Aug 28, 2011

Call and Response

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The Church and the Poor: Historical Perspectives
By Glenn Sunshine Published Date: August 22, 2011
Poverty principles

Remembering the poor
In the previous article, we looked at New Testament models of poor relief, noting that the early Christians were very generous in sharing what they had with those in need, but also that they were very careful about who was enrolled as dependents of the church. That said, the apostolic church considered “remembering the poor” to be among its most basic moral imperatives (Gal. 2:10).

Christians continued to take care of human needs over the succeeding centuries. Even prior to the legalization of Christianity, Christians took the lead in caring for the sick, even at great personal risk (as the Roman physician Galen attested). After Christianity was legalized, they, more than anyone else, fed the hungry (as the pagan emperor Julian the Apostate recognized); throughout history, the Church has also been heavily involved in education (as evidenced by the number of schools and universities that have been started by missionaries and churches).

In the Middle Ages, all organized charity was administered through the church or through para-church organizations known as confraternities. These lay religious institutions provided for the poor either generally or through targeted giving to specific causes, for example providing dowries for poor girls.

Medieval monasteries
Perhaps the most interesting example of Christian efforts to aid the poor is found in the medieval monasteries. St. Benedict of Nursia, whose rules for monastic life were the foundation for nearly all Western monasticism, mandated that his monks take a vow of poverty and at the same time be engaged in work—understood primarily in agricultural terms as production of goods. There were two reasons for this: first, in the ancient world work was seen as demeaning, and thus having the monks work promoted humility; second, Benedict recognized that God gave Adam work to do in the Garden before the Fall, and so work was good no matter what society thought of it. And, as we have seen, the Apostle Paul also taught this.

But a curious thing happened. Although many of the monasteries became corrupt—little more than country clubs for the nobility, who lived in luxury whatever their vows said—other monasteries were vitally concerned with following a pure version of Benedict’s Rule. The Cistercian order is a good example of this. The Cistercians made sure that the monks were all engaged in productive labor and at the same time banned conspicuous consumption and luxurious living, insisting instead on a strict understanding of the vow of poverty.

Productive labor resulted in increasing profits. While some of that was given away, given the limitations on transportation and the relatively sparse population, there was still a surplus after giving to the poor. Since it was wrong to let the produce spoil, it was sold and the proceeds were used to purchase more land since the vow of poverty meant that the cash couldn’t be kept. This in turn increased the productive potential of the monastery. The thought was, if production is good, more production is better.

The monks themselves could not work all of the land, so they brought in tenant farmers who grew crops and gave a fixed amount back to the monastery. The monks thus provided employment for the lay people outside of the monastery, giving them meaningful work and a chance to benefit from their own labor.

The net result is that a strict understanding of the monastic vow of poverty led the Cistercians to become very rich, while also benefiting those who lived around the monasteries.

But the story doesn’t stop there. The monks understood that though work is good, drudgery is a result of the Fall and is therefore bad. Christ came to redeem us from the results of sin, and thus as His followers we need to work to restore meaning to work by eliminating drudgery. As a result, the monks also used their excess profits to find ways to harness technology to do repetitive, mindless work rather than having people do it.

Monks were the first to use waterwheels—a technology known to but never deployed by the Romans—to grind grain; the waterwheel was then adapted for a wide range of other uses outside of the monasteries, including operating bellows and trip hammers for forges, fulling cloth, and making paper. These technologies further increased productivity while at the same time eliminating some of the drudge work associated with production.

The monasteries were thus the beginning of many of the essential elements of capitalism, particularly the reinvestment of profits to increase production, motivated by a Biblical understanding of work and the image of God.

The unintended effect of all this was to raise the amount of goods available to people and therefore raise the standard of living in Europe across the board through the central Middle Ages. This also produced important social changes, including most notably the conversion of the vast majority of European serfs to free peasants.

Cities and the poorIn the sixteenth century, cities began to see care for their own poor as a civic responsibility. The Reformation heightened this trend, since without the Catholic organizations, someone had to pick up the slack in caring for the poor. At the same time, many reformers continued to insist that this was an ecclesiastical function, with varying degrees of success.

At their best, town governments developed innovative and comprehensive approaches for dealing with the poor in a way the hodgepodge of confraternities and religious orders had been unable to do.
For example, when the city of Geneva converted to Protestantism in 1535, it replaced all of the Catholic relief organizations with a single “General Hospital.” The Hospital was a comprehensive social welfare institution that took care of all needs except communicable diseases. It used a vertically integrated, interlocking approach to provide for the needs of native deserving poor, orphans, the elderly, and those unable to work.

Orphaned, illegitimate, or abandoned boys would work on farms under the direction of the Hospital, thereby learning the skills needed to be farmers. The grain they produced was then brought to mills, where other boys were taught to grind the grain; it then went to bakeries, where other boys were taught baking. The bread was then distributed to the elderly and infirm who could not work for themselves. Girls were similarly given opportunities to learn skills that they would need later in life.

All of this was supervised directly by h├┤pitaliers and funded through the work of procureurs. When Calvin wrote the church order for Geneva, he identified these offices as deacons in the church, thereby baptizing existing Genevan practice and creating the kind of mixed church-state institution that is only possible in state churches.

Nonetheless, even in a world where church and state are separate, the Genevan model points toward a kind of church-state cooperation in social welfare that is actually practiced in many places in the US today.

More than just feeding the poor
These examples show that dealing with poverty involves more than just feeding the poor: it requires economic structures that promote human flourishing holistically. Significantly, this does not mean reorganizing society to shift wealth from those who produce it to those who do not; rather, it means providing opportunities to all to earn their own way and providing a safety net for those who cannot.
This all-too-brief history shows that biblical ideas about work, the image of God, property rights, and generosity lead to sound economic thought. And not surprisingly, those ideas also benefit society as a whole—including doing more to relieve poverty than any other economic system in history.

What is surprising is how few people in the church and the society today recognize the importance of the Biblical ideas, the role of the Church in economic thought, and the profound impact for good these ideas have had.

In the next and final article in this series, we will look at some specific principles we can glean from Scripture and history that can guide us in our approach to helping the needy.




 
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Aug 26, 2011

Commentary: Liberals Redefine “Extremism” And The “Political Center”

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Christopher G. Adamo | August 25, 2011

Among the major factors inspiring the conservative grassroots across America to take action is the seeming inability of those in office to stand fast against the liberal onslaught. And while this has always been a problem for career politicians, no matter how sincerely and idealistically they began their terms of office, the situation has clearly gotten worse in recent years. With the recent raising of the debt ceiling, Barack Obama was granted a veritable green light to shamelessly continue his outlandish spending binge. Worse yet, those relative few in the Congress who sought to hold the line on spending have since been essentially criminalized, and are regularly denigrated in the harshest of terms.

Meanwhile, Democrats continue spewing absurd claims that every negative consequence of the reprehensible debt increase somehow does not redound to the deal itself, but is entirely the fault of those who warned of its pitfalls. It is as if Standard and Poors, and every other bond rating service was indifferent to Washington’s intentions to relentlessly borrow and spend the nation into oblivion, but got really concerned when those few principled members of Congress dared to argue the point.

Of course the perversion of political discourse is hardly confined to the government’s fiscal disasters. On every front, the pattern in recent years has been for the left to starkly redefine all political debate to the point that anything which does not conform to the liberal agenda is instantly characterized as “rancor,” “extremism,” or “hate.” Even on such seemingly oblique topics as “global climate change,” an issue about which it might once have seemed reasonable to analyze and evaluate scientific data and arrive at objective conclusions, the left dodges honest discussion and resorts to invective and accusation. The field is sharply divided between those who suggest that recent temperature fluctuations be considered in light of historical data, and apoplectic liberals who assert that any doubt can only be the conspiratorial sedition of “climate change deniers.”

While the American left has engaged in such tactics since its inception, the degree to which it currently does so has burgeoned in recent years. Though the practice was codified in Saul Alinsky’s 1971 publication “Rules For Radicals,” it was in the wake of the 2000 presidential election debacle that the Democrat/liberal political machine made a determination to put the strategy into high gear.
Having failed to alter the outcome of the Florida recount even after several attempts, and finally being thwarted by the Supreme Court, Democrats were forced to concede the race. However, even though they were never able to manufacture the votes necessary to change the outcome, they determined to thereafter use the close tally, and the manner in which they were prevented from continuing their chicanery, as an excuse to incessantly assert that the race was somehow “stolen” from them. To their surprise, weak kneed Republicans responded in a manner that conveyed defensiveness and even conciliation. Thus they were emboldened to continue and even expand the practice.

President Bush’s misguided and insipid “new tone,” pursued on the heels of the election in naive and futile hopes of “reaching across the aisle” and “ending the rancor,” only served to further motivate them. And in the end, after a very brief respite in the wake of 9-11 (during which they were compelled to act not as partisan Democrats but as patriotic Americans), the venom and malevolence resumed and eventually reached unprecedented levels. In the process, the “center,” according to the movers and shakers, was shifted significantly to the left.

Public disillusionment with a Republican Party that had largely accepted this premise led to the electoral disasters of 2006 (No, it was not the Iraq War) and eventually, 2008. GOP spending excesses (though they now seem minuscule), along with a willingness to expand entitlements and encroach on freedoms, convinced America that the Republican Party lacked the courage and resolve to steer the nation back to its proper course. In the wake of Barack Obama’s inauguration the revolting fawning and acquiescence to his agenda further solidified the notion in the minds of the American people that the “inner circle” Republicans had indeed completely lost their way.

So it was that when the “Tea Party” arose from the ashes of the 2008 electoral debacle, political insiders from both sides of the aisle perceived it as a mortal threat to the perks and benefits of their status quo. And while some perceptive Republican pragmatists, along with the relative handful of true conservatives in the Congress have recognized the ultimate value and worthiness of truly committed and principled conservatives at the grassroots, establishment politicians from both parties are unrestrained in their contempt for the movement and attempts to disparage and trivialize it. Their primary tactic is to portray it as hopelessly out on the extreme right “fringe.”

Hence, devotion to fiscal sanity is “draconian” and “mean spirited.” Concern for the moral preservation and restoration of the nation and its foundational institutions including traditionally defined marriage, is “homophobic” and “hateful.” Protection of the unborn is “sexist” and “anti-woman.” Recognition of the cultural and spiritual roots of the nation, and their critical importance to its future are “religious intolerance” and “xenophobia.” And the list goes on. Yet Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D.-CA) is dubbed “mainstream” despite having ranted to an audience of far leftists that “The Tea Party can go straight to hell,” which she followed with the transparent threat “And I intend to help them get there!”

Undoubtedly the most valuable collaborator of this abhorrent ruse is the all too common “Republican” who agrees with such subversive premises. Senator John McCain (R.-AZ) once again proved his worth to the left when he derided the Tea Party as “Hobbits.” Former Senator and RINO extraordinaire Alan Simpson of Wyoming did likewise, while proving just how out of the mainstream his version of a “Republican” is. In an April 2011 interview, he ominously warned MSNBC host Chris Matthews of GOP members who oppose the homosexual agenda and advocate traditional morality.

Nevertheless, the voice of the heartland, maligned and ridiculed though it may be among the “Ruling Class,” constitutes an incredibly powerful stabilizing factor in the nation’s current discussions. Those who would reinvent “right” and “wrong” along lines that serve their personal agendas, while perverting the foundational cultural and moral pillars on which the nation was established, are finding to their dismay that Real America is no longer listening to them. With each passing day, it is they who, despite their self-absorbed grandstanding and claims of birthright and pedigree, are further relegated to rightful status as “the fringe.”


Christopher G. Adamo is a resident of southeastern Wyoming. He has been involved in politics at the local and state level for many years. His contact information and article archives can be found at www.chrisadamo.com


 
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Aug 24, 2011

Redistribution and the Church

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By Glenn Sunshine Published Date: August 01, 2011
Poverty principles

The Church and the poor
In the last article, we began an examination of the role of the Church in dealing with poverty. While it is abundantly clear from both Scripture and history that the Church must be involved in poor relief, some of the arguments of those who emphasize this aspect of the Church’s work misread and misunderstand what the Bible actually has to say about this.

We see this, for example, in Ched Myers’s Sabbath Economics. Myers argues that the story of the manna in the Old Testament is intended to teach us that God provides abundantly for our needs (not our desires), but forbids accumulation.[1] Myers’s exegesis results in a host of distortions of the text—for example, his conclusion about the lesson of the manna is very different from Moses’ (Deut. 8:3)—and his economic assumptions lead him to twist Jesus’ parables, as discussed in the last article.[2]

But what of his central idea, shared by other progressives such as Shane Claiborne, that the Church is to be an anti-capitalist community based on voluntary redistribution of goods?

First, as I argued in a previous article, the Bible is absolutely clear that those who have must share with those who have not. John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, John, James, all tell us that the rich are obligated to help the poor. So yes, in that sense, redistribution is a part of living faithfully before God.

One misreading
On the other hand, simplistic, communal redistribution schemes are neither Biblically-mandated nor effective in truly helping the poor.

Ched Myers cites the manna story as a prohibition on accumulation, but ignores the fact that the Israelites carried out great wealth from Egypt, some of which they contributed to the building of the Tabernacle. Evidently, despite the manna, God was not concerned with them holding on to property, even great wealth.

This is not surprising, considering that the right to property is grounded in the image of God and God’s mandate to Adam in the Garden of Eden. In fact, the inalienable right to property is critical to the Jubilee, one of Myers’ inspirations for Sabbath Economics, as well as the laws prohibiting theft and covetousness.

But what about the “community of goods” described in the Jerusalem church, in which the believers “held all things in common?” (Acts 4:32) This is a favorite verse for those who believe that redistribution is a central responsibility of the Church. Yet a careful reading of the text and of the next few chapters shows that the Jerusalem church did not operate as a commune, whatever a superficial reading of this verse suggests.

Private property
Read in context, “they held all things in common” is an example of hyperbole—the rhetorical device of using exaggeration for emphasis. The following verses tell us that when there was a need, people sold their property to meet it. In other words, they recognized that their responsibility to their neighbors was more important than their ownership of their property, so they were quite willing to sell what they had to help others—but that means that they retained ownership of their property until a need arose which led them to sell it.

This is reinforced in the following chapter, where Peter affirms Ananias’ and Saphira’s right to their property and to the proceeds of its sale (Acts 5:4). In other words, private property was maintained in the Jerusalem church and thus that they did not literally “hold all things in common,” though generosity was encouraged and practiced.

Myers never explicitly rejects private property and does argue that redistribution should be voluntary. But since he also argues that accumulation is forbidden, it would seem that property ownership would involve the Christian in the kind of unjust economic system that Myers claims all believers are called upon to dismantle. How these two ideas fit together is not entirely clear.

Caring for the poor: widows
The trajectory of poor relief in Jerusalem does not stop in chapter 4 or even 5. Chapter 6 shows that the informal sharing of resources that had developed in the church did not work effectively; ethnic divisions led to a breakdown of the system that had to be corrected through a more organized approach to helping the poor (specifically, the widows) to be sure that all were adequately cared for.

Because of this experience, the church in Jerusalem drew up rolls of widows who were dependent on the church and appointed seven people to oversee the distribution of aid, the first deacons. At this point, the Jerusalem church numbered several thousand people, yet only seven were needed to deal with the needs of the church’s dependents. How did that work?

The answer is found in 1 Timothy. Evidently, the widows roll in Jerusalem became the model for other churches, including the church in Ephesus. Paul tells Timothy that only certain widows are to put on the church’s rolls; the rest should remarry or be cared for by their families (1 Tim. 5:3-16).

It is even possible that these widows were given specific responsibilities in the church. Early church documents indicate that the Church had an “order of widows” whose job was to minister to women in ways that would have been inappropriate for men.[3] If so, this would be consistent with Paul’s warnings against idleness and his insistence that those who can work, do so (2 Thessalonians 6-12).

To put it differently, the Church’s regular distribution of food was limited to those who had no other options or resources and who devoted themselves to prayer and service to the saints (1 Tim. 5:5, 10). As a result, there were relatively few who were on the rolls, and the church in Jerusalem could therefore get by with only seven deacons. While Christians also engaged in extensive ad hoc charity to the needy, only a very limited number of people were allowed to become dependents of the Church.

Giving for emergencies
Or course, the Church also engaged in giving in emergency situations, such as the famine in Jerusalem, for which Paul took up collections in Asia Minor and Greece (1 Cor. 16:1-4). This is the context for 2 Cor. 8:13-14, which Myers uses to argue that redistribution must be a regular activity of the Church. But these comments did not deal with “regular” giving within the Church, but rather with a response to an emergency in a far distant church, one that gave an opportunity for a concrete demonstration of one of Paul’s central ideas, the unity of Jews and Gentiles in Christ (cf. Rom. 15:27).

None of this means that Christians are not called upon to share with those in need. We absolutely are, and on this point the progressive movement among Evangelicals is beyond doubt correct. The key question is how best to do this.

Words and deeds
This analysis suggests that a balanced, Scripture-based approach to helping the poor is considerably more complex than the “community of goods” model and takes into account such core Biblical ideas as the significance of work and private property, along with the importance of loving our neighbor with actions, not just words.

The issue of accumulation is particularly important here, because without it, economic and technological growth, medical advancement, the arts, and a wide range of other activities would come to a grinding halt. As it turns out, however, there are examples in history where a more Biblically-balanced understanding of economics and responsibility to the poor had a massive (though under-appreciated) impact on society. Surprisingly enough, some of the most important examples of this come from medieval monasteries, where the monks took vows of poverty. We will look at these in our next article.

 
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Aug 23, 2011

Lost Episodes: Franklin’s View of Education

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Written by aaron | August 23, 2011


On August 23, 1750, Benjamin Franklin wrote to Dr. Samuel Johnson, who was the first President of King’s College (later Columbia University), regarding education:
“I think with you, that nothing is of more importance for the public weal [good], than to form and train up youth [Prov. 22:6] in wisdom and virtue. Wise and good men are, in my opinion, the strength of a state: much more so than riches or arms, which, under the management of Ignorance and Wickedness, often draw on destruction, instead of providing for the safety of a people. And though the culture bestowed on many should be successful only with a few, yet the influence of those few and the service in their power, may be very great. Even a single woman that was wise, by her wisdom saved a city [2 Sam. 20:22].
I think also, that general virtue is more probably to be expected and obtained from the education of youth, than from the exhortation of adult persons; bad habits and vices of the mind, being, like diseases of the body, more easily prevented than cured.
I think moreover, that talents for the education of youth are the gift of God; and that he on whom they are bestowed, whenever a way is opened for the use of them, is as strongly called as if he heard a voice from heaven: nothing more surely pointing out duty in a public service, than ability and opportunity of performing it.”*
Benjamin Franklin knew the importance of training up young, virtuous leaders and viewed effective educators as having a divine calling and a gift from God. That is another lost episode in American history.

*Source Citation: Leonard W. Labaree, ed. et al, The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, 40 vols. to date, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1959-2011), 4:40. Bracketed items added.

 
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Aug 22, 2011

Poverty and the Church

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By Glenn Sunshine Published Date: July 11, 2011
Poverty principles

In the previous articles dealing with poverty, we noted several important principles that should govern our ideas about poor relief.
  • Our greatest responsibility is to those closest to us, starting with our own families. The more removed people are from us, the less our direct responsibility to them.
  • Work is an aspect of the image of God and is central to human dignity; the best way to help people in poverty is to help them earn their income rather than having them rely on someone else to meet their needs.
  • When people face immediate needs, those needs must be met. Ideally, however, the recipients should be transitioned toward self-sufficiency as soon as possible so they can retain their dignity and pay it forward to others in need.
  • Government may have a role in poor relief, but that role should be subsidiary to individuals and local charitable institutions; when government does get involved, it should be on as local a level as possible.
This leads to the immediate question of the role of the Church in relieving poverty. Christians as individuals clearly have great personal responsibility for helping the poor; what should be the role of the local church?

The early ChurchThere can be no question that the early Church was involved in caring for the poor. The church in Jerusalem in Acts 4 is perhaps the most obvious (and most misunderstood) example of this, but we can look as well to the aid delivered to the church in Jerusalem from churches in Asia Minor and Greece as an additional example of caring for those in need within the Christian community.

But Christians did not only take care of their own poor. They ministered to the sick and dying, purchased slaves to set them free, clothed the naked, and fed the hungry whether they were Christians or not. This was recognized by Julian the Apostate, the Roman Emperor who attempted to re-paganize Rome after Christianity was legalized. Julian complained, “These impious Galileans [i.e. Christians] feed not only their own poor, but ours as well.”

Julian’s reaction was based on the fact that the pagan world was not much given to charity, and so the Church’s role in feeding the poor created a space in Roman society that was not under imperial authority and therefore undermined his rule. As the Church has moved away from its ancient practice, it has surrendered this area once again to Caesar.

Evangelism and the poorHistorically, evangelism had always been linked to social welfare programs, ranging from feeding the poor to establishing hospitals and schools. In the early twentieth century, American Church leaders inspired by German liberal theology essentially abandoned evangelism in favor of the “Social Gospel” and a nearly exclusive emphasis on this world. Conservative theologians rejected this change as a betrayal of true Christianity, but unfortunately they reacted by focusing exclusively on evangelism and the afterlife while ignoring the relevance of the Gospel of the Kingdom for this life.
American evangelicalism is still suffering from the aftermath of this division, which has discredited Christianity in the eyes of many young people in the country.[i]

The fact is, the emphasis on an exclusively other-worldly Gospel does not do justice to the teachings of Jesus or Paul, as Ron Sider, Jim Wallis, and more recently Ched Myers and Shane Claiborne have argued.

“Progressive” evangelicalsUnfortunately, many of these “progressive evangelicals” have largely baptized the programs of the secular left and confused them with a Biblical vision for caring for the needy. Wallis, for example, has tied himself to government solutions for poverty through his close association with secular progressives and funding from the atheist George Soros.

Claiborne and Myers see economic redistribution as an essential component to the Gospel: Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution tells us that “rebirth and redistribution are inextricably bound up in one another,” and Ched Myers’s Sabbath Economics presents a vision of Christianity that is 100% economic, with no mention of any spiritual dimensions to salvation.

Sabbath Economics illustrates a number of important themes in this movement along with its problems. The book’s premise revolves around three points: God provides enough for His people if they restrain their appetites and live within limits; differences in wealth and power are not natural and the community of faith must correct them through redistribution; the prophetic message of Scripture calls us to redistribution, which is what makes it good news for the poor (pg. 5).
The first point comes from Myers’s interpretation of the story of the manna, which teaches us that God provides for us, but that accumulation is forbidden (pg. 13). In fact, Myers sees the entire manna episode as a parable about the superiority of hunter/gatherer society and local horticulture over intensive agriculture, cities, and the resultant slave-based imperial economies (pg. 11).[ii]

The prohibition of accumulation is further reinforced by the story of the rich young ruler, about which Myers concludes, “Whatever else the kingdom of God may be, it is where the rich are not!” (pg. 31)—evidently confusing it being difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven with it being impossible, an error Myers might have avoided had he not made the climax of the discussion Mark 10:26 rather than Jesus’ own conclusion in 10:27.

The idea of redistribution comes from the Old Testament Sabbath year and Jubilee, where property was returned and slaves set free, the Jerusalem church in Acts 4 (more on that in the next article), and Jesus’ description of his ministry as preaching good news to the poor. According to Myers, the only thing that would qualify as good news to the poor was the cancelation of their debts (pg. 23), and so Jesus’ ministry was fundamentally about economics.

He even argues that although in the New Testament, the Greek words for debt and sin are different, in Aramaic they are the same, and so when Jesus talks about forgiveness of sins he really means releasing people from monetary debt (pg. 24). In other words, in rejecting the emphasis on the next life of contemporary evangelism, he has made the Gospel all about this world.
These assumptions guide Myers’s approach to Scripture and lead to what can only be described as tortured exegesis of some of Jesus’ parables. For example, in the parable of the vineyard, the absentee landowner is the one who faces judgment, not the tenants (pg. 27).

Similarly, in the parable of the talents, it is not the ones who use their talents who are the heroes because according to Myers everyone would have recognized that the only way they could have doubled their investment was by exploitation (pg. 42). Myers here ignores the example of Isaac, who got a one hundred-fold return in his harvest (Gen. 26:12). He also misses the fact that the master was away for a long time (Matt. 25:19); even at the low rates of return he claims would have been acceptable, the servants could potentially have doubled the money without exploitation. The only reason to see these servants as exploitive is because if they aren’t, Myers’s economic argument falls apart.

Myers instead sees the servant who hides the talent as the real hero, because he refused to participate in an exploitive economic system. Myers’s justification for this reading is that the third servant called the master a “hard man”—a term used for Pharaoh elsewhere in Scripture—and the master quotes it back to him without refutation (though in parallel passages the master makes it clear he is judging the servant using his own words).

Both the tenants and the third servant come to an unfortunate end, though Myers argues that this is not the result of divine judgment but the action of the unjust, oppressive system of the world which always persecutes the righteous. The descriptions of their fate—being executed or cast into outermost darkness—are in other parables references to divine judgment, but to fit his assumptions Myers has to argue they mean something different here.

The examples can be multiplied.[iii] This forced exegesis (or to be more accurate, eisegesis—reading into the text rather than drawing the meaning out of it) is a sure sign that the assumptions Myers brings to Scripture are wrong. While his recognition of the relevance of the Gospel to this world is laudable, his approach is wrong-headed, owing more to a Christianized version of Marxist economic determinism than to a Biblically faithful vision of economics within the community of faith.
We will examine the issue of redistribution and develop a more balanced view of biblical economics and the church in the next article.


 
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Aug 19, 2011

Sophistry in Ancient Athens

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By Robin Phillips | Published Date: August 15, 2011

“...for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, who forsake the paths of uprightness  to walk in the ways of darkness...” Proverbs 2:10-13
The ancient city of Athens didn’t have a police force. Thus, if somebody committed a crime against you – if, for example, they embezzled your money or stole your property – the only way you could achieve justice was by taking them to court.
Ancient Athens also didn’t have any lawyers. Thus, anyone who found himself in court had to be prepared to argue the case himself.
One thing that ancient Athens did possess was plenty of unscrupulous characters. Many of these less-than principled folk discovered that if you were clever enough you could persuade the court to agree with you even if you were in the wrong (especially if your opponent was not very bright).
In the latter half of the fifth century BC, a group of teachers arose in Athens called Sophists. The Sophists claimed to be able to teach students how to prove impossible propositions, such as that nothing exists or that motion is impossible.
The Greek playwright, Aristophanes, poked fun at the Sophists in his comedy The Clouds. In his play, an elderly farmer named Strepsiades goes to a special school called “The Thinkery” where Socrates (caricatured here as a Sophist) promises to teach him how to use persuasive rhetoric to prove that right is wrong and wrong is right. Overjoyed at the power he will wield once Socrates has taught him the secret to proving anything, the unscrupulous Strepsiades breaks forth into this refrain (taken from Alan H. Sommerstein’s wonderful Penguin Classics translation)
“So I give myself entirely to the school – I’ll let it beat me,
It can starve me, freeze me, parch me, it can generally ill-treat me,
If it teaches me to dodge my debts and get the reputation
Of the cleverest, slyest fox that ever baffled litigation.
Let men hate me, let men call me names, and over and above it
Let them chase me through each court, and I assure you that I’ll love it.
Yes, if Socrates can make of me a real forensic winner,
I don’t mind if he takes out my guts and has them for his dinner.”
Although The Clouds was a work of dramatic fiction, it isn’t far off from the truth of what actually went on in Athens. Though it is unlikely that the historical Socrates was anything like Aristophanes’ portrayal, the Sophists were just as unscrupulous. Many of the youth flocked to them to learn how to be clever enough to persuade courts and other audiences, even if what they were saying was false.
Enter Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC). In the fourth century BC, this brilliant teacher took an interest in helping people identify whether an argument was actually sound rather than just clever and persuasive-sounding. Although Aristotle was not the first teacher to do this, his contribution was that he systematized the laws of logic. In so doing, he gave educated people the tools for analyzing the structure of basic arguments like the syllogism. A syllogism is an argument with two premises and a conclusion. Here is an example:
All men are mortal
Socrates is a man.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
Aristotle explained that in order for a syllogism like this one to be valid, the conclusion had to be the logical result of the premises which precede it. While the above syllogism is fairly straight-forward, in hisPrior Analytics, Aristotle explained the rules for assessing more tricky syllogisms as well as other forms of argumentation.
Aristotle and philosophers like him did the Western tradition an enormous service. They gave educated people the tools for assessing the logical structure of an argument to tell whether it was valid.
Of course, not everyone is educated in critical thinking. Even today, clever people often succeed in bamboozling naive audiences with persuasive-sounding – yet ultimately illogical - rhetoric. Elsewhere I have explained how the homosexual lobby has been doing just that. Like the Sophists, they have been employing arguments which may sound convincing on the surface, yet upon closer examination are just as faulty as the arguments Strepsiades used to try to dodge his debts.

 
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Aug 16, 2011

“The Power Source”

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Crawford Loritts | Legacy Moment

Karen and I have some friends who had a tree fall on the power lines that connected to their house.  It was a really a bad storm that came through, and when the tree fell down it knocked out everything.  They had no electricity for several days.  What an inconvenience!  Everything came to a standstill.  Well, in a few days the tree was cut down and removed, the wires were fixed, and the power was turned on, but they were reminded through that experience that without power, life slows WAY down.

That’s true in our personal lives, too, isn't it?  I am talking about our walk with Christ.  Without genuine, legitimate, authentic, supernatural power, our Christianity is at a standstill.  As Christians, we have this power Source.  He is the third person of  the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

Listen to Romans 8: 11.  "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he (that is the Holy Spirit) who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also (listen to this line) give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you."  The source of life, the source of energy, so to speak, the power
of the Christian life, is found in our relationship to the Holy Spirit.  He lives inside of us.  But unfortunately, too many of us ignore His presence.  It’s the role of the Holy Spirit to give us life, to combat the pull of death that is all around us.

Here's what I want you to remember today.  Don't be afraid of the Holy Spirit.  He’s your Friend, your Ally.  Most importantly, He’s your power source. There’s no need for the lights to go out in your spiritual life.  Get plugged in.  Ask God to fill you, to control you by His Holy Spirit.  Then watch Him shine through your life.

 
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Aug 12, 2011

Lost Episodes: Lincoln’s Call to Pastors

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Written by aaron | August 12, 2011
 
After the defeat of the Union Army at the Battle of Bull Run, Congress asked for and President Abraham Lincoln issued a Proclamation on Monday, August 12, 1861, calling for a National Day of Humiliation, Prayer, and Fasting, which states in part:

“Whereas it is fit and becoming in all people, at all times, to acknowledge and revere the Supreme Government of God; to bow in humble submission to His chastisement; to confess and deplore their sins and transgressions in the full conviction that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and to pray, with all fervency and contrition, for the pardon of their past offenses, and for a blessing upon their present and prospective action; and

Whereas when our own beloved country, once, by the blessings of God, united, prosperous and happy, is now afflicted with faction and civil war, it is peculiarly fit for us to recognize the hand of God in this terrible visitation, and in sorrowful remembrance of our own faults and crimes as a nation and as individuals, to humble ourselves before Him and to pray for His mercy – to pray that we may be spared further punishment, though most justly deserved; that our arms may be blessed and made effectual for the reestablishment of law, order, and peace throughout the wide extent of our country; and that the inestimable boon of civil and religious liberty, earned under His guidance and blessing by the labors and sufferings of our fathers, may be restored in its original excellence:

Therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do appoint the last Thursday in September next as a day of humiliation, prayer, and fasting for all the people of the nation. And I do earnestly recommend to all the people, and especially to all ministers and teachers of religion of all denominations and to all heads of families, to observe and keep that day according to their several creeds and modes of worship in all humility and with all religious solemnity, to the end that the united prayer of the nation may ascend to the Throne of Grace and bring down plentiful blessings upon our country.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed, this 12th day of August, A.D. 1861, and in the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-sixth.

Abraham Lincoln.
By the President:
William H. Seward, Secretary of State*

Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation and his special call for the assistance of the pastors to call the people to united prayer for the nation is another lost episode in American history.

*Source Citation: Abraham Lincoln in an August 12, 1861 Proclamation as found in James D. Richardson, ed., A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1789-1897, 10 vols. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1897, 1899), 6:36-37.

 
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Aug 11, 2011

Evangelicals and the Gay Moral Revolution

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By R. Albert Mohler, Jr. | August 10, 2011
The Christian church has faced no shortage of challenges in its 2,000-year history. But now it’s facing a challenge that is shaking its foundations: homosexuality.

To many onlookers, this seems strange or even tragic. Why can’t Christians just join the revolution?
And make no mistake, it is a moral revolution. As philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah of Princeton University demonstrated in his recent book, “The Honor Code,” moral revolutions generally happen over a long period of time. But this is hardly the case with the shift we’ve witnessed on the question of homosexuality.
In less than a single generation, homosexuality has gone from something almost universally understood to be sinful, to something now declared to be the moral equivalent of heterosexuality-and deserving of both legal protection and public encouragement. Theo Hobson, a British theologian, has argued that this is not just the waning of a taboo. Instead, it is a moral inversion that has left those holding the old morality now accused of nothing less than “moral deficiency.”
The liberal churches and denominations have an easy way out of this predicament. They simply accommodate themselves to the new moral reality. By now the pattern is clear: These churches debate the issue, with conservatives arguing to retain the older morality and liberals arguing that the church must adapt to the new one. Eventually, the liberals win and the conservatives lose. Next, the denomination ordains openly gay candidates or decides to bless same-sex unions.
This is a route that evangelical Christians committed to the full authority of the Bible cannot take. Since we believe that the Bible is God’s revealed word, we cannot accommodate ourselves to this new morality. We cannot pretend as if we do not know that the Bible clearly teaches that all homosexual acts are sinful, as is all human sexual behavior outside the covenant of marriage. We believe that God has revealed a pattern for human sexuality that not only points the way to holiness, but to true happiness.
Thus we cannot accept the seductive arguments that the liberal churches so readily adopt. The fact that same-sex marriage is a now a legal reality in several states means that we must further stipulate that we are bound by scripture to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman-and nothing else.
We do so knowing that most Americans once shared the same moral assumptions, but that a new world is coming fast. We do not have to read the polls and surveys; all we need to do is to talk to our neighbors or listen to the cultural chatter.
In this most awkward cultural predicament, evangelicals must be excruciatingly clear that we do not speak about the sinfulness of homosexuality as if we have no sin. As a matter of fact, it is precisely because we have come to know ourselves as sinners and of our need for a savior that we have come to faith in Jesus Christ. Our greatest fear is not that homosexuality will be normalized and accepted, but that homosexuals will not come to know of their own need for Christ and the forgiveness of their sins.
This is not a concern that is easily expressed in sound bites. But it is what we truly believe.
It is now abundantly clear that evangelicals have failed in so many ways to meet this challenge. We have often spoken about homosexuality in ways that are crude and simplistic. We have failed to take account of how tenaciously sexuality comes to define us as human beings. We have failed to see the challenge of homosexuality as a Gospel issue. We are the ones, after all, who are supposed to know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only remedy for sin, starting with our own.
We have demonstrated our own form of homophobia-not in the way that activists have used that word, but in the sense that we have been afraid to face this issue where it is most difficult . . . face to face.
My hope is that evangelicals are ready now to take on this challenge in a new and more faithful way. We really have no choice, for we are talking about our own brothers and sisters, our own friends and neighbors, or maybe the young person in the next pew.
There is no escaping the fact that we are living in the midst of a moral revolution. And yet, it is not the world around us that is being tested, so much as the believing church. We are about to find out just how much we believe the Gospel we so eagerly preach.

 
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Aug 10, 2011

Faith demonstrated is faithfulness

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Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11: 1) 

Hebrews 11:1 defines Christian faith. But what defines our faithfulness? Words define and are easily repeated. Yet with out exhibit we have nothing more than hollow phrases recited from memory. Do our actions demonstrate our faith in Christ Jesus as LORD? Do you do what is right even when it is contrary to culture? Are you consistent in daily living?  

The apostle Paul modeled faithfulness in every endeavor even as he was bound with chains. (2 Timothy 8:13) 

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
            The saying is trustworthy, for:
            If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
            if we endure, we will also reign with him;
            if we deny him, he also will deny us;
            if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
            for he cannot deny himself.   

Here we have the perfect picture of faithfulness in Christ Jesus as Scripture tells us that He remains faithful, He cannot deny Himself. Therefore we have no excuse to not exercise complete faithfulness in Him, just as others before us have done.

 
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Aug 9, 2011

Lost Episodes: Our Hope in Suffering

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Written by aaron | August 9, 2011


Once bitter political rivals, but now reconciled as friends, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were prolific in their correspondence later in life. Not surprisingly, the subject turned to matters of faith. On August 9, 1816, John Adams wrote his former sparring partner about a renowned Dutch pastor, and then turned to the sufferings of this life and the hope of eternity: 


“Promise me eternal life free from pain… [W]ithout the supposition of a future state, mankind and this globe appear to me the most sublime and beautiful bubble and bauble that imagination can conceive. Let us then wish for immortality at all hazards, and trust the Ruler with His skies. I do; and earnestly wish for His commands, which to the utmost of my power shall be implicitly and piously obeyed.”* 
John Adams testified that there was more than suffering and superficiality of this life, that there is a God who reigns, that He is our hope of eternal life free of pain, and that we are accountable to obey His commands. That is another lost episode in American history. 


*Source Citation: John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on August 9, 1816 as found in Albert Ellery Bergh, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 20 vols., (Wash­ington, DC: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Assoc., 1907), 15:64.

 
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Aug 8, 2011

The Question of Evil

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Prison Fellowship | President Mark Earley
Skeptics often toss the problem of evil at Christians as if it were a ticking time bomb. “If there is a God, and He is all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful, then why is there evil in the world?” It often seems as if we have got five minutes to dismantle the problem to their satisfaction, or we have exploded any chances of continuing a spiritual conversation.
But a new book, Evil and the Justice of God by author and theologian N. T. Wright, turns the age-old question of evil on its head. Wright suggests that perhaps more important than asking, “Why evil?” is asking, “What is God doing about it?”
According to Wright, “the entire canon [of Scripture] . . . tells a story which, from a bewildering variety of angles, is all about what . . . the Creator God . . . is doing about evil.” From forbidden fruit to flood, we watch evil enter the world and spread like a wild vine to cover it. God deals categorically with evil in the flood, but also mercifully spares Noah’s imperfect family to start again. Almost before the rainbow recedes from the sky, evil raises its ugly head in Noah’s own family. It continues to spiral out of control until the Tower of Babel, where God again deals with the problem by confusing our languages.
In Abraham, God again chooses one imperfect family to be a part of the solution to the problem of evil. It doesn’t take long, however, to see that the solution is again part of the problem. The same pattern occurs with David and his lineage.
How will God solve the conundrum? How will He deal with the problem of evil? He will send Jesus Christ, a fully human, fully divine answer. As Wright says, at the cross God draws “evil to a point in order to deal with it there.” Justice is satisfied. But mercy, through forgiveness, is also extended. From there, God calls a new-born people to be a part of the ongoing solution.
Though we still struggle with sin, we are called to be God’s agents of restoration until Christ’s final return, when evil will be dealt with once and for all.
The question of evil then becomes, not a philosophical one, but a practical one. As Gary Haugen of the International Justice Mission has said, “Over time I have come to see questions of suffering in the world not so much as questions of God’s character, but as questions about the obedience and faith of God’s people.” God’s people must herald God’s solution: Jesus Christ, who forgives our evil and makes righteous living and justice possible.
Organizations like Haugen’s International Justice Mission are answering the problem of evil by freeing women held as sex slaves. Prison Fellowship volunteers are answering it by going into prisons and bringing the light and hope of God’s forgiveness.
I could list countless other examples, but here’s the point. The next time someone poses the problem of evil to you, tell them, while you may not be able to answer the why, you do know what God has done and is doing about evil. And He has called us to join Him in His work. 

 
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Aug 6, 2011

GOP Leadership Never Took Deficit Reduction Seriously

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Christopher G. Adamo | August 4, 2011

Now that the debt ceiling deal passed in Congress and was quickly signed by Barack Obama, key players from both major parties will no doubt want immediately to change the subject. In an inconvenient epilogue to all of the demagoguery from the left and empty promises from the right, even a cursory examination of the actual measure that was spawned will reveal it to be nothing more than “business as usual” from Washington.“Mainstream” Republicans are doing their best to characterize the debt-ceiling increase as a worthy “first step” down the long road to fiscal stability. Yet any investigation of its contents reveals that it is nothing of the kind. Consider that, as a result of this single federal action, in the next sixteen months America’s financial liability will be increased by an amount equivalent to the entire national debt accumulated from the year that the Constitution was ratified until 1986.

Nevertheless, the nation is being treated to hysterical caterwauling from liberals that as a result of Republican callousness towards the dependent class, “draconian cuts” are impending. With only a little scratching below the veneer of this bill, it quickly becomes apparent that those “cuts” are projected for several years down the road, when the Congress will be under no obligation to honor the symbolic and meager restraints placed upon it. Who would honestly contend that the current Congress ponders, for even a second, the ludicrous notion of abiding by caps imposed on it in a 2002 budget measure? In grim contrast, the fiscal feeding frenzy is inevitable and will of course commence immediately.

With the outcome of this controversy now settled as it is, the question needs to be asked, “Why did the GOP even bother to contest the debt hike in the first place? If Obama ultimately got the money he wanted, and the only “limits” on the ensuing spending binge are slated to occur well after he leaves office, why should America have been forced to endure the charade of Republican adversity to the current situation?

Upon signing the debt-ceiling increase into law, Obama chastised recalcitrant Republicans by asserting that America did not need “this manufactured crisis.” And in a profoundly sad sense, he was right. If the end result was always going to be that he got his way, the matter should have been handed quietly over to him by willing accomplices “on the right” weeks ago, with no pretense of fighting his long-term agenda of endless bureaucratic bloat. And in truth both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R.-OH) have over time revealed that they would rather have done it that way.

Of course they are both claiming credit for incorporating last minute modifications that ostensibly improved the measure, in order to garner the cooperation of conservatives in the House and Senate who otherwise would not have signed on. Yet the mere fact that the initial monstrosity was wholly unacceptable and had to be improved under duress, but nonetheless had their support in each circumstance, proves that their goal was to get it off their backs at the earliest possible opportunity.

The contorted posturing and compromising by both Boehner and McConnell cannot be construed as anything other than their best effort to thread the needle between giving the Democrats whatever they wanted (This, we are told, is just how they do things in Washington) and feigning enough resistance to convince those on the right that they had indeed attempted to achieve the best possible deal. Somewhere in the distant past, any real recognition of the dire financial straits facing the nation, and the need to take tangible action to avoid such a fate, was completely abandoned. America now continues careening towards fiscal catastrophe, and it can take little encouragement from the insipid assurances that, some time well past the middle of the decade, Congress will suddenly start making those tough choices that it refuses to make at present.

But instead of owning up to this fiasco that they allowed, Republicans are insulting the nation with the latest, desperate RINO talking points. In no way should America be consoled by the excuse that they “did the best they could” under the circumstances, since they “only control one third of the government.” As the majority party in the House of Representatives, they are constitutionally mandated to be in 100% control of the nation’s purse strings. This should be firewall enough to prevent the sort of meltdown suffered by fiscally irresponsible European socialist states, and which increasingly looks to be this nations’ future.

It is true that they have neither the Senate majority nor the White House. But sadly, rather than rising to the occasion and fulfilling their role as the “worthy opposition party,” Republicans under the current leadership have degenerated into the “compliance party.”

Not surprisingly, while the bond ratings services have for the moment maintained the United States in the “AAA” category, they concurrently intone that this status faces a real threat of being downgraded. In other words, the immediate “crisis” has been diverted, but since no concrete action is being implemented or even proposed to avert inevitable further accumulations of insurmountable debt, the long-term prospects for a stable financial assessment of the nation are bleak.

Aside from giving yet another “transfusion” of borrowed capital to keep Obama from owning up to his criminally irresponsible actions of the past two and a half years, no substantive effort was made to abate the hemorrhaging of America’s financial resources. Thus, the ultimate outcome of this scenario is not in question. Only the timetable remains to be determined.

In an attempt to appear principled and resolved, Mitch McConnell contended as recently as July 12 that “As long as this president is in the Oval Office, a real solution is unattainable.” Yet in light of the realities of the debt limit increase subsequently supported by himself and Speaker Boehner, abetted by their insipid and purely symbolic plans to reduce spending… someday, it is obvious that no fix is possible as long as the current Republican “leadership” or their accommodating minions remain in the Congress. America’s next opportunity to implement a real solution will be in the upcoming Republican Congressional and Senate Primaries.



Christopher G. Adamo is a resident of southeastern Wyoming. He has been involved in politics at the local and state level for many years. His contact information and article archives can be found at www.chrisadamo.com


 
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Aug 5, 2011

The "Poverty and Justice" Bible

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 | Spaeking of Justice
This excerpt was part of a longer post that covered several topics a couple of years ago. I had been asked to review a niche Bible designed, I gather, for Sojourners-style lefties.
(First posted 4 December 2009)

The American Bible Society has published The Poverty & Justice Bible—on recycled paper (because, you know, that makes a statement against Global Warming, perhaps the greatest human "injustice" some of our liberal friends are capable of imagining). They've sent me four copies to give away to our blog readers, and they hoped I would review the publication at TeamPyro. Here's the most succinct review I can give you tonight:

The "Bible" aspect of this work is of course its best feature, though I'm not at all a fan of the watered-down, dumbed-down, gender-neutraled, politically-correct "Contemporary English Version" they have used. I can't see any scenario in which such a poor translation would be truly useful, and with the plethora of translations available today, this one certainly would not be my choice. Perhaps one example of this translation's deep-down badness will suffice for this short review. Here's the CEV rendering of Acts 9:22: "Saul preached with such power that he completely confused the Jewish people in Damascus, as he tried to show them that Jesus is the Messiah." (ESV: "But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.")

The worst feature of the book, however, is the way it treats "poverty & justice." The editors' and (most of the endorsers') notion of "justice" is clearly straight from the canons of political correctness. Not that they really have much of any substance to say about either poverty or justice. There's a thin section of United-Methodist-style devotional essays stitched into the center of the book and unwisely titled "The Core." Aside from that, the main clues about the editors' perspective on "poverty & justice" come from the verses they have selected to highlight (or not). The highlights are in burnt orange (another unfortunate choice). Ostensibly these are all the key Bible verses about poverty and justice.

So with that in mind, I thumbed through to check a few verses that I knew would pose a challenge to the currently-popular politically-correct perspectives on "poverty & justice." It was frankly not surprising to see that 2 Thessalonians 3:10 ("If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat") didn't merit the editors' orange smear of approval. Neither did Deuteronomy 7:1-5, which spells out God's prescription for justice to the Canaanites, Perizzites, Amorites, and so on. Galatians 6:7 ("whatever one sows, that will he also reap") was ignored by the highlighter pen. Predictably, so was the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 and God's judicial abandonment of sinners to their sin in Romans 1.

In other words, the view of "justice" this Bible tries to promote is the same humanistic perspective we have heard nonstop from Tony Campolo, Ron Sider, Shane Claiborne, most of the Emergent/ing districts of the blogosphere, and Acorn.

 
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Aug 4, 2011

Lost Episodes: Government Under God’s Will

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Written by aaron | August 4, 2011

The English colonists settling in what is Exeter, New Hampshire, set forth their government on August 4, 1639, declaring:

“Whereas it hath pleased the Lord to move the heart of our dread sovereign Charles by the grace of God King &c to grant license and liberty to sundry of his subjects to plant themselves in the western parts of America…

We his loyal subjects, brethren of the church in Exeter,…considering with ourselves the holy will of God and our own necessity that we should not live without wholesome laws and civil government among us of which we are altogether destitute, do in the name of Christ and in the sight of God combine ourselves together to erect and set up among us such government as shall be to our best discerning agreeable to the will of God…

[A]nd binding of ourselves solemnly by the grace and help of Christ and in his name and fear to submit ourselves to such godly and christian laws as are established in the realm of England [1 Peter 2:13-17]…and to all other such laws which shall upon good grounds be made and enacted among us according to God that we may live quietly a peaceably together in all godliness and honesty [1 Tim. 2:1-2].”*

The Biblical worldview of these early settlers in New Hampshire regarding the purpose of government is yet another lost episode in American history.

*Source Citation: Thirty-three signatories in Exeter on August 4, 1639 as found in Jeremy Belknap, The History Of New Hampshire: From a Copy Of The Original Edition Having The Authors Last Corrections To Which Are Added Notes Containing Various Corrections and Illustrations Of The Text And Additional Pacts And Notices Of Persons And Events Therein Mentioned, John Farmer, ed. (Philadelphia: Robert Aitken, 1784; Dover, NH: S.C. Stevens and Ela & Wadleigh 1831), 432.

 
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Aug 3, 2011

Divided: Is Modern Youth Ministry Multiplying or Dividing the Church?

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A new documentary DVD sponsored by The National Center for Family-Integrated Churches, is beginning to make some waves. Divided: Is Modern Youth Ministry Multiplying or Dividing the Church? explores the pitfalls and problems of how we’ve done church for the last thirty to forty years (and more). You can watch the entire 54 minute DVD online through September. I have the video embedded below, but you may want to click through to watch it full size on Vimeo.com.

I found the DVD thought provoking and definitely worth my time in watching. Age segregation is a new concept in the church, and has only been around in the last hundred years or so. There is a strong argument to be made that it has contributed to many of the problems in the church.

The documentary interviews current youth ministry gurus, youth ministers with misgivings, and former youth ministers. Also included are interviews of church leaders in the Family-Integrated movement such as Douglas Phillips, Scott Brown, and Voddie Baucham, Jr. as well as other leaders less known for their preference for Family-Integrated churches, like R.C. Sproul, Jr., Ken Ham and Paul Washer.

The movie itself flows at a nice pace, tracing the investigation of Philip Leclerc into the problems surrounding youth ministry in the church. The Leclrerc brothers criss-cross the country interviewing leaders and digging into this problem.

Still, after all the interviews and the questions have been presented, I don’t think the case against modern youth ministry is as fool proof as the documentary claims. More could be done though. And just opening eyes to the questions in this debate can make a big impact.

I recommend you take the time to watch Divided. It can be viewed free on-line until September 1st. You may want to pick up a copy of the movie to have it in your library and show it to your church leaders. Learn more about Divided at DividedtheMovie.com. You can purchase a copy of this movie direct from the movie’s website, or through Amazon.com.

If you’ve seen this, or if you take the time to watch it, please join the discussion. Let us know what you think.

Official Divided the Movie (HD Version) from NCFIC on Vimeo.

 
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Aug 2, 2011

HHS Rules Make Prisoners of Conscience

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There's no such thing as free birth control--and thanks to the Department of Health and Human Services, taxpayers are about to find that out. Yesterday, as we feared, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gave the thumbs-up to new guidelines that would require private health insurers to cover contraception as part of ObamaCare. Starting next August, health plans will have to offer a whole range of "contraceptive services," among other preventive services such as cancer screening, with no co-pay for the patients. So-called "emergency contraceptives" like Ella and Plan B are also part of the mandate, which forces other Americans in those plans to pick up the tab even if they oppose such drugs. Once these regulations go into effect, birth control and abortifacients will be considered basic medical care, even though both are optional--and in many people's minds, objectionable.

To try to tamp down the criticism, HHS included a modicum of conscience exemptions, but, as FRC points out, they only protect certain churches that fulfill very specific criteria. Catholic hospitals, for instance, would still be forced to provide coverage of such drugs to their employees--and other religious entities providing health care or social services to people of different faiths would too. Like FRC, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has fought the changes, and even fired off his own letter to Sebelius before the policy was announced. "Adoption of [these] recommendations would not only further undermine the right to life, but would substantially erode the First Amendment's right to free exercise by compelling both religious and non-religious persons and institutions that oppose abortion to subsidize it."

The administration points out there are no co-pays, but it fails to mention that the costs of this "contraception" will still drive up premiums--making people's insurance more expensive, not less so. FRC will do what it can to protect Americans from these new rules by urging Congress to pass the "Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011." You can help by calling your leaders and urging them to support it. Here at FRC, news outlets across the country have been lighting up Jeanne's phone for her expert response to the decision. If you missed her on the CBS Evening News and NBC News last night, click below.
Click here to view

 
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