For years now I have been shocked by the bias in the news media, especially papers, and have thought that they had all betrayed their principles. Now, I am not so sure. It hit me yesterday as I was reading a history book that newspapers have always reported news from a particular angle. Andrew Jackson created the Democratic Party in 1830, and he hand-selected an editor to run his paper. People then knew that if you wanted to find out the Democratic reaction or President Jackson’s reaction to something, you read The Globe. If you wanted to know what John C. Calhoun thought, well he had a paper, too. If you wanted to know about Henry Clay. . . yep, they all had editors doing their bidding, printing their spin on things. In 1860 if you wanted to know what the Fire Eaters of South Carolina thought, you read The Charleston Mercury. In 1900, the famous “Yellow Journalism” helped start a war with Spain. So I guess the question is, when did we as a country start to think that the newspaper business was supposed to be neutral and just report the facts? It seems from the history that I can see in America, papers were always established to serve a purpose, and that purpose included the spin and the bias that we all complain about now. Papers in the old days were up-front about their agenda, now they are not, and they pretend to be neutral. Have papers ever been neutral? Are they supposed to be neutral? When did they start pretending neutrality? And does anyone know a good book that answers these questions?
Thursday, June 30, 2005
Monday, June 27, 2005
The Supreme Court today announced decisions on two cases about displays of the 10 Commandments in public places. Austin TX was allowed to keep their display because it was in a historical context, and no complaints existed for 20 years. Kentucky was not allowed to keep their display because, even though it currently is in a historical display, the intent was religious. Justice Souter argued that the First Amendment required the government to always rule against religion, and remain completely neutral.
The arrogance and ignorance of such a decision astounds me. How can one be devoted always rule against religion and still claim neutrality? The fact that the court has a growing hostility toward God and Christianity in particular can no longer be denied. Only a fool says in his heart that there is no God, and apparently we have at least 4 on them on the Supreme Court. The fact that anyone would think that the Constitution required neutrality on religion when every government session opens with prayer, instituted by those founding fathers who wrote the Constitution, shocks the mind and befuddles all reason. President George Washington called for a National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer. The Supreme Court building itself has a display of Moses that clearly is more religious than historical. Even as lately as President Eisenhower religion was openly accepted by the government. Eisenhower inserted the phrase “under God” into the pledge of allegiance to help show the difference between America and the godless Communists. Now our Supreme Court appears to have a 5 to 4 majority of godless Communists.
I also want to point out that after all of the discussion about these decisions on all the TV talk shows today, I did not hear one word about the Tenth Amendment. Not one. Even on so-called conservative news channels. All of the arguing has been about the First Amendment, which only specifically mentions Congress. The Tenth Amendment makes sure that all rights not delegated to the Federal Government remains with the States. Yet, here we are telling Kentucky what they can and cannot do. It is not the First Amendment that was violated in these rulings, it was the Tenth.
God save our Union!
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
If you have ever wondered what the logical fallacy of a Hasty Generalization looks like, John Armstrong’s recent post is a perfect example. In it Armstrong paints a picture of the problems members of small Reformed churches face, in his opinion. His complaints include a tyrannical elder rule that disdains women and their spirituality, a rigid confessionalism that necessitates a neglect of Christ, academic preaching that equates to lifeless piety, and a gaining of members by stealing sheep from other denominations. When reading this post, one gets the feeling that Rev. Armstrong has a church or two specifically in mind that he is reluctant to mention by name. Otherwise, it would seem that he has assembled every baseless attack he has ever heard about the Reformed faith into a make-believe church and then posted about this horrible rampant problem.
Now I live on the border of two of the lesser populated states in the union, and I live an hour and half’s drive from any city of over 2,000 people, so I get to see a lot of small churches, including Reformed churches, in small towns up close. I have never seen the situation described by Rev. Armstrong. Never. I also don’t agree that academic theology equates to a lifeless theology. And rigid confessionalism never leads to a lowering of Christ. Most confessions spend a majority of their time on the person and work of Christ, so a rigid-confessionalism actually promotes a healthy view of Christ. But what annoys me the most about Rev. Armstrong’s plunge off the deep end is his conclusion. He calls for people who are members of such churches, or who might have friends in such churches, to pray for God to get them out of that church. He actually encourages leaving churches. He doesn’t suggest praying for revival or engaging in persuasive conversations with the wayward elders/pastors or making any attempt whatsoever to work for change. Nope, he just wants you to get out. This is a sin most foul. It is the Gilbert Tennent model of discrediting churches via hasty, made up, generalizations about the pastors and elders and encouraging people to desert their church membership vows all in the guise of spirituality. I hope Armstrong’s post will not become a reckless license for people to desert their churches if they happen to be small and Reformed. I also pray that Rev. Armstrong will retract this statement and, instead of cultivating division and a mass exodus, that he will rather pray for revival for the individual church or churches that he had in mind when making his Hasty Generalization.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Implicit in this proverb is the idea that friends sometimes wound us. They are the ones who warn, correct, and speak plainly with us. They give us the truth, even when it hurts. That is what friends do. Christ is called our friend. He is our friend because he speaks plainly with us and faithfully wounds us. He did not leave us to think that we were our own little gods, instead He made sure we know that we are all self-indulgent sinners. He told us our best works are but filthy rags. He told us we deserve the punishment of hell. He told us that He himself is the only way to eternal life. No discussion, just the fact that He is God, and we are not.
This has struck me as I watch discussions over the internet while reading the Bible and some writings of the Reformers. We no longer view a friend as one who wounds, speaks the truth, or deals straightforwardly with us. People yell about those who would use terms like “heretic” or “heresy” (the H-Bomb as it is known these days), but then they welcome as ‘true discussion’ meaningless platitudes devoid of real and needed criticism. Others look for ways to make the Bible more ‘sinner friendly’ and tweak the gospel so it appears less harsh, so it will inflict fewer wounds, and thus becomes a little less faithful. Do I even need to mention politics where straight answers are never given in the fear of causing offense and losing votes? We have become a people whose ears love to hear the sweet song of praise, but who are unable to listen to faithful speech. We are a culture that lists our friends and our enemies by how good they make us feel or how much they hurt us, instead of how faithful they are to the truth and how faithfully they deal the truth to us. When one reads the old reformers or even the early American colonists, one realizes that John Calvin had no problem saying that men of other persuasions were “crack brains”, that Presbyterians opposing the Great Awakening could tell their brethren they were “under a delusion”, and that in his ever-famous communication to Wesley, Whitefield could say, “Nay Sir, ‘tis you who are in error.” It was commonly said at the seminary I attended that such were men of ‘hard times and thus of hard words.’ Perhaps, they were just faithful men of faithful words. Perhaps it is we who have fallen on hard times because of our refusal to speak with such candor and frankness. Perhaps in today’s world we all are so afraid of giving offense that we have neglected that great duty to ‘wound our friends.’ What we need today is a revival of frank discussion. This means not only speaking truthfully, but also a willingness to receive it from others. We need to remember the proverb and rejoice when we are faithfully wounded. We also need to remember that such wounding is a duty of a true friend.
The Terri Schiavo case is one that the pundits only seem to remember when it furthers their liberal agenda. Her murder is now being used for political gain by liberal press everywhere. They are demanding an apology for government intervention and the portrayal of Michael Schiavo as a murderer. It just goes to show you that they don’t understand that he is indeed a murderer, and thus no apology is necessary. The recently released autopsy tells us that she had no chance of recovery. While I suspect that that finding is medically questionable, it does not change anything in the situation. Terri Schiavo was alive, and now she is not. That is the only thing that matters. Terri’s life should have been saved not because we think she might have one day recovered, but because she had a life to save. It is not about what Terri could have added to the good of the community or the world, or what someone thinks of her quality of life. It is the fact that life has a quality all of its own: it bears the image of God. And He has told us to protect it. So does anyone owe Michael an apology? No. He did what he did, and he is what he is, a man who starved his wife to death.
Friday, June 17, 2005
The PCA general assembly is over, and one can begin to evaluate it though many more eye witness accounts must be gathered before a final opinion can be reached about this years GA. The big issue of the Mississippi Valley Presbytery Report and its distribution met with a bitter defeat. Admittedly it was a silly overture. It probably should have failed, but what worries me is that a substitute motion to create a committee to study the issue failed. The PCA is racked with these divisions of significant differences, and no one is even going to study the problem? Seems odd to me. There is a mention in the blog linked about the Standing Judicial Commission. I hope that mean there actually will be some judicial cases about this, but we will see. Somehow I doubt it.
The ‘papist’ overture failed because there is no method in place to annotate the Westminster. Probably a good thing.
They failed to condemn public schools. I am not sure where I would have stood on this issue, but I think it is important for one reason. You will note that this is a motion brought by several individuals, not a presbytery. One of the individuals is Dr. Kennedy, a very influential man. In fact, I think he is the motivating force behind that Justice Sunday thing. Anyway, his motion failed. I just think it is interesting that Dr. Kennedy could not get a presbytery to move on his motion, and now can’t get the GA to act on it either.
The overture requiring people to explain their exceptions to the WCF, and when they teach them make it known to the congregation they are not in line with the WCF on that point, failed. One would like to think that this was because of how troublesome it would be to police, but it failed because exceptions to the WCF are not that big a deal in the PCA.
The Value of Human Life is now under consideration by the PCA. I have hope that they will come back with a good statement, but it just seems odd that they have never dealt with this before, and that they had to a make a committee to study the issue. A second overture asking the GA to make a statement on the Schavio case was turned down because they now had a committee to study such things.
I have to say it was interesting to be able to sit down one night at my computer and read blogs by people attending the GA. The PCA is nothing if not market savvy. One wonders how much longer the PCA can go on ignoring its internal differences. One presbytery condemns men in other presbyteries without trying to have trials, and then the home presbytery clears them without a trial. Everything done in Ad Hoc committees. These differences will soon rend the denomination or carry it into liberalism.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
The PCA General Assembly has begun. The Assembly, which is meeting in the sovereign state of Tennessee, should produce some interesting votes. Items to watch will include not only the Mississippi Valley Overture regarding the Federal Vision, but also overtures that allow preachers to respectfully teach their exceptions to the Westminster, and a softening of the word ‘papist’ in the WCF. An interesting Assembly that will shape the direction of the PCA.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Kevin Johnson's Coffee Conversations has made claims about the historicity of the Auburn Avenue theology. He claims,
the writings of both current and past Presbyterians make it clear that this just isn’t the case. There is a fair amount of theological diversity in Presbyterianism that allows for differences of opinion on these issues
Now he does offer some support, to his credit, but it is simply a link to Mark Horne’s Theologia. This site contains many articles, but does not constitute proof of accepted theological diversity within the Presbyterian and Reformed traditions. Browsing the site one can easily see that the vast majority of articles on the site are by people living today. In the sections on sacraments and soteriology I counted 3 articles from Ursinus and 1 from John Calvin. None of which really defended any of the Federal Vision points. One Ursinus article defended infant baptism, not a point in question, and one explicitly states that good works follow Justification, a point that Federal Vision men seem to have trouble making since they wish to discuss an initial and final justification, a distinction Ursinus did not make. Admittedly Philip Schaff, John Nevin, and Charles Hodge have a few articles a piece, but altogether non-21st century writers probably only make up less than 10% of what is found on the site. This hardly seems like proof of a historical precedent.
It would seem to me in order to claim a historical place at the table of the Presbyterian and Reformed one needs a leader of the Reformation or one of its resulting churches to argue for a position similar to that of the Auburn Ave. men. Not only that, but those men would have to be accepted and not challenged by the rest of those within the tradition. I cannot find anyone who fits that description.
I will concede that John Nevin and Philip Schaff led the RCUS down the path very similar to the Auburn Ave. theology, but they were fought every step of the way by men within the denomination like James I Good and Joseph Berg, as well as outside the denomination by men like Charles Hodge and Robert Dabney. Also, with the end result of the leadership of Nevin and Schaff being a merger with a Lutheran church, and then finally the formation of the United Churches of Christ, it seems hard to argue that they actually fit in the Presbyterian and Reformed Tradition.
Briefly I would like to list men who seem to oppose the Federal Vision view of sacraments, justification, and the covenant of works.
- Henry Bullinger clearly rejects the view of sacraments as ‘efficaciously’ conferring anything (5th decade, 7th sermon, pg. 327) and rejects any idea of infant communion.
- Louis Berkhof follows the ordo saludis (order of salvation) that is from time to time attacked by FV proponents. He also does not adhere to the sacramental view of the FV (pg. 618 of Systematic Theology), and speaks of the Covenant of Works (pg. 211f).
- Herman Witsus also rejects the sacramental view of the FV by claiming that baptism is reception into the covenant of grace and not a reception into Christ (Economy of the Covenants, pg. 430). Witsus states it signifies benefits in Christ (434). He also speaks of a Covenant of Works.
- John Calvin has a differing view of the sacraments than the one espoused in the FV. Old Mercersburg men admitted as much when they admitted the Mystical Presence was different than Calvin. Plus Calvin is clearly harsh on the widespread practice of infant communion among the FV men. While explaining why the infants are baptized and not allowed to the table he says, “If these men had a particle of sound brain left, would they be blind to a thing so clear and obvious?” (4.7.1353).
This claim is made by more than just Mr. Johnson, but it has never really been backed up by evidence of any sort.