Category Archives: Being Intellectually Virtuous

Burk: Correcting the Record in light of Sec. Hillary Clinton’s false statements

From Denny Burk’s blog (below).  Madam Former Secretary of State might be very intelligent, but she is not very wise.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton weighed-in on the Hobby Lobby decision yesterday (see above), and her analysis is so egregiously in error that I could not let it pass without some comment.

She claims first of all that this is the first time that the Supreme Court has found that a corporation has religious freedom and thus that employers can impose their religious beliefs on employees. Now this is a curious characterization of yesterday’s opinion. Religious freedom does not give anyone—individual or corporate—the right to impose one’s beliefs upon someone else. Yet Clinton speaks as if the right of individuals to “impose their beliefs” has now been given to corporations. What a gross mischaracterization of our first freedom.

Furthermore, employees are still free in this country to buy contraceptives and abortifacient drugs. No one is preventing them from doing that. Yesterday, the Court said that they are not free to expect Christians and other people of conscience to pay for them. Hobby Lobby’s desire not to pay for their employees’ contraceptives is hardly “imposing” their religion onto them. Anyone who thinks that it is is either severely confused or cynically dishonest.

Contrary to what you may have read, the employees of Hobby Lobby are not being denied or coerced in any way. Hobby Lobby, however, was. The federal government was trying to coerce the owners of Hobby Lobby into violating their most deeply held religious beliefs. To miss that is to miss the point entirely.

Clinton also claims that the Court’s ruling will prevent a Hobby Lobby sales clerk  from getting contraception “because her employer doesn’t think she should be using contraception.” Maybe Clinton is not familiar with this case. Perhaps she had not reviewed the Court’s decision when she made these remarks. If so, she should have refrained from comment because this is a demonstrably false statement.

Hobby Lobby has always provided contraception through its health plans (even before Obamacare!). Hobby Lobby simply objected to four methods that are potentially abortifacient. So Hobby Lobby is offering in their health plans sixteen out of the twenty FDA-approved contraceptive devices. Birth control pills, diaphragms, and a host of others are all included. It is simply false to say that Hobby Lobby is not making contraceptives available to their employees. Even though this was a great applause line for her, this is a misinformed statement that she should retract.

Peter Jones: “Overture 22 Before the PCA General Assembly: Bring It On!”

Dr. Peter Williams, Scholar in Residence at Westminster Seminary California, provides great, Christian-worldview thinking on gender and gender-related issues:

Biblically, in my opinion, the “vitals of religion” must include more than the five points of Calvinistic soteriology. This is no longer an issue of ecclesiastical power or of male chauvinism. We need a biblical cosmology, a clear statement of how the world is made that can answer both the feminist and LGBT dismissal of gender, behind which stands a pagan rejection of God the Creator. It seems to me that one of the “vitals of religion” is the understanding and defense of the foundational issue of the image of God, without which soteriology is a non-starter. There have been many useful suggestions as to the content and extent of that image, from intelligence, moral sensitivity to the role of dominion. But what is incontrovertible, since it is clearly stated in the text, is the place of the binary distinction of male and female. What I call Twoism, the essential notion of the God-created distinctions related in deep unity, is how humanity and the entire cosmos reflect the nature of the triune God, Who in the three persons is both distinct and one. This is how the created order makes us without excuse (Romans 1:20), for God’s Trinitarian being and the fact of His distinction as Creator from the creation are reflected in the Twoist world He makes. Thus God creates, explicitly distinguishing between day and night, dry land and water, and finally between male and female (Genesis 1). Gender distinction is also reflected in the mystery of Redemption where the male/female difference prior to the Fall bespeaks the coming unity and distinction of Christ and his bride, the Church (Ephesians 5:31-32).

Read the whole thing here.

 

WAPO, B1: “Was Hillary Clinton a good secretary of state?”

UntitledWalter Russell Mead is the James Clarke Chace professor of foreign affairs at Bard College and editor at large of the American Interest. He is the author of Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World. He writes a good (and fairly balanced) article on grading the tenure of Madame Clinton at the State Department. You might wish for more on Benghazi, but its not there. Some quotes from the article:

“The U.S. emphasis on human rights and democracy, as well as the active support for civil society organizations, contributed to China’s harsh response to the pivot to Asia and probably deepened Vladi­mir Putin’s view of the West as a danger to Russia. For Moscow and Beijing, Washington’s work to engage and strengthen democracy activists and movements represents an aggressive effort to undermine the Russian and Chinese regimes. And the push for changing gender relations allows Islamists to portray the United States as a threat to religious values. American opponents often fear ideological and cultural “aggression” as much as U.S. military power.”

“The answer: Historians will probably consider Clinton significantly more successful than run-of-the-mill secretaries of state such as James G. Blaine or the long-serving Cordell Hull, but don’t expect to see her on a pedestal with Dean Acheson or John Quincy Adams anytime soon.”

“The verdict? Clinton brought a clear vision of U.S. interests and power to the job, and future presidents and secretaries of state will find many of her ideas essential. Yet she struggled to bring together the different elements of her vision into a coherent set of policies. The tension between America’s role as a revolutionary power and its role as a status quo power predates Clinton; the struggle to reconcile those two opposed but equally indispensable aspects of American foreign policy has survived her tenure at the State Department.”

 

 

Burk: Powers and Merritt double-down against religious liberty

From Denny Burk’s blog:

by  on FEBRUARY 23, 2014 in CHRISTIANITYPOLITICS

Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt are doubling down on their argument that Christian business owners are morally wrong when they refuse to participate in same-sex wedding celebrations. In a co-written essay for The Daily Beast, they argue that Christian business owners are morally and legally obliged to participate in gay wedding ceremonies with their goods and services. Not to participate is tantamount to the kind of discrimination that whites in this country used to exhibit against blacks.

Let me just say first of all that I am grieved by this article. Not merely because it is a moral and constitutional mess, but also because of who has written it. Do Powers and Merritt realize that they ratify the arguments of Christianity’s fiercest opponents when they attribute our conscientious objections to animus and bigotry? There is a larger context here. The sexual revolutionaries have done a fine job over the last decade of demonizing Christians as purveyors of hate because of our commitment to what the Bible teaches about sex. Powers and Merritt are joining their voices with our opponents when they militate against conscience rights for Christians. And this all by itself grieves me. I would have hoped for more from them.

But what are we to make of their central argument? They contend that providing services for a gay wedding does not imply “participation” or “approval” of same-sex marriage. But we have to ask if this is really their place to judge as far as public policy is concerned. They suggest that “society” or “100 married couples” are the arbiters of what does and does not violate someone else’s conscience. This is absurd. Is this really how Powers and Merritt want to treat religious liberty in this country? Such that the majority might be able to dictate to the conscientious minority, “We don’t see any reason for you to be offended by this, so get over it.” What’s worse is that they favor an approach that would allow the government to make such a determination—as if the government is competent to define what should or should not offend religious consciences. Neither the government nor anyone else has the right to prohibit free exercise based on their opinion about what ought not offend the faithful—much less to impose coercive penalties upon Christians who do not want to participate in gay wedding.

But apart from constitutional and public policy concerns, what are we to make of their moral claim—that providing goods and services for a gay wedding is perfectly consistent with Christian faith? Powers and Merritt say that Christians are discriminating against gay people by giving a pass to unbiblical heterosexual weddings. Yet to make this argument, Powers and Merritt must assume a moral equivalence between gay marriage and conjugal marriage. And this is precisely the point. They are not equal.

Marriage—the covenant union of one man and one woman—is a creation ordinance that God intends to be the norm for all of humanity. When a man and a woman are joined together in matrimony, they really are married—even if their relationship proceeded from unbiblical grounds (such as prior divorce or being unequally yoked). On the contrary, gay marriage is different. It is a sinful fiction. A gay wedding ceremony celebrates what God abominates. There is no sanction or creation ordinance supporting the sexual union of two people of the same sex. As far as Christians are concerned, gay marriages are not really marriages.

The wedding of a man and a woman enters them into a holy estate. The wedding of two persons of the same sex does not. No one should be surprised that Christians would demur from participation in celebrating what God prohibits them from celebrating.

Finally, Powers and Merritt single out Russell Moore for special censure:

So, Moore–a sincere Christian and a leader we respect–is telling Christian vendors that it’s okay to do something “wrong” by providing services for a heterosexual wedding as long as they don’t know its unbiblical.

I don’t know what else to say except that this is a blatant misrepresentation of what Russell Moore has written on this subject. Nowhere does Moore say that it’s “okay” to do something that is “wrong.” But I encourage readers to read Moore in his own words. It will be plain to even the casual reader that Moore said no such thing. (UPDATE: Moore has just posted a must-read response to their charges here.)

Of course we do not expect society at large to understand the teachings of Christianity or why the Bible might prohibit Christians from participating in gay wedding celebrations. After all, it is not their consciences that are in view here. It’s ours. But I would have expected more from Powers and Merritt.

President Obama’s Less Visible Faith

altCHURCH-popupIn considering Ashley Parker’s, “As the Obamas Celebrate Christmas, Rituals of Faith Become Less Visible,” (NYT, December 28, 2013), I really can’t say that I’m surprised about President Obama’s meager public expression of a Christian faith.  Yes, his job is different from any other job in the country. But let’s not be disingenuous: A daily “devotional” reading, an annual prayer call, and the infrequent paraphrasing of one Old Testament verse (or even a few verses) are not reflective of any depth of faith at all, especially when such a devotion (to God?) only leads one to corporate worship 18 times in five years, and when given a choice, college basketball (on TV, no less!) is a more attractive option. Saying that the President’s practical piety and Sunday church attendance mirror a trend in the country is to say that the President is no different from your average religious, American sinner. It is a backhanded way of saying he is not a man of Christian faith.

How to Change Your Mind

From The Gospel Coalition Blog: How to Change Your Mind.

JOE CARTER|1:41 PM CT

How to Change Your Mind

The beginning of a New Year is an an excellent time to try something new. As you make your list of resolutions and goals I want to recommend adding a simple four step process that could transform your life by, quite literally, changing your mind.

change-your-mindAfter reading the entire post the vast majority of readers will snicker at such a hyperbolic claim and never implement the method I outline. A smaller number will consider the advice intriguing, my assertion only a slight exaggeration, but will also never implement the method. A tiny minority, however, will recognize the genius behind the process and apply it to their own life. This group will later say that my claim was an understatement.

This post is written for those people.

A few years ago I stumbled across a variation of the four steps in an article by theologian Fred Sanders and implemented his recommendation that day. I later had the pleasure of meeting Sanders in person and telling him how his post had transformed my life. My hope is that at least one other person will follow this advice and experience the same transformative effect.

Before I reveal the four steps I want to reiterate that while the advice could transform your life, it likely will not. As with most life-altering advice, it is simple, easy to implement, and even easier to ignore. Statistically speaking, the odds are great that you’ll ignore this advice. But a handful of you will try it so for the one or two people who will find this useful, the four steps that will transform your worldview are:

1. Choose a book of the Bible.

2. Read it in its entirety.

3. Repeat step #2 twenty times.

4. Repeat this process for all books of the Bible.

Christians often talk about having a Biblical worldview yet most have only a rudimentary knowledge of the Bible. They attempt to build a framework without first gathering the lumber and cement needed to create a solid foundation. The benefits of following this process should therefore be obvious. By fully immersing yourself into the text you’ll come to truly know the text. You’ll deepen your understanding of each book and knowledge of the Bible as a whole.

Since this method is adapted from a book by James M. Gray (1851-1935), How to Master the English Bible I’ll let him explain in his own words:

The first practical help I ever received in the mastery of the English Bible was from a layman. We were fellow-attendants at a certain Christian conference or convention and thrown together a good deal for several days, and I saw something in his Christian life to which I was a comparative stranger—peace, a rest, a joy, a kind of spiritual poise I knew little about. One day I ventured to ask him how he had become possessed of the experience, when he replied, “By reading the epistle to the Ephesians.” I was surprised, for I had read it without such results, and therefore asked him to explain the manner of his reading, when he related the following: He had gone into the country to spend the Sabbath with his family on one occasion, taking with him a pocket copy of Ephesians, and in the afternoon, going out into the woods and lying down under a tree, he began to read it; he read it through at a single reading, and finding his interest aroused, read it through again in the same way, and, his interest increasing, again and again. I think he added that he read it some twelve or fifteen times, “and when I arose to go into the house,” said he, “I was in possession of Ephesians, or better yet, it was in possession of me, and I had been ‘lifted up to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus‚’ in an experimental sense in which that had not been true in me before, and will never cease to be true in me again.”

I confess that as I listened to this simple recital my heart was going up in thanksgiving to God for answered prayer, the prayer really of months, if not years, that I might come to know how to master His Word. And yet, side by side with the thanksgiving was humiliation that I had not discovered so simple a principle before, which a boy of ten or twelve might have known. And to think that an “ordained” minister must sit at the feet of a layman to learn the most important secret of his trade!

Rather than wasting time attempting to defend the wisdom of applying this method, I’ll close with a few helpful suggestions for putting it into practice:

1. Choose shorter books and work up to longer ones. Since you’ll be reading an entire book of the Bible and not just a chapter or two, you’ll want to work your way up to more extensive readings. When beginning this program you may want to start with a short book that has only a few chapters that can be read several times in one sitting. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and help develop the reading habit. For example, a short book like John or Jude can be read four or five times in one sitting allowing you to finish the entire twenty readings in less than a week. [NT books, shortest to longest: 3 John, 2 John, Phlm, Jude, Titus, 2Thess, Rev, 2 Peter, 2 Tim, 1Thess, Col, 1 Tim, Phil, 1 Peter, James, 1 John, Gal, Eph, 2 Cor, Heb, 1 Cor, Rom, Mark, John, Matt, Acts, Luke; OT books, shortest to longest: See this chart.]

2. Read at your normal pace. Treating the material reverently does not require reading at a slower than normal speed. Read for comprehension, ignoring the division of chapters and verses and treating each book as one coherent unit.

3. Skip the commentaries (for now). Don’t get bogged down by referring to commentaries or other outside sources. Commentaries are for your Bible study, rather than for this synthetic reading. Read each book in its entirety and then attempt to summarize in your own words its theme and major points.

4. Stick with the process. After the eighth or ninth reading you’ll hit a wall that is similar to what runners face in marathons. The text will become dry and lose its flavor. You’ll want to move on to the next book or abandon the program altogether. Stick with it. Persevere and you’ll discover the treasures that repeated readings can provide. Keep in mind that not every book will be equally rewarding. It doesn’t mean that you’re a heretic if during one of your readings you find 2 John a bit redundant or Jude just plain boring. Keep in mind the words of 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Stick with it and you’ll fully understand the truth of that verse.

5. Choose an appropriate version. A modern language paraphrase is not an appropriate version for synthetic reading. Likewise, the familiar rhythms and cadences of the KJV can, upon repeated readings, get in the way of comprehension. I personally recommend the ESV, though the NIV can be a suitable alternative.

6. Pray. Ask God to open your heart to his Word. Trust the Holy Spirit to illuminate the text and provide guidance and understanding.

7. Begin today. Don’t put it off another day. Don’t say you’ll start tomorrow, or next week, or next New Year’s. You won’t. Start with the only time that you are guaranteed — today. Use some of the time you’d normally spend  reading blogs to begin this program. Start now and then tomorrow, next week, or next New Year’s Day — after your mind has become saturated with God’s Holy Word — you can tell me my claim was an understatement.

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. You can follow him onTwitter.

Tyler Perry and Chris Brown

imagesDuring this morning’s news broadcast, my wife and I watched a story about airlines beginning to use music videos in order to explain flight safety rules in a manner that holds more passengers’ attention. While this is an interesting happening, it is no more newsworthy than a report of Kerry Washington announcing her pregnancy. It is not as if Washington was as barren as John the Baptist’s mother, or as much a virgin as Mary. Stories like the Scandal star’s gestation and airline safety videos should not ask for us to give to them our intelligent mental focus.

Such also is true for the report of Tyler Perry laying his hands on Bishop T. D. Jakes at Megafest in September. While a critical thinking venue like The Front Porch has given an solid theological perspective on the event, and Jet Magazine reported that Jakes has giving time to defending Perry’s actions, I do not find the story to be worth the continuing attention it has garnished. Laying on of hands and Pentecostals go together like burgers and fries.

On the other hand, if Tyler Perry could lay praying hands on singer Chris Brown, that would be worthy of attention. A few days ago, Brown was arrested in DC for hitting a man who attempted to jump into a picture with Brown. The spoiled musician reportedly blurted a homosexual slur before hitting the fan. In DC Superior Court, Brown’s assault charge was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, and he was released without bail.

This was not the first fisticuff incident for Brown. His rap sheet includes the 2009 physical attack on then-girlfriend, recording artist Rihanna, leaving her with bruises to the face that required hospitalization. When Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts asked Brown about the incident in a 2011 interview, Brown left the interview early, and threw an object at one of the station’s windows.

Then there was that 2012 brawl with Drake and his entourage at a nightclub in New York City. In January of this year, Brown decided to pummel singer Frank Ocean outside of a recording studio in West Hollywood. Supposedly Brown also threated to shoot Ocean, and hurled a homosexual slur at him. Shall we add that recently Brown gloated in saying he had his first sexual experience at 8 years of age, wearing it as a badge contributing to his self-proclaimed prowess in the bedroom?

Brown is a man who needs help. He is an immature entertainment star with larger than life narcissistic tendencies – which themselves are fueled by throngs of fans who overlook his childish capers, and by an ex-girlfriend who has returned to the abuser despite his ongoing pattern of destructive behavior. His antics reveal a sinful man lacking the power of God in his life. We need to put the pause button on buying his CDs and concert tickets, trying to grab a celebrity photo-op with him, and (ladies) fantasizing about a date with him. Instead, we should introduce Chris to the meek and lowly Christ who died for sinners and has risen again.

So Perry laying hands on Bishop T. D. Jakes, with the result that a man already associated with the church falls as one slain by the Spirit, is unimpressive. However, if Tyler Perry could lay hands on Chris Brown, exorcise Brown’s egotism, put Brown on a path of wisdom and self-control, and get Brown to shout “Hallelujer” like Madea, that would be news to me.

 

Holy Scandal

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“‘And you shall not commit adultery.” (Dt. 5:20)

The Lord’s Day 41 (Week 41) lesson in the Heidelberg Catechism states,

Q. What does the seventh commandment teach us?

A. That God condemns all unchastity,

and that therefore we should thoroughly detest it

and live decent and chaste lives,

within or outside of the holy state of marriage.

Q. Does God, in this commandment,
forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?

A. We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul,

and God wants both to be kept clean and holy.

That is why God forbids

all unchaste actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires,

and whatever may incite someone to them.

While sitting with my children to discuss the commandment and the catechism yesterday, I noted these words from Starr Meade:

“The catechism reminds us that God forbids adultery. A husband commits adultery when he treats a woman who isn’t his wife in the special way he should treat only his wife. A wife commits adultery when she treats a man who isn’t her husband in the special was she should only treat her husband. The catechism calls adultery ‘scandalous.’ The catechism was written hundreds of years ago. Back then, adultery was scandalous. When a married person left the marriage or turned to a new lover, everyone in the community was shocked. They all thought it was a terribly bad thing to do. Sadly, in our time, adultery is accepted. People stay married to one person for only as long as they enjoy being with that person. Then they move on to someone else, or they go back to being single.

To the people of God, adultery should still be scandalous. The people of God should still think of adultery as terribly wrong, because that’s how God thinks of it.”

Starr Meade, Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Heidelberg Catechism [Phillipsburgh, MJ: P&R Publishing, 2013]: 208.  (See also, Kevin DeYoung “Swords for the Fight Against Lust,” The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism [Chicago: Moody, 2010]: 193-197.)

We have lost the scandalous nature of scandals.

 

 

What Fyodor Dostoyevsky Can Teach Us about the Christian Life

Over at Justin Taylor’s blog:

_________________________

David Powlison talks about the role Dostoyevsky’s works can play in helping us understand sin and sanctification:

And here is J. I. Packer:

Dostoyevsky is to me both the greatest novelist, as such, and the greatest Christian storyteller, in particular, of all time. His plots and characters pinpoint the sublimity, perversity, meanness, and misery of fallen human adulthood in an archetypal way matched only by Aeschylus and Shakespeare, while his dramatic vision of God’s amazing grace and of the agonies, Christ’s and ours, that accompany salvation, has a range and depth that only Dante and Bunyan come anywhere near. . . . [H]is constant theme is the nightmare quality of unredeemed existence and the heartbreaking glory of the incarnation, whereby all human hurts came to find their place in the living and dying of Christ the risen Redeemer.

The Gospel in Dostoyevsky: Selections from His Works (Orbis, 2004) vii.

_______________________

I agree (and would add Jane Austen, Ralph Ellison, and C. S. Lewis as my co-favorite story writers). I previously noted Dostoevsky’s Christian Hedonism.

Jim Hamilton had this small note.

Peter Leithart on Dostoevsky is good, too, of course.

99 must-reads on income inequality, by John D. Sutter, CNN

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John Sutter writes,

Earlier this week, I asked readers of this column to submit ideas for a list of “99 must-reads on income inequality.” When I put out that call, I hedged a bit, saying 99 was my goal, for symbolic, we-are-the-99% type reasons, but that a smaller number would be just fine, too. Well, I underestimated you. Within 24 hours of the query, I’d collected more than 100 distinct books, films, YouTube clips, websites and documentaries on this topic.

You can read the whole list here. It is worth the read. I hope to go through several of the items listed. 

Another item needed on the list: Aliens in the Promised Land