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Is Religious Liberty Truly In Peril? A Warning. –

14 Aug

That the first amendment only protects your freedom to believe whatever religious thing you want, and not your religious practices, is precisely what the Supreme Court told the Mormons in the late 1800s and when it validated Congressional statutes disenfranchising Mormons, prohibiting them from serving on juries, an eventually even legally dissolving the LDS Church inc. altogether. If the first amendment only protects your religious beliefs, not practices, it actually doesn’t protect religion at all since no one has the capacity to get inside your head and stop you from believing anything.

“After French makes his case that religious liberty is besieged, Marci Hamilton responded, stating, “David French says that our constitutional tradition does not give religious believers absolute rights—even as he argues that they should be free, in most instances, from laws that they consider incompatible with their beliefs. But there is only one absolute right in the Constitution, and that is the First Amendment’s guarantee of the right to believe anything you want. The government may never prescribe beliefs.”

This is the most revealing paragraph in the entire exchange. Note carefully what Marci Hamilton is doing. She has reduced the constitutional right of religious liberty to a right merely “to believe anything you want.” This is a radically reductionist argument, which undermines the broad and crucial protections guaranteed and respected by the First Amendment. The First Amendment secures more than a mere right to believe, in private, anything you want.”

How the gospel gets displaced in our drive towards Social Justice in Christianity

27 Jul

Recent events and episodes in my life have made me see more clearly than ever how needed this distinction is. It’s needed in our evangelism and it’s needed in our Christian life, especially when so many well-meaning evangelicals seem more driven by making this age better than preparing souls for the age to come. It’s amazing how many people, particularly young people, even Christian young people, don’t know or appreciate the crucial distinction between law and gospel. This is not a quibble over fine points of theology; it is a matter of salvation itself. Recently I heard someone preach a sermon on the Good Samaritan, telling us that the main point of Jesus is that we must be better neighbors, who don’t discriminate. Was it? You’ve probably heard many sermons on the Good Samaritan. What you may not realize is the reason why Jesus gave the story in the first place. Jesus had been asked (Luke 10:25) what a man has to do to inherit eternal life. He was not asked how a Christian can be a better neighbor, although this is typically how the parable is presented. The person who was asking, a religious lawyer “who was trying to justify himself,” believed that he was a really good keeper of God’s law. He believed that he loved God with his whole being and that he loved his neighbor as himself. With the parable Jesus showed him that he, even he, someone everyone knew to be as perfect as men can be, even he was not in fact a good enough neighbor, not to or even like the Samaratin. So how did the good Samaritan parable answer the original question concerning eternal life? As repeatedly happens in the gospel accounts between Jesus and self-righteous people, Jesus uses the law to show how law-keeping is, even among those who are the morally superior in society, incapable of saving them. The law exposes our sin (bad news), and points us to look outside ourselves for salvation, since keeping the law of God perfectly is a divine commandment. But to where or to whom shall we look? Who can be our substitute? Answer: The perfect law-keeper and the perfect sacrificial lamb in our place, God Himself, Jesus Christ.

Now I’m going to guess that many of you, when you hear the parable of the Good Samaritan in a sermon, hear it as law. That is, you hear Jesus telling us or showing us how to be a great neighbor. He certainly does that, but that is not Jesus’s main point. He is not, first and foremost, showing us what to do or how to live. He is showing us how desperately we need Him to do what we cant. The point is to show us that we cannot be the neighbor that God requires, and so trusting in our efforts is a no-win situation. Therefore we are to look to another perfect neighbor as our only hope. Namely Himself. The Law says “DO this and live” (we can’t). The gospel says BELIEVE this and live. Believe what? That Christ came to save sinners by obeying the law perfectly and being punished for breaking the law, both on our behalf. This is our only hope, which must be built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.

Don’t make the mistake of replacing gospel with law, no matter how noble your social and moral causes may be. Jesus keeps the priority in the proper order.

Michael Horton on this critical distinction:

A New Study Blows Up Old Ideas About Girls and Boys | Psychology Today

30 Mar
For the sake of argument, let’s grant that point. So let’s study humans before birth. In recent years, there have been fascinating studies in which neuroscientists have studied the brains of babies in their mothers’ wombs.

The War on Poverty that Ended the Decline in Poverty

17 Oct

From Daniel Mitchell:

In Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, John Early and Phil Gramm share some depressing numbers about growing dependency in the United States:

During the 20 years before the War on Poverty was funded, the portion of the nation living in poverty had dropped to 14.7% from 32.1%. Since 1966, the first year with a significant increase in antipoverty spending, the poverty rate reported by the Census Bureau has been virtually unchanged…Transfers targeted to low-income families increased in real dollars from an average of $3,070 per person in 1965 to $34,093 in 2016…Transfers now constitute 84.2% of the disposable income of the poorest quintile of American households and 57.8% of the disposable income of lower-middle-income households. These payments also make up 27.5% of America’s total disposable income.

Read the rest

Jefferson the revolutionary liberal or Jefferson the Virginia conservative?

17 Jul

This has confused me for some time.  Here is Clyde Wilson’s take (he’s a Virginia conservative).

To one group of American conservatives who were bred to regard Thomas Jefferson as the paramount hero of states rights and constitutionalism, it is shocking to encounter the virulence with which another group of American conservatives attacks Jefferson as the archdemocrat. It is true that as a thinker Jefferson was free-ranging. But one is hard put to find genuinely radical acts of Jefferson the statesman. He favored some experimentation with the legal forms of society, but almost entirely in subordinate matters. I would be prepared to maintain in a forum where there is adequate space that none of the tinkering Jefferson did was as fundamental or as harmful as that of John Adams in riding his hobbyhorse of checks and balances. Certainly Jefferson was a more truly conservative statesman than that rash innovator, Alexander Hamilton, whom Russell Kirk has rightly described as not qualifying as a conservative.

Full article 

10 Great Theologians of which You May Have Never Heard

17 Jul

From Nick Batzig:

Sir Isaac Newton, borrowing a phrase from Bernard of Chartres, once noted, “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This maxim holds just as true in the realm of theology as it does in the sphere of scientific investigation. Anyone who has given himself or herself to a diligent study of theology will acknowledge that we are standing on the shoulders of such men as Augustine, Anselm, Athanasius, Bernard of Clairvaux, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, John Bunyan, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards and just about every other theologian whose name is “John!” While the hall of faith, full of men who have blessed the church with profound insights into the Scriptures, is well travelled, there are rooms in the annals of church history that have been, at various times, seeminly hidden from the sight of men–though they are also full of noteworthy theologians. As 2016 comes to an end, I want to introduce you to 10 theologians of superior giftedness–who have not always received their due respect–upon whose shoulders you may safely stand:

Full List

The Spirituality of the Church. What is the Church’s social duty?

16 Jul

D. G. Hart and John R. Muether

Extracted from Ordained Servant vol. 7, no. 3 (July 1998), pp. 64-66.

What is the Christian’s duty to society? Such a broad question suggests many different answers and conjures up images as diverse as the Good Samaritan, who loved his neighbor despite ethnic and religious differences, and the American Presbyterian John Witherspoon, who was the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence. Typically, Reformed answers to this question are easily distinguished from those of other Christian traditions. For instance, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., a theologian in the Christian Reformed Church, has argued that the Calvinist perspective on society has generally been regarded as “conversionist” or “trans-formationist” or “world-formative,” as opposed to the Lutheran or Anabaptist traditions that have harbored isolationist impulses. Plantinga’s assessment reiterates the classic statement of H. Richard Niebuhr on the relation of Christ and culture. Unlike Luther who made sharp distinctions between the temporal and spiritual, or body and soul, Calvin, according to Niebuhr, had a more “dynamic” notion of the Christian’s responsibilities in the world. Niebuhr also detected differences between Lutheran and Calvinistic understandings of the state. While Luther sharply distinguished the kingdom of grace from the kingdom of the world, Calvin argued that the state not only restrained evil but also promoted human welfare to such an extent that magistrates helped to establish the kingdom of God. As popular and as well-accepted as this interpretation of the Reformed tradition is, it fails to make sense of those Presbyterians who adopted a more restrained idea of the Christian’s responsibility in political and social affairs. Unlike some Reformed theologians who have posited a basic harmony between church and state in the execution of God’s sovereignty, American Presbyterianism has also nurtured an understanding of society that stresses fundamental differences between the aims and task of the church and the purpose of the state. Sometimes called the doctrine of the Spirituality of the Church and attributed to the southern Presbyterian tradition, this conviction also informed the views of Charles Hodge who adhered to this doctrine at a pivotal point in the history of the United States.

Full article

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