Morphing Human “Rights”

One of the most confused issues of our day is the understanding of rights. Americans are supposed to enjoy the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and largely what this used to mean is protection from anyone who would take these things away from you. This “protection from” approach is polar opposite from what has developed and continues to develop, an “entitled to” approach. I am entitled to my house no matter how reckless and foolish I was when I “bought” it with no money down. If I’m in danger of losing it, others are required to pay for it through government bail out programs, the very others who acted with caution and chose not to engage in such risky behavior.

Any parent–but even as I write that I realize it’s entirely false because so many parents don’t–understands that if you don’t follow disobedience with consequences, you’re reinforcing the disobedience. You get more of what you penalize and less of what you subsidize.

Bailout responses to the financial crisis is only the most recent manifestation of the entitlement mindset that has been with us for well over a century, but it illustrates the point well. When you penalize virtue and reward foolishness, you get more of the latter. People are outraged at top execs of companies who received bailout money when they subsequently dole out all sorts of bonuses and massive perks. But who taught them that? Who taught them they could be financially reckless and still operate? Who enabled this? The same politicians who wag their fingers. Shocking: people who ran their businesses into the ground are still reckless, even after taking money from politicians. It’s like watching a man yell at his wife, and then turn around and yell at his kids for dishonoring her. Continue reading

Obama & Planned Parenthood

From Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life:

Yesterday, President Obama released his health care proposal…with no mention of the Life issue.  Remember, the President promised you that “no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.” In a meeting last fall, I told the White House very clearly that unless they include specific legislative language banning the use of federal funds for abortion, they will be establishing taxpayer funding for abortion.  The President knows what he needs to do to keep his promise and has done just the opposite.

The Washington Examiner reported yesterday that the President and his staff have met at least four times with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, but that the President has not spoken to Congressman Bart Stupak – sponsor of the Stupak Amendment that protected Life in the House of Representatives health care bill – since September 18th, 2009.  There is only one conclusion to be drawn; the Obama Administration has been working hand in hand with the pro-abortion lobby.

Present Adventitiously

In his essay Calvin’s Covenantal Response, (in The Failure of American Baptist Culture) Peter Lillback writes concerning Calvin’s view of the law written on hearts by the Spirit. This summary is a wonderful treatment of the law against the Lutheran and neo-Lutheran:

Thus Calvin explains how one ought to compare law and gospel in his comments on Jeremiah 31:32ff. First, Calvin notes, one must recognize what the law is in itself–a rule of righteousness that only speaks to the ear as letter since it does not have the Spirit. But secondly, Calvin adds, this contrast ceases once the Spirit is joined with the law. It is then no longer letter, but actually spirit or the gospel itself. In fact, Calvin insists that it is not a new law that the Spirit writes on the heart, but the very same law that was once only letter. Therefore Calvin insists that the benefits of the New Covenant were even present in the law of the Old Covenant. To illustrate this, Calvin mentions John 1:17. If grace and truth have come through Christ and the law was of Moses, does this mean that these benefits were absent from the law? His answer is that even though grace and truth are only found in Christ, and the law doe not have them as benefits it can actually bestow, they were nonetheless present adventitiously. Simply, they were borrowed from the gospel. In light of this, Moses can be considered in two different senses. If he is considered without Christ in his narrow office (cf. comm. ad Rom. 10:4ff.) as lawgiver, his message was only letter and hence promised only death. But if Moses is considered in his whole teaching, he is seen to preach Christ as well. In that case, he must be considered as a preacher of the gospel, the same gospel as is found in the New Covenant. 

Recovering the Puritanical

“With respect to sex and marriage, the normal Puritan view was a robust and healthy one. The Rev. William Gouge, in Of domestical duties (London, 1634), used Proverbs 5:18, 19, to express the joy and beauty of marital sex: “Let thy fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times, and be thou ravished always with her love.” The Puritans often spoke of marital sex as one of the great delights and joys among earthly blessings. Frye tells us that a “favorite Biblical passage cited by Puritan churchmen is Genesis XXVI. 8 where it is recorded that ‘Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.’”

A typical employment of this passage is that made by William Gouge, who uses it for an attack upon Stoical abstinence–”A disposition,” said the Puritan Gouge, “no way warranted by the “Word.” Thomas Gataker provides a final and summarizing statement of Puritanism’s anti-ascentiticism in a marriage sermon published in 1620. Gataker is discussing the Christian life, with particular reference to marriage, and observes that it is a tactic of the demonic to misrepresent Christianity as a damper placed upon the joys of living; in other words, to misrepresent it as opposed to human happiness. This false picture of Christianity, says the Puritan Gataker, is “an illusion of Sathan, whereby he usually perwades the Merry Greekes of this world; that if they should once devotoe themselves to the Service of Jesus Christ, that hen they must bid an everlasting farewell to all mirth and delight; that then all their merry dayes are gone; that in the kingdome of Christ, there is nothing, but sighing and groning, and fasting and prayer. But see here the contrary; even in the kingdome of Christ, and in his House, there is marrying and giving in marriage, drinking of wine, feasting, and rejoicing even in the very face of Christ.”"  (Rushdoony, The Flight from Humanity)

Rushdoony writes this in the context of a notable exception to the typical Puritan delight in marital love and other physical blessings, Michael Wigglesworth. Wigglesworth does aptly represent the false impression for the that merry lot who built a brewery among the first buildings of America. Here is to recovering Puritanism!

Calvinian, not Jeffersonian, Democray

Loraine Boettner notes the connection between Calvinism and republican (representative) government:

Politically, Calvinism has been the chief source of modern republican government. Calvinism and republicanism are related to each other as cause and effect; and where a people are possessed of the former, the later will soon be developed. Calvin himself held that the Church, under God, was a spiritual republic; and certainly he was a republican in theory. James I was well aware of the effects of Calvinism when he said; “Presbytery agreeth as well with monarchy as God with the Devil.” Bankcroft speaks of “the political character of Calvinism, which with one consent and with instinctive judgment the monarchs of that day feared as republicanism.” Another American historian, John Fiske, has written, “It would be hard to overrate the debt which mankind owes to Calvin. The spiritual father of Coligny, of William the Silent, and of Cromwell, must occupy a foremost rank among the champions of modern democracy . . .  The promulgation of this theology was one of the longest steps that mankind has ever taken toward personal freedom.”

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Animals Love Calvinism

According to McFetridge (Calvinism in History), the American Puritans,

Among all the people in the American colonies, they (the Puritans, Calvinists of New England) stood morally without peers. They were the men and the women of conscience, of sterling convictions. They were not, indeed, greatly given to sentimentalism. With mere spectacular observances in religion they had no sympathy. . . . All their thoughts and relations were imbued with [their religion]. Not only men, but beasts also, were made to feel its favorable influences. Cruelty to animals was a civil offense. In this respect they were two centuries in advance of the bulk of mankind.

Reformed Confession Club

What does Reformed theology look like when it becomes a club with secret code words and handshakes? John Frame confronts the beast in his frank and helpful (and long) review of R. Scott Clark’s book Recovering the Reformed Confession: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice. It’s rare to read such a thorough and balanced critique, but worth it if you enjoy hard-hitting and edifying confrontation (which is what charitable critique is–it builds the church, even when encountering its opposite).  Read the whole thing or enjoy this worthy slice that provides a kind of summary both of the review and the issue:

Toward the beginning of this review, I criticized Clark’s definition of “Reformed.” Here I will say something about his general view of how the Reformed communion is related to the overall body of Christ. As one reads this book, the general picture that emerges is of what Van Til used to call the “isolation” of the Reformed community. We are not Eastern Orthodox, or Roman Catholic, or Lutheran, or Anabaptist, or evangelical. We are distinctive, holding a viewpoint defined more or less unchangeably by our confessions, a favored group of theologians, and various traditions. From Clark’s point of view, it is very important that such distinctiveness be maintained. So we must define every aspect of church life by the confessions and tradition. Both officers and (however implausibly) the whole congregation must subscribe in a strict and comprehensive sense to the confessions. We should study the Scriptures too, but there is a “Reformed reading” of Scripture that we must never depart from, a way of reading Scripture that will be governed by the confessions and therefore will never lead us away from the Reformed traditions. So when controversies arise, the most prominent question is not “what does Scripture say?” (which would be “biblicist”), but rather “what do the confessions say?”