Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:16


For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Ephesians 2: 8 - 10

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Race, part 1

John Piper has a really hard time with the concept of race.
I’m a stickler for clear definitions. I like to know what I am talking about. ... Believe it or not, the existence of the reality of race itself is disputed. I mean seriously by very wise people whom I admire. I deal with this in appendix 1. And, of course, the term racism is ambiguous as well. (Bloodlines, pg 17)
It is a healthy sign to wish that the term race did not exist. It has not served well to enhance human relations. In general, the term race has been used to signify “a biological concept referring to the taxonomic (classificatory) unit immediately below the species.” We may not be able to communicate in our day without the term, but we can at least try to show why it is a fuzzy term that is minimally helpful and has often been hijacked by ideology for racist purposes. (Bloodlines, Appendix One, pg 234)
I get a little nervous when I'm reading something where the author takes pains to define words in ways that are not standard. My shields go up and I wonder why he would need to do that.

Is "race" really a difficult word to define? Here is the dictionary definition from dictionary.com:
1. a group of persons related by common descent or heredity.
2. a population so related.
3. Anthropology. [omitted] (no longer in technical use)
4. a group of tribes or peoples forming an ethnic lineage:
5. any people united by common history, language, cultural traits, etc.:
6. the human race or family; humankind
That is quite straight-forward and agrees with most people's common sense understanding. Piper says he's a stickler for clear definitions, but he has taken something clear and intentionally made it, in his words, fuzzy. I also wonder if he is engaging in psychological projection when he states that the term has "often been hijacked by ideology."

It should also be absolutely no surprise to Christians that various races of humankind exist. God Himself created the condition that resulted in the proliferation of distinct people groups that became identifiable in terms of their geography, cultures, and physical characteristics.
The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6 The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11: 5-9)
God's intentional sundering of humanity at the tower of Babel led directly to the rise of the nations and the division of mankind into a diversity of races. And, He did it for our good, to limit Man's potential for evil, and to force Man into obedience to Him.

Yet, Piper says that it is a "healthy sign to wish that the term race did not exist." Why would we "wish" for that? Is it so we could more easily pretend that race itself doesn't exist? So we can pretend that one of God's blessings doesn't exist? So we can remake the world God created into one of our own imagination?

The secular Progressive world is waging war against God's created order. They hate that God created Man, male and female, so they seek to destroy the distinction and create a fluid continuity of "genders." They hate that God blessed husbands and wives with distinct responsibilities and gifts, so they work tirelessly to destroy and pervert marriage.

They also hate that God created The Nations, so they work toward a globalist future and vilify the term "nationalism" and anyone who stands for national sovereignty.

And, maybe most of all, they hate that God created the races. While they dishonestly call for greater Diversity, they in reality promote the obliteration of the glorious variety of Man.

Whatever God has created, they will seek to destroy and replace with its opposite.

I haven't made it far into Piper's book, but at the outset he appears to be lined up on the opposite side of the battlefield.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

No Small Miracles

Years ago, I was talking with an atheist acquaintance about the Bible. Among his reasons for discounting the Bible's reliability was the frequent recounting of miracles. He particularly objected to the ones, like God making the sun stand still (Joshua 10: 1-15), that were simply impossible to his mind.

The sun wouldn't actually be standing still, he said, it would be the earth that would have to stop rotating on its axis! Did I know, he asked, what would happen if the earth stopped rotating? Then he told me about the physical ramifications of a non-rotating earth. So, he continued, not only would my so-called god have to stop the earth's rotation, but he'd have to deal with the meteorological consequences and all of the other difficulties that would arise.

So, I got the impression that he thought that the miracle in the valley of Aijalon was absurd because it would be Really Hard for a theoretical god to pull it off.

This guy was seriously smart. Way smarter than me, but I still think that he was totally missing the point about Who God is.

This morning, on the drive in to work, I was listening to the Dangerous History Podcast about the "Grunt's Eye Perspective" of the Civil War, and it reminded me of one of my two favorite miracles in the Old Testament.
Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.
Deuteronomy 8:4
Listen to the description of what the Civil War soldiers endured regarding clothing and footwear and you will get a new appreciation for what this meant. The American Civil War lasted roughly four years. The People of God wandered and fought in the desert for forty years and their clothing (including sandals) did not wear out.

Every day that their wandering continued they were presented with an ongoing miracle of preservation. I wonder if they stopped thinking about it after a while.

I know that I stop thinking about God's ongoing preservation and blessings in my life.

Some other time I'll mention my number one favorite Old Testament miracle.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Who is influencing you?


Image result for person reading painting


In the latest Forward Tilt, Isaac Morehouse thinks about this rule-of-thumb: 
"We are the sum of the five people with whom we spend the most time." 
He proposes a great exercise that might lead to the conclusion that we should make some changes.

But, consider also that the people with whom you spend the most time may not be living, or you may not be spending physical time with them. It would be worthwhile to repeat Isaac's exercise with the five people you spend the most time reading.

We become the things in which we immerse ourselves.

UPDATE:
This past Sunday, Kevin DeYoung preached a sermon on Exodus 34:29-35, in which he gets to the heart of this matter. Can people tell that we have been in the presence of God and immersed in His Word?

https://www.universityreformedchurch.org/sermons/till-we-have-faces/

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Why we are not libertarians...

Walter Block has stated that,
"The non-aggression axiom is the lynchpin of the philosophy of libertarianism. It states, simply, that it shall be legal for anyone to do anything he wants, provided only that he not initiate (or threaten) violence against the person or legitimately owned property of another."
The non-aggression axiom, also known as the non-aggression principle ("NAP"), depends upon another libertarian axiom, the Sovereign Individual ("SI"). This is the assertion of the self-ownership of the individual, who has complete and total control over his own body and life, owing nothing to anyone else that he has not voluntarily contracted to provide. No other individual, group, corporation, or government may rightly constrain, coerce, or deprive the Sovereign Individual.

The NAP is the necessary governing principle between Sovereign Individuals which keeps one individual's total sovereignty from conflicting with another's. It is a limit on the Sovereign Individual, but a vital one if the system is to hope to work.

There is a lot to like in this system and it even sounds somewhat moral, as if it were a more rigorous version of "do unto others," or "live and let live."

However, the problem with the NAP and the SI is that they are specific, direct, and intentional repudiations of God's Word.

We are, in reality, not sovereign, nor is it legal for us to do anything we want (even with the proviso of the NAP).

God has proclaimed a Law and regardless of your particular understanding of the continuity of the covenant, no Christian denies that we are still subject to at least some of God's Law. Specifically, there are a great many things which are unlawful and which do not initiate or threaten violence against others. Drunkenness (drug use), extra-marital sex, blaspheming the name of the Lord, usury, dishonoring parents, idolatry, and covetousness are all examples. 1 Corinthians 6:8-10 gives a list of people who will not inherit the Kingdom. Well over half of the types of people on the list are engaged in "victimless crimes."

The NAP is false.

It is even more absurd to assert that the individual is sovereign. In what possible way is a man, created by God, subject to His Law, wholly dependent up His grace and mercy and upon the atoning work of Jesus, and commanded to worship and serve him, sovereign?

There are multiple times in Scripture where God's people are indicted for acting as sovereign individuals. Most notably, during the time of the judges, everyone was said to be doing what was "right in his own eyes." Despite the eisegesis of some libertarian commentators, this was not a description of a libertarian paradise. A plain reading of the book of Judges is enough to dispel that notion. The books of Deuteronomy, Proverbs, and Job also use the phrase in a negative way.

But, libertarians are not necessarily believers in God and His Word, and this is the point. The NAP and the SI are attempts to create a workable system of human liberty apart from God. Libertarianism is fundamentally at odds with God's created order and seeks to achieve a state of human freedom that is hostile to the true Christian liberty we have when we are in submission to Christ.

I think many Christians find libertarianism attractive because it does have significant, incidental points of commonality with a Christian society. On can cherry-pick specific libertarian principles and have a sense that there is a form of Christian libertarianism. It isn't necessary to do this. These commonalities (private property being a key one) already exist as concepts in God's created economy. We don't need libertarianism to teach it to us.


Libertarianism also provides a great platform for attacking the leviathan State and its tyranny over every aspect of our lives.


But neither is it necessary for Christians to turn to libertarianism for this. God's Word places individuals, families, nations, and states under the Sovereignty of God and in submission to his Will and Law. Opposing the godless state from the perspective of Scripture is a far more effective strategy than resorting to the man-made, utopian philosophy of libertarianism.


There is nothing true in libertarianism that is not already found in God's Word.


If there is any hope of a better society on earth than the one we have it will be as more individuals, families, nations, and states are transformed by the Spirit of God and come under His Sovereignty and the authority of His Word, not by adopting the fantasy of libertarianism.

Monday, April 10, 2017

An Ignominious Anniversary

Last week, Thursday, April 6, was the 100th anniversary of the entry of the United States into World War I, which put a brutal end to a long period of relative American international non-interventionism. It is likely that the outcome of the war was influenced for the worse by our country's entry into it. In any case, the only winner in that war was The State.

For a dramatic narrative of the war listen to Dan Carlin's Blueprint For Armageddon. It is, as of this publication, still in his current episodes and, consequently, free. Dan is an odd sort of Statist, but his historical accounts are first-rate and worth every minute of your time.

For a discussion that you probably did not hear in the public schools, try Tom Woods's April 5 interview with Hunt Tooley, "The U.S. Enters World War I: Wilson’s Folly Revisited, a Century Later."

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sojourners?

The sermon at the church where I attended today was an examination of Exodus 22:16 through Exodus 23:19, with particular attention paid to the concept of "social justice", which happens to be the heading for the passage beginning at 22:16, as applied by the publishers of the English Standard Version.

The Pastor prefaced his remarks with a good warning regarding the baggage associated with the term "social justice" and the danger of using it as an uninspired heading for the verses it attempted to summarize. We should let the Bible tell us what justice is, he said. I agree.

He then read the entire passage in a slow, deliberate, and reverential manner. His sermon categorized the verses as being related to justice in either a vertical way (with respect to God) or horizontally (with respect to one-another), with particular attention paid to the weak or vulnerable. Most of the remaining time was given to the exegesis of each of the verses in the passage, without omitting any of them. Furthermore, the text was treated as authoritative.

This is something that is rare in my experience: an extended reading of the Old Testament followed by an exegetical sermon which promotes the authority and applicability of the text, without transforming it to a modern personalized and spiritualized message. It was very refreshing.

However, the pastor did make an excursion of sorts in his discussion of two of the passages, Exodus 22:21 and 23:9, as related to the current event of the contested travel ban issued by President Trump in his first week in office.
“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt." (22:21)
"You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt." (23:9)
He recommended a book, The Immigration Crisis, by James K. Hoffmeier, and referred to it regarding the various categories and distinctions of the inhabitants of the land of Israel: citizens, foreigners, and sojourners. Sojourners, the subject of the two verses, were legal and permanent residents who had adopted the laws, customs, and religious beliefs and practices of Israel.

Strangely, even after citing the book, no real mention of the book's contents or conclusions were mentioned. In fact, the two passages above were treated in a way that left me with the impression that they were directly applicable to the current situation of immigration and refugees that dominate international attention.

The Pastor did say that it is important to note that Scripture does not say how many strangers or sojourners a nation is to allow and that Christians should make allowances for differences of opinion on the subject, and he did highlight the distinction between foreigners (visitors) and sojourners, but otherwise the two verses regarding sojourners were not closely examined in their original context, nor was there much analysis of their applicability in the current crisis.

Hoffmeier, however is more clear on the matter. In an article summarizing some of his book's observations he says the following.
"From the foregoing texts we can conclude that in the ancient biblical world, countries had borders that were protected and respected, and that foreigners who wanted to reside in another country had to obtain some sort of permission in order to be considered an alien with certain rights and privileges. The delineation between the “alien” or “stranger” (ger) and the foreigner (nekhar or zar) in biblical law is stark indeed. The ger in Israelite society, for instance, could receive social benefits such as the right to glean in the fields (Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 24:19-22) and they could receive resources from the tithes (Deuteronomy 26:12-13). In legal matters, “there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the LORD. One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you” (Numbers 15:15-16). In the area of employment, the ger and citizen were to be paid alike (Deuteronomy 24:14-15). In all these cases, no such provision is extended to the nekhar or zar. In a sense, the ger were not just aliens to whom social and legal protections were offered, but were also considered converts, and thus could participate in the religious life of the community, e.g. celebrate Passover (Exodus 12:13) and observe Yom Kippur, the day of atonement (Leviticus 16:29-30). They were, moreover, expected to keep dietary and holiness laws (Leviticus 17:8-9 & 10-12). It is well known that within Israelite society, money was not to be lent with interest, but one could loan at interest to a foreigner (nekhar). These passages from the Law make plain that aliens or strangers received all the benefits and protection of a citizen, whereas the foreigner (nekhar) did not. It is wrong, therefore, to confuse these two categories of foreigners and then to use passages regarding the ger as if they were relevant to illegal immigrants of today." (Emphases mine.)
There are other observations that, I think, should be made regarding the text concerning sojourners in Exodus, in light of the rest of the Law.

  • Israel was a people apart from all other nations, devoted to the one true God.
  • Israel had very definite boundaries.
  • There was to be no mixing with the nations, no intermarriage with pagans, and no cultural "exchanges".
  • As the laws prohibiting all forms of idolatry make clear, no sojourners would be permitted to worship any god but the one true God. (E.g. 22:20) There was to be no religious toleration. Period.
  • Sojourners were few in number.
  • Sojourners were not to be permitted to create cultural enclaves.
  • Sojourners were not permitted to practice their imported national laws.
  • Sojourners were not permitted to subvert the culture and worship of Israel.
  • There was no category in Israel that is equivalent to an "illegal alien."
  • Unless fully incorporated into a specific tribe and family via marriage, a sojourner was without inheritance in the land of Israel.
  • Certainly, mass-immigration, or, statistically significant numbers of sojourners, would not have been permitted.
  • Certainly, mass-illegal-immigration would have been seen as equivalent to invasion.
  • The law regarding sojourners was to remind Israel that the sojourner had accepted the Law, people, and God of Israel as their own. They were not foreigners any longer. Simply treating them with compassion was not the only point of the verses.
  • Undoubtedly, visiting foreigners were also not to be mistreated and oppressed, but such common charity was covered elsewhere in the law.

Christians, too, should deal with all people with charity and compassion, whether they are foreigners, citizens, or sojourners as long as they are respecters of the laws of God and man. There are limits to charity and compassion.


The United States is not Israel and the massive numbers of immigrants, legal or otherwise, do not resemble the sojourners within ancient Israel in any meaningful way. Therefore, I conclude that Exodus 22:21 and 23:9 are not applicable in a direct way to our current immigration crisis.

However, I do believe that the concept of sojourner is applicable and that a nation that wants to preserve itself as a nation, especially if that nation is a Christian one (II Corinthians 6:14 - 7:1), should model its immigration policy after that of ancient Israel.

Immigrants should be relatively few. Immigrants should not be permitted to import their foreign gods or cultures. Immigrants should not be permitted to form enclaves that are resistant to the native culture or that undermine the native culture. Immigrants should fully embrace the law, culture, and worship of their new nation.

There is a lot of secular Progressivism and neo-Babelism today that masquerades as compassionate Christianity. Today's sermon was certainly not that, however it left open the door for very easy misinterpretation.

If the Church wants to be shaping the nation's future, rather than continuing to be swept along by events and continually reacting defensively and fearfully to them, it will have to deal with the issue of mass-immigration in a more thoroughly and comprehensively Biblical way.


UPDATE: I have since read The Immigrant Crisis. It is a easy read, being essentially an extended version of the article to which I link above. There is nothing essentially new or different in the book, compared with the article, but it is much more comprehensive and is worth reading, nonetheless. Aside from a comment or two near the end, when the author strays from exegesis into commentary, I can recommend it.