Friday, November 09, 2007

Progressive Pro-Life Politics

The Charlotte Observer recently ran an interview with veteran liberal evangelical Tony Campolo. He's giving a sort of "What Would Jesus Do" response to several hot-button issues. While I resist the works righteousness he displays (particularly in his answer to Muslims), I found a shining gem in the middle of the rough:
Abortion: "I'm sure that the destruction of life in abortion would break his heart. However, I feel like if he were speaking to the church today in America, he would ask not the question, `Are you going to make it illegal and arrest women who have abortions?' I think Jesus would say, `What are you going to do to reduce the number of abortions?'

(A new survey reported that) 70 percent of all abortions are economically driven. You have a poor woman working on minimum wage with no hospitalization. She gets pregnant. She can't afford to have the kid, she can't afford to pay the hospital bills, she can't afford day care after the child is born. So she says, `I'm going to have an abortion.' Can Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives agree on one thing: that it's wrong for women who want to have their babies to have abortions? And that's about 70 percent of them. Then we can start talking about the other 30 percent."

He's the PhD sociologist, so I'm not going to go after his numbers (though I think the percentage that is purely economic are higher, in terms of "lifestyle" normally being a product of having enough money to support the rearing of a child without infringing on your current freedoms and expendable resources). But in my own reflection on abortion, this is an area that needs to be seriously addressed.

Jesus taught us to count the costs before undertaking the cross of discipleship. The interesting thing about his parable is that it focuses on the outcome, not the principles. This is an odd thing for Jesus, but he does it anyway. The Spirit has cut me to the quick more than once about this. Too often, I have contented myself with dialogging with those who are just as recalcitrant as I. It's important, but it's rare to see any change. There have been times when I have been part of responding to crises where my action made a difference. Abortion is one of those issues where concentrated Christian response on the economic issue could make a real difference.

May God help all who take purposive aims at eliminating the American Holocaust that is abortion.

Enlightened Democracys

I'm a big fan of participatory democracy. However, I don't think that democratic ideals can serve as the basis of political ideology (or even of good church government). Why? Because they assume too much to stand on their own.

Some people seem to think that if we just spread the values of the Enlightenment to other countries, that they will become freer by default. As Chuck Colson examines the discrimination against Dalits in India, he has some excellent thoughts about the necessary presuppositions that lay the substratum of true political liberalism (the good kind).
The situation in what’s called the “largest democracy in the world” reminds us that “democracy” and elections are not enough—there needs to be a commitment to the “first freedom”: freedom of religion. There needs to be a recognition that all freedoms grow out of what one of our founders James Madison called “the act of freedom by which each responds to the call of his Creator.”
Without an understanding that there is a Creator to whom we are accountable, and that that Creator made all people, freedom quickly loses any real meaning. Freedom from religion is impossible...we are homo adorans. We will worship ourselves or our ideals, our money or our power, sex or trees if we are not worshiping the true and living God. Freedom in its fullest sense cannot occur in unconverted lands...including our own.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Why Not the Persecuted Church

It seems that we PC(USA) Presbyterians can set apart a Sunday to focus on just about anything but the persecuted church. (Please remember Nov. 11 as International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.) I wonder if it could be because they are ashamed at the persecution of churches that they are bringing about right now?

This Sunday, they've chosen Stewardship Committment as the focus. I'm hearing a lot about stewardship these days from our denominational officials. We're asked to give, and told to leave something for them in our wills. All of that is fine and dandy (yes...I have a Christian organization in my meager will). But let's make sure we understand what they mean by stewardship...particularly as it relates to the property trust clause and congregations that wish to cease affiliation with the PCUSA. Let's not kid ourselves...they are so concerned with enforcing the property trust clause that they file amicus briefs on behalf of other denominations (and other religions, in the case of "Christian Scientists") when their property trust is challenged. It's all about precedent.

May God bless those who struggle for the persecuted church. May he bless those presbyteries that reject the power-politics of the "Louisville Papers."

(My spoof on the trust clause is hosted initially at the Pres-Outlook. I reproduce it here for "posterity":)

Per Capita (with apologies to Isaac Watts)
(ELLACOMBE CMD "I Sing the Mighty Power of God," PH# 288)

I sing the property trust clause
That keeps our folks in line!
Per capita and scoff'd at laws,
Yet we say "That's just fine!"
While Gospel preaching dies away,
We endorse ab'rrant views,
Headquarters gets dressed in feng shui
And empties out our pews!

The Scriptures are ignored by most,
and twisted by the rest.
The unconverted serve as hosts
and we act undistressed.
While many choose to stand and fight,
some throw their towel in.
We've chosen this unenvied plight
for lack of discipline.

Tune: Gesangbuch der H. W. k. Hofkapelle, Wurtemberg, Germany, 1784

Hat tip to JP over at Reformedville.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Millions of Afghanis Thankful for US Military Intervention

I hope this gets the press it deserves. As a conservative American, I'm against our current focus on nation building...yet I can't help but laud the freedom that George W. Bush's aggressive policies have brought into some of the darkest regimes on earth.

Putting the Mental in Fundamentalism

One of the chief problems in dialogue between fundamentalists and progressivists is a lack of proper epistemological foundations. (I know -- you probably want to change channels before I get started....). Epistemology is, in essence, the science of how we know stuff. If someone says that they know the world is going to end, a good question to ask is "How do you know that?" There are lots of people in both camps who believe they know far more than they do. But when the point is pressed, it's often the case that the knowledge rests in someone else's experience (an author they read, "the news," etc...). That's pretty much the case for all of us outside of our narrow range of familiarity and expertise.

The world is a complicated place. We don't have time to become first-hand experts on everything, so we choose to trust experts who have done that hard work. I have to trust that the guy under the hood of my car knows what he's doing. He learned from other people who spent time under the hoods of cars, who in turn learned from still others (as well as having experiences of their own). This is how knowledge works in the real world - by tradition (from the Latin trāditiō [tradō] , "a giving up, delivering up, surrender" or "pass on"). The expression "Let's not reinvent the wheel" is based on the pragmatic truth that we aren't always (or even most of the time) in a position to improve the way we do things. If you don't rely on some tradition, you'd always have to experiment (and would have no time to actually live).

People of all sorts receive traditions that they don't test, but accept prima facie (especially when there's an authority figure behind it). When I was a fledgling medico, I took it on faith that the tradition handed down in textbooks on physiology were solid and well-tested. I didn't see any need to go out and perform bio-chemical experiments to verify everything they said. The same is true for pretty much every discipline (save, perhaps, philosophy). We accept on authority what we haven't the time, skills, or necessity to pursue further. That's life, and don't let anybody shame you for being realistic.

In the arena of human religious experience, America has gone overboard with denouncing spiritual authority and tradition. While most people couldn't get past two sentences on why they believe in materialistic evolution ("well...I'm not an expert!" "Everybody knows there's no need in pressing the matter further!" "It's in textbooks!"), if you dissent from that position you are expected to be an encyclopedia of refutational data. It's not fair, but that's how evolution deniers are treated. (Global Warming deniers are in the same boat, though the second the shoe is on the other foot, authority is appealed to.)

I think that the general populace has a fundamental misunderstanding of how biblicists approach the world. They seem to think that when we find conflicts or disagreements between what is encountered in one area of human experience and what is revealed in Scripture, that we just mindlessly toss out the contrary. Nothing could be further from the truth. We do not believe that we have the right to toss out evidence from either book of God's revelation (i.e., the created order and the Scriptures).

Cornelius Van Til said that there's no such thing as a brute fact or a mute fact. Every fact is tied to its creator and finds its meaning and significance in relation to God. (Mikhail Bakhtin makes much the same point in terms of literary addressivity and authorship - so you see postmodernists also acknowledging this truism.) As people who have been convinced of the trustworthiness of the Scriptures by a supernatural working of the Holy Spirit (WCF 1.1), we are intellectually compelled to align every fact we encounter in relation to its creator. We know from the Scriptures that the whole created order has fallen into disrepair. We also know that our own heart (the Biblical word for the seat of intellect and will) twists our experiences and hides the truth from us.

Because we know that we have a corrupted source of information in the fallen natural order and are incapable of perceiving the truth through our own devices, we set every truth claim against the backdrop of Holy Writ. We are not free to throw out what we find in nature, but are compelled to seek the personally-perceptable order placed therein by a rational, personal God.

As for the special revelation - the Holy Scriptures - it's not the fundamentalists who feel free to rearrange the Word to our liking (vide supra).

Monday, November 05, 2007

The GAY and the GOSPEL

John Shuck delights in deleting my comments, no matter how irenic. So if I'm to respond honestly to anything over at Shuck-n-Jive, I have to do it here.

Flycandler, who claims to be an unrepentant homosexual Presbyterian who studies at Candler School of Theology, ponders why we evangelicals in the mainlines can't admit that we really just want to be institutionally homophobic. He implies that, in addressing our grievances about what's wrong in our churches, we can't do it without mentioning THE GAY. (Funny, but I seem to remember history telling a different story about who keeps bringing the issue up.

Anyway, here's what I said:
Anybody ever notice that the Progressives can't bring up justice, the love of Jesus, etc. without also bringing up "THE GAY"?

When we forget the Gospel (succinctly stated in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8), ALL of us get sidelined and tend to major in the minors.
That's the point...we keep getting into each others shorts because we welched on the Gospel. Polity is not going to solve this problem. The only thing that will is repenting and agreeing that the Bible says what God intends for it to say!

Remember Remember the 5th of November

Since I was out of town, I couldn't blog about my favorite holiday (Reformation Day, of course)! So I'd at least like to give some lip service to another success for the Gospel.

Happy Guy Fawkes Day, everybody!

(Now that's some parliament funk!)

Here's to 490 years of the Gospel recovered, and 402 years of the Gospel in England providentially defended!

Mad NOW Disease?

Make sure you pay attention to countries that have already given governmental approbation to the homosexual agenda of normalizing their practice. Great Britain has already bit the bullet, and you can see the effects in the latest Telegraph.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

NWAC - Mission or Misogyny

The vice-moderator of New Wineskins Association of Churches is a woman who is a pastor, and their Executive Coordinator is also a woman who is an elder. There were several female pastors I met there, as well as numerous female elders. The reason that you'll see more men in leadership within NWAC is because NWAC is all about congregations, not institutions. In the PCUSA, men outnumber women 5:1 in terms of call as pastors/co-pastors. Blame it on sexism if you like, but the truth is that women outnumber men in most "specialized ministries." NWAC isn't about schools, hospitals, or bureaucratic offices - it's about local congregations trying to follow Jesus. So when you see men outnumbering women there, it's a reflection of their mission, not misogyny.

John Shuck's statements are both libelous and inaccurate, and they reveal far more about him than they do about the NWAC.