I recently read that government is cracking down on finch fighting.
It is good to see that our government is ending this plague.
The office was originally delegated to stop French fighting, but had no work since Joan of Arc was burned.
John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute and Professor of Philosophy at Biola University. In 1996 he received his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Rochester and his most recent book is "When Athens Met Jerusalem"(IVP, 2009). He is husband of the Fairest Flower in All Christendom and the father of four. He loves Plato, the Packers, and Star Trek.RSS feed for this author
Let us assume that liberty is: “every man doing what is right in his own eyes.”
If that is liberty, then liberty is not an absolute good for a Biblical Christian.
Let us try a more careful notion of liberty instead: “the power in any agent to do or forbear any particular action, according to the determination or thought of the mind, whereby either of them is preferred to the other.”
If this is the case, then liberty is still not an absolute “good” for men, but a qualified one. No man has a right to act unjustly, so his liberty must be limited (Biblically).
Who should do the limiting? God will, of course, but God has not given all His powers to men or to any one institution.
However, it is not prudent for the state (as opposed to church or family) to be one who limits all immoral or unjust acts. So while I have no “right” to be immoral, I may have a legal option to do so in a prudent state. (See for example a failure to give to the poor.)
It seems good (Biblically) to allow men to choose between goods as they prefer. For example, God has given me the liberty to choose to marry (good) or not to marry (good) as I prefer.
Liberty is, therefore, a good and protection of that liberty is a good reason for civil government.
The Bible need not list every reason for civil government in order for that idea to be consistent with the Bible.
The Bible is a most valuable book . . . being without error and all.
It is not, however, an exhaustive text on every single thing a human must know or even should know. It does contain all you need to know for salvation, but will, perhaps, let you down if you attempt to use it to answer the question: “How should a man relate to a modern republic?”
There are in it certain general principles that are true . . . but it would be difficult for it to deal with modern republics, since they did not exist at the time the last book in it was written.
Still fundamental truths about men are important because . . . they are fundamental truths about men. While the Bible will not help with the details of relating to modern governments, it will give us some parameters to start our own thought.
We can turn to Christians of all ages, such as our brother in Christ John Locke, to gain some insights into what the Bible does say about God and government.
What do I glean from this reading?
First, government has a role to play. It is instituted by God.
Second, government’s role is limited. Only God should receive our absolute allegiance.
Third, God has instituted other structures (family, church) that have their own areas of power and authority.
Fourth, in the final analysis, we are God’s children and so can serve no other master as the greatest authority. When God and government conflict, government must go to the Devil it is serving.
Fifth, God designed men for liberty. He placed a perfect man in a garden and let him choose . . . even badly. He is raising us from slaves to sons and so liberty is a good, though not (obviously) the only good.
There is an initial list of things the Bible has taught me . . . what would others add?
Let me commend to our readers the work of noted Christian apologist John Locke on the topic of liberty and happiness. His recent work on human understanding is, perhaps, wrong on innate ideas, but attempts a consistent description of human capacity in a Biblical framework.
Who knows if his comments on government (in his second treatise) will prove influential? Many young people, one thinks of the colonials, have been much interested in his work.
I suspect that before moving forward on this topic most of us will have to account for the work of our Brother in Christ: John Locke.
If you oppose a government program, someone will suggest that you “hate” the people on the receiving end of the government largesse.
Surely, however, it is a simple minded error to assume that if the government does not help someone then nobody will do so? Isn’t it more dubious to claim that aid from the government has the same impact on a person as money from a private person or charity?
Government growth leads to a decline in personal liberty. Liberty is good and so helping others using government (which may or may not be good) will surely lead to a decline in another good.
Isn’t the question how much loss of liberty can be tolerated? Some government is necessary (and mandated by God), but that does not mean all goods should come through government. The left sees this truth in the area of sexual morality, but forgets it in the area of economics.
So here is my basic truth for today: Opposition to government programs does not equal a lack of support for the people who would receive them.
I was once asked to wrote something critical about TBN.
I chose not to do so, because enough people do it. Surely, adding one more voice to the chorus would not help. I am not a pastor or a theologian and so am not in a position where my judgment is required.
My other thought was simpler: I don’t judge networks, but individual shows on them.
Some good shows appear on TBN and many bad ones, but that does not seem different from other networks. Isn’t it a double standard to become heated over one network (because it is “Christian”) and not over another? NBC often seems hostile to my values and raises money in ways I find distasteful, but that does not require my rebuke.
I have become persuaded, however, that TBN is different. It is assumed to represent the Faith and NBC is only assumed to represent the shareholders. If I was a shareholder of NBC, I might have a duty to rebuke Keith Olbermann, but thankfully he and his foibles mostly can be left to other men.
As brothers and sisters in Christ should I make my concerns public without expressing them privately?
This does not seem necessary since my concerns are with public and not with private behavior.
What are my concerns?
I am open to my worries being wrong, but investigation has only made me more worried.
Let me list five concerns:
First, while a network need not endorse every idea on every show on the network TBN has a large number of shows that promote ideas that are bad. Why?
Second, network fundraisers use bad arguments and overly emotional appeals to raise money.
Third, TBN does not appear to comply with reasonable fund raising standards. Why not join ECFA?
Fourth, TBN seems overly centered on one family. Some members of this family seem like great people, but should “calling” really be so family centered?
Fifth, serious allegations have been made in the LA media about problems in the ministry and these have not been effectively answered. To quote Ignatius, “Who is the bishop?” (Translate that to your own favored ecclesiastical vocabulary.) Who could come in and straighten things out if they were to go bad?
(Ritual disclaimer: I have appeared on shows that choose to broadcast on TBN.)
The Constitution of 1789 and republican values.
Ronald Reagan and tax cuts.
Orthodoxy and icons.
Some things go together naturally and pizza and NFL play-off football are two naturals. Over the course of my life no pizza was more guaranteed to disappoint than Domino’s. It was as fake as Ben Nelson’s hair. If you saw the box at a pizza party, you went for any other football party food, even the stale chips in a plastic bowl. The crust was the box. The sauce was canned. The cheese was not.
Eating Domino’s pizza was akin to watching the Detroit Lions. Sometimes you just had to do it, but other than the mockery there was nothing good about it.
Recently, in the most effective series of ads since Chuck Norris teamed with Mick Huckabee, Domino’s promised to redo their pizza. My family and I gave them a chance and they deserved it.
We ate many sauce and crust combos, but focused on the bargain basement single topping pizza that Domino’s promotes.
The basic crust is garlic-y and tasty. It was very popular in my house, though one of my children did not like the dusting on the bottom. The rest of the house felt it added a nice texture. Right to the edge of the crust, it was tasty.
The sauces we tried were all good, the basic sauce now tastes like it contains real tomatoes and herbs. The barbecue sauce was particularly good with chicken.
The toppings were generous and good.
The price, especially with coupons, was excellent. You can feed a big group for a few dollars a person.
In short, Domino’s went from “never order” to our current default pizza for the playoffs.
This post may have nothing to do with the gospel, but it has everything to do with the well examined life.
Not to be simple minded, but since Christians in the Middle East have been using “Allah” for centuries before there was Islam (what other word could they have used?), why are we worried about its use here?
Is this a bit like being worried that English speakers are not worshipping Jesus, because there is no “J” in ancient Greek?
As an Evangelical blog of record, I suppose someone must say it here:
Pat Robertson’s statements on Haiti are bad theology, bad philosophy, bad history, and bad pastorally.
It is tempting not to pile on in the case of a fellow believer who is older, does a great deal of good through charity, and has a long habit of saying this sort of thing. Robertson, however, remains a public figure and there is some chance that ill-informed Christians might take his view seriously.
Robertson has proposed a bad theology, because he too easily equates any natural or man made disaster with Gods’ will. The Lord Jesus points out that God causes it to rain on the just and the unjust. As Saint Augustine points out when some Roman era pagan Pat Robertson’s blamed Christians for the fall of Rome, God’s providence and will are not easy to see.
Even some seeming blessings can be curses.
He specifically addressed the issue of whether natural disaster are because the victims are somehow worse than others when he said (Luke 13):
1There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
All of us are broken and will die. Nobody is safe and nobody should take their righteousness for granted.
Even if we grant that sometimes a prophet in the Bible (Amos) could, by divine revelation, equate a natural disaster with God’s judgment this should be done carefully. This kind of insight is available to few of us and Robertson has not demonstrated a track record (prophetic accuracy) that meets the Biblical standard for accuracy (Deuteronomy 18):
21And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
All of this ignores the philosophical questions revolving around whether one government leader two hundred years ago could actually sell a country to Satan. (Assuming such a thing could happen.) Who gave him that right? On what was that right based? Was he an anointed king in the Biblical sense? Did the thousands of believers in Haiti at that time consent? Does Satan really have the power to own an entire nation, containing millions of believers in an out of government, for centuries based on one man’s deal?
This is dubious philosophy of religion and bad theology.
Even if we grant that Robertson was merely speculating on the causes of the disaster, he would do well to base his arguments on better history. The tale he recounts is likely false.
Robertson has been inhuman in two ways.
First, even if he were right, he has picked a horrid time to pontificate. When my friend is suffering from cancer, even if it is his fault, it is the wrong time to remind him that I told him he should have stopped smoking. It is ugly and useless.
Heal the sick, bury the dead, feed the hungry and then deal with root spiritual causes. Safe to say every nation, and Haiti is surely one, has made philosophical and practical decisions that help cause tragedy. We can talk about that when the people of Haiti have been helped by the Church.
Second, even if his theology were sound, he has stated it in such a way and at such a time that it will be misunderstood and will be mocked. He has pronounced a “truth” that (he must concede) would be hard for our culture to hear in a way and at a time that brings that “truth” into derision.
If Robertson were right in his theology and philosophy, his timing has fed his pearls to swine on a silver platter.
Recently Robertson faced major health problems and rightly asked for our prayers. It would have been wrong to be facile and associate his problems with sin. Robertson should grant the people of Haiti the same treatment that he demanded in the case of his illness.
Compassion, prayer, help, and charity.
(*I have a follow up post on the issue of torture responding to critics, but thought this an inappropriate time for that topic. I will do so later.)
I am thankful for Jeremy Pierce’s thoughtful reply to my posts on torture. You can find it here.
If I do nothing else, perhaps my opposition to torture in this space will provoke more posts such as this one. In that case, my posts will have served a good purpose and perhaps merit the praise that Holmes gave Watson:
“Really, Watson, you excel yourself,” said Holmes, pushing back his chair and lighting a cigarette. “I am bound to say that in all the accounts which you have been so good as to give of my own small achievements you have habitually underrated your own abilities. It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it. I confess, my dear fellow, that I am very much in your debt.” (more…)
What is the role of government?
What is justice?
Hard questions, but a man should pray what he believes and I weekly pray the following:
We beseech thee also, so to direct and dispose the hearts of all Christian Rulers, that they may truly and impartially administer justice, to the punishment of wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of thy true religion, and virtue. (more…)
A gentleman can be trusted with power, but a cad cannot be trusted even when he appears powerless. It is an essential attribute of American conservatives that often telling a gentleman from a cad is hard.
Some men start as gentlemen, but become cads. Some (thank God) of us start as cads, but become gentlemen.
As a result we don’t trust too much power being given to anybody without maximum transparency. (more…)
One small point:
It has been claimed that to be opposed to torture and not be a pacifist is inconsistent.
Opposition to torture must be (merely) a form of pacifism.
I have shown this is false. A man may oppose torture (or the mutilation of corpses) on the grounds that torture is a form of blasphemy. Killing is acceptable (in some circumstances), but not torture. This reasoning is not based on squeamishness or pacifism, but reverence.
One may be unpersuaded by the argument, but it means that all opposition to torture (namely traditional Christian opposition) is grounded in pacifism.
I will point out, however, that war itself is not an ideal state for a Christian. All Christians wish for peace, though not at any price. No Christian (who is being consistent) wishes for any man to be tortured by any other man.
Frank Turk suggested the Roman model for government . . . and there is much to be said in favor of Rome. With the Founding Fathers of this Republic, true patriots should model our governance more on Cicero or the Republic than on Nero or the Empire!
Here is Cicero on torture:
Cicero on torture:
“Our prosecutor threatens us with the examinations and torture of our slaves; and though we do not suspect that any danger can arise to us from them, yet pain reigns in those tortures; much depends on the nature of every one’s mind, and the fortitude of a person’s body. The inquisitor manages everything; caprice regulates much, hope corrupts them, fear disables them, so that, in the straits in which they are placed, there is but little room left for truth.
Is the life of Publius Sulla, then, to be put to the torture? is it to be examined to see what lust is concealed beneath it? whether any crime is lurking under it, or any cruelty, or any audacity? There will be no mistake in our cause, O judges, no obscurity, if the voice of his whole life, which ought to be of the very greatest weight, is listened to by you.”
It would be a great pity if the followers of Jesus (tortured by bad Romans) would be less civilized in government than the best of the Romans.
Of course, Christian morality cannot be separated from any part of life . . . Cicero might have allowed for crucifixion as a just punishment, but what Christian would crucify a terrorist to get information or to inflict punishment?
We are better than that.
The Community School is post-post-modern and the chief “friend” (the Community School term for the head) Laura is fighting with a new student Colleen about Christmas. Colleen is aided by Brownies . . . and the result is the end of chaos. You can start this show here.
Here at last are the concluding episodes of my radio drama Brownies for Christmas. (more…)
Mr. Ben Nelson is a jolly old United States Senator for Nebraska. He was fighting for principle in opposing abortion funding in the health care reform moving through Congress.
Now he is backing health care reform without the language he originally demanded.
It would be easy to caricature Senator Nelson’s move unfairly. Some will say he is a Judas for betraying his ideals for money, but this is wrong. Judas personally benefited from his betrayal, while Senator Nelson merely got graft for his entire state.
Mr. Nelson will not get thirty pieces of silver . . . every Nebraskan will. Each one of them can share in the betrayal of their ideals, because Mr. Nelson has graciously made sure benefits will go to each one of them.
Judas compromised only his integrity, but Nelson has given the voters of Nebraska a chance to compromise the integrity of an entire state. Will they take the benefit at the cost of their values?
Is this comparison fair to a man like good old Ben Nelson? After all Ben Nelson is a modest man, a retiring man, a man eager to represent the values of Nebraska. Is there a more charitable read on his actions?
After all Mr. Nelson meant to do good. Comparing Nelson to Judas must surely be as overblown and overly partisan as comparing him to Benedict Arnold. Arnold betrayed the United States for money, but Mr. Nelson will only vote for a mess of a bill for money.
After all, the bill is not so bad that it will not do some good. The good-old Senator was trying to do a noble deed by extending health care to millions, not cause the death of the Messiah or betraying his oath of office! It is by his intentions we should judge him, not by the results. He meant well and that is all we should expect of our elected officials.
Heaven knows Judas and Benedict Arnold did not mean to do good by their evil actions. Call Mr. Nelson incompetent and venal, but never call him a traitor.
Let us not be inflexible in our evaluation of Mr. Nelson. Of course to get the good things, he had to allow Nebraskan tax dollars to go to abortion, give money and favors to wealthy donors to his campaigns, and expand the scope of government.
Mr. Nelson simply has done what so many parents have to do every Christmas. He has compromised what he wishes he could do so to do some good. He is giving some Nebraska children a gift of health care and to do so had to fund the death of other Nebraskan children.
Many would have dodged this hard decision, but not Senator Nelson. Having paraded his convictions that no children should die using tax money, he was forced to bend a bit and kill a few by indirect means in order to help some.
This is a profile in flexibility.
Senator Ben Nelson, if all turns out as he wishes, will be able to celebrate Christmas this year knowing that he gained graft for his state, passed a bill his constituents did not want, all the while standing at the center of the media spot light. This is the job a Democratic senator is elected to do and he did it.
Some will mock him, others misunderstand him, but Mr. Nelson is merely celebrating Christmas in his own way: the season when a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed and an order went out from Herod for the government slaughter of innocents.
We reach the last act of Brownies for Christmas a radio play for Christmas. The Community School is post-post-modern and the chief “friend” (the Community School term for the head) Laura is fighting with a new student Colleen about Christmas. Colleen is aided by Brownies . . . and the result is the end of chaos. You can start this show here. (more…)
The Romans built roads, the Greeks did philosophy, Americans don’t sleep much.
Consuming worthwhile entertainment alone is a full time job: Netflix is calling me to watch the complete Shakespeare now. Add to that the temptation of the guilty pleasures of the new Dr. Who (the best new series of the last three years), working out at the gym, and reading the latest James Scott Bell novel and sleep must go. (more…)
We near the end of the adventures of Laura, head of the ultra-progressive Community School, and Colleen, a Baptist accidentally enrolled there. The Brownies and the Anti-Brownie prepare to battle for the soul of Laura.
Start listening to this holiday radio program here.
The Brownies discuss how they can bring back memories . . . and the relationship of Laura and Robert makes some progress.
The bad guys arrive (Ron, besotted with Laura, Sarah, the schools major donor, Jessica, Colleen’s room-friend, and the anti-Brownie) and Robert realizes he does not understand the modern world.
Laura has to relive another memory of Christmas past with Robert and the “bad guys.” Sarah stages a protest and learns something about the cosmos. We learn a bit about Sarah’s life.
Start listening to this holiday radio program here.
The pace quickens as the Brownies try to save a radical school and its lonely headmistress from Christmas hatred and bring liberty instead of mere equality . . . and the Anti-Brownie arrives to spoil it all.
The Anti-Brownie arrives to spoil the plans of the good Brownies.
Laura, the head of the school and Robert Falkirk, a Cavalier, discuss the situation with the Brownies and Colleen. The Brownies remind Laura of her past.
Laura remembers a bad Christmas Past and talks to Robert about her life.
The older I get the lonelier I get at Christmas.
All my grandparents are gone now, so I will not eat Granny’s pie, see Nana’s Christmas play, or hear either Papaw tell a story. Aunt Karen will not help me direct this years play and Uncle Roddy will not make me laugh, because they have gone ahead as well.
Students like Angie Good and, just this week, Justin Key will not post alum messages on Facebook.
I will not be alone this Christmas, but there is no replacing those who have gone. You cannot substitute for a missing friend and I hate any religion or philosophy that pretends you can. (more…)