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Soleimani_Car Remains

Credit…Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office, via Associated Press

“[B]ecause of our foreign policy of interventionism developed in the twentieth century, and because of our more recent policy of pre-emptive war, the United States has become the primary target of militant Muslims worldwide.”

 

U.S. Strike in Iraq Kills Qassim Suleimani, Commander of Iranian Forces,” ran the New York Times headline.  Why did the US take this drastic action?  The article’s subheadline explaines, “Suleimani was planning attacks on Americans across the region, leading to an airstrike in Baghdad, the Pentagon statement said.”

This explanation is not something made up by the New York Times.  Rather, it is the same explanation given by official Washington for the deadly January 3 drone strike in Baghdad.

In his remarks from Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump, after asserting that his highest and most solemn duty was the defense of our nation, claimed that, “Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him…We took action last night to stop a war.  We did not take action to start a war.”

PBS reports Secretary of State Mike Pompeo giving similar justification in interview he did with CNN.  According to PBS, Pompeo said that Gen. Qassem Soleimani “was actively plotting in the region to take actions, the big action as he described it, that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk.  We know it was imminent.   This was an intelligence-based assessment that drove our decision-making process.”

Reuters reported Pompeo’s remarks from January 3 thus, “last night was the time that we needed to strike to make sure that this imminent attack  that he was working actively was disrupted.”

Finally, the National Review quoted Brian Hook, U.S. Special Representative for Iran, saying, “The President’s first responsibility is the safety of the American people.  Qasem Soleimani was plotting imminent attacks in the region against Americans in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon that could have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people.”

One common thread that links all four quotes above is the word “imminent.”  We are told by all three gentlemen that General Soleimani was not merely plotting to harm Americans, but that his attack or attacks were “imminent.” Therefore, they argue, the President’s decision to drone Soleimani – in his January 3 statement quoted above, President Trump said “Last night, at my direction, the United States military successfully executed a flawless precision strike” thus taking responsibility for the decision – ought not be viewed as an act of aggression, but rather as one of self-defense.

The term “imminent” is key to understanding the reasoning behind the killing of Soleimani as well as determining whether the President’s decision was a moral one.  The reason “imminent” is such a key term relative to Soleimani’s death is that it’s the tip-off, the big tell, that this attack was carried out using the doctrine of preemptive war as the theoretical framework to justify the decision by the President to kill the Iranian general.

So what is the doctrine of preemptive war?  Let’s take a look.

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2020

Once again, I find myself looking back at the year past and peering forward at the one to come.   As is no doubt the case with many, this is for me a bittersweet annual experience.  By God’s grace, I can say that I have been partially successful in redeeming the time.  But a little honest reflection convicts me that I could have, and should have, done better.

Sin, it would seem, is ever present with me, tainting even my best works.

But thanks be to God, for it is not my own works that justify me.  Rather, I am acceptable to God “only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to [me], and received by faith [belief] alone.”

Truly, the grace of God is amazing toward sinners! It’s as if God were to say to us wretched rebels, “All your guilt, all your hopelessness, all your fear of death and of righteous judgment and of eternal punishment, these things I have taken away in my Son.  Only believe in him and be saved from the wrath to come.”

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Financial Crisis

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.”

    – Luke 21:20-21

Last week we looked at the third of three case studies in prepping from the Old Testament, Joseph, Prime Minister of Egypt. The other two case studies were the accounts of Noah and the end of the world as he knew it and Lot’s narrow escape from Sodom. This week, I’d like to turn our attention to the New Testament and in particular to the teaching of Jesus himself that relate to the subject of prepping.

But before turning to Jesus’ teachings on prepping, it’s worth taking a little time to review the events in the financial markets last week. The general title for this series The Ongoing Financial Crisis of 2008, because it is the contention of this author that the crisis which manifested itself that year, sometimes referred to as the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), has never gone away. Rather, the symptoms only were treated by massive money printing by the world’s leading central banks and other financial fakery, a great deal of which probably is still kept under wraps by the powers that shouldn’t be.

The first event from last week I’d like to look at was the New York Fed’s (The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the most prominent of the Fed’s regional banks) bailing out the overnight Repo market to the tune of $53 billion late Tuesday night, early Wednesday morning, September 17th and 18th. Now you may be asking, “So just what is the overnight Repo and why should I even care?” Good questions.

Investopedia defines a Repurchase Agreement (Repo) as, “a form of short-term borrowing for dealers in government securities. In the case of a repo, a dealer sells government securities to investors, usually on an overnight basis, and buys them back the following day…Repos are typically used to raise short-term capital…Classified as a money-market instrument, a repurchase agreement functions in effect as a short-term, collateral-backed, interest-bearing loan. The buyer acts as a short-term lender, while the seller acts as a short-term borrower. The securities being sold are the collateral.”

For most of us, the repo market is a fairly obscure corner of the financial system, something that runs in the background. But what happened overnight while most of us slept was a sudden spike in the repo interest rate, which the week before had been 2.29%, but shot up to 10% before the Fed stepped in. As CNN reported, this was the first time the fed had to bail out the overnight repo market since late 2008, which just happened to be the height of the financial crisis.

The Fed conducted further bailouts on Wednesday night and Thursday night.

Finally, on Friday the Fed announced that it would conduct daily repurchasing operations through October 10.

One big takeaway from operation repo is that market forces want to take interest rates higher, which is exactly the opposite of what the Fed wants to have happen.

Which brings me to the second event of note in the financial markets last week, the Fed’s announcement that it was lowing interest rates by 0.25%. This is the second such announcement in the past two months, the previous one coming at the end of July.

Many mainstream commentators are confused by the Fed’s decision to lower interest rates. The reason is that lowing interest rates is something central banks do when the economy is struggling, but the official line is that the American economy is doing great and has never been better. Why is this?

Think of interest rates as the price of money. If the economy is doing well, this means businesses are borrowing to expand their facilities to keep up with demand, consumers and taking out car and home loans. And what happens when demand for a thing increases? All other things equal, the price goes up. With respect to demand for loans, this means that interest rates go up.

The opposite is the case when the economy is doing poorly. There is little demand from businesses to expand, so there is little demand for business loans. Consumers don’t have the income to support car an home loans, so they too are unable to take on debt to fund these purchases. When demand for money decreases, its price, that is to say the interest rate, tends to drop.

This is where the confusion comes in. Donald Trump is out there telling the whole world that the American economy is doing great, while at the same time forcefully arguing for lower interest rates. The Fed’s decision to lower rates strongly suggests that the economy is not doing as well as the Trump administration would like you to believe. Taken together with the Fed’s needing to bail out the repo market, lower interest rates are another data point suggesting an oncoming recession.

A third item of note from last week was the return of talk about a not too far off return to Quantitative Easing (QE) from none other than Fed Chairman Jay Powell. In plain English, QE is simply massive money printing (aka counterfeiting) by central banks to buy assets no one else wants to keep interest rates under control. First employed during as an emergency during the 2008 crisis, QE is now being seriously discussed in public. Question: If the economy really is as great as the powers that shouldn’t be want us to believe, why is the Fed talking about bringing back QE?

In the opinion of this writer, the three items mentioned above – the Fed’s bailout of the repo market, it’s decision to lower interest rates, and talk about QE – strongly suggest the Fed is worried about major problems in the financial system, perhaps even a financial crisis, just around the corner and strongly suggest what the Fed will do to combat those problems: print money.

So, what are Christians to make of all this? The most logical conclusion is that we are, in fact, facing a major financial storm and we need to rig for heavy weather. That is to say, we need to get prepared and to stay prepared. All which brings us back to where we started, the teachings of Christ on the subject of prepping.

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John Robbins“Many people in relatively orthodox churches are confused about sanctification,” wrote John Robbins in the forward to Gordon Clark’s book Sanctification.

And not only is there a great deal of confusion about sanctification, but the errors people make on this doctrine place them in two broad categories: mystics and workers.

Mystics, as Robbins points out, are those who say of sanctification, “Let go and let God.” They tend to be Charismatics. On the other hand, the workers think that justification is by grace but sanctification is by works. Such persons tend to be Reformed.

Neither of these approaches to sanctification is Biblical.

Before talking about what sanctification is, Robbins notes that salvation, “from start to finish, from election to glorification, from eternity to eternity, is all of grace.”

Robbins notes that justification – God’s declaring us legally righteous and pardoning all our sins – is by grace alone, through faith alone apart from any works. Further, justification is wholly outside us. It is a work that God has done for us by imputing – to impute means to ascribe or to reckon – Christ’s perfect righteousness to us. Justification is not a work done in us.

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John RobbinsThe following sermon was preached by John Robbins at Reformation Chapel in Unicoi Tennessee. Last week I featured part one of this sermon.  Today, I present part two. To read part one, please click here. The transcription is my own.

– Steve Matthews

Well, Luke continues in verse five,

Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how he spoke to you while he was still in Galilee.’

Well, these women are terrified. These men suddenly appear, and the women are terrified. Luke says they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth. And the angels speak to them and say, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

This reminds you of the opening chapter of Acts, where Luke is telling about the apostles watching Jesus being assumed into heaven. And two men again appear, maybe the same two angels, and speak to the apostles, and they say, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here staring up into heaven?” They ask them a question again. And here the angels ask the women, “Why do you seek the living among the dead. And then they tell them, “He is not here, but is risen. Remember how he spoke to you.” And this makes it clear about the important of words. See, we’re told in the first chapter of John that the Word preceded the visible creation, that everything that was created was preceded by the Word. The Word comes first, the Logos comes first. And many people get everything backwards, they think events, or history, or creation come first, rather than the Word.

But notice here no one witnesses the resurrection event. And what the women receive are words from the angels. They’re told specifically, “He is not here. He is risen. He is living. He’s not among the dead.” And then the angels remind them of Jesus’ own words that he spoke while he was still with him. Their faith rests on the testimony of Jesus and the testimony of the angels. The women did not see the resurrection event, but they received these words from Christ and from the angels.

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For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.

Romans 1:20

John Robbins

If you’ve ever read a book or heard a lecture on Christian apologetics, there’s a good chance Romans 1:19-20 were brought up. Perhaps these verses were cited as proof that all men know God, so that no one could claim ignorance of God on judgment day. That, of course, is true. Responsibility is based on knowledge, and since God has revealed himself to all men, all men are accountable to him.

Bible commentators, as well as the authors of the Westminster Confession, have identified two ways in which God reveals himself to men: general revelation and special revelation.

Special revelation is identical with the 66 books of the Bible. The Scriptures are God’s written, propositional revelation, which principally teach us, “What man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man,” in the words of the Shorter Catechism.

But what about general revelation? Just what is it that is meant by this term? The most common answer is that general revelation is identical with nature. We are told that when men look to the heavens and see the stars, or cast their eyes upon the majestic mountains they behold God’s attributes and, to that extent, know him and are therefore rightfully held responsible by him, even if they have never so much as heard the name of Jesus Christ.

Here’s one example of this line of reasoning.

Paul stresses the reality and universality of divine revelation, which is perpetual (“since the creation,” v.20) and perspicuous (“clearly seen,” v.20). 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. This revelation is manifest; it is not obscured but clearly seen (New Geneva Study Bible).

The commentators manifestly argue that one can reason from visible creation to an invisible God, but does this really make sense? On one hand, such an argument is appealing to Christians. We believe in God and rightfully want others to share that belief. But simply because we like the conclusion of an argument does not mean that it is a good argument. This is the case even if the conclusion of argument – that there is an immortal, invisible all wise God who created and sustains the world – is true.

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WIPFSTOCK_TemplateDoug Douma’s recently published biography of Gordon Clark titled The Presbyterian Philosopher has garnered a lot of positive attention.

I’ve just started reading it, so I’m not in a position to write a review. For reviews of the entire book, please see here for David Engelsma’s, here for Sean Gerety’s, and here for Tom Juodaitis’.

But having just read through the Introduction, I was very favorably impressed with Douma’s summary of Scripturalism, the name given to Clark’s philosophical system by John Robbins. Writes Douma,

The philosophy of Gordon Clark has been called Scripturalism because of his reliance on the truth of Scripture as his fundamental axiom or presupposition. Stated simply, his axiom is “The Bible is the Word of God.” Scripturalism teaches that the Bible is a revelation of truth from God, who Himself determines truth and is the source of all truth. In this theory, the prepositions of Scripture are true because they are given by inspiration of God, who cannot lie. For Clark, the Bible, the sixty-six books accepted by most Protestant churches, is a set of true propositions. All knowledge currently available to man are these propositions along with any additional propositions that can be logically deduced from them.”

Among the key terms in this paragraph is “axiom.” An axiom is an unproven first principle. All systems of thought, including Christianity, have unproven first principles. Both Clark and Robbins held that the axiom of Christianity is, “The Bible alone is the Word of God.”

Some Christians may be disturbed at that thought that one cannot prove the Bible is true. Somehow it doesn’t seem quite right to say this. It almost seems tantamount to casting doubt on the Scriptures and denying the entirety of the Christian faith.

I asked John Robbins about this once in an email, which (unfortunately!) I no longer have. But I recall quite well the gist of what he told me.

He explained that all thinking – this includes every philosophical system ever devised, secular or religious – must begin somewhere. That is to say, all systems of thought must have first principles, axioms, and that these axioms, because they are the starting point from which a system of thought is deduced, are by definition unproven and unprovable.

A moment’s reflection reveals why this is so. If one could prove an axiom, a first principle, then it would no longer be a first principle, whatever argument used to prove the original axiom would take over in this role.

Getting back to the axiom of Scripture, if we attempted, as some do, to prove that the Bible is the Word of God, the Bible would not be the foundation of our faith, but our own argument used to prove the inspiration of Scripture.

We would be lending more credence to our own ideas than to God’s revelation. And to do this would be impious, for there is nothing more sure than a word from God, who cannot lie.

In the end, the Christian’s belief in the inspiration 66 books of the Bible does not rest on any argument devised by man. But rather, as the Westminster Confession puts it,

[O]ur full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness, by and with the Word, in our hearts.

In other words, the Christian’s belief in the Bible is the product of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit who causes us to understand and agree with the propositions – a proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence – in the Bible.

This is not to say that the inspiration of the Bible cannot be defended. Clark wrote quite extensively in defense of the inspiration of Scripture. See God’s Hammer
for Clark’s devastating critique of various modernist theologians who sought to deny the doctrine of Scripture.

But what it does mean is that as Christians we do not have the burden of proving our first principles to unbelievers. Instead, we assume the truth of the Scriptures and use them to tear down the many high things in our day that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God.


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