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.
 

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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.

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