Deceptive Rhetoric

6 They lavish gold out of the bag, And weigh silver on the scales; They hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god; They prostrate themselves, yes, they worship. (Isa 46:6 NKJ)

This is from our Bible study last night.  One of the interesting things about this verse is the word “god” there- it is the Hebrew el, meaning god.  No pagan would say that’s what they were doing.  They did not believe they were manufacturing a god.  They were manufacturing an idol, a powerful totem for interacting with the god, but the god itself long predated their birth.

But Isaiah will not allow them their rhetoric.  The god has no separate existence.  And they worship the idol which they have manufactured.  They use deceptive rhetoric to conceal what they are actually doing, but Isaiah will not permit it.  He speaks clear truth to reveal the true absurdity of what they are doing, something we see from Isaiah throughout, especially in the later chapters of the book.  They are not making a representation of a pre-existing entity; they are making something which they claim will save them, something for them to worship- a god.  Isaiah speaks truth.

And that got me to thinking– how much do we today allow the deceptive rhetoric of the modern haters of God drive our own discourse?  For the sake of being accepted, I find myself very often using the language of the world, thinking I will make myself more acceptable and therefore more convincing.  I hear many Christians using words like “brokenness” and “human flourishing” instead of words like “sin” and “the Law of God.”  It’s popular to talk about “sexual minorities” in certain Christian circles today.  Why the reluctance to use Biblical language and Biblical categories?  Is it this very thing- the desire to conceal the true nature of a thing?

The Bible is always refreshingly clear and honest in its language.  God always uses language to speak truth, as opposed to using language to manipulate, to make people feel the way we want them to.  This manipulative use of language is just a subtle form of lying, and it should have no place on the tongue of a believer.  We should be taught the right use of language from the tongue of God Himself who made us in His image.

A Different Matt Powell

I probably should have posted this a week ago– it would have saved me some amusing but pointless interactions with some extremely angry and vulgar people.  The Matt Powell who says that gays should be put to death is not me.  That is a whole different person.  I do not believe that.  I don’t really mind hate mail very much, but I’d much rather it be for things I’ve actually written and said myself.

This young man is 22 years old, and clearly should not be a pastor.  He is obviously a novice and the Bible forbids putting a novice in office, lest he be lifted up in pride.  But really, there’s 2 billion people in the world that name the name of Christ.  Statistically, there will always be some crazy knucklehead saying something.  I’m pretty sure the number of Christians who believe gays should be put to death is significantly less than the number of atheists who think I should be killed for being a Christian, especially if the last week is evidence of anything.

There’s been a number of things about this that I’ve found rather remarkable.  One of them is that people who are angry about anti-gay comments so frequently use anti-gay epithets themselves to criticize.  Most of the attacks I’ve received in the last week have been of the rather vicious homosexual slur variety.  So that’s interesting.

But even more interesting is the number of people who think it’s somehow profitable, somehow going to achieve anything positive, to find someone on the Internet and say horrible things about them because you disagree with something they said.  At a ratio of about 20 to 1, the vast majority of these comments I’ve received on my blog, on my church site, even phone calls I have received, have been intensely hostile, vulgar, and abusive.  They were not trying to convince me of anything.  Nobody would even read any of those comments but me.  They were just trying to hurt.  Now given that I wasn’t even the right person, and I have a pretty thick skin by now about strangers hating me on the Internet, it didn’t really bother me much, but the only thing it convinced me of is to provide evidence for the proposition that atheists and leftists are horrible people.  Now thankfully, I know some atheists and leftists who are very kind people, at least in person, so I know not to paint with a broad brush based on a handful of kooks on the Internet.  I’m just curious to know what kind of mindset would think that this is a profitable use of time.  They’ve all said what a terrible hateful person I am, but how are they doing anything to reduce the amount of hatred in the world?

The God-given Right to Keep and Bear Arms

I believe that a human being has a God-given right to be free, and that means among other things, freedom from the compulsion of evil men who would enslave or kill him. This isn’t an abstract idea; there are a lot of evil men in the world. That means that the right to protect oneself from compulsion or violence is not a right the government grants, but a right that God grants, and that government has an obligation to protect. In this I am saying what the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution state, and I believe them to be stating Biblical truth. That evil compulsion can come in the form of a home invader, or it can come in the form of a tyrannical government. The form and conditions of resistance against a tyrannical government has often been a matter of debate, but nonetheless, all have recognized that there are degrees of oppression which cannot be endured.

This is why I support the right to bear arms. I will never support any “common sense gun reform” that infringes on this most basic right, the right of a man to be free from the compulsion of others. I do not believe that the state has the right to decide the amount of firepower that I am permitted to have, since the state itself is one of the potential enemies to be guarded against.

If you think that the likelihood of a truly tyrannical government in America is unthinkable, that might just be because you are deeply influenced by two hundred years of relative stability and liberty, which has existed in part because America has always had an armed population. Tyrannical governments come and go in all parts of the world. Unless you think Americans are just a superior kind of people to the rest of the world- if it can happen there, it can happen here. If it happened to the Russians, the Germans, the Venezuelans, the Cubans, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Congo, etc, etc, etc- it can happen here.

And the problem of crime ought not be underestimated as well. It is not uncommon for a government to oppress particular classes of people by refusing to protect them from criminals. We see early signs of that here already, with police turning a blind eye to vandalism and violence by certain groups of protesters but not others. This has become a horrible tool of oppression against white landowners first in Zimbabwe and South Africa—the police will do nothing when gangs beat, vandalize, rape, and kill white landowners in those nations after they lost power. It is ethnic cleansing. Again, unless you think Americans are just superior, if it can happen there, it can happen here.

Or even just defending ourselves from an incompetent government and a declining culture. The policeman’s job is not to protect you from crime. He cannot do that. The best he can hope to do is to catch and punish the criminal after the fact, and hopefully deter others. But as the old saying goes, when seconds count, the cops are minutes away. If a man is breaking into your home, and you call 911 immediately when he starts, there is simply no possibility that the police will be able to arrive in time to do anything other than possibly catch them after the crime is committed.

A citizen that cannot defend himself against criminals is just that more dependent on the government. This provides yet another lever for the state to use against us. The more dependent we are on them, the harder it is to resist their squeezing for more taxes. Municipalities will frequently defend their bloated bureaucracies from tax cuts by threatening cuts in the most vital and citizen-facing services like teachers, street lights, garbage collectors, road maintenance, and police. They never cut the fat if they can avoid it. They cut in such a way as to cause maximum pain to the population, in order to keep receiving their tax dollars. So the less dependent we are on the state the less leverage they have over us to demand more tax revenue.

Saying that Second Amendment conservatives don’t care about school shootings is a wicked slander, and just further guarantees that we will not have an actual conversation about the issue. Conservatives have many proposals for protecting schools better, such as arming teachers and using armed guards. We have noted many times how most of these shootings happen in gun-free zones. Ultimately, though, the greater problem is the culture of family breakdown and amorality that has so characterized our country for a few decades now.

But evil men have always been in the world, and they always will be in the world. And because that is true, for a man to be truly free from the oppression of others, he must be armed.

Do we not trust God to take care of us? Of course we do. No government is stronger than He is. But He works through means. Jesus told His disciples to arm themselves for their missionary journeys (Luke 22:36). God often protected Israel from evil oppressors with military force, though stories such as Gideon’s defeat over the Midianites prove that God didn’t need weapons to protect Israel, either. The Bible simply never tells us not to use weapons to protect the innocent from evil; rather, it talks a great deal about the right and wrong use of force. A God-fearing Christian will trust Him rather than his guns, just as he won’t put his trust in gold and silver. But that trust calls us to use things, like guns and gold and silver, in the way that God teaches us. Trust in God never means passivity, and just waiting for God to do things. It means doing things the way God has taught us to, trusting Him with the results.

Only the salvation of God through Jesus Christ can ultimately solve the problem of evil in the world. But that’s not going to happen until Christ comes again. Until then, we’re to live in this world and to accept the reality that there is evil, there are oppressors, and we’re never going to get rid of them.

And God tells us to defend the poor and fatherless, to deliver them from the hand of the oppressor (Psalm 82:1-4). That usually requires the use of force.

If it is a sin to kill, then I have the right to protect myself and others from being killed. If it is a sin to steal, then I have a right to protect myself and others from theft.

These are the big issues. Issues such as magazine capacity, bump stocks, semi-auto vs. full-auto, and the like simply are not the important issues. Until you understand why we really support the right to keep and bear arms, that freedom from oppression requires the ability to defend oneself from evil men, you will not truly be able to understand why the Second-Amendment conservative is not moved by the irrelevant arguments and the slanderous accusations that come out like clockwork every time there is another shooting.

Yes, we know there’s evil in the world. That’s why we insist on the God-given right to be armed.

Christ our Identity, not our Marital Status

Reflecting on the previous post, I think a corrective, or perhaps an addendum is in order.

This world is cursed and fallen, and this curse affects us in all kinds of ways.  Some women don’t have husbands, or husbands who are unbelievers.  Some women are gravely ill for much of their lives.  Some women married men who turned out to be wicked and divorced them, and wisely chose for various reasons to stay single after that.  Some Christian women throughout history have been slaves in the houses of unbelievers.  A great many situations have existed, and those situations always need to be taken into account.

Our goal in this life is not the achievement of particular goals, particular career or ministry success.  Our goal is Christ, and our identity is Christ.  Talking in that previous post about God’s design for husbands and wives, it is important to recognize that this is an ideal to strive for, but we must be realistic about the circumstances we all must find ourselves in, and accept them as from God.  Our providential circumstances may prevent us from ever getting very close at all to the aforementioned ideal of a husband and wife mutually respecting each other, or of a wife being able to contribute a great deal to a husband’s earthly success.  But our identity is not primarily as wives or as husbands, or even as men or women.  Our primary identity is Christ, and our primary goal is becoming Christlike, and that can and does happen in any kind of circumstance God places us in.

I don’t wish to retract anything I wrote in that previous article, for I believe it is Biblical.  But I also know that Paul told his followers in Corinth to be content where they were- if married, stay married.  If single, stay single.  Not that Paul is forbidding marriage to the single, or even necessary divorce, which he teaches in other places.  But too often Christians have communicated the idea that the valuable Christian life can only be lived in a specific set of circumstances- in the Middle Ages, the best Christians were all single, and in the current age the best Christians are all married.  But Paul speaks differently- Christians are seeking Christ in whatever circumstances they are in.  You don’t need to change your marital status one way or the other to be pursuing Christlikeness- you can do that right where you are.

Part of seeking Christ means learning His law, and learning how He has made things, as guided by Scripture.  The providential design for humanity is male and female, and maleness and femaleness are very good.  But marriage is a temporary state.  There will be no marriage in the resurrection.  But there will be Christ in the resurrection, and above all and in all, regardless of our circumstances, He must be our identity and our goal.

Protect your supply line; Value your wives

They say, “Amateurs talk about strategy, professionals talk about logistics.”  Or also, “An army marches on its stomach.”  I actually found a whole page of quotes along these lines here, the jist of which is that if you don’t know your logistics, you lose.  It goes all the way back to Sun Tzu, who said in the Art of War, “The line between disorder and order lies in logistics…”  One of my personal favorites comes from Alexander the Great: “My logisticians are a humorless lot … they know if my campaign fails, they are the first ones I will slay.”  Even as mighty as David was, he knew his soldiers couldn’t fight if they were starving so he visited the priests of Nob to find some bread.

It doesn’t matter really how fierce or skilled your warriors are.  If they are not at the battlefield, you lose the battle.  And if they’re not fed well, you lose the battle.  And if they have no ammunition, or boots, or guns, you lose the battle.  Napoleon lost at Waterloo because his artillery wasn’t there.  Hitler lost in Russia because he hadn’t planned on the massive Russian logistical advantage, their superior understanding of weather and terrain conditions in their own country, and the vulnerability of his very long supply lines.

Every army has a whole support apparatus.  It has cooks, wagonmasters, medics, mechanics, paymasters, and the like, or whatever you call such people in whatever kind of military you’re fighting in.  But they’re always there.  It might be the warriors that make it into the history books more, because history books are by necessity oversimplifications of the real story, and because people are lazy and prefer simple stories of the grand charges and the fierce duels.  But the pros know that the difference between victory and defeat is often far more prosaic than that.

The wagon train is always weak, though.  It has to be protected.  Disrupting supply, attacking the rear and hitting the supply train, is a time-honored tactic of war.  The weakness and vulnerability of the supply train doesn’t mean it’s less valuable, however.  It’s crucial.

I draw this out to make a particular point about women.  I don’t think it’s an accident that there’s a great similarity between one of those quotes- “Behind every great leader there was an even greater logistician,” and one you might also know, “Behind every great man is a great woman.”  Women are particularly gifted to enable men to succeed.  They provide emotional support and stability.  They are great at remembering all the details.  That’s why you often see women in support roles- secretary, nurse, housewife.  I think of those roles like the wagon train- maybe not as glamorous, but absolutely vital to success.  Fewer women make it into the history books than men, but that’s because history books are oversimplifications.  I bet if we knew more about the stories of history, we would consistently find women as vital but overlooked parts of the stories, in far more cases than we now know.

The Bible tells us that women are the weaker vessel, but are to be honored for that.  They are to be protected and cared for, because they are vital to men’s success.  The gifts of women are often not as obvious as the gifts of men, and the simplistic stories tend to favor the man who tends to excel at one thing rather than the woman who tends to excel at keeping all the different pieces together behind the scene.  They are also often the soft underbelly, and the devil will attack them.  Women away from the protection of men are often easy pickings, which is why false teachers often build their ministry on such women as Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:6.  The devil targeted Eve first in his deception, but the blame falls mostly not on her, but on Adam.  Women were created to partner with men to enable their joint success.  Even Jesus had a lot of women around that supported him.  So did Paul (read Romans 16).  And in an imperfect world there are exceptions, women who have accomplished great things on their own, single men who achieved much.  But we ought not be guided by exceptions but by the rule.

I have two main applications to make here.  To men- value your wives.  Cherish and protect them.  He who loves his wife loves his own flesh, and the more cherished and protected your wife is, the more beneficial she will be to you.  Realize how important to your success she is, and tell her that, frequently.  A wife that feels valued and vital is far less likely to stray.  And to women- don’t envy what you are not.  Value what you are.  Every cook and mechanic in an army has it drilled into them constantly in training that though they may not get the glory, everyone who knows anything knows how absolutely vital and crucial they are to the success of the army.  But a cook who envies the limelight and goes trying to fight battles on their own is likely to get slaughtered.  And every experienced pastor I know knows how vital a good wife is to success in the ministry, and how crippling a bad wife is.  Don’t tear down your own house; build it up.  Value the protection of your husband and build him up to help him provide that protection.  Feed and supply him well!

We are not all warriors, and we are not all cooks and mechanics.  And that’s OK- God made us to need each other, not to be self-sufficient.  And I’m not saying every woman belongs in such-and-such a role, or every man.  But I am saying, value what God has made you, submit yourself to His will, realize the excellence of God’s different design for men and women, and explore, in faith and prayer, what this means for you in your particular life and situation.  And seek to excel in whatever role God put you in, knowing that every part of the army is vital to success.  The devil hates women in particular, I am convinced, recognizing their power but also their vulnerability, and attacks women with contempt for what they are and envy for what they are not, and at the same time attacks men with contempt for the weaker vessel and pride over the ways they excel, and in doing so the devil destroys both the woman and the man.

But through the gospel we can see the excellent design of God for both, and value both, precisely because they are different.

The Eighth Day

“Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work, but the seventh is the Sabbath.”
The Old Testament Feast of Tabernacles was a week-long celebration, remembering God’s preservation of Israel through the wilderness and the gift of the Promised Land, culminating on the eighth day. The Year of Jubilee, a freedom from all debt and slavery and a return to the land promised to their ancestors, happened on the 50th year, after a cycle of seven Sabbath years, seven sevens. A child in Israel was circumcised on the eighth day in Israel.
In Luke 4:18 Jesus told the Jews of Nazareth that the Year of Jubilee, the Year of the Lord’s Favor, had come.
Jesus came into Jerusalem at the beginning of Passover week. He did His final week of work, finishing it on the sixth day. He rested in the grave on the seventh day, the most perfect Sabbath ever kept, and He rose again on the eighth day. This is why the ancient church typically spoke not of worship on the first day of the week, but the eighth- not a mere moving of the Sabbath Day, but a completion and transcending of the whole system, something many elements of the Old Testament Law anticipate, and something we celebrate every Lord’s Day.

The Blunt Answer of Job to the Problem of Suffering

Reading through the book of Job recently, I was struck once again with how different the book’s answers are to our questions about why things happen, especially suffering, than the way we answer those questions ourselves.

Compassion is a good thing, and we certainly ought to show compassion- to weep with those who weep, to bear each other’s burdens.  But this book is a really key book in understanding why suffering happens, and its answer sounds downright blunt and uncompassionate.  But often the kindest thing we can do is give people the truth.

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Stop Crying Wolf

This is perfect.  From a liberal, atheist Jew Hillary voter.

Stop fearmongering. Somewhere in America, there are still like three or four people who believe the media, and those people are cowering in their houses waiting for the death squads.

Stop crying wolf. God forbid, one day we might have somebody who doesn’t give speeches about how diversity makes this country great and how he wants to fight for minorities, who doesn’t pose holding a rainbow flag and state that he proudly supports transgender people, who doesn’t outperform his party among minority voters, who wasn’t the leader of the Salute to Israel Parade, and who doesn’t offer minorities major cabinet positions. And we won’t be able to call that guy an “openly white supremacist Nazi homophobe”, because we already wasted all those terms this year.

Stop talking about dog whistles. The kabbalistic similarities between “dog-whistling” and “wolf-crying” are too obvious to ignore.

Stop writing articles breathlessly following everything the KKK says. Stop writing several times more articles about the KKK than there are actual Klansmen. Remember that thing where Trump started out as a random joke, and then the media covered him way more than any other candidate because he was so outrageous, and gave him what was essentially free advertising, and then he became President-elect of the United States? Is the lesson you learned from this experience that you need 24-7 coverage of the Ku Klux Klan?

Read the whole thing.  It’s long, and every sentence is brilliant.

Promoting God’s Law is More Important than a Successful Trump Presidency

From Calvin’s commentary on Isaiah 1:23-

…no disease is more injurious than that which spreads from the head into the whole body, so no evil is more destructive in a commonwealth than a wicked and depraved prince, who conveys his corruptions into the whole body both by his example and by the liberty which he allows.  Hence, too, comes the proverb, “like mistress, like maids.”

I confess to being optimistic for the possible good things that may be done by President Trump.  We know what Hillary’s presidency would have brought.

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Riots Are Not Protests

I agree with this wholeheartedly:

  • Let police use the time-tested, old-fashioned methods to quell riots.

  • Prosecute and jail those calling for the President-elect’s assassination.

  • Toss vandals in the hoosegow. Give them the maximum sentence.

  • Arrest those who illegally block traffic and disturb the peace. Truncheon those who resist arrest. Insist on large monetary penalties.

  • Prosecute for conspiracy and racketeering those who funded illegal riots and disturbances of the peace.

  • Institute martial law (when necessary). Restore order.

The second someone throws a brick at a protest, they should be treated as enemies of civilization with all that entails.  The second someone throws things at police or at windows of shops, they lose all right to express any political opinion at all, for they are at war with the country.