Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Palestinian UN Gambit is Illegal

The following letter signed by dozens of experts in international law and lawyers from both North America and Europe has been sent to Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. (HT Melanie Phillips)

It outlines the main legal and historical reasons for why a recognition of a Palestinian State based on the 1967 "borders" would be illegal and without force.

It is of great educational value to those who do not know the background of the conflict.
His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon,
Secretary-General of the United Nations,

1st Avenue & 44th St., New York, NY 10017

May 25, 2011


Re: The proposed General Assembly resolution to recognize a Palestinian
State "within 1967 borders"- an illegal action

We, the undersigned, attorneys from across the world who are involved in
general matters of international law, as well as being closely concerned
with the Israeli- Palestinian dispute, appeal to you to use your influence
and authority among the member states of the UN, with a view to preventing
the adoption of the resolution that the Palestinian delegation intends to
table at the forthcoming session of the General Assembly, to recognize a
Palestinian state "within the 1967 borders".

By all standards and criteria, such a resolution, if adopted, would be in
stark violation of all the agreements between Israel and the Palestinians,
as well as contravening UN Security Council resolutions 242(1967) and
338(1973) and those other resolutions based thereon. Our reasoning is as

1. The legal basis for the establishment of the State of Israel was the
resolution unanimously adopted by the League of Nations in 1922, affirming
the establishment of a national home for the Jewish People in the historical
area of the Land of Israel. This included the areas of Judea and Samaria and
Jerusalem, and close Jewish settlement throughout. This was subsequently
affirmed by both houses of the US Congress.

2. Article 80 of the UN Charter determines the continued validity of the
rights granted to all states or peoples, or already existing international
instruments (including those adopted by the League of Nations). Accordingly
the above-noted League resolution remains valid, and the 650,000 Jews
presently resident in the areas of Judea, Samaria and eastern
Jerusalem, reside there legitimately.

3. "The 1967 borders" do not exist, and have never existed. The
1949 Armistice Agreements entered into by Israel and its Arab
neighbors, establishing the Armistice Demarcation Lines, clearly stated that
lines "are without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary
lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto". Accordingly
they cannot be accepted or declared to be the international boundaries of a
Palestinian state.

4. UN Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973)called upon
the parties to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and
specifically stressed the need to negotiate in order to achieve "secure and
recognized boundaries".

5. The Palestinian proposal, in attempting to unilaterally change the
status of the territory and determine the "1967 borders" as its recognized
borders, in addition to running squarely against resolutions 242 and 338,
would be a fundamental breach of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian agreement on
the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in which the parties undertook to
negotiate the issue of borders and not act to change the status of the
territories pending outcome of the permanent status negotiations.

6. The Palestinians entered into the various agreements constituting what
is known as the "Oslo Accords" in the full knowledge that
Israel's settlements existed in the areas, and that settlements would be one
of the issues to be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations.
Furthermore, the Oslo Accords impose no limitation on
Israel's settlement activity in those areas that the Palestinians agreed
would continue to be under Israel's jurisdiction and control pending
the outcome of the Permanent Status negotiations.

7. While the Interim Agreement was signed by Israel and the PLO, it was
witnessed by the UN together with the EU, the Russian Federation , the US,
Egypt and Norway. It is thus inconceivable that such witnesses, including
first and foremost the UN, would now give license to a measure in the UN
aimed at violating this agreement and undermining major resolutions of the
Security Council.

8. While the UN has maintained a persistent policy of non-recognition of
Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem pending a negotiated solution, despite
Israel's historic rights to the city, it is inconceivable that the UN would
now recognize a unilaterally declared Palestinian state, the borders of
which would include eastern Jerusalem. This would represent the
ultimate in hypocrisy, double standards and discrimination, as well as an
utter disregard of the rights of Israel and the Jewish People.

9. Such unilateral action by the Palestinians could give rise to
reciprocal initiatives in the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) which
could include proposed legislation to declare Israel's sovereignty over
extensive parts of Judea and Samaria, if and when the Palestinians carry out
their unilateral action.


It appears to be patently clear to all that the Palestinian exercise, aimed
at advancing their political claims, represents a cynical abuse of the UN
Organization and of the members of the General Assembly. Its aim is to by-
pass the negotiation process called-for by the Security Council.

Regrettably this abuse of the UN and its integrity, in addition to
undermining international law, has the potential to derail the Middle-East
peace process.

We trust that you will use your authority to protect the UN and its
integrity from this abuse, and act to prevent any affirmation or recognition
of this dangerous Palestinian initiative.


Ambassador (Ret) Attorney Baker Alan, Ambassador (Ret) Dr. Rosenne Meir, Dr.
Arnon Harel. Adv.
Prof. Einhorn Talia, Prof. Shochetman Eliav, Abu Lior, Adv., Asraf Shlomo,
Adv. (LL.B, LL.M)
Baba-Nahary Merav, Adv., Benjamin Aryeh N., Adv. LL.M Ben-Shahar Meir, Adv.
Bulshtein Ariel, Adv., Burstyn Yitzhak .adv LL.M, Carmi Anat, Adv.
Cohen Hila, Adv. Daniely Mirit, Adv., David Liat, Adv. (LL.B, LL.M)
Dermer Yossi, Adv., Eagle Shira, Adv. Eisenberg M., Adv Elad Cohen, Adv.
Elkalay Shimrit, Adv., Friedman Shlomo, Adv., Fuchs Yossi ,Adv.
Ganan Yuval. Adv. Goelman Avinoam, Adv. Goldman Ezra Adv.,
Guggenheim Chanania U., Adv Hacohen Itay, Adv. Harshoshanim Ariel, Adv.
Hershkovitz David, Adv. LL.M Jarden Elon ,Adv., Kavatz Gad, Adv.
Koslowe Avital Adv. (LL.B, LL.M) Lapidot Harel, Adv.
Lapidot Ohad Ziv, Adv., Levy Yechezkel, Adv. LL.M. Magen Alon, Adv. LL.B
Meiri Eddy, Esq. Morginstin Philip B.,Adv Nadel Gill, Adv.
Naor Avi, Adv., Nimni Eliyahu, Adv. Nir-Tzvi Doron, Adv. Orbach Nir, Adv.
Peretz Yitzhak, (LLB, Hons.) Adv. Rotenberg Zvi E. ,Adv., Shaya Dotan, Adv.
Shimon Yehuda Arye, Adv. Shmuelyan Eli, Adv., Tamari Amir, Adv.
Tamari Ilana, Adv., Teplow Michael I., J.D adv. Vaknin Emanuel, Adv.
Weistuch Elad, Adv. Wiseman Gabriel, Adv. Yamin Uri, Adv.
Zell Mark, Adv.
Melanie Phillips discusses this letter and the hypocritical and despicable recent actions of David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the UK in a recent post.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A True Liberal Rejects Romantic Utopianism

Here is one more final quote from Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here. After the fascist revolution in which Buzz Windrip comes to absolute power, the hero Doremus Jessup is engaging some introspective musing about revolution.
"In this acid mood Doremus doubted the efficacy of all revolutions; dared even a little to doubt our two American revolutions - against England in 1776, and the Civil War.

For a New England editor to contemplate even the smallest criticism of these wars was what it would have been for a Southern Baptist fundamentalist preacher to question Immortality, the Inspiration of the Bible, and the ethical value of shouting Halelujah. Yet had it, Doremus queried nervously, been necessary to have four years of inconceivably murderous Civil War, followed by twenty years of commercial oppression of the South, in order to preserve the Union, free the slaves, and establish the equality of Industry with Agriculture? Had it been just to the Negroes themselves to throw them so suddenly, with so little preparation, into full citizenship, that the Southern states, in what they considered self-defense, disqualified them at the polls and lynched them and lashed them? Could they not, as Lincoln at first desired and planned, have been freed without the vote, then gradually and competently educated, under federal guardianship, so that by 1890 they might, without too much enmity, have been able to enter fully into all the activities of the land? . . .

No questioning of the eventual wisdom of the 'radicals' who had first advocated these American revolutions, Doremus warned himself, should be allowed to give any comfort to that eternal enemy: the conservative manipulators of privilege who damn as 'dangerous agitators' any man who menaces their fortunes; who jump in their chairs at the sting of a gnat like Debs, and blandly swallow a camel like Windrip.

Between the rabble rousers - chiefly to be detected by desire for their own personal power and noteriety - and the un-self-seeking fighters against tyranny, between William Walker or Danton, and John Howard or William Lloyd Garrison, Doremus saw, there was the difference between a noisy gang of thieves and an honest man noisily defending himself against thieves. He had been brought up to revere the Abolitionists: Lovejoy, Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Harriet Beecher Stowe - although his father had considered John Brown insane and a menace, and had thrown sly mud at the marble statues of Henry Ward Beecher, the apostle in the fancy vest. And Doremus could not do otherwise than revere the Abolitionists now, though he wondered a little if Stephen Douglas and Thaddeus Stephens and Lincoln, more cautious and less romantic men, might not have done the job better.

Is it just possible, he sighed, that the most vigorous and boldest idealists have been the worst enemies of human progress instead of its greatest creators? Possible that plain men with the humble trait of minding their own business will rank higher in the heavenly hierarchy than all the plumed souls have shoved their way in among the masses and insisted on starving them?" (pp. 113-118, bolding is mine)
Lewis understood that there is nothing that stands so staunchly in the way of progress as "Progressivism." A true liberal is one who rejects romantic Utopianism. Who could doubt that he was a true liberal and not a leftist disguised as a liberal? Would he even be able to find a home in today's Democratic Party? And who could doubt that in a choice between Barack Obama and Paul Ryan, he would vote Ryan?

Alas, they don't make liberals like that anymore. Nowadays they are labelled "neocons."

Obama, Israel and America

I know I've been blogging an awful lot about Israel lately, but it has been in the news and I have been meaning to comment on the events of last week in Washington and have just not had time yet. I've been reading a lot of commentary on Obama's speech, the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama, both of their speeches to AIEPAC and then Netanyahu's speech to the joint session of Congress. I've read the speeches and a lot of analysis (who could have time to read it all!) and I'd like to make two observations.

1. Barack Obama is clearly biased against Israel and in favor of the Palestinians, even though political realities force him to pretend to be Israel's friend. He cannot shift American foreign policy unilaterally and dramatically, but he can work incrementally to move it left-ward in little ways and this is what he is doing.

2. Many seasoned observers of American foreign policy regard him as a naive, incompetent, ill-informed amateur when it comes to foreign policy and this is undoubtedly true. He alienates allies and defers to enemies in such a way as to discourage those who should be standing with America and encouraging those whose fundamental interests are at odds with those of America. However, to say this is not in any way to negate point #1 above. He may well be both incompetent and biased.

The best summary of the week I've seen is from Charles Krauthammer, who writes in a NRO blog post entitled "What Obama Did to Israel":
"Every Arab-Israeli negotiation contains a fundamental asymmetry: Israel gives up land, which is tangible; the Arabs make promises, which are ephemeral. The longstanding American solution has been to nonetheless urge Israel to take risks for peace while America balances things by giving assurances of U.S. support for Israel’s security and diplomatic needs.

It’s on the basis of such solemn assurances that Israel undertook, for example, the Gaza withdrawal. In order to mitigate this risk, Pres. George W. Bush gave a written commitment that America supported Israel’s absorption of major settlement blocs in any peace agreement, opposed any return to the 1967 lines, and stood firm against the so-called Palestinian right of return to Israel.

For two and a half years, the Obama administration has refused to recognize and reaffirm these assurances. Then last week in his State Department speech, President Obama definitively trashed them. He declared that the Arab-Israeli conflict should indeed be resolved along “the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”

Nothing new here, said Obama three days later. “By definition, it means that the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate a border that is different” from 1967.

It means nothing of the sort. “Mutually” means both parties have to agree. And if one side doesn’t? Then, by definition, you’re back to the 1967 lines.

Nor is this merely a theoretical proposition. Three times the Palestinians have been offered exactly that formula, 1967 plus swaps — at Camp David 2000, Taba 2001, and the 2008 Olmert-Abbas negotiations. Every time, the Palestinians said no and walked away.

And that remains their position today: The 1967 lines. Period. Indeed, in September the Palestinians are going to the U.N. to get the world to ratify precisely that: a Palestinian state on the ’67 lines. No swaps.

Note how Obama has undermined Israel’s negotiating position. He is demanding that Israel go into peace talks having already forfeited its claim to the territory won in the ’67 war — its only bargaining chip. Remember: That ’67 line runs right through Jerusalem. Thus the starting point of negotiations would be that the Western Wall and even Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter are Palestinian — alien territory for which Israel must now bargain . . .

Obama also moved the goal posts on the so-called right of return. Flooding Israel with millions of Arabs would destroy the world’s only Jewish state while creating a 23rd Arab state and a second Palestinian state — not exactly what we mean when we speak of a “two-state solution.” That’s why it has been the policy of the U.S. to adamantly oppose this “right.”

Yet in his State Department speech, Obama refused to simply restate this position — and refused again in a supposedly corrective speech three days later. Instead, he told Israel it must negotiate the right of return with the Palestinians after having given every inch of territory. Bargaining with what, pray tell?

No matter. “The status quo is unsustainable,” declared Obama, “and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.”

Israel too? Exactly what bold steps for peace have the Palestinians taken? Israel made three radically conciliatory offers to establish a Palestinian state, withdrew from Gaza, and has been trying to renew negotiations for more than two years. Meanwhile, the Gaza Palestinians have been firing rockets at Israeli towns and villages. And on the West Bank, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas turned down the Olmert offer, walked out of negotiations with Binyamin Netanyahu, and now defies the United States by seeking not peace talks but instant statehood — without peace, without recognizing Israel — at the U.N. And to make unmistakable this spurning of any peace process, Abbas agrees to join the openly genocidal Hamas in a unity government, which even Obama acknowledges makes negotiations impossible."

The key point is that Obama is putting pressure on Israel to make concessions now - in advance of any peace talks - without getting anything in return. Why, if he is not simply biased against Israel?

Alas, the mask has slipped. The reaction to Obama's biased speech has been fascinating. While left-wing media types profess to buy Obama's position that "nothing has changed," Jewish donors to the Democratic Party, the Canadian government, PM Netanyahu, Congress and even major players in the Democratic Party such as Harry Reid beg to differ. When the president is out to the left of Harry Reid, it is time to stop nonsensically referring to him as a "centrist." (And when the US president stands to the left of Canada on an issue, it really must be extraordinary times!)

PM Netanyahu's speech to Congress was interrupted 56 times for applause including 29 standing ovations. He was witty, relaxed and positive. Many Americans wish they had a president who could analyze the geo-political situation with his combination of moral clarity and logical thinking. It is safe to say that Obama does not speak for Congress, which is much closer to the American people, on this issue.

In the comments sections of various newspaper columns and blog posts, you often see people lamenting how "the Jews" control the US government and the media and everything else. Reading them is surreal; it is like going back into a time machine into the 1930s.

People on the left, who have thrown in their lot with Islamofascism, need to understand one thing: it is not just the Jews in the US who stand with Israel. And it is not just the fundamentalist, dispensationalist strain of American Evangelicalism. It is the majority of the American people who recognize in Israel a nation with a common heritage, a liberal democratic politics and a need for support in a hostile environment. They realize that once the Islamofascists succeed in destroying Israel ("the Little Satan"), America ("the Great Satan") is next on the menu. They understand that Israel and other Western countries have a common heritage, common tradition and common enemies.

The Left needs to understand that just as America rejected Stalin's Russia (which the Left held up as the Utopian future) and just as America rejected Hitler's Third Reich (with its attack on God and God's people), America will reject Islam and its attempt to destroy the West. When Israel is attacked, the West is attacked.

The Left has always been a Fifth Column within our culture - disloyal and dangerous. But it cannot win as long as the majority of the people reject it and its totalitarian friends. Obama is finding that out the hard way, and in November 2012, this lesson will be clear in a way that is indisputable. For as someone said: "Elections have consequences."

Michael Horton on Israel

A reader of a previous post on Israel "Hatred of the Chosen People is Rooted in Hatred of God" asks me what my take is on this post by Michael Horton "Biblical Foreign Policy?" in which Horton criticizes Jack Hayford's recent call for Christians to stand with Israel as a "holy nation."

Horton argues that this is not a biblical position. Why not? He points to Hayford's dispensational theology as the basis for Hayford's argument that Israel is a holy nation and claims that if one does not accept dispensationalism, one has no basis to think of Israel as anything but a secular nation. As such, it has no claim on Christian support any more than any other nation.

Horton says that Hayford roots his argument in the Abrahamic Covenant, but the Abrahamic promises were conditional. The land was part of the blessing but Israel's disobedience led to the forfeiting of the land and the promises are all fulfilled in Christ. He writes:

I can agree with the point that “This relates not only to a people (the Jews), but it also relates to a land (Israel),” and that God did in fact judge Israel’s enemies. Nevertheless, God’s covenant with Israel was itself conditional. It is not Israel’s land, but God’s, and if Israel breaks the covenant, then the land will “vomit out” Israel as well (Lev 20:22). God himself will lay the nation waste through other nations and send his people into exile “east of Eden.” The land will no longer be holy, but common, even though God continues to work through the holy line—the “stump of Jesse,” from whom David and eventually the greater David (the Messiah) would come. Throughout the law (especially in Deuteronomy), the temporal promise of “long life in the land” is conditioned on Israel’s faithfulness to the covenant it swore at Mount Sinai. It is distinct from the unconditional promise of everlasting life and peace through Abraham’s Seed, through whom all families of the earth will be blessed.

The way the Gospels, but especially Hebrews and Galatians, interpret these passages is to recognize that the Sinai covenant was temporary, conditional, and typological. It was a shadow of the things to come—namely, Christ and his kingdom. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus announces a “regime change” from the civil laws of the theocracy. Instead of driving out the enemies of God, the True Israel—those united to Christ—are to endure suffering for the gospel and to pray for their persecutors. God’s common grace is shed on the just and the unjust alike in this age. Having fulfilled its job, like a trailer for a movie, the old covenant is now “obsolete” (Heb 8:13). Christ’s ministry, far greater than that of Moses, fulfills the everlasting promise that God made to Abraham. Now, blessing has come from the Jews to the ends of the earth in Jesus Christ, the true Israel, the true and faithful Son of David, the true Temple.

Now I myself am an amillennialist and there is much in this interpretive approach that I can agree with. The Reformed approach needs to be wary of veering too close to a hard line dispensationalist approach, on the one hand, and also be careful not to give aid and comfort to Marcionism, on the other. I have two problems with Horton's post: one theological and one political and they are closely connected.

The first problem I have with his post is that he comes close to supersessionism in saying that all the promises made to Israel are fulfilled in Christ. (This is not outright Marcionism, but there is definitely a bad odor of Marcionism in the air.) He does explicitly say that he believes that the Church has not replaced Israel and that in the last days there will be a great outpouring of God's Spirit on Israel and both of those statements are true and I am grateful that he makes them. The problem comes when he says that God's future plan for blessing Israel has nothing to do with the State of Israel. Nothing? Isn't that going a bit far? Isn't "not replaced" a rather weak way to describe God's on-going concern for Israel? In fact, if God is not protecting Israel now (and all through the centuries between the first and second comings of Christ) then how could Israel even endure all this time, longer than any other recognizable people? He has to preserve them if He is going to be able to bless them in the last days.

We can agree that the modern State of Israel is not a fulfillment of biblical prophecy in the sense of being the literal fulfillment of OT promises about returning to the land without going so far as to say that the (modern, secular) State of Israel has nothing to do with God's continuing concern for Israel.

When Horton says that there will be an outpouring of God's Spirit on Israel in the last days, he is referring to Rom. 11:26 "All Israel will be saved," which Paul refers to as a mystery. (25) That honors one important Pauline emphasis. But Paul also expresses concern for Israel in the period of "hardening" while the Gentiles are coming in (i.e. now). He warns the Gentiles not to get too proud and urges them to remember that they are being incorporated into Israel, not the other way round.
"But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you." (Rom. 11:17-18 ESV)
It is this consciousness of the Church being dependent upon the root (Israel) and God's on-going concern for Israel now that I find missing in Horton's post. And it leads to an indifference to Israel as a state. If the State of Israel is part of God's providential provision for Israel's continued existence throughout history as we move toward the last days when "all Israel will be saved" then I think Christians have a theological reason to be concerned for Israel.

The second issue is a political one and it follows directly on the theological context just sketched. There is no doubt that Israel is a secular, nation state. But to think that God cannot and does not work through kings, empires, nation-states etc. in working out His Providence would be an unbiblical notion. Scripture explicitly teaches in both Testaments that God raises up kings and states and casts them down according to His mysterious purposes. He brings judgment on oppressors and He causes a witness to His glory to be made possible.

In this context, we need to see the State of Israel as God's gracious provision for the protection of His people. It may well be that the worldwide anti-Semitism of the mid-Twentieth century was just a warm-up for the coming hatred of the Jews to be displayed through the UN and most nations of the world. We don't know, but it is hardly far-fetched to suggest that God's plan for preventing the extermination of the Jews might include a nuclear-armed Israel upon which God's temporal blessing is even now being poured out.

None of us know the future; all we can go on is observations made in the present. Maybe the State of Israel will not endure until the Second Coming, which may be a long way off. Unlike my Dispensational friends, I am agnostic on those points. All I am insisting is that God is using the secular nation-state of Israel to perform a task right now and that that task is the protection of the Jews. I have no problem believing that God can and does accomplish His purposes in history through secular politics. (Ironically, the Orthodox Jews who do not believe in the State of Israel may end up being saved because of it. Such ironies abound in history.)

Politically, Israel is an outpost of civilization in a sea of tyranny and barbarism. Israel is a liberal, democratic, state which honors the rule of law and has a limited government. The only Arabs in the world who enjoy full human rights and the blessings of parliamentary democracy live in Israel. The IDF is the most moral and conscientious army in the world. Israel is a highly educated
country full of people who just want to live in peace. Despite all this, Israel has been attacked repeatedly by Islamofascists whose ideology owes much to Hitlerism and who openly brag about wanting to finish what Hitler started by driving the Jews into the sea.

Under these circumstances, I don't see it as an option, or even as debatable, for Christians to do anything but stand with Israel. Indifference is a moral outrage, just as it was in the 1930s. The only defensible political position I can see is to be pro-Jew and pro-Israel. Anti-Zionism and anti-Israel politics seem to me to be inextricably bound up with a just-below-the-surface anti-Jew attitude. Of course, not all Western anti-Israel activists are anti-Jew, but the number who are is extremely disturbing.

The final sentence of Horton's post is the really problematic one for me:
Yet, by acknowledging that God’s promise of a temporal, geo-political theocracy and land were conditional and that this covenant now lies in the past, we are free to support our friends in Israel and Palestine in their pursuit of a stable peace that will doubtless require trust and negotiation on both sides.
How many problems are packed into that one sentence!

First, he seems to say, contra Paul in Rom. 9-11, that God's covenant with Israel lies in the past. Maybe he does not mean that, but it sure sounds suspicious. Horton seems out of sync with the authoritative Word of God at this point. Paul asks: "Has God rejected his people?" and replies: "By no means!" (Rom. 11:1) He also says: "As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." (Rom. 11:28-30) For Paul, the covenant with Israel does not lie only in the past; it is a present reality.

Second, he implies that we Western Christians have friends equally in Israel and Palestine, which implies a moral equivalence between the two sides which simply does not exist. (see above)

Third, he says that both sides are required to trust, but who is Michael Horton to demand that Israel trust people who teach anti-Semitism in their schools, name town squares after suicide bombers and claim that a Jewish Temple never stood in Jerusalem? And that is just Fatah; Hamas is far worse!

Western leftists in the media and in liberal Protestantism continually hammer away at the theme that both sides are equally to blame for the conflict. Informed students of the conflict know that is not true. You can't negotiate with people who want to kill you; you can only allow them to do so bit by bit or else resist.

I would argue that there is a compelling set of theological and political reasons for Reformed Christians to stand in support of Israel alongside our Dispensational friends, secular Jews, political liberals and others. In our haste to differentiate ourselves from Dispensationalism let us not run straight into the arms of the Marcionism that has dogged modern, liberal Protestantism since Harnack.

It is ironic that as conservative a theologian as Michael Horton would come to a conclusion on this issue that is such a neat fit with the views of the most liberal of contemporary liberal Protestants. My argument is that avoiding Dispensationalism need not take us so far in that direction.

Israel Belongs to Israel

Israel has been the homeland of the Jews for 4000 years. True, at times they have been invaded, conquered and kicked out (eg. 596 BC, 72 AD). But they have always come back. Now they are back again in the land of Joshua, David, Isaiah and Jesus. But they are accused of being an occupying force and Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria are called the "occupied territories." Why?

Here is what I do not understand. The rationale for why much of biblical Israel is supposed to belong to the Muslim Palestinians is what? That they conquered it and it therefore belongs to them by right of conquest. They were not there 4000 years ago. And the Arabs belong in Arabia, not Israel, come to that. Muslims claim the Holy Land because their armies invaded it and conquered it.

Now comes the inconsistency. Israel conquered Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (as well as Gaza, the Sinai, the Golan Heights) in a defensive war in 1967. So they have as much right to it as the Palestinians if ownership derives from the right of conquest. In fact they have more right because they are currently in control and they got control not by invading, but by simply defending themselves from a genocidal attack by hostile nations.

Almost all modern nations control the territory they control because of wars in the past. If Israel has to give back the "occupied territories" then, in the name of fairness and consistency, the US should give back most of North America to Mexico and the native Americans. (Mexico will then have to give back most of Mexico to the native people too, for that matter.) When it comes to the Muslim, Arab nations, they have a lot of giving back to do. Muslims has no right to conquer Asia Minor and North Africa in the 7-9th centuries. And they should not be in Europe (eg. the Balkans). And they never owned the Holy Land. So the Dome of the Rock will have to go.

Now some would say all this is nonsense. When a war is over and the dust settles, borders are fixed and you can't go re-writing history. And that is true. But what's good for the goose is good for the gander. When Obama gives Texas, Southern California and New Mexico back to Mexico, he can then tell the Israelis to give back the land of David and Solomon.

Or is there one rule for the Jews and a different rule for everyone else?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Left Cries Wolf Again

You may have heard of the story of the little boy who cried "Wolf"? Well, the moral of that story is that irresponsible shouting about a non-existent danger is not only annoying, but harmful to the community. When a real wolf actually did appear, no one came to help.

The leftists in the Democratic Party are harming the body politic by irresponsibly playing the race card every time they turn around. Here is Jim Clyburn, a particularly egregious offender in this regard, as quoted in a recent article in McClatchy Newspapers:
House Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, on Wednesday blamed most of President Barack Obama's political problems on racism.

Clyburn, who's from South Carolina and is a close ally of the president, offered his views in response to a question about Obama's re-election prospects next year.

What he is basically saying is that no one is allowed to criticize the most powerful man in the world just because of the color of his skin. Barack Obama is not a poor, black student in an overwhelmingly white university and he is not even an ordinary black citizen in a mainly white country. He is at the very pinnacle of political success. Yet, no one is allowed to criticize him or his policies because to do so is racism.

Well, the truth is that to refrain from criticizing the president of the United States just because he is black is a betrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream. His "I Have a Dream" speech, you will surely recall looked forward to a day when a man would be judged by the quality of his character rather than by the color of his skin. That day is today. Barack Obama is President of the United States, which was something almost unimaginable during Martin Luther King's lifetime.

Yet, Clyburn wants to use the color of Obama's skin as a political talisman warding off all normal criticism and attacks. He can't forget what color Obama's skin is because he is a race hustler who has built a career on guilt and political correctness and if King's dream were to be realized, then Clyburn's one-trick-pony career would be over. Clyburn is thus invested in keeping racism alive.

You can be absolutely sure that if Allen West or Herman Cain were president, Clyburn would blame absolutely none of their political problems on the color of their skin. This is not about the color of anybody's skin or the issue of racial prejudice; it is about left-wing politics.

Clyburn is a useful tool of the leftists who are manipulating Obama and the Congressional Black Congress even as Obama and Clyburn, in turn, seek to manipulate the left wing of the Democratic Party. Let's face it: the charge of racism is a powerful political weapon. The Left is extremely racist and dependent on the race gimmick to deflect criticism of their radical agenda, which is not supported by the majority of the American people.

Racism is an ugly thing. But if everybody who criticizes Obama is racist - or if Jim Clyburn and his cohorts are allowed to decide who is and who isn't - then political debate has been cleverly hijacked by those who are in danger of losing the argument.

If Mitt Romney becomes the next president, it is conceivable that some people might oppose him and criticize him because he is a Morman. It could happen. But would his supporters be able to stand up and dismiss all political criticism of Romney because some of it originated in prejudice against his religion? Of course not. Mormans don't get a free pass and neither do Muslims, women, Catholics, Evangelicals, Jews or anyone else.

Race is an emotional subject and susceptible to demagoguery and that is precisely why flinging charges of racism around irresponsibly is dangerous and harmful to the quality of political discourse. The danger is that people will get used to hearing the same old song every single time Obama comes under fire.

And eventually, when real racism rears its ugly head people will just shrug and ignore it because the Left cried "Wolf" one time too many.

Hatred of the Chosen People is Rooted in the Hatred of God

The form that the ancient and primal hatred of the Jews takes today is being anti-Israel. (It also often took this form in past eras, such as the Second Temple period.) The hatred of God's Chosen People is rooted in the Fall - in the hatred of God. Obviously, the people of God are easier to get at than the Creator Himself and so they bear the brunt of Satanic/human wrath all through history. You can read about it in the book of Revelation.

Hatred of the Chosen People is irrational, unprovoked and unlike the usual run-of-the-mill ethnic jealousies and prejudices. It is religious: anti-Semitism is the ultimate in religious war. So it quite ironic that today it is the most secular of Western elites - proud and smug that they are not religious fanatics like those other men (like American Evangelicals, for example) - who succumb to this particular fanaticism.

Melanie Phillips, in her column in the Spectator, has a column entitled: "And now, those on the side of civilization." She quotes Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, who stands in a great tradition of British Judeophilia. He has some very interesting things to say about today's anti-Israel prejudice:

This malevolent portrayal of the Israeli Defence Forces is carefully and systematically planned, cultivated, developed, expanded and relentlessly driven forward. It is the key part of what amounts to nothing less than a pernicious and increasingly dangerous global conspiracy of propaganda aimed at the total delegitimization of the state of Israel. A conspiracy that has so far exceeded in its international scope, anything dreamt of even by that master of propaganda, Dr Josef Goebbels himself, spreading the idea that Israel is so evil that it has no right even to exist, aiming for the point where that idea becomes an acceptable, mainstream argument in our societies.

It is no surprise of course that such a campaign has great popularity in the Arab and the wider Islamic world any more than Goebbels’s twisted propaganda machine succeeded in persuading so many Germans to his murderous cause. But what is truly shocking is the traction that this propaganda has gained in the west among student bodies, teachers, university authorities, academics, think tanks, human rights organizations, aid agencies, parliamentary bodies, and – perhaps most damaging of all, the mass media.

...The Report of the UN Fact Finding Mission into the 2009 Gaza Conflict, better known as the Goldstone Report, accused Israeli forces of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, deliberately killing, wounding and terrorising innocent civilians...only last month, Judge Richard Goldstone retracted the most serious allegations that he had made, saying that Israel did not in fact intentionally kill or wound innocent civilians. He wrote that if he had known at the time of his investigation what he knows now, the Goldstone Report would have been a very different document. Well, I, with my far more limited resources and access, could have told him a great deal of what is now apparently new to him.

In fact, I did tell him at the time of his report, in evidence I gave to the United Nations Human Rights Council in October 2009:

“During its operation in Gaza, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”

I based my opinion on 30 years of experience fighting terrorists and insurgents, of my detailed study of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, of my extensive knowledge and understanding of the Israeli Defence Forces, and of my knowledge of Hamas and its military strategy and tactics. The same strategies and tactics used by insurgents and violent jihadists in Iraq, Afghanistan and many other parts of the world.

Many people have contradicted my assertion about the IDF. But no one has been able to tell me which other army in history has ever done more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone. In fact my assertions about the steps taken in that conflict by the Israeli Defence Forces to avoid civilian deaths are inadvertently borne out by a study published by the United Nations itself. A study that shows that the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in Gaza was by far the lowest in any asymetric conflict in the history of warfare.

The UN estimate that there has been an average three-to-one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide. Three civilians for every combatant killed. That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan: three-to-one. In Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to be four-to-one. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia.

In Gaza, it was less than one-to-one.

This extremely low rate of civilian casualties flatly contradicts many of Goldstone’s original allegations, and the bleating insistence of various other human rights groups about Israel’s alleged crimes against humanity.

His entire speech is well-worth reading; you can read it here.

The world-wide propaganda campaign currently being carried on against the IDF is spear-headed by Muslim nations in cooperation with Western left-wing media, government and union elites. It uses the United Nations as its tool and is in the process of totally discrediting the UN in so doing. In a line from his speech not quoted by Phillips, Kemp said:
A favourite vehicle for the anti-Israel conspiracy is the United Nations Human Rights Council. While continuing to neglect the woefully abused rights of 350 million citizens of the Middle East, not to mention the rights of many more people the world over, the Council focuses its attention almost exclusively on Israel.
I invite you to do some reading on the UN Human Rights Council. It is dominated by human-rights abusing countries and is a complete sham. Its only function is to attack Israel, which it does relentlessly and without regard for the truth. It is so unbalanced and one-sided that its activities can only be described as anti-Jewish propaganda.

It is a particularly pernicious and evil thing to attack the only Western democracy in the Middle East as the incarnation of all evil. Those who let themselves be drawn into anti-Israel propaganda need to beware of the snares of the Evil One. This is not just politics; it is a spiritual war.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

N. T. Wright: No Jonathan Edwards Either

I wrote a post recently criticizing N. T. Wright for criticizing America for killing Osama bin Laden entitled: "N. T. Wright: No Winston Churchill." Well, it seems he is no Jonathan Edwards either.

Trevin Wax has a post in which he discusses (quite insightfully) N. T. Wright's recent answer to a question on Rob Bell and hell. Here is Wright's answer:

"My usual counter question is: “Why are Americans so fixated on hell?” Far more Americans ask me about hell than ever happens in my own country. And I really want to know, why is it that the most prosperous affluent nation on earth is really determined to be sure that they know precisely who is going to be frying in hell and what the temperature will be and so on. There’s something quite disturbing about that, especially when your nation and mine has done quite a lot in the last decade or two to drop bombs on people elsewhere and to make a lot of other people’s lives hell. So, I think there are some quite serious issues about why people want to ask that question.

Having said that, I am not a universalist. I’ve never been universalist. Someone quoted a theologian saying, “I’m not a universalist, but maybe God is.” That’s kind of a neat way of saying, “OK, there’s stuff in Scripture which is a little puzzling about this, and we can’t be absolutely sure all down the line.” But it seems to me that the New Testament is very clear that there are people who do reject God and reject what would have been His best will for them, and God honors that decision. How that works and how you then deal with the questions which result I have written about at some length.

I don’t think myself that Rob Bell has quite taken the same line that I did in Surprised by Hope. I haven’t actually had the conversation with Rob since his book was published. So, one of these days, we will and we’ll have that one out. I do think it’s good to stir things up because so many people, as I say, particularly in American culture, really want to know the last fine-tuned details of hell. And it seems to be part of their faith, often a central part of their faith that a certain number of people are simply going to go to hell and we know who these people are. I think Rob is saying, “Hey wait a minute! Start reading the Bible differently. God is not a horrible ogre who is just determined to fry as many people as He can forever. God is actually incredibly generous and gracious and wonderful and loving and caring. And if you paint a picture of God which is other than that, then you’re producing a monster and that has long-lasting effects in Christian lives and in the church.”

This is, to me, a rather astonishing answer for someone who is revered by American Evangelicals. I don't think really they are feeling the love from him lately.

1. To single out Americans as unique on this point is frankly ridiculous. Wright says he gets asked about hell less in his country, but what I think he really means is that he gets asked less about hell by the liberal Anglicans he usually associates with. American interest in hell simply reflects the fact that America is less secularized. Anyone who reads the Bible very much is naturally going to have questions about something that is widely mentioned in the Bible and obviously affects every one of us in the most pressing and important way.

To take a gratuitous swipe at America by attempting to link war with belief in hell is just more evidence that he hates America as a typical academic left-winger who derives his views of international affairs from Marxist analyses of imperialism and capitalism. He obviously has a fixation on America's evils that is the sun around which individual doctrines like hell revolve. I can't see how that is healthy.

2. To imply that there is something wrong or ill-mannered about a concern about the eternal destiny of the human race is just a bit weird. I can understand why liberals are so dismissive about hell (and heaven too, for that matter), but Wright is supposed to be an Evangelical. But I guess he is a special kind of Evangelical, that is, one who talks like a liberal on many topics and preserves his Evangelical reputation by affirming the bodily resurrection of Christ.

Wright's flippancy about the doctrine of judgment is a bit disturbing. He seems to think it is a topic we ought not mention in polite company as it puts God in rather a bad light. This is rather presumptuous of him, after all. Divine punishment of sin is just and God is just; this is classical biblical teaching and its veracity does not depend on how it makes late-modern, middle-class agnostics feel.

3. And why does he think it is good for Rob Bell to "stir things up"? Bell is a mega-church pastor who preaches part of the counsel of God hesitantly for fear of offending his audience. It is not orthodoxy Evangelicals who need stirring up; it is people like Bell, who are, after all, the heirs of the seeker-sensitive, church-growth, therapeutic-oriented approach that dominated the last generation. What the Emergent types have in common with the kind of watered-down Evangelicalism of the past generation is the clever marketing that seeks a niche between outright heresy, on the one side, and the offense of the cross, on the other.

It is hard enough to be a faithful pastor these days, as Western society become more and more secular and hostile to the Gospel, the Bible and the Church without N. T. Wright commending confusion and compromise with a nod and a wink. Help like that we can do without.

I guess we won't be hearing any "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" sermons from N. T. Wright any time soon. Maybe we might more likely hear ones more like: "A Wrathful God in the Hands of Indignant Sinners."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

University Education Under Fascism

In the Corporatist State of Sinclair Lewis's depiction of fascist America in It Can't Happen Here, it is interesting to see his take on what university education would look like under Fascism. All American universities are closed and entirely new Corporatist ones are created:
"Dr. Macgoblin pointed out that this founding of entirely new universities showed the enormous cultural superiority of the new Corpo state to the Nazis, Bolsheviks, and Fascists. Where these amateurs in recivilization had merely kicked out all treacherous so-called 'intellectual' teachers who mulishly declined to teach physics, cookery, and geography according to the principles and facts laid down by the political bureaus, and the Nazis had merely added the sound measure of discharging Jews who dared attempt to teach medicine, the Americans were the first to start new and completely orthodox institutions, free from the very first of any taint of 'intellectualism.'

All Corpo universities were to have the same curriculum, entirely practical and modern, free of all snobbish tradition.

Entirely omitted were Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Hebrew, Biblical study, archeology, philolophy; all history before 1500 - except for one course which showed that, through the centuries, the key to civilization had been the defense of Anglo-Saxon purity against barbarianians. Philosophy and its history, psychology, economics, anthropology were retained,but, to avoid the superstitious errors inordinary textbooks, they were to be conned only in new books prepared by able young scholars under the direction of Dr. Macgoblin.

Students were encouraged to read, speak, and try to write modern languages, but they were not to wast time on the so-called 'literature'; reprints from recent newspapers were used instead of antiquated fiction and sentimental poetry. As regards English, some study of literature was permitted, to supply quotations for political speeches, but the chief choruses were in advertising, party journalism, and business correspondence, and no authors before 1800 might be mentioned except Shakespeare and Milton.

In the realm of so-called 'pure science,' it was realized that only too much and too confusing research had already been done, but no pre-Corpo university had ever shown such a wealth of courses in mining engineering, lakeshore-cottage architecture, modern foremanship and production methods, exhibition gymnastics, the higher accountancy, therapeutics of athlete's foot, canning and fruit dehydration, kindergarten training, organization of chess, checkers, and bridge tournaments, cultivation of will power, band music for mass meetings, schnauzer-breeding, stainless-steel formulae, cement-road construction, and all other useful subjects for the formation of he new-world mind and character. And no scholastic institution, even West Point, had ever so richly recognized sport as not a subsidiary but a primary department of scholarship. All the more familiar games were earnestly taught, and to them were added the most absorbing speed contests in infantry drill, aviation, bombing, and operations of tanks, armored cars, and machine guns. All of these carried academic credits, thought students were urged not to elect sports for more than one third of their credits.

What really showed the difference from old-foggy inefficiency was that with the educational speed-up of the Corpo universities, any bright lad could graduate in two years." (pp. 207-8)
I'm afraid to comment on this vision very extensively; suffice it to say that I fight a mild, incremental and respectable version of it every day.

It Can't Happen Here

The 1935 novel by Sinclair Lewis, It Can't Happen Here, is a depiction of an America taken over by Fascism. Franklin D. Roosevelt loses the Democratic nomination in 1936 to Senator Buzz Windrip, a charismatic leader who promptly imposes a Facist regime on America. His Minute Men are like the Nazi Brownshirts, his political philosophy is Corporatist and his homespun rhetoric is pure, vintage American.

The hero is Doremus Jessup, a small town New England newspaper editor, who is a liberal. Jessup fears the rise of Windrip but his worse fears are exceeded by the brutality, lawlessness and stupidity of Windrip's regime. Jessup is no saint; he is engaged in an extra-marital affair and he seems perpetually perplexed by ideological uncertainty. He is often tempted by fanatical clarity exhibited by his communist friend Karl, but he is capable of rejecting Communism as merely the ideology of Stalin's totalitarian state. He has no illusions about Hitler or Fascism, but he finds it incredible and world-shattering to watch America fall under the rule of ignorant thugs and men lacking any principles or conscience whatsoever.

The novel is interesting for several reasons. One is that it was written prior to World War II and the revelation of the extreme anti-Semitism of Hitlerism in the Final Solution. So it can calmly consider the true nature of Fascism without having the whole question preempted by one of the most horrendus evils of history. There is anti-Semitism in Lewis's American Fascism, but it is much milder and less principled. For example, while the Fascist leaders rail against the Jews, they don't go so far as to give up revenue by refusing to do business with those Jews who own important businesses. It never crosses anyone's mind to simply kill them and expropriate everything. Instead there are categories for "good Jews" and "bad Jews," with the latter of course being Communist agitators and poor Jews. The anti-Semitism issue is background not foreground, which means that we get a chance to evaluate Fascism separately from the question of how it treats the Jews.

The problem with the Fascism portrayed in this book is that it is brutal, stupid and ugly. It is the triumph of man's lower nature over civilization, religion and all higher virtues. It is a glorification of brute strength and unscrupulousness in which those who stand on principles - whether Christian or humanistic - are squashed. The liberal humanist is the ally of the Christian in that both take their stand on the necessity of getting both the ends and the means right, whereas the Fascist is the one who believes that the ends justify any means. In fact, the Fascist is impatient with debates over the morality of means and despises those who hold back from achieving a desired end because of moral scruples over things like judicial murder, the suspension of legal rights and the trampling of the Constitution. The essence of Fascism for Lewis is that might makes right - applied Nietzscheanism.

I think that this definition of Fascism is right and the strength of Lewis's argument is seen in the way he defines Communism as essentially identical with Fascism. Both are forms of Totalitarianism and the fact that they offer different Utopian dreams as their goal and justification cannot disguise the more important fact that their methods are identical: arbitrariness, brutality and disregard for the laws and traditions that protect human rights.

The novel is also interesting for another reason. Since it is set in the US, it is able to grapple with the question of whether Fascism is separable from racism. The US is not a racially based nation and the attempt to see "White Power" as the essence of US Fascism is not a replacement for the doctrine of the organic unity of the people of the nation that is seen in Italy or Germany. Some would say that Fascism is not possible in the melting pot that is the US, but Lewis shows that it is because the essence of Fascism is Nationalism but not Racial Superiority.

American patriotism is clearly something that Windrip and his gang of thugs pay lip service to but do not really believe in. American nationalism is rooted in the Declaration and the Constitution, the Founders and the division of powers. To believe in these ideals is the opposite of Fascism, for Lewis, and so Windrip's nationalist rhetoric is both dishonest and superficial. He has the American folksy charm and self-deprecating humor designed to appeal to the common man, but he no more believes in natural rights than he believes in Martians.

I find this way of portraying Fascism to be very enlightening. Stripped of the mystic nationalism and race unity doctrines of European Fascism, Fascism American style appears so much more obviously mere brutality applied to all of society. No one who read this book would come away worrying that contemporary Conservatives are proto-fascists. To the extent that conservative conservatives embody respect for the Constitution, originalism, state's rights, individual liberty, free speech, freedom of religion, the division of powers and limited government, they embody the opposite of what we see portrayed in this novel.

In fact, it is modern Progressivism, with its hurry-up approach to social engineering and its naive conviction that human nature is malleable that is much closer to sinking into the fascist swamp. The only thing that stands between a liberal democracy and a fascist dictatorship is a belief in principles, law and the dignity of the individual which cannot be compromised even for evidently good goals. Where does respect for such moral restraint and limits on government actions come from? This novel does not say. In fact, in the portrayal of the hero Doremus Jessup, we see a dark ambiguity between his temptation to hate and resort to the same level of brutality as the enemy and yet he constant awareness that he must resist becoming a carbon copy of what he despises. This ambiguity is a permanent feature of liberal democracy.

It is clear to me that the source of moral restraint and respect for the dignity of the individual does not come from any of the springs that feed contemporary Progressivism: Malthusianism, Darwinism, Scientism, Pragmatism, Marxism, and the Enlightenment Doctrine of Progress. None of these philosophical influences provide a basis for saying "No" to certain means no matter how many good results they appear to lead to and no matter how tempting they are to employ.

Doremus Jessup is a good man and a real hero. He opposes the great evil of his time with courage and moral clarity. But he does not know why he must do so. And so he is incapable of passing on his faith to his children. One of his children becomes a member of the underground resistance, while the other becomes a Fascist government official. But their choices appear to originate more in their contrasting temperaments than any sort of coherent moral philosophy that they are able consciously to accept or reject. The moral vagueness of the opposition to Fascism is the most troubling element of the novel.

Jonah Goldberg's thesis in his book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the America Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, is largely vindicated in this novel. What I mean by this is that Fascism really has more in common with Marxism, Progressivism and Communism than with classical, nineteenth century liberalism and its contemporary version known as conservativism. Conservativism is basically political liberalism joined to a metaphysical doctrine of law rooted in a belief in God. Not all Conservatives are Christians, though most are, but all non-Christian Conservatives nevertheless believe in natural law, the reality of right and wrong and that human rights derive from a Higher Power and not from the State.

Liberalism detached from a metaphysics of law rooted in a belief in God inevitably withers and fades into some sort of shrunken, hollowed-out version of itself that is incapable of resisting Fascism. Goldberg's book makes an eloquent argument for the thesis that secularized liberalism is not only susceptible to fascism, but in fact has been colonized by fascism during the twentieth century. This is what he means by the "secret history" of the American Left. Liberalism without God becomes fascist over time. Sinclair Lewis's novel is an artistic portrayal of that process happening suddenly and dramatically. Goldberg's book is an historical portrayal of that process happening gradually and unobtrusively.

The real message of It Can't Happen Here is that it actually can happen here. The message of Liberal Fascism is that it already is happening right now. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, when asked for his explanation of how Stalinism could have happened, replied that it happened "because men forgot God." If we will not listen to the prophets among us, we will destroy ourselves and it will be on our own heads.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Evangelism, Politics and the Mission of the Church: Where John Stott Led Us Astray

John Stott was a hero of mine when I was 17 years old. If memory serves, I would have been 17 in December of 1973 when I attended Urbana '73 as a high school senior. John Stott was the Bible Study leader that year and his expository preaching impressed me beyond measure. I had never heard preaching like that. It was powerful and authoritative, but not because of the charismatic personality of the preacher or because of rhetorical tricks or emotional manipulation. It was powerful because it was so obviously a mere "bringing out" of what God's Word said that it carried with it the authority of God himself. It made me want to give my life to doing that as my main work.

So John Stott had a huge impact on my life and particularly my decision to forgo scholarships to two secular universities in order to attend Atlantic Baptist College that next Fall in order to begin preparation for pastoral ministry.

1973 was a fateful year in church history. It was the year of Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War. It was the year of yet another unprovoked war of aggression by the Arab nations against Israel and the Arab oil embargo. The Cold War was raging and world Communism was on the march. Many in the West were calling for compromise or even capitulation to Communist ideals.

I was politically naive at time and susceptible to left-wing ideas. I would soon read Sider's Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger and Jim Wallis' Sojourners magazine, as well as The Politics of Jesus . Rather than putting them in their historical and cultural/political context, I naively read them as apolitical people discovering deeper truth in the Scriptures with no agenda and no cultural pressures driving them in a socialist direction. Gustavo Guttierez had published A Theology of Liberation in 1971 and the World Council of Churches meeting in Bangkok in 1973 brought to a climax a process of re-defining salvation as political/social liberation. It would be a year later, in 1974, that John Stott would play a leading role in the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization.

Stott was the chair of the drafting committee which produced the Lausanne Covenant. At Lausanne, a number of third world evangelical theologians, such as Rene Paidilla, who had been influenced by the rise of liberation theology and felt the need to respond to it, created a controversy over the relationship of evangelism to social action.

Looking back 40 years later, one wonders if Evangelicalism was not somewhat unnerved by the aggressive propaganda of the WCC, liberation theology and third-world Marxist movements which claimed that the Church was "irrelevant" and, worse, supporters of the oppression of the poor. Using dependency theory and a Marxist critique of Capitalism, they pressed the claim that if the churches were not engaged in class warfare and the anti-capitalist struggle, then they were no better than the oppressors of the poor and, in fact, on the side of the evil oppressors. Evangelicals, whose record of social service had been exemplary, were put on the defensive because they were not politically engaged in the anti-Capitalist struggle. Simply doing education, agricultural and medical work in the service of the poor no longer "counted."

At Lausanne, there was much debate about the need to redefine the Gospel to include social action (politics) in the basic definition of the mission of the Church. In his book, Christian Mission in the Modern World, published in 1975, John Stott capitulated to this way of thinking.

This book is remarkable for a gigantic inconsistency at its heart. On pp. 133ff Stott describes the process by which the WCC moved from a commitment to evangelism as the heart of the mission of the church, to a claim that personal evangelism and social action were both equally part of the mission, to a a view of mission that was in practice almost exclusively political/economic. This process is traced in the documents the WCC produced between 1961, when the International Missionary Council was merged with the World Council of Churches in New Dehli to the meeting in Bangkok in 1973 when salvation was defined as liberation. The process included an uncritical acceptance of the Marxist critique of capitalism and an evaluation of the Marxian definition of social justice as compatible with and, in fact, the true teaching of Scripture. Clearly, Stott is unhappy with some of the radical implications of accepting the Marxian critique of religion, but he accepts it as to a large extent valid. This is incoherent.

Therefore, Stott suggests basically that we Evangelicals ought to take the first step along the path taken by the WCC by elevating social action (political action, class warfare) to a level of equal importance and priority as personal, verbal evangelism, but he warns against taking the second step of letting politics crowd out evangelism. But it is difficult to see why he thinks Evangelicals will be able to hold back when the WCC was not able to do so. This is the contradiction of the book: if we see that the WCC journey led to disaster, why not propose a different course rather than proposing to go only half way down the WCC path?

Stott's tremendous credibility with Evangelicals gave him a huge amount of influence over the movement. He admits that at the Berlin Congress on World Evangelization, an event sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 1966, he had held to and proclaimed the traditional view that evangelism is the central mission of the Church and the heart of the Great Commission. Social service (compassionate service) and social action (political struggle) both belonged to the sphere of discipleship - the teaching disciples to obey all things Jesus taught us which occurs after conversion proper. As such, they are among the many things from parenting to art to creation care that should be part of the Christian life. But the unique mission of the Church is first and foremost to evangelize - to preach the good news of salvation through the shed blood of Christ - and then Christians should be discipled to do good works with social service and social action among them.

But in The Christian Mission in the Modern World, Stott says he has changed his mind. Social action (politics) can no longer be regarded as merely one of the areas in which Christian discipleship must be worked out after conversion, now it must be viewed as integral to the Gospel itself. It must be seen as being as much the mission of the Church as preaching the Gospel of sin and salvation. This is a watershed in the development of Evangelical theology and I believe it is the root of the Evangelical Left and the widening gulf we are witnessing today between traditional Evangelicals and those who are attracted to progressive politics as the true mission of the Church.

If Stott is right in 1975, he was wrong in 1966. And if he was wrong in 1966, then most of the Fundamentalist movement from B. B. Warfield to J. G. Machen to Billy Graham and C. F. H. Henry was wrong and, in particular, the Fundamentalist and Evangelical critique of the Social Gospel is wrong. Instead of accusing the liberal Social Gospelers of apostasy, the most they should have said is that they over-emphasized politics and under-emphasized evangelism.

But this cannot be right because the problem with liberal Protestantism is not that it under-emphasizes a Gospel message it still believes and preaches occasionally; the problem is that it no longer believes the Gospel at all. This is apostasy and it is not theoretical or some sort of prediction for the future; it is all around us today. Back in the 1920s it might have been argued that the prediction that the liberal denominations would utterly abandon the Gospel was over-pessimistic and hypherbolic. But we live in the 21st century and now vaguely humanistic ideas of tolerance, inclusion and moral relativism have completely crowded the Gospel out of many liberal denominations. It is no longer a prediction, but a fact of history.

The amazing thing, however, about Stott's 1975 call to expand the mission of the Church to include politics alongside evangelism just as the WCC had done 10 years earlier and the Social Gospel had done earlier in the first half of the 20th century was that Stott made this call after the evidence was in and the verdict of history had pronounced negatively against this course of action.

In the 4th century the difference between the Nicenes and the Arians was just one iota (the Greek letter "i"). The Greek term "homoousios" meaning "same being" defined the orthodox doctrine of the deity of Christ and provided the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity, while the Greek term "homoiousios" meaning "similar being" was Arian heresy. The Gospel was at stake then and, I believe, it is at stake today.

The difference between saying that politics is part of the mission of the Church equal in importance to evangelism, on the one hand, and saying that evangelism is the heart of the mission and politics is just one of many areas in which the Lordship of Christ must be worked out by the disciple, on the other, may seem minute and technical. But I believe it is absolutely fundamental to a biblical and orthodox definition of the Gospel and the mission of the Church.

The Marxist ideology that defines class warfare as fundamental to history is the source of the error, in my view. Marxism put third world Evangelicals on the defensive by claiming that the Evangelical Church was complicit with the oppression of the poor if it did not take the Marxist side in the class struggle. Evangelicals were too quick to accept the Marxist premise that class warfare is fundamental to history. Since Evangelicals did not challenge the fundamental Marxist heresy at this point, they were twisting themselves into pretzels trying to avoid the charge of being complicit in the oppression of the poor. It seemed to many Evangelicals that if they could not prove their sympathy for the poor, they would never be able to evangelize effectively. So their motives were good; they just didn't think deeply enough.

Instead of accepting the Marxist critique of capitalism in the first place, Evangelicals should have challenged the premise that economics determines everything and that class warfare is therefore fundamental to history. Evangelicals should have rejected the Marxist understanding and substituted a biblical view that history is determined, not by economics, but by human worship of or rejection of God.

With Jonathan Edwards they could have viewed revival as the fundamental indicator of Divine Providence in history and therefore the true meaning of history. They should have realized that we cannot accept half of Marxism because it is a totalitarian system of thought before it is a totalitarian system of political economy. They should have refused to consider themselves complicit with the oppression of the poor just because they were not engaged in class warfare against the capitalist class.

In fact, they should have re-affirmed the position that Marxian socialism always and everywhere leads to poverty, tyranny and scarcity whereas free enterprise leads to prosperity, freedom and an increase in human dignity. That they could not do this was tragic for poor people. Socialist ideology has held much of the third world down in poverty and degradation for far too long and if Evangelicals are complicit in anything they are complicit in not challenging the pessimistic, Malthusian ideology that defines Marxism and prevents true development of the economy to the benefit of all.

But the key reason to critique Marxism is not that it does not work (although it cannot create wealth), but rather that is is theologically heretical. It works with a Rousseauian view of human nature as intrinsically good but corrupted by society and as infinitely plastic and therefore susceptible to social engineering designed to create a Utopia on earth. This is the fundamental Marxian heresy and it leads to a re-definition of salvation as earthly, political liberation and a secularization of Christian eschatology. Sin becomes unjust economic structures and salvation becomes the implementation of socialism. The Church becomes a political organization and a tool of the Revolution with no intrinsic value except insofar as it serves the political goals of the Marxist revolutionaries in their war against the capitalist system.

This heretical view of human nature leads necessarily to violence, repression and totalitarianism. When social engineering fails to produce the desired results, instead of abandoning the ideology the tendency is to double down on the engineering and turn the screws tighter. This is how a naively optimistic ideology leads inevitably to oppression and slavery. And "Christian Marxists" are complicit in this crime against humanity and the tragedy is that they, of all people, ought to know better.

Will Evangelicals go the way of the WCC? Almost certainly a major segment will do so, although there will likely be another split in the movement just as there was in the early 20th century when Evangelical Protestantism split into Fundamentalism and Liberalism. We are living through this split and every Evangelical church and institution is choosing sides.

Although it pains me to say so, I think John Stott was wrong in 1975. He is still a hero to me for many reasons. He is a godly, spiritual, humble, honest and generous man and one of the great Bible expositors of the 20th century. But he was right in 1966 and wrong in 1975. He did so much to show us where the WCC went wrong but he failed to point out a direction we could take to avoid ending up in the same bog of apostasy. The Evangelical Left is in great part his legacy and this is sad beyond words.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Greatest Marriage Proposal Ever!

Via Mark Shea at Catholic and Enjoying It comes this Youtube video. It is well worth watching. But all I can say is that I'm glad I am already married because it just raised the bar for marriage proposals to astronomical heights!

Catholic Social Doctrine is Not Left-wing: Who says? How about the Archbishop of New York?

As the Left continues to try to pry away Catholic votes by portraying Catholic Social Doctrine as if it supported the big-government, welfare-state, high-tax, high-deficit approach, it is very encouraging to see that Archbishop Timothy Dolan is setting the record straight.

Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review Online quotes from a public letter exchange between Congressman Paul Ryan and the Archbishop, which exhibits a very high level of political and theological discourse. (Ryan is a Catholic and a serious student of what his Church teaches about social ethics.)
This week, something much more constructive: The public presentation of an ongoing dialogue between Paul Ryan, a Catholic from Wisconsin, who is the House Budget committee chairman, and Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the president of the Catholic bishop’s conference, about Catholic social teaching and its application to the current budget debate.

In his letter of April 29, Ryan wrote:

The House Budget’s overarching concern is to control and end the mortal threat of exploding debt. By scaling back Washington’s excesses, the budget will reduce deficits by $4.4 trillion over the next decade compared to the President’s budget proposal. The House Budget is intended to restore the confidence of job creators in order to encourage expansion, growth, and hiring today. The budget better targets assistance to those in need, repairs the social safety net, and fulfills the mission of health and retirement security for all Americans. The budget reforms welfare for those who need it — the poor, sick, and vulnerable; it ends welfare for those who don’t — entrenched corporations, the wealthiest Americans. It’s a plan of action aimed at strengthening economic security for seniors, workers, families, and the poor.

Congressman Ryan concluded:

although the Budget is Congress’ comprehensive spending and revenue plan, my colleagues and I, in developing this Budget, never forgot that the Budget is not just about numbers but about the character and common good of the American people. This Budget is rooted in the dignity of the human person. It honors responsibility to family and self, work, self-restraint, community, and self-government both individually and collectively. The vast network of centralized bureaucracies under a government that grows without limits has reached the point where an increasing majority of citizens are now receiving

Our Budget marks out a new path that restores and respects human dignity by addressing these concerns, encouraging our people to take control of their well-being, to make wise choices about the future of their families, in work, education, investment, savings and all areas of social life. Sustaining national moral character and human dignity have been our paramount goal in developing this Budget.

Nothing but hardship and pain can result from putting off the issue of the coming debt crisis, as many who unreasonably oppose this Budget seem willing to do. Those who represent the people, including myself, have a moral obligation, implicit in the Church’s social teaching, to address difficult basic problems before they explode into social crisis.

This is what we have done, to the best of our ability, in our Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Resolution.

I hope these facts, considered in the light of the social Magisterium, contribute to the ongoing healthy dialogue about the nation’s budget and the economic foundations that make possible the exceptional generosity of Americans of every faith.

Here is some of Dolan's reply:

New York Archbishop Dolan responded, in part:

I deeply appreciate your letter’s assurances of your continued attention to the guidance of Catholic social justice in the current delicate budget considerations in Congress. As you allude to in your letter, the budget is not just about numbers. It reflects the very values of our nation. As many religious leaders have commented, budgets are moral statements.

As is so clear from your correspondence, the light of our faith — anchored in the Bible, the tradition of the Church, and the Natural Law — can help illumine and guide solid American constitutional wisdom. Thus I commend your letter’s attention to the important values of fiscal responsibility; sensitivity to the foundational role of the family; the primacy of the dignity of the human person and the protection of all human life; a concrete solicitude for the poor and the vulnerable, especially those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty; and putting into practice the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, here at home and internationally within the context of a commitment to the common good shared by government and other mediating institutions alike.

Clearly, Dolan understands John Paul II well. He also understands that charity and concern for the poor do not equal the nanny state.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bernard-Henri Levy: A Caricature of Himself

I don't often link to Iowahawk because it is often profane and also because his extreme libertarianism sometimes borders on libertinism. However, with that disclaimer firmly in place, I have to admit that his satire is always witty, often hilariously funny and at times sublime in its skewering of the self-important, self-righteous, self-preoccupied Left.

His latest entry, entitled "Justice, I Spit on Your Justice" was purportedly found "Under a hors d'oeuvres tray at a Tina Brown cocktail party, the first draft of Bernard Henri-Levy's Daily Beast cri de coeur on behalf of his ami Dominique Strauss-Kahn"

It reads, in part:
I do not know what actually happened Saturday, the day before yesterday, in the room of the now famous Hotel Sofitel in New York.

I do not know — no one knows — because can there or cannot there be such a knowing? I do not know. All is but existential abyss. For who is to know this mocking mime which taunts us by its cruel appellation, "reality"? Even reality itself cannot know, because have been no leaks regarding the declarations of the man in question, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. We have only the leaks regarding the leaks of his so-called "DNA." Was he was guilty of the acts he is accused of committing there, or if, or at which why, as was stated, he was having a mud bath in Baden-Baden with his daughter? Reality, you are a cruel mistress.

I do not know—but, on the other hand, it would be nice to know, if knowing were indeed a matter of conceptual possibility—how a mere proletarian chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York’s grand hotels of sending a “cleaning brigade” to remove to the myriad of empty Dom Perignon bottles and half-smoked Gauloise crushed into beignets they should have expected from one of the most closely watched figures on the planet. In protest I have written to the Michelin guide and demanded they be demoted to 3 stars.

And I do not want to entertain the considerations of dime-store psychology that claims to penetrate the mind of the subject, thrusting remorselessly and without consent into his libido, observing, for example, that the number of the room (2806) corresponds to the date of the coming liberation of France by the Socialist Party (06.28), in which he is the uncontested favorite to storm the Normandy beaches, march triumphantly into Paris, free it from its Sarkozian captors, seduce to the grateful lovesick coquettes with his Hershey bars, and thereby concluding that this is all a Freudian slip, a subconsciously erotic role-play, and blah blah blah. Sometimes a baguette is only a baguette.

What I do know is that nothing in the world can justify a man being thus thrown to a ravenous pack of dogs, a breed of which has neither been obedience trained nor clipped in the proper poofs. . . .
The best line comes half-way through:
This morning, I hold it against the jejune American judge who, by delivering him to the crowd of photo hounds, dared treat this man of nobility as subject to the justice of the peasant.

I am driven to ennui by a system of justice modestly termed “accusatory,” meaning that anyone can come along waving a stained hotel towel and accuse another fellow of any crime— even when the one accused has a pied-a-terre on the Left Bank and sits on several film prize juries.
And they think American cowboys and country rubes invite mocking. Do they have any idea? Any clue how ridiculous they look to normal people?

It goes on. Read it all here.

The American pop-culture allusion in the Conclusion, which will be invisible to the denizens of the Left Bank even though they undoubtedly will still be smarting from the insult in the penultimate paragraph, is deliciously ironic:
Enough is enough, I say. I will not stand idly by as the uncultured puritanical prudes of Les Etats-Unis and their mad inspector Javerts hound another hero of the French nation — as they did Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Ira Einhorn, and Theodore Bundy — for the mere sin of intellectual virility, and listening to the "oui" in a woman's eyes instead of the "non" in her screams of ecstasy.

J'Accuse America - with your filthy cheeseburgers, and your stupid tailfins, and your unnuanced medieval notions of "rape." Until, and unless, my friend Dominique Strauss-Kahn is freed from his political bondage, I refuse to provide you another paragraph of philosophy.

Bye-Bye, Miss Americaine-Pie. You can drive your Chevy to this Levy, but this Levy is dry.
Bravo, Iowahawk!