December 31, 2015

The SBC Has a Problem With Racism

There are racists within the Southern Baptist Convention. I'm not talking about the usual suspects, though. No, I'm not referring to the small-town deacons who quietly escort black folks out the door on Sunday morning while encouraging them to "try the church down the road." Yes, that sort of thing still goes on, and it is a terrible sin. It is not, however, what prompted this blog post.

What concerns me at the moment are the white-guilt manipulators among the SBC power elite—men like Russell Moore, Ed Stetzer, and Thabiti Anyabwile. I'm sick of their politically correct agenda and all the sycophants who go along with it, and I stand fully behind those like J. D. Hall who call them out for their unhelpful rhetoric (link).

My Favorite Books of 2015

I read quite a few books in 2015, many of them published this year. Of those books, the following were my ten favorites. Here they are, in alphabetical order:
  1. Battlefield America: The War on the American People by John W. Whitehead
  2. The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark
  3. By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission by Charles Murray
  4. Children of Monsters: An Inquiry into the Sons and Daughters of Dictators by Jay Nordlinger
  5. Knowledge and Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga
  6. The Paranormal Conspiracy: The Truth about Ghosts, Aliens, and Mysterious Beings by Timothy Dailey
  7. The Pentagon's Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America's Top-Secret Military Research Agency by Annie Jacobsen
  8. So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
  9. The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser
  10. Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective by Thomas Sowell 

Honorable Mentions:
  • Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success by Michael D'Antonio
  • Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice by Bill Browder
  • SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police by Vox Day
  • Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions by David Croteau
  • Why Trust the Bible? by Greg Gilbert

Some Thoughts on The Big Short and Sound Economics

If you want to watch an entertaining film about the financial crisis, then watch The Big Short. If you want to actually understand what caused the financial crisis, then skip it and read a book by an Austrian economist. 

TBS pushes the leftist party line by blaming big business and calling for more government regulation. What the filmmakers never tell you, though, is that the real reason the banks gave all those bad loans is because they were forced to by government regulations designed to increase home ownership. Was there greed, fraud, and malfeasance involved too? Sure. But the big banks were only able to get away with it all because they knew they'd get a government bailout in the end. Does that sound like a free market to you? It's not. It's the fascistic combination of big business and big government that has been the norm in the U. S. for over a century now. Because leftists misunderstand economics so badly, they are actually calling for more of the thing that caused the crisis (government regulation) while blaming the one thing that could prevent another one (free market Capitalism). 

One other criticism: I was really hoping the four leads (Pitt, Gosling, Carell, and Bale) would share a scene together, but they didn't. The four of those guys on screen together really would have been something special. 

December 30, 2015

How Pro-Life Is the GOP?

C. Jay Engel:
The abortion issue is one that GOP politicians use to manipulate people into supporting the party and putting hope in politics. Abortion is wrong. Period. Let no one doubt my position on this. But in my estimation, the GOP emphasizes this in such a way so as to leverage it to put their own into power. Not only was nothing done about abortion when the GOP had Congress and the Presidency during the Bush years, but it just so happens that so-called “pro-life” candidates are horrific on the war issue and have supported murderous crimes that are arguably just as evil as abortion. Moreover, supporting a politician “just because he is good on abortion” has led to all sorts of socialism that came directly from the GOP’s policies. Of course, we should never support a candidate who supports ending the life of unborn children; but we must always consider how a politician’s correct position on one issue can lead to the state gaining power overall as we continue to elect those who support the expansion of the state. (link)

December 28, 2015

But I Was Just Following Orders . . .

When it comes to man's law, legality and morality are two separate things. They often align with one another, but they contradict one another quite often as well. Those who use the legality of immoral actions to justify said actions will not have a leg to stand on before the Judge of the universe. On Judgment Day, the phrase "I was just following orders" will be about as helpful as it was at Nuremberg. You'll have to look elsewhere for your get-out-of-Hell-free card. That goes for cops too. A badge does not grant its wearer extra rights, nor does it exempt one from the requirements of God's law (link).

December 26, 2015

The No-Fly List Is the Problem

According to progressives, individuals on the no-fly list shouldn't be able to purchase firearms. It's just common sense they say. I think a lot of people will probably fall for this tactic. What they don't realize, unfortunately, is that the no-fly list is the problem (link).

December 23, 2015

Want to Avoid World War 3?


Then you should probably support a presidential candidate who can get along with Vladimir Putin . . . like Trump (link). While the rest of the Republican candidates (with the exception of Rand Paul) are busy agitating the start of another world war, Trump has been advocating a less aggressive foreign policy (though not without some inconsistency and a lot of bluster).

December 07, 2015

Hollywood Blowback?

Did recent box office disappointments result from the obnoxious comments of a few out-of-touch movie stars?
Arrogant, big-mouthed, divisive Hollywood blowhards took a massive hit at the American box office this weekend. The highly-anticipated fourth and final chapter of “The Hunger Games” should have been bullet-proof. But after star Jennifer Lawrence used the film’s publicity tour to trash Christians and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, “Mockingjay – Part 2″ is under-performing in a way no box office analyst had predicted.

“The Night Before,” an R-rated comedy starring Seth Rogen, the same big-mouthed bigot who lashed out with a “F*ck you!” to Republican Ben Carson last month, is looking like an outright disaster, as is “Secret In Their Eyes,” which was supposed to be a comeback (and Oscar) vehicle for Republican-basher Julia Roberts. (link)

December 04, 2015

The Problem with Transhumanism

Wesley J. Smith:
I’m sorry: Even if they took your brain at the moment of death and froze it solid, you’d still be dead with a brain preserved in [a] cryogenic tank. If they removed your brain before death, that process would kill you and you’d just be dead with a brain in [a] cryogenic tank. Restoring the brain later to function on an artificial body? Please. (link)

December 02, 2015

Another Example of Leftist Totalitarianism and Hypocrisy

The governor of New York recently ordered the removal of subway ads for Amazon's new alt-history series The Man in the High Castle:
Fascism is so bad that the ruling authority needs to decide what commercial speech is acceptable in public spaces? The governor ordering the ads pulled is exactly the kind of government control the show warns about.

Yet the Associated Press, which would have approximately no trouble connecting the dots between government control of artistic and commercial speech and a fictitious TV show about the dangers of totalitarianism if a conservative had made the order, can’t even manage to put this information in the lede of its story? (link)

November 30, 2015

The Problem with Intellectual Property

Here's the rub:
If IP rights do in fact, as I argue, pit actual property in tangible goods against rights in ideas and give partiality to innovators, inventors, artist, and writers than [sic] no amount [of] social benefit conferred by IP laws can justify them. (link)

November 23, 2015

An Update

Though I've done a pretty good job of updating the blog every weekday for the last two or three months, I don't expect that to continue much longer. Multiple distractions and responsibilities are now or will soon be demanding my attention. I intend to continue blogging, but don't expect the same regularity. Normal blogging activity may resume in February, but I make no promises. 

November 20, 2015

Review: Onward by Russell Moore

Moore, Russell D. Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel (B&H, 2015), 240 pp.



Onward, is author Russell Moore’s attempt to forge a third-way between the Christian right and the Christian left. He attempts to remind his readers that we are living in a post-Christian culture, that the ethics of Scripture are (and really always have been) counter-cultural, and that faithful Christian cultural engagement transcends the platforms of both major political parties. Within the book’s ten chapters Moore offers a theological rationale for his brand of Christian political engagement while covering a variety of issues (marriage, family, abortion) near and dear to most Evangelicals.

When judged on its own merits, the book is largely successful (though I could nitpick). However, for those of us who’ve followed Moore’s ministry, it may be difficult to separate the general approach outlined in his book from the specific policy prescriptions he advocates as head of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Based on statements made both within the book (p. 130) and elsewhere, I would characterize Moore as a Blue Dog Democrat. As a libertarian, I dislike Moore’s politics even more than he dislikes mine (pp. 6, 21). Knowing this going into the book, it was hard for me to read it without suspicion. There were times when I agreed with Moore in theory, but, having followed his ministry and seen how his approach works out in practice, I’m not a fan. I won’t go into specific disagreements because I don’t want this review to turn into a libertarian screed (again, I’d rather not nitpick).

Moore is at his best when he’s reminding his readers about the counter-cultural nature of biblical Christianity. American civil religion is not the religion of Scripture, and believers are called to proclaim Christ, not conservative (or progressive) values. However, when he moves beyond this and starts making specific policy prescriptions, he and I must part company. Frankly, I think Moore is a much better preacher than political ethicist. Admittedly, though, that’s as much an assessment of his ministry as a whole as it is of this book in particular. That’s why I can still cautiously recommend this book for those interested in the intersection of faith and culture. 


I was provided by the publisher with a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
 

You can support the blog by using one of our Amazon Associate links to do your book shopping.
  
Disclosure: Faith Seeking Understanding receives compensation for any purchases made using Amazon Associate links.

November 19, 2015

Various and Sundry

  • Three things happen every time there's a major terrorist attack: people die, governments lie, and you and I lose our freedoms (link).
  • When it comes to public policy, good intentions aren't enough (link).
  • Here's some more information about Seventh Day Adventism (link).
  • Only the free market can determine how many welders and/or philosophers we need (link).
  • There's a lot to dislike about Marco Rubio (link). 
  • Here's a critique of Ben Carson from a conservative perspective (link).
  • What's so bad about isolationism? (link)
  • Speaking of so-called isolationists, Rand Paul is finally starting to live up to his potential (link).
  • Mark Driscoll is back at it, and he's teaming up with Perry Noble and Steven Furtick (link). I've started calling this merry band of snake oil salesmen the unholy trinity.
  • Don't believe the rhetoric about military cuts (link). 
  • C. Jay Engel has some interesting thoughts on Christian ethics and self interest (link).
  • The first amendment is no longer politically correct (link).
  • Doug Wilson offers an excellent critique of PC culture (link).
  • Here's another problem with premillennialism (link).

November 18, 2015

Why Donald Trump's Political Success Is a Good Thing

Despite his faults (which are many), I believe that Donald Trump's recent success is a good sign.

Why?

If Donald Trump manages to secure the Republican presidential nomination, it will prove that the establishment-types in D. C. aren't as powerful as previously thought. It will mean that the elites behind both major parties can be defeated by an outsider. That's a good thing, even if a Trump presidency isn't (though I can't imagine he'll do any worse than Bush or Clinton).

November 17, 2015

Why I Named My Dog Bernie Sanders

Last week a stray dog showed up on my doorstep. I had mercy on the poor, pathetic creature and took him in. Now I have a new dog. I named him Bernie Sanders.

Why did I name my dog Bernie Sanders? Two reasons.

First, Bernie (the dog, not the politician) is a welfare parasite. He is completely dependent on the mercy of others for his survival—just like the would-be constituents of Bernie Sanders (the politician).

Second, I don't like dogs. So, though I should find Bernie Sanders (the dog) intolerable, I don't for some strange reason. I feel the same way about the other Bernie Sanders. I detest socialism, but the Bern has a kind of obnoxious charm.

November 16, 2015

Do You Feel Safer Now?

The typical response by Western politicians to Islamic terrorism includes an increase in two things: domestic surveillance and foreign intervention. They are both immoral and ineffective.

The illegal mass surveillance programs of the U. S. (and its allies) represent a betrayal of both the citizenry and the ideals on which this nation was founded. Mass surveillance is worse than ineffective. Rather than make Americans safer from terrorists, it puts us increasingly at the mercy of our own corrupt government. 

Likewise, foreign intervention is part of the problem rather than the solution. It creates blowback. Apparently people don't like it when their home is bombed. Sometimes they fight back. Dropping even more bombs on them won't stop the home-grown wannabees from following in their footstops. And besides, domestic terrorism is a criminal issue. It belongs in the domain of the police and the FBI not the military and the CIA.  

Peter Hitchens:
After all, let us not forget that Islamist terror has grown in strength and reach, not diminished, since we embarked on our supposedly benevolent interventions in the Muslim world. The Iraq invasion, the Afghan intervention, the wild and brainless enthusiasm with which we greeted the disastrous ‘Arab Spring’, the supposedly humanitarian interference in Libya which turned it into a failed state, the aid and comfort we gave to the rebellion in Syria. Not only have these things failed to prevent terror. They have visited a violent chaos on the whole Muslim world, in which fanatical and grisly death cults thrive and prosper. . . . there is no mastermind sitting in a cave issuing orders . . . That is a James Bond fantasy. And it is also why these things would still be hard to prevent if we turned ourselves into a totalitarian state of surveillance, identity cards, perpetual searches of the innocent – like going through an airport, only all the time. . . . All we will achieve by adopting such methods is to make ourselves miserable without making ourselves safe. (link)

November 13, 2015

It Isn't Your Job to Bring Good out of Evil

American culture is growing increasingly hostile to biblical Christianity. However, it seems that whenever Christians call attention to this hostility in one of its various manifestations, other believers are quick to defend the world against the church.

I'm reminded of a children's movie that came out a few years ago. The film was clearly pushing a politically correct, anti-Christian agenda. Soon after, I read an article by a Christian leader praising said film.

Other examples abound. Christian parents excuse enrolling their children in public schools by claiming that the children (who may not even be converted) are missionaries. No. They're not. They're just kids, and you're allowing them to be indoctrinated into a worldview that is diametrically opposed to Christian orthodoxy. Evangelicals flock to see the latest biblical film (Noah, Exodus, etc.), and, regardless of how terribly anti-Christian said film is, they defend it on the grounds that it provides an evangelistic opportunity.

We don't need to defend the sins of unbelievers on the grounds that they provide us with such a wonderful opportunity to share the gospel. That is a bit like saying, contrary to the Apostle Paul, that one ought to continue in sin so that grace may abound (Romans 6:1). Yes, God uses bad things to bring about good (Romans 8:28), but that's His job. We can be confident that God is using the sins of the world for the good of the church without minimizing or excusing those sins. Sin is still sin and ought to be condemned as such.

November 12, 2015

Various and Sundry

  • To those (like Bill Gates) who want more government control over private industry, I say, "You first. Why don't you go ahead and put your money where your mouth is?" (link). 
  • I'm glad I gave up on comics before the social justice warriors took over. (link)
  • Despite the hyperbolic and inflammatory rhetoric, Quentin Tarantino has a point about police brutality (link).  
  • I'm bewildered by Karen Swallow Prior's position of influence within the Southern Baptist Convention (link).
  • Regarding Reformed Catholicity, I like the concept but not the terminology (link).
  • The proper libertarian approach to immigration isn't as straightforward as I first thought. Lew Rockwell makes the best libertarian case against immigration that I've seen, though I'm still not fully persuaded (link).
  • Compassion unmoored from Christian conceptions of justice and righteousness is a dangerous thing (link).
  • It is precisely because the state is not God that the state must answer to God (link).
  • You do not have a right not to be offended (link).
  • Aquinas, Van Til, and their followers believe that all talk of God must be analogical. Here's why they're wrong (link).
  • Quote of the Week: "Our government’s dedication to the misguided F-35 program pales in comparison to the emperor’s fascination with Death Stars." (link)

November 11, 2015

Lecturing Those Who Weep

When tragedy strikes, Christians are often left asking, "Where was God? Why would He allow something like this?"

They really should have figured that out beforehand.

That sounds cold, I know, but right in the midst of personal tragedy is no time to be trying to figure out God's sovereignty over suffering and evil. We need to figure that out well ahead of time, so that, when trials do come (and they certainly will), we won't be tempted to doubt God's goodness. 

For the rest of us—those of us who do have settled convictions on the doctrine of providence and the relationship between God's secret and revealed wills—we have to remember that we have not been called to lecture those who weep. We've been called to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

Yes, our suffering brothers and sisters should have gotten their theological ducks in a row beforehand. There will be time for that later. Right after a great loss or during a difficult trial, they don't need your lecture. They need your sympathy.

November 10, 2015

Overcriminalization and Romans 13

John Whitehead:
Is it possible that you are a felon? Or at least a criminal of some sort? This is the reality that more and more Americans are grappling with in the face of government bureaucracy consumed with churning out laws, statutes, codes, and regulations that reinforce its power and value systems and those of the police state and its corporate allies. . . . we are all petty criminals, guilty of violating some minor law. [1]
Many Christians believe that Romans 13 teaches that Christians are morally obligated to obey all laws (unless they require disobediance to Scripture). If that's the case, Americans are in big trouble. Following every law in the burgeoning police state that is the U. S. is impossible due to the phenomenon of overcriminalization.


1. John W. Whitehead, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State (SelectBooks, 2013), pp. 175-176.

November 09, 2015

The Miracle of Ice

Greg Gilbert:
Imagine a man who lived all his life—a long time ago, before electricity or any modern technology—on a tropical island near the equator. One day, a ship shows up, and the sailors tell him they're from a country far away in the north. Then they begin to talk about this fantastic substance called ice, which is like water turning into rock when it gets very cold. Now our friend on the equatorial island has absolutely no experience of ice, nor even (likely) of the kind of cold required to make it. So probably, he's going to have a very hard time believing that this "water turning into a very cold rock" has ever actually happened. He may even declare it to be impossible and the sailors to be dupes or liars. Ice lies utterly and completely outside his experience, and he doesn't believe in it.
And yet ice exists.
When it comes to miracles, I think many of us are like that tropical guy with the ice. We've never experienced anyone walking on water or turning water into wine or rising from the dead, so we begin with an assumption that those things don't—indeed, can't—happen. But just because we've never experienced them doesn't mean they don't exist, just as it's ridiculous to say that ice doesn't exist because the island man has never seen any. In fact, for someone who has experienced miracles—and millions of people in the world say they have—this whole question of whether miracles are plausible (much less possible) seems pretty silly. . . . All that is to say that you can't just declare miracles—and therefore the Bible—to be implausible simply on the strength of your own experience or lack thereof. [1]




1. Greg Gilbert, Why Trust the Bible? (Crossway, 2015), pp. 106-107.
Gilbert pp. 106-107

November 06, 2015

Ben Carson: The Good, the Bad, and the Weird

 The Good:
  • Ben Carson believes the Bible (link).
  • Ben Carson supports religious liberty (link).
  • Ben Carson supports gun rights (link).
  • Ben Carson wants to abolish the IRS (link).
  • Ben Carson has a bit of a libertarian streak (link).
  • Ben Carson is against illegal government surveillance (link), though not without some inconsistency (link).
  • Ben Carson doesn't care about political correctness (link, link).

The Bad:
  • Ben Carson is a feminist (link).
  • Ben Carson is a member of the heterodox Seventh-Day Adventist sect (link)
  • Ben Carson is not consistently pro-life (link).
  • Ben Carson supports the unconstitutional and ineffective drug war (link).
  • Ben Carson supports a needlessly aggressive foreign policy (link, link, link).
  • Ben Carson supports useless government make-work programs like NASA (link).
  • Ben Carson is a fascist/statist who believes in forced inoculations (link).

The Weird:
  • Ben Carson believes, in spite of a complete absence of biblical and archaeological evidence, that the pyramids were built to store grain (link).  
  • Ben Carson has been endorsed by UFC fighter Vitor Belfort (link).

Overall:
Ben Carson is a typical Tea Party Republican with the added advantage of being a token business candidate. He's better than the average Republican in that he's more principled and socially conservative, but he still leaves a lot to be desired from a libertarian perspective. His positions on gun rights and the confederate flag are good, and his tax plan is a step in the right direction, but his positions on foreign policy and vaccination are deal-breakers. I would take Carson over a Clinton or a Bush in a heartbeat, but that's not saying much.

November 05, 2015

Various and Sundry

  • Most of the problems with American government can be blamed on a violation of the constitution. Others can be blamed on the constitution itself (link).
  • Have the Social Justice Warriors finally reached the end of the rope? (link).
  • Speaking of SJWs, they've now turned their attention to destroying the works of Shakespeare in the name of political correctness (link).
  • This should really rile up the SJWs. Here's an article in defense of trophy hunting.
  • At what point can we start referring to Stephen Furtick as a cult leader? (link)
  • Is your spouse your best friend? For the sake of your marriage, I sure hope not (link).
  • What's so patriotic about wanting to send Americans to the other side of the globe to kill people who pose no direct threat to the American people? Nothing, that's what (link).
  • Jedi: good (link) or bad (link)? You decide.
  • The EU parliament just voted to give Ed Snowden asylum (link). Apparently, not all European politicians are fascists. 
  • "Social stability does not hinge on how many compulsory government programs exist, nor does it thrive off people living at the expense of other people." (link)
  • A tale of two Bushes (link). 
  • What makes self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders so different from the average Democrat? Not much, really (link).

November 04, 2015

Must One Be a Cessationist In Order to Reject the Charismatic Movement?

I believe the definitive case for cessationism has yet to be made. Some arguments for cessationism are stronger than others. It's difficult to make a slam-dunk argument for the cessation of special revelation based on a document that is itself the product of special revelation. In other words, one shouldn't expect to find any texts in Scripture mentioning the cessation of special revelation if those texts themselves are the product of special revelation.

That is not to say that there are not slam-dunk arguments against the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. One need not be a convinced cessationist in order to reject the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. One can be a convinced non-charismatic while questioning some or all of the biblical arguments for cessationism.

When examined on a case-by-case basis, Pentecostal/Charismatic claims are decidedly unpersuasive. For example, even a non-cessationist should be able to dismiss the Pentecostal/Charismatic phenomena of "prophecy" and "tongues". Both are obviously unbiblical.

November 03, 2015

Throw Away Your Devotional

Most evangelical devotional literature is pretty shallow or, in some cases, borderline heretical (e. g. Jesus Calling). I've found even the better (i. e. theologically orthodox) devotionals to be less than helpful. The format is problematic. They teach the reader to read Scripture in an atomistic way. One verse, no context, followed by a page-long sermonette.

I have some suggestions for those looking to replace their devotional.

First, I recommend The Valley of Vision. VoV is a collection of Puritan prayers, and it has been helpful in stimulating my prayer life.

Second, I recommend reading classic theological works. Something like Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion is ideal. Many of these older books are split up into small chapters (about the size of a chapter of Scripture) which make them ideal for daily reading. There are a few more recent books that may fit the bill as well (e. g. Concise Theology by J. I. Packer)

I've also found creeds, confessions, and catechisms useful for devotional reading. 

Finally, nothing can improve upon Scripture itself. It's hard to beat the ESV Reader's Bible for ease of reading. Crossway also publishes The Psalms and The Gospels in separate volumes. These volumes are tailor-made for daily devotional reading.

November 02, 2015

BOLO

Be on lookout for these upcoming books:

A Theology of Biblical Counseling: The Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry by Heath Lambert

A Theology of Biblical Counseling is a landmark new book that unpacks the core theological convictions that underlie sound counseling, and practical wisdom for counseling today. Dr. Heath Lambert shows how biblical counseling is rooted in the Scriptures while illustrating the real challenges counselors face today through true stories from the counseling room.   A substantive textbook written in accessible language, it is an ideal resource for use in training biblical counselors at colleges, seminaries, and training institutes. In each chapter, doctrine comes to life in real ministry to real people, dramatically demonstrating how theology intersects with the lives of actual counselees.

How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth by Christopher J. H. Wright

Looking first at why we should preach from the Old Testament, the author moves on to show the reader how they can be preach from it. Covering the History, Law, Prophets, Psalms, and Wisdom Literature, interspersed with practical checklists, exercises, and sermons, he provides an essential guide on how to handle the Old Testament responsibly.

Both are out in April from Zondervan.

October 30, 2015

The Most Corrupt President Since the Last One

Having recently finished reading the book Donald Trump doesn't want you to read, I've concluded that, as far as politicians go, Trump isn't that bad. Yes, he's vain, arrogant, greedy, narcissistic, and a bit delusional, but so are most of his competitors. At least he's up front about it. He's not hiding behind a carefully managed facade. With Trump, what you see is what you get. His skeletons are already out of the closet.

In fact, I believe that Trump, if elected, will be the least corrupt president since Eisenhower. I don't know much about Ike, but from my reading I've learned that each of his successors* has been involved in all sorts of really shady stuff. Stuff that makes Trump look like a boy scout.

Trump's no saint. If elected, he will become the latest in a long line of corrupt executives, but let's not lose perspective. He will only be the most corrupt president since the last one.


*with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter

October 29, 2015

Various and Sundry

  • It's probably not a good idea to add up the genealogies in Genesis in order to find the age of the earth (link).
  • Bnonn Tennant offers some constructive criticism of Michael Heiser's latest (link, link).
  • Covenantal arguments for infant baptism are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the New Covenant (link).
  • Walter Block argues that, among current presidential contenders, Rand Paul is still the best on foreign policy, with Trump a close second. Block "I acknowledge that Mr. Trump has been really good on foreign policy of late. He is no Ron Paul, but, then, no one else in the running is either. The Donald has questioned U.S. foreign policy in a plethora of instances, and pretty much always takes the correct libertarian point of view in terms of militarism, imperialism, foreign adventurism, etc. . . . But, Rand, too, has been doing pretty well on this score!" (link)
  • Speaking of Trump, it seems he really is self-funding his campaign (link).
  • The problem with saying that biblical language about God is only analogical and never univocal is that every analogy must be based on a univocal element between two like things. Otherwise, one is left with pure equivocation (link). 
  • What is it like to be the child of a dictator? (link)
  • The federal government's war on poverty has resulted in more poverty. The war on drugs has resulted in more drugs. Can anyone guess what the war on cancer will do? (link).

October 28, 2015

Reading List: Contemporary Power-Elite Analysis

When I become interested in a topic, I often start a reading project. In an effort to better understand the power players in the current presidential election cycle, I've put together the following reading list:
  • Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. The Obamas by Edward Klein
  • Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich by Peter Schweizer
  • The Clintons' War on Women by Roger Stone and Robert Morrow
  • Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America's Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years by Russ Baker
  • Jeb and the Bush Crime Family by Roger Stone and Saint John Hunt
  • Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success by Michael D'Antonio
  • The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party by David Horowitz and Richard Poe
  • Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America's Most Powerful and Private Dynasty by Daniel Schulman 
I tried to find a good book offering an objective look at Bernie Sanders, but all I've turned up so far is a bunch of fluff. If you happen to know of one, please send me an email and let me know. 

October 27, 2015

Debt and Destruction

America is a nation of economic illiterates. We've been brainwashed into believing that, contrary to all common sense, debt and destruction are actually good for the economy. Most of us learn this in school. It's then reinforced by our elected officials and the media. Ron Paul corrects this common misconception in his latest book.
. . . there are a lot of people who believe that war is an economic benefit and remain convinced that World War II actually ended the Great Depression. Hardly! . . . Many Americans still believe that FDR ended the Great Depression, with World War II providing a big help. The war did nothing to help, and all of FDR's economic policies, which were a continuation of Hoover's mistakes, were responsible for prolonging the depression. This same criticism can be made of the economic policies of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama that have prolonged the current Great Recession. . . . The average person, who does not work in the arms industry, pays the bills and reaps no direct economic benefits from war. [1]
It has been argued that war is a major reason, if not the most significant reason, especially in the past 100 years, that the material advance has been so great. But could it be that this is in spite of the coercive investment of the state in war that the benefits to society have continued? The material benefits may well have been even greater without the death and destruction of the past 100 years of wars that should not have been waged. . . . War is always an economic negative. Even a purely defensive war destroys wealth. 
Liberty, markets, property, honest money, and peace generate prosperity. In contrast, war distracts from wealth creation, consumes wealth, and undermines liberty. I see no evidence that war in any way contributes to prosperity. Absent war, prosperity would occur anyway and to an even greater extent. With war there is always less wealth overall, though the war profiteers always benefit. [2]

1. Ron Paul, Swords Into Plowshares: A Life in Wartime and a Future of Peace and Prosperity (2015), p. 99.

2. Ibid. pp. 80-81.

October 26, 2015

The Walk

I recently watched The Walk. It's an entertaining film. Well done. I recommend it.

For those who don't know, the film is about a high-wire artist who dreams of walking across the (then recently completed) twin towers in New York. Making this dream a reality requires not only tremendous skill but careful planning and the help of several accomplices. It is also illegal, so the film is essentially a heist movie without the heist.

This got me to thinking: Is high-wire artist a permissible vocation for a Christian?

While It's hard not to admire the perseverance and skill required to pull off the high-wire act, it's also, arguably, an act of selfishness and irresponsibility. One might even argue that it is a waste of God-given talent. How much better might the world be if these talented performers put their effort and skill to use in more useful endeavors?

The upside is a bit more intangible, but it exists, nonetheless. Performers like high-wire artists inspire the rest of us. They don't just entertain us. They motivate us.

How does one perform the ethical calculus on such a trade-off? I don't know.

Do the artists, dreamers, and daredevils who inspire us actually deserve our contempt? Should we pity them rather than admire them? Does the high-wire act bring glory to God or merely the performer?

October 23, 2015

Does Gang-Stalking Exist?

I recently listened to an interview with the author of Chameleo, and it got me to thinking about the phenomenon of gang-stalking.

The term gang-stalking refers to "the intense, long-term, unconstitutional surveillance and harassment of a person who has been designated as a target by someone associated with America’s security industry" (link). When put in those terms, it doesn't sound so far-fetched. However, when one actually listens to the testimonies of the supposed victims, that's when things get a bit . . . weird (like allegations of government bureaucrats using cloaking technology to spy on a recovering drug addict). Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, but some of this stuff is a bit much. Though, I am inclined to think that there is some truth buried underneath all the lies, exaggerations, and disinformation.

October 22, 2015

Various and Sundry

  • Foreign aid makes people feel good without actually doing any good (link). 
  • Huckabee asks, "How is legalized pot not the same as Kim Davis?" (link). Good question. I'd like to turn that around on him and ask him if he supports the federal government's unconstitutional war on drugs.  
  • The Feminazis are at it again (link). 
  • The existence of police brutality and corruption does not make it okay to attack cops (link). It's sad that someone needs to point out something so obvious.
  • Bob Murphy offers a more nuanced take on the typical libertarian "open border" immigration position (link). 
  • More Amillennial theology from Sam Storms (link, link).
  • Gary North offers a long winded explanation of the intellectual bankruptcy of the American conservative movement (link). 
  • Speaking of Gary North... (link)
  • The problem with "democratic" socialism? "State coercion against individuals, even with the blessing of a majority, is still state coercion" (link)
  • Russ Moore's social justice crusade continues. Did he seriously just lump pawn shops in with whores and leg-breakers? Yes. Yes, he did (link).
  • Rand Paul has a far better understanding of economics and monetary policy than any other current presidential candidate (link).
  • The Donald takes a page out of Ron Paul's book (link).

October 20, 2015

Romans 13 and the Constitution

I was going to write a post about the oft-cited and much-abused text of Romans 13:1-7, but Chuck Baldwin beat me to it (link). 

In his article, Baldwin points out a few crucial truths often overlooked when applying Romans 13. Truths like these:
  • Human authority is always limited. Only God's authority is absolute.
  • Civil government, then, serves only a limited function. Beyond that function, it holds no legitimate authority.
  • There are times when faithfulness to God requires resistance to human authority (even governmental authority). 
  • In the American system of government, ultimate authority (humanly speaking, that is) is vested in the constitution and not in any individual person or group of persons (like the president or the supreme court).

October 19, 2015

Giving the Devil His Due

Libertarians, while very critical of our own government, are often quick to point out when foreign leaders—even authoritarians like Vladimir Putin—do or say something right (link, link). Seems like every other day I see a post at LRC that is at least somewhat favorable towards Putin. Why is that?

Here's my attempt at an explanation:

Libertarians don't actually treat foreign leaders any differently than domestic ones. It only seems that way because we are simultaneously more critical of U. S. leaders while being more willing to admit when foreign dictators get something right. This is because we care about principles regardless of whoever it is that happens to be advocating them. We don't actually like any of them. They're all bad, Americans included. Libertarians don't believe that our own leaders are fundamentally any different than the guys they go to war with (hence the extra criticism). However, when U. S. leaders get something right (a rare occasion, I know), we give them their due (again, because we care about principles not politicians). Since we believe that foreign dictators differ from American leaders only in degree rather than in kind, we offer them the same courtesy. We're just giving the devil his due. It matters not whether the particular devil is American or Russian.

October 16, 2015

Calvinism Is Not a Cure-All

We Calvinists are rarely as hard on our own as we are on non-Calvinists. It seems that many in the so-called young, restless, and Reformed movement believe that the leaders of the movement—men like Albert Mohler, Timothy Keller, and John Piper—can do no wrong. How dare you second guess Albert Mohler?! Don't you know what he's done for the SBC?! Don't criticize Russell Moore. He's one of us! Don't believe me? Just look at the reaction the guys at Pulpit & Pen get when they criticize one of our own.

Well, these men (and others among the Evangelical power elite) can and do make mistakes. They are not above criticism. Tim Keller is a great preacher, but he's also a Marxist. His preaching shouldn't get him a free pass for his misguided social ethics. The books of Sam Storms and Wayne Grudem have been a tremendous blessing to me, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't call them out for the charismatic antics they endorse and/or participate in. John Piper's ministry literally changed my life, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be criticized for associating with false teachers. I could make similar points about Russell Moore, Ed Stetzer, Thabiti Anyabwile, Carl Trueman, C. J. Mahaney, David Platt, or just about anyone else. No one is above criticism.

These men have done and continue to do much good. They may be worthy of our respect, but they are not perfect. They have feet of clay. They are only worthy of imitating insofar as they imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). If we put them on a pedestal, they are bound to disappoint us. We can look up to them without idolizing them. We can appreciate their ministries without necessarily modeling our own on theirs.

We need to toss the us vs. them mentality. We need a willingness to stand on the side of truth even if it means we're standing alone. What our movement needs is a bit more constructive criticism (Psalm 141:5; Proverbs 27:6; 29:1). We need to be willing to criticize our guys instead of accepting everything they do uncritically. A bad idea doesn't become a good one just because Mark Dever/D. A. Carson/R. C. Sproul comes up with it.

If the Reformed resurgence is built on men rather than the on the truth, it will not last. Nor should it.

October 15, 2015

Various and Sundry

  • Though I thoroughly enjoyed Charles Murray's latest, I think the criticisms in this review are on point. 
  • Those who dismiss the possibility of a conspiracy surrounding the JFK assassination are inexcusably ignorant. In addition to the recently declassified documents revealing a supposedly benign cover-up (link), even the House Select Committee on Assassinations (way back in 1978) concluded that there was a "probable conspiracy" (link).
  • Doesn't Putin know that only the U. S. is allowed to bomb the Middle East back into the Stone Age?! (link).  
  • Here's another example of why public schools are such a bad idea (link). 
  • The race for the GOP nomination has become the battle of the Billionaires (link, link). 
  • Ben Carson is right about gun control (link, link, link). 
  • Be careful what you think because here come the thought police (link).
  • It's helpful during this election season to realize that sometimes the biggest hawks are secretly quite skeptical of the foreign wars they so loudly defend in public (link). 
  • The transhumanists are wrong wrong wrong (link).
  • Sam Storms explains the two wills of God as they relate to evil (link).
  • Democrat Freeman Dyson says Obama and the other dems are wrong about climate change (link).
  • Douglas Groothuis offers some advice to Christian apologists (link).
  • John W. Whitehead: "What are we to tell our nation’s children about the role of police in their lives? Do you parrot the government line that police officers are community helpers who are to be trusted and obeyed at all times? Do you caution them to steer clear of a police officer, warning them that any interactions could have disastrous consequences? Or is there some happy medium between the two that, while being neither fairy tale nor horror story, can serve as a cautionary tale for young people who will encounter police at virtually every turn?" (link)
  • What exactly did the ancient Hebrews believe about cosmology? (link)

October 14, 2015

What's So Bad About Breaking Bad?

I recently heard someone use Breaking Bad as an example of the celebration of sin in American culture. The individual who made this claim had apparently never watched an episode, but assumed that any TV show whose protagonist is a meth cook must be an example of the celebration of sin. I don't think that's the case with Breaking Bad. You might object to the show's depictions of violence, drug use, foul language, sexuality, etc., but it certainly doesn't celebrate them (at least not when viewed in the context of the entire series).

The show is a morality tale. It's a tragedy, depicting the main character's self-destruction—his descent into depravity. And it's not pretty. Yes, Walter White has some fun along the way, but look at how his story ends. Without giving too much away, I'll just say that it doesn't end well. There's something entirely appropriate about depicting a life of sin onscreen when the filmmakers also show the terrible consequences of said life.

The Bible also describes many sinful behaviors and situations. If it were put onscreen it would merit a hard R rating. So, when a Christian is evaluating his entertainment choices, he ought to take into account more than whether or not sinful behavior is depicted onscreen. He ought to ask what the attitude of the filmmakers is toward the actions that are depicted. Is sin celebrated? Are its consequences minimized? Or is the truth about the destructive nature of sin depicted as well? 

One could argue that in certain instances Breaking Bad crossed the line (the aforementioned language, violence, sexuality, etc.).  That's up for debate. But, as far as the series as a whole is concerned, I think the message was clear. Anyone who thinks it's a good idea to go into the drug trade after watching Breaking Bad missed the point entirely.


You may also want to check out the following articles on this subject:

October 13, 2015

White Collar, Black Hat

I was watching a film recently when a thought occurred to me. If one's only exposure to Christianity was through pop culture, what conclusions would one draw?

Let's say that there is an alien race whose knowledge of the human race comes exclusively from Hollywood films. What would they think of Christians? They would almost certainly conclude that we are evil. Ignorant, nasty people in funny clothes.

Hollywood has become so brazen in it's disdain for believers that even ostensibly Christian films are little more than vehicles for anti-Christian ideology (e. g. Exodus: Gods and Kings and Noah).

Anytime I see a Catholic priest on screen, before I know anything else about the character, I know that he's no good. I know immediately that he's a hypocrite or a coward or a predator. It's like a Pavlovian response to the site of a clerical collar. Don't get me wrong. As a theologically-informed Protestant, I'm no fan of the Roman Catholic church or its priesthood. I doubt that either the filmmakers or most of their audience make that distinction, however. As far as they're concerned, we Christians are all cut from the same cloth.

October 12, 2015

Outlaw Murder!

Gun control won't stop violent crime. If a violent criminal can't get his hands on a gun, he'll use a knife (take the recent mass stabbing in China, for example).

So, we should outlaw knives too.

Of course, I suppose that one could just make a shiv or use a hammer or something instead. Guess we should outlaw those too. Yes! That's it. Let's outlaw all sharp objects. Blunt objects too. No more objects of any kind. They're just too dangerous.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I realize that the weapon itself doesn't really matter. If someone is intent on murdering someone else, they'll find a way. We're treating the symptoms when we ought to be treating the disease. Let's outlaw murder. That'll put an end to this nonsense.

What's that you say? Murder is already illegal?! Color me surprised. I guess criminals don't care about the law.

October 09, 2015

Is There a Libertarian Moment?

Is there a libertarian moment? The jury is still out (link).

It seems to me that most Americans hold at least a few beliefs that could be described as libertarian. The problem is, they don't necessarily hold those beliefs due to any sort of libertarian rationale. Their libertarianism, if it exists at all, is ad hoc. They might be against drug prohibition just because they want to get high. Or they might believe in religious liberty for Christians and no one else.

In my experience, most people are inconsistent. Their beliefs are contradictory. They've never thought through the issues enough to have any kind of consistent worldview, nor do they care to. So, when I hear other libertarians say that most Americans are basically libertarian, I can't help but cringe at their naivete.

Can a fascistic neoconservative who wants to carpet bomb the Middle East be called basically libertarian because he's against minimum wage laws? Can a socialistic progressive who wants to repeal the second amendment be called basically libertarian because he's against mandatory vaccination? The answer in both cases is no.

This is setting aside the fact that many of the so-called libertarians who are talking about this supposed libertarian moment are barely libertarian themselves. I'm thinking of the sort of left-libertarians (or Beltway libertarians, or bleeding-brain libertarians, whichever pejorative you prefer) who populate the CATO Institute and other respectable "libertarian" institutions. They laud the current celebration of homosexuality as if sexual perversion actually has anything whatever to do with the political theory known as libertarianism. Rather than revealing a libertarian streak among the American populace, the recent legal enshrinement of so-called same-sex marriage actually reveals an incipient totalitarianism. At least in this instance, the left-libertarians are no different from the neocons and progressives they so loathe. Their motto is, "Liberty for me, but not for thee!"

October 08, 2015

Various and Sundry

  • The problem with so many of the so-called Bible prophecy experts is that they are clueless as to how to actually read and understand Bible prophecy (link). 
  • Soul mates don't exist (link).
  • The trinity is not a contradiction (link). 
  • I'd accuse John McCain of being senile, but the truth is he's always been a bloodthirsty warmonger (link). 
  • The problem with "Christian" socialism is that it's not Christian. "The Christian creed of caring for the poor often morphs into a call for government to take the reins from industry and private individuals to ensure proper care for the poor. In reality, this is an abdication of responsibility toward that very creed. In effect, it says, 'Someone else should do this.'” (link)
  • Not every religious group can be neatly categorized. Case in point: Seventh Day Adventism. Is it a Christian denomination? Or is it a cult? Both? Neither? I think I'll call it a heterodox fringe group.
  • Tim Challies tears apart the newest book from popular female "pastor" Nadia Bolz-Weber (link). 
  • The truth about guns and gun control (link). 
  • I'm pro gun because I'm pro life (link). 

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