The State of the Nation

Another round of travel allowed for more sustained sampling of the news and those matters that afflict our great pretty good land. A few random thoughts:

Forgiveness
Can Bill Cosby ever receive the forgiveness that Dylann Roof has found (at least from the AME church members in Charleston — the government of the United States is a whole lot more demanding)? And why is Cosby’s sexual dalliance and proclivity so despicable when the nation is celebrating a kind of sex that the same nation used to regard as deviant? At least if you want an illustration of God’s righteous standard, just look at the way the United States condemns/ed Bill Cosby and Joe Paterno.

Transcendent
Rachel Dolezal proves that transracial is illegitimate but Caitlyn Jenner proves that transgender is fine. But what about transnational? What if I am a Irish person trapped in an American body? Can I change my nationality? If I can’t, then don’t we have another barrier to be toppled? Or is it that the nation-state is almighty while race and gender are ephemeral?

The Nation’s Greatest Threats
I used to think that a hate crime raised the stakes of criminal activity, though I would have assumed that killing another person was hateful. After all, our Lord said that if you hate another man, you are guilty of murder. But after coverage of the the shootings in Chattanooga, I learned that terrorism is even worse than a hate crime. But the reports were not clear on the order of threats and the Department of Homeland Security has yet to rank them. Here’s an initial stab:
1. Terrorism
2. Islamism
3. The Confederate Flag
4. Hate Crimes

Blame the Victim
I’m with President Obama in trying to overturn many of the pernicious penalties associated with the War on Drugs (see, it wasn’t on the list of the nation’s greatest threats). Pardoning those sent to prison on old drug laws makes sense. But if these convicts are victims of bad legislation, is Greece also a victim of overly strict banking rules? Yet, I heard some commentators explain that Greece is truly responsible for their actions and needs to face the consequences of a bad economy and poor government. So if you can say that about a nation, why not about persons? Or might Greece plead insanity? But that didn’t work for James Holmes, who was found guilty for twelve counts of murder during his shooting spree in a Colorado movie theater.

I can only conclude that Americans are conflicted about blaming people for crimes or misdeeds, except when it comes to Bill Cosby and Joe Paterno.

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18 thoughts on “The State of the Nation

  1. I hear lots of folks blaming Obama for not calling Benjamin Netanyahu more often in order to listen to the prime minster’s abuse.

    And I hear others blame Germany for not forgiving Greece enough.
    http://thewire.in/2015/07/08/thomas-piketty-germany-has-never-repaid-its-debts-it-has-no-right-to-lecture-greece-5851/

    The war on drugs is much like Ronald Reagan’s war on abortion—Can you imagine how much worse it would be if we had not got involved in moving history in the right direction by electing Reagan so that he could then appoint Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court?

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  2. “Society will never be preserved by attaching savage penalties to trifling offenses because the utilitarian interests of society demand it; it will never be preserved by the vicious practice (followed by some judges) of making ‘examples’ of people in spasmodic and unjust fashion because such examples are thought to have a salutary effect as a deterrent from future crime.
    Ah, but all that does not touch the really important matter.
    Underlying all these considerations of nations and of society is the great question of the relation of the soul to God. Unless men are right with God, they will never be right in their relations with one another.”
    – J. Gresham Machen

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  3. Marc, GOP nominations are allowed to completely reverse their course once confirmed to the Court.

    Souter never ventured from the left to even approach a country club Republican view on any matter.

    It would be the greatest if a Democrat nominee suddenly reversed on “social issues” once he/she got to sit on the Court, even for one decision.

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  4. McMark in fairness Reagan did nominate Robert Bork, whose rejection by the Senate seemed to signal that only a “moderate” could get confirmed. The Democrats did have the majority in the Senate at that time.

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  5. Well, some people need to be convinced you can be both, even if you choose to be one or the other at different times in different places (shall we say kingdoms? Spheres?).

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  6. Bill Cosby

    forgiveness for what? as far as I’ve heard on the news, according to him nothing wrong has occurred with~ 40 (?) alleged victims now

    in other forgiveness confusion news: Moderator Frank Luntz asked Trump on Saturday if he had ever sought God’s forgiveness and Trump replied, “I’m not sure I have ever asked God’s forgiveness. I don’t bring God into that picture.”Trump clarified further about forgiveness in the church setting saying, “When I go to church and when I drink my little wine and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of forgiveness. I do that as often as I can because I feel cleansed. I say let’s go on and let’s make it right,” declared Trump.Trump too was asked about his faith in God and he elaborated on his admiration with his former pastor, Norman Vincent Peale. Trump said he could listen to Peale, who passed away in 1993, “all day long” and praised his book, The Power of Positive Thinking. http://www.christianpost.com/news/donald-trump-im-not-sure-if-i-ever-asked-gods-forgiveness-141706/

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  7. Brian
    Posted July 21, 2015 at 1:13 pm | Permalink
    “Society will never be preserved by attaching savage penalties to trifling offenses because the utilitarian interests of society demand it; it will never be preserved by the vicious practice (followed by some judges) of making ‘examples’ of people in spasmodic and unjust fashion because such examples are thought to have a salutary effect as a deterrent from future crime.

    Ah, but all that does not touch the really important matter.

    Underlying all these considerations of nations and of society is the great question of the relation of the soul to God. Unless men are right with God, they will never be right in their relations with one another.”–J. Gresham Machen

    D. G. Hart
    Posted July 21, 2015 at 2:07 pm | Permalink
    Brian, ding ding ding (but not Reformed).

    Once again, Reformationists reinvent the Christian wheel centuries after the fact. Ding.

    http://freeisbeautiful.net/thomas-aquinas-should-all-vices-be-crimes/

    Thomas Aquinas: Should all vices be crimes?

    Should all vices be crimes? This a question St. Thomas addresses explicitly in his Summa, wherein he objects to the criminalization of most vices on the ground that it would make criminals of most people. St. Thomas argues that “human law rightly allows some vices, by not repressing them” and with good reason:

    [Virtuous conduct] is not possible to one who has not a virtuous habit, as is possible to one who has. Thus the same is not possible to a child as to a full-grown man: for which reason the law for children is not the same as for adults, since many things are permitted to children, which in an adult are punished by law or at any rate are open to blame. In like manner many things are permissible to men not perfect in virtue, which would be intolerable in a virtuous man.

    Now human law is framed for a number of human beings, the majority of whom are not perfect in virtue. Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of oth-ers, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.

    What St. Thomas is teaching is nothing less than the non-aggression principle: that human law should limit its punishments to acts that hurt other people or their prop-erty. He goes on to assert that criminal punishment “belongs to those sins chiefly whereby one’s neighbor is injured.”

    St. Thomas also cites God’s own unwillingness to prevent earthly evils, often times because the cure would be worse than the disease:

    Human government is derived from the Divine government, and should imitate it. Now although God is all-powerful and supremely good, nevertheless He allows certain evils to take place in the universe, which He might prevent, lest, without them, greater goods might be forfeited, or greater evils ensue. Accordingly in human government also, those who are in authority, rightly tolerate certain evils, lest certain goods be lost, or certain greater evils be incurred: thus Augustine says (De Ordine ii, 4): “If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust.”

    Elsewhere, St. Thomas repeats this truth that suppressing vices can lead to greater evils:

    “[Human law] does not lay upon the multitude of imperfect men the burdens of those who are already virtuous . . . Otherwise these imperfect ones, being unable to bear such precepts, would break out into yet greater evils.”

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  8. Wow, Machen, Spooner, Aquinas what an ecumenical bunch…

    Did you here the one about the Presbyterian, the Unitarian, and the Catholic who opposed prohibition…

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  9. “Transcendent”: What about trans-speciesism (don’t ask me to pronounce it)? My son tells me that he is “coming out” as a yellow Labrador.

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  10. Mark Mcculley
    Posted July 21, 2015 at 10:30 pm | Permalink
    We also need forgiveness from God for our “virtues”. And I am not only talking about the “dead works” done by all those outside Christ. I am also talking about forgiveness for our “Christian virtues”

    Anti-liberals make their anxiety about “secularization” into a sacred commodity.

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/40016706?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

    Looks interesting. Can you put the point in your own words? There’s only one page there behind the curtain of your link and it’s quite pregnant, but the birth of the argument comes later.

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  11. brian
    Posted July 21, 2015 at 7:04 pm | Permalink
    Wow, Machen, Spooner, Aquinas what an ecumenical bunch…

    Did you hear the one about the Presbyterian, the Unitarian, and the Catholic who opposed prohibition…

    Darryl G. Hart walked in, ignored them all, and ordered lukewarm water, which he sucked down with relish.

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  12. Luke 16: 15 That which is highly esteemed among humans is abomination in the sight of God.

    Unless we are justified before God, we are dead workers and our works will end in death.

    Hebrews 6:1– “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God”

    Hebrews 9:14–”How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

    The problem with using works “done after you are in the family” to get assurance is that works done without assurance are not pleasing to God. The light of the gospel exposes the “good works” of those who are not yet in Christ as “dead works”. And “dead works” are sins.

    Certainly God commands us all to be moral. But “seeking our life” by our morality is walking in the flesh. To doubt that you are justified or will be justified because of what you have done or not done is to take the focus away from Christ’s one-time-done death for elect sinners.

    Romans 6: 17 But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were transferred to, 18 and having been justified from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness….when you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit was produced then from the things you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death

    Romans 7: 4 Therefore, my brothers, you also were put to death in relation to the law through the crucified body of the Messiah, in order to belong to another—to Him who was raised from the dead—in order to bear fruit for God

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  13. Mark,
    We also need forgiveness from God for our “virtues”. And I am not only talking about the “dead works” done by all those outside Christ. I am also talking about forgiveness for our “Christian virtues”

    Do I need forgiveness for being in the habit of drinking most of a pot of espresso each morning? Praying the Our Father and the psalms throughout the day? Or making my baby giggle each night, then rocking him to sleep in my arms?

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  14. If you do not yet believe the gospel in which Christ’s death satisfied God for all the sins of all the elect, then you are outside of Christ. It’s not that you are outside of Christ because you do not believe the gospel, bur rather you do not yet believe the gospel because you have not (yet) been legally joined by God to Christ’s death.

    And if you are outside of Christ, all of your acts are sin, and none of your works are good before God.

    Proverbs 15:8 “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD”

    Romans 6:20 ”For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those thing is death”

    Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we now bear FRUIT FOR GOD. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear FRUIT FOR DEATH.”

    I am not that impressed by a distinction between good works being necessary for salvation and good works being the necessary evidence of salvation. It does not at the end of the day seem all that practical to me.

    I think we would do better to focus on a distinction between “dead works” (works done with unacceptable motives, like gaining assurance) and “fruit unto God” (works that are pleasing to God because they are done with assurance.)

    Our justification is not by our works, not even by our works after faith and justification. If we are already justified, then it’s too late for us to be justified by works. If we think we will lose our justification if we don’t work, then we do not yet understand what God’s justification is.

    If we think that our works will give us the evidence that we are still justified, then we have not yet understood and believed the gospel, which is the good news of Christ’s obedience, even unto death.

    Mark 10: 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many

    Hebrews 10: 3 But in the sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, as He was coming into the world, He said: You did not want sacrifice and offering,
    but You prepared a BODY for Me.

    Care for your baby, but please don’t ask the God revealed in the Bible to examine your baby caring in order to put it into the mix of your righteousness.

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  15. Mark,

    I think we would do better to focus on a distinction between “dead works” (works done with unacceptable motives, like gaining assurance) and “fruit unto God” (works that are pleasing to God because they are done with assurance.)

    Are our motives ever acceptable? I understand how gaining assurance is an unacceptable motive, but is that the only one? And then how can we avoid a “legalism of motivation”?

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  16. Mark-

    I’m not familiar with your use of “legally” in this context- could you say more about it?

    I agree that the unjustified cannot be sanctified or practice the good works associated with sanctification- but what do you mean we need forgiveness for Christian virtues? Maybe I’m not following your use of double-quotes. And how do morally indifferent habits factor in?

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