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). 

October 06, 2015

Communism Hurts People

While reading the autobiography of Bill Browder (an American investor who decided to rebel against his family of Communists by becoming "the biggest capitalist in Russia"), I was struck by the following passage.

Seventy years of communism had destroyed the work ethic of an entire nation. Millions of Russians had been sent to the gulags for showing the slightest hint of personal initiative. The Soviets severely penalized independent thinkers, so the natural self-preservation reaction was to do as little as possible and hope that nobody would notice you. This had been fed into the psyches of ordinary Russians from the moment they were on their mothers' breasts. To run a Western-style business, therefore, you either had to completely brainwash a fresh young Russian about the virtues of efficiency and clear thinking or find some miraculous person whose natural psychology had somehow defied the pressures of communism. [1]
I get upset when I hear ignorant leftists extolling the virtues of Marxism. I get upset because communism hurts people.

Communism cuts against the grain of human nature. It is a rebellion not only against nature but against the Creator of nature who commands us to earn our own living rather than depending on others (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

1. Bill Browder, Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man's Fight for Justice, pp. 96-97.

October 05, 2015

Don't Waste Your Government

Like most libertarians, I'm very critical of the state. To put it bluntly, I consider the state to be a parasitic, professional criminal organization built on theft and extortion.

I'm also a Bible-believing Christian. Other Christians sometimes wonder how I reconcile my political views with my Christian faith. The Bible does clearly teach that the state has been ordained by God (Romans 13:1-2). Moreover, God uses the state for a good purpose (Romans 13:3-4, 6). The question is: How can an institution ordained and used by God be inherently immoral?

It's simple. God ordains everything (Proverbs 16:33; 21:1; Isaiah 45:7; Matthew 5:45). He uses all things for good (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:11). The fact that God uses all things for good does not mean that those things are good in and of themselves. Take cancer, for example. No one would argue that cancer is a good thing. Yet, no one bats an eye when John Piper writes a booklet called Don't Waste Your Cancer. We have no problem understanding that God uses suffering and sickness for the sanctification of his saints. The state is no different. It is a cancer on society.
The state is evil. But it is an evil that fits perfectly into God's providential plan. It is an evil that God uses for the good of his people and the glory of his name. It is for this reason and not any sort of divine imprimatur that believers are called to submit to the state (and this submission, I should add, is qualified and limited).

Recommended Further Reading:

October 02, 2015

Common Sense Gun Laws

I actually agree with the leftists in the media and the White House for once. It's high time we enact common sense gun control reforms in order to put a stop to mass shootings.

By common sense gun control reform I mean getting rid of all gun control laws. No more unconstitutional laws or licenses which make it difficult or impractical for people to defend themselves. No more ridiculous gun-free zones filled with sitting ducks. Criminals obviously don't care about gun laws or gun-free zones anyway, so let's get rid of them. It's just common sense, right?

Oh, wait. You say the leftists actually want more gun control laws and gun-free zones? That's just silly.

October 01, 2015

Various and Sundry

  • What's so bad about prison labor? (link
  • More nonsense from Russ Moore's ERLC (link). 
  • Russell Moore seems to be upset that not all Evangelicals share his political views/priorities (link).
  • Steve Hays has some helpful thoughts on the recent intramural debate among complementarians (link).
  • Chad Ellison: "There is a bit of fuss among scientists and philosophers regarding the possibility of producing an artificially intelligent being that is actually intelligent. It might seem pessimistic to say that human beings are not even close to being able to manufacture genuine intelligence, but that is my thesis." (link)
  • NASA's recent announcement (link) sounds like the prelude to another multi-billion dollar boondoggle. 
  • Ben Carson seems to have a bit of a libertarian streak (link). I like it.
  • Donald Trump's tax plan isn't perfect (it is a tax plan, after all), but it's not bad (link, link).
  • Is the pope Catholic? Conservative Roman Catholic Andrew Napolitano isn't so sure (link).  
  • Whether or not the pope is Catholic is debatable, but there's no doubt that he's a Marxist (link, link).  
  • He's also an Antichrist (link).
  • Even an Antichrist gets one right occasionally, though (link). 

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