Christianity: Doctrine and Ethics

My Photo
Location: United States

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.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We hope that this letter finds you well, richly blessed by the Lord God, and enjoying a beautiful celebration of His gifts to us in Christ Jesus, the Savior! Abundant grace!

Hans and Blanca celebrated their first anniversary in November and are now rejoicing in the anticipated birth of their first son at the end of April. Hans enjoys his work in law enforcement and Blanca is continuing to work for the next few months until it’s closer to the time the baby comes. Abundant joy!

Nicky spent two solid months in court helping her boss win an important malpractice suit against an erring LA law firm. As a result, her boss was named Orange County Trial Lawyer of the Year. At the awards dinner, she was singled out for her professional excellence. Nicky works and lives to honor God so it was wonderful to see her accomplish so much. After all the hard work, she and a friend took a vacation to Hawaii. Abundant goodness!

Janneke is a steady source of delight in our lives! She is a working girl, a prayer warrior, and a social butterfly. Recently, she suffered from the return of her seizures but with new medication the seizures are now under control again. That was an answer to many prayers. Abundant mercy!

Ron, Jen, and their four are in Canada. Ron is the CEO of the farm now and recently won a national award for some innovative ideas he has implemented in farming. He, Jen, and their children are very active in their church. Laura (21) lives with us during the school year and attends Providence College. Avery (20), Cailen (18), and Cole (17) study and work nearer to home in Canada. We treasure the times we can see them. Abundant faithfulness!

Geoff and Lisa and their eight children (Rachel, Laken, Naya, Sawyer, Noel, Marin, Emma, and Charlotte) moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where Geoff is finishing up his Masters of Divinity and hoping to become a pastor. The Lord has faithfully provided them with a lovely home, a good church community, and many new friends as well. They are very happy and expecting their ninth child in a few weeks. Abundant blessings!

Ron and I are still enjoying California and our beloved congregation at Grace Presbyterian. We’ve both been writing, Ron more than me. I’m beginning a book on marriage and am excited about that. Ron has begun writing a series of ethical commentaries. The first volume on capital punishment was released this past year. His biography of Herman Bavinck, his hero in the faith, is coming out in 2010. I teach a women’s Bible study and am finishing up my term as a national representative for the women in the church in our denomination. Ron enjoys walks with “the other woman in his life”, Hosanna, our German Shepherd. He’s lost 30 pounds eating properly and hiking in the hills with her! Abundant praise!

Our home is far from an “empty nest”. We must have reared “homing pigeons” because the kids, their spouses, and the grandchildren show up on a regular basis for holidays, Sunday afternoons, and family visits. We love it! We have been blessed with visits from friends and family this past year who came from far and near. It’s been great to catch up with all who came. Abundant love!

From all of us to all of you, may the Lord bless you and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you. May He give you His Abundant peace!

Ron and Sally Gleason and the whole Gleason Clan


Friday, December 18, 2009

The New Evangelical Left (XVII)

Environmentalism and Its Worldview

Back in the day—1898 to be precise—Abraham Kuyper delivered the Stone Lectures at Princeton. They were entitled, Calvinism.[1] In the lectures, Kuyper spoke about Calvinism and History, Religion, Statesmanship, Science, Art, and the Future. Those lectures have been translated into English under the titles Lectures on Calvinism or Christianity Total World and Life System.[2] What Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, and the other Neo-Calvinists were concerned to do was to instill a biblical life and worldview in Christians. They desired to encompass all of life under the unity of the Word of God so that Christians could and would speak cogently about God, man, society, knowledge, truth, and ethics.

Today, far too few Christians seem interested in developing such a life and worldview. The preaching—or lack thereof—has not been in that direction either. Rather, modern Christians have been given anecdotes, skits, programs, and a host of other surrogates to cause them to believe that they’ve been “fed” on Saturday, Sunday, or whenever they get around to going to “worship.” This fare has left the modern Christian bereft of not only a biblical life and worldview, but also of the necessary discernment in order to judge wisely about both the doctrinal and ethical issues that confront the United States today. The net result is that many Christians are doctrinally illiterate—and some are proud of it as are their pastors—and ethically inept, undiscerning, which leads them to accept rather unreflectively many of the “issues” that are prevalent in our society today.

Since we have been dealing with the matter of global warming, I want to proceed with this topic and ask what evidence evangelicals have given us that global warming comports with scriptural teaching, is economically sound and feasible, is truly scientific and not tendentiously politico-scientific claptrap, politically correct nonsense, and actually aids the poor, especially those in sub-Saharan and other Third World countries. There are other points that could be raised, but I begin with these primarily because I’m convinced global warming alarmism does not pass muster on any of these points.

One organization that takes a Christian life and worldview seriously and that does outstanding work regarding true, biblical stewardship are the people at Dr. E. Calvin Beisner and others are at the forefront of biblical thinking on this ethical issue. Of particular help is an article that can be downloaded from their web site entitled “A Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor. An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science, and Economics of Global Warming.” A number of evangelical leaders have bought into the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change’s resolution and have actually placed their signatures on the document(s). One can only wonder how many actually read and tested what was said to the best of their ability. Apart from the bad, pseudo-science, or the politically correct agenda, one has to wonder how something that is so New Age and anti-God could be signed by discerning evangelical leaders.

In order to move the discussion forward, I will agree with all of the conclusions drawn by the Cornwall Alliance that has done more extensive research on this issue. Surmising that global warming alarmism will “destroy millions of jobs, cost trillions of dollars in lost economic production, slow, stop, or reverse economic growth, reduce the standard of living for all but the elite few who are well positioned to benefit from laws that unfairly advantage them at the expense of most businesses and all consumers, endanger liberty by putting vast new powers over private, social, and market life in the hands of national and international governments, and will condemn the poor to generations of continued misery characterized by rampant disease and premature death.”[3]

By way of introduction, I’ll spend a few moments speaking to the last point in the quote above. All of us who are truly Christians desire that the poor be spared suffering and misery. None of us desires for the poor to be hungry, disease-ridden, and to die at an early age. I am rather certain that those who signed the IPCC resolution truly and sincerely desire the same thing. And yet even many well-known and accomplished secular scientists have written about how the best intentions of many people are actually harming the poor in sub-Saharan areas rather than helping them. For example, some environmentalist purists do not want developing and Third World countries eating hybrid bio-foods because they are genetically engineered. Never mind that we have been eating the same “Frankenfoods” for years if not decades, the “greenies” would rather have the poor starve than eat food that is not “kosher.”

Much of this problem is political in nature, but a substantial portion of it is connected to environmental theology. Again, even secularist scientists have lamented that much of the global warming alarmism has morphed into a religion. And it is true that there is a definite religion behind the global warming movement. In fact, as many scientists are well aware, if you do not subscribe to the greenie dogma, you will be excommunicated, ostracized. They broker no heterodoxy. Keeping the developing and Third World countries poor and hungry, these purists and do-gooders condemn, by their good intentions, two billion poor in the world to continue to use wood and dung as their primary cooking and heating fuels. This, in turn, causes millions of premature deaths and hundreds of millions of debilitating respiratory diseases every year.

While we recoil in horror at Hitler’s holocaust and his pogroms that murdered approximately six million Jews in World War II and Stalin’s elimination of around ten times that number of his own countrymen, we hardly blink an eye when it comes to the fifty million or so humans who have died from malaria due to the prohibition to use DDT. The Cornwall Alliance has offered an alternative to the IPCC that is less political, more scientific, and substantially more theological. It is called An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, and it, too, may be downloaded from the web site. A more glaring opposition to the U.N.’s IPCC resolution could not be found. It begs the question: with a well thought through evangelical document available to the Christian community, why will Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball, and the other Christian signatories not remove their names and distance themselves from the purely secular IPCC resolution and line up with the EDGW? A summary of the EDGW document goes like this: “In light of all these findings, we conclude that human activity has negligible influence on global temperature, the influence is not dangerous, there is no need to mandate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and environmental and energy policy should remove, not build, obstacles to the abundant, affordable energy necessary to lift the world’s poor out of poverty and sustain prosperity for all.”[4]

More than any of those mentioned above, those at the Cornwall Alliance provide us with valid, biblical reasons why thinking Christians should not sign the IPCC resolution. Cornwall offers us four substantial and substantive reasons why a biblical life and worldview contrasts sharply with the environmentalist worldview. Let’s listen.

First, “Environmentalism sees Earth and its systems as the product of chance and therefore fragile, subject to easy and catastrophic disruption. The Biblical worldview sees Earth and its systems as robust, self-regulating, and self-correcting, not immune to harm, but durable.”[5]

Second, “Environmentalism sees human beings principally as consumers and polluters who are only quantitatively, not qualitatively, different from other species. The Bible sees people as made in God’s image, qualitatively different from all other species, and designed to be producers and stewards who, within a just and free social order, can create more resources than they consume and ensure a clean, healthful, and beautiful environment.”[6]

Third, “Environmentalism tends to view nature untouched by human hands as optimal, while the Bible teaches that it can be improved by wise and holy human action.”[7] A classic example of this is Brian McLaren’s very left-leaning ethics book Everything Must Change. McLaren is a Kool-Aid drinker, who jets all over the world telling everyone who will listen just how bad fossil fuels and greenhouse emissions are.

Finally, “Environmentalism tends to substitute subjective, humanist standards of environmental stewardship for the objective, transcendent standards of divine morality.”[8]

Essentially, what evangelicals have been doing for the longest time is succumbing and acceding to a secular agenda; their repentance seems to be that at least they are concerned about the planet. The short answer is: if Christians are buying into a New Age, nature-worshiping agenda without consulting the Word of God then we are in a world of trouble. This mindless willingness to receive the praises and acclaims of the secularists because we’re accepting their agenda is both short-sighted and dismally wrongheaded. To return to McLaren’s EMC for a moment: to be an evangelical book—and that is what it claims to be—it is short on scriptural references and biblical exegesis of the texts cited is non-existent. Sadly, far too few in the evangelical community either acknowledge that fact or even care.

Where I live in Orange County California, the newspaper to which I subscribe is The Orange County Register. It is a libertarian paper, but virtually every time it carries an article about “religion,” you can count on it being a piece that portrays Christians as mindless, mind-numbed “fundies.” Not having a mind of their own, they tend simply to follow what the secularists are saying and doing, insuring to throw in the word “Jesus” a few times at appropriate places. Rather than opting for Reformation, evangelicals are always pleading for Revival—wrongly. When you mention revival to the secularists, they conjure up some sort of frenzied, ecstatic practices that feature a complete disconnect with the mind, with the rational faculties.

In other words, Christians should be striving for a biblical life and worldview that takes into account sound policymaking, based on solid biblical evidence and exegesis. That evidence is there, it simply needs a strongly Reformed exposition. The Cornwall Alliance rightly states that the welfare of the poor would necessarily be a high priority for the Church, since most of the environmental policies affect them adversely, even the ones that are ostensibly designed to help them. This must be more than a near-apoplectic “Quick! We must do something, anything to help the poor!” For example, the Church should take into account that many policies to reduce global warming suffer from the law of unintended consequences. What I mean is this: reducing fossil fuels, which are abundant and affordable, relegates developing and Third World countries to the continued use of dirty fuels such as wood and dung. Such an agenda, such a choice is neither prudent nor morally right. Throughout the ages, man has been innovative enough to conceive of new ways to solve problems. Today is no different, with the caveat that government needs to get out the way as quickly as possible and to allow free market principles to get to work.

The Cornwall Alliance puts matters into perspective when it states, “Environmental policies the world’s poor most need will aim not at reducing global temperature (over which human action has little control) but at reducing specific risks to the poor regardless of temperature: communicable diseases (especially malaria), malnutrition and hunger, and exclusion from worldwide markets by trade restrictions.”[9] Unfortunately, those gathered in Copenhagen are there more for themselves than those they claim they want to help. To them we say, “Shame on you. Shame on you for your ostentatious lifestyle, for your flights in Lear Jets, your caviar snacks, extravagant meals, limousines, expensive clothing, and the like.” Not that any of that taken by itself is bad. It is simply the pretense that is on glaring display in Copenhagen that is so disgustingly hypocritical.

To the evangelical community we also say, “Shame on you.” Shame on you, leaders, for failing to do the requisite biblical exegesis; shame on you for putting your name on a thoroughly pagan, New Age IPCC document that is more political than it is theological; and shame on you for not having the spiritual maturity to remove your name from the signatories of the IPCC resolution and not apologizing for all you led astray merely because your name was on the U.N. document. Have you no principles?

[1] Abraham Kuyper, Het Calvinisme, (Amsterdam: Höveker & Wormser Boekhandel, 1898).

[2] Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism, (Grand Rapids: Associated Publishers & Authors, Inc., n.d.) & Idem., Christianity: A Total World and Life System, (Marlborough, NH: Plymouth Rock Foundation, 1996).

[4] Ibid., 2.

[5] Ibid., 3. Emphasis added.

[6] Ibid. Emphasis added.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid. Emphasis added.

[9] Ibid., 4.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Lowering CO2 and Our Carbon Footprint is Asinine

Don’t go getting your shorts in a knot, I didn’t say that, Ian Plimer did. For those who are not acquainted with Dr. Plimer, he is the two time winner of Australia’s highest scientific honor, the Eureka Prize. He is also professor in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at The University of Adelaide. Dr. Plimer recently wrote a book entitled Heaven and Earth. The sub-title reads: “Global Warming the Missing Science.”

I went out on a limb recently. Dan Kimball has a new book coming out and I got a message to that effect on Facebook. I’m happy for Dan, but also took the occasion to ask him in front of all his “groupies” when and if he was going to recant and take his name off of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change resolutions on global warming, especially in light of the long-term debunking by recognized scientists of the bogus numbers coming out of East Anglia University in England and from Dr. Michael Mann of Penn State University. No, I’m not talking about the hacker and the emails, although that is interesting enough. You see, reputable scientists who are not part of Money Prostitutes for Scientific Endeavor have debunked Mann, the infamous “hockey stick,” East Anglia University and a host of others. Oh, Dan hasn’t replied yet and it’s been about a week. So much for transparency and authenticity.

All the hoopla about CO2 emissions has many people wringing their hands. Modern man, they tell us, is throwing inordinately high amounts of it into the atmosphere and we are grossly polluting the earth. It’s enough to make even the coldest, conservative want to do something, anything to save the planet. Of course, we all want a clean planet, don’t we? Yes, we do. Most of us are willing to do our part to have clean air, clean water, and a clean place for our children and grandchildren to live. What I object to, however, is when someone tries to pull a fast one on me or when a “Christian celebrity” gets away with nonsense. Allow me to give you a couple of examples of what I mean.

With some degree of regularity, a number of Christian celebrities in the evangelical world cannot resist predicting the return of Jesus. To them, it’s better than winning the lotto. Many have tried and many have failed, but this time, it’s going to be different, they opine. Besides, if you happen to hit the right date, just think how smart everyone will think you are. But, to date, no one has succeeded. The fanfare accompanying the prediction is palatable, but the silence after the abortive fact is deafening. No one says much, so we get back on with life. Shouldn’t the one making the failed prediction be stoned? Hey, maybe they were stoned when they made the prediction. Seriously, nothing ever happens. The evangelical Church is more than willing to give a pass to whoever tried to do what Jesus clearly taught was impossible, namely pinpoint the Second Coming. But, hey, we’re a forgiving lot and we’re willing to cut the person some slack. We did the same thing with Rick Warren’s prediction that The Passion of the Christ would be the most effective evangelism tool of the century. It wasn’t and it isn’t, but no one called him on that outlandish statement because he’s Rick Warren. Infallibility is an attribute that I covet, but I know I shouldn’t.

Something very similar is now at play with men like Rick Warren (again), Bill Hybels, Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball, and others. They’ve signed on to the IPCC with the so-called “Evangelical Climate Initiative.” One of the statements in the ECI is almost laughable. It claims that over the last several years the signatories have engaged in study, reflection, and prayer related to the issue of climate change/global warming. The predictable result is that these evangelical leaders are as deeply concerned as, say, Al Gore, Michael Mann, and East Anglia University. These concerned evangelicals reflect, to some degree, the trepidation of Tony Campolo and Gordon Aeschliman in their book 50 Ways You can Help Save the Planet.[1] There they wrote, “Confusion, fuzzy thinking and unfriendly name calling surround the Christian community’s debate on our responsibility to the environment.”[2] I agree with them, but for very different reasons than I think they intended.

E. Calvin Beisner puts matters into perspective for us when he writes, “An important weakness of much environmentalism is its tendency to present false or highly debatable claims of environmental problems and their significance as if they were unquestionably true. Usually, environmentalists use such claims to frighten people into accepting a message of environmental crisis, after which they will be more likely to embrace policy recommendations environmentalists make. Unfortunately, evangelical environmentalists frequently accept such claims uncritically and often…pass them along to their fellow believers with the added moral authority of Scripture. And they, too, tend to use such claims to promote the crisis mentality.”[3]

A plethora of Christian “greenie” organizations exist today, partly because it is in vogue and chic to be green and partly because people are concerned to care for God’s creation. Until recently, there was an organization called the “Christian Society of the Green Cross,” which is now part of the Evangelical Environmental Network, replete with its own blog, deepgreenconversation. Sounds impressive. Before CSGC joined forces with the EEN, they informed us that “Increasingly, both church leaders and leading scientists see issues of the environment as the most serious which our society faces.” Did they really or did they merely jump on the “it’s-the-latest-fad” bandwagon? They provided a number of “bullet points” that were supposed to pass as “fact,” but I will select only one in this installment. They wrote, “Since 1945, Americans have consumed more of the world’s resources than have all previous generations who have ever lived on the planet put together. We have used more than our fair share.” (Emphasis added.) If you were to ask the new, emergent, liberal Christian if they agreed on this point, you’d probably get a large number who would find this a very valid point. Let’s think about it for a moment.

First, part of the secular and so-called Christian greenie movement wants us to feel guilty about abusing the planet—most of time. Of course, when you have to fly to Copenhagen in a private jet, stay in a five-star hotel, eat caviar, and ride back and forth to the global warming summit in a stretch limo, those principles must be abated for a while. Your deep and abiding concern about global warming trumps everything else. Sincerity and concern—kind of like Al Gore’s inordinate use of electricity, computer paper, ink cartridges—come equipped with an “override” button. But, in general, greenies want us to feel badly about our use of resources and to pay for our carbon footprint. This is why Ian Plimer’s statement comes as an unbelievable shock to Christian and non-Christian alike today. He writes, “To call for lowering the carbon footprint is asinine.”[4] Plimer made this statement in conjunction with the notion that CO2 is a pollutant.

For a scientist, he actually has a bit of a sense of humor, which is almost as rare as finding a theologian with a sense of humor. The only group less likely to have a sense of humor are liberals—Christian and non-Christians—and greenies. Just look at Cindy Sheehan and Michael Moore. Plimer contends that “To refer to ‘carbon pollution’ is ascientific political spin.”[5] Many today might find that statement shocking, but “To tax, ration and control the basic element for life is a micro-management of human freedom.”[6] There are a couple of very valid reasons why Dr. Plimer says these things. First, “The most common compounds in the Solar System are carbon compounds—there are almost 10 million different carbon compounds known.”[7] Second, “Carbon is more basic to life than sex.”[8] Really? Wow. But we’re being told that CO2 is bad for the planet. Real scientists know better and since they’re the ones not getting government funding, they’re the most likely to tell you the truth. The unvarnished truth about CO2 is that it “is a colourless odourless non-poisonous gas. It is plant food, and it drives the whole food chain. All life is based on and contains carbon. Every cell in every living organism on the planet is based on carbon.”[9] Yes, some might say, but aren’t we putting too much CO2 into the atmosphere and harming the planet that way? That’s what the greenies are telling us. The truth, however, is that “During the history of the planet, CO2 levels have continuously fluctuated. During periods of high CO2 in the air, life underwent massive expansion and diversification, whereas in periods of low CO2, like today, plant life is not as energetic. The CO2 content of air has hardly ever been as low as today and ecosystems suffer because of this. Early in the Earth’s history, the CO2 content of air was tens to hundreds of times higher than today and, over time, this CO2 has been stored as carbon compounds in rocks, oil, gas, goal and carbonate rocks.”[10] Third, “There is more carbon in soil than the total amount of carbon in the atmosphere and living matter.”[11] Moreover, “Animals produce 25 times as much CO2 as cars and industry.”[12] You might not have known that, but it’s a handy little piece of information to have. Of course, this begs the question: Who’s going to pay for all that? I’m sure politicians will find an “animal carbon footprint tax” that will help fund welfare and universal health care.

Second, I believe we ought to use more energy because it’s better for everyone. I can imagine some raised eyebrows on this one, so let me ‘splain. Gregg Easterbrook, who is a self-professed liberal Democrat environmentalist has written a book entitled A Moment On the Earth: The Coming Age of Environmental Optimism. He explodes the “Western World Pollution Myth” by reminding us of the opposite of what the IPCC and many of our Christian celebs have been feeding us. Easterbrook states, “As anyone who travels the developing world rapidly discovers, the view that Western industrial countries are the polluted ones is a fantasy. Studies show that 1.3 billion people in the developing world live in zones of ‘dangerously unsafe’ air—air alerts at the ‘dangerous’ level having become almost unknown in the Western world. And one billion people in developing countries lack access to drinking water meeting the crudest safety standards. These figures are not just abstractions. What environmental problems kill human beings in numbers today? Not Alar or ozone depletion. What kills them is ‘dung smoke’ and diarrhea.”[13]

What is the solution according to this self-professed liberal Democrat? He sets the table for his answer this way: “There is a famous statistic that says that the United States has four percent of the world’s population and consumes 40 percent of current resources.”[14] That sounds vaguely similar to the greenies at Green Cross, doesn’t it? Imagine that: Christians parroting secular mantras. But I digress. Easterbrook continues, “Environmental orthodoxy says this proves U.S. resource use must go way down. What the statistic really tells us is that Third World resource consumption must go way up.”[15] Okay, you might be thinking, that sounds fair, but isn’t this precisely what the evangelical greenies want? Yes, with one caveat—and it is a very important caveat. They want U.S. resource usage way down and Third World use way up in order to balance or average everything out, but that’s not the way it works. Easterbrook contends that it “will be impossible to raise the standard of living of the world’s impoverished to anything like a morally equitable level without a significant rise in net global consumption of resources.”[16]

In other words, the wealthier a nation, the better its sanitation, general cleanliness, clean drinking water, transportation. In short, industrial nations are the only one prepared to help with the type of assistance that the Third World and developing countries need. So we need to drill here in the United States in ANWAR, offshore, and wherever we find oil. We need to tap into our natural gas reserves, for they are huge—huge. How about building nuclear plants? Wouldn’t that create real jobs? The government never creates jobs, because the government has no wealth. Private industry and entrepreneurs create jobs and can lead the way in aiding Third World and sub-Saharan countries into creating their own wealth, prosperity, food, infrastructure, and sanitation for a better environment.

[1] Tony Campolo & Gordon Aeschliman, 50 Ways You Can Help Save the Planet, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992).

[2] Ibid., 9.

[3] E. Calvin Beisner, Where Garden Meets Wilderness. Evangelical Entry into the Environmental Debate, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), p. 59.

[4] Ian Plimer, Heaven and Earth, (Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2009), p. 411.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 411-412.

[7] Ibid., 411. Emphasis added.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., 412.

[12] Ibid., 413.

[13] See pp. 578-579. Emphasis added.

[14] See pp. 582-583.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.


Friday, December 04, 2009

Politicizing Science and Lying in the Process (II)

I’m beginning to wonder if environmentalists like human beings. No, seriously. I imagine that many hardcore greenies are very sincere and nice people, but others of those leading the charge about matters environment seem a little edgy and, at times, hostile towards those of us in the human race. It almost sounds as if they like animals and inanimate objects more than they like us. In addition, some of the statements by those in positions of power in the Green Movement are most definitely anti-capitalism and pro-socialism. In other words, it’s not just about the environment. There’s a political agenda attached to the movement as well. “Well, that’s simply preposterous!” you might say. Maybe. Maybe not.

Judi Bari of “Earth First!” (1992), wrote, “…if we don’t overthrow capitalism, we don’t have a chance of saving the world ecologically. I think it is possible to have an ecologically sound society under socialism. I don’t think it’s possible under capitalism.” Hitler didn’t think so either, that’s why he was an avid advocate of organic gardening, vegetarianism, and mystical nature worship.

Dr. Reed Noss of “The Wildlands Project” said this in the same year that Ms. Bari penned her disdain for capitalism: “The collective needs of non-human species must take precedence over the needs and desires of humans.” (Emphasis added.) Of course, we know that the good doctor is putting that into practice routinely in his life. He’s given his Ph.D. to a giraffe, who then sold it on eBay, he sleeps on the dog bed while his pet pooch sleeps in his bed, he’s given up human food, which he gives to his dog, and he’s just fine with Beggin’ Strips three times a day, and the doctor uses the toilet facilities outside. One can only wonder who cleans it up.

Or how about David Brower, who is the founder of “Friends of the Earth,” (is there an Enemies of the Earth club?) and former executive director of the Sierra Club, who quipped in 1993, “While the death of young men in war is unfortunate, it is no more serious than the touching of mountains and wilderness areas by humankind.” Really? Brower’s is one of the most incoherent and confused statements I’ve read in a while. I’d tell him that I’m a Christian, but he would probably go apoplectic at the mention of God and would stop cleaning up after Dr. Noss. Christians actually believe that God calls us to be good stewards of his creation, thinking his thoughts after him. We are to care for the mountains and wilderness, but we are also told that only man is created in the image of the Almighty, making Brower’s statement stand on its head. His is the pronouncement of a member of the Revolution (Enlightenment), even if he’s a postmodern, but not the view of one who is more concerned with Reformation. The Dutchman, Groen van Prinsterer, wrote an interesting book with the translated title Unbelief and Revolution. Brower is a devotee of the Revolution.

Stanford professor, Paul Ehrlich[1] predicted the following in 1970: “In ten years, all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.” Doting parents paid mega-bucks to have Dr. Ehrlich pontificate at prestigious Stanford University. Their grateful children came home for vacations and vilified and lambasted their parents for being so uncaring about the environment, all the while having 2-3 helpings of the “oppressors” standing rib roast. In his erudition and professorial pomposity and arrogance, Dr. Ehrlich refused and still refuses to acknowledge how horribly far off he was and is. Talk about parents getting some bang for their buck!

Dave Foreman knows Judi Bari. While Judi is merely a “flunky,” Dave is the founder of Earth First! He stated, “We must make this an insecure and inhospitable place for capitalists and their projects…. We must reclaim the roads and plowed land, halt dam construction, tear down existing dams, free shackled rivers to return to wilderness ten of millions of acres of presently settled land.” Foreman’s disdain for both human beings and capitalism is clearly evident from these words. Here in California, we’re actually dealing with greenies stopping the building of a dam that would save many, many farms and provide adequate water for all Californians. The dam has been 95% complete for quite some time, but has been stopped because of litigation. Why? Because the environmentalists are concerned about the smelt fish and even though they’ve been assured that the smelt (which, after all, is a person too) will not be harmed by the dam. Still, the greenies refuse to give human beings the water they need.

Therefore, in California is in the pocket of the environmentalists telling us that if we don’t cooperate, the government will have to impose mandatory conservation. Certainly, surely, Foreman is a worshiper of “Earth” and one who wants to turn us back to a kinder, gentler time. What Foreman and his ilk refuses to let you know is that it is only the wealthier, more technological countries can provide their citizens and other in developing countries with longer lives, better health, less infant mortality, better sanitation, medical care, and a host of other economic benefits. Foreman sounds compassionate because he wants to turn back the clock and save the environment. In point of fact, Foreman really doesn’t care about the under-fed and unfed children and people. He only cares about his hatred of capitalism—except when it comes to his paycheck—and helping human beings.

He is a kindred spirit to Stewart Brand of the “Whole Earth Catalog.” Mr. Brand fancies himself an “ecofreak.” I tend to agree. Here’s what he said way back in 1968. “We have wished, we ecofreaks, for a disaster or for a social change to come and bomb us into the Stone Age, where we might live like Indians in our valley, with our localism, our appropriate technology, our gardens, our homemade religion—guilt-free at last!” If Mr. Brand had made this statement after August 18, 1969, we might conclude that he was still suffering from a bad trip at Woodstock. Apparently, Mr. Brand could make outlandish and contradictory statements like this without the help of any hallucinogenic drugs.

[1] Ehrlich is Bing Professor of Populations Studies in the Department of Biological Sciences.


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A Forgotten Name; A Remembered Important Principle

With this installment of Ethos, I will conclude my discussion of Dr. Roy Taylor’s defense of the National Association of Evangelical’s Resolution (October 2009) on illegal immigration or, as they choose to call it, on “undocumented workers.” An illegal rose by any other name, and you know the rest.

Many will not remember the name Magda Denes and probably most have never heard it. In 1976, a mere three years after Roe v. Wade, Dr. Denes (Ph.D.) wrote a book entitled, In Necessity and Sorrow. Life and Death in an Abortion Hospital. That book was published a year later by Penguin Books.[1] One of Denes’s operating theses was that abortion is terrible and immoral, but, as the title indicates there is an element of necessity in the midst of the sorrow of the immoral choice.

Long before Joseph Fletcher’s Situation Ethics was in vogue, he published a book that bore the title Morals and Medicine,[2] in which this “Christian” man advocated abortion as the loving thing to do.[3] Unlike Denes, Fletcher did not lament a “loving” abortion.

Of course, both were wrong. It is both incomprehensible and unconscionable for any Christian to advocate abortion. Fletcher’s ethical method never—never—got around to defining what his standard of “love” might look like, so that ultimately, people were free to do what was good in their own eyes and to lean on their own understanding. Denes, on the other hand, admitted that abortion was immoral and involved sorrow at various levels. By the same token, certain situations involving abortion “demanded” or “required” a tough call and a hard decision; a decision of “necessity,” she opined.

There is something highly unethical and inexcusable about turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to evil for anyone, but especially for those who call themselves Christians. It might seem to an objective observer that that is precisely what the PCA is doing. It is almost as if some in the PCA believe that if they put their heads under the covers, the 800-pound gorilla in the room will go away. Currently, one of those issues is how some in the PCA want to view and handle illegal immigrants. I have held, for the longest time, that among these brothers and sisters in the Lord, evangelism trumps everything. That is to say, as long as you are evangelizing, you can use any method—biblical or unbiblical—and you can do anything as far as what is supposed to pass for “worship” is concerned. Truly, evangelism trumps everything. The other issue that the PCA is hesitant to deal with currently is a PCA congregation in New York (Redeemer. Not Tim Keller’s Redeemer) that has openly, blatantly, “in-your-face-esque” ordained a female to the office of Deacon ([4] If you follow the questions posed to the female on the chancel in the video, they are lifted verbatim from the PCA Book of Church Order, which forbids the ordination of a female to the office of Elder or Deacon. To my understanding, this unlawful ordination service occurred a few months back. Nothing came from PCA Headquarters in the Atlanta area, giving us a heads up that it took place, in spite of hearing from there about our “connectionalism” in the PCA. Apparently, there is a limit or boundary to how far connectionalism extends. If the connectionalism concerns something unsavory or unlawful, it gets swept under the carpet. Who has the requisite manhood to address this ordination? No one in Atlanta has stepped up to the plate thus far, so I will look for those in my Presbytery who are not emasculated males to join with me in addressing this matter.

All of this is a kind of preface to what has become “the gentlemanly thing to do” in the PCA. There seems to be a movement afoot to turn all the Teaching and Ruling Elders into male versions of Magda Denes, who see what is wrong, but would rather speak of the necessity and sorrow that attends such thorny, delicate ethical issues than actually deal with them. In point of fact, there is nothing delicate or unclear about the ordination. It is oh so clear; crystal clear. Quick! Someone run and get the ten-foot poles to see if anyone will touch this! It is at times like this that I am so indebted to and thankful for my training at The Citadel and in the U.S. Army. There are still some institutions in this country where leadership actually means something other than compromise, political correction, and the precautionary principle.

The Vineyard & the Wesleyan Methodists

One of the signatories to the NAE’s illegal immigration—oops! I mean undocumented worker (this is tantamount to saying that a drug dealer is an unlicensed pharmacists)—resolution is the Vineyard, which more or less plagiarized the Wesleyan Methodist resolution. In our last issue, we examined in some detail the faulty exegesis and hermeneutics employed by the Vineyard, which should not come as any surprise to us.

As we wind this down, I’ll touch on some more of what is contained in the Vineyard resolution and how they justify illegal immigration. The second principle is what they call “The Great Commandment Principle.” Here the emphasis is heavily on love. The “Therefore” section of their resolution on this point reads, “We will give ourselves in wholehearted love to others without intolerance, judgment, favoritism or disrespect, irrespective of who they are or what they have done to live among us.” Dr. Taylor would have us believe that this type of statement has little or nothing to do with blanket amnesty. I submit, however, that this statement, at the very least, leans strongly in that direction. Moreover, those who favor illegal aliens do show a great deal of favoritism towards them at the expense of those who entered the country legally.

Principle number three is “The Sovereignty Principle.” Coming from the Vineyard, it gives the usual Arminian lip service to God’s sovereignty in the world and in salvation. The “Therefore” section under this principle manifests what the Vineyard is aiming at: “We view immigration as an aspect of God’s larger plan to bring salvation to the world. Immigration can be used through God’s wisdom to introduce many to Jesus who might not otherwise hear the gospel message.” In the first place, the resolution fails to point out that the issue in discussion is not immigration per se, but illegal immigration. It does not take much of a stretch to understand the notion that the Lord might use illegal immigration to introduce many to Jesus—but, he might not. We are called to obey laws that are legitimate and not disobey them and then surmise that God might use that disobedience to bring people to faith.

“The Submission Principle” comprises number four. This principle contains a major caveat. The “Therefore” section starts out in the direction Dr. Taylor would have us believe the NAE wants to move: “We will exercise awareness of the laws as they pertain to immigration and will endeavor to obey them, unless they are contrary to God’s Word.” Well, of course. That’s like breaking down an open door. But here’s the rest: “As Christians, we support the rights of those who engage in civil disobedience against harsh and unjust laws, policies and measures on the basis of biblical principles.” If I am an illegal alien reading this, I draw two conclusions. First, the current immigration laws in the U.S. are against the Word of God. Second, I am permitted to engage in civil disobedience because the current laws are harsh and unjust.

Number five is called “The Hospitality Principle.” The “Therefore” section here is reasonable enough. “We will encourage one another to engage in acts of kindness and compassion (e.g., providing food, shelter, clothing, and other resources) toward immigrants who are in need regardless of their immigration status.” I concur as long as “other resources” does not involve getting them jobs, which is also illegal in the United States and falsified documents. I’m also not convinced that it’s our place to provide them shelter if they are planning on staying illegally and I’m opposed to what just happened near me where the taxpayer got hosed for $90,000 for a “shelter” near a Home Depot where illegal aliens get picked up to work. The shelter provides bathroom facilities for those waiting for illegal employment. Nice touch.

Number six is “The Great Commission Principle,” and the “Therefore” section contains—surprise! Surprise!—an unashamed engagement in evangelizing and discipling immigrants. Again, the problem here is not with immigrants, but with illegal immigrants. Should illegal immigrants receive the gospel? Of course, they should, but they should also be told to go back and follow the lawful procedures to become a citizen of the United States.

Number seven is “The Grace Principle.” The Vineyard concludes, “We will show God’s grace by accepting those less fortunate than us [sic]. (One can only hope their evangelism will include correct English—RG.) We will seek to have a welcoming heart to those that are strangers in our land, showing them acts of kindness and doing our part to understand other peoples’ cultures to better serve them through God’s love.” We need to spend a little time here. I am not certain that I need to manifest a welcoming heart to someone who has entered this country illegally anymore than I need to have a welcoming heart to a burglar. Christians should, indeed, be kind. It is one facet of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Not fruits; fruit.

But what about the part that says we are to understand other peoples’ cultures. Which ones? All cultures? How is that possible? How much of Mexican culture can I really understand? Do I want to understand? When I lived in Holland for ten years, I used to chuckle at those who came over for a two week mission trip, wanting to understand the culture. In two weeks you understand nothing. In two months, you might make a small start. This statement about understanding other cultures smacks of PC multiculturalism and relativism, but I’m not surprised.

Number eight (The Justice Principle) hearkens back to the unjust and harsh laws premise. The principle itself reads, “God’s people are called to seek justice for all persons proactively by calling for just, fair, reasonable, and humane laws and serving as advocates and defenders for those who are powerless, disenfranchised, and marginalized.” Oh, you mean such as illegal aliens? This sounds like the liberal plea for the victo-crats. Looking at the last march in Los Angeles and the violence that erupted there caused by some of the illegal immigrants, I’m not certain powerless is the correct term. The “Therefore” section reads, “We oppose and condemn all unjust and harsh law, policies and measures directed against immigrants among us, whether documented or undocumented. We will act as advocates for just and humane policies and practices for all people by all levels of government and in all parts of society.”

This begs the questions: which specific unjust and harsh laws are directed against legal immigrants to this country? It seems that Americans in general and Christians in particular are advocates for just and humane policies and practices.

The Vineyard concludes that they realize that their principles do not address the moral questions “regarding undocumented immigration,” but they certainly address illegal immigration repeatedly. They admit that the Vineyard is a “house divided” on the issue, but their resolution does not supply any enlightenment or real biblical support outside of quoting some texts, some of which apply and others that do not.

Blessed is the Law—Up to a Point

Mark Galli, managing editor of Christianity Today wrote an article for CT in 2006 that touched on the notion of illegal immigration. There was a backlash to his assertions. He writes, “We expected a fair amount of criticism for portraying sympathetically the plight of immigrants in “Blessed are the Courageous.” We did not expect one complaint to be repeated in nearly every email.” Such is the plight of shoddy journalism.

First, the complaints were not about the “plight of immigrants,” but about illegal immigrants. There’s a big difference. Second, why would CT not expect law abiding citizens to be upset when the rule of law is violated?

While explaining that CT upholds the rule of law (a good way to lose the readers would be to declare that you’re an antinomian), the article goes on to say, “…[the law] is not everything.” What does that mean? Galli explains, “…law-and-order is not ‘supreme.’” For support, he cites Daniel’s determination to worship God despite “the laws of the Medes and Persians.” This doesn’t quite fit, does it? Daniel was commanded not to worship Yahweh. For illegal aliens to remain in their home of record and not come across a border illegally does not cause them to violate one of God’s commands.

The other example Galli trots out is the “hooliganism we call the Boston Tea Party.” He surmises, “Our Declaration of Independence is nothing but an explanation to the world for this law-defying act.” Mr. Galli might want to re-read the section on overthrowing tyrannical governments, which, one might add, does not comport with illegal aliens coming into this country.

Thus we come to the conclusion of our disagreement with Dr. Roy Taylor’s assessment of illegal immigration. I will end where I began: Dr. Taylor is an esteemed colleague and brother in the Lord. I appreciate very much of what he does and I have learned a great deal from him and his interpretations of our Book of Church Order. I do not and will not, however, concede his points on illegal immigration in the NAE or PCA, nor will I appreciate or adopt his PC language, calling those in this country illegally “undocumented.” The whole discussion would have been more profitable and lively if Dr. Taylor would have gotten in touch with me and dialogued about this more. Unfortunately, he did not and it is what it is. Equally unfortunately is that once again a Teaching Elder in the PCA was ignored by PCA Headquarters. I have come to expect such treatment from my appointed and elected officials and journalists at various newspapers. It’s just hard to be ignored by the church affiliation that you love so much.

[1] Magda Denes, In Necessity and Sorrow, (NY: Penguin Books, 1977).

[2] Joseph Fletcher, Morals and Medicine, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1954).

[3] Joseph Fletcher was Professor of Medical Ethics at the University of Virginia. Prior to that, he served as Professor of Christian Social Ethics at Episcopal Theological School, in Cambridge, MA and Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, in Cincinnati, OH.

[4] Today, I received a copy of an email from the pastor involved in that particular service, Scott Sauls. His explanation is that what he did was an error and was entirely of his doing. Apparently, he recently transferred back from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, having been PCA before. Knowing this, he should have been aware of PCA practice. Did he have no Elder present to halt him and correct him once he started down this erroneous path? Given the magnitude of the error, I am prepared to listen to Pastor Sauls’ explanation, but, honestly, it needs to be more than 4-5 short paragraphs.