Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Why prolife critics can have it both ways

On the one hand, abolitionists are accused of flaunting good works.
On the other hand, since we stand against incremental legislation and incrementalist candidates for public office, and since we don't vote in elections where the only choices are bad ones, it is said we do nothing, we are more concerned with moral and ideological purity than with sparing lives, etc.
So, which is it? Do abolitionists do nothing, or do we flaunt our good works? 

Actually, we can have it both ways. That's because the criticism refers to different things. Prolifers don't criticize abolitionists for doing and not doing the same thing, or simultaneously supporting and opposing the same thing. Hence, there's no inconsistency in the criticism.  This isn't even hard to grasp:

i) To begin with, there's a difference between flaunting deeds you deem to be good, and deeds that are actually good. The Pharisees flaunted their "good works," but in many cases, those weren't truly good works. They were just public demonstrations which the Pharisees thought made them look good, which is why they did them. They were not doing good. 

ii) Moreover, the genuine good works which abolitionists do are not abolitionist distinctives. Rather, that's just a continuation of the same kinds of good works which prolifers have been doing for decade.  

iii) Conversely, abolitionists oppose the distinctive good works of prolifers, viz. putting legal restrictions on abortion. 

Weed whacker

I will attempt to comment on this post:

It's hard to evaluate Reasnor's argument because it's hard to find his argument. It would take a weed whacker and chainsaw to cut the dead wood and clear the underbrush. And after you wipe the sweat from your brow, it's unclear what's left. Where is Reasnor's argument? His style is so diffuse and vituperative that it's difficult to discern a core argument. A specific argument. But I'll comment on these three statements:

Continuing in his before discussed muddying of the terms, he denies any standard or authority in how he defines specifically historic terms. Instead of looking to history to define historic terms, according to Wilcox, we are to just use his personal definition.

That's a very secondary issue, but since Reasnor makes such a big deal about it, I'll say a few things:

i) I'm struck by the egregious double standard. In my experience, abolitionists are extremely proprietary about who gets to define abolitionism. They do. Only they do. I got into a lengthy disagreement with a prominent abolitionist over this very issue. He takes the position that only absolutists are permitted to define abolitionism. Outsiders are obliged to submit to the insider definition. 

But by that yardstick, Reasnor is disqualified from defining incrementalism. By that yardstick, Wilcox (and his fellow prolifers) has the sole prerogative to define his own position.

ii) All things being equal, it makes sense to begin with the proponent's definition of his own position. However, that's subject to scrutiny. 

Sometimes their definition is inconsistent. Sometimes their definition is euphemistic, deceptive, or evasive. Consider how proponents of abortion and euthanasia define their terms. So there are times when it's proper and or even necessary to challenge insider definitions.

In sum, there's no uniform position on who ought to define the position in question. 

Any bill that regulates, compromises, and discriminates unrighteously assumes explicitly that Caesar has the legitimate right to dictate “from on high” (as Klusendorf says) who gets to live and who is abandoned to the slaughter. In fact, in large part Wilcox's and Klusendorf’s arguments for Incrementalism RELY on Washington DC having the ultimate authority. 

That's equivocal. What kind of authority are we referring to? Moral authority? Legal authority? 

From a Christian perspective, God is the ultimate moral authority. But from a public policy standpoint, if the objective is to outlaw abortion, then, by definition, it comes down to legal authority. Primarily, state and Federal legislative branches, but that requires the cooperation of the executive and judicial branches as well.

Since the goal of AHA is supposedly to criminialize abortion, then AHA can't sidestep Washington DC. They can't get a law passed by pulling rank on Washington DC, for any law would emanate from Congress (or state legislatures). Washington DC is the ultimate legal authority for the legal abolition of abortion in the US. 

Incrementalism as displayed and supported by the Pro Life Movement, understood by historic Abolitionists, and discussed by modern Abolitionists is incompatible with scripture because it is doing evil for good to come. An incremental strategy to end an institutional and abominable sin is doing evil because God does not allow for regulation, compromise, or partial obedience. God demands much more. Do not seek to simply compromise or regulate what God hates. Any support for a law that purposely discriminates against humans created in the Image of God, and abandons some to the slaughter does exactly that. It compromises on MURDER, and although it seeks some good (though it fails), it culturally reinforces the legitimacy of murder, and legally reasserts bad law. If we view abortion as an abhorrent sin before the eyes of God, as it clearly is, and not simply a social ill and political position, then we must ask the question “what does national repentance of the sin look like?” The answer to that question is not some sort of faux repentance in the form of regulatory acts and putting abolition off. The textual examples given in my opening statement plainly show how God views partial obedience and making compromises with evil. Support for regulationist bills assume the legitimacy of the act it is regulating. Support of regulationist bills reinforce the legitimacy of abortion in the general psyche of the culture. Scripture is not silent on incrementalism because scripture is not silent on compromising with evil. Scripture is not silent on incrementalism because scripture is not silent on doing evil for good to come. Scripture is not silent on incrementalism because scripture is not silent on partial obedience. How does one justify compromising on such basic biblical principles?

i) The obvious problem with this objection is that it begs the question. Whether a legislative compromise is equivalent a moral compromise is the very question at issue. 

ii) In addition, moral compromise depends on intent. Since passing a law requires the cooperation of many legislators, the motivation of one lawmaker will often differ from another. The intention of lawmakers who wish to restrict abortion as much as they can is virtuous even though the intention of other lawmakers to permit abortions not covered by the law is vicious. 

These are rudimentary ethical distinctions which abolitionists routinely ignore. Abolitionists aren't morally serious thinkers. They don't do the hard work of drawing necessary distinctions. Instead, they resort to simple-minded slogans, which they repeat ad nauseam, despite correction. 

iii) Reasnor disregards many examples in the Mosaic code where the law regulates evil customs. Take purchasing foreign slaves. Human trafficking is evil. In this case, the Mosaic law makes the best of a bad situation. 

iv) Scripture nowhere says or implies that "support of regulationist bills reinforce the legitimacy of abortion in the general psyche of the culture."

v) To say that "support for regulationist bills assume the legitimacy of the act it is regulating" is a thoughtless statement that makes no effort to consider easy counterexamples.

For instance, Plains Indians couldn't defeat the American infantry. As a result, Indian tribes had to negotiate treaties with the Federal gov't from a position of weakness. Did they presume the legitimacy of the process? Hardly. But it was a choice between a bad negotiated settlement and a worse alternative.  

Swamp fever

AHA as an ideology does not have a specific eschatological position or an official position on Theonomy. There is diversity among abolitionists worldwide on these particular issues. I'll  certainly admit that I am a Theonomist, and it’s amusing to me that men like Steve Hays have appropriated that fact as somehow discrediting me or Abolitionism, as if Theonomy is a boogie man, or that it is the official position of Abolitionism. If Steve Hays desires to dig up additional piteous ad hominen attacks against me and Abolitionism, he should feel free to just ask me, instead of creeping around my FaceBook. I’m quite open. Although I believe that a Theonomic position is more explicitly and clearly Immediatist, I utterly reject the notion that one must be a Theonomist to Biblically love their neighbor, proclaim Jesus Christ as King, and faithfully oppose discriminatory compromise. 

Poor guy is suffering from swamp fever. 

i) In drawing attention to evidence for his theonomic commitments, I didn't evaluate theonomy. I didn't make a value judgment on the merits of theonomy. I didn't say if that was good, bad, or something in-between. Reasnor's reaction is paranoid.

ii) Inasmuch as the debate topic is "Incrementalism is a strategy incompatible with Scripture," since Reasnor is the point-man for AHA in this debate, if his side of the argument is indebted to theonomic distinctives, it's relevant to notice how that figures in his argument. 

iii) It is hardly an "ad hominem attack" to consider the intellectual commitments which inform a debater's position. If I'm assessing Peter Singer's position on bioethics, it's not "ad hominem" for me to point out that he's a utilitarian philosopher as well as an atheist. 

iv) Reasnor has a public Facebook account. I don't have to "creep" around to find additional info. It's not like I was digging through his garbage. Do most abolitionists suffer from this paranoid mentality? 

It's perfectly legitimate to research the intellectual background of an advocate for a given position. 

iv) Insofar as Reasnor's objections to incrementalism are dependent on his theonomic interpretation of Scripture, when AHA sponsors a debate with Reasnor as their designated hitter, that naturally raises the question of whether the abolitionist objection to incrementalism is inextricably grounded in a theonomic interpretation of Scripture. It presents a dilemma:

Reasnor's theonomic attack on incrementalism either is or is not representative of AHA. If it is, then the intellectual fortunes of AHA are only as good as the case for theonomy. 

If it's not, then Reasnor didn't succeed in presenting the abolitionist side of the argument inasmuch as his particular position is too idiosyncratic to accurately reflect the generic AHA position.  If his argument doesn't even line up with the position he was supposed to represent, then he automatically lost the debate.

Fallout from SSM in Canada

Well, coming from Canada, let me warn my American friends about what you are soon going to be facing for anything remotely like denial of legitimacy or anything short of outright approval of homosexuality and all sexual deviance.
1. Social ostracism:
– In your workplace, where you are likely to be fired and not hired at all if you are known to have “controversial” views on homosexuality;
– You family. Friends stick out much longer than they will, but even they will become much, much more quiet and reserved and increasingly hesitant to help you.
2. Social madness and increased degeneracy:
– Polite social parties may well include the suggestion, nonchalantly, to consider throwing on some porn for entertainment;
– Men in women’s bathrooms in gyms, and they kick the people who try to intervene or complain about it out of the gym
– Endless sensitivity training in the workplace so everybody knows what they are and are not allowed to say or suggest to ensure a ‘safe and comfortable’ working environment ‘for everybody’
3. School torture
– Kids will begin learning about sex and how two moms and two dads are a normal kind of family as early as 6
– Sex-ed will begin as early as Grade 6, including descriptions of oral sex
– Any child who at any time identifies with any sex will be accommodated, whether bathroom or locker room
And the final stage that is now happening in Canada, the Trannies.
Transgender people will increasingly agitate that society, government, institutions and businesses facilitate their lies. They will agitate that dating sites and services simply portray them as their chosen sex without any warning to normal, unsuspecting users of services.
That last line is arguably the scariest for single people, especially single young men. We all know how a man is likely to respond after finding out she isn’t actually a she at all – and with gender change surgeries now, this may come later.


Pop homosexual apologists like Matthew Vine rely on "scholars" like Brownson. Here's a detailed critical review:


Baylor U


Monday, July 06, 2015


"Supreme Court's Re-definition of Marriage" by William Lane Craig.

Waving the flag

Some leftwing Americans refuse to celebrate Independence Day because they think America stands for oppression. Some Americans on the religious right refuse to celebrate Independence Day because they think America stands for abortion, SSM, &c. Ironically, these are mirror images of each other. 

Although I often defend my country against knee-jerk anti-American sentiment, I've never been much of a flag-waver. That just isn't my thing.

However, I'd like to point out that to say America is too evil to celebrate, or the flag is a symbol of oppression, or whatever, is terribly simplistic. 

"America" is an abstraction. What is America? American is many things. 

i) America is the land. Consider the national parks as a sample. 

ii) America is a history. There's pre-Colonial America. There's Colonial America. The America of William Bradford, Cotton Mather, and Jonathan Edwards.

There's the westward expansion. There's the history of your grandparents. And your parents. There's the period you were born into. Or when you came of age. The 20s, 40s, 50s, 60s. 

iii) America is a patchwork of distinctive regions, viz. New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the Midwest, the upper South, the Deep South, the Gulf Coast, the Mountain States, the Pacific. These combine distinct geographies with distinct histories. 

iv) There's a patchwork of ethnicities.

v) There's a patchwork of religions.

vi) There's American culture, viz. architecture, music, sports, classic cars. 

vii) There's famous American cities, viz. New York, New Orleans, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, Boston, Charleston, Seattle, San Diego, Savanna, Saint Augustine, Nashville, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Philadelphia, Little Havana, &c. 

viii) There's small-town America, where everyone knows everyone else.

ix) There's the idea (or ideal) of America. That can be a religious idea ("a city on a hill"). That can be a political idea (The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights).

x) There's the American mythos. The idea of America in novels, viz., The Last of the Mohicans, The Scarlett Letter, The Red Badge of Courage, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, The Great Gatsby, Invisible Man, The Moviegoer.

There's the idea of American in movies, viz. the Western, film noire.

To the degree that Americans act on the mythos, that can become a reality. There's a circular dynamic.

I'm not making a statement for or against patriotism. I'm just pointing out that "America" stands for so many different things. Different things to different people. You can't really generalize. 

Contracts with minors

Christians who rightly oppose SSM challenge proponents to draw a line. One counterexample is pedophilia. If you defend homosexual marriage, why not pedophiliac marriage?

I recently ran across an SSM proponent who tried to counter that comparison. He said marriage is a contract, and minors can't enter into contracts. 

However, the obvious problem with that counterargument is that adults can and do act on behalf of minors to contract services for minors. Consider parents who contract medical services for their kids. Their underage kids are party to the contract, even though their kids lack the legal capacity to enter into a contract on their own. 

Ironically, abortion proponents don't think minors don't need parental consent (or even parental notification). 

Join the club!

i) I think the most emotionally appealing argument for SSM is the claim lifelong celibacy is unrealistic. There are different components to this contention.

a) It seems "unfair" that heterosexuals can have their physical and emotional needs satisfied, but homosexuals are not allowed to do the same thing.

b) In addition is the empathy argument: If you put yourself in the shoes of a homosexual, how would you, as a straight man or woman, cope with lifelong celibacy? If that's not a realistic option for you, why would you inflict that on homosexuals?

I do think this is a challenge we need to address head-on.

ii) There are roughly two components to the issue: sex and companionship. 

iii) Sexual activity is a matter of degree. Because the Bible forbids premarital sex, faithful Christians must be celibate before marriage. And that often means they must forgo sex for several years. 

I'd add that postponing marriage into your 20s can be imprudent. 

iv) You have a fraction of the population that desperately wants to marry, but can't. You have men and women who just aren't "eligible" by conventional standards. In some cases that's unfair, but that's the situation they're stuck with.

v) Widows and widowers often outlive their spouse by many years. And they frequently lose their spouse at a time of life when they are most vulnerable. 

One reason they married in the first place was to have someone to grow old with. But now they find themselves alone at the very time of life they most dreaded that prospect.

vi) Then you have Christians like George Whitefield and John Wesley. Technically, they weren't celibate. However, they spent most of their time away from their wives. Mind you, I don't think that's commendable. They basically deserted their wives. Given how little time they put into the marriage, they should not have gotten married in the first place. But that's a separate issue.

My immediate point is that most of the time they were sexually inactive. Most of the time they lived like chaste bachelors. And I'm sure that's true for many single men and women who went into foreign missions. 

vii) At the risk of stating the obvious, some married people are very lonely. They may find themselves in a loveless marriage.

viii) Likewise, you have "empty nest" syndrome. Children grow up, leave home, maybe live out of state. 

ix) Sex is marriage is quite variable. Some women regard sex as a chore. 

Conversely, some women find themselves in a sexless marriage if, say, their husband suffers from low-T. 

My general point is that the lack of emotional and sexual fulfillment is fairly common among heterosexuals, including heterosexual Christians.

That's hardly unique to "gay Christians."

x) Another problem with the "gay Christian marriage" contention is that it treats a homosexual relationship as the functional equivalent of a heterosexual relationship, as if a sodomite who has a boyfriend or lesbian who has a girlfriend is the physical and emotional equivalent of man and wife.

But, of course, that begs the very question at issue. Are these truly parallel? Are men and women interchangeable? 

In fact, given the notorious instability of homosexual relationships, it's clear, even on their own terms, that many or most homosexuals don't find homosexual relationships satisfying. Those relationships don't meet their physical and emotional needs. Homosexual relationships are essentially deficient. 

xi) Moreover, this really has nothing to do with marriage. If it's just about sex and companionship, that's separable from marriage. Consider all the heterosexual couples who shack up.

Sure, that's immoral–but so is homosexual activity. Homosexual activity is no less immoral if the partners are married to each other. 

xii) It's sometimes said that the church needs to develop a ministry to singles, who feel left out or out of place. But since churches are generally comprised of families or young singles who plan to marry, I think older singles will always feel like a fifth wheel. We can have a ministry to elderly widows and widowers, but middle-aged bachelors or spinsters are going to fall through the cracks. 

xiii) The upshot is that in a broken world, there's bound to be a lot of headache and heartbreak. That's unavoidable. There are problems in this life that can't be fixed in this life. 

Many straight men and women suffer from terrible emotional isolation. Many straight Christians cope with sexual deprivation. 

Fact is, life in a fallen world is often hopeless. By that I mean, there's no hope that things will get better for you in this life. Sometimes it will, but there's no guarantee. And sometimes it just gets worse. Historically, that's a very common experience for Jews and Christians. That's very common for Third-World Christians. 

Sodom proves a point

Something about what happened to Sodom popped to mind this morning. You may think that in light of recent Supreme Court rulings that it has to deal with homosexuality, but if that’s your thought you would be incorrect. Instead, I’m thinking of when Abraham interceded on behalf of Sodom. The event is found in Genesis 18:22-33, and I will quote it here from the ESV:
So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
Now obviously, God did not find even ten righteous people in Sodom, as the town (and the surrounding region) were destroyed in Genesis 19:24. This is evidence of the depravity of the town. But here’s what struck me about this passage this morning. This is also evidence of original sin, for surely there had to be more than ten infants or toddlers in Sodom and Gomorrah, yet they were not considered righteous given that God destroyed the towns anyway.

Perhaps some might object, “But Abraham was only asking God to intervene on behalf of righteous men so infants weren’t included in the calculation.” But that objection is refuted by the fact that Abraham asks God to spare “fifty righteous” (then “forty-five”, all the way down to “ten righteous”) without specifying who or what those righteous are. It's just the adjective, righteous. Thus, the term must take on a universal scope for all mankind, not just men in general, unless there is a compelling reason not to do so. The text does not appear to give any reason to limit it to men at all, much less a compelling reason.

Perhaps some others might object, “But the town of Sodom was probably fairly small so maybe there weren’t more than one or two infants there.” But the town was obviously large enough that fifty individuals constituted a small fraction of the population. We know that because when God says He is going to destroy Sodom because of the greatness of their sin, Abraham starts off with “Suppose there are fifty righteous.” If there were only, say, sixty people in the town, it would make no sense to destroy the entire town when there were fifty righteous there, so Abraham's opening salvo makes no sense unless there were far more than fifty people living in the town.

Put it this way. If there were only sixty people in the town, then it seems to make more sense for Abraham to say, "What if there are only ten evil. Would you destroy the whole town because of ten wicked people?" And if God says He wouldn't, Abraham would say, "What if there are five more wicked people? Would you destroy it because there are fifteen?" Etc. up to fifty: "Would you destroy the whole town because there were fifty evil people?"

Therefore, it seems obvious that there are vastly more than fifty people in the town when Abraham intercedes--so many more that fifty is a drop in the bucket. Indeed, archaeological excavations of the “Five Cities of the Plain” (of which, the two famous cities are Sodom and Gomorrah) have shown these cities have cemeteries that are estimated to hold up to half a million people each. This is all the more interesting given that some of the cities are known to have existed for less than 100 years. However, which one is actually Sodom is more difficult to pin down. If modern day Bab edh-Dhra is Sodom, as many Biblical archeologists believe, then it occupied approximately 10 acres of land and had a population of between 600 and 1200 people.

Now let us take those numbers and look at how many children one would expect to be there. Considering that worldwide 26% of the population is under the age of 15 years today (see: http://kff.org/global-indicator/population-under-age-15/) then if there were 600 people in Sodom, and assuming the same rate, 156 people would have likewise been under the age of 15 in that town.

Indeed, even in America today, which currently has a birthrate (1.86 children per women) lower than the replacement rate (2.1 children per women), there are 40 million children under the age of 10, per 2013 numbers, out of a population of just over 320 million, meaning 12% of our population is under the age of 10 (see the demographics breakdown here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_United_States based on numbers from the CDC). So even if Sodom was dying out because they had our low birthrate, and even if we limit the population to as few as 600 individuals, 12% of 600 is still 72 children under the age of 10. And given the nature of demographics, I have to think there were far more children in Sodom than that.

Yet God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Not only were there not found fifty righteous people of any kind, there weren’t even ten righteous people there.

Thus I conclude that Abraham’s intercession on behalf of Sodom, coupled with God’s promise that He would spare the city if those conditions were met, proves that infants are born depraved and the doctrine of original sin has been confirmed once more by the logical implications of Scripture.

The Inferiority Of Non-Christian Miracles

I recently read The Cambridge Companion To Miracles (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), written by a group of almost twenty Christian and non-Christian scholars. There are chapters about miracles in Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and other religions, along with chapters on other topics related to miracles. It's far from a conservative Christian book, but it often advances the case for Christianity, whether the authors realize it or not.

What is the Head Covering in 1 Cor 11:2-16 and Does it Apply to Us Today?


Sunday, July 05, 2015

Growing Pains

This story has been kicking around for a few weeks. I only know about it because a friend drew it to my attention:

I didn't know about it because, frankly, I don't keep tabs on Kirk Cameron. 

I'm of two minds about discussing it. It may not be worth commenting on. But sometimes it's worth commenting on something that's not worth commenting on–paradoxical as that sounds. 

However, I'm going to comment because he repeats an objection to the culture wars that's popular with some nearsighted evangelicals.

In principle, Cameron's opinion carries the same weight as Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, and Matt Damon. Being a Hollywood actor doesn't make your opinion any wiser than anyone else's opinion. Being famous doesn't make you well-informed for far-sighted. 

I know precious little about Cameron. From what I've read, he's a former child star. In his heyday, he was touted as a "heartthrob." I'll have to take the word of (no longer) adolescent girls on that. 

Like many child stars, he hasn't had much of a career after sprouting peach fuzz. I guess he stared in the gold-plated turkeys of the Left Behind franchise. World Mag panned Fireproof

In fairness, there aren't many Christian Hollywood actors, so he probably feels he has a responsibility to present a public Christian witness. And that's commendable in principle. But he needs to know his limitations. He seems to be the Pat Boone of his generation: a third-tier actor who stared in some cheesy, forgettable Christian films, then became a social commentator. 

Getting to the substance:

"When people get too focused on redefining marriage, you're distracted from the bigger problem - fornicators and adulterers," Cameron said.
"If the people sitting in the pews are fornicators and adulterers, the church will destroy marriages much more quickly than those outside the church. When God's people mock marriage, God doesn't take that lightly."
Cameron declined to criticize gay marriage and same-sex unions, saying that's not a priority.
"I think the greatest threat to marriage is not other people's definition of marriage," Cameron said in an interview with AL.com. "The church isn't taking God's definition of marriage seriously. It's not other people sabotaging marriage that's the problem."
"The church determines the moral temperature of the culture," he said. "On our watch we've let morality decay, the commitment to love and marriage fall apart. We've given in to an anti-biblical Christian worldview. We're simply failing to do our job as the church. Other people are moving into the leadership positions and steering the car right off the cliff. They're not the problem. It's those in the church who have taken their hands off the wheel and given up our place in the driver's seat."
The church has to reform itself in order to reform society, Cameron said.
"We need to be faithful in our own house," he said. "Jesus didn't go shouting at the Romans. He went into the temple. We have the same problem today that people had back then. We've had pastors drop like flies, guys I know. When that happens, it drags the name of Christ through the mud. When hypocrisy grows within the church, it's like pouring fertilizer on the weeds in your garden."

This may be well-intentioned, but it's hopelessly confused. 

i) I don't think it's coincidental that Cameron is not a pastor. If he were one, he'd realize the difficulties. 

Consider a typical situation: a minister takes a pastorate. That means he's taking the helm of a preexisting church, with an established congregation. All the members (or attendees) are initially strangers to him. They became members before he came on board.

It's not as if they sport t-shirts that say "I'm a fornicator!" "I'm an adulterer!"

It's unclear what Cameron thinks a pastor should do in that situation. Does he think a pastor should reinterview all the members?

A new pastor doesn't know which members were divorced, or why. In some cases, they had biblical grounds.

But even if the divorce and/or remarriage was sinful, that doesn't mean the new marriage is continuously sinful. Likewise, some of them were unbelievers before they got divorced or remarried.

Certainly it's a pastor's job to preach Christian sexual ethics. But pastoral authority is ultimately moral authority. Persuasion. He can't make anyone agree with him or do his bidding.

Undoubtedly there are many evangelical churches that need to tighten up their membership standards. And there are many evangelical churches that are lax on church discipline.

But even if all evangelical pastors were doing their job, even if all of them were able to do their job, a pastor in 21C American has no real power over what people do. Errant church members can be excommunicated. And that's good for the spiritual integrity of the church. But there's no social stigma, no social sanction, attached. 

ii) If a pastor has limited influence over his congregation, he has even less direct influence over the general culture. At best, there's an aggregate influence, if enough pastors say what needs to be said. 

Cameron uses metaphors and catchphrases like "On our watch we've let morality decay" and "Other people are moving into the leadership positions and steering the car right off the cliff. It's those in the church who have taken their hands off the wheel and given up our place in the driver's seat."

What does that even mean? What's he referring to? Does the car stand for the church or the general culture? It's not as if pastors were ever in the driver's seat of the general culture. 

Likewise, in what sense did we "let" morality decay? It's not as if Christians can unilaterally forbid social decay. We don't have that kind of control. If we mobilize our resources, we can exert a great deal of influence–yet that's the very thing that Cameron decries.

iii) He indulges in sweeping, scurrilous generalities about "the church." But "the church" isn't any one thing. There are many denominations, as well as tens of thousands of churches. Theey range along a spectrum from good to bad or middling. He assigns blanket blame to "the church," but that's inaccurate and unjust.

iv) The accelerated decadence of American culture is largely imposed from the top down by the power elite. For instance, there's no massive grassroots movement for homosexual "marriage" or unisex bathrooms and locker rooms. Indeed, there was strong popular pushback against homosexual "marriage" even in blue or purple states. It took dictatorial judicial intervention to thwart those movements. 

v) There's also the insinuation that unless the church gets its own house in order, it lacks the moral authority to comment on the general culture. That, however, is mistaken on two grounds:

a) Cameron's hasty generalization about the state of "the church."

b) The fact that this isn't based on personal moral authority, but divine moral authority. 

vi) In addition, you have Cameron's witless false dichotomy, as if problems within "the church" mean other people are not the problem. That's so simpleminded. It's a complete non sequitur. If the power elite is judicially or legally redefining marriage, if executive agencies are enforcing that policy, then they are a major part of the problem. This isn't redefining marriage in a dictionary, as if it's just about the meaning of a word. Rather, this is about law and public policy. If gov't is using its coercive power to sabotage the institution of marriage, then that's most assuredly a problem in its own right. 

At the risk of stating the obvious, that would still be a problem apart from whatever the church does, because that would be happening apart from whatever the church does. Secular totalitarians don't take their cue from the church. They have an independent agenda. And it's an agenda they vigorously prosecute in spite of the church. 

vii) Likewise, you have Cameron's knuckleheaded notion that "the church" should get its house in order first, before we turn our attention to the culture wars. But by then it's too late. It's not as if secular totalitarians will stop the clock while we sort things out internally, then graciously let us reenter the race. We can't let current trends go unchallenged, then revisit the issue at a later date. You can't lose the culture, but save the church. If you lose the culture, then to a great extent you lose the church. To some degree, Christians are inevitably the product of the culture they are born into, and must function in. The church isn't cloistered from society at large. And that's exacerbated by gov't agencies that clamp down on Christian parenting. 

viii) To say the church needs to reform itself is useless, circular advice. The good people in church already do about as much good as they can. And the people who aren't doing good will continue not doing good, because they lack that sense of commitment. Who does Cameron think he's talking to? The people who agree with him don't need to hear what he has to say, while the people who disagree won't listen in the first place. 

The people who share his outlook are already on his side, doing the best they can–while the people who don't share his outlook don't care what he says. That kind of rhetoric doesn't move the needle a millimeter. 

The faith of Israel

To my knowledge, Peter Enns rejects the historicity of most OT narratives. And he accuses inerrantists of imposing an artificial standard on Scripture.

One strategy some liberals use to rationalize their position is to claim that Bible writers never intended to write factual accounts in the first place. Inerrantists who read the Bible that way have never studied hermeneutics. We are operating with an Enlightenment epistemology. 

One problem with that contention is historical Psalms, viz. 74, 78, 105, 106, 135, 136. It's essential to the Psalmist that God really did the things ascribed to him in earlier historical narratives. The Psalmist believes that happened, and that supplies a necessary precedent for his argument. Is God faithful? Will he act in the future as he acted in the past? Will he protect his people? Will he deliver his people? Will he continue to act on their behalf? The record and reality of his past actions is an indispensable presupposition of the Psalmist's argument.

Scholars like Enns can, of course, reject the Psalmist's viewpoint. But in so doing, they disassociate themselves from the faith of Israel. To the degree that scholars like Enns retain any religious outlook at all, it's completely foreign to the faith of God's historic people. 

Enns is very condescending towards Bible-believing Christians, but his own position is an ad hoc intellectual compromise that isn't consistently secular or consistently Christian. It's mostly secular, with some residual theology. Although he has contempt for Bible-believing Christians, secular philosophers would have contempt for his incoherent attempt to split the difference.  

All hands on deck

I'm going to comment on this:

i) His document has a tendentious title, as if his position was misrepresented, necessitating his "setting the record straight." 

ii) Licona's complaint about how this debate cuts into his research time is like a college prof. during the waning days of the Weimar Republic whining about how having to pay attention to political developments interferes with his publishing projects. Licona shows no awareness of the magnitude of the threat facing American democracy, or the American church in particular. He doesn't seem to cognizant of the degree to which the Obama administration and its allies are waging a Kulturkampf, or how a decision like Obergefell empowers and authorizes local, state, and Federal gov't to vigorously crack down on laws, institutions, and individuals that dissent from the homosexual agenda. Now that it's a "Constitutional" civil right, the state has a compelling interest in protecting that alleged right. 

To the extent that his response shows any budding awareness of the threat, which is well under way, that's a result of the constructive criticism he received from commenters like Lydia McGrew. If it hadn't been for her intellectual stimulus, he would not have made it this far. And these are just baby steps. Licona is an American in his 50s. It really doesn't take that much for someone who's lived here all that time to notice the sea-change in the political climate. 

He fails to see how this is just part of a larger orchestrated campaign to produce a secular totalitarian regime. How Obama has weaponized the Federal bureaucracy to persecute and prosecute ideological opponents. He fails to see how this furthers other elements of the secular agenda, like euthanasia, the erosion of parental rights, &c. 

The power elite is stating a coup d'etat. In the culture wars, we need all hands on deck. Christian academics can't be AWOL. It's easy for academics to suffer from tunnel vision. Licona writes a cursory reaction paper, then it's back to business as usual. 

That doesn't mean all Christian academics need to give the same attention to social issues as Robert George, Robert Gagnon, Wesley J. Smith et al. But they have a responsibility to inform themselves on these issues, even if that's not their specialization. There are lots of lay Christians who have the right instincts on the social issues, but don't have arguments at the ready.    

iii) His response is narrowly focused on the process issue. But Obergefell is so wrong on so many levels, so damaging and dangerous on so many levels. Certainly there's the process issue, but the policy dimension equally significant, if not more so. 

iv) Under our system of gov't, judges don't have the authority to make public policy. At best, that's the prerogative of elected lawmakers.

v) And even if (ex hypothesi), judges had such authority, they don't have the power to conjure up a Constitutional right out of thin air. A Constitutional right of SSM is judicial fiction. 

vi) Moreover, the authority of legislators to make public policy is not unlimited. To the contrary, the whole point of the original (10) Bill of Rights is to say these are rights and liberties which gov't cannot infringe. You can't outlaw these rights and liberties. 

vii) So, at most, Congress, a state legislature, or a referendum, could only legalize SSM. It couldn't make it a civil right. There's an elementary and elemental distinction between legalizing something and making it a civil right.

If it's a right, then that has to be balanced against other rights. Since, however, SSM inevitably collides with 1st Amendment rights, even Congress or a state legislature can't elevate SSM marriage to the status of a civil right. If SSM conflicts with 1st Amendment rights, then those are automatically exempted. Even if homosexual "couples" are free to marry, even if that's not against the law, other citizens would likewise be at liberty, given freedom of expression, association, and religion, to disregard SSM. 

viii) In addition, I daresay all Christian denominations and Jewish groups in the US at the time the Bill of Rights was ratified opposed homosexuality. It would be a flagrant violation of original intent to prosecute modern-day Christians or Jews who take the same position as their forebears in that regard. 

ix) And that's even before we get to the deeper issues, like whether the state has a "compelling interest" in protecting natural (i.e. heterosexual) marriage.

x) Licona makes an offhand comment about persecution. Here's a more thoughtful analysis:

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Slavery and sodomy

Matthew Vines recently and repeatedly used slavery as a wedge tactic to justify the acceptance of homosexual "marriage." Slavery is frequently used as a wedge tactic by "progressive Christians."

I'd like to briefly draw attention to a biting irony, here. Slavery and homosexuality are far more analogous than Vines would like to admit.

People who suffer from addictions are enslaved to their addictions, whether it's pornography, gambling, alcoholism, drug abuse, &c. 

The same thing is true for active homosexuals. They don't control it–it controls them. 

They are in bondage to their homosexual passions. It's all-consuming. 

Active homosexuals are often the mirror-image of womanizers: men whose existence is a string of one-night stands. If they're not having sex with a strange woman, they're on the look-out for their next conquest.

It's not coincidental that Scripture compares sin to slavery. You can be more enslaved to a particular sin than literal slavery. Your addiction to a particular sin is psychologically compulsive as well as physically and financially demanding. It never lets up. 

40 trick questions for Christians

Homosexual activist Matthew Vines has posted "40 questions" for Christians:

This is in response to Kevin DeYoung. Before I comment on the specifics, a few preliminaries are in order:

i) Let's begin by stating the obvious: Vines is a young man with a young man's sex drive. He wants to have sex. That's understandable.

Unfortunately, he's homosexual, so he wants to have sex with other men. And for some odd reason, he feels the need to rationalize his lifestyle in the face of Scripture. There are many homosexuals who are chronologically adults, but emotionally arrested. They feel a childish need for parental approval. They can't stand the fact that Bible-believing Christians disapprove of their lifestyle.  

ii) Vines' questionnaire is terribly repetitious. Many of the questions are variations on the same question. Perhaps he padded the questionnaire to create an artificial numerical symmetry with DeYoung's questionnaire. 

As a result, in responding to Vines, I'm going to rearrange the order of the questions. I'm going to group some questions topically that are essentially the same question. Then I'll respond en bloc. That will avoid redundancy. 

iii) Vines resorts to the lawyerly debater's trick of posing deceptively simple questions. In reality, many of his questions contain tendentious assumptions. Likewise, many of the questions don't have yes or no answers. 

As a result, it would be inaccurate or misleading to answer many of the questions as is. We need to unpack tendentious assumptions or discuss the complexities of the issues. 

In addition to my response, Doug Wilson and James White have posted responses:

For the record, I wrote my own response before reading theirs.

Friday, July 03, 2015

The state of the race

It's been six months since I commented on the 2016 presidential contenders. By now I think we probably know who-all is going to run. This post is less about who I think ought to win than who is likely to win.

i) On the Democrat side, Bernie Sanders is a sideshow, although he may expose Hillary's weak support. Moreover, if he's formidable in early primaries, she will have to tack even further to the left. That will generate awkward quotes when she runs for the general election.

ii) Jim Webb has thrown his hat into the ring. I doubt that a 70-year-old white man will wrest the Democrat nomination from Hillary. 

If he were the nominee, he might be a more formidable candidate to run against the GOP than Hillary. But since I doubt that's in the cards, there's no point detailing his hypothetical advantages. 

iii) On the GOP side, I think Christie has no realistic chance of securing the nomination. To begin with, Jeb is the default establishment Republican in the race. I don't see how Christie can dislodge Jeb. 

And if Jeb stumbles, Kasich is the logical fallback for the establishment Republican niche. Kasich is Jeb's understudy. 

Christie a liberal Eastern Republican like Giuliani, but he lacks Rudy's 9/11 afterglow (which has faded). 

iv) I think it unlikely that Jeb will secure the nomination. There's no enthusiasm for his candidacy, apart from party operatives like Karl Rove. The base dislikes him. And he has much stronger competition than Dole, McCain, or Romney.

v) Kasich is even less likely to secure the nomination than Jeb. To begin with, if Jeb stumbles, it will be too late for Kasich to step in. 

Kasich is lackluster. He's good on budget issues. And that's about it. He doesn't resonate with social issues. That's not his center of gravity.

vi) I think Walker and Rubio are the two contenders with the best shot at securing the nomination, with Jindal as the darkhorse candidate.

A lot may turn on debate performances, and who is even able to get into the debates.

On the plus side, Walker knows how to stand up to political thugs. Since Obama has turned the Executive bureaucracy into a partisan thugocracy, that's a job qualification. However, his knowledge of domestic and foreign policy is thin. 

Rubio is the favorite compromise candidate. Someone most GOP voters can settle for, with the fewest downsides. 

vii) At this point it's likely that Hillary's GOP opponent will be a much younger, much fresher candidate. In presidential debates, that will make her look haggard by comparison.

viii) Hillary's challenge is that she has a low ceiling of support. She needs to raise the ceiling.

There are lots of folks who will voter for her no matter what. But there are lots of folks who won't vote for her under any circumstances. 

She has phenomenal high negatives. She has more baggage than the DFW airport. 

Moreover, a lot of younger voters are ignorant of Hillary's scandals and hypocrisy. 

But paradoxically, the corruption of the Clintons is so notorious that it's like scar tissue. That's "old news." So familiar that many voters don't care. They're used to it.

There are people who will vote for any Democrat. And there are folks who want to "make history" by voting for a woman.

ix) Which brings us to Fiorina. She's certainly interesting. Her resume is far more impressive than Hillary's. 

In presidential debates, she'd neutralize the gender card. Hillary couldn't play that against her. 

However, I doubt that would be much of an advantage in the general election. If voters have two women to choose from, if whichever candidate they vote for will be a women, then voters who hanker to vote for a female candidate because she's a woman will go with Hillary. 

And that will hurt Finorina in the primaries. I doubt Republicans feel like taking a risk on her. There's too much at stake. Moreover, her conservative street cred is a bit forced. 

x) Ben Carson would probably be a good pic for surgeon general, HHS, or maybe the CDE. Cruz would probably be a good pick for attorney general. 

I haven't discussed Rand, Perry, or Huckabee because it think it less likely that they will lead the pack.