Thursday, July 2, 2020

Book Write-Up: The Story Retold, by G.K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd

G.K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd. The Story Retold: A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament. IVP Academic, 2020. Go here to purchase the book.

The Story Retold is an introductory textbook about the New Testament. Its authors, G.K. Beale and Benjamin L. Gladd, are candid that it is a different textbook from what is out there. They admit that it does not focus on historical context, authorship, or scholarly trends, and they recommend another textbook they have written that goes more deeply into that. The Story Retold is more biblical-theological. It attempts to show that themes in each book of the New Testament echo and continue themes that are present in the Old Testament.

Whether they successfully do that is up to the reader. Does Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith rather than works echo and continue Old Testament themes about humility before God and relying on God rather than human ability? Perhaps. But I can understand if some readers deem some of the connections to be artificial.

And, since this is a Beale book, you will see Beale themes: that God created human beings to be stewards of creation. Does the New Testament echo and value this theme as much as Beale does, or is Beale artificially making it do so, importing themes that are not explicitly there? Again, that is up to the reader.

What stands out to me is a “failure to launch” aspect of this book. The book raises intriguing questions but fails to answer them adequately. Some examples:

—-The Old Testament prophets and Paul in the New Testament (particularly Paul) have contrasting eschatological expectations. The Old Testament prophets predict that God will restore the nation of Israel and then Gentiles will worship God. Paul reverses the expectation—-Israelites will repent after Gentiles come to God (Romans 11)—-and places Gentile Christians within the nation of Israel as the equals of Jews. Okay, fine observation. But what do we do with it? Were the Old Testament prophets wrong? Was Paul misinterpreting them?

—-The Epistle to the Hebrews denies that the blood of bulls and goats can take away sins. Christ’s death was necessary for forgiveness to occur. Yet, when we read the Old Testament, God still forgives sins, and animal sacrifices appear to have atoning value. Again, fine observation. But where do we go with that? Was there a difference between Old Testament and New Testament forgiveness? What did Jesus bring that did not exist before?

—-II Peter talks about a new heavens and a new earth, drawing from the concept in the Book of Isaiah. Beale and Gladd astutely attempt to tie the theme as it appears in Isaiah with how II Peter employs it, but they do so by emphasizing realized eschatology, without really showing that II Peter has that.

I read this book after Thomas Schreiner’s book on Pauline theology. Not to pit the books against each other, but Schreiner’s book was deep, so reading The Story Retold after it was a bit of a letdown. The Story Retold is still edifying, but it was disappointing, in certain respects.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Booknotes: Liberal Fascism, Ship of Fools, McCarthy and His Enemies

A. Jonah Goldberg. Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Change. Crown Forum, 2009.

Conservative writer and pundit Jonah Goldberg argues that fascism and National Socialism have parallels with the American left, although, of course, leftists use “fascist” as an epithet for right-wingers. While William Shirer depicted Nazism as an aristocratic, pro-business movement, Goldberg argues that fascism and Nazism were collectivist in that they supported the use of the State to improve the economy, provide economic security, and ameliorate disparities of wealth. Among other parallels that Goldberg identifies are: the use of State power to encourage nutrition, environmentalism, corporatism in which the government picks winners and losers, and hostility to religion as a competitor with the State. Goldberg also maintains that there are fascistic tendencies that the Left, and American society, have reflected: a belief that a leader embodies the general will of the people, a preference for emotion over reason (Goldberg criticizes the movie The Dead Poets Society on that one), and revolutionary impulses. Moreover, Goldberg documents that the American Left historically embraced controversial Nazi ideas, particularly eugenicism. This book is a repository of information, including factoids one might not expect: did you know that Joe McCarthy, apart from his anti-Communist crusade, had left-wing political and economic ideas? Having been written in 2009, it is a bit dated: the main Vermont politician Goldberg identifies is Howard Dean, when people today would mention Bernie Sanders. A criticism I have is that Goldberg gives the impression that certain ideas are wrong simply because the Nazis and fascists held them. Goldberg also criticizes the Nazi and fascist attempt to seek a third way between the extremes of capitalism and socialism: apparently, for Goldberg, you have to choose. You either select laissez-faire capitalism or socialism. There is no “third position.” Why does the choice have to be so stark, though? Even the United States has elements of both.

B. Tucker Carlson. Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution. Free Press, 2018.

This was an ironic book to read after Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. Goldberg argues that the American left historically held fascist and Nazi ideas. Tucker Carlson laments that the left has abandoned its historical principles. Environmentalists historically recognized that unprecedented levels of immigration could hurt the environment; nowadays, such a position is stigmatized within the environmental movement. The ACLU used to be practically absolutist on the issue of free speech, championing the right of Nazis to march through a Jewish neighborhood. The ACLU has backtracked from that absolutism when it comes to white nationalists, even as the left practices its own form of censorship of conservative ideas on Facebook and Twitter. Feminists in the nineteenth century were against abortion; now, they champion it. This book is the sort of paleoconservative manifesto one might expect, a criticism of massive illegal immigration and foreign interventionism. Particularly intriguing was when Tucker tried to probe the motives of whites who hire illegal immigrants: they feel better about hiring the friendly immigrant who has been through a lot, over the pot-bellied American Trump supporter. Tucker is also vivid about the negative consequences of war.

C. William F. Buckley, Jr. and L. Brent Bozell. McCarthy and His Enemies: The Record and Its Meaning. Regnery, 1954.

William F. Buckley was a conservative icon. L. Brent Bozell was the brother-in-law of William F. Buckley, Jr. His son is L. Brent Bozell III, a conservative columnist and Family Guy critic. This book is essentially a defense of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Buckley and Bozell argue that McCarthy was basically urging the State and Justice Departments to enforce their own stated security standards for employees. They go through people McCarthy has asked questions about. Sometimes, they see serious reason for concern. Sometimes, they give the accused person the benefit of a doubt, even highlighting where the accused person is heroic and inspiring. Either way, they believe that McCarthy’s concern was understandable and that these people should not have fallen through the cracks as easily as they did. Buckley and Bozell also extensively explore the question of how many Communists or security risks McCarthy said were in the State Department in his infamous Wheeling speech, for critics allege that McCarthy contradicted himself over the course of his career and thus was a sensationalist seeking political gain. Buckley and Bozell look at primary sources about the Wheeling speech and other speeches McCarthy made. Occasionally, Buckley and Bozell discuss the relevance of McCarthy’s concerns to American foreign policy: how Communist infiltration into the State Department contributed to Stalin’s strategic gains in Europe and the fall of China to Communism. Overall, Buckley and Bozell portray McCarthy as more reasonable and measured than his critics allege. This book is not exactly a juicy read. Not everyone, even those who like a good story about American history, will enjoy this book, since it gets into details that are not as important to people nowadays. I personally enjoyed the book, however, since I liked reading the authors’ reasoning, plus the profiles had a storytelling quality.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Book Write-Up: The Betrayers, Who Killed the American Family (Phyllis Schlafly)

Phyllis Schlafly and Chester Ward. The Betrayers. Pere Marquette, 1968.

Phyllis Schlafly. Who Killed the American Family? WND, 2016.

Some items:

A. The Betrayers was written in 1968 and endorsed Richard Nixon for President. The best part of the book is the last chapter, where Schlafly and Ward survey the political scene. Should conservatives vote for George Wallace? Schlafly and Ward advise against that because third parties never do well. Should they vote for the Republican or the Democratic Party, or, as Wallace said, is there not a dime’s worth of difference between the two? Schlafly and Ward argue that the Republican Party is better. Republican Presidents from the 1920’s to 1968 had lower deficits, more balanced budgets, and more tax reductions than Democratic Presidents. Schlafly and Ward also take on Christians who would rather retreat from politics and focus on praying for the nation. That did not help Poland and Hungary, where people are devoutly religious yet fell to Communism.

B. The book is called The Betrayers. The implication seems to be that the Democrats pursuing the policies that Schlafly and Ward criticize—-weakness against the global and internal Communist threat and nuclear disarmament—-are not merely uninformed but are actively and consciously betraying the nation. If they were merely stupid, James Forrestral reportedly told Joe McCarthy, they would occasionally make decisions that would favor the U.S., but they do not, so something more sinister must be going on. Schlafly and Ward argue that there are still Alger Hiss types and security risks in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations. At the same time, they fall short of actually calling Robert MacNamara, Paul Nitze, and LBJ Communists. As far as Schlafly and Ward are concerned, they have other motivations. They would prefer to be red rather than dead from nuclear war, they trust that the Communists can be appeased through negotiation, or they figure that the Soviets are mellowing. Schlafly and Ward waffle between depicting them as dupes and regarding them as conscious and deliberate betrayers.

C. Who Killed the American Family? laments the decline of the nuclear family in the United States. Most homes are raised by single parents or unmarried couples, and the government is treated as a replacement for the father as provider. The tax and welfare systems penalize marriage. UN treaties, which, fortunately, the U.S. Senate has refused to ratify, would threaten the American family if they were to be ratified: the UN Treaty on the Child, for example, undermines parental authority in the name of children’s “rights.” Legislation and family courts diminish and persecute the father. The Violence Against Women Act is nebulous enough that husbands can be imprisoned for belittling their wives. Family courts occur in secrecy and, using a vague standard of what is in the “best interests of the child,” they render the father absent from his children’s lives and impose on him merciless child support payments, under penalty of prison. The mother can use those payments for something other than the children, and the obligation on the fathers takes little account of the fathers’ current income or even bankruptcy. School curricula, with court backing, alienate children from their parents and the values they are taught in the home. Schlafly is also critical of therapy, seeing it as professional intrusion into the home, and she argues that there is no evidence that it works. Schlafly’s conclusions are controversial—-some of them would even be considered abhorrent—-but she supports her points with anecdotes, statistics, and arguments. Her point about therapy would have been stronger had she addressed what families with relational problems should do instead. Lean on religion? Her point about child support and custody is ironic because, in arguing against the ERA, she stated that ERA would eliminate the system’s preference for the mother in custody cases. In Who Killed the American Family?, however, she laments that the mother is preferred, to the detriment of the father. She has criticized feminism for seeking to eliminate gender distinctions from the law, yet she also sees feminism as an anti-man movement, which would coincide with an anti-husband, anti-father approach on its part.

D. If Schlafly believes that the nuclear family is a divinely-ordained institution, she does not say so, at least in this book. She acknowledges that there are historical and current cultures that have families that are more extended than nuclear. She thinks that a nuclear family is better for a democratic nation, however. At the same time, she does, in a sense, treat the nuclear family as natural. She disputes Margaret Mead’s conclusion that there were societies in which group sex was rampant and the community raised the child; she observes that Mead herself acknowledged that, in tribal societies, the man was the leader. While Africa indeed values extended families, it also has nuclear families, and African children raised in nuclear families do better emotionally than those relying more on extended families.

E. What is so great about the nuclear family, according to Schlafly? The nuclear family is a refuge of safety amidst a harsh world. Fathers, far from being superfluous, are important in that they challenge their children, while still extending their love. Children raised in single-parent homes, on average, do worse financially, academically, and socially than children raised in nuclear families. Nuclear families are where children, in an atmosphere of love, are trained to enter society as responsible adults. There is also a political motivation behind Schlafly’s preference for nuclear families: married couples tend to vote Republican rather than Democrat.

F. Schlafly includes an interesting quote by David Brooks, who observes that the current economy caters to feminine qualities rather than male. Women have empathy and an appreciation for context, something that men stink at. Whether Schlafly agrees with that is a good question. She does not explicitly dispute it. Yet, she laments society’s preference for feminine values such as empathy over male values like rationality.

G. Why do people want to kill the American family? Feminism, with its anti-male attitude, is one culprit, as far as Schlafly is concerned. Schlafly also talks about how Communism sought to undermine the nuclear family when it was attempting to take over a society. Alienating people from their attachments, and the traditions that the families passed on, would make them easier prey for domination by the state. Schlafly acknowledges that Communism ultimately found this path to be unsustainable, which is why the Soviet Union affirmed the traditional family when the Communists came into power. In seeking to destabilize a society, however, Communism attacks the family. Whether Schlafly believes that is still a problem, long after the end of the Cold War, is a good question. She may think that all we have now is the societal disaster that has accompanied the dissolution of the American family; the disaster is not leading to Communism, per se, but it is still detrimental to American society.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Church Write-Up: Psalm 150 and Christian Sanctification

At church, had our final class on the Book of Psalms, studying Psalm 150. Class will not meet next week because of the Fourth of July, but, the week after that (July 12), a class will start on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.

Some items from church:

A. “Hallel” is frequent in Psalm 150. “Hallel” is shouting out praise to God, giving one’s whole self into doing so. Professional trumpeters, musicians, and dance leaders facilitated this collective praise.

B. Psalm 150:1 states: “Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power” (KJV). The worship occurs in a physical sanctuary, where God meets God’s people. But it also touches eternity, which is the firmament (raqia), what God spreads out. When people worship God, they also worship with the angels and the company of heaven, as well as the saints before and after (Revelation 5, 7).

C. There is a kingdom of power. God operates in this kingdom according to God’s law, natural, moral, and national (insofar as nations reflects God’s standard for societies). God upholds order. But there is also a kingdom of grace, which is the church, where the Gospel operates. The pastor did not say this today, but perhaps mercy is an aspect of the kingdom of power, not only the kingdom of grace, for God is loving and merciful towards God’s creation, even the parts that do not believe in him. God, in this day and age, does not operate according to strict justice.

D. The pastor said that rabbis applied the thirteen hallelujahs of Psalm 150 to the thirteen hallelujahs of Psalm 150. But he was also saying that Psalm 150 has ten hallelujahs. Ten symbolizes that God is complete and inexhaustible: we never run out of God, and God is always and continually there when we praise him.

E. All creation anticipates God’s voice (cp. Luke 19:40; Romans 8:24). The Psalmist foresees a restored world, and Christians have a foretaste of that and anticipate it when they gather for worship.

F. The imperfect occurs in the final verse. Worship is to be and will be ongoing, even after Psalm 150.

G. The Book of Psalms is divided into five books, corresponding to the five books of the Pentateuch. A student asked if each book of Psalms echoes the themes of the corresponding Book of the Pentateuch (Book 1 of Psalms corresponding with Genesis, etc.), or if the compiler simply divided the book into five because he liked the number. The pastor responded that he thinks the latter is the case, but that the compiler, on some level, may have thought the former. Psalm 90 introduces Book 4 and reflects themes in the Book of Numbers: human temporality and endurance of divine wrath, as Israelites in Numbers were condemned to die in the wilderness under God’s wrath. The pastor said that Deuteronomy is about the relationship of the Ten Commandments to Israel’s journey, but Book 5 of Psalms does not reflect that. I would say that parts of it do: Psalm 119 is emphatic about God’s law and commandments, and it is part of Book 5. One might also observe that prominent Psalms about creation—-Psalms 8, 19, and 29—-are part of Book 1, the “Genesis” part. But, ultimately, I agree with the pastor: these themes occur throughout the Psalms, so they cannot be confined to a particular book within the Psalms. Psalm 144 is about creation yet is in Book 5, the “Deuteronomy” part, rather than the “Genesis” part. The patriarchs occur throughout the Psalms, not only in the “Genesis” part. Maybe the compiler made his division, thinking that it corresponded, on some level, with each book of the Pentateuch, but the correspondence falls apart, after a while.

H. In the service, the youth pastor talked about how Christian sanctification occurs. He said that he thinks it occurs when Christians share their faith with one another, building one another up and encouraging one another in the faith. Matthew 10:42 presents giving a cup of cold water to a believer as a way to share the faith.

I. The pastor told a story about when his brother was trying out for the wrestling team. The brother dehydrated himself in an attempt to qualify for a lower weight class, since he figured he would win more matches against a lower weight class. The pastor, somehow, was comparing that with Christian attempts at sanctification. I think about my own life. If the bar is low—-if people are nice and appreciative of my help—-I can easily feel good about my Christian sanctification. If I am placed in a testy, challenging situation, then I perceive my sinfulness and shortcomings quite clearly. I feel humbler in the latter situations than in the former, which is good. At the same time, I fear that God is disappointed in me and that I regularly fail as a Christian in the latter.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Phyllis Schlafly Oral History Project; Equal Pay for UNequal Work

For today’s Phyllis Schlafly post, I will be engaging two sources. One is Mark DePue’s extensive 2011 interview of Phyllis Schlafly, which was part of the oral history program of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. The second is Equal Pay for UNequal Work, which was published in 1984 by the Eagle Forum Legal and Educational Fund. The book contains addresses at a conference about comparative worth, an attempt to insure that women are paid the same as men. Eagle Forum was Phyllis Schlafly’s organization.

Some items. This is not comprehensive.

A. In A Choice Not an Echo (1964), Schlafly laments that Richard Nixon in 1960 gave liberal Republican Nelson Rockefeller the power to shape the Republican platform for that year. In Choice, her claim was that Rockefeller sought to push the platform in an internationalist direction, one that supported military disarmament, American retreat from the Soviet threat, and empowering globalist organizations (i.e., the UN). The critique of that common conservative lament is that Rockefeller, far from supporting nuclear disarmament, actually wanted a military buildup on the part of the U.S. Conservatives’ criticism of Rockefeller’s influence in 1960, the critique continues, is rooted in Rockefeller’s support for civil rights. In the DePue interview, Schlafly states that she cannot think of anything objectionable in the 1960 platform, but she objected to the way that Nixon let Rockefeller come in and change it, after the delegates had spent a lot of time and effort constructing it. On civil rights, Schlafly simply states that she had no interest in that issue in the 1960’s. It did not affect people in her circle, and she was far more concerned about U.S. military inferiority in comparison to the Soviet Union: what use are civil rights, if the Soviets nuke you? She is more supportive of MLK in the interview, however, than she is in her 1968 book, Safe—-Not Sorry.

B. Schlafly states that conservatives were not actually called conservatives prior to 1964. Rather, there were eastern Republicans and middle-class and midwestern Republicans.

C. Schlafly discusses her run for Congress in the 1950’s and whether her moving to Washington, D.C. after winning would disrupt her family life. She replied that she did not expect to win, as that was a heavily Democratic district, so she did not anticipate moving. In terms of her run for Congress, she worked during the day and came home to her family at night. She presents herself as a stay-at-home mother when her children were growing up.

D. Donald Critchlow in Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism says that Schlafly was a long-time opponent of the military draft. In the DePue interview, however, she says that the draft would be necessary in wartime.

E. Schlafly in the updated version of Choice is rather critical of George W. Bush and the Iraq War. She portrays Bush as a cronyist and the Iraq War as a futile exercise in nation-building. In the DePue interview, she is more sympathetic towards George W. Bush. She believes that he had a good heart and that he was not deliberately lying when he said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. She states that she supports the U.S. attacking Iraq to stop the WMDs, but not the subsequent nation-building that the U.S. undertook.

F. Schlafly often said that it is unrealistic for the U.S. to try to make Islamic nations into democracies. In the DePue interview, she fleshes out what she means by that. There are Islamic countries that have cultures that run contrary to democracy. Support for clans can eclipse regard for the broader nation, and Saudi Arabia is run by a family.

G. Schlafly criticizes so-called “free trade” agreements. She talks about how foreign countries circumvent tariffs: “What the foreign countries do is: as they have lowered their tariffs to comply with the trade agreement, they have simply raised their VAT, their value added tax, about the same amount that the tariff used to be. Now the value added tax is a tax that Americans have to pay when they ship and try to sell goods in a foreign country. When the plants in the foreign country want to export to the U.S., their government reimburses them for the taxes they’ve paid.”

H. Schlafly talked about what it was like to be her. When she was in college, she worked at night to pay her way, and she did not have a social life. At graduate school, she had more of a social life because she had a scholarship; yet, she acknowledges that she is shy and is not much of a people-person. She attended Harvard for her graduate studies and says that the professors were largely liberal and supportive of FDR but that they were more balanced in their approach than later academia would be.

I. Schlafly’s political attitudes seem to be rooted, on some level, in her upbringing. Her parents got by during the Depression through hard work and were too proud to ask the government for help. Schlafly looks down on those who expect the government to take care of them, especially when their circumstances are far better than she experienced during the Depression. Schlafly was not a doctrinaire conservative in the 1940’s, however. She says that she supported the UN at the time because everyone saw it as the hope of humanity.

J. Schlafly talks about some of her personal issues with a degree of detachment. When discussing her son John’s homosexuality, she states that she never discusses it with him, that he remains a supporter of Eagle Forum, and that she doubts he is truly gay. She matter-of-factly discusses her husband’s dementia is the last few years of his life. She says that she took care of him and that his sickness was tragic, since he was an athletic man, but there is not much pathos there. She does leave the impression near the end of the interview that there is more to tell: that she had a rich and an interesting family life. Also noteworthy is that she polled her kids about what she could have done differently as a parent and actually appreciated their honest responses.

K. Moving on to Equal Pay for UNEqual Work. Comparative worth is an attempt to ensure that women in largely female-dominated professions—-nursing, secretarial work, etc.—-are paid more. It evaluates each job according to certain criteria (i.e., education, analytical difficulty) and ascribes to it a number, and people are to be paid according to that number. Most of the contributors to the book are opponents of comparative worth. Their argument, first of all, is that women gravitate towards lower-paying jobs, since those jobs give them the flexibility they want so they can raise their families; they are unwilling to put in the time and the effort in the workplace that would bring them higher pay. Second, because many women gravitate towards those sorts of jobs, the jobs end up paying less. When there is a limited supply of jobs and a lot of women who want them, the company is not willing to pay a lot of money to attract people to those jobs; the jobs can be easily filled, and at a low cost. Third, the male-dominated jobs pay more for a reason. They involve risk of life and limb and physical exertion, which is necessary for the company to make a profit. Companies pay according to what is valuable to them, not on the basis of sexual discrimination. Fourth, sex discrimination in the workplace is already illegal, without comparative worth. The EEOC will investigate on the basis of even anonymous tips. Were comparative worth to become law, the result would be economic disaster. The jobs that attract women would now cost more, so fewer women would be hired for them. Companies would have to endure yet another burdensome regulation that adds costs and that makes them less competitive in a global economy. A preferable solution is to open more “male dominated” jobs to women.

L. The book includes some voices that support comparative worth. One professor refers to a case in which tree-trimmers at a hospital were paid more than nurses. The reason, she argues, is that male tree-trimmers are considered to be providers of their families, so they are paid more. If women are recognized as providers, as they increasingly are that, then they would be paid more in their professions. The anti-comparative worth voices, in my opinion, did not adequately explain why tree-trimmers should be paid more than nurses. One simply said, after a lot of complex analysis that went over my head, that this is the way the market works. Why should an NBA player be paid millions?

M. Schlafly often criticizes the ERA because it would undermine protective labor laws for women, such as extra breaks and lesser lifting requirements. Interestingly, conservative economist Walter Williams in his contribution was somewhat critical of those laws: he says that they were used to keep women out of certain professions and that many states therefore nullified them.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Current Events Write-Up: Ann Coulter on Confederate Monuments, a Third Way on Religious and LGBT Rights, Waco Regrets

A brief current events write up:

Ann Coulter: “Yale Has to Go!”

Ann Coulter defends keeping up Confederate monuments: “America concluded its civil war by dominating and subjugating the losers, but also honoring their bravery…At Appomattox, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant allowed Gen. Robert E. Lee to keep his sword. As Lee mounted his horse to leave, Grant saluted him. After announcing the South’s surrender at the White House, President Lincoln ordered the band to play ‘Dixie.’ It was an amazing way to end a civil war.”

SCOTUS Blog: “Symposium: LGBT Rights and Religious Freedom—Finding a Better Way,” by Alexander Dushku and R. Shawn Gunnarson.

“Congress should clarify that federal law protects both LGBT equality and religious freedom. In contrast with the Equality Act, the Fairness for All Act, H. R. 5331, 116th Cong., 1st Sess. (2019), offers a balanced approach respectful of our pluralistic society. It would confirm Bostock’s holding that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is unlawful while also securing meaningful protections for churches, religious schools and other religious organizations. This legislation, the product of years of delicate negotiations between LGBT rights groups and major religious organizations, offers the promise of LGBT rights plus religious freedom—not a false choice between them.”

“Righting Waco: Confessions of a Hollywood Propagandist,” by Phil Penningroth.

I recently watched the Waco miniseries. It depicted Koresh as charismatic, approachable, and compassionate. I recalled a 1993 movie about Waco starring Tim Daly as Koresh. Koresh, there, was depicted as a deranged, harsh fanatic. This article is by the writer of the 1993 movie. He expresses regret and laments that he was swallowing what the government was saying at the time.

Church Write-Up: The Need for Salvation and Psalm 130

Some items from church this morning:

A. The pastor told a story about when he was little and his family was on vacation. He was sitting around, and his father said to him, “Don’t just sit there. Do something!” The pastor said that he would reverse what his father said in the area of Christian sanctification, the process of sinning less and becoming more like Christ. “Don’t do something! Just sit there!” We cannot overcome sin on our own and we need God’s salvation. The pastor seemed to be treating Paul’s statement about beating his body into submission (I Corinthians 9:27) as the thing NOT to do. That would need more explanation. Still, in my opinion, there is wisdom in what the pastor is saying. When one calms down and is at peace, one may find that one acts better than when one intensely tries to tame the wild bull called sin.

B. The pastor referred to a confession that calls us “miserable sinners.” “Miserable,” according to the pastor, means not being in misery but being pitiful: God pities us on account of our sin. We find the Gospel there.

C. The Bible study was about Psalm 130. It is a psalm of degree, perhaps sung as pilgrims went up to Jerusalem for a festival. Psalm 130:1 states: “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD” (KJV). The deep was a symbol for chaos. The Psalmist felt as if he were drowning. This could have been internally, in terms of his own despair, or externally, due to chaos on the outside. God tamed the deep at creation and rules over it, and God tames the deeps within through God’s forgiveness and grace. But God also uses chaos, as when God employs it in judgment.

D. Psalm 130:3 states: “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (KJV). Iniquity, according to the pastor, is the sinful nature behind the sin: how our nature is twisted. If God were to take account of how often that is the case, then who would be able to stand before him? The question that went through my mind, and has gone through my mind before, was, “Is the Christian’s nature still twisted?” Paul in Romans 6 talks about the death of the old human being and death to sin. Are Christians truly dead to sin? Or is that more of a process than a fait accompli?

E. Psalm 130:4: “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (KJV). The pastor referred to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s criticism of “cheap grace,” the idea that God loves to forgive, I love to sin, so sweet deal! God’s forgiveness should inspire a degree of fear, however, for, were God not to forgive, the results for us would be catastrophic. God’s law helps us to appreciate God’s mercy.

F. The pastor said that, for Lutherans, the primary motivator of God’s character is his desire to show mercy. Mercy permeates God’s providential care, salvation, and even judgment. God would love to forgive even were there not enough sins for God to forgive. Theoretically, that makes sense: that God would love people, as people, so much that God gives them numerous chances. We are all imperfect, so do we not need chances, and on a continuous basis? For some reason, though, I find that I fail to forgive. Some people are just toxic for me to be around. Or their hurt against me overwhelms any positive feelings that I can muster towards them. I am fine with God loving them, but I don’t love them. Maybe remembering God’s love for them will help me to love them a little bit better.

G. The pastor said that Luther called Psalm 130 a Pauline epistle because it clearly anticipates Paul’s articulation of the Gospel: that all humans are sinners and that forgiveness comes from God’s mercy, not from what we do to earn it. The pastor also called sin the great equalizer: there is no little or greater sin, as far as God is concerned, for sin places all of us in need of God’s salvation. I am going through the Book of Psalms for my daily quiet time and am thinking about the extent to which that reflects the Psalms. The Psalmist talks repeatedly about God favoring the righteous, which sounds like law. Those who pursue peace with others will inherit the land, whereas those who attempt to undermine others will perish in God’s wrath. Yet, although the Psalmist calls himself blameless, he acknowledges that he himself is a sinner and is in need of God’s forgiveness. The Psalmist seems to think that there are better and worse people, depending, perhaps, on whether people are at least willing to behave better. But he also acknowledges that he needs God’s forgiveness.

H. Psalm 130:6 states: “My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning” (KJV). A student remarked that, as surely as morning comes, so is the sureness of our salvation.

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