Tuesday, June 25, 2002
Thanks for the kind comments from Josh Claybourn. I'm still not feeling very well, but I've had a thought about bouncing around in my head for a while. My head's pretty foggy, but hopefully this will make sense.
David Heddle was talking about faith and belief. His comments reminded me that in a post several weeks ago, Mark Byron commented that it is easier for Protestants to leave their church than for Catholics. He may be correct, but I hope his reasoning is not. Mark indicated that Protestant churches are "interchangeable." Is this really true? To an extent, it may be, but logically, they cannot be completely interchangeable. There are reasons why there are different "denominations." One of the primary differences is that they teach different things. I would hope that the reason people are at a church is because they have compared the teachings of that church to scripture and found those teachings to be true. (If the truth is not being taught, why would you remain?)
Now the fact of the matter is that it is absolutely possible for people of good faith to examine the scriptures and come to different conclusions about a great many things. There will be differences of opinion. To the extent that churches teach different things, they have a difference of opinion about what the facts are. Paul chastised the Corinthian church for its divisions, but did sanction one type of division: Divisions that serve to separate the genuine from the false. This certainly seems to leave open the possibility that there will be those who call themselves Christians, but will be rejected. It certainly shows that we are to stand up for the truth.
However, are we required to separate ourselves from everyone who doesn't see exactly eye to eye on every passage? Dr. Heddle certainly doesn't think so. In fact he lists a number of things that he doesn't find to be vital to Christianity. I certainly sympathize with his belief that in heaven he will find out he was mistaken about a great many things. I believe I will do the same. Also, I can find nothing that indicates that a flawless theology is necesssary for salvation. But how are we to determine which things are absolutely vital?
I read a fascinating scholarly paper a few months ago. (The link is here but wasn't working at the time of this post.) The article was about who it is acceptable to have fellowship with. I will have to summarize since I can't access the article at the moment, but the premise was structured around this passage.
John 17:20-23 ISV "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their message, that they may all be one. Just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, so that they may be one, just as we are one. I am in them, and you are in me. May they be completely one, so that the world may know that you sent me and that you have loved them as you loved me.
The author's premise was based on the fact that Jesus prayed that those who believed through the message taught by the apostles would be united. From that he launches into a discusion that concludes with the idea that we should have fellowship with all those who teach what the apostles taught about salvation, irregardless of how far off base we think they are on other doctrinal issues. He did not say we shouldn't endeavor to teach them better on those issues, only that those issues are not vital. They are the things that won't make any difference if we get to heaven and find out we were wrong. (Essentially the artilce divided doctrine up between saving orthodoxy, the actual message of salvation on which there can be no compromise, and sustaining orthodoxy on which there can be differences of opinion.)
I found the article to be an immense comfort because it helped me to channel my energies into the most effective areas. It also convinced me that some battles simply aren't worth fighting. At the same time, I look around and I see that many churches teach things about salvation which I cannot reconcile with the message of the apostles, no matter how much room for interpretation I try to allow for. Based on what I have seen some churches teach, they simply do not seem to be teaching people the same message of salvation that the apostles taught. I must conclude, with sadness, that no matter what they believe about themselves, they are not part of the body.
Now when I find people like that, what should I do? Well, when Priscilla and Aquilla hear Apollos teaching an incomplete message, "they took him home and explained God's way to him more accurately." I think that's good advice for me as well.
So, to the question, "Are Protestant churches interchangeable?" I would have to answer, "Only to the extent that they teach the same message of salvation taught by the apostles."
I hope this post makes a modicum of sense as I've been writing it in something of a daze. I also hope it was helpful to someone.
Monday, June 24, 2002
I'm still not feeling very well at all. Posting is going to be rare to nonexistent until my health improves. I apologize to my regular readers and I'll try to get back on track as soon as possible.
Friday, June 21, 2002
Sorry about the lack of posting, but I'm not feeling at all well today. I'll try to get back in the groove tomorrow.
Thomas Sowell has some interesting things to say about the Supreme Court:
The pretense that these judicial self-indulgences are based on the Constitution has been dressed up in words about protecting the "values" of the Constitution -- as distinguished from following its plain words and the meanings that those words had when they were written. Since the whole point of a constitution is to restrain what all branches of government -- including courts -- can do, escaping from its plain words in the name of "a living constitution" turns it into a dying constitution that means whatever judges happen to like.
Thursday, June 20, 2002
Read this story. Then write the President at email@example.com and tell him what you think about rewarding the people who did this of with their very own country. (Link via Little Green Footballs.)
Christopher Johnson isn't at all impressed with the administration's reaction to the latest round of murders in Israel. Neither am I.
NRO confronts dishonesty about Jihad.
Now this is a somewhat bizarre story.
Note to search engine users. People keep coming to this page via search engines looking for the words to Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue." I don't have them.
Well, this isn't encouraging news. The F-16s dispatched to intercept a plane in White House airspace arrived four minutes too late. This raises the question of why we don't actually have planes flying Combat Air Patrol while the President is in the White House.
And on that subject, the same Secret Service who had the President flitting all over the country on September 11th didn't even bother to tell him about this potential threat, even though they were evacuating reporters and staff. Ari Fleischer says the President has complete confidence in the Secret Service. I do not. (BTW - I'm not questioning the Service's treatment of the President on Sept. 11th. I think they acted properly then. That is what makes this story so inexplicable.)
Red Letter Edition
Jesus makes it very plain that following him will not be easy. You will be persecuted. As David Heddle noted, you will be called names. We should have no illusions that in this life, following Christ will make our lives free and easy. But, we have a promised of better things to come.
Orrin Judd has quite a bit to say about the Supreme Court's death penalty decision today. This paragraph nicely isolates the poor logic of the Court;
There's a flip side to all this too. The mainstreaming of the retarded into society has gone way too far if we're allowing people who we can not hold morally accountable for their actions to roam the streets. For a society to function it is necessary for each citizen to accept responsibility for himself and his actions. If you can't do so, it seems fair to say that you can't be a full citizen with full civil rights. In order to protect such people and ourselves from the dire consequences that may flow from their uninformed actions--for instance, the defendant in this case, Daryl Renard Atkins, had "20 previous felonies on his record" when he committed the murder for which he was sentenced to death--it may well be necessary to incarcerate them in some way, shape, or form--most likely in state-run medical facilities--not as punishment but as a way of supervising them.
Just think of the noise the ACLU would make if we actually did this though.
GedankenPundit compares the administration's Israel policy to day trading.
As depressing as this comparison is, I'm afraid he's got a point.
Read this now. Link via Best of the Web.
Best of the Web has some observations about civil liberties and the current war.
In Bangledesh, the President was asked (and agreed) by his party to resign because they felt he didn't show proper respect to a predecessor. In the US Bill Clinton's party defended him to the end, even after he desecrated his office. I'm confused.
Executing the marginally retarded. Eugene Volokh posted links to this article on the Supreme Court's decision as well as Justice Scalia's dissent. (Yes, he posted the opinion too, but I didn't find it compelling enought to get past the first few lines.) Here's one of Scalia's observations:
Once the Court admits (as it does) that mental retardation does not render the offender morally blameless . . . there is no basis for saying that the death penalty is never appropriate retribution, no matter how heinous the crime. As long as a mentally retarded offender knows “the difference between right and wrong,” . . . only the sentencer can assess whether his etardation reduces his culpability enough to exempt him from the death penalty for the particular murder in question. (Emphasis in original. Ellipses represent omitted citations.)
More murders in Israel. Israel is calling up more reservists.
Pakistan is holding seven men in connection with the bombing of the US consulate. All seven belong to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni Muslim group that spends most of its time attacking other Muslims.
I was having trouble formulating my thoughts on the new McCain-Feingold Bill. John Hawkins doesn't appear to have that problem.
Fred Barnes on The Palestinian State:
The State Department recently persuaded him that Palestinian conduct would improve and terrorism would cease if only Palestinians had real hope of statehood. And Bush agreed to give a speech supporting a provisional Palestinian state, one without final borders or other details worked out with Israel, but a state nonetheless. The one condition: Palestinians must first clean up their act a bit, reforming Yasser Arafat's administration and cracking down on terrorists. So what happened when news of this upcoming speech spread? More Palestinian terrorism.
That just about sums up the whole messy situation, doesn't it?
Gary Peterson has some thoughts about study Bibles. Like Gary, I have used the Life Application Bible, and like Gary, I have found places where the study aids were misleading or just plain wrong. This is, of course, something that cannot be avoided in any study Bible or commentary. When humanity attempts to interpret the Word of God, we will inevitably make mistakes. This is part of the reason I have a problem with the increasing prevelance of study Bibles. People seem to be putting too much emphasis on flawed human writings.
Now I certainly believe that the mass murders going on in Israel deserve more attention than they sometimes get. However, I don't understand why the latest attack would have hurt the stock market. Wishful thinking aside, the attack didn't change the political climate anywhere by ane appreciable standard. The chances of peace aren't any less because of the bombing. Why would this spark a big sell-off?
Now as an accountant, this hurts.
Well, another mass murderer struck in Israel. Seven people were killed yesterday and the Guardian managed to publish an entire story about the murder without ever actually mentioning the victims. We know how many people died. That's it. We don't have a single name. We don't know how old they were from this story. I couldn't even tell you the of women to men. I'm afraid we've become desensitized to the whole thing. If I were the publisher of a newspaper, I'd require every story about a bombing in Israel to have one paragraph on each victim before discussion of the policy implications would be allowed.
It looks like Israel may have struck on a good idea. They are apparently goint to seize land from the PA every time there is an attack. I think its a good idea. Suicide attacks keep happening because the Palestinians are convinced that they are weakening Israeli resolve. Some of them might think twice if they knew that one of the results of the attack would be an immediate seizure of land by the IDF.
Of course there is one tactic that would almost completely end these attacks. Israel will never use it though. They won't use it because they are civilized. Once a bombing happens, they usually know who did it. They know who the faimily is. Shoot, sometimes the family gives an interview praising their brave son. How long would the bombings last if it was known that if you blow yourself up in a pizza parlor the IDF will locate every member of your family and execute them? I suspect things would begin to change dramatically. As I said, Israel will never do it.
The point is not that I think they should. They manifestly should not. The point is that it is a tactic that would probably work, but has not been pursued. The thing to remember here is that lots of people genuinely believe that Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is somewhere between that of Hitler and Satan. They are portrayed as murdering, fascist, nazi, racist blowhards with no respect for human rights. Yet they don't take this action that would work. They don't do so because the stories about the IDF from the PA are just that, stories. If Israel was the kind of place Arafat describes, they would kill the families of terrorist. They'd do much worse and be more arbitrary. The very fact that Arafat is still around to call the Israelis a bunch of Nazis is prima facia evidence that he's all wet. If his statements were true, he'd be dead.
Wednesday, June 19, 2002
It's a good thing this didn't happen before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Every time the Soviet people said they wanted democracy, the government could just point out the "purple M&M fiasco" and everyone would have just said, "Oh, good point. Hadn't thought of that. Sorry to bothe you." Of course they would then go back to standing in line for bread for 3 hours.
Red Letter Edition
This part where Christ promises all these wonderful blessings is a great comfort. Of course, we usually don't like the next few verses so much. I'll try to hit the tribulations of faith tomorrow.
I linked to this story by David Heddle this morning, but reading it made me think of something from my own history. First though, I want to say that David's story about his son ought to make all of us think long and hard about making sure our projects are oriented on God's goals not ours. His story particularly struck me because he talked about the members of his congregation wanting to have a school with a "classical education." Over the last couple of years I've become more enamored with that idea. This is largely because I've started reading lots of old books. In doing so, I've found quite a bit of evidence of the degredation in education over the last 100-150 years. I bring this up because if I'd been in David's congregation, I could have easily become enamored with the idea of a classical education. I could have fallen in love with the idea so much that I fell right into the trap that so many in his congregation apparently did. I would have been doing something that I thought was for God, but was really for me.
And that's what I really want to talk about. David mentioned something about finances in his post.
If what you intend to do is really for God’s glory, then you should trust Him to provide the resources.
This is an example of a sound principle that gets people in lots of trouble. The problem of course is determining if what you are doing is really from God. I also have a Christian school story.
I attended a Christian school from the 6th grade on through high school. Not long after I started school there, the board of the school found a building that had been taken back by a bank and was being offered at a deep discount so the bank could get it off their books. It seemed like such a good deal. Everyone was just sure that this building must have been a gift from God. A deal was struck quickly and a remodel of the building began.
For about a year and a half things seemed to be going fine, but there was trouble on the horizon. You see, the cost of the new building was far and away above the rent expense in the old building. The school did not have the money to keep up the loan payments on the new building and no plans to get it. (The fact that they had substantial loans on the building should have been a warning sign right there, but this isn't really a church finances story.)
In retrospect, everyone had been sure the building was a God given plan and that he would provide the resources. That is not the problem. The problem is that very little was done to actually try to verify that this was the will of God. While I was too young to really understand at the time, I have talked to my parents and others who had seen some of this going on. From the information I have gathered, it seems very likely that everyone prettty much made up their minds that they wanted to do it and then convinced themselves it was God's plan.
I can certainly understand that. There have been times in my life where I thought I knew what God wanted, but my plan crashed and burned. When looking back, I see that I was not so much asking God to tell me what he wanted as informing him of what I'd already decided and offering him a veto. Then I didn't pay much attention for a while just in case he did want to veto my action. Usually when I fall into this trap, things go horribly wrong. There have been a couple of times that I've acted in this manner and then felt God holding me back. I assume these were instances where what I wanted to do would have been to big a disaster for me to be able to recover.
I said all of this just to offer a warning which I will now try to sum up.
1. It is true that if what you are planning to do is from God, you should go ahead and move forward with faith that God will provide.
Mark Byron launches into yet another trip into joytron land. Speciically he's looking at government programs that may slow down the economy, but provide a boost to overall well-being. In his discussion of the FDIC he lays out a fairly good argument in support of deposit insurance as a good idea. What he totally failed to address is why the government should be mandating such a program. Just because something is a good idea, it does not necessarily follow that the government ought to do it.
I am generally suspicious in nature, mostly because I know that humanity is a fallen race. I see great danger in allowing government to amass more power than it actually needs because I believe that concentrated power almost always leads to increased corruption. I see no reason why deposit insurance couldn't be optional. Some banks would have it and some would not. Those people who believed deposit insurance was important would use banks that had it. Those that didn't would not.
Byron also talks about agricultural price supports. Despite spending much of my life in rural areas, I must plead rational ignorance on this subject. About all I have to add is that I have a general aversion to price controls of any kind and I can't say that I was convinced to think any differently. As I say though, my actual knowledge in this area is to limited to provide any useful analysis.
Well, I finally got the Nigerian e-mail scam letter. The one which claims to be from an attorney who has a client who desperatetely needs your help to get the illegal funds out of the country. Can anyone explain to me why you would seek a "reliable and trustworthy partner" with random e-mails?
If anybody reads this page, but doesn't read David Heddle, I hope they will at least read this post. The issues he raises ought to have us all asking questions about whether the things we're doing are really for God.
If we're going to discuss economics (in any sense) I offer for consideration today's column by Walter Williams. It is, of course, much more pessimistic than most of our conversations to date. It is probably also more realistic.
Michelle Malkin has some thoughts about the end of the "F."
GedankenPundit has some more good reasons to doubt peace is possible between Israel and the Palestinians.
Check out Happy Fun Pundit on bad airplane reportage.
Oh and while I'm at it, there's the PLO charter:
Article 15: The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national (qawmi) duty and it attempts to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland, and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine. Absolute responsibility for this falls upon the Arab nation - peoples and governments - with the Arab people of Palestine in the vanguard. Accordingly, the Arab nation must mobilize all its military, human, moral, and spiritual capabilities to participate actively with the Palestinian people in the liberation of Palestine. It must, particularly in the phase of the armed Palestinian revolution, offer and furnish the Palestinian people with all possible help, and material and human support, and make available to them the means and opportunities that will enable them to continue to carry out their leading role in the armed revolution, until they liberate their homeland.
No one has ever revoked this charter. How are you supposed to live in peace with people who believe: 1) your existence as a nation is a fiction, 2) your state is illegal, and 3) that it is their God-given obligation to fix 1 and 2 by force? Even if you believe the PLO charter is 100% right, you have to admit that it is incompatible with the notion of a Palestinian state and a Jewish state living side by side in peace.
In point of fact, that is exactly what a large number of Palestinians do believe and there actions prove it.(See the interview a few posts down.)
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
For more on why I doubt a peaceful resolution is possible with the Palestinians, watch this. Then look at this. (As an addendum read this.)
An excerpt from a interview with the mother of a mass murder.* (Translated by Memri.)
Here we have a guy who refers to his gun as his bride. His mother says he loved his gun. Why doesn't Rosie O'Donnel give the NRA a break and start trashing these guys?
My sister died four and a half years ago. My mother still hasn't recovered. After seeing that, the idea of a mother actually wanting to revel in her son's death is more than a little frightening. In fact, it totally freaks me out.
"He set out to carry out the operation, and when he got to the area he spent the night with his friends there. I was in contact with him and I asked him about his morale. He told me he was very happy. Indeed, I saw his face happier than I had ever seen it."
Just think about what kind of sicko operations this implies. In a normal military operation, mothers worry that their children will die in combat. Here we have a woman who is afraid her son won't die on his mission.
I prayed for him when he left the house and asked Allah to make his operation a success and give him martyrdom. When he entered the settlement, his brothers in the military wing [of Hamas] informed me that he had managed to infiltrate it. Then I began to pray to Allah for him."
"No really, it's just fine for my son to die. As long as he takes a bunch of Jews with him when he goes, that is."
"When the operation was over, the media broadcast the news. Then Muhammad's brother came to me and informed me of his martyrdom. I began to cry, 'Allah is the greatest,' and prayed and thanked Allah for the success of the operation. I began to utter cries of joy and we declared that we were happy. The young people began to fire into the air out of joy over the success of the operation, as this is what we had hoped for him."
Does anybody have figures on how many Arabs have been killed when some idiot fired his machine gun in the air to celebrate something? As much as it seems to happen, I would expect the numbers to be pretty high.
"After the martyrdom [operation], my heart was peaceful about Muhammad. I encouraged all my sons to die a martyr's death, and I wish this even for myself. After all this, I prepared myself to receive the body of my son, the pure shahid, in order to look upon him one last time and accept the well-wishers who [came] to us in large numbers and participated in our joy over Muhammad's martyrdom..."
The thing that's scary is that as far as I can tell, this woman is a perfectly normal Palestinian. That's why I'm pretty sure that Israel can never be at peace with a proposed Palestinian state. You'll still have all these people running around who had mothers that taught them that the most important thing in life is killing Jews.
*=Editorial choice. No more anguishing over what to call these people. A mass murderer is someone who kills several people, usually at one time. From now on, I'm calling a spade a spade.(And a mass murder a mass murder.)
Okay, if you want to take a trip into a dream world, read this article. I especially liked this:
The violence "is setting back chances for peace," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Tuesday.
You think? You know one of the things that really bugs me about this? We pay for the State Department to come up with idiotic drivel like this.
If I was elected President, I would have two goals. One of them would be 100% turnover at State in less than one year. My other goal? Thanks, but considering my job as a CPA, I think I'll just have to keep the specifics under wraps. (But it involves a certain agency.)
Red Letter Edition
Matthew 4:18-22 NAS Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
Even today, Jesus still calls people to follow Him. This is sometimes a life altering experience. (It was for these men.) It often requires sacrifices. (They left their jobs and families behind.) There is often great risk. (Most people in this day and age earned enough in a day to be able to eat that day and no more. These disciples were risking their ability to eat.) When Jesus calls to you, "Follow me," what will you be willing to leave behind?
John Hawkins asks:
How many Israeli school children and women waiting for buses have to die before we get serious about this? 100, 200, 500, 1000, 10,000? Would that be enough or would we still be calling for "restraint" even then?
It is a good question. I wish I knew the answer.
On the subject of Christian economics, in the real world sense, I've got a thought here. I'm going to start out with a quote from CS Lewis called, "Christianity and Literature."
And if we enlarge the idea of Christian Literature to include not only literature on sacred themes but all that is written by Christians for Christians to read, then, I think, Christian Literature can exist only in the same sense in which Christian cookery might exist. It would be possible, and it might be edifying, to write a Christian cookery book. Such a book would exclude dishes whose preparation involves unnecessary human labour or animal suffering, and dishes excessively luxurious. That is to say, its choice of dishes would be Christian. Buth there could be nothing specifically Christian about the actual cooking of the dishes included. Boiling an egg is the same process whether you are a Christian or a Pagan. In the same way, literature written by Christians for Christians would have to avoid mendacity, cruelty, blasphemy, pornography, and the like, and it would aim at edification in so far as edification was proper in the kind of work in hand. But whatever it chose to do would have to be done by the means common to all literature; it could succeed or fail only by the same excellences and the same faults as all literature; and its literary success or failure would never be the same thing as its obedience or disobedience to Christian principles.
I think that what Lewis was trying to get across was that anytime you take an ordinary field of study and amend it with the word Christian, you don't automatically get a new field of study. In the field of Christian economics I believe this applies as well. It seems to me that "Christian economics" is actually two separate fields of study that have converged. Economics is a social science that serves to tell us what methods will be more or less successful in accomplishing certain objectives. Christianity is a theological, moral, and ethical system (plus a whole lot more, but those are the things important in this essay) that tell us both the goals we should be chasing and the methods that are permissible.
In essence, we would first look to scripture to find out what goals a Christian should want an economic policy to accomplish. We would then study economics to discover which methods could accomplish those goals. Then, we would return to Christian principles and determine if any of the options offered by economics are forbidden by Christian principles. If we find some policy offered by economics is in conflict with Christianity, no amount of utilitarian arguments should convince us to accept it. The ends almost never justify the means.
This applies in other area as well. Lots of people try to convince Christians who oppose therapeutic cloning that they should support it because it has the potential to save so many lives. They fail to understand that most of us don't oppose these procedures because we believe they will be ineffective. Christian principles tell me that killing one arbitrary person in order to save the life of another (or even thousands) is wrong because that life was not mine to give. We call it murder. To me, it is evident that human life begins at conception. When I combine those two thoughts, I have no choice but to call therapeutic cloning murder. I therefore oppose it as an unacceptable method of medical science. Whether it will actually work or not is completely beside the point.
An observation (and request) on Christian economics. My understanding when Mark Byron first started this line of discussion was that he was trying to develop a theory of economics based on Christian principles. This would be very real world look at things. However, I've noticed that this is actually developing into two separate conversations. One on how to apply Christian principles in the world we actually live in. The other seems to be an ivory tower, what would and economic system look like if it were truly Christian type of thing. Both are interesting concepts, but there not actually the same thing. (Ideally though, we could use the "truly Christian" model we develop and compare it with what we've actually got to find deficiencies. That's pretty much what Orrin Judd did in his last post.)
Switching back and forth can be confusing, so I suggest that at some point during posts on these subjects, we try to specify which of these two concepts we're actually addressing.
If anyone ever publishes a book about great moments in Christian blogging, I nominate this post by Orrin Judd. I won't reproduce the whole thing here, but some was just to good not to be repeated.
Sounds like Hell to me.
This morning David Heddle was talking about lying. He offers this analogy:
David's analogy may well be correct. It certainly seems compelling. Let me expand on it a little. It is true that some killings are justified and therefore not murder. However, whether justified or not, all killings are undesirable and to be avoided if possible. Likewise, while it may be true that some untruths are justified and therefore not sinful, they are still distasteful. Given that, even justified untruths should be avoided if possible.
There is another issue as well. David points out in an update that Oliver Tseng also discussed this issue. (His post is incredibly comprehensive and must have taken forever to compile.) After examining practically every example of deceipt in scriptures, Tseng says this:
My conclusion would be that lying is acceptable based on the intentions of the heart. Since we do not even know our own heart, only God knows our heart, it is ultimately only God who can judge. The Holy Spirit will convict if our intentions are/were wrong.
The part about only God knowing our heart and therefore only he be able to determine if our motives are pure struck me. It is certainly true. It also seems to me that studying this subject in intense detail could easily descend into "loophole hunting." That is, trying to find a time that it is acceptable to do that which we ordinarily know we should not do. If we reach that point we have certainly lost sight of the spirit of God's commands. (A huge part of the Sermon on the Mount was dedicated to denouncing that type of thinking.) Consequently, this is an area we should approach with care.)
I also note that Tseng found 3 examples of deceipt being approved by God.
Based on those examples, I would say that the only time lying can be acceptable is when it is done to protect others. (Specifically their lives.) Even then, this could get extremely dicey. I'm not sure I've cast much light on the subject. I guess where I'm at is that it may be possible for some untruths to not be sinful but that those times are few and far between. Best to steer clear entirely.
This brings me to my basic theory on all things ethical.
There is, of course, a corollary to these rules:Rules 1-4 are easier said than done.
On another note, Tseng raises the possibility that light timers when away from home and make-up constitute deception. I'd never considered this. It sent my head spinning and I still don't know what to think about those.
The Fruited Plain has some interesting thoughts about the atheism embodied in the EU charter.
If you want to understand a little more what it is like to deal with terrorism as a way of life, read TalG today. This sentence stopped me cold:
Your sense of outrage is restored when the bombing is in your neighborhood.
Yes, these attacks have been going on so long that he finds it difficult to work up a sense of outrage.
This economics thing is spiraling out of control. There are several posts I want to address, but the rest will have to wait. For now, let me just say that while I agree with a lot of what Josh Claybourn wrote today, he is incorrect about one thing. The Old Testament actually has quite a bit to say about interest. For instance, there is this passage:
Deuteronomy 23:19-20 NAS "You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. "You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess."
Now this passage may well explain why Jews in Florence could get rich on interest and honor the Torah's injunctions on interest. They were lending to Gentiles, not to Jews. (This is supposition. My history of medeival Florence is practically nonexistent.)
There are several other passages about interest, but I don't think I'm up to an economics discussion at the moment.
David Heddle is talking about lying today. When he started talking about Rahab, I thought he might go into more detail about why Rahab's "untruth" was not a sin. Still, I found this thought interesting:
Rahab's untruth is to lying as killing is to murder. We know that justified taking of a life (killing) is not the same as murder. In the same way, a justified untruth is not the same as a self-serving lie.
David also added to his thoughts on perseverance of the saints. I keep thinking I'm going to have time to sit down and really work through my own thoughts on this subject, but it hasn't happened yet.
Monday, June 17, 2002
In an article not designed to win friends, espeically among liberals, Mark Levin argues that Nixon was not our worst President. Instead, he proposes FDR. Read the column. Its worth a look.
Maybe I should have said posting will be "sporadic" instead of "limited." But, how will you tell the difference.
Proverbs 3:5-6 WEB
Trust in Yahweh with all your heart,
And don't lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
And he will direct your paths.
A new search engine claims to have a larger data base than Google. That may be, but do you want to guess where I found this story?
This better result in some really good chocolate chip ice cream.
After an internet cafe in China burned down killing 24 people officials in many of China's largest cities started shutting down the cafes. Many people are speculating that Chinese officials are just using the fire as an excuse to claimp down on internet freedom.
For some reason I'm cynical about China. Controlling information is key to the communist government staying in control there. The internet is threatening that control. If we found out that the government started the fire to manufacture an excuse to clamp down on internet cafes, that wouldn't surprise me.
While checking out my referrer logs, I found a link from GedankenPundit. I've been poking around his site for a little while. Its a good read.
I want to clarify me earlier post (scroll down) about Israel's defensive fence. I seriously doubt that it will be effective in curbing terrorism. I hope it does, but I doubt it. But calling the fence "fascist" or comparing it to apartheid is just stupid.
Red Letter Edition
When I read this passage, I am reminded of some things. The first is that scripture can easily be perverted by Satan. He's real good at it. He knows the scriptures very well. However, Christ shows us that the scriptures, used correctly can help defend us from temptation.
This site pops up first on Google for "devil knicknames." I'm pretty sure the person who came here with that search left empty-handed. Those words were used in entirely different posts.
Oh, you've got to love Yasser:
Yasser Arafat blasted U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice on Monday for comments condemning his Palestinian Authority, saying she has no right to dictate to Palestinians how their future state should look.
He's constantly demanding that we tell the Israelis what to do, but he sure gets in a snit when we tell him what to do. Yasser, boy, I got a tip for you. The only chance you have of getting a state at all lies in our ability to influence Israel. If a state is what you really want, you better listen up.
Of course, a state is not what he wants. At least not until he's destroyed Israel (hey even Yasser can dream), at which point our ability to influence Israel wouldn't matter.
And on the subject of the security fence:
"This is a fascist, apartheid measure being done, and we do not accept it,'' Arafat said of the fence. "We will continue rejecting it by all means.''
Wow! The Israelis are practicing fascism and apartheid at the same time. They must be really bad.
Fascism is defined as "A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism."
Israel is a free market democracy. If there censoring the opposition it isn't working very well (see yasser's comments above and constant press releases from Hamas). Israel responds to attacks by retaliating against military targets. There may be some belligerent nationalism and racism in Israel, but I haven't seen much sign of it and its sure not government policy.
The PA has no economy. Their "President's" term ended in 1999, but he's still in office. He now talks about holding elections "later." You don't hear much Palestinian dissent so either everyone agrees with Yasser or he's censoring the daylights out of his critics. (The criticism you do hear is that he's to soft. If I were Yasser, I'd want that out because it makes him look "moderate.") Palestinians have this habit of blowing up pizza parlors. The policy of the PLO is "from the river to the sea" which sounds like belligerent nationalism to me. Arabs keep referring to Jews as pigs and monkeys and I understand that Mein Kempf is a big seller over there right now.
This is by no means a perfect take down, but I think the point is made and I'm running out of time here. The apartheid comment will have to wait.
Josh Claybourn has some good thoughts about Lileks, dogs, CS Lewis, the moral law, and how that all ties into God.
Sunday, June 16, 2002
Jason Steffens has some good remarks about the "Mohammed was demon possessed" brouhaha;
Indeed it is.
Gary Petersen over at Country Keepers pointed out this list of Christian resources at Heal Your Church Website.
Hamas released a video showing a mother sending her son off to fight the IDF. This story makes sound like a genuine Kodak moment. Well, at least this suicidal maniac was actually going out to fight real soldiers.
Things may be heating up in Pakistan again.
Well, maybe France isn't as messed up as I thought.
Mark Byron had this to say about a possible plan to oust Saddam Hussein.
I don't want Bush to blow the momentum and good foreign-policy management by going with a half-baked plan to get rid of Saddam. I smell Bay of Pigs II. Signs of a good, well-thought-out plan would relieve those fears. However, I don't want so big of a leak that it will telegraph what they are about to do. They'll need to leak enough to say "we've got the tool to do the job right, we've stuck a fork in and it's done-the plan's fully baked" yet not have too much detail.
I've got to disagree with Dr. Byron on this one. Assuming that they actually have a good plan, I'd much rather there be no leaks at all. It seems much safer to me if the Iraqi's go right on believing we don't have the faintest idea what we're doing right up to the point our soldier arrive on Saddam's doorstep and drag him out of his palace.
Now its true that if there are no links, we won't have as much reason to be confident ahead of time. But that's where faith comes in.
Now if they really don't have a good plan and do it anyway, that's another matter. Its also one I believe is better dealt with only if the problem materializes.
One truly beneficial thing Andersen has done of the years has been its Tax Challenge. This is a competition where universities send their top accounting students in the area of taxation to competitions to test knowledge and skill. Its been a good program. If Andersen folds, I would hope that one of the other big firms would pick this program up. It would be a shame for students to lose this forum.
Interesting comments on space "lifeboats" at the Fox News "Transterrestrial Musings" column.
Andersen has agreed to stop auditing public firms by August 31 unless the firms conviction is overturned. Analysis of Anderson's future? One word:toast.
On April 29th, Martin Roth sent an e-mail to Glen Reynolds. That e-mail was to point Glen to an article he'd written about the growing number of Christian Blogs. Reynold's subsequently posted a link to Martin's article.
At that point, my blogging life took a major shift. I'd only been doing this for a couple of weeks when Martin posted that article. At that point it was pretty much hit or miss to find other Christians who were blogging. I'd seen Martin's site a few times and had stumbled across a couple of others, but for the most part, I was just sitting in my own little corner doing my own thing. After writing that article, Martin began collecting links to Christian blogs. That list is up to about 180 at last count.
For me, at least, the list changed how I thought about blogging. Prior to that, I was just writing about this and that and trying to throw a Christian perspective on things as well as doing some devotionals. Now I suddenly knew where to find other Christians doing similar things. I was able to comment on their thoughts and see them comment on mine. This interchange with other Christian bloggers has made the whole experience much more beneficial to me and has also stimulated my thinking in ways that I can't find much anywhere else.
Also, as I read Martin's own blogging and articles I am impressed by his ability to focus my mind on those things that are of true importance. In particular, he has taught me to take a greater interest in Christians who are being persecuted and in the missionaries trying to teach in very harsh environments.
For giving the Christian blogosphere a place to converge and for causing me to think on the really important things, I want to tell Martin thank you, and keep up the good work.
The first story in this post at "How Appealing" highlights a judges sense of humor, and his grammar.
Red Letter Edition
Matthew 3:13-17 ISV Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to stop him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be this way for now, for this is the proper way for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then John let him. When Jesus had been baptized, he immediately came up out of the water. Suddenly the heavens opened up for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him.
I'd never realized before that these are the first words of Jesus in the Bible (as the books are ordered, not chronologically). I find somethng very important things about Jesus here. One thing to keep in mind was that John taught baptism for the forgiveness of sins. This explains John's shock at Jesus coming to him for baptism. The One without sin came to one with sin to be baptized.
I have very little understanding of how baptism relates to forgiveness of sins, but I've seen enough scriptures to know there is a relation. I understand even less why God's plan called for Jesus to be baptized. This teaches me a couple of things. One is that there are parts of God's plan that I will never understand. The other is that Jesus submitted to God's plan.
If Jesus, who had no need of baptism, was willing to do it because God asked for it, shouldn't I likewise be willing to submit to the will of the Father, even when at times it makes no rational sense to me? And if Jesus's submission to the Father pleased the Father, isn't it reasonable to assume that my submission will please him as well?
Our sermon today was about knowing the Father. It was pointed out that it is possible to get so caught up in apologetics, theology, and yes, even the Biblical epistles, that you forget who Jesus is. This is dangerous because it is only through Jesus that we can know the Father. In that light, I'm going to start a regular feature on this blog which I will call Red Letter Edition. The purpose of this feature will be to walk through the gospels looking at what Jesus said. I will add any comments that seem appropriate at the time, but I will be posting a few verses everyday.
Home Depot is refusing to sell anything to the Federal government. The company isn't saying why, but a notice is being sent to all corporate customers that Home Depot will refuse any transaction that might cause the company to be subject to certain laws or executive orders regarding discrimination and affirmative action. On first glance that might sound as if excessive government regulation had caused the Feds to lose a supplier. The strange thing is that all the cited provision are more than 25 years old. Did the Home Depot legal department get behind on their reading and just find out about these provisions?
In my bit about Anderson yesterday, I missed this a point that Forbes mentions. Whether Anderson's right to practice public accounting in individual states is removed or not, barring an SEC waiver, the conviction will prevent them from audting publicy traded companies. That is a huge part of their business.
By the way, the article makes it sound as if CPA's are quaking in their boots over Anderson and Enron. I know lots of seriously pissed acountants, but not many who've expressed the kind of nervousness Forbes describes.
Construction has begun in Alaska on a missle defense system. Interestingly, construction was protested by a group called No Nukes North. This is strange because I'm pretty sure that's the goal of a missle defense system.
Apparentyl some members of al Qaeda view bin Laden as a prophet. Considering what he's prophesying, it should be increasingly clear that we have no choice but to continue fighting.
Apparenty President Bush has authorized the CIA to attempt to take down Saddam Hussein.
Read this post by Sasha Volokh.
TalG is battling "evenhandedness."
Bjorn Staerk is battling spam.
The bomb at our consulate in Pakistan may not have been from a suicide bomber after all. Investigators are looking into the possibility that the bomb was hidden in a driver's education car and triggered remotely as the car passed the consulate. This kind of thing is why President Bush calls our enemies evil. Hopefully, even the French will figure this out eventually.
Mark Byron had more on Christian economics yesterday. Joshua Claybourn, after pointing out that its easy to be critical and Bryon is doing the hard work, threw in his comments. This part was interesting;
I want to point out that I think Claybourn is getting ahead of Mark. In the post in question, Mark just raised the question of why we engage in these social programs. He hasn't really gotten around to answering it yet. That said, I think Josh has a point about the ignorance of politicians and, perhaps more to the point, the voters. Let me extend this a bit. I think the real problem is willful ignorance. What I see are lots of people who would rather believe that these things work than to examine the issue.
To some extent, willful ignorance is the result of the fact that humans are not rational beings. We are able to engage in Reason and Logic, but our emotions run wild. As a result, people are often more concerned with what makes them feel good. If a program doesn't work, that's a side issue. The important thing is that we meant well. That way of thinking is a big part of the reason we have to deal so much with The Law of Unintended Consequences.
To put it another way, "People are a problem." (Shameless Douglas Adams quote.) So, how does a Christian go about trying to deal with these problems. I'm still coping with that, but I know that my gut instinct to yell in their face and call them idiots is neither Christ-like nor effective.
Saturday, June 15, 2002
Arthur Anderson was convicted of obstructing justice. The news story I linked to here lists the legal ramifications of the conviction. There are larger potential problems for Enron on the horizon though. Every state has a Board of Accountancy (some may go by a different name, but every state has one). To practice public accounting in most states, a firm must have a permit (or certificate or both). A firm must be authorized to practice public accounting in order to legally sign an audit report. These permits can be revoked if a firm is found to have engaged in misconduct.
Anderson is already under investigation in several states, including Texas where the trial was held. If a firm has already been brought up on criminal charges, some state Boards will delay their inquiry until they can get access to the trial transcript and conviction notice. (This makes their job both easier and cheaper.) Now that Anderson has been convicted of a felony, I would not be surprised to see several state boards begin investigations to determine if Anderson's right to practice public accounting in their states should be revoked. If a significant number of states revoke this right, it will become impossible for Anderson to perform audit engagements. It would still be theoretically possible for Anderson to do tax work, but lots of companies prefer to have one firm do their audit and their tax work so they'd probably lose a lot of this as well.
The short version is this: It has long been theorized that the Enron debacle might bring down Anderson. If this conviction leads to several states prohibiting Anderson from practicing public accounting it will suddenly be illegal for Anderson to perform a large percentage of its current business. In that case, the failure of Anderson moves from theory to almost certainty.
When reading this I suddenly felt very guilty. I spent 8 years failing to follow this command from Peter. I've known this passage for as long as I can remember, but somehow failed to connect it to my behavior. Bill Clinton almost seemed to go out of his way to bring scorn down on himself. That does not excuse my behavior though. I'm not saying that a president or king is immune from criticism. However, even when criticizing them, they should be given honor. This is important for several reasons. As Caley points out, one of those is to counter attacks from the world. I wonder, how much damage has been done to the work of God because the world began to see Christians as a Clinton bashing society? How many souls have been lost? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I know that if a single soul has been lost in this manner, the price was too high.
While doing research for a Bible class I'm teaching tomorrow, I came across this sermon: The Hope of Exiles on the Earth There are some excellent points in this lesson. Here's one I liked.
Mark Byron has started expanding and clarifying his economic theories. (Read this, then scroll up.) Its interesting reading so far. I'd comment, but I've got a killer headache and am having trouble formulating thoughts. I'll try to get to it later.
There is now an easy to read Vietnamese New Testament available.
Doug Poling asks, "Do American Christians love to tell their story?" This is something I struggle with. Sometimes I act as though I can just sit back and God will take care of spreading his message. It is true that he will, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a plan for me to help.
For any white folks out there feeling guilty about slavery, there is good news.
Friday, June 14, 2002
David Heddle has a thought provoking post on the unity of scriptures. Then, in a rare move, David has a second post, taking on the USS Clueless. (I say rare move because one post a day is his usual pattern. Not that I'm complaining. Somedays he's obvioulsy put more work into that one post than I do in a whole day of blogging.)
Living as exiles
1 Peter 1:2 NRS Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia
The people Peter was writing to were exiles. They were living in a land that was not their own. For a few hundred years, that was basically a state of existence for all Christians. They were persecuted, reviled, and hated. Eventually though, Christianity was legalized. Then it became the official religion of the empire. People took a great sigh of relief. The torment was over.
But the persecution had benefits that have never really been regained. One of those benefits is that persecution had the benefit of purging the church of the insincere. People who are ambivalent (or hostile) to the cross are not usually willing to die for it. For the most part, the church did not have to worry about becoming so large and popular that everyone would want in, even if they did not care about Christ at all. (Yes, these are broad generalizations. I'm sure there were plenty of exceptions, but just follow me here.)
Another benefit of persecution was that it reminded Christians in a powerful way that they did not belong in this world. This was not there home. As a result, you find people who do not cling to this life. They are longing to go home. This attention on heaven is not surprising when you consider that the world they were in went out of its way to make them feel unwanted.
The legalization of Christianity changed all that. In a way, the church has never recovered. Not only did we lose the benefits of persecution, but the legacy of Constantine has left us with this idea that when the world turns against the church, that we can fight the world on its rules and win. While sometimes this is true, it is not what we were called to. In his first epistle, Peter repeatedly refers to his readers as strangers and exiles, but he never once suggests that they should try to change their status as exiles. Instead, he tells them how to be good exiles.
The modern exile
To help explain why I think this is relevant, let me share with you part of a sermon my father preached recently:
Exiles are away from home, and they commonly suffer the estrangement of not fitting in with the world around them. Wherever Christianity is popular, Christians are not exiles.
As my father mentioned, one of the ways Christians react to the growing tide of anti-Christianity is to fight back on the political stage. A few months ago, Cal Thomas wrote on this same issue. He to, sees this attempt to wrest control of cultural institutions from our enemies as wrong-headed exercise:
Religious politics failed the church because believers were told they could improve the morals of a nation through legislation and politics. It failed the state because time that might have been spent preaching a gospel of redemption -- that would have had the collateral benefit of elevating culture -- was wasted in a futile attempt to reform the unconverted. (Emphasis added.)
What should we do?
So, we are becoming exiles in this land, and our attempts to force the world to accept us are failing. What should our response be? For starters, I think Thomas is correct that attempting to reform the unconverted is hopeless. But they don't have to stay unconverted, do they? We have a command from our Lord to go out and convert people. We are also told to teach those we convert to obey his commands. If we did those two things, the world would be better.
But we should be perfectly clear about something. The world will never fully accept us if we are following the example of our Lord. If we are following Him, then our very existence is a reminder that they are sinners. As long as we are telling people that, we will be persecuted.
When faced with persecution, people face overwhelming pressure to give in. To conform. To try to become indistinguishable from those persecuting them. This we must not do. We must continue to live as exiles. Here is some of the advice Peter offers to exiles.
1 Peter 1:13-23 ISV Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep a clear head, and set your hope completely on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not be shaped by the desires that you once had in your ignorance. Instead, just as the one who called you is holy, be holy in every aspect of your life. For it is written, "You must be holy, because I am holy." If you call "Father" the one who judges everyone impartially according to what he has done, you must live in the fear of the Lord as long as you are strangers here. For you know that it was not with perishable things like silver or gold that you have been ransomed from the worthless way of life handed down to you by your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or defect. On the one hand, he was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but on the other hand, he was revealed at the end of time for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope might be in God. Now that you have obeyed the truth and have purified your souls to love your brothers sincerely, you must love one another intensely and with a pure heart. For you have been born again, not by a seed that perishes but by one that cannot perish - by the living and everlasting word of God.
But one area that I absolutely do not want the government meddling in is my happiness, and trying to gauge it. In a secular government (Christian governments change the paradigm), its sole responsibilities should be to defend the nation and create an environment that is most conducive to positive economic activity (law and order, reasonable taxes, etc.). When a secular government begins to determine what will make me happiest (which, as we have determined, is impossible), it’s a step away from suggesting that I find happiness in things I shouldn’t (I’ll let your imagination do the work here).
I admit that in theory, Byron's theory sounds tempting. But in practice, I fail to see how it would work the way he describes. I do see how it could go horribly wrong. And as Claybourn points out, I really don't want the government trying to measure or control my happiness. That is especially true because there are a lot of people out there who want to take away people's money, gold, SUV's, etc. because they've determined those poeple have too many "joytrons" and we need to spread them around. I fear that in a system like Byron describes, way too many anti-capitalists would end up running the show.
Lothario Jugston links to a defense of Osama bin Laden. Its the same thing I've heard before. Basically, the argument is that Osama couldn't possible have orchestrated these attacks because he's off sitting in a cave somewhere. They then go on to say that bin Laden only gets blamed because he speaks out against America. It doesn't have to be bin Laden, they say because the US has been oppressiong Muslims and it was just a matter of time before someone retaltiated and the retaliation is both good and proper.
Question: If these attacks are such great things, why do you insist your boy Osama didn't do them?
Well, I didn't really think of this as a gauntlet. Regardless, I'll be glad to see Dr. Byron's response.
Apparently, our "partner for peace" has been diverting relief funds into his own bank account. Oh yeah, and he stands to make a tidy profit over the rebuilding in Palestinian territories because he just bought 14% of the Jordanian Cement Company.
Let us revisit history. Arafat "fails to control" suicide bombings in Israel. Israel decides to take matters into their own hands so they storm areas terrorist use as hideouts. A lot of buildings get knocked down and a lot of people get displaced. Arab nations send aid money to those displaced. Arafat pockets the money. Then he buys an interest in a concrete company so he can make money off the people who try to rebuild. This almost sounds like super villain in a comic book. Maybe we ought to call him "Yasser Luthor."
Reuters political correctness watch.
Yes, those are sneer quotes around the word terror.
Just so we don't forget, the Middle East is not the only place involved in a pointless, neverending, "peace process"
The US is expelling an Iraqi diplomat for, "activities incompatible with his status as a diplomat." Read that as, "spying."
Tom Daschle has effectively called an end to all further tax debates in the Senate for the rest of the year. This was as part of his comments about why the Senate would not be taking up the House bill on permanent "marriage penalty" relief. I found this little gem in there:
We've all been very supportive of marriage penalty relief in the past and have voted on it, it seems like hundreds of times.
Tom, if you've all been very supportive, why hasn't it passed? Hmmm.
Jonah Goldberg says the media is messed up on the Padilla case. He argues that just because someone's civil rights have been violated doesn't mean anything bad has happened. Its a good read. He also pointed out that the Supreme Court dealt with the issue of illegal combatants (including American citizens) in Ex Parte Quirin. I'm glad he pointed that case out because I couldn't remember the case name.
Update - This post got screwed up somehow earlier. I've got it fixed now.