiction.  Impeachment could moderate their extremism.  And it could remove actual vigilante judges from office.  Then the activism wouldn’t be locked-in.  States and presidents, especially, are obligated to obey the supreme law of the land, the United States Constitution, and there is an argument to be made for states and executives to defy broad applications of specific decisions by the courts.  That is, Obergefell, for example, wouldn’t have to apply to any actual laws (court rulings are not laws) or states or cities or policies that were not included in the original case being brought.  This is the position that Alabama Justice Roy Moore seems to be most recently in trouble for[12].  There are also third party presidential candidates[13], [14] in the current election who agree with at least some of these answers to the Supreme Court argument, and would be willing to act accordingly.  I do appreciate Grudem bringing these problems to light, even if I disagree with his submit-to-the-corrupt-system solution.

Grudem mentions several close votes on the Supreme Court over the past 30 years, such as the Partial-Birth Abortion Act[15] and Hobby Lobby’s conscience and religious freedom case against being forced by Obamacare to pay for employees’ abortifacient contraceptives.  Some of these have gone in ways we agree with, submitting to the clear language of the Constitution and upholding liberty.  Many significant others have not.  Republican-appointed judges have a long history of assenting to egregious Supreme Court decisions.  Four of five Supreme Court justices giving us the decision in Utah v. Strieff[16], weakening the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches[17], were Republican-appointed[18].  Republican justices have given us Roe v. Wade[19], upheld Obamacare[20], and decided Obergefell[21] (attempting to mandate homosexual marriage).

I don’t see how a “right to abortion” could be found in the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, nor how it would be substantially different from the Supreme Court rulings already dominating our political climate.  Groups seeking to end abortion are seeking to have Roe v. Wade overturned.  Some are doing this, not by increasing laws that would regulate abortion[16], but by using the wording of the Constitution, including the Equal Protection Clause.  These laws include so-called “Personhood” legislation[22] and the “Sanctity of Life Act”[23].  With an unaccountable judiciary, the court is likely to strike such laws down.  They are, perhaps, slightly more likely to “with one decision” remove all abortion-regulating laws from our country, as Dr. Grudem fears.  I don’t see how a more liberal court would be much more likely to do this than the court we already have, or the one we had when Roe was decided.

In the history of our country, few significant Supreme Court decisions have been overturned by that court[24].  Fashions have shifted.  The Constitution has been amended.  Wars have been fought.  These have affected the application of some rulings.  Christians want Roe v. Wade to be overturned.  We want justices who uphold justice and the rule of law.  Republicans have not given us such radically righteous justices.  It is an extremely unlikely hope that Donald Trump (who is more liberal than previous Republican presidents) would appoint enough justices who would oppose the trend of popular opinion (our country is more liberal than ever) on abortion, and overturn Roe v. Wade.  I cannot find such a wild speculation to be even a considerable justification for voting for a man who disregards morality (unashamed adultery[25], owning a strip club[26], lying[11], essentially stealing[11]) and justice and the rule of law (promotion of unconstitutional laws, executive orders[27], and policies) himself.

At multiple points, Dr. Grudem indicates that he is a proponent of state-regulation of things like marriage and abortion.  On both of these issues I believe he is wrong.  Under the United States Constitution, Article IV: Section 1[28], separate states must honor the laws of other states.  If Massachusetts “marries” same-sex partners, then Connecticut is obligated to consider the couple married if they visit or even relocate there.  Thus marriage ought not to be excluded from the jurisdiction of the federal government.  Regarding abortion, the Constitution requires[29], “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  Thus the federal government also has a responsibility to enforce this part of the Constitution, taking only an oversight role if the states are in compliance.  States allowing abortion are not in compliance.  The solution to the immoral and unjust status of our laws is not just to have Supreme Court decisions return authority to the states.  We have a bigger problem.

Many of the threats to our religious liberty are not coming from courts, but from private businesses or from other branches of government.  Trump, if he were to be elected as our executive, is sympathetic to the homosexual agenda[30], at least, and would no doubt be influenced by that perspective when “executing” his office.  That is, we wouldn’t need a liberal Supreme Court to infringe our rights; the president (whose power via executive order has gone basically unchallenged for decades) would be committing the very trespasses we’re afraid of the court for.

Even if I prove so wrong, and Trump is electable, and Trump does nominate an honest and wise and selfless judge, and the judge passes the scrutiny of the Senate to have the appointment confirmed, and if the court can hear and rule on cases in such a way as to reign in the courts – we will still have the problem of a lazy, impotent Congress and a largely-unchecked executive branch (the latter of which would likely be exacerbated by a Trump presidency as by a Clinton one – Trump has promised to use executive orders to accomplish his will[27]).

While the argument that historically, politicians have not “gone back on most of what [they have] promised to do, especially on issues that are crucially important in the election,” might be accurate (and I have doubts even about this), it would be hard to apply to Donald Trump for two reasons.  The first is that he is demonstrably a liar[11].  And the second is that he has, in this one campaign, made many contradictory “promises” about what he will do.  It actually seems incredibly gullible to let a politician take many possible positions that could appeal to different constituencies, and to assume the one he’ll actually faithfully come through on is the position that you prefer.

Since the article focuses on the issue of the Supreme Court, let me here briefly address the things that Trump has said about the court during this presidential campaign.  Early on, Trump suggested that his sister would make a “phenomenal” appointment to the Supreme Court.  She’s already a federal judge, and she’s not a conservative[31].  Afterward, he said he was joking[32].  Then, he said he would release a list of 5-10 names of potential Supreme Court appointees, and guarantee that, if president, he would pick from that list[33].  Then he released a list of 11 names[34].  Within days of publishing this heralded list, he said he was not guaranteeing that he would appoint a judge from the list[35].  There is also the chance that he would attempt to appoint one, and then back down at the least resistance from the Senate, and appoint someone else.

Trump has also taken confusing positions on Israel.  Dr. Grudem says that Trump has promised to vigorously defend Israel.  In this same campaign, he has also said that he will remain neutral[36] on Israel’s dispute with Palestine.  But a top advisor has also said that Trump might be against a two-state solution[37].  On the other hand, and in contradiction to the fearful portrayal of “facts” that Grudem’s article gives, we have decades of speeches and actions by Hillary[38],[39] that, even if we don’t fully trust or agree with them, distance her from Obama’s snubbing of Israel.  Grudem’s only evidence that Hillary would be worse than Donald on Israel is that Hillary worked for and is of the same political party as Obama.  She is, however, also married to President Bill Clinton, of the same party, whose treatment of Israel[40],[41] was very different from Obama’s[42].

My second concern was about Wayne Grudem’s reasoning.  If he has a way of connecting principles to his applications, he is not including them in the article.  He asserts that it is OK to vote for someone bad (he calls them “flawed”) because he will do more good for the nation than his opponent.  But he doesn’t justify why he believes this is OK.  This is pragmatism.  I am not opposed to we humans evaluating the world in order to figure out what would be most effective – so long as, in the flow-chart of decision-making, we consider those things after we have determined if we could do them without committing an unrighteous act.  A good end does not make the “means” moral.

Grudem believes Trump will do the most good for the nation.  Some of this is founded in conservative policies.  Some is founded in speculation (particularly on the power and goodness of the Supreme Court under Trump).  Some is based on subjective consideration of some things as more important than others.  That is, if Trump is too busy doing harm to this nation to do it the good that his supporters hope, this reasoning might turn out to be inaccurate.  I see potential, especially in foreign relations, for Trump to do great harm to our country, including getting us into wars resulting in American casualties.  And in this one area, I believe that he may be likely to get us into bigger wars than Clinton would.  There are also the more abstract ideas of the good or harm of having such a man as Trump represent conservatives and Christians in this country.  What does that mean for the future of the Church here?  What about the future of the Republican Party?  What influence are conservatives and Christians left when we have demonstrated that we are willing to compromise – or worse, been led to justify the wickedness we are endorsing?

I am just as horrified that a vote may help Trump as I am that a vote may help Clinton.  This whole line of reasoning, that a vote for a third party is actually helping the slightly-leading candidate, has redefined what a vote[43] means.  A vote, to my mind, ought to be viewed as a contribution to collectively making a choice.  Like every choice, one choice excludes another.  If I say that my favorite flavor is chocolate, then I am automatically stating that vanilla and strawberry are not my favorites.  A vote is an endorsement, approval, help.  I am helping whom I vote for.  And there will be all sorts of indirect consequences for what I choose.

Some sure indirect consequences of Christians not voting either Trump or Clinton are: Republicans will receive less votes than they believed themselves entitled to.  The influence of third parties will be increased for the future.  Speculating now, Republicans in the future may feel less confident that the liberal candidates they’ve been putting forward are electable.  They may begin to reform, to shift to the more conservative end.  Or the system might be too corrupt already.  The powers behind the GOP may be too ideologically against justice, righteousness, the Constitution, economic liberty, and limited government to nominate conservative candidates, even if it might help the Republicans to gain power.  In which case, enter speculation category number two: third parties.  If lesser parties collectively get more attention and votes this election cycle, it strengthens the chances of any third party to gain momentum for the future.  If one third party gets a lot more attention and votes, it makes that one all the more powerful for future elections.  There are federal laws that give campaign money[44] to political parties based on if they reached a certain threshold of the popular vote in the previous election cycle.  There are state laws that grant ballot access based on thresholds of votes in that state[45].  (In Colorado[46], I’m not sure if votes for president apply.  The legal language is confusing to me.)  There is market pressure for websites and television and radio to give attention to things their audiences care about.  And votes indicate that we care.  The whole election paradigm in the United States could be shifting. 

Grudem suggests that we should see Trump’s vice presidential pick as an indicator of the trend of his policy shifts.  Trump is, the author says, moving towards the conservative.  While it is possible for a politician’s choice for vice president to reflect one’s values, in a man famed for “closing the deal”, I have a different hypothesis: that he picked someone who would appeal to a demographic that Trump hadn’t secured by his own personality and variously-contradicting policies.  Maybe he picked Pence to lure conservative Republicans to vote for Trump.  This would also be a tactic seemingly consistent with those of past presidential candidates.

The third point I raised is – coming from a theologian, seminary professor, and author of a much-used systematic theology – by far the most concerning.  This is his use of Scripture in his argument.  I am certainly interested in learning how the Bible applies to the decisions that we make in this life.  So I am not objecting to a Christian leader making a statement about politics, or bringing the Bible into it.  Rather, I am concerned by the hermeneutics he uses.

The first, general subject of biblical relevance is whether we can classify such a man as Donald Trump as “evil” or “wicked”, or if we should just remind ourselves that “nobody’s perfect” and consider him “flawed”, but decent as statesmen go.  I will agree with Wayne Grudem when he says that Trump is flawed.  I probably see more flaws than Dr. Grudem does, given the differences I have with him on policy issues.  And I agree with Dr. Grudem’s list of character flaws in Donald Trump.  I have some to add, as well[11]He is a liar and an adulterer.  He has, under cover of law (eminent domain for private use and intentional bankruptcy), stolen for his own gain.  For such things the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience[47], and we are commanded to have nothing to do with these things[48].

I’m sure, like every evil dictator in history, that Trump has his good points.  The Bible acknowledges that no one is righteous[49].  We have all fallen short[50]But the Bible also categorizes people into righteous[51] and wicked[52], and warns against associating with the wicked.  I especially commend to you the Proverbs[53] for a study of which type of people fall into which category.

Christians have been cleansed from the unfruitful works of darkness, and are therefore not classified as evil.  Trump, by his own testimony[54], has not repented, has not sought God’s forgiveness.  He has not been made clean by Jesus’ blood.  So, he remains where his enumerated sins have put him, in the category of an evil man.

The Bible records what Moses’ father-in-law advised the Israelites about what kind of men to appoint to their government: “Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness….” – Exodus 18:21[55]  Wayne Grudem does not mention this verse when he declares that despite the wicked character of Trump, voting for him is a morally good choice.  Instead, he uses a passage from Jeremiah[56], about the Israelites seeking the welfare of the nation in which they are exiled.  He then goes on to expound what he believes is meant by “welfare”: that which is most likely to bring the best results.  And from there, he says that to vote for anyone who doesn’t have the best chance of beating evil and liberal and full of bad-policies Hillary is disobeying this instruction.  He claims that this command to Israel is to give us the “overriding question” we must ask ourselves when voting.  I wonder why the overriding question does not come from Exodus 18:21 that I quoted above, or Proverbs, or Romans[57]?

Perhaps the verse could be better interpreted as exhorting the Israelites to pray or warning the Jews against insurrection?  Something like Timothy’s exhortation[58] for Christians to “pray for… all who are in authority, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence”?

How would we actually foretell what will be “most likely to bring the best results”?  It is far less arrogant to decide things based on truth and what is morally good in itself – and maybe on direction straight from God – than to weigh out pros and cons of policies and possibilities and contingencies.  Which items hold more weight as we’re weighing?  National security?  Jobs and taxes?  Civil rights? Abortion?  Marriage? Education?  Good Christians can argue all day long on which should be weightier.  But when we vote for president, I contend that is not what we are being asked to do.  We are being asked to choose a leader (specifically one who will carry out the laws in existence, including the Constitution, to command our military in time of war, and to be the head of our foreign relations).  And a nation is blessed when the ruler is righteous[59].

Which brings up an interesting point.  What about God’s blessing?  What about God’s power to deliver and guide and reform?  If we’re being pragmatic about what is possible from a human standpoint, the way our government is in the habit of functioning (not even trying to exert ourselves to reign it in towards how it should, under the Constitution, be functioning) – then we’re leaving out part of the picture.  Is God more likely to do good to a people who choose evil individuals for rulers?  Or is God able to do much good with our faithful choices?  If a remnant of Christians abides by its conscience and votes for actually good, actually qualified candidates – don’t you think God is more likely to show our whole nation mercy for our sakes? 

Next, Wayne Grudem says that defeating Hillary would be a good thing to do, and that since supporting Trump is a way to do that, it is a good thing to do.  According to James 4:17[60], he says, if we know a good thing to do and don’t do it, we’re sinning.  But what is the intended application of the verse?  It is good to do my dishes.  It is good to do my friend’s dishes.  It is good to be a sidewalk counselor outside abortion clinics.  It is good to perform ultrasounds at a pregnancy center.  It is good to pray.  It is good to write books.  It is good to preach the gospel.  It is good to teach doctrine.  It is good to rest.  It is good to feast.  It is good to fast.  We cannot possibly do every good thing, all at once.  Is defeating the Democrats the only good thing to do?  In a given situation, we need to discern the good thing that God wants us to do.  If we don’t do the good thing that God wants us to do, more so if we know what it is, it is sin.

But, as we’re discerning about the “right thing to do”, let’s take into consideration this other Scripture: “And why not do evil that good may come?–as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.” – Romans 3:8[61]  So even if some good things could possibly result from our choices, the end does not justify the means.  We have to figure out if the choice itself is evil or good.

There is a quote going around, attributed to C.H. Spurgeon, “Of two evils, choose neither.”  To some Christians, what seems best to them is to not vote at all in this presidential election.  Wayne Grudem believes this is also sin, citing Obadiah 1:11.  The verse he quotes could be taken to mean that the Edomites did nothing at all, if it weren’t for the context[62], which describes them cheering for evil and aiding those who were attacking Israel.  Cross reference to Psalm 137:7[63].

I don’t believe that abstaining from voting is inherently wrong.  There are some times in the Bible where abstaining from something “good” is advised.  Take, for example, Ecclesiastes 5:5: “It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.” Or, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” – James 3:1 Or, “The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given.” – Matthew 19:10-11  Or, “And the LORD said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.”” – Judges 7:7 Or, “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”” – Exodus 14:14

So the questions we need to ask are: Has God given us the obligation to vote? Are we responsible for the outcome of the election even if we chose a morally acceptable but arguably less strategic vote?  Is it wrong to choose an evil person as our ruler? 

I would exhort everyone, especially Christians, to do all things out of faith and not out of fear.  Or, at least, that we would fear God alone.  Fearing Him, may we be diligent to find out the truth, to seek His perspective on these matters, and follow His will for us personally.

Update, October 9, 2016: Wayne Grudem removed his endorsement and published this apology, in light of recent revelations about Trump’s previous moral corruption: Trump’s Moral Character and the Election.

Footnotes:

[1] I disagreed with some of Grudem’s approvals of Trump’s policies and what he considers “most likely”.  Below I mention some.

Lower taxes are good.  They do not in themselves constitute a more just or more limited government.  In fact, if unaccompanied by a budget a fraction the size of what it has been, lower taxes will only mean more borrowing, which is a hidden tax on the future[i].  It is also debatable whether graduated tax rates are just[ii].

I am not convinced that Trump would be good at diplomacy[iii],[iv],[v],[vi],[vii].  He may be convinced that he will not be manipulated, deceived, or out-strategized by Russia, Mexico, or Middle-Eastern nations, but I am not.  Trump’s “tough guy” persona may be useful in standing up to bullies, or it may make our international representative into a bully himself.  He has said that he would be in favor of having our military “go after the families of terrorists”[viii],[ix], and to, when fighting them, match the level of violence terrorists and ISIS use[x].  Victory at the cost of virtue is an unacceptable goal for me to support.  I am also concerned that it would not be so easy to win a war (without making many more enemies globally) as Trump seems to think.

My personal belief is that Hillary is rather smart, and rather interested in maintaining whatever power she can get her hands on.  Therefore, I think that she is actually less likely than Trump to get us into a big war or to alienate our allies.  (And if she does, she’ll probably do it behind the scenes where no one will be able to verify it was her doing it.)

Both Trump and Hillary have taken contradictory positions on fracking during this campaign, which perhaps could be characterized at this time by saying that they believe in local decision-making about fracking[xi].  I would find it impossible, without prophetic revelation, to determine what each candidate will actually do for or against this energy issue.

Trump’s words about health insurance have not always sounded like they are entirely free-market solutions, even during this campaign season[xii].  Like many Republicans this year, he does support repealing – and replacing – Obamacare, apparently with a mixture of free market solutions and with some sort of forced “safety net” for the poorer people.  Does this mean retaining an expansion of Medicaid?  Something else?  I believe there is a substantial difference between Hillary Clinton’s intentions for the health care industry, and that of Donald Trump.  But it may be a difference of degree only.  There are manifold problems with Obamacare.  One of them is the individual mandate, what I still believe to be an unconstitutional imposition on our liberties (whatever the Supreme Court says about the penalty being a tax).  The second is that the government funding for these programs is unconstitutional.  They have no enumerated jurisdiction to be spending money on a private citizen’s health care.  Trump’s plan would, presumably, deal with only one of these objections (the individual mandate). 

From what I have read and heard, there seems to be some debate about whether Trump owes his so-called business success to his own abilities[xiii] to “solve problems and get things done.”  Commentators have pointed out that Trump started with a substantial sum of money inherited from his father.  They say that his fortune, if invested in mutual funds back in 1982, and left there, accruing, would be twice what he claims to have made it today through business acumen[xiv].  They mention that more than one of his business ventures has gone bankrupt.  Some of them bring up his wielding of eminent domain for personal gain (abetted by corrupt politicians)[xv]; his use of bankruptcy (not paying bills) to pass off the risk of his investments to those providing the actual goods and services[xvi]; and that he is defendant in a lawsuit for fraud[xvii] in the case of Trump University.  There is even some question as to whether Trump is as wealthy as he claims.  All of these things cast doubt on the prudence of employing Trump to use his reputed problem-solving skills to tackle the big, nuanced problems the United States is facing.

[i] Mises Institute, “Tax Cuts Without Spending Cuts Are Pointless” https://mises.org/blog/tax-cuts-without-spending-cuts-are-pointless

[ii] Capitalism.org, “What About a Progressive Tax?” http://capitalism.org/taxation/what-about-the-fair-tax/

[iii] The New York Times, “Transcript: Donald Trump on Nato, Turkey’s Coup Attempt and the World” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/22/us/politics/donald-trump-foreign-policy-interview.html?_r=0

[iv] Talking Points Memo, “How Donald Trump Is Already Doing a World of Damage Abroad” http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/no-election-necessary-trump-already-doing-damage-abroad

[v] The Boston Globe, “The Day Trump Trashed US Diplomacy” https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2016/07/21/the-day-trump-trashed-diplomacy/gXunS1AcEhkSKGdpiErVvL/story.html

[vi] War on the Rocks, “Open Letter on Donald Trump from GOP National Security Leaders” http://warontherocks.com/2016/03/open-letter-on-donald-trump-from-gop-national-security-leaders/

[vii] The Chicago Tribune, “Column: On Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton is Bad. Trump is Worse.” http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman/ct-hillary-clinton-foreign-policy-trump-perspec-0605-md-20160603-column.html

[viii] CNN, “Donald Trump on Terrorists: ‘Take Out their Families’ ” http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/02/politics/donald-trump-terrorists-families/

[ix] The video clip here is important. Mediaite, “Trump: The Military Would Not Refuse My Orders Even If They Consider them Illegal” http://www.mediaite.com/tv/trump-the-military-would-not-refuse-my-orders-even-if-they-consider-them-illegal/

[x] YouTube CNN, “Donald Trump Anderson Cooper CNN Interview (part 3)” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5NGbI3snZg

[xi] OilPrice.com, “Is Trump Flip-Flopping on Fracking?” http://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Is-Trump-Flip-Flopping-On-Fracking4276.html

[xii] Originally compiled and published on Facebook January 2016, this is my own research on “Donald Trump’s Similarities to Democrats”.  It is a list of sources about various positions Trump has taken, with a section of sources also demonstrating that he is a liar.  https://www.facebook.com/notes/lisa-cress/donald-trumps-similarities-to-democrats/10153386583390954

[xiii] Alternet, “Exposing How Donald Trump Really Made His Furtune: Inheritance from Dad and the Government’s Protection Mostly Did the Trick” http://www.alternet.org/story/156234/exposing_how_donald_trump_really_made_his_fortune%3A_inheritance_from_dad_and_the_government’s_protection_mostly_did_the_trick

[xiv] Money Talks News, “Trump Worth $10 Billion Less Than If He’d Simply Invested in Index Funds” http://www.moneytalksnews.com/why-youre-probably-better-investing-than-donald-trump/

[xv] National Review, “Trump and Eminent Domain” http://www.nationalreview.com/article/431005/trump-eminent-domain

[xvi] Forbes, “Fourth Time’s a Charm: How Donald Trump Made Bankruptcy Work for Him” http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2011/04/29/fourth-times-a-charm-how-donald-trump-made-bankruptcy-work-for-him/#3fae39ec6f7a

[xvii] The New Yorker, “Trump University: It’s Worse Than You Think” http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/trump-university-its-worse-than-you-think

[2] Tom Hoefling for President 2016, “Platform” http://www.tomhoefling.com/platform.html

[3] Darrell Castle for President 2016, Constitution Party, issues page http://castle2016.com/issues/

[4] Wikipedia, “Political Parties in the United States”, history and early political parties section https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_parties_in_the_United_States#History_and_early_political_parties

[5] Great American History, “How Lincoln Won the 1860 Republican Nomination” http://www.greatamericanhistory.net/nomination.htm

[6] Real Clear Politics, Polls, “Election 2016 Presidential Polls”  http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/latest_polls/president/

[7] Real Clear Politics, Polls, “Battle for White House” http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/2016_elections_electoral_college_map.html

[8] 270 to Win, “2016 Election: Clinton vs. Trump”  http://www.270towin.com/maps/clinton-trump-electoral-map

[9] Huffington Post, “5 Reasons the Comey Hearing was the Worst Education in Criminal Justice the American Public has Ever Had” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5-reasons-the-comey-hearing-was-the-worst-education_us_577ee999e4b05b4c02fbdcd5

[10] Politico, “President Obama Endorses Hillary Clinton” http://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/president-obama-endorses-hillary-clinton-224130

[11] Originally compiled and published on Facebook January 2016, this is my own research on “Donald Trump’s Similarities to Democrats”.  It is a list of sources about various positions Trump has taken, with a section of sources also demonstrating that he is a liar.  https://www.facebook.com/notes/lisa-cress/donald-trumps-similarities-to-democrats/10153386583390954

[12] Liberty Counsel Connect, “Chief Justice Roy Moore Counters Politically Motivated Complaints on Marriage” http://libertycounsel.com/chief-justice-roy-moore-counters-politically-motivated-complaints-on-marriage/

[13] Tom Hoefling for President 2016, “Tom Hoefling: Judges, and politicians, behaving badly” http://www.tomhoefling.com/home/tom-hoefling-judges-and-politicians-behaving-badly

[14] The Castle Report, “Original Intent” http://www.castlereport.us/original-intent-2/

[15] Some people who oppose abortion also oppose these incremental or compromise regulations.  Some of these people believe all regulations are wrong or counterproductive[a], while others only oppose language in laws that implies that if you follow the regulations, “then you can kill the baby”[b].

[a] Abolish Human Abortion, position paper on “immediatism” http://abolishhumanabortion.com/immediatism/

[b] American Right to Life, position paper on abortion regulations http://americanrtl.org/abortion-regulations

[16] The Washington Post, “Supreme Court construes the exclusionary rule narrowly in Utah v. Strieffhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/06/21/supreme-court-construes-the-exclusionary-rule-narrowly-in-utah-v-strieff/

[17] Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute, “U.S. Constitution: Fourth Amendment” https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/fourth_amendment

[18] A 5-3 decision, given in October 2015 by Justices Thomas, Roberts, Kennedy, Alito (these four were appointed by Republicans), and Breyer (appointed by a Democrat). Supreme Court of the United States Blog, “Utah v. Strieffhttp://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/utah-v-strieff/

[19] Ironton Tribune, “Republican Nominees have Upheld Roe v. Wadehttp://www.irontontribune.com/2008/09/30/republican-nominees-have-upheld-roe-v-wade/

[20] The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was upheld 5-4, with Chief Justice Roberts being the only Republican-appointed Justice to vote in favor.  The National Law Review, “Analysis: U.S. Supreme Court Upholds the Affordable Care Act: Roberts Rules?” http://www.natlawreview.com/article/analysis-us-supreme-court-upholds-affordable-care-act-roberts-rules

[21] Obergefell v. Hodges was another 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court in 2015, all 4 Democrat-appointed judges voting in favor, and Republican-appointed Justice Kennedy joining them.  Wikipedia, “Obergefell v. Hodges” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obergefell_v._Hodges

[22] Personhood, Education page, “A Right to Life” section http://www.personhood.com/education

[23] Legislators who support the Sanctity of Human Life Act reintroduce it frequently.  Here is 2015’s bill.  Congress.gov “H.R. 426 – Sanctity of Human Life Act” https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/426

[24] Wikipedia, “List of overruled United States Supreme Court decisions” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_overruled_United_States_Supreme_Court_decisions

[25] The Washington Post, “GOP Senator Calls Out Donald Trump’s ‘Many Affairs’ in Lengthy Tweetstorm” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/01/25/gop-senator-calls-out-donald-trumps-affair-in-lengthy-tweetstorm/

[26] Life Site News, “ ‘Anyone But Donald Trump’: Here’s His Record on Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty” https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/anyone-but-donald-trump-heres-his-record-on-life-marriage-and-religious-lib

[27] Bloomberg, “Trump Embraces Executive Orders to Avoid Congressional Gridlock” http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-06-27/trump-eyes-executive-orders-to-sidestep-congressional-gridlock

[28] Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute, “U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 1.” https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articleiv

[29] Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institute, “U.S. Constitution, 14th Amendment” https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxiv

[30] PBS NewsHour, “Donald Trump May Support Gay Rights, but Does the Republican Party?” http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/donald-trump-may-support-gay-rights-republican-party/

[31] National Review, “Trump Praises His Sister, a Pro-Abortion Extremist Judge” http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/423196/trump-praises-his-sister-pro-abortion-extremist-judge-ramesh-ponnuru

[32] The New York Times, “Trump Says He Was Kidding in Suggesting His Sister for the Court” http://www.nytimes.com/live/supreme-court-justice-antonin-scalia-dies-at-79/trump-says-he-was-kidding-when-he-suggested-his-sister-for-the-court/

[33] Fox News, “Trump Says He’ll Release List of Potential Supreme Court Justices” http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/03/21/trump-says-hell-release-list-potential-supreme-court-justices.html

[34] Politico, “Trump Unveils 11 Potential Supreme Court Nominees” http://www.politico.com/story/2016/05/trumps-supreme-court-nominees-223331

[35] The Washington Examiner, “Trump Might Not Stick to Supreme Court Nominees on His List” http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/trump-might-not-stick-to-supreme-court-nominees-on-his-list/article/2591733

[36] Commentary Magazine, “Is Trump Really Pro-Israel?” https://www.commentarymagazine.com/politics-ideas/campaigns-elections/trump-really-pro-israel/

[37] The Jerusalem Post, “Top Trump Advisor to ‘Post’: Settlement Annexation  Legitimate If PA Continues to Avoid Real Peace” http://www.jpost.com/US-Elections/Top-Trump-advisor-to-Post-Settlement-annexation-legitimate-if-PA-continues-to-avoid-real-peace-460856

[38] The Intercept, “Hillary Clinton Wasn’t Always This One-Sided on Israel” https://theintercept.com/2016/05/17/hillary-clinton-wasnt-always-this-one-sided-on-israel/

[39] Truth Out, “What We Can Expect From  Hillary Clinton on Israel/Palestine http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/33868-what-we-can-expect-from-hillary-clinton-on-israel-palestine

[40] It is very difficult to find somewhat neutral historical summaries of the Bill Clinton administration’s relationship with Israel.  This source has almost a more social take on it. The Washington Post, “What Bill Clinton Can Teach Obama About Israelis”   https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-bill-clinton-can-teach-obama-about-israelis/2012/11/23/e654ef34-334d-11e2-9cfa-e41bac906cc9_story.html

[41] This one is more political and historical regarding Bill Clinton’s interactions with Israel. Gale Student Resources in Context, 2011 “Bill Clinton’s Role in Israeli Peace Accords” http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/suic/ReferenceDetailsPage/DocumentToolsPortletWindow?displayGroupName=Reference&jsid=874b6aa16ce31d9be921dfffb8e9df12&action=2&catId=&documentId=GALE%7CEJ2181500121&u=sand55832&zid=24730bc50ec2547e7f8807b03925dbb2

[42] The Wall Street Journal, “How Obama Abandoned Israel” http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-obama-abandoned-israel-1434409772

[43] Dictionary.com, “vote” http://www.dictionary.com/browse/vote

[44] Federal Election Commission, “Public Funding of Presidential Elections”, General Election Funding section http://www.fec.gov/pages/brochures/pubfund.shtml#General

[45] Ballotpedia, “Ballot Access for Major and Minor Parties” https://ballotpedia.org/Ballot_access_for_major_and_minor_party_candidates

[46] Ballotpedia, “Ballot Access Requirements for Presidential Candidates in Colorado” https://ballotpedia.org/Ballot_access_requirements_for_presidential_candidates_in_Colorado

[47] ESV Bible, Colossians 3:6 http://www.esvbible.org/Colossians%203/

[48] ESV Bible, Ephesians 5 http://www.esvbible.org/Ephesians+5/

[49] ESV Bible, Romans 3:10 http://www.esvbible.org/Romans+3:10/

[50] ESV Bible, Romans 3:23 http://www.esvbible.org/Romans%203%3A23/

[51] Blue Letter Bible, KJV occurrences of “righteous” in Proverbs https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=righteous&t=KJV&csr=Pro#s=s_primary_0_1

[52] Blue Letter Bible, KJV occurrences of “wicked” in Psalms and Proverbs https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=wicked&t=KJV&csrf=Psa&csrt=Pro#s=s_primary_0_1

[53] ESV Bible, Proverbs http://www.esvbible.org/Proverbs%201/

[54] CNN, “Trump Believes in God, but Hasn’t Sought Forgiveness” http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/18/politics/trump-has-never-sought-forgiveness/

[55] ESV Bible, Exodus 18:21 http://www.esvbible.org/Exodus+18/

[56] ESV Bible, Jeremiah 29:7 http://www.esvbible.org/Jeremiah%2029/

[57] ESV Bible, Romans 13 http://www.esvbible.org/Romans%2013/

[58] ESV Bible, 1 Timothy 2:2 http://www.esvbible.org/1%20Timothy%202/

[59] ESV Bible, Proverbs 29:2 http://www.esvbible.org/Proverbs%2029%3A2/

[60] ESV Bible, James 4:17 http://www.esvbible.org/James%204%3A17/

[61] ESV Bible, Romans 3:8 http://www.esvbible.org/Romans%203%3A7/

[62] ESV Bible, Obadiah http://www.esvbible.org/Obadiah/

[63] ESV Bible, Psalm 137:7 http://www.esvbible.org/Psalm%20137%3A7/

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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“Have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness.”

I’m a discernment person.  Heresies are a big deal to me.  I tend to notice when teachers or authors or pastors are preaching a different gospel.  But there are other issues, too.  Focusing on tolerance and friendliness with the world – the “seeker-sensitive” movement, for example – is dangerous.  Christians are a light set on a hill, not light camouflaged to look like darkness.  Or another popular… what should I call it?  Not a heresy in the traditional sense, but a dangerous and unchristian worldview or spiritual practice?  Anyway, another one is the borderline gnosticism.  This encompasses mysticism and individualism, focusing on poetic ideas of light versus darkness, denial (or even mistreatment) of the physical, and meditation.  I see connections between seeker-sensitivity and the postmodern mysticism.  Primary in these connections are the exaltation of human effort and experience.  They are ancient perversions of the Christian life, not new, but addressed in the New Testament.

Lately it has become popular to cite “church fathers” in theological debates.  This even if the quote or position contradicts the New Testament.  Though I’m not persuaded of the “sola scriptura” of the Reformation, it did rescue us from centuries of heretical tradition enforced as the authority of the fathers.  (Jesus rebuked the same sin in the Pharisees.)  Many of those historical theologians flirted with or embraced the para-Christian spirituality mentioned above, emphasizing either their personal wisdom or their own mystical experiences as sources of truth superior to the revelation of Scripture.  They practiced this outside of the protective peer-regulation of a Spirit-led Church.  Somehow the doctrine of the indwelling Holy Spirit got exchanged for a belief in inner divinity belonging to an individual.  All of which was much more compatible with the pagan religions encountered as the ancient “Christianity” spread.

And isn’t that something to be concerned about?  Rather than being excited that the enemies of God, the spiritually dead men of planet earth, have portions of truth preserved in their religions, shouldn’t we be devastated at the subtlety of the deceits of the Evil One that has kept men captive to their sin?  (“What fellowship has light with darkness?”)  Instead of finding commonality in spiritual practices of meditation and monasticism and sacrificing to appease the gods – shouldn’t we question those practices?  If the pagans do those things, and if those things are not prescribed by our Lord in the early letters to the churches affirmed by the apostles, why not rather fear a resurgence of paganism within our faith – that the spiritual forces of wickedness have been also distracting us and leading us astray?

In our modern times we tend to disdain the primitive superstitions of pre-Christian peoples.  We think they should have been able to see through the cheap tricks of the medicine men, to rise up against the oppressive shaman and assert reason, the intelligence and ability of individuals.  But a Christian worldview suggests a different interpretation.  It teaches that the devil and demons are real, powerful, able to produce counterfeit signs and wonders to deceive men.  Demon possession is real.  And maybe those pitiable people, observing that reality, live with rituals and talismans approved by their devils – for a time – as a tax on the slaves of the Devil before they are consumed.

For us who have known only the relatively Christian Western world, it is difficult to remember the spiritual battle that is engaged even here.  We are not trained to recognize the spiritual activities of our enemy.  This may be because we have adopted it,  or excused and tolerated it…  False teaching, we believe, has been perpetrated by confused but well-meaning people.  Cultists are mostly nice people whose theology is just a little different from ours.  We wouldn’t want our children converting, but no big deal if our neighbors and coworkers believe in Jesus and good works for their salvation, God and their own divinity.  Many who identify themselves as evangelical Christians see no cause for concern when their church services begin to incorporate incense, or a ladies’ conference suggests repetitive chanting of a spiritual word or phrase as a means of getting closer to God.  Millions of us read and identify with a book that includes a manifestation of Sophia, the Gnostic “goddess” as the incarnation of wisdom.  These ideas and practices are more attractive to the unsaved world, after all (and to many inside the church).  And why shouldn’t they be; they’re familiar whispers, that we are like God, that we come to God on our own terms.

The word profanity is known as a synonym for cussing.  But who knows the word profane?  Who believes that there is a way God wants to be worshiped, a way He has set for people to come to Him – and any other way is so offensive to Him as to bring His righteous wrath?  What is fallen man to tell God why He should accept him?  Who is the liar and deceived to believe he has a hold of truth and wisdom apart from the deliverance and revelation of God?  How dare we think our filthy rags – our own righteousnesses – are acceptable sacrifices to pay for our trespasses against the ways of God?

But it is hard to reject these things, hard to point at those profanities and warn that they are part of the wide path to hell.  I don’t want to believe that my church leader is a false teacher.  I like to believe that my friends are going to heaven.  But how does that honor God?  Is my allegiance to Him or to men?  And how is that compassionate, to ignore the condition of my friends?  Making excuses is easy.  If a man says he believes in Jesus, is it such a big deal if he tolerates sin, if he keeps company with the world?  Also far too simple is reassuring myself that even though a person has not trusted in Jesus, he still seems to be a good influence, telling people to pray and read their Bibles and love their families and be wary of governments and religions out to destroy us.

Yet more and more I believe that those excuses and those subversive people are the biggest threats.  By them people are led from the power and truth of God, or worse – away from the gospel of the grace of God.  People are soothed into ignoring their spiritual neediness.  Those people, those false prophets, are the enemies of God.  And if they are enemies of God, they are enemies of His people.  They are not in your fellowship to encourage you or point you to God.  Though they may feign friendship, it is for diabolical purposes, and they can turn on you at any moment.

So what can we do?  Monasticism and individualism belong to the false religions.  We cannot run away from these dangerous people.  Tolerance and acceptance also correspond to the faith that exalts man over God.  So we cannot be silent or friendly.  Truth and God’s glory invite us to discern the lies and cast them down.  Holiness insists that we take our cues from God, supported by those men and women who exhibit the fruits of being His.  Love demands that we warn people of destruction.  Faith in God teaches us to hope for revival and redemption.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I have, over the past couple years, had some exposure to Open Theists.  To be fair I have never read their books or heard their speeches.  My friends who are interested in converting to Open Theism tell me their understanding of the theology.  My two main concerns are these: first, that the reason Open Theism is attractive is because God as described by the Bible is unattractive and so unacceptable to them; and second, that while Open Theists may find some verses that support their theory, their theory disregards and occasionally contradicts other passages of Scripture.  So before you convert to Open Theism, don’t you think you should be very familiar with the whole Bible, even those obscure God-revealing passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ecclesiastes and Acts (I’ve started a list) that point to God’s sovereignty and comprehensive omniscience? Conveniently, God did not set us in the world interpreting the Bible – or even books about the Bible – by ourselves.  So even if I am not acquainted with a relevant passage of Scripture, it is likely that one of my concerned and involved friends will be.  I appreciate that.

In fact, in every case I can remember where my friends found it necessary to point out where the Bible contradicted my ideas, I came away respecting them much more, willing to listen to anything they have to say much more, and considerably humbler in my own handling of the topics of God and the Bible.  General observation would declare that I have a ways to go in the field of humility, so I am welcoming further interference by God’s Word-wielding friends.  That is one of the reasons Open Theism has become a fixture of tension-perspective in my studying.  My friends have been led by their investigation of the theory into bringing up parts of the Bible and God’s character that are rarely examined, parts I find comfortable to ignore.

Anyway, the other month someone mentioned NT Wright, and in the back of my mind I remembered reading that his theology was weird, but that was before I’d ever really heard of Open Theism, and something said maybe NT Wright was one of the original Open Theists.  I Googled his name and Open Theism and not much came up, so I was wrong, but then I was wondering what his deal was.

Two weeks ago a friend mentioned he was reading an article by NT Wright about the authority of Scripture.  Wow.  It’s so hard to explain that these are all connected in my mind, these topics, but trust me.  I am, as far as the “five points” go, a Calvinist.  And I discovered when I admitted I was a Calvinist that I had been a Calvinist all along.  Because Calvinists are those people who believe that God is smarter, wiser, and better than we are, so they submit to Him.  Submitting to Him is usually manifest, to these intellectual theologians, by submitting to the written Word of God, the “inerrant Scriptures”.  Sola Scriptura is the Latin phrase for one of the (again, five) pillars of the reformation.  Anyway, Calvinists almost always subscribe to Sola Scriptura (except for the CJ Mahaney, Sovereign Grace crowd) and I am a Calvinist, and Open Theists don’t agree with the Five Points much at all, so NT Wright arguing against the authority of Scripture is associated with Open Theism.  There.

Anyway, I’m interested in the “sola” part of Scriptura, having run around a bit with that Sovereign Grace crowd but having depended my whole life on the revelation of God being complete in the Bible.  So I went over to NT Wright’s article myself (online for free) and read it. Obviously most of the theologians I read would be skeptical of a Christian leader who sidesteps the authority of Scripture, so maybe, I thought, that was the questionable thing I had heard about him years ago.  The article is long, transcribed from a speech, but I skimmed and paid more attention to interesting parts.  Essentially his thesis is that the Bible was not written to be a law, so it is not set to be our authority.

Mostly the Bible is narrative, accounts of God’s ways, of God’s character.  The Bible is true, but how authoritative is it that once upon a time a prophet cured poisoned water by throwing flour in it?  Is it more authoritative that once upon a time a prophet told the Church to collect money weekly to have it ready to give to the poor when the messengers came for it?  Or is it authoritative that the apostles commanded the Roman Christians to submit to governing authorities?  Are the promises for us?  Are the commands?  Instructions?  Reasoning?  And, my goodness! Have you ever noticed how the apostles interpreted Scripture!  We don’t do it like them at all!

While still pondering these things, I was babysitting for a friend who is ordained in the Presbyterian Church.  Thus his house is full of Calvin, Sproul, Piper, and Grudem.  He is also an inner-city church planter, so he has numerous books that are borderline Emergent, books about “missional” living and “incarnational” ministry, the messy life books like Blue Like Jazz and semi-mystical works of early Christian authors like Augustine.  Every time I am at their house, I scan their bookshelves.  On this occasion, after the two little boys were in bed I picked up an issue of RC Sproul’s Tabletalk Magazine to read in the quiet evening ahead.  The subject was NT Wright’s doctrine of justification.  I discovered that this was the subject on which I had heard warnings against NT Wright.  For the purpose of this blog, I will not here describe or refute the “new Paul” ideas NT Wright has proposed.  (Piper wrote a whole book on it. Download as PDF at this link.)  Because while I was edified by Reformed teachers talking about justification, substitutionary atonement, etc. the most interesting article was the last one.

The final article in that edition of Tabletalk Magazine was not directly related to NT Wright at all.  It was a review, a recommendation for John Newton’s “On Controversy,” a letter of Christian wisdom written to a friend about to confront another man about a matter of disagreement.  I have been learning a lot lately about meekness and confrontation and debate, challenged to listen more and pray more and bite my tongue more.  This article reaffirmed that and pushed me farther.  There remains value in discussion, in communicating disagreement or different perspectives, especially when there is mutual respect and interest not to be seen as the winner, the correct one, but in having everyone know the truth.  We should not pretend unity by avoiding difficult subjects.  In fact we ought to have more in mind than mere consensus.

I have a friend who is a poet, who is burdened about the division in the Church and about the way Christians have boiled the Word of God down to a list of rules.  He wrote a poem about that and much more that I want to finish with, but you have to go read it at his blog.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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So young people are leaving the church: a disastrous omen for the future of Christianity.  We must do something.  Something different than what we have been doing.  Because the church is failing this generation. 

 

It is common to point to the pizza and games youth-group-without-accountability-or-education program as the culprit for the apostasy of college students.  Church should not be about entertainment, say the pious parents who with the next breath criticize the musicians on the praise team and complain that the worship style at their congregation doesn’t suit their tastes.  Perhaps we are not sheltering youth enough.  Maybe they need more authority figures, a connection with the whole church, including their parents. 

 

Some on the conservative side of the question point to the content of what we teach young people.  Survey after survey reveals that teens don’t know the basics of Christian theology, and certainly aren’t decision-making from a Christian worldview.  These kids have no foundation to abandon, Christian leaders rightly argue.  They’re hungry for answers.  And when we don’t equip them in the realm of apologetics, high school and college professors have little difficulty refuting the shallow traditional faith of their students. 

 

Maybe the church is too legalistic, parents and pastors suffocating kids with expectations of holiness, that ever-imposing scale of good deeds versus bad deeds on which to measure God’s favor and wrath.  When at last free of the oppressive constraints, these young adults bust out with a liberal longing for pleasure, enjoying an affirming group of friends that encourages them to stop stifling their own feelings.  So we the church ought to offer more grace, somehow imparting to the up-and-coming generations the relationship aspect of Christianity.  Like so many who have been in the church for decades, these teenagers just want to know that God is love, and He wants to be your friend, to give you your best life now. 

 

“These are the leaders of the future,” is quoted, by some with hope, by others with dark foreboding.  But our model of ministry leaves a wide gap between involvement in youth ministry and being incorporated with the rest of the congregation.  Smaller churches have no college ministry.  Even those with college ministries have merely moved the disconnect to a later date.  Those in the club of grown ups are unwilling to speak to or invest in the younger individuals – let alone take their advice – trying to move into life and faith that is overwhelming without examples.  There is truth to the protest that kids are irreverent and disrespectful and self-absorbed.  But listen to what we’re saying.  Those are the kids.  What toddler have you met who knows anything different than irreverence and selfishness?  Yet the older people attempt to train them, not fight them.  Church has failed to welcome the post-education demographic; can we be surprised they leave?

 

Yet maybe that is exactly what the young adults ought to do: leave.  An institution so divided and impotent as the evangelical church, so lacking in love or substance, is more likely to inspire bitter memories of religious hypocrisy and to shore up doubt in the power of a God mostly ignored in the actual workings of the organization.  I will say more: perhaps the adults should leave, and the young parents who feel they ought to raise their children in Sunday school should never come back.  Christians should take on the personal responsibility of living a communal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: embracing grace as a gift both received and distributed; trust in the power and authority of the Creator God of the Resurrection; loving, serving, and discipling their fellow children of God; humbling themselves before the voice of God coming through Scripture, teachers, and youths; pursuing fellowship with God and with each other; and living out a life so different from the world that those exposed have no doubt that only the miracle of God could give such abundant life! 

 

And just maybe when we see such a symptom of desperate unwell in our churches, we should repent, falling on our faces before the Lord of Wisdom, desiring His healing and direction rather than the empty programs and various solutions proffered by man. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Coming to Grips with Genesis, edited by Terry Mortenson, Ph. D. and Thane H. Ury, Ph. D. 

Is the question of the age of the earth too divisive for Christians?  Is your interpretation of Genesis, particularly the first eleven chapters, important?  Are young-earth creationists good Bible scholars or good scientists?  Does Genesis allow for millions or billions of years?  Does the rest of the Bible? 

Comprised of nearly 450 pages written by 16 men dedicated to the literalism, inerrancy, and theological relevance of Genesis 1-11, this book is a resource for scholars and theologians.  Amateur as I am, reading the entire book cover to cover was a challenge.  I learned several new words, my favorite of which is phenomenological – just because it is fun to say!  Most Creationist books are about science.  Some are about the cultural impact of accepting Darwinism.  This book is almost unique in that it addresses the theological reasons for believing in a recent 6-day creation of the Heavens and Earth and life in them, as well as, significantly, a global flood. 

Christians today cannot even be said to be tempted to doubt the authority of Scripture compared to science; it is almost a cultural given that reasonable Christians will submit their interpretations of the Word of God to the supreme truth of scientific evidence as interpreted by a majority of secular and religious scientists.  Coming to Grips with Genesis seeks to show that no compromise on the literal narrative of Genesis 1-11 is based in hermeneutics.  Theologians who promote the day-age, framework, poetic, or gap theories for interpreting Genesis are inspired only by their conviction that “science” has proven an age of the earth billions of years beyond that recorded by the only witness, the God of the Bible. 

Topics include:
– historic interpretations of Genesis and beliefs about the age of the earth from Jesus, the apostles, early church fathers, reformation theologians, and modern commentators
– possibility of gaps in the Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies
– theological implications of death and pain and decay before Adam’s sin
– and discussions of the words, phrases, and style of language in the Creation account of Genesis 1-3, and the Flood narrative in Genesis 6-8. 

Dedicated to Dr. John C. Whitcomb, Jr., a short biography and bibliography is included at the end of the book along with a personal tribute describing his impact on each contributor opening almost every chapter.  John MacArthur and Henry Morris both endorsed this book with their forewords.  Every essay is covered in footnotes, and there is an extensive resource list in the back of the book for more information.  There is also an index.  Several contributors referred the reader to the Institute for Creation Research’s RATE Project conclusions.  As usual, Master Books has maintained a close relationship with Answers in Genesis, and that ministry is frequently cited in the resource list. 

Chapter 8, “A Critique of the Framework Interpretation of the Creation Week” by Robert V. McCabe is 38 pages of introduction, discussion, summary, discussion, summary (etc.), conclusion – all about, in my words, the Hebrew word for “and then.”  If you take my advice, you will read the first two pages and skip the rest.  Trust me that this man looked at every possible detail of this “waw consecutive.”  Much more interesting was the work of Stephen W. Boyd in chapter 6, “The Genre of Genesis 1:1-2:3: What Means This Text?”  He included the results of his own statistical analysis of waw consecutives as a sign of historical narrative, with other considerations for determining genre. 

The chapters that included direct quotes (translated) of church fathers were a helpful and interesting survey of early church theology with the different schools of thought (for example, the way in which most theologians related the age of the earth to their eschatology).  One chapter introduced me to Ancient Near Eastern literature.  Another emphasized the importance of context in (especially Hebrew) interpreting a passage.  A phrase often has a meaning more than the sum of its parts.  Page 120 and 121 are a biblical refutation of human empiricism superceding a faith acceptance of the “special revelation” word of God.  Chapter 9’s play by play description of the Flood with a timeline and occasional phrase exposition is one of the highlights (and I learned about inclusios and chiasms!).  My favorite part (more a reflection on my taste for philosophy than the writing or substance of the rest of the book) was the Epilogue, in which the editors contrast young earth biblical creationism with the Intelligent Design Movement (which tends to compromise the statements of the Bible). 

Ultimately, this book is a plea for faithful exegesis of the Bible and a defense of the methods employed and conclusions reached through traditional hermeneutic approach to Genesis consistent with that used on the rest of the Bible.  Coming to Grips with Genesis is an intense work, scholarly and detailed.  Theologians, seminarians, pastors, and Bible teachers – especially those whose view of Genesis is not firmly opposed to all forms of compromise – are the appropriate audience for this book. 

Coming to Grips with Genesis

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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A couple years ago I heard a radio interview with an author who wrote novels based on Bible prophecy and current events.  He had the uncanny knack of predicting world events.  The first chapter of his first book, written before 9/11 (and published right after) described an airplane hijacked by terrorists to fly kamikaze into a target in the US.  So when I remembered his name long enough to find his newest book, Ezekiel Option, I grabbed it.  And then I read a fascinating intersection of prophecy and foreseeable world events. 
 
The scientific method requires a scientist to make a hypothesis and then to conduct a series of tests.  If x is true, then y.  If x is false, then no y or z instead…  Joel Rosenberg is a sort of scientist.  His hypothesis is that the Bible is true, and that certain of its prophecies are next on the prophetic timeline.  His test is that if this were so, international politics would be moving in a certain direction.  I don’t regret picking up in the middle of his series.  The first two books describe an attack on America that leads to a war with Sadaam Hussein, which at its conclusion produces an increasingly prosperous Iraq.  Ezekiel Option picks up about where we actually are in world events, and predicts a Russian alliance particularly with Iran, but with other Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries as well. 
 
I pay attention to these parts of world news like a scientist testing a theory.  Joel Rosenberg, who, it turns out, doesn’t just see these things in visions but actually does a huge amount of research through personal interviews and worldwide newspapers and Bible study, helps me to stay up to date on potentially prophecy-related news items through his weblog.  Last night scrolling across the bottom of Hannity and Colmes or the O’Reilly Factor (late repeats of both) was the casual report: Russia, Iran & Qatar move towards oil cartel, would force EU to rethink energy policies.  Russia has sold arms to Iran.  Putin is moving more and more to be the strong central leader of his country, a requirement of the Ezekiel prophecies. 
 
Anyway, all of that is preliminary to this actual review of Joel Rosenberg’s fifth novel, Dead Heat.  When I first picked this book up from the library, my dad read it.  He said a lot of people died, and was mum about the rest.  So I wasn’t really in the mood to read about people dying.  After the elections last week, however, I remembered a quote on Joel Rosenberg’s weblog from this book, “What Bennett had never really considered carefully until now was the possibility that something else might devastate the American people, rendering them ineffective heading into the last of the last days. A financial downturn on Wall Street. The sudden collapse of the dollar. The beginning of another Great Depression. A series of devastating earthquakes. Or hurricanes. Or other natural disasters, like a tsunami… None of it was clearly prophesied in the Scriptures. Not that he could find. But perhaps he should have foreseen the neutralization of America by more carefully reading between the lines. If so, what else was he missing? What exactly was coming next?”(edited for spoilers)  Since it looks to me like this is happening to America, this economic depression and weak leadership essentially neutralizing us as a Superpower, I figured now would be the time to pick up Dead Heat.  I was in the mood for a depressing book. 
 
Except we hadn’t purchased the book like I thought.  Our collection of secondhand Joel Rosenberg novels had an empty spot at the end.  So I couldn’t just pick it up and read it last Tuesday night.  I read Lady Susan instead, a much more cheerful response, I must say.  But Mom found Dead Heat at a thrift store over the weekend, so I set about reading it. 
 
374 fast-paced pages led me from a close presidential election to the rapture and  beginning of the tribulation.  No book I’ve ever read has made me feel more vulnerable.  Waking up after dreams (casual dreams, not nightmares) continuing the book in my imagination, and as I read, I had to keep telling myself that there is no safer place than where God wants me.  There’s this temptation when I read Joel’s books to pack up and move either to Israel or some place safe like Antarctica.  God has given no guarantees on my life either way.  I could die, or I could suffer pain, or I could have a peaceful life like many have experienced in the past.  To be honest I don’t think I could run.  I like to be a part of things going on, even if they’re dangerous. 
 
Spoiler:  The book essentially opens with five nuclear bombs taking out four major American cities and the President and at least half the government.  No one knows who is responsible for the attacks.  Like the movie Crimson Tide (whose plot fascinates me), ignorance could be fatal for most of the world.  And in Dead Heat, there are virtually no voices urging caution. 
 
How do you know which world leaders to believe?  Are the more aggressive ones just equally afraid, or are the opportunistic, or are they part of a mega-conspiracy to destroy you?  Why is this happening?  What are the motives of the world leaders, or of the people sitting next to you?  Who has the answers?  How does one make such huge decisions when you haven’t had any sleep and you’re grieving the loss of millions of lives? 
 
Once again the book weaves the stories of fictional world leaders with that of the main character, Jon Bennett.  He and his wife have cashed in their portfolios to help an exponentially needy world.  And convinced that time is running short, they invest their lives in helping others and spreading Jesus’ love one encounter at a time.  This book is filled with references to salvation, to the love of God and the peace of accepting His provision for our sinfulness.  When any character asks, “what should I do?” the answer is always something Jesus says.  The answer is what Jon and his new wife Erin did: love people and tell them about Jesus. 
 
A theme of Jon Bennett’s story is responsibility.  Is he responsible for things that happen or don’t happen?  He asks a lot of if-only’s, and other people point blame-filled fingers at him.  Should he have stayed involved in politics, shared what he knew?  Should he have taken his wife to the infirmary sooner?  What about the choices facing him in the future?  What’s his responsibility?  How on earth do you decide?  The answer, of course, is to do the right thing, including loving even your enemies.  And God had blessed Jon with the answers when he sought Him. 
 
Near the end of the book, Jon has a revelation: his whole life he’s chased after measurable results.  He’s wanted to be a part of important things.  He wanted control.  And spending months in a refugee camp helping the poor wasn’t so measurable.  People weren’t responsive to the gospel like he thought they should be.  What difference was he making?  Was it worth it?  Could he have done something more productive?  What about now, when he was helpless as the world slipped into war and there was no one even to talk to about Jesus.  What is God’s purpose in that? 
 
Isn’t it our responsibility to do something?  Didn’t God put us here to get results?  Isn’t Jon to blame if his wife isn’t safe?  Isn’t that his job?  Jon’s to-do list had two columns: done or to-be-done.  But he learned something through his helplessness, a miniature of the helplessness felt by all the world at such a time.  Erin said God wanted her to “do the loving; I’ll do the converting.”  Love is not measurable.  People are not ever checked off your list as done.  And grace isn’t about accomplishments or blame.  Jesus says well done because we’ve been good and faithful, not competent and productive.  Jesus isn’t a CEO or a president.  He knows the end result, and He knows how He’s getting it there. 
 
God knows how the world is going to come to the last days.  Joel Rosenberg’s hypotheses aren’t all right.  He’s waiting like the rest of us.  It is possible that the time between the Ezekiel prophecies and the classic end times events (world government, temple in Israel, rapture) is longer than a book series will allow.  The rapture could come earlier than these devastating wars.  Or later.  Or the wars may not happen at all.  Given his reputation for correctly predicting the future, Joel opens his book with a sort of disclaimer: “I pray to God the novel you hold in your hands never comes true.” 
 
The idea of prophecy is an interesting one.  For centuries if a man sought to unite the world, he failed.  He was doomed to do so, because the time was not fulfilled.  Other elements of prophecy were not in place.  But at some point things are going to happen, and nothing will be able to stop them.  There will be that one-world government.  Any superpower or leader or ministry that stands in the way will be removed.  We put off disaster, continue peace negotiations about Israel, etc.  One day none of that will work.  Will it be that no one is left who wants anything different, or will God remove them from power?  Is there any difference? 
 
I (Lisa of Longbourn) am willing to say plainly that I think Obama’s presidency (based on the Dead Heat quote above) weakens the prophetic necessity of a violent neutralization of America.  But it increases other likelihoods.  When our enemies think we are weak, those who want us destroyed because they hate us (not because we’re in their way) are emboldened to attack.  Persecution may arise from inside, as it has in other countries that drifted toward socialism as we are doing.  Obama is ardently pro-abortion, and the longer our country massacres its innocents, the more likely we are to incur natural consequences (economic, military manpower) and supernatural judgment.  Dead Heat makes my final point, that it is possible America is prosperous because it supports Israel.  If we stop being their ally, we remove from ourselves the Genesis 12 blessing of God.  And if we ally ourselves with Israel’s enemies, we incur the curse of Genesis 12.  So we might be asking for bad things to come to America. 
 
I’m having a hard time shaking my mind free of the story.  I look out my window and wonder why people are so casual.  Why is my church doing ministry as usual?  Why am I sitting at my desk reading or writing when people are dying and, truly, millions could die at any minute?  Shouldn’t I say something?  Doesn’t the whole lost world (of which I’m increasingly aware) need to hear the gospel?  I watch the news and have to remind myself they won’t mention President MacPherson or UN Secretary Lucente or Iraqi leader Al-Hassani.  So this is a vivid piece of writing.  But I pray that its impact has more to do with my character and less to do with my imagination. 
 
This book challenges me to be urgent about the Father’s business, and to live out love, ministry, and faith all the more radically.  The more I feel helpless, and am humbled by my lack of control, the more I need God.  I need His direction and His peace.  I need to believe in His goodness.  And I need to lean on His instructions. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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