Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Do Unto Others—Barack Oromney Style


Neoconservatives are distinguished, first and foremost, by their unbridled and unrivaled support for using the American military for the sake of promoting “Democracy” throughout the world. . . . America, neoconservatives think, has a unique role to play in this crusade . . .

 Both conservatives and neocons favor a robust US military. But most conservatives express greater reservations about military intervention and so-called nation building. Neocons share no such reluctance. The post 9/11-campaigns against regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate that the neocons are not afraid to force regime change and reshape hostile states in the American image. . . . Many other conservatives . . . view this as an overzealous dream with nightmarish consequences.

Having witnessed and digested the last Presidential debate on foreign policy, we should ask ourselves: How is the Obama administration’s foreign policy essentially different from the posture of neo-conservatism? What has he done or not done that doesn't come right out of the neocons’ play-book?

And then ask: How would a Romney foreign policy be essentially different from that of the Obama administration? One thing is clear from the aforementioned debate: When it comes to foreign policy—specifically the military’s role in the world—there’s but a hair’s breadth between them.

Take a step back from the President and his challenger. Forget political parties for a moment.

Consider:

1) Why have we been engaged in unnecessary and undeclared wars for over a decade now?

2) Why have we been giving millions of dollars to Egypt, supporting an Islamic fundamentalist regime?

3) Why did we funnel arms (a proxy war) into Libya? Why were we dropping bombs there? How did Libya pose a direct threat to the security of the U.S.? When did Libya attack us?

4) What vital self-interest does the U.S. have in Syria (Russia's only warm water port)?

5) Why are U.S. troops in 148 countries and 11 territories (that we know of)? Why are there 716 military bases in 38 countries (that we know of)?

6) Why are we itching to wage war in Iran? What imminent threat to the security of the United States does Iran pose?

We should contemplate these things, not only as Americans, but as Christians. How many of our wars meet the muster of “Just War” philosophy? (Depending on who's counting, in our short history we’ve fought 26 or so wars.) What are the theological implications of our militarism? Joel McDurmon observes,

Whether under the guise of spreading civilization, education, protecting citizens from themselves, serving the expansion of transportation and commerce, purging the land of dangerous savages, saving the Union, modernizing the world, making the world safe for democracy . . . the use of government force to spread peace is a false version of the Christian mission. (The Bible & War in America, p. 94)

Should we as American Christians be so willing—or even eager—to beat the drums of war? Is it unpatriotic or un-American to question the use of government force? More importantly, is it unchristian or unbiblical to critically assess these things? I think the answer to all of these queries is “no.”

I close with John Calvin’s colleague, Pierre Viret:

War is so exceedingly dangerous and full of hazard that there is nothing of which Christians must have a greater horror than of taking up arms . . . there is nothing which Christians should be more wary to employ, nor which is less suited to their profession.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Signs You're Too Charismatic


Your native tongue is now your second language.

You think Harry Potter is a trick of the devil and TBN is anointed by God.

You pray a lot because God has so much to say.

You hate beer but love being drunk in the Spirit.

You can’t go anywhere near a “prayer line” without wearing a bike helmet.

You can out dance, out sing, and out praise any worship team on the planet!

You pray in tongues over meals so the devil doesn’t know what you’re eating.

The best sermon you ever heard was about “spiritual discernment” by Joyce Meyers.

You think poking fun of “holy laughter” is blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

In your opinion, the biggest problem with Todd Bentley is tattoos. (BAM!)

Your personal card reads: “PRAYER WARRIOR.”

You’ve heard the voice of God so often that you can tell if it’s the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit who’s doing the talking.

Your worshipful wind-sprints—with “Hallelujah!” banner in tow—are the envy of every sports-mascot in the country.

You carry a Benny Hinn prayer cloth in your wallet and a vial of anointing oil in a shoulder holster.

You don’t shop. You name and claim.

When you can’t sleep you don’t count sheep, you hunt wolves.

Like the prophet Daniel, you don’t defile yourself with deviled eggs or “Lucky Charms.”

Your answering machine is in other tongues but those who are spiritual leave a message. (The carnally-minded usually try pressing “1” for English.)

You’ve chased more demons than Bob Larson at a “Twilight” convention.

Every swipe of your credit card is a REBUKE (pronounced reebYOOKuh) to the “spirit of poverty.”

When making decisions, you randomly consult your Bible like it’s a glorified Lucky 8 Ball.

Your church speaks in more tongues than Rosetta Stone.

You feel “checked in your spirit” for reading this list. (I know this because I’ve been given a “word of knowledge” about you.)

Monday, October 15, 2012

God's Law: Who Needs It? pt. 4


We now conclude the discussion concerning theonomy versus autonomy.

Does God care whether or not civil government is just? Should punishments fit crimes? Has God provided an objective standard for justice or is this left up to dictators and democracies?

A Christian once said to me: “Jesus never told Herod, Caesar or any other civil authority that the pagans should be disciplined by said civil authority. Paul only says their very actions described in Romans 1 are DESERVING of death but he doesn't say the state should ACTUALLY put them to death.”

Dear reader, do you—like me—find "Jesus never told . . ." or "Jesus never said . . ." to be an unacceptable premise when used in support of any argument or position?

It is my belief that God requires the State to ACTUALLY be just. That is, the State SHOULD govern according to God's moral Law--as it relates to behavior--and the State should ACTUALLY punish law-breaking as God clearly says it deserves (so that the State is neither lenient nor cruel).

For the State to biblically and ACTUALLY punish evil and praise good, is for the State to establish justice. 

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. (Romans 13:3-4)

Clearly, the Apostle Paul upholds the civil magistrate’s authority to ACTUALLY execute those who deserve to die.

In fact, Paul says to Festus (the civil magistrate) concerning his own person, “If I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying . . .” (Acts 25:11).

I see no dichotomy or disconnect between what a crime deserves and what the actual punishment for the crime should be, in either Paul’s letter to the Romans or in his testimony in Acts 25. The Apostle is consistent.

Does God require the State to ACTUALLY be just? Does God require the State to ACTUALLY establish justice for its populace?

I think God does require this. Here are a few reasons why I think this:

Deuteronomy 16:20, “Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

Psalm 106:3, “Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right.”

Isaiah 10:1-2, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice . . . .”

Isaiah 51:4-5, “Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: The law will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations. My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations.”

(What? God is concerned to “bring justice to the nations”?)

Isaiah 61:8, "For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity.”

Zechariah 7:9, “This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice. . .’”

(Doesn’t the demand for “true justice” entail a justice which is actualized?)

I conclude that the civil magistrate OUGHT to legislate according to God's moral Law as it is codified in the 10 Commands and insofar as said commands pertain to or manifest in outward behavior. Consequently, the civil magistrate, under God, is duty-bound to uphold outward conformity to the moral Law of God. 

No one is to be compelled to profess the faith, but no one must be allowed to injure it. . . . Even unbelievers should be forced to obey the Ten Commandments, attend church, and outwardly conform. (The Life and Letters of Martin Luther, p. 218)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

God's Law: Who Needs It? pt. 3

We continue the discussion concerning theonomy versus autonomy. We’re addressing the issue of whether theonomy is merely concerned with “penalties” and “punishments” or something more.

Government should make laws and penalties based upon what?

In the name of consistent autonomy, some argue: The civil government is free to make its own laws, and it is free to make its own punishments.

But do we want the power of government to be untethered from scripture? Do we want laws based upon the ethical whims of a dictator or the moral winds of a democracy? I say no. Furthermore, do we want punishments based upon the same? Again, I say no. What do autonomous governments—without the residual effects of biblical morality—look like?

However, if the State punishes behavior which fails to conform to God’s moral Law—punishes based upon the case law of the OT (I am speaking only of those case laws which are explications or applications of the Ten Commandments)—this will ensure that godly government is neither lenient nor cruel (unless one is prepared to argue that God’s judicial instruction is indeed lenient or cruel).

It seems we have been conditioned, by secular humanism in the West (the West which still enjoys the residual effects of a Christian heritage), to consider God’s judicial instructions to be harsh and barbaric. (For example: executing someone for Sabbath-breaking—Christians and atheists alike find this abhorrent).

Western man finds God’s prescribed punishments (in this life and the next!) to be absurd and offensive. But are modern-Western man’s philosophies of punishment better than God’s in the Old Testament? I personally don’t think so.

Even so, concerning those who reject God’s moral Law as a basis for governing: Is their only objection based upon the Bible’s prescribed punishments or penalties? I think not.

I’ve often heard Christians derisively inquire: “Do you want the State to pass laws regarding idolatry, blasphemy, and the Sabbath?” This is usually followed with: You must be joking!

Such a question reveals that we are disagreed over much more than punishments or penalties. We are disagreed over the very basis for legislating. We don’t agree as to what is properly punishable, much less over what proper punishment would or could be.

I believe the worship of false gods is immoral and SHOULD be illegal for a thoroughly Christian populace ruled by a truly Christian government. I believe that the public worship of false gods (something the magistrate can observe or be privy to) is a punishable crime against God (in a nation as described above).

Thus we are not simply disagreed over punishment. We are disagreed as to whether idolatry is even biblically or properly punishable.
 
I close with Martin Luther:

"Satan, like a furious harlot, rages in the Antinomians . . . The devil will do much harm through them and cause infinite and vexatious evils. If they carry their lawless principles into the State as well as the Church, the magistrate will say: I am a Christian, therefore the law does not pertain to me. Even a Christian hangman would repudiate the law . . .

“We have the plain text: 'Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge,' much more, therefore, will he judge those who protect and encourage vice. . . . Let the magistrate punish one as well as the other, and if there is secret vice, at least he is not to blame for it. We can neither do nor permit nor tolerate anything against God's command. We must do right if the world comes to an end. (The Life and Letters of Martin Luther, p. 281, 321)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

God's Law: Who Needs It? pt. 2

We continue the discussion concerning theonomy versus autonomy.

Is God’s Law only or exclusively for God’s people? Do theonomists encourage rebellion and/or revolution? Is theonomy little more than a pipe dream?

Many Christians allege: The only people with whom an appeal to the moral law works are the redeemed. I can appeal to the moral law with a believer but not with an unbeliever.

And yet the Bible is clear concerning the use of the moral Law as a guide for governing even the unregenerate:

But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine. (1Timothy 1:8-10)

Thus, I think it is biblical and proper for the civil magistrate to constrain the sinful behavior of the unrighteous with God’s moral Law as his guide.

Some argue: Unless we're staging a coup, theonomy is little more than a thought experiment. Maybe it would be nice to live in such a country but it’s not happening this side of heaven.

Yet theonomists are not, in any sense, advocating a “coup.” We are saying that as Christ’s church grows in number and influence, a Christian populace can and should desire a truly Christian government with biblically-moral laws.

Undoubtedly, most contemporary Christians are in full agreement with the sentiment that no such county will or can exist before Christ’s physical return (to be sure, all Dispensationalists, historic Premillennialists, and Amillennialists share this pessimism).

Hence, most theonomists are Postmillennial in their eschatology. They see such tremendous growth in godliness as a gradual process analogous to the leaven spreading through the entire lump, c.f. Mtt 13:33. (Obviously, I do not consider Postmillennialism to be “little more than a thought experiment.”)

And also, I think most contemporary Christians agree that IF such a country ever does come into existence before Christ’s return, it will be a nice place to live—“MAYBE.”

This is a big maybe. I once asked a large group of believers this question: If you could choose to live under an ungodly democracy or a godly king, which would you choose? I realize the question is reductionistic, but some of the answers surprised me. Which would you choose, dear reader?