October 31, 2004

More thoughts on Romans 1, Romans 7, Romans 8 and Galatians 5.

So in Romans 1, the curse for sin is more sin: coming under its dominion more thoroughly. The idolater has a darked mind, and is engaged in self-deception, supressing the truth in unrighteousness.

I mentioned how I liked what Leithart said about the simultineatiy of the forensic judgement of "no condemnation", and the breaking of the power of reigning sin thereby, and the freedom that results.

A question might be, what is the status of the person in Romans 7. He isn't in a self-deluded state, supressing the truth in unrighteousness, but seems very much aware of the nature of his sin, and his discomfort with it. But it also seems to have ruling power over him. He is looking for deliver from the body of death (and finds it in verse 25, and reports in verse 26 that he sees the mind of christ in his mind, though his flesh is still no good.

Complicating things is Galatians 5, where Paul seems to be calling them to walk after the Spirit, and thne noting how the Spirit and Flesh are in a conflict. This conflict leads you not do the things (fleshly) that you don't want to do (those that are of the Spirit).

But if we walk after the Spirit, then we're not going to be doing those things (at all?) The flesh will be crucified if we are truly Christ's.

October 29, 2004

If Kerry wins, pro-lifers should carry signs that say

"Life begins at conception" - President Kerry

Kerry said on whether he'd have gone to war against Saddam
And that's why I voted for the threat of force. Because he only does things when you have a legitimate threat of force. It's absolutely impossible and irresponsible to suggest that if I were president, he wouldn't necessarily be gone. He might be gone. Because if he hadn't complied, we might have had to go to war. And we might have gone to war. But if we did, I'll tell you this, Tom. We'd have gone to war with allies in a way that the American people weren't carrying the burden. And the entire world would have understood why we were doing it.
Either I'm confused, but if you follow his decision tree backwards, he makes exactly the kind of case against himself that Bush accuses him of.

For a Kerry war we need the following preconditions in order

1) "allies" (more allies than Bush got.
2) the world's "understanding" as to why we did it (a more convincing case).

Then, if inspections were shown to *really* not be working (which they weren't), we "might" have gone to war. What equivocation!

I also note what was said in the past: Kerry is right that Saddam only acted under a legitimate threat of force. We couldn't actually have a legitimate threat of force for much longer than we did because troops can't have stayed mobilized in the field that long and maintain battle readiness. The build-up of troops meant war was pretty much inevitable, and without the buildup the threat wasn't credible.

October 28, 2004

Maybe Principal Skinner said it best
These campaign buttons are all partisan. Don't you have any neutral ones? "May the better man win?" "Let's have a good, clean election?" That sort of thing?


Is justification a liberating power, that comes in, knocks out the big bad guy at the top, but brings insufficient troops to win the peace, gets discouraged, and then goes home?

Or is it an occupying power, which brings in overwhelming force and locks up all the bad guys and administers the country for the next 40 years, and takes the oil?

Political I gotta get...

I'm just Mr. Sanguine with respect to this election. If I wanted to I could come up with 100 reasons, much better than the ones in that list to vote against Bush.

(I can't come up with any reason to vote for Kerry, though).

I'll also admit I read alot of mainstream "rightwing" opinion (instapundit, NRO) which gives a certainly partisan spin, but also calms/addresses some of the things that the mainstream media/leftist media put out as things Bush has done wrong. I mean in terms of there being more than one way to look at the problems, or to perceive the actions that Bush takes that seem questionable.

My melancholy side looks at the big picture, and sees the moral and spiritual decline of the country too, in which case the questions of who gets elected are not heightened, but rather relativized. Since Bush's successor in 24 years will be favoring gay marriage and we'll be making handbags out of embryos, who am I to be taking sides in a politcial contest for who'se heading toward down the long slow incline (not a cliff) towards the bottom at a slower speed.

Here's what I could think about the gulf war:

1. We deserve to be attacked by islamic jihadists, so who am I to favor war against it. (Jeremiah option)

2. If we're going to be an empire, we have to really do it: we need a colonial office and a more ruthless war machine, instead of imagining that we're liberating places, we have to come in as occupiers. (Daniel Option)

Neither of these seem like the position of a Christian.

Maybe its the Atkins diet: all the beef testosterone makes me warlike.

N.T. Wright writes on the Windsor report
[Presiding Bishop] Frank Griswold and his colleagues make a great song and dance about difference and about accepting difference and respecting difference. That's almost the only moral category that is left within postmodernity, welcoming the other, which is actually a very difficult moral standard to implement right across the board.
A thought occurrs to me: its interesting that Griswold emphasizes welcoming difference and accepting "the Other", when homosexuality is all about avoiding "the Other" and the main "difference" that God has created people to relate to each other in.

October 26, 2004

A nice clear post Peter Leithart on Justification and "life situation". If we are delivered from condemnation by a forensic act, we are of necessity delivered from the reign of sin. Murray insists on distinguishing between these two things, one being justification, the other being "definitive sanctification," though they both must happen for our redemption.

I think of Romans 1, where the condemnation for sin is to be put even more under sin's bondage. If there is no longer any condemnation, do we remain to the same extent under the bondange of sin any longer?

October 22, 2004

If pseudo-biblical sounding parody bothers you, you won't like Old Testament Parenting

Got to get political...

I like George W. Bush as a person, from what I've seen of him. I'm sure that's very influential as to why I favor him, evaluate his decisions with a great deal of chairty, and am voting for him this November. I like him more as a person than his father. Some things I think stand out about him
  1. He strikes me as a likeable and genuine person. Certainly, as a politician, he shades the truth on occasion, and there is a certain amount of ruthlessness to get him where he is. But I don't feel when I hear him that there are hidden machiavelian depths to him, or that he isn't earnest in following the policies he has set out to accomplish because of the way they will adress the common good of the country. The accusations of cronyism and favoring his "corporate buddies" ring hollow to me
  2. He's no dummy. I actually think two of his most brilliant political stratagems sometimes are put in his debit column incorrectly. Its unfortunate he isn't using one of them very much in the debates this term. In the first campaign I was struck by the number of times he explained his policy differences with Gore not by attacking the person or really critiquing the policy, but by explaing it as a "difference of opinion." This was remarkably disarming in the debates, and I think helped build up (and it flowed from) his position of being a "uniter not a divider."
    Secondly, he does change his course, but before he does so he tends to stick to his guns to the very last minute. In the lead up to the Iraq war many called on Bush to go to the UN. He didn't seem committal to the idea at all, floating that we could act without even asking the UN first. Criticism mounted, and Bush didn't really articulate why he wouldn't, but then he did so in the end. Whatever the downsides of this approach (and there are some, which I will need another post to consider) it focussed the attention of the country on the event, which I think helped him in making his case to the public. He's done this with a few other issues as well, usually to his benefit.
  3. more...

October 21, 2004

I wondered when Kerry's (a professing Roman Catholic) citation of "faith without works is dead" was going to be analyzed for its relationship to Protestant vs. Roman Catholic theology. Quin Hillyer, an Episcopalian trained at Georgetown in theology, has a rather muddled look at the issue on National Review Online.
Indeed, you cannot be a Protestant and believe that faith can possibly be dead. That was the central tenet of the entire Protestant reformation: That all men are such sinners that they can never earn salvation, but can only accept it through faith. Faith moves mountains. And while faith clearly should inspire good works, it is not and cannot be measured by good works, nor can it be the result of nor its existence be proved through good works.

To aver that the idea that "faith without works is dead" is "fundamental" to Christianity is, effectively, to say that Protestants aren't Christian.
Say what? If one thing has become clear to me in the intramural debates in the reformed world over Shepherd and the New Perspective, is that everyone agrees that faith is measured by and it's existence proved (at least humanly speaking) by works. Faith is certainly not the result of good works, but were constantly saying that works are the evidence of true and lively faith.

He also surprises by making this claim
The Catholic Church has indeed cited the passage from the Book of James to argue that good works are important. But to be important is not to be fundamental. The passage from James is not a matter of church doctrine.
explaining later that
But this Vatican, under the leadership of a highly traditionalist Pope, has agreed that the works are a response to the mystery of God's grace. Faith without works may be dormant, but it certainly isn't dead. For as long as faith survives, redemption is possible.
I guess I'll have to remember that when a Roman Catholic tries to throw James in my face; I'll remind him that his church teaches that James is wrong.

He also says
Kerry's appeal to righteousness of "works" is at best misguided and probably hypocritical. Yes, Jesus Himself again and again called on His disciples to care for the poor and to be good stewards of creation. It can even be argued that He demanded that communities of faith do so as a corporate endeavor. But where Kerry errs greatly is to assert that faith dictates that a civil community, acting through the compulsory force of government, adopt specific policy choices as "good works." Neither under Christ's formulation or under that of His "brother" James does it count as a "good work" (in terms of faith) to confiscate one person's money (through taxation) in order to provide a government welfare check to another person. Indeed, such a system, even if wise and beneficial, is a "good work" creditable neither to the lawmaker nor the voter who supports him (nor, for that matter, by the citizen compelled to pay the taxes). An action by government may be a good idea, but it is in no way a religiously salvific.
but I wonder if that's really true of every stream of Catholic theology.

It raises questions: does the Catholic church distinguishes between good works that are motivated by faith, and have "religiously salvific" import, and a different set of good works that are merely "civicly good". If so, can those civic works be motivated by faith? What are the distinctions being made here?

I guess since the civic good works can be motivated apart from faith in Christ (since they can be the work of secular state institutions) they have to be downgraded. But as a protestant I'd say lots of good works can fall into that category that James is considering and still find secular motivations, so why are we segregating civic works? If a Christian king does good as a Christian king, is that less of a "work" done from faith than a Christian non-politician giving to help a poor brother? Why?

October 20, 2004

Noll on Taxes:
It is a matter of justice that those who benefit most from the social infrastructure of the U.S.?from its traditions of liberty as well as its traditions of entrepreneurial creativity, its provisions for making business work as well as its culture of personal consumption?should pay the most to maintain that infrastructure.
Um? What does this mean? If Noll had talked about the physical infrastructure of roads, the occasional largesse that the government gives to business to stimulate investment and innovation, and the military which protects the country from those who would seize its wealth, at least that would make more sense. The rich get a great benefit from these things, and so maybe they should pay more.

(But even in that case, would a rich person really make a higher valuation of the things that protect his wealth than a middle class or poor person? A rich man could say, offer a 30% bribe to an invading army, and possibly recoup a larger savings that the possible 70% he pays to the state to defend the whole land. A middle class persons wealth would never be enough to protect him, and he'd offer his life to defend his country)

But how is the social infrastructure really valuated? And how can Noll claim paradoxically that the "traditions" of the US towards certain values (liberty, personal consumption, entrepreneurship) are unjustly given to the wealthy if they don't pay some 70% of their income in taxes?

Do the wealthy in countries with no traditions of liberty and entrepreneurship then not owe a large share of their income in taxes? In Noll's message to the rich in Haiti that they're off the hook, because their society gives them almost nothing?

Part of what constitutes our tradition of liberty, entrepreneurship, and personal consumption is a low personal income tax, a sense that what's "mine is mine," and that vast increases in government power by confiscatory taxation is bad for the economy and bad socially. Noll seems to be saying "We have to destroy economic liberty to destroy economic liberty"

Our tradition of liberty also doesn't really have a dollar amount. We can't use the wealth of the rich to "buy more liberty," or "buy more entrepreneurship", can we? We can just give it away, or spend it on public works, but are there really that many public works to fund that we can't make do with only 30% of a rich persons income, instead of making it still higher?

I'd support progressive taxes if they looked like this:

Poor: 1% of income
Middle class: 3% of income
Rich: 10% of income

I don't think that's what Noll meant though.

Finally, even if we (better) understood the "social infrastructure" as education and medicine keeping the population healthy and out of ignorance, why oh why is it the job of the federal government to manage that infrastructure for the entire country from Washington?

If there is a principle here, I think it's very badly articulated.

Mark Noll writes on why he's not voting for anyone. Mainly because no party represents all his political convictions in the way he would like.

One area is race. He writes
but a general fact of history demands that sustained, accumulated wrongs must be addressed by sustained, ongoing remediation.
Really? Why? Is that anywhere a Biblical picture? Or is it a prescription for endless recrimination, pity, guilt, and blame?

How do the Biblical pictures of exodus from Egypt, exile into Babylon, and the destruction of Jerusalem for her sins fit this picture of "sustained remediation". Does Noll want people to be able to legitimately complain that the "fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge"?

There are great needs for the poor in their "racially infested plight of impacted urban areas" but why does Noll imagine that a "Marshall Plan" focusing only there is justice towards the needs of non-racially infested, non-urban poor, who we will always have with us? Race complicates the matter of justice for the poor, by making "sustained ongoing remediation" itself another form of injustice. And where is that a biblical model? The perception of the Hellenic widows needs going unmet was not solved by a program of making sure their needs were met at the expense of the non-Hellenics.

Let's say that Noll's perception of the racial problem is correct. Why is it that he makes the matter of his political conviction the particular method used to address the injustice? Bush, to me, seems to "get" the problem, and he's simply not using a particular tactic to address it, because of the trade-offs involved in the other models of addressing the issue.

That Noll's political convictions have more to do with the particular methods used to address social problems than the social problems themselves is itself curious. Noll is not a politician, so he could instead ask of candidates which offer the most rational chance of addressing the social problem in a meaningful way, where many of his fellow citizens favor solutions that are market-oriented, avoid confiscatory taxation rates on the wealthy, and avoid federal control of medicine. (I should probably develop this more)

Barlow has some more thoughts.

Opinion piece by Rich Lowry on why there is a flu-vaccine shortage, and how this fits into the politics of prescription drugs
Another blow came from Hillary Clinton. She championed getting the government into the pediatric-vaccine business in a big way in the 1990s. It now buys 60 percent of pediatric vaccines, dictating cut-rate prices that have dried up vaccine-manufacturing capacity. More regulation inevitably accompanied the government purchases. "It's a snowball effect of more and more regulation over the past decade, driving more and more vaccine makers out of business," says Grace-Marie Turner, president of the free-market-oriented Galen Institute
What's interesting here is this seems to be what's happening in the case of WAL-MART too. WAL-MART demands lower and lower prices from manufacturers every year (unless they get smart and put out product "improvements" so the product is different) which sometimes helps them become efficient, othertimes moves their operations overseas (Huffy Bicycles), and sometimes makes them cannibalize their own products leadings to bankruptcy (Vlassic Pickles: the 1 gallon wal-mart jar for $3 cut into their sliced and chipped smaller jar business.).

October 19, 2004

Arlen Spectre perfidy in Pennsylvania.

Ugh. While I still support Bush, if this is true he has no right to Pennsylvania's votes, after supporting Specter over Toomey

October 16, 2004

Fellowship 9/11

REALLY funny.

October 15, 2004

Halloween is on a Sunday this year, and my kids won't be going out, largely because we'll be at church that evening, and its a fairly secular holiday.

But some people are a bit confused about what Halloween represents
"You just don't do it on Sunday," said Sandra Hulsey of Greenville, Ga. "That's Christ's day. You go to church on Sunday, you don't go out and celebrate the devil. That'll confuse a child."
Yes, of course: Satan has the other 6 days of the week. Make sure your children know that.

October 14, 2004

Mark Horne writes of the criticism that N.T. Wright has changed Justification by faith into an ecumenical doctrine
But the traditional doctrine, however it might have been used, has always been an ecumenical doctrine.
He goes on to cite the texts in Romans 2 and 14, and Galatians, which show how the unity of Christian faith implies that subsidiary matters should not divide Christians at table
If N. T. Wright had offered his views as some sort of inclusive half-way house between Roman Catholics and Protestants, that would give some evidence of this strange critique. In that case an 'ecumenical' doctrine would be a doctrine that is in principle already available to both sides of the debate and simply provides a perspective that shows their views to be compatible. But that is simply not the case. By an 'ecumenical' doctrine, Wright plainly means a doctrine that provides an imperative for Christians to seek unity with one another. He has never said that it is the only imperative in Christian ethics, or that Roman Catholic dogma isn't really wrong. He has used his findings as a reason for both sides to re-settle their differences. But asking for people to talk is hardly the same as claiming that their differences are not important.
I'm not so sure about this, or at least I see why the default assumptions of Reformed Christians about catholic theology and practice lead to suspicion about Wright on this point.

Wright strikes me as someone who does not want to keep on saying "Justification by Faith alone is the article by which the church stands or falls," and that failure to confess it as an article of faith is de facto reason to consider the church a false church with no gospel salvation. He isn't just saying "All the Roman Catholics who secretly have real faith in Jesus and have avoided putting their faith at all in their own works or Saints really ought to realize that they belong with us."

To talk about Justification by Faith as an ecumenical doctrine if it means anything different from current Reformed practice (and for Wright it certainly seems to do so) it means that all professors of Jesus Christ (including those who confess Roman Catholic dogma) belong at the same table because the single fact of their faith-confession of Jesus Christ. It is the sole qualifier.

The Reformed certainly look at Romans 14 and Galatians and say that we're not going to dechurch psalm-singers, or baptists, or vegetarians, or Scythians. But we do "dechurch" the Roman Catholics, and say that as long as they do not confess a faith in Christ that alone saves them, they do not therefore have a faith that is alone in Christ. They are excluded from the category of those who have a saving faith.

Wright wants to put them in, at least with a great deal of charity, even if he might be moved to kick out some hard-case ultramontanist.

If we want to worry about the root of the attraction of this view in the reformed world today, I would lay the blame squarely at the feet of parachurch organizations like InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Though with reformational roots and official doctrinal positions that are Calvinist and reformational, for purposes of campus ministry, evangelical students in these organizations are expected to receive Roman Catholic fellow-students involvement in the ministry as on equal footing as believers in Christ. The evangelical student, having learned already to keep his mouth shut about the incongruity of the organization professing Faith Alone, and the membership rejoicing over Roman Catholic students who never profess Faith Alone are primed to accept Wright's teaching in this matter. They've already begun to live it.

If the Reformed world wants to oppose this root and branch, they need to cut off Parachurch ministries like InterVaristy.

After saying he couln't legislate an article of faith on others he said "I believe that choice is a woman's choice. It's between a woman, God and her doctor. And that's why I support that."

That raises the question of what he actually regards as the article of faith that he refuses to legislate. In this debate he never describes this unspoken article of faith, only refers to how he won't legislate it. He's comfortable refering to "choice" as one of his "beliefs".

He's tried to nuance this by saying his belief is that an unborn baby is a "human" but not a "person" under the law. Well, if that's his article of faith, then worrying about legislating that isn't an issue: since it contains its own excuse.

Question for Kerry:

Is the unborn baby your neighbor?

I believe that I can't legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith. What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn't share that article of faith
I was taught that the two greatest commandments are: Love the Lord, your God, with all your mind, your body and your soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. And frankly, I think we have a lot more loving of our neighbor to do in this country and on this planet.

We have a separate and unequal school system in the United States of America. There's one for the people who have, and there's one for the people who don't have. And we're struggling with that today.

October 13, 2004

Well its for the best that my dumb remarks about Derrida's death were deleted.

My brain works funny sometimes. When Joel said he regretted that Claire would not get to meet him, I latched on to the thought that, well, in the ressurection, we'll get to meet the people who have departed: its a commonplace "we'll meet them in heaven". Then it occurred to me, that, well Derrida was not any kind of a Christian (as far as I know). So much for that.

Well, wait, wouldn't Claire still get to "meet" him in some way? Well, what about the Lazarus story? Yeah, huh, that's funny/odd: maybe Claire will "meet" Derrida, but only over the great gulf.

Maybe true, but didn't belong with more elagaic thoughts.

October 12, 2004

What is this (BlogShares - Hierogrammate) supposed to mean?

October 08, 2004

This video should be pretty devastating to a view that Kerry has been consistent on Iraq Kerry On Iraq

He's quoted in 2002 saying he thinks Saddam is behaving like a terrorist, we should act regardless of any connection to 9/11. Terrorism is a global menace, and attacking Saddam is a part of the war on terror.

October 06, 2004

I was suprised by the "cultural imperialism" expressed in this letter Instapundit posted on the topic of political conversations and "whose America" gets to prevail in the meta-discussion about political life. "Whose America" is the title of a book by Jonathan Zimmerman. Zimmerman seems to be willing to blatantly state that american civil society trumps all religious claims.
After 9-11, Zimmerman wrote an interesting column for the NY Post. He had taught HS history, and at one point told students he would call on them to read essays they had written. He called on a female student, who declined to read. She said that because she was Muslim, she couldn't read first, that she had to read only after a boy had read.

The question he asked is: how should he have responded as a public school teacher?

His answer: The girl reads first, because in the US our civic, national morality does not allow gender bias and discrimination. Girls and boys are equal in our public schools. What happens at home is not in the public domain, and therefore, the state doesn't reach in and force the girl to recite first at home. But in a public school, she does.
Wow, talk about no rights of conscience. All this is going to serve to do is alienate more people from the public school system, and the only ones left being cohesively integrated into the american system will be those who haven't opted out of integration, which will be a growing group.

Interesting article on new military hardware coming down the pike post-Iraq. From the Strategy Page, a fairly comprehensive site of things military by board wargame veteran Jim Dunnigan and others.

Sounds like the RPG defense would be a good idea, as would making it easier to armor up the thing. I'm sure the microwave weapon will end up violating some convention of warfare though.

I should keep up with the Strategy Page more, if I want to have something of a better informed opinion on how "its going".

Yes, its not going as well as Bush hoped or expected, or sometimes say it is. Good plans can fail. Plans can seem good at the time, but not work out so well. It doesn't mean the naysayers have some special insight, or deserve to take over when problems arise. There is always a reason not to do something.

I should start carrying my digital camera with me. Today near the U of Penn highrises I saw a hawk pecking at its kill of a largish rodent (probably a rat: this is Penn). It was hopping around the green. Pretty big, mostly light brown with white markings.

October 04, 2004

Ligon Duncan writes
Had God chosen the means, letís say, of the sacramental system as the way to receive this grace of justification, we would have to busy ourselves in the work of appropriating this sacramental grace in such a way that our appreciation of the freeness of that grace would be compromised in its apprehension and actually in its reality. But, by choosing the means of faith, we are taught to turn away from ourselves and to extend an empty hand to receive a gift which is based on nothing in us. So that the very means teaches us about the grounds of the grace.
What a failure of imagination! Duncan had to assume that

1) Paul's expression of the means of faith would have to be opposed to a sacrmental system, instead of construing a sacramental system that comported perfectly with faith as the instrument from us to God, and the sacrmanets as the instrument from God to us.

2) He has to assume that a "sacramental system" includes some large number of busy activities, when there are only 2 sacraments, and neither of of them are much of a "work".

3) He vulgarly turns the thoroughly faith-oriented gospel picture in the sacraments into a form of works that might be understood as meriting God's favor, when they aren't in any way. The Baptism is from "outside of us", and done with us completely passive

The supper is free food, from somebody else, not ourselves. So why does Duncan get to call it a work we busy ourselves in?

De script shun




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