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Archive for March, 2016

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President Barak Obama addresses the Young Leaders of the Americas Town Hall in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 23, 2016.   

“So often in the past,” said president Barak Obama to a group of Argentinian youth, “there has been a division between left and right, between capitalists and communists or socialists, and especially in the Americas, that’s been a big debate.” The president continued, “Those are interesting intellectual arguments, but I think for your generation, you should be practical and just choose from what works. You don’t have to worry about whether it really fits into socialist theory or capitalist theory. You should just decide what works.”

 

Obama’s remarks have drawn a good deal of fire from conservatives, and rightly so. To downplay the division between communism and capitalism betrays a profound ignorance of economics and of history. Capitalism, the economic system of the Bible with its emphasis on private property, has lifted millions out of poverty and produced relatively free and just societies in the nations where it has been practiced; communism, the collectivist economic system of Karl Marx that places ownership of the means production with the state, has produced untold suffering and death for millions.

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Atonement_ClarkThe Atonement by Gordon H. Clark (Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1987, 163 pages), $8.95.

Chapters Include: Introduction on Method; The Doctrine in its Simplicity; The Covenant of Redemption; The Covenant of Grace; The Incarnation; The Virgin Birth; The Human Nature of Christ; The Purpose of the Incarnation; Active Obedience; The Covenant of Works; The Vicarious Sacrifice; Expiation; Propitiation; Satisfaction; Federal Headship; Absolute Necessity; Traducianism; The Sovereignty of God; The Extent of the Atonement.

A few years back, American Express ran a television advertisement that featured the story of a man who visited Norway thinking he was going to see the land of his ancestors only to find upon arrival that he actually was of Swedish descent. Or perhaps it was the other way around. At any rate, he wasn’t who he thought he was.

I had a similar experience when I first began to study theology. As I worked through a book on systematic theology with a very generous and learned reformed Baptist pastor, I found, much to my surprise, I was an Arminian. This was particularly shocking to me, as I had never so much as heard the word before, let alone realized I was one. In truth, my experience wasn’t so unusual. Such is the dominance of Arminian theology in American Evangelical churches that Arminians generally are unaware of their Arminianism. It’s taken for granted that Christ died for all men, and little or no serious thought is given to an alternative. When the doctrines of grace, what we would call Calvinism, are discussed, many folks raised in the broad evangelical church are shocked and offended that someone actually could believe that God does not love all men, that some are in fact reprobate and fitted for destruction, and that this is the historic teaching of the Reformation.

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Curse God and Die

job_curse God

Curse God and die.

Things had hit an absolute low point for Job. He had lost his oxen and his donkeys and his sheep. Most of his servants were dead, killed by the edge of the sword. His sons and daughters had perished amidst the merriment of a banquet. To top it all off, Job himself had come down with painful boils which covered him from head to toe.

 

And with all this, what advice did Job get from the person closest to him, his wife? “Curse God and die,” she told him. The words shock us. They seem so out of place in the home of a believer. Scripture doesn’t tell us much about Job’s wife, but certainly she knew of her husband’s faith. And it seems not unreasonable to suppose that she herself shared that faith. But her words of advice to Job at his very lowest point were not, “let us go before the Lord and seek his council and his mercy.” Her reaction was not even one of silent empathy, as was that of Job’s friends when they first came to see him. No. What she did on that occasion was proffer some of the worst advice imaginable, “curse God and die.”

It’s easy from the comfort of my home and sipping a cup of coffee that I would never say such a thing. I could sit here and boast all day about what an unshakable tower of faith I would be were I faced with a similar situation. But if I were to speak in this way, I would very much be guilty of the sin of bearing false witness. Or to put it a little less gently, I’d be lying to you.

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Rehoboam_The Arrogance of

The Arrogance of Rehoboam – Han Holbein the Younger, 1530.

The Bible is filled with statements that touch on political philosophy, but perhaps none is more important than the words Jesus spoke to his disciples when they argued amongst themselves about who was the greatest. The disciples seemed to have taken their understanding of government from examples in the world around them. The Roman Caesars were the foremost models of leadership in the time of Christ, and they were typical of sort of proud men who have ruled in most times and places. In the words of Christ, they “lorded it over” the people. A bit closer to Judea, the Pharisees were of a similar cast of mind. They loved to be greeted with “rabbi, rabbi” and to have the best seats in the synagogues. They were the masters. The people were the servants

 

But Jesus had an entirely different view on those in authority. In his words, “whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be you slave” (Matthew 26:26, 27). It is this teaching that forms the basis of the Western idea of government as a servant of the people. A notion that gained traction after the 16th century Reformation brought about the widespread preaching of, and belief in, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If the teachings of Christ laid the foundation for the idea of government as a servant, what would one expect to see if the Gospel were to fade from men’s consciousness but a reversion to the default position of mankind, rulers who lord it over the people? And this is just what we see happening today.

The Wall Street bailouts of 2008 are one example of this. I read recently that constituent calls to Congress ran 200 to 1 against the bailout. But it happened anyway. In the realm of politics, Hillary Clinton continues her bid for the White House while lugging more legal baggage than any candidate for any office I have ever seen. None of it seems to matter. her campaign goes on with hardly a peep from the mainstream media about the massive investigation surrounding her. In today’s world, being a master of the universe means, among other things, never having to say you’re sorry…or answer for your crimes.  Donald Trump openly insults his rivals during televised debates.  And an official from the Republican party recently told and incredulous CNBC panel that it is the party officials who choose the nominee for president, not the voters in the primaries.

Bailouts, likely criminals getting away with running for president, political parties that ignore the will of their own members, what is this, if not oligarchy? What is this, if not rulers lording it over the people. What is this, if not the very thing for which Christ rebuked his disciples?

Who will our governors be?  Our servants, or our masters? It seems to me that this, more than anything else, is the central question of the 2016 election.


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Angry Voter

The angry voter.

The angry 2016 voter. Anyone who’s followed presidential politics even a little this year has heard all about it. The establishment seems puzzled by it. Jeb Bush, the early odds on favorite to win the Republican nomination, never connected with voters. His campaign is over, an object lesson that all the money in the world cannot buy public support. Hillary Clinton began the campaign with an aura of inevitability about her. Everyone knew the White House was hers for the taking. Instead she finds herself in a political dogfight with an elderly socialist Vermont. And with a possible FBI indictment hanging over her head, her problems on the campaign trail may be the least of her worries.

 

When it comes to voter anger, my first reaction is wonder what took them so long. Theft, lies and double standards have infected the whole of society, and it is amazing to this author just how much nonsense people have been willing to tolerate from the so-called masters of the universe who rule us. But on second thought, is voter anger really a positive development? The apostle Paul tells us it’s good to be zealous in a good thing always. And anger, if it’s focused on the proper object and seeks redress in the proper way, can be good. But anger can easily be channeled in the wrong direction, scapegoating the wrong party or going about things in such a way as to actually make a bad situation worse.

Ever since Soren Kierkegaard famously praised the pagan for worshipping his false god with infinite passion, men have carried about in their minds the false notion that sincerity is more important than truth. But the Bible knows nothing of this notion. Truth is everything. How one feels about it makes no difference. It was the same apostle Paul who praised zeal when focused on good ends, who rebuked the Jews, his countrymen, for having a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Zeal without knowledge is not a good thing. In fact, it is downright dangerous.

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Rehoboam_The Arrogance of.jpg

The Arrogance of Rehoboam.

“How shall I answer these people” asked the young king as he looked about the veteran faces of the men who had counseled his father before him. The king, you see, was in a bit of a pickle. He had just been confronted by a group of men angry about his father’s policies of heavy taxation and forced labor. They had demanded a rollback of these unpopular policies, and the new king, wanting to start off his reign on the right foot, had sent them away, asking that they return in three days time for his answer.

The king’s father, a man famous for his wisdom in his own day, was not a lone ranger. He had assembled a group of able men who served as his advisors. Today, we might refer to them as his cabinet. And these cabinet advisors were now faced with a history making question. “How do you advise me to answer these people?” That was what the king wanted to know. Upon their answer, and the king’s response, hung the fate of the nation.

The atmosphere, no doubt, was pregnant with anticipation. What would the counselors say? Perhaps taking a moment to consider their words, the men gave their reply. Their answer was this, “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.” Good words, these. The nation was at the breaking point. My way or the highway was not going to work, and they knew it. What was needed was wisdom, prudence and a gentle spirit.

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Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney speaks out against Donald Trump in Salt Lake City, March 3, 2016.

They’re only making it worse…for themselves that is. I’m speaking about the GOP establishment and it’s lame orchestrated attacks on Donald Trump. Trump, it would seem, is their worst nightmare come true. He’s the raging bull trashing their finely cultivated china shop. And, needless to say, they’re not about to take it lying down. Only given how transparent and ineffective their shots at Trump have been, lying down just might be their best option.

 

Take for example the missive released by CNBC on the morning of March 2, the day after Trump’s decisive Super Tuesday victories. In the article, titled Why Trump can’t be president,
author Julissa Acre calls Trump a sexist, a racist and a bigot. And not content with that, she smears his supporters with the same.

Now far be it from me to defend the Donald’s many outrageous statements or his desire to erect the Great Wall of the Rio Grande. But is Trump really so much worse than putative Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton that he warrants such an attack? It seems to me, no. If fact, if presidential politics were a high school yearbook, Clinton would be a shoe in to win the coveted most-likely-to-be-indicted award. There hasn’t been more guilty looking public figure than Hillary Clinton since, well, Bill Clinton. But CNBC didn’t see fit to run a hit piece titled Why Clinton can’t be president. No, they reserved that honor for Trump.

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