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Archive for April, 2009

It’s funny how words change their meanings over time — or, perhaps, more accurately, how our perceptions of certain words change over time. Take the word “Protestant” for example. It is based upon the word “protest” and everyone knows that this implies being opposed to things. Thus, according to the Roman church’s take on history, the “Protestants” disagreed with the Church and didn’t like submitting to its authority and wanted to be able to teach whatever they thought the Bible taught (in contrast to Church tradition) and that’s why they came into existence. Protestants opposed the church, rebelled against it, and caused a great division. Sadly, this is not only the Roman church’s take on Protestant history, it is also the popular Protestant take on themselves. To be a Protestant is to be the personification of Opposition.

Words are powerful. They mold and shape; they build up or tear down; they form psychologies, ways of seeing, and self-identities. So it is. And the perception surrounding the word “protestant” has done a number on us.

The word “protest” originally meant (and of course, still means) “to affirm, declare, or attest” to something. It means, in the first place, affirming a truth or taking a positive stand for something. To protest is to be in favor of something rather than merely being “agin” it. Of course, if I protest something, I’m obviously against it’s contrary, so there is a negative aspect to “protesting” but the focus is upon affirmation rather than dissent. This is what the reformers were doing in the Reformation. They stood in favor of the truth revealed in the Word and called the Church to reform in those areas where it had departed from Biblical teaching. They stood to promote positive reformation; a return to a faith and practice that more closely conformed to the teachings of the Scripture. (more…)

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Iowa is still celebrating it’s entry into the ‘MODERN’ world this week. The state began issuing marriage licenses to homosexual “couples” (and let it be noted, there is NO mandatory three day waiting period). Ralph Smith, pastor of the Mitaka Evangelical Church (CREC) in Tokyo, Japan, made an observation about this that needs to be heard:

“It is interesting to me that the homosexuals, more than anyone else perhaps, understand that the real fight in America is about Christian ethics and ontology versus humanism.

It is the daily nuts and bolts reality of what Christian faith means that brings offense. We have to remember that there is no other religion or philosophy in the world that teaches “radical” monogamy. Only the Christian Bible (OT plus NT) teaches monogamy (though the OT teaches it, it is not so clear).

One-man-one-woman-for-life marriage is perhaps the most profoundly concrete cultural teaching of the Bible — the kind of thing that offended Aldus Huxley and his friends.

“For myself as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom; we objected to the political and economic system because it was unjust. The supporters of these systems claimed that in some way they embodied the meaning (a Christian meaning, they insisted) of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and at the same time justifying ourselves in our political and erotic revolt: we could deny that the world had any meaning whatsoever.”

[The quotation is from Huxley's Ends and Means.]

The homosexuals are the most self-conscious rebels against God in America today. If we recognize that American definitions of sexual orthodoxy are based solely on Christian teaching, we realize clearly that the fight about laws forbidding homosexual marriage, adult-child sex, incest, bestiality, etc. are all about whether or not the Bible is the ultimate standard for human life. If the Bible is not our standard, why shouldn’t men have sex with animals, fathers with children, brothers with sisters, men with men, etc.?

There is no basis for forbidding any sort of sexual liaison outside of the Bible. That is the reality. That is why the fight is all about sex and marriage.

Here in Japan, a daughter could be sold into prostitution at her father’s will until the year 1948. That is three years after the war ended. It took time even for Macarthur to end this “beautiful,” old Japanese tradition. Buddhism and Shintoism do not respect women or teach monogamy in any way. Neither do Hinduism or Islam.

Christianity and Christianity alone of all the religions and philosophies in the history of the world treats women with the high respect that God created them to receive. In the Bible, hsband and wife are one in Christ. The man is the head who dies for his bride, just as Christ died for the Church.

Only the Bible offers this sort of vision for the Christian home, because only the Bible offers an ultimate ontology of love.”

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The amazing Leonard

Set aside a couple of hours and relish this. Really. It’s worth it.

Leonard Cohen. Live. In London. And hurry. It’s on for this week only.

So cool you’ll have to wipe the frost off your screen.

[Thanks to Remy for finding this.]

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The end of Europe

The video below may be a tad dramatic but in reality it points to a very serious problem for the “Christian West.” Birthrates in Europe have been falling since the 1970s and are now seriously below replacement level. Apart from the high levels of immigration that the European countries have had, they would already be experiencing the serious effects of underpopulation. The culture of European nations is going to be transformed. It is now unavoidable. Here are the birthrates of Western countries as of 2002:

Australia…………………1.8
Canada………………….1.6
France……………………1.7
Germany………………..1.4
Ireland……………………1.9
Italy………………………..1.2
Japan…………………….1.4
UK…………………………1.7
USA……………………….2.1
(Estimates for 2002, source ‘The World Fact Book’)

If you take replacement level to be 2.1 children per family, the USA is the only “Western” nation meeting that level. And the only reason that we are meeting it is the very high level birthrates of the Hispanic population. One thing is clear: people of European descent don’t have babies.

The West has bought into the “overpopulation” myth and that coupled with the embrace of contraceptives and the general apostasy from Biblical faith have laid the foundations for a pretty bleak future (if things continue as they are). The birthrates of nearly all European nations over the past 30 years mean that there will be a massive shift in what we have known as “traditional European culture.” As Muammar Qadaffi says, Islam is about to win a great victory in Europe without shooting a gun or making a single threat. Again we see the real battle cannot be won with armies and ammunition. It is a spiritual warfare and one that we cannot ignore.

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Man way too high

I finally got to see “Man on Wire” and am stilled stunned by it. It’s hard for me to imagine someone actually doing what Philippe Petit did in 1974 in New York. Amazing. I don’t think I could have even looked over the edge of the North Tower, much less stepped out on a quarter-inch rope of steel cable. Crazy. Just watching made my stomach do back flips. Wow.

oh, and it was nice to see the Twin Towers again . . . . . standing.

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I guess I are a rightwing extremist now. Officially. According to the Dept. of Homeland Security’s recently declassified report on “Rightwing Extremism” the list of scary people just got a lot longer. Look at their description of those who may be rightly classified as “extremists”:

“Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”

I have a few questions for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who recently defended this report on CBS News. Ok, so groups, movements and adherents that reject “federal authority in favor of state and local authority” are now considered “extremists”? Does this include those who hold that the 10th amendment is a good idea? Those who believe the states still have constitutional rights? Who believe that the Federal Gov’t is best when it acts within its constitutional authority? Those sorts of people? Like the Founding Fathers?

Do you actually mean to say that groups and individuals “that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion” are “extremists”? Most of us realize that abortion is not the only legally sanctioned evil there is, but are you really saying that people who are dedicated to seeking an end to legalized abortion can be put on the list? Not just people to kill others (i.e, murderers) but those “dedicated to [lawful] opposition to abortion”? Like people who peacefully protest outside of clinics? All those frightening mothers with children?

Do you intentionally leave off mentioning those dedicated to the violent extermination of all who disagree with them? You mention “white supremacists” and I’m with you there, but what about those who like to blow up big buildings with lots and lots of people in them? And then brag about it and celebrate? Or those radical environmentalists groups who cause thousands of dollars in losses destroying private property? Or those who overtly seek to provoke racial animosity? Of course, you did mention the “white supremacists” but I didn’t see the Nation of Islam listed. Pregnant moms who oppose abortion are “threats” — or, excuse me, DOMESTIC RIGHTWING THREATS TO NATIONAL SECURITY — but Louis Farrakhon is ok?

Is there any evidence that those you warn us against in your report are actually genuine threats to the citizens of our country? No, wait, I see that the report begins by saying “The DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has no specific information that domestic rightwing* terrorists are currently planning acts of violence.” So, since you admit that you have no evidence, is this merely a grand exercise in demonizing innocent people whose only “crime” is disagreeing with the present administration’s agenda?

Assuming your definition of “right-wing extremists” — those groups and individuals who have a “hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups” — and considering the general (and sometimes pointed) opposition to Christian positions being expressed by the President and the members of his administration, could it be that the largest group of “extremists” are, as they say, right in your own backyard? Like, just down the street? Sometimes the most obvious things are missed when they’re right under your nose.

Just a thought.

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Calisthenics with words

Dorothy Parker possessed what was unquestionably one of the quickest minds of any human on the planet. She was a writer and critic for Vogue, Vanity Fair, and the New Yorker, among others. She also wrote a number of screenplays, poetry, and short fiction. Her hilarious reviews, quips, and comebacks are well known. Remy’s post reminded me of Dorothy and that got me to searching for some of her quotes. They’re too good not to share.

“His ignorance was an Empire State Building of ignorance. You had to admire it for its size.”

“Look at him, a rhinestone in the rough!”

On the most beautiful words in the English language: “The ones I like. . . are ‘cheque’ and ‘enclosed.’”

Someone told Dorothy that Clair Boothe Luce was even kind to her inferiors; Parker replied, “Where does she find them?”

Parker’s answer when asked to use the word “horticulture” during a game of Can-You-Give-Me-A-Sentence?: “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”

In her review of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

On another book: “This must be a gift book. That is to say a book, which you wouldn’t take on any other terms.”

On Katharine Hepburn’s performance in the Broadway play “The Lake”: “She delivered a striking performance that ran the gamut of emotions, from A to B.”

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me. . .”

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Corrections

You know things, then you really learn them. Right? How many things have you “known” but it was only later that you realized the importance or significance of them or how true they really were? Ok. One of the things we’ve learned over the past eight years is how impossible it is to keep people from misrepresenting what you’re saying or doing. Now, we all knew this, but boy-howdy have we ever learned it over the past few years! It’s been our inclination (and I’m using “we” and “our” not in the so-called “royal” sense, but in the literal sense of “my friends, fellow elders and I”) to ignore the vast majority of the slanders and misrepresentations. But it has been brought to my attention that unless some things are corrected for the record, the misstatements and inaccuracies will become the “truth.”

So, even though I’m afraid this will all be pretty boring, I’ve decided to try to correct some of the things that are being said by people who have no idea what they’re talking about. There are a number of inaccuracies and I’ll start with one I heard (again) the other day — it goes like this:

“Those guys at the Auburn Avenue Pastors Conference started labeling their views ‘the Federal Vision’, they wanted to start a new movement to re-write historic Reformed theology; they wanted to get people to become Anglicans (or Orthodox or Romanists). And they started the conference to promote these views.” This always makes me break out in fairly loud guffaws when I hear it. Hilarious. Here again is the boring truth: The term “Federal Vision” was thought up by me AS THE TITLE FOR OUR 2002 PASTORS CONFERENCE. That’s all. “Federal” = covenant; “Vision” = a way of seeing; thus: “Viewing the World/Church covenantally.” That’s it. That’s all that “FV” meant. That’s all I had in mind. There were no plans to turn Reformed Theology upside down. No thought of “re-writing” anything. And that goes for all the fellows I invited to speak. All of us agreed that we saw weaknesses and over-emphases that needed correcting (at least, from our point of view). None of us thought WE were the answer (or had all the answers). There was no conspiring, no grandiose plans, hopes, and dreams, no imprecatory prayers against the Reformed establishment. Nothing. Just guys trying to point out some things that had been pushed in the wrong direction so as to misshape biblical teaching. And NOT ONE of us had any desire to leave our denominations and go to Rome, Constantinople, or Canterbury (and we still have no desire to do this and haven’t).

[oh, and the conference had been started in 1999 as an effort to encourage pastors in their work -- not to start "new theologies"]

We thought there were some things that could help us all (all us Reformed guys, that is) get back into balance and we said them during our talks. We had some good discussions with the fellows that attended. Great questions were asked. Positions were adjusted and nuanced. Unclear statements were explained. And we all left encouraged that we would have more good questions and discussion in the year to come. And we all were looking forward to it. Honestly. Call us naive, but that’s the truth.

So, anyone who says that we wanted to “start a movement” or that we view ourselves as part of a “movement” or that we’re attempting to be revolutionaries and subversives or anything of the sort, is making up a story that’s far more exciting than the real true facts. Sorry, but that’s how it is.

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Jordan on worship

Jim Jordan talks about worship with Jarrod Richie on the new In Medias Res podcast. Listen to it here.

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Texas governor Rick Perry has gone and done it, hasn’t he? He actually had the audacity to say that Texas just might “secede” from the union if enough Texans got fed up with the Federal Guvmit. And in saying this out loud, in public, Gov. Perry has caused a huge case of the vapors on the part of commentators and politicians, and the elite class of “the sensitive” nearly everywhere. His remarks, as they say, “raised eyebrows.”

As much fun as it is to watch genuine conniptions, this is merely another evidence of how ignorant Americans (of all classes, races, and economic and social backgrounds) have become regarding the nature of our union. More evidence of the fact that public school miseducation has washed our brains of nearly all useful knowledge.

Though it may not always be wise, secession is not unconstitutional or illegal or impossible. The right of secession is inherent in all voluntary “unions” (which is what we United States are — at least officially). None of the colonies — not one — would have entered the union if they had believed that secession was not an option, assuming they later judged it in their interest (read the debates on the Constitution that took place in each colony). Virginia passed this resolution in conjunction with their ratification of the Constitution: “the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States, may be RESUMED BY THEM, whenever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression, and that every power not granted thereby remains with them and at their will.”

New York and Rhode Island had similar statements attached to their resolutions. In doing this, these states were only putting in writing what everyone assumed. Given the particular form of our government (i.e. a compact between sovereign states) both nullification and secession were assumed to be the unalienable rights of each party to the compact.

Secession was a right acknowledged by every state prior to 1861. In fact, so unquestioned was this right that the New England states (one or more of them) threatened to secede from the United States five times prior to 1861. Initially, what the ten Southern states did in 1860-1 was viewed as their legal right.

In fact, in 1848, a young congressman from Illinois stood on the floor of the House of Representatives to argue in favor of the right of secession in regard to the Texas territory. He was quite eloquent in his denunciation of anyone who refused people the right of secession: “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right — a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can, may revolutionize, and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit.”

I think he overstates the case pretty severely here, but what do you expect? Overstating and misrepresenting things was as common a practice for Abraham Lincoln in 1848 as it was later in his political career. What is interesting is how zealous Lincoln was to defend the right of secession. It is an indication of how secession was viewed prior to 1861.

Now, however, everyone knows secession is unconstitutional, immoral, unpatriotic, unAmerican, etc. etc., so that when the governor says that he sees no reason why Texas couldn’t secede, even though he doesn’t see sufficient reason to do so now, everyone goes into “pity the poor ignorant hick” mode, rolling their eyes over another unlearned Southern politician who is willing to say anything to get votes.

But, in this case, Governor Perry is right. . . . Let the eye-rolling begin.

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Wish I was . . .

a Kellogg’s corn flake

floatin in my bowl, makin movies

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Whatta deal

Now, this is something. Till midnight tonight you can order any Athanasius Press publication for only $5.00 apiece! It’s a “Tax Relief” special sale.

Nice.

Happy fourth day of Easter!

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You probably can’t read the form to the left (it’s available online so no big loss). This is the first 1040 form issued by our federal government in 1913 — the very first year Americans paid this thing called the “income tax.” Note the tax rates:

1% on income over $20,000 and not exceeding $50,000
2% on income over $50,000 and not exceeding $75,000
3% on income over $75,000 and not exceeding $100,000
4% on income over $100,000 and not exceeding $250,000
5% on income over $250,000 and not exceeding $500,000
6% on income over $500,000

This meant that the vast majority of Americans were exempt from paying anything since the income for the average American was well below $20,000. But even the most wealthy only paid 6% of their income. Those were the days.

As you can imagine, the passage of the income tax was hotly debated. Opponents of the measure objected that once passed the tax rates could be increased to any level whatever. One opponent was indignant over the thought that Congress could raise taxes as high as they pleased. The day might even come, he stated, when the tax rate would climb as high as twenty percent! Senator William Borah of Idaho, was outraged that anyone could even imagine this law being abused to such an extent:

“Who could impose such socialistic, confiscatory rates? Only Congress. And how could congress — the representatives of the American people — be so lacking in fairness, justice, and patriotism?”

Borah could not conceive the American people ever allowing Congress to pass such oppressive tax laws. In his mind, if Congress ever had the audacity and disregard for common morality to pass such confiscatory rates (as a 20% tax would be), the people would revolt.

By 1918 the highest tax rate had been raised to 77%.

We’re still waiting for the revolt.

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This is fun. 200 people take over Antwerpen’s Centraal Station in Belgium and dance to Julie Andrew’s “Do-Re-Mi” song. It’s a publicity stunt for a new reality show, but it’s nice idea — the kind of thing that, once you see it, makes you wish you could have been there (and I don’t even like Julie Andrews or “The Sound of Music”). Oh, and this is much better than the dance in “Slumdog Millionaire” . . . much better.

Happy 3rd day of Easter!

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The 40 days of Easter

N.T. Wright in his book Surprised by Hope, refers to how the Church largely disregards Easter. Christmas is celebrated with a vengeance, but Easter? Nah, Easter gets a day, a morning. Some candy in a basket, maybe a new dress and shoes. And this is as true in so-called “liturgical” churches as it is in straight-down-the-center, Puritan-Reformed congregations. We hear about the Christmas “season” (the “twelve days”) but how much attention is given to the Easter “season” (40 days, from Easter to Ascension, or 50 days if we go to Pentecost). There are numerous Christmas hymns (plenty to fill up the two Sundays of the season) but I’ve about used up all the Easter hymns in our hymnal (the Trinity) after this Sunday. Yet, as Bishop Wright points out, without Easter, everything is lost:

This is our greatest festival. Take Christmas away, and in biblical terms you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else. Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity; as Paul says, you are still in your sins. We shouldn’t allow the secular world, with its schedules and habits and parareligious events, its cute Easter bunnies, to blow us off course. This is our greatest day. We should put the flags out.

Bishop Wright suggests that we not only need more hymns but more energy given to celebrating the season of Easter and offers that we should at least celebrate it with an eight day festival:

But Easter week itself ought not to be the time when all the clergy sigh with relief and go on holiday. It ought to be an eight-day festival, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before, with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom? It’s long overdue that we took a hard look at how we keep Easter in church, at home, in our personal lives, right through the system.

One reason so many feel uncomfortable with the 40 days of Lent is just here: We ignore the 40 days of Easter. Thus, as Wright points out, “if Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. . . . The forty days of the Easter season, until the ascension, ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving.”

To which I says, “Amen and I like it.” And, there’s no time like the present to begin. Today is the first day of the Easter season. Time to celebrate. Rejoice, be glad, break out a little champagne for breakfast, shoot off a cannon (or two), and engage in all manner of jollification over the reality that Christ is risen and has conquered sin, death, and all the powers of hell.

[the quotes come from pp. 255-257 of Surprised by Hope -- thanks to Jarrod Richey for pointing me to Wright's remarks]

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