Nov 6, 2008

The Tyranny of the Spineless and the Ignorant

Barack Obama is now the President-elect. The question is why? Well, of course, we all know why he got elected--he got the most electoral college votes. But, why did he get the most electoral college votes? I want to suggest that he won because Americans live under a form of tyranny. It's a tyranny that has actually been dominating the political scene for many years. It is the tyranny of the spineless and the ignorant. Let me explain.

In the past, tyranny has been that of the evil monarch or the elite oligarchy. When the American Republic was established, the founders built into our system of government some safeguards to avoid a form of tyranny peculiar to democracies, namely, the tyranny of the majority. All citizens were recognized to have "certain unalienable rights," thus guaranteeing that every individual and every minority would have their most basic liberties protected against a potentially tyrannical majority. But, now we face a new and frustrating form of tyranny for which there may be no easy cure. It is the tyranny imposed by two groups of people in our society, two groups that probably overlap significantly (i.e., it's mostly one group with two characteristics). These groups are, as I have suggested, the spineless and the ignorant.

It is common knowledge that about 40% of Americans are more or less liberal in their political views. It is also the case that about 40-45% are conservative. But that means that about 15-20% of Americans are committed to neither liberal nor conservative principles. This small minority in the middle of the American political spectrum--often referred to as moderates or independents--actually control the outcome of national elections. These so-called "moderates", in my humble opinion, are spineless. That is, they have no political backbone. They are not committed to, nor do they stand for, any significant moral or political principles. The spineless middle ground folks vote on the basis of pure self-interest; they vote their "pocket books." They are the ones who constantly remind us, "It's the economy stupid." For them, economics is the only thing that really matters. They do not or cannot see beyond themselves and their small personal world. They do not live for anything bigger than themselves.

I strongly disagree with liberals politically, but at least I can respect that they, like conservatives, have principles that they beleive in and are willing to stand for; principles that reflect values bigger than themselves. But, here's the problem that both liberals and conservatives face: neither side can win national elections without the help of the spineless. Which means that both sides find themselves having to compromise, weaken, or downplay their most cherished principles in order to gain the support of the spineless. The recent presidential campaigns show ample evidence of this. Consider the fact that Republicans felt the need to nominate John McCain, widely recognized as no friend of true conservatives, in order to reach out and gain the support of the spineless. And, of course, McCain's campaign was largely aimed at garnering their support.

Obama did not escape the tyranny of the spineless either. I'm convinced that he is a true blue liberal. His record shows him to be the MOST liberal senator, and if he truly had his way, he would turn this into a near-socialist state. In his primary campaign, he presented himself as he actually is, a liberal. This of course was the appropriate strategy for getting the liberal base behind him. But, after he got the DNC nomination, he presented himself as a moderate. Why? Because he had to win the support of the spineless. He won the election b/c his appeal to the spineless was more convincing to them than McCain's.

Many of the new tyrants also suffer from the malady of ignorance, and they are joined by a large number of others from both sides of the political spectrum who suffer from this malady as well. Howard Stern's man-on-the-street interviews a few weeks ago proved that a lot of African-Americans were horribly ignorant of the moral, political, and ecomomic issues facing our country. They voted for Obama solely because he is black. Many other Americans of of various ethnic backgrounds are likewise ignorant and voted for him because they liked the way he looked and talked--style over substance. No doubt at least a few voted for McCain simply because of subjective impressions of his personality and style and not because of his policies. These, the ignorant, are also tyrants with whom we have to do.

So, what can we do to throw off the yoke of these tyrants and allow elections to be won and the nation governed by principle rather than a catering to this worthless minority of Americans who have no vision or concern for the common good? I have no idea how to accomplish it, but it seems to me that the following things have to happen:
1. We need a complete overhaul of how national elections are conducted so as to make it possible for a candidate to win with only 34-40% of the popular vote. This probably means constructing some way to allow for real, meaningful 3-party elections in which all three candidates have a reasonable chance of winning. I'm not sure how such a thing could be done, but I'm thinking about it.

2. We need to require that in order to be eligible to vote a person has to have some modicum of familiarity with the issues of the day. A legal vote must be an informed vote. It is no secret to political philosophers that a great weakness in democracy is the ever-present danger of the nation being ruled by ignoramuses. We'll that danger is not a danger anymore--it is a reality. And we need some way to alter this reality. An educational requirement of some sort may sound elitist to many ears, but I think it is a necessity if we truly care about the common good.

Nov 2, 2008

God, Caesar, and the Election

Take a listen to the sermon I preached today on Matt. 22:15-22, where Jesus gives his famous command, "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God." I lay out what Jesus' words say to us about the relationship between church and state, our obligations both to God and to country, and I make some important applications relevant to the upcoming election. Here is the link:

Black Conservatives Speak Out!

You gotta see this video from a black conservative urging other black Americans to vote for McCain. He also takes a great stab at those conservatives who won't vote for McCain because he isn't conservatve enough. It's a bit raw in places, but worth it. Check it out here.

Oct 30, 2008

Same Sex Marriage: A Really Bad Idea

I just read a very insightful and troubling article by S.T. Karnick in Salvo magazine on same-sex marriage. He carefully details the social and legal ramifications that will follow from same-sex marriage if it were to become the law of the land. It is essentally the imposition of an oppressive tyranny of a minority over the rest of us that will eradicate manhy freedoms we take for granted (including free speech) and create many new positive "rights" that will further limited our freedoms. You can read Karnick's article here.

Oct 21, 2008

Concerns about Obama

The election is only two weks away and it stilllooks like Barack Obamahas a good chance to become he next US president. Those who know me know that I think that prospect is just about the worst thing that could happen to this country politically. Some of the reasons why I think this have been highlighted recently in some blog posts by Christian philosopher Doug Geivett on his blog. Two things that Doug highlights are: (1) the suspicions that many of us have that Obama has marxist leanings, suspicions actually confirmed by Obama's frequent lunch companion James Pethokoukis, professor at the University of Chicago; and (2) the worry that Obama isn't up to the task of dealing with America's enemies, a worry greatly exacerbated yesterday by his own running mate, Senator Joe Biden! Biden actually said in no uncertain terms that our enemies will be emboldened to "test" Obama because they peceive him as a dove--which means that Biden thinks that an Obama presidency actually increases the risk of terrorist attacks (or worse) on Amiercan soil. I encourage my readers to look at Doug's blog enties on these topics, found at the following links:

Sep 25, 2008

Lessons from Acts 2:1-21

In Sunday School at my church, we have just begun a series on the Book of Acts. It's my assignment this coming Sunday to teach chapter 2, vv. 1-21, the first half of account of the Day of Pentecost. Though I know that some of this will be controversial to many people, including perhaps some of the readers of this blog (assuming there are any!), I have come to the conclusion that we can learn the following lesons from this text:

1. Jesus Christ reigns in heaven over the earth today. I know this because Pentecost indicates that he has kept his promise to send the Holy Spirit to the world. This in turn indicates that his ascension placed him on the throne of heaven where he reigns over his Kingdom.

2. The gift of tongues is the ability to speak a human language that one has not learned through natural means. It is NOT the gibberish we hear in charismatic churches.

3. That Old Testament promises to Israel are fulfilled in the Christian church (the new Israel). When Peter quotes Joel's prophecy made on behalf of Israel, and applies it to the arrival of the Spirit in the midst of the church, what other conclusion should we reach? BTW, that the church is Israel is already indicated earlier in Acts chapter 1 in two ways. First, Luke makes a point that the gathering of Christians in the upper room numbered 120, the required number for the Jewish Sanhedrin. Second, the necessity to replace Judas so that the number of apostles would remain 12--why the necessity of 12? Everyone knows that it's because the apostles of the church represent the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel.

4. That cataclysmic, apocalyptic language in prophetic literature (the moon turning to blood, the sun going dark, etc.) is not to be taken literally, but is symbolic of earthly events that have religious and political significance (e.g., see Isa 13:1-22). This point should give us caution in how we interpret other prophetic literature like the Book of Revelation.

Points 2 - 4 may be strongly challenged by those of certain theological and eschatological persuasions, but I suggest that this text in Acts 2 makes them pretty clear.

Aug 6, 2008

What is a Good Sermon?

“That was a good sermon, Preacher.” These are words that preachers are usually thankful to hear, and are often uttered by church-goers on their way out the door of the church after a Sunday service. The uttering of these words, though, presupposes that not all sermons are good. To designate a particular sermon as “good” is to recognize (at least implicitly) that some sermons are bad. But, how do we know the difference? What makes a good sermon good? I believe that the Word of God can help us answer this question so that our judgments about good and bad sermons is not subjective, but objective. Here are the major marks of a good sermon (NOTE: these and other marks of good sermons are discussed in greater detail in J.I. Packer’s, A Quest for Godliness, pp. 281-289).

First, a good sermon is expository. That is, a good sermon has as its primary goal to lay open and explain a particular passage of Scripture. Paul tells us that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). It is because Scripture is profitable to the life of the believer, that ministers are commanded to “Preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2). Preachers are given the duty to feed God’s people, and their food is the Holy Scripture. So, a good sermon is one that explains the meaning of a biblical text; it helps the listener gain the mind of God, not the mind of the preacher. Therefore, when you hear a sermon and want to figure out if it was good or not, ask yourself, “Do I understand this biblical text better than I did before hearing this sermon? Have I learned what this text means?”

Second, a good sermon is doctrinal. No text of Scripture is isolated from the rest of Scripture. The Bible is one book and all of its parts are consistent with each other. Biblical interpreters follow the principle that “Scripture interprets Scripture.” This means, as far as preaching goes, that a good sermon will set the text being preached in the larger context of God’s revelation. It will show how the text fits into the “larger scheme of things” and will quote or allude to other biblical passages that address related topics. In other words, as part of helping the listener understand the meaning of the sermon text, the sermon should show the listener something of the whole mind of God on the topic at hand; how the text fits with other things the Bible says on the topic. So, ask, “Does this sermon help me understand better the whole counsel of God on this topic?”

Third, a good sermon is Christ-centered. Christ–his person and work–is ultimately what the Bible is all about. Paul said to the Corinthians, “I determined to know nothing among you but Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). A good sermon will revolve around Christ. It will either explain what Christ has done for sinners, or point us to our need for him, or show us the appropriate response to his saving grace. Therefore ask, “Does this sermon exalt Jesus? Does it increase my esteem for him? Does it humble me before his majesty and grace? Does it help me love and serve him better? Does it draw me to repentance and faith?”

Fourth, a good sermon is experimental (to use an old Puritan term). That is, it is practical. And by practical I do not simply mean that the sermon leaves us with a list of “do’s and don’ts.” The Word of God describes itself as “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Think about the response of the people in Jerusalem to Peter’s Pentecost sermon and you will know what I am talking about. Luke tells us that they “were pierced to the heart” (Acts 2:37). A good sermon will wound consciences, or build characters, or stir the soul to praise God, or move the will to action or the mind to fruitful reflection. And thus, when the preacher offers specific points of application, the listener is ready to respond either by following the promptings of the Holy Spirit or resisting Him in sinful rebellion. In either case, a good sermon will not leave you the way you were before you heard it. So ask, “Has this sermon changed me in some way? Has it drawn me closer to Christ? Has it pricked my conscience and prompted me to repentance and faith? Has it stirred in me a deeper desire to please God and shown me practical ways in which I can do it?”

I want to encourage all the saints who read this to evaluate every sermon you hear by these principles. May it be the case that the next time you say, “That was a good sermon, preacher,” that those words not be based simply on what you may subjectively “like” or find enjoyable, but that those words express the considered opinion of one who understands what God expects of a good sermon.

Jul 22, 2008

Who Does Obama Think He Is?

Check out this excellent article by political commentator Charles Krauthammer on the arrogance and audacity of Barrack Obama.

Jul 17, 2008

Obama, Politics, and Facts

Check out the link below to a column by renowed economist Tom Sowell who comments on some of Barrack Obama's political views on such things as the minimum wage and capital gains taxes, and how they are contradicted by hard, economic facts. Enlightening. . .

Jun 24, 2008

My Summer Reading List

I have no idea if anyone would have much interest in what I'm reading this Summer, but. . .who knows? At least some of these are important books that I would highly recommend. So, here it is:

D.A. Carson, Christ and Culture Revisted.

David F. Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant.

Samuel E. Waldron, MacArthur's Millennial Manifesto.

Tom Challies, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment.

George R.R. Martin, et al, Hunter's Run.

Ben Bova, Titan.

David Weber, Off Armageddon Reef.

May 25, 2008

Finally Finished!

Some of the readers out there may be aware that I have been writing (with Jim Spiegel of Taylor U) a Christian intro to philosophy text. Well, it's finally finished. We sent the manuscript to the publishers last week. It has been a labor of love for me, a project that we have been excited to work on. Part of me will miss working on it, but it is a great relief to have it done--I may actually get some sleep now!

The book is entitled, The Love of Wisdom: A Christian Introduction to Philosophy. It will be published by Broadman & Holman in Spring of 2009. I hope you will all buy a copy and help me pay a few bills!

Feb 6, 2008

Undermining Freedom to Save Freedom? A Review of The Golden Compass

The following brief review of the film The Golden Compass was recently published in Areopagus Journal (Sept-Oct 2007).

It was one of the best movies I have seen in a while. And it was one of the worst movies I have seen in a while. Let me explain. When it comes to purely aesthetic qualities (acting, cinematography, special effects, plot development, etc), The Golden Compass should (and most likely will) win some awards. Based on the first novel in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, the movie tells the story of a girl named Lyra who, according to the Wikipedia article, is “an orphan living in a fantastical parallel universe in which the dogmatic dictatorship of the Magisterium threatens to dominate the world. When Lyra’s friend is kidnapped, she travels to the far North in an attempt to rescue him and rejoin her uncle” (see

Those who have read Pullman’s novels or have followed the press on the film know that Pullman’s stories are militantly atheistic. Intentionally offering a contrast to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series, His Dark Materials portrays God as a bumbling tyrant served by the malevolent Magisterium (an unsubtle stand-in for the Catholic Church and perhaps all organized Christian groups). The heroes of the story are the “free inquirers”—those dedicated to science and reason, rather than religious dogmatism.

Though the film’s atheism and antagonism toward religion is more subdued than that in the novels, it is present nonetheless. Right at the beginning of the story, one scientist, Lord Asriel (Lyra’s uncle), seeks funding to explore the possibility of the existence of a substance called “Dust” which supposedly permeates and composes all things. The Magisterium opposes the investigation of Dust and calls those who believe in it “heretics.” The Dust seems to be a metaphor for materialism, the view that reality is entirely composed of matter—which entails that spiritual, non-physical things do not exist. So, right at the beginning we have a clash of fundamental worldviews: the theistic worldview in which God exists as the Creator and Sustainer of all things, and atheistic materialism. Like the novels, the movie leaves no doubt as to which side reason belongs. The Magisterium is portrayed as stiflers of free inquiry, dogmatic fideists who simply desire to maintain their cultural authority and influence. The scientific materialists, of course, are the defenders of rationality and tolerance.

So, it was a good movie in one sense. As an adventure story it was riveting and suspenseful—downright fun, in fact. The characters were likable and believable. But, whatever aesthetic qualities the movie has, they are overshadowed by the false worldview being subtly foisted on the unsuspecting children (and adults) who view it, not to mention the egregious stereotype and straw man constructed for religion.

For this reviewer, the most absurdly ironic thing about this movie (and perhaps the books too), is the idea that atheistic materialism is put forth as the savior of free will. In the film’s last scene, the witch Serafina warns the aeronaut Lee Scoresby of a great war that is coming, a war in defense of “nothing less than free will.” This is not simply a remark about the tyrannical ambitions of the Magisterium. It is an allusion to the idea that God, if he exists, would make human freedom impossible. What is ironic about this is that the alleged defense of free will is being made in the name of atheistic materialism, a view diametrically opposed to any notion of free will. If all I am is a collection of atoms whose every motion is dictated by the command of blind physical laws, then how can I be free in any relevant sense? What’s more, how can there be any real meaning and purpose to life if all there is or ever has been is the physical universe? Serafina is right. The battle between theism and atheism is a battle over no less than free will—and meaning and human dignity, too. But, the threat to those things is not theism, but atheism.

Jan 24, 2008

Over 40 million and counting

Two days ago, January 22, 2008, marked the 35th anniversary of the landmark decision of the Supreme Court known as Roe v. Wade, a decision that effectively permitted abortion on demand in the United States. The anniversary came and went with hardly a mention in the mainstream press. I must confess that I would've overlooked it myself except for stumbling on a reminder in an online news story and in Doug Groothuis's blog. Most Americans are sadly unaware that since 1973 well over 40 million unborn children have been slaughtered. Though the number of abortions has decreased in recent years, it still remains a fact that a woman can kill her baby for almost any reason at almost any time in her pregancy--and many, many women (and the abortion providers) still take advantage of the Supreme Court's permisssion of this atrocity. The stats are that 1 in 5 pregnancies today end in abortion.

40 million and counting. . .