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Archive for December, 2010

Not so very long ago the thought of buying gold and silver seemed unthinkable.  I didn’t know very much about investing,  and the little I did know came from studying my one and only underperforming, large cap mutual fund.  To me, the bond market seemed like foreign territory, so the thought of investing in precious metals was about as  far off my radar screen as it could be.    

That started to change in 2007, when after becoming convinced of the worsening financial condition of the US and the distinct possibility that the powers that be would try to monetize the government’s debts – by monetize I simply mean create new dollars out of nothing by a process the academic frauds who run our nation’s financial institutions call Quantitative Easing, thus destroying the value of the existing dollars in your checking and savings account  – I finally started to seriously consider investing in gold and silver, and over the past three years I’ve become much more comfortable with the metals.  

Maybe you’re like I was in 2007, intrigued by precious metals but unsure whether it’s a good investment.  Does it make sense to invest in gold and silver?  How would I go about doing it?  What dangers should I be aware of?  If you’re asking these questions, that’s ok.  In fact, if you’re not asking these questions before investing, you’re disrespecting your hard-earned, God-given capital.  So before putting any money into silver and gold, it’s best to learn why and how you should buy. 

The key to this is finding a good mentor.  One of the best I have found in the field of precious metals is James Turk.  He’s a  sober-minded investor with decades of experience in finance and precious metals.  I find his writing clear and easy to understand, even for novice investors, and his forecasts of the price movements of gold and silver have been remarkably accurate.  His 2004 book The Collapse of the Dollar and How to Profit from it is a good place to start for learning about the silver and gold markets.  In the first half of the book, Turk makes his case for why the dollar will collapse: it’s a government fiat currency with an unlimited potential supply.  The second half of focuses on gold and silver investing and provides helpful information on how to purchase both the physical metals and also gold mining stocks.  There’s also a disturbing chapter dealing with the specter of government confiscation of not only gold, but also Americans’ retirement savings.  You can find used copies of The Collapse of the Dollar for a few bucks on Amazon or other internet booksellers.  Think of it as one of the better low-cost investments you’ll make in the new year.

Click here for a recent audio interview with Turk by Eric King of King World News.

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Financial chicanery has been big news in the US the past two years, and now the Vatican, not wanting to miss out on a good thing, has a banking scandal of it own brewing. It seems that the Vatican Bank, also known as the Institute for Works of Religion, is suspected of money laundering.  Currently $30 million of the bank’s money has been impounded by Italian authorities, and Bank’s chairman, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi and director general, Paolo Cipriani, are under investigation.  The Vatican is said to be perplexed and surprised by this turn of events.  For my part,  I’m shocked, shocked!, to hear about scandal in the Roman Catholic Church-State. Really, who would ever suspect such a thing?  

While reading through the various news accounts, one statement from a New York Times article jumped out at me.  The statement read,

In both cases, investigators bypassed the sovereignty of the Holy See by looking into Italian accounts that had received funds from the Vatican Bank.

Notice how the Vatican is said to have “sovereignty.”  How is it that a church can have sovereignty?  Is not that term used primarily – though in error, for God alone is sovereign – of states?  With good reason John Robbins called the Vatican the Roman Catholic Church-State, for it can appear as one or the other depending on what suits its purpose at the time.

For other news accounts of this scandal see here, here, and  here.

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Social Insecurity

This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you:  He will take your sons…He will take your daughters…He will take the best of your fields…and give them to his servants…he will take your male servants…He will take a tenth of your sheep.  And you will be his servants.  And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the LORD will not hear you in that day.  – I Samuel 8:10-18

There are two major theoretical errors in the field of politics: 1) the belief that the individual is sovereign, and 2) the belief that the state is sovereign.  The former tends to anarchy, the latter to tyranny.  Both are best avoided.  But how?  The short answer is understanding this truth:  God alone is sovereign.  And if God is sovereign, man – considered either as private citizen or as magistrate – is not. 

The nation of Israel forgot this when they demanded Samuel make them a king.  They didn’t want the limited government of the judges.  The wanted a Führer who could make the trains run on time.  Samuel argued and told them told them what a king would do:  he would take their sons, their daughters, their fields and their vineyards.  He would take their servants both male and female.  He would take their harvest and the livestock.  He would take, he would take, he would take.  And what he didn’t take to keep for himself, he would give away to his rich, well-connected buddies.  Think of it as the OT version of crony capitalism, which isn’t capitalism at all, or the obnoxious “too big to fail doctrine” so popular in 2008.  But the people were not dissuaded from their chosen course.  They demanded a king and they got one…good and hard.

Americans too have ignored Samuel’s warning.  For what the prophet said about the behavior of a king also applies to big government in general.  After making a good beginning as a constitutional republic, our nation has morphed into a corporatist welfare state with government taking our freedom, our dignity and our wealth.  And much of what it takes is transferred to programs favored by special interest groups.    

One of the most powerful of those special interests is the lobby that seeks to perpetuate the Social Security status quo.  The program was an enormous fraud from the beginning, is currently going bankrupt, and will leave millions such as myself with nothing to show for a lifetime of paying FICA taxes…excuse me…contributions other than the a shrug of Uncle Sam’s shoulders.  One of the few men in Washington honest enough to speak the truth about the Social Security mess is Ron Paul.  In his latest Texas Straight Talk column Paul comments,

Courage begins with a commitment to see things as they are, rather than how we wish they were.  When it comes to Social Security, we must understand that the system does not represent an old age pension, an “insurance” program, or even a forced savings program.  It simply represents an enormous transfer payment, with younger workers paying taxes to fund benefits.  There is no Social Security trust fund, and you don’t have an “account.”  Whether you win or lose the Social Security lottery is a function of when you happened to be born and how long you live to collect benefits.  Of course young people today have every reason to believe they will never collect those benefits.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans that the job of the government is to praise good and punish evil.  Absent from his abbreviated list of proper government functions is retirement savings provider.  Big government is both a sin and a punishment.  It is a sin in that it is a rejection of God’s provision in favor of faith in the wisdom of men; it is a punishment in that it robs the offending people of their wealth, their freedom and their dignity.  And until Americans realize that the government – federal, state and local -is not the sovereign provider of all good things, they will continue to be hoodwinked by socialists who promise the world but deliver only bankruptcy and tyranny.  Read the rest of Paul’s article.

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Recently, I was listening to a John Robbins lecture on apologetics and something he said hit me like a ton of bricks.  Robbins was speaking about Rom.1:18-21, and his explanation of a key phrase in the passage radically altered my understanding of the text.  

The most popular method of Christian apologetics today is evidentialism.  And those who use this method argue for the truth of Christianity by appealing to sense experience.  The most famous of all evidentialist apologists is Thomas Aquinas, whose best known defense of Christianity is the cosomological argument.  In this argument, Thomas founded his case for the existence of God on the fact that, “it is certain and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion.” Many of today’s best know Evangelical apologists accept Thomas’ argument, including such respected scholars as Norman Geisler, R.C. Sproul, and John Gerstner.

Evidentialists have long considered Romans chapter 1:18-21 as a primary proof text for their position.  The passage reads

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,  because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. – NKJV

Evidentialists take the phrase “being understood by the things that are made” to refer to the non-human physical universe.  They understand the passage to say in effect that all men have knowledge of God by seeing, touching, smelling or hearing the physical stuff of this world.  For example the New Geneva Study Bible, of which R.C. Sproul was the general editor, commenting on Rom.1:20, states,

Divine invisibility, eternity, and power are all expressed in and through the created order…The invisible God is revealed through the visible medium of creation.

Evidentialist Charles Hodge states much the same thing when he writes,

This divine revelation has been made apo ktiseos kosmou, from the creation of the world, not by the creation; for ktisis here is the act of creation, and not the thing created; and the means by which the revelation is made, is expressed immediately by the words tois poiemasi, which would then be redundant.  The poiemata tou theou, in this connection, are the things made by God, rather than the things done by him.  – Commentary on Romans

But what if “the things that are made” [tois poiemasi Gk.] refers to something other than non-human creation?  Hodge himself seems not to know what to make of the words “the things that are made” when he calls them “a redundancy.”  But what if the words “the things that are made” are not a redundancy but in fact refer to something new?  What if “the things that are made” is a reference to men?

This is the point Robbins made in his lecture, and it’s the point that I missed the first few times I listened to it.  And although Robbins’ reading of the text may seem like a stretch at first blush, there is good support for it.  For while the most common reading of Romans 1:20 identifies “the things that are made” [poiema]with the non-human physical elements of the world, the only other time poiema is used in the NT, Ephesians 2:10, it clearly functions as the predicate of a human subject. The passage in Ephesians reads,

For we are His workmanship [poiema], created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. 

Here, “we” are the subject of poiema, which is rendered “his workmanship.”  And if poiema can refer to people in Ephesians, is it that much of a stretch to believe that poiema could also refer to people in Romans 1:20?  By understanding poiema in this way, we can render Rom.1:20 as , “For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the men whom He has created, even His eternal power and Godhead.”  If Robbins is correct, and I believe that he is, Romans 1:20, rather than being an evidentialist stronghold, is in truth a scripturalist citadel.     

 You can hear Robbins’ full lecture here under Collection 5:  Defending the Faith, Level 2 , Lecture 2.  The relevant portion starts at the 34 minute mark.

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Yesterday dad and I went over to the local shooting range and fired off a few shots.  It was the usual good time with one difference:  he brought his old 20 gauge shotgun that his parents gave him when he was a boy.  I’d never fired a shotgun before, just pistols and a .22 rifle, so I approached the shotgun with a little trepidation.  I held the gun in my hand, chambered a shell, locked it in place and cautiously shouldered the gun just like dad told me.  Then I took aim, squeezed the trigger, and…MAN what a kick!  That shotgun was like nothing I’d ever fired. 

The amazing thing is that dad got the gun when he was 11 years old.  He told me about how he and his friend used to go hunting with it and shoot small game for food.  He even checkered the stock himself as a teenager, and did a very nice job of it.  Now keep in mind, this wasn’t out in the boondocks somewhere, but the suburban outskirts of Cincinnati in the 1950s.  In a similar situation, how many parents today would give a powerful shotgun to an 11-year-old? Living in an era when kids can’t ride a bike without a helmet, what would people think about a gun-toting preteen walking down their street?  Good grief, somebody call the authorities on those parents!  And that kid…off to juvi with him!

The hippies of the ’60s claimed that they were ushering in a new era of freedom, and we who live in the aftermath of that era certainly like to think of ourselves as liberated.  But are we?  When I consider the matter, it seems to me that sixty years ago kids had a much better claim to freedom than most youngsters today.  The same goes for the adults too.

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The preaching and belief of the Gospel changes not only individuals, but whole societies.  As Christians we understand the former, but often have a poor grasp of the latter.  As a youngster, I was taught nothing by my public schools about the great debt modern civilization owes to Christianity.  Ancient Greece and Rome, I was told, were the basis of modern science, democracy and civlization as a whole.  It’s safe to say no one in my classes, including me, had ever heard of E. C. Wine’s The Hebrew Republic or Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.  Our history books, however, did give us one or two paragraphs on a minor event that took place in the 16th century, something called the Protestant Reformation.  

Perhaps the best treatment I have ever read of the contrast between Christian and non-Christian civilization is John Robbins’ book Christ and Civilization.  In it, Robbins paints a stark picture of just how unjust and brutal “glorious” ancient Greek and Roman societies really were.  This should come as no surprise to anyone who has read even a little history.  The enormities of communism and fascism in the 20th century occurred, not in a Christian contex, but in an atheistic one.  Our own nation is rapidly sinking under the weight of similar foolish ideas, and unless Christ grants widespread repentance, we will surely experience the same sort of oppression as did the people of those societies.  Brutality is both the result of and the punishment for the rejection of Christ.  

Without further delay, I give you the opening paragraphs of Robbins’ book.  

Each December 25 and January 7 nearly two billion people celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  The celebration is doubly ironic, for the dates are not his birthday, and most celebrants have forgotten – or, more likely, have never learned – the meaning of his birth.  One of the most enthusiastic celebrants of Christmas I have known was an atheist.  She loved the colorful decorations, the intoxicating smells, the cheerful songs, the plentiful food and drink, the smiling faces of children, exchanging gifts, and the feeling of goodwill, however fleeting.  She, like hundreds of millions of others, was a devotee of Christmas, but not a disciple of Christ.

Hundreds of millions of churchgoers, unlike my atheist acquaintance, add religious feelings to their list of things to like about Christmas:  They seek and find feelings of awe and wonder from visiting cathedrals, listening to choirs and oratorios, observing rituals and processions performed by gaudily attired priests; and they think those feelings of transcendence are somehow Christian.  The churchgoers are more deluded than the atheist.

This profound ignorance of Christ – an ignorance that does not even realize it is ignorance – is a tragedy of eternal proportions, for the life of Christ – his birth, life, death, and resurrection – is not only the most important event in the history of mankind, but far more important, the only way to Heaven.  In fact, if Christ were not the only way to Heaven, his earthly life would have no importance at all.  Christ’s life is the point from which we date all of world history, and it is impossible to understand history and Western civilization,  especially the United States, without understanding Christianity.

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You Oughta be in Pictures

The bottom line is this: red light cameras are not safety devices – they’re revenue-raising devices for corporations, states and municipalities.  – John Whitehead

The preaching of the Gospel that began during the 16th century Protestant Reformation resulted in the salvation of millions, but salvation wasn’t the only benefit conveyed by the widespread belief of God’s word.  A whole new order of society was brought about.  Governments which once ruled a cowed citizens with an iron fist were cut down to size, while at the same time individual liberty grew.  But just as civil liberties were the result, not the cause, of the preaching of Christianity, so the disappearance of Christianity in the West brought about the rise of police state.  Anyone who’s followed the news at all over the past several years knows, or should know, how fast our liberties are vanishing.  Americans have scarcely any privacy left.  Our cell phones are subject to warrantless wiretaps, our financial privacy is gone, at the airport we’re groped and x-rayed, soon our cars will have government-mandated black boxes.  Each year brings new an improved state sponsored snooping.  This being the case, the rise of the red light camera should come as no surprise.  

A while back the City of Cincinnati put red light cameras to a public vote, and the noxious little beasties went down to a glorious defeat.  For once, I was actually proud of the folks in Cincy.  But sadly the surveillance state seemingly has had at least as many successes as defeats in recent years.  Constitutional attorney John Whitehead has written an excellent piece on the rise of the red light camera and the actual motive why government snoop dog types love them so.  Read the article here.               

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– NB Last week when I began writing this post, the names of Peter Leithart and John Armstrong appeared on the Adjunct Faculty page of Knox Theological Seminary.  Since that time, perhaps in response to public outcry, these names have been scrubbed from the Knox website.  It seems that erratic administrative behavior is one of the few constants at Knox. For during the 2007 controversy involving Warren Gage, the school was treated to the absurd spectacle of the firing/suspending/and rehiring of Dr. Gage in a whirlwind of activity that was nearly impossible to follow.  In another context the Keystone Kops routine might have been funny.  But there was nothing funny about what happened at Knox.  For a seminary died, and the institution doing business under the same name is a grotesque parody of Dr. Kennedy’s dream of a new Princeton Seminary in south Florida.  Given Knox’s spastic history, I have decided to publish this post under the assumption that Leithart and Armstrong will be teaching at the school.  I could be wrong, but even if I am, Knox has tipped it hand regarding its vision for the future.  And that vision is Federal.  

Stephen Welch did us all a favor with his article Knox Theological Seminary:  A New Haven for Federal Visionists.  As a former KTS student, I’m thankful that there are discerning graduates of the school who care about the truth and are willing to state their objections to the ongoing disaster that is Knox Seminary.  But the article wasn’t the end of it.  Wes White posted it on his Johannes Weslianus blog, and this resulted in a number of interesting comments.  One in particular stood out.  Lauren wrote.

I think the FV got their foot in the door of Knox when they held the colloquium in 2004. Remember, Jesus tells us to beware of the “yeast” of the Pharisees. Paul in Galatians gives a strong warning against those who would preach another gospel. Inviting false teachers to the table and giving them a venue to spew their poison is a recipe for disaster.

The colloquium to which she refered was The Knox Theological Seminary Colloquium on the Federal Vision held in Ft. Lauderdale in August 2003.  And although Lauren made a factual error by stating that the event was held in 2004, the rest of her statement is excellent and shows a genuine insight regarding what the Bible says about the dangers of associating with false teachers and false teaching.  But not everyone sees it that way.  Dr. Calvin Beisner, who organized the colloquium and edited the book produced from the colloquium sessions titled The Auburn Avenue Theology, Pros & Cons Debating the Federal Vision, replied to Lauren,

I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the colloquium was the FV’s first step into Knox–other than that it was there that Gage and Leithart met [this is a reference to Warren Gage, current Dean of Faculty at KTS and Peter Leithart, noted Federal Visionist and new KTS employee]. Rather, the colloquium was where FV proponents really got called out, had to let their true colors fly, and the resulting book has provided many scholars with some of the most important primary data as to what the FVers say, as well as what some of their toughest critics were saying at that early stage.

Now this is a remarkable thing for Dr. Beisner to say, for it amounts to an admission of Lauren’s point couched in the form of a denial, “it was there that Gage and Leithart met.” But there’s more to it than that. It wasn’t as though Gage, who’s now Dean of Faculty at Knox, just happened to show up at the colloquium and run into Peter Leithart.  No, Gage himself was an active participant in the program, presumably with the blessing of Dr. Beisner.  Not as a one of the session contributors as was Leithart, who was there explicitly to promote the Federal Vision, but as worship leader – court jester would be more accurate – preaching at services held between colloquium sessions.  Dr. Beisner described Gage’s activities in these words,

(more…)

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Walter Williams has long been an intellectual hero to me.  I first started reading his stuff back in the day when I was in college and in short order found myself completely hooked.  What grabbed me was how Dr. Williams – he’s an economics professor at George Mason University – would start with a few simple ideas and with rigorous logic apply them to the popular nostrums of the day.  The nostrums didn’t stand a chance.  Race and gender quotas, environmentalism, deficit spending, social welfare programs,  bureaucratic regulation, and political correctness all fell before his pen.  I was stunned.  In many ways reading his columns began the process of reclaiming my mind after many years spent detesting anything intellectual.   

John Robbins also respected Dr. Williams’ work.  Writing in a book review in The Freeman, Robbins stated about Dr. Williams that,

In an age of philosophical and moral relativism and BOMFOG (the ubiquitous and false platitudes about unity in the brotherhood of man and fatherhood of God), Dr. Williams’s honesty and analysis may be painful for some delicate souls. “Regardless of whose sensibilities are offended,” he writes, “I do not hesitate to call things as I see them. Why? Because I care about our country and fear for its future as a free and prosperous nation.” More importantly, Dr. Williams cares about truth.

 Dr Williams cares about the truth.  That’s high praise indeed.  If you haven’t read Dr. Williams work, you’re in for a treat.  Here’s a good example to get you started.

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Last week Stephen Welch blogged a post titled Knox Theological Seminary:  A New Haven for Federal Visionists.  If you haven’t already done so, check it out.  It’s a good post.  The article, which also appeared here on The Aquila Report site, breaks the news that Knox Theological Seminary (KTS) has hired Federal Visionists John Armstrong and Peter Leithart.  This is certainly big news.  But to some pre-2007 KTS students , it’s not especially surprising.

At the height of the fall 2007 controversy centering on OT professor Warren Gage and his –  uh, how shall I say it – unique brand of typology, my friend Jason Grabulis started a blog focused on providing accurate news and commentary to KTS students, who had largely been kept in the dark by the administration about the details of the Gage firing/suspension/rehiring circus. Jason, writing on his now defunct Stuff That Matters blog – the administration at Knox out of their concern to keep students up to date and preserve the free flow of information forced Jason to take down the blog on pain of losing his scholarship, the truth may set you free, but at KTS it also gets you the left foot of fellowship, not to worry, though, you can find the full contents of Jason’s blog here – made the following statement on November 10, 2007,

Since some Federal Vision (and some NPP) advocates appear to endorse Dr. Gage and his hermeneutic (for instance, Peter Leithart) – since Dr. Gage’s hermeneutic does provide an exegetical basis for their theology – then will the Federal Visionists see this as an opportunity to move into Knox Seminary and establish a Federal Visionist and New Perspective on Paul institution and ministry?

Good call, Jason.  That’s insight.  Now what do you think about the odds of NT Wright being the next Knox guest of honor?  For my part, I imagine they’re pretty good.  If nothing else, the weather in Ft. Lauderdale’s got to be better than in St. Andrews.

At about the same time another former KTS student, one of Jason’s classmates, made a similar comment,  writing,

Now that Gage and his Federal-Vision-friendly teaching are firmly ensconced at Knox Theological Seminary, and his opponents Beisner, White, and Reymond, who also were opponents of the Federal Vision, are now gone from the school, Knox Seminary is in danger of becoming a bastion of Federal Vision/New Perspective on Paul teaching.  And this danger extends to the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church as well.  – Imagining a Vain Thing, p.104, n.10

The predicted chickens have finally come home to roost.  And while there’s some satisfaction in being ahead of the curve regarding the doctrinal direction of KTS, that satisfaction is more than offset by the knowledge that the transformation of Knox into a Federal Vision school is no longer a future event, but a present reality.

All this raises an interesting question, now that KTS has gone FV, whither Coral Ridge?  It’s separated from Knox by no more than the breadth of N. Federal (Vision) Highway and wide open to an FV takover…if that hasn’t happened already.

May the Lord defend the truth of his Gospel.

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