Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Lap Dog Media and "Climategate"

I have been holding off in giving comment to the recent "Climategate" emails for the simple fact that the emails themselves were received by people like myself with a "Well of course." reaction. I was more interested in how the shills in the media would spin this and shift the scrutinizing eyes from the supposed "consensus of scientists" who were obviously guilty of fraud, to the people or person who broke the story.

This is precisely the sort of treatment to be expected when these sort of revelations come to the light of day, and climategate is no exception. In an AP article entitled "E-Mails don't undercut science" I believe we have a shining example of what lap dog media looks like.

I shall give a blow by blow evaluation of this piece (quotes from the article will appear in Blue), my reasoning primarily is to put on display how propaganda works. Also, I use the George Orwell phrase "doublethink" a few times if you do not know what the term means the wikipedia definition including Orwell's own definition from 1984 can be found here. The entirety of the AP article can be read here. That said I will begin my assessment, the article begins as follows:

"LONDON — E-mails stolen from climate scientists show they stonewalled skeptics and discussed hiding data — but the messages don't support claims that the science of global warming was faked, according to an exhaustive review by The Associated Press."

The first thing that stands out is the word "stolen", from the outset you are to get an opinion of who the real criminals are, namely the individual(s) that brought these emails to the light of day. Furthermore note the doublespeak, the sentence cites the fact that within the emails the scientists discussed "hiding data" (that made their claims less than convincing) but this fact doesn't indicate any fakery. Sure they may have talked about cooking the books and molding the data a bit but that doesn't discredit their claims. This is truly Orwellian double think.

"The 1,073 e-mails examined by the AP show that scientists harbored private doubts, however slight and fleeting, even as they told the world they were certain about climate change. However, the exchanges don't undercut the vast body of evidence showing the world is warming because of man-made greenhouse gas emissions."

Yet again, we have to engage in double think to swallow this rather distasteful elixir. It is announced that the scientists admit to having doubts, these are described as slight and fleeting by the AP. I wonder how the AP was able to determine the intensity of the internal doubts these scientists harbored simply through reading their emails. Furthermore, there is as always a reference to a "vast body of evidence" that warming is man made, this of course begs the question in light of the fact that this body of evidence comes from guys who talked about intentionally fudging data, and even doubt their own claims.

"The scientists were keenly aware of how their work would be viewed and used, and, just like politicians, went to great pains to shape their message. Sometimes, they sounded more like schoolyard taunts than scientific tenets."

I found this passage to be absolutely hilarious. I think it is supposed to comfort us that scientists in presenting their "findings" are just behaving like politicians. We are all used to politicians crafting a pack of lies, so well, the modern scientist should be viewed like Bush, Clinton, or Obama, you know they're lying but we are all expected to engage in the fiction that they mean what they say. Well, science is now kind of like politics, by its definition full of falsehoods and empty platitudes, this again is an attempt to reassure us that what these emails contain is no big deal, we see these sort of games all the time in the world of politics, therefore we should just accept them.

We are then introduced to an expert (Frankel), who again attempts to placate us stating:

"Frankel saw "no evidence of falsification or fabrication of data, although concerns could be raised about some instances of very 'generous interpretations.'"

So again we are back to double think, 1.There is NO EVIDENCE of falsehoods yet, 2.We can be concerned over "Very Generous interpretations"....Hmm, one would think that if someone knowingly gave a "very generous interpretation" that would be synonymous with fabricating data. I read stuff like this and what amazes me most is that this sort of propaganda actually works. One has to suspend reason for the above statement to seem coherent and consistent.

The article continues:

"One of the most disturbing elements suggests an effort to avoid sharing scientific data with critics skeptical of global warming. It is not clear if any data was destroyed; two U.S. researchers denied it."

Ok, this statement is an honest assessment of the material found within the emails, the scientists in the good ol boys club who roll with the UN and the likes of Al Gore had some data they thought it worth their while to keep from those who reject the man made global warming theory. Furthermore, given the already cited dishonesty of these fellows why should we trust their claim that they never destroyed like data they didn't want public?

"The e-mails show that several mainstream scientists [sic] repeatedly suggested keeping their research materials away from opponents who sought it under American and British public records law. It raises a science ethics question because free access to data is important so others can repeat experiments as part of the scientific method. The University of East Anglia is investigating the blocking of information requests."

This again can stand on its own, the scientists (in a looser sense of the word) state that they had data they didn't want scientists holding to rival theories to get a hold of. This again is dishonesty, yet we are supposed to view the findings of scientists like a papal decree...the majority has spoken, sit down and shut up. This shows how shaky this sort of science is, it is based upon mob rule rather than hard empiricism. That being the case the mob in favor with the powers that be and part of the inner circle or round table must keep a tight lid over undesired information, lest the unwashed masses of independent scientists get a hold of it.

The article then unfortunately goes on and tries to justify hiding data. It then gives an attempt to justify the clear vitriol for the scientists who are skeptical of the anointed theory. Ultimately when attempting to justify dubious behavior it is always best to invoke "experts":

"As part of the AP review, summaries of the e-mails that raised issues from the potential manipulation of data to intensely personal attacks were sent to seven experts in research ethics, climate science and science policy.

"This is normal science politics, but on the extreme end, though still within bounds," said Dan Sarewitz, a science policy professor at Arizona State University. "We talk about science as this pure ideal and the scientific method as if it is something out of a cookbook, but research is a social and human activity full of all the failings of society and humans, and this reality gets totally magnified by the high political stakes here."

The experts on "research ethics" have spoken, let us humbly submit to their proclamations. Given the fact that these fellows no doubt have no objective reference point to guide their ethical judgements their proclamations are rather weightless. All we can conclude is that some "experts in ethics" have put their crayons to paper and determined that no ethical wrongdoing has taken place.

I suppose this would mean that lying, hiding findings, and hating people who disagree with your position are all within the boundaries of upright behaviour when it comes to research. We should however accept their statements about the political nature of science, and this indeed murkies the waters. Anytime something becomes political the incentive to lie and spin comes to life.

We must also accept the proclamation that science is far less objective then we often think, a lesson my Atheist friends would do well to heed. It is chalked full of subjective agents, with their own wants and needs necessarily coming to bear on their findings. This is particularly true in the soft sciences (Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Archeology, and Climate science) harder sciences are less prone to this sort of fudging as they really can fully apply the scientific method these would include (Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry etc). It is sciences of the softer variety that we seem to receive an embarrassing amount of crack pot theories that are held due to the necessary mob rule that reigns in these sciences.

This following excerpt is another great example of how propaganda works given the Left vs Right false paradigm we are all supposed to accept:

"In the past three weeks since the e-mails were posted, longtime opponents of mainstream climate science [sic] have repeatedly quoted excerpts of about a dozen e-mails. Republican congressmen and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin have called for either independent investigations, a delay in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation of greenhouse gases or outright boycotts of the Copenhagen international climate talks. They cited a "culture of corruption" that the e-mails appeared to show.

That is not what the AP found. There were signs of trying to present the data as convincingly as possible."

This is the ace of spades the establishment can always throw out no matter what the issue. Why was it necessary to tell the reader that the congressmen who have cited these damning emails were "Republicans"? Why do the writers of this article have to bring up Sarah Palin and her doubts of the IPCC's findings?

The answer is simple, to make it a partisan issue. Almost everybody sees Sarah Palin as an uneducated rube, so in order to discredit the sensible reaction that these emails indicate fraud in the research the climate change posse has been putting forth, you bring up Sarah Palin and her opinion. This makes it a left vs. right issue, thus inherently pitting people on one side or other given which brand of soda they like to purchase. Link a position to Sarah Palin and every sensible person will out of respect for his own intellectual dignity want to react and say, "Well if she holds to X then I DO NOT."

Its a simple game, and again it is rather amazing that it continues to work.

Furthermore note in the above quote that it says that the emails only "appear" to show fraud. We just went through a number of citations where I don't know how one can read them as anything but fraud, yet we are to conclude that they merely appear to be engaged in fraud...after all we have to look at all of this in context.

The AP has not found fraud, just trying to present the "data as convincingly as possible". Well this of course begs the question as the reliability of the data is the very thing being questioned, and the very thing that the scientist's comments within the emails show that we should indeed question. All in all this is a very delicate way of saying the AP found that, "The scientists were cooking the books and trying to convince people of something of which the evidence is questionable."

That is what it should say were we not dealing with a lap dog media shilling for the establishment.

"None of the e-mails flagged by the AP and sent to three climate scientists viewed as moderates [sic] in the field changed their view that global warming is man-made and a threat. Nor did it alter their support of the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which some of the scientists helped write."

Funny that these guys after reading their buddies emails didn't change their minds, this again is supposed to show us that there is nothing in the emails that should cause us to question the integrity of the findings given by these scientists after all "moderates" didn't change their minds and if anybody would it would be them.

""In my opinion the meaning is much more innocent than might be perceived by others taken out of context. Much of this is overblown," North said."

I am wondering what context statements like "hide the decline" (referencing temperature) can be seen as innocent in solid scientific research. I love it when appeals to context are made in an attempt to justify the unjustifiable.

To conclude, I see articles like this as great examples of propaganda. The media comes to the aid of a rightfully tottering establishment policy, giving simply absurd reasonings for why we should give the establishment our unwavering support. The issue of man made global warming is rather moot to me, it is ridiculous on its face. The fact that calling Co2 a pollutant, and the remedy is to tax its output, smells like a con-game and a power play is probably because it is.

Christians should be on the front lines of real environmentalism as we know who made the earth and we know to whom the beauty of nature testifies. We are called to be good stewards of the planet and to take care of it. Yet this kind of alarmism and fear mongering based upon dubious science with the solution being global governance should be rightly rejected.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Faithfulness Without Comprimise (Or Speaking the Truth in Love)

"And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD." (Jeremiah 9:3)

The above verse immediately upon my reading of it became precious to me. The land of Israel had become polluted with lies and the reasoning given was that the people were not "valiant for the truth". This verse in our age is like a rabid rhinoceros in a fine china shop, upon which tranquilizers have become useless. I say this because the spirit of our age is one that has given up on objective truth.

When I say objective truth I mean truth that is true for everyone, whether they fancy it or not, whether they know of it or not, and whether they accept it or not. Modern man has given this up as he has either accepted that there is no God, or if there is how should I know what He's all about? Thus, everyone has their own "truth", and it is the height of insolence to come along and correct another saying, "Sir, you are wrong."

This is very much the spirit of our age.

Now in this post I am not aiming to address the unbeliever, but rather how this spirit of the age or zeitgeist has affected the Christian mind. Ever since my coming to believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ I have heard incessant calls for unity, and observed furrowed brows in discussion of church division. That seemed all well and good until as I grew in my knowledge both of the scriptures and what was going on in churches, that I realized that some people claiming to be Christians believed some pretty off the wall stuff.

Some were saying, "Come to Jesus he'll give you that raise. And send me a check as a seed of faith showing that you believe your raise is coming."

Others were saying, "Remember, O most loving Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, we turn to you, O Virgins of virgins, our Mother. To you we come, before you we stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, do not despise our petitions, but in your mercy hear us and answer us. Amen." (link here)

Still others said, "You need to be baptized in order to be saved."

Many females of the more "progressive" type have said, "When it says 'I don't permit a woman to teach' it just applied to that specific church for a few years because the women there were especially rowdy, so women should be in leadership, remember Deborah."

Some other chap would come along and say, "If you just believe, you will be healed from your sickness, because healing is in the atonement."

Yet another fella would say, "When the Bible says 'predestined' it just means God saw what you would choose ahead of time."

Lastly, and this one takes the cake for me, as I heard a wild eyed lewd fellow of the baser sort say in all seriousness, "In heaven all the women will become men, if it wasn't so we'd all be a fighting over who would get the girl and that just wouldn't be heaven, now would it? People fighting all the time like that, no sir, not in heaven, so all women become men."

Well, lets get out the marshmallows and hot dogs for a hearty round of Kumbaya arms locked as we celebrate our unity around the campfire. Surely this is the appropriate action as division and splitting would simply be out of line right?

The answer I hope is obvious, the main problem comes when in our dividing we behave less than Christian. Ugliness is detectable to all men, and when Christians behave in an ugly manner towards one another the watching world has grounds to say, "See! See! Where is the manifestation of what you talk about!"

Christ Himself said this as he stated that "the world will know you are Christians by your love". Note that He didn't say by your seamless agreement and unity in all things, but by our love. Schaeffer stressed this point greatly in his wonderful book "The Mark of the Christian". It is a small book and it is less academic than Schaeffer's other works, so if you have the means it is simply a must read.

One of my favorite Schaeffer quotes comes from this book and reads as follows:

"Before a watching world, an observable love in the midst of difference will show a difference between Christian's differences and other men's differences. The world may not understand what the Christians are disagreeing about, but they will very quickly understand the difference of our differences in an open and observable love on a practical level.

That is different. Can you see why Jesus said this was the thing that would arrest the attention of the world? You cannot expect the world to understand doctrinal differences, especially in our day when the existence of truth and absolutes are considered unthinkable even as concepts."
(Francis Schaeffer)

The point stressed is that the world knows of disagreements and divisions, we see them all the time, in marriages, friendships, and of course in our points of view. It is in these areas that the grace of God can shine, as it is not in the areas that we agree upon that will demonstrate love but where we disagree. It is here, when most we are tempted to ugliness that the church can stand before the watching world, not shirking the disagreement or sweeping it under the rug, but boldly having the matter out...all the while not ceasing to love one another.

In part this is why rug sweeping is so detestable, not only is the matter not resolved, but further, an opportunity to be the church before the watching world is missed.

We are called to love all men as ourselves, because all men bear the image of God and thus have value and dignity commanding our respect and love. Thus, in our evangelistic witness as well as in our relationships with Christians with whom we disagree sharply, we are called to "Speak the truth in love." (Eph 4)

Ours is an age skittishly averse to saying, "They are wrong." It smacks of arrogance, because nobody can know the truth, and thus nobody can utter such as pronouncement with authority. This again is the spirit of the age, and more often than not Christians react in like manner to such utterances.

Rather than throwing truth under the bus and leaping into relativism we need a robust display of speaking the truth with love. There will come points where the person with whom we disagree is so far out that they probably are not really a Christian, nonetheless, we are called in our being valiant for truth to love that person and hope for their repentance even though they may be excommunicated from the church.

This is the attitude of Paul in his epistle to Titus as he states that we are to be, "showing all meekness unto all men for ourselves were onetime foolish" (Titus 3). There is no justification for displacing compassion, even for people espousing foolish things, as we ourselves were once foolish. Equally, there is no room for acting as though it were not foolishness, a spade must be called a spade.

I must confess as I wrap up here that I have failed terribly at this, my disposition is to be like a wild ogre clubbing people in the name of the truth yearning for more blood. At other times I have been silent when I know I should say something. I have failed at this in both ways, being zealous for the truth at the expense of the person, and being zealous for relationships at the expense of the truth.

However, the times by the grace of God I have seen the balance struck it has been glorious, in evangelism as well as doctrinal disagreements. The paraphrased quotes I gave vary in their degree of gravity, however, one thing they have in common is that they are issues we absolutely have to divide over. Yet, in our division we are called to love one another, as this is the mark of the Christian, love.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bill O'reilly: "I don't care about the constitution"

Here the stallwart voice of the neo-conservative movement Bill O'reilly states the sentiment of many who call themselves "conservatives" as he announces that "I don't care about the constitution" to former judge Andrew Napolitano who defends the actual trial of Khalid Sheik Muhammad the supposed "mastermind" of the 9/11 attacks...yeah right. The constitution is what is to keep us from mob rule and the rule of a tyrant, its amazing that a "conservative" would say this but it shows yet again there is little to no difference between the "liberals" and "conservatives" neither care about the constitution when their party is in power. Here's the video:

the thing that disappoints me most is that people get their political opinions from hacks like Orielly and Oberman, and just bulimically regurgitate what they say even though it is a tangled mess of contradictions and inane platitudes. I have talked to people on the left and right who really have no principles but spout the one liners of political hacks in the place of reasoned discourse.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Knowing Better Than God (Or, Why I Don't Roll Charismatic Redux)

My family, again due to weather, visited a local church rather than going to our usual home church for the Lord's day. This church was fairly charismatic, but to my relief the pastor stuck to the Bible in his preaching and although the gospel wasn't preached he did a fair job of expounding the text. This is leaps and bounds beyond what I have experienced in churches that are into charismatic expression where often the service disintegrates into utter chaos and subjective expressions because "the spirit is moving".

What I found in the book sale area was a book by Bill Johnson, a pastor whom many of my charismatic friends admire and see as a sort of mentor. It is by no means my goal to slander men, I let them slander themselves with their own words. The book title is "Face to Face with God" and this book seems like your standard technique type book seeking to arm the reader with tools to manipulate God into doing things we want, to put it crassly. I merely had to read the back of the book and the urge welled up within me to throw it across the room (as I did with another tawdry installment by Mr. Johnson), the only thing that restrained me from taking such appropriate action is that it was marked at $10, and I certainly did not desire to pay for this book as a result of the damage that surely would have been incurred.

These technique books are a dime a dozen and it really is a marvel to me that people continue to lap them up like chicken soup on a cold day. The back cover is what betrays the genre as it always has a list of what the book promises to deliver to the reader in the form of new and cutting edge insights. This book by Johnson fits the mold to the T, and one of the techniques contained in the book highlighted on the back cover that enraged me read:

"How to "set up an ambush" to apprehend God rather than just waiting on God"

I simply don't know how anyone who fears God can read that as anything but blasphemous. If you need help seeing the problem let me point it out.

1.) God's word commands us to wait on Him, Johnson says we shouldn't, he seems to think he has a better technique than God. This is a prevalent theme in charismatic fanaticism, our experiences and feelings and impressions are right up there in authority with scripture. (See my previous post on Bentley for another example of Johnson knowing better than God)

2.) God is omniscient, He's not going to be taken off guard by our efforts to "trap or ambush" Him, it is He who has decreed all of history. We come to Him as beggars with outstretched hands.

3.) God is a person, He is not some force that we tap into, the treatment of God like some sort of cosmic force comes up over and over with these types of writings, and no doubt that is in the work on techniques to manipulate God by Mr. Johnson.

I really don't know how bible believing Christians can make these sorts of statements, it shows gross misunderstanding of God's character and nature, and therefore it betrays ignorance of scripture itself or in this case just outright disobedience to or slighting of what scripture says. In short, this sort of stuff just makes me tired.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Andrew Napolitano on the Health Care Boondoggle

Judge Andrew Napolitano (probably the only commentator working with Fox News worthy of a hearing) in commenting on the health care bill, soon to be yet another unconstitutional "law", in a recent article as follows:

"We do not have two political parties in this country, America. We have one party; called the Big Government Party. The Republican wing likes deficits, war, and assaults on civil liberties. The Democratic wing likes wealth transfer, taxes, and assaults on commercial liberties.

Both parties like power; and neither is interested in your freedoms. Think about it. Government is the negation of freedom. Freedom is your power and ability to follow your own free will and your own conscience. The government wants you to follow the will of some faceless bureaucrat."

I thought the line in bold to be an excellent description of the relationship between government and individual liberty. It could be likened to light and darkness, darkness (government) being by its nature the absence of light (freedom). Government is an exercise in pure consumption and legalized plunder, government does not make things what it has it has by theft from those who are producers.

The only reason why this parasitic relationship continues as an accepted relationship is that we have been trained to believe that government is a sort of god. This idol makes the sun to shine, the grass grow, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, prospers us all, keeps us save from the hordes of infidels by mercilessly bombing third world countries, and in general keeps us safe from ourselves. Like all idols government demands sacrifice, through your giving what is yours through honest labor or even your firstborn through conscription.

It bothered me under the reign of Bush the lesser to hear people constantly defend the indefensible even to this day believing there really were WMD's in Iraq, and the liberal media covered this up. The "Terrorists are gonna get us if we don't do X!" line was tirelessly invoked to assuage the inklings of concern over the freedom destroying policies like the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, warrantless wiretapping, and torture. You know what, it worked, Americans on the right accepted these policies and continue to by and large although they now have reservations as a man with a (D) next to his name now has these insidious tools at his disposal.

It is no less troubling to see Barack H Obama (peace be upon him) picking up the ball right where Bush left off and running with it. This time the card incessantly invoked is one of tolerance and compassion for the disenfranchised. This is how the hate crimes law was passed (attached to a military funding bill gaining bipartisan coverage at the cost of lives in the countries the government ruling us chooses to bomb) as well as the now Health Care "reform" bill. If you have a problem with these government power grabs at the expense of individual liberty you must be insensitive or in the worst case an outright racist/bigot.

It is a shame that people can not see through these sorts of games, it is rather simple, you divide people into artificial groups of race, gender, socio-economic class, and party affiliation, get them all fighting with each other, meanwhile, the plunderers sit up top continuing their pillage and metastasizing into a grotesque size.

With this formula, people will insist that their group is constantly being cheated, create lobby groups to strip their enemy group of money or freedom (often under the guise of "rights" for their group) to right the wrongs done to said group, this is a wish the government is more than happy to acquiesce to as they are in the business of sanctioning theft, and managing the lives of individuals.

What I just said may go right over people's heads caught up in these artificial fights which are created for us to supply us with our outlet of political action. However, the formula Napolitano lays out is simple and clear cut, government by its very nature is the negation of freedom.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Swallowing the Spirit Feathers and All

"He swallowed the Holy Spirit feathers and all!"

That is what Martin Luther said of the fanatics in his day who claimed they had Divine inward revelations that were on par with the revealed word of God in scripture.

The same sentiment can be said of much of what passes for the "revival movement" in America, it is high on excitement and low on faithfulness to biblical doctrine, even spurning it as a byword. I have avoided these sorts of issues as no fruit seems to come from stating the obvious, however the rise and fall and seeming rise yet again of Todd Bentley is a case in point example of the fiber of this movement.

I take no joy in the fact that Mr. Bentley fell into gross sin as some critics of revivalism seem to have. Bentley is a man made in the image of God and has inestimable worth and dignity based upon this reality. My beef however, is that the folk who occupy this movement seem to think they know better than God, at least as He has revealed Himself in His word.

Todd Bentley had an adulterous affair with a woman, then divorced his wife, and subsequently married said woman. Obviously, this was frowned upon. Scripturally, Bentley is not only disqualified from ministry as Paul states the requirements a church leader is to possess but due to his continuance in sin should really be excommunicated:

"Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach," (1 Tim 3:2)

Bentley lacks most of these traits, I can not judge his hospitableness. The most flagrant compromise is that Bentley continues living in adultery by virtue of his new marriage to the woman with whom he committed adultery. Christ could not be more clear in His view of adultry and remarriage as He states:

"It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.'
But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."
(Matt 5:31-32)

The latter clause is why I say with Christ that Bentley is still living in adultery.

A fairly recent article in Charisma displays the attitude in much of the charismatic circles toward leaders found in gross sin. The article basically describes Bentley as a victim, and there is not the slightest hint that the continued relationship with the woman and continued ministry of Bentley is in any way improper. The only victims I see in all of this are Bentley's children and former wife, which get barely a mentioning.

In fact it is suggested that there is something wrong with you if you have a problem with this by Rick Joyner. Yes, we should forgive a repentant person, but Bentley is disqualified Biblically from ministry, AND biblically he hasn't repented as he continues his adultery.

Right now Todd Bentley is being "restored", allegedly based on Gal 6:1, to ministry, yet another move in defiance of scripture (as one who has fallen into sin can be restored to fellowship but NOT to leadership as he now fails to meet the requirements of leadership).

These biblical requirements for leadership unfortunately do not daunt the individuals over seeing the "restoration process", Rick Joyner of Morningstar Ministries, and Bill Johnson of the Bethel church in Redding CA. Todd Bentley still "ministers" the article states and I would assume in the eyes of most within the revivalism movement I am the bad guy for having a problem with any of this.

The reason why one who has run headlong into iniquity while in leadership simply is disqualified from ministry is because it gives the enemies of the gospel grounds to mock. We are called to refute the gainsayers, not only with our sound doctrine but our godly lives (Titus 1:9-13).

It is the loose lifestyles of all of these big named speakers/revivalists, the gross avarice and love of worldly riches on display in these lavish churches, and the wretched theology incessantly spewed out of the meetings that have caused me to long since avoid this movement like the swine flu shot.

I am not a full blown cessationist, but, the constant compromise of biblical teaching and biblical morality within these charismatic circles is the strongest case for cessationism in my mind. Articles like the one in Charisma to which I linked cause me to yet again review why I even believe that the gifts are for today.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Reformationstag!

Hey at least they still care in Deutschland. Unfortunately, I am willing to bet that most American protestants either don't even know or care that October 31st is the day marking the nailing of the 95 theses to the Castle Kirche in Wittenberg in the year of our Lord 1517 by a Augustinian monk named Martin Luther, thus unwittingly sparking the protestant reformation. Rather than giving the usual finger wagging screed as to the pagan nature of Halloween and why Christians should be non-participants in the worldly "holliday", (If you don't already have this conviction no writing of mine will help no doubt) I shall go into a description of a day worthy of commemoration by believers.

In 1517 Martin Luther took particular umbrige with the sale of indulgences by the Roman Church, seeing the sale of indulgences as giving false assurance to the purchasers while satisfying the avarice of the gluttons in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Indulgences were basically get out of purgatory for a price certificates. Disgusted with such a patently repugnant appeal to the most superstitious vices in man, Luther penned the 95 theses, which in modern parlance could be seen as 95 sentences/reasons why the sale of indulgences is wrong.

Some of the most stinging theses' read as follow:

"32. They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon."

"36. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon."

"52. The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, even though the commissary, nay, even though the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it."

"62. The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.

63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last.

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first."

"75. To think the papal pardons so great that they could absolve a man even if he had committed an impossible sin and violated the Mother of God -- this is madness."

(Note on 75, it was reported that Tetzel the indulgence seller went this far in attempting to display the efficacious nature of indulgences, also note Luther is still rather Catholic in his view of Mary)

"76. We say, on the contrary, that the papal pardons are not able to remove the very least of venial sins, so far as its guilt is concerned.

77. It is said that even St. Peter, if he were now Pope, could not bestow greater graces; this is blasphemy against St. Peter and against the pope."

"79. To say that the cross, emblazoned with the papal arms, which is set up [by the preachers of indulgences], is of equal worth with the Cross of Christ, is blasphemy."

"82. To wit: -- "Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a Church? The former reasons would be most just; the
latter is most trivial."

"86. Again: -- "Why does not the pope, whose wealth is to-day greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?"

"88. Again: -- "What greater blessing could come to the Church than if the pope were to do a hundred times a day what he now does once, and bestow on every believer these remissions and participations?"

We can see from these statements the seed of protestantism. Modern protestant readers may be surprised at how Catholic this document still is considering it is the spark that flamed into the protestant reformation. However, Luther is not far from stabbing right into the heart of that beast of Romanism. Forgiveness of sin lay not in some sort of incantation from the bowels of Rome in the form of an indulgence certificate, rather, it lay in the posture of the individual before Christ, namely faith laden repentance.

This is indeed the heart of the Roman antichrist system, the Church, priests, and Pope have replaced Christ. Rome has claimed powers to herself that reside in Christ and His gospel alone, and the benefits of these blessing are delivered to the individual by faith alone in Christ alone. That last sentence is the deathblow to Romanism, there is no need of priest or Pope as these offices usurp Christ.

It must also be noted that Luther was not the first to take issue with the blasphemous Roman hegemony on salvation, others like John Wycliffe, and Jon Huss also in studying the scripture saw the unbiblical nature of the Roman system. The latter, Jon Huss, went to the stake for this truth, that man only needs Jesus Christ. Luther simply was by providence the right man at the right time of history, the advent of the printing press spread Luther's writings throughout Germany, winning him and the christian gospel many a friend as well as enemies.

Luther spent much of his life under the threat of execution from Rome. The famous climax that has been often been similarly repeated by saints throughout history was Luther's stance before the Diet of Worms. Many a man of God has faced a similar ultimatum, and like Luther many have stood unwavering before devils. This Diet Luther faced was intended to be a kangaroo trial in which a conviction would be found and Luther executed. Luther wrote of his going to Worms:

"The papists do not desire my coming to Worms, but my condemnation and my death. It matters not. Pray not for me, but for the word of God. . . . Christ will give me His Spirit to overcome these ministers of error. I despise them during my life; I shall triumph over them by my death. They are busy at Worms about compelling me to retract; and this shall be my retraction: I said formerly that the pope was Christ's vicar; now I assert that he is our Lord's adversary, and the devil's apostle."

Luther was ready to die for what he knew to be the truth and fully expected such to be his end at Worms. Well might modern Christians follow such examples, rather than conceding to the cries of "Intolerance!" or "Narrow Minded", as narrow is the way that leads to life and oh how few are there that find it and oh how many trod the well worn way toward destruction bidding us join them. Luther at Worms put his life into the hands of the enemies of the gospel as he refused to recant and rather stated in contra mundum fashion:

""Since your Imperial Majesty and Lordships demand a simple answer I will do so without horns or teeth as follows[140]: Unless I am convicted by the testimony of Scripture (Jh. 8:9) or by evident reason - for I trust neither in popes nor in councils alone, since it is obvious that they have often erred (Num.15:22; Ps. 119:110; Isa.28:7; 1Tim.6: 20,21) and contradicted themselves -

I am convicted by the Scripture which I have mentioned and my conscience is captive by the Word of God (2.Cor. 4:2). Therefore I cannot and will not recant, since it is difficult, unprofitable and dangerous indeed to do anything against one's conscience, (Mt. 25:30). God help me. Amen." (Isa. 50:9)"

It is by no means my intention to elevate a man named Martin Luther to a level of undue respect as Luther was a man, he had his faults, many of them great. What I wish to highlight is a man of conviction, Luther was no Mr. Looks Both Ways as Bunyan described, he was a man captivated by the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, it was the blessings conveyed upon him from this Galilean that made him so rich as to look upon the pope as a poor man indeed.

Oh that we would do as the writer of Hebrews exhorts us "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith." (Heb 13:7) What is it worth imitating in Luther? I would say a being so overjoyed with the blessings of Christ and the age to come that we count this age as vanity in comparison. I believe that to be the essence of one whose life is no longer his own.

What then are we today to make of the reformation, is it just some trinket of antiquity from 500 years ago that we dust off and say "Boy that was a neat time, that Luther sure was something! Oh to live in such times!"? No, that in reality is to be captivated by our own age and fail to see the continuity between the reformation and today.
(Pictured is Lucas Cranach's "Saxon Princess" many believe this to be a portrait of Luther's daughter Magdalena, after whom we named our 2nd daughter)
What then is the inheritance which we have reaped from the reformation? Here are but a few:

I. Freedom of Worship

The reformation paved the way for the freedom of the individual to worship as dictates his conscience. This in most cases came at the cost of the blood of many men of whom the world was not worthy, whether it was the French Calvinists butchered in France, the Anabaptists, the Scottish Covenanters, or the Puritan non-conformists, this gave rise to the search for a land where individuals could worship freely without a state church. Thus, America became the bastion of religious freedom, imperfect as it was.

Prior to this time the Roman Church had the imperial hegemony on worship, their inquisitors would, like the East German Stasi, seek out violators to persecute mercilessly. The Pope had kings march to Rome barefoot in the snow to plead for their kingdoms back after the Pope had imposed the interdict on said kings. All were required to bow before Rome.

II. Individual Freedom

From the reformation the individual regained importance, as Christ died for individuals, and individuals came to Christ by faith. This developed into the social contract theories of government as no individual had any more inherent value than another, which resulted in the Lex Rex concept or law as king.

America's declaration of independence traces its foundation directly back to these principals, and the checks and balances system we once enjoyed was based upon the Calvinistic principal of total depravity, as no man or men should be trusted with unbridled power as all men are corrupt. See America's bill of rights as an example of how government is to be restrained.

III. Truths To Treasure

Lastly, I want to highlight that the protestant reformation has blessed the church of Christ with an inheritance of truth. Paul urged Timothy to "guard the deposit" not once but twice in separate epistles (1 Tim 6:20, 2 Tim 1:14). Well might we take heed to the importance of doctrine in an age where the mere word "doctrine" provokes sneers and disapproval not only in the world but much of the visible church.

By in large evangelicalism has fallen prey to a sort of anti-intellectualism, as though our inward feelings, intuitions, and impulses were to be given credence. We have fallen prey to the worldly messages of "Have your best life now" or a crass Jesus in a bottle theology where Jesus just wants to give us all our hearts desire. We have lost sight of what Paul saw as important, namely right doctrine.

By bathing ourselves in the lives and writings of those who have gone before us we surround ourselves with a "great cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1) and afford ourselves with they eyes of foreigners to our age allowing us to see a bit clearer. We need to gaze upon the redwood trees of Luther, Calvin, Bunyan, and Edwards, as frankly, in comparison we live in an age surrounded by cattails and superficiality.

The deposit the reformation has left us with can by summed up in the 5 Solas which are as follows:

Sola Gratia-

By grace alone are we saved, man can do nothing to make himself right with God, God must first act to awaken those at enmity with God (Rom 8:7) who are dead in sin (Eph 2:1-8).

Sola Fide-

By faith alone in Christ, which is the result of grace working in the heart of the sinner, is a sinner saved. No works to commend the sinner to God. (Rom 3:28)

Sola Christus-

By Christ alone, the work and person of Christ alone is what can save the sinner. (John 3:36)

Sola Scriptura-

Scripture alone, the inspired word of God in the scripture is the sole and final authority in all matters of doctrine and life. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

Sola Deo Gloria-

To the glory of God alone, the goal of all of history and creation is to glorify God. (Isa 24:15) Therefore we also so ought to conduct our lives with this singular aim in mind(1 Cor 10:31).

Rome has no problem with these 5 principals, it is the sola aspect that destroys Rome's superstitious hegemony, as it strips her of the stolen attributes she has self attributed and puts them back where they belong.

May we guard and treasure these truths as we treasure the Truth Giver (we are commanded to do so), and may we apply them to our lives, with the end of the glory of God as our chief aim.

Happy reformation day!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What are Christians to Make of Israel?

Christian Nationalism/Zionism
"I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Gen 12:3)

As a young Christian I was brought up under the well nigh standard rubric of dispensational theology. Part of this includes the view that the end times are upon us and the nation of Israel needs the support of Christians as part of their duty to be obedient to Gen 12:3. This is coupled with the principal that the Israeli people by virtue of their Jewish ancestry are the special chosen people of God.

I heartily imbibed this sort of thinking, saw nothing amiss about churches having Israeli flags alongside American flags within their sanctuaries, I thought it to be quite fine for gentilic believers waving around shofars, stars of David and prayer shawls in an attempt to be "messianic believers". I further found it appropriate to be in constant prayer and supplication for the current nation of Israel. I also saw believers of Semitic ancestry to be a sort of believer worth of "double honor" by virtue of the blood in their veins.

I had the sort of notion that for me as a gentile my relationship to the covenant keeping God of the Bible to be on a sort of long distance phone plan, whereas, for individuals of Semitic extraction it was akin to a sort of a local calling plan.

Note that I use the past tense for the above verbs, I cannot and do not think like this anymore.

The main reasons I have had a change of mind are: 1.) An understanding of the covenants of scripture, as well as 2.) The doctrine of election, and lastly in reference to the nation of Israel itself 3.) I find a non-interventionist foreign policy for America to be most conducive to liberty at home and abroad.

I. The Nature of the Covenants

What are we to make of the promises of Gen 12:3, or the exhortation to "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they be secure who love you!" (Psalm 122:6)? I think the answer to this is found in the Person of Christ.

Christ is the fulfillment of the promise given to Abraham in Gen 12, through Him all nations are blessed, and truly through Him Abraham's descendants are as the stars in the sky. Galatians chapter 3 is rather unambiguous on this very issue as it states:

"Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed." So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith." (Gal 3:7-9)

Furthermore, Paul explicitly makes clear that the culmination of the Abrahamic covenant is in Christ as he states:

"Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "And to offsprings," referring to many, but referring to one, "And to your offspring," who is Christ." (Gal 3:16)

Paul flushes this concept out and its implications at the end of chapter 3 as he writes:

"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." (Gal 3:27-29)

The context of Galatians is further illuminating as its original recipients were Gentile believers being taken in by Judiazers. We further see Peter rebuked in chapter 2 for treating the Gentiles as inferiors and refusing to share fellowship with them. So what we see here is Paul's God inspired explanation of the nature of the new covenant in relationship to the old, as he tries to disentangle these believers from the legalistic pitfalls that others were seeking to impose upon them.

Paul is saying to these Gentiles, you are the true children of Abraham if you have the same faith as Abraham. Ethnicity is not the issue, nor was it ever, the issue always was trust in the promises, and in the New Covenant trust in the Promised One. Paul is ripping down the Jew Gentile distinction, whereas many modern Christians find it appropriate to erect yet again this distinction.

This strongly parallels Paul's exposition in Romans 9 which reads:

"But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring." (Rom 9:6-8)

Paul could not be more clear, the promises to Abraham are fulfilled in Christ, and the descendants of Abraham are those with the faith of Abraham in the Christ. Again ethnicity does not matter, the Israel of God are those who are in Christ by faith. It is here we see the continuity between the old and new covenants, it was always based upon faith not ethnicity. This is why even in the Old Covenant we see believers like the mixed multitude coming out of Egypt, Rahab, Ruth, and others. It never was an ethnic based promise but one of faith, the ethnic aspect, as already quoted, had primarily to do with Christ, Abraham's seed/offspring (singular).

This is not replacement theology as the Gentiles never have replaced the Jewish people, rather, this is a continuity between the covenants which inclusion within has always been based upon faith. The problem is that dispensationalism has coarsely divided the covenants with the precision of a rusty and dull hacksaw, and for whatever reason this rather new thinking has gained ascendancy within evangelicalism.

There are indeed differences in the covenants but at the center the essence has always been faith in the Promise of God, and this was and is open to Jew and Gentile alike (Take all the rules in dealing with "strangers" or "foreigners" in the law of Moses for instance).

This is how Paul can both say that there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile (as in regards to justification by faith there never was), and remind the Jewish people that the promise remains for them in Romans 11, God has not replaced the Jews with the Gentiles. But rather, all are one in Christ through faith.

In short, the only special people of God are those who have been brought out of the miry clay of unbelief and been set upon the Rock by faith. (Psalm 40:2, Eph 2)

II. Election

Romans 9 has already been cited, however it needs to be highlighted that individuals are chosen by God not ethnic groups or nations. This is abundantly clear for those willing (no pun intended) to see:
"And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad--in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call-- she was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."

So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-- even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?"
(Romans 9:10-24)

One of the things that has always amazed me about this passage is the fact that Paul anticipates and rebuts the standard objection to the doctrine of election. He would not anticipate these objections had he not indeed been talking about what he is obviously talking about, namely that God elects individuals for salvation without regard to any inherent virtue in the individual (as there is none).

Christians who have problems with these implications have done all sorts of acrobatic tricks to avoid the clear implications here so much so that PT Barnum would be not a little impressed. The trickery of men knows no bounds (Eph 4:14), the most often invoked explanation I have heard to diffuse this bomb of a sovereign God is that the passage is really talking about nations not individuals.

Even if we accept such a sottish interpretation are not nations made of individuals? Furthermore it is clear that nations are not implicated as Paul had stated "they are not all Israel who are of Israel". Also, last I checked Esau, Jacob, and Pharaoh were all individuals who existed in time and space, no to mention pronouns like "us" and "whom" to say this is all allegorical and references nations is to do violence to the text.

My point in all of this is simple, as God has chosen individuals by election, these individuals come to Christ by grace through faith, faith is something only individuals can do not nations which is just a human category or grouping. God elects individuals not groups, which is why Paul can say "They are not all Israel who are Israel" which can be rendered, "They are not all the chosen people of God who are ethnic Israelites."

III. Application- A Christian Foreign Policy

If the promise given to Abraham in Gen 12:3 extended beyond Abraham's earthly lifespan does it apply to the modern Israeli state? I answer with scripture emphatically "NO".

The promise applies to Abraham's seed, which is Christ. There is one body, one Lord, one faith, and one baptism (Eph 4), it is here that the promise resides, with those of the faith of Abraham, Abraham's offspring. Abraham's offspring is not a nation or ethnic group but those who have faith in the Seed of Abraham, this is the Church of Jesus Christ. There are not two peoples of God but one, and it is not a nation or an ethnic group, but extends to all nations and all ethnic groups (Rev 5:9).

The application of this above truth of God's work of redemption for foreign policy is tremendous, we ought to treat all nations equally and, as our founders argued, we ought not to have entangling alliances. Unfortunately, evangelicals if they even agree with the founders (most have embraced an imperialistic foreign policy in the name of "spreading freedom") will make an exception for the nation of Israel.

This can be seen as Ron Paul was frowned upon at the Christian values voter debate during the 2008 presidential selection. Ron Paul declined to give an affirmative answer to continue to fund Israel with American tax payer's money. Paul, who is a Christian, was not only in line with the founders but a Biblical worldview that sees the people of God as neither a nation nor an ethnic group.

I am sure these same Christians would heartily support the removal of US foreign aid to the Islamic nations that "threaten" Israel. Ron Paul is simply consistent, a rare anomaly these days, and calls for us to treat all nations equally and stop robbing from the American people to prop up dictators across the globe.

I have had trouble seeing how Christians can continue to support the jingoistic foreign policy of a nation that by and large rejects Christianity, and subdues large portions of people groups in a garrison like police state. The only rationale given for such a see no evil hear no evil attitude on behalf of American evangelicalism toward Israel is based upon Gen 12:3, which as I have argued has nothing to do with ethnic extraction.

I simply do not know how you can be "God's people" and reject Him as Lord. Yet, this does not stop evangelicals from seeing Israel as some sort of special nation fulfilling prophecies as she subdues with an iron fist those who have been displaced by Israeli expansion. I suppose this has more to do with slapdash eschatology, and books in the family of "Left Behind" (an apocalyptic version of "The Hardy Boys" series).

This is why at one time I would have thought it great for American and Israeli flags to drape the backdrop of a church and now I find myself repulsed by any flag as the backdrop of a Church, Christians are not to be nationalistic, as the Church of Christ knows no borders nor national allegiances.

For instance, the other week I visited a local church with my daughter, as my wife was sick so we didn't take our usual 40 minute trek to our home church, right in the foyer was a 2' x 5' map of Israel. this was not Israel in the time of Christ, the time of David, or the 12 tribes, this was modern Israel in satellite form. The message was clear, Christians have some sort of link or duty to fulfill to that nation.

I would say as Christians we do not owe that nation any more deference than we owe to any other nation composed of individuals made in the image of God. Sure it would be neat to walk and see the sights where Christ and the apostles also walked, but there are no pilgrimages in biblical Christianity as Biblical Christianity has no holy shrines or sites. There are no virtuous effects of bathing in the Jordan that eclipse the virtues of bathing in the Mississippi, nor does the mount of Olives grant the pilgrim with any special grace which Pikes Peak lacks.

The virtue of the land itself lay in giving a picture to the student of scripture to go with the history of redemption rendered to us in God's word. This indeed is a wonderful blessing. To go beyond this is to flirt with Romanism and the reasoning that blessed the world with the crusades.

IV. Conclusion

How do I draw this to a close?

Firstly, that the promises made to Abraham were not nationalistic nor ethnic, the promise transcends these categories as Christ's work of redemption transcends these categories.

Secondly, the election of God Biblically is the election of individuals, not nations nor ethnic groups.

Lastly, given the above reasons, Christians should pursue a humble foreign policy in dealing with nations. Imperialism is simply out of step with Biblical Christianity.

To conclude by answering the question entitling this write up, "What are Christians to Make of Israel?"

I would answer that we should be appreciative and conversant in the biblical history and biblical culture of the Jewish people as their history is our history, they were the saints of old (Eph 2:19). I would add the caveat that we should not make an idol of Jewishness as the Galatians were tempted, and as much of evangelicalism today is tempted if not outright guilty of. We need to recall that as Paul declared there is no special ethnic people of God, there is one people of God, those in Christ by faith.

If we apply these truths we should treat the current nation of Israel as any other nation, one with whom we seek to trade and pursue peace with. We should treat her as any other nation created by the United Nations rather than one fulfilling the unbridled fantasies of the latest prophecy buff.
(Most of the pictures in the blog are from Christian ministry web pages)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Debate: Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson at Westminster

This is an excellent debate, very cordial, I was particularly impressed with Christopher Hitchens, though I completely disagree with him and his arguements. I expected Hitchens to be more like Sam Harris, just an angry blow-hard, however Hitchens is clearly a very smart man. Yet again testifying to the words of the apostle: "For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth." (1 Cor 1:26)

The debate starts here, part 1 is just intro, the rest can be found on youtube: