Friday, September 25, 2015

Joe Biden, Life at Conception, and Afghan Pedophiles

“I’m prepared to accept that at the moment of conception there’s human life and being,” Biden said. “But I’m not prepared to say that to other God-fearing, non-God-fearing people that have a different view.”

Biden's moral reasoning is the sort that facilitates not just abortion, but ultimately instructions to American soldiers to accommodate Afghan pedophiles:
A 45-minute scripted presentation given to Marines as part of their pre-deployment process doesn't say that they shouldn’t report sexual assaults in the countries where they’re serving. But it explains that laws and norms about sexual relations vary from country to country, and that in Afghanistan in particular, sexual assault is a “cultural” issue, and not a purely legal one.
In other words, Marines ought to understand how they're expected to treat children, but they shouldn't hold to the same standard other "God-fearing, non-God-fearing people that have a different view."

Laws protect us from evil people who "have a different view" that the strong can exploit the weak. That's what laws are for, and that's what lawmakers like Biden do. Biden spent 26 years in the Senate, and now more than 6 as its presiding officer. It's unimaginable that he doesn't comprehend the incoherence of his statement.

But Biden isn't worse than most of our elected officials. He's just more honest.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Throwback Thursday: The Concerns, Substantiated Edition

Perhaps many of you already listen regularly to Al Mohler's Thinking in Public podcast [iTunes link]. Those who don't may still want to catch his May 18, 2015, installment, "Evangelical Titan: A Conversation about Billy Graham with Historian Grant Wacker." Below are two of Mohler's comments that I suspect will interest most readers here. One is fairly early in the conversation. The other is from Mohler's reflective monologue after the interview has concluded.
20:00: The theologian in me, I'll admit, has a great deal of difficulty imagining how Billy Graham in 1957 could have included some of the people he included on that [New York City crusade] platform. And I have to tell you, just speaking as honestly as I can, I find myself at many points wondering if Dr. Graham would do now what he did then, knowing where mainline Protestantism went after 1957, and where I would argue he should've seen where it was going even then.
And later:
1:01:21: When it comes to the theological inclusiveness that marked at least some of the early decades of Dr. Graham's ministry, it is now even more clear that American Protestantism was moving in two very different, and eventually contradictory, directions. One towards an explicit accommodation with modernity—the course of Protestant liberalism—and the other in the direction of a very counter-cultural stance, made necessary by the theological convictions that are essential and central to what it means to be a Christian, and in particular what it means to be known and self-identified as an evangelical. 
In that sense, looking with full sympathy at the decisions that were made by Billy Graham then, we can understand that we face no opportunity of having such illusions now. We come to understand that the theological options that present us in the early decades of the 21st century are not between an establishment Protestantism that still retains some form of allegiance to historic Christian doctrine, and to a more conservative variant that is more precise. We are now looking at two movement that are now separated by a great theological chasm, and it is now not possible to look at the situation as Billy Graham confronted it in the 1950s, and believe that in any way it now represents what we know to be the theological options in the 21st century. 
I know from first-hand knowledge that many of those who were the conservative critics of Dr. Graham's ministry during its public years, that many of those critics were motivated by a very sincere theological assessment that forced them to create distance between themselves and Dr. Graham. Over time, many of those concerns were substantiated, certainly by the leftward trajectory of mainline Protestantism. But many of those conservative critics also had, underlying that distance that was created between themselves, a basic gladness in the fact that Billy Graham was preaching the gospel. And they were glad to hear the gospel preached. And they were glad to see so many people respond to the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Church Discipline, Abraham Lincoln, Jim Crow, and Religious Freedom

Ethnic tension, religious liberty threats, and the anniversaries of the end of the Civil War and Lincoln's assassination have stirred up my mind to ask a few "what if's":

What if Bible-believing, gospel-preaching churches in the antebellum American South had 1) exercised discipline on members who participated in the evils of slavery and 2) proclaimed a biblical theology of all people created equally in God's image?
  • Would the Civil War have ever happened?
  • Would the size and power of the federal government have exploded exponentially, as it did through the events and aftermath of the Civil War?
  • Would Jim Crow laws have ever gained traction? Would the Civil Rights movement have even been necessary?
  • Would the 14th amendment have been enacted? Its "equal protection" clause vastly expanded the power of the federal government over state governments. That amendment is a key reason the federal government, particularly the Supreme Court, is able to overrule state provisions on abortion, same-sex marriage, and religious freedom. What if that amendment never made it into the Constitution? Could Roe v. Wade have even become a federal issue?
  • Would theological liberals, who often opposed slavery and racial discrimination sooner and more forcefully than theological conservatives, have gained less credibility and moral influence in American society?
  • Would African American pastors have had access to theological training in conservative schools, rather than only liberal institutions? Would African American congregations be more theologically healthy today?
  • For that matter, would there even be "African American congregations," or would churches be far more ethnically integrated than they are today?
  • Would gay rights activists be able to make the case that discrimination against homosexuals is as morally repugnant as the Jim Crow South?
  • Would we be staring in the face the precedent of the Supreme Court's Bob Jones University v. United States decision as a threat to churches' tax exempt status
And here's the kicker: Is it possible that threats to religious freedom have ultimately and ironically emerged from the widespread failure of churches to practice church discipline and recognize that all people are created in the image of God?

Of course I can't answer those questions with any real certainty. But this much I will say:

Don't tell me that ecclesiology is peripheral, or irrelevant, or simply a matter of what works best.