Monday, September 28, 2009

Blog Tour: 9/20 - 9/26

Wherein I look around the web - hopefully once a week - and draw some attention to things I see there that interest me.

If you want to know where I go, look at the links on the left of my blog under "Places I Frequent". From there, I will go places those places may point me. Typically, I will also list up to three of my favorite posts from the current Christian Carnival - and may go somewhere those blogs take me.

Sometimes they will be topically organized, and sometimes just in order of the links I visited. Enjoy:

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Romans 5:1-2
"We Have Peace with God "

[The index for the series is here.]

I am using the Pastor's titles for these posts. The appropriate links are:

The text:

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Speaking Truth to Power?

"Speaking truth to power" is not a phrase that one hears very often either from political or theological conservatives. I always assumed that it just had to do with someone who was a theological or political liberal having used it; and that it was picked up in one of those cultures. It has always felt presumptuous to me.

However, I have never seen a critique of the phrase. Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed pointed me to a "an old blog that deserves a wide readership" - and if this post is any indication then I agree.

The name of the site, and the author, is Allan R. Bevere; and he speaks

"On Why The Church in America Cannot Speak Truth to Power"
". . . perhaps the most useless political phrase of all is the high-sounding but irrelevant phraseology of "speaking truth to power." -- Allan Bevere

Bevere gives two reasons:
  1. the vast majority of Christians in America have accepted the Constantinian notion that the primary political task of the church is to rule, to be in charge. What that means at the very least is that Christians are to play a prophetic role in the political court of Washington DC.

  2. it means that most Christians have accepted the modern dichotomies of left/right, liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican
"And therein is the heart of the problem. That most Christians in America believe that the church's primary role is to affect policy in Washington DC betrays the mistaken belief that the primary political action in this world is to be found in the White House and on Capitol Hill, when the New Testament clearly indicates that the primary agency of politics is located in nothing less than the community of faith known as the church. In order for the church to speak truth to power it must recover its unique polity apart from the earthly polity known as the nation state; for it is God and not the nations who rules the world.

My great concern is that when Christians in America want to play the role of prophet in Pharaoh's court, they end up looking, not like the wise sage, but the court jester that gets used by the king for his or her own comical and unsavory purposes.

The people of God have been co-opted; it is time for the church to recover the politics of witness." -- Allan Bevere
One of the examples Allan uses is feeding the poor:
For Christians to be concerned for the poor, the outcasts, and those on the fringes of society is a given. The problem is that it is not always clear how Christians should care for such persons.
Another writer who tried to lift Kingdom priorities over politcal priorities was J. Budziszewski in his two essays on political liberalism:
The second moral error of political liberalism is expropriationism. According to this notion I may take from others to help the needy, giving nothing of my own; according to Christianity I should give of my own to help the needy, taking from no one. We might call expropriationism the Robin Hood fallacy. Today, the expropriationist is usually a propitiationist too, confusing the needy with some subset of the merely wanty. So we are speaking of a style of politics in which the groups in power decide for us which of their causes our wealth is to support, taking that wealth by force
and political conservatism:
The eighth moral error of political conservatism is meritism. According to this notion I should do unto others as they deserve. With the addition of mammonism, matters become even simpler, for then those who need help are by definition undeserving, while those in a position to help are by definition deserving. That meritism is not a Christian doctrine comes as a surprise to many people. Large numbers think the meritist motto “God helps those who help themselves” is a quotation from the Bible. What the New Testament actually teaches is that in what we need most, we are helpless; the grace of God is an undeserved gift. According to Christianity I should do unto others not as they deserve, but as they need.
Read the rest of Allan Bevere's thought-provoking post; and I would suggest you put his blog on your reading schedule - I am going to.

I even like his quote of the week from G.K. Chesterson:
"The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected."

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

About Me

I recently discovered a blog called Fundamentally Changed which has fundamentally changed my view of the word "fundamentalist", and being called a "Fundamentalist". I am not sure the word (like "Evangelical") can be resurrected from what secular society has done to it, but at least I do not need to feel insulted anymore when someone calls me one.

Jason, one of the bloggers at Fundamentally Changed, noticed that I was beginning to link them in some of my stuff and put them on my reading list on my sideboard. He did something that really hasn't happened to me up to now (and is, in my opinion, really cool) - he sent me an email:

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Romans 4:18-25
"Abraham's Faith - and Ours"

[The index for the series is here.]

I am using the Pastor's titles for these posts. The appropriate links are:

The text:

(NET) Romans 4:18 Against hope Abraham31 believed32 in hope with the result that he became the father of many nations33 according to the pronouncement,34 “so will your descendants be.”35 19 Without being weak in faith, he considered36 his own body as dead37 (because he was about one hundred years old) and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He38 did not waver in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. 21 He was39 fully convinced that what God40 promised he was also able to do. 22 So indeed it was credited to Abraham41 as righteousness. 23 But the statement it was credited to him42 was not written only for Abraham’s43 sake, 24 but also for our sake, to whom it will be credited, those who believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He44 was given over45 because of our transgressions and was raised for the sake of46 our justification.47
31 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

32 tn Grk “who against hope believed,” referring to Abraham. The relative pronoun was converted to a personal pronoun and, because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.

33 sn A quotation from
Gen 17:5.
34 tn Grk “according to that which had been spoken.”
35 sn A quotation from
Gen 15:5.

36 tc Most mss (D F G Ψ 33 1881 M it) read “he did not consider” by including the negative particle (οὐ, ou), but others (א A B C 6 81 365 1506 1739 pc co) lack οὐ. The reading which includes the negative particle probably represents a scribal attempt to exalt the faith of Abraham by making it appear that his faith was so strong that he did not even consider the physical facts. But “here Paul does not wish to imply that faith means closing one’s eyes to reality, but that Abraham was so strong in faith as to be undaunted by every consideration” (TCGNT 451). Both on external and internal grounds, the reading without the negative particle is preferred.

37 tc ‡ Most witnesses (א A C D Ψ 33 M bo) have ἤδη (ēdē, “already”) at this point in v. 19. But B F G 630 1739 1881 pc lat sa lack it. Since it appears to heighten the style of the narrative and since there is no easy accounting for an accidental omission, it is best to regard the shorter text as original. NA27 includes the word in brackets, indicating doubt as to its authenticity.

38 tn Grk “And he.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, δέ (de) has not been translated here.

39 tn Grk “and being.” Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.

40 tn Grk “he”; the referent (God) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
41 tn Grk “him”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
42 tn A quotation from
Gen 15:6.
43 tn Grk “his”; the referent (Abraham) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

44 tn Grk “who,” referring to Jesus. The relative pronoun was converted to a personal pronoun and, because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.

45 tn Or “handed over.”
sn The verb translated given over (παραδίδωμι, paradidōmi) is also used in Rom 1:24, 26, 28 to describe God giving people over to sin. But it is also used frequently in the gospels to describe Jesus being handed over (or delivered up, betrayed) by sinful men for crucifixion (cf., e.g., Matt 26:21; 27:4; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33; 15:15; Luke 20:20; 22:24; 24:7). It is probable that Paul has both ideas in mind: Jesus was handed over by sinners, but even this betrayal was directed by the Father for our sake (because of our transgressions).
46 tn Grk “because of.” However, in light of the unsatisfactory sense that a causal nuance would here suggest, it has been argued that the second διά (dia) is prospective rather than retrospective (D. Moo, Romans [NICNT], 288–89). The difficulty of this interpretation is the structural balance that both διά phrases provide (“given over because of our transgressions…raised because of our justification”). However the poetic structure of this verse strengthens the likelihood that the clauses each have a different force.

47 sn Many scholars regard Rom 4:25 to be poetic or hymnic. These terms are used broadly to refer to the genre of writing, not to the content. There are two broad criteria for determining if a passage is poetic or hymnic: “(a) stylistic: a certain rhythmical lilt when the passages are read aloud, the presence of parallelismus membrorum (i.e., an arrangement into couplets), the semblance of some metre, and the presence of rhetorical devices such as alliteration, chiasmus, and antithesis; and (b) linguistic: an unusual vocabulary, particularly the presence of theological terms, which is different from the surrounding context” (P. T. O’Brien, Philippians [NIGTC], 188–89). Classifying a passage as hymnic or poetic is important because understanding this genre can provide keys to interpretation. However, not all scholars agree that the above criteria are present in this passage.

Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
From the Notesheet:
  • Sermon Notes: As Carl promised, this is a practical lesson in having and strengthening faith -- using the example of Abraham.

    • So, what did Abraham do?
      1. He faced the facts (without weakening in his faith).
      2. He did not waver through unbelief.
      3. He grew stronger in his faith.
      4. He gave glory to God.
      5. He was persuaded God could do what he promised to do.

    • Carl drew these practical lessons for us:
      • And we also must not allow circumstances and appearances to determine what we will believe… hope… trust… live out…
      • We must know what God has promised to us, and be confident in His power to do what He promised
      • We must choose to hope in God – when there is no hope in the world.
      • God calls each of us to a growing experience of life—of focusing on God, believing God, loving God, honoring God, worshiping God, relying on God, serving God, etc…

  • Going Deeper into the Word:
    1. How can we have “hope” -- when situations appear “hopeless”?
    2. How can we grow in not being controlled by circumstances?
    3. How are you “strengthened in faith”?
    4. Are we “fully persuaded” God will do what He promised to do?
    5. What is “justification”?

Next: 5:1-2 -- "We Have Peace With God"

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blog Tour: 9/13 - 9/19

Wherein I look around the web - hopefully once a week - and draw some attention to things I see there that interest me.

If you want to know where I go, look at the links on the left of my blog under "Places I Frequent". From there, I will go places those places may point me. Typically, I will also list up to three of my favorite posts from the current Christian Carnival - and may go somewhere those blogs take me.

Sometimes they will be topically organized, and sometimes just in order of the links I visited. Enjoy:

Read more!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Romans 4:16-17
"The Promise Comes by Faith"

[Crossposted to Street Prophets. The index for the series is here.]

I am using the Pastor's titles for these posts. The appropriate links are:

The text:

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Must I Confront "Bad" Christians?

I spend a lot of time actually discussing religion and politics with folks who are neither political or theological conservatives. This is primarily at a "faith and politics" site called Street Prophets. I have been there long enough that I am a part of the community - at least in the sense that "crazy uncle Ernie" is part of your family; or the pit bull barking at you when you walk by is part of your neighborhood (Just kidding - mostly - I have good friends there as well). Maybe you would be happy if they both disappeared, but it would change your world.

One of the drawbacks of it is that I have to deal with a question like

Where were the shocked and outraged evangelical reactions when Falwell and Robertson both asserted that God made (or permitted--a fine distinction) 9/11 to happen, and that it was the fault of gays, liberals, feminists, pagans and so forth?
This question is not unique to me. Muslims who aren't terrorists have to answer it, atheists complain of having to answer for some of their ilk, (and liberals, and conservatives, and Republicans, and Democrats, and . . .) are all expected to have denounced any nutcases in their particular tribe.

The implication is if droves of Evangelicals do not stand up and bash "our leaders" everytime one of them stands on a stage and makes a fool of themselves - then we are responsible for their buffoonery.

In my opinion, I really am only responsible for:
  • The Bible - and only because I believe in sola scriptura; and its inspiration and inerrancy
  • What I personally draw from and hold as my theology from the Bible and other sources
  • My church and the words of my Pastor that I publish and agree to
Let's talk about this:

  1. Our leaders -- Amy Sullivan said it well:
    the evangelical community (and even the conservative evangelical community) is very diverse and doesn't have one acknowledged leader.
    She went to give a list - but it showed how impossible making a list is. The folks she mentioned are on as broad a theological and political spectrum as can be imagined.

    My leaders have been my pastors - the teachers that work through scripture with me.

  2. Handling those leaders mistakes -- Going to scripture, as I usually will, I can see that if I am going to correct a fellow follower of Christ that I have to:

    • Be humble and do not judge:
      Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive. 3 Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? 5 You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
      Romans 2:1 Therefore you are without excuse, whoever you are, when you judge someone else. For on whatever grounds you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment is in accordance with truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think, whoever you are, when you judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?
    • Remember who their boss is:
      Exhortation to Mutual Forbearance
      Romans 14:1 Now receive the one who is weak in the faith, and do not have disputes over differing opinions. 2 One person believes in eating everything, but the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not despise the one who does not, and the one who abstains must not judge the one who eats everything, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on another’s servant? Before his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
    • Do it in love:
      1 John 2:9 The one who says he is in the light but still hates his fellow Christian is still in the darkness. 10 The one who loves his fellow Christian resides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who hates his fellow Christian is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
      1 Corinthians 13:2 And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
    • Do it to lift them up:
      Ephesians 4:29 You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear.
    • and, do it in private, in person, and with as few people involved as possible:
      Restoring Christian Relationships
      Matthew 18: 15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector.
That should make it clear how difficult it is for followers of Christ to satisfy their non-Christian critics when it comes to public denunciations of folks within our ranks who sin.

One side issue: we are often accused of saying someone is "not a Christian" when they act badly. If I have given that impression, I wish to go on record (or point to C.S. Lewis's record) with how I view it:
It is not for us to say who, in the deepest sense, is or is not close to the spirit of Christ. We do not see into men's hearts. We' cannot judge, and are indeed forbidden to judge. It would be wicked arrogance for us to say that any man is, or is not, a Christian in this refined sense. And obviously a word which we can never apply is not going to he a very useful word . . .

We must therefore stick to the original, obvious meaning. The name Christians was first given at Antioch (
Acts xi. 26) to 'the disciples', to those who accepted the teaching of the apostles. There is no question of its being restricted to those who profited by that teaching as much as they should have. There is no question of its being extended to those who in some refined, spiritual, inward fashion were 'far closer to the spirit of Christ' than the less satisfactory of the disciples. The point is not a theological or moral one. It is only a question of using words so that we can all understand what is being said. When a man who accepts the Christian doctrine lives unworthily of it, it is much clearer to say he is a bad Christian than to say he is not a Christian.
Now, this is a very Biblical examination of my responsibilities to my fellow follower of Christ when I think he has done wrong. However, from my experience, the general principles here are easily expanded outside of Christianity, and indeed outside of religion, to relations between folks in general.

Y'all can chat about that too if you wish

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Romans 4:9-15
"Only By Faith"

[Crossposted to Street Prophets. The index for the series is here.]

I am using the Pastor's titles for these posts. The appropriate links are:

The text:

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Blog Tour: 9/6 - 9/12

[Crossposted to Street Prophets]

Wherein I look around the web - hopefully once a week - and draw some attention to things I see there that interest me.

If you want to know where I go, look at the links on the left of my blog under "Places I Frequent". From there, I will go places those places may point me. Typically, I will also list up to three of my favorite posts from the current Christian Carnival - and may go somewhere those blogs take me.

Sometimes they will be topically organized, and sometimes just in order of the links I visited. Enjoy:

  • Christian Carnival posts:
    • Teresa at the New Mercy blog writes about a family breakup and also being in debt that made her feel embarrassed and unworthy.
      How do you go about cultivating a lifestyle of honesty when you are terribly embarrassed and even ashamed of yourself? I wasn't raised to tell people the truth about my problems or struggles. I wasn't familiar with letting people look into my personal growth or know about my issues. Also, I wasn't at all used to family breakup or creditors calling or choosing which bill to pay.
    • Is someone watching you? Actually, yes. To find out who and what to do about it, read the post entitled, "We're being watched" at the In Him We Live and Move and Have Our Being blog.
      So here we have two men from very different backgrounds – one practicing the Hindu faith throughout his life, the other a fallen-away Christian – both of whom object to Christianity on the basis of the behavior, actions, and appearance of Christians.
    • Tom of Thinking Christian reviews N.T. Wright's book, The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is in his post, "The Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Part One)"
      Early Christianity was, he writes, a kingdom-of-God movement, a resurrection movement, and a Messianic movement. From our distance these seem commonplace assertions, and if we try we can easily imagine coming up with a set of religious fables to support such thinking. This is why Wright emphasizes the historical setting so strongly, though; for these ways of thinking, in the forms they appeared in early Christianity, were completely foreign to the culture in which Christianity arose.
  • At Sharper Iron, Dr. Kevin Bauder has started a series on Fundamentalism
    The last sustained history of fundamentalism to be published by a fundamentalist was David Beale's In Pursuit of Purity1. Nearly a generation has passed since Beale finished writing his book. During that time the landscape of fundamentalism has altered significantly.
    I read the first four posts, and it seems like a pretty insightful series on the philosophical, theological roots and current state of Fundamentalism [HT: Fundamentally Changed]

  • Last week, I mentioned that Iraq and Syria were at odds, with the President of Iraq calling for international investigation. This week Iraq's Presidency council criticizes Maliki over standoff with Syria
    The Iraqi presidency council called for "containing the situation with neighboring Syria and for cooperation between the two countries to resolve disputes through dialogue and diplomatic channels".A statement released after the council's meeting in Sulaymaniyah stressed the need to do what is in the best interest of both countries and to prevent "enemies" from using one country against the other.
  • Rick Moran at Rightwing Nuthouse thinks, along with Ezra Klein, that "The Baucus Reform Plan has Some Merit"
    Senate Finance chairman Max Baucus has labored long, hard - and in secret - to produce an 18 page summary of what Ezra Klein refers to as a “Not that bad health care bill.” The fact that I agree with Klein shouldn’t worry you. The irony is that he sees fault where I see merit and vice versa.

    That should make both liberals and conservative heads explode.
  • So, "Did Paul Invent Jesus' Deity?" Stand to Reason looks at a new book due to come out:
    Philip Pullman, author of the childrens book series His Dark Materials that arguably portray an atheistic worldview, will release a new book next year recycling an old argument that is contradicted by the majority and most recent scholarship. In a book that appears will be a mix of fiction and non-fiction, Pullman will argue that "St. Paul came up with the 'story' that Jesus had a divine link." He claims that "by the time the gospels were being written, Paul had already begun to transform the story of Jesus into something altogether new and extraordinary, and some of his version influenced what the gospel writers put in theirs." Jesus' divinity is a product of Paul's "fervid imagination."
  • At Street Prophets there is a diary about "How to Build an Atheist in Two Hours". For followers of Christ who seek to evangelize, this (and some of the diaries it links) should be a "how NOT to evangelize" primer - starting with the ambush of a 14 year old boy at a science camp in North Carolina.
    when a guy who’s name is "Scat" puts up a sign up sheet called "Rock and Roll, Funk and Soul: The history of the music we listen to" and specifically invites me to attend, it sounds like it’s going to be a good time. The warning I missed was how precise my invitation was and that I was given a unique responsibility that night:

    "Hey Joe! I’m holding a session tonight about music, man. And I saw that great collection of Rock T-shirts you have. Boy, those are really great. I could use them in my presentation. Would you mind bringing them along?"

    Well, that sounds friendly enough, and at age 14 I had not yet learned to be so suspicious of anyone who’s always that happy and energetic. So, like the clueless fool I was, I showed up looking forward to a great time about music history, and having some part in the story. Little did I know what my part was . . .
    His best comment, to me, was:
    What you should take away from this story, in my opinion, is that if the labels of "faithful", "Christians" – whatever stereotypical name we use to grossly oversimplify and identify one group is offensive to you then I’ve done my job. For the same reason "atheist", "secularists" is injurious to me when it’s used to hold me accountable for individual acts of others that I personally had no part it, I understand your distress. So if you’re tired and indignant of being shouldered with the burden of what "those" Christians do, which of course no Christian as you understand it should ever do, then you need to be talking to those Christians and tell them to cut it out.
    I only partially agree with the last part - it is only my responsibility when I can do so in love in a situation where we are under the same discipline/leadership. However, in posting this I am making it clear that if the reader thinks what the camp counselor did is OK - I think you really need to rethink your concept of personal evangelism.

  • Jan at A View from Her looks at "cows, cars, shoes, relationships":
    So it’s been awhile since we’ve had a frank discussion about sex, and today I find myself “in the mood” (pun intended). To be more specific, rather a discussion about the fine art of not having sex, if you’re a single disciple of Jesus, or just a woman of higher than average intelligence.
  • Heard about this?:
    The furor over President Obama's trillion-dollar restructuring of American health care has left his other trillion-dollar plan starved for attention. That's how much the federal balance sheet will expand over the next decade if Mr. Obama can convince Congress to approve his pending takeover of the student-loan market.

    The Obama plan calls for the U.S. Department of Education to move from its current 20% share of the student-loan origination market to 80% on July 1, 2010, when private lenders will be barred from making government-guaranteed loans. The remaining 20% of the market that is now completely private will likely shrink further as lenders try to comply with regulations Congress created last year. Starting next summer, taxpayers will have to put up roughly $100 billion per year to lend to students.
  • Read more!

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Romans 4:1-8
    "God's Economy - Everyone on Well-fare"

    [Crossposted to Street Prophets. The index for the series is here.]

    I am using the Pastor's titles for these posts. The appropriate links are:

    The text:

    Read more!

    Wednesday, September 09, 2009

    Subsidiarity and Violence

    I have talked alot about subsidiarity:

    "As history abundantly proves, it is true that on account of changed conditions many things which were done by small associations in former times cannot be done now save by large associations. Still, that most weighty principle, which cannot be set aside or changed, remains fixed and unshaken in social philosophy: Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them." (Pope Pius XI, "On Reconstruction of the Social Order", 1931)
    On of the reasons for this is diminishing spontaneity:
    as a hierarchy of associations and relationships rise from the individuals and families at the base of the social structure (up to and including government), the higher the rung the less spontaneous it is and the more contrived; or, the higher you go the less help the structure gets from nature and the more help it needs from culture.
    So, as this article points out:
    [Subsidiarity] holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In other words, any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom. It conflicts with the passion for centralization and bureaucracy
    That is because the closer, and more organic, organization is the more natural organization and easiest for the folks affected to control.

    One thing I noticed (and haven't directly mentioned in connection with subsidiarity) when I wrote "The Era of Bloodshed" was (as mentioned by Conyers) that Hannah Arendt:
    suggested that where power, in the sense of effective action within a community is missing, violence takes its place. Moreover, once the institutions of government have outgrown the individual and the neighborhood, so that the very scale of governance no longer permits effective action for most people, then those people are more likely to take to the streets and address their grievances in destructive ways.
    If you are not just going to take things like the Tea Party movement and the outcry at the health care town halls as astroturfing, then you can see this feeling of ineffectiveness and lack of control beginning to explode into anger and violence.

    Even folks who supported President Obama are feeling the same: it seems to many that regardless of the promises made during the election, and the vote, and the control of Congress by the Democratics - that nothing has changed. Nothing. Arendt's critique still explains: we, the electorate, are simply to far from the "halls of power" to have any impact on policy - or at least not the same impact as the lobbyists sitting in their offices. Certainly not the same impact that organized citizens can have on city, county, and state governments.

    There was a reason the Federal Constitution left so many powers in the hands of the several states - and it has not been particularly good that the Federal government has moved more and more control, over more and more areas, into Washington D.C. One thing that political activists of all stripes need to realize - the Federal Government is too large, and too distant, for there to be effective citizen control.

    Read more!

    Monday, September 07, 2009

    Blog Tour: 8/30 - 9/5

    This re-initiates my old practice of looking around the web - hopefully once a week - and drawing some attention to things I see there that interest me.

    If you want to know where I go, look at the links on the left under "Places I Frequent". From there, I will go places those places may point me. Typically, I will also list three of my favorite posts from the current Christian Carnival - and may go somewhere those blogs take me.

    Sometimes they will be topically organized, and sometimes just in order of the links I visited. Enjoy:

  • Christian Carnival picks:
    • Shannon at The Minority Thinker examines why they are "Quitting Small Group". After having read it, I have to agree with these two statements:
      Over fifteen years, I have been part of almost a dozen small groups sponsored by three different churches; my husband has joined me in most of them. Never once have I developed a close friendship through one of these groups.
      We are told to confess our sins to each other [I tore a group up doing this], to restore each other, to love each other, to encourage each other, and to serve together as the body of Christ. I have rarely – if ever – seen these things happen in a small group. And if that kind of fellowship isn’t taking place regularly, why do we keep trying the same methods and hoping for different results? It seems to me it’s time for a new approach.
    • Henry at Participatory Bible Study Blog responds to:
      … The problem is this: when one takes a close look at the Bible in its original context, there is no evidence that the Bible is such a historically-situated divine revelation, that it is somehow ontologically different than other texts from antiquity and should be privileged or treated in a special way. …
      with "Indentifying Define Revelation"
  • President Obama's address to school children: I created a category for this expecting to see a bit of stuff on it - but there really wasn't much:
    • Jim at Volokh Conspiracy took a look back at the news articles, etc. connected with President George H.W. Bush's 1991 Speech to Schools.
      On WESTLAW, I looked up other news stories about the speech. It was eported as 10 minutes in some reports and 12 minutes in others. It was carried live on CNN, PBS, and [the NBC] and Mutual radio [networks]. The Secretary of Education sent a letter urging schools to have their students watch, but I didn’t find any evidence of how many schools followed that recommendation. And most striking: Bush laid out goals — to increase the graduation rate, improve student competency and better prepare students for entering school — and said, "Let me know how you're doing. Write me a letter. I'm serious about this one. Write me a letter about ways you can help us achieve our goals." [Written text is here - and wasn't checked against the tapes]
    • John Piper weighed in with "I Hope My Daughter Hears the President’s Speech":
      I am stunned at the outcry against the President of the United States speaking to the youth of this nation about the importance of education.

      I am embarrassed by the governor of my home state saying, that the president’s plan to address them is “disruptive . . . uninvited . . . and number three . . . I don’t think he needs to force it upon the nation’s school children.”

      This speech seems, for me, to be an answer to a prayer that I have prayed for the president repeatedly . . .
  • Jason S at Fundamentally Changed looks at how extreme fundamentalism can be involved in "Transgressing By Traditions":
    Today I call upon all of my fundamentalist brethren to honestly take the time to examine their doctrines and practices and see how they measure up to God’s Word, the five sola’s, and the historic fundamentals. If they don’t fit that, they must be discarded, no matter how old, precious, and dear they are to us.
  • Iraq the Model this week is focusing on the crisis raised by Syria's apparent complicity in the August 19th bombing which killed 95 people and wounded 600. One of the stories began
    Iraq continues to insist on internationalizing the crisis with Syria, which began after Iraq demanded that Syria hands over senior Ba’ath Party members. Iraq now plans to persuade the international community to form an international criminal court, similar to the one investigating the assassination of the late Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stressed at a meeting with the Turkish FM that Iraq “will move forward to demand that the UN forms an international tribunal to prosecute those who committed ugly crimes that target Iraq’s stability and people and killed many innocent lives”.
  • Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed points to a book by
    David Bentley Hart, a historian of ideas, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies , has been our guide into some of the philosophical and historical issues at work among the new atheists like Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens. One of the implicit and sometimes explicit claims is that we are enlightened and that
    the secular state is safer than a religious-shaped state. To which Hart makes this statement, and he expresses the growing body of literature that both denies the myth of secularization (that all things are becoming more secular) and reveals the profound mischief of the secular state:
    "We live now in the wake of the most monstrously violent century in human history, during which the secular state (on both the political right and the political left), freed from the authority of religion, showed itself willing to kill on an unprecedented scale and with an ease of conscience worse than merely depraved. If ever an age deserved to be thought an age of darkness, it is surely ours. One might almost be tempted to conclude that secular government is the one form of government that has shown itself too violent, capricious, and unprincipled to be trusted" (106)
  • Jeremy at Parableman points to "Obama's Widely-Unpublicized Backtrack on Stem Cells" - belatedly for sure because it occurred a while back:
    2009 -- March 9th: President Obama rescinds Bush’s August 9, 2001 EO with his own EO entitled, “Removing Barriers To Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells.” The revocation of Bush’s EO is heralded as “lifting the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).” (this is the event found in the video offered above)

    This EO simultaneously revokes Bush EO # 13435 which has provided federal funding of successful IPSC research. This aspect of the order is not mentioned at the press conference.

    2009 -- March 11th: President Obama signs and renews the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which continues the ban on federal funding for ESCR that Obama claims to have lifted 2 days earlier. No announcement is made and no press conference is called.
    Notice that now not only is there no federal funding of ESCR - President Obama removed President Bush's mandate of federal funding for IPSC research as well. Incidentally, Jeremy did what anyone should really do when confronted by such a reported contradiction between stated positions of politicians and their actual actions:
    When I first read this, I immediately wanted to find something to verify it. It was incredibly difficult to find an actual news story on it, since the mainstream media either suppressed it or never got the information on it. The one news story I could find was from a partisan organization, but it does give chapter and verse for where to find the language in the bill that does indeed do exactly what the story says it does. It's in Title V, section 509 of the Omnibus spending bill (page 128 of this PDF; it appears in full here). It repeats verbatim exactly the section that since 1996 has appeared in every such spending bill under President Clinton and President Bush.
  • Rick at Rightwing Nuthouse as been writing a whole series of articles about conservative reform - three in the last week. All of them are, to me, important for both folks on the right and the left to read.

  • Orin at Volokh Conspiracy looks at "al-Kidd v. Ashcroft: Is Pretextual Use of the Material Witness Statute Unconstitutional?":
    The Ninth Circuit handed down a fascinating and important case on preventive detention on Friday, and one that I suspect added a new case to the Supreme Court's docket next year: al-Kidd v. Ashcroft. The basic holding of the opinion is that the post-9/11 practice of using the material witness statute to detain suspected terrorists is not only unconstitutional, but clearly unconstitutional, and that former AG Ashcroft can be personally sued for his role in it. The majority opinion was written by Judge Milan Smith and joined by Judge Thompson; Judge Bea wrote a partial concurrence and partial dissent.

    There's a lot of coverage of the case in newspapers and around the web, but nothing that really delves into the legal questions. That's understandable, as the opinions in the case fill about 100 pages. But in this post, I wanted to delve into the legal questions and see if the court's opinion holds up to scrutiny.
    . . .
    Fortunately, this case is perfect for Supreme Court review: If the en banc Ninth Circuit passes on it, this case will give the Supreme Court an ideal opportunity to evaluate the very important question of how the Fourth Amendment applies to preventive detention.
  • Read more!

    Romans 3:27-31
    "One God, One Faith, One People"

    [Crossposted to Street Prophets. The index for the series is here.]

    I am using Carl Palmer's titles for these posts. The appropriate links are:

    The text:

    (NET) Romans 3:27 Where, then, is boasting?41 It is excluded! By what principle?42 Of works? No, but by the principle of faith! 28 For we consider that a person43 is declared righteous by faith apart from the works of the law.44 29 Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles too? Yes, of the Gentiles too! 30 Since God is one,45 he will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then nullify46 the law through faith? Absolutely not! Instead47 we uphold the law.

    41 tn Although a number of interpreters understand the “boasting” here to refer to Jewish boasting, others (e.g. C. E. B. Cranfield, “‘The Works of the Law’ in the Epistle to the Romans,” JSNT 43 [1991]: 96) take the phrase to refer to all human boasting before God.

    42 tn Grk “By what sort of law?”

    43 tn Here ἄνθρωπον (anthrōpon) is used in an indefinite and general sense (BDAG 81 s.v. ἄνθρωπος 4.a.γ).

    44 tn
    See the note on the phrase “works of the law” in Rom 3:20.

    45 tn Grk “but if indeed God is one.”

    46 tn Grk “render inoperative.”

    47 tn Grk “but” (Greek ἀλλά, alla).

    Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
    My Comments: A discussion I have had a few times recently is over the denotative and connotative meanings of "faith". One common thread of any number of pastors of mine has been that it is meaningless to discuss faith without discussing the object of that faith - and there are many possible objects. Folks will talk about faith in their boss, faith in the government (Ok, well, not so many there), faith in their own skills and abilities, or faith in the skills or abilities of others. Indeed:
    . . . faith is being sure of what we hope ["confident expection"] for, being convinced of what we do not see.
    This applies to many things. Imagine that Joe Blow has decided to drive across town to visit his mom. He has made this trip hundreds of times, and he knows he will easily be there in time to take his mom to dinner. He calls her and tells her he will be there in 45 minutes, asks where she would like to eat, and tells her he will take her to dinner. What Joe doesn't know is that a semi is going to jack-knife and roll on the freeway - stopping all traffic for 4 hours. This is going to happen right after he gets on the freeway and has no way off. His confident expectation is derailed by an unseen, and unseeable, event. In fact, the results of his trip were never seeable - but that didn't stop him from having faith in its outcome. His mom's faith in her son's timeliness is going to leave her hungry (and worried if he doesn't have a cell phone).

    It is faith in Christ or in God that Paul is talking about in this passage - and most of the time when people throw the word "faith" around it has some religious meaning. Even that is insufficient, there are folks with all sorts of different objects of their religious faith than Christ or His Father.

    When Paul talks here about "one God, one faith, one people" he is not saying that everyone in the world shares the same religious faith - he is saying that gentile and Jewish believers in Christ share "one God" and "one faith" and are "one people" because of that shared faith in Christ.

    Of course, I believe there is one God (and one God only) and wherever his "invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen" it is that God, recognized by the viewer or not, that has been seen. Like that famous elephant, we may all see different pieces but it is still just one elephant. Equally, I think followers of Christ do not have a complete view of God; but they see His Son - and His Son has proved His "creds" by His resurrection.

    Next: 4:1-8 -- "God's Economy - Everyone on Well-fare"

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    Saturday, September 05, 2009

    Little Twists of the Soul

    C.S. Lewis started his chapter on "Forgiveness" in Mere Christianity with:

    I said in a previous chapter that chastity was the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. But I am not sure I was right. I believe there is one even more unpopular. It is laid down in the Christian rule, 'Thou shaft love thy neighbour as thyself.' Because in Christian morals 'thy neighbour' includes 'thy enemy,' and so we come up against this terrible duty of forgiving our enemies.
    Forgiveness is certainly not just a Christian virture, nor is the direction to love your enemy - many religions and spiritual disciplines share it. Indeed, I am confident that modern psychology would agree that folks who harbor unforgiveness and/or anger towards another harm themeselves far worse than object of that emotion.

    Certainly Lewis's address came at an interesting time - it was given in England over the radio sometime in 1943. This was when Hitler and Fascism were a very real power and not just the subject of Godwin's Law. Lewis:
    Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war. And then, to mention the subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger. It is not that people think this too high and difficult a virtue: it is that they think it hateful and contemptible. 'That sort of talk makes them sick,' they say. And half of you already want to ask me, I wonder how you'd feel about forgiving the Gestapo if you were a Pole or a Jew?'
    Indeed, today in the US there are folks who would have the exact same reaction toward forgiving Republicans, or Democrats, or . . . well, you fill in your blank here. As we come out of the epidemic of Bush Derangement Syndromes, and see increasing instances - both on the right and the left - of Obama Derangement Syndrome; it might be time to look at forgiving our enemies, what that means, and why we should do it. Certainly, for a follower of Christ the need was made clear - there are so many Gospel messages (Matt, Mark, Luke, John) about forgiving not just your friends but your enemies that I will not even bother listing them here (unusual for me).

    Lewis really looks at the process for loving our enemies - connecting it to loving others as ourselves.
    Now that I come to think of it, I have not exactly got a feeling of fondness or affection for myself, and I do not even always enjoy my own society. So apparently 'Love your neighbour' does not mean 'feel fond of him' or 'find him attractive'. I ought to have seen that before, because, of course, you cannot feel fond of a person by trying. Do I think well of myself, think myself a nice chap? Well, I am afraid I sometimes do (and those are, no doubt, my worst moments) but that is not why I love myself. In fact it is the other way round: my self-love makes me think myself nice, but thinking myself nice is not why I love myself. So loving my, enemies does not apparently mean thinking them nice either. That is an enormous relief. For a good many people imagine that forgiving your enemies means making out that they are really not such bad fellows after all, when it is quite plain that they are. Go a step further. In my most clear-sighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing. So apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do. Now that I come to think of it, I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man's actions, but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner.

    For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life - namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things. Consequently, Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them. Not one word of what we have said about them needs to be unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere he can be cured and made human again.
    Again, this may be the way to love our enemies - but the title of this post is based on the result that Lewis saw if we do not.
    Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad ass it was made out. Is one's first feeling, `Thank God, even they aren't quite so bad as that,' or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything - God and our friends and ourselves included - as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred. . .

    . . . what really matters is those little marks or twists on the central, inside part of the soul which are going to turn it, in the long run, into a heavenly or a hellish creature . . . In other words, something inside us, the feeling of resentment, the feeling that wants to get one's own back, must be simply killed. I do not mean that anyone can decide this moment that he will never feel it any more. That is not how things happen. I mean that every time it bobs its head up, day after day, year after year, all our lives long, we must hit it on the head. It is hard work, but the attempt is not impossible . . . we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves - to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured in fact, to wish his good. That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not.
    Again, I do not think modern secular psychology would disagree - hatred and anger eat up the person feeling without real harm to the one it is felt about. To paraphrase Michael Hargrove, a success trainer,
    if you feel anger toward someone for over a day - it is you that have the problem and not the person you are angry at. You are locked into "the problem" rather than seeking "the solution"

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