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.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Arrival of the Evangelical Left

Poster Boys and Liberal Theologians

Mark Tooley of The Weekly Standard wrote an article on Donald Miller of Blue Like Jazz fame. In case you’re not one of the Emergent church movement’s “initiated,” Blue Like Jazz is The Shack lite. Well, maybe not quite that bad, but it is truly a pitiful apologetic for the Christian faith. What rubs salt in the wound is the fact that Campus Crusade for Christ spent a ton of money placing copies of BLJ in the packets for incoming freshmen on college campuses.

Great! That’s just what we need. A lion’s share of these kids are just coming out of public schools (Note to parents: Send your kids to Caesar and you will get Romans back! And, please, spare me the totally specious “They’re there to be salt and light” fiasco.) and now they’re being thrown to liberal tenured ideologues and instead of something truly solid, the freshmen are given more fluff. But I digress.

In case you missed the invocation at the 2008 Democratic Convention, it was delivered by Miller, who also actively campaigned for Mr. O’Bama. Some might be asking themselves why a Christian would actively campaign for a man who has a 100% approval rating from Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and every other pro-abortion group on the planet. That’s a good question. Miller’s reply, according to Tooley’s article went like this: “Barack is the only candidate willing to talk about his faith in Jesus.” It must be nice to be on a first name basis with the President. It still remains a mystery to some of us how Mr. O’Bama could sit for twenty years under the preaching of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and not know that the man is an advocate of the kind of “liberation theology” that liberates no one because it is Marxist. Rev. Wright parrots James Cone and Gustavo Gutierrez. It is also a bit of an enigma why the President has not found time to attend worship since his inauguration. He must be too busy talking about his faith. As a matter of fact, those of us on the Right—as well as those on the Left—would be hard pressed to indicate when Mr. O’Bama has made serious reference to his faith since being in office.

Miller’s further explanation stated that he supported Barack “because he is my Christian brother and other Christians are rejecting him.” I’m not certain what that is supposed to mean, but there are others who claim to be Christians that I think are all wet and are basically biblically illiterate. Names like Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, John Kerry, and Ted Kennedy come to mind. Oh yeah, I almost forgot George Bush’s statement about Muslims being saved. Add him to the list.

One of Miller’s big hang ups with conservatives is that they are/were parrots for the GOP. Well, that’s not good. Seriously. One has to wonder if being a parrot for the Left is any better or more acceptable though. On a more mundane note (Miller and his ilk find crass language cutting edge), Miller complains that Republicans “did not give a crap about the causes of Christ.” And does Miller want us now to believe that Democrats do? They must be using a kind of reverse logic, because a huge number of those who vote Democrat do not attend church at all. One might conclude from this fact that Democrats care little about the causes of Christ either. Admittedly, some do, but certainly Miller’s accusation is just as true—if not more true—about the Democrats as it is the Republicans.

Miller seems impervious to his own internal contradictions. Here’s a case in point: He quipped, “I just felt like in order to be part of the family, I had to think George W. Bush was Jesus.” Right. Most of us in the conservative camp have that one figured out. We’re just waiting for those who voted for O’Bama to discover that he’s really not the Messiah. There’s a point where Miller and I agree: our dislike of the politics of John McCain. It was embarrassing that McCain was the best the Republican Party could trot out. There were a number of us who believed that there was a viable candidate in the last race and it was Sarah Palin. The manner in which the Left vilified her gave me the impression that she was good. She wasn’t a socialist, was for closed borders to protect our security, was pro-life, pro-death penalty, a fiscal conservative, a good shot, pro-Second Amendment, and was almost as pretty as Janet Reno, Madeline Albright, Cindy Sheehan, and Helen Thomas. She stood by her pregnant daughter, her youngest son, and her husband.

But young church-goers are less enchanted with Republicans and more in favor of the ideas and ideologies of the Democrats. Are we surprised? Where to begin? Let me start with mom and dad, who happily were pleased to be entertained to death at what passed as “worship,” never thinking that Johnnie and Mary just might need a little catechism to help them understand the Word of God. Dad and mom did little or nothing at home during the week, thereby passing no spiritual legacy on to themselves or their family. These same biblically illiterate young people, who were Ignatius the Youth Leader knockoffs or had Mr. Tattoo or Mr. Slime as their leaders, heard lots of “Christian Rock,” but what they received as a biblical worldview was non-existent. Are we surprised that their spiritual brains are mush? Really, what do we expect?

Back in the day, 1545 to be exact, John Calvin wrote this to the reader of his new Geneva Catechism: “What we set before you, therefore, is nothing else than the use of things which from ancient times were observed among Christians, and which has never been neglected except when the Church has been wholly corrupted.” What the old 500-year-old boy was saying is that the norm in the Church was not “programs” and “entertainment,” but rather catechizing the congregation. There is a clear reference to the Roman Catholic Church and its failure to teach and equip its members, but there is a broader, stinging accusation leveled at our modern evangelical churches as well. In Calvin’s view, a “corrupt” church is one that does not preach, teach, and equip its people, starting with the young children.

This is not what Miller has in mind, though. He now attends a “socially conscious church in Seattle.” Ah! There are the magic words: socially conscious. Of course, any student of history and of the Reformation will tell you that the Reformers were very socially conscious and had scriptural reasons why they were that way. The early Puritans built universities (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and a host of others), hospitals, orphanages, as well as providing for the poor and needy. So exactly what kind of social consciousness is Miller talking about? In all likelihood, it’s the Social Gospel nonsense of Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, and other Emergent church movement gurus. Reading Wallis’s and McLaren’s “ethics” books, you have to laugh and wonder if anyone takes the slipshod or non-existent exegesis they pretend to do seriously. Apparently, Miller does.

But Miller is a notch above the rest of us. He wants to reach the post-modernist. In fact, Miller believes that the Emergent church is “trying to transcend polemics and speak to post-modernity.” Really? What’s the message? Let me put this in a contemporary context. I just returned from the 37th General Assembly of my church affiliation. Part of the assembly was spent discussing the issue of deaconesses. It was proffered that we need to address the culture and manifest that we are not Neo-Neanderthals. You mean we’re not? Anyway, does the PCA really and truly think that the Neo-Barbaric, Neo-Pagan society is going to think we’re doing good work if we have deaconesses? If I were a Neo-Barbarian, I’d want to know why the PCA doesn’t have women Elders and Pastors. Deaconesses are small (feminine) potatoes. Miller doesn’t get it that there will be very little that will appease the Neo-Barbarian except full and complete capitulation, and the Emergent church movement has a good leg up on that already. McLaren, Wallis, and the other non-leader leaders are willing to jettison fundamental Christian doctrines for their less that veiled universalism.

In our next installment, we’ll go into Miller’s assessment of abortion and same-sex marriage. The Evangelical Left is more than a little ambivalent on these issues and are more than willing to minimize them. For anyone to make such an assertion is a clear example that their biblical discernment is in the toilet. I will demonstrate that in point of fact Miller and others like him land with both feet firmly implanted in liberal theology, the Social Gospel, and a full-orbed embracing of the views of the Left—sometimes the far left. It is disconcerting that there are so few with biblical discernment and maturity these days, but what do we expect?


Thursday, June 04, 2009

A Life and Death Issue: Universal Health Care (IV)

The Rule and Not the Exception

One of my good friends from Canada emailed me recently recounting the excellent health care service that an acquaintance of his received. I have no reason to doubt what he said. Moreover, while playing squash with my family physician at the YMCA in Toronto, I tore the meniscus in my right knee. It was painful and thanks to him calling a friend, I had my knee “scoped” the next day. My point here is that there will always be exceptions to the rule. For whatever reason, some people will get good care, while others go wanting.

For every story that my friend sent me, or my story for that matter, there are other stories about socialized medicine. Besides, we need to keep in mind that we are talking about socialized medicine which means that this form of medicine is not provided in a free market environment, which further means that there are all kinds of economic implications and applications attached. There are a number of serious economic problems with socialized medicine, but I just want to take few moments and touch on a few of them.

From the Hippocratic Oath to the Vet’s Office

This probably sounds like a stretch, but stay with me on this one. The name, Dr. Hans Truffer from Switzerland, in all likelihood, does not ring a bell. Dr. Truffer is a longtime opponent of socialized medicine—for a number of valid reasons. Dr. Bill Gairdner quotes him in his book The Trouble With Canada to this end: “The real danger of collectivized state medicine is that the patient becomes a tool in the hands of the holders of power, and is dispossessed of the protection afforded by Hippocratic principles.”[1] Truffer goes on to explain that what socialized medicine offers is quite often “a veterinary ethic, which consists in caring for the sick animal, not in accordance with its specific needs, but according to the dictates of its master and owner, the person responsible for meeting any costs incurred.”[2]

This is a good example regarding socialized medicine. Our family owns a wonderful German Shepherd named Hosanna. The whole family loves her dearly, but if she were ever diagnosed with a debilitating or terminal illness, we would have to make choices and if the expenditure of large amounts of our discretionary income were involved, we might have to choose to put her down; to euthanize her. She would have no say in the matter.

In a similar vein, socialized medicine, although it pretends to be the compassionate thing to do, actually dehumanizes those in the system in the end. We will touch on this notion more fully in a moment (the “triage” mentality), but for the present it should be duly noted that just as an animal’s medical well being is controlled by others, so, in the end, is the case with socialized medicine, where ultimately the government decides.

In America, citizens became part owner of GM (Government Motors; not General Motors anymore) last Monday. Well, not really, but that’s what we’ve been led to believe. President O’Bama promised us that the government will be in and out of GM in a heartbeat. Of course, no one in their right mind believes that. What reasonable Americans anticipate is a new line of environmentally gentler, kinder, and greener automobiles. We will no longer be able to purchase the automobiles that we want from GM because they will not pass government standards of greenhouse emissions. We “owners” do not even have the opportunity to discuss whether all the “greenie” hoopla about CO2 is valid or junk science. The government and the President seemed convinced that “climate change” is valid so it’s a done deal.

Therefore, the government will dictate how much gas mileage they deem acceptable by their CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards, not to mention their cap-and-trade policies. The “only practical way to meet higher CAFE standards is by the rather low-tech method of reducing car weight. And lighter cars are deadlier cars.”[3] We’re already seeing the disregard for human life in the stupid “Smart Cars” that are dotting our highways. The great advantage of these cars is that they double as a coffin. Once you tangle with a big rig or even a Toyota Camry, your chances of surviving the crash are minimal. In fact, the National Academy of Sciences discovered in 2001 that “the manufacture of smaller, lighter cars in the late 1970s and early ‘80s—partly due to CAFE standards—‘probably resulted in an additional 1,300 to 2,600 traffic fatalities in 1993.’”[4] In addition, consider this: “…USA Today reported in 1999 that its analysis of previously unpublished government data showed that ‘46,000 people have died because of a 1970s-era push for greater fuel efficiency that has led to smaller cars.’”[5]

So what does this have to do with socialized medicine? The short answer is: everything. Just as with nationalized car ownership, the “customer” is given a limited selection, so with government run, operated, and controlled health care. There is a “board” (read: bureaucracy) that will decide what procedures will be covered, for how much, and for whom. In other words, Barney Frank and John Kerry could manage your health care from now on.

Health dies the death (no pun intended) of unintended consequences. For example, in Ontario, Canada (OHIP) if the patient has “means,” he or she might fly to the United States for treatment, knowing that OHIP will reimburse them 90% of out of pocket costs. If, however, you are a foreigner in Canada and offer to pay for the medical treatment yourself, you go to the head of the line, while some Canadians have to wait and some die. Oh, did I mention that foreigners pay double?[6]

The “Triage” Method of Health Care

I remember the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan on the beach in Normandy. The medics were going from soldier to soldier performing triage, which is a French label, derived from the wartime habit of dividing the wounded into three groups: non-death threatening, serious, and hopeless. Medical supplies were doled out in accordance with the nature of the wound(s) sustained.

Those who were in the hopeless category received minimum care and attention. In a very real sense, some kind of triage is inevitable, but it is substantially more likely in a socialized medicine setting that under another system, especially since those who screw up our lives daily—the government—are in charge of socialized systems. I still chuckle when I think that our Congress, many of whom have never had a real job in their lives, are now going to tell the auto industry how it should be run. The same thing, with the necessary changes made, applies to health care.

No matter how wealthy a nation is, there will always be a relative scarcity of available doctors and medicine to contend with. And where medical care is perceived as “free,” which is a total misnomer, there will always have to be a rather strict triage system at play.

Take a Number Please

Bill Gairdner is correct when he writes, “scarcity is inherent in our delivery of medical services. This means that not everyone will be able to get what in a perfect world he might wish to have.”[7] Here is really where socialized medicine begins to break down. The utopia of free medicine has a very harsh and realistic side to it. As much as our egalitarian ideologues want to “level the playing field,” it simply does not happen in socialized medicine. How is that?

Well, the explanation has an economic side to it. In America, most of us are keenly and acutely aware that we are in a recession that threatens to go deeper and deeper daily due to the economic policies our current President has put in place. Yes, I understand that he inherited part of the mess from Bush, but the President cannot keep riding that pony forever. In point of fact, the serious blunders that he has put in place and the exorbitant and extraordinary amounts of U.S. tax dollars poured into the “bailouts,” not to mention the misappropriated or lost U.S. tax dollars for which ACORN cannot account, are clear signs of gross economic mismanagement. Now the President wants to spend even more to implement socialized medicine. If the American people are so foolish to allow this to occur, the nation will be looking at hyper-inflation in the not too distant future. In addition, we will be witnesses to the demise of the greatest health care system in the world.

Allow me to conclude this installment with some positive recommendations. These are far from exhaustive, but certainly constitute, I believe, a vast improvement on our present health care system here in America as well as having the added advantage of stopping socialized medicine in our land.

First, eliminate all unfair tax treatment of health insurance for all Americans, i.e., those who are here legally. Expand choices, coverage possibilities, and personal control over individual health care.

Second, increase affordable options for working families and small businesses to purchase health insurance through a standard tax deduction. That is to say, give legalized citizens a tax break here.

Third, provide cross-state “pooling” to reduce health care costs. For example, if Arizona can provide a cheaper rate for the same coverage in California, allow citizens to purchase health care coverage in another state.

Fourth, emphasize preventative care and reward healthy individuals with extra rate reductions. Make it worth a person’s while to live a healthy lifestyle.

Fifth, give legal citizens the choice to opt out of, say, Medicaid, and to convert their benefits into private health insurance, thus putting them in the driver’s seat and not government.

[1] William Gairdner, The Trouble with Canada, (Toronto: General Paperbacks, 1991), p. 314.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Steve Milloy, Green Hell, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2009), p. 61.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Gairdner, Trouble, 315.

[7] Ibid., 316.