Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Francis Schaeffer on Ecology

In 1970 Francis Schaeffer published Pollution and the Death of Man in which he attempted to construct a Christian approach to the arena of ecology.  Much of what Schaeffer wrote over forty years ago is still relevant today.  Part of the genius of Schaeffer was his ability to see his time with an understanding of where the current ideas were going.

Pollution and the Death of Man contains two appendices of historical interest.  The first is "The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis" by Lynn White, Jr. which appeared in Science magazine (March, 1967).  The second is "Why Worry About Nature?" by Richard Means which appeared in Saturday Review (Dec. 2, 1967).  These essays were important in the late 1960's and Schaeffer accurately grasped their significance.  These articles articulated the importance of how world views shape our understanding of ecology.  Later in the early 1980's when Schaeffer was re-editing this book for inclusion in his Complete Works he would add these words:
In ecology in the 1980's there is not much writing or discussion on the basic philosophies underlying the consideration of ecology.  This is parallel to the lack of philosophic pornography, philosophic drug taking, philosophic films, etc.  However, in ecology, as in these other areas, the thought-forms of the 1980's were laid in the earlier period of the 1960's.  At that time there was much serious consideration, writing, discussion and expression concerning the world-views underlying all these areas.  (Complete Works--vol. 5, p. 5)
What Schaeffer saw in the writings of the 1960's was a move toward pantheism in the ecological movement's philosophical writings.  Schaeffer predicted that this call to embrace pantheism would become more pronounced.
There was a conference in Buck Hill Falls, Pennsylvania, called "The Conference on Environment and Population."  There was a light-show presenting the modern problems of ecology.  Then the proposition was made that the answer must be in the direction of pantheism.  We are going to hear more of this.  Pantheism will be pressed as the only answer to ecological problems and will be one more influence in the West's becoming increasingly Eastern in its thinking.  (p. 13)
Schaeffer shows himself prescient with these thoughts.  Confirmation of this comes from an article by George Sessions in 1987.  Sessions' article is entitled "The Deep Ecology Movement: A Review" (Environmental Review, vol. 11, no. 2) and, as the title suggests, he covers the history of the ecology movement.  Sessions mentions the importance of Lynn White, Jr's article that was reprinted in Schaeffer's book.  
Lynn White, Jr., brought the anthropocentrism issue into dramatic focus as the basis for the environmental debate.  White argued in a 1967 article that orthodox anthropocentric Christianity must assume a large share of the responsibility for the environmental crisis as a result of desacralizing nature and producing a world view (metaphysics) that sees humans as separate from and superior to nature.  (p. 106)
White's 1967 essay reached a large audience as Sessions points out:
White's essay reached a wider audience when it was republished in the "Sierra Club Bulletin" and discussed approvingly in Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb.  Along with other deep ecology classics of the 1960's, White's article was reprinted in several anthologies.  (p. 106) 
Sessions also recognizes the increasing interest in pantheistic ideas as forming the philosophical base of the ecological movement.  Sessions documents the many and varied theorists in the realm of philosophic ecology writing in the 1960's and '70's.  Over and over again these theorists are seen looking for philosophical inspiration in variants of pantheism--or, as Peter Jones would say, "one-ism."  Here is a sampling of the thinkers Sessions covers in his essay:
Raymond Dasmann, who wrote influential books from a broad social perspective, was advocating a move to the "future primitive" and "ecosystem people" ways of life by the 1970s.  According to John Milton, a self-professed Zen Buddhist, Zen taught that "there is really no distinction between the organism and the environment."  And Frank Egler proposed a new world view called Human Ecosystem Science: "I look to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism...as the womb from which a humanitarian-oriented Human Ecosystem Science may yet arise."  
Paul Shepard's essay, "Ecology and Man," was another landmark in the critique of Western anthropocentrism.  Influenced by the Zen Buddhist views of Alan Watts, Shepard discussed the different metaphysics resulting from an ecological perception.  (p. 107)
Sessions documents how some of these thinkers were influenced by Western versions of pantheism found in Spinoza and Alfred North Whitehead.
The Spinoza scholar, Stuart Hampshire, later faulted contemporary Western ethical theory for its anthropocentrism.  That is, states of mind (feeling, consciousness) are considered to be the only intrinsic good; the rest of nature is valued only to the extent to which it contributes to essentially human states of consciousness.  Modern ethics, Hampshire thought, belittled and diminished humans and also involved a kind of arrogance in the face of nature--"an arrogance that is intelligible only if the doctrine is seen as a residue of the Christian account of this species' peculiar relation to the Creator."...Hampshire proposed instead a more cosmic Spinozistic world view in which ecologically destructive acts would be prohibited by exceptionless norms.  (p. 110)
It is to his credit that Francis Schaeffer was reading and attending to these currents of thought in his day. He accurately saw the underpinnings of the ecology movement that was developing in his day.  He clearly saw the clash of underlying world views and sought to speak to this dynamic.  His writing is still relevant for us today.  These same world view tensions roil beneath the surface in debates about environmental philosophy and policy.

Another Abortion Facility Closes!

The 40 Days for Life campaign continues to see results!  Here is a recent posting from their website:
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, my cell phone rang with the exciting news from Brian Gibson (head of Pro-Life Action Ministries and Minneapolis/St. Paul 40 Days for Life campaign leader) that Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota was closing down its abortion facility! 
This closure follows SEVEN 40 Days for Life campaigns held in the right-of-way outside the hospital, publicly exposing their deadly side business. 
In news stories over the weekend, hospital officials admitted that abortions at their facility had declined by 40% over the past few years and that abortion was no longer economically viable. 
Praise God for answered prayers, and congratulations to all the Twin Cities groups and individuals whose efforts over the years contributed to this victory. 
This makes the 19th abortion facility to close following a 40 Days for Life campaign outside its doors!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Habakkuk and God's Concern for the Environment

Habakkuk presents the living God as bring judgment upon the Babylonians.  In particular, chapter 2 presents five "woes" against this oppressor of God's people.  These five statements are instructive because they show us what kinds of things bring forth God's judgment.  They reveal what moves God--what he is concerned about.  One interesting item mentioned is found in v. 17:
For the violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and the devastation of its beasts by which you terrified them, because of human bloodshed and violence done to the land, to the town and all its inhabitants.
This reference to Lebanon is evocative.  In the Old Testament Lebanon is known for its natural beauty and environmental artifacts.  The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery states some basic facts about Lebanon:
Lebanon is a region made up of two mountain chains, the coast fringing Mount Lebanon range and the lesser easterly Anti-Lebanon range, separated by the Bekaa Valley.  The biblical references are probably only to Mount Lebanon itself.  Here elevated heights, which reach up to ten thousand feet, give Lebanon majesty and glory (Is 35:2; 60:13) and reputation as being the "utmost heights" (2 King 19:23 NIV).  The elevation is responsible for a heavy rainfall, which falls on the height in winter as snow.  In places, the snow lasts all year (Jer 18:14).  The high precipitation and the slow melting snows, coupled with porous aquifers (Ezek 31:3-4, 7), ensure year-round fertility (Ps 104:16).
Chief among the wonders of Lebanon were its cedar trees.  These are majestic in beauty and size as they can reach a height of about 80-100 feet (A.C. Myers in The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, [Eerdmans, 1987], p. 197).  These "cedars of Lebanon"are mentioned some seventy times in the Old Testament in a variety of settings.  It is for these trees that Lebanon is most famous.  Solomon made the cedars of Lebanon a subject of empirical study (1 Kings 4.33) and used these trees in the construction of the Temple (1 Kings 5.10).  Psalm 104.16 speaks of these cedars of Lebanon as "trees of the Lord" and in Ezekiel 31.8 the trees of Eden are said to be jealous of the cedars of Lebanon.  These trees speak of strength for in Psalm 29.5 when the psalmist wishes to highlight the power of God he speaks of him "breaking in pieces the cedars of Lebanon."  Their renown for beauty in sight and smell makes them useful as metaphors in the erotic poetry of the Song of Solomon (4.11; 5.15).

In all likelihood the reference in Habakkuk 2.17 to the "violence done to Lebanon"refers to the Babylonian destruction to this region.  F. F. Bruce explains that this phraseology "is best explained as the plundering of the forests of Lebanon of their cedar wood to further the conqueror's building projects" (The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary edited by Thomas Edward McComiskey [Baker, 1992, 2009], p. 871).  This mention of Lebanon and, most likely, its trees in a judgment oracle shows us God's concern for his creation.  This is further strengthened by the mention in this oracle of "the devastation of its beasts by which you terrified them."  Here God's concern for the animals of the region is manifested.  This is in accordance with what is found elsewhere in Scripture as Proverbs 12.10 demonstrates: "A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal."  O. Palmer Robertson also draws attention to another example of God's interest and notice of animals in a prophetic context:
The gentle downturn of the last phrase of the book of Jonah has memorialized forever the compassions of the Lord for the entirety of his creation.  Should not Jonah have compassion on Nineveh, a city with numerous people, "and also much cattle" (Jon. 4:11)?  God takes note when his lowliest creatures are terrified by the brutalities of insensitive human beings.  He hears the groanings of his entire creation, and will see that the whole created universe joins in the final redemption of mankind (Rom. 8:19-21).  (The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah [NICOT], [Eerdmans, 1990], p. 205)
In light of this reference to Lebanon and its beasts, Old Testament commentator Ralph L. Smith asks, "Is there an ecological message in this verse for us?" (Micah-Malachi [Word Biblical Commentary], [Word, 1984], p. 111).  This would seem to be the case.  God expresses his displeasure not only over the violence to people and cities but also to trees and beasts.  Needless and wanton destruction is not acceptable to God.

Perhaps the words of Francis Schaeffer best begin to capture what our attitude should be.  In his book Pollution and the Death of Man Schaeffer is attempting to lay out a theologically driven argument for care of creation.  He writes:
As a Christian I say, “Who am I?”  Am I only the hydrogen atom, the energy particle extended?  No, I am made in the image of God.  I know who I am.  Yet, on the other hand, when I turn around and face nature, I face something that is like myself.  I, too, am created, just as the animal and the plant and the atom are created.  (p. 30)

Therefore, intellectually and psychologically, I look at these animals, plants, and machines[1], and as I face them I understand something of the attitude I should have toward them.  I begin to think differently about life.  Nature begins to look different.  I am separated from it, yet related to it.

Notice the phrase “intellectually and psychologically.”  This is a very important distinction.  I can say, “Yes, the tree is a creature like myself.”  But that is not all that is involved.  There ought to be a psychological insight, too.  Psychologically I ought to “feel” a relationship to the tree as my fellow-creature.  It is not simply that we ought to feel a relationship intellectually to the tree, and then turn this into just another argument for apologetics, but that we should realize, and train people in our churches to realize, that on the side of creation and on the side of God’s infinity and our finiteness we really are one with the tree![2] (p. 31)

Christians, of all people, should not be the destroyers.  We should treat nature with an overwhelming respect.  We may cut down a tree to build a house, or to make a fire to keep the family warm.  But we should not cut down the tree just to cut down the tree.  We may, if necessary, bark the cork tree in order to have the use of the bark.  But what we should not do is to bark the tree simply for the sake of doing so, and let it dry and stand there a dead skeleton in the wind.  To do so is not to treat the tree with integrity.  We have the right to rid our houses of ants; but what we have not the right to do is to forget to honor the ant as God made it, in its rightful place in nature.  When we meet the ant on the sidewalk, we step over him.  He is a creature, like ourselves; not made in the image of God, but equal with man as far as creation is concerned.  The ant and the man are both creatures.  (p. 43)  (The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer--vol. 5 [Crossway, 1982])
The God of creation cares for his creation.  He has uniquely crowned humanity with glory and honor (Psalm 8) but this doesn't deny God's concern for all the other parts of his creation.

[1] Schaeffer means here “mechanical functions” we share in common with animals.  He writes: “For example, we have a common lung system with dogs and cats.  This is not surprising.  Both man and these other creatures have been created by God to fit a common environment.  There is a common relationship in these mechanical functions, which relates man downward.  There are machine functions to man.” (p. 31)
[2] Schaeffer is very clear to deny any notions of “pantheism”: “Let us emphasize—this is not pantheistic;…” (p. 34)

Friday, November 25, 2011

40 Days for Life--Fall 2011 Results

The results are in the for the 40 Days for Life fall campaign that went from September 28 until November 6.  Here are some of the numbers:
301 locations across North America and around the world had a 40 Days campaign.
135,000+ participants.
4000+ churches involved.
732 confirmed lives saved.
8 abortion workers quit.
One encouraging story came out of Stormlake, IA.  Sue Thayer worked for Planned Parenthood in Stormlake for 17 years as the manager of the facility.  This year she was outside the building leading the 40 Days for Life campaign in front of her former employer!

The numbers for 40 Days for Life since its beginnings in 2007 are truly amazing for an organization only four years old:
1,663 individual campaigns.
422 cities across all 50 states and 13 countries.
500,000+ participants.
14,000+ churches involved.
61 abortion workers quit.
18 abortion facilities closed.
5,045 confirmed lives saved.
This is truly an amazing work.  It is centered in prayer and I believe that is why the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is blessing this endeavor.  The church is fighting this evil with its head, heart, hands, and from our knees.  The next cycle of 40 Days for Life starts February 22, 2012.

Fight Like Jael!

We recently went over the book of Judges in a Bible class I'm teaching.  I wish I would have had this T-shirt to show the young ladies!  It can be found HERE.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Occupy Wall Street and Woodstock

Over at Powerline Steven Hayward has an interesting article comparing Occupy Wall Street to Woodstock.  He quotes Time magazine from 1969 regarding Woodstock and the language is strangely familiar to that being bandied about today.

So let’s revisit the original for a moment, and note the media propensity for glorifying whatever self-assertion reckless youth decides to throw up at the moment.  Back in 1969, Time magazine chirped that Woodstock
may well rank as one of the significant political and sociological events of the age. . . [T]he revolution it preaches, implicitly or explicitly, is essentially moral; it is the proclamation of a new set of values. . .  With a surprising ease and a cool sense of authority, the children of plenty have voiced an intention to live by a different ethical standard than their parents accepted.  The pleasure principle has been elevated over the Puritan ethic of work.  To do one’s own thing is a greater duty than to be a useful citizen.  Personal freedom in the midst of squalor is more liberating than social conformity with the trappings of wealth.  Now that youth takes abundance for granted, it can afford to reject materialism.
Occupy Wall Street is an ongoing event of significance but I can't help but think that those involved and some of those watching may be claiming more for the experience than is warranted. There is always the desire for quick and  easy social transformation and those in the midst of the energy of the moment in OWS may confuse their emotional experiences for real and lasting social change.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The University Atmosphere

Over twenty years ago Eta Linnemann wrote an amazing little book entitled Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology  (Baker, 1990).  Linnemann had been trained in the German university tradition and took her degrees for New Testament scholarship.  She studied under such critical theologians as Rudolf Bultmann and Ernst Fuchs.  After having a profound conversion experience she renounced her prior presuppositions.  There are a number of fascinating thoughts in her book but I picked the following quotation because it is relevant to the American university scene and highlights the need to navigate the university intellectual currents carefully.
 Every student who entrusts himself to the university must accept the yoke of the atheistic intellectual starting point as an inescapable necessity.  This is a yoke which bends the bearer cruelly, and which is placed on the student apart from conscious choice, by means of the completion of the course of study in a major field--a field dominated by the atheistic starting point.  Even Christians who attend the university come under this yoke.  They are permitted, to be sure, to have their faith in their private lives by those around them who may view that faith favorably, or derisively, or perhaps even share its convictions.  But they are forbidden to retain the living God and his Son Jesus Christ in their academic thinking, or to grant him any material function therein.  So they retain Jesus in their feelings, but they deny him daily in their thinking, because this thinking follows atheistic, anti-Christian principles." (p. 33)
There is a desperate need for the establishment of the life of the mind--especially for those going off to colleges and universities.  They need to understand this underlying clash of ideas.  More importantly, they need to know how the university system with its methodological naturalism will be the atmosphere in which they will be pursuing their labors and skill set.  Without an understanding of this dynamic people will simply breathe in the noxious fumes of methodological naturalism without realizing it until too late.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

More on Boys Wrestling Girls--A Gentleman Refuses to Wrestle

Last year during the Iowa High School State wrestling championship a young man, Joel Northrup, refused to wrestle a young lady and in so doing he forfeited a chance at the state title.  The story can be HERE.  The article begins this way:
DES MOINES, Iowa -- After a standout season in which he went 35-4, Joel Northrup had every reason to dream of winning an Iowa wrestling championship this year, but he gave it all up before his first state tournament match Thursday.
Northrup, a home-schooled sophomore who competes for Linn-Mar High School, said his religious beliefs wouldn't allow him to wrestle Cassy Herkelman, a pony-tailed freshman from Cedar Falls who is one of the first two girls to qualify for the tournament in its 85-year history.
Northrup issued a statement through his school expressing his "tremendous" respect for what Herkelman and Ottumwa sophomore Megan Black achieved this season, but he said didn't feel he had a choice.
As a matter of conscience and my faith I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other high school sports in Iowa.
-- Joel Northrup
"Wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times," Northrup said in a statement released by his high school. "As a matter of conscience and my faith I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner. It is unfortunate that I have been placed in a situation not seen in most other high school sports in Iowa."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Charismatic Gifts in Church History

Parchment and Pen is still engaged in their series "Why I Am/Not Charismatic."  Sam Storms has an essay speaking to the issue of the spiritual gifts in church history (HERE) which I think is nicely done.  I've also been engaging the discussion in the comments section.

Teaching the Bible at the Universities

A recent article speaks to the issue of the need to have the Bible taught at universities.  Since so much of Western civilization has been profoundly influenced and shaped by the Bible it would seem almost self-evident that the Bible should be read and studied by those seeking to understand our culture.  Here a few selections from the article.
Unfortunately, even teaching Western civilization, of which the Bible is an important part, is in decline as a component of a liberal education. By Western civilization I mean the cultures derived from Europe, including, among other aspects, their ethical values, worldviews, political and economic institutions, and customs.  

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) recently reported that out of a group of 75 U.S. public universities (the top 62 from U.S. News and World Report in 2009 plus thirteen others, to ensure representation from all fifty states) only one school, the University of South Carolina, retained a Western history survey course requirement. Thirty of the schools surveyed by NAS did not even offer such a survey course. The UNC Department of History offers a two-course sequence of Western civilization survey courses, yet neither is required, even for history majors. Ironically, history majors are in fact required to take at least one course in non-Western history.
And then there is this:
To understand and evaluate our historical narrative and how religion fits into it, students need to encounter the primary texts—including the Bible. They need the ability to draw on foundational texts in the same way that later authors did, many of whom are significant in their own right and are studied in those few remaining Western survey courses. 

Most students in a Western history course are only exposed to Paul and Jesus through secondary sources. This is an ironic and unfortunate relegation of two figures who, independent of their status in Christianity as Apostle and Savior, are on every credible list of the ten most influential people in world history. 

A quick glance at the course reader for UNC History 151, Western History to 1650, reveals that students will leave the course having read such important religious authors as Josephus, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther and Calvin, but not a single page from the Bible. With all due respect to Xenophon, Thucydides, and other less notable Greek historians included in the course, given the constraints of one semester surely students would be better served reading great works of Western religion.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pro-Life Article in Weekly Standard

There is an amazing article by Fred Barnes in the current Weekly Standard (HERE) that documents the gains of the pro-life movement.  Barnes notes the profound changes and advances in the pro-life movement:
That the pro-life movement is bigger is a given. It’s also younger, increasingly entrepreneurial, more strategic in its thinking, better organized, tougher in dealing with allies and enemies alike, almost wildly ambitious, and more relentless than ever.
All that is dwarfed by an even bigger change. Pro-lifers have captured the high moral ground, chiefly thanks to advances in the quality of sonograms. Once fuzzy, sonograms now provide a high-resolution picture of the unborn child in the womb. Fetuses have become babies.
Even the pro-abortion side is recognizing the changes.  Barnes sees them as "worn out":
The language gymnastics and euphemisms reflect the forlorn condition of the pro-choice flock. They’re worn out. Many are in despair. Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, toldNewsweek of her anguish as she watched last year’s March on Washington. “I just thought, my gosh, they are so young,” she said. “There are so many of them, and they are so young.” Today, zeal and confidence and perseverance in the abortion battle are all on the antiabortion side. “There are more pro-lifers now, and they’re more determined,” says Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. 
The entire article is well worth reading and is profoundly encouraging.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Habakkuk: God's Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

It is often pointed out by those in the Reformed tradition that God's comprehensive sovereignty is taught side-by-side with a strong sense of human responsibility.  The writers of Scripture do not try to play off these concepts against each other.  They affirm both realities without compromising either one.  Classic texts appealed to are Acts 2.23; Acts 4.27-28; and Isaiah 10.5-7, 15.  In Habakkuk this dynamic is manifest.

Habakkuk 1.5-6 the Lord speaks:
Look  among the nations! Observe!  Be astonished!  Wonder!  Because I am doing something in your days--you would not believe if you were told.  For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth to seize dwelling places which are not theirs.
Here we see God's sovereignty active in raising up the Chaldeans.  The Chaldeans (Babylonians) are a wicked nation and yet God is the active agent in raising them up to discipline his people (Judah).  This matches up with the realities found in Isaiah 10 listed above.  God raises up this nation and yet a few verses later this nation is held responsible.

Habakkuk 1.11 speaks to the Chaldeans' responsibility in very direct language:
Then they will sweep through like the wind and pass on.  But they will be held guilty, they whose strength is their god. 
The twin themes of God's sovereignty and human responsibility are set side-by-side in this context without compromising either reality.

Occupy Wall Street and Planned Parenthood

Over at Life News they have an article showing that a Florida Planned Parenthood has joined the Occupy movement.  Life News goes on to compare and contrast the abuses of the Occupy movement with the lack thereof in the recent 40 Days of Life campaigns that recently happened all over the nation.

Occupy Wall Street--Supporter List

I came across this list of supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  They provide documentation and from what I've checked out they seem to have done their work at linking the documentation.  After reading this list, ask yourself, if even 1-2 of these supporter organizations had been affiliated with the Tea Party movement what would have been the outcry?

Friday, November 11, 2011

David Brooks (Again!) on Occupy Wall Street

More good stuff from David Brooks on Occupy Wall Street.  In his piece, The Great Restoration, Brooks focuses on the Americans who are not protesting but who are, nonetheless, seeking to "restore the moral norms that undergird our economic system."  He mentions three such norms that are undergoing overhaul.
The first norm is that you shouldn't spend more than you take in.  After an explosion of debt over the past few decades, Americans are now reacting strongly against the debt culture.
Second, Americans are trying to re-establish the link between effort and reward.  This was the link that was severed on Wall Street, where so many made so much for work that served no productive purpose.  This was the link that was frayed by the bailouts, when people who broke the rules still got rewarded.
The third norm is that loyalty matters.  A few years ago there was a celebration of Free Agent Nation.  But now most people, even most young people, would rather work long-term for one company than move around in search of freedom and opportunity.
There is more good stuff in Brook's essay...take a look!

David Brooks on Occupy Wall Street

David Brooks has an interesting piece on real radical and lasting economic change--and it's not the Occupy Wall Street movement.  His essay The Milquetoast Radicals is worth reading.  Here is one quotation that is reasonable but the ideas are overlooked by the mass of those protesting.
If there is a core theme to the Occupy Wall Street movement, it is that the virtuous 99 percent of society is being cheated by the richest and greediest 1 percent.
This is a theme that allows the people in the 99 percent to think very highly of themselves. All their problems are caused by the nefarious elite.
Unfortunately, almost no problem can be productively conceived in this way. A group that divides the world between the pure 99 percent and the evil 1 percent will have nothing to say about education reform, Medicare reform, tax reform, wage stagnation or polarization. They will have nothing to say about the way Americans have overconsumed and overborrowed. These are problems that implicate a much broader swath of society than the top 1 percent.
Brooks ends his piece with these well-chosen words:
Don't be fooled by the cliches of protest movements past.  The most radical people today are the ones that the look the most boring.  It's not about declaring war on some nefarious elite.  It's about changing behavior from top to bottom.  Let's occupy ourselves. 

Not a Democracy--a Republic!

Gary DeMar has a good post (HERE) on the nature of democracy and why it may not be what the Occupy Wall Street crowd thinks it is (or maybe they do know what it is but don't care).  DeMar begins his essay this way:
“We Are What Democracy Looks Like!” is a popular slogan and sign used by the Occupiers. If mob rule is the definition of democracy, then they are right. The thing of it is, America is not a democracy. Sure, there are democratic elements in our system of government, but Article IV, section 4 of the Constitution of the United States “guarantee[s] to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government,” not a democracy. One reason these young people may not be aware of these facts is that they may never had a course on the Constitution. 
He goes on to quote the following notable Americans as to their thoughts on "democracy":

John Winthrop (1588–1649), first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, declared direct democracy to be “the meanest and worst of all forms of government.”[1]
John Cotton (1584–1652), seventeenth-century Puritan minister in Massachusetts, wrote in 1636: “Democracy, I do not conceive that ever God did ordain as a fit government either for church or commonwealth. If the people be governors, who shall be governed?”[2]
James Madison (1751–1836), recognized as the “father of the Constitution,” wrote that democracies are “spectacles of turbulence and contention.” Pure democracies are “incompatible with personal security or the rights of property. . . . In general [they] have been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”[3]
John Adams, the second president of the United States, stated that “the voice of the people is ‘sometimes the voice of Mahomet, of Caesar, of Catiline, the Pope, and the Devil.’”[4]   (*All footnotes available at original article)

Occupy Wall Street--Satirical but True

 There is some funny stuff out there about the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Stephen Colbert did a two part video that is hilarious.  It can actually be found on the official Occupy Wall Street web page HERE.

Also, below there is picture I came across over at Triablogue that is great--take a look!

Francis Schaeffer Quotations

The only way to reach our young people is no longer to call on them to maintain the status quo.  Instead we must teach them to be revolutionary, as Jesus was revolutionary against both Sadducees and Pharisees.  In this biblical sense we must be revolutionary.  If we are going to say anything meaningful to our generation, whether for individual conversion or for cultural transformation in which Christ is Lord of all, we must build upon the understanding that the generation in which we live is plastic.  "Plastic" is a good word here, for plastic is synthetic and it also has no natural grain or form.  The church has failed to speak anything like the way God would have had it speak.  It largely acted as though the Christian base could be removed, and it would make no practical difference to society, culture or its own young people.  The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century (Complete Works, vol. 4, p. 24)

Suppose we awoke tomorrow morning and we opened our Bibles and found two things had been taken out, not as the liberals would take them out, but really out.  Suppose God had taken them out.  The first item missing was the real empowering of the Holy Spirit, and the second item the reality of prayer.  Consequently, following the dictates of Scripture, we would begin to live on the basis of this new Bible in which there was nothing about the power of the Holy Spirit and nothing about the power of prayer.  Let me ask you something: what difference would there be from the way we acted yesterday?  Do we really believe God is there?  If we do, we live differently.  The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century (Complete Works, vol. 4, p. 40)

What men find ugly is what they see in Christians who hold to the orthodox doctrine that men are lost, but show no signs of compassion.  This is what is ugly.  This is what causes men in our generation to be turned off by evangelicalism....

If we are Christians and do not have upon us the calling to respond to the lostness of the lost and a compassion for those of our kind for this life and eternity, our orthodoxy is ugly.  And it is ugly in the presence of anybody who's an honest person.  And more than that, orthodoxy without compassion is ugly to God.  Death in the City (Complete Works, vol. 4, pp. 285, 286)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Occupy Phoenix--The Editorial They Didn't Publish (Yet)

I've been reading and re-reading in the work of Francis Schaeffer.  I've been impressed with how his ministry to the counter-culture of the 1960's is needed today.  As I watch and listen to the Occupy Wall Street crowd there seem to be parallels to the kind of mentality that Schaeffer ministered to in his life and writings.  Toward that end I thought I might try to engage the thinking of the Occupy crowd.  The Occupy Phoenix website had a call for editorials so I sent one in today.  I was looking to challenge the thinking regarding the nature of "justice."  There is a great deal of talk about justice but very little attempt to define it.  I wrote the following editorial quickly and kept it within their word count so it is not as developed as it could be.  It was meant to be the beginning of a discussion and not the last word.  Since they didn't publish it...I figured I would publish it here!
Justice Now!  Justice…What?

The struggle for justice continues.  In such times it is helpful to remember those who have gone before so as to enflame our desires and educate our minds.  There are ancient words spoken against an unjust people that are relevant for our time.  Speaking of the oppressors it was said:

            Their justice and authority originate with themselves.

Here was a people of “justice” but it was anything but just.  Their conceptions of justice had their foundation and origination from themselves.  They recognized no greater law than themselves.  For these the adage was apt: might makes right.

But if such is the case with the unjust, what of those who seek justice?  Can they also affirm the same principle of autonomous justice and hope to avoid the traps and pitfalls of tyrannical injustice?  Is justice arbitrary?  If we want to argue that the 1% is not the determiner of justice then we must as assuredly say that the 99% is not the determiner of justice either.  Justice must be transcendent or else it bogs down into complete relativism—and relativism is no philosophy upon which to build a renewed society and culture.

Consider that if justice is not transcendent—above human origination—then the current quest for “justice” will eventually be co-opted in favor of forces of injustice.  If the origination of justice is human then either its locus of authority is the individual or the group.  If it is centered in the individual then each person becomes a law unto herself with the consequence that everyone else is an autonomous law unto themselves.  This is moral anarchy.  If justice is centered in the group—what the collective dictates—then the issue of relativism is still looms large.  What justifies the group’s definition of justice?  Groups can and do go astray.  To even grant this presupposes a standard by which the group/state/government/collective can be assessed and found wanting.  If justice is not transcendent then we are left with either anarchy or tyranny.  If we would avoid these unjust scenarios then we must recognize that justice is transcendent.  In the words of Martin Luther King:

“The first principle of value that we need to rediscover is this: that all reality hinges on moral foundations. In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws. (from "Rediscovering Lost Values")”

Protesting for the cause of justice engages the body in a cause of action.  No less important, however, is the engagement of the mind.  The call to action must be sounded upon clear principles and these principles must be anchored in something more than human origin.  Failure to ground the protest for justice in the transcendent will yield simply one more form of human tyranny.  

                                                                        --St. Francis

Monday, November 7, 2011

Habakkuk: The Foundations of Justice

They are dreaded and feared; their justice and authority originate with themselves.  Habakkuk 1.7

They whose strength is their god.  Habakkuk 1.11

These phrases are used to describe the Babylonians who are to be raised up by God (1.6) in order to judge Judah.  In these words we have an apt understanding of autonomy and idolatry.  The refusal to recognize any law above oneself is to make oneself the locus of law--to have "justice and authority originate with themselves."  When this is the case "strength" becomes the standard of right and wrong.  Or, to use the famous phrase, "might makes right."

When the locus of justice is the individual anarchy is the result.  Each individual is a law unto oneself and is in potential conflict with every other individualized law order.  When the locus of justice is centered in a group such as the State then totalitarianism is the result.  The State takes on the character of deity in that it recognizes no law above itself.  Rousas Rushdoony accurately speaks to this issue:
Behind every system of law there is a god.  To find the god in any system, locate the source of law in that system.  If the source of law is the individual, then the individual is the god of that system.  If the source of law is the people, or the dictatorship of the proletariat, then these things are the gods of those systems.  If our source of law is a court, then the court is our god.  If there is no higher law beyond man, then man is his own god, or else his creatures, the institutions he has made, have become his gods.  When you choose your authority, you choose your god, and where you look for your law, there is your god.  Law and Liberty (Thoburn Press, 1971), p. 33

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Boys Wrestling Girls

John Piper has a great article on boys wrestling girls in competition.  What I love about Pastor Piper is that he is able to put into words a biblically informed argument that makes sense.  We all know something is wrong with the idea of boys competitively wrestling girls.  Some may try to ease the queasy feeling but it's still there nonetheless.  Piper's article can be found HERE.