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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For February 10, 2016

Feb 2

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost that both selectively reminisces laments about the past. The selectivity used seems to be used to celebrate old fashion American values. This appeared in Heidelblog

Though there are some good parts to this post, such as the part on our dual citizenship and the fault lying with the voters, but this article is unbalanced in spelling out what is wrong with our nation. It is almost unbalanced to the extent that it encourages Christians to become paranoid. 

Yes, there were social upheavals during the 60s. But there was also an immoral war in Vietnam along with much racism and sexism in society. As for the war, it was an effort made by the nation that prides itself on freeing people to recolonize the nation of Vietnam and to prevent reunification with the North. America ignored the democratic approach to the Vietnam problem as spelled out in the Geneva Accords and installed dictators as well as invaded the country. We won every battle but lost the war because with many of the battles we won, our methods lost the people.

As for what was at home, it was a brutal racism that had its roots in race-base slavery that went as far back as before the fight for independence. Sexism was also a problem to the extent that the overreaction of feminism could be at least partially blamed on the sexism that occurred back then. 

The seamy side of politics as seen in Watergate was previously evident in Eisenhower's warning regarding the Military Industrial Complex--the original name included Congress in the mix. In addition, it was activism, not government, that pushed civil rights onto the agenda and into the laws. Without activism, things would have stayed the same. Such gives another example of the seamy side of politics.

But let's get to the incitement to Christian paranoia. While Clark wants to  say that the legalization of same-sex marriage showed a rejection of nature, nature itself produces many instances of homosexual behavior. So the same-sex marriage decision was a rejection of the Christian view of nature. And while Clark warns us of future persecution, we should note that back in the day, homosexuals could be arrested for their sexual practices. Nothing we could experience in the near future could rival what those from the LGBT community had to suffer from laws based on our moral standards.

In addition, while Clark wants to complain that Christians are being legally pressured into accepting the new moral standards, we should note that some Christians want to use their faith as an excuse to deny equal rights to some who are different.

Clark is right in stating that there has been a resurgence of racism. But that resurgence is merely an instance of tribalism with a racial application. Here we should note that tribalism occurs when loyalty to one's group trumps commitment to principles and morals so that right and wrong depends on who does what to whom.  And we see a similar tribalism to racism being practiced with other facets such as economic class, national identity, and political ideology as its basis. And yet, Conservative Christians can only publicly oppose tribalism as it becomes manifest in racism.

In addition, we have The Constitution that was a document indended to preserve the status quo for American financial elites.

We have a dual citizenship and such is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because we know where our treasure should be. It is a curse because we sometimes use the importance of waiting for that treasure as an excuse to disconnect ourselves from the world in order to maintain our idols of personal peace and prosperity. And least that is what Francis Schaeffer warned us about.


Feb 3

To Joseph Sunde and his blogpost about Trump and allowing politics to determine religion. This appeared in the Acton blog.

There is at least one problem here and that is in the assumed definition of religious liberty. For it seems to me that what is called liberty in the article above is nothing more than privilege. That is because liberty - euqality = privilege. And while some of my fellow religiously conservative Christians are up in arms over expected persecution, we forget how  we have suppressed the religious liberty of others. This was evident when we were colonies when, for example, the Puritans persecuted Quakers even to the point of martyrdom. The lack of religious equality has been more than evident in our choice for POTUS. Consider the consternation people felt when JFK became the nation's first Catholic President. And to this date, we've had not Jewish Presidents or Presidents from other nonChristian religions.

But also, the lack of equality in religious liberty could be seen in our nation's same-sex marriage debate. The religious liberties of those who did not hold to conservative Christianity's definition of marriage were never recognized in the debate. Here we should note that it was the 14th Amendment used to establish the legality of same-sex marriage. In addition, most of my fellow religiously conservative Christians could only see how their religious beliefs were being threatened by the legalization of same-sex marriage; few if any acknowledged that the religous beliefs of those who thought that homosexuality was acceptable to God were being infringed on when same-sex marriage could be legally prohibited.

Also, as for the third temptation, we see this all of the time in religious Conservatives when they blend American ideals with Christianity. The result of this syncretism, which is a fancy word for pounding a square peg into a round hole, identification of Christianity with Capitalism, American individualism, and American Exceptionalism. This syncretism is driven by ideological tribalism. 

What is comical is how Christians point to history, as Kuiper did, to support how they've supported religious liberty when those examples consist of societies that were predominantly Christian in the first place. The real test of one's belief in religious liberty is found when one makes one's own religon vulnerable to other those from other religions by supporting the religious liberties of those who believe differently  In other words, one's belief in reliogous liberty comes when one is willing to surrender the control over society which the adherents of one's own religion have.


Feb 4 

To Mez McConnell and his blogpost on how misrepresenting Jesus can hurt the poor because the Gospel is not being faithfully preached. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

There is another side to this, however. That side consists of those Bible thumper, and I am a Bible thumper, evangelists who go out to the poor neighborhoods to share the Gospel, but who never go to the rich neighborhoods of those who participate in the making of poverty and the oppressing of the poor to tell them to repent and believe the Gospel. 

Social justice not only involves helping people in need, it involves speaking out and defending them from those whose love of money and power lead them to neglect or oppress the vulnerable. Those who are hurting others need to hear a message of repentance and the Gospel as much as the poor do and for the same reasons.


Feb 5 

To Denny Burk and his blogpost on how a self-identified gay Christian explained how she thought she discovered that homosexuality was acceptable to God. This appeared in Denny Burk’s blog.

Perhaps we need to recognize that, for self-identified gay Christians, the wounds they have experienced from past and even current marginalization has made it impossible for them to distinguish God's warnings about homosexuality from man's immoral persecution of homosexuals as they learn how accepted they should be in society. BTW, you can chalk the devastating effects of that marginalization up to our tradition. That should tell us that not all of our traditions are good.


Please note here that in the comment, I had written the wrong name of the person who wrote the blogpost. Instead of referring to Joe Carter, I should have been referring to Michael Sevance. This error comes from a combination of carelessness and switching between multiple articles.

Feb 6

To Michael Severance and blogpost that attempts to use past Church teaching on private property to defend business’s approach to using and protecting property rights. This appeared in the Acton blog.

In terms of helping the poor, it issue isn't whether we can or cannot have property rights. The issue is about how we will prioritize property rights. That was stated above when, as Carter cited Croswaite, in saying:

The principle of the universal destination of goods is an affirmation both of God’s full and perennial lordship over every reality and of the requirement that the goods of creation remain ever destined to the development of the whole person and of all humanity. This principle is not opposed to the right to private property but indicates the need to regulate it. Private property… is in its essence only an instrument for respecting the principle of the universal destination of goods; in the final analysis, therefore, it is not an end but a means.

From Crosswaite's emphasis put on private property in that statement, it does not follow that private property is necessary for the 'universal destination of goods.' Rather, his emphasis on private property put seems to correlate more with Martin Luther King's priorities including private property:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

We should note that 'materialism' to King was one side of a many side object that included poverty. Thus, the common theme between the two quotes is that private property must not have the highest priority when society wants to address social problems. It's not that we shouldn't want everyone to have house for a home. It is that business's claim to private property are not all the same. A person's need and use of private property is different from a business's need and use. And sometimes, the business use for private property, such as protection for intellectual property or wealth, interferes with addressing issues such as racism, materialism/poverty, and militarism. King noted part of this when he saw the Vietnam War escalate and thus spending for it continually increase. He knew at that time that America would not have the necessary will and resources to fully address the issue of poverty because of the attention and resources being demanded by the War. BTW, the first beneficiary of the Vietnam War were the corporations that sold necessary goods and services required to prosecute that war.

What Carter does in his article is to use the issue of poverty to bring a personal commitment to proivate property and property rights, and then switches our attention to business's concern with property rights such as with patents. In other words, he uses the poor to protect the interests of the rich. And his use of previous Catholic teaching on property shows such a selective approach of property rights that he cannot correctly read what was said in the past. So the question becomes is Carter's first concern an ideological one that revolves around business's concern for property rights, or is it a desire to learn what past religious leaders have taught about such rights? Perhaps Carter could tell us how America's protections of private property have alleviated poverty here.


Feb 9

To Gavin Orlund and his blogpost talking about how our culture is different in 3 ways from any other past culture and what we can say to our culture. This appeared in the Gospel Coalition website.

Observations about how our culture is different without noting how we got there is incomplete. Why is mercy assumed while justice must be defended? Why is today's morality more about self-expression? And why do many lack a sense of objective meaning? The answers to these questions should determine how we respond because the answers to the questions tell us whether or not we should merely modify what is being said today or contradict it completely. 

What is observed in the article above is simply the outworking of post modernism. And here we should note that post modernism has some very legitimate concerns and challenges for both modernism and pre modernism, with the latter being the age that represents groups like conservative Christianity. We should note that post modernism objects to past colonialism, oppression, and exploitation in which the metanarratives provided justifications for the privileged to be unjust to others. Without addressing those legitimate concerns and challenges,  the answers described above will be incomplete.

For example, how can privileged people tell people who live in extreme deprivation that God is transcendent?  How can privileged people tell the vulnerable that life comes from dying to self while they and their audience return to their respective homes afterwards? And how can the privileged tell people that God is the goal? Doesn't one's privileged state suggest a lack of sincerity in the messages?

History has shown that either by explicit support or in silent complicity, Conservative Christianity has alligned itself with those who are privileged more often than not. And so before we tell people about God's transcendence, how life comes through death to self, and the ultimate human experience, which are all very legitimate messages, we need to adjust those messages to include the legitimate concerns that have led our culture to where it is today and what we are going to do about it.


To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost consisting of an interview in which he describes all involved in the Social Gospel, and Marxism too, as being utopian and thus having an overrealized eschatology. According to Clark, such is not consistent with how the Bible teaches us to advance the Kingdom of God. This appeared in the Heidelblog.

I listened to the interview and the following is my reaction. There are two points to be made about this interview. The first is that sometimes our models of thought interfere, rather than help, us understand both BIblical and world realities. The second is that, historically speaking, pietism, like the beginning of the Social Gospel itself, is a reaction to things that were wrong with the status quo. With pietism, faults were found with the Reformed and Lutheran status quo. With the Social Gospel, it was the status quo of society that contained grave faults.

Regarding the first point, if we liken our models of thought to cookie cutters, we find that the cookie cutters themselves both include and exclude the dough being fashioned into a shape. The dough included in the shape becomes the cookie, but lies outside the shape does not. And here, there are two inherent faults that become part of using the cookie cutters. The first fault is that, like the cookie cutter, our model of thought may not be adequate to produce the shape we want. However, if we religiously use the cookie cutter, we will not be aware of the cookie cutter's deformities.

The same goes for our models of thought. If we are not aware of the weaknesses of our models of thought, we will be unaware be unnecessarily accepting of certain behaviors and beliefs and being unnecessarily judgmental of others. And the more religious we are in employing our models of thought, the more we will remain in denial of the problems our models of thought produce. There is another point here though, the more religious we are in applying our models of thought, the less likely we will listen to the views of others which challenge our models of thought. And the less likely we are to listen, to more we imply that we have everything to teach those with whom we disagree and nothing to learn from them.

The second fault of the cookie cutter is that sometimes we need new ones to make better shaped cookies. But if are religiously attached to our current cookie cutters, we will do nothing more than create cookies shaped in the old patterns. Likewise, when our models of thought are not sufficiently updated, it will be difficult for us to realize changes that have taken place in the different movements we've studied. Changes such as neither all Marxists nor those involved in the Social Gospel are utopians and thus not all suffer from an overalized eschatology. Now those religiously commited to the old models of thought would not realize that some Marxists and some involved in the Social Gospel do not expect a utopia. And the fault for their misperceptions lies with not having updated their models of thought. And since the more religiously one is committed to their model of thought, the less likely that one is really listening to those disagree, it is reasonable to understand how changes in different groups can fly under the radar of those who are too committed to their models of thought.

The above is how I see Clark's misperception of some of the Social Gospel movement. But the failure to recognize change does not stop there. When Clark so religiously applies Acts as a model for advancing the Kingdom of God and Peter's instructions to the saints on how to do the same, there is an implication that the historical context of believers back then and the context for today's believers are not significantly different. And we would never guess that could happen if we were religiously committed to some of the models of thought which Clark is committed to. But if we take an inductive approach to comparing the living contexts of the 1st century Church with today's Church, we find a number of significant differences from the absence of the Apostles in today's world as compared to the 1st century, to a world which was having the Gospel introduced to it vs a world in which the Gospel has been preached throughout, to an empire for a form of government vs a number of democratic republics.  Each of these difference are significant changes in our respective worlds and yet Clark demands that we only imitate what was done back in the 1st century to advance the Kingdom of God. All of this points to an inflexibility and an inability to recognize change in those who are religiously committed to some of the models of though Clark is committed to.

From the above, we can understand why Clark pigeonholes all associated with the Social Gospel as either belonging to or will be belonging to theological liberalism and having a overrealized eschatology.  It isn't that he is wrong about all involved in the Social Gospel and Marxism as well.  It is that he is wrong about some. And that is because his models of thought as expressed in the interview were precise enough in understanding the Social Gospel from both the past and the present.

Second, we should note that pietism is a reaction to failures in the established Reformed movement. The failures revolved around those whose lives were not consistent with their doctrine because they used doctrine as a substitute for more godly living. The failure of those who are Reformed to acknowledge their failures were, and are today, condemned to continue in those failures. And one of the results of continuing those failures is to dishonor the Gospel before both believers and unbelievers. When those who are Reformed do not appropriately acknowledge the legitimate concerns that Pietists, and we can include can include those involved with the Social Gospel today, those who are Reformed have again said that they have everything to teach and nothing to learn. And thus they push Pietists and those involved with the Social Gospel to theological liberalism.

Finally, we should note the necessity in including what is called the Social Gospel with the preaching of the Gospel. Whereas the preaching of the Gospel has included the preaching against individual sins, the Social Gospel includes the preaching against corporate sins--sins committed by groups that result in visiting injustice on others. Why? Because in preaching and teaching the Gospel, all sins must be preached against. Such does not imply that we must provide an alternative system to the systems that practice injustice. But it does mean that we cannot ignore injustice as practiced by groups when preaching against sin

But something else should be added. The Christian life Clark proposes is one of the Church being quiet in the face of state and system sins. Individual Christians may speak up, but the Church as an institution is not. The result is that the Church as an institution becomes silently complicit in the corporate sins os the status quo. Such severely damages the reputation of the Gospel today.

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