Christianity: Doctrine and Ethics

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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The PCA and Female Deaconesses (V)

Continuity or Discontinuity?

In the various discussions surrounding the place of deaconesses in the New Testament, I have yet to hear a cogent argument from the nature of the continuity between the Old and New Testaments, based on the covenant of grace. Typically, Reformed theologians emphasize the relationship, for example, between Passover and the Lord's Supper and that between circumcision and Baptism.

In the discussion concerning deaconesses there hasn’t been much said about the Old Testament counterpart of the New Testament deacon. It does seem clear that the New Testament deacon is a distinct office, but it also should not be overlooked that the Old Testament records officers that fulfilled similar responsibilities. Old Testament scholar, John Goldingay writes, “Yahweh concerns himself with the rights and needs of orphan, widow, and immigrant, as he had with those of Israel in Egypt. He expects Israel to mirror that concern, guarding them from exploitation and taking practical steps to see that they have enough to eat (Deut. 10:18-19; 14:28-29; 24:17-22; 26:12-13; 29:19).”[1]

Walter Kaiser reminds us that “There are over a dozen Hebrew words for the ‘poor’ and almost three hundred instances in the Old Testament where they are mentioned. The Old Testament could be very specific about the community’s social responsibility for the poor.”[2] Both the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament and the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament spend quite a bit of time on the poor in the Old Testament.[3]

Brian Schwertley notes that in the Old Testament, “The officers in charge of managing the temple (Levites) and synagogue (chazanim) funds, caring for the poor, were always men.”[4] It is also true that within the synagogue arrangement there were various officers who “were authorized to conduct the public worship, preserve the order, and manage the finances of the congregation. This latter officer was the chazan or deacon of the synagogue.”[5] These men had the charge and oversight of all things in and pertaining to the synagogue. Schwertley argues that “The order of the synagogue was, as all Presbyterians hold, the model of that of the church under the New Testament dispensation. In the synagogue was an officer who attended to the poor, had the oversight of the place of worship, and managed the finances.”[6]

This is not to say that the chazan only cared for the poor. Certainly that was part of his duty, but there were other duties assigned to him, including the oversight of the fiscal affairs. “Such officers as the trustee or committee-man of modern days, were not known either in the order of the synagogue, or of the churches.”[7] Schwertley provides this summary:

The Scripture argument for committing all the ecclesiastical goods to deacons, maybe briefly stated thus: Both under the Old and New Testament dispensations, the Bible contains frequent allusions to the funds devoted to ecclesiastical uses—in all cases these were managed, until the canon of divine revelation was completed, by ordained officers, and such officers only; during the Old Testament dispensation by priests and Levites, during the new by deacons. Nor does the Bible contain any account of officers distinct from these, and unordained, to whom the fiscal concerns of the church either were or might be committed. The consequence is plain. Any other officers for the management of church funds are of human invention, and where they exist, occupy a place which should be occupied by officers chosen and set apart for the service according to Christ’s institution.[8]

The Roman Catholic, Aimé Martimort, notes that the “adjective dia,konoj (diákonos), which did not have a feminine ending, appears frequently in the New Testament.”[9] Martimort proceeds to discuss what he calls the technical, hierarchical senses in which the term diákonos is used (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8, 12). The verb form (daikoneîn) which appears often in the gospels, “usually refers to the activity of a servant, especially at table; it also signifies more generally an attitude of being available to serve, and even a spiritual orientation (Jn 12:26). In apostolic times, the word was employed to describe every type of service to the community. The same is true of diákonos.”[10]

In other words, among the Christian community a true desire to “serve” the fellow-brothers and –sisters was to dominate. Being a diákonos in this sense, did not require a particular ecclesiastical office, but rather was the office of all believers. It is precisely here that I believe the modern P.C.A. desire to have unordained deaconesses completely misses the biblical model. In the first place, some pastors in the P.C.A. have adopted the false notion that an unordained woman can do anything an unordained man can do. I realize that this is an accepted premise in certain circles and is advocated by Dr. Tim Keller, which, for some, settles the issue.

Was this true in the Old Testament? Were unordained women permitted to go to war? Were they permitted to do the work of the chazan in the synagogue? Were they encouraged to pray in synagogue? To read the Torah in synagogue? If they were not, doesn’t it seem reasonable to expect some explicit teaching in the New Testament about the modification that occurred between the testaments? What is actually the case, however, is that Dr. Keller hangs his entire argument on texts that are, at very best, in dubio regarding their translation and application. Martimort is convinced that even though, or especially in light of the fact that, every Christian was and is to be, in some sense, a diákonos none of these general Christian activities for the good of the community “correspond to the diaconate as such…”[11]

We’ve heard this argument before, but it is worthy of being repeated: why do you have to have an office to serve in Christ’s Church? One of the arguments that is being bounced around in the P.C.A. is that some congregations have a number of professional women in attendance. My response is: So? Do we grant special privilege to women in the work force? The argument is that they are used to leading and cannot understand why they can lead in secular society but not in the congregation. I could use the same argument, but turn it around in favor of stay at home moms. Why wouldn’t local congregations seek to use stay at home moms to do the work of “deaconess” more than professional women, since the former are already constantly ministering to the needs of their family and so, better understand, what is needed. A professional woman might not want to get her pantsuit dirty. Why would a “professional” woman who drops her kids off at day care (even Christian day care) every day be preferable to a woman who stays home and cares for her family?

Quite honestly, this “professional woman” thing is wearing just a little thin. Are we to suppose that simply because they’re in the work force that they are superior to our stay at home moms? If so, why? In my estimation, both the stay at home mom and the professional woman are saved in the same manner. Both have been given gifts to serve the covenant community. Neither of them requires an office—ordained or unordained—to serve and to serve well; effectively. I’m convinced that the real solution to this fabricated dilemma is not to begin putting women in places where the scriptures, our confessions, and church history says they should not be. The real solution is not to repeat the mantra that a woman can do anything an unordained man can do so that eventually everyone believes it. Any thinking person will realize that this motto is full of holes. There are innumerable things in life where this mantra breaks down—badly.

My solution is simple: men should act like men, which means that they are Christian warriors devoted to leading their wives, families, and others in the Christian community according to the various biblical relationships where God places them. When men lead like God ordains them to lead, godly women will nurture and encourage that leadership.

In the next installment, we’ll begin to examine some of the early church documents regarding deaconesses.

[1] John Goldingay, Theological Diversity and the Authority of the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), pp. 135-136.

[2] Walter Kaiser, Jr., Toward Old Testament Ethics, (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1983), p. 159.

[3] Ernest Bammel, “The Poor in the Old Testament,” in G. Johannes Botterweck & Helmer Ringgren (eds.), Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Vol. 1, (John Willis [trans.]), (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), pp. 27-41; Gerhard Friedrich (ed.), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 6, (Geoffrey Bromiley [trans.]), (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), pp. 888-894.

[4] Brian Schwertley, A Historical and Biblical Examination of Women Deacons, (Southfield, MI: Reformed Witness, 1998), p. 1.

[5] Ibid., 2.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid. Citing James M. Willson, The Deacon: An Inquiry into the Nature, Duties, and Exercise of the Office of the Deacon in the Christian Church, (Philadelphia: William Young, 1841), pp. 30-31.

[9] Aimé Martimort, Deaconesses, (K.D. Whitehead [trans.]), (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), p. 18.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., 19.


Friday, October 17, 2008

It’s the Economy, Stupid!

How Many Americans want to Live in Socialism?

Former-President Clinton made the sound byte “It’s the economy, stupid!” popular. In the last two weeks leading up the to 2008 election, pundits are telling us that the reason Obama’s ratings are on the rise is the economy. I don’t get it. It seems like that ought to be the reason his ratings should be tanking. Why do I say that? Well, simply because when it comes to Obama’s economic policies, he is a full-orbed socialist. Is that what American’s want in 2008? Just in terms of his economic policies, Obama will be as bad, if not worse than Lyndon B. Johnson or Jimmy Carter.

Many in the younger generation weren’t even born when Carter was President. Mr. Carter was the thirty-ninth President of the U.S. (1977-1981). Sound economists have termed his dismal administration the “epoch of misery.” Unemployment soared into double-digits, as did the interest rates. Today, the non-thinkers in America, the “nation of sheep,” only view Carter as a kindly grandfather, who is out building houses for Habitat for Humanity when he’s not out usurping protocol as a former-President by hobnobbing with Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro. Make no mistake: Carter was a national disaster as President in a wide variety of ways, especially economically. Obama and his economic policies are cut from the same piece of (socialistic) cloth.

The real question Americans must face today, then, is quite simple: Do they want America to become dominated by Socialism or do they want a free market economy where they can all strive to make a living through personal effort and responsibility? In other words, do they want a “womb to tomb” nanny state, high unemployment, extremely high taxes, and a universal health care system that will sending doctors packing and give us long lines and sub-par health care? So that’s pretty much the question: do we want Socialism or a free market economy?

For those who find Socialism attractive, I invite you to move to a socialistic country and live there for about 5-10 years before you decide it’s a good thing. You really need to get a taste of how that system works, or rather, doesn’t work before foisting it upon this nation. Utopia doesn’t exist folks, and Socialism has failed, and failed miserably, wherever it has been implemented. Sweden, for example, is in the process of sharply cutting its corporate tax rate. Why? In order to stimulate a stagnant and stagnating economy. Sweden is also getting ready to give real tax cuts to citizens for the same reason and not the faux phantom cuts Mr. Obama is promising. Think about this: If Mr. Obama is going to give 95% of Americans a tax cut, 50% of that 95% doesn’t pay any taxes at all. So what he’s offering them is not a tax cut, since they don’t pay any taxes, but a government handout. It does make you wonder why a country that is socialistic through and through like Sweden is now turning away from Socialism, doesn’t it; especially if Socialism works so well. Here’s the dirty little secret: Socialism doesn’t work well; it never has; and it never will. Redistribution of wealth is a very, very bad idea; it is devastating for the economy.

Joe (the Famous) Plumber

For those who haven’t seen the clip of the Ohio plumber, Joe, talking to Mr. Obama or read the transcript, you owe it to yourself to do so. It’s a casual, impromptu conversation where Mr. Obama’s Socialism comes rushing to the forefront. Mr. Obama tells Joe the Plumber that he’s not trying to penalize him for hard work, he just wants to take care of those “behind” Joe. Those “behind” him? Who might they be? Mr. Obama knew nothing about Joe prior to that conversation. Maybe Joe worked his buns off and finally, through hard work, long hours, and personal responsibility just got to the place where he’s earning a decent living. Maybe Joe has a kid or two in college or a couple on the way to college. Joe and the wife are doing their best to be responsible, law-abiding citizens and Mr. Obama’s message is akin to Hillary’s when she said in a June 2004 speech, and I quote: “We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.” Thank you, comrade.

But it’s the end of Obama’s comments to Joe the Plumber that are the most telling. Here’s a snippet of that conversation: “It’s not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they’ve got a chance for success too.... I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” (Emphasis added.) What did he just say to Joe and Mrs. Joe? There are others behind you; others who, for whatever reason, don’t make as much money as you do. He doesn’t consider education, incentive, personal responsibility, or any other factors. That doesn’t matter. These folks “behind” Joe and Mrs. Joe need a “chance” for success and Mr. Obama will solve the problem in the classic socialistic way: he’ll redistribute the wealth. Ironically, Socialism gives them no chance for success because the government bureaucracy, in a futile attempt to level the proverbial playing field, squelches all incentive to excel. Prices and salaries are fixed by the government. Obama laid his cards on the table when he said to Joe, “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” You? Who is the “you” in Mr. Obama’s statement? It’s Mr. Obama and his socialist government, of course. Did you hear what Mr. Obama told Joe? He clearly stated that he will implement a government that redistributes wealth and that is the classic definition of Socialism.

Mocking Joe

Do you remember that off the cuff remark Obama made in San Francisco when he thought all the cameras were no longer rolling and he spoke of some of the folks in PA as holding on to their guns and religion? Far too many have forgotten that statement. Now, with some of the polls showing Obama/Biden with a substantial lead (beware of polls, folks!), both men openly ridiculed the “Joe the Plumbers” of America yesterday and today. That’s right. They’re making fun of McCain for defending Joe the Plumber. Obama laughed and said, “He’s out there trying to defend a plumber!” Laughter: his and his audiences. What’s so funny about that? Wait a minute! I thought Obama and Biden were salt-of-the-earth, heartland America candidates. Shoot, Biden is so patriotic he still stops by Katy’s restaurant where he grew up for a slice of apple pie and vanilla ice cream, even though Katy’s closed twenty years ago. I’d call that commitment.

Now, both men are cracking jokes and making light of the middle class they claim to love and support. Is Joe the Plumber in Ohio the same as those rednecks in Pennsylvania who hold on to their guns and religion? Obama and Biden are mocking the middle-class Americans they say they’re looking out for. I hope all the plumbers, gun owners, and religious people in the States are listening.

Caviar Anyone?

All this nonsense about caring about the middle class was juxtaposed last evening in a glaring contrast. One film clip showed Gov. Sarah Palin stopping in at a Wal-Mart to pick up some diapers for her infant son. It was an amazing shot. Here is a woman running for Vice-President of the United States shopping at Wal-Mart. Unlike Joe Biden, she’s shopping at one that didn’t close twenty years ago. She’s just doing normal wife and mom things like buying diapers. These were not Calvin Klein or Armani diapers; no, they were just your garden-variety, run of the mill, global warming causing disposable diapers. Just like the rest of the Joe the Plumbers of the world, you watch Mrs. Palin swipe her card, pick up her diapers, and head back to the campaign trail. Nice touch.

Meanwhile, back at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, Mrs. Obama ordered room service that included two lobsters, Iranian caviar (you glow in the dark after you eat it. They haven’t quite perfected the nuclear thing yet), and champagne. Now look, don’t get me wrong here. We all know that religious nuts, gun nuts, and Plumbers who make under $250,000.00/year eat this kind of stuff on a regular basis. Why we had some rednecks over to our place just last week. One brought a .50 caliber machine gun; one brought a case of Boone’s Farm Apple wine; and one brought a case of Iranian caviar. We fired the machine gun, drank all the wine, but left the Iranian caviar. Someone said, “Iranian caviar again? I’ve eaten so much of that stuff it’s runnin’ out of my ears! Belch!”

When you need to energize the economy and put an end to poverty, Iranian caviar is just what the doctor ordered. Not for everybody, mind you, but certainly for the Obamas. By the way, has anyone stopped to notice that since the days of Lyndon B. Johnson (the Great Society), Jimmy Carter (the Great Economic Meltdown), and through both administrations of Bill Clinton (the Great Scandal) that the true poverty rate in the United States has stayed pretty much the same? So what have the Democrats done to improve it or change it? Nothing. Year after year they promise change and improvement, but year after year it’s the same story. What has Nancy Pelosi and her ethical Democrat dominated House of Representatives done to alleviate poverty? Heck, what have they done period? Can you name one thing they’ve accomplished apart from plummeting approval ratings? Is this the Democrat formula for change and progress? In point of fact, much of what Obama is saying in this campaign is, with the necessary changes being made, the same old worn-out promises that Carter made and could not deliver. If Obama wins and does deliver on his promises, that will be the end of America as we know it. The economy will never survive this man’s irresponsible policies. Besides, you can never overturn universal health care. You can only tinker with it, tweak an irreparable system, and try to stop the bleeding of its disastrous results.

Therefore, the question before us today and for the next fourteen days is this: As an American, who understands the price that has been paid for our freedom and the price that’s being paid that still allows us to live in the greatest country in the world, do you want to take the road to serfdom (F. Hayek): Socialism, or do you want to continue to live in a land of opportunity and personal responsibility. When you go to the polls on November 4th, remember this: It really is the economy, stupid.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Should Christians Be Pro-Gun? (III)

Pro-Life or Pro-Glock at a Deeper Level

It’s time to close off the writing of Rev. Lance Lewis, a P.C.A. pastor in the Philadelphia area. Rev. Lewis wants to know how evangelicals can continue to claim to be both pro-life and pro-Glock. Pro-Glock? Well, what pro-Glock means, I think, is pro-gun or pro-handgun. It is clear from Rev. Lance’s description of Saturday Night Specials, that he has no idea what he’s talking about.

Rather than laying out a cogent case why the Second Amendment no longer applies to Christians, Rev. Lewis wants to take his question to a “deeper” level. Without a doubt, we are taken to a “new” level, but I’m not entirely convinced that it proves to be a “deeper” one. For instance, Rev. Lewis asks, “What rights do we enjoy as American citizens that are worth taking someone’s life over?” The short answer is: life itself. As an American citizen I have the right to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is to say, if an assailant wishes to take my life or the life of a loved one, I have the right to defend myself and them. And, I might add, I don’t need Rev. Lewis, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, and Barbara Boxer to tell me how, when, and where I can defend myself as a free American.

To make his point, however, Rev. Lewis creates a hypothetical case—don’t you just love those? Here’s the scenario: The government decides that we can no longer own property for the express reason of congregating as a church. “For that matter they decide that it’s illegal for Christians to gather anywhere for the purpose of worship in any sense of the term and will confiscate immediately any building whether public or private (including homes) used for that purpose and sell it to someone else. Would we take up arms with the intent of shooting and killing the police who came to seize our property?”

So here’s my answer: I will worship the God who saved me by his grace. If the government tells me I cannot worship him, I will defy it (Acts 5:29). If the government confiscates our place of worship, I’ll search for another one. If they take my home for worshiping God, I will worship him still. If they sell my home, I’ll look for another one. The point is, of course, that the Church has been persecuted before and did quite well thank you very much. I just finished writing an English biography of Dr. Herman Bavinck. Bavinck’s father’s family (as well as Geerhardus Vos’s family; they were in the same congregation in Bentheim, Germany!) experienced horrible persecution from the State Church and met in barns and wherever they could. Therefore, if the police showed up merely to take my house and I could leave with my family and guns, I’d walk away and start all over.

But there are other scenarios. Think, for example, about Waco, TX and David Koresh. I personally think that Koresh was theologically way off base. Nevertheless, that was no excuse for Janet Reno and BATF to go onto their compound and do what they did. Look, Koresh might have been a loon, but what specifically did he do to have such a stand-off and loss of life? If Rev. Lewis is searching for scenarios that would justify the taking of human life, they are legion. Just ask the folks in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, or Hussein’s Iraq, just to name a few. Apparently, Rev. Lewis has an aversion to ever taking a human life for any reason. I suggest that he re-read Genesis 9:5-6 for starters.

But in Rev. Lewis’s world, the question of shooting back is a moot issue. If you are totally unarmed, what do you intend to do if the police show up unlawfully to confiscate your property? Throw spitballs at them? Negotiate? If we’re unarmed, it really isn’t a question of shooting back, is it? Historically, property has been confiscated and Christians have still survived. In case Rev. Lewis hasn’t figured it out yet, violence is the last resort. Those unfamiliar with guns seem to think that gun owners will start shooting at the drop of a hat or at the least provocation. Someone’s been watching too much TV and too many Hollywood movies. Here’s the reality: an armed society is a polite society. I would add to that that an armed society notices precipitous drops in crime.

Listen to what economist John Lott, Jr. says. He writes, “While higher arrest and conviction rates, longer prison sentences, and the death penalty all reduce murders generally, none of these measures had a consistent impact on mass public shootings. Nor did any of the restrictive gun laws. Only one single policy was found to effectively reduce these attacks: the passage of right-to-carry laws, which permit law-abiding citizens to carry concealed handguns.”[1]

Reverend Lance the Riddler

In a paragraph entitled “Ok Lance riddle me this,” Rev. Lewis expounds his point in more detail—sort of. We are confronted with more hypothetical scenarios, so let’s play along. He writes, “It’s 3 o’clock in the morning, you hear a commotion in your house and are convinced that someone has broken in and intends to rape and murder your family. Do you just sit back and let them do so just to preserve their life? Good question.” (Please note: at 3:00a.m., Hillary Clinton is waiting anxiously for that international crisis call that will never come now, thanks to Barack Obama.) Indeed. How to answer this difficult riddle? A decent start would have been for Rev. Lewis to cite Scripture and comment what the Lord thought about the whole matter (Comp. Ex. 22:2). According to this text, an answer to Rev. Lewis’s question is: breaking and entering; burglary.

Well, I’ll begin by asking a question. If someone arbitrarily, randomly breaks into your house early in the morning hours, how do you become convinced that they are there to rape and murder your family? You wake up from a deep sleep, you hear a commotion, the adrenalin gushes, taking your fine motor abilities to near zero, but somehow, upon awakening, you have discerned the purpose of the intruder. You’re a genius! A clairvoyant! You should open up a psychic reading room—a Christian psychic reading room, of course. Why, you could even set it up in your church and give readings immediately following the Christian yoga classes.

Of great import in Rev. Lewis’s question is that he doesn’t answer it. So what do you do? If you sit back and do nothing you are the sleaziest coward on the planet. You’re not spiritual, but highly irresponsible, unbiblical, and nauseating. Who in his or her right mind would sit back and listen to the screams of terror and horror from a wife or children and do nothing? Here’s what you do, in case you’re at a loss: you (the man) get up and take care of business. You put an end to the carnage or die trying. You might call 9-1-1 knowing that the fastest they’ll get there is about 10 minutes—on a good day—and the whole thing will be over by then. I’m sorry, folks, but I really struggle with someone who sets up a scenario like this one and makes it sound spiritual to be a sniveling pacifist. Any man worthy of the name “man,” will take decisive action.

Here’s Rev. Lewis’s non-solution solution. He tells us that he’s going to “present a couple of possible solutions,” but does nothing of the sort. Instead, we get more questions that he doesn’t answer. I cannot begin to tell you how helpful all this is. “If the issue is that owning a gun is necessary to protect my family then why stop at just having one gun in my home?” Aha! A point of agreement! Indeed, why stop at one? Didn’t God give us two hands? One 12-gauge shotgun would do the trick on an intruder, but that tends to mess up the carpet and wallpaper badly and makes the wife grouchy. Seriously, does Rev. Lewis now intend to dictate how many guns are enough? There’s an easy answer to the question of how many guns are enough: just one more. In reality, who does Rev. Lewis thinks needs to decide this question? Should we have a government agency that dictates to free men and women how many guns they may own? Is there a quota?

But I do agree that you shouldn’t have just one gun. That’s why in our household everyone has their own. I also have two big signs in my front yard. The first one reads, “The owner of this property is armed and prepared to protect life, liberty, and property from criminal attack. There is nothing inside worth risking your life for!” The second one reads, “The two houses to the right also contain armed citizens; the two to the left don’t.” My neighbor on the left, who hates guns, didn’t like the sign. I asked her why. She said, “Well, then the burglars will automatically come to my house because they know I’m not armed!” Bingo. Actually, I just made all that up, but it does make a point, doesn’t it?

Next (non-solution) question: “Why shouldn’t I arm myself and family in case we’re attacked while out? Is it more likely that I’ll be attacked at three in (the) morning while in my home or at 9p.m. while walking home?” Yes. Both are possibilities that we need to be prepared for, but 80% of crimes against innocent citizens take place outside the home. There was a case recently when a man was returning home from a picnic with his two sons and they were all murdered by an illegal thug, who should have been in prison or deported or both. If they had been armed, they could have defended themselves. Now they’re all dead and the bleeding heart liberals are trying to figure out how to rehabilitate the MS-13 gang member who murdered them. I have a suggestion. Again, however, Rev. Lewis offers no answer, but he does ask yet another question.

Next slide: “But let’s say I do feel the need for a gun to protect my family and possessions. How many do I need?” Is this a rhetorical question? Does Rev. Lewis really not know? I’ve got a headache. This man is the pastor of a congregation and he cannot decide how many guns would be sufficient? The answer is: it’s up to you. None or a hundred. It really doesn’t matter. Each person; each family will be different. Good grief!

Next slide: (they just keep on getting better) “Why must I demand that the government protect my right to own multiple firearms one or more of which might fall into the wrong hands?” See how enlightening this is? In the first place, I don’t demand that the government protect my right. I have individual freedoms and the only power the government has, according to the Constitution, is the power that “We the People” grant it. The Second Amendment guarantees my individual right to keep and bear arms—plural—and that right shall not be infringed. What is so difficult about that? But even if the Second Amendment had not been written, the Founding Fathers believed that every free man and woman had a God-ordained right to protect their life. The Second Amendment merely put in writing what the Framers believed was granted by the Creator.

Finally—whew! I’m getting worn out by all these solutions!—, Rev. Lewis asks, “Why would the NRA stand against a proposed law in the Commonwealth of PA that would require me to report if my gun is lost or stolen?” Conventional wisdom might answer, “I don’t know.” One of the best ways for Rev. Lewis to get an answer to his question is to call or email the NRA and ask them. One “solution” might be that the NRA believes that the government interferes too much in our lives already. This would be in keeping with the views of economists Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell along with a host of others who believe that less government is a better solution than more government.

Perhaps Rev. Lewis is unaware that historically when governments have required such close tabs and registration, bad things have happened, i.e., they know exactly where you and your guns are located. Free men and women don’t need or desire that type of government intrusion. On the other hand, doesn’t common sense dictate that if a registered firearm is stolen from a law-abiding citizen’s house that the citizen will, voluntarily and without coercion, report this to the authorities? Underlying Rev. Lewis’s article is a basic distrust of law-abiding citizens to do the right thing without government coercion; intervention. In other words, Rev. Lewis favors the criminal and suspects the law-abiding citizen who has passed a comprehensive background check to obtain the firearm. The rules of engagement are already loopy enough without adding to the problem.

Our dear social engineers in California have decided that no semi-automatic handgun magazine may contain more than 10 rounds. A handgun purchased illegally may have a dual-stack magazine holding up to 20 rounds. The social engineers want the homeowner to call out in the night, “I’m armed! I have a gun.” Unfortunately, no such legislation has been passed requiring the intruder to announce that he has a gun. You may only shoot the intruder if he is in your house. If he’s outside, peering in the window, you may not shoot him. Of course, he can shoot you if you come outside. The whole politically correct thing is just dopey. And it’s worsened by articles like Rev. Lewis wrote that are biased and based on ignorance rather than fact.

Non-Lethal One More Time

I’ll end by returning to the notion of non-lethal assault prevention. I do this because Rev. Lewis does it at the end of his article. Under ideal circumstances, non-lethal weapons can be very helpful—if the victim is alone and accosted by only one person. If I’m with my family and my wife and children cannot run fast, non-lethal force is less of a viable option. If I’m in my home, I might have only 1.5-2 minutes to evacuate my house, wake the neighbors, and call 911 before my assailant is back on his feet. If I live in a rural area, flight, taser, or pepper spray may be a very poor choice. Viewing the carnage of dead bodies, the investigating officer might say, “He chose poorly.”

Rev. Lewis forgets two major considerations in his Polly Anna-esque article: adrenalin and the will to live. If I awake from a deep sleep because of a noise and believe there is an intruder in my home, I’m going to get an enormous adrenalin rush that will almost completely shut down my fine motor abilities. If Rev. Lewis wants to go hand-to-hand with someone who might be armed, that is his call. In such a hand-to-hand scenario, I don’t want a 23-22 squeaker in the last two seconds. That might be fun to watch in the NFL, but in this scenario I want to win 100-0. What Rev. Lewis is really doing is irresponsibly suggesting that Christians put themselves at great risk for the sake of the bad guy. He ought to be ashamed of himself.

The article would have been greatly enhanced if Rev. Lewis had merely stated that he is anti-gun and a pacifist. I wonder if he’s for women in combat too? Once again, the PCA label is attached to an article whose author is uninformed on basically every point he raises. He poses questions, but never answers them directly. It’s my hope that Rev. Lewis will retract this article and apologize to his congregation for such a poorly thought out piece. It’s still a free country—at least until America foolishly elects a Marxist and the whole country embraces Socialism—and Rev. Lewis is free to express his thoughts, but maybe next time he’ll engage his mind before his fingers move across the keyboard.

[1] John Lott, Jr., The Bias Against Guns, Why Almost Everything You’ve Heard about Gun Control is Wrong, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2003), p. 30. See also, by the same author, More Guns Less Crime, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 200o).


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lies and Marxism in the 2008 Election

What is the Lowest Common Denominator?
There are some pressing questions in the 2008 presidential race. What I'm talking about are not the usual garden-variety ones that the talking heads blather on about endlessly, but rather some more fundamental issues. I do not believe that it's saying too much to assert that depending on the outcome of this election, we may be bidding farewell to America as we know it.
There are already some prime indicators that if Obama wins we'll be rushing headlong into a deep, deep recession, if not an outright depression. I'll get to more of that in a moment, but just for starters, Mr. Obama has promised somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 trillion in new spending, plus universal health care. If the latter is passed, there will be no turning back, and America will join the graveyard of other countries offering "free health care" (does anyone really believe this myth?) that is exorbitantly expensive. We'll also touch on the notion of the uninsured in a moment.
Key questions in this race are the following: How much Socialism is America willing to accommodate? and How many lies will Americans believe? This is the first election in my lifetime where the only two choices are a Democrat (McCain) and a Marxist (Obama). Are the American people really so stupid that desire to rush into a system that has failed and failed miserably wherever it has been implemented? Only time will tell. There's more than just a touch of irony in the fact that Sweden, which for the longest time has been the "Poster Boy" for Socialism, is moving away and looking more to a free market economy. Indicators of Sweden's shift can be found in its recent slashing of corporate income tax rates and cutting taxes, essentially giving the citizens huge break in an otherwise stagnant economy.

The Redistribution of Wealth
In a recent interview with a plumber in the state of Ohio who was lamenting Obama's proposed tax burden, Obama said, "It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance for success too.... I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody." (Emphasis added.) This is textbook Marxism. Spread the wealth around? I understand language like this when it comes from the former Soviet Union, Communist China, or Cuba, but not here. It's unconscionable that there was not a huge hue and cry from outraged Americans. Rather, among the chronically apathetic, the response is, "Oh. Spread the wealth around. Yeah. That's cool--as long as it doesn't cost me anything and I get a free ride."
This is the same crowd who no longer believes that hard work, initiative, expertise, and excellence should be rewarded. They're the whining, "I'm bored" crowd, who wouldn't know an honest day's work if it hit them in the face. Their unspoken motto is: Take the efforts of the talented, motivated, and hard-working and give them to those who don't work hard at all. Of course, economically this leads to a decrease in productivity, loss of jobs, and a further stagnation in the economy.
Taxing the wealthy sounds good to a Marxist. What people forget is that the top 5% already pay over 50% of the taxes and are the ones who actually provide the jobs. They are the engine of a free market. If you tax them more, as Obama intends to do, they will lay off workers, productivity will decrease, and the economy will suffer even more. We act like the "burger flipper" has the same status as the person pouring venture capital into a business. They both are created in the image of God, but there is a far, far cry between the one who hires more people and the entry level person, who shows up for his or her job. If Obama injects more government into the American economy, which, by the way, he has promised he will do, then how does he expect the free market to work so that it will once again kick start this recession? The short answer is: it cannot and will not. Indeed, as I mentioned earlier, if Obama gets his way, this may very well be the end of America as we know it and everyone will suffer drastically.

Who's Your Representative?
Far too many in this country have no clue who their representative is. That explains, in part, why so few have contacted their representative and complained about the burden that Washington has laid on the American taxpayer. The grand total--to date--is $1.45 trillion. Has anyone from Washington knocked on your door or called you on the phone and asked you how you'd like to have that money spent? Of course not. You are not smart enough to know the answers to tough questions like that. You need simply to leave it up to those who created this big mess in our government to now come in and fix it. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Christopher Dodd and Barney Frank--both Democrats--are complicit in receiving big, big money from both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Does that bother you at all? Does it incense you that they are hanging around getting even richer all the while pretending to be helping get out of the mess they helped create? There is something dreadfully wrong with that picture.
One of the reasons you might not know (or care) who your representative is, is because she or he is not representing you and doesn't care to represent you or your interests in the least. The Framers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights intended that the total population of Congressional districts was never to exceed 50 to 60,000. Did you know that? It's true. Want to take a guess at what the current average proportion is? 700,000. They don't know you and really don't care if you voted for or against them. So we have 437 representatives ostensibly representing our desires and views. Yeah, right. They don't ask us how we'd like to spend the bailout money or even if we wanted the bailout. No, it's a Washington thing.

ACORN is Nuts
Mr. Obama is in bed with ACORN. For him to say that he isn't goes beyond equivocation; it is simply a lie. He gave $800,000 to an organization that is being sued all over the place for voter fraud and fraudulently receiving funds from American taxpayers. And guess what the paradigm for voter fraud is doing? It's out recruiting for Obama. Surprise, surprise! It will take years to sort out all the names of the dead that appear on their list. I'm reminded of the Loretta Sanchez (D) election out here in California where the dead and illegals voted early and voted often. All this Democrat nonsense sounds like something you'd hear about in the Third World dictatorship, but not the America I know.
Along with the ACORN debacle, Mr. Obama has many very questionable, at best, relationships starting with Jeremiah Wright, Father (?) Pfleger, Bill Ayers, and Bernadine Dorn. Look, I'm a pastor and I guarantee you that anyone that has attended Grace Presbyterian Church knows what I believe on a number of topics. We have only existed 15 years, but those sitting under my preaching weekly know what I believe and can articulate it. Someone who has attended a month can articulate what I believe theologically and what GPC stands for--and won't stand for. Either Mr. Obama is incredibly thick theologically or he slept through Wright's rantings. Why should he get a pass on that? Why should he get a pass on lying about knowing Bill Ayers? Why should he get a pass for not placing his hand over his heart for the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem? This man wants to be my President? The President of the United States? Why should he be given a pass when he slurs gun owners and religious people, suggesting that they are rednecks? Isn't is amazing that he knows what these people are like and what they think, but doesn't have a clue what Jeremiah Wright said?
So what is the Democrat answer? Make a porn film about Sarah Palin (Nailin' Palin) under the guidance of that paragon of virtue, Larry Flynt. This is the best they have to offer; this is the best they can do. And what makes it even more tragic is that so-called evangelicals are going to vote for him. Evangelicals, who claim to have a high view of the sanctity of life, are going to vote for a man who repeatedly has voted in favor (not "present") in partial birth abortion. Unbelievable. Those "evangelicals" ought to be ashamed, but they won't be. After all, when you're bright evangelical green, doctrinally illiterate, and out to save the world from global poverty, you hardly have time for insignificant issues like abortion. Well, excuse me, I must attend my yoga lessons at the local community church.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

The PCA and Female Deaconesses (IV)

Noted Women Who Helped
Dr. Tim Keller wrote an article in the Fall 2008 issue of byFaith magazine entitled “The Case for Commissioning (Not Ordaining) Deaconesses.” After giving the reader some personal history, Dr. Keller embarks on a very brief description of the woman Phoebe mentioned in Romans 16:1. He pointed out that the word diakonos, which appears in Romans 16:1 can be translated as deacon (cf. Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8). This is true, of course, but Dr. Keller doesn’t tell the reader that in the case of Philippians 1:1 the word translated deacons (diakónois) is a noun, dative, masculine plural and in 1 Timothy 3:8 (Diakónous) is a noun, accusative, masculine plural. In addition, Dr. Keller cites scholars Thomas Schreiner, John Piper, and Robert Strimple as proponents of the view that Phoebe was a deaconess. That’s nice, but both Schreiner and Piper, whom I admire, are Baptists and Bob Strimple is in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Moreover, there are others in the OPC who do not adhere to Strimple’s findings. It’s a moot point, ultimately, because Dr. Keller is P.C.A. None of the other aforementioned brothers has the same standards as are required of pastors in the P.C.A.
In an attempt to bolster his case, Dr. Keller also cites Tabitha (Dorcas) in Acts 9:36-40 and the women who served Jesus’ disciples as they traveled (Luke 8:2-3). The Acts text makes no mention of Tabitha being a deaconess. It simply states that she was full of good works and acts of charity. Simon Kistemaker, for example, in his commentary on the book of Acts doesn’t even hint that Tabitha might have been a deaconess, simply because the text gives no impetus in that direction.[1] I. Howard Marshall states, regarding Tabitha’s attributes of good works and charitable actions, that they “were highly esteemed Jewish virtues which continued to be practised by Christians.”[2] John Calvin mentions only that Tabitha “was Christ’s disciple, and that she approved her faith with good works.”[3] The same holds true for F.W. Grosheide’s De Handelingen der Apostelen.
In his second main point, as I mentioned, Dr. Keller also cites Luke 8:2-3. He wants to translate verse 3 literally as the women were “deaconing them out of their own means.” (p. 19.) In a very broad sense, this is somewhat legitimate since there is a word from which we get our word deacon (diēkónoun). In reality, Dr. Keller’s translation clouds the issue rather than clarifies it. The word is taken from the Greek verb diakonéō, which also means “to wait on someone at table” (cf. Luke 12:37; John 12:2), “to serve (generally)” (Matt. 4:11, Mark 10:45; Acts 19:22; 2 Tim. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:12), “to wait on” (Matt. 27:55), “to take care of” (Acts. 6:2; 2 Cor. 3:3), “to help or support” (Matt. 25:44; Luke 8:3; Heb. 6:10), or “to serve as a deacon” (1 Tim. 3:10, 13). In the last two verses, the words apply to the biblical qualifications of male deacons. In Dr. Leon Morris’s commentary on Luke, he makes no mention of the women “deaconing” Jesus and his disciples. He simply translates that these women “provided” for them. He further adds that the women “responded in love and gratitude for what Jesus had done for them.[4] Dr. Keller gives the impression with his translation that the women who provided for Jesus out of their means were, in some sense, commissioned deaconesses, which is highly misleading.
He then goes on to say, “Given the examples of Phoebe, Tabitha, and the order of widows, it is not surprising that the early church developed an order of deaconesses quite early. Pliny the Younger, just a decade after the death of the apostle John (his letter is dated 106 A.D.), attests to the existence of deaconesses in the early church.” (Keller, 19.) To what is Dr. Keller referring here? The case that he has built thus far has been, at very best, shaky, depending on a tweak here and making Romans 16:1 say something that most of the reliable translations don’t agree that it says.

Pliny’s Letter to Trajan
So now we’re outside of Scripture and examining Pliny’s Letter to Trajan (circa 113 A.D.) It contains an early possible reference to a woman deacon. The letter is not from Christian literature, but from a secular source.[5] Moreover, during the time of the letter of Pliny the Younger to Trajan persecution of the Christian Church by the Roman government “was chronic and persistent.”[6] According to the Romans, Christian churches were not legally authorized, “and the Roman authorities, always suspicious of organizations which might prove seditious, regarded them with jaundiced eye. Christians were haled [sic] before the courts as transgressors of laws against treason, sacrilege, membership in a foreign cult, and the practice of magic.”[7]
Already, it appears that whatever explanations of the Christian faith are going to come out of this correspondence are going to be distorted. Latourette adds, “Correspondence which has survived between the Emperor Trajan (reigned A.D. 98-117) and Pliny the Younger, who was serving as imperial legate in Bithynia, in the later Asia Minor, appears to indicate that Christianity was officially proscribed, that if Christians recanted they were to be spared, but that if they persisted in their faith they were to be executed.”[8]
I have given this background precisely because Dr. Keller claims that the early church had a rather developed office of deaconess based on a letter between Pliny and Trajan. One can only wonder why Dr. Keller chose this example. Let me explain what I mean. There is a Latin text that is at the center of this controversy.[9] One translation of Pliny’s supposed meaning goes like this: “I believed it all the more necessary to worm the truth out of two servants (ancillis) who were called deaconesses (quae ministrae dicebantur).” Here’s the kicker: Bithynia was a Greek-speaking region. Justin Martyr had written something somewhat similar in 150 A.D., but his writing only referred to male deacons. The Roman Catholic scholar, Aimé Martimort comments, “The similarity here is striking, but it refers only to the words themselves. Justin expressly attributes to deacons a liturgical role in the distribution of the Eucharist, but we know absolutely nothing, from Pliny or any other witnesses, about what the role of function might have been of these ministrae in the community of Bithynia.”[10]
Martimort gives us this important consideration: “Thus, to translate this word simply as ‘deaconess’ is certainly to force the sense of the text unduly and to get caught in a plain anachronism.”[11] As far as the entire weight of this particular letter is concerned, A. Kalsbach (Altkirchliche Einrichtung) states, “The remark [of Pliny] is just as insufficient and indeterminant as is Rom 16:1-2.” (p. 16. Emphasis added.) In a similar vein, R. Gryson (Ministère des femmes) issues this worthwhile warning: “We are permitted on the basis of the title given to these ministrae to associate them with ‘the women’ who are themselves associated with deacons in 1 Timothy 3:11, but in so doing we must not lose sight of the fact that this association remains a very fragile and contingent one.” (p. 39.)
All of this begs the question: why does Dr. Keller make the statement that Pliny’s letter attests to the existence of deaconesses in the early church, when he knows everything I’ve just written? Perhaps he did it out of time and space constraints, but it was merely another flimsy straw in an already precarious building. Rather than using this example, it would have been better, I think, for Dr. Keller to have gone directly to 1 Timothy 3, which according to him is “the most compelling biblical case for a recognized body of ‘deaconing women.’” (p. 19.)Lord willing, we’ll take a look at that next time.

[1] Simon Kistemaker, Acts, in the series New Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), pp. 360-365.
[2] I. Howard Marshall, The Acts of the Apostles, in the series The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, (R.V.G. Tasker [ed.]), (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 19922), p. 179.
[3] John Calvin, The Acts of the Apostles, Vol. 18, (Henry Beveridge [ed.]), p. 397.
[4] Leon Morris, Luke, in the series Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 19942), p. 165.
[5] Brian Schwertley, A Historical and Biblical Examination of Women Deacons, (Southfield, MI: Reformed Witness, 1998), p. 3.
[6] Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, (NY: Harper & Row, 1953), p. 84.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] In the letter, Pliny the Younger pointed out that in order to obtain exact information on what he regarded as the sect of Christians, “quo magis necessarium credidi ex duabus ancillis, quae ministrae dicebantur, quid esset veri everything per tormenta quaerere.”
[10] Aimé Georges Martimort, Deaconesses, An Historical Study, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), p. 26.
[11] Ibid. Emphasis added.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Should Christians Be Pro-Gun? (II)

A Passionate Anti-Gun Stance
I am responding to Rev. Lance Lewis, PCA pastor at Christ Liberation Fellowship in Philadelphia. He relatively recently (9.15.2008) posted some comments on his blog site entitled “Pro-Life and Pro-Glock?” I called Rev. Lewis’s church office and got his voice mail. I left a message and my phone number if he wanted to get back to me and offered to email him what I’m writing about his blog. To this point, he has not returned my call. I want to continue in this issue responding to precisely why Rev. Lewis has such—and I use his terms here—a passionate anti-gun stance. Therefore, without further ado let’s unpack Rev. Lewis criteria for being anti-gun.

His fourth heading deals with his passionate anti-gun stance. He begins, “I do not believe Christians should support, own, or encourage the use of these weapons of individual destruction.” The most obvious question to Rev. Lewis is: why? Ultimately, what Rev. Lewis does is to manifest how ill informed he is on this matter. For instance, he opines, “I realize that the Supreme Court recently ruled that citizens have a constitutional right to bear handguns.” What!? I suppose Rev. Lewis is referring to the recent Hellar v. Washington D.C. decision, but he misses the mark here—horribly! The Supreme Court decision had to do with the lifting of the handgun ban that had been unconstitutionally foisted upon D.C.’s citizens. But here’s the important point: that landmark decision did not rule that citizens—of D.C. or anywhere else in America—have a constitutional right to bear handguns. I would further argue that the Second Amendment only put into writing what the Founding Fathers believed was a God-given right to free men.

You would think that Rev. Lewis might provide us with some substantive reasons and statistics concerning why he believes Christians should not own guns, but he doesn’t. Apparently, the best he can do is to misinterpret Hellar v. D.C. and give us his personal opinion (“I simply disagree with that decision as I don’t believe it promotes the culture of life that we as believers should seek to cultivate in this country.”) Rev. Lewis has not even begun to tell us why gun ownership promotes or does not promote a particular “culture of life.” He might take comfort in the fact that yesterday, the day before that, and the day before that, and on and on, 66 million gun owners neither murdered nor killed anyone. The (incorrect) insinuations are that non-Christian and Christian gun owners are the problem and adhere to a culture of death! This casts great aspersion on law-abiding, upright citizens, and suggests that they are a kind of less sophisticated, Neo-Neanderthal, redneck sub-culture.

In point of fact, however, this perception is contrary to reality. Statistics, which Rev. Lewis seems to want to ignore, direct our attention to a quite different scenario. For example, when the National Association of Chiefs of Police conducted a mail survey of 15,000 sheriffs and police chiefs in 1996, “93 percent said they approved of law-abiding citizens arming themselves for self-defense.”[1] So who actually owns guns in the United States? It is indisputable that “In a nation where at least half of the households have a gun, it would be difficult to regard gun ownership as an unusual or deviant status.”[2]

After declaring that he does not believe that Christians should support, own, or encourage the use of these weapons of individual destruction—note the tendentious language—the Rev. proceeds to his next thesis in this section, namely that “The handguns manufactured and sold in this country today are designed and built for one purpose and one purpose only; namely the destruction of human life.” (Emphasis his.) Once again, we are faced with an unsubstantiated statement. Rev. Lewis’s modus operandi appears to be truth by declaration. I don’t know who he’s been reading or where he’s getting his information, but what he just said sounds very much like Pete Shields’s book Guns Don’t Die—People Do.[3] Shields argues that guns are “good for only one thing—to kill.”[4] Assuming for a moment that Shields is correct—which he isn’t—then his argument cuts both ways. That is to say, “whatever technical attributes guns have that make them suitable for committing crimes necessarily also make them useful for a variety of lawful applications.”[5]

But beyond that, let’s respond to Rev. Lewis’s thesis about the reason handguns are manufactured. First, there are folks who enjoy hunting with handguns. That is their primary use for the weapon. Second, a number of people buy handguns not to destroy human life, but for self-defense. These law-abiding citizens hope and pray that they’ll never have to use the gun in self-defense, but if the occasion presents itself, they are prepared to defend themselves and their loved ones. Statistics point us to the reality that handguns are used 2-3 million times a year in America to stop violent crimes. In the overwhelming preponderance of these events no shots are ever fired and no one is killed. The showing of a gun is, in the majority of cases, sufficient to send the assailant packing. No harm; no foul. We need to keep in mind that many criminals are cowardly thugs and seek weak (hopefully unarmed) victims. At the sight of a gun, they turn tail and run. Did you ever wonder why criminals don’t attempt to rob police officers? It’s because they are clearly armed. All this has totally escaped Rev. Lewis. He concludes, therefore, “Thus in my view they (guns) have no place and can serve no constructive purpose in a society that strives to value life.” Apparently, he doesn’t understand that an armed society is a polite society. (In subsequent issues, I will return to the blatant misconceptions that many people hold about guns and their applications, but for now I want to proceed with Rev. Lewis’s article.)

But what about automobiles and swimming pools, both of which take their death tolls yearly? Rev. Lewis retorts, “A handgun is not like an automobile. A reckless individual can misuse a car ending someone’s life. Yet the manufacturer did not make the vehicle with the intent that it would be utilized in this way.” That’s very helpful and explains why I have so much difficulty driving my gun to the church every day. Rev. Lewis’s explanation has some weight, but that does not rule out the fact that over 6,000 teenagers leave home every year in our country, never to return home alive. This explanation from Rev. Lewis also elucidates why the military issues long guns and handguns to the troops and not cars. It simply proves the time-honored adage: never take a car to a gun fight.

The Founding Fathers and Framers of the Constitution thought differently about the matter. Gordon Liddy writes, “As former English colonials, they were, of course, particularly aware of the history of England, a history that included a king’s attempt at gun control which reads like recent acts of Congress—and which cost that king his head. Those who believed in God understood that the right of the individual to keep and bear arms is a God-given right—a moral obligation, in fact, because God, having given us our lives and blessed the unions that resulted in our families, holds us accountable for preserving those lives. Even those Founding Fathers who did not believe in God understood the right of the individual to keep and bear arms to be an inalienable natural right.”[6]

It is important to note that “All of the Framers of the Constitution understood…that the right of individuals to keep and bear arms preexisted, and existed independently of, any government they could or would create.”[7] Richard Henry Lee, who was a main player in the Bill of Rights said, “To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.”[8] Patrick Henry not only said, “Give me liberty or give me death,” but also stated, “The great object is, that every man be armed.” As to the perennial “militia” question in the Second Amendment, George Mason affirmed the following: “Who are the Militia? They consist now of the whole people.”[9]

Rev. Lewis continues to move farther and farther afield with his statements. If handguns serve no constructive purpose in society, should we take them from law enforcement officers? If Rev. Lewis answers in the negative about taking handguns away from law enforcement officers, then who in our society will be armed? The short answer is: the cops and the criminals. In other words, law-abiding citizens will be fair game for every criminal because they’ll know that the populace has been disarmed. The disarming of the public has been a major ploy of every dictator including Hitler, Stalin, Castro, and Amim. Did it ever occur to Rev. Lewis that law-abiding citizens are not the problem regarding guns? Is the prevention of crime by law enforcement or a private citizen a “constructive purpose”? If an armed woman is able to fend off a rapist with a handgun, is that a “constructive purpose”? If an armed father is able to stop a child predator from sexually assaulting his child, might that qualify as a “constructive purpose”?

I would argue that it is precisely because we value life as Christians that we take a realistic view of these matters of self-defense. Christians desire a peaceable life, yet, they understand (because of total depravity) that there are people on God’s green earth, who are not peaceable nor do they want a peaceable life. Rev. Lewis, as a PCA pastor, would do well to refresh his memory on what the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms say about preserving life (our own included) as well as taking it lawfully.

Deeper Questions
Rev. Lewis takes us to his fifth paragraph which is in the form of a question: “This leads me to question how long evangelicals can continue to claim to be both pro-life and pro-Glock?” Then he states, “I don’t believe we can convince those we accuse of promoting the culture of death if we are among the main champions of the latest version of the Saturday night special.” What? In the first place, it is not a foregone conclusion that honest, hard-working Americans who own guns are promoting a culture of death. Perhaps in Rev. Lewis’s mind this is the case, but it should be clear by now that he hasn’t presented us with one fact. Gun owners in America—apart from the criminals that Rev. Lewis keeps trying to protect—do not walk around with a “Wild West” or “Road Rage” mentality. It is more than a substantial stretch to contend that gun owners promote a culture of death. Good grief!

Second, it is crystal clear that Rev. Lewis associates every handgun with a “Saturday night special.” That simply isn’t the case. (I’m assuming that by SNS, Rev. Lewis is not referring to the half-price beer and buffalo wings at Chili’s.) Florida State University criminologist, Gary Kleck, defines a SNS “as small, cheap handguns.”[10] In fact, SNS’s comprise only about 20% of total handgun production.[11] Oh, and by the way, most American handgun owners don’t hold the gun sideways while they shoot either. Someone’s been watching too much TV and too many Hollywood movies.

Third, this is a very disturbing question coming from a man who has finished seminary and is apparently clueless about the substantial differences between being pro-life and pro-gun—SNSs notwithstanding. Typically, the pro-life movement is associated with the protection of the unborn. Pro-lifers believe that abortion is murder, the slaughter of the defenseless, innocent unborn (or partially born) life. Apparently, Rev. Lewis equates abortion and gun ownership. How, I’m not certain, but somehow, by a leap of illogic, he does. One can only guess how he connected those dots.

I have heard secularists use a similar argument with being pro-life and pro-death penalty among Christians. Is Rev. Lewis pro-capital punishment or not? It would be interesting to know. That’s for another time, though. The thread of connection, however, seems to be “death.” Abortion causes death; guns owners possess weapons that are specifically designed for the destruction of human life. If this is what Rev. Lewis is arguing, then he should not expect others to follow this flimsy, fallacious reasoning.

Other comments by Rev. Lewis leave me in a quandary. For example, he asks, “But shouldn’t citizens be able to arm themselves in case the government seeks to overthrow our rights by force?” Well, that is precisely what the Founding Fathers had in mind, isn’t it? Thomas Paine said, “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” Jefferson quipped, “The natural progress of things is for government to gain ground and for liberty to yield.” In other words, the Founding Fathers had a healthy distrust for government and desired that the citizens be armed for their own protection. So the short answer to Rev. Lewis’s question is: yes. The Founding Fathers distrusted government and had seen, first hand, how oppressive England had been and how it attempted to disarm the citizenry. Both England and the colonists understood that an unarmed man was a slave to the whim of government. Rev. Lewis, as an American, should know this!In our next installment, we’ll look at what types of guns the Founding Fathers thought the citizens should have. This will take us into the wonderful world of long guns and assault rifles. As just a hint, I will point out that the Founding Fathers wanted the citizens to have guns that were on par with those of standing armies. Stay tuned.

[1] Richard Poe, The Seven Myths of Gun Control, (Roseville, CA: Forum, 2001), p. 158.

[2] Gary Kleck, Point Blank, Guns and Violence in America, (NY: Aldine de Gruyter, 1991), p. 21.

[3] Pete Shields, Guns Don’t Die—People Do, (NY: Arbor House, 1981).

[4] Ibid., 38, 46.

[5] Kleck, PB, 14.

[6] G. Gordon Liddy, When I was a Kid, This was a Free Country, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2002), pp. 19-20.

[7] Ibid., 20. Emphasis added.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 21.

[10] Kleck, PB, 85.

[11] Ibid.