Should Christians be committed to small government conservatism? | Wintery Knight

Should Christians be committed to small government conservatism?

I found a paper (PDF) on the University of Washington web site that makes the case for why Christians ought to care about more than just social issues.

Here’s the abstract:

What accounts for cross-national variation in religiosity as measured by church attendance and non-religious rates? Examining answers from both secularization theory and the religious economy perspective, we assert that cross-national variation in religious participation is a function of government welfare spending and provide a theory that links macro-sociological outcomes with individual rationality. Churches historically have provided social welfare. As governments gradually assume many of these welfare functions, individuals with elastic preferences for spiritual goods will reduce their level of participation since the desired welfare goods can be obtained from secular sources. Cross-national data on welfare spending and religious participation show a strong negative relationship between these two variables after controlling for other aspects of modernization.

Here’s the conclusion:

It is quite apparent that there is a strong statistical relationship between state social welfare spending and religious participation and religiosity. Countries with higher levels of per capita welfare have a proclivity for less religious participation and tend to have higher percentages of non-religious individuals. People living in countries with high social welfare spending per capita even have less of a tendency to take comfort in religion, perhaps knowing that the state is there to help them in times of crisis.34 As laid out in the theory above, there is likely a substitution effect for some individuals between state-provided services and religious services. Religion will still be there to serve the spiritual needs of people seeking answers to the philosophic mysteries of life, but those who value those spiritual goods less than the tangible welfare benefits churches provide will be less likely to participate in religious services once secular substitutes become available. Given that religious practice and values are often passed down from generation to generation, the weakening of practice in one generation will likely translate into weaker practice in subsequent generations. Does this mean that secularization theory is correct in its prediction that religion will gradually fade away? Doubtful. Realizing that there is still a yearning among many people to understand the mysteries of life, religion is not likely to dissipate at any time soon. Government simply cannot offer credible substitutes for these less tangible, supernatural goods. The explosion in spirituality once religion was made legal in former Soviet bloc countries lends credence to this assertion (Greeley 1994). As religious markets become more deregulated in various parts of the world, it is likely that new religious movements will take advantage of increased liberty and discover ways to expand.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons from the findings above is that the religiosity of a society is not simply determined by sociological factors. Government policy can play an important role in shaping the religiosity of a nation. Policies aimed at regulating the activities of religious organizations — from tax laws to zoning regulations — have important effects on the firms that supply religious goods and services. Many of these policies are designed consciously to promote or inhibit religious practice. Alternatively, welfare policy has been shown here to unintentionally affect the demand for religious services, likely over the course of generations. And, finally, since an extensive welfare state is considered by many to be a hallmark of modernized societies, the microfoundational analysis presented above provides a way of incorporating a component part of the secularization thesis (which relies heavily on notions of modernization) into the religious economy perspective.

Have you ever heard a sermon that addresses the size of government and individual liberty and prosperity? I haven’t. You’d have to be reading Wayne Grudem or Jay Richards to find that. The typical church you attend either praises big government or says nothing about it. After all, we can keep making withdrawals on the liberties we have right now without ever worrying about having to make any deposits, right? Everything will be fine, and it’s easier not to have to think about what’s down the road to serfdom, so long as the scenery is nice for us right now. Religion is primarily about comfort, not truth. Right?

The funny thing is that when I talk to most Christians about this, especially non-Americans, they simply don’t have the knowledge of economics to understand how big government affects liberty, prosperity and security. There is no one reading F.A. Hayek and Thomas Sowell in Europe, and there are not that many people reading them here at home either.

 

Should Christians be committed to small government conservatism? | Wintery Knight.

Posted in Biblical Worldview, Christianity, Dr. Thomas Sowell, Economics, Government is Too Large, Macroeconomics, Shrink the Size of Government, welfare state, Western Civilization, Worldview | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Should we use waterboarding to stop terrorist attacks against schools in Pakistan? | Wintery Knight

Should we use waterboarding to stop terrorist attacks against schools in Pakistan?

Map of the Middle East

Let’s use a real example to assess whether harsh interrogation techniques are ever justified.

The Wall Street Journal:

Taliban gunmen stormed a military-run school in northwestern Pakistan and killed at least 141 people, methodically shooting schoolchildren in the head and setting fire to some victims in a horrifying 9-hour rampage.

Shahrukh, a 17-year-old survivor of Tuesday’s attack in Peshawar, said many students were assembled in the school auditorium when the gunmen burst in and started spraying bullets. He was shot in both legs and fell to the ground.

“I saw them set one of our teachers on fire in front of me,” he said.

The scale and level of brutality in the massacre marked a grim milestone in Pakistan’s seven-year battle against Islamist insurgents. Of the 141 killed, 132 were schoolchildren. Fifteen bodies of students were burned so badly they couldn’t be immediately identified when they were brought to the city’s Combined Military Hospital, security officials said.

Amir Ameen, 18 years old, said he and 11 other students were taking an exam when two gunmen entered their classroom. They shot students one by one, mostly in the head, he said from his bed at Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital.

The attackers shouted “Allahu akbar” or “God is great” over and over as they shot each student, Mr. Ameen said. They spoke Pashto—the language of Pakistan’s Pashtun ethnic majority in northwest Pakistan and southern Afghanistan.

[…]“The dead children we transported were shot in the head and in the face, some in the eye, as if the gun was close to them,” he said. “The children who were injured had gunshot wounds on the back of their legs and arms. They were in shock, but told us they were hit as they ran away from the attackers.”

[…]“They have attacked funerals and mosques, for them there is no limit. They are operating outside human values,” said Mehmood Shah, a retired security official in Peshawar. “They want to terrorize the population into submission.”

So that’s an example of a terrorist attack. This is 100% OK with people on the left, including self-proclaimed “Christians” who think that coddling terrorists is much better than saving innocent children from terrorists. They consider themselves moral – that’s why we need to see what they celebrate by opposing tough interrogation techniques.

One quick note: Barack Obama failed to blame the Taliban for the attack. It’s just workplace violence. Fort Hood was workplace violence. The attack on the Parliament was senseless violence. It’s never Islamic terrorism, because that would insult the terrorists and make them feel bad about what they did.

Now let’s have a defense of enhanced interrogation techniques with that example in mind.

This is also from the Wall Street Journal.

Bret Stephens writes:

I am not sorry Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational mastermind of 9/11, was waterboarded 183 times. KSM also murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl in 2002. He boasted about it: “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew,” he said after his capture.

I am sorry KSM remains alive nearly 12 years after his capture. He has been let off far too lightly. As for his waterboarding, it never would have happened if he had been truthful with his captors. It stopped as soon as he became cooperative. As far as I’m concerned, he waterboarded himself.

[…]I am not sorry Osama bin Laden died by an American bullet. John Brennan , the CIA director, delivered a master class in rhetorical obfuscation masquerading as epistemology when he waffled last week about the quality of intelligence yielded by the interrogations of KSM and other high-value detainees. But several former directors and deputy directors of the CIA have all attested to the link between KSM’s interrogation and the identification of bin Laden’s courier.

I am sorry that the Feinstein Report, which failed to interview those directors and thus has the credibility of a Rolling Stone article, seeks to deny this. Maybe Sabrina Rubin Erdely, author of the discredited University of Virginia gang-rape story and a pro at failing to interview key witnesses, will find a new career in Sen. Feinstein’s office.

[…]I am sorry that Mr. Cheney, and every other supporter of enhanced interrogation techniques, has to defend the practices as if they were torture. They are not. Waterboarding is part of the military’s standard course in Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE. Tens of thousands of U.S. servicemen have gone through it. To describe this as “torture” is to strip the word of its meaning.

In my previous post on this, I wrote about how waterboarding KSM also prevented a 9/11-style attack on Los Angeles.

Economist Thomas Sowell reminds us of the consequences of attacking the CIA, the military and the police.

He writes:

One of the most obscene acts of the Obama administration, when it first took office, was to launch a criminal investigation of CIA agents who had used harsh interrogation methods against captured terrorists in the wake of the devastating September 11, 2001 aerial attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Right after those terrorist attacks, when there were desperate fears of what might be coming next, these CIA agents were trying to spare fellow Americans another attack that could take thousands more lives, or perhaps millions more. To turn on these agents, years later, after they did what they were urged to do, as a patriotic duty in a time of crisis, is both a betrayal of those who acted in the past and a disincentive to those in the future who are charged with safeguarding the nation.

[…]The ease with which politicians are willing to pull the rug out from under people whose job is to safeguard our lives — whether they are CIA agents, the police or the military — is not only a betrayal of those people but a danger to us all.

People who are constantly denouncing the police, including with demonstrable lies, may think they are showing solidarity with people in the ghettos. But, when police hesitate to go beyond “kinder and gentler” policing, that leaves decent people in black communities at the mercy of hoodlums and thugs who have no mercy.

When conscientious young people, of any race, who would like to help maintain peace and order see that being a policeman means having race hustlers constantly whipping up mob hostility against you — and having opportunistic politicians and the media joining the race hustlers — those young people may well decide that some other line of work would be better for them.

High crime areas need not only the most, but the best, police they can get. Taking cheap shots at cops is not the way to get the people who are needed.

When people who volunteer to put their lives on the line in the military to defend this country, at home and abroad, see their buddies killed on the battlefield, and sometimes themselves come back minus an arm or a leg, or with severe physical and mental damage that they may never get over — and then see some headstrong politician in the White House throw away everything they fought for, and see enemy forces take back places for which Americans shed their blood, that can be galling to them and a deterrent to others who might otherwise take their place in the future.

If we cannot see beyond the moment today, we will pay dearly tomorrow and in many more tomorrows.

How about you? Would you be tough on a terrorist in order to prevent an attack like the one on the Pakistan school? Toughness deters future aggression. Or would you rather let the children die? I don’t have any trouble assessing these alternatives.

Should we use waterboarding to stop terrorist attacks against schools in Pakistan? | Wintery Knight.

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The Guilty Project

The Guilty Project

The Weekly Standard, NOV 24, 2014, VOL. 20, NO. 11 BY THE SCRAPBOOK

For years the “Innocence Project” at Northwestern University’s -Medill School of Journalism was “the most celebrated university program in America,” as the Chicago Reader put it. It’s also one of the most emulated, spawning imitators at law and journalism schools from Maine to Maui. And who could be surprised? Under the tutelage of a left-wing professor who was invariably valorized in news reports as “charismatic” and “inspirational,” Medill’s students reopened the cases of selected death-row inmates, declared them innocent, and then agitated for their release. Occasionally they succeeded, freeing in the process several men whose convictions rested on shaky evidence.

Prisoner

The public image was of a plucky platoon of college-age Encyclopedia Browns and Nancy Drews setting out to right wrongs. But the real value of the Innocence Project—and the reason it was the object of such tender attentions from Hollywood and the mainstream media—has been ideological. Its mission was to confirm the assumptions dearly held in the upper ranks of American journalism and higher education: the basic unfairness of our criminal justice system, the barbarism of the death penalty, and the public’s bovine complacency in the face of murderous institutional racism.

This narrative—if you’ll forgive the expression—was greatly complicated late last month when prosecutors in Chicago concluded that the Innocence Project had railroaded a man into prison for a double murder he didn’t commit. Needless to say, that’s not how the project is supposed to work.

The case involved the project’s signal triumph. In 1999, Medill’s student investigators won the release of a convicted murderer, Anthony Porter, after another man, Alstory Simon, confessed to the 1982 crime. Porter had once been only days away from his appointment with the executioner, and upon his release he became the poster child for the anti-death-penalty movement. Porter’s close call led -Illinois’s then-governor, George Ryan, to commute the capital sentence of every inmate on the state’s death row.

Simon’s confession—the only evidence presented against him—was made to investigators from the Innocence Project. He retracted it after his conviction, claiming that the charismatic professor, two of the project’s junior G-men, and a pair of private investigators had combined to bully the confession out of him. Their tactics, prosecutors found, included showing Simon videotaped testimony from an alleged eyewitness, who was in fact an actor hired by the investigators. Simon was led to believe he would benefit from a movie deal and be released within a few years. He was also shown testimony from his wife, obtained by the project, placing him at the scene of the crime; she later recanted. And when it came time for Simon to hire legal counsel, the investigators brought in a lawyer associated with the project’s effort to spring Porter from death row. The lawyer advised him to confess.

“The bottom line,” the prosecutor concluded last month, “is that the investigation .  .  . as well as the subsequent legal representation of Mr. Simon were so flawed that it’s clear the constitutional rights of Mr. Simon were not scrupulously protected as our law requires.” A judge agreed, and Simon walked out of prison a few hours later.

The 1982 murder remains unsolved. But the tactics of the Innocence Project in their rush to reassign guilt for a capital crime—to take upon themselves the roles of judge, prosecutor, and jury, by virtue of their own righteous indignation—is a case study in the dangers of ideological zeal, and of journalistic gullibility.

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Reflections on the Midterm Elections, Nov 22nd, 2014, by Dr. Jim Eckman

Reflections on the Midterm Elections

Nov 22nd, 2014 | By  

The 2014 election is now history and a few observations about this momentous election are now possible.  Without question, it was a “wave” election for the Republican Party.  Although the results are stunning, the election’s long-term potential impact is now coming into focus.  Several thoughts about the election:

  • First of all, the Republican Party has now established itself as the nation’s dominant governing party.  Consider these facts as summarized by columnist David Brooks:  Republicans now control 69 of 99 state legislative bodies.  Republicans hold 31 governorships to Democrats 18; the highest total since the 1920s.  When the new Congress convenes in January, Republicans will have their largest majority in the House of Representatives since 1931; they will have a majority in the Senate, dominate gubernatorial power in the Midwest, and have more legislative power nationwide than at any time over the past century.  The Republican Party will now hold key decision-making positions in the Congress, especially in terms of key committee chairmanships.  As Brooks observes, the Republican Party accomplished this because they have deep roots in four of the dominant institutions of American society—the business community, the military, the church and civic organizations.  Consider these individuals elected on 4 November: (1)  Larry Hogan, new governor of Maryland is the founder of Hogan Companies, a real estate development firm.  He co-chaired a bipartisan commission to reform county government in his state and then founded Change Maryland, an activist group.  (2)  David Perdue, elected US Senator from Georgia, was senior VP for Asian operations for the Sara Lee Corporation.  He also served as CEO of Haggar Clothing, Reebok, Pillowtex and Dollar General.  (3)  Thom Tillis, elected US Senator from North Carolina, led a research team for Wang Laboratories before going to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers and then IBM.  (4)  Illinois’ new governor, Bruce Rauner, was chairman of the private equity firm GTCR.  A gracious philanthropist, Rauner has given more than $20 million toward improving Chicago schools.  (5)  James Lankford, new US Senator from Oklahoma, has a divinity degree and has run Falls Creek, the nation’s largest Christian camp.  (6)  Tom Cotton, newly elected US Senator from Arkansas, worked at Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, served in the Army and served at McKinsey Corporation.  It is important to note that these various individuals are not from the fringe; they represent the very pillars of American society.  Brooks comments that “Republicans won this election in part because they re-established their party’s traditional personality.  The beau ideal of American Republicanism is the prudent business leader who is active in the community, active at church and fervently devoted to national defense.”  Perhaps even more importantly, this year Republicans won among white-working class voters by 30%.  They tied Democrats among Asian-Americans and severely cut their losses among Hispanics.  It was indeed a “wave” election for the Party.
  • Second, this election invites significant observations about the state of the Democratic Party.  The Party saw the largest Democratic Senate losses since 1980.  During the Obama presidency, the loss of nearly 70 House seats has resulted, producing the largest Republican majority since 1931.  As columnist Michael Gerson demonstrates, the near-extinction of the Democratic Party in the South, including in Arkansas and Tennessee, which had produced the Party’s national ticket in 1992 and 1996, is devastating.  Furthermore,Washington Post analyst Dan Balz correctly concludes that, as the Obama administration comes to an end, the best-known Democrats are almost entirely from an older generation, from the vice president to the major leadership offices in the House and Senate.  And, Hillary Rodham Clinton seems to be the presumptive 2016 Democratic presidential candidate—and she hardly represents new blood for the Democratic Party.  Additionally, because of the results in the various state elections, the Party has a serious problem:  The states have traditionally been the breeding ground for future national talent and for policy experimentation.  Republicans have unified control (i.e., governor and state legislatures) in 23 states, while the Democrats have only 7.  For the Democratic Party leaders, it would be difficult to be optimistic about the near-term future of the Party.
  • Third, the response of President Obama is telling.  During the weekend before the election, President Obama declared that “The American people are with us on all the big issues.  You know it.  I know it.  The polls show it.”  It would be very difficult to argue that the president made an accurate observation; his comments do not reflect reality!  At his subsequent news conference after the election, he appeared grumpy, defensive and evidenced neither remorse nor a contrite spirit.  Gerson captures the essence of the president’s comments on the election:  He “displayed a series of character traits that have become hardened and exaggerated under the pressure of defeat.  His self-confidence has slipped into denial—imagining the election as a generalized anti-incumbent tantrum rather that a reaction to the performance of his administration.  His moral certitude has turned into the graceless dismissal of opposition, who cannot be conceded anything more than a ‘good night.’  His pride of accomplishment has become a conviction that Americans are just insufficiently grateful for the ‘real progress’ of the past six years.”

Anyone who is intellectually honest must conclude that the election results are a significant check on Obama’s power and must be viewed as an evaluation of his presidential leadership, for he is not only the leader of the nation but also the leader of his Party.

One final thought about this election:  President Obama came into office believing that he could wield his power as president and thereby use the wealth and power of the national government to make the economy, the health care system and the material well-being of the American people better.  A more centralized and powerful governmental bureaucracy could be leveraged to improve life for the American people.  If anything has been proven during Obama’s six years as president, it is that the governmental bureaucracy is not more efficient, more effective or better equipped to serve the people.  Just the opposite has been proven.  Witness the catastrophic introduction of the heath care overall called Obamacare.  Witness the disastrous workings of the IRS, the Veteran’s Administration, the Secret Service, the US Postal Service, etc. over the last six years.  Enhancing the power of the centralized national government is not the answer to a better society.  Among many other things, this election demonstrated that the American voter has less trust and confidence in the national government than it did six years ago when Obama became president.  It is time for everyone to admit that and seek to change the way government operates.  What is occurring at the state levels of government (e.g., Wisconsin under Scott Walker, Ohio under John Kasich) needs to happen at the national level as well.  May God give us the grace to effect this change!

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“Climate Change and Public Policy: The Need for Prudence” By Dr. Jim Eckman

Climate Change and Public Policy: The Need for Prudence

Nov 8th, 2014 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

The mantra of “settled science” when it comes to climate change is uttered on the national media, by President Obama and by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  For these folks the matter is settled; there is no more need for debate or discussion on the causes of climate change.  For them, the next urgent matter is a change in public policy that immediately mandates significant reductions in greenhouse emissions (e.g., from the burning of coal).  Is it “settled science”?  Do we need aggressive laws that reduce carbon emissions?  What should public policy be when it comes to managing climate change?

In fact, climate change is a given.  The climate has always been changing and it always will be.  Both geological and historical records validate that change.  Further, there is also little doubt that growing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are having an influence on climate.  But as Steven E. Koonin, Undersecretary for Science in the Energy Department during President Obama’s first term and now faculty member at New York University asks:  The real question is not one of climate change but, “How will the climate change over the next century under both natural and human influences?  Answers to that question at the global and regional levels, as well as to equally complex questions of how ecosystems and human activities will be affected, should inform our choices about energy and infrastructure.”

Koonin identifies three fundamental challenges about what science can tell us about future climates:

  1. Even though human influences could have serious consequences for the climate, they are physically small in relation to the climate system as a whole.  Koonin writes that “human additions to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by the middle of the 21st century are expected to directly shift the atmosphere’s natural greenhouse effect by only 1% to 2%.  Since the climate system is highly variable on its own, that smallness sets a very high bar for confidently projecting the consequences of human influences.”
  2. A second challenge is our poor understanding of the oceans.  “The oceans, which change over decades and centuries, hold most of the climate’s heat and strongly influence the atmosphere.  Unfortunately, precise, comprehensive observations of the oceans are available only for the past few decades; the reliable record is still far too short to adequately understand how the oceans will change and how they will affect climate.”
  3. A third challenge, according to Koonin, arises from feedbacks that can dramatically amplify or mute the climate’s response to human and natural influences.  “One important feedback, which is thought to approximately double the direct heating effect of carbon dioxide, involves water vapor, clouds and temperature.  But feedbacks are uncertain.  They depend on the details of processes such as evaporation and the flow of radiation through clouds.  They cannot be determined confidently from the basic laws of physics and chemistry, so they must be verified by precise, detailed observations that are, in many cases, not yet available.”

One final point from Koonin’s article – it is important to fairly and honestly evaluate the “settled science” of climate change.  The recent IPCC report (September 2013) utilizes five different models tuned to reproduce the gross features of the Earth’s climate and then synthesizes them together in the report.  But, Koonin shows, the marked differences in their respective details and projections reflect the limitations described in the above “challenges.”  Here is a synopsis of his findings:

  1. The models differ in their descriptions of the past century’s global average surface temperature by more than three times the entire warming recorded during that time.  Such mismatches are also present in many other basic climate factors, including rainfall, which is fundamental to the atmosphere’s energy balance.  Therefore, the models give widely varying descriptions of the climate’s inner workings.  Since they disagree so markedly, no more than one of them can be right.
  2. The models roughly describe the shrinking extent of Arctic sea ice over the past two decades, but they fail to describe the comparable growth of Antarctic sea ice, which is now at a record high.
  3. The models predict that the lower atmosphere in the tropics will absorb much of the heat of the warming atmosphere.  But that “hot spot” has not been confidently observed, casting doubt on our understanding of the crucial feedback of water vapor on temperature.
  4. Even though the human influence on climate was much smaller in the past, the models do not account for the fact that the rate of global sea-level rise 70 years ago was as large as what we observe today—about one foot per century.
  5. A critical measure of our knowledge of feedbacks is climate sensitivity—i.e., the warming induced by hypothetical doubling of carbon-dioxide concentration.  Today’s best estimate of the sensitivity is no different, and no more certain, than it was 30 years ago; despite research that has cost billions of dollars!!

Koonin shrewdly observes that “Policy makers and the public may wish for the comfort of certainty in their climate science.  But I fear that rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is ‘settled’ (or is a ‘hoax’) demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, retarding its progress in these important matters.”

Further, Judith Curry, professor and former chairwoman of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, adds that the “climate sensitivity” estimates based on her research and a dozen other observation-based studies have found climate sensitivity values are lower than those determined using global climate models, such as in the recent IPCC report.  If these climate-model sensitivities are too high, then we must ask whether the climate-model projections of 21st-century temperatures are fit for making public-policy decisions.  Curry concludes that “This slower rate of warming—relative to climate model projections—means there is less urgency to phase out greenhouse gas emissions now, and more time to find ways to decarbonize the economy affordably.  This also allows us the flexibility to revise our policies as further information becomes available.”

God has given human beings stewardship responsibility over His world.  We are to manage it and care for it as His theocratic stewards.  Understanding the dynamics of climate change and making wise public policy decisions is a part of that stewardship.  The research and conclusions of Koonin and Curry, both summarized in this Perspectiveindicate that climate change science is not “settled science” and wisdom dictates that more time and more research are needed.  Our models are not adequate and, if that is true, we cannot make wise public policy.

See Judith Curry in the Wall Street Journal (10 October 2014) and Steven E. Koonin in the Wall Street Journal (20-21 September 2014). PRINT PDF

 

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 Blood Moons and the End of the World By Mark Saucy

 

“The Apache helicopters in America’s arsenal are the locusts that come from the abyss in Revelation 9.” This statement comes directly from 88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988, a tome you could still purchase on Amazon, believe it or not. It was also the subject of a huge prophecy conference that year in the Anaheim Convention Center, I remember. The sequel came out a year later (same author) after obvious and awkward complications: The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989 (also on Amazon, if you’re interested). Then we all remember the more recent predictions (and later apologies) of Harold Camping about the End of the World being May 21, 2011. Somewhat ironically, it happened that the final exam for my grad course in eschatology and ecclesiology was scheduled for that very day. Real believers, I told the class, didn’t need to study for that one! (No one took me up on it.)

blood-moon-tetrad

So now we have blood moons, tetrads, Jewish feasts, and cool-sounding apocalyptic biblical language (Acts 2:19–20; cf. Joel 2:30–31) all being marshaled to give biblical eschatology another black eye. While it’s true that this shiner is worn most by those actually fronting such things, I still get painted with it, too. This is because I would probably have much in common with the “Blood Mooners” in the big questions of Christian orthodoxy, not to mention I also read Daniel, Jesus in the Olivet Discourse (e.g., Matt. 24–25), and Revelationas having application to the future.

It’s one thing to be a scandal for the Gospel—the Gospel of Jesus Christ is scandalous to the world. Paul felt that, and I am proud to own that, too (1 Cor. 1:18–25). But blood moons as signs of the prophecy clock ticking is a scandal in the wrong direction.

Now, I’m all in favor of blood moons (awe-inspiring astronomical phenomenon!), tetrads (rare!), Jewish feasts (our overly Gentilized Church calendars should be more dominated by these—as they are fulfilled in Christ), and apocalyptic (it can be literal too—resurrection is a feature of apocalyptic, and we all believe in that one). But put them together in yet another sensationalized, factually crazy…, books-flying-off-the-shelf spectacle for the world, and I just shake my head. We’re in the same ditch as those who have no hope.

Actually, I wouldn’t mind at all if the blood moon clamor were right. I’ll take the Lord’s Day over this present darkness any time! But in saying this, I also know that such predictions have been part of the Church since its founding. Everygeneration has located the signs of the end in its day. So, if you have a new supposed fulfillment you’re cooking up, like blood moons, take a number and get in line! You have a lot of company.

Better is to keep one’s focus about the end times where Scripture does. Why has God given his people any knowledge of the future? These are the things I have confidence in:

1. Knowledge of our story, the one God told us in the Bible including how it all ends, gives us stability for life. It gives comfort when standing for what’s right (1 Pet. 2:23; Rev. 2–3), strength for service when weary (1 Cor. 15:58; 2 Cor. 5:10–11; 1 Pet. 5:4), grit to resist all that’s unholy (1 Pet. 1:13–17), and intentionality for following the Master with all our heart (Matt. 16:24, 27). This world is not our home, and Christ’s coming for his own marks the end of our alien condition. We must live every day in the light of this truth, but God alone knows the end. His son said so (Mark 13:32).

2. Knowing God’s story keeps us from being taken in by those with other stories (see Matt. 24:5—there will be pretenders). It’s why God’s people don’t need Tarot cards, psychics, astrology, channeling, etc. In fact, for their good, God even forbids these of his people (Deut .18:14–15).

3. Fulfilled prophecy validates the prophet (Deut. 18:21–22; see also Jeremiah’s “prophecy duel” with Hananiah in Jer. 28:1–17—good story).

4. Most of all, prophecy proves who is God and who is not. Who else can say, “Truly I am God, I have no peer; I am God, and there is none like me, who announces the end from the beginning and reveals beforehand what has not yet occurred…” (Isa. 46:9–10)?

Someone wisely observed that God has told us just enough about the future so we don’t despair, but not so much that we should not need him. Probably a wise balance and one I at least will aim for when the next blood moon comes around this fall.


For more, visit the Good Book Blog, a seminary faculty blog from Talbot School of Theology.

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Same-Sex Marriage: A Stunning Cultural and Legal Accommodation By Dr. Jim Eckman |

Same-Sex Marriage: A Stunning Cultural and Legal Accommodation

Oct 18th, 2014 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

On Monday, 6 October 2014, the US Supreme Court let stand appeals court rulings permitting same-sex marriage in five states—Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.  Such decisions by the Court are done without explanation, as was this decision.  But the silence of the Court here is deafening, for it sends a decisive signal that the accommodation to same-sex marriage is virtually complete within American culture and law.  This action by the Court increased the number of states permitting same-sex marriage to 24.  This will expand quickly to others.  Monday’s order from the Court let stand decisions from three federal appeals courts striking down bans on same-sex marriage in the states listed above.  But these three courts have jurisdiction over six additional states that ban same-sex marriage—Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming—which will result in bans in those states being struck down as well.  This will bring to 30 the states that permit same-sex marriage.  Other appeals courts will certainly follow, most certainly the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, which has jurisdiction over nine states.  Assuming the Ninth Circuit will follow suit, this will bring the total to 35 states that permit same-sex marriage.

Let me explain something here about the Supreme Court’s action on Monday, 6 October 2014.  The Supreme Court is under no obligation to hear cases, for it has discretion over its own jurisdiction in legal matters.  Those who lose a case in a lower court may petition the Supreme Court for a review of the case (called a writ of certiorari), which is what the Court decided on Monday:  it refused to grant a review of these cases.  When such a review is denied, the judgment of the lower court becomes final.  As Garrett Epps argues in The Atlantic, “In every one of the marriage cases [in the petition for a review], a federal court held that the parties before it are entitled to recognition of their marriages, or entitled to be legally married in their state or residence.  Laws and state constitutional provisions limiting marriage to ‘one man and one woman’ are void.  In each case, either the court of appeals or the Supreme Court had ‘stayed the mandate’ pending Supreme Court review.”  It is virtually unthinkable that the Supreme Court will overturn this in any future cases dealing with same-sex marriage.  In other words, the accommodation to same-sex marriage is now complete.  Based on what the Supreme Court just did, the Constitution has now been interpreted as providing the right of same-sex marriage in the United States.  Theologian Albert Mohler is correct when he concludes that “The remaining federal courts were put on notice that same-sex marriage is now the expectation of the Supreme Court and that no appeal on the question is likely to be successful, or even heard.”

The accommodation of culture and law to same-sex marriage is nothing short of staggering—and really unprecedented.  First legalized in the Netherlands in 2001, same-sex marriages have spread to 19 countries and, as mentioned above, will soon be legal in 35 states!  How has this cultural and legal accommodation happened so quickly?  How is it that what was once unthinkable, became debatable and is now acceptable?  There are many ways to approach such questions, but most certainly the accommodation of American culture and law to Postmodern autonomy is a major factor explaining this accommodation to same-sex marriage.  In terms of law, the 2003Lawrence v. Texas decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy was decisive.  In that decision, Kennedy wrote that “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”  In other words, liberty is absolute autonomy:  I alone determine what is valuable, worthwhile and meaningful.  There is nothing outside of me that defines things of worth and value.  In 2003, Justice Antonin Scalia fully understood the implication of what Justice Kennedy was saying:  “This reasoning leaves on pretty shaky grounds state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.  Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as a formal recognition in marriage is concerned.  If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is ‘no legitimate state interest’ for purposes of proscribing conduct . . . what justification could there possible be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples?”  What Scalia foresaw in 2003 has occurred in 2014!

Two major conclusions are obvious:

  1. In this accommodation to same-sex marriage, American culture and law are on a collision course with religious groups who disagree with same-sex marriage on theological grounds.  In the name of religious liberty, such groups will seek exemption from the application of this ruling.  Religious liberty is a sacred right detailed in the First Amendment and one which is at the heart of the American experiment in human liberty.  But with the acceptance of Postmodern autonomy as the new basis for culture and law, it is at least somewhat doubtful that religious liberty will be preserved.  In some ways, the threat to religious liberty and freedom of conscience has never been more real.
  2. American culture and law have completely abandoned any recognition of God’s Creation Ordinance in Genesis 2:18-25.  In that central text, God makes clear that marriage is monogamous, heterosexual and a “one-flesh” union between a man and a woman.  [Each time Jesus and Paul in the New Testament discuss marriage and sexuality, they reference this Creation Ordinance, for it transcends all time and all cultures.]  There is no lack of clarity in this text, but throughout history human beings have chosen to ignore it and God has simply “given them over” to the natural consequences of this choice (see Romans 1:18-32).  As God’s clear teaching on marriage and sexuality are opposed, other vices follow in terms of human sin; the downward spiral of self-destructive behavior follows.  The United States is quite naïve and actually quite arrogant if it thinks that America alone will be the exception.
Posted in Biblical Worldview, Breakdown of Marriage, Breakdown of the Family, Children at Risk, Christianity, Cultural Barometer, Death of a Nation, Death of Western Culture, Dr. James P. Eckman, Not Following God's Plan, Political Correctness, Postmodernism, Progressives, Sin, Society at Risk | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment