Screw Halloween…Happy Reformation Day #490!

10/31/2007: Well…that’s what I’ve been doing for years anyway.

Quite frankly, the Christian apologists are correct when they point at the Pagan origins of Halloween and rightfully question whether Christians ought to be partaking of the activities.

Some churches answer this by having their own celebrations–I remember 4th grade, where the church that I attended had its own Halloween festival. I wore a scary outfit–I think I was disguised as Jimmy Carter (just kidding)–and won a prize. Other Christians completely avoid anything that has to do with Halloween.

Personally, I would love to see Christians embrace the day as their own, for the same reason that Al Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary provides:

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther began the Reformation with a declaration that the church must be recalled to the authority of God’s Word and the purity of biblical doctrine. With this in mind, the best Christian response to Halloween might be to scorn the Devil and then pray for the Reformation of Christ’s church on earth. Let’s put the dark side on the defensive.

That would make today the 490th anniversary of Luther’s act of defiance at Wittenburg, which helped deliver The Church from her bondage to the Chief Priests of Rome.

Happy Reformation Day! Let’s pray for another!

The United Methodists Embrace Lunacy, Keep Transgendered Minister

10/31/2007: On the eve of the anniversary of the Reformation, the United Methodist Church has decided to embrace the Deformation that is taking place in other mainline denominations, such as the Presbyterrorist Church USA and the the Episcopal Church.

I say this because they have decided to keep a minister who had a sex change.

More Bad News for Neocons

Don’t blame me…Stein Ringen, professor of Sociology and Social Policy at Oxford, said it. (emphasis mine)

In this book I look inside the democracies that are usually thought to be the most robust and find them wanting-and possibly on the decline. Even those that are best by a comparative measure, such as the Scandinavian ones, do pretty poorly by an absolute standard. If we think democracy is now assured, we are mistaken. Democracy is strong in quantitative terms, in the number of democracies in the world, but weak in qualitative terms, in how well those democracies perform.

And yet, the neocons would have you believe that the advancement of democracy across the globe will magically bring an end to war, foment prosperity, and cause men and women–and even men and men (neocons are no respecters of traditional morality)–to stop loading their weapons and start kissing and making love.

Paul Harvey hits the nail squarely every time he repeats his old axiom: You cannot have self-rule (democracy) without self control.

Unfortunately, the evangelical conservative will find political solutions to be fleeting at best and futile at worst. You can pass any law–or all laws–for which conservatives have pushed over the years: a human life amendment, a ban on all pornography, a marriage amendment, and none of those laws or Amendments–however merited they may be–will make democracy work better. This is because such legislation will not change hearts.

Legislation is–at best–a general reflection of societal morality. However, legislation that is ramrodded through with no moral impetus from larger society is worth the paper it is written on.

This is why, in spite of the most intricate laws banning infanticide, witchcraft, adultery, murder, incest, and homosexuality, the Israelites of old were dancing in front of the golden calf at their first opportunity. Even a Law directly from God–in and of itself–was at best an indictment against the people to whom it was given; it hardly made them righteous.

At the end of the day, their best representatives–David and Solomon–were murderers, adulterers, and idolaters. Their people would forsake the Law to the point that its discovery–in the Temple, no less–by the Priests charged with its adherence was big news. (King Josiah needed a woman to break the bad news.)

The upshot of all of this is that neither democracy alone nor good legislation alone will make America stronger. That end can only be achieved by a societal embracement of Biblical Christianity.

You cannot accomplish that with legislation.

Vox Day Opines on Europe, Science, and Government

Once again, the Christian uber-libertarian Vox Day provides an excellent insight (emphasis mine):

This is a remarkably silly notion. For one thing, the science which Galileo was “defending” wasn’t Italian, wasn’t Galileo’s and had been published for more than 80 years. For another, Sailor himself notes that “Italian contributions to science continued on fairly strong for the rest of the 17th Century….”

Now, what else happened during the 17th Century? Among other things, it marked the end of the Italian city-state that, like its Greek counterpart, was the source of so much artistic, scientific and intellectual brilliance. Once Ludovico Sforza invited the French and Germans into Italy in 1494, the fate of the Italian peninsula was sealed. It took 300 years, but in the end, even the Most Serene Republic of Venice succumbed to the continental powers.

There is a salient lesson to be drawn from the data, although not the incorrect one that Sailor draws. If rivalries between diverse loyalties tend to drive scientific development, as the histories of Greece and Italy sugges, then the continued evolution of unifying entities such as the European Union and the United Nations can be expected to retard human development rather than enhance it.

I would suggest that this is true because the European Union, the United Nations, and even the proposed North American Union–as governmental entities–are more about controlling people and advancing political agendas rather than advancing individual liberties.

The net result is that they choke free markets, burden people with excessive regulation, and–through the enforcement of political agendas–actually stifle innovation and the expansion of knowledge.

Another GOP House Seat Lost: Tancredo Retiring

10/29/2007: After last year’s election debacle, the GOP tried to put the best face on it and suggested that they might be able to win back many of those seats that they lost.

It won’t happen, and you can expect their deficit to only expand. Many GOP stalwarts are leaving the Senate, and–now–a very conservative Republican congressman, Tom Tancredo (R-CO), the trailblazer against illegal immigration, is retiring.

While this is not completely surprising–Tancredo once ran as a proponent of term limits and has served more than he had originally promised–Tancredo was largely considered a lock for re-election and had distinguished himself as a popular supporter of “enforcement-first” approaches to illegal immigration.

As the reality sets in that the GOP will be the minority party for at least another 20 years, I expect more conservatives to retire. There is nothing worth defending when you have a party defined by pedophilies (Foley), ineffective speakers (Hastert), adulterers (Livingston, Burton, Gingrich, Hyde, Chenoweth), toe-tappers (Craig), bribe-takers (Cunningham, Ney, Stevens), and whoremongers (Vitter).

The conservatives among their ranks identify with Reagan, but Reagan has been dead for three years. Besides, even when when Reagan was President, the GOP tended to lean closer to Rockefeller than to the Gipper. Religious conservatives now find themselves in bed with a party that is friendlier with pederasts than to pro-life evangelicals.

Topping that off, we have a President who has embraced a war policy closer to LBJ and Wilson than to Reagan. While we are now seeing successes in Iraq, we find ourselves in a war that should have been over two years ago, with a President beating the drum for a war with Iran that makes neither strategic nor economic sense.

The neocon agenda is not worth defending, and the Cold War, traditional-values conservatives know it. This is what has the GOP leadership scared.

How do I know this? Like that great philosopher, W. Mark Felt, once said: “Follow the money.”

Warning to Young Christians, Part 2 (obedience to parents)

10/27/2007: This morning, I received the following comment from Heather regarding my piece warning against Unequal Yoke marriages:

…That said, I often find myself mentoring young women in regards to the possibility of becoming unequally yoked. What you say here is right on and something I find very frustrating that so few women are willing to take into account before getting married.

She is articulating exactly what my purpose was for my commentary: to help urge Christian men and women to set their standards high with respect to marriage. That means, among other things, insisting on equal yokes.

On the other hand, I had no intention of pointing fingers or throwing stones at those who–due to youthful blunders–have suffered from the ramifications of those choices.

Those who are divorced need our grace and support while young adults who are engaged need hard reality and Biblical counsel.

To me, the way you deal with the issue of divorce is to hit it on the front end–before the wedding–and not the back end (after the damage has been done).

This is also why I also say that chlidren–even as they become adults–need to [generally] look to their parents for guidance. I say generally because we all know there are exceptions to the rule: some parents are insane, others are drug addicts, others are alcoholics lacking basic faculties.

Honoring your parents is about general respect for their rank, not admiration of their every character trait.

Even if your parents are non-Christians, you ought to generally trust them for advice. My Muslim dad would be able to provide rational, objective guidance, even if he is not all there theologically.

The command to obey your parents is not contingent upon them being perfect Christian examples. And woe to anyone who strays from that principle and foments the seeds of rebellion in his or her life.

As Samuel told Saul: rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.

Like Saul–who eventually consorted a witch and died the tragic and dishonorable death of suicide–rebellion will come to fruition in ways that you never thought were possible.

This is an issue that I would like to see the folks at Boundless address–perhaps Slater, Lawrence, or Anyabwile can do an essay on that topic.

I say that because–while they are right about the issue of pastoral authority–the issue of parental authority is one that many Christians (especially those whose parents may not be believers) often overlook.

It is very common to see courses and seminars about proper parenting, but I think proper instruction regarding obedience to one’s parents has been–albeit unintentionally–set aside.

Obey Your Pastor? Boundless Nails It

10/25/2007: In our ongoing discussion over Church authority in the life of the believer, Michael Lawrence of Boundless has written an essay that addresses the premise of whether we should obey our pastors.

Much of the article addresses the concerns–raised by myself and others in the Christian single community in the blogosphere–over the prospect of churches micromanaging the lives of singles, even to the point of deciding whom they will marry. In addition, it provides a treatment of the larger issue of where pastors are obligated to assert authority, and the extent to which the believer should–and in some cases must–obey.

The word obey is a four-letter word that usually provokes knee-jerk responses that often include other four-letter words. Like Anyabwile, Lawrence deals with perhaps the mother of all hot-button issues.

Anyone who thinks this is just about singles and dating and marriage has not been following the great issues of our day. One need only look at the disasters in the Presbyterrorist Church (USA), and the Episcopalian Church USA.

That said, I think Lawrence struck the perfect balance, and chose his words very carefully. He rightfully differentiates matters of advice versus matters of command.

He rightfully concludes that the bottom line is what Scripture says. If the pastor is speaking definitively on a matter of Scripture that is clearly black-and-white, then the believer has no wiggle room.

On matters where Scripture allows latitude, the pastor is advisory at best.

For example: if a pastor admonishes a believer who is considering marrying a non-believer, the believer must obey. This is not about a pastor’s opinion; this is about what Scripture says. Disobedience in this case is VERY costly for reasons I have mentioned on these pages.

I have no small number of Christian female friends–divorced–who wished they had an Amir Larijani to kick their proverbial [John Piper expletive deleted] when they were courting non-believers in their teens.

On the other hand, if a pastor says, “Amir, you need to quit your job (as an application developer), because the Internet is a scheme of Satan”, I would propose fitting the pastor for a straight jacket!

In all seriousness, there are issues that get thorny, and we ought to trust our pastors–and other members of the Body who have discernment–to provide Godly counsel.

If I am considering marrying someone, I would be a fool not to let others evaluate my decision. They may see red flags that I may not see if I’m head-over-heels. They might help me keep one foot on the ground.

If there is a shaky Biblical basis for what I am doing, then I want to get the hard fastball–up and inside–now. If I cannot handle the heat now, then how will I handle it over the course of a 30-year marriage?

On the other hand, Lawrence is correct in pointing out that the pastor only has declarative authority with respect to what Scripture says. He has no right to impose commands on the believer that Scripture does not impose.

For example, if a pastor told me that I could not watch R-rated movies, I would kindly tell him to go fly a kite. Does that include The Passion of the Christ, or Braveheart? Both are R-rated for their violence, in spite of the noble themes they communicate.

On the other hand, if he told me that I probably should not see certain types of movies or television shows, then I might take it under advisement. In such a case, it’s a matter between permissible versus profitable. I have discretion, but I ought to exercise it wisely. With liberty comes responsibility.

Even further, let’s assume that I had some porn flicks among my video collection–which isn’t the case, unless you consider my Reagan speech collection, or Navy SEAL workout videos pornography–and the pastor tells me that I must get those out of my house and repent.

In that case, I would be bound to obey. And the pastor would be well-within his authority–I would submit obligated–to have me removed from fellowship if I refused.

Much of Lawrence’s essay might seem like common-sense. On the other hand, I have seen many believers who lack in that department. At any rate, it’s not bad to review the subject, and Lawrence even brings up some good historical cases that illustrate the extremes.