Piper Stepping In It (Again)?

HT: Dee at TWW

John Piper provides this advice, answering the question of “should we take our children to dangerous mission zones?”

Piper begins with this:

Should a Christian couple take their children into danger as part of their mission to take the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world? Short answer: Yes.

Why? Because the cause is worth the risk, and the children are more likely to become Christ-exalting, comfort-renouncing, misery-lessening exiles and sojourners in this way than by being protected from risk in the safety of this world.

First of all, John is providing advice that has scant Biblical precedent, with the closest example perhaps being Paul’s mentorship of Timothy. Even then, we have no indication of Timothy’s age when he begins his tours of duty with Paul. Moreover, Paul does not provide this advice to parents regarding their children. In other words, what Paul did with Timothy is not a general command to other parents.

(My advice: that’s a judgment call, and that is totally up to the parents to decide upon prayer, prudent counsel, searching the Scriptures,  and appropriate deliberation, regarding whether the child(ren) is (are) of sufficient maturity and motivation for such a trip.)

Moreover, Piper is making a bold pronouncement as to why parents should take their children into dangerous regions: “Because the cause is worth the risk, and the children are more likely to become Christ-exalting, comfort-renouncing, misery-lessening exiles and sojourners in this way than by being protected from risk in the safety of this world.”

Does Piper have any statistics to back up his claim? I’ve met no small number of adults–who have abandoned the faith–who were raised by missionary parents or even pastors who served stateside, who sacrificed everything, including their kids, for the Gospel.

Don’t get me wrong here: I’m against a childrearing paradigm that insists on a “sheltered life”. I would also argue, and Piper would probably agree, that parents ought to take more initiative in preparing their children to engage the world and to expect that the world is not going to be particularly enamored with their Christian faith.

Fact is, the United States is a post-Christian nation and Western Civilization is in serious decline. Where the Christian was once highly-respected in the public square in Europe and the United States, that is no longer the case: Christians are under increasing pressure to keep everything close to the vest.

In other regions, it is more tenuous: in the Middle East, a public expression of Christian faith could get you jailed if not killed. In Islamic countries, if your father is a Muslim and you convert to Christianity, you could face anything from a prison sentence to a death sentence.

I’ve never been to those regions, but I am aware of the risks of being a Christian. As a Christian of Kurdish ethnicity who has studied such matters, I don’t have to go to Mosul wearing a sign that says, “Allah is a demon and Muhammed was a child rapist” to appreciate the risks that Christians in Iraq and Syria face every day.

I have also spent long hours studying the plight that Christians endured–and, in the cases of North Korea and China and Cuba, continue to endure–under totalitarian regimes, particularly communism. Abigail will not need to go to North Korea to learn such things.

In my younger days, as an old-school Cold War conservative, I tried to get into the military. And had my country called my name, I would have answered the call to fight. But my health issues–from asthma to severe disk problems in my back–precluded me from military service. And, at 50, I’d say that ship has long sailed. It won’t be happenin’.

Will Abigail go on mission trips when she reaches an appropriate age? I don’t see why she wouldn’t. The issue is where? There are plenty of missions opportunities here in the States, not to mention Central and South America, and those have risks of their own even if their volatility doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of Damascus or Raqqa or Kirkuk or East St. Louis.

If she wants to go to the Middle East or Niger or Sudan or the south side of Chicago, that’ll be up to her, although MrsLarijani and myself will ensure that she has counted the cost–and I’m not just talking financial–before she embarks on any such venture.

But is there an overarching Biblical prescription for parents to make their kids take those kinds of risks? Not really. Like I said, that’s a judgment call and there’s no blanket one-size-fits-all answer.

The Kentucky State Pension Disaster: My $0.02

First, some disclaimers:

(1) I am a Kentucky state employee. I am a non-merit employee.

(2) I am NOT part of any of the pension systems. When I hired in, I opted for a defined contribution plan.

(3) I have no gripe with any state employee or retiree who padded their retirements or retired early via any of the controversial practices–double-dipping, padding their overtime, or cashing in on large amounts of unused sick time–as those employees were/are merely playing by the rules of the system.

If there is blame to be assigned, then let it fall on those who created the system. More on them later.

The Kentucky state pension crisis, at $33 billion–which carries both short and long-term solvency challenges–is one of the worst pension crises in the history of the United States. This crisis has been brewing for most of the last 17 years and threatens the retirement checks of not just those workers in the pipeline, but also the retirees.

Those in the pipeline include not just regular state employees but also policemen, firemen, and teachers.

Given that the pension systems were over 100% funded in 2001, how did the system get to this point of insolvency?

(a) For one, in the wake of revenue crunches that began in the early 2000s–from the aftermath of the dot-com crash and the wake of 9/11–the General Assembly began to balance the budget by cutting corners: among those corners was not paying the actuarially required minimum payments into the pension systems.

(b) For another, over the years, the General Assembly created unfunded incentives that sweetened the deal for state employees in the pipeline:

  • Normally allowed to retire at 27 years of service, employees were given a window whereby they could buy 5 years, allowing them to retire in as little as 22 years of service. What that means: employees, who hired in when they were in their late teens or early 20s, are now retiring under age 40, with health insurance discounted in the same group as state employees. I know of employees who are able to retire at under 40 years of age. This means the pension system is on the hook for that person’s retirement for potentially more than 30 years. The general rule–27 years–is already quite generous, but the “window” puts an even greater strain on the system.
  • The sick and vacation leave accrual formulas are extraordinarily generous. Even for those of us not in the pension system, it’s the same: we can bank our overtime (up to 240 hours, although, over the years, this has become more difficult); we can bank our sick time in proportion to our years of service, and some employees have well over a YEAR of sick time accrued, and this is credited to state employees upon retirement; we can bank our vacation time in proportion to our years of service (here is the link). As you can see, these are far more generous than anything you will see in the private sector.

(c) Making matters worse, the managers charged with managing the pensions engaged in a level of malfeasance that, had the pensions been subject to ERISA, the managers would be rotting in prison.

Make no mistake, had the Kentucky pensions been a private entity, the pensions would have been declared insolvent, offloaded to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and retirees would take the mother of all paycuts. And the managers would be lucky to get less than ten years in prison.

(d) Worst of all, the General Assembly and three successive Governors–Patton, Fletcher, and Beshear–each ignored the problem.

Patton was too mired in sex scandals to have the gravitas to face the problem when doing so would have been a lot easier. And he allowed the continuation of many of the fat incentives that drained our systems. The failure to provide the actuarially-required minimums began on his watch.

Fletcher, almost immediately after taking office, became mired in a hiring scandal that depleted his ability to address the problem for his 4 years in office. The failure to provide the actuarially-required minimums continued on his watch.

Beshear–for 8 years–gave mere lip service to the problem. He helped implement small changes that amounted to pissing into a forest fire. And the failure to provide the actuarially-required minimums continued on his watch.

The General Assembly, run by Democrats for most of the last 100 years (Republicans won the House for the first time last year), was the principal culprit in both the design of the pension systems, and their failure to fund them.

Now, Governor Matt Bevin has inherited the perfect storm from Hell: a $33 billion albatross that the private sector must fund–as courts hath decreed it–while many state employees are facing the prospect of perhaps not getting the fat retirement that they were “promised”.

Bevin’s most recent proposals to reform the pension system are shockingly mild:

  • existing retirees would see no change in their checks, their Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs), or their health insurance premiums;
  • those who retire before July would be able to cash in on their unused sick leave,
  • those who retire after July will no longer be able to cash in on that.
  • Those employees with less than 5 years of service will get transferred to a Defined Contribution–401(k)–plan;
  • those with more than 5 years will remain in the pension pipeline.

Even under the proposed changes–assuming that what the legislature passes will be similar–the Kentucky state employee will have pension and leave accrual rules that are light-years more generous than almost any entity in the private sector!

I worked in the private sector for ten years before hiring into the State. For three years, I was an Engineering Systems Engineer at Electronic Data Systems, which–at the time–was a subsidiary of General Motors.

Back then, we received no sick time to accrue, nor were we paid overtime, nor could we bank overtime, as we were “salaried” employees. We received two weeks of vacation time per year, and that time was “use it or lose it”. In fact, in 1992, everyone in my account had to take the vacation at the same time–during the two week changeover during which GM did their model transitions.

We did not complain.

None of us were on a pension plan; EDS did, however, have generous 401(k) matching.

For six years, I worked as a contractor for Seltmann, Cobb, and Bryant (which became SCB Computer Technology). We received no sick time, and any overtime–and they kept strict tabs on it–was paid, as there was no accrual. We received two weeks of vacation leave per year, and we were never allowed to carry over more than one week to the next year. There were no pensions, as all of us were on 401(k)s.

No one complained.

My point in all of this: no business in America could provide such generous benefits and expect to remain solvent.

Imagine if your company

  • allowed employees to retire at age 40;
  • provided full pension benefits to retirees for the duration of their lives;
  • allowed them to pad their salaries with overtime pay to calculate their retirement income, thus allowing some in the $30K-$50K range to enjoy retirement checks in the 6-figure range);
  • provided for COLAs even during recessions, even when employees were getting pay cuts.

How long would your company expect to remain in business?

If the private sector couldn’t even operate that way, and given that the private sector must pay for those benefits enjoyed by the public sector, then why foist them with such an insolvent system?

And before you–the state employee–start waxing eloquent about how the private sector enjoys your services, let me remind you of a few things:

  1. You, the government worker, produce NOTHING for the economy. Fact is, the minimum-wage burger flipper at Hardees does more for the economy than the hardest-working government employee. That is not to say that your work doesn’t matter; at best, however, we are part of the service sector of the economy.
  2. You, the Government worker, serve at the pleasure of the private sector. They pay your salary, your benefits, and even your pension. The taxes you pay wouldn’t be possible but for the contribution of the private sector.
  3. While you, the government worker, have endured hardships–including pay freezes, pay cuts (furloughs), and force comp leave uses–it pales in comparison to the private sector worker who faced job losses in the dot-com crash, the wake of 9/11, an the Great Recession of 2008. While my bottom line has been crimped over the last ten years, I have been able to keep my house and my job. I did not, like many private sector folks, face job loss, foreclosure, and even bankruptcy.

I’m not saying this to beat up the government workers–I am one myself. All I’m saying is that a little humility would go a long way. You have had it rough, just as those in the private sector have. There is plenty of misery to go around.

And while I empathize with the new employees (with less than 5 years of service) who will no longer be in pensions and therefore may not be able to retire at 27 years, I would also remind them that many of us in the real world would be happy to retire at age 70.

As for Governor Bevin, I’ve heard no small number of employees complain of his proposals, and call him every name in the book.

I have yet to hear that same level of angst aimed at Rep. Harry Moberly or Rep. Jody Richards or Sen. Julian Carroll or Rep. Greg Stumbo or Gov. Paul Patton or Gov. Steve Beshear or even Gov. Ernie Fletcher: they are the ones who got you into this mess.

Matt Bevin, whatever his faults, is the adult in the room telling you the truth.

Matt is an adult. Be like Matt.

Almost Everything That COULD HAVE Gone Wrong in a Home, Did

I will now attempt to weigh in on this sad, sordid account by Jeri Massi.

For a time, I’ve been following various watchbloggers. I often check in on the Deebs over at TWW, and also with Todd Wilhelm at Thou Art The Man, as well as Brent Detwiler and Warren Throckmorton. I also follow Amy Smith/Watchkeep on Facebook. I don’t agree with them on everything–Throckmorton leans well to the left of me politically, and the Deebs have a tendency to turn almost everything into a War on Complimentarianism–but they do a good job exposing atrocities and absurdities that various conservative elements have either ignored, swept under the rug, or are directly complicit in their commission.

Same is true for Jeri Massi, a Bob Jones University grad who also worked for a time at their publishing house. Over the years, she has done a remarkable job of documenting cases of sexual abuse and their coverups, particularly within the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) ranks. Along the way, she has also done a remarkable job exposing the absurdities in the IFB world.

While I have my differences with her on a few things, I have found her blog to be otherwise very insightful.

Why do I follow these cases?

I’ve always considered myself on the side of, “Let the word of God be true, and every man a liar.” When the Scriptures say that something is good, then it is good. If the Scriptures say that something is evil, well…then it is evil.

If I commit an offense–even a small one, like, say, flipping off the driver who almost ran me over while I was on the bike–and the Scriptures say it is evil, then there’s no ‘splainin’ to do: I have a duty to confess my sin and ask for forgiveness.

That also means that, if there is an abuse or atrocity or some egregious sin among the Church–and I am assuming that either (a) the offended parties have reported it to me and/or (b) I directly witness either their commission or confession or another party admitting to the fact of their commission–then I have the duty to do the right thing.

That means (a) reporting the matter to authorities and cooperating with any investigation (if the allegations are criminal in nature) and (b) ensuring that people are otherwise protected from such abuses.

It is my view that conservatives, of all people, OUGHT to WANT to purge abusers–that includes abusive spouses, child abusers of all types, and abusive clergy–from their midst.

During my time at SBTS, I personally witnessed those who wanted to undermine the Scriptures, promoting a theological model closer to Molech and Asherah than to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Al Mohler–for all his shortcomings–ran that element off, as well he should have.

Sadly, by accomodating abusive pastors–including those who cover for child sexual abusers–Mohler now threatens to undermine those accomplishments. (I would also suggest that by transforming SBTS into a NeoCal echo chamber, he is also undermining Biblical conservatism, but that is a different discussion that is beyond the scope of this post.)

And that is what bothers me: while conservatives OUGHT TO WANT to keep abusers out of their ranks, their leaders have often done the opposite: they have coddled them, accomodated them, even excoriating the victims and others who exposed the abusers.

Now, to address the sad account of Peter.

Massi’s account of Peter is a necessary warning to every would-be conservative Christian homeschooling family, as well as an indictment of many within that sector.

FWIW: I am all for homeschooling. MrsLarijani and I want to do it for the following reasons: (a) in general, given technological advancements, it’s a better learning model than the traditional classroom, and (b) we wish to introduce her to the world as we see fit. We do not wish to shelter our kids–as we will encourage their participation in group and team activities and even athletics–but we DO want her to learn about the world on OUR timetable, not a schedule decided by a school board that promotes an agenda fed to them by teacher unions.

At the same time, homeschooling appeals to various subcultures that are fundamentally unhealthy:

  • Quiverfull adherents: these types generally eschew all forms of contraception, as they assert that having a large family is a commandment and that any contraception is an affront to God’s design. They are often very hard Calvinists.
  • Fundamentalists: these types are often in the hardcore Southern Baptist or IFB ranks, but they can also include Missouri Synod Lutherans, Church of Christ, Christian Church, and various evangelical stripes. Their ranks include Calvinists and non-Calvinists.
  • Ultra-Calvinists: these tend to come from the really hardcore PCA/OPC ranks. They are among the Elect, and that Election has passed to their children.

While there are many honorable families in each of these sectors, the dysfunctional ones–and that includes the family about which Massi speaks–in each of these three sectors have the following in common:

  • They are often driven by the mindset that they are better than everyone else, and their goal is to show the world–by their chlidren’s accomplishments–that they are better than everyone else. Pride is often A key–if not THE key–driver in their choice to homeschool.
  • They often have embraced–actively or passively–the worst realm of Headship Theology, the end result being a profoundly dysfunctional patriarchy that spawns abuses.
  • They often reject the most basic understanding of original sin, as they think their righteousness–imputed to them via Jesus–is conferred to their children as a result of their own faith. They think that while all have sinned and come short of the glory, their kids don’t have the need to learn self-regulation.
  • Worst of all, they often reject the God of Scripture, exchanging the Biblical Jesus for the pursuit of a contemporary model of life on this earth: just go to church, confess the right things, teach children these things, make them memorize enough Awana sections, and they will be healthy, wealthy, and successful, and mom and dad will have all the wealth and all the things and they will have it all on this earth.

What I am saying: their sin is, at the root level, idolatry. They love neither God nor their neighbor; they love the life they hope to have by following what their popular homeschool advocate told them they need to follow.

Follow that far enough down the trail, and that festers in a myriad of ways.

In Massi’s account, Peter’s father was a serial adulterer who never had to face the gravity of his sins until after he dropped dead of a heart attack. While he was defrocked as a result of his adulteries, he was able to move on and continue leaving a trail of damage, even working as a “nouthetic” (i.e. Biblical) counselor.

In Scripture, Paul was very hard on the men. He chided husbands for being harsh with their wives, suggesting that their prayers aren’t being answered because of their treatment of their wives; he admonished them, many times, against sexual immorality (even homosexuality and at least one case of incest), excoriating them for even tolerating it among their ranks. He also pounded them over issues of gossip, slander, greed, deceit, even racism, and other profoundly sinful behavior.

Paul was also tough on the women. He chided women who were disruptive to orderly worship; he commanded wives to submit to their husbands as to the Lord; he said, “woman was made for man, not man for woman”. He even precluded women from particular church offices.

Even as Paul was pro-Patriarchy, he pulled no punches on the men. Men didn’t have special spiritual standing on account of their plumbing. They were responsible for their sins. And women have no less access to the Father than the men, nor do they need a husband to “redeem” them, as the work of the Redeemer is sufficient.

Still, Paul commanded believers to love God and extend that grace to one another. And that included raising children with the appropriate level of discipline–which would “drive the rebellion out”–while not being overbearing.

That job is not an easy one, as some of the best people in the Bible (including Jacob, David, and other kings who succeeded him) failed at it.

But here is the thing: in every failure I’ve witnessed or read about–including Massi’s account of Peter–there is a common thread: a profound lack of humility.

While everyone, on a continuous basis, will struggle with issues of pride, the worst-case homeschool disasters often begin with a runaway pride.

That is the type of pride that leads parents to overrule teachers or coaches or even other church leaders in matters of discipline and achievement. In team sports, fathers often chide coaches as to why their kid isn’t getting the right amount of playing time; they’ll question the teacher who gives their kid a lower grade; they’ll question the Awana leader as to why they had to sit their kid out of game time. The problem can’t possibly be with their kid; after all, he (or) she is part of a special-Elect.

Massi speaks of Peter’s mother, who was often frustrated with the lack of respect Peter showed for her, even as she overruled Massi’s evaluation of Peter’s learning. Peter rarely–if not never–was held to account for his sins. Peter followed in the arrogance (and deviance) of his father, and–sadly–that ended in disaster.

Do the Scriptures promote such a parenting model? Of course not.

Throughout Proverbs, you have the father imploring his son to listen and learn and seek wisdom with humility; you have the father admonishing his son–repeatedly–about the seductive nature of sexual sin and its end results; you have the father imploring his son to work hard and eschew laziness; you have the father contrasting the work of a wise woman with that of a foolish one; you have the father contrasting the behaviors of wise and foolish men; you have the father warning the son about being short-tempered; you have the father warning the son about deceptive and malicious people; you even have the father warning his son about the pitfalls of desiring wealth.

What you get in Proverbs–or, heck, the entirety of the wisdom literature–is a man (Solomon) who, in spite of all the wealth and privilege conferred on him by God, at the end of the day, calling on everyone to love God, to fear God, to obey God, and to make less of the things of this world.

As Cain seethed in anger over God’s rejection of  his offering and his acceptance of Abel’s offering, God issued a dire warning to Cain: “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Cain did not embrace self-regulation that would lead to the mastery of his sin. And we know the rest of that story.

In Massi’s account, Peter–sadly–was denied the opportunity to feel the weight of his failures as a child. As a guy, he was never held accountable for his sins. He never learned self-regulation as his father never practiced it. His father was able to move in church circles with minimal hassle in spite of serial adultery. All the while, he was effectively told he was better than everyone else beccause he was a boy and had confessed all the right things and, most importantly of all, was homeschooled.

What are some key takeaways from all of this?

(1) We must not confuse the love of God with the love of dogmatic models about God.

I don’t care if you identify as Calvinist, Arminian, Catholic, Orthodox, or any other flavor of Christianity. I’m not here to debate the merits and pitfalls of the respective models. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

The problem arises, however, when you fall in love with your theology.

Many–not all–homeschooling families have the tendency to fixate on their theology, and, as a result, construct a mindset of family life that is more conformed to that dogmatic model while not necessarily reflective of Scripture.

Even worse, if you are in love with your dogmatic model, you are going to be in for a rude awakening when bad times hit. What happens when you lose your job? What happens when your child ends up in the hospital? What happens if you fall into hard financial times? What happens if you or your spouse suffer a health crisis?

If you are trusting in your dogmatic model to protect you from these things, you will find yourself disappointed.

(2) With patriarchal authority comes great responsibility.

Make no mistake: Christianity is Biblically and historically Patriarchal. That is inescapable. Egalitarianism is a modern development.

At the same time, while the Scriptures do reflect a Patriarchal design, it is also true that the Biblical writers went to great lengths to admonish the men–particularly the husbands–about the responsibilities that come with their authority in the home.

There were abusive husbands then, just as there are today; Paul was emphatic in his warnings to men about that. Some parents were overbearing on their kids; had that not been the case, then Paul would not have had to admonish parents not to exasperate their children.

Nor did any of the Biblical writers coddle children; far from it. Solomon was emphatic about the need to discipline children. He who spares the rod hates his son. Parents who undermine teachers (as Peter’s mom undermined Massi) are denying their children the opportunity to learn valuable lessons.

In the real world, you aren’t always going to get the grade you might deserve. You can do everything right in your company, and someone else will win the contract. You might not get the promotion or the pay raise you otherwise rightfully earned.

Women need to learn about these things, but the men do especially. This is because, as they have God-given authority in the home as husbands, they are responsible for loving their wives as Christ loved the Church.

With the Disciples, Jesus was always admonishing them, teaching them, praying for them, correcting them, training them, and even receiving them warts and all. And He often did these things with humor to boot. (“Sons of thunder” anyone?)

(3) Headship Theology is Poison.

When I say that, I often get the question, “So you don’t think that the husband is head of the wife? It’s in the Bible, you heretic!”

My response: you don’t know the first thing about Headship Theology.

Headship Theology kind of goes like this…

(1) It starts with the premise that the husband is head of the wife. (So far so good)

(2) If the husband loves his wife the right way–as Jesus loved the Church–then she will submit to him the right way. (Nope, not Biblical.)

(3) If the wife doesn’t submit to him the right way, it is because he is not leading the right way. (Nope, not Biblical.)

(4) As a result, if there’s any sin in the house, it is the fault of the husband, because he is not leading the right way.  (Nope, not Biblical.)

While starting with a correct premise, the Headship Theology crowd takes that to lengths that are nowhere to be found in Scripture.

Sadly, the HT teachings foster a dynamic of abuse. This is because if he is responsible for his wife’s–and his children’s–sins, then this incentivizes him to exercise the authority to make them submit and obey as they ought.

Let’s look at the Scriptures here from the high-level:

(a) Jesus loves His Church perfectly and provides perfect headship. But even then, the Church has never been completely faithful. The history of Christendom is rife with atrocity and failure.

(b) There are cases in Scripture where husbands have loved the right way (wives have submitted the right way), and yet the wives (husbands) did not submit (love) the right way.

(c) There are cases in Scripture where sons failed even otherwise good parents.

Hosea loved Gomer well, but she still prostituted herself; Abigail was, by all accounts, a Proverbs 31 wife, but her first husband (who dropped dead) was a dirtbag; and there is no indication that Josiah, an excellent king, was a bad father, although his sin–Manasseh–would sacrifice his own son to Molech.

Headship Theology–a very common teaching in conservative circles–is profoundly un-Biblical and downright heretical. It’s long past time to dismiss it to the dung heap where it belongs.

Ultimately, if you are a Christian and seek to raise your children to love and fear God, you must first start with yourself.

That requires the humility to face your own sin and deal with your spouse with humility and respect.

Leadership and humility are not incompatible; in fact, the latter is essential to the former.

Las Vegas Massacre: My $0.02

Irrespective of whether the Las Vegas gunman achieved fully-automatic fire via (a) a true fully-automatic weapon, (b) an illegally-converted semi-automatic, or (b) a “bump-fire” stock, the fact remains: this is only the third time in the last 83 years, the last being the North Hollywood shootout of 1997, that a fully-automatic weapon–converted, modified, or otherwise–has been used in a violent crime.

In the coming weeks, we will learn the ugly, sordid truth of this gunman. Initially, he appears to be a wealthy man with no criminal record or social media presence, otherwise irreligious and apolitical, who flipped the mother of all switches and meticulously planned and executed the worst mass shooting in American history since Wounded Knee.

If he had a religious or political motive for his attack, we will eventually find it. Many on the Left are praying to Molech that he was an honors graduate of Bob Jones University with a Life Membership in the NRA, whereas many on the Right are hoping he had found death-worshiping religion in Mosul.

At this point, for all we know, he was Atheist, agnostic, or simply had not given much thought to the matter while making his millions.

Initial reports say he was prescribed Valium for anti-anxiety, but other than that his mental health record appears clear. Other reports say he may have had some social issues–often unkempt, frequently berated his girlfriend in public–but was otherwise functional enough to be a successful businessman who made a lot of money and was at least able to have relationships with the opposite sex.

(That would rule out the possibility of him being an angry omega male who, out of despondency over unrequited love, jumped off the proverbial cliff.)

The emerging reports, and the crime-scene photos, indicate that the gunman, in order to achieve fully-automatic fire, used “bump-fire” stocks, rifle stocks which use the recoil to facilitate the manual use of the trigger, thereby achieving quasi-full-automatic functionality with semi-automatic action.

A bump-fire stock, while providing near-full-auto fire, does so at the cost of accuracy, as it requires a more deliberate use of the hand muscles to maintain fire. At the same time, because he was shooting into a crowd at a concert, he was effectively shooting fish in a barrel.

As I write this, the death toll is 58 (the official toll is 59, but I’m not counting the gunman, nor should you), with over 500 wounded. If the reports are correct, then everyone who made it to the hospital alive is still alive as of this writing.

As expected, the Leftards jumped on the wagon for gun control. Hillary Clinton broke from her Blame Everyone But Myself book tour to tweet for more gun control; Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation targeting “bump-fire” stocks.

The NRA, to their credit, has been relatively cool in their response, as well they should be.

Here’s my take…

First off, a couple of disclosures:

(1) I oppose the Hughes Amendment of the Volkmer-McClure Act of 1986 (also known as the Firearm Owners Protection Act). If I were President, I would strike down the Hughes Amendment.

(The Hughes Amendment bans the manufacture of fully-automatic weapons for civilian purchase. Those manufactured before 1986 were grandfathered in, so that way existing machine gun owners would not be turned into instant criminals. The upshot: machine guns made before 1986 are still legal for purchase, anything after that is only legal for military and law enforcement and drug cartels of the government’s choosing…)

(2) I oppose the inclusion of suppressors (also known as “silencers”) under the Class 3 umbrella. Those, which are not a tool of criminals except in the movies, are a legitimate accessory for hearing protection and ought to be available for open purchase.

(3) I do support the inclusion of fully-automatic weapons in the world of Class 3 firearms. Those who would purchase them should require some vetting. What we saw in Vegas is exactly why we need that. It would not have prevented the Vegas gunman from obtaining them–he had the clean record and the deep pockets–but it would give more latitude to government to provide more extensive vetting that would keep the mentally-ill, or those discharged from the military for reasons other than Honorable or Medical, from obtaining machine guns. (While a Dishonorable Discharge is disqualifying, other less-than-honorable discharges short of that are not.)

In other words, some folks, on the margins, who would otherwise qualify to purchase semi-autos, may be worthy of exclusion from purchasing full-auto, as full-auto ought to have a higher bar.

But what about bump-fire stocks?

While technically legal for general purchase, bump-stocks effectively convert a semi-automatic firearm into a full-auto. This would seem to, at the very least, make them worthy of inclusion under the Class 3 umbrella.

Currently, the Leftards would like to ban bump-stocks altogether. Some Republicans are also entertaining the idea.

Here’s what I would support:

(1) Repeal the Hughes Amendment, making all full-autos available for purchase via the Class 3 process. This would drive down the price of full-autos and expand the ability of law-abiding citizens to own them.

(2) Remove all suppressors from Class 3 status, making them universally-available for purchase as an accessory.

(3) Classify bump-fire stocks as Class 3 firearms, requiring the regular Class 3 background check for purchase, but with the $5 tax instead of the $200 tax.

The only problem with (3) is how to enforce it against those already out there? You’d have to have some sort of grandfather clause. The problem is they aren’t stamped, and anyone with a 3-D printer and the CNC know-how can manufacture one.

You could include a window of time for the grandfather clause–during which you can get it stamped, having the larger background check waived and even receive a $200 rebate from the government–but after that, anyone caught with an unstamped bump-fire stock would have it confiscated (but would not be prosecuted).

And once the window closes, all legal transfers of bump-fires would have to occur via the Class 3 process, with violations of that resulting in confiscation but not prosecution. Any use of them in the commission of a violent crime, however, would result in a mandatory minimum of life imprisonment.

That would ensure that (a) those who want real-deal full-autos can get them at reasonable prices, while still requiring vetting, (b) those who want suppressors can get them easily, and (c) those who want bump-fires can still get them–at reasonable prices–but would require a class 3 vetting that includes a nominal tax, with penalties minimal for those not committing violent crimes.

Dr. Iain Campbell: The Ugly, Sordid Truth

Fair disclosure: I had never heard of Iain Campbell until the news of his suicide broke. I do not identify as a Calvinist–although I support a Calvinist hermeneutical model while remaining skeptical of the dogmatic model–and, moreover, do not stay abreast of the celebrity pastor/theologian circuit. That is not to say I don’t like any of them–I like Piper, Keller, and Chandler, while having some differences with them–I just don’t fawn over them. They generally are good preachers, but I do not take marching orders from them either.

(As an aside: I started attending an Acts 29 church in 2008. While I was familiar with Mark Driscoll, I didn’t listen to his sermons very often. When MrsLarijani–who was not a “29er”–married me, she was more up on Driscoll’s sermons than I was. And, for the record, we each supported the expulsion of Driscoll from Acts 29, and I do not support his return to the pastorate.)

As for Campbell (IDC), Dee at TWW provides Part 1, in all its ugliness*, here. There will be more to come. I blogged on his death–a suicide–in April.

What Dee provides is not surprising to me, not in the slightest.

During my time in Anderson, IN, I became a member at Redeemer Baptist Church (RBC), which, at the time, was pastored by Hervey Lawrence (HL). HL struck me as a decent preacher who was affable. He was married and had children. I enjoyed public speaking–I did that on behalf of a number of pro-life causes at the time–and HL pushed me to get involved in teaching at RBC. In 1993, as my employment came to an end at EDS, HL was the one who pushed me to go to SBTS.

Over the ensuing years, I had two rifts with him, but we patched those up. I lived in Kentucky, but still was friends with several folks at RBC.

But in the late 1990s, HL was caught in an affair. Initially, he confessed, quickly claimed repentance, and was immediately “restored”.

A short time later, he was found to have continued the affair, and–at that point–he either resigned or was fired, I can’t remember which. His marriage would end in divorce. Can’t remember who filed what, but–at this point–that is moot.

While I was at SBTS, the local standard-bearer for conservative theology–Highview Baptist Church (HBC)–became embroiled in scandal. Their longtime pastor, Bill Hancock, who had recently run (unsuccessfully) for the Presidency of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, was exposed for being in a 5-year affair. He was subsequently fired. (I was underwhelmed with Hancock’s preaching–he talked a lot without saying much–but I can’t say that anything jumped out that said, “That man is leading an immoral life!”)

Hancock had been the “go-to” man for Baptist conservatives in the Louisville area for many years. And yet, for at least five years, he would preach on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night, all while sleeping with another woman.

Why do mention these cases? Looking back, there were men and women who really enjoyed them as pastors–Lawrence and Hancock were not repulsive individuals, and they didn’t preach unsound doctrine–but, during that time, each was carrying on an affair.

Putting this in perspective: irrespective of what you think, if you are a Christian with any basic understanding of Scripture, having an affair requires a lot of work. It requires a lust that grows to overwhelm every alarm from Scripture. Taking off your clothes for someone else requires forethought. It requires purposeful effort. Heck, sex with your own spouse requires work–yes, it’s fun, but it is rarely “spontaneous”.

By the time a pastor disrobes for another woman, he’s thrown all that is holy and important under the bus. The spiritual erosion is disastrous. At this point, he is not qualified to preach to–or counsel–a pack of dogs.

Iain Campbell (IDC) was doing this for virtually his entire ministerial life. It was not simply one affair, although that would have been bad enough. What Dee provides is a glimpse into the utter depths to which he had sunk for a very long time. And, during that time, he became a revered pastor and representative of the Reformed tradition. The IDC who wrote books, contributed to popular ministries such as Ligonier, and preached on Sundays and at conferences worldwide, was a carousing pervert given to bizarre fetishes.

In the Church community, many held him up as their standard-bearer. But outside the pulpit, he had more in common with Hugh Hefner than with Charles Spurgeon.

When confronted by one of the husbands of a mistress, he apologized but did not resign his position. After he confessed to his wife and family, he refused to resign or confess publicly.

He refused to apologize to his wife, to whom he had been unfaithful for most–if not all–of their marriage.

Ultimately, he tore a page from the life of Judas and strangled himself to death.

Like Judas, there is no pretty way to assess IDC’s life and death. Not only did he commit suicide, he did so, like Judas, under a cloud of egregious sin. Rather than stick around–like Peter did–and receive forgiveness after feeling the brunt of the sin and shame, he chose an attempt at self-atonement. (That never works.)

IDC, like Judas, was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Like Judas, he had the best of Biblical teaching at his disposal; like Judas, he knew the Scriptures well; like Judas, he exchanged the truth for a lie at various critical points in his life. The same exchange that drove Judas to first betray Jesus and then attempt to atone for his sins via suicide, drove IDC to commit serial adultery and ultimately suicide.

The Scriptures are not encouraging with respect to where Judas is right now. And while I make no definitive judgment on IDC, I really do not envy him right now.  While God will have mercy on those he will have mercy, I would not want to face the King of Kings knowing the last thing I did on this earth was commit murder.

As for his friends and colleagues who seek to rationalize his infidelities or even his suicide: stop. Just. Stop.

His wife is not responsible for his sins; IDC is.

I don’t care if she was Jezebel II; IDC, not his wife, is responsible for his sins.

She did not drive him to suicide; HE drove himself there.

HE was the one who–confronted with his sin–rejected the grace of repentance, lamenting his damned reputation rather than his offense. Contrast that with King David. Don’t believe me? Read Psalm 51.

Make no mistake: IDC was a wolf in sheep’s clothing!

If you have books written by him, I suggest one of two things:

(a) dispose of them, as you have every reason to cast anything he said under suspicion, even though most of what he said was probably sound;


(b) keep them, allowing them to be an example of what evil looks like.

I have harped in this before, but–for those new to this–I’ll say it again….

We often expect evil people to “look” evil.

We expect the child molester to look like Peewee Herman or some creepy pervert in a trench coat. In reality, the child molester is the affable family man whom everyone finds likeable, charismatic, and trustworthy. By the time the cops catch up to him, his trail of victims is at least a mile long.

We expect the philandering pastor to be a peddler of bizarre doctrine. Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Tony Alamo, and others like them peddled false if not weird doctrines. In point of fact, though, most of them, in interpersonal terms, were affable and likeable.

The same was true of the two pastors I mentioned: Hervey Lawrence and Bill Hancock. They were each well-liked both inside and outside the church. Hervey, in his day job, was well-liked. Neither, to my recollections, preached unsound doctrine. They, however, failed to practice the otherwise sound doctrine that they preached.

Hancock, according to those I knew who knew him, repented and returned to ministry eventually. (Not saying I endorse his return, though.) He recently died.

I cannot, however, speak one way or another about Lawrence.

The issue here, is what you DO when you are confronted with the premise that people you love are embroiled in hideous, evil, immoral practices, or–worse–commit suicide when confronted with their sin.

Do you attempt to justify or mitigate the severity of their actions by blaming others?

Do you attempt to mitigate the severity of their actions by appealing to what you think is his (or her) character?

Or do you grieve while accepting the possibility that the worst implications could very well be true?

Do you allow the facts–once they are known–to speak for themselves?

*When I say “ugliness”, it’s not directed at Dee’s writing, but rather IDC’s life.

The Best Piece on Hugh Hefner I’ve Read

I’m not a fan of Ross Douthat, but this time he hit one out of the park.

Hugh Hefner was the most pitiable and pathetic excuse of a human being.

I do not envy him now, and–in all honesty–never envied his life in the slightest. Yes, he had a plethora of ladies and enjoyed an amount of sex that most men and women–in their most hedonistic moments–can’t even fathom. At the same time, reading the accounts of his life, what we get is a personal hell of emptiness that his over-the-top hedonism never satisfied. Let that be a lesson for your life.

He was not a mass murderer like a Hitler or a Stalin or a Mao or a Pol Pot, but his work has fomented trends that push societies toward demographic collapse. The world looks at promiscuity as a simple pleasure at best, and a “victimless crime” at worst. But private sin, especially on a mass scale, can have far-reaching consequences. And make no mistake: Hefner was not a force for that which is good.

The Sexual Revolution that he championed has laid waste to many lives, and has led to the decline of the nuclear family. For all the glamorous promotion of the “free love” culture, the other side was rife with disease, depression, and nihilistic oblivion far worse than the paradigms that, whatever their faults, made for a stable society.

As a result of the work of Hefner and his ilk, marriage has been in serious decline worldwide, and this is not boding well for the coming generations.

Even then, I do not celebrate Hefner’s passing. Quite frankly, it is tragic that he squandered every chance that he had for 91 years to repent. Unless he had a change of heart on his deathbed–and I doubt he did–then the Biblical assessment of his future does not look encouraging.

As for us, the reality of his death should call us all to attention, as that will be us one day. And while many in the world will celebrate his life, the only thing that will matter–in the final analysis–is God’s assessment of his life.

That, also, is true of the rest of us.

Class dismissed.