Monday, July 28, 2014

Testing Mill's maxim

"Testing Mill's Maxim"

Evaluating the Arab–Israeli conflict

One reason professing Christians disagree on the Arab-Israeli conflict is because they approach the issue with different criteria. Instead of debating the particulars of the Arab-Israeli conflict, it would be more productive to analyze the criteria by which they evaluate this conflict. To some extent I think there's a failure to recognize or make explicit their criteria.

I. Theological

Dispensationalists side with Israel because they think the modern state of Israel represents the ongoing fulfillment of promise and prophecy. God gave the Jews this land. That's an irrevocable divine promise. 

Conversely, you have Reformed Baptist and Reformed Presbyterians who either side with the "Palestinians" or at least try to be even-handed (as they see it) in opposition to dispensationalism. The position they take on the Arab-Israeli conflict is an indirect result of the direct position they take in opposition to dispensational theology.

Nowadays, some Christians have a Calvinist soteriology, but a dispensational eschatology. But I'm referring to Reformed Baptists and Reformed Presbyterians who espouse traditional covenant theology.

II. Social justice

i) Many people who side with the "Palestinians" frame the issue as a social justice issue. This includes many secular liberals, and "progressive Christians," as well as some conservative evangelicals. 

The liberals view Hamas and the PLO as freedom fighters rather than terrorists. They distinguish between the just cause (as they define it) and the means. Even if Hamas or the PLO resorts terrorist tactics, that's in the service of a just cause. And they view that as counterterrorism in response to Israeli terrorism. 

The just cause is the axiom that Palestine is "occupied" territory. The Israelis expelled the Palestinians from their homes during the war of independence. Therefore, "Palestinians" are simply fighting back to reclaim what was theirs all along. 

Conservative evangelicals don't go that far. But they try to be equitable. They deplore the "cycle of violence" on both sides. They want to be fair to the "Palestinians." They think the "Palestinians" suffered a genuine and grave injustice during the war of independence. "Palestinians" have legitimate historical grievances with their Israeli overlords. 

ii) One problem with the social justice angle is that it's premised on a historical narrative that's hotly contested. Jewish sources present a very different version of events:

iii) Apropos (ii), someone might object that I just cited a biased source. And I don't dispute that. But that's a problem with the premise. Most of us aren't qualified to assess the historical claims and counter-claims. Most of us are in no position to sift through the competing narratives and decide which account is more accurate. 

iv) However, some proponents of this criterion also cite pro-Palestinian Jewish sources. Supposedly, that's objective and unbiased. After all, these are Israelis or Jews criticizing their own people. Speaking for myself, the mere fact that you can find Jews who take the Palestinian side leaves me unimpressed. 

a) Judaism isn't monolithic. It ranges all along a political and theological spectrum, from far left to far right. 

b) To my knowledge, Israel has nearly universal conscription (with few exemptions). The IDF isn't composed of rightwing patriots who volunteer to defend their country. Rather, every political viewpoint will be represented in the IDF, due to the demographically sweeping scope of the draft. As such, it isn't hard to quote dissenters within the ranks.

Likewise, you have Jewish-American professors who, from the safety of their American campus, can afford to pander to the jihadists. So what? 

v) There is also the underlying assumption that social problems in the present have their "root cause" in the past. To solve the problem, we must discover the source of the problem by tracing the effect back to some past miscarriage of justice–be it real, imagined, or exaggerated. It's like Freudian psychology transposed to a sociological key. Like something went wrong in childhood. So we're always treated to a history lesson. 

But aside from the question of whether the historical reconstruction is accurate, another weakness with this analysis is that the same types of problems recur in different settings, where the background conditions are very different. 

vi) Yet another problem with the social justice angle is the assumption that Israel should treat Muslims better than Muslims treat each other. But why do Muslims expect strangers to treat Muslims better than Muslims treat their own kind? Muslims routinely brutalize fellow Muslims. 

vii) Apropos (vi), by what standard are we judging Israelis? Are we holding them to Christian standards? But since most Israelis aren't Christian, why would we expect them to defend themselves according to Christian ethics? In a sense, we can judge all parties to that standard, but we can't very well hold them to that standard. 

viii) There's also the question of how Christians could or should defend themselves in similar circumstances. If you're up against a ruthless, fanatical opponent who sacrifices his own women and children for the cause, who will never make peace with you, what realistic choice does he leave you? Frankly, I think Israel exhibits excessive restraint.  

ix) Thankfully I don't live in Israel. I can only imagine what a tremendous cumulative psychological toll it takes to live in a place where you never feel safe. Where you're in constant danger.

The predictability of the general threat (something bad is bound to happen every so often), yet unpredictability of the specific threats (not knowing when and where the terrorists will strike next). The tunnels exemplify that. The enemy can pop out of nowhere. I think that would generate a claustrophobic cultural mindset. 

That's exacerbated by the fact that Israel is so small: the size of NJ. So there's no buffer zone. It can hit you before you know it. The enemy can be right on top of you before you know it, much less have time to react. 

How can you live in a state of fear 24/7? Do Israelis just become inured to the omnipresent sense of danger? Do they become fatalistic? 

III. Risk Assessment

Then you have folks who pick a side based on who's a natural ally or adversary. Who poses a threat to you, your family, you're livelihood? It isn't based on history or eschatology, the past or the future, but on the present. Jews and Israelis aren't dangerous to Americans–although some Jews espouse secular ideologies that are dangerous to Christian freedom of expression. By contrast, Muslims have proven themselves to be dangerous to everyone. 

This is not the same thing as Realpolitik. We have a Christian duty to protect our dependents and practice our faith.  

Charting the “Reformed” Postmoderns

A Postmodern Continuum, by Jacob Aitken

One of the most useless terms in lay apologetics is “postmodern.” It usually means “someone different from me but I am not sure how.” Or it means Brian McLaren. Postmodernism as a critical literary and philosophical position is rarely distinguished from applications of postmodernism by hippie, angry, post-evangelicals. ...

For my own view, I see postmodernism as a literary-philosophical position in critique of (if not parasitic upon) late modern structures. Such a view is mediated through the works of Michael Horton and Kevin Vanhoozer.

We will start with the most radical and dangerous postmoderns to those who are sympathetic to postmodern, but would probably fit in a Reformed church. This list is not exclusive but is limited to those thinkers whom I have read...

Read more: A Postmodern Continuum

Gripped By A Great God

I wish this would be shown at every high school graduation:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Some Bad Advice From Tony Miano

Tony Miano, well-known street preacher, had this to say on Facebook recently:
Can't find a solid church that supports open-air preaching?
Then go to a solid church that doesn't support open-air preaching, and submit to the authority of the pastors/elders of the church. It is more important that you are a serving member of a local church than it is for you to open-air preach.
Christian Brother: God has certainly called you to be a hand, or foot, or arm, or leg in His Body. But He may NOT have called you to open-air preach. The fact that you want to open-air preach doesn't mean God has called you to open-air preach. You may not be finding a church that supports open-air preaching because that may not be the role the Lord has for you in His body.
So, get plugged into a local church; live in submission to the elders and in love with the rest of the congregation. Be willing to work the nursery, or scrub a toilet, or teach a Sunday school class (if you're qualified). Be willing to serve for no other reason than it is a fulfillment of the two greatest commandments--to love God and to love people.
The Lord may yet call you to open-air preach (if you are a man), and you will know that because your pastors/elders will affirm your call to preach the gospel in the open-air. And they will likely affirm that call once they see you are willing to submit to authority, serve the Body, can rightly handle the Scriptures, and once they see that the gospel of Jesus Christ is more important to you than hearing your own voice preaching it.
Give it some thought.
I gave it some thought, and I'd like to share a few.

Notice that Miano didn't frame the issue in terms of whether the church thinks the individual reader ought to open-air preach (OAP). It is plausible a church might not want a particular individual to OAP. For example, if the aspiring preacher is not very good at explaining the Gospel, or he hasn't mastered his temper yet and easily gets mad and challenges people to fistfights. But Miano is talking about OAP in general.

On the other hand, Miano seems to be referring to a situation where an aspiring OA preacher is not a member of a church because he can't find one that supports OAP. It is a pitifully sad commentary on the state of Reformedigelical churches in the West that this is a plausible scenario. I would at least agree with Miano on this - if you're not a member of a church, there had better be a really really good reason. Ie, you live in a location where despite faithful searching you have not been able to connect with anybody who actually loves Jesus.

Paganism, Satanism, and witchcraft

I'm going to quote this as a foil:

Paganism should not be understood as a synonym for Satanism. For many Pagans such an association is offensive, being understood as one of the many ways Christians have historically sought to demonize indigenous, nature-venerating religions. Most contemporary Pagans will insist that because Satan does not feature in the Pagan worldview, and because Satanists work with a perverted understanding of the Christian worldview, Satanists are not Pagans, but rather Christian heretics. Indeed, many Pagans will actively distance themselves from Satanists and Satanism. The Paganism-Satanist  confusion, which probably stretches back to the Christian denunciation of Pagans as "devil-worshipers," has been exacerbated in recent years by misrepresentations in films, horror novels and popular books dealing with the occult. "Pagan and indigenous religions," New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics (IVP 2006), 524b. 

This raises a host of issues:

i) Methodologically speaking, I imagine it must be difficult to find any "pure," indigenous forms of paganism or witchcraft in the modern world. After 2000 years of church history and Christian mission, contemporary paganism and witchcraft have almost inevitably been impacted by contact with Christian theology and practice. Indeed, it is often in deliberate reaction to Christianity.

ii) Of course, we have many literary and archeological sources for varieties of pre-Christian paganism and witchcraft. However, that's problematic for the sanitized image of modern pagans and modern "wiccans," inasmuch as ancient pagans often practice human sacrifice or child sacrifice in particular.

iii) There's an obvious sense in which pre-Christian witchcraft isn't a synonym for Satanism. Pre-Christian witches and pagans didn't consciously worship Satan. That requires a revelatory perspective. However, it's quite possible to be unwittingly in the service of the Devil. 

iv) As scholars have documented, European witchcraft evolved into diabolical witchcraft. Cf. J. B. Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (Cornell University Press, 1984), J. B. Russell & B. Alexander, A History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics, & Pagans (Thames & Hudson; 2nd ed., 2007).

Due, moreover, to the global reach of Christianity, European witchcraft is hardly confined to a particular period or geography. To take one example, consider Voodoo's amalgam of Catholicism and witchcraft.

v) European witchcraft was an eclectic synthesis of sorcery, old paganism, necromancy, folklore, and heresy (e.g. the Cathars, Luciferians, Adamites). That's often an explicit version of diabolical witchcraft.  

vi) One interesting question is the degree to which Roman Catholic sacerdotalism and sacramentalism might have been a partial catalyst for European witchcraft. To what extent is Satanism black magic to Catholicism's white magic (as it were)?

vii) I also wonder if European witchcraft wasn't influenced by the "whore of Babylon" in Rev 17-18. Both at a substantive and iconographical level, the image of a harlot and sorceress riding on the back of a scarlet beast is rife with connotations (e.g. immorality, bestiality, seduction, spells, human sacrifice) that feed into Satanism. Did that contribute to the development of diabolical witchcraft on the Continent? 

viii) A pagan/wiccan apologist might object that European witchcraft isn't "true" paganism, but an artificial, culturebound construct. No doubt there's a grain of truth to that complaint, although paganism and witchcraft are inherently syncretistic and opportunistic. 

ix) However, it could also be argued that the encounter between paganism and Christianity was a clarifying moment for paganism. The shock of recognition. Removing the mask to reveal what (or who) actually lay behind paganism and witchcraft. 

x) Finally, what about the incendiary charge of child sacrifice? I doubt contemporary Western pagans and witches generally practice child sacrifice. However, I suspect the basic reason is the fact that, at present, child sacrifice is illegal. Murder. A punishable offense. 

There are, however, parts of the world where life is cheap, where there are many unwanted children, abandoned children, street children. Children sold into slavery. There are parts of the world were modern-day witches could probably procure children (for a price) for ritual sacrifice. And that would mark a reversion to pre-Christian pagan practice. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Omelianchuck on the Free Will Defense

Paul Draper on God and the Burden of Proof

Islam is the problem

Some evangelicals are confused or conflicted about taking sides in the "Palestinian" conflict. They think support for Israel is too one-sided. We need to be fair to the "Palestinians." 
Speaking for myself, I'm not a dispensationalist. I'm not a Christian Zionist. 
I don't assume that 1948 is a significant date on the eschatological timetable. I don't assume the establishment of the modern state of Israel represents the fulfillment of prophecy. Perhaps it does. I don't rule that out. But it's not a presupposition of my position.
I don't base my position on the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. I don't need to know who fired the first shot. 
My position can be summed up in one word: Islam.
My position is less about supporting Israel than opposing Islam. Opposing Islam is my default setting. That's the frame of reference. 
Perhaps the so-called Palestinians have historical grievances. Frankly, that's irrelevant.
I don't need to research the past to arrive at my position. The present will do just fine. 
I see what happens when Muslims migrate to other parts of the world, like England, Europe, Canada, and the US (e.g. Michigan) where they have no historical grievances. Where it's a clean slate. 
They begin to impose Sharia. They begin to persecute the locals. 
They bring their culture with them. They import their religion. 
Notice, too, how Muslims are systematically and ethnically cleansing historically Christian pockets of the Mideast. Take a cue. 
Islam is the problem: first, last, and always.
Islam should be opposed, always and everywhere.
It's a simple policy.
I see what Muslims to do others, and I see what Muslims to do themselves. 
Some people might object that I'm overgeneralizing. Not all, or even most, Muslims are terrorists. Maybe not, but just see how they behave whenever and wherever they come to power. 
Even if (ex hypothesi) most Muslims aren't terrorists, the "moderates" are intimidated by the zealots. They keep their mouths shut and go along with the radical elements.
Like an invasive species or computer virus, Islam takes over.
Never empower Muslims.  Don't give an inch. 
No one benefits by empowering Muslims. Everyone suffers as a result: Muslims and non-Muslims alike. 
Islam is the world's most dangerous ideology. It produces a pathologically destructive and self-destructive culture. 

Whose Land? Whose Promise?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Peace in the Mideast

Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.

– Golda Meir 

Be careful about who you invite inside

Invidious comparisons

I'm going to comment on a post by Arminian theologian Roger Olson:

The underlying problem that (so far) I have heard no one talking about is our American affluence, including conspicuous consumption and luxury, promoted to the world via movies and television as the result of “the American dream,” combined with our boast to be a “nation of immigrants.” While we do have our own poor in the U.S., most of them are living in the lap of luxury compared with many people in Latin America. And we love to show off our prosperity and affluence, even our luxurious possessions and lifestyles, to the rest of the world—including our neighbors. Then we expect them to stay away. But we are like a magnet to the poor next door. Who can blame them for being drawn almost inexorably to us? 
My wife and I often watch a television show called “House Hunters International” on the Home and Garden channel. But my stomach turns when I see U.S. rich people south of our border to spend hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars on mansions on beaches in Latin American countries where just a few miles away thousands of children are literally suffering malnutrition, infant mortality (that could be alleviated), lack of education, and are living like animals in hovels. 
You question that? A few years ago my wife and I took our one and only vacation to Mexico. We stayed in a very simple, inexpensive “eco-resort” on a beach south of Cancun. In the nearby town and surrounding jungles we saw with our own eyes two shocking things. Lining the beaches near our extremely modest “resort” (not even electricity in the cabanas) were enormous, luxurious gated resorts inhabited almost exclusively by Americans. In the nearby town we saw one neighborhood made up of what looked like animal barns surrounded by mud with pigs and chickens. These hovels were inhabited by women and children. The children were obviously malnourished (hugely extended, bloated stomachs typical of that disorder) and “playing” in mud among the pigs and chickens. 
These people “know” that within reach is a paradise of affluence and luxury, free universal education, health care, food and…hope. And yet we who live in the lap of luxury expect them to stay away. 
The problem is often framed as “those bad Latin Americans who want to come and take what we have” rather than as “we rich Americans who show off our luxury and want to keep it all to ourselves.” 
As a Christian, I ask my fellow Texans and others (many of who consider themselves Christians) to consider Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Who are we, America, in the parable? Who are the Central American children standing or sitting on one side of our border or the other? 
Recently a Christian man in my town, very well known, a “pillar of the community,” purchased a partially built mansion on the edge of town with twenty-three thousand square feet of living space. 

Notice how he lumps middle-class Americans in with the super rich.

More to the point, there's more than one way to react to the invidious comparison. When Russian communists were exposed to American freedom and prosperity, that caused them to question their own system. "Why can't we do the same thing in our own country?" 

Boris Yeltsin reacted somewhat differently to a Houston supermarket in 1989. He expressed astonishment at the abundance and variety of the products he saw, but in his autobiography Against the Grain he describes the experience as "shattering": "When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons, and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people. That such a potentially super-rich country as ours has been brought to a state of such poverty! It is terrible to think of it."
After Yeltsin visited that Houston supermarket, says Lilia Shevtsova of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "he became a reformer." Bill Keller, a former New York Times Moscow correspondent and now the Times's executive editor, sees Yeltsin's visit to the United States in even broader perspective: "The prosperity, the rule of law, the freedom and efficiency [Yeltsin] witnessed in America, catalyzed his notions about the fraud of communism."

"This land is mine"

Debates over the Arab/Israeli conflict (which the politically correct dub "Palestinians") often center on the question of whether the Jews have a claim to the land. Richard Tucker, the late great opera tenor and observant Jew, performed a stirring rendition of "The Exodus Song":
Yet it's misleading to say "this land is mine." According to Scripture:
The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me (Lev 25:23).
God is the landlord, while Israelites are tenants and caretakers. 
Although the debate often swirls around the identity of the land (e.g. the borders), the larger theological issue concerns the identity of the people. Ironically, the terms of the Abrahamic covenant are deliberately ambiguous in this regard:
17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
vv2 & 6 allude to Gen 1:28 and 9:1,7. Just as Adam was the progenitor of the human race, Noah is the new Adam, and Abraham is the progenitor of a new race. 
In this passage, is Abraham the father of the Jews, or the father of the gentiles? His national or international descendants? The promise encompasses both referents. 
i) It would obviously be cynical for secular Jews to claim God gave them the land.

ii) The Mosaic covenant is defunct. However, the land promises go back to the Abrahamic covenant, which is not defunct.

iii) Observant Jews who reject the Messiahship of Christ are covenant-breakers. Also, many modern-day Jews aren't ethnic Jews. So that's a complicating factor.

iv) Messianic Jews are arguably in a position to claim the land promises. But I think the ultimate fulfillment lies in the world to come.
v) One can be pro-Israel for geopolitical rather than theological reasons. Muslims are dangerous to themselves and to everyone else. It's foolhardy to support Muslims. 
vi) Some Arab Christians complain that they were dispossessed when the modern state of Israel was established (1948). For all I know, they may have a legitimate grievance. But that's complicated. Palestine has been invaded and conquered for millennia. Successive inhabitants have dispossessed the previous inhabitants. Who are the squatters? 
Arab Christians fare far better under Jewish rule than Muslim rule. It's not as if Arab Christians would be better off absent Jewish "occupation." If they didn't live in Jewish "occupied" territories, they'd live under Muslim occupied territories. See how well that works for Christians in the Mideast. 

Running the race

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Arab pastor on Gaza

Looking at Hinduism

On the one hand there's the abstract, textbook, sugar-coated Hinduism pedaled by academic popularizers like Michael Sudduth. On the other hand, there's the Hinduism that Christian missionaries actually encounter:

Irony alert

Moral Irony: In the ancient world, the Romans reviled Christians for rumors about orgies and killing their young. In the modern world, western Secularists revile Christians for refusing to hold orgies and for refusing to kill their young.

Stop defending police when police stop defending us

Lord and God

Literary intercalation

John's literary strategy is intercalation. He will interrupt the story of the Woman and the Dragon by intercalating a totally different story. 
One can note how the millennial reign is intercalated between binding and loosing episodes in 20:1-3 and 20:7-15. This literary construction is similar to Michael's war with the Dragon intercalated into the story of the Woman and the Dragon (12:7-12). Gerald L. Stevens, Revelation: The Past and Future of John's Apocalypse (Pickwick Publications, 2014), 424, 509. 

This analysis undermines the view that these are sequential events.

Proportional force

Critics of Israel urge Israel to exercise "restraint." To that I'd make a couple of observations:

i) In just war theory, there's the principle of proportionality. However, that doesn't mean you should use the same amount of force as the enemy. Rather, the means should be proportionate to the goal. Don't use force far in excess of what's needed to secure the strategic objective. 

But war isn't a sport, as if you should give the enemy a fair chance of beating you. 

Imagine if two men, wielding baseball bats, break into your own at night and threaten your family. Are you supposed to defend yourself with a baseball bat, or reach for a gun (assuming you have a gun)? You're hardly obligated to be "fair" to the assailants by using the same weaponry. 

ii) "Restraint" assumes your enemy is prepared to give in. If, on the other hand, you have a fanatical, implacable foe who will fight to the last drop of blood, then the enemy  doesn't allow you to exercise restraint. He's forcing your hand. 

Impending persecution

When Christian social critics warn about the impending persecution of Christians in America, there are fellow Christians who think it's insightful to remark Christian Americans have nothing to complain about. We don't know what real persecution is. Just compare what passes for "persecution" here with what Christians face in the Muslim world.

But that completely misses the point. The purpose of this warning is to take precautionary measures to forestall that very development. If you wait until it gets really bad, then it's probably too late to reverse it. Yes, no doubt things could get far worse for Christian Americans. And dismissing that concern pretty much ensures that it will happen. Some Christians can't see three feet ahead of them. They just wait for things to befall them. If you wait for the volcano to erupt before you evacuate, there's no time to escape the pyroclastic flow

Sinless shame

I left a comment on this post:

This illustrates a fundamental distinction (of which there are many) between Christianity and Islam. Islam lacks a concept of sin. Rather, it has a concept of shame. 
That's why we see this perverse logic of executing the victim. It doesn't see this as an issue of sin, or even a moral issue. 

Israel's conundrum

The modern state of Israel is in a bind. Barring divine intervention, the conumdrum seems to be insoluble. Will Israel survive? This may be an empirical test of Dispensational hermeneutics. 

i) How do you respond to an enemy that refuses to make peace? If the enemy is bent on your wholesale annihilation, how can you survive short of annihilating the enemy? If your enemy will do absolutely anything and everything to wipe you off the face of the map, how do you survive unless you wipe them off the map before they do it to you? 

Critics are branded Israel's counterattack as "genocide." Of course, that's wildly hyperbolic. But suppose the Muslims give Israel no other option? If the ultimatum is: we (Muslims) will destroy you (Jews) unless you destroy us first, isn't that a forced option? 

Short of detonating some well-placed neutron bombs in Gaza, the West Bank, maybe Syria and Iran, how does Israel defend itself? 

ii) But that brings us to another horn of the dilemma. The "international community" won't allow Israel to solve the problem. If Israel took drastic action, it would face crippling economic sanctions.

iii) Israel has two adversaries: Muslims and liberals. The liberals are the nonviolent counterpart to the Muslims. It's a variation on the same conundrum. What if you have facts and logic on your side, but your opponent doesn't care? What if you argue with your opponent on his own grounds, but he makes no effort to be consistent?

To my knowledge, Israel is a liberal democracy. Its laws reflect blue state values. Conversely, its Muslim adversaries embody everything the Left says it deplores. Yet American liberals side with Israel's enemies. When Israel's ideological soul-mates side with their ideological opponents, israel has no traction. There's nothing left to say. 

Everyone agrees on the rules going in. You win the poker match fair and square. Then your opponent responds by drawing his revolver. 

iv) Suppose the Muslims succeeded in exterminating the Jewish population in Israel. Suppose Iran nukes Israel. Of course, the nuclear fallout would be devastating to the region, but if the Mullahs had the mindset of suicide bombers, that would be their ticket to the garden of carnal delights. 

What would be the reaction? Millions of people would celebrate their demise. Dancing in the streets.

Then you'd have academics with mixed feelings about the outcome. They'd say the Muslims went too far, but the Israelis were asking for it. 

The UN would issue a condemnation. The Pope would issue a condemnation. The US president would issue a condemnation. Someone might establish a new Holocaust museum. 

But life would quickly go back to normal. Most people wouldn't miss the death of another six million dead Jews. Millions of people die every year. Most people don't notice. Never knew them in the first place. It's just an abstraction. A statistic.

Moral of the story: if you don't defend yourself, don't expect anyone else to come to your rescue. You and I don't mean that much to strangers. 

Wise and foolish virgins

“This is a crisis, and not simply a political crisis, but a moral one,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. On Tuesday, Mr. Moore led a delegation of Southern Baptist officials to visit refugee children at detention centers in San Antonio and McAllen, Tex. In an interview after the visit, Mr. Moore said that “the anger directed toward vulnerable children is deplorable and disgusting” and added: “The first thing is to make sure we understand these are not issues, these are persons. These children are made in the image of God, and we ought to respond to them with compassion, not with fear.” 
America’s southern border is engulfed in a humanitarian crisis, as refugees fleeing violence in central America, many of them unaccompanied children, seek safety.  
That done, reform is to try to make a way for those here under our “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy to come out of the shadows and, where possible, make things right. 
The Samaritan has no reason to claim accountability for this terrorized neighbor. He does so because he treats him, a stranger, as though he were kin. The lawyer questioning Jesus rightly sees this as showing mercy (Lk. 10:37). And Jesus says simply, “Go and do likewise.” That’s why Christians are at the border, ministering to people. And that’s why all of us should be praying for those in harm’s way on the border, and those trembling in fear in violence-torn Central American countries, as well as those exploited by traffickers and cartels.
Several issues:

i) Moore is too nearsighted to see that amnesty is the magnet creating the crisis in the first place. The policy he champions precipitates the result he deplores; he then cites the deplorable result to expand the ruinous policy. A classic vicious cycle. 

ii) It's not a Christian virtue to be a dupe. The kids are being used as bait by La Raza and the Democrats. 

iii) Presumably, Moore doesn't think children should be separated from their parents. So where should they be reunited? It's obvious that the children are being exploited by opportunistic adults to secure a foothold for the adults. If you reward that tactic, that's an open invitation to flood the Southern border.

iv) There's such a thing as destroying the very thing you came for. If you overload the system, you destroy what you came for. Everyone loses. Like dying of starvation because you hunted game species to the point of their extinction. 

v) It isn't the responsibility of American wage-earners to provide for all the needy and oppressed people of the world. We couldn't do that even if we wanted to. 

From what I can tell, the American economic is dying, thanks to liberal policies. We can't afford another unfunded mandate or bankrupting entitlement program. 

vi) Illegal immigrants are looters. We can't afford to have waves of people plunder our goods and services. That impoverishes everyone (except the ruling class). Those who pay into the system get nothing in return because those who didn't pay into the system take it all.  

vii) The parable of the Good Samaritan is not the only parable of Jesus. Here's another parable:

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps….8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves’ (Mt 25:1-2,8-9).

i) The wise virgins brought their own oil. It was theirs to keep. 

ii) Notice the theme of personal responsibility. 

iii) Because supplies were limited, there wasn't enough to go around. If they shared their oil, there wouldn't be enough for anyone. Before you can even provide for others, you must be in a position to provide for your own needs. Sometimes you have to be hard-nosed. Otherwise, no one benefits. 

Pure religion

In a recent interview, Tullian Tchividjian said:
"The core message of the Christian faith has been lost in the public sector because what we are primarily known for is our political ideology or opinion," Tchividjian told The Christian Post. 
"Specifically the reason why Evangelicals in America are unliked by non-Evangelicals is because we've branded ourselves as a political movement. It's not like Christians don't have opinions about what's going in our world and what's happening in our culture; I think that we do, I do, we all do, but when the primary message that the world hears from us is, "We need to fix the world…We need to stamp out all of the bad stuff," they don't hear the message that Jesus has entrusted in us," continued Tchividjian. 
"If people are going to stumble over what we say, it's going to be because we're called to speak the Gospel which Paul says is a stumbling block. But I can't go out there and be a jerk and align myself with a political party or a candidate and get crucified on either the right or the left and just say "I'm just a martyr for the truth." No, you're not even speaking the truth that God has called you to speak first and foremost."
So is Tully's position that Christians should stop acting in the best interests of their children? Christians should stop protecting their children from becoming wards of the state? Christians should stop protecting babies, the elderly, and the developmentally disabled from abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia? Christians should stop defending the right of children to be raised by a real mother and father? Christians should stop warning people about the consequences of self-destructive lifestyles? Christians should stop defending their Constitutional right to preach the Gospel? Should we live to be "liked." 
When James says "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (Jas 1:27), has he lost sight of "the core message of the Christian faith"? Is that an unnecessary stumbling block? As one commentator explains:
This verse is not meant as an exhaustive list of what pleases God; rather, it describes by practical example the behavior patterns exhibited by a person whose character is being shaped by "true religion," that is, genuine faith. Both personal holiness and social responsibility are manifestations of the character transformation that genuine faith effects. It is noteworthy that James includes both here, because it is difficult to be involved in the ills of the world without getting entangled in its idolatries, and it is difficult to cultivate holiness without cutting oneself off from the exigencies of the world. Ultimately, however, to be truly effective in dealing with the ills of the world requires personal holiness (cf. 3:17), and genuine personal holiness entails involvement in dealing with the world's ills. D. McCartney, James (Baker 2009),130. 

How Roman Catholics misuse and manipulate Scripture

God’s Living Word

God speaks, and in doing so, his very word creates and accomplishes its purposes. Roman Catholicism pays lip service to the Scriptures, but by its very dogmas, it takes away the meaning of the Scriptures.

Double trouble

Angelic warfare

The Bible contains scattered references to angelic warfare. I use that to designate two different, but related things: angels waging war on each other (or God), and angels waging war for or against humans. 

As Christians, we must take this seriously. However, the analysis often boils down to two inadequate alternatives: "Spiritual warfare" is simply a synonym for sanctification, or else spiritual warfare is depicted in Miltonian terms: humanoid angels with superpowers, like Greek gods smiting each other. Let's briefly try to improve on those alternatives. 

i) The diabolical war against God is indirect. God is invulnerable, so Satan and the demons can't attack him directly. instead, it's a kind of angelic Cold War. To take a comparison, Russia and America couldn't safely nuke each other. And because they occupy different continents, they couldn't invade each other. So they fought proxy wars through allies and satellites. 

ii) How do angels (i.e. heavenly v. fallen) fight each other? As discarnate spirits, presumably this is psychological warfare. Mind games. Telepathic espionage and counterespionage. Disinformation. 

iii) Angels are shape-shifters. According to Scripture, they can assume human form. That's an extension of psychokinesis.

Heavenly angels can use their powers to protect God's people by warding off physical adversaries (Gen 19:11; Exod 14:19-20; 2 Kgs 19:35). Conversely, demons can take possession of humans or animals. Although angels can make themselves visible or audible to humans, presumably they can shadow us as unseen guardians or adversaries.