Friday, January 29, 2010

My first Podcast

Podcast: CS Lewis and Two Tiered Morality.

This is my first go at this, so don't expect much, one must crawl before he can walk and eventually run.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

C.S. Lewis On Two Tiered Morality (Or: What's Wrong for You is Not For Me)

"Well, then, it was jolly rotten of you," said Digory.

"Rotten?" said Uncle Andrew with a puzzled look. "Oh, I see. You mean that little boys ought to keep their promises. Very true: most right and proper, I'm sure, and I'm very glad you have been taught to do it. But of course you must understand that rules of that sort, however excellent they may be for little boys - and servants - and women - and even people in general can't possibly be expected to apply to profound students and great thinkers and sages.

No, Digory. Men like me, who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common rules just as we are cut off from common pleasures. Ours, my boy is a high and lonely destiny."
(The Magician's Nephew -C.S. Lewis)

C.S. Lewis had a way of putting great truths in beautiful simplicity, thus making their profundity accessible. This can most readily be enjoyed in Lewis' Narnia series. These stories geared toward children have more depth and Christian argumentation than many apologetics books.

In the words of the character of Uncle Andrew we see a dichotomous ethic, there are moral laws that apply to men, but, there are some men who due to their greatness are exempt from adhearing these laws. Uncle Andrew of course considered himself such a man. Thus, Uncle Andrew rationalized his theft, lying, cowardice, and endangerment of the lives of others as he belonged to a higher class of men that were exempt from the laws of morality they themselves expected others to follow.

This is a profound example of much thinking today, we can see it clearly in much of the area of scientific ethics, or lack thereof. The question is NOT whether doing experiments on human embryos is ethical, the question is "Can we do this?" (do we have the ability?) Likewise, the same can be said in the areas of human cloning and the chimerical animal hybrids scientists are experimenting with. Glowing pigs are an example of this (Pigs mixed with jellyfish genes HERE).

If scientists are doing that sort of thing to pigs and and telling us about it, imagine what they are doing they feel we are not yet ready to accept so they keep a lid on it.

Likewise, in the area of statecraft, politicians and bureaucrats, with one auspicious exception, see themselves as part of a cast that is exempt from following the laws they themselves write for everyone else to follow. This can be seen in the fact that most of the individuals in government do not pay their income tax. Timothy Geithner is a most offensive example as he himself is one of the current architects of American monetary policy.

Yet, in an even more astouding feat of alacrity in real time applying this notion of 2 sets of laws, one for us another for them, is a recent story of a Senator R.C. Soles from North Carolina shooting an intruder that broke into his home.

To this I have no objections, the man shot was a violent intruder threatening Soles' person and property.

The problem comes when we realize that Soles is one of the most anti-gun Senators in Washington. (An excellent article can be read HERE on this)

This is the Uncle Andrew principle in action. Apparently, Soles thinks it is proper to defend himself with a firearm yet he shudders at the idea of a mere unwashed commoner acting in like manner. This is one of the most sobering realities of all of this gun control talk...namely, that those who are passing such laws don't expect to have them applied to themselves. Government will always be armed, they just don't want the unhallowed hands of common folk to be able to access a firearm.

(Pictured to the left is the scene in the Magician's Nephew where Uncle Andrew tricks Polly into going into another world by putting on a magic ring. Uncle Andrew sets Polly up for the reason that going into an unexplored world is too dangerous for a man like Uncle Andrew)

Of course the principle is much bigger than gun laws and taxes as it really extends to most of what government does. Think about the phrases "Top Secret" and "National Security" how they are used to keep things from the public. Somehow these profound truths can be trusted in the hands of the state, yet not in our unwashed hands. Then they people wonder where conspiracy theories come from...

Also, think about the Obama healthcare plan, it won't apply to those in government they have their own package, nor does the military draft apply to those who make it into law. Furthermore, Those who vote to attack a country that has committed no aggression toward the United States would never dream of themselves going to fight in the cause they see as noble enough to spill other men's blood.

They are the Nietzschian "Ubermenschen", who are to boldly go forward letting no obstacles such as morality, decency or split infinitives hinder their march. They are the indispensable ones, we like Uncle Andrew's Hamsters and Digory and Polly, are expected to be the docile subjects of their wild Utopian experiments.

The troublesome fact is that those in the "commoner" class often acquiesce to this paradigm, and see such individuals as properly unbound by law.

Where ultimately does such an ethic lead? Lewis in the same book gives us a picture of the results of this 2 class ethic in the character of Jadis, queen of a dying planet named Charn. The interaction between her and the children is intentionally similar to the discussion cited earlier with Uncle Andrew. In the case of Jadis she had gone to the point of destroying everything living on the planet rather than relinquish her own power. Upon the children learning of this mass murder the account reads:

"But the people?" gasped Digory.

"What people, boy?" asked the Queen.

"All the ordinary people," said Polly, "who'd never done you any harm. And the women, and the children, and the animals."

"Don't you understand?" said the Queen (still speaking to Digory) "I was the Queen. The were all my people. What else were they there for but to do my will?"

"It was rather hard luck on them, all the same," said he.

"I had forgotten that you are only a common boy. How should you understand reasons of the State? You must learn, child, that what would be wrong for you or for any of the common people is not wrong in a great Queen such as I. The weight of the world is on our shoulders. We must be freed from all rules. Ours is a high and lonely destiny."
(The Magician's Nephew)

When this sort of ethic is applied it creates a class that is above the law, and thus see those in the other category as dispensable. I have no doubt that an ethic of this sort pervades much of the attitudes toward and within government at all levels and even science. On the firearm issue here in America, just think of how nobody flinches when a police officer walks down the street with a loaded gun on his belt. Yet, if a common man did so people of the more timorous bent would quake, and most likely the man would be tackled by a cop and have his gun taken from him (regardless of the fact that his behaviour fell within the bounds of legality).

A flurry of further examples could be provided, let it suffice to say that there are no two classes of men, one above the law and the other bound to it. That sort of thinking is quite literally deadly. That is the folly Lewis seeks to spell out roughly 75 years ago, as failure to reject and oppose this two class ethic has disastrous results.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Christian Philosophy of Civil Disobedience

Just burn some incense and say "Caesar is lord" and all will be well, after all no one is saying you can't worship your God the way you want, we just want you to go through this formal act of showing allegiance. Does not the Bible say, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities" (Rom 13:1)? Furthermore, what's the big deal about using the word "lord" (GK kurios) in reference to Caesar, that word was always used in reference to rulers.

The early Christians refused to do this act of submission to the state, I don't think because they quibbled over the word "lord" being applied to Caesar, although that may be enough. The issue I believe was more a question of allegiance (as I pointed out in my previous post), the Christians saw their allegiance being to God alone, and the state through its absurd deification of the emperor was usurping where our true allegiance is to be.

Thus, the early church engaged in civil disobedience, and refused to partake in the government mandated ceremony. they counted the cost and paid with their lives. Countless martyrdoms occurred during this time period, the most renown of course was the execution in the form of throwing the Christians to the lions.

Simply put, the early Christians were not willing to give to Caesar what belonged to God alone.

The more I converse with modern Christians on political philosophy, in person and online, the more convinced I am that the Church is sorely in need of a robust view of the relationship between Church and state. I am more and more of the opinion that if American Christians were faced with a situation as was in 1930's Germany (obviously without the advantage of looking back at what occurred) they would act no differently. There would be a minority who would be the heroes we adore and elevate as examples, like Hans and Sophie Scholl, Corrie Ten Boom, or even Deitrich Bonhoeffer, but they would be the minority.

(pictured to the right is a depiction of the martyrdom of a Christian in the ceramic tile art form)

This should be readily apparent due to the prevailing jingoism and support of "enhanced interrogation" in the American church today. Even the "round em all up" talk in reference to Arabs or Mexicans an unsavory kinship to the acts that took place in Germany. I recall during the reign of Bush the lesser, there was all sorts of talk about arresting anti-war people.

In large part I think it is because the church has gotten its political philosophy from either the national socialists on Fox News or the international socialists at CNN and NPR. I do not use those labels as a pejorative for effect, those labels really represent the political philosophies on the right and left.

The question I seek to address here is this, When is it proper for Christians to engage in civil disobedience?

Every Bible believing Christian will say we should engage in civil disobedience when the state attempts to restrict the worship of God and the preaching of the gospel. The problem is that they leave it there, and restrict proper disobedience to when the state interferes with "religious things" like praying, catechizing our children, gospel preaching, and assembly. This is all well and good, but the problem is that such a position isn't a Christian worldview.

The worship of God is to apply to all of life, and as such has something to say about every area of life, from the kind of care we drive, to the venders we purchase goods from, from the type of person we marry, to how we raise our children. The Christian message has something to say about all of this, and so should we. This is because Christianity is the truth.

Now in relation to the state scripture is clear we are called to obey the laws, that is unambiguous. However, we must quickly follow such a command with the questions of to what extant and in what circumstances?

Here is where most modern Christians drop the ball restricting civil disobedience to the state messing around with "religious things" as alluded to earlier. Let us look at the 2 passages that are most invoked to support this position of docility on the Church's behalf:

"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,
for he is God's servant for your good.
But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.
Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience."
(Rom 13:1-5)

The other passage that is cited in reference to obedience is in 1 Peter:

Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,
or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
(1 Pet 2:13-16)

Now in both passages I have highlighted what I see as a key to understanding why we should even have government and the proper role of government. Government exists to execute justice, that is the only reason it should exist. The question then arises that if God has ordained government to be His servant for good, what then when government itself is the chief instigator of roguery and injustice? Is such a government still the servant of God?

Well yes in a sovereign sense, but no in a moral sense. When government begins to pass laws that are contrary to the law of God, that government has usurped its authority and not only can be disobeyed but should be.

Francis Schaeffer in his indispensable work "A Christian Manifesto" represents one of the best modern Christian theories of Church and state (probably because it is one of the few). Schaeffer argues the very point I have made above as he writes:

"The Christian, the God-fearing person, is not like that. The Bible tells us that God has commanded us to obey the stat. But now a second question follows very quickly. Has God set up an authority in the state that is autonomous from Himself? Are we to obey the state no matter what? Are we? In this one area is man the measure of all things? And I would answer not at all, not at all."

In commenting directly on Romans 13 Schaeffer states,

"God has ordained the state as a delegated authority; it is not autonomous. The state is to be an agent of justice, to restrain evil by punishing the wrongdoer, and to protect the good in society. When it does the reverse, it has no proper authority. It is then a usurped authority and as such it becomes lawless and is tyranny." (emphasis Schaeffer's)

Schaeffer goes on to give the countless examples throughout church history where there were courageous men and women who stood up to an autonomous state men like William Tyndale, John Knox, John Bunyan, Samuel Rutheford etc. The point should be apparent, God has appointed the state for the purpose of upholding justice, and it is such a state we are called to submit to. When the state has become autonomous and has usurped God we are not at all called to obey such a state.

Schaeffer makes this clear as he describes the point where force is warranted in opposition to a tyrant:

"There does come a time when force, even physical force, is appropriate. The Christian is not to take the law into his own hands and become a law unto himself. But when all avenues to flight and protest have closed, force in the defensive posture is appropriate. This was the situation of the American Revolution...

A true Christian in Hitler's Germany and the occupied countries should have defied the false and counterfeit state and hidden his Jewish neighbors from the German SS Troops. The government had abrogated its authority, and it had no right to make any demands."

Bear in mind, that the Nazi government was not forbidding the worship of Christ in "religious things" they actually told the preachers to preach Romans 13 to their congregations. So the disobedience of the Christian to the state is not confined to not being allowed to preach or assemble. Rather, when the state has become a vehicle of injustice as defined by the word of God, disobedience is a must.

The Christian with a robust worldview will understand that the worship of God and obedience to God trumps the state not only in "religious things" but in all of life. The state as a delegated authority can not demand from us what God has not delegated to the state. Namely, to uphold justice.

I want to emphasize the point Schaeffer made that particularly in the use of force our posture is to be defensive and it is as a last resort after the avenues of redress of grievances and flight have been closed. Basically, we are cornered rattlesnakes with our rattle shaking.

One of my "bottom lines" is when the state tries to lay hands on my children. My children will receive a rich classical christian education and will not go into the crummy government schools full of drug deals, promiscuity, and just all around inadequate education as long as I draw breath.

This stance is Biblical, "Fathers bring up your children in the training and admonition of the Lord." (Eph 6)

When the state attempts to strip us of that right it has become illegitimate, and should be disobeyed. If some Christians feel that sending their children to the government school is fine that is up to them, the issue is when the state makes it mandatory which it has no right to do. When the state does this it has become autonomous.

I would like to close by applying this to America today, the country is teeming with talk of revolution, people are really just look for another Tom Paine. So my question has the time come for that?

I don't think so, yet.

Right now there is still a window open for us to effect change in government. Granted, there is a long train of abuses, the constitution is a joke to most politicians, and the main thing Washington seems to ponder is new schemes of legal plunder.

This we can put up with, and I think we are called to do so. However, we are not called to not call it what it is and try to change things, yet in our objections we are called to be submissive in these things.

Another area is the long train of human rights violations that continues to grow in size. America is now a country that tortures, sanctions abortions, invades non-aggressive countries, and imprisons people indefinitely without a trial. This is wrong, and the church has been sorely compromised in not speaking out sufficiently against these atrocities.

That is why I fear the time is rapidly coming where fighting may be inevitable, if the church condones the torture of Arabs who are deemed non-persons by the state, then on what basis can it object to the torture of Americans deemed non-persons by the state? When that time comes, it will be in large part because the church has lost it's prophetic voice in the political arena.

But as I say there is still a window, we can still assemble and protest as well as petition for changes. We have not yet reached the point where the tyranny is on our door step, although I think we are headed in that direction. The problem the church must address is "What is the bottom line when it comes to obedience to the state?"

As it stands right now the answers I hear from most of my brothers is not very encouraging.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why I Will Not Say "The Pledge of Alliegance"

I attended a Tea Party last weekend entitled "Throw the Bums Out!" a sentiment to which I am in hearty agreement if by "Bums" we mean all statists not just Democrats. However, the tone of sedition was less than ferocious and I was sorely disappointed with the meeting. I knew things were going to be rather anemic when they started the meeting with the pledge of allegiance.

I thought to myself "You have got to be kidding me, THIS is a Tea Party?!" I have a hard time picturing Jefferson and the boys pledging allegiance to the flag of Britain while penning writings like the "Declaration of Independance" and Paine's "Common Sense"...oh that's right, that's because that would be absurd. I simply stood there while the rest of the hall regurgitated the mantra we have had drilled into memories from a tender age. You may as why didn't you just say the thing?

The pledge issue has been in my mind lately. A recently sought introduction of the pledge of allegiance into my children's Sunday school class has caused me to reevaluate my position toward the pledge of allegiance. After further studying the history of the pledge, its origin and author, the wording, and the effects of the practice itself, I find the entire practice within the church and without to be simply antithetical to liberty and true patriotism.

I will confine myself to the practice in general in my evaluation. I will start by asserting that I don't know how a person who holds to a conservative political philosophy can defend this exercise in devotion to the state. When I think of "conservative" I think of a philosophy of small limited government, a philosophy that is skeptical toward government promises and averse to government expansion.

I. The Pledge's Marxist Origins

The original pledge was authored by Francis Bellamy, who was an unabashed socialist "Christian" minister. I put Christian in quotes as Bellamy was eventually defrocked and removed from the pulpit because he was preaching socialism rather than the gospel of Christ dying in the place of sinners. With sermons with titles like "Jesus the socialist" it is no wonder he would be accused of not preaching the gospel.

Francis Bellamy had a cousin with whom he shared the socialist dream for America, Edward Bellamy, who wrote a book entitled "Looking Back" in which the main character falls asleep and wakes up in the year 2000 where he finds a new America, one that is a socialist utopia. Francis saw the pledge of allegiance as a way to get socialist ideas into the minds of the people.

"Francis Bellamy said that one purpose of the Pledge of Allegiance was to help accomplish his lifelong goal of making his cousin’s socialist fantasy a reality in America. He further stated that the "true reason for allegiance to the Flag" was to indoctrinate American school children in the false history of the American founding that was espoused first by Daniel Webster and, later, by Abraham Lincoln." (Tom Dilorezo "Pledging Allegiance to the Omnipotent Lincolnian State" )

The fertile soil of the mind of a Marxist agitator is constantly hatching new statist ideas and Bellamy's was the Marxist seedbed in which the pledge of allegiance sprouted. This is by no means inconsequential and we can see in the wording of the pledge itself the ideas of collectivism.
Pictured to the right is what was known as the "Bellamy salute", this is how the pledge was done prior to WWII, they changed it after WWII to the hand on the bosom for a rather obvious reason. The Nazi (National Socialist) salute and devotion to the state and the pledge looked alike because they are in the same ideological family. The Hitler Jugend engaged in nearly identical practices as the American children pictured.

The original version of the pledge written by Bellamy read as follows:

“I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands: one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

The smuggling in of collectivist ideology is in the phrase "one nation, indivisible". To someone who holds to the Jeffersonian understanding of states rights, or the 10th amendment, or the right of individual states to nullify federal laws and even to leave the union, the pledge should be seen as problematic. The pledge really represents the Lincoln idea of the Union, one in which states (people) are under the rule of the central government. The states are merely a convenient was of dividing and governing the collective nation.

II. The Pledge's Un-American Content

The interesting thing is that this notion of an "indivisible" nation wasn't the view of the founders, the states of Virginia, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts all upon ratifying the constitution added the disclaimer that they could withdraw from the union if they saw fit at anytime. Furthermore, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison authored the "Virginia and Kentucky resolves" in 1798 in response to the John Adam's alien sedition act, which criminalized criticism directed to the government. These resolves spurred on state nullification of the sedition act and also argued that secession may need to occur.

That is where the south got the notion of secession from, it wasn't something they just made up out of nowhere, it was part of the nations founding, both at the ratification of the constitution and at the original secession of the 13 states from Britain.

As I have alluded, this myth of the perpetual indivisible union was most forcefully propagated by Abe Lincoln. That really is what the war for Southern independence was about, states rights or self government. At least that's what the southerners thought. Slavery wasn't part of the equation until halfway through the war when Lincoln suddenly started talking like an abolitionist. Take Lincoln's Gettysburg address, which one of the speakers at the Tea Party quoted proudly in its entirety by memory as if this is what America is all about:

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

[...] It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

I quote this in context of a discussion over the pledge as this displays the idea of the collective Union. This is also where the phrase "One Nation Under God" comes from, which was amended to the pledge in the 1950's. H.L. Mencken in commenting on the Gettysburg address states:

"But let us not forget that it [the Gettysburg address] is poetry, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it. Put it into the cold words of everyday. The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination—"that government of the people, by the people, for the people," should not perish from the earth.

It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in that battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves. What was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg? What else than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, i.e., of the people of the States?

The Confederates went into battle free; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision and veto of the rest of the country—and for nearly twenty years that veto was so effective that they enjoyed scarcely more liberty, in the political sense, than so many convicts in the penitentiary."

Mencken's assessment is spot on. The "Civil War" was the triumph of the central government in Washington over self government of the people. It is this that is reflected in the pledge's talk of an "indivisible" one nation. It also should be noted that the defeated southerners lived in a police state and had to take an oath of allegiance to the Union in order to vote again. Bellamy stated that this oath the defeated southerners had to take also inspired the pledge.

It is interesting as a side note, that the presidents and policies that both establishment parties usually praise and revere have historically been the most abusive with power and now have the most patriotic myths built around them, not to mention Greek temples to house their marbled likeness. Roosevelt and the New Deal is another example.

It is rather pathetic to me given what was just stated to hear these silly debates about what should be in the pledge, when in reality the whole thing should be tossed out as a Marxist tool of indoctrination.

III. Christians and the State

Furthermore, how can we as Christians swear allegiance to a state that is engaged in countless immoral actions? How can I as a Christian give allegiance to a government that sanctions and funds the abortions of babies, engages in wars of aggression around the world killing hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq alone, a government that tortures people made in the image of God, threatens to conscript my children and send them to kill in a far away land, and that steals from us through inflating the currency, to name a few things. How can a moral God fearing Christian countenance these things, nonetheless give "allegiance" to a government engaged in them?

(pictured to the left is a Hitler youth propaganda poster, it reads "Youth Serving the Leader" and "All 10 year olds in the Hitler youth"...this is a form of conscription. Also note the same look of devotion in the girl's eyes as those raising the American flag in the first picture at the top of the page.)

The early Christians in the Roman empire were called "Atheists" because they believed in allegiance to the one true God at the exclusion of all other allegiances. This was seen in the Christian's protest to the cult of the emperor, all Christians had to do was to make a vow of loyalty to the Roman state, and wave incense before an image of the emperor. They wouldn't do it.

After all what's the big deal? Just say "Caesar is lord" and burn some incense and be on your way. The early Christians had integrity that is sorely lacking in much of the church today. Having become lackeys to the Republican party, modern Christians have degenerated into vocal supporters of aggressive wars and torture.

It has been a source of no little grief for me to hear my brothers support patently immoral actions like torture, because Dick Cheney says we need to do it to keep us safe and he has an (R) next to his name. If we are willing to stoop to endorsing the base means of torture, preemptive war, and political assassinations by predator drones in Pakistan (a nation we are "not at war with"), what in reality separates us from the supposed terrorists?

We have lost the moral high ground.

Also, does not our Lord call us to "Love our enemies"? If you say things like that you can expect most evangelicals to snort and scoff at applying the words of Jesus to a real life situation like torture. It's just a nice platitude, maybe loving my enemies applies to a jerk mail man or the guy at work I don't care for, but to apply it to those guys with towels on their heads is just crazy talk.

IV. Conclusion

Given the above reasons I simply can not say the pledge of allegiance. Its author was a Marxist who saw the pledge's implementation in the schools as a step towards he and his cousin's socialist utopia in America. The pledge is NOT an exercise in patriotism, which is love of one's country, it's an exercise in love and devotion to the state.

Next is the view of the United States contained within the pledge, an indivisible nation. An indivisible United State (the singular "State" is intentional) is indeed what we have today, and any mention of states rights, nullification of federal laws, and even secession are seen as extremist crazy talk. Thanks, Mr. Bellamy job well done.

Finally, how can we give allegiance to a state that engages in immoral acts at home and abroad? Granted, Christians are called to be obedient to laws of the state but we certainly are not called to support every single thing the state does, and thus the state is not to receive our unwavering allegiance, so why give it?

I honestly ask that of someone reading this supports the pledge...Why? Why is the pledge a good thing in a supposedly free society?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sacred Harp Singing

I have simply fallen in love with the sacred harp style of singing, it is simply glorious. The way it works is the song beings by singing the notes (each has a different shape) so you will hear the people singing "So, Fa, La, La, La, Mi, Fa..." then once we have gone through the song singing it we sing the words in place of the notes.

This song is called "I'm Going Home" #282 in the Sacred Harp book. We sang it yesterday:

The words are:

1.Farewell, vain world! I'm going home! My Savior smiles and bids me come, And I don't care to stay here long!

Sweet angels beckon me away, To sing God's praise in endless day, And I don't care to stay here long!

Right up yonder, Christians, away up yonder, O, yes, my Lord, for I don't care to stay here long.

2. I'm glad that I am born to die, from grief and woe my soul shall fly, and I don't care to stay here long!

Bright angels shall convey me home, Away to New Jerusalem, And I don't care to stay here long!

Right up yonder, Christians, away up yonder, O, yes, my Lord, for I don't care to stay here long.

Bridgewater #276


From all that dwell below the skies, Let the Redeemer's praise arise
Let the redeemer's name be sung Through every land by every tongue.

I love this music and really want to sing it more

Monday, January 04, 2010

Why I Don't Roll Charismatic (The Third Installment)

This post can be added to a series on the Charismatic or Renewal movement that has been upon my mind somewhat more in recent months than in the past. This time I have in my mind prophetic utterances themselves from individuals within this movement. Specifically, the specific utterances that have been palpably wrong in what they specifically have predicted. According to Deuteronomy, such false utterances in the name of God warrant capital punishment (Deut 18:20).

This insuperably high view of the integrity of prophecy does not dissuade most within the ranks of the Charismatic movement from making painfully cavalier utterances in the name of God. This is because those within the movement make the distinction between being a "prophet" and "operating in the prophetic". This distinction really acts as a shield when the utterer of an erroneous prophecy can simply say "Well, I was speaking prophetically, we are right most of the time but sometimes we miss hear God."

This distinction is right up there with the Romanists distinction between "idol-latria" and "idol-dulia" the latter is what praying to statues and Mary fall under and thus are not in violation of the 2nd commandment's prohibitions. Once you have dissected one error it becomes easier to spot imitations of its kind.

The distinction between the office of "prophet" and "moving in the prophetic", the latter being what everyone today claims to be doing, as it grants immunity when they are wrong, is often said to have come about under the New Covenant. In the Old Testament the prophet was expected to be right all the time, but in the New...well not so much.

Logically, I have a hard time stomaching this, as those who labored under types and shadows would be held to a higher standard than those who have the Substance, namely Christ. Furthermore, scripturally, I see no scriptural reference to this downgrade in veracity of prophetic utterances. Somehow we are to accept that after Christ to whom all of the OT pointed, whose coming was the apex of history and the noon day shining, after His advent prophecy now became more fuzzy and amorphous.

This pseudo distinction between one being a "prophet" and one "operating in the prophetic" has caused much damage and served to grant immunity to all the bogus utterances made by the big dogs in the Charismatic movement. This is the ad hoc rescue invoked every time some one made an utterance a tad specific and the prediction has failed to become reality.

This is why it is safer to give the vague prophecies that have the skeletal structure of a pile of jello as well as being of like nourishment.

To give an example and to show that I do not cherry pick, as vague utterances is the rule rather than the exception, I pull the following excerpt from today's edition of "The Elijah List" (one of the most popular prophetic sites on the web) The is supposed to be a prophecy about what is in store in 2010 (emphasis his):

"During this earthly journey toward our eternal abode, we have more "spiritual set-backs" from Believers forfeiting inherent rights to the enemy than from the devil's cunning devices. However, there are three main components the Lord told me we will overcome in the year 2010:

• We must possess and abide in a land we have conquered.
• We must occupy our land by "title deed" ownership rights.
• We must realize our identity in God to rout our enemy.

Remember, God resides and inhabits eternity, not earthly existence. God IS SPIRIT! We are becoming His promised Word, and must grow more even daily as God reorders our vision of being eternally minded. "

2010 Will Be a Year of "Extreme Breakout"

... So, let us make a 2010 New Year's Resolution that: 2010 is the year to breakout of the 'naturally minded' wilderness.

We furthermore make a new resolution that: We are being repositioned into the vision of perpetuating our eternal purpose spiritually.
-(John Mark Pool)

Prophecy that was neither vague nor failed to come to pass were what distinguished the prophets of the LORD from the pagans. Or in modern terms, what is the difference between an utterance like that above and what you would get from calling Wanda at a 1-900 number? Sloppy biblical allusions, are the only difference I can pinpoint. The above was the most specific I saw in this particular prediction, that is why I quoted it, as well as the fact that the author himself had these sections in bold. This is the 2010 prediction from John Mark Pool.

All that this prediction amounts to in less spiritualized words is, "Things are gonna be good in 2010 for the church." What a gutsy prediction!

As I said, this is the rule rather than the exception when it comes to prophetic utterances in the Charismatic movement, a pretty bland and forgettable prediction slathered in spiritual sounding frosting.

Furthermore, the theology behind these kinds of utterances are radically man centered, Luther would categorize them as "Theology of glory" meaning it is elevating man and man centered conquests, but that is a post in itself.

Moving to the more specific prophecies that fellows in the charismatic movement have uttered, as this is where the real blood in the water is. One of the most dastardly incidents that comes to my mind is when Bob Jones in 1997 predicted a massive earthquake in CA for the coming year, even going so far as to advise people to move away. Sadly, some listened to his ravings seriously.

This was all recorded in the 1997 predictions for 1998 at Morning Star Ministries. I have Bob Jonesthe damning tape. Since this obviously failed to come to pass, Morning Star in the newer releases of the tape have edited Jones' prediction to make it more bland. This tells you the pathology of these individuals, they will go around editing tapes to cover their tracks. (Bob Jones picture to the right)

Bob Jones it also must be mentioned admitted to having women undress in front of him in his van under the pretense of giving them "prophetic words" (article), he is a sex offender. Now, I would be the first to say that such people can be forgiven, and upon clear repentance should be admitted back into fellowship, BUT such a person should not occupy a pulpit again as he now fails to meet the requirements of leadership (see 1 Timothy ch.3 or Titus ch.1).

Yet, Mr. Jones continues on the Charismatic circuits like an aging rockstar who is constantly on "Fairwell Tour" thus worthy of double honor. It is entirely reprehensible on the part of the churches that allow Mr. Jones a platform to speak, as his conduct has thoroughly disqualified him from any place of leadership (not to mention his wild doctrine). This shows that the alleged "gift" these individuals possess is deemed as more valuable than the purity of the church and an upright life. This brings us to Todd Bentley.

Now, not to throw punches at a dead horse as I have written on Bentley's escapades here, I bring up the fact that he claimed that God gave him a vision and thus prompted him to marry his former wife whom he has recently divorced and committed adultery against. Here is the recounting of Todd's vision from God, which led to his marriage which he threw away for fleeting pleasures:

"“…the Lord had actually shown me an open vision of Shonnah [Todd's former wife]. It was my first open-eyed vision. I was in my living room and my fireplace opened up, kind of like a TV screen, and I saw us embracing in a wheat field that was ready for harvest. We were both weeping and I was wearing a tux and she was wearing a wedding dress. As the vision unfolded, her friend Roswetta (who was now my friend) was talking with me in the living room about Shonnah. I described the open vision to her as it happened.

The presence of the Lord fell and we both wept. Roswetta said, ‘I can’t see it but I can feel goose bumps.’ During this vision, I also received an anointing of creativity, poetry and writing. In fact, I even received a three-page prophetic poem that I read at our wedding. I still write prophetic poems for my wife to this day.”
(From Bentley's autobiography)

Now, I don't want to make much of this as it speaks for itself, I honestly doubt Bentley had any vision, he strikes me as your run of the mill charlatan. If you question that maybe this video where he talks about a tumor exploding during a healing will help you. My point is that I don't know how seriously people making these utterances actually take them themselves.

The Bentley story is simply tragic, as he really threw away his family for a young trophy wife.

Yet, like Bob Jones, Todd Bentley is on his way back into the Charismatic conference circuit and is being "restored" to ministry by Rick Joyner and others. See my post "Swallowing the Spirit Feathers and All" for more on this.

Just like politicians, nobody ever resigns, and the apologies are palpably lacking sincerity.

The flippancy in all of this prophetic business I see as a major part of the problem. Let me assert that I do not doubt that God can speak to individuals directly, I am not a full blown cessationist (although I am closer to their end of the spectrum with unbridled mysticism being on the opposite end). However, what troubles me is the cavalier manner in which individuals within the Charismatic movement talk about hearing from God.

It is just an every day thing to hear from God to many of these individuals, He speaks to me when I am sleeping, when I am brushing my teeth, driving my car, etc. I often have heard the phrases "I feel like God is saying..." or even more odious "I just got a download from heaven..." both of these display that casual attitude people have to hearing from God.

In scripture when individuals hear from God it is quite another matter, they are simply "undone" and stricken by an overwhelming sense of unworthiness (Isaiah 6 for example).

Not so with the modern charismatics, they blithely talk about trips to the third heaven as though they had taken a train to Deleware, no big deal. Whereas, Paul wouldn't even say it was himself who had had a vision of heaven (2 Cor 12:1) as he felt so unworthy to utter what he had seen.

Again, not so with the modern subscribers to the renewal movement, I had a wild eyed fellow come up to me, whom I didn't know at all really, and just state to me rather matter of factly out of the blue "Yeah, I've been to the third heaven..." I looked at this man and it dawned on me that either he was mad or it was I who was mad, I concluded that the former was the case as he brought this up to me, a total stranger, completely out of nowhere. Again, I don't think this fellow has been to the third heaven, he was either delusional or a liar, because had he been there he wouldn't be so flippant about it. I think he thought this would impress me, like a general showing off his medals of valour he earned for his "bravery" against the Iraqi rebels.

Any time we claim to be speaking on God's behalf it should be with fear and trembling, as we hold a message that is greater than ourselves. This is true when we step up to exposit scripture, we are to preach as dying men to a dying world. It should certainly be true if we have indeed been given a prophetic word from God.

I personally don't go about seeking words from God apart from studying His revealed word in the Scriptures. I figure if God wants to give me some sort of direct word He is more than capable of doing so, as He is not impotent but sovereign and ruling and reigning. One doesn't go to a Charismatic school and learn how to hear God's voice, as many do. Frankly, the idea on its face is blasphemous as it presents to us a rather impotent god who really needs our help, he would like to speak to us if only we will listen. If God has something to say directly to us He will not have any difficulty arresting our attention.

That's my view of direct words from God.

This is the third installment in the growing series of "Why I don't Roll Charismatic", it is in part a response to some of the claims made by a friend of friends on his blogs about getting a prophecy from God that CA will be destroyed in Sept of 2010 by a massive earthquake. You can read of this HERE. I will not address him personally, as he is not a public figure, nor do I want him to feel shamed. Although, he believes in his message enough to put it on paper and put them under people's windshield wipers. Do I think there will be an earthquake in Sept 2010? I don't know, could happen.

What I am concerned about is what if it doesn't happen? Was not Christ's name taken in vain by being attached to a false prophecy? Does this not give unbelievers who got these pamphlets grounds to mock? I think the answer is yes to both of these questions.

To conclude, I simply do not know why the Bible isn't good enough for people. It claims to have all we need (2 Tim 3:16-17). C.H. Spurgeon once said if we had a thousand lifetimes and they were dedicated to the study of God's word, we still would not have mined all of the gems that are contained in God's word. Why then do so many go about chasing fresh words when there is already a sure word?

"Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food." (Isaiah 55:2)