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11/21/2002

 

What Would Jesus Drive, or, why i don't like the religious left



would Jesus drive an SUV? if you drive an SUV, can you call yourself a responsible steward of God's creation? are you sinning by not opting for the most full efficient vehicle that meets your needs?

DETROIT, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- A convoy of gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles driven by representatives of religious groups trying to get major automakers to build cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars stopped at General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. headquarters on Wednesday.

Their bumper stickers asked: "What would Jesus drive?"

"The Risen Lord Jesus is concerned about the kinds of cars we drive because they affect his people and his creation," the group said in a call to action for Christian leaders on its Web site, whatwouldjesusdrive.org.


that comes to us courtesy of UPI.

driving into work this morning and listening to talk radio as i am wont to do, a local conservative talk show host slyly slipped a WWJD (What Would Jesus Drive) spot in amidst the rest of the commercials. spiritual music plays in the background as a golden-throated announcer begins his appeal to the listener with an appeal to Scripture "God saw that it was good. Jesus said 'love your neighbor as yourself.'" he then tells us that by driving SUVs, we are damaging God's good creation and harming our neighbors with pollutants--especially the children. (oh, won't someone puh-lease think of the children!) he asks us all to consider the damage we are doing through global warming and suggests that we all re-evaluate our automotive needs. we should drive the most fuel-efficient vehicle that suits them, he says. i nearly drive my car (a '97 volkswagen jetta--does that mean i'm sinning by supporting nazism?) off the road. the implications are clear: by driving an SUV, we are sinning against both God and man by showing contempt to the Former's creation and by harming the latter's health.

i had to quote the above from memory since the whatwouldjesusdrive.org website is down--apparently overrun by a flurry of unanticipated hits brought on by the furor their meeting with auto manufacturers created, but despite my (gifted) editorializing, i believe i've remained true to the spirit of the ad. if anything, my version is toned down. but it will suffice nonetheless to give me an opportunity to tee-off on the religious left.

"why would you do that, locdog," you ask. "aren't you a Christian? why would you antagonize fellow believers? shouldn't we all unite behind the banner of Christ and put petty differences aside with an eye towards the Greater Good? you are putting politics ahead of faith."

nay, the religious left is, which is why i must respond. they've simply taken classic bleeding heart issues and co-opted a frilly religiosity to pawn as a pretense for their true aims. masking their contempt for what has become the poster child of the hate-america left behind the vaguest of Biblical mandates, they attempt to create a spiritual guilt rather than the more traditional social guilt of the secular left, but it's still the same old gag. when i say that i am against abortion on religious grounds, i point to Scriptures which make my case for me. those that say that i was fearfully and wonderfully made, that God knew us even before we were born, that john the baptist leapt for joy in his mother's womb. there is a clear implication of sentient life, of human life in the fullest sense of the word since God Himself defines precisely what humanity is. i don't point to "love thy neighbor as thyself" and mumble something about how aborting babies isn't very loving. i define my beliefs by basing them on a system of Biblical truth and extrapolating outward, not by taking those social causes i am particularly fond of and reading them into the Holy Texts.

consider, if you will, this evangelical environmental network, the group that came up with the what would Jesus drive campaign, and their theology as it is described in their declaration on the care of creation.

we have sinned, we have failed in our stewardship of creation. Therefore we repent of the way we have polluted, distorted, or destroyed so much of the Creator's work...we await the time when even the groaning creation will be restored to wholeness, we commit ourselves to work vigorously to protect and heal that creation for the honor and glory of the Creator...God calls us to confess and repent of attitudes which devalue creation, and which twist or ignore biblical revelation to support our misuse of it...The Creator's concern is for all creatures. God declares all creation "good" (Gen. 1:31); promises care in a covenant with all creatures...The earthly result of human sin has been a perverted stewardship, a patchwork of garden and wasteland in which the waste is increasing...God's purpose in Christ is to heal and bring to wholeness not only persons but the entire created order.

the "sin" they are referring to here isn't showing a premeditated malice or reckless disregard for God's creation, it's driving the kids to soccer practice in a car that they wouldn't deem politically correct. furthermore, while acknowledging that we live in a "groaning" creation and await its restoration (vague allusions to the concept of the Genesis 3 Curse and its ultimate redemption, since the Bible in other places anthropomorphically uses the word “groan” to describe the earth’s reaction to its cursed state), they distort the Biblical meaning and shift the impetus from God to man. "Cursed is the earth for your sake," said the Lord when He kicked adam and eve out of the garden of eden. from that point forward, the earth ceased to become "good" in the sense of Genesis 1, meaning "perfect", and became the flawed creation that we know today, with the ground yielding up "thorns and thistles" instead of her strength. and what's more, the cursing God did was a result not of "perverted stewardship", but the result of the Original Sin: when man ate the forbidden fruit, God responded by cursing the very ground it sprang from. the meaning the EEN reads into the passage is the opposite, that it is man's abuse of the environment that has resulted in a "groaning" creation, and that we are laboring to "protect and heal that creation" in the sense of Genesis 1--as if the Fall of Man and the resultant Curse had never happened! by implication, this group rejects the most fundamental of all Christian doctrines: the doctrine of Original Sin.

and that's not all they reject. as i mentioned earlier, they've shifted the impetus for the earth's restoration from God to man--which shouldn't be all that surprising. it's just your plain old hippy utopianism: the humanist ideal that man has within him the power to restore this earth to its pre-adamic state. to an orthodox theologian, the very notion smacks of pelagianism. and if we aren't all working towards this blasphemous goal, we need to "repent" and get ourselves on the right track. "God's purpose in Christ," after all isn't just the salvation of souls who will pass a scant 75 or so years on this "patchwork of garden and wasteland" before they wind up in the realm where they will spend the incomparable bulk of their existence, no, it's just as much "to heal and bring to wholeness...the entire created order." meaning that for a Christian (or a real Christian, perhaps?) tending to the needs of mother earth is every bit as important as the Great Commission. they are one and the same. it's all part of God's purpose in Christ. Biblically, this is all nonsense. in Revelation, it is said that God will destroy this current earth (the one we are told we need to work so hard to fix) and the entire physical order along with it, then establish a new, perfect one by Himself, a message that is affirmed by peter also. that being the case, how can i believe that God wants me investing just as much time and energy into the environment as He would the hell-bound sinners that surround me on all sides? the earth is getting another shot. it has been thus foretold and for the Christian the fact that this new creation exists in the future rather than the past in no way alters its status as a historical fact. but we also know that the sinners won't get another shot: "it is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgment." helps to bring things into focus, doesn't it?

a Christian should take care of the earth. we should be environmentally responsible and respect the land for what it is: God's property. but we should also recognize that it isn't God's property in the sense it was originally intended to be and that it never can be until He Himself fixes it as He has told us He will. in terms of priorities for a Christian, the environment should be placed no higher than voting in elections, paying one's taxes, volunteer work in the community, or other civic duties through which we might demonstrate our Christian love for our fellow man or our respect for God's gifts to us. but to esteem environmental duties as being on equal par with the salvation of the lost is a Scripturally untenable position. God might well say to such a person "why are you wasting your time with this? I have given you much more important things to do." if these liberals want to save the earth then that's all well and good, but they oughtn't to go around distracting Christians from the Great Commission on the basis of a few vague inferences and skewed interpretations. God has told us that we are living in a house ablaze, and all the bucket brigades in the world will avail nothing against that. it makes no difference whether those carrying the buckets wear a clergy's habit or a hippy's tie-dyes and birkenstocks.

locdog suggests we keep our politics flowing from our faith, and not the other way around




11/19/2002

 

hang in there, hootie!



somewhere a feminist is shouting...hootie johnson is the most evil man in america! he is the symbol for everything that's wrong with our culture: he's white, he's rich, he golfs. he is The Man, The Establishment, and Them all rolled into one. throw in a cigarette and a mumble and he'd be right out of the x-files. using his ill-gotten wealth to realize his phallocentric, euro-dominance dreams, hootie scours the countryside looking for innocent victims to oppress--preferably women, but if none are available he'll settle for minorities, cancer-stricken puppies, or elderly war widows.

hootie johnson once skinned a five year old girl's pet hamster alive before her tear-filled eyes.

hootie johnson kidnaps young maidens for use in bizarre ritual sacrifices.

hootie johnson actually bought an orphanage just so he could close it on the coldest day of the year--which happened to be Christmas.

hootie johnson conducts animal testing just because he thinks its funny.

hootie johnson founded the NRA.

there can be no social justice--there can be no peace--until hootie johnson's lifeless corpse swings from the tallest steeple of our proudest abortion clinic. let the sisters of america unite and cast off the shackles of tyranny, sizes 28 A through 46 Double D! let them storm the bastille of augusta with vibrators and other assorted implements of lesbianism! let them run bouncing through the halls as they burn hootie in effigy and shout slogans about...um...freedom, or something. let no thought, however traditional or constitutional, go unpoliced! what did the founders of the constitution know, anyway? if they were alive today, they'd be proud members of augusta national, what with their money and their penises and their white, european skin. isn't it obvious that the constitution is just a construct of white european male authoritarianism? and privacy? we don' need no stinkin' privacy! justice and the right to privacy cannot coexist--unless we are talking about killing our unborn young, of course.

and somewhere poor, poor hootie maintains a lonely vigil...with about three or four hundred of his closest friends in a posh clubhouse. in front of a roaring fire. with cigars. and brandy. and linking arms they cast their misty-eyed gazes heavenward and sing out softly but clearly

...we shall overcome
we shall overcome...


nearby, an assortment of fortune 500 CEOs sit on the floor in tie-dyed t-shirts scrawling pathos-filled slogans in angry red across posters

feminists: keep your faux pas off my caddy
our caddies, ourselves
a golfer without a woman is like a fish...that's really, really happy


stepping aside for a moment, hootie sneaks out the backdoor unseen, and walking across flowered fairway and stream, he comes to eisenhower's tree. after embracing it for a moment, he sits down 'neath its shade and heaves a heavy sigh. scratching his head, he wonders what the world is coming to.

most women understand that sometimes they're really annoying and men just need a place to be men, so why can't these? don't they see that the whole point of country clubs is so that we can get away from them? and if they think all this whining is helping their cause, well, they've got another thing coming. a country club that admits women is like a black panthers chapter that would admit guys like me. hell, i ought to go protest until they do. wonder if i'd become a hero... somehow i doubt it. maybe they really don't understand. maybe they can't see that even if they got in here, me and my buddies would just find someplace else to hang out. maybe they can't see that, one way or another, we are going to find someplace to drink and smoke and tell crude jokes free from fear of sexual harassment lawsuits because that's what men have always needed to do. and we always will. men and women are different, and there will always be places that women can go that men can't, and that men can go that women can't. but i guess there will always be people who pretend they want something they really don't just so they can pretend to be something they really aren't since they hate who they are and what they've got. and there will always be those damned television cameras to help them. well, they aren't going to beat me. let them hate themselves and the whole world if it makes them feel better, but i'm not going to cave. wanting a place to get away with the guys every now and then doesn't make me a misogynist, it makes me a man. preserving that for other men makes me a better one. and there's nothing wrong with that.

hang in there, hootie.

locdog is rooting for you




11/18/2002

 

predestination II: who was john calvin and what did he think?



history

who was john calvin? born in france, 1509, died in geneva, 1564, and in between those two dates he went on to become perhaps the greatest of all reformation theologians, depending on how one wants to define "greatness". in terms of fanatical devotion from followers, he is the winner hands-down. calvin's disciples are as evangelical for their own particular beliefs within Christendom as most other evangelicals are without--more so, even. in terms of impact on western culture, calvin's thoughts on church/municipal government have produced clear and lasting changes that no other post-reformation theologian could rival. in terms of theology itself, the picture gets a little cloudier. catholics, methodists, and most evangelicals would hold to an arminian or arminian-friendly world view. in that regard, calvin would probably take a back-seat to joseph arminius. this has nothing to do with calvin being a lesser theologian than arminius, of course: we are speaking strictly in terms of impact.

there is another facet to calvin's greatness that we haven't yet considered, that of the "household word". basically every Christian, even the very casual "Christmas and Easter" types, have bumped into the name of john calvin at some point and probably have at least a rudimentary understanding of his theology as it pertains to predestination:

"wasn't he that guy who said that God decides who goes to heaven and hell and we don't get any say in it?"

second only to luther, perhaps, is calvin's fame.

born into a middle-class household, calvin studied to become a priest in his youth, but although he showed a gift for theology, hebrew, and greek, he opted instead to study law and follow his father in choice of profession. calvin had never been a particularly devout catholic, and by his mid-twenties exposure to lutheran teachings and various humanist/reform philosophies at the university he attended in paris had won him over to the protestants. his anti-establishment writings and calls for reformation forced him to flee his homeland, and eventually he wound up in geneva, where he would remain for the rest of his life. it is during this period that john calvin made his greatest contributions, not the least of which was his brave leadership in the violent protestant revolt that managed to win control of the city by 1541. calvin became the architect of the new geneva both in theological and municipal terms, but clearly the effects of his thought are not bound within the city limits of mid-sixteenth century geneva.

personality-wise, he was a dry, scholarly man. eschewing emotional appeals or inflammatory language, calvin opted instead for meticulous argumentation. one source i read said that he spoke to scholars even when speaking to the masses, unlike, say, martin luther who had a broad, populist appeal. some may therefore find his writing style inaccessible, but it's worth the effort since "TULIP" is more of a rough sketch of calvin's views than a portrait.

that said, it's a useful sketch and one that is accepted by both sides in the debate as doing a pretty good job, so leaving calvin the man behind after barely giving him fair mention, we'll proceed with an equally unworthy summary of his views on the matter of predestination.

view of predestination

TULIP is an acronym that has been adopted to describe calvin's theology in a nutshell. it stands for the "five points of calvinism":

Total depravity
Unconditional election
Limited atonement
Irresistible grace
Perseverance of the saints

it appears no where in calvin's writings, and since it was created well after his death he certainly never knew of it. in point of fact, TULIP isn't as much a characterization of calvin's views as it is those of the synod of dort, a reformed council called together to "debate" the teachings of joseph arminius--that's right: cavlinism's best-known trademark was actually produced after the works of arminius. not that it matters, of course, just an interesting bit of trivia. the synod of dort produced five main points which are often referred to as the "canon of dort", and it is these five points which are codified by the acronym i will now explain.

1. total depravity ...all people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin. Without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are neither willing nor able to return to God... --Canons of Dort, The Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine: Human Corruption, Conversion to God, and the Way It Occurs, Article 3

to a calvinist, total depravity means that we are completely evil by nature as a consequence of adam's sin, and as such we are powerless to change. it is not enough to say that man is mostly evil, no, man is utterly evil. he is incapable of producing any saving good, and so he is deserving of nothing more from God than wrath. since man's inclination is towards evil, we, left to our own devices, would never turn to God, and even if we did we would be powerless to please Him. a calvinist would concede that even fallen man yet retains a "certain light of nature" which manifests itself through a "a certain eagerness for virtue and for good outward behavior", however, even when he tries to use this knowledge for good, his corrupt nature causes him to twist it into evil once more, and he is in fact under the greater condemnation than if he had known nothing of good at all. it is important to understand that in man's fallen state, we are dead in sins according to the calvinist. unless one first grasps that our wills are so corrupt that it is literally impossible for us to "choose" God as an act of our free will, little of what follows will make sense.

2. unconditional election Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of God's will, God chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race...This same election took place, not on the basis of foreseen faith, of the obedience of faith, of holiness, or of any other good quality and disposition, as though it were based on a prerequisite cause or condition in the person to be chosen, but rather for the purpose of faith, of the obedience of faith, of holiness, and so on. --Canons of Dort, The First Main Point of Doctrine: Divine Election and Reprobation, Articles 7 & 9

unconditional election means that God is no respecter of persons. at all. God's decision to elect a person--in essence, to pick a handful out from the mobs of humanity rushing towards destruction--was made entirely without regards to the individuals being elected. God does not consider a person's future goodness, and He does not concern Himself with whether or not the person would have, if left on his own, come to faith in Christ since to the calvinist such a choice isn't possible. election is based entirely on God's own purpose and pleasure and is "free", which means that He doesn't owe it to any of us. God's election isn't a "conditioned response" to borrow a phrase from the psychologist. and as for man, he is saved unto faith, good works, holiness, etc., not by them. in other words, God didn't consider who was good and who wasn't and then elect the ones He felt deserving, rather, all of us are deserving of destruction, but God purposed in His heart before any of us were ever even born to make some of us faithful, obedient, holy, etc., and election is how He does that. stated another way, God wants some righteous people, but since there aren't any, He picks a few wicked ones by some mysterious set of criteria only He knows and turns them into Christians. this is the essential calvin in the minds of most people, the core of his predestination: that our fates are written for us before hand by God alone and without our input or consent, with some of us ultimately bound for hell, others for paradise. just to be clear, although "predestination" and "election" are often used synonymously, predestination is a person's eternal fate decreed by God beforehand and is a concept that applies to all, election is what He does with those few He has decreed will be shown mercy. for a Christian, they do seem synonymous, for an unbeliever, however, they would not. finally, some Calvinists would argue that God desired to first to punish or show mercy, then permitted the fall of man as a means to this end--the infamous "supralapsarian" view. the supralapsarians are the most "hardcore" of all calvinists: to them, man is simply a by-product of God's desire to display His attributes of justice and mercy. to the milder "infralapsarian" calvinists, God desired first to create man, but even though He knew man would fall, He went ahead with His creation anyway, so that He could then show justice and mercy. God's desire to display these attributes was a by-product of His desire to create man.

limited atonement ...it was God's will that Christ through the blood of the cross...should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father --Canons of Dort, The Second Main Point of Doctrine: Christ's Death and Human Redemption through It, Article 8

who, exactly, did Christ die for on the cross? most catholics and evangelicals would respond "everyone. the Bible says anyone who believes will be saved." to the calvinist, however, Christ died only for the elect. Christ's death cannot save anyone else. why does the calvinist believe this? contrary to what some may think, it isn't because God didn't want Jesus to suffer any more than necessary. indeed, in article three of the same main point, the synod affirms that Christ's death was infinite in value, meaning that Jesus wouldn't have had to suffer any more had God willed to save the whole world. but if God willed beforehand to create some people who were destined for destruction, then why would He send His son to die for them anyway? i once heard no less a calvinist than r. c. sproul argue that, in addition to this, God would not let His Son suffer for only the potential of a bride. after all, if Christ died to make salvation merely possible for all, as the common evangelical view holds, then Christ wasn't guaranteed a bride. nay, Christ's death was only for the elect, and since election is unconditional, it is effective in all cases. a word here on universalism. calvinism teaches that Christ's atonement was sufficient only for the elect, but it was effective for all those it was sufficient for, and that it was necessarily effective. arminians believe that Christ's atonement was sufficient for everyone, but effective only for the elect, and that not necessarily so. a universalist believes that Christ's death was sufficient for everyone, and effective for everyone, necessarily so. in the calvinist view, the elect must be saved, no one else is. in the arminian view, the elect are saved, but didn't have to be, still, no one else is. and in the universalist view, everyone is saved. if someone wishes to cast about charges of "universalism" to disparage one side or the other, let them at least know what a fool they are proving themselves to be.

irresistible grace ...just as from eternity God chose God's own in Christ, so within time God effectively calls them, grants them faith and repentance, and, having rescued them from the dominion of darkness, brings them into the kingdom of the Son... --Canons of Dort, The Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine: Human Corruption, Conversion to God, and the Way It Occurs, Article 10

irresistible grace has to do with how a person is saved, and the effect of election after a person has been saved. it means that God will conform us to the likeness of Christ, and that this process goes on without the input of the saint, just as mysteriously as his own salvation. it is the process by which a person is conformed to the likeness of Christ. but first it means that a person is saved by necessity, as we mentioned above in discussing Christ's atonement. that is, once God decides to elect a person, God's grace cannot be resisted. you can't tell Him no. according to the calvinist, therefore, human free will can play no role in salvation, for the choice was never given to us. in extending His grace towards us, God has blotted out our free will. a careful reader will realize that the calvinist's view of free will in regards to human salvation hasn't really been established up until this point. keep in mind that when talking about unconditional election, we merely discussed the basis on which God makes his decision. we did not discuss whether or not that decision, once made, could be resisted by man--although even a person who was totally unfamiliar with calvin's teachings probably could have guessed that the answer was "no" since such an answer would seem much more consistent with the other main points.

perseverance of the saints ...those who have been converted could not remain standing in this grace if left to their own resources. But God is faithful, mercifully strengthening them in the grace once conferred on them and powerfully preserving them in it to the end. --Canons of Dort, The Fifth Main Point of Doctrine: The Perseverance of the Saints, Article 3

once saved, always saved? yes, says the calvinist. even after we have been saved by God, we are still living in natural bodies and are subject, therefore, to the temptations of the flesh. throw in the devil actively working against you, and you've got a recipe for disaster. the calvinist therefore believes that but for the constant interference of God, it would be impossible for any person once saved to remain in that salvation. sooner or later, we would all commit the unforgivable sin (sinning against the Holy Spirit) and fall from grace. those who are saved sin freely according to the calvinist, meaning it is not necessary for them to do so unlike their unsaved peers, even though as a practical matter the believer will continue sinning from time to time. however, our predestination is eternal in its scope, so why would God, once fulfilling that predestination in the life of a person through election, then allow that person to lose his salvation by committing the unforgivable sin? God would never let a person stoop so low, but would stop them somehow before they got to that point, even though people could sink pretty low indeed (adultery and murder, for instance, in the case of david.) interestingly, the calvinist doesn't deny the possibility of losing one's salvation contrary to popular belief (as some evangelicals say that it is no longer possible to commit the unforgivable sin), merely that, while there are circumstances which would cost one heaven, God would never allow one of His elect to find themselves in them.

locdog's next post on this topic will deal with joseph arminius and his teachings, which were offered in response to calvin