Charles Simeon’s Advice to Cage Stage Calvinists

Charles Simeon, in his notes on Romans 9:16 (DISCOURSE: 1885, GOD’S SOVEREIGN MERCY THE SOURCE OF ALL OUR BLESSINGS) offers some helpful advice to those convinced of God’s sovereignty in a more Calvinistic framework. And I think this is extremely helpful for those with “Cage Stage Calvinism.” But those suffering from this would likely dismiss this advice and question the salvation of Simeon, but maybe, just maybe the principle of charity will prevail. Here’s Simeon (bold emphasis mine): Continue reading “Charles Simeon’s Advice to Cage Stage Calvinists”

Augustine on Return of Elijah, Jewish Revival, and the Antichrist

Saint Augustine believed in the literal return of Elijah, a revival among ethnic Jews, and the Antichrist:

“That the last judgment, then, shall be administered by Jesus Christ in the manner predicted in the sacred writings is denied or doubted by no one, unless by those who, through some incredible animosity or blindness, decline to believe these writings, though already their truth is demonstrated to all the world. And at or in connection with that judgment the following events shall come to pass, as we have learned: Elias the Tishbite shall come; the Jews shall believe; Antichrist shall persecute; Christ shall judge; the dead shall rise; the good and the wicked shall be separated; the world shall be burned and renewed. All these things, we believe, shall come to pass; but how, or in what order, human understanding cannot perfectly teach us, but only the experience of the events themselves. My opinion, however, is, that they will happen in the order in which I have related them” (Saint Augustine, The City of God 20:30).

10 Things I Look For When Deciding How to Vote

I’m a pastor, so forgive the alliteration, but I started to jot down things I look for in a candidate when voting. I’m often asked for voting advice and also asked how/why I arrived at my conclusions. People are sometimes surprised at my advice, as I sometimes defy the slate mentality (voting for candidates based on one or a set of ideological convictions) of various political action committees. I use a rather comprehensive rubric from which to make determinations about how and whom to vote for. It’s not an exact science but something I use in a prudential fashion. I’ve never really scored each of these categories and added up scores, but I do kind of weigh how all of this sorts itself out in a cumulative sense and weigh candidates against each other accordingly.

Constitutional – Does the candidate adhere to the Constitution? It depends on the office they are seeking, but there are enumerated powers that are listed in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. The Tenth Amendment reserves for the respective states the powers not enumerated for the federal government. Continue reading “10 Things I Look For When Deciding How to Vote”

N.T. Wright on Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility in Colossians 1:28–29

 

N.T. Wright, in his commentary on Colossians, notes the “paradox” of human responsibility and divine sovereignty in Paul’s words in 1:28-29 (bold mine):

28–29. Christ’s design (v. 22) is to ‘present’ his people to God, holy and without reproach. Paul’s aim, derived from this, is that he may present everyone perfect in Christ. The parallel reveals again how closely Paul related God’s purpose and his own vocation. It is because God is at work that Paul is at work. The paradox, capturing so neatly the correct balance between divine sovereignty and human responsibility in the work of Christian ministry, comes to a head in verse 29. To this end I labour; but, whereas human logic would see this as a statement of mere human effort (and effort it is: the word used refers to uncompromising hard work), the higher logic of God’s work in human beings recognizes a deeper truth; struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me, i.e. the energy of God’s Spirit at work in Paul (the whole thought is very close to that of 1 Cor. 15:10). The word ‘struggling’, whose root can mean ‘to compete in the games’, carries, as often in Paul, the idea of athletic contest: Paul does not go about his work half-heartedly, hoping vaguely that grace will fill in the gaps which he is too lazy to work at himself. Nor, however, does he imagine that it is ‘all up to him’, so that unless he burns himself out with restless, anxious toil nothing will be achieved. He knows that God’s desire is to bring Christians to maturity, and that God has called him to have a share in that work. He can therefore work hard without the stressful motivation of either pride or fear. He thus becomes an example of that maturity, both human and Christian, that he seeks under God to produce in others.”

http://ref.ly/Co1.28-29 via the Logos Bible Android app.

What a great model and source of encouragement for those engaged in ministry, particularly Wright’s observation that we “work hard without the stressful motivation of either pride or fear.”

California Minimum Wage Hikes Will Help Big Business, Hurt Poor

moneyCalifornia has agreed to gradually increase the minimum wage to $15/hour. Kevin Smith (San Gabriel Valley Tribune), has a piece, Why raising California’s minimum wage makes everyone else want a raise, too, where the following excerpt summarizes in short the challenges of implementing such increases:

Millions of low-paid workers are applauding California’s new minimum wage law, which will boost the state’s current $10-per-hour minimum to $15 an hour by 2022.

But scores of other employees who are now earning $11 or $12 an hour won’t be happy to see less skilled workers being bumped up closer to their pay scale.

“They will expect to get increases as well, and justifiably so,” said Paul Little, president and CEO of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce. “This goes beyond the minimum wage. If you are making $12 an hour now, you’ll expect to make more than that. It’s called wage compression.”

If those employees don’t receive pay increases there will be little motivation for them to stay in their current retail positions, for example, or strive to become entry-level managers, Little said.

Yossi Kviatkovsky, owner of The Rack, a Woodland Hills restaurant/sports bar that employs 46 workers, is already grappling with that issue.

“My workers are already demanding it,” he said. “When California’s minimum wage was at $8 an hour and it was bumped to $10, all of my employees who were making $10 an hour immediately demanded an increase, and I complied with their wishes. This is an issue of pride for them.”

Wage compression will occur, which isn’t good. Those making around $15/hour right now will want raises, and so will those making $20/hour when the $15 are bumped it, and so on and so on, and payroll taxes will grow for business owners, costing even more to employ on top of the wages. All of this was noted in the article, of course, but it bears repeating. At some point, the profit margin becomes so thin that business owners will choose not to assume all the risk and liability. Business owners with a small profit margin will go out of business. And who benefits? The corporate giants will succeed. Unemployment will go up. Tim Worstall highlights even more of the painful effects for this recent Forbes piece, California’s $15 Minimum Wage Is Going To Be Painful. In it, he notes how these laws will hurt the poor by putting them out of work (I later note how it will also increase the cost of living: double whammy):

Whatever we might want to say about a $15 minimum wage in Silicon Valley it’s just not true that this is an appropriate rate for some other parts of the state. And, of course, the people who are going to feel that pain are those low-paid workers in those low-paid areas precisely and exactly because this new, higher, minimum wage is too large for those local economies to be able to cope with it.

And, if we’re honest about it, the point and purpose of public policy just isn’t, nor should it be, putting poor people in poor places out of work. If we’re out there trying to help the poor, let’s not craft things so that lots of them lose their jobs.

And who benefits from all of this? The entry-level worker? Perhaps, a bit, but not nearly as much as corporate giants. Big corporations with enormous collective profits will adapt just fine. Smaller businesses won’t. And the big corporations will gain more of the market share as smaller competitors go out of business. Unemployment will go up. Cost of living for those on fixed income will go up. Inflation will go up. Everyone’s wage will essentially be devalued. This favors big corporations more than the folks it intends to help. The collective price to be paid far exceeds the benefits for the minority of entry-level laborers. But some note that it will have a net positive impact. Even if 2 out of 10 people were laid off to accommodate say a $10 to $15 increase, $15 x 8 is greater than $10 x 10, $120 over $100. So, even with layoffs and businesses going under, the argument is that it’s a net positive, and all the unfortunate sacrifices are outweighed by a wage that improves the overall quality of life for 8 out of 10 instead of stagnation and poverty for 10 out of 10. I’ve crunched the numbers and readily admit that the argument is sound from that sort of utilitarian thinking. I’ll come back to this later.

Some point out that higher wages mean higher morale for the workers and potentially less turnover, which has associated costs. That may be true for some, but the domino effect of impacting the morale of everyone else could prove to be more disastrous. What if that business owner who currently pays an employee $15/hour can’t afford to increase their pay as they have to absorb the cost of raising the wages for those currently earning less? $10 to $15 might not seem like much, but that’s a full 50% difference. It will compress wages and stall the increases that more valuable workers would’ve likely seen. The morale could actually be more fragile than before.

Big increases like this will hurt small businesses, low-skilled entry-level laborers, compress wages, and end up increasing the cost of living. It will disproportionately hurt the very poor it vows to help. It will run small businesses into grave while inadvertently helping corporate giants and large franchises. I hope it’s not so, but it’s what the small business owner is saying right now. You don’t need a think-tank; just give me the economic analysis of the successful business owner. But back to the arguments for the increase, as I briefly mentioned a few paragraphs ago. My progressive friends admit that unemployment will go up and that it’ll even disproportionately hurt the low-skilled laborer. Their response is generally advocacy for free community college, and other measures, which would result in a higher-skilled labor force who will eventually make up the gap. The hopes are that there will no longer be such a thing as low-skilled labor that earns less than a living wage. With wealth concentrated at the top, these measures of higher minimum wages and free college will help more people achieve a higher standard of living, which they point out as a net gain for human flourishing in society. Those are the most appealing arguments. Payroll taxes will also increase, helping boost social security and other programs. The earned income credit will pay out slightly less as people make more, creating essentially a wash. I could go on with more arguments for the minimum wage, and I admit that any are strong. To summarize, advocates would say more people will have a net increase in quality of life, leading to greater societal flourishing, welfare distributions from the government will go down, and social security/medicare income will go up.

But back to the arguments for the increase, as I briefly mentioned a few paragraphs ago. My progressive friends admit that unemployment will go up and that it’ll even disproportionately hurt the low-skilled laborer. Their response is generally advocacy for free community college, and other measures, which would result in a higher-skilled labor force who will eventually make up the gap. The hopes are that there will no longer be such a thing as low-skilled labor that earns less than a living wage. With wealth concentrated at the top, these measures of higher minimum wages and free college will help more people achieve a higher standard of living, which they point out as a net gain for human flourishing in society. Those are the most appealing arguments. Payroll taxes will also increase, helping boost social security and other programs. The earned income credit will pay out slightly less as people make more, creating essentially a wash. I could go on with more arguments for the minimum wage, and I admit that any are strong. To summarize, advocates would say more people will have a net increase in quality of life, leading to greater societal flourishing, welfare distributions from the government will go down, and social security/medicare income will go up.

From a practical standpoint, the arguments in favor of the minimum wage sound good. But my opposition is rooted less in the practicalities, which I don’t assume is a slam-dunk in favor of increases, anyways, and more in an ideology of the role of government. I don’t think the government should be in the business of interfering with the market’s evaluation of labor. I’m all for voluntary collective-bargaining and unions seeking to negotiate better contracts, which I view as part of the market. But the fact the government is already involved with taxation and welfare means they can leverage power I prefer they not. As such, freezing corporate taxes, or even decreasing them, to accommodate for mandated wage increases, decreasing earned income credit proportionate to the increased income resultant from increased wages, and decreasing welfare in other areas, like food, as more people move upward in wages, all make good practical sense according to those advocating such increases. And this is assuming the welfare doesn’t exceed the wage increases, or else people will have little incentive to move up if t actually meant a net deficit to their standard of life. But there are all those people who would be moving onto welfare because they can’t find a job, those with low skills trying to compete for $15/hour with those who have advanced skills. And inflation. And a bunch of other unintended consequences. Among many things, this will actually increase the demand for under-the-table pay for labor. And there shouldn’t be a law prohibiting the high school kid who’s glad to scoop ice cream for $5, $8, or $10 an hour. Goods and services should be exchanged voluntarily. The minimum wage creates an artificial valuation on labor that disrupts the market. And as I’ve already said, it will benefit big corporations, hurt the poor, and compress wages in a way that will freeze increases otherwise given to more valuable employees. This will actually disincentivize those with slightly more advanced skills over the entry-level employee.

Baseball as Sabbath and Sacrament, Statistics and Sinkers, the Unseen and the Seen — and Coming Home 

  Baseball is about coming home. It isn’t about invading the enemy’s territory as much as it is about making the journey around the diamond to return where you started. Baseball is about sabbath. You get a run for completing a sabbath. You work your way around, come home, and rest. It’s beautiful like that.

And that work thing, it’s more like play. You play your way around. “Work Ball”??? Sounds weird, doesn’t it? It’s “Play Ball!!!” And that play involves blood, sweat, tears, dirt, grass stains, bruises, sacrifices, humiliation, glory — all of it pure drama. Legends are made. Goats are made. 

Baseball is a familial, civic sacrament. Fathers play catch with their sons. Their sons play catch with their sons. This act connects us to our past and reaches out to the future. The simple catch and throw is life-giving. (Fathers and sons who play catch are more likely to flourish in real life.) Pull out that old piece of leather. How many memories reside therein? 

Baseball is a game of the unseen. It’s through the catchesis of dad, little league coach, and teammates in which one learns to see the unseen. There’s complexity, multiple potentialities with every pitch. Quantifying the unseen unlocks layers upon layers of appreciation: The thousands of things that don’t show up in the box score.  It’s inexhaustible. Ivy League grads mine and mine for more treasure. The old school scout listens for the crack of the bat, rates the firmness of the hand shake, and gazes into the eyes of the player in-between pitches to see if he, too, is seeing the unseen. 

Baseball is mythic and mysterious. It’s monotonous and majestic. Guts and glory. It’s sabbath and sacrament. Baseball is statistics and sinkers, the seen and the unseen. It’s about a catch and throw in the backyard as dad teaches you about life. It’s about playing till you come home. Play Ball!!!

4 Things to Pray in the Aftermath of Terror

Terrorism is ultimately a spiritual problem that politics can’t completely fix. Good governments can deter evil, establish policies that reduce the grievances of others, and more, but most terrorists can’t be propitiated. Our deepest anger and wrath can only be propitiated by the One who propitiated divine wrath so that we can be set free — otherwise, we will be consumed by hate and demand that others die as sacrifices to appease our wrath, and yet never be fully satisfied. It is diabolical and demonic. Only the cross can satisfy God’s wrath toward us and our own wrath toward others.
My prayer in the face of these ongoing terrorist strikes is fourfold:

  1. I pray for the victims and their families, that the injured would be healed, and that the slain would be dignified and remembered. May God bless the doctors and first responders with the virtues of courage and mercy in the discharge of their vocations.
  2. I pray for governing authorities to bring justice to the evildoers and deter any further attacks. May all the sword-bearing authorities put down any further hostilities, justly and swiftly.
  3. I pray for the salvation of the terrorized and terrorists. The victims will forever be consumed by hatred and vengeance unless they bury it at the cross. They will be terrorized, even if justice is meted out to the terrorists, in their hearts until they comprehend God’s justice. God’s justice doesn’t perpetuate violence but actually quells it. And the oppressors will continue to terrorize unless they bury their grievances at the cross as well. If they have legitimate grievances, let them seek recourse through peaceful means. But resorting to the intentional killing of civilians is a manifestation of a far deeper wickedness. And that wickedness and bloodthirsty can only be appeased by the gospel.
  4. I pray for missionaries and Christians to carry out their mission in love, embodying the good news in the face of evil and terror. We serve a Savior who is able to empathize with all — even those who are victims of violence. Ethnocentric hostilities also die at the cross. The church can serve as a transcultural witness, a community of love, an outpost of a heavenly kingdom where hatred, violence, and fear have given way to the new commodities of love, peace, and hope. We read the sacred writings of an apostle who was once consumed by bloodthirst in terrorizing others — until he encountered the living Christ. May this living Christ be declared in power — and may the terrorists of today become the church-planters of tomorrow.

Bad Religion and American Politics

liarPundits, commentators, sociologists, theologians and others have attempted to explain the malaise of current American politics. Of particular interest is the number of self-identifying Christians who support candidates that embody the sort of vices that former Christians found automatically disqualifying. One possibility is that Christianity itself has been corrupted by what Ross Douthat calls bad religion.He explains:

“In this America, too, the Christian teaching that every human soul is unique and precious has been stressed, by the prophets of self-fulfillment and gurus of self-love, at the expense of the equally important teaching that every human soul is fatally corrupted by original sin. Absent the latter emphasis, religion becomes a license for egotism and selfishness, easily employed to justify what used to be considered deadly sins. The result is a society where pride becomes ‘healthy self-esteem’, vanity becomes ‘self-improvement’, adultery becomes ‘following your heart’, greed and gluttony become ‘living the American dream’.” (p. 5)

Douthat, RossBad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics. New York: Free Press, 2012.

I think Douthat nails it. The mess in the church has created a voting bloc that’s willing to support a political philosophy of authoritarian empowerment through executive authority and the administrative state as the solution to our problems. We don’t want someone admitting their flaws and limitations; we prefer a strongman who can make everything great again, even if their life proves otherwise. No wonder politicians increasingly lack humility and rarely admit mistakes; yesterday’s virtues are today’s disqualifiers. The doctrine of original sin, which provided the foundation for moral realism, has now given way to an insatiable desire for power and irrational idealism. We’re attracted to the egotists, applauding their self-idolatry and self-deism as the necessary attributes for our own greatness. We live vicariously through the strongman, functioning within a survival of the fittest ethic where we don’t want to end up on the losing side. Losers be damned. God is for winners — or so the thinking goes.

Detaching human exceptionalism from the humble place we occupy under God’s authority has created this inflated view of self, in which we think the chief end of humanity is to glorify and enjoy me forever. God can partner with our journey so long as He doesn’t get in the way. And now we’ve given place for politicians to unashamedly embrace the very things we used to oppose as the most reliable evidence of eventual tyranny. As long as we live vicariously through the strength of a mere mortal, we will enable the consolidation of power, beguiled into thinking we make ourselves great by ceding conscience and conviction to the other. 

We need to stop feeding this bad religion, and its infiltration into American politics. Everyone hates a bully if they’re the object of the taunts and threats, but it’s amazing how many people will flock to the bully for protection, equating power with greatness, enabling even more abuse of power — so long as it doesn’t hurt us. We learn to look the other way. 

True religion, however, originates from a cross, where the brutality and pragmatism of the empire colluded with the deceived religious elite to crucify the Lord who came to make the world great again. His power intimidated them, couldn’t be bought or domesticated, and heeded in obedience to the cross. This cross is a stumbling block to those who prize power above all, but I’m afraid the bad religion of the day has jettisoned the cross for the self. And this preoccupation with protectionism, power, and prosperity in American politics is symptomatic of an idolatry that’s becoming less and less subtle, an idolatry that is sadly cultivated in our own churches. 

J.C. Ryle: Eight Reasons Why Holiness is a Necessary Pursuit for the Christian

JC-RyleJames Boice records Ryle’s eight reasons for holiness in this extended excerpt:

A great evangelical bishop of England, John Charles Ryle, wrote a classic study of holiness in which he urged holiness upon all who call themselves Christians. After some opening passages in which he describes holiness as separation to God, devotion to God, service to God, being of one mind with God and wanting God’s will—Ryle went on to show why holiness, the kind of holiness exercised by Daniel, is so necessary. He listed eight reasons.

1. “We must be holy, because the voice of God in Scripture plainly commands it.” Peter wrote, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:14–16). This is not optional. God did not say, “I would like you to live a holy life; but if you are not too excited about that particular lifestyle, don’t worry about it. We’ll work on something else.” God said, “Be holy, because I am holy.” We must be holy because the holy God commands it.

2. “We must be holy, because this is the one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world.” You say, “But I thought Jesus came to save us from our sins.” Yes, he did come for that. But the Bible also says, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:25–27). Many Christians think they would like the benefits of salvation without the obligation to live for Christ, but they cannot have them because Christ came to make them holy just as much as he came to save them from the penalty of their sins. If you are fighting against holiness, you are fighting against nothing less than the purpose of God in the Atonement.

3. “We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we have a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” How is that so? Well, James in his letter speaks of two kinds of faith: a living, saving faith and a dead faith that saves no one. The devils have a dead faith; that is, they believe there is a God and that Jesus is his Son, sent to save his people. But they do not trust him personally. They do not live for him. A living faith does live for him and therefore shows itself in good works. That is why James says, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26).
Ryle used this point to comment on so-called “death-bed” conversions, judging that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred these “conversions” are illusory. He said, “With rare exceptions, men die just as they have lived. The only safe evidence that we are one with Christ, and Christ is in us, is a holy life.”

4. “We must be holy, because this is the only proof that we love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” Jesus was quite plain on this point. He said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15); “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (v. 21); “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” (v. 23); “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). How could the point be more clearly spoken? If you love Jesus, you will obey him; you will be holy. If you do not obey him, you do not love him—whatever your profession. Do you love Jesus? We have a chorus in which we sing, “Oh, how I love Jesus,” but you do not love him if you do not do what he says.

5. “We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we are true children of God.” Do you remember how Jesus made this point when he was talking with the Pharisees? They claimed to be children of Abraham and therefore in right standing before God. But Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children, then you would do the things Abraham did” (John 8:39–40). Paul said the same thing in Romans, noting that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). The Spirit of God does not lead you to sin. The Spirit of God does not lead to disobedience. If you are led by God’s Spirit, you will lead a holy life, and the evidence of that holy life will be sound evidence that you are God’s son or daughter.

6. “We must be holy, because this is the most likely way to do good to others.” Many people today have some desire to do good to others, and many of our social and benevolence programs are an expression of that praiseworthy desire. But I ask, “Do you help others by advancing a low moral standard—one that is easy for them to live up to? Do you help others by whittling down the righteous standards of the Old Testament law or the New Testament precepts? Not at all! You help others by upholding the highest possible standards and above all by living according to those standards yourself. There are several places in the New Testament in which the godly conduct of a believer is said to be the best hope of doing good to someone else. For instance, Peter writes, “Wives, … be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives” (1 Peter 3:1–2). No doubt many besides husbands have been won to Christ by the consistent, holy behavior of some Christian.

7. “We must be holy, because our present comfort depends much upon it.” Not all suffering is directly related to a suffering person’s sin. Christ’s words about the man born blind (John 9:3) should disabuse us of attempts to make that an easy, one-to-one relationship. But although all suffering does not come directly from one’s sin, the reverse is true: All sin produces suffering.
We do not think this way naturally. In fact, we think just the opposite. We come up against one of God’s commandments, think that we would like to do something else, and immediately reason that if only we could do what we really want to do we would be happy. We think that we would be absolutely miserable obeying God. That was the devil’s argument in his temptation of Eve, but it is as diabolical now as it was then. To heed it is to forget whence our good comes. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). If we turn from this good, we do not turn to happiness but away from it.

8. “Lastly, we must be holy, because without holiness on earth we shall never be prepared to enjoy heaven.” The author of Hebrews wrote, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Revelation speaks of heaven, saying, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27).

Boice, J. M. (2003). Daniel: an expositional commentary (pp. 23–25). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Stranger than Fiction Election Predictions (from most to least likely outcomes)

gop candidatesI present five stranger than fiction election predictions from most likely to least likely. But before I get to them, I do need to note that much of what I say here is moot if the RNC rule requiring any candidate under consideration to have won at least eight states is in fact binding come convention. Here’s an article explaining the confusing nature of this rule: Threat of Brokered Convention Fuels GOP Rules Panel. Assuming there’s some flexibility with this rule, here’s my list:

1)      Donald Trump should win this thing based on current polling for the remaining primaries. Now mind you, there isn’t data on quite a few states, so some caution is advised. But all in all, the math is looking good for Trump.  Please check out this article to understand the math of it all: Donald Trump is on course to win the 1,237 delegates he needs to be the GOP nominee.

The only way Trump loses is if there’s a wild swing away from him. I believe that his ceiling is more limited than some of the other candidates, so eliminating the field to two could very well knock him out, butt I don’t think the field is going to narrow in time. In fact, if Ben Carson and John Kasich were both to get out this very moment, I still see Trump emerging victorious. I know that the majority of the donor class and establishment are coalescing behind Rubio, but unless Cruz was to also drop out, Trump still wins this thing in a three-way contest.

While Trump’s ceiling is limited, I think his support is firm. Trump folks have been with him through everything that would conceivably cause pause. There’s very little else that will deter their support.  At the same time, most of the PAC money spent in this campaign has coordinated most attacks on candidates other than Trump. The logic is to pick off other viable candidates and consolidate anti-Trump support. But this strategy has essentially allowed Trump to ride a populist wave mostly unscathed. I think this strategy would have worked if the field was narrowed earlier, but Carson and Kasich remain, and Trump has also benefited from not having to beat up the candidates; they’re beating each other up. This affords Trump the luxury of only having to pile in on the attacks that are already being leveled against one another. Trump doesn’t get attacked (as much), they attack one another (more), and Trump’s free to use Twitter like Kanye West dissing the world. The fact that this is continuing between Cruz and Rubio only benefits Trump. He only needs to run out the clock. Unless he fumbles, I think the nomination is his – and I think he gets crushed in November. The Republican Party will prefer to lose an election than lose the entire party for a generation. But more on that come general election time.

What makes a Trump nomination stranger than fiction is that he would win the nomination without a single endorsement from a sitting senator, congressman, or governor.

2)      For those who follow me on Facebook, I’ve predicted that Rubio would win in a brokered convention. As you can see, I’ve changed that calculation. It’s downgraded as the second option.

This is the most bizarre prediction of them all. Marco Rubio could very well not win a single state and yet end up the nominee. Let me repeat that a bit differently: Marco Rubio may end up the nominee after not winning a single contest. It’s plausible. If there’s a brokered convention, meaning that no one candidate secures the clinching number of delegates, then the delegates aren’t bound in the second round of voting and will most likely support Rubio in the second round. This will be a nightmare scenario as it would cause much outrage to the supporters of the other canddidates. And as noted in the opening, current rules require that for a nominee to qualify in a brokered convention he/she must have the majority of delegates in at least eight states. This rule would also have to be altered at the convention, which of course would cause a riot instigated by a furious Trumo and his furious followers. The fact is that many of Trump’s supporters have been party loyalists, and even this effort to save the party with Rubio could actually damage relations with Trump loyalists that would be absolutely required for the GOP to win in November. 

Not only do I think a contested convention guarantees a Rubio nomination, it will at this point require that Kasich not drop out. Yes, I said that, Kasich must remain in the race for there to be a contested convention. Kasich has been under incredible pressure to get out of the race so that Rubio could conceivably consolidate that support and have a chance at winning some states, but as I said earlier, I think a three-way race only guarantees a Trump victory. I don’t see Rubio winning a single state other than maybe Florida, even if Kasich was out of the race. For Rubio to win some states, he actually needs Cruz, Kasich, and Carson out of the race. That’s not going to happen.

So what exactly does Rubio need? He needs Cruz to win Texas and several other states. He also needs Kasich to win Ohio, which like Texas is a winner-take-all contest. He basically needs Trump not to clinch the nomination. Recent polls show that Rubio won’t perform well in Texas or Ohio. Since he really doesn’t stand a chance of winning these states himself, it’s conceivable that we see Rubio actually urge his supporters to support Cruz in Texas and Kasich in Ohio. Can you imagine a candidate actually rooting for others to win?

What makes this stranger than fiction is that Rubio wouldn’t need to win a single state and almost necessarily needs Cruz and Kasich to perform better than himself. He would likely be fourth in the delegate count, behind even Cruz and Kasich. If Kasich gets out and Trump wins Ohio, it’s pretty much over for everyone not named Trump. Rubio needs Kasich and Cruz. Weird, I know. And he will win a brokered convention because the party is behind him. Trump has no endorsements. Cruz has a handful of endorsements, but not a single senator. Kasich is racking up some endorsements, but still short of Rubio. Rubio is the face of the party right now. He would need to make some moves at the convention, perhaps offering Cruz and Kasich a post. If this scenario plays out, I think Rubio loses in November, because Trump. Imagine Trump, earning the most delegates with an overwhelming margin, being shut out of everything from the party? He could run third party as revenge or leverage. I don’t think he wants a post in the administration. He would basically ask to be nominee or threat to run third party. The party will have a crisis on its hands: Do they grant Trump the nomination or stand behind a fourth place Rubio? The optics of standing behind a candidate who fails to win a single state and finishes in fourth will certainly be a challenge, but I think that’s what the party does if there’s a brokered convention.

3)      Kasich gets the nomination. Yes, this is even more likely than Cruz getting the nomination (more on that next). Kasich needs to win Ohio and have Rubio refuse the nomination at a contested convention. I don’t think Rubio drops out anytime soon, simply because he’s the party’s guy right now. But if Rubio and the party calculate that this is a lost election in November because of the Trump third party threat, it’s possible they cut bait, especially if it becomes clear that they would have to defend scenario 2 and still end up losing in November. Better to save Rubio for the next cycle in 2020 than push him out there in likely defeat. If this calculus occurs, Rubio likely pulls out earlier than later (like Romney in 2008) and Trump clinches the nomination, which is why Trump is the most likely nominee (see 1). But if at the convention the Rubio nomination looks like a lost cause, and Trump hasn’t clinched, the party could rally behind Kasich. The party wouldn’t necessarily be cheering for Kasich’s defeat but likely anticipate it if Trump follows through with his threats to run as an independent. They don’t want to risk a humiliating Rubio defeat, since he still has a future, but figure Kasich would maintain the integrity of the party in a lost cause election. And if Trump was to actually stay out after threatening an independent run, Kasich could very well win in November. If that looks like a viable scenario, it’s conceivable that Rubio enters the picture again, but as a VP nominee. 

This stranger than fiction scenario requires a contested convention with Rubio deciding he doesn’t want the nomination and for Kasich to emerge as the backup plan.

4)      Ted Cruz either clinches the nomination, which requires that Rubio, Kasich, and Carson get out, or Cruz ends up with a similar delegate count as Trump in a contested convention in which Rubio, Kasich, and Carson had already dropped out along the way. The party fears a Cruz nomination almost as much as a Trump nomination. If Rubio, Kasich, and Carson drop out, because it’s clear they have no likely path, then it would be a two-way race between Trump and Cruz. Cruz would either need to win the nomination or go to a contested convention where it’s down to him and Trump. This is possibly more feasible than scenario 3 with Kasich as the eventual nominee, but Rubio and Kasich would need to suspend their campaigns almost immediately for this to play out, and I don’t see it happening. Trump will win big on Super Tuesday. By then, it’ll be too late, even if Rubio dropped out afterward.

The stranger than fiction scenario here is that Cruz could very well enter a contested convention with the second highest delegate count and a handful of primary/caucus wins under his belt and yet be passed over for a fourth or third place candidate. Or Trump drops out and endorses Cruz and pledges his delegates to Cruz. I don’t think that will happen, but perhaps, just maybe. I do believe he’ll have the second most delegates, but have the least likely chance of winning a contested convention, except for…

5)      Carson wins because everyone else drops out. Or maybe Rubio, Kasich, and Cruz drop out, leaving Carson and Trump. Or scandal brings down everyone but Carson. Very unlikely. In fact, I think Jeb! has a better chance of being the nominee from a brokered convention than Carson. Carson’s a great guy, but this wasn’t his time, just like a long list of folks who’ve already dropped out. 

Tertullian on Abortion

tertullianThe following excerpts are from Tertullian:

“In our case, a murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from the other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed” (Apology 9:8 [A.D. 197]).

“Among surgeons’ tools there is a certain instrument, which is formed with a nicely-adjusted flexible frame for opening the uterus first of all and keeping it open; it is further furnished with an annular blade, by means of which the limbs [of the child] within the womb are dissected with anxious but unfaltering care; its last appendage being a blunted or covered hook, wherewith the entire fetus is extracted by a violent delivery.

“There is also [another instrument in the shape of] a copper needle or spike, by which the actual death is managed in this furtive robbery of life: They give it, from its infanticide function, the name of embruosphaktes, [meaning] “the slayer of the infant,” which of course was alive. . . .

“[The doctors who performed abortions] all knew well enough that a living being had been conceived, and [they] pitied this most luckless infant state, which had first to be put to death, to escape being tortured alive” (The Soul 25 [A.D. 210]).

“Now we allow that life begins with conception because we contend that the soul also begins from conception; life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul does” (ibid., 27).

“The law of Moses, indeed, punishes with due penalties the man who shall cause abortion [Ex. 21:22–24]” (ibid., 37).

John Calvin on the Status of the Fetus in Exodus 21:22

John Calvin

This excerpt is from John Calvin‘s commentary on Exodus 21:22 (emphasis mine):

If men strive, and hurt a woman. This passage at first sight is ambiguous, for if the word death only applies to the pregnant woman, it would not have been a capital crime to put an end to the foetus, which would be a great absurdity; for the foetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, (homo,) and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a foetus in the womb before it has come to light. On these grounds I am led to conclude, without hesitation, that the words, “if death should follow,” must be applied to the foetus as well as to the mother.

Besides, it would be by no means reasonable that a father should sell for a set sum the life of his son or daughter. Wherefore this, in my opinion, is the meaning of the law, that it would be a crime punishable with death, not only when the mother died from the effects of the abortion, but also if the infant should be killed; whether it should die from the wound abortively, or soon after its birth.

Richard B. Hays on the Neighbor Status of the Unborn

richard b haysIn Richard B. Hays masterful work on New Testament ethics, he describes how defining the unborn child as a nonperson would be limiting the “scope of moral concern,” which is contradictory to the ethic of neighborly love that Jesus calls us to:

The point is not that the unborn child is by definition a ‘neighbor.’ Rather, the point is that we are called upon to become neighbors to those who are helpless, going beyond conventional conceptions of duty to provide life-sustaining aid to those whom we might not have regarded as worthy of our compassion. . . . When we ask, “Is the fetus a person?” we are asking the same sort of limiting, self-justifying question that the lawyer asked Jesus: “Who is my neighbor?” . . . To define the unborn child as a nonperson is to narrow the scope of moral concern, whereas Jesus calls upon us to widen it by showing mercy and actively intervening on behalf of the helpless. The Samaritan is a paradigm of love that goes beyond ordinary obligation and thus creates a neighbor relation where none existed before (Hays, Moral Vision, 451; emphasis his).

Hays, Richard B. The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation; A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics. New York: Harper, 1996.

Micah 6:8 “Do Justice” Extended Sermon Material on Social Ethics

Micah 68 [widescreen]The following outline and Bible verses come from my Logos Bible software. This is a thematic outline on social ethics. For a link to the audio sermon, click here. Please note that the outline here is far more expansive and intended to provide more material for those wanting to do more research and study.

Ethics

Synopsis

Scripture sees ethics as embracing the life of society as a whole, and not simply individual relationships.

The benefits of social ethics

Pr 14:34

Proverbs 14:34 (ESV) — 34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

See also 2 Sa 23:3–4 ; Ps 2:10–12 ; Pr 11:11 ; Pr 16:12 ; Pr 25:5 ; Pr 28:2 ; Pr 29:4 ; Is 54:14

2 Samuel 23:3–4 (ESV) — 3 The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, 4 he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.

Psalm 2:10–12 (ESV) — 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Proverbs 11:11 (ESV) — 11 By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.

Proverbs 16:12 (ESV) — 12 It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness.

Proverbs 25:5 (ESV) — 5 take away the wicked from the presence of the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness.

Proverbs 28:2 (ESV) — 2 When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue.

Proverbs 29:4 (ESV) — 4 By justice a king builds up the land, but he who exacts gifts tears it down.

Isaiah 54:14 (ESV) — 14 In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you.

Believers are to behave ethically in society

Praying for rulers

1 Ti 2:1–2

1 Timothy 2:1–2 (ESV) — 1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

See also Ezr 6:10 ; Ps 20:9 ; Ps 72:1

Ezra 6:10 (ESV) — 10 that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons.

Psalm 20:9 (ESV) — 9 O Lord, save the king! May he answer us when we call.

Psalm 72:1 (ESV) — 1 Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son!

Submitting to the authorities

Ro 13:1; Tt 3:1; 1 Pe 2:13–14

Romans 13:1 (ESV) — 1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Titus 3:1 (ESV) — 1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,

1 Peter 2:13–14 (ESV) — 13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

See also Ex 22:28 ; Dt 17:12 ; 1 Sa 24:6 ; 1 Ki 21:10 ; Pr 24:21 ; Ec 8:2 ; Ac 23:5 ; Ro 13:5 ; 1 Pe 2:17

Exodus 22:28 (ESV) — 28 “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.

Deuteronomy 17:12 (ESV) — 12 The man who acts presumptuously by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.

1 Samuel 24:6 (ESV) — 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.”

1 Kings 21:10 (ESV) — 10 And set two worthless men opposite him, and let them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.”

Proverbs 24:21 (ESV) — 21 My son, fear the Lord and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise,

Ecclesiastes 8:2 (ESV) — 2 I say: Keep the king’s command, because of God’s oath to him.

Acts 23:5 (ESV) — 5 And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’ ”

Romans 13:5 (ESV) — 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

1 Peter 2:17 (ESV) — 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Paying taxes

Mt 22:21

Matthew 22:21 (ESV) — 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

See also Le 27:30 ; Dt 14:28 ; Ne 10:32 ; Mt 17:27 ; Ro 13:6–7

Leviticus 27:30 (ESV) — 30 “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord.

Deuteronomy 14:28 (ESV) — 28 “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns.

Nehemiah 10:32 (ESV) — 32 “We also take on ourselves the obligation to give yearly a third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God:

Matthew 17:27 (ESV) — 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

Romans 13:6–7 (ESV) — 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Specific areas of social concern

Promoting justice

Dt 16:19–20; Mic 6:8

Deuteronomy 16:19–20 (ESV) — 19 You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. 20 Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Micah 6:8 (ESV) — 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

See also Ex 23:8 ; Le 19:15 ; Dt 27:19 ; Pr 21:3 ; Is 1:17 ; Is 10:1 ; Is 56:1 ; 1 Ti 5:21

Exodus 23:8 (ESV) — 8 And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.

Leviticus 19:15 (ESV) — 15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.

Deuteronomy 27:19 (ESV) — 19 “ ‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

Proverbs 21:3 (ESV) — 3 To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

Isaiah 1:17 (ESV) — 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

Isaiah 10:1 (ESV) — 1 Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression,

Isaiah 56:1 (ESV) — 1 Thus says the Lord: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my righteousness be revealed.

1 Timothy 5:21 (ESV) — 21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.

Helping the poor

Dt 15:7–9

Deuteronomy 15:7–9 (ESV) — 7 “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. 9 Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin.

See also Le 25:35 ; Le 25:39 ; Dt 24:12 ; Pr 19:17 ; Mt 19:21 ; Lk 11:41 ; Lk 12:33 ; Ro 12:13 ; Ga 2:10 ; Jas 2:3–4

Leviticus 25:35 (ESV) — 35 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.

Leviticus 25:39 (ESV) — 39 “If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave:

Deuteronomy 24:12 (ESV) — 12 And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep in his pledge.

Proverbs 19:17 (ESV) — 17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.

Matthew 19:21 (ESV) — 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Luke 11:41 (ESV) — 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.

Luke 12:33 (ESV) — 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.

Romans 12:13 (ESV) — 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Galatians 2:10 (ESV) — 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

James 2:3–4 (ESV) — 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Feeding the hungry

Dt 26:12

Deuteronomy 26:12 (ESV) — 12 “When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your towns and be filled,

See also Ex 23:11 ; Le 19:9–10 ; Le 23:22 ; Is 58:10 ; Mt 15:32 ; Lk 3:11 ; Ro 12:20 ; Pr 25:21

Exodus 23:11 (ESV) — 11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

Leviticus 19:9–10 (ESV) — 9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 23:22 (ESV) — 22 “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”

Isaiah 58:10 (ESV) — 10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.

Matthew 15:32 (ESV) — 32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”

Luke 3:11 (ESV) — 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”

Romans 12:20 (ESV) — 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Proverbs 25:21 (ESV) — 21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,

Protecting the vulnerable

Ps 82:3–4; Jas 1:27

Psalm 82:3–4 (ESV) — 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

James 1:27 (ESV) — 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

See also Ex 22:22 ; Ex 23:9 ; Le 25:25 ; Dt 24:17 ; Ps 41:1 ; Pr 23:10 ; Is 58:7 ; Je 22:3 ; Je 22:16 ; Ac 20:35

Exodus 22:22 (ESV) — 22 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.

Exodus 23:9 (ESV) — 9 “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 25:25 (ESV) — 25 “If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold.

Deuteronomy 24:17 (ESV) — 17 “You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge,

Psalm 41:1 (ESV) — 1 Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him;

Proverbs 23:10 (ESV) — 10 Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless,

Isaiah 58:7 (ESV) — 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Jeremiah 22:3 (ESV) — 3 Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.

Jeremiah 22:16 (ESV) — 16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? declares the Lord.

Acts 20:35 (ESV) — 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

Peacemaking

Mt 5:9

Matthew 5:9 (ESV) — 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

See also Pr 12:20 ; Ro 12:18 ; Ro 14:19 ; Heb 12:14 ; Jas 3:17

Proverbs 12:20 (ESV) — 20 Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy.

Romans 12:18 (ESV) — 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Romans 14:19 (ESV) — 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Hebrews 12:14 (ESV) — 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

James 3:17 (ESV) — 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

Showing concern for the environment

Ge 2:15

Genesis 2:15 (ESV) — 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

See also Ge 1:26–28 ; Le 25:2–5 ; Ne 10:31 ; Ps 115:16

Genesis 1:26–28 (ESV) — 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Leviticus 25:2–5 (ESV) — 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. 3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.

Nehemiah 10:31 (ESV) — 31 And if the peoples of the land bring in goods or any grain on the Sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day. And we will forego the crops of the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.

Psalm 115:16 (ESV) — 16 The heavens are the Lord’s heavens, but the earth he has given to the children of man.

Biblical Scholar and Textual Critic, Bruce Metzger, on Abortion

bruce-metzgerBruce Metzger:

The study of the thinking and practice of the early church, though often neglected by modern Protestants, frequently provides the Christian today with valuable insights and information. For one thing, such study deepens one’s appreciation of the strength of religious convictions that enabled believers of that age to stand firmly against conforming to the ethics and mores of the surrounding culture. Especially noteworthy in this respect was the opposition of the early church to contemporary practices of abortion. It is really remarkable how uniform and how pronounced was the early Christian opposition to abortion.

Metzger, Foreword to Gorman, Abortion and Early Church, 9.

C.S. Lewis, Narnia, Self-defense, Weapons, and Women in Combat

Susan_lucy_practice_campWhile reading The Chronicles of Narnia to the kids before bedtime, it struck me how Lewis makes a distinction between the purpose of the weapons when handed out by Father Christmas. Peter receives a sword and shield, presumably for defense and for war. Susan and Lucy also receive weapons, but only to be used in “great need.” They are told that they are not to be part of the battle, with Lucy given a specific reason: “battles are ugly when women fight.”

It appears that Lewis supports a fundamental right to self-defense for both genders, while preferring combat duty for men – at least in Narnia. Lewis seems to envision a normally limited role for women, but a role nonetheless, which means that it’s conceivable for women to engage in warfare if necessity demands it. The fact is that Susan and Lucy are armed, and that’s a pretty big deal in that it rules out the complete exclusion of women. I find it ironic that there’s a current trend to limit possession of weapons as a right to defense, while, on the other hand, advocating greater inclusion of women in combat. Lewis had it the other way around, so it seems, that women should be armed and prepared, but not normally included in combat duty.

Here’s the referenced excerpt from Lewis:

“Susan, Eve’s Daughter,” said Father Christmas. “These are for you,” and he handed her a bow and a quiver full of arrows and a little ivory horn.“You must use the bow only in great need,” he said, “for I do not mean you to fight in the battle. It does not easily miss. And when you put this horn to your lips and blow it, then, wherever you are, I think help of some kind will come to you.”
Last of all he said, “Lucy, Eve’s Daughter,” and Lucy came forward. He gave her a little bottle of what looked like glass (but people said afterwards that it was made of diamond) and a small dagger. “In this bottle,” he said, “there is a cordial made of the juice of one of the fire-flowers that grow in the mountains of the sun. If you or any of your friends are hurt, a few drops of this will restore you. And the dagger is to defend yourself at great need. For you also are not to be in the battle.”
“Why, Sir,” said Lucy. “I think—I don’t know—but I think I could be brave enough.”
“That is not the point,” he said. “But battles are ugly when women fight.

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Chapter X: The Spell Begins to Break.

What’s “Murder” (And Punctuation Marks) Got To Do With It?: Why Dr. Karen Swallow Prior’s Qualification Is a Necessary One

sanctity-of-lifeProfessor Dr. Karen Swallow Prior contributed an impassioned plea for careful rhetoric when engaging the tragedy of abortion in our country and day: link. As a pastor and executive director of a pregnancy care center, I try my best to read the thoughts of others on what I consider the most pressing human rights issue of our day (no hyperbole intended). I realize that Dr. Prior has been the object of criticism from various individuals for some time about other topics, and was therefore not too shocked at some of the things being said in response to her essay, but I wondered, “Is it true?” And what was I finding? “Christianity Today doesn’t believe abortion is murder. Goodbye.”

I proceeded to click on the link, not knowing who wrote it at first. I then saw it was Dr. Prior and admittedly proceeded to read the article with my antennae up for the word “murder,” knowing that it was obviously the stumbling block and cause for disagreement. I came across it, took notice, and then read through the entire piece. Here’s the hotly debated excerpt (it has since been updated with further qualifications):

Rallying for the defunding of Planned Parenthood isn’t inflammatory rhetoric; it’s political engagement. Videos depicting the self-damning words and actions of Planned Parenthood officials isn’t yellow journalism; it’s investigative reporting. On the other hand, referring to abortion providers as “abortion ghouls,” clinic volunteers and workers as “deathscorts” or “bloodworkers,” and women who obtain abortions as “murderers” is worse than inflammatory: it is unchristlike. Calling legal abortion “murder” when it isn’t (it is, to our shame, lawful) is to say what isn’t true, at least in a civil (not church) context.

And here is the recently added qualification:

(To clarify: I am unwavering in my belief that according to God’s law, abortion is murder, despite its current definition in civil law, and in my belief that God hates the shedding of innocent blood. Having volunteered 17 years at crisis pregnancy centers and offering help to women outside abortion clinics for 10 years, I was trained not to use the word “murder” in trying to persuade them to choose life. I continue to believe this is wise counsel. I continue to work toward the day when our civil laws on abortion accord with God’s law.)

Having read the article, I took note of the punctuation marks: Calling legal abortion “murder” when it isn’t (it is, to our shame, lawful) is to say what isn’t true, at least in a civil (not church) context. Note that “murder” is underlined and has quotation marks. Note that “abortion” is prefaced with the adjective “legal.” Note also that Dr. Prior qualifies in parentheses that it’s a shame that abortion is lawful. Dr. Prior is an English professor, so I was certain that she was meticulously making use of the punctuation marks to make her point. And the goal of all readers is to first discover authorial intent. Adler’s How to Read a Book might be a helpful resource for those who wish to discover intent with integrity. As a pastor and Christian, we also prioritize (or ought to) reading the Bible carefully, first discovering what the intended meaning is by paying attention to grammar and syntax. Perhaps I’m exhausting the grammatical commentary on Prior’s essay, but I do so to point out that some people were flat out misinterpreting what she was saying. I’m not referring to those who did read her rightly and objected at that level. The misunderstanding at the basic level of meaning actually underscores the main point of Prior’s essay, that we must be careful with our words and what they’re likely to evoke from those we’re trying to reach. And her harshest critics probably don’t get that point either.

My first reaction to the debated use of “murderer” and “murder” was that I generally agreed with the first point, that calling women and abortionists “murderers” isn’t helpful. And let me clarify, it’s not helpful in the stricter sense of Christian outreach. Our center helps with post-abortion recovery. We have no intentions of renaming this ministry to “murderer recovery,” nor do we call women “murderers.” We do deal with the sin of abortion, are very clear that it is the taking of human life, and point to Jesus as the only means for forgiveness, the cleansing of the guilt-ridden conscience, and joyful reconciliation to God. On the second use, whether abortion itself should be called murder, I got what she was saying but did think it a bit unhelpful in so far as the word “murder” is more generally used as a moral assessment, not a legal one. But this is a debatable point. And even if my suspicion is correct, my issue is not with Dr. Prior’s clear qualification of “murder” in the legal sense but whether people would even get that point because most people possibly don’t even make that distinction.

I reached out to Dr. Prior and asked, “By putting ‘murder’ within quotation marks, I assume you’re qualifying the legal definition of murder, right?” Her response, “Exactly.” I then asked, “Would you be okay with my use of ‘murder’ from an absolutist moral perspective as the taking of human life without appropriate justification?” Her response, “Yes.” We proceeded to discuss other things. I even raised my concern that what she affirmed in my question about the legitimacy of using the word in a moral evaluation would perhaps be missed by the readers. I think the updated, parenthetical qualification intends to allay that very stumbling block for many readers.

I enjoyed the dialogue with Dr. Prior and can wholeheartedly affirm her credibility on this issue, even if one disagrees with what’s permissible in our language when engaging this issue. She’s served as a board member for a pregnancy center, has done sidewalk counseling for 10 years, has volunteered in the service of pregnancy centers for 17 years, and has even been arrested 5 times in her advocacy for the unborn at clinics. In fact, I dare say she’s far more radical than most I’ve met. And I’d also add that she’s far more compassionate than most I’ve met. And therein is the complexity of how to engage this issue. It requires a lot of spine and a lot of heart. And how these two function together in the particulars requires courage, compassion, and a whole lot of prudence. Her essay offers some helpful insight from one with the experience to merit a listening ear. Debate is fair game. The pro-life movement doesn’t see eye-to-eye on a host of issues, one example being whether incremental legislation is worthy of support.

One final thing I’d like to chime in on is whether there is wisdom to what Dr. Prior is suggesting with the use of “murder” in a legal sense, and why I think this qualification is actually necessary if we stand against vigilante justice and violence on this issue. It would also be worth reading the Southern Baptist Nashville Declaration of Conscience (The Struggle Against Abortion: Why the Use of Lethal Force is Not Morally Justifiable), which more exhaustively deals, quite carefully, with the nuances presented by the morality and legality of abortion, and why these nuances are absolutely necessary to construct a position of non-violence in response to abortionists. It’s what Dr. Prior is doing, I believe, in obviously more redacted form with the rhetoric we use and how it can potentially elicit the very reactions we oppose. Prior was emphasizing the use of “murder” in its legal context, not its moral context. My own moral thinking was always disturbed by public intellectual and radio host Dennis Prager, who’d regularly ask, “Wait a minute, I thought you said unborn children were human beings. If that’s the case why is it wrong to kill the killer of innocent people? Why aren’t more Christians who really believe that unborn children are fully human destroying more abortion clinics?” The continuity Prager calls for seems logical on its face. Those who do believe that it’s just to defend oneself or use necessary means to prohibit “murder” (in its moral context) would be justified to take down a crazed shooter who’s firing off shots at children in a school. Prager’s probing question on why Christians don’t do the same with abortion clinics requires an answer. There are many responses to this, but one of the better responses I’ve read comes from apologist Greg Koukl in his essay Pulling the Trigger on Abortion. Whether you agree with how he argues for non-violence or not, he relies heavily on careful qualifications for “murder” in both a legal and moral definition:

So abortion usually entails the taking of an innocent human life, but is it murder? That’s the next question. And the answer is, “It depends.” Murder is a legal concept, and we ought to be very careful how we use that term.

Murder not only has to do with the act of killing an innocent human being; it also has to do with the motive behind the act, and the knowledge of what a person is doing; in other words, murder includes malice and forethought. They’ve got to intend the crime and know what they’re doing. (One could say that you never really witness a murder, only a killing; the fact of murder has to do with the unseen intentions.) A killing must be unlawful and unjustified to be called a murder. That’s why we distinguish between first and second degree murder, justifiable and unjustifiable manslaughter. In each case someone dies, but in each case the moral nature of the act is different, and therefore the punishment, if any, is different. That’s why I’m very concerned about the murder language because it doesn’t take these details into consideration.

For example, an abortion is only murder if the act itself is illegal, and those complicit in the act, knowingly and with malice and forethought, destroy an innocent human person. However, if the law doesn’t define a particular type of killing as unjust then it cannot be called murder, though it’s still taking a human life.

Incidentally, if the law does forbid abortion because a human life is at stake, then I believe that all parties to the action should be prosecuted, not just the doctor…

Koukl later adds, “One final problem relates to my belief that abortion is not murder. If I’m right then Michael Griffin used capital punishment for a non-capital crime.” Koukl is using “murder” in its legal sense and, therefore, condemning the actions of Michael Griffin. I, like Prior, lament that murder, in an absolute moral application, is permitted by the state. It’s shameful, to use even Prior’s description. Prior’s concern in her post is to call the Christian community to more careful language, one main reason being to deter the violence we just observed in Colorado. The careful use of “murder” is important then, perhaps even necessary in a moral argument against retribution and vigilantism. The very point of controversy in Prior’s essay requires even deeper thinking from those who object. We all agree that abortion is morally murder, the unjust taking of innocent life. Referring to it as such is necessary, as Steven Wedgeworth articulates in his response here. Our shared opposition to abortion is grounded in moral absolutes, to be sure. It’s what compels us. It’s what has compelled Prior’s courageous history of engagement. Same with Rev. Wedgeworth. Same with me. There’s complexity here, to be sure, and correctives within the movement function like iron sharpening iron. I pray that the end result is a more thoughtful, more truthful, and more compassionate community working side-by-side for the day when abortion is unthinkable and when the virtue of love triumphs in all pregnancy decisions.

UPDATE: I just read Ross Douthat’s piece (link). He, like Koukl (already linked in this post), courageously deals with the apparent inconsistency of non-violence in response to violence on the abortion issue. While not necessarily relying on the careful distinction of “murder” in both its legal and moral application, he does, however, speak with the assumption of abortion as a wrong that is also permitted by the state, therefore acknowledging the moral complexity in how to deal with the issue.

“The Unaborted Socrates” – Highly Recommended

unaborted socratesThe Unaborted Socrates  is an excellent read. Peter Kreeft is gifted, and this format is fun. Pro-life apologists must read this. The big gain from this is how to ask questions when assertions are made, much like Greg Koukl recommends with his ministry, Stand to Reason. Kreeft, a respected philosopher, has been a great example of how to dialogue with others as he’s penned volumes that offer hypothetical conversations among some of the thinkers who’ve gone before us.

A bit about Kreeft (from Good Reads): Peter Kreeft is a Catholic apologist, professor of philosophy at Boston College and The King’s College, and author of over 45 books including Fundamentals of the FaithEverything you Ever Wanted to Know about Heaven , and Back to Virtue. Some consider him the best Catholic philosopher currently residing in the United States. His ideas draw heavily from religious and philosophical tradition, especially Thomas Aquinas, Socrates, G. K. Chesterton andC. S. Lewis. Kreeft has writings on Socratic logic, the sea, Jesus Christ, the Summa Theologica, angels, Blaise Pascal, and Heaven, as well as his work on the Problem of Evil, for which he was interviewed by Lee Strobel in his bestseller, The Case for Faith.

Thoughts on Abortion Hashtagging and A Proposal for Christian Engagement #ShoutYourAbortion #AbortionIsMurder #ShoutBeHealed

 
 The hashtagging propaganda and recruitment of those who’ve had an abortion is in full swing, and likely won’t relent any time soon. I have some thoughts on that later on in this post, especially for how Christians should respond, but I want to begin by stating what I believe is a glorious contrast to the projected narrative of pride in self-advancement over the sacrifice of the weak and vulnerable:

Instead of justly letting us die so that He could remain in the comfortable confines of the heavenly realm, Jesus chose to enter the cursed land, face the hardship, go to the cross, conquer death — so that we might live. Rather than being diminished in glory, His glory is greater because of this display of sacrificial love — and we get to live, eternally. I’m grateful that Jesus didn’t abort the mission of salvation, that He was willing to humble himself to the point of the cross. He won, we won, through His suffering. 

The majority of the #shoutyourabortion tweets I’ve read have gloried in self-promotion, that they’ve become successful, that it’s better for one to be happy than for two to be miserable. I guess one can say that ethics grounded in the greatest happiness for the greatest number would lead many to say that one happy person is better than two miserable people. And rather than be sober about the sacrifice of the child, what’s required is a demeanor of pride for making the right decision. Admitting complexity, sorrow, or regret isn’t allowed. Such sober talking is a weakness, a concession that maybe it was the wrong decision. And we can’t have any of that, sober thinking on the rightness or wrongness of an action. One must remain focused on the outcome of personal happiness and boldly assert that the end justifies the means, period. The sad thing about this bravado, utilitarian ethic is that it lacks empathy and compassion for those who are truly scarred and hurting over a past abortion. What an opportunity for the people of Christ to compassionately engage those who are hurting and hurt all the more when they see others boasting over their abortion. One side shouts to be proud. The church has long shouted to be ashamed. It’s time for the church to model the great physician and engage as a healer.
In the economy of God’s kingdom, there’s virtue in sacrifice. One can experience a greater joy in embracing love in the most difficult of circumstances. The type of love that expresses itself in concern for others, to be a source of joy for others. The idol of self demands that others sacrifice themselves for the self-promotion of one. The gospel humbles us in the stark contrast that the powerful lays down His life for the promotion of others. 

I realize that spiritual truths need spiritual discernment, or else they forever remain foolish in the eyes of the world, but I also believe that as social creatures, though fallen, we long to be loved and also have the capacity to love. An epistemology that takes into account the reality of love, its virtues and all, can truly engage the human heart with the reality of the gospel, and provide a necessary social ethic that’s shaped by sacrificial love. 

My response to the #shoutyourabortion folks is one of compassion more than anger. The #lovewins narrative proved to be powerful for the LGBT community. They got the inherent power of branding the issue as one of love, that you are either loving or hateful based on what you believed about marriage. I’m not commending their logic, for I disagree with how simplistic their framing of the narrative was, but their projecting the ethic of love was powerful because, well, people seem to be far more uncomfortable with the charge of being unloving than wrong. We can shout back and forth over the truth of a matter, but once you say something isn’t very loving, it seems that Christians really struggled to respond. I think there’s a powerful way to engage the abortion issue as an issue of love, whether abortion’s loving or not. And I’m not commending this as a gimmick to pull only on the emotions but rather pointing out that our cultural apologetics needs to embody more than appealing to the mind. We are social beings with emotions, desires, aspirations, and we do a great disservice when we cede that aspect of our humanity and divine image-bearing when engaging the major issues of our day. We often show more zeal for winning arguments than winning people.

I doubt very few folks won over their spouse by making an argument for why they’re the best person to marry. You sought the person, the whole person, heart and mind. As we engage people, hurting people, let’s model the incarnational love of our Savior, a love that sought us, all of us, heart and mind. Again, as one side seeks to recruit the hurting by offering a narrative of pride for the abortion, we know there’s no healing balm there. As Christians have often shouted a redacted message that abortion is murder, and I agree that it is, there’s no healing balm in this message as well (as engagement that only asserts the morality of the act). The world shouts, “Be proud!” The church has shouted, “You’re a murderer!” We need to lovingly engage the hurting and declare, “Be healed!,” for it was Jesus who said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NLT). 

Lessons from Moneyball and Amazon for Pregnancy Care Centers

moneyball-pic-KelseyIf you’re not familiar with Moneyball, it’s the title of nonfiction work by Michael Lewis chronicling the strategic mind of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane. It was also highlighted on the big screen with the same title. What makes Beane so intriguing is his use of advanced metrics, also referred to as sabermetrics, in quantitative/qualitative analysis to assemble a competitive team on a far more limited payroll than larger market teams. Small market teams can’t afford inefficiencies of any kind since the margin of error is slim to none. Every dollar is precious and maximized for results, which in the large scheme of baseball parlance is runs created and runs saved, which is the best metric to predict the amount of games a team will win. The goal is to score more runs than your opponent, period.

In this model, exorbitant contracts for superstars are a no-no. Superstars might be flashy, might look good on the media guide and billboards, might generate buzz and sell jerseys, but are generally inflated in true value, if you define true by their WAR (wins above replacement, yes, an actual metric) to win games. The bottom line is results: wins on the field. And superstars may prove more detrimental to that goal when compared to spending the money on 2-3 players that can net a better overall outcome. Baseball has a long season of 162 games, and any slight advantages will show up over this larger sample size. Point being that there are other ways to produce similar or better results with fewer pennies on the dollar. In the nonprofit realm, where one is trying to accomplish much on little, there are many lessons to learn from Moneyball by way of qualitative/quantitative analysis through the use of metrics that place client care as the baseball equivalent of runs, runs saved, and wins. When you can do more per dollar, then you can actually expand services and do even more. If all the money is tied up in an inefficient program, then growth is impossible unless you’re able to dig deeper in the bank account. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers have that luxury — small market teams don’t.

At the 2015 Care Net national conference, Care Net president Roland Warren spoke about the future of pregnancy care/resource centers by highlighting the failure of Borders and the success of Amazon. Borders went for a site-driven vision, whereas Amazon went for a goods-driven model that relied on hubs of transportation. The build-it-and-they’ll-come model is really inefficient for most goods and services. What we find today are hubs with multiple smaller sites to reach people most efficiently. Whether you look at health care or churches, books or tv’s, this is the way forward. And when you reflect on Planned Parenthood, they’re expanding through a mostly site model, albeit adopting a hub model of sorts with smaller sites surrounding the larger sites. It makes no sense for pregnancy care centers to mimic Planned Parenthood’s methodology if not part of a broader network with strategic partnerships.

What makes more sense? Hubs with strategic partnerships for delivery of holistic care, quantitative/qualitative analysis of the best way to deal with crisis pregnancies through metrics that value preventive and transformative measures, and retaining flexibility for delivery of services. Even growing churches are adopting the model of being a hub rather than build up the main site as the center where everyone commutes.

One example of a holistic strategy on the abortion issue is what Roland Warren referred to as the 18/18 rule. Within 18 months of a pregnancy scare, the same client may very well end up with another pregnancy scare in 18 months if there was no transformation in lifestyle. And if the client is pregnant and parents the child as a single mom, father out of the picture, the stats are extremely discouraging for sexual activity of children in fatherless homes; They are more likely to abuse substances and be sexually active — and at a younger age. Based on this analysis, for example, it makes sense to address sexual lifestyle, reach out to fathers, and provide support for single moms. Lifeline Pregnancy Care Center, here in Nampa, ID, for example, invests in an abstinence-based education outreach in the local schools that reaches over 4,000 students a year. That’s our way to chip away at the 18 month rule. And I’m personally reaching out to men and encouraging responsible fatherhood. That’s our way of chipping away at the 18 year rule. More importantly, these outreaches of the center help shape the culture’s ecology in a way that enhances human flourishing according to God’s design. What’s really neat is that we don’t need a mega-building to accomplish these tasks. No Regrets, our sexual education outreach, is run out of a small office. The 4,000 plus students aren’t coming to the center; We’re going out to them in their facilities! And the fatherhood outreach really begins with initial contact with male clients through the hub of our center as females come in for pregnancy-related services. The on-going peer counseling for fathers initially requires little space in the hub of the center and can then be taken off-site through strategic partnerships with local churches and men from local churches who can continue to meet with the fathers in local coffee shops and other locations.

There are many other examples I can give of our low-overhead, efficient, more bang-for-the-buck, Moneyball strategy, but it’s a constant joy to discuss the numbers of clients served by Lifeline to existing and prospective supporters, then see a look of amazement on their faces as they’re pleasantly shocked and surprised by just how many people we reach — and how we reach them. Our donors deserve to know how their money is working and how their prayers are being answered. It’s frankly a great joy telling folks how much we do with their dollars. And I can also assure supporters that future dollars are going to expanding client outreach exactly where we’ve identified needs and the best strategy to meet such needs. And it’s not just the numbers of how many are reached in a quantitative analysis but also the qualitative value of these contacts to the goal of saving babies and changing the cultural ecology for the rearing of children in a way that leads to greater flourishing. We’re not a retail outlet looking for repeat customers. We’re a hub in the community for services that prioritize the value of life and encourage a social infrastructure for life that will hopefully be a preventative measure for future unwanted pregnancies and abortions. And this isn’t coming from an anthropological perspective of seeing humans as merely sexual beings and preaching the gospel of contraception and abortion. We treat every human as an embodied soul, a social being, not just a sexual being. This is also why we’ll be investing in relational care. Our center can provide something Planned Parenthood can’t, and that’s an ecosystem built upon relationships. This is a necessary component if we believe people are social beings who experience transformation in the context of community. Care Net has some exciting initiatives in the works that will be launched soon, and Lifeline is positioned to meet more needs through these initiatives. Stay tuned.

Why Pro-Choice Feminism Actually Harms Women (Part 2)

  John Stuart Mill once said (On The Subjection of Women):

“… [T]he legal subordination of one sex to another – is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a system of perfect equality, admitting no power and privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.”

Note the emphasis on “legal subordination,” meaning having fewer rights than another. This isn’t to be confused with utilitarian appraisal, where one’s labors might be worth more than another, but with rights. It was thought for some time that because men were stronger than women, they ought to possess more rights than women. Might was right, and thus women were subjects to the assigned value men would place on them. Women existed to please men and bear legitimate children, otherwise, they were of little value. A man could beat a woman and be applauded for it. A woman beating a man might be killed for it in retaliation, or put away in divorce. There are many more examples of how injustice was perpetuated through this notion of the superiority of man.

Women have rightly defended their equal value based on their humanity, not the seeming randomness of their chromosomes. Chromosomes don’t confer dignity, our being human is what counts. Now, what does all of this have to do with abortion?

The infant in the womb is treated with legal subordination from the very women who argued against their own legal subordination based on the fact that dignity is found in their humanity, not in a chromosome, not in size, not in strength, not even in one’s usefulness and ability in society. The infant’s value is arbitrarily conferred, not inherently recognized. Just because the infant might be an undesired gender, have a defect, or pose a potential hardship to parents is not philosophical grounds for abortion. If the same philosophy of hardship, for example, provides justification for abortion in the womb, then what prohibits murder outside the womb? If the dignity and rights of the infant are arbitrarily conferred, then any so-called sacred line or rite of passage, where dignity is regarded as inherent, regardless of the feelings of the parents, is arbitrary in itself and fluid, subject to change. This is why arguing for personhood and dignity from womb to tomb, from conception to natural death, makes for a consistent foundation in which to engage for human rights across the board. 

Rosemary Botcher speaks directly to this, calling out proabortion feminists who “resent that the value of a woman is determined by whether some man wants her, yet they declare that the value of an unborn child is determined by whether some woman wants him. They resent that women have been ‘owned’ by their husbands, yet insist that the unborn are ‘owned’ by their mothers” (“Pro-abortionists Poison Feminism,” in Pro-life Feminism: Different Voices, ed. Gail Grenier Sweet, p. 45).

Being pro-life is being pro-human, which enables an even greater respect for life and treating all life with respect. The pro-choice feminists are wanting for themselves what they deny to baby girls in the womb. And the only arguments they can make for the legal subordination of the infant sounds awfully similar to the arguments made by men not too long ago (and sadly still today in some cases).

Why Pro-Choice Feminism Actually Harms Women (Part 1)

prolifefeministOne of the main arguments women relied on in establishing their equal dignity and rights went as follows: A woman’s value is determined by her humanity, not by the value a man places on her. This was a departure from the utilitarian value of the woman, which was solely conferred by man, essentially what she was good for, useful for. Patriarchy subjected women to inferiority. While our usefulness will vary based on our talents and gifts, our dignity is rooted in our humanity. And it was thought unjust for men to be the lone appraiser of women. Man shouldn’t assign dignity, it should be recognized as part of our humanity as male and female.

When you think about this in regards to the unborn human, feminists seem to be taking with one hand what they so strongly assert with the other. The unborn human is completely subject to the lone appraisal of the woman carrying the child. If the child is deemed wanted, then that baby is treated with dignity: the gender reveal party is celebrated, a name is often given prior to birth, the baby is spoken to, his/her movements inspire awe and anticipation, and a miscarriage would be a tragedy. But if that same baby is deemed a distraction to one’s happiness, then the baby is treated as an intrusion, an unwanted imposition, something to be vacated, expelled, and thrown away.

It’s worth noting that early feminists were almost unanimously anti-abortion, and precisely because they thought it inconsistent with the very argument that dignity is inherent in our humanity, regardless of gender, and regardless of development. Pro-abortion feminists are undermining the very foundation upon which great advancements have been made for women. Abortion doesn’t empower women. Celebrating all human life empowers us all. Human flourishing for all will only be realized when every human is welcomed and loved based on inherent dignity that’s conferred by God in us bearing His image.

Hilastērion as Propitiation

John Stott provided what I thought was the best argument for hilastērion to be understood as ‘propitiation’ as opposed to ‘mercy-seat,’ however, it should also be understood that both ideas are present in the Bible as a whole. This extended excerpt is from Stott’s commentary on Romans, The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World (Bible Speaks Today):

The second word is hilastērion, which av renders ‘propitiation’. Many Christian people are embarrassed and even shocked by this word, however, because to ‘propitiate’ somebody means to placate his or her anger, and it seems to them an unworthy concept of God (more heathen than Christian) to suppose that he gets angry and needs to be appeased. Two other possible ways of understanding hilastērion are therefore proposed. The first is to translate it ‘mercy-seat’ referring to the golden lid of the ark within the temple’s inner sanctuary. This is what the word nearly always means in lxx and also what it means in its only other occurrence in the New Testament.29 Since sacrificial blood was sprinkled on the mercy-seat on the Day of Atonement, it is suggested that Jesus is himself now the mercy-seat where God and sinners are reconciled.30 Those who hold this view tend to render the verb protithēmi (presented) as to ‘set forth’ (av) or ‘display publicly’ (BAGD), in order to indicate that, although the mercy-seat was hidden from human eyes by the veil, ‘God has publicly set forth the Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of the intelligent universe …’31 as the way of salvation. Luther and Calvin both believed that ‘mercy-seat’ was the right translation, and others have followed them.
But the contrary arguments seem conclusive. First, if Paul meant ‘mercy-seat’ by hilastērion, he would inevitably have added the definite article. Secondly, the concept is incongruous in Romans which, unlike Hebrews, does not move ‘in the sphere of Levitical symbolism’.32 Thirdly, the metaphor would be confusing and even contradictory, since it would represent Jesus as being simultaneously the victim whose blood was shed and sprinkled and the place where the sprinkling took place. Fourthly, Paul’s sense of personal indebtedness to Christ crucified was so profound that he would hardly have likened him to ‘an inanimate piece of temple furniture’.
A second possible translation of hilastērion is ‘an expiation by his blood’ (rsv). The argument for this is that, whereas in secular Greek the verb hilaskomai means to ‘placate’ (whether a god or a human being), its object in lxx is not God but sin. It is therefore said to mean not to ‘propitiate’ God but to ‘expiate’ sin, that is, to annul guilt or remove defilement. C. H. Dodd, with whom this viewpoint is particularly associated, and who as Director of the neb evidently influenced its translators in this direction, wrote that expiatory acts ‘were felt to have the value, so to speak, of a disinfectant’. Thus neb translates: ‘God designed him to be the means of expiating sin by his sacrificial death.’
The main reason these options are not satisfactory, and a reference to propitiation seems necessary, is the context. In these verses Paul is describing God’s solution to the human predicament, which is not only sin but God’s wrath upon sin (1:18; 2:5; 3:5). And where there is divine wrath, there is the need to avert it. We should not be shy of using the word ‘propitiation’ in relation to the cross, any more than we should drop the word ‘wrath’ in relation to God. Instead, we should struggle to reclaim and reinstate this language by showing that the Christian doctrine of propitiation is totally different from pagan or animistic superstitions. The need, the author and the nature of the Christian propitiation are all different.
First, the need. Why is a propitiation necessary? The pagan answer is because the gods are bad-tempered, subject to moods and fits, and capricious. The Christian answer is because God’s holy wrath rests on evil. There is nothing unprincipled, unpredictable or uncontrolled about God’s anger; it is aroused by evil alone.
Secondly, the author. Who undertakes to do the propitiating? The pagan answer is that we do. We have offended the gods; so we must appease them. The Christian answer, by contrast, is that we cannot placate the righteous anger of God. We have no means whatever by which to do so. But God in his undeserved love has done for us what we could never do by ourselves. God presented him (sc. Christ) as a sacrifice of atonement. John wrote similarly: ‘God … loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice (hilasmos) for our sins.’35 The love, the idea, the purpose, the initiative, the action and the gift were all God’s.
Thirdly, the nature. How has the propitiation been accomplished? What is the propitiatory sacrifice? The pagan answer is that we have to bribe the gods with sweets, vegetable offerings, animals, and even human sacrifices. The Old Testament sacrificial system was entirely different, since it was recognized that God himself has ‘given’ the sacrifices to his people to make atonement. And this is clear beyond doubt in the Christian propitiation, for God gave his own Son to die in our place, and in giving his Son he gave himself (5:8, 8:32).
In sum, it would be hard to exaggerate the differences between the pagan and the Christian views of propitiation. In the pagan perspective, human beings try to placate their bad-tempered deities with their own paltry offerings. According to the Christian revelation, God’s own great love propitiated his own holy wrath through the gift of his own dear Son, who took our place, bore our sin and died our death. Thus God himself gave himself to save us from himself.
This is the righteous basis on which the righteous God can ‘righteous’ the unrighteous without compromising his righteousness. Charles Cranfield has expressed it with care and eloquence:

God, because in his mercy he willed to forgive sinful men, and being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is, without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against his own very Self in the person of his Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved.

Professor Cranfield returns to the theme in his final essay on ‘The Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ’. He argues that God purposed Jesus Christ to be a propitiatory sacrifice in order ‘that he might justify sinners righteously, that is, in a way that is altogether worthy of himself as the truly loving and merciful eternal God’. For God to have forgiven their sin lightly would have been ‘to have compromised with the lie that moral evil does not matter and so to have violated his own truth and mocked men with an empty, lying reassurance, which, at their most human, they must have recognized as the squalid falsehood which it would have been.’

The Cross is Child Abuse if…

IMG_0070-0.jpgPropitiation would be child abuse if there was another way, or so states Witherington. This excerpt comes from Ben Witherington’s volume Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (2004:114):

Of course many moderns have difficulties with the view of God implied here. Along with the concept of a God who has wrath or righteous anger, they have even more difficulty with a God who requires that his Son give up his life in such a horrible fashion, as an atoning sacrifice. But unless Christ’s death on the cross is both the one necessary and also the sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the world, then God is in no sense a loving God. What parent would require such a thing of his or her only child? Thus some modern discussions have even talked about the cross and the crucifixion as an example of child abuse! This would be correct, if there were some other way God could be both just and the justifier or righter of fallen human beings. But Paul seems to think this was indeed the only way for God to remain both holy and loving and be reconciled to his estranged children. If this perspective is right, then Christ’s death, instead of a hideous tragedy or mistake, is the greatest display of God’s love that ever happened in human history. In the cross one sees the gamut of God’s character and the extent of divine love all at once.

Satanists Support Planned Parenthood, Celebrate Abortion, and Invoke Religious Liberty for Abortion

satanicabortionYep, Satanists have raised money for abortionists, clinics, Planned Parenthood, and have said that abortion is a sacred act of worship. In the face of possible restrictions, they support using their religious freedom to protect their right to abort their own children. Here’s one story highlighting much of this: SATANIC CULT PLEDGES FUNDS TO SUPPORT ABORTION RIGHTS. In it, The Satanic Temple is said to be “offering religious exemptions from arbitrary, insulting, and outright harmful anti-abortion legislation..”

This link here will show you some of the highlights from Satanic counter-protests over the weekend, where milk was poured over women as a protest against what they cited as forced motherhood.

And if this isn’t disturbing enough, here’s a confession from a former Satanist who discusses his past involvement with Satanic rituals connected to abortion clinics: Former Satanist: “I Performed Satanic Rituals Inside Abortion Clinics”

The Satanic Temple raises funds for clinics, cherishes abortion as sacred, supports Planned Parenthood, and wants to be free from any future abortion restrictions, claiming that abortion is part of their “religious” practice. All you really need to know about how the self-proclaimed propagators of evil feel about abortion and Planned Parenthood. Dare I say they’re on the wrong side of history, as in His story? Satanists view abortion as a sacrament, where the powerful put to death the weak and vulnerable for self-preservation and demonic frenzy. Our Savior sacrificed Himself on our behalf, the strong for the weak, so that we might have life. Abortion is a demonic counterfeit of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.