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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

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For June 29, 2022

 June 22

To Heidelblog and Charles Porterfield Krauth and the quote from Krauth in Heidelblog that talks about the 3 states that error has in the Church. The first is for those promoting an error to request tolerance from the Church and the last state is for the error to have supremacy over the Church.

Are we going to assume that the Church is not tolerating error already? And if so, which denomination has no error? Which standards have no error? Or are we only talking about serious errors that clearly go against what the Scriptures teach as essential in faith and life?

The above invites the same kind reaction differences of opinions that a cynophobic person (a person who has a fear of dogs) person has toward dogs. They either refuse or unable to distinguish between dogs that are threatening from dogs that aren't. And so they react to all dogs in the same way.

There is a difference between the above and a cynophobic. person though. The above implies that their views are inerrant. Yet Church History does not look favorably on the idea that all of the beliefs of any one person or one church or one denomination are inerrant. 

Just think of what the OPC should have done to Machen for his racist views or the Congregationalist Church should have done with Jonathan Edwards for his views on slavery? Or what is worse is for any Reformed denomination to believe that their standards are inerrant.

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Around June 26

To Anthony Costello and his comment on June 27 which was in response to my comment on his blog article on the effects of today's access to information on Evangelicals. This appeared in the Theological Apologetics blog on Patheos.

Anthony, 

There is a difference between having a good analysis from having a good solution. Both Marxism, toward which I lean, and Post Modernism, for which I have a modest appreciation, provide very help analyses of some of today's problems with evil. Marxism's analysis of capitalism in his day is right on target with the shareholder economy we have for today. Likewise, Post Modernism is able point out the abuses practiced in science and faith. But their responses to their respective issues are wanting.

If we are going to say that God has the perfect response to evil, realize that part of His response lands some people in an inescapable place of judgment. And in so doing, that does not address the problem we have here and now. Also, many who believe often contribute to the evils we try to deal with. So how are we going to address today's evils? Are we just going to say Jesus's name? Are we just going to say that God will solve the problem and do nothing? What is the point of saying that only God has the solution to our problems?

The point of making such a claim is that we use it to point people's attention toward us, and that goes for even our own attention. And thus we should look at why Christians all too often contribute to today's evils. One reason why so many us contribute to today's evils is that we are vulnerable to political and/or ideological tribalism. In other cases, our theologies get in the way. For while, our political and ideological tribalism sometimes take us away from God's Word, our theologies distort both our understanding of God's Word and our perception of temporal reality. And so saying that God has the only solution and claiming that we Christians, with so many of us contributing to the world's evils, are God's representatives can make us too arrogant to listen to unbelievers have to say.

I understand that the world's problems evil with problems are spiritual. But those problems are also immanent and material. And so we need to remember the part in Romans 2 that challenges the believer in God with the fact that the unbeliever can be more righteous than the believer. And we need to realize that in terms of this world, we are trying to solve the immanent and material causes and effects of evil in the world. It isn't society's job to address the spiritual dimensions of evil.

So in the end, it is what I wrote in my first comment:

That is because if we have the only solutions to the world's problems with evil, we can wrongfully, but understandably, look down on unbelievers in the world who are trying to solve those problems. And because we can look down on them, we often act like we have everything to teach them and nothing to learn from them. Thus we refuse to listen to them in a meaningful way. And that failure to really listen leads to our ignorance of the insights they have regarding the problems with evil we see in the world.

Finally, what is it about Marxism that bothers you as a Christian. I have a list of complaints myself. That is whyI describe myself as only leaning toward Marxism. So why would you doubt that I could adequately present myself as a Christian while claiming to lean toward Marxism? That goes back to what I already quoted from my first comment:

And because we can look down on them, we often act like we have everything to teach them and nothing to learn from them




 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Are There Rights After Dobbs?

I am not sure who said the following, but I do know that Martin Luther King Jr. said things that were similar sounding. What was said? That our ends do not exceed our means. That means that our ends cannot be any better than the means we used to accomplish the ends.

What did MLK say that sounded similar? He said the following:

in the long run of history, destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends  (click here for the source)

  AND

Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek (click here for the source)


The idea of using the proper means to reach desired ends applies to the SCOTUS decision on the Dobbs case.  But it doesn't apply because those looking to overturn Roe v. Wade used immoral means. It applies because those seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade used the wrong means. In the SCOTUS decision, the conservative judges, who were also looking to overturn Roe v. Wade, denied a woman's right to abortion because they both denied the right to privacy and failed to find access to abortion to be an important part of American history. The latter finding was pertinent because the conservative judges were originalists who take into account the intention of the writers of The Constitution as well as what is rooted in American History as the basis for interpreting that document.

There are problems with taking such an approach. One problem is that the writers of the The Constitution may not have been aware of everything that could be logically implied by the concepts in that document nor could they be aware of what future issues would need to be addressed. That lack of awareness would make The Constitution an inflexible piece of law that must be amended each time an unforeseen situation by our founding fathers becomes a legal issue. 

Another problem is the above approach is that because of what is rooted in American History should make us shy to use that history as a basis for deciding what recognized as a right by The Constitution. After all, though America wasn't founded on slavery, it was founded on white supremacy, which made slavery a mainstay in America from its beginning to the mid 1860s, and the subjugation of women. And here we should note that white supremacy, though having been significantly reduced in more recent times,  is still significantly with us today. Thus we could say that white supremacy is well rooted in American History. Also, throughout most of American history, women have been made to play subservient to and dependent on roles to men. Thus, the treatment of women as being inferior and 2nd class citizens to men is also well rooted in American History. 

Finally, though America has never been a Christian country, almost all of its history has been played out during a time of Christendom in the West. And in Christendom, Christianity played a very prominent role in determining the laws of the state and the values accepted by society. Such is a contradiction with the Establishment Clause in the 1st Amendment because governments acted as if Christianity was being favored evidenced by the laws passed by those governments. And as a result, some groups, such as the LGBT community were marginalized because of that preference for Christianity. In addition, Blue Laws basically punished non-Christian businesses by favoring Christianity's Sabbath. And where many Christians interpreted the Bible as saying that whites were superior to blacks, blacks were also marginalized. From the beginning of the European discovery of America, Native Americans were treated as inferior and less deserving of their own land that white settlers were deserving of Native American land.

The above lists some of the problem areas with the grounds for the SCOTUS decision in the Dobbs case. So what does that have to do with how the ends were accomplished by the recent SCOTUS decision? As Justice Clarence Thomas stated, other SCOTUS court cases that, based on the right of privacy, could be reversed including the right to use contraceptives, the right to engage in the preferred kind of sexual intimacy by consenting adults, and the right to same-sex marriage. Those rights could be reversed by states that passed laws to prohibit what is currently protected by SCOTUS decisions in previous court cases. A new era of some degree of significant Christian rule over society could begin because of how Christianity is rooted in America's History.

But something else is amiss. The rights of the unborn are not guaranteed. Rather, the Dobbs case simply puts the issue of abortion in the hands of the states and what their elected leaders prefer. And in the states where Christians have the biggest say in determining those leaders, what Jefferson warned us against in his 1801 Inaugural Speech goes unheeded. For though he talked about how law is determined by majority opinion, he warned us that we must be careful not to let majority rule oppress minority groups. What the Dobbs case opens the door for is the Christian oppression of minority groups by its influence onf the state. 

As for the unborn, its status of being human life is not being used to secure its rights to life. In fact, the status of an unborn as being human life is currently being sidelined in the abortion debate. What takes the leading roles on the stage of the abortion debate are the dictates of religiously conservative Christianity vs the demand for what is still perceived to be a Constitutional Right of women. 

The prohibition of elective abortions should only be based on the human status of the unborn. Any other grounds used to prohibit abortion not only distracts us from the two conflicting and most basic sides of the abortion  issue, but, as hinted at above, will only produce ends that will hurt America more than it helps America.

 



Friday, June 24, 2022

Second Verse, Same As The First

For the past few centuries, Church History in the West has had many examples where the predominant branch of the Church in a given nation has sided with wealth and power.  Examples include the Roman Church's siding with wealth and power in France and Spain during their respective pre-revolutionary times as well as the Orthodox Church during the times leading up to the Russian Revolutions of 1917.

In the United States, the predominant part of the Church is the Protestant branch in general and white evangelicals in specific. They have show that support for wealth and power through their support for the Republican Party even though the reasons for their support center around the abortion debate and culture war issues. Still, of the two major political parties that first serve the interests of those with wealth and power, the Republican Party has demonstrated that it is far more willing to sacrifice the welfare of the American people while catering to perceived needs and even whims of Big Business.

Just recently, Reverend Stephen Spinnenweber (click here for a bio) wrote an article which was posted on the Reformation 21 website which not only gladly proclaimed that he is a one issue voter and that issue is abortion, but strongly encouraged other Christians to do the same (click here for the article).

On the one hand, I sympathize and even agree with Spinnenweber on his stand against abortion. After all, abortion takes a human life. Some attempt to minimize the significance of that by denying the personhood of the unborn. Personhood is used there to redirect the assignment of human life to those stages of the unborn which we can either directly interact with or more easily relate to or can perceive as being human life. And I understand his main reason why he is voting on a single issue. That reason is that some issues are weightier than other issues.\ Abortion is among the most important issues because each abortion ends a human life. Thus abortion is a dealbreaker for many in terms of voting for a candidate.

Where I struggle with Spinnenweber is his analysis of the situation. Now Spinnenweber also speaks of racism as being a dealbreaker regarding for whom we vote. He rightfully speaks against Jim Crow era and laws as being horrific. And he also includes policies that would deny any 'societal group' of rights recognized by The Constitution or their God-given  rights. However, because abortion is the murder of a child, he believes that it is an issue that stands above all other issues.

But is abortion the only issue in which human life is taken? The answer is no and I am not referring to capital punishment. For example, according to the AJPH, just in the year of 2000, the following estimates were made about America (click here for the reference):

  • 245,000 deaths were attributable to low education
  • 176,000 deaths were attributable to racial segregation
  • 162,000 deaths were attributable to low social support
  • 133,000 deaths were attributable to individual poverty
  • 119,000 deaths were attributable to income inequality

The article from which those statistics come from was based on a review of literature. Also, couldn't we very well say that some of those same conditions that are contributing to premature deaths mentioned above also contributing to either infant mortality or the decision to get an abortion? So should a candidate's positions on those subjects become dealbreakers.

We could also add that scientists are estimating that between 2030 and 2050, we will see 250,000 around the world will die per year (click here for the reference) from the effects of climate change. So should a candidate's position on climate change become a dealbreaker? Of course, it isn't just climate change that should cause us to be concerned for the environment. Pollution also causes premature deaths. One study stated that 9 million people around the world prematurely died because of pollution in 2019 while another study claimed that 53,000 premature American deaths could have been prevented if 'all energy emitted emissions' were done away with (click here for the source).

In addition, if we want to talk about a candidate's positions on issues where premature death is involved, then shouldn't we also include a candidate's position on wars, military and other interventions, the selling of military arms, gun control laws, and nuclear weapons be dealbreakers in terms of the candidates we will vote for?

If we want to talk about racism being a dealbreaker, then shouldn't the denial of systemic racism, such as is fallibly described by CRT be a dealbreaker even though that systemic racism is not at the level it was during Jim Crow?

Also, if the denial of God-given or Constitutional rights is also a dealbreaker in terms of voting for a candidate, then should any candidate who favors a dictatorship in place of a democracy also be a dealbreaker? After all, the January 6th Hearings are revealing just how close we came to losing what we have left of democracy and falling into a dictatorship.

Narrowmindedness is not a good way to describe the single-issue voter. But reductionistic would be. And the problem with being unnecessarily reductionistic is that it leads to unnecessary black-white thinking. Not only can black-white thinking lead to authoritarianism, it requires that we ignore pertinent information. For example, Spinnenweber's emphasis on abortion would cause him to ignore a candidate's other positions that contribute to other causes of death and issues listed above which either an anti-elective abortion or a pro-choice candidates have. But if he does that, he becomes inconsistent because it was the premature causing of death which caused Spinnenweber to make abortion such an important issue.

All of that returns us to the beginning. To vote on the single issue of abortion, either intentionally or not, is to support the Republican Party and side with wealth and power for religiously conservative Christians who oppose the legalization of elective abortions. And thus one has to wonder because of a single-issue approach to voting we are seeing a repeat of history despite all the dealbreakers listed above which many Republican lawmakers support.






Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For June 22, 2022

 Around June 16

To Bruce Frohnen and his article on what a true patriot, or conservative patriot, such as Edmund Burke is like. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.

There is more than one way to define what a conservative is. One way is to consider the context of location and ideology of a given individual. But such a context makes the definition of a conservative a floating definition. What is a conservative in the US was not what a conservative was in the Soviet Union. And what is a conservative capitalist is not a conservative Marxist. Thus, from this perspective, the often used distinction between conservatives and progressives fails us not just because what is a conservative and what is a progressive are contextually defined, but also because the contextual basis for the definition of a conservative ensures that neither conservatives nor progressives are monoliths.

Another approach to defining what a conservative is is to describe what one would call the ideal person and then call that person a conservative. That seems to be the approach used above. For how ideal is the person who can decipher what we should conserve from the past and what we should change. The problem is that we are all trying to preserve what we value from the past and to change what we think needs to be changed. But such does not make us all conservatives.

A similar problem exists when it comes time to the definition of a 'patriot.' The love of one's own nation is identified as part of patriotism and, just by that alone, it is easy to see how patriotism can become the opiate of nationalism. So Frohnen distinguishes between a 'true' patriot from a 'false' one. Of course, the ideal version of a patriot is the true patriot and, in this article, is embodied by Edmund Burke. And so one gets the impression that definitions are being crafted for the benefit of a message.

So then the article tries to define a conservative  and a true patriot by using broader or absolute standards such as those provided by Natural Law and Western Civilization. So-and-so is a conservative because they promote the following of Natural Law. Such is appealing when using an assumed universal definition of Natural Law. The problem is that Natural Law means something different to different people. Hitler believed that nature teaches us the survival of the fittest. Social Darwinism has its own either deliberate or default mode of survival of the fittest in a Capitalistic nation in order to prevent big government and to cut the social responsibilities of companies to society. The result is that people are more likely to be left to either fend for themselves or hope that a private charity group will help them. T

o those in the LGBT community, the same-sex behavior seen in hundreds of if not over one thousand species is proof that homosexuality does not go against Natural Law.  

And what about using one's work to continue Western Civilization, which includes Christianity, common law, and constitutionalism? Does a true patriot and conservative then promote practices and beliefs that break with what was promoted and used in Western Civilization? And while Frohnen's hero of the article, Edmund Burke, objected to Britain's imperialism, much of Western Civilization involves European imperialism including the colonization of the Western Hemisphere. With imperialism being so much a part of Western Civilization, how is it that remaining true to Western Civilization makes one a true patriot.

We live in a multiethnic, multicultural, multireligious society. So how does Frohnen's idea of a true patriot, which includes the Christian version of Natural Law along with the task of preserving Western Civilization, which is basically white,  work without being oppressive to some who have a different understanding of Natural Law and come from a civilization other than Western Civilization? After all, according to Frohnen, we should be willing to fight and die for the universal principles that our Christian, European heritage has provided.

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June 17

To Heidelblog and Jon Payne for the part of Payne's article quoted by a Heidelblog post about Christians who agree with parts of theories like CRT, Critical Theory, and Intersectionality. The quote and the article presents these Christians in a very negative light. This post appeared in Heidelblog.

Jon Payne's complete article is linked to below:

    https://gospelreformation.net/the-courage-to-be-presbyterian/

What is really apparent among some religiously conservative Christian leaders, especially those who are from the Reformed Tradition, is this. Their black-white view of Critical Theory, Critical Race Theory, Marxism, Intersectionality, and other views is demonstrated by the pejorative labels and descriptions they give to these views so that they implied that Christians can't hold to any significant portion of those views without compromising their faith. 

In so doing, these leaders act as if they have everything to teach creators and promoters of those theories and nothing to learn from them. Such a view is arrogant and that arrogance runs contrary to God's Word. In addition, their black-white views indicate that they have embraced authoritarianism. That is also demonstrated by how they speak with and about other fellow believers and religiously conservative Christian leaders. That kind of authoritarianism is the kind that can enable people to either follow abusive leaders or be those kind of leaders themselves. 

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June 18

To R. Scott Clark and his article imploring Christians to be involved in politics as individual Christians in order to oppose non-conservative political agendas. This appeared in Heidelblog.

The above article moved me to want to be involved in politics. That is that the above article is promoting bigotry and discrimination against the LGBT community in the name of Christ. It is not enough for Clark that the Church, rightfully, calls those in the LGBT community to repentance in our evangelism. Now, employers should be free to look at those in the LGBT community and assume that they are not fit to represent their businesses as employees.

What is so radical about demanding that those in the LGBT community be treated as equals in society? During Jim Crow, those who worked to promote full equality for Blacks were called 'radicals,' 'agitators,' 'communists,' and 'troublemakers. Are we seeing a repeat here?

While many religiously conservative Christians, particularly those who follow the Anabaptist tradition, want to shun politics, others, like Clark, as evidenced in the above article, want Christians to be involved in politics in order to send the LGBT community back to the margins of society. At least that is one of the reasons Clark wants Christians to be involved in society. The apparent irony is that Clark, a 2Ker, wants Christians to promote at least a partial return to Christendom..

Of course what is left off of Clark's agenda listed above is war, militarism, guns, poverty, economic exploitation, and climate change to name a few issues. What is suggested then is that God's Word clearly stated that we should have laws that address Christian sensitivity and fear of a growing LGBT influence but it is silent on other issues.

The above is nothing more than a call for Christians to support the kind of right-wing political views held by Clark and others. Non right-wing views are demonized in the above article. When will Clark realize that he has partially conflated the midwest political views he grew up with with his Christian faith? When will Clark realize that he is no longer supporter of democracy, but rather a supporter of some level of Christian control over society?




Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Is America Descending Into Madness?

When one considers what we have learned in the January 6th hearings and then witness as people who supported the coup attempts are now running for public offices, one has to worry about the mental health of our nation. Trump's over the top narcissism, along with the delusional beliefs of many of his followers, was bad enough. But what we see happening today is even worse. It is so bad that if Trump succeeds in being reelected, I plan to go to the Germany Embassy to apply for Mental Health asylum because my nation could be legitimately called insane.

And so the question at hand could be answered in the affirmative. With so many Trump supporters willing to overthrow the government because they have been the victim of being persuaded to believe some whopping conspiracy theories, of course America is descending into madness. We could also point to our gun violence problem. Despite having mass shooting after mass shooting, we still have too many our politicians who don't believe that any changes are necessary. It's insane.

But the madness started with neither Trump and his cult nor with over-the-top gun rights supporters. The recent John Oliver report on housing in America not only shows the dire straights some people are in, it shows a pervasive callousness on the part of many people who could otherwise help but they won't because they hear the siren songs of the free market.

Watching what many people who lack adequate housing have to suffer through, one has to wonder  why we don't have more violence and crime than we have in this nation. It's like watching a long line of commuters tailgate highway speeds and wonder why there are not more catastrophic car accidents.



Or take the denial of systemic racism still existing in this nation. Racism is seen in law enforcement, the criminal justice system, implementation of environmental policies, access to voting,  infrastructure resources, and obtaining jobs. And those are some of the areas in which Blacks feel the harsh reality of racism. Also, look at how our prisons treat prisoners and yet dare call themselves correctional institutions. And why are we surprised at prisoner recidivism when we see the difficulties that released prisoners have in restarting their lives. 

Look at our education system. Those privileged enough to attend schools in wealthy school districts have a chance to get ahead in the world. But those who attend schools in poor districts are being told by society that they don't count unless they can become exceptional at contributing to the wealthy. Look at how cities are willing to pour financial resources into sports and entertainment arenas that cater to the middle class on up at the expense of their schools that are already stretched for cash. In the end, cities are telling the students in poor neighborhoods that they don't count. Society is leaving many of them to rot in poverty without shedding a tear.

Or take our denial of climate change. Whether one blatantly denies man-caused climate change because admitting to such change would jeopardize their indulgent lifestyles or their political-economic ideologies. Or I look at myself as  being one who does believe that climate change is both a fact and a very ominous storm that has crossed over the horizon, but I can't help but contribute to man-caused climate change. Most of the products we buy contribute to human caused climate change or pollutes the world in ways that it will eventually further incapacitate the earth from supporting human life. Just to function as a retired adult, I automatically increase the size of my carbon footprint. And not only do I do that, everyone does.

Our economic system revolves around shareholders in general, and the wealthiest shareholders in particular. So many lives are being sacrificed to maximize their profits even though many of them already have more than what they know what to do with. So many others are left behind, ignored, and told to fend for themselves in a barren situation. Do we honestly think that a society that allows such conditions does not produce a great deal of bitterness and resentment? Do we honestly think that our society can last?

The American capacity for denying uncomfortable truths about both itself and the plight of its downtrodden is, in the eyes of some foreigners, what really makes us exceptional. But that kind of exceptionalism is not laudable. Rather, that kind of exceptionalism could categorize our society as being criminally insane.

So again, it didn't start with Trump and his supporters or the gun-rights people. They simply made madness more fashionable. They also gravely threaten what is left of our democracy. America has been descending into madness for quite a while. That's made evident by how we treat many of the vulnerable people in society. And we pretend that there will never be price to pay for abuse, exploitation, and neglect of the vulnerable. That is madness.




Friday, June 17, 2022

How Should We Christians Change The World Without Trying To Control It

Religiously conservative Christians in America are puzzled as to how they should engage the world of unbelievers that surround them. They, or I should say we, are puzzled because we have experienced a series of setbacks that point to how we use to engage the world. Much of our history of how to interact with the world has hurt credibility of the Gospel we rely on to live. And because our spiritual ancestors, and perhaps we ourselves, have so harmed the reputation of the Gospel by how they have interacted with culture, we find it more difficult to impact America today.

Church history is not very kind to us. Christianity held sway for most of the history of America and it has become associated with white supremacy, ethnic cleansing, racial bigotry, religious persecution, favoring the wealthy, ignoring the poor, supporting unjust wars, ignoring climate change, and persecuting the LGBT community. For what we are suppose to believe how we should act, religiously conservative Christianity has a relatively long rap sheet.

Quite recently, Trevin Wax (click here for a brief bio) just recently written an article on how we Christians should try to impact the world around us. Now because his article was posted on the Gospel Coalition website, it is an easy and short read. But that also means that it lacks some depth and perhaps, for brevity's sake, nuance. And yet it brings up issues that we need to consider.

In his article (click here for the article), Wax gives 3 suggestions for how we Christians can better and more faithfully impact our culture. At this point, a red flag has just shot up a flag pole. That is because there have been too many times that we have used a call to impact culture to try to control our culture. And when we do that, we invariably end up marginalizing some groups of people.

Another red flag rocketed up when before presenting his 3 suggestions, Wax made the following statement:

To put it another way, we cannot compartmentalize the Christian faith, as if following Jesus does not transform our perspective regarding the various spheres of life, including politics. Discipleship requires teaching on how best to speak the truth in a world of lies, to promote life in a culture of death, to lift up the goodness of the created order in a world full of people who negate the natural law and harm humanity through their errant and destructive understanding of human freedom and identity.

When Wax talks about not compartmentalizing, he is likely talking about not letting the context of an interaction adjust one's message. The truth he wants us to speak to the culture is based on the Christian understanding of natural law and is most likely thinking about what to say about LGBT issues. Here he is most probably thinking about Romans 1 where Paul describes homosexuality as being against nature.

But the problem with the nature argument, though it has merit as Paul uses it, is that we see same sex behavior in at least hundreds of species if not over 1,000 species. What becomes of the natural law argument then?

Wax's apparent motive then is to have Christians try to effectively speak to culture so that society follows Christian morals and values such as rejecting homosexuality as a normal sexual orientation. And that means that we return to a part of Church history where Christians have justified causing the oppression of a group. We should note here that while Paul's argument about homosexuality is valid, there is no indication that Paul or the other apostles were directing us to speak to culture so that the LGBT community would be punished by society by some degree of marginalization.  Speaking against homosexuality and other LGBT issues should only be reserved for evangelism and for speaking within the Church. That is because evangelism isn't about changing culture, it is about inviting people to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of one's sins and thus to join the Church.

Next we should address Wax's first suggestion. That suggestion says that we should be on guard against political idolatry. Wax states that there are two ways by which we can make politics into a false god. The first way is to expect too much from our government. Though it is true that we can expect too much from our government, no guidance is given as to when that occurs.

The second way we can make politics into an idol is to unwittingly accept how a political ideology tends to deify some part of creation. And so the Christian must so influenced by the Scriptures that they can identify and challenge where an ideology is deifying a part of creation. 

Again, nothing is said to further explain what is meant there. But here, I think Wax misses a real opportunity to address how we can make politics into an idol based on how we regard a political ideology. I think he would have said things better if he, in his warning about political ideologies, told us not to regard any political ideology as being omniscient and thus not needing the input from any other ideology. One of the basic causes for the divisiveness we have in our nation is when we regard a given political ideology as being omniscient. Doing so cuts us off from others who hold to different ideologies and causes us to see them as threats.

So while missing an opportunity to make a better point, Wax gives a Tim Keller like view of political ideologies--Keller would say that all political ideologies are reductionistic by disregarding all concerns except for  1. My guess is that Wax makes the point that he does so that we Christians can stand in the position of correcting those who hold to their favorite political ideologies. But again, and if I am correct here, look at the position that Christians are putting themselves in by trying to impact culture. The Christian is to look down on the ignorant or unaware unbeliever as they hold to their favorite ideology. The Christian becomes the teacher of others, but never the student. And that kind of attitude hurts our witness for Christ.

Wax's next suggestion is actually very helpful and should, but does not, mitigate the problems that I think come with his first suggestion. That suggestion says that we are not to speak with any authority on issues on which we are not competent to speak. That seems to be a reversal from what I saw in his comment about political ideologies, but what it is saying, by the example he gave, we are not to try to propose solutions about issues and problems about which we don't know enough. Also, we should not expect our ministers to propose solutions to social, economic, or political problems when they lack the expertise in those subjects to do so.

But then Wax says something else under this suggestion that is prematurely causing Christians to anticipate being persecuted. He wrote: 'If it’s true that we are heading into a “negative world” in which the hostility toward Christian morality will increase.' Here, it is important to draw a distinction between hostility for believing something vs hostility for trying to impose or force your views on others. Christians face very little hostility for following their own convictions in how they live, But when Christians try to impose their values on others by promoting certain laws and policies or by trying to impact culture, some people will respond with hostility. Their hostility is not the result of the personal beliefs of another person. Their hostility is because we have been trying to force values on them in a society where they should be free from any social consequences of following their own ways. 

Here, we must distinguish between evangelizing others and trying to impact culture as Wax seems to be advocating. Evangelizing asks neither culture nor society to change, it asks the individual listener to change and become a member of the Church. From what I see, when we try to impact culture the way Wax seems to be advocating, we are showing hostility to the culture and society. Their rejection of our hostility becomes a provoked response. 

In areas of social justice, trying to impact culture and society by telling them what they must do to be just is appropriate. But where in the New Testament are we told to impact culture and society for personal moral behaviors that do not infringe on the rights of others?

Wax's 3rd suggestion is similar to what I wrote about political ideologies. Wax notes that we need all kinds of witnesses for Christ. My view of political ideologies, and this is despite, or perhaps because, I lean toward Marxism, is that since there are no political ideologies that are omniscient, we need to employ what is taught from other ideologies so that, in the end, our approach is more of a hybrid ideological approach to addressing issues and solving problems. Such hybrid approach helps prevent us from idolizing any political ideology.

In the end, what is disappointing about Wax's article is that he puts the Christian in the position of having to correct almost everything that the unbeliever would tell them about politics. Wax has the Christian standing in judgment over the unbelieving world. I don't believe that the New Testament tells Christians to put themselves in that position.









References

  1. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevin-wax/truthful-witness-public-square/
  2. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/profile/trevin-wax/

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For June 15, 2022

 June 3

To Heidelblog and Scott R. Swain for Heidelblog's partial quoting of Swain's article on the importance that tradition plays to faith. This was posted in Heidelblog.

Swain's original article can be found at:

    https://www.scottrswain.com/2022/05/12/on-tradition/

We want the transmission of the faith to be relevant without changing the core of the faith. The question is, where do we get that core from?

Certainly the Scriptures are our first and ultimate source. But traditions can be helpful provided that they are not put on too high a pedestal and that we understand where our traditions might be more influenced by the times and culture of those whose writing became our traditions than on the Scriptures.

For us Reformed people, we have to acknowledge that there are parts of our traditions that carry different priorities. For example, what our traditions describe the Godhead and soteriology are more important to pay attention to than what the parts of those traditions that talk about how we relate to society or each other. For if we put all of the parts of our traditions on the same footing, either we will easily compromise the most basic and essential parts of our traditions or we risk putting our traditions on such a high pedestal that they compete with the Scriptures for importance. And if we rely too much on our traditions to understand the Scriptures, the Scriptures themselves become subject to the man-made canon of our traditions. 

One other point should be made here. If we put too much emphasis on our traditions, and thus putting them on too high a pedestal, we will  fall prey to an authoritarianism that makes us vulnerable to relying too much on human authorities rather than properly submitting to the authority structures God has placed over us.

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June 7

To R. Scott Clark and his article that tries to partially criticize winsomeness in discussions about the faith. Here, winsomeness is called a synonym of being nice. This appeared in Heidelblog.

Authoritarians don't like to be nice, neither do those who lack self-control. Donald Trump is an epitome of anti-winsomeness, but one doesn't have to be a Trump to cross the line in how we respond to people. Here we are not talking about watering down the truths we confess, we are talking about how we confess those truths before others.

In Galatians 6, Paul tells us to be gentle in how we correct fellow believers who have fallen into sin. One reason for being gentle is that we too could easily fall into sin. And if we are called to be gentle with those who have fallen into sin, how is it that we have the license to be aggressive with or even hostile toward those in our Christian intramural debates or in defending what we believe before unbelievers? After all, gentleness and self-control are part of the fruit of the Spirit.

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June 8

To Heidelblog and Carl Trueman for the Heidelblog post that quotes a part of Trueman's article that speaks against Pride Month for the LGBT community. Thie appeared in Heidelblog.

Carl Trueman's full article can be found at:

    https://wng.org/opinions/welcome-to-pride-month-christian-1654083759

When, in the article cited, Trueman wants to separate what the government allows people to do in the privacy of their own bedrooms from Pride month, he is forgetting 1 facet of marginalization: that which is practiced by society.

Pride Month is, in part, about equality for those in the LGBT community in society. So if the state doesn't criminalize the LGBT community but society is free to punish those from the LGBT community, what has been gained by the LGBT community? In fact, isn't this part of the objections to the legalization of same-sex marriage by many fellow religiously conservative Christianas? That if same-sex marriage is legal, then it is regarded, in society, as being equal to heterosexual marriage.

Should Christians participate in Pride Month? I don't believe so. That is because we shouldn't be celebrating sin. But should we agree with the need for the public recognition of Pride Month? Yes, that is if we believe that those in the LGBT community should enjoy full equality in society. And we can't separate the issue of full equality from Pride Month though Pride Month says more than that.

It's odd that Trueman's article favorably compares opposition to racism with opposing Pride Month. After all, the former opposes bigotry while the latter celebrates and promotes bigotry.

We need neither the state nor society to confront the LGBT community. Rather, the preaching of the Gospel and Church discipline for those who persist in sexual immorality is all we need in speaking against the sins practiced by the LGBT community. For us to enlist society or the state to further challenge the LGBT community will not only display a presumption of self-righteousness on our part, it will cause those in the LGBT community, and perhaps others, to see the Church's oppression before they hear the Church's evangelism.

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June 11

To the Heidelblog and Aaron Rent for Reno's article that was partially quoted in the Heidelblog post. In particular, the comment below addresses the title of this Heidelblog article. This post appeared in Heidelblog.

Aaron Reno's full article can be found at:

https://aaronrenn.substack.com/p/the-three-worlds-of-evangelicalism-7fc?s=w

Post Modernism has certainly led the charge in determining how Christianity is perceived in our nation today. But Post Modernism was not targeting Christianity per se as it was targeting all groups that claimed to have an exclusive possession of the truth. Also, Post Modernism's reaction was result based. Under Christianity, especially white,  religiously conservative Christianity, many groups had been sorely oppressed and marginalized in America. And that is a truth that we white religiously conservative Christianity has yet to come to full grips with both intellectually and emotionally. That Is why we have failed to adequately acknowledge and appreciate the fallible attempts by those promoting CRT, those in BLM, and those in LGBT community to tell us how we have, and still try to, oppressed and marginalize others. Since their attempts are fallible, they are wrong in some of the things they are saying. But the gist of what they are saying about us is correct.

Our, that is those who are white, religiously conservative Christians, marginalization is nothing compared with the marginalization that we put others through. And yet, we are very focused on our current state in society.  And we should note that that white, religiously conservative Christianity is not really marginalized in the whole nation like minorities and the LGBT community had been. There are large areas of the nation where such Christianity still holds sway.

Another way to express the last two paragraphs is that we white, religiously conservative Christians have been spoiled by the past so that we are tending to magnify and marginalization we are suffering today. And our magnification of our current marginalization is just another cause for us to lose credibility as witnesses for Christ.

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June 11

To Anthony Costello and his comment in response to a comment of mine about CRT. His comment appeared around June 10th This was part of the conversations that followed his article entitled "Whiteness" And The Splitting Of The Evangelical Mind. That appeared on the Theological Apologetics blog on Patheos.

Anthony,

I simply accommodated to your language. With some of the above, they denied the pandemic, such as a family member who denied it both before and after having Covid. So it doesn't matter got me which word is used. Not treating the pandemic as seriously as it should be costed lives.

I can't believe you asked the question about whether I have read any CRT. That is simply an attempt to discredit me here. How would know about ties between MLK and CRT without being familiar with both? Listen to the Xander Vanocur interview with MLK, which can be found on Youtube, as he made the distinction between his earlier of struggling for dignity and his latter work of struggling for real equality and then read Kimberlé Crenshaw on the equality of outcomes. Or read Anthony Cook on how MLK deconstructed the Christian support for Jim Crow. Or read Derrick Bell on the possibility of racial equality in today's America or Jayne Chong-Soon Lee as she challenges Kwayne Anthony Appiah's take on racism.

Not only that, the AME has determined to make social justice issues part of their sermons--btw, AME is the only African Methodist Church denomination I have found. And I didn't see any denunciation of CRT by that denomination. However, I did see an interesting quote from a Black leader of the Methodist Church regarding CRT (see https://um-insight.net/pers... ):

First and foremost, Critical Race Theory does not teach that ‘some students are inherently good, and others are inherently bad based on their outward appearance.’ Critical Race Theory takes a critical look at racial justice and the roots of racism in the United States. It focuses on systemic and institutional changes and challenges that lead to racism and seeks to uncover the hidden dynamics that have brought us to where we are in this country.

Contrary to promoting racism, as has been suggested, Critical Race Theory examines the role of race in our justice system and the complex interplay between race, and gender and its impact on minorities. Unfortunately, some groups have co-opted the term and twisted it to serve their own agendas. 

Here's the real problem, You're using a model of thought to deduce the extent to which CRT reflects how Blacks experience racism in this country without regard for the history and real life experiences of Blacks in this nation. And by your model of thought, you seem to have concluded that CRT does not reflect to any degree how Blacks have and still do experience racism in this nation.

And in your comments to me, you use name dropping to defend your case.

Your argument is not very sound. We religiously conservative Christian thinkers often are lured into a temptation that we can define anything in or out of existence through deduction.

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June 12

To Mark Malvasi and his article that criticizes Nikole Hannah-Jones's 1619 project. Malvasi attempts to steer a course that between Jones's 1619 Project and the vision of America held to by the Patriotic Right. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative Blog. 

So Nicole Hannah-Jones's 1619 Project errs more in interpretation than in facts.  And Malvasi wishes to find a Goldilocks position between the approaches of both Jones and Zinn and that of the American Patriotic Right. And thus Malvasi is seeking to do more than just take an edge off of the historical approach taken by Jones and Zinn.

In trying to curb Jones's interpretation of history, he moves the date for when slavery and race became more of a focal point in the US. He also includes that it was Americans who freed the slaves in the Civil War. In addition, he contends that Jones's interpretation of history accounts for neither abolitionists nor the Civil Rights Movement.

But in all of that, Malvasi might just be a bit too selective with the facts. Race was an issue from the beginning of white America's history. After all, land was being forcibly taken from Native Americans almost from the beginning and captured Native Americans as well as Blacks were being traded as slaves by the Puritans in the latter part of the 1630s.

Yes, Americans freed the slaves in the Civil War. But they had to fight their fellow Americans to do so.

As for the Civil Rights Movement, the bulk of the key leaders from that movement were black, and so what was missing in Jones's description of America regarding that? And being an abolitionist did not imply that one believed in equality. In fact, many black abolitionists soon learned that many white abolitionists were still white supremacists.

And yes, America was not alone practicing slavery and promoting white supremacy. But America seems to have ended slavery later than many other nations did. And we are still battling the notion of white supremacy. While other nations eliminated slavery, the US followed slavery with Jim Crow.

Malvasi wants to select a Goldilocks position in talking about racism and slavery in the US. He wants a position that lies between Jones-Zinn and the American Patriotic right. But I have another suggestion. My suggestion is this, America should treat our past history and present practice of racism in the same way that we want Germany to treat its history of Nazism. To do so would indicate how seriously we are taking both our past and present racism. 

Of course the difference between the two situations is that America is still suffering from horrible problems with racism. Nazism has been relegated to being that of a fringe group in Germany today. Unfortunately, racism here is still too much in vogue.