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Archive for October, 2009

CanThePresChurch Can the Presbyterian Church in America be Saved? by Sean Gerety.  The Trinity Foundation, 158 pages.  $9.95. 

The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is in trouble.  In many of the denomination’s churches, the central teaching of Christianity – which is that sinners are saved by believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ apart from any good works performed by them – is being supplanted by a clever substitute called the Federal Vision (FV) or New Perspective on Paul (NPP) that defines saving belief in such a way that it includes good works.  Of course attacks on salvation by belief alone are not new within the church; read Paul’s epistle to the Galatians for an account of this very thing in the first century.  The Roman Catholic Church-State, the largest visible church on earth, would later suppress this doctrine, also known as justification by faith alone, for a thousand years.  In the sixteenth century, salvation by belief alone was the central issue at stake in the Protestant Reformation.  Men such as Martin Luther and John Calvin –  correctly distinguishing between justification and sanctification, between a sinner being declared righteous by God and the process of that sinner becoming more like Christ – understood and taught that good works contribute precisely nothing to salvation but are the fruits of salvation already accomplished. That much of the PCA , an heir of the Reformation, could fall away from sound Gospel teaching is a remarkable thing.  How did the PCA get into such a mess?  Is there any hope of it getting out?  These are questions Sean Gerety addresses in his new book Can the Presbyterian Church in America be Saved?            

Gerety’s crisply written book (the main body of the text is a brief 88 pages) falls into three main sections: 1) a discussion of the Report of Ad Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theology adopted by the PCA in 2007, 2) an analysis of how Van Tilian epistemology and apologetics have undermined the ability of many PCA church officers to respond effectively to the Federal Vision challenge, and 3) a refutation of key errors used by Federal Vision (FV) supporters to advance their ideas.  A brief conclusion follows. (more…)

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Capitalism_a_love_story_poster

Capitalism:  A Love Story.  Michael Moore director.  2 hours and 6 minutes. Rated R for strong language.

Michael Moore wants you to know two things about Capitalism:  1) it’s evil and 2) he hates it.  Moore makes both points abundantly clear in his latest, ironically titled film Capitalism: A Love Story.  That Moore would disapprove of capitalism came as no surprise to me; I expected as much.  But the degree of blatant anti-capitalist hostility manifested in this film left me shocked.  In a way, that’s to Moore’s credit.  He’s willing to clearly speak his mind on the subject, and I can respect that.  This is preferable by far to listening to men who would bore us with ambiguous words designed to hide their true beliefs.  But for all that, in this film Moore also shows himself to be a deeply confused man. He seems not to have a clear idea of what capitalism is, and being unsure of his target, he ends up savaging capitalism for sins properly attributed to socialism, and praising socialism for benefits brought by capitalism. 

Moore’s position on capitalism is evident from the film’s opening, where he presents the viewer with a collection of still photos of bank robberies.  What could such pictures possible have to do with capitalism?  Really, it’s not hard to figure out.  You see, in Moore’s world, capitalism is robbery, or as he states later in the film, “capitalism is a system of giving and taking, mostly taking.” Capitalism, Moore believes, is theft and thoroughly corrupt at the ethical level.  This notion he defends, not by presenting a coherent argument, but through anecdotes such as: families losing their homes to foreclosure, an outrageously sleazy real estate agent buying condos on the cheap, teenagers who were thrown in juvenile detention to make money for a private prison contractor, a  sit-down strike at a Chicago window factory, and the little known corporate practice of buying life insurance policies on rank and file workers, also known as dead peasant insurance.  Of course, none of these anecdotes prove capitalism evil, but they can sway many people by appealing to their emotions. (more…)

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End the Fed                                                                                                          

End the Fed by Ron Paul.  212 pages. Grand Central. $21.99.

Ron Paul has always been something of a political misfit.  An eleven term Republican congressman from Texas, he’s labored most of his career in obscurity, only recently achieving national prominence on the strength of his 2008 bid for the Republican presidential nomination.  The reaction to Paul’s campaign by both voters and media alike was a curious mixture of perplexity, enthusiasm and scorn.  His pro-life, pro-gun positions certainly resonated with many values conservatives.  Fiscal conservatives  no doubt appreciated his small government rhetoric, accompanied as it was by a congressional voting record so hostile to new taxes and regulations that Paul, a physician by trade, earned himself the nickname Dr. No.   And yet during the campaign, Paul often found himself at odds with many of these same conservatives.  His denunciation of the Bush administration’s undeclared war in Iraq got him booed at the 2007 Values Voter Presidential Debate, and for the same reason he was openly rejected by major figures in the Republican party and conservative media.  How, people wondered, can Paul be so conservative and so liberal at the same time?  He appeared full of contradictions.  In reality, there was no contradiction among Paul’s positions, but instead a remarkable underlying consistency.  For Paul, as he says of himself on his congressional website, “never votes for proposed legislation unless the measure is expressly authorized by the Constitution.” Paul’s stand on abortion, guns and war is governed by what the Constitution says on these issues, not by the changing winds of popular opinion.  But public opion, even among self-described conservatives, has drifted so far from constitutional moorings that consistent arguments based on the Constitution sound strange to contemporary listeners.    

While his opposition to Bush’s War on Terror garnered Paul a great deal of attention and no little animosity during the campaign, it was not his sole, or even main focus.  Paul was and is one of the best informed members of Congress on a wide range of issues, but his area of speciality is monetary policy.  Considered a rather wonkish and eccentric subject by many, the Federal Reserve Bank’s (the Fed) monetary policy had long been an object of Paul’s criticism.  Paul, as his Constitutionalist philosophy demanded, was an advocate of hard, commodity money, a position often identified with the gold standard.  As a member of the House Financial Services Committee, Paul grilled Fed chairmen such as Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke for many years, asking pointed, informed questions of them while others were lobbing softballs.  And while Paul would question and criticize the Fed chairmen on this or that point, ultimately it was not individual Fed policies to which he objected, but the very existence of the Fed.  For long time Paul admirers such as myself, this always made his C-SPAN head to heads with Greenspan and Bernanke must see TV.  But aside from the entertainment value of watching Fed chairmen squirm under Paul’s questioning, these House Committee meetings were serious affairs.  For the power of those chairmen was awesome, and their decisions affected the lives of every single person in the country in ways few people understood.  But while they were no small matter, the Fed’s activities remained out of sight and out of mind for most Americans.  

All that changed in the fall of 2008. (more…)

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