Archive for June, 2015

Summer Vacation

I am taking the rest of this week off. Do enjoy your Independence Day, and remember why it is being celebrated. I will return next week.

Homosexuality & Biblical Truth

I normally follow the Biblical pattern of a day of rest for this blog on Sundays. However, in light of the Supreme Court’s abominable decision on same-sex marriage (oxymoron alert!) this past Friday, I just want to use this space to offer some Biblical reminders.

The first one comes from Romans, chapter one:

Romans 1For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. . . .

Professing to be wise, they became fools. . . . Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie. . . .

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

In the first chapter of I Timothy, we read,

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious . . . for immoral men and homosexuals . . . and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.

And in I Corinthians, chapter 6, we are told,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals . . . will inherit the kingdom of God.

The next part, though, is encouraging:

HolinessSuch were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Our message needs to be twofold: clearly spelling out the sinfulness of homosexuality and how it separates the sinner from God, along with the stark truth that people can come out of that sin and be sanctified in Him and become part of His kingdom.

But one must “come out” first. It is a choice, not the result of one’s genetic code.

That’s not a message our current generation wants to hear, but Christians need to be faithful to this truth, even if that steadfast faithfulness leads to persecution. We must obey God rather than men.

Lewis, Learning, & War (Part Two)

C. S. Lewis 2C. S. Lewis’s ruminations on the need for learning, even during times of war or other periods of great stress, in his “Learning in War-Time” essay, are so fulsome that it requires more than one post to cover his key points. This installment focuses on the life of the scholar, so it has special meaning to me.

“The intellectual life,” Lewis explains, “is not the only road to God, nor the safest, but we find it to be a road, and it may be the appointed road for us.” He then points out the greatest danger on this road:

Of course, it will be so only so long as we keep the impulse pure and disinterested. That is the great difficulty. As the author of the Theologia Germanica says, we may come to love knowledge—our knowing—more than the thing known: to delight not in the exercise of our talents but in the fact that they are ours, or even in the reputation they bring us.

Let me interject here that I realize this danger clearly in my own life. It’s so easy to write something and hope that it will get published and solidify one’s reputation as a scholar “with something important to say.” I have to go back to the Lord continually to keep my heart right on this point. Sometimes, when we achieve our goals, we are at the height of the danger. As Lewis notes,

Every success in the scholar’s life increases this danger. If it becomes irresistible, he must give up his scholarly work. The time for plucking out the right eye has arrived.

Yet we are not to allow the threat to keep us from pursuing God’s call on our life, as long as we keep our hearts right before Him. And God does want His people in this field, able to answer challenges and help direct the thoughts of others:

To be ignorant and simple now—not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground—would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defence but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen.

Then comes the phrasing I have seen others refer to most often in this essay:

Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.

As a historian, I appreciate, in particular, his next few thoughts:

History CloudMost of all, perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion.

Probably the second-most quoted portion of this essay comes next:

A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.

Shall we now add “the Facebook postings and Twitter tweets” of this newest age?

Yes, we need a sense of history to see the full context of the drama playing out in our day. Thanks to Lewis, we have that reminder today.

No More Rule of Law?

The rule of law suffered another blow yesterday, as did common sense and the meaning of words. We owe this all to the United States Supreme Court.

John RobertsObamacare lives (sort of) still. In a 6-3 decision, as explained by Chief Justice John Roberts, the federal subsidies survived the legal challenge (sort of). Actually, the wording of the Obamacare law was disregarded and the federal subsidies were judged to be constitutional simply because Roberts and the other five justices who followed him, decided that exchanges set up by the states meant either the states or the federal government.

That’s right. We no longer worry about the words in the laws themselves; instead, we infer what the drafters of the law really intended. Surely they meant that all subsidies, whether state or federal, were intended, even though the law explicitly says only exchanges set up by the states are allowed to provide those subsidies.

Our topsy-turvy government world continues to amaze and confound us.

Antonin Scalia 2Justice Antonin Scalia, in a stinging dissent, took the Court to task for this violation of its constitutional role. Here are some quotes from his dissent:

“We should start calling this law SCOTUScare … [T]his Court’s two decisions on the Act will surely be remembered through the years … And the cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and it prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.”

“Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is ‘established by the State.’”

“Under all the usual rules of interpretation, in short, the Government should lose this case. But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved.”

“Perhaps sensing the dismal failure of its efforts to show that ‘established by the State’ means ‘established by the State or the Federal Government,’ the Court tries to palm off the pertinent statutory phrase as ‘inartful drafting.’ This Court, however, has no free-floating power ‘to rescue Congress from its drafting errors.”

“Rather than rewriting the law under the pretense of interpreting it, the Court should have left it to Congress to decide what to do about the Act’s limitation of tax credits to state Exchanges.”

I could have included more, but you get the drift. That last quote points to the fact that this Supreme Court decision, despite what President Obama says, does not have to be the last word.

Congress, if it can garner the courage, can always overturn this despicable law and the equally despicable decision the Court announced yesterday. Now is the time—well past the time, really—to rally around alternative measures to ensure health coverage is available to all, at affordable prices, in a competitive marketplace.

Where is courage when we need it?

On Flags, Confederate & American

On the Confederate flag flap, I’m going to probably confound some people with my comments. I am in complete agreement with removing the flag wherever it is an official symbol of a state government. At the same time, I’m profoundly concerned about the precedent this will set as the more radical portion of our political class attempts to extend their reach into other areas. Those views may sound contradictory initially, but if you stay with me, you’ll understand why I take the position I do.

I must deal first with the history and the constitutional issues. When the Southern states seceded from the Union, they did so on the basis of believing that the nation was merely a compact agreed upon by the states, and that any state was free to leave at any time for whatever reason.

That view, while earnestly held by Southerners at the time, is not accurate historically. The switch from the Articles of Confederation—which was in the nature of a treaty-like compact—to the Constitution was also a switch in the status of the nation-state relationship.

ConstitutionThe Constitution begins with the words “We the People,” not “We the States.” In fact, that is one big reason why Patrick Henry and other opponents of ratification argued against its adoption. They realized it was a change in status. State governments did not create this nation; rather, state conventions called particularly for the purpose of considering ratification made that decision.

As Lincoln observed later, the only way for a state to secede constitutionally was to once again become part of a convention that then sent out to the states a proposal for a state or states to withdraw from the Union. If ratified by conventions of the people in the various states, then they could leave peacefully.

That’s not what the Southern states did. They simply declared they were out.

As for the reasons for secession, those can be found very easily in the written declarations made by a number of those states. If you read them carefully, you will find that the overwhelming reason was concern over whether the federal government would end slavery.

What about states’ rights? Wasn’t that the key issue? Again, if you read those declarations, you will see that states’ rights was invoked for one purpose and one purpose only: to protect and propagate slavery.

Alexander StephensFurther proof is found in the famous/infamous “Cornerstone” speech by Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, in which he says the Founders were wrong about one major point: the equality of the races. Stephens makes it clear in this speech that the Confederacy was founded on a different idea: the inferiority of Africans, their God-given place in society as slaves, and the superiority of the white race.

Again, if you doubt this, check it out for yourself.

Slavery, then, is at the root of the secession and the setting up of the Confederate government.

The Southerners also used the example of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 as the precedent for what they were doing. However, there are huge differences in the historical context of that document and what was transpiring in America in 1860-1861.

If the South could prove they were denied basic rights, as the colonies explained in 1776, no problem. However, let’s consider the following questions:

  • First, did the Southern states lose representation in Congress? Answer: not at all. In fact, if they had not seceded, they still would have had a majority in the Congress. The only thing going against them was a Republican president, but he could not rule arbitrarily without Congress.
  • Second, did the Southern states lose self-government within their own states? Again, not at all. They maintained their own legislatures and could make their own laws.
  • Third, was any federal law passed that interfered with slavery in the states? Hardly. The entire history of the 1850s—from the Kansas-Nebraska Act to the Dred Scott decision by the Supreme Court—had favored the Southern view.
  • Fourth, did federal armed forces invade any state? What armed forces? The federal government had very little in the way of an armed force. The small contingent at Ft. Sumter in Charleston harbor was no threat. By the way, that fort had been ceded to the federal government by South Carolina. To suddenly declare that it was the state’s fort was more than dubious.

Therefore, I see no constitutional basis for the secession. I view it as a revolt against the legitimate authority of the United States government, one that Lincoln, as president, had every right to put down.

Consequently, I have no love for a symbol of a government that illegitimately rebelled against proper authority. Remove the flag, by all means.

Stars & StripesYet there are those concerns I mentioned at the beginning. Where will this lead? Already we are hearing voices saying all monuments from that era should be destroyed. One voice even questioned whether the Jefferson Memorial should be torn down. Another has concluded that the American flag itself should be shunned because America is the land of the “oppressor.”

That conveniently ignores that human societies throughout history have had slavery and that we, as a counterpoint to all that history, dared to challenge it—in a government symbolized by the Stars and Stripes. Thousands died en route to outlawing slavery. The government system that was established also eventually led to the elimination of segregation, that odious holdover from slavery days.

America is not the oppressor the radical Left seeks to portray. It is a nation that has had to struggle with the missteps and sins of the past and has overcome them (despite silly charges today of “white privilege” and “microaggressions”).

It is a nation that was born in the hope of justice for all, and which has achieved it to a greater degree than most others. The Left has an insatiable desire to destroy the good that has come down to us from the Founders, and it has an agenda to wipe out all trace of our heritage, based as it was on Biblical concepts of law and a Biblical view of morality.

So, yes, I applaud efforts to relegate the Confederate flag to museums, but not for the reasons some do. The South today is not overwhelmingly racist. Southerners who are nostalgic about their heritage are not full of hate. I see far more hatred and intolerance emanating from the Left than from any other source.

The Media & Our Perceptions

A short commentary today on how the media picks out what’s important to cover and how it may actually shape the perceptions of its audience. Take, for instance, this picture the Associated Press put out the other day:

Ted Cruz & Gun

Oh, said the AP, that was totally accidental. Right.

Negative Light

Meanwhile, if you depend on the mainstream news for your information, whether in print, on TV, or the Internet, you might be excused for thinking the whole flap over Hillary Clinton’s e-mails is no longer an issue. That would be a misleading perception, at odds with reality:

Meaning of All

Then there’s the Brian Williams saga. Dropped from NBC’s Nightly News because of his penchant for . . . well, bald-faced lying . . . he is now back. He’s been relegated to that joke of a news network known as MSNBC, but just the fact he’s going to be on the air again after what he has done is, frankly, unbelievable. They may yet regret this decision:

Reminds Me

Confidence in the mainstream media ought to be at an all-time low. I’m praying that more of the general public gets the message.

Charleston’s Testimony to the Power of the Gospel

What has occurred in the aftermath of the unconscionable murders in Charleston is a testament to the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The attitude of forgiveness in the hearts of family members who lost loved ones is a remarkable witness to how God’s love can erase bitterness.

That’s on a personal level, of course. Justice still needs to be meted out to the murderer. One can forgive while simultaneously seeking a just punishment for what he has done. God is a God of both mercy and justice—both need to be seen in this situation.

The other tremendous positive message coming out of Charleston is how the community has bonded together to show that racial harmony is achievable. This is no Ferguson or Baltimore. Again, this is another glowing testimony to how God can bridge any divide.

Charleston Cross

As for the victims of this horrendous act, if they were committed Christians, as their attendance at a midweek Bible study would indicate, they have received exactly what Jesus has promised to all of His followers: eternal life.

Blessed

May none succeed in exploiting this tragedy for political purposes. Instead, let’s rejoice that, even in the midst of such a tragedy, God can be honored.