Archive for September 2008

Ron Paul Endorses Chuck Baldwin

September 27, 2008

The Libertarian Party Candidate admonished me for “remaining neutral” in the presidential race and not stating whom I will vote for in November.   It’s true; I have done exactly that due to my respect and friendship and support from both the Constitution and Libertarian Party members.  I remain a lifetime member of the Libertarian Party and I’m a ten-term Republican Congressman.  It is not against the law to participate in more then one political party.  Chuck Baldwin has been a friend and was an active supporter in the presidential campaign.

I continue to wish the Libertarian and Constitution Parties well.  The more votes they get, the better.  I have attended Libertarian Party conventions frequently over the years.

In some states, one can be on the ballots of two parties, as they can in New York.  This is good and attacks the monopoly control of politics by Republicans and Democrats.  We need more states to permit this option.  This will be a good project for the Campaign for Liberty, along with the alliance we are building to change the process.

I’ve thought about the unsolicited advice from the Libertarian Party candidate, and he has convinced me to reject my neutral stance in the November election.  I’m supporting Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party candidate.

For the whole story, see Paul’s piece on the Campaign for Liberty Blog.

Onward Christian Soldier?

September 22, 2008

Last week I read a very provocative piece written by PCA pastor, Lance Lewis, entitled “Pro-Life and Pro-Glock?” Lewis called for Christians to “lay down our weapons” arguing that it is our Christian duty to do so. Naturally Lewis’ arguments set off a small firestorm, something I’m sure he did not anticipate. Easily the best response to the arguments and questions raised by Lewis was provided by PCA RE Bob Mattes. Mattes systematically dismembered and destroyed Lewis’ arguments from a practical, and more importantly, from a biblical perspective. Mattes demonstration that gun ownership is both warranted and permissible according to the Scriptures was simply unassailable. And, why wouldn’t it be? Drawing valid inferences from biblical propositions is precisely what we’re called to do, especially when correcting the false premises of others, including the false premises of those in the pulpit. The teaching of Scripture alone, which includes those things validly and soundly inferred from them, are what all Christians are called to believe and obey. That is our Christian duty. No Christian is obligated to submit to the opinions of men, including the opinions of church leaders and pastors on nothing more than their own authority and say so, no matter how sincerely believed or well intentioned.

What I found particularly disturbing by Lewis’ piece was his assertion that he is “convinced by scripture that all of humanity has a duty to protect and preserve life and that those who believe in Jesus Christ should especially take care to do all within our power to see that no harm comes to anyone.” Lewis offered no biblical argument in support of this supposed biblical principle, yet on the basis of this principle he felt warranted to call Christian’s everywhere

. . . to promote the cause of life by laying down our weapons and refusing to support those who insist on filling our society with instruments designed for the sole reason of ending the life of one who bears the image of God.

Instead of guns, specifically handguns, Lewis advocates disarmament and claims it is our Christian duty to adopt “non-lethal” means to protect ourselves, our families and our property. But where does this obligation and duty to “do all without our power to see that no harm comes to anyone” come from? When pressed on where this imagined biblical imperative might be found, Lewis offered no argument and instead claimed I was being “ungracious” and “disrespectful” evidently for even asking the question.  It didn’t take long before he complained about my “tone” suggesting I had sinned against him for even calling him to account for his doctrine of Christian disarmament. I admit, I was surprised that Lewis played the “tone” card so quickly seeing he’s from West Philly. Being a fellow Northerner I thought his skin was a bit thicker. Evidently not. The problem is, if Scripture has convinced him of this principle, shouldn’t he use Scripture to try and convince others concerning the truth of his position? And, even if he didn’t want to take the time to walk me and others through those passages of Scripture which lead him to the conclusion that we should take special care that no harm come to anyone, couldn’t he at least appeal to the exegetical positions already provided in the Westminster Confession including the catechisms?


John Robbins Remembered

September 12, 2008

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.  Jude 1:3

Someone wrote after John’s passing last month that he had “never before met a man who personified the spirit of John Knox of whom it was said that “he neither feared nor flattered any flesh.’” I can’t think of a better description of John.  Of course this didn’t endear him with many in the effete and anemic mainstream of modern Presbyterianism.  Men who frankly like to think of themselves as scholars and intellectuals, but in reality are just fellow sinners who just happen to have a greater proclivity to having their ears tickled.  Men like the “Rev Dr” Rowland Ward who said on the Warfield list a few years back:

Let’s leave Robbins and his Trinity Foundation to themselves. They do us no good, not because they never say anything right, but because they are loveless, sectarian and separatist in approach.

Not to pick on the Reverend Doctor, but his assessment of John and the work of the Foundation is all too typical, even if completely unfounded and uninformed.  Just a few days ago Vern Crisler attacked a contributor on the Greenbaggins blog saying, “you appear to be trying to fill the mantle left by John Robbins, another man given to making mean-spirited comments about other godly men in the Faith.” Of course, Crisler cites no examples of John making any such comments against any “godly men in the Faith,” but insinuating that he has will more than satisfy most of the men on that blog.   After all, Crisler’s slur garnered no warning from any of the moderators charged with policing blog contributors, yet the man to whom his attack was addressed is about to get the proverbial left foot of fellowship out the door for being too direct in his criticism of Vantilian and nonsense monger, John Frame.

There is no doubt John made some enemies over the years, not least of which with those well connected professional religious types who have a vested interest in keeping the myth of Cornelius Van Til alive.  Which brings up an interesting point about John that I have always admired, he never seemed impressed by titles or pedigrees even though he had his Masters degree at the age of 21 and was only 24 when he earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy and Political Theory from Johns Hopkins and could have easily run rings around a team of Reverend Doctors had he wanted to waste his time. Sadly for those of us who loved and appreciated John, wasting time wasn’t something he could afford, and, thankfully, was something he rarely seemed to do. OK, he did waste some time years ago running rings around Vern Crisler, which perhaps explains why Crisler is still smarting.

I will say, and even before his diagnosis with cancer, you could tell that time was a precious commodity to John. This might explain the no-nonsense approach he took with some of his critics over the years and there were many.  It might also explain why rather than engage some of his critics he would on occasion respond by simply saying, “Read Clark.”  While there are those who took some of his remarks as being harsh or simply “loveless,” I was always impressed by how economical he was at cutting right to the heart of an argument and the sheer precision by which he could expose error.  Something that might take someone a page or two to reach, if at all,  John could sum up in a sentence or two.  Maybe it’s just the New Yorker in me, but I have always preferred someone who just “tells it like it is.”  Sugarcoating, while perhaps pleasing to the ears and sensitive palates of some, takes too much time.

Recently, I went back and combed through the archive of the old “Clark” list on Yahoo groups from back in January 1999, shortly after the list was started. The list was supposed to be for the purposed of discussing the work of Gordon Clark, but immediately became a podium for Clark’s most vocal, annoying, and, not surprising, Vantilian critics. Rereading some of those exchanges again I was struck by how dispassionate John was in answering some of the most debased and vitriolic personal attacks against him along with more general baseless attacks against the Scripturalism of Gordon Clark. Here are just a couple of his replies from that period that I think exemplifies the succinctness of his approach and style :

Its seems to me the entire debate over contingent and necessary truths in the context of Christian theology hinges on the assumption that we know what God’s “nature” is, and that it does not include his will. But there is no Scriptural support for such an assumption. Because God is immutable, all truths are necessary, from truths of logic to truths of astronomy or botany. This is the only possible world. All truths are also contingent, that is, they all depend on God’s will. God’s will, his sovereign power, is his nature. Those who persist in using the word “nature” in some undefined sense contribute nothing useful to the argument. The problem in philosophy is a problem manufactured by philosophers who do not pay sufficient attention to the Biblical data.

Suppose I take a doorknob to be before me and reach for it. Does my action show that I must presuppose the reliability of my sense perception? Show me the argument. Even assuming, arguendo, that I have such a presupposition of the reliability of sense perception, I, that is my presupposition, might very well be mistaken.

A scientist performs an experiment because he has a theory (that there is a doorknob and it will open a door). Therefore, we must conclude, according to your argument, that his theory is true or reliable. This is simply a non sequitur. Even if the scientist were to get the results his theory predicted, it would not show his theory to be true. Your view seems to be nothing but vulgar pragmatism. If that is the transcendental argument, it is worthless.

For those who may have read and are familiar with Clark’s The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God, the second quote nicely encapsulates Clark’s entire argument against the misguided belief that science is a cognitive enterprise along with the problem of induction in just a few words.  John had a gift for packing a lot into a little space. Of course pointing out that the position of his (Vantilian) opponent was “nothing but vulgar pragmatism” probably didn’t win him any new friends, but that kind of frankness never does.

In addition to being the consummate student of Clark, John very much personified the ideals outlined in the Trinity Foundation’s manifesto written thirty years ago, particularly this quote from Clark:

To echo an early Reformation thought, when the plough man and the garage attendant know the Bible as well as the theologian does, and know it better than some contemporary theologians, then the desired awakening shall have already occurred.

While certainly not always providing an “easy read,” much less the kind of material that you would find lining the shelves in most ersatz-Christian bookstores, the work of the Foundation has nonetheless been geared for the benefit of average Christians desiring to come to a greater understanding of the truth along with the tools to defend it. Unlike many who view the pastorate or eldership or even a seminary degree as something akin to admission into some ruling class or private club, John was interested in arming ordinary Christians with the means by which they might be able to judge truth from falsity for themselves based on the only standard and source for truth — the Word of God alone found in Scripture alone.  In this sense John was also very much following in the steps of Gordon Clark, who, even in some of his most difficult works, always expressed his ideas clearly and in a way that could be grasped by any student willing to put in a little effort.  While Robbins and Clark wrote in a way that could be understood no matter how difficult the subject, many today confuse nonsense dressed in pious sounding verbiage with profundity.

Needless to say, I will miss seeing John’s name on a new Trinity Review or book release. I have no inside information, but I confess to secretly hoping there might be a Robbins Speaks From the Grave waiting in the wings. I also confess to have been bugging him on and off over the years to put his lectures on economics in book form, something he said he had hoped to do someday. His lectures on economics were simply brilliant (the lecture series is free for download at the Trinity Foundation website) and in expanded book form would have filled a huge gap in any Christian’s arsenal. John was clearly an expert in the field and in those lectures he provided the much needed epistemological foundation for an uncompromising and completely defensible Christian economics.  Anyone who has read either Without a Prayer: Ayn Rand and the Close of Her System or Freedom and Capitalism already have a good idea what a first-rate philosopher and economist John was in his own right (I recommend reading the customer reviews posted on Amazon concerning his deconstruction and handling of Rand. Pro or con all realized that John was a first-rate philosopher to be reckoned with).  Sadly, a book on biblical economics from a Scripturalist perspective was not to be. God in His providence had other plans.

One of those plans was to transform Trinity Foundation over the past decade into a virtual clearing house for books and papers exposing the twin heresies of the Federal Vision and New Perspectives on Paul along with the main players behind these movements. I recall a number of years ago John asking me if I would be willing to be on the board of new organization he was putting together dedicated to exposing the FV/NPP. Naturally, I jumped at the offer. However, and as it turned out, rather than starting a new organization John decided that the Trinity Foundation would play that role and has been in the forefront of the fight against the FV/NPP ever since. John clearly saw that this is where the battle for the gospel was going to fought.  Actually, if you go back and read some of the early Trinity Reviews dealing with theonomy or the fevered thoughts of men like charlatan James Jordan, you can see how and why John was so far ahead of the curve on the Federal Vision even before it had a name. Unfortunately, rather than paying attention to what John was saying over the past decade, too many churchmen simply ignored the work of the Trinity Foundation and are now paying the price.

The one thing I will always remember about John, besides his obvious love for the Lord and his uncompromising devotion to the defense of the truth, was his sense of humor.  While some seem to have a view of John as a nasty mean Calvinist curmudgeon, I have always found him easy to talk to and quick to laugh. The church is in desperate need of more men like John Robbins.

Wondering What Caused the Housing Market Collapse?

September 10, 2008

On the radio last night I heard excerpts from a speech Bush gave in 2002 that made my jaw drop.  It’s interesting how things have worked out and how unreported this story really is.  Machiavelli had nothing on Bush.

. . . I believe owning something is a part of the American Dream, as well. I believe when somebody owns their own home, they’re realizing the American Dream . . . The goal is, everybody who wants to own a home has got a shot at doing so. The problem is we have what we call a homeownership gap in America. Three-quarters of Anglos own their homes, and yet less than 50 percent of African Americans and Hispanics own homes. That ownership gap signals that something might be wrong in the land of plenty. And we need to do something about it.

We are here in Washington, D.C. to address problems. So I’ve set this goal for the country. We want 5.5 million more homeowners by 2010 — million more minority homeowners by 2010. (Applause.) Five-and-a-half million families by 2010 will own a home. That is our goal. It is a realistic goal. But it’s going to mean we’re going to have to work hard to achieve the goal, all of us.

. . . And so what are the barriers that we can deal with here in Washington? Well, probably the single barrier to first-time homeownership is high down payments. People take a look at the down payment, they say that’s too high, I’m not buying. They may have the desire to buy, but they don’t have the wherewithal to handle the down payment . . . I’m proud to report that Fannie Mae has heard the call and, as I understand, it’s about $440 billion over a period of time. They’ve used their influence to create that much capital available for the type of home buyer we’re talking about here.

Still Don’t Know Who to Vote For?

September 3, 2008

When it was clear that John McCain was the Republican pick, I chided the sheer stupidity of some conservative commentators who were organizing Republicans in the remaining primary states to vote for Obama in order to stop Hillary.  At the time I thought Hillary was the better choice over McCain for reasons I made clear here and I still do.  I disagreed with Anne Coulter who said she would vote for, and even work for, Hillary Clinton because she thought Clinton was “more conservative” than McCain.  I argued voting for Clinton precisely because she was more polarizing, shrill and hateful and would do less harm to the country than John McCain simply because she would be unable to get much of anything through Congress.  She would drive the Republicans to the right and would be unable to break any Republican filibuster.  Plus, she would provide the necessary stimulus to revitalized what’s left of the anemic and floundering Conservative movement.

Conversely, McCain would get virtually all the Democrats, plus he’ll pull all moderate and left-leaning Republicans to his side leaving whatever is left of the conservative wing of the Republican Party out in the cold.  McCain would do more to further marginalize the conservative right than all 8 years of George Bush combined.  My concern with Obama is that besides the race card, which will be predictably played against all his critics (you might recall it was even played on the Clintons despite Bill being  the first “black” president), he is a considerably more likable figure than Hillary.  He is an upbeat, power-of-positive-thinking, Joel Olsteen type of politician.  Consequently, Obama doesn’t engender the type of visceral hatred that Hillary inspired in the minds of most conservatives. (more…)

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