Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Are Calvinists and Arminians Enemies?

I have seen this conversation between Charles Simeon and John Wesley recounted several times. This comes via Justin Taylor's Between Two Worlds.

Some readers will recall the conversation between Calvinist Charles Simeon (1759-1836) and Arminian John Wesley (1703-1791) about their commonality amidst the controversy:

[Simeon] Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

[Wesley] Yes, I do indeed.

[Simeon] And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

[Wesley] Yes, solely through Christ.

[Simeon] But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

[Wesley] No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

[Simeon] Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

[Wesley] No.

[Simeon] What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?

[Wesley] Yes, altogether.

[Simeon] And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

[Wesley] Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

[Simeon] Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things where in we agree.

Cited in Handley Carr Glyn Moule’s 1892 biography, Charles Simeon, p. 79f.

Are Calvinists and Arminians enemies? Or do they fight so much precisely because they are close siblings? When they were teens my two daughters had many a battle royal, but now that they are both married adults with children of their own they actually are good friends. Maybe it is time that we Calvinists and Arminians grew up.

Atheism on the March at Christmas Time and a Gospel Response

There is a lot of hate out there, but it is not being expressed toward Jews or Muslims this Christmas. It is directed toward Christians.

Megan Fox at NewsReal Blog writes:
This holiday, I’m going to create a work of art. It’s going to be a miniature, bloodied, dead body of Mohammed complete with miniature turban and clutching a tiny Koran. I’m going to cover it in live maggots and film it. Then, I’m going to require a taxpayer funded art gallery to display it. In fact, I’m going to insist the Smithsonian take it. And they shouldn’t have a problem with that because right now the Smithsonian is featuring a bloodied depiction of Jesus on the cross, lying on the ground and covered in ants.

Merry Christmas!

None of the “artists” whose “art” is displayed at the Smithsonian are courageous enough to take on a project like mine. They only dare to mock and insult the true religion of peace, Christianity, whose members do little more than sigh and feel disgust when “artists” mock their Savior. Should anyone try to take on the Religion of Terror’s prophet Mohammed in artwork, let’s just say more than fur would fly. They’d find themselves living under armed guard with fatwas for their heads declared by UN council members!

Alongside the film featuring Bug Christ, not to be confused with Piss Christ, (another taxpayer funded masterpiece sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts) are photos of two brothers making out (incest is so misunderstood), naked butts from behind, a very disturbing photo of someone with their mouth sewn shut with blood dripping from the wounds, and close up shots of male genitalia. (Someone should find out if the nudes were taken off TSA computers.)

And then there is the new billboard in New Jersey debunking Christmas. Elena Ives at NewsReal writes:

A fervent group of Dickensonian atheists have plunked down $20,000 in a bid to lure New Jersey commuters out of the Christmas spirit and into a morose boycott – all because, as it reads on their billboard outside of the Lincoln Tunnel, the whole thing is nothing but “a myth.”

Wow. Merry Christmas. I suppose that includes Jingle Bells, Silent Night, eggnog, holly, mistletoe and all the rest — leaving the enlightened with nothing in their stockings but their own aggrieved scowls and wounded petulance.

This reminds me of another yuletide kerfuffle a couple years ago, when Christmas symbols from various faiths coexisted in ecumenical peace and harmony at the Washington State Capitol – that is until the self-ordained “free-thinkers” at Freedom from Religion Foundation came along with their offering — a sign designed solely to belittle and insult the others.

At this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail.

There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.

There is only our natural world.

Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

Pretty deep stuff. You have to feel sorry for people who want to "boycott" something like Christmas. I think if I was an atheist I'd turn a blind eye and enjoy the turkey dinner with my family just this one day of the year.

On the other hand over in poor, old, broken Britain where waited 14 long years to get rid of the Socialists only to get "Cast Iron Dave" instead of a real Conservative, Lord Carey is fronting a campaign called "Not Ashamed" designed to remind Brits of their wonderful Christian heritage as a nation. Here is a promotional video:

Boldly proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the only hope for the nation, Lord Carey and the others are speaking the truth in a situation where truth is unwelcome. You might notice toward the end that several people speak who have been fired from their jobs and experienced real persecution for witnessing to Christ in modern day Britain. They are brave and joy-filled Christians and they will be in our prayers this Christmas season.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Will Muslim Women Be Exempted from Full-Body Patdowns at Airports in the US?

From the "You can't make this stuff up department" comes this non-answer by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to a perfectly reasonable question.
When asked today if she will insist that Muslim women wearing hijabs must go through full body pat downs before boarding planes, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano did not say yes or no, but told CNSNews.com there will be “adjustments” and “more to come” on the issue.

“On the pat downs, CAIR [the Council on American-Islamic Relations] has recommended that Muslim women wearing hijabs refuse to go through the full body pat downs before boarding planes,” CNSNews.com asked Napolitano at a Monday press conference. “Will you insist that they do go through full body pat downs before boarding planes?”

“Look, we have, like I said before, we are doing what we need to do to protect the traveling public and adjustments will be made where they need to be made,” Napolitano responded. “With respect to that particular issue, I think there will be more to come.
Why on earth was the answer to the question not a straightforward "Of course Muslim women will not be treated any differently than non-Muslim women. We recognize that this is not pleasant for anybody but we are committed to the safety of the traveling public as our highest priority." Now, I would not have liked that answer, but I certainly could see the logic given the assumptions of the Obama administration about terrorism and political correctness.

Instead, she hints that maybe the answer is "No." Is this because a possible change in the "peek and grope" approach is being planned for everyone? Or it is because an exemption is being discussed by the administration for Muslim women? We don't know at this point. But even if a change for all was being contemplated, that would not prevent the "we will treat Muslim and non-Muslim women exactly alike" answer from being applicable.

Can you believe that the Obama administration would leave itself open to being perceived by the public as even considering exempting Muslims only from a policy caused by Muslim terrorism? Me neither.

10 Things Liberals Believe That are Just Not Believable to Most of the Rest of Us

1. That spreading condoms around and teaching people that using them in promiscuous sexual relationships is safe.

2. That anthropocentric global warming is a proven fact beyond all reasonable doubt.

3. That a massive transfer of wealth from the West to Third World governments via a UN administered banking transaction tax will save the planet from the disasters that will follow global warming.

4. That affirmative action and racial quotas are not racist.

5. That permanent welfare is good for poor people.

6. That all conservatives are stupid and all liberals are smart.

7. That it makes no difference to the welfare of children whether or not they are brought up by their married, biological parents.

8. That sex education for primary school children is anything other than desensitization and propaganda for the sexual revolution.

9. That an atheistic society is just as likely to have high moral standards and concern for the neighbor as a Christian one.

10. That it makes no difference to our self-image and self-respect to believe that we are evolved by chance from animals rather than being created specifically in the image of God by the Creator.

Liberal Media Bias in Full View: Have They No Shame?

James Delingpole documents the smug hypocrisy of the New York Times and its pretense to objectivity. He notes that the NYT has decided to post the Wikileaks documents on its website and compares the statement on today's website explaining why to the one posted last year explaining why it would not be "responsible" for it to post the Climategate emails.

“The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.” Andrew Revkin, Environment Editor, New York Times Nov 20, 2009.

“The articles published today and in coming days are based on thousands of United States embassy cables, the daily reports from the field intended for the eyes of senior policy makers in Washington. The New York Times and a number of publications in Europe were given access to the material several weeks ago and agreed to begin publication of articles based on the cables online on Sunday. The Times believes that the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match.” New York Times editorial 29/11/2010

Can you spot the difference between these two statements of high moral principle? Scott at the Powerline blog can. (H/T Bishop Hill/WUWT)He notes:

Interested readers may want to compare and contrast Revkin’s statement of principle with the editorial note posted by the Times on the WikiLeaks documents this afternoon. Today the Times cites the availability of the documents elsewhere and the public interest in their revelations as supporting their publication by the Times. Both factors applied in roughly equal measure to the Climategate emails.

Without belaboring the point, let us note simply that the two statements are logically irreconcilable. Perhaps something other than principle and logic were at work then, or are at work now.

Ah, but perhaps something other than principle and logic were at work. Now what could that possibly be . . . you don't suppose it could be ideological bias? Surely, the New York Times wouldn't let its left wing ideology determine it method of reporting the news? Say it ain't so, Joe . . .

A Muslim Speaks Out on the Need for Profiling

Arsa Q. Nomani is a Muslim who is calling for rational profiling at airports. In an article in The Daily Beast entitled, "Airport Security: Let's Profile Muslims," she writes:
In the debate, I said, “Profile me. Profile my family,” because, in my eyes, we in the Muslim community have failed to police ourselves. . .
This is the kind of honesty we need if the Muslim component of Western societies is to become truly a part of Western society. She argues for racial and religious profiling using facts and common sense:
As an American Muslim, I’ve come to recognize, sadly, that there is one common denominator defining those who’ve got their eyes trained on U.S. targets: MANY of them are Muslim—like the Somali-born teenager arrested Friday night for a reported plot to detonate a car bomb at a packed Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in downtown Portland, Oregon. . . .

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Personal Sex is Healthy Sex

This article is a heartening attempt to put sex in its place. By that I mean to put sex into focus as an expression of the rational person, rather than letting one's identity be defined by instinctual drives or passions. Only thus is sexuality made moral. The author, Melinda Selmys, argues that sexual orientation is not immutable at all and can be changed. She writes in "Reorienting Sexuality"
If you have undergone modern sexual education, followed the gay-marriage debates on television, or simply unconsciously imbibed the sexual ethos of this culture, you are probably familiar with the idea of sexual orientation. This is the theory that every human being has an innate, fixed set of sexual attractions either for the opposite sex, for their own sex, or for both.

This is the Western understanding of homosexuality that has developed over the course of the past couple of hundred years. It was first formulated around the time of the French Revolution, and gained currency with the rise of the psychological sciences during the twentieth century. For about a hundred years now the fundamental point of disagreement has centered around the question of whether same-sex attraction is a biological trait, or a psychological disorder. At the moment, most gay-rights rhetoric assumes the former (though this is by no means universally believed within the gay community) while most conservative organizations assume the latter.

What remains unexamined is the assumption that this is an accurate way of envisioning human sexuality in the first place. There has been some work by feminist and lesbian scholars suggesting that female sexuality, at least, is more fluid than “biology” suggests. The terms “LUG” (Lesbian Until Graduation) and “hasbian” both bear tribute to the fact that some women experience same-sex attractions at a particular point in their lives, and then transition into a heterosexual identity without suffering any psychological upheaval. Other women may comfortably embrace a heterosexual identity and lifestyle for years, only to have same-sex attractions arise late in life.

"I was certain that I was a lesbian"

I fell into the former category: earlier in my life, I was certain that I was a lesbian. I was secretly involved in a lesbian relationship for years, and my attempts to date boys on the side ranged from dismal to disastrous. I found physical intimacy with men uncomfortable at best. When I became a Catholic, I still believed that homosexuality was immutable, and I did not believe in “praying away the gay”. It came as something of a surprise, therefore, when I found myself falling in love, and being physically attracted towards a man.

All this is pretty common knowledge, though pro-sexual revolution activists endeavor mightily to conceal it from the gullible. But it is near the end of the article that Selmys gets really interesting as she proposes an explanation for what happened to her:

For me, as for others, it was a matter of other things being more important than sexuality. My ideological and philosophical identity was always the most fundamental aspect of my self; when my ideology shifted, my sexuality followed it quite naturally, without any need for bizarre or damaging outside interventions.

Obviously this is not the case for everyone, but it is common enough to seriously undermine the idea of a fixed sexual orientation. . .

Sexual orientation cannot be reduced either to biology or to psychology, because sexual attraction cannot be so reduced. Attraction is a complicated matter. People are attracted to others who share a similar sense of aesthetics, to people with similar ideological convictions, to those who resemble characters from movies or books that are personally appealing, to those with whom they have close emotional relationships, and so forth. We are not like animals whose attractions are based solely on the length of the dominant male’s eye-stalks, or the color of his plumage.
"We are not like animals" - surely this is the beginning of wisdom in all matters sexual. And the idea that "other things are more important than sexuality" is surely blindingly obvious to all except those for whom the sexual aspect of life has become inflated grotesquely.

The real and most fundamental psychological disorder is not homosexuality but rather one in which the impersonal aspects of sexuality (instincts, drives) take over and submerge the personal aspects such as morality, respect and friendship. This can afflict both heterosexual and homosexual persons and, unfortunately does afflict millions of people today. For such people, sex does not rise to the level of a personal relationship; it never rises higher than animalistic urges.

In a fallen world the basic human task is to humanize and personalize our sexuality rather than letting sub-personal drives impose themselves on us and prevent our relationships from rising to the level of the personal.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Great Condom Flap: Much Ado about Nothing New

Here is a good link to a number of articles on the recent media hysteria over comments Pope Benedict XVI made in his new book.

My personal favorite is from Mark Shea entitled "Pope Changes Catholic Faith Completely":
ROME -- In a startling change to the Catholic Faith, Pope Benedict XVI announced today that tossing people down elevator shafts could represent a first step in assuming moral responsibility "in the intention of reducing the risk of having your own son electrocuted to death before your very eyes."

The Imperial Mainstream Media Center has taken this as a signal that the Church intends to canonize Darth Vader for his saintly courage in tossing Emperor Palpatine down an elevator shaft as the latter was torturing Darth Vader's son to death with huge bolts of electric Force energy. In addition, the Imperial Mainstream Media Center has also declared that the pope therefore means to say that destruction of whole planets, as well as the subjugation of billions of inhabitants all over the galaxy, the betrayal of his closest friends, the slaughter of the Jedi and their younglings, and his conversion to the Dark Side "don't matter."

But most importantly, according to an Imperial Mainstream Media spokesman, "The point is, throwing people down elevator shafts is now formally accepted by the Church as moral behavior and Catholics need to think about how to incorporate this new development of doctrine into their lives. If you feel that throwing people down elevator shafts is the safe and right thing for you, then," says the Imperial Mainstream Media Center, "we believe the pope means to say, 'Do it with my blessing.'"

When you read headlines like "Pope Approves Condom Use" remember that he also approves throwing people down elevator shafts too.

Political Correctness is Immoral; Profiling Based on Facts is Just

Last week I traveled to Atlanta for the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society. A friend and I drove to Buffalo and flew from there to Atlanta. At the border, we were asked where we were going, for how long etc. and then waved through. A couple of white, middle-aged, Canadian passport-holding guys were not perceived as much of a threat to national security.

Yet, we knew that the border guards sometimes did random searches of cars for no apparent reason and that if any border guard sensed something suspicious about our answers or anything about us, he could very easily give us the nod to pull over into the section where searches are carried out. That is how it is at the border crossing.

But when we got to the airport, we were forced to endure an electronic strip search after having removed our shoes, belts, watches etc.. We were treated exactly the same way as a middle eastern man between 18 and 35 would be treated. Nuns, grandmothers, children - all are treated as being just as likely to be terrorists as young Muslim men. As Peggy Noonan rightly says in her Washington Post column today, this is not an inconvenience but a humiliation. It also means that we are letting the terrorists win because they sin and our people pay the price.

(Of course, we don't literally all pay the price. There are certain exemptions. I would like to see list of those who can fly today without enduring the electronic strip search or sexual assault. Then we would know exactly who the real members of the aristocracy in America are.)

The problem with political correctness is that it requires us to pretend; it requires that we deny reality. Angela Merkel made this point a few days ago when she said that multiculturalism isn't working in Germany. Of course it isn't; the Muslim populations is never going home and it is not being assimilated. Everyone knows that but no one is allowed to say it. We must pretend. At airports, everyone knows that no elderly nun or white, eight year old boy traveling with his Southern Baptist mother has yet brought down an airliner or even tried. But we must pretend that they are just as much a threat as the people who have done so. If you want to see photos of all the terrorists who have been arrested over the past decade click here. Did you notice anything about those pictures Sherlock Holmes?

The single most shocking thing I read about this whole airport security issue does not relate to the humiliation and ineffectiveness of the "pat downs for all" approach. It was this paragraph from Deroy Murdock :

At a Monday night Intelligence Squared debate on this topic at New York University, one of my interlocutors was Debra Burlingame, sister of Charles Burlingame, the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which al-Qaeda smashed into the Pentagon. She cited her conversation with an American Airlines customer-service agent who worked on September 11. He checked in Nawaf and Salem al-Hazmi, two of those who hijacked that Boeing 757. While American's seasoned employee found these two suspicious, Burlingame says he told her he did not flag them for further scrutiny "because I didn't want my colleague to think that I was a racist and a bigot."

He didn't want his colleague to think he was a racist and bigot - and the result was that innocent people died. It is not just that political correctness might result in the inadvertent deaths of innocent people: it already has. The Left now has that on its conscience. The very idea that terrorists are evenly distributed among the entire population, which is a central mantra of the Obama administration, is at least partially responsible for 9/11 and unless it is abandoned more innocent people will die.

(By the way, even if the above story turned out to be untrue, common sense tells us that sooner or later an event like that is bound to happen. The insane political correctness being pushed by the Left practically ensures that.)

How the Left seized the moral high ground on this issue is a textbook example of Machiavellian tactics. But it is time to end the madness. What we have at our North American airports today is a parody of security. It is a bunch of Westerners punishing each other for the sins of non-Westerners. It must be an endless source of mirth for bin Laden as he sits in his cave and watches CNN. And it is not working.

But it must be stressed that we do not grasp the seriousness of the situation until we realize that not only does the detestable "strip and grope for all" approach not work and not only is it intolerable to a free people; it is the product of a mindset that leads those responsible for protecting us to hold back from aggressively seeking out and stopping real terrorists.

Political correctness is immoral precisely because it is a flight from reality into pretend land where children and grandmothers might just as well be terrorists as young, Muslim men. And any set of ideas that refuses to come to grips with reality is highly dangerous.

Is this fair to young Muslim men who are not terrorists? Of course not, no more than it is fair to me when I travel now. Life is inherently unfair. Somebody who is innocent will inevitably be singled out. But the problem is that right now scarce resources are being wasted on treating every passenger as an equal risk.

Who should young Muslim men who are not terrorists blame for their inconvenience? They should blame the terrorists. They should blame the fiery imams who preach jihad against the West. They should maybe even blame their religion and its history of violence, invasion, conquest and imposition of Sharia Law by brute force over the past 14 centuries. If confronting these realities is too uncomfortable, that is not my problem or the problem of the West in general. Maybe profiling will help exert a pressure on them to face up to realities within the Muslim community that they need to confront, oppose and eradicate. If so, then we turn the terrorists tactics back on them and make their strategy blow up in their own faces.

Terrorism is evil and political correctness is evil; both must be opposed and overcome if we are to have peace and justice.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Is the "New Calvinism" Growing?

I would say it is growing in influence, but the issue of whether it is growing in numbers is more difficult to analyze. Here is a story in which the Barna Research Group says that there is no evidence that Calvinism as a whole is growing in American Protestantism.
Some observers and journalists have described a movement among Reformed churches, pointing to prominent Reformed pastors and new Reformed church associations as a significant trend. A new study from Barna Group explores whether the so-called “New Calvinism” has, as yet, affected the allegiances of pastors and whether Reformed churches are growing.
Their conclusion?
Kinnaman, who serves as Barna Group president, concluded, "there is no discernable evidence from this research that there is a Reformed shift among U.S. congregation leaders over the last decade. Whatever momentum surrounds Reformed churches and the related leaders, events and associations has not gone much outside traditional boundaries or affected the allegiances of most of today's church leaders. It is important to note that the influence of Reformed churches might also be measured through other metrics that are currently unavailable, such as the theological certainty of self-described adherents, their level of acceptance toward those who are not Calvinist, and the new methods Reformed leaders are using to market their views to their peers and to the public.
I think that, since conservative, biblical, Evangelical Calvinism is a subset of all Calvinism (which includes many liberals who claim the Reformed or Calvinist label), broad brushed research of this type does not really help in answering the question of whether the movement described in Hanson's Young, Restless and Reformed is actually growing.

We should bear in mind that the qualifications in the above paragraph may be far more significant that the main conclusion. In particular, I think that the new-found confidence in the Gospel displayed by many in the so-called "New Calvinism," (which is really just another wave of the original Calvinism), and the new methods used to market Calvinist views to Evangelicals in general are signs of an important resurgence of Calvinism today.

The Reformed wing of Evangelicalism is engaged in a debate with other theological perspectives about what constitutes an adequate basis for a healthy Evangelicalism. This debate can occur in Evangelicalism because Evangelicalism has not drifted as far from biblical and orthodox Christianity as Liberal Protestantism has done. The issue at stake is the alarming degree of leftward drift within Evangelicalism and what must be done to stop it.

Just as the election of the leftist Obama to the presidency has shocked conservative and moderate America into active repudiation of his policies and into political activism, the rise and flame-out of the Emergent Church movement has shocked and alarmed ordinary Evangelicals into the realization that a second major slide into liberalism is not only possible, but likely unless theological renewal occurs.

This development has caused many to take a second look at a robust, biblical, orthodox, Reformed theology and consider whether or not it alone has the power to prevent the slide into a new social gospel which is no real gospel at all. The fact that a number of people are coming to the conclusion that whether or not Reformed theology is the only kind of theology capable of sustaining a vigorous Evangelicalism, it is likely the best alternative for doing so is what is causing the "New Calvinism" to grow in influence within Evangelicalism.

Appeasement Did Not Win the Cold War and It Won't Work with Islam

George Weigel learned a thing or two by researching and writing extensively about Karol Wojtyla/Pope John Paul II. His treatment of John Paul II's role in ending the Cold War and liberating Eastern Europe from the Russian yoke in his great biography of the Pope is sterling and it highlights the huge gap between the curia's seemingly incurable, temperamental proclivity for appeasement of dictators and totalitarian systems.

But John Paul II was only able to do what he did to confront the Communist regimes because he went over the heads of the Vatican bureaucracy to speak directly to the people. He was able to broker his natural charisma, his media savvy and his personal courage to do what he never could have gained a consensus among his bureaucrats to do. (My favorite line from the CBC movie version of his life is one worried Vatican official saying to another: "He is the pope and he KNOWS it!")

Pope Benedict XVI is a good man with a firm commitment to orthodoxy, but when it comes to politics, the media and communicating his message without letting it be corrupted or co-opted between the time when it leaves his mouth and the time when it reaches the hearers of his audience - well, the most charitable thing to say is that he is no John Paul II.

John Paul II is one of the greatest historical figures of the 20th century and one of the reasons for this assessment is his role in liberating Eastern Europe from totalitarian rule. His contribution to the consigning of Communism to the dustbin of history was made because he rejected the quarter century long Vatican posture of appeasement of Communism and joined Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in being willing to confront totalitarianism with courage and determination.

Today, the Vatican tendency to appease totalitarianism has not changed and was on display in the recent synod on the Middle East held in Rome. The synod hardly criticized Muslims for anything but let Israel have it with both barrels. There were calls for the Palestinian "right of return" and for the handing over of all "occupied lands." The whole tone was that Israel is the problem and peace cannot be achieved without more unilateral concessions from Israel - concessions that place the viability of the country in serious jeopardy. Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee, who addressed the synod, reports that at the news conference at which the final report was released, the following revealing statements were made by Monsignor Cyril Salim Bustros. Despite the fact that these statements were not in the final message from the synod, they do reflect the thinking of many at the synod.
But now in October 2010, Monsignor Cyril Salim Bustros, Greek Melkite archbishop of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Boston, Massachusetts has stated that "[t]he Holy Scriptures cannot be used to justify the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians, to justify the occupation by Israel of Palestinian lands." Furthermore, Bustros said that "[w]e Christians cannot speak of the 'promised land' as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. This promise was nullified by Christ[.]" And finally, Bustros affirms that "[t]he Palestinian refugees will eventually come back and this problem will have to be solved."

In essence, these words contradict "the Second Vatican Council teaching and Pope Benedict himself -- who has welcomed the return of Jews to their ancient homeland."
Not all Catholics on the Left, it would seem, have yet accepted Vatican II! Forget the right, when will the Left catch up with the repudiation of supersessionism? Perhaps it is the case that the long-standing Vatican tendency to appeasement is leading the Roman Catholic Church into dangerous anti-Semitic waters.

Ironically, just as the synod was ending, the ineffectiveness of appeasement was made clear by a vicious attack on a Catholic Church in Baghdad. See the Washington Post story here. George Weigel comments at First Things:
The murder of more than 50 Catholics by jihadists during Sunday Mass in Baghdad on Oct. 31 is the latest in a series of outrages committed against Christians by Islamist fanatics throughout the world: Egypt, Gaza, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Sudan and on the list goes. The timing of the attack on Baghdad’s Syriac Catholic cathedral was striking, however, for it came shortly after the conclusion in Rome of a special Synod on the Middle East. During the Synod, very little was said about Islamist persecution of Christians; indeed, every effort was bent to show the Catholic Church sympathetic to Muslim grievances, especially with regard to the politics of the Middle East.

This strategy of appeasement has always struck me as unwise. The al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists’ answer to the Synod—the Baghdad murders—has now proven the strategy deadly. Appeasement must stop. . . .
The Vatican bureaucracy and local Catholic leaders in the Middle East must also reexamine the assumption—widely bruited at the recent Synod—that resolving the Israel-Palestine issue through a two-state solution will solve every other issue between militant Islam and Christianity. It won’t. Moreover, a viable two-state solution, which every reasonable person supports, is not on the short-term horizon (although important steps are being taken to build the infrastructure of civil society on the West Bank). Meanwhile, Islamist depredations against Christians in the Holy Land are a present reality. Christian leaders whose people are being murdered by jihadists and other Islamist fanatics ought to stop blaming their precarious situation on the State of Israel and put the blame where it belongs: with Muslim intolerance.
Weigel is absolutely right. The Synod on the Middle East was just another sad chapter in the history of Vatican appeasement of totalitarianism. Islam must be confronted as Communism was confronted. It cannot be won over by concessions or bowing and scraping, which it interprets as signs of weakness. Where is John Paul II when we need him?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving to All My American Friends

Today, our American friends celebrate Thanksgiving 2010. As we Canadians like to say: better late than never.

This post on American exceptionalism caught my eye recently and I thought it would be appropriate as Thanksgiving reading. Mark Tooley writes in The American Spectator:

The left-of-center Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and Brookings Institution have released a post-election survey showing nearly 60 percent of Americans believe God has assigned America a "special role" in human history. Over 80 percent of white evangelicals believe in this special role for America, as do two thirds of minority Christians. Majorities of white Mainline Protestants and Catholics also agree. Two thirds of the religiously unaffiliated disbelieve in any special role for America.

Probably the surveyors were discomfited by the results, especially that the devotees of American exceptionalism were not confined to white evangelicals but were nearly as numerous among minority Christians, which presumably mostly means blacks and Hispanics.
As usual, Sojourners doesn't get it:

A columnist for the Evangelical Left Sojourners group was also disturbed by the survey. "As a Christian, I tend to believe that God has a 'special role' for every person and every nation," noted Evan Trowbridge, a Sojournerscommunications staffer. "Too often, however, we confuse 'special' with 'exceptional.' If we agree that God has granted the United States a special role in history, then shouldn't we also agree that God has granted Thailand and Kenya a special role? Unfortunately, I don't think that's what most of the respondents in the study had in mind…"

No, it almost certainly is not what most American exceptionalists have in mind. Even non-believers in American exceptionalism must grant that America's story has an outsized influence on the world that exceeds Thailand's and Kenya's. Many on the Left fret that American exceptionalism is synonymous with superiority, imperialism, and exploitation. But the original Calvinist theorists, from the first Thanksgiving onward, envisioned American civilization having special duties, not special privileges. Failure to comply with these duties risked divine wrath. Later, more generic versions of American exceptionalism, at least at its best, cited America's special role as exemplar of democracy and justice. American exceptionalists were never exclusively property owning, patriarchal, Anglo-Saxon Protestant white males. Social reformers of all races and both genders, especially religious ones, successfully cited exceptionalism to justify their appeals for a more just America.

The USSR certainly did have a "special role in history" but if anyone thinks that the influence of the USA has not been more positive, far-reaching and long-lasting, then words just fail one at that point. As a Canadian, I thank God for the United States of America and for the liberty and justice for which it stands. Like Alexander Solzhensitsyn, I am a non-American who cannot deny that the American Experiment has yielded more freedom, more justice, more opportunity and more hope for mankind than any other nation in history. That is not American pride or jingoism; it is just a fact.

And it is something to think about on Thanksgiving Day 2010.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Few Tidbits

Kudos and Criticism
I have been getting a lot of positive feedback on the blog lately, however, and I appreciate it a lot. (You all know who you are.) One nice honor is to be on Joe Carter's list of the 50 Best Blogs of 2010. Thanks Joe!

It has been a crazy last week or so with ETS and SBL sandwiched in between my classes and preparation plus other important issues taking place in my life so blogging has had to take a back seat. The debates on justification with N. T. Wright were fascinating and I came away more solidly convinced than ever that Wright has gotten the Reformation tradition and Paul both seriously wrong, despite the major contributions he has made to NT exegesis. But N. T. is not happy with me and I'll have more to say on that in days to come.

Theology Pub
I'll be joining Darryl Dash and friends at Theology Pub at the Bishop and Belcher (near Church and Bloor in downtown Toronto) for a conversation at 7 pm on January 17. They want to discuss my recent theological journey back to my conservative theological roots as displayed on my blog. I will try to convince them why it is true, as I think it is, that "The Young, Restless and Reformed will save Evangelicalism in the next few decades."

No, Pope Benedict Did Not Say Condoms Were OK
I don't have time to parse the whole sordid, on-purpose confusing mess the media has made of the remarks on condoms by Pope Benedict XVI in his new book. If you want a clear-eyed and factual perspective, go here and read George Weigel's insightful analysis. Or, if you prefer wild-eyed fanaticism and garbled messages based on a lack of knowledge of the Church, moral theology and logic, just read the New York Times. Deep sigh . . .

Heritage Theological College & Seminary
The Heritage Board, (on which I serve) made an exciting announcement today about a new strategic partnership with the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptists Central Region. I like schools that think outside the box and go against the conventional wisdom. By moving from being a non-denominational, independent school with strong ties to Fellowship Baptists to becoming the official school of the Fellowship, Heritage is bucking a trend. Instead of becoming more generically Evangelical it is choosing to put down deeper roots into a particular theological tradition (Conservative, Reformed, Evangelical, Baptist) which can nurture it and give it a distinctive identity and historical roots.

Paradoxically, I think this newly refined sense of identity will give it more rather than less appeal to non-Fellowship Baptists looking for a school with a high commitment to serious theology and to delivering quality preparation for pastoral ministry, evangelism, church planting and cross-cultural missions. We shall see, but I am hopeful and optimistic.

The Acton Institute
I had a nice time visiting with the good folk at the Acton Institute while at ETS last week. They are trying to help seminaries and professors to think a bit more clearly about economics, politics and faith than we often do. Christians and especially theologians are extremely vulnerable to the fallacy of endorsing the "politics of good intentions," and therefore evaluating political and economic philosophies and ideas on the basis of what they aspire to do instead of on the basis of what they actually accomplish. You might enjoy their website here and their Powerblog here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Suicide by Atheism: Christianity as the Basis of European Civilization

George Weigel has a worthwhile article in The National Review comparing recent speeches by Herbert von Rompuy and Pope Benedict XVI on the basis of European civilization. It is called "A Tale of Two Europes: Looking for Transcendence."

Weigel notes that in 2003-04 the debate over the preamble to the European constitution resulted in the omission of any mention of the Biblical or Christian tradition in defining the basis of European civilization:
In 2003–04, as the preamble to the European constitutional treaty that eventually came a cropper was being fiercely debated, the burning question was whether the Christian (or, more broadly, Biblical) sources of contemporary European commitments to human rights, democracy, and the rule of law could be acknowledged. The final answer was “No,” as the preamble cited classical civilization, the Enlightenment, and modern thought as the bases of the civil and tolerant Europe the constitutional treaty was to govern.
Weigel describes the shallowness of Van Rompuy's vision of the basis of Europe's shared civilization and quotes his speech at length:

But it was Van Rompuy’s flaccid attempt to define the ethical sources of the new Europe’s identity that rang most hollow:

Alongside diversity — and diversity is certainly a strength of our societies — we still need, in each of our societies, a sense of unity, of belonging together. This sense of unity can lie in shared values; or in a language, a shared history, a will to live together. . . . And this will springs above all from the stories we tell each other.

Think of the ancient Greeks: The stories of Homer created bonds through the centuries. They have us spell-bound tonight. It can be the stories of war and peace, or Olympic exploits or saint-like sacrifice, of a prison stormed or a Wall which came down.

Such stories do what a treatise on “values” cannot achieve: They embody “virtues” in an understandable way, virtues shown by men and women in real situations. Courage, respect, responsibility, tolerance, a sense of the common good.

To keep such European virtues alive, to transmit their age-old qualities to our children and grandchildren, that will be one of the great challenges for the future.

Here is the post-modern theory of the triumph of “narrative” run so far amok that it becomes self-parody. Putting aside the question of whether, on present demographic trends, there will be all that many “children and grandchildren” to whom to tell stories of Attic courage, or the figure-skating gold medals of Sonja Henie, or the fall of the Bastille, or the breaching of the Berlin Wall, Van Rompuy’s European Story Hour is just that: a disconnected conglomeration of “narratives” telling no one compelling tale. Or if there is a tale here, it is, pace the Thane of Cawdor, a “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Weigel then describes Benedict's vision as given in his speech:

But according to the broad-gauged Benedict XVI, the voice of the God of Jews and Christians is not the only voice to which a revitalized Europe needs to attend, even if He is, to vary the medievals, the First Voice. To be sure, as the pope said, “Europe must open itself to God, must come to meet him without fear and work with his grace for that human dignity which was discerned in her best traditions.” But Europe must also reclaim the fullness of the riches of her civilizational patrimony: “not only the Biblical . . . but also the classical, the medieval, and the modern, the matrix from which the great philosophical, literary, cultural, and social masterpieces of Europe were born.” Thus “the Europe of science and technology, the Europe of civilization and culture, must be at the same time a Europe open to transcendence and fraternity with other continents, and open to the living and true God, starting with the living and true man.”

The openness to the transcendent, to God is the beginning of true wisdom. Belief in God has formed the basis of the greatest achievements of Europe: the rule of law, limited government, human dignity, freedom, free speech, freedom of religion and free enterprise. Yes, Europe needed some prodding from the Enlightenment to open up to greater political freedom but in doing so - in abolishing slavery for example - Europe was able to act in accordance with deep and abiding truths already found in Christianity. It was not necessary to jettison Christian faith in order to enhance the dignity of the human person; it was only necessary to jettison Christian faith in order to descend into a Brave New World.

Christianity was and is the basis of European civilization and the current rejection of Christianity by Europe is an act of wanton self-destruction. It is suicide by atheism.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Conservative Women Challenge Feminism in the Name of Reality and Common Sense

Sarah Palin has aroused furious and hateful opposition from feminists used to being regarded as speaking for all women because she dares to speak in public from a conservative, rather than a liberal, viewpoint. Contemporary feminism is a decadent and negative version of a once proud movement that made many contributions to modern society.

The angry, anti-family, anti-men, socialist feminism of today may speak for socialists of both sexes but it does not, and never has, spoken for the majority of women. For decades, for example, more women than men have opposed abortion. Yet, since abortion is part of the cultural Marxist assault on the oppressive family, it is a non-negotiable absolute for feminists.

The recent US mid-term elections featured the election of a number of strong, conservative women like Senator-elect Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire and Governor-elect Nikki Haley in South Carolina. Sarah Palin will one day be regarded as a trailblazer as conservative women increasingly challenge the old, cynical, 60s left-overs for the role of speaking for women.

Interestingly, this trend is going on in Germany as well. This news report describes a new trend in which conservative women move to the attack instead of allowing themselves to be put on the defensive by Marxists using gender to advance their ideology.

They are perhaps the most high-profile women in Germany after Chancellor Angela Merkel: Kristina SchrÖder, the young, glamorous minister for families, women and pensioners, and Alice Schwarzer, the seasoned feminist intellectual and campaigner. And they're embroiled in an unseemly, vitriolic war of words over sex, the role of women and feminism. Played out in the mass media, the slanging match is providing titillating fodder for the press - but many German women fear it is also undermining their ongoing struggle for equality.

It all started when SchrÖder - at 33 the youngest member of Merkel's cabinet - attacked the 1970s feminist movement, telling Der Spiegel news magazine on Nov. 7 that early feminism "overlooked the fact that partnership and children can provide happiness." The conservative minister, who's known for her prim and proper attire, went on to say: "For me, emancipation will only be truly reached if a woman can wear make-up and skirts without having her abilities doubted as a result." (See Merkel in TIME's top 10 female leaders.)

Then SchrÖder took a dig at Schwarzer, 67, Germany's doyenne of feminism, claiming that many of Schwarzer's theories were too radical: "For example, that heterosexual sex was hardly possible without the subjugation of women." She added: "It is absurd if something that is fundamental for humanity and its survival should be defined per se as subjugation. That would mean that society can't carry on without the subjugation of women."

The comments provoked a fast and furious response from Schwarzer, author of the 1975 bestseller The Little Difference and Its Big Consequences and publisher of the feminist magazine Emma, who on Nov. 8 posted a fiery open letter on her website accusing the minister of "incompetence." Schwarzer couldn't resist pointing out that it was only thanks to the feminist movement that women like SchrÖder had managed to climb up the career ladder. And in a personal gibe, the feminist icon said the minister was "simply unsuitable" for the job, having failed, Schwarzer claimed, to introduce any policies to improve the rights of women and families in Germany since she was appointed last year: "Chancellor [Merkel] appointed you ... and whatever her motive was, it couldn't have been competence or empathy for women." (See a profile of Angela Merkel.)

Schwarzer's letter, which was published by the mass-market daily Bild, also slammed SchrÖder's initiative to help boys perform better at school and her reluctance to introduce quotas for women in leadership roles, despite the fact that out of 185 board members listed on the DAX stock index, only four are women.

After concluding that SchrÖder was a "hopeless case," Schwarzer delivered another personal blow: "The only exciting news to come out of your ministry this year was your name-change." (SchrÖder traded in her maiden name, Koehler, after getting married in February. SchrÖeder hit back, telling Bild on Nov. 9 that she thought it was a "pity" that Schwarzer had personally attacked her.(Comment on this story.)

Schroder's main point, that heterosexual sex cannot be inherently oppressive since it is essential to the survival of the human race shows that contemporary feminism is not only fighting culture, but also nature and reason. Her views seem moderate and reasonable; those of her opponent seem like a caricature of a crazy feminist drawn by someone opposed to feminism.

Schroder is "a hopeless case" because she took her husband's name and cares about boys succeeding in school? What is this, most normal people would ask, some kind of joke? I wonder if contemporary feminists realize how out of touch they are with ordinary middle-class people. And I wonder if they realize how inevitable it is that - given their extreme ideology - sooner or later the majority of women are going to rise up and tell them that they only speak for themselves.

If you don't believe me, ask a conservative woman. It is not like they are hard to find these days.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thinking Beyond Obama's Failed Presidency

On Oct. 2, 2010 I repeated and made more precise my prediction that the Republicans would win the Nov. 2 mid-term elections by taking control of the House and Senate. The House went as predicted, but the Republicans fell 4 seats short in the Senate, even though they actually won a higher percentage of the Senate seats up for election (65%) than they won in the House. The Republican take-over of the Senate is a high probability in 2012 given that there are 23 Democratic and 10 Republican seats up for election and many of the Democratic seats are in states that just went strongly Republican.

I also had this to say about Obama:
So I predict that Republicans will win control of the Senate and gain about 55-60 seats in the House. This will effectively end Barack Obama's ability to further implement his leftist agenda and will lead to gridlock between Congress and the President. This will set the stage for a possible primary challenge to Obama and the Republicans winning the presidency in 2012.
November 2 was a bad day for Obama. But it has been another ten bad days for Obama since then. This TV panel discussion (which features 4 people having a calm discussion and taking turns speaking - what is up with that?) covers the ground rather clearly. The Heritage Foundation summarizes the same material here. Note that its assessment rather closely parallels that of the New York Times below.

The New York Times sketches out the grim facts as follows:

And as officials frenetically tried to paper over differences among the Group of 20 members with a vaguely worded communiqué to be issued Friday, there was no way to avoid discussion of the fundamental differences of economic strategy. After five largely harmonious meetings in the past two years to deal with the most severe downturn since the Depression, major disputes broke out between Washington and China, Britain, Germany and Brazil.

Each rejected core elements of Mr. Obama’s strategy of stimulating growth before focusing on deficit reduction. Several major nations continued to accuse the Federal Reserve of deliberately devaluing the dollar last week in an effort to put the costs of America’s competitive troubles on trading partners, rather than taking politically tough measures to rein in spending at home.

The result was that Mr. Obama repeatedly found himself on the defensive.

He and the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, had vowed to complete the trade pact by the time they met here; while Mr. Obama insisted that it would be resolved “in a matter of weeks,” without the pressure of a summit meeting it was unclear how the hurdles on nontariff barriers to American cars and beef would be resolved.

Mr. Obama’s meeting with China’s president, Hu Jintao, appeared to do little to break down Chinese resistance to accepting even nonbinding numerical targets for limiting China’s trade surplus. While Lael Brainard, the under secretary of the Treasury for international affairs, said that the United States and China “have gotten to a good place” on rebalancing their trade, Chinese officials later archly reminded the Americans that as the issuers of the dollar, the main global reserve currency, they should consider the interests of the “global economy” as well as their own “national circumstances.”

When the NYT sounds just like Fox and the Heritage Foundation, things are not rosy for the White House. Then, just when the Obama team must have thought that it couldn't get any worse, the Washington Post runs an op ed piece today by two Democratic pollsters, Douglas Schoen and Patrick Caddell, calling on Obama to announce (two years into his first term!) that he does not intend to run for re-election. They actually go so far as to say:

We do not come to this conclusion lightly. But it is clear, we believe, that the president has largely lost the consent of the governed. The midterm elections were effectively a referendum on the Obama presidency. And even if it was not an endorsement of a Republican vision for America, the drubbing the Democrats took was certainly a vote of no confidence in Obama and his party.
This is an astonishing thing for two Democratic Party operatives to say - that he has lost the consent of the governed - and it is hard to believe they are trying to help Obama succeed in saying this sort of thing. A good piece by Ryan Witt here skewers the logic of Obama being more effective if he became a lame duck. But this is not really about Obama being more effective; it is about saying out loud in public what many have been saying behind closed doors for some time now, as Joe Scarborough vehemently asserts here about seven, powerful, Democratic senators who have told him privately that Obama doesn't have a clue about what he is doing. Obama is too inexperienced, too out of touch, to egotistical and, most importantly, too ideologically leftist to succeed in leading a center-right country like America.

Obama is under fire from the Left because he has raised utterly unrealistic expectations on the Left for what he can deliver. The Left should remember that the US did not turn into the EU on the day Obama was elected. Maybe the oceans stopped rising and the planet began to heal, but the US electorate did not embrace European style social democracy and Americans did not suddenly reject American exceptionalism. He may now face a primary challenge from the Left, which would be stupid politics because the problem the Left has is not really Obama - it is the American voting public itself. And weakening Obama won't make America more left-wing.

The problem is that Obama acted like he thought America had elected him to implement his leftist agenda when the voters just wanted to feel good about electing a mixed race, centrist who was as different from George Bush as it is possible to be. But that does not mean they wanted failed, stale, Kenyesian ideas lifted out of the 1930s. And it does not mean that they wanted Obama to govern from the left. And it does not mean that they are too thick to understand the wonderfulness of Obama. They understand the dangers of trillion dollar deficits better than he does.

No doubt we will hear Obama say a thousand times in the next two years that the Republicans are frustrating his attempts at "moving the country forward." But in so doing, the Republicans will merely be doing what they were put there to do.

Looking ahead to 2012, it is imperative for the Republican Party to find a candidate who is experienced enough to govern with competence as well as conservative and charismatic enough to get elected. I'd say that with every passing week the number of potential nominees who could beat Obama gets larger, which means that the Republican Party will be able to choose someone who has the experience to govern competently.

This means that Sarah Palin likely will not be the nominee. It also means that younger potential candidates like Christie, Rubio and Jindal won't be the nominee either although any of these four could wind up as the VP nominee. It may be time for a boring manager with a long resume who can just clean up the mess and get the country back on track (Daniels, Romney, Pawlenty?). If the Republicans nominate someone like that and then a Tea Party darling like Rubio is picked as the running mate, it will likely result in a conservative win that could be more far-reaching in its effect than even the Reagan win in 1980.

You can bet that everybody in Washington is now thinking beyond Obama now. He has shot his bolt and from here on in it will just be posturing and pouting until January 2013 when the country heaves a giant sigh of relief and gets ready to deal with the bills.

Friday, November 12, 2010

German Reporter Claims Jesus Taught Violent Jihad in Wilders Interview

In the wake of Angela Merkel's recent comments about the failure of multiculturalism, an actual debate has broken out in Germany about the issue of Islam. So Der Spiegel decided to interview Geert Wilders, who is currently on trial for saying what everyone knows to be true, but is afraid to say out loud, in the Netherlands.

All this is background. What I want to point out is the following passage. Note clearly the reporter's quotation from the Gospel of Luke:

SPIEGEL: You compare the Koran with Hitler's "Mein Kampf." Have you read "Mein Kampf"?

Wilders: Yes, but not in its entirety. The Koran has, in any case, more anti-Jewish passages. In principle, these are concoctions with a totalitarian approach, which allows no room for other opinions. Fascism, communism and Islam adhere to the same principle.

SPIEGEL: Your own principle is apparently this: The more drastic the comparison, the more headlines it generates.

Wilders: I don't need headlines. For me, it's the truth that matters.

SPIEGEL: The truth is that you are dividing Dutch society: Here in The Hague, nearly half of the residents come from immigrant families, and many of them are Muslims. And you are calling for the Koran to be banned?

Wilders: "Mein Kampf" is banned in our country. But the Koran is worse in terms of inciting hatred and violence. If my left-wing friends were consistent, the Koran would have to be banned.

SPIEGEL: Are you familiar with this quote from the Prophet? "But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to be their king, bring them here and slay them before me"?

Wilders: I have read many such passages.

SPIEGEL: The Prophet cited in this case was Jesus, from Luke, Chapter 19, Verse 27. Do you admit that there are also calls for violence in the Bible?

Wilders: There are brutal passages in the Old Testament; the New Testament takes a more moderate approach. But a key difference between Christianity and Islam is that Muslims believe that the Koran contains verbatim the word of God; it is written in the imperative. This precludes a comparison with Christianity.

It is too bad that Wilders was suckered in because of his lack of biblical knowledge. He should have pointed out that this was spoken by a character in a parable told by Jesus, a parable that had a point that entirely unrelated to a call to violent jihad. This was a mangling of Scripture by quoting an isolated statement out of context.

He should have pointed out the dishonesty of the reporter's claim that this was a call to violence by Jesus. Is German higher criticism now presenting Jesus as a ruthless, violent nationalist or something? I thought the German Christian attempt to do this in the 1930s had been declared a failure.

A first year Bible college student who used the NT in the way this supposedly educated reporter did would be in big trouble. But this kind of systematic deception is not something the editors of Der Spiegel are ashamed of, apparently, because they have left this interview up on their website.

The palpable hostility and ritualized contempt dripping from the words of this smug and self-righteous politically correct reporter is unbelievable. He even begrudges Wilders state protection against Islamic assassins thus implying that he would like to see Wilders killed instead of having his free speech protected. What a coward this reporter reveals himself to be. I suppose he hopes to be killed last.

If It Looks Like Fundamentalism to You, It Might Be a Sign You've Drifted a Little

David Fitch has a post entitled "Is the New Calvinism a New Fundamentalism?" in which he defines fundamentalism in a quirky manner.

He offers no doctrinal definition and no historical definition. So it is not a matter of defending the fundamentals of the faith - virgin birth, bodily resurrection etc. - and it is detached from the historical context of the defection of the majority of 19th century North American Protestantism from the orthodox Christian faith and the resistance by conservatives like J. G. Machen or J. I. Packer to this trend. Instead, Fitch offers a completely relativistic definition as follows:

a.) Insularity. There’s a mentality of insiders over against those who don’t believe.

b.)Distrust towards culture as a place where God is at work.

c.) An “us against them” mentality. Because of the previous two characteristics, fundamentalists typically reject open dialogue. Engagement with culture takes the shape of winning arguments and confrontation. As the insularity builds, there is less and less wiggle room to associate with other Christians who disagree. As a result, a certain form of arrogance tends to infect fundamentalism.

These are the marks of classic fundamentalism.
Notice that this definition is worded in such a way that it can mean one thing in 1920, something else in 1950 and something radically different in 2010. It all depends on where the culture is at a given moment. Is it the year 250 AD? Then basically the whole Christian Church is fundamentalist. Is it 313 AD? The number of fundamentalists has shrunk to a few monks in the Egyptian desert. What changed? The culture or the Church?

Fitch then deploys this relativistic definition to complain that the New Calvinism is less accommodated to the culture than is his sort-of-but-not-quite emergent church position. I guess the only response I have to this assertion is to say "So what?" Who defined the center as where David Fitch happens to stand on November 12, 2010? If the New Calvinism is more hostile to contemporary Western culture than the Emergent Church is, who really cares? Of course it is. So is the Pope. What is this but a simple case of solemnly proclaiming oneself to be "more culturally relevant than thou?"

The point of employing such a loaded and pejorative term, (which the New Calvinists would not apply to themselves without qualifications and careful definition) is mainly rhetorical rather than substantive. Whoever has the weakest case theologically and biblically is always tempted to dismiss the opposition with labels and this is a sign of weakness.

Of course, there is a place for labels as a kind of shorthand as long as we know what they signify in a given context and as long as people are willing to define them. But in this case, the definition is so vague and relativistic that it turns the label into a nearly meaningless emoticon. It just means something like "out of step with whatever I think are the centrally important trends of our day."

So what it comes down to is that the New Calvinism does not genuflect before the altar of the "Church of What's Happening Now." Again, I ask, so what?

The New Calvinism and Complementarianism

Dan, over at City of God, asks "Must New Calvinism Be Complementarian?" He writes:
Another thing that was fascinating about that Fitch post that keeps giving us material over here at City of God was the mention again of the complementarian view of gender relations as being integral the New Calvinism. . . . Is there any particular reason why the New Calvinists are so strongly in favour of complementarianism? Is there space to be an egalitarian and still hold to at least some aspects of Calvinist theology?
In answer to the last question, of course there are convinced Calvinists who are also egalitarians. But the other question is more interesting: "Can the "new" Calvinism legitimately be combined with egalitarianism?"

Egalitarianism is the fancy name for the importation of secular feminist ideas into Evangelicalism in order that we Evangelicals might feel less tension between ourselves and the secularized, neopagan culture around us. As the culture drifts further and further away from Christian influence, it becomes increasingly violent, anti-women, anti-children, selfish, hedonistic and individualistic. Second wave feminism, beginning in the 60s with writers like Betty Frieden and Gloria Steinem, is partially responsible for this cultural decline. To try to accommodate to such a trend is suicide, which is one reason why liberal Protestantism is dying. The United Church and Anglican Church are in the process of going out of business slowly. Why Evangelicals would feel impelled to follow their example is baffling.

The sexual revolution, with which second wave feminism is inextricably bound up, is a failed Utopian experiment. Sexually transmitted diseases, broken homes, emotionally neglected children, abortion as birth control, the hook up culture on campus, increased levels of rape, pornography, the normalization of homosexuality - all these serious problems have come out of the naive faith of the 60s that if we just relax all rules and break down inhibitions then we won't be "up tight" and will find "freedom." The traditional family, monogamy and sexual restraint were seen from a Marxist perspective as limitations on the freedom of the individual to realize himself and attain freedom.

Previous struggles for equality of women, which have been undertaken for centuries as Christianity gradually lifted women to the highest status they have attained in any previous culture in history, produced real progress in male-female relations. But all that was attained before feminism took its fatal Marxist turn in the 60's. Since then, the hard-won, Christian-inspired, gains of Western civilization in this area have been swiftly eroded and actual women and children have suffered tremendously because of the breakdown of the family. If present trends continue, that suffering and misery will only worsen. The feminist narrative of horrific oppression up until the sexual revolution and steady emancipation ever since is laughably inaccurate and ideologically driven. Who could possibly be convinced by it on the basis of facts alone? Horrific oppression of women characterizes Iran and Saudi Arabia, not 1950s North America.

The New Calvinism sees no reason to throw out 20 centuries of traditional exegesis regarding the role of women as elders in Church or the role of wives and husbands in marriage. There are certainly better and worse traditions to be sifted through and improvements to be made around the edges. But this traditional exegesis has proven to be compatible with a high view of marriage, a high view of women and a high view of children. The new exegesis in support of the sexual revolution and feminism has not so far proven itself to be able to maintain the progress made by Christians using the old exegesis. So, naturally, the New Calvinism finds it unconvincing so far.

Many of the churches that ordained women in the 70s and 80s are now ordaining practicing homosexuals. The Evangelical churches that followed the trend but twenty years later are now discussing homosexuality in exactly the same way that the liberals were doing 20 years ago. So what assurance do we have that the embrace of feminist ideas can be combined with a rejection of the sexual revolution? Is it really likely that churches will be able to embrace feminist ideas and still maintain a high view of family, marriage, child-rearing and sexual restraint? It does not look like it; the most sensible response is to take a wait and see attitude.

The Roman Catholic Church, at least in its hierarchy, has stood fast against second wave feminism and the sexual revolution. This has allowed Catholic scholars the time and space in which to construct a new, biblical feminism (if that word can be redeemed from its negative connotations, which I personally doubt). This new, post-sexual revolution feminism is rooted in traditional theological anthropology and exegesis and it rejects the individualism, the body-soul dualism and the lack of self-control that characterizes the sexual revolution of the second half of the 20th century.

As a Reformed thinker, I find Catholic moral theologians in general, and John Paul II and his theology of the body in particular, to be the most interesting conversation partners in discussing the way forward in matters of sexual morality, the family and marriage. I can't muster any enthusiasm for the old, stale, Marxist, philosophically modernist thought of liberal Protestantism and their Evangelical imitators. It all seems less than serious to me compared to the depth, beauty, profundity, and fruitfulness of the theology of the body.

So what incentive is there to abandon complementarianism and embrace egalitarianism in the present context? The future of Christian theological reflection on male-female relations clearly lies with some sort of complementarian approach, perhaps not exactly what we have now but nevertheless building on the past and not rejecting the tradition in a wholesale way as modern feminism does. From my perspective, the real question is not "Can the "new" Calvinism be combined with egalitarianism?" but "Why on earth would anyone want to try?"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Margaret Thatcher on the "Gap"

It has been a busy week. Hopefully, I will be able to get back to the capitalism debate tomorrow. In the meantime, here is a clip from Margaret Thatcher's last speech in the House of Commons in which she skewers the socialists with logic and humor.

Poor old broken Britain could sure use her back in the leadership again! Instead they have socialism lite in the form of the faux conservative David Cameron, whose greatest ambition appears to manage decline efficiently. True, he is cutting the obscene levels of spending, but it is arguable that even a new socialist government would need to do that. On schools policies, we shall see. But on Europe, social issues and many other questions, David Cameron is the type of conservative who gives the Conservative Party a bad name.

What I liked about Thatcher was her willingness and ability to make the moral argument for free enterprise. Conservatives need either to learn how to make that argument or else give up and become socialists. I think I'm preaching to myself at this point.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Progressivist Statism versus Belief in the True and Living God

I believe it was G. K. Chesterton who said that when people stop believing in God they do not believe in nothing; rather, they will believe in anything.

Ed West in his Daily Telegraph blog post entitled "When People Stop Believing in God they Start Believing in Big Government and Obamaism" comments on some recent studies that confirm what astute observers of modernity have been saying for a long time. He writes:
A new study has found that belief in a God may be inversely correlated to belief in Government.

A sense of political stability provides comforting reassurance that our world is orderly and controlled. So does belief in an all-powerful deity. This puts the two in a seesaw relationship: When one goes up, the other goes down.

Obviously people who live in chaotic and anarchic parts of the world and who subsequently live in squalor are more likely to be religious. And until a society reaches high levels of education and wealth religion is unlikely to lose its grip. However there is more to it than that . . .

He then describes the study, which you can read about by clicking here. He concludes by writing as follows:

In other words, people who do not believe in an all-powerful creator are more likely to believe that the state can move mountains.

There is an understandable tendency among atheists and agnostics to laugh at the beliefs of religious cultures, and this forms a large part of modern British snobbery towards the United States. But should they really be so smug? The Virgin Birth, the Resurrection and life after death cannot be proved nor disproved, but some of the commonly-held beliefs that flourish in England are demonstrably false. Take, for example, Gordon Brown’s pledge to “end child poverty by 2020”, which is a big topic at the moment with the current cuts; even if we were to use the traditional measurement of poverty, rather than the Labourite relative poverty, the state simply cannot end child poverty, because the primary cause of child poverty in rich countries is bad parenting, which the state cannot eliminate without truly totalitarian measures. Which is inevitably where all these unachievable goals lead them.

From Robespierre onwards people have believed that the state can perform any God-like function, something Jonah Goldberg, author of Liberal Fascism, calls statolatry – worship of the state.

Perhaps a belief in a supernatural deity acts as some form of vaccine for this destructive belief, which has caused untold misery from the Vendée to the Killing Fields. Roger Scruton speculated that people who believed in paradise in the next world were perhaps less likely to go along with schemes to create it here, and maybe there’s some truth in it.

The Guardian and the BBC have been keen to point to the religious beliefs of Tea Party activists. That is hardly surprising, considering the US is a religious country, and it does not change the secular nature of the movement; what is true is that Obamaism, the deification of the 2008 Democratic candidate by the European and American media, who they believed would heal the planet and end racial division, was a form of statolatry. And there’s no doubt which side of that debate was filled with sceptical rationalists and which one with credulous fools.

True religion is protection against fanaticism, irrationality and idolatrous cults which create chaos, bloodshed and tyranny. One cannot worship both God and Caesar.

Evangelicals and the Republican Party: Finally Some Light and Not Just Heat

I am grateful to Andrew Walker at Mere Orthodoxy for pointing out this fine article by John Mark Reynolds of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. I appreciate his refreshing candor and straight-forward recognition of the imperfections and shortcomings of his party coupled with his firm and reasonable contention that it is the least bad option.

Here is a snippet in which he argues that the GOP is the natural home of Evangelicals:

Nobody needs feel shame to be a Republican, because when it came time to confront the original sin of the nation—slavery—the Republican Party was on the Lord's side. In the great battle of my time, the war against communist tyranny, the Republican Party led in the defense of free markets and freedom of thought.

The Republican Party has always been the party of Evangelicals. Lincoln was elected by appealing to our beliefs and this has not changed in one hundred and fifty years. The party base of Northern Evangelicals abides in states like Iowa and Ohio, though it has faded in secularized New England. When many Southern Evangelicals saw the light in the late twentieth-century, they were coming to their natural home.

And here is one in which he states his priorities clearly:

No Christian puts his trust in princes. We remember that no earthly party is God's party, because He is never a Republican or Democrat, being a committed monarchist. No Christian votes simply for party, but is open to good men and women where ever they may be found. We are, at all times, first subjects of Christendom and only secondarily citizens of this Republic.
On poverty, he offers this bit of wisdom:
We would give all our money in taxes if we thought it would end poverty, but have seen that it only enriches the state at the cost of liberty. We create statist masters and the poor are with us always.
On liberty, he writes:
Politics before the coming of Jesus is a balance between law and liberty. Christians utterly reject the idea that the measure of man is his ability to contribute to the economy. We believe every human, whatever their condition, has a right to life, liberty, and a rich human life. We know that if a person cannot benefit from labor, that such a person is not free.

Children must be cared for, but Christians refuse to make infants of any adult. God Himself gave mankind the ability to defy Him in the garden, so we are hesitant to make any person do good by the force of law.

There is a lot of wisdom in this brief article. Read it all here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Evangelical Left Seems a Little Grumpy These Days

If this article in Christian Week is an accurate reflection of Rene Padilla's views, then he appears to be confused and angry.

He criticizes presentations at the recent Lausanne Congress in Capetown which emphasize evangelism and tries to re-define evangelism as discipleship. He is quoted as saying:
"Superficial evangelism is not going to get the job done," says René Padilla, a renowned evangelical scholar from Latin America, currently living in Argentina. "Jesus talked about making disciples who learned to obey everything he has taught."
OK, if this was all he said it would not necessarily be a problem. Jesus, in the Great Commission, commanded his followers to preach and baptize (evangelism) and to then teach these new believers to "obey all things I have commanded you" (discipleship). One cannot be a disciple without being converted and to convert people and then leave them in a state of only superficially understanding the faith is to fail in the mission. Both are necessary; to play them off against each other or debate which is more important is a non-starter. You can't disciple a person who has not responded to the preaching of the Gospel and you can't say that conversion/baptism is all that is needed.

But Padilla doesn't seem to see it that way. He called one presentation by a speaker from Campus Crusade for Christ a "waste of time" that demonstrated "the syncretism of American evangelicalism," which he characterized as "the market mentality and the obsession with numbers and calculation." In this one statement he manages to combine anti-capitalism, anti-Americanism and anti-evangelism prejudices!

The article also describes him as being critical of John Piper for preaching that we as Evangelicals ought to be concerned about the eternal salvation of people as well as their material lot in this life.

Padilla was also unhappy with John Piper's strongly stated desire for the global church represented by the Lausanne movement to agree, "for Christ's sake, we Christians care about all suffering—especially eternal suffering."

"Why especially?" asks Padilla. Why are the needs of people after they die a higher priority than their needs now? "This doesn't mean we don't proclaim. But proclamation is not the first thing." He points to Ephesians 2:14-18: "Jesus is our peace, does our peace and proclaims our peace. To be; to do; to say. Why say that the most important thing is to say? To be; to do; to say. Put them in that order. Christ is our peace."

I don't understand Padilla's objection here. All Evangelicals believe that lost people need Christ and that those who die outside of Christ are lost eternally. This is a matter of eternal life and eternal death. If Padilla does not believe that, he is free to believe whatever he likes but Evangelicals have always believed it and always will.

Why would he want to single out Piper for criticism? Is it because Piper is challenging the left-wing emphasis on "social justice" or "the social gospel" and calling people back to biblical basics? I don't know but Padilla certainly seems angry about something. He is quoted as saying:

Padilla is encouraged that "a lot of third world people at the congress are critical of the strategy for the evangelization of the whole world." The three key global issues, he contends, are discipleship, globalization (poverty) and stewardship of creation. "In a congress like this, these are the key issues we should be exploring to see what we can do about it.

"But here we are again with the obsession for numbers—how to make more converts; how to build megachurches. I wonder when U.S. people are going to learn to listen to what others are saying, all over the world," says Padilla.
Padialla may be encouraged that a lot of Third World people are critical of the strategy for world evangelization, but I am not. His priorities of "discipleship, globalization (poverty) and stewardship of creation" sound just like the liberal priorities of the World Council of Churches. An emphasis on evangelism is not somehow uniquely "American" and most third world Evangelicals would be surprised to hear that Padilla thinks it is because for them it is simply biblical.

If Padilla wants to promote the liberal agenda and denounce the priority of evangelization, he is free to do so. But he should not expect much of a hearing from Evangelicals. Maybe that is what makes him so cranky.