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Posts Tagged ‘theology’

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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I don’t know how “tan” developed into “toe” in the name for that plant you kiss under at Christmastide.  But in Old English, “mistletoe” was spelled mistiltan from the root “missel”, basil or the plant we know as mistletoe, and “tan”, which means twig.

Speaking of “Christmastide”, the second half of that compound word is something we usually associate with the ocean and beach.  “Tide” arrived in English, however, associated with time.  In Old English it meant a period of time, from an ancient root having to do with dividing out a portion.  By the 1300’s we were using it to refer to the water levels on the shore, from the idea of “high tide” and “low tide” being at specific times.  Old English had the word heahtid but at that time, it would have referred to a day like Christmas, “festival, high day”.

Tidings“, as in “tidings of comfort and joy“, has a long history, early diverging from the word “tide”.  For a thousand years it has meant an announcement of an event.  It comes from the Old Norse adjective tiðr, “occurring”.  Going just a bit further back, this word joins with the roots of “tide”.  

The debate rages about celebrating Christ’s birth near the solstice, when the Northern hemisphere has the shortest day of the year.  Pagan observances of this event involved the expectation for the winter to end and life to begin again.  Israel, where Jesus was born, is in the Northern Hemisphere, but that is no proof that his birthday was in that season.  Regardless of the actual event, we have placed Christmas at what is considered by astronomers to be the beginning of winter.  In Celtic nations and Scandinavia, the solstice is considered to be “midwinter”, an interpretation I prefer, agreeing with meteorologists’ definition of winter as the coldest months, normally all of December, January, and February here on this half of the globe.  Etymologists don’t know where the word “winter” comes from, but they have a couple ideas.  One is that it comes from a word for “wet”, *wed-/*wod-/*ud-which makes sense in more temperate climates.  Or it might be from the word for “white”, *wind-.  Obviously this latter is more relevant to the ice and snow of the cold season.

“In the Bleak Midwinter” is a Christmas carol written by Christina Rosetti by 1872, celebrating Jesus’ humbling Himself:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;

The word “bleak” meant “pale, whitish, blonde” in the Old Norse whence it arrived in English circa A.D. 1300.  Before that, the words origins meant “shining, white” or “burning”.  The same root gave us the word “black”, from the color things get after they have been burned.  By 1530 it also carried the meaning “windswept, bare”.

Such conditions alongside the green of fir trees, or the geothermal fields of Iceland are signature beauties of Scandinavia, and even the northeast coast of the United States.  There is something wonderful about life continuing amid hostility, be it from weather, self-righteous religious leaders, or power-paranoid kings like Herod.  Winters, and birthing in a stable when You’re really King of Heaven and Earth, can be harsh.  “Stark” is an Old English word stearc with an extensive definition: “stiff, strong, rigid, obstinate; stern, severe, hard; harsh, rough, violent”.  One of the things I love about places like Iceland is how the difficult climate and landscape have revealed the stern character of the people who live there.  But how do you embrace strength in hardship without losing tenderness and humility?

Jesus, the mighty Son of God, gave us an example when He was born a needy babe, pursuing with perfect resolution His cause of love, though He walked through the wilderness and built a whip to drive money-changers out of the temple, and though He submitted Himself to face a severe death by crucifixion.  “Babe” was likely imitative of infants babbling, though in most cases this became a word like baba for “peasant woman” or “mother”, as Etymonline.com cites John Audelay, c. 1426: “Crist crid in cradil, ‘Moder, Baba!‘ ”  Old English used the word “child” to refer to infants.  It seems originally to refer to the relation between the little one and his or her mother, as the “fruit of her womb”.  The significance of the mother’s role in bearing the child is also seen in surviving Scottish “bairn“, Old English bearn, from a root meaning “carry”.

Incarnation” is not an English word; it has it’s roots in Latin: caro or carnis means “flesh”, so it is litearally “being made flesh”.  This is the mysterious truth described by the Apostle Paul:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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God has had me thinking about suffering and persecution, again.  I’m going to be honest here; I don’t want to suffer.  Nope.  I don’t even want to be unhappy.  I want to have adventure, but I want to be able to push “stop” “eject” “rewind” and control the volume, too.  I know in my head that God uses suffering.  He makes us to know Him more, to be more like Him, to be refined from the worldly desires and crutches that keep us from the pure fire of desiring His glory.  He uses the way His people suffer (with grace and faith and rejoicing) to be a witness to the world.  But I’d still rather not go through it.  Part of me always insists that God could do those things in other ways.  He’s God.  He could do things differently.  But this is the way He has made the world, made us, written this story.  Jesus asked for another way, besides the cup of suffering.  Even Jesus went through the excruciating agony of the cross.  So it seems like God’s pretty committed to the suffering theme.  And it is actually a privilege to get to experience some things that Christ did.  This goes back to how we know Him more through suffering. 

 

Anyway, that’s the background:  I have suffered, though not much.  I know that God uses suffering.  I know it’s likely He isn’t done sending me through painful experiences. 

 

So when I’m coming up on the next part of my life, but I can’t see what’s going on, I start to seize with fear.  I get really afraid that it’s coming.  What I can’t see is something bad, something painful.  If people are keeping secrets from me, it’s probably because they’re handling things so dreadful that they are even trying to shield me, but it will affect me anyway, and everything will come out, and I will hurt.  Again. 

 

I don’t know exactly what to call this reaction.  It’s definitely fear.  And it is fueled deeply by distrust.  And what I ought to do in a situation like that is something completely different, and almost entirely absent.  On my best days I might be able to reason myself into a theology of faith: I should trust God.  I should know that He is doing good.  I should desire His glory in whatever way He wants to make it known.  But my feelings have never caught up. 

 

If I trusted Him, I would see a problem and rejoice with anticipation at how God is going to work it out.  Or I should be on the edge of my seat, maybe with my chest searing at the pain of it, maybe with tears stinging my eyes, but watching all the same for the way God is going to explode forth with a revelation of His glory (even if He doesn’t do what I would consider “working it out”). 

 

That’s what I’m hoping to see in my life someday.  I figure, objectively, this means I’ll go through a lot of hard things.  I have practice surrendering control, clinging to God when things don’t make sense and I feel so hurt that it borders betrayal.  And I think God will build on those lessons to move me deeper towards His heart, to form in me a heart of joyful trust. 

 

It’s nice, I guess, to have something you know you’re not good at, but you’re working towards. 

 

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:  By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;  And patience, experience; and experience, hope:  And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” ~ Romans 5:1-5

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I read once that Tolkien wrote with the pessimism of the pagan poets [1].  They uphold honor in despair, dying well, the heroic quest at the cost of losing everything you love.  But I read Tolkien and see hope scribed into every chapter.  No light, whimsical child’s hope: Tolkien’s hope is not ignorance of all things capable of clouding the good.  It’s a “fool’s hope,” [2] where anyone can see that in all likelihood, if things go on as they are, the fool will be disappointed.  In Tolkien, the fools know themselves to be fools.

 

Elven-King Fingolfin’s story weighs on the side of hopelessness.  The Silmarillion describes him as “fey” [3] when he challenges Melkor himself, living up to the epic’s heroic virtues.  What hope has an elf against a Vala?  But the Vala ought to be contended, resisted, fought.  Though the high king of the Noldor (elves) finally fell, his fight was not without effect.  The Dark Lord Melkor limped forever after.

 

At first reading, it seems that Aragorn commends this sort of despairing courage when he instructs his friends, “There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.” [4]  But Gandalf, the wizard who knows his life-encompassing hope is foolish, lends a bit of insight early on.  Recognizing he is a fool, he embraces humility.  Do you hear it in Gandalf’s words? “Despair, or folly?  It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt.  We do not.  It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.” [5]  He acknowledges that he may not have all the facts.  Indeed, thinking that he knew what the end would be was the prideful downfall of Denethor, who let his enemy select the facts he discovered, and so turn him to despair, and madness.  Tolkien’s works regularly discourage the assumption that we know the future.

 

He also discourages despair.  I know it doesn’t seem true.  There are some pivotal scenes driven by characters that rashly pursue death and glory.  Aragorn is accused of it when he takes the Paths of the Dead, but that perspective is refuted.  Though the way had been shut for long ages, the time had come.  Such is the way of hope.  Things go on in a certain way until the due time, and then change springs upon the world.

 

Perhaps most potent is the image of grey-eyed Dernhelm.  The warrior’s silent, calm assurance going in search of death chilled Merry.  And it awakens our empathy.  Why shouldn’t it?  Who hasn’t felt that life is going from bad to worse, and decided to rush forward to the end instead of waiting to be burned with the house?  I think maybe Tolkien intended to carry us along with this character, so that we could reach the same end.  Dernhelm was proud, seeking glory before duty, though demonstrating loyal love to King Theoden by staying close to him.  And glory was achieved.  And darkness did descend on the desperate hero.  Even as Dernhelm revealed herself as Eowyn, golden hair glittering in the storm-piercing sunrise like a figment of hope; she was cast down, poisoned, and taken for dead.  [6]

 

But now we come to it:  Tolkien’s hope is the kind that stands further and deeper than all those things – than despair and darkness and loss.  He knew about a resurrection hope, about seeds bringing forth fruit after they have fallen into the ground and died.  Maybe he knew that fruit is more glorious than merely putting an end to your enemies.  His hope embraces grief.  It accepts hard things.  Good is not determined by the outcome, but by some transcendent standard.  And this hope joyfully trusts that there is someOne good who may intervene yet.

 

For Eowyn woke, and repented her destructive ideals.  Day came again.  Darkness was not unescapable.  Faramir described the moment, “I do not know what is happening.  The reason of my waking mind tells me that great evil has befallen and we stand at the end of days.  But my heart says nay; and all my limbs are light, and a hope and joy are come to me that no reason can deny.  … in this hour I do not believe that any darkness will endure!” [7]  So Eowyn moved and married, healed and tended gardens. [8]  Her story is a fuller exposition of the transformation the Fellowship underwent in Moria.  They lost their way and lost their guide.  They had descended black depths and awakened demons so that they lost hope.  But on the field high on the mountain slopes, “they came beyond hope under the sky and felt the wind on their faces.” [9]

 

[1] Hopeless Courage by Loren Rosson, III (http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/lord_of_the_rings_guest_03.htm)

[2] The Return of the King: “The Siege of Gondor” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 797)

[3] See etymology of “fey” at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=fey&allowed_in_frame=0

[4] The Two Towers: “The Riders of Rohan” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 430)

[5] The Fellowship of the Ring: “The Council of Elrond” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 262)

[6] The Return of the King: “The Battle of the Pelennor Fields” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 823-824)

[7] The Return of the King: “The Steward and the King” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 941)

[8] The Return of the King: “The Steward and the King” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 943-944)

[9] The Fellowship of the Ring: “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 323)

 

See also, The Silmarillion: “Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin” by JRR Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien

 

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 always struggled with the word “propitiation.”  In Awana’s elementary-school books was included 1 John 4:10, an excellent verse I don’t regret memorizing.  All of my friends at the time struggled with the pronunciation of the dauntingly long word.  A few years’ practice rendered us able to speak the word, and Awana supplied a definition sufficient for rudimentary comprehension.  I believe their paraphrase was “the payment Christ made for my sins.”  At about the same time, I attended my parents’ Sunday morning Bible study at which the teacher was discussing the concept of propitiation.  He described it as “the mercy-seat of Christ, through which man has access to God.”  To a fifth grader the two definitions were not nearly similar enough to be joined.  I understand the word has to do with redemption, with sacrifice and salvation.  For years that has had to get me by.

The word comes up, you know, a grating little piece of ignorance: a something I cannot understand no matter how hard I try or what sources I reference.  Searching for the Greek word in Strong’s Concordance is not all that helpful, adding nothing to my understanding of the English word.  So I read the verses that say “propitiation,” pretend to understand while wondering why I don’t.

And last week it happened.  I wasn’t even reading very closely.  A page was open, and my eyes lit on the word “propitiate,” the verb form of “propitiation.”  All at once I saw the root word, sitting right there, disguised by the ‘y’ converted to an ‘i’: pity.  A series of clicks could be heard in my brain as the meanings fell into place.  Pity is strongly associated with mercy.  Add the prefix, “pro,” and you have something that advances or makes the way for active mercy, for pity. The substitutionary suffering Christ endured for my sin was what made forgiveness possible before a just God.  Jesus is the living way by which we enter the holy of holies, where the mercy seat used to be in the Temple.

(It just so happens that, when I went to look up the etymology of propitiate and of pity, the dictionarians have not noted a connection, but associate the word “pity” more with “piety,” or duty than with “propitiate.”  Nevertheless, I feel I have much better grasped the meaning of propitiation, and still wonder whether the two words share roots.)

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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