Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Can a Christian vote for a Mormon for President? 

One of the issues that I know some Christians have in voting for Mitt Romney is that Romney is a Mormon.  If I vote for Romney, am I giving my approval to his religion, the thumbs-up to the man in general?

As I said in the last post, I intend to vote for Mitt Romney and I would like to convince others to do so as well.  A couple of things I am not going to do in this post- I am not going to pretend that Mormonism is the same as orthodox Christianity, or that his religion should be viewed positively.  Mormonism is a false gospel, and must be rejected by Christians.  Mormonism denies the sacrifice of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity.  It teaches a fundamentally different view of human nature and its relationship to God than Biblical Christianity does.  To speak of it as a sect of Christianity does it far too much justice; it is in reality a complete distortion, a totally different religion, than Christianity, though it bears some superficial resemblances.

I'm also not going to argue that a politician's religion is irrelevant, or out of bounds for discussion.  A man's religion is fundamental to who he is.  If a man's religion was Wahhabi Islam, that would be highly relevant to whether that man should be the president of the United States.

That being said, it's very important not just to identify the religion a man holds to, but also to recognize how that man understands that religion himself, and how it functions in his life.  Nancy Pelosi is a Roman Catholic, and so is Paul Ryan.  Yet it's hard to imagine two more different political approaches than Pelosi and Ryan.  Does that mean their Catholicism is irrelevant?  Not at all.  But it does mean that their understanding of their Catholicism, and how their faith informs their political views, are very different.  Both of them come from recognized traditions within the Roman Catholic faith which emphasize different things.  Some people hold their religion very strongly and some don't.  Some Christians emphasize the moral teachings of the Bible on sexual ethics while some focus more on the Bible's teachings about charity toward the poor.  Some who agree that care for the poor is extremely important believe that this is the responsibility of the state, while others believe that private charity should be the emphasis here. So if we want to talk about a man's religion and how it informs his politics, it's not sufficient to simply identify the religion and then talk about some aspects of that religion and why that's problematic for a religious candidate.  I know I would find it deeply unfair if someone said that a Christian should not be the president of a religiously pluralistic society since the Bible commands the death penalty for followers of other religions.  I would say that such a criticism is not being fair to how I understand Christianity myself.  Some other person's opinion about what Christianity _should_ teach, or what is the most consistent understanding of my faith, is not relevant.  What is relevant is how the person himself practices and understands his faith.

I do not believe that Mitt Romney knows the true God.  He does not have faith in Jesus Christ.  He does not understand the revelation of the gospel.  I hope some day that he does.  But I also believe in natural revelation, that there is a natural light that all people have, to understand right from wrong and truth from lies. I do not believe one has to be a true Christian to have true knowledge about many things, including how governments and economies work.  People have different levels of understanding of this natural light, and different amounts of that natural light are present in different religions and philosophies.  A religion such as Mormonism, especially in its modern manifestation, has a good deal more of this natural light than other religions, as is seen by the way that Mormons in general live their lives.

The civil state in the New Testament is said by Paul to have the job of punishing evildoers and protecting the innocent, of praising those who do good.  In the Old Testament, in the infancy of the church, the church was annexed to a particular civil government, whose form was given by God Himself.  God had particular redemptive-historical purposes for establishing the state of Israel, which are beyond the scope of this discussion.  But to use those civil laws given to Israel to make specific statements about what a ruler today ought to look like is to fail to appreciate this redemptive-historical purpose.  That civil government expired when the form of the church changed after the coming of Christ.  God's people then were not located within one particular entity, but spread out through all the nations.  With that change, a change in the purpose of government came as well.  The New Testament does not anticipate a government that promotes the true faith.  More often, the opposite will be the case.  What Christians ought to expect from the government is seen in Romans 13 and 2 Peter 2:14, that they punish evildoers and encourage good.  How this is defined is a matter of great debate, but is not spelled out clearly.  The Westminster Confession of Faith states that the Old Testament civil laws are applicable to New Testament government not in the particulars, but only in the sense of "general equity"- meaning the principles governing equity and justice between people that are illustrated by the Old Testament civil law continue to be applicable, but not the particulars of those laws, which were given only to Israel and expire with Israel as a civil state.

The civil state is not the kingdom of God.  The civil state is nowhere in the Scriptures given the job of advancing that kingdom.  Some of the early Reformers, still operating under largely medieval expectations, still thought that the state should enforce the Christian religion, leading to tremendous misery and suffering everywhere it was tried.  The Reformed and Protestant world as a whole moved away from this view, starting especially with the American revision of the Westminster Confession of Faith in 1789, which largely removed the role of government in the affairs of the church.  I believe this to have been a wise revision, and the relative health of the Protestant churches in America compared to the state of the Christian church throughout Europe shows the wisdom of this move.

Different unbelieving men can understand the purpose of civil government according to the natural light to better or worse degrees.  Thomas Jefferson was a better civil magistrate than Adolf Hitler, despite the fact that neither of them were Biblical Christians.  The Pharaoh who made Joseph his right-hand man was a better ruler than the Pharaoh that came later, who enslaved the Israelites and called for the murder of their male children.  King Agrippa was a fairer man than Herod the Great.

All of this means that a Mormon, operating under the natural light, is perfectly capable of being a good civil magistrate.  Mitt Romney understands and practices his religion, as far as anyone knows, in a way congruent with the "general equity" of the civil laws given in the Old Testament.  He believes in charity, in honesty, in freedom.  He does so according to the natural light given to all men, and I believe he has a greater clarity and grasp of the natural light with regard to the purpose of civil government and the general equity of civil law than many other politicians, even ones that identify with Christian churches closer to orthodoxy than the Mormons.  Therefore I believe that a Christian with a Biblical understanding of civil government can in good conscience vote for a man, such as Mitt Romney, whose faith we would view as a perverted fakery of the real gospel, but whose understanding of the role and duty of civil government is nonetheless Biblical.  We are not electing him to church office.  We are electing him to punish evildoers, to protect the innocent, to provide order and justice and "general equity".  I believe Mitt Romney will do a passably good job of fulfilling these tasks.

One final note- to say that a Christian cannot vote for a Mormon for president is really, I believe, to say that the entire American form of government is unbiblical.  I do not know how a Christian could consistently say that it is a sin to vote for a Mormon, but that it is not a sin to vote for the many nominal, liberal Christians that we have elected, or indeed to even support the existence of a government which forbids religious tests and counted as its founders Deists and Unitarians and which has from its beginnings had non-Christian officeholders.  I can respect an argument from Scripture, such as the Covenanters make, that the United States is in its entirety an unbiblical form of government and cannot be supported, since it does not explicitly recognize Jesus Christ as king and enforce the Christian religion (though I disagree strenuously with such an argument.)  But an argument which singles out Mormons specifically as unworthy of our vote, but still supports the pluralistic American project otherwise, begins to look more like personal animosity than a principled stand for the Biblical faith.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Why I'm Voting for Mitt Romney 

I'm planning on voting for Mitt Romney in November.  If by some very strange fluke he is not the Republican nominee, I will probably vote for whoever is the Republican nominee.  But that appears extremely unlikely.

I often hear people say that they are not willing to vote for the "lesser of two evils" and therefore will not vote for Romney.  People say we should vote for principle, not party.  Sometimes the complaint is that Romney is "socialist-lite", not really conservative, and not worthy of our vote.  Sometimes people refuse to vote for him because he is a Mormon.  I'll address that later on.

Romney is not a movement conservative; I don't think anyone confuses him for one.  He has taken positions I was not fond of.  I had other first choices.  But the party has settled on Romney.  If I thought Romney was likely to do the country harm, then I would not vote for him, party loyalty notwithstanding.  But I believe he will do the country good.

What we need right now, more than anything, is to get the economy going again.  To do this I believe the government primarily needs to remove disincentives to investment and risk-taking.  I do not believe the government can or should do a great deal to make the economy strong, but it can do a great deal to make the economy weak.  Excessive regulations, punitive and complex tax policy, and direct investment by the government in the economy all work to hamper a truly free and vibrant market, and we are doing all those things in spades.  The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) greatly increases the burdens on employers- it increases their costs and increases their regulatory burden, both making it harder for them to hire new employees.  The direct investment by the government in various industries (Solyndra being the most notorious example) is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars, it is also a disincentive to investment.  When economic success in an industry becomes tied to who is politically connected enough to get favorable government deals, private investment becomes paralyzed.  There is just too much risk of being in the position of betting against the government.

Bain Capital
Romney worked for many years at Bain Capital.  That company invested in struggling companies to try to turn them around.  Some of the complaints against Bain have to do with outsourcing jobs or laying off workers.  But any successful businessman knows that hard choices sometimes have to be made in order to help a business succeed.  His job at Bain was to maximize shareholder profits, not to preserve everyone's job.  But as president, his job would be different- his job would be to foster conditions that would make business success most likely.  His experience at Bain makes him very well suited to know what those conditions are; what conditions encourage businesses to succeed and what makes them more likely to fail.  As the president, he will not have control over all of those conditions.  But he will have control over many of them.  He will know why CEOs have to make tough choices to lay people off or offshore jobs.  He will know that CEOs don't make such choices because they want to, but because they have to.  As president, he will be uniquely well-suited to changing the conditions so that CEOs don't have to make those hard choices quite as much.

He was also the governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007.  He did much good there, reining in spending and balancing the budget.  He also passed a controversial piece of legislation often called "Romneycare", which is similar in some respects to Obamacare.  Many conservatives will not vote for Romney because of this piece of legislation.  The differences however are profound.  Romneycare includes a mandate that people buy insurance or pay tax penalties; it also provides means-tested subsidies for those who cannot afford insurance.  These are the two major similarities.  Romneycare however does not create a huge new regulatory structure, does not effectively take over the health care industry, does not require thousands of new bureaucrats.  Romneycare was an 80-page bill; Obamacare is over 2000 pages long.  The individual mandate, as offensive as it is to many conservatives (including me), is really only the least of the problems that Obamacare brings.

Even where there are similarities, however, major differences must be kept in mind.

First, Romneycare is constitutional.  The states can do things like impose mandates on their citizens.  Whether it's a good idea or not is a different question.  Obamacare is a federal law, and therefore violates the constitution.  The requirement to buy insurance was passed as a mandate, and a majority of Supreme Court justices ruled that as a mandate it violates the constitution.  It would violate the constitution whether the Supreme court said it did or not.

Secondly, and this I think is the key point:  The context is completely different.  Massachusetts is a liberal state that had already passed a number of provisions making insurance very expensive.  They had passed a requirement that people be covered regardless of preexisting conditions, and had many expensive coverage mandates, things like infertility treatments and substance abuse counseling.  The insurance market in Massachusetts was already broken.  These measures were politically popular, however.  Given this situation, the most conservative, free-market approach to fixing the existing problem, Romney and his advisers thought, was to require people to buy insurance and not simply to wait until they got sick to do it.

Obamacare, on the other hand, imposes both the coverage requirement regardless of preexisting conditions, and the mandate to buy insurance.  Romneycare was trying to fix a broken system in Massachusetts.  Obamacare breaks the national system even more than it is before trying to fix it.  Obamacare not only imposes the individual mandate that Romneycare had, it also imposes all the expensive, system-breaking rules that made the individual mandate necessary in Massachusetts.  These differences are really key.  Even given these differences, I think Romneycare was a bad idea, and I think subsequent history bears this out, but it was an attempt to fix a broken system, and given the preferences of a very liberal state, it was a good try.  Romney has repeatedly said that what might have been a good option for Massachusetts would be a very bad option for the whole country.

Mitt Romney was also instrumental in turning around the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002.  The Olympics were on their way to being a disorganized mess.  But Romney stepped in and turned it around, and it went on to be a glowing success.

A Record of Execution
These three examples- Bain Capital, the Salt Lake Olympics, and his governorship of Massachusetts, all show Mitt Romney to be a problem-solver.  He has made a career out of stepping into very difficult situations and finding solutions.  Most of the time he has succeeded.  He is a believer in free markets, limited government, personal accountability and freedom, and his history has shown this.  His pick of Paul Ryan as vice president shows a commitment to conservative principles as well.

On other issues of concern to Christians, he is solid.  He is anti-abortion, supporting exceptions only in the case of rape, incest or the life of the mother.  He is opposed to gay marriage, though supporting some limited domestic benefits.  He is not perfect, but still would be a huge improvement from where we are now.

Of all the candidates that ran for this office on the Republican side this year, none brought more of exactly the kind of experience we need in this situation than Mitt Romney.  Some candidates brought more red meat for the Republican base.  Some had more of the "correct" opinions.  But being a good president is about more than having the right views.  It is about the ability to get things done.  He is the chief executive; he must execute.  Romney has shown an ability to execute far beyond any other Republican candidate.  His very well-run campaign is proof of his ability to execute; that ability is why he is winning the nomination.  He has shown great personal discipline, one of the major reasons he has defeated many of his erratic and scandal-plagued opponents.

Romney is surrounded with highly influential and very conservative advisers.  Men like John Bolton (foreign policy) and Robert Bork (judicial appointments) have been on board the Romney campaign from early on.  The Ryan pick solidifies that- Paul Ryan has the most conservative, most tangible plan to actually rein in entitlements, cut the budget and balance the books.  The Ryan budget is not perfect but it's a whole lot better than anything else that has been seriously proposed.

So I'm not voting for the "lesser of two evils", except from the perspective that Romney isn't perfect.  If that's what is meant then we're always voting for the lesser of two evils, unless Jesus is on the ballot.  I'm voting for Romney because I believe he has the plan and the experience to do a great deal of good for the country right now.  I'm not just voting against Obama; I am voting for Romney.  Romney is not well-suited to do all the things that need done, but no president ever gets a chance to do more than three or four important things.  If we don't get the economy going, rein in spending and begin to limit government's reach into our lives, nothing else is going to even be possible anyway.  Romney is patching up the gunshot wound before we attend to long-term care.

I'll address the Mormon issue in a future post.  (UPDATE:  Here it is.)

Saturday, August 25, 2012


God is a holy God, and is highly interested in holiness- not just forensic, imputed holiness but real, actual, personal and perfect holiness.  Any understanding of Christianity that downplays the ultimate importance of real, actual and personal holiness is not true to the nature of God.  No lie, no perversity, no corruption, no murder, no sin will ever dwell within the jasper walls.  Revelation 22:15.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Freedom has a cost. But slavery costs more. 


One of the main reasons America happened in the first place was that an awful lot of people were sick to death of Europe.  It wasn't the geography or the cuisine or the language or the culture they were sick of.  It was the governments.

In Europe, every time you turned around you had to ask some duke or baron for permission to breathe.  They had guilds that dictated who could practice what particular trades.  They had lords that controlled most or all of the land and a large percentage of the work you did had to go to support that lord.  That's why they called America the "land of the free"- it wasn't because in America you had freedom to publish pornography or abort babies.  It was because in America you could buy a plot of land and could do what you wanted on that plot of land.  You didn't have to ask anyone's permission to grow crops and sell them, or build whatever kind of house you wanted.  As long as you weren't hurting your neighbor, you were free to do with your property what you wanted.

Now, I have to pay a town inspector to come by for permission to shingle my own roof.  My brother-in-law runs a business, a furniture store, and he tells me that he's constantly having to pay fees to have bureaucrats come out to inspect something or other.  Some guy comes out, glances at something, says it's fine, and demands an $80 fee.  Every one of these laws can be justified with some kind of benefit- well the state makes sure my roof is properly shingled so that the wind doesn't destroy it.  Limon now requires that we use more expensive 30-year shingles despite the fact that every decade or so we have an incredibly fierce hailstorm that destroys everyone's roofs, 30-year shingles or not, which then are all replaced by insurance.  Every new law that's passed, every new regulation, every new inspector, can be justified by something.  New professions get licensing requirements, to protect the public from the dangers of unscrupulous businessmen.  And in exchange for all these possible (but questionable) benefits, we get saddled with the very real costs of a million parasitic bureaucrats sucking the life out of the private sector.

As I said in the last article, the tyrants of the world always claim to be helping the little guy.  They always claim to be protecting us from the evil men who will destroy them if we don't turn our freedom and wealth over to the tyrants.  Andrea posted this on her FB page recently:
I just talked with my mom. My dad had a bad weekend because he has to tell the mothers and fathers who work for a Black Hills Power plant that the EPA has made it impossible for their power plant to stay open. He has to tell them that they no longer have the good jobs that have so well provided for their families. I'm sure it will be a great consolation to them to know that  Father Obama will hold their place in line at the welfare agencies. And to all my friends who will see higher energy costs as well-running power plants shut down to be replaced by uber-expensive new plants, I'm sure Obama will provide you welfare, too, to keep your home heated this winter and food stamps to subsidize the higher cost for food production. It is a lie by the left that the managers don't care about the people who work for them. My father started out at power plants as a mechanic and worked his way up to upper management. He was successful at management BECAUSE he cares about the people who work for him. All of my dad's children grew up with the experience of being stopped by strangers who would express their admiration and care for our father, their boss. It is really, really hard for my dad to give this awful news. It is the bureaucrat, with no personal involvement with people, who are cold and uncaring about the destruction their petty power plays and rules cause for others. Perhaps if the EPA officials destroying the power industry had to face those whose livelihood they are destroying by their blind devotion to bad environmental superstition, they would examine the actual facts behind the power industry and move a little slower to destroy the good jobs providing the abundant, clean power Americans have enjoyed and that has fueled our prosperity for so long.
This is just another example.  Are there tradeoffs for burning coal?  Of course there are.  It would be better if we all had magic unicorn power beamed directly from the sky castle into our homes (except I'm sure there would be a unicorn tax associated).  But there are tradeoffs with everything, because this is a cursed and fallen world.  When someone comes with an offer that's too good to be true, it probably is.  When a government bureaucrat comes and promises you free money, that money is coming from somewhere.  When a government bureaucrat promises to protect you from the possible danger of your neighbor opening a slaughterhouse next door, by setting up complicated zoning requirements and building codes, the tradeoff is not potential or possible, it is very real.  It is the tradeoff of everybody's property being worth less than it would be otherwise because they have lost a substantial amount of freedom to do with their own property what they see fit.

Our little church building in Limon is very old.  We are growing and the building is not meeting our needs all that well any more.  We would like to do some work on it, possibly expanding it.  To do so, we have to meet a complex set of building code requirements like putting in curb and gutter, bringing our bathrooms, plumbing and power up to code, even meeting aesthetic guidelines set by our town's building code.  Yes, every one of these requirements has a benefit- better handicap access, better safety, better access to the property and the like.  But every one of these requirements also has a cost.  That cost is money and time.  Money to pay for it and time to understand all the codes and get it done.  Every one of those requirements results in an increased likelihood that we will simply do nothing and keep making do with our old building.

I hear this story frequently from my other pastor friends.  Their buildings are old, outdated, no longer suitable. But doing anything about it requires complying with a huge list of codes, depending on where they're located.  Most of these churches have limited resources.  So they just make do as best they can.

And there is another cost associated with all these bureaucrats, and that other cost is all these bureaucrats.  They are, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, "eating up our substance."  Every one of them has to be paid.  So they impose a cost by restricting freedom, and they impose a cost again in requiring taxes and fees to pay their salaries.  These bureaucrats then constantly lobby for the importance and necessity of their departments, constantly working to increase their own budgets and workforces.  And this is what they do with those ever-increasing budgets.

Many conservative thinkers point out that when you give someone welfare, or a corn subsidy, or a guaranteed loan for college or for new technology, or whatever else, that money has to come from somewhere.  True enough, as far as it goes.  But it doesn't go far enough.  If I give someone a dollar in a welfare payment, that dollar has to come from someone else, and it comes at the point of a gun shoved in that other person's face.  They may call it "contributions" or whatever else, but the fact is, if I don't pay my taxes I go to jail.  So the dollar in welfare payments or corporate subsidies require a dollar taken from someone else.  But that doesn't even properly understand the problem.  If I am to pay the welfare recipient a dollar, I have to take two dollars from someone else- one dollar for the money to pay the welfare recipient, and one dollar to pay the bureaucrat who manages the program, the IRS agent who collects the money, and all of the other government infrastructure to manage the thing.  These bureaucrats constantly angle to increase their power and position.  This is why it is so hard to ever cut government, because the government itself is trying with all its might to increase its own power and influence.  Every dollar that the government spends is a little bit more of this economy they control.  That's why even the most inefficient, wasteful, redundant, foolish programs are so hard to cut.  It has nothing to do with how effective those programs are and everything to do with how much of the economy they control.  They want it all.  They think that the problem right now with the country is that the public sector isn't big enough.

"The private sector is doing fine."  "You didn't build that."  "Repeat the success of the auto bailout with every industry"- the auto bailout that cost the taxpayers billions, stiffed the bondholders and the non-union workers in favor of unions, and resulted in major government ownership of of two of the nation's biggest companies.  When are we going to start taking these people at their words?  They do not believe that we peasants can run our own lives without the help of a million dukes and barons and counts giving us permission to breathe every time we turn around and telling us how to do it.  How did this happen?  How did this nation that was born out of a desire for freedom from all these petty tyrants once again become enslaved to petty tyrants?

Men cannot save us from the sorrows of this life.  Only God can save us, and He has done so through His Son Jesus Christ.  Any man that comes along pretending he can protect you from every risk is just trying to enslave you and eat up your substance.  Trust God.  Don't trust man.  Stop letting these petty tyrants terrify you into letting them eat up your substance with a million bogus promises to save you from all the evils in the world.  Take responsibility for your own life and encourage others to do the same.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012



This ad is at the center of a new uproar in the presidential campaign.  In case you can't watch it (or don't want to), the ad features a man who was laid off when his factory was closed.  There's a lot of questions about whether Mitt Romney was even at Bain when the factory was closed.  I think that's entirely irrelevant.  The ad itself is an ad against freedom, and advocating slavery.

If I lay someone off as a legitimate business decision, they might lose their access to health care, and someone might die as a result.  That is true.  So what the ad is saying, is that business owners have an obligation to employ their employees, and are responsible for whatever happens if they do not.  This is an ad against the free market, against the rights of business owners and employers to make decisions that are good for their business.

Let's say this ad actually represented the way our market was supposed to work.  If a business owner can rightfully be held responsible for anything that happens to any of his employers once they work for him, even in a non-legal but moral sense, then an employer essentially could not employ anyone.  How could you take the risk?  How could you be responsible for everything that might happen to that employee if your business fails or if the employee is no good and you have to fire him?  Can you justify being responsible for murdering someone, or someone's family member, because they weren't good at showing up on time?  No employer is going to accept that kind of risk, of being made responsible for everything that might happen to someone once they are employed by him.

Not only does this ad advocate slavery for the business owner (since he is now forced to make economic decisions for the benefit of other people, not for himself), it also advocates slavery for this worker.

See, if the employer is responsible for providing healthcare coverage for this employee, then the employer has the right to control all of the decisions that affect that coverage.  If an employer is to remain in business, he must control his costs, and cannot be expected to make open-ended commitments to people without the ability to control the costs of those commitments.  So he will make sure the employee is exercising and eating right.  If he cannot fire the employee, since if he does he will then be responsible for anything that happens to the employee, he will keep the employee on forever, but will then essentially own that employee, making all the decisions for him and protecting him (or claiming to) from every risk.  This is the logic of this ad.

The ad is saying that this employee can't be expected to take care of himself and make his own decisions; men like Mitt Romney must do it for them.  It is an argument for slavery, for lords and vassals, for turning over all our responsibility to powerful men who will make all our decisions for us and protect us from every danger.  This is the argument that tyrants and emperors have always made.

Liberty can only exist when people are willing to take responsibility for themselves.  This man's employer made a contract with him, to provide him with compensation in exchange for labor.  That contract was not perpetual; either side had the right to end that contract whenever they so chose.  Saying that this man's employer essentially had a moral obligation to provide employment forever is saying that freedom itself is immoral.

But no man really can provide everything for you.  No man can protect you from every danger.  The claim that someone can is the claim of a false Messiah, the claim of a man trying to usurp the place of God.  There is always a question at the heart of these kinds of debates, and that fundamental question is, who can save us?  Who can provide us with security and safety?  There are three basic possible answers to that question- man can save us, nobody can save us, or only God can save us.

The second answer, that nobody can save us, is a recipe for nihilism and despair.  Nihilism usually doesn't get too many votes in politics.  So the choice is always between man and God.  Those that advocate for government programs that can preserve us from every possible danger are saying that man can save us.  They put the source of their hope in the actions of men, and it makes sense then to look to the greatest possible collection of the power of men, which is government.

The conservative Christian answers that only God can save us. The problems of this life- disease, poverty, war and the like are all the result of sin, and only God can save us from sin or from any of its consequences.  We look to government then to do only what God has called for it to do, which is to protect the innocent from evildoers, to the best of its ability, to provide some sort of order and stability in which society can function, because this is the God-given function of government (Romans 13).  We do not think that the government can protect us from every possible ill, and we know that anyone who claims that they can is a con-man, a shyster, a would-be tyrant who hopes to rob us of our liberty with promises that he can never keep.

This is more than just a dirty ad.  This ad is a good indication of what this election is really about, and what is truly at stake in these political discussions.  Will you trust God, and reject any claim that other men can ever safeguard your health, your safety, your prosperity, your importance in life?  Or will you trust men, and turn your liberty over to them, to willingly make yourself their slaves, so that they can provide you with everything you need?  The tyrants of the world always claim to be looking out for the little guy, like the man in this ad.

When government does only what God says it should, it can be reasonably effective, though still never perfect, not by a long shot.  When government usurps authority that God never gave it, and starts seeking to provide wealth, health and happiness to its population, then that government sets itself up in the place of God, makes slaves of the people and inevitably fails to do what it claimed it could do anyway, because the government isn't God, and it doesn't matter how much power or wealth we give it, it will never be God.  The last three years should show us that; the fall of the Soviet Union and every other totalitarian regime should show us that.  Government isn't God.

Bible-believing Christians should always support limited government and reject these messianic claims, that men somehow can.  Governments cannot eliminate the effects of sin; only Christ can do that.


Saturday, August 04, 2012


The phrase "Tastes like Hate" was spraypainted on the side of a Chick-fil-A the other day, in protest against the political views of their owners.  One of the claims is that they supported a bill in Uganda to kill homosexuals, a charge which seems to be false.  But the larger issue is the question of language.  Supporters of gay marriage say that opponents of gay marriage are guilty of "hate", a word that, like "racism", is rapidly being emptied of all content.

I do not hate homosexuals.  I know a couple of people who do, who really just want to beat up or ridicule gay people, but they are the tiny minority of the Christian community and certainly not representative of that community or any of its leadership.  There are people who simply want to attack anyone around them for any reason, and people being gay is a convenient focus.

Virtually everyone I know really making a case against homosexual behavior or gay marriage does so because they believe that such behavior is extremely harmful to the one doing it.  If we hated the people doing it, we would simply keep our mouths shut and let them destroy themselves.  It is precisely because our Lord commanded us to love others that we feel obligated to speak up against the behavior and lifestyle that is destroying them.

That is a question of fact.  Is it actually harmful to oneself to practice a homosexual lifestyle?  According to the Bible, it unquestioningly is, because living in unrepentant sin will result in eternal condemnation.  That's very bad, very harmful.  Even in this life, we believe that homosexual behavior leads to a great many problems.  Again, a question of fact.  Many believe that these claims are wrong, that there is no hell, or that homosexuality is not a sin, or that children raised in same-sex households are just as healthy and well-off as children raised in traditional family structures.  These are all questions of fact- these claims are either true or they're not, or they're partly true and partly not.

But when you start the discussion by saying that I am a liar, that I am not motivated by love for homosexuals at all but in fact by hatred for them, then the discussion is not going to go anywhere.

But this appears to be intentional.  George Lakoff argues that the liberal should never engage, should never even acknowledge that the conservatives even have an argument.  They should simply frame the debate in a way which makes conservatives look evil and keep pounding away at that message.  So we are against gay marriage because we hate gay people.  We are opposed to welfare because we are racist and hate the poor.  We are opposed to abortion because we hate and fear women and want to keep them under control.  No conservative thinker I know, academic or popular or otherwise, ever makes such arguments, either in public or in private.  I reject all of them, and any conservative who espoused them would be rejected by the conservative community as a whole.  John Derbyshire got fired from National Review just for coming kind of close.

When I read leftist sites or engage with liberals, for the most part this is all I see.  Go spend a while reading DailyKos, for example, if you can stomach it.  They refuse to deal with any of the actual arguments real conservatives make, instead asserting that the arguments we use are not our real motivations.  Their understanding of the Republican party is basically this- there are a bunch of rich white guys who control the country and want ever more and more money, and they trick the poor racist ignoramuses of the country through fears of gays and minorities into supporting them.  And that's it.  That is their entire understanding of conservatism.  They dismiss all the arguments of Milton Friedman and Adam Smith and Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk and Ronald Reagan and Thomas Sowell and all the rest of them, and simply state that we're stupid racists being tricked by rich white puppet-masters into giving them all the power and money.

How can we actually have a conversation?  I understand and will engage the liberal arguments.  I will accept that the liberal is trying to help the poor and oppressed.  We have a disagreement about the best way to help the poor and oppressed.  I think that government programs are the opposite of what is needed.  But they will not accept that I even want to help the poor and oppressed.  They just call me an ignorant racist hater.

So who here is guilty of hate?  Who is refusing to even talk?  Who is desiring not to help the other side of the debate, but to destroy it?

Chick-fil-A is not guilty of hate or bigotry.  They are guilty of a difference of opinion about what is best for those who experience same-sex attraction.  Liberals are guilty of hatred and bigotry.  They don't want to engage the conservative Christian argument.  They just want to destroy conservative Christians.

Thursday, August 02, 2012


We celebrate the Lord's Supper this Sunday.  We also refer to this sacrament as Communion, because it is a symbol of our union with Christ.  The Apostle Paul told us that the bread we break is the communion of the body of Christ, and that we all are one body since we eat of one bread.

In salvation we are united to Christ.  We become one with Him in a mystical and covenantal sense.  He obeyed the Father perfectly, and died for the sins of His people.  When we have faith in Him, we are united to Him, and these benefits become ours.  His perfect obedience is counted for our obedience, and His death pays the price for our sins.  That is true in a legal or covenantal sense, but that union goes beyond the merely legal.  We are united to Him really and truly.  The Holy Spirit becomes the link between us and Christ, and by the Spirit's power Christ's perfect human life is worked in us, so that we gain access to His strength, knowledge and wisdom.  All of these things, by the power of God, are worked in the life of the Christian.  This is what it means to be united to Him.

Communal Participation
When we celebrate the Lord's Supper, we celebrate this union with Christ.  It is a powerful symbol to us of what it means to "eat" Christ, to lay hold of all of His benefits by faith and to be sustained by His life.  Further, it points us to the real communion we have with each other.  It is impossible to draw close to Christ without also drawing close to all other believers; as we eat of that living bread, we are transformed by it, and by that transformation we gain more and more closeness to all others being transformed in the same way.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Here is Wisdom- Support Chick-fil-A 

 Rev. 13:14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. 15 He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.  16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, 17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.
Barnabas Piper writes on the Aquila Report that it is a mistake to support Chick-fil-A today.  He is concerned that this shows a hostility on the part of Christians toward homosexuals, which he says is a mistake.  I agree- that would be a mistake.  But I think he fundamentally misunderstands what this is about.

This isn't anti-homosexual day.  That's not the reason for this movement.  Chick-fil-A has been a vocal Christian organization for a long time.  There is no reason for surprise or outrage at their views, which are well-known.  I find it interesting that this attack on Chick-fil-A comes just a few months after Obama publicly reversed his stance on gay marriage- were they perhaps paving the way for just this kind of attack?  Because the whole thing certainly wasn't spontaneous.  It was planned.  But this isn't even about gay marriage.  The big issue has nothing at all even to do with homosexuality.

The attack on Chick-fil-A is a shot across the bow of every Christian in this country.  It is a message that our political views, even those driven by our religious views, are going to have to be subordinated to the needs of the statists.  They picked a big, public, known Christian organization and threatened them with economic destruction because of their faith.  It is persecution of Christianity, and it is overt.  In the book of Revelation, the kingdom of the mark of the beast is characterized by economic persecution to all who do not bow down to the image of the beast.  That is what is going on here.  The statists, those who look to the state as the savior of man, the solution to all our problems, have made it clear that unless we submit to the statist agenda, we will not be permitted to buy or sell.  The statists don't even care about gay marriage.  They're fine allying themselves with others who are against gay marriage, but who support the statist agenda.  It's not even about "religion" against the state per se- as the last link shows, religions which believe in the Messianic state are just fine with them.  This is about Christianity.  Gay marriage is only a pretext to attack Christians.

I don't believe this indicates the eminent return of Christ, necessarily.  I am an amillenialist, and as such I see this persecution as an element of the Christian life, that has been present on and off throughout the history of the church age.  "All those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."  Our salvation is not found in stamping out such persecution wherever it is found.  It is found in patiently enduring that persecution until Christ comes again and frees us from it.

Early in the history of the church, during the time of the Roman Empire, in order to practice most trades and professions you had to be a member of a guild.  That guild was also a temple to a pagan god.  Being a member of the guild required worshiping the god.  Becoming a Christian, therefore, meant leaving the guild and being barred from practicing your profession.  That kind of economic persecution led some to say that it was acceptable to practice the guild rituals in an outward way in order to maintain one's standing in the guild, as long as you worshiped Jesus in your heart.  This is the error of the Nicolaitans, most likely, so roundly denounced in the book of Revelation.  Even today, many professions are being closed to Bible-believing Christians, more and more- medicine, politics, law, science- many of these fields are becoming harder and harder for believing Christians to practice, especially at higher levels.  The statists would love to add business to that list.

Knuckling under to that persecution is not quietly enduring it.  It is not quietly enduring to throw to the wolves those that the beast targets.  It is therefore not truly anti-homosexual to support Chick-fil-A.  But the homosexual groups have allied themselves, by and large, to the statists, because ultimately all those who hate God worship the beast.

Christians should absolutely be loving to homosexuals, just as we should be loving to anyone trapped in any other sin.  But it's not loving to say sin isn't sin.  And it's not loving to abandon our fellow Christians when they're under persecution, in order to maintain a relationship with those responsible for the persecution.  Christians were a witness to the Roman soldiers who were persecuting them by staying faithful to the Lord (which means staying faithful to the Lord's people) even in the midst of torture, not by distancing themselves from the persecuted in order to maintain good relationships with the Roman soldiers.

The beast is the power of the kingdoms of the earth, seeking to replace the true Messiah and supplant His kingdom on earth.  He will always fail, for Christ has won the victory.  The only way the beast can defeat you is by tricking you into thinking that he is alive, that he has power, that he can bring you security and prosperity.  He will try to terrify you into thinking that you need to at least soften your allegiance to Christ a little bit, in order to avoid the persecution of the world.  Stay strong, endure, don't compromise the faith.  Support your brothers and sisters who are under attack for their Christianity, because you are next.  Homosexuality has nothing at all to do with this discussion, and everything to do with the hatred of the world for the kingdom of Christ.  Chick-fil-A has taken a stand for the kingdom of Christ.  We should support them.

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