Author Archive

A Problem With Young Ministers

Doug Wilson discusses Titus 1:6, a text that most ministers tend to ignore. Regardless of what you think of Wilson’s thesis, ministry should not to be regarded as a profession. There are moral standards for being a pastor and once those have been breached, pastors need to step down and move on. There is much wisdom in having men who pursue the ministry formally also having a trade or vocation to fall back on, akin to Rabbi Saul’s tentmaking.

Here’s a little argument from Wilson on being hesitant to ordain young elders:

Let me begin with a requirement laid down by Paul for men in the ministry, a requirement that is unfortunately widely neglected (and  therefore controversial) in conservative circles. He says that part of a minister’s qualification is his ability to manage his own household well, and with all dignity, such that his children are submissive (1 Tim. 3:4). In addition, he says further that what is going on in his household is a good predictor of what is going to be happening in the church (1 Tim. 3:5). Paul says elsewhere that this submission extends to submission to the gospel. Not only must a minister’s children not be dissolute and rebellious, they must be faithful (Tit. 1:6). Whether or not that last word is rendered as faithful or as believers amounts to the same thing. A minister’s children are his first parishioners, and they are the canary in the mine.

Now the necessary qualifications. I make a distinction between ordaining men to the ministry and defrocking them. Qualifications for expulsion should be stiffer than qualification for non-admittance — but to the extent we want to lean on this, it is perhaps a strong argument for not ordaining men with younger children. A man strong-minded enough to insist on pursuing his call to the ministry when his younger children are two, four, and six should also be strong-minded enough to tender his resignation when his grown children are serving two to four, and four to six, in the state penitentiary.

For a counter to Wilson on whether ‘faithful’ means ‘believing’ or just ‘obedient’ see this article by Justin Taylor.

Some Thoughts on Libya

The US is about $14 trillion in debt. In 2010, the US added $3.5 billion to her IOU pile every day. Just so you know, that’s $2 million per minute. So, what’s another $1 billion on a major war with Libya? Initially the US restricted itself to only providing air support and intelligence to the rebels, promising to abstain from sending in ground troops. And yet, a spokeswoman for NATO recently said that if the UN or the Libyan revolutionaries request it, NATO would be willing to help in a supporting role. And I’m not even going to discuss the estimated 2,000 – 13,000 casualties that the Libyan intervention has brought about. (The reason why we don’t know for sure is NATO isn’t ‘officially’ taking a body count). This is especially important as the stated intention of the Libyan intervention was to prevent more civilian casualties.

Complicating this even further are the recent developments that 1) Libyan revolutionaries may be targeting black migrant workers for fear that they’re mercenaries; 2) The Libyan revolutionaries recently killed the leader of their armed forces; 3) A top military commander for the Libyan revolutionaries appears to have major ties to Al Qaeda. If Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times is right, that Al Qaeda asset was arrested in Bangkok in 2003 and transferred to a secret prison in 2004 where he was tortured. US intelligence gave him as a gift to Qadaffi in 2004, but was freed by Libya in 2010. This man is now a top revolutionary commander … I’m sure that’s going to turn out well for the West.

It’s revolting that Conservatives are at the forefront of pushing this charade along. They would do well to have heeded the advice of Russell Kirk, one of the chief founders of American conservatism, given in a speech at the Heritage Foundation in 1991.

Are we to saturation-bomb most of Africa and Asia into righteousness, freedom, and democracy? And, having accomplished that, however would we ensure persons yet more unrighteous might not rise up instead of the ogres we had swept away? Just that is what happened in the Congo, remember three decades ago; and nowadays in Zaire, once called the Belgian Congo, we zealously uphold with American funds the dictator Mobutu, more blood-stained than Saddam. And have we forgotten Castro in Cuba?

Given that a sizable contingent of Libyan revolutionaries appear to be from the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, who since 1996 have been trained at two camps in Taliban-run Afghanistan, I’d say there’s a good chance five years from now we’ll say that Libya might have been better off with Qaddafi at the helm.

And people call Ron Paul crazy for being a non-interventionist.

Authenticity Alert!

Eli Lehrer of Frum Forum takes aim at those who despise Disney World because of its lack of authenticity:

But the criticism I hear most often from people who have some reason to dislike “Disney experience” is that it’s “plastic,” “fake,” or “manufactured.” seems to me to be utterly meaningless. Of course it’s manufactured. So is everything that human beings have created. Chartres is a self-contained environment, Hamlet is a made up story, and all architecture and art are all human creations. A major part of civilization is the creation and re-creation of the environment. And, by that standard, Disney World stands as a symbol of true genus.

Andrew Potter would be proud.

Sausage!

Religious bigots, like the poor, will be with us always.

Is Peter Singer reconsidering utilitarianism in favour of something more objective?

The Maverick Philosopher and a quick argument for the death penalty.

Tullian interviews Mike Horton on law and gospel. Both should spend some time with this article by John Frame.

And again with respect to Horton, can you spot the fallacy?

The gospel is never an exhortation for us to do something, but an announcement of something that God has done for us.  We are called to obey the gospel—that is, to embrace it, but the gospel itself is the good news about what God has done for us in Christ.

More On Biblical Beer And Johnny Mac

Jeff Meyers has just put up a quick post over at the Biblical Horizons blog arguing that Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 refers to biblical beer. Solomon says,

Cast your bread into the waters,
for you will find it after many days.
Give a portion to seven, or even to eight,
for you know not what disaster may happen in the land.

In the comments section, James Jordan points out that “an ancient fermented drink called kvass is made by soaking sourdough bread in water with sugar.”

Things aren’t looking so hot for MacArthur.

I’d encourage you to read the whole post.

Michael Homan believes that Solomon is advocating the brewing and serving of beer (“Beer Production by Throwing Bread into Water: A New Interpretation of Qoh IX.1-2,” Vestus Testamentum 52:2 [2002]: 275-278).

This looks really promising. First, there are all the references in Ecclesiastes to wine. Solomon advises godly folk to “drink wine” and enjoy life (9:7) with one’s spouse. And this exhortation to make beer and share it with others fits with the idea that the troubles of this life are best alleviated with a joyful reception of food and drink with others (2:24, 25; 3:13; 5:11, 18; 8:15; 9:7).

Click here to continue reading.

Liberty Must Be Designed

We don’t live in a free market society. We’re not going to live in one tomorrow either. Any free market reform therefore, must take this into effect. This is part of my problem with Ron Paul. When I hear him talk about what he would do as President, it seems that in one fell swoop he’d get rid of vast government bureaucracies and programs. While this could be advantageous in the long run, it’d be chaotic in the short term, akin to getting cancer to get rid of AIDs. Roger Koppl points out then that in order for free market reforms to work, they must be designed.

Those of us who love liberty and fear the state support “deregulation.”  We want to unwind the bramble of regulations constraining the dynamic entrepreneurial economy.  But we have not thought enough about how to unwind the unwieldy regulatory apparatus of the current system.  It is one thing to show how a “truly free market” wouldwork.  It is quite another to show how to get from the current regulatory mess to something we are happy call a “free market.”

Most economists agree, for example, that licensing restrictions for physicians serve doctors better than patients.  There is less agreement on what to do about it now that we have it.  Simply lifting all restrictions immediately seems likely to create a “transition period” in which quacks and charlatans would prey on innocent patients.  The market would eventually work out mechanisms to ensure that we all get good care, but how much harm would be done in the “adjustment period” of the economist’s blackboard model?  We need to unwind it, but we don’t know how.

The California electricity crisis of 2000 and 2001 gives us a real-world cautionary tale.  As Nobel laureate Vernon Smith has explained, the problem was not so much “deregulation” as badly designed deregulation.

Transition Russia illustrates the dangers of undersigned deregulation.  The collapse of the Soviet system let to a kind of “free market,” but one that had not been designed in advance.  The result has been a “demographic disaster” marked by declining life expectancy.  You might object that Russia did not have a “true” free market any more than Stalinism was “true” socialism.   But if you don’t design liberty, that’s the risk you run.

Which brings me to my plea.  I would ask my fellow lovers of liberty to do less complaining about the evils of state control and more designing of markets and of the other institutions of a truly free society.

Biblical Beer and John MacArthur

In the words of Joel McDurmon, “The wailing imans of the dry jihad are shouting ‘forbidden!’ at Christians again.” McDurmon of course is referring to an article by John MacArthur awkwardly titled “Beer, Bohemianism, and True Christian Liberty.” Bohemanism? Really?

A friend just passed along an interesting article from an archaeological journal on the Ancient Near East and beer. I’ve included the section on the Bible and beer below for your enjoyment.

While beer has not often been the subject of inquiry by Near Eastern scholars, its neglect by biblical scholars has been marked. It is true that ancient Israelites are seen as, particularly and undoubtedly were, wine lovers. The many words for wine in the Hebrew language are evidence of this. The Talmud records that “stores of beer in Babylon are like stores of wine in Palestine” (b. Pesali 8a). Wines from various regions in Israel were as famous in antiquity as they are today.” Additionally, wine is more difficult to produce than beer. Viticulture requires permanent fields and some degree of social complexity. Grapes ripen just once a year and can only be preserved as wine or raisins. Barley, however, is easily stored, which allows the production of beer year round. Yet, the fact that ancient Israel produced, consumed and cherished wine by no means precludes beer production. Though often mistranslated as “strong drink” or “wine,” linguistic and archaeological
evidence suggests that biblical ‘sekar’ is best translated as beer. ‘Sekar’, or beer, played a large role in Israelite religion and society. It was libated to Yahweh twice daily (Num 28:7-10), and Israelites drank it at sacrificial meals (Deut 14:26). While people who consumed beer in excess were condemned (Isa 5:11; 28:7; Prov 20:1; 31:4), its absence signified melancholy occasion (Isa 24:9), and it was prescribed to the forlorn to temporarily erase their tribulations (Prov 31:6). Ancient Israel, like its neighbors, produced and consumed massive quantities of beer.

Michael Homan. “Beer And Its Drinkers: An Ancient Near Eastern Love Story.” Near Eastern Archaelogy, Vol. 67, No. 2 (June 2004), pp. 84-95.

Progressive Christians: Chaplains for Nero?

From the inestimable Mike Bird:

Perhaps the most negative criticism I could make about contemporary liberal or progressive Christians, is that they are little more than “chaplains for Nero”. Imagine if me and some progressive Christian got in a time machine and went back into Nero’s court around 63 AD. I stand up and in rough Latin I explain to Nero who I am, which religious community I belong to, and read portions of Phil 2:5-11, 1 Thess 4-5, and Rom 10:9-10 as examples of what I believe.  I reckon I’d end up food for the lions in the arena faster than you can say “Nero is a Greek drag queen”. As I’m led away, up steps a progressive Christian, who reads out some of the UN millennium goal, gives a manifesto on LGBTQ rights, talks about their acceptance of gay marriage (Nero was involved in two gay marriages!), flaps their gums about being pro-abortion (Nero had no objections here), and discourses on the tolerance of religious pluralism over and against the “orthodox” Christians who recognize Jesus as the only Lord and Savior. For the progressive Christian, when it comes to religion, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, or Isis, it’s pretty much all the same thing if you are a religious pluralist. So calling Nero “Lord” or worshiping him would not be a problem for anyone who is open minded or sincerely “inter-religious” (when in Rome eat spaghetti and offer incense to Nero’s genius!). Nero is not alarmed at anything this progressive Christian says, in fact, he’s even impressed. He asks the progressive Christian to be his own personal chaplain and become his adviser on how to deal with those pesky Roman Christians who go around secretly chanting “Jesus is Lord” and implying that Nero is not!

That’s why I’m not a liberal! Not that evangelicalism doesn’ have its own problems either, it can easily turn into folk religion, descend into little more than a baptizer of right wing values, and becomes a chaplain to conservative politics. But liberalism as a theological position divorces me from the God who saves me and refuses to believe in a God who speaks. I see no attraction. If you wrap up the values of the left in some religious wrapping paper and hand it onto them, they’ll thank you for affirming all of their values, but give you back your religious wrapping paper.

How Much Material Can Preachers Borrow?

Obviously having a preacher pretend that someone else’s thoughts are his own is a bad thing, and one obviously wants to avoid disasters like this. But, do preachers really need to spend 25 hours a week poring over lexicons and their Greek New Testaments? I feel this tension myself as most times I feel as if my sermons are nothing more than creative works of plagiarism. I always cite authors that I cull from, but I cull a lot. I rarely have an original thought when it comes to preaching. Is that a bad thing? James Jordan says no (apologies for not knowing where this is from).

Second, by no means are all pastors, teachers, and preachers gifted as exegetes or expositors. Pastors are curates of souls primarily. Teachers often are called to pass on the heritage of the faith, not rework it for modern times. One of the errors I encountered in seminary was the notion that all pastors should develop their sermons out of an in-depth exegesis from the original Hebrew and Greek. Virtually nobody ever does this, of course, but it was held out as an ideal. There is nothing ideal about it, however. Preachers need to pass on the heritage of the church to their people, with a pastoral eye to their psychological and spiritual situation. If they get their homilies by borrowing from Spurgeon, or from other people’s outlines — what’s wrong with that?

What do you think?

Update: I’ve changed the title of this post for clarity’s sake.

Liberalism And The Deathbed

I took a course this summer to help me transition into my new role as Guidance Head at the high school that I teach at. Largely, like any education course, it was useless. There were some glimmers of hope though. One day we had a bereavement counselor come into speak to us about children and death. She was someone who had her parents die as a teenager and has devoted her life to counseling kids as young as kindergarten deal with the death of a parent.

I learned a lot from the presentation. For example, she said that when an adult grieved the loss of a spouse it was akin to drowning in the ocean. However, when a kid grieves the loss of a parent it’s more like drowning in a deep puddle. The difference is that kids can easily move in and out of that puddle. When they’re out of the puddle they’ll appear to have moved on, playing with their friends without a care in the world. But, when they’re in that puddle they’ll feel the depth of their loss as deeply as any adult would. So it’s not weird for a kid to seem as if everything is alright after a parent has died. They’ll come back to it and the pain will be intense.

Good tip.

Unfortunately, this woman was very weak when it came to matters of God and death. Whereas she continually appealed to the ‘facts’ when it came to the psychology of bereavement she transitioned to a vapid subjectivism when it came to God. Who was she to judge a person’s beliefs about the after life? Huh. Really?

Now I see the struggle with counseling people who have diverse religious beliefs dealing with death. I get it. But my God, death is serious and God is even more serious. It’s no time for an appeal to a self-indulgent fact-value distinction.

To see what I mean watch the clip below. As someone who has spent some time in hospitals with dying people there are few things more reprehensible to me than gooey liberal chaplains. You’ll see what I mean.