Saturday, November 08, 2014

Marian prayers

Lydia McGrew said...
A couple of illustrations. Here are a couple of very ancient prayers to the Virgin Mary:

We fly to thy patronage,
O holy Mother of God;
despise not our petitions in our necessities,
but deliver us always from all dangers,
O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.
3rd Century; Oldest Known Prayer to Mary

Loving Mother of the Redeemer,
Gate of heaven, star of the sea,
Assist your people
who have fallen yet strive to rise again,
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
yet remained a virgin after as before,
You who received Gabriel's joyful greeting,
have pity on us, poor sinners.
Ancient Liturgy of the Hours Prayer\

Many, many more examples could be found. One would _never_ speak of asking for the prayers of a friend on earth, however godly, in those terms.

Imagine that Jones is a very godly man and that Smith is his less godly Christian friend. Smith has some problems in his life. One would never say to Smith, "Fly to Jones for refuge and ask him to deliver you from all dangers" meaning by that, "Ask Jones to pray for you." It wouldn't matter how great a person Jones was, how great a Christian, how much the passage in James could be presumed to apply to Jones. To talk about Jones in those terms would be to treat him as a superbeing or a magician, not just an especially godly man.

And all the more so if you were telling the person to do this by mental prayer, which God would convey to Jones in the form of some sort of supernaturally aided ESP.

If one asserts that the saints' knowledge of our prayers is made possible by divine miracle rather than being due to a natural power, but if all liturgical practice encourages people to *take it as a given* that they can speak from anywhere on earth to Mary or the other saints and be heard, then the term "miracle" is irrelevant to the impression given. This is a "miracle" that is always done by God and can be taken for granted in practice to be in force--they will hear your prayers. The effect of all of this is, unfortunately, very much what I felt bound to assert in the main post. I speak here as someone who once was more sympathetic to prayers for the saints.

IMO it would be better for Catholic apologists to bite the bullet. Instead of telling Protestants that it's just like asking a godly friend for prayers, which feels like a bait and switch in light of actual Catholic practice (not just of ignorant Catholics, but uniform and church-endorsed Catholic practice), it would be better just to say outright: There is an admittedly thin but bright line in Catholic theology between what we do w.r.t. the saints and worship. You Protestants should just get over your squeamishness over the thinness of that line, rely on its brightness, and cross the Tiber.

An interview with Nancy Writebol

"Risk Is Right, Says Ebola Survivor and Missionary Nancy Writebol"

Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone

For anyone who'd like a brief and excellent overview of the theological issues that the Reformation was all about, this is it: Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone, from a recent Reformation Day conference.

More audio here.

Facing death with dignity

The stark reality is that Maynard did not "die with dignity." As Trent Horn points out, dying with dignity is about how you face death, not about how you die. Choosing an early death is not dying with dignity because death, itself, is undignified. It is our enemy, which is why Christ had to come and conquer it. With Christ, death is not final. There will come a time when all the dead will be resurrected, and this is the time that we, as Christians, can look to for hope. Maynard taking her own life prematurely was not dying on her own terms, because she was already dying. Her choice to commit suicide was merely preventing death from dealing the final blow. 
This objection is often coupled with the idea that losing control of one’s bodily or mental functions is “undignified,” while taking some pills to peacefully pass away is a “dignified” way to die. But this is insulting. It implies that those who choose the consequences of dying naturally are “undignified.” 
Other people will say that the “dignity” in dying comes from the fact that the person is able to choose how they die, regardless of what choice they make. But dying in a dignified manner relates to how one confronts death, not the manner in which one dies or chooses to die. History recounts many situations of individuals who were forced to endure degrading deaths but faced those deaths in a dignified way. 
Dying with dignity means receiving compassionate care, no matter what stage of the dying process a person is going through. Directly ending one’s life has nothing to do with having dignity at the moment of death.

Mitigating evil

One problem I have with AHA is how they frame the issues. Here's a case in point:

i) It begins with a malicious, idiosyncratic interpretation of laws designed to restrict abortion. Take parental consent. AHA acts as if a parental consent law means it's morally okay for parents to consent to their minor's abortion.

a) That, however, is not the motivation of the lawmaker. That's a malicious interpretation of his motivation. His intention is to restrict abortion. This is one way of doing that. 

b) Parental consent laws don't empower parents to consent to their minor's abortion. If an underage daughter has a parent or parents who support her abortion, then a parental consent law is superfluous in that case. Absent the parental consent law, she is free to undergo the abortion anyway. With or without a parental consent law, she can abort her baby.

c) Rather, parental consent laws empower parents to refuse to authorize "an abortion provider" to perform that procedure on their underage daughter. Some parents will take advantage of that law, thereby reducing the number of abortions. 

As a rule, a doctor who performs a medical procedure on a minor without the consent of a parent or legal guardian is subject to legal and professional sanctions. He can be prosecuted. He can lose his medical license. So it's a disincentive.

d) Not only does the objection rest on a malicious and idiosyncratic interpretation of the lawmaker's motivation, but it then imputes that interpretation to Americans in general who supposedly form their views regarding the morality of abortion on the state of the law. Does AHA have any scientific opinion polling data to substantiate the claim that that's how Americans form their views about the morality of abortion? 

On the one hand, prolifers who lobby for restrictive legislation don't base their moral views on the state of the law. Rather, because they think abortion is (at least in most cases) wrong, they think the law should reflect that prior moral assessment. They lobby to change laws to make them more restrictive. 

On the other hand, proponents of abortion-on-demand resent legal restrictions on abortion. They don't think partial birth abortion is wrong because it's illegal. To the contrary, they think it should be allowed, despite its illegality. They oppose legal restrictions. They lobby for their repeal. 

So neither side of the abortion debate is taking its cues regarding the morality of abortion from the legality (or illegality) of abortion. Rather, both sides begin with antecedent views regarding the morally licit or illicit status of abortion, then agitate for laws that reflect that prior position. 

e) Finally, it's malicious as well as illogical to stipulate that the scope of legal restrictions implies that only legally forbidden abortions are morally wrong whereas legally permitted abortions are morally permissive. That's willfully obtuse.

Legal restrictions reflect what is politically feasible. Abortion restrictions would be more expansive if prolife lawmakers had the votes. 

ii) The article also complains about abortion restrictions based on code violations, viz. mandating medically qualified practitioners. 

This objection goes to a contradiction in abolitionist philosophy. What's the objective? To save babies or make a statement?

Code violations are like getting Al Capone on tax evasion. It's an indirect way of achieving a goal. Sometimes the direct approach is preferable because it's politically feasible. You have to be ingenious. 

If that saves the lives of babies, why does AHA oppose it? Because they think it "sends the wrong message"? 

So what's the priority? Should more babies die so that we can send the right message?

If it's a choice between reducing abortion and making a statement, which takes precedence? And what's the value of "the message" if it comes at the cast of innocent lives? 

At least to judge by some of their representatives, AHA seems to have an all-or-nothing policy. Oppose laws that save if such laws (allegedly) send the wrong message. Better to let more babies die unless and until we can pass laws that send the right message. 

The result is a prohibitive policy in theory, but a permissive policy in practice. We are so uncompromising in theory that we will support a very permissive policy in practice–by opposing restrictive legislation–unless and until, at some indeterminate date in the future, we can achieve a total ban on abortion. All-or-nothing: therefore nothing. 

iii) AHA tries to discredit the mainstream prolife movement by pointing out the limited success of its efforts. However, it's not a failure to achieve less than you are able to achieve. 

iv) AHA is an odd combination of optimism and defeatism, idealism and cynicism. On the one hand it points to the stymied efforts of the prolife movement. On the other hand, its alternative vision a Pollyannaish belief that they can do so much better. But if you can't achieve lesser goals, what makes you think you can achieve far greater goals? If even modest efforts to restrict abortion are so difficult to secure, what makes a far more ambitious agenda more attainable? 

v) A basic problem with their contemptuous attitude towards mainsteam prolife activism is that abolitionists have no fallback in case their agenda can't deliver the goods. 

Today's "uncompromising" abolitionist can easily become tomorrow's bitter do-nothing. Unrealistic idealism invites cynical disillusionment. Activists often drop out of social movements after their hopes are dashed. 

It's easy to suffer from prolife burnout if your expectations are excessive. Having set the bar so high, and been so disdainful of mainsteam prolife activism, abolitionists have nothing to fall back on. To go back to garden-variety prolife activism would be too much of a comedown. 

It's fine to push the envelop, but part of fidelity is to live with frustration. Sometimes the best we can do is to mitigate evil. But that's a noble and necessary effort. 

The date of Christmas

A friend of mine drew my attention to a Jonathan Cahn article about the "true" date of Christmas. 

People like him don't even grasp the issue. The traditional date to celebrate the birth of Christmas does't have to be the actual date of his birth. 

Since we don't know his actual DOB, if we're going to celebrate his birth, the day or date will be conventional. It's about the date we celebrate his birth, not the date of his birth. Christmas is when we commemorate his birth, not when he was born. That's a simple distinction. The timing concerns something we do to honor his birth, not something that happened to him. 

Same thing with Easter. The date of Easter (a movable feast) isn't based on determining the date of the Resurrection. These are liturgical dates. 

Commemoration is an event, and what you commemorate is an event. The timing of the former needn't match the timing of the latter. What you celebrate and when you celebrate are two different things.

Christmas commemorates his birth, not the day of his birth. A celebration of his birth, not his birthdate.

It's not the day that's significant, but the person. Not when he was born, but who was born. 

Now, there are Puritans who object to holidays in principle. But that's a different argument. 

The Necessity of Revelation: “A Controversy Between Philosophers And Theologians”

Quoted from Muller (quoting John Duns Scotus, [1266-1308]):

After listing arguments against the necessity of revelation drawn from Avicenna and Aristotle and arguments in favor of its necessity from Scripture, Scotus notes:

In this question we see a controversy between philosophers and theologians. While the philosophers hold to the perfection of nature and deny supernatural perfection, the theologians truly understand the defect of nature, and the necessity of grace and supernatural perfection.

Muller, R. A. (2003). Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy; Volume 2: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology (2nd ed., p. 48). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Friday, November 07, 2014

River valleys

1. Which comes first–the river or the valley (ravine, canyon)? I'm not a geologist or hydrologist, but I believe this can happen in at least one of two different ways. Here's a conventional explanation of one process:

The true creator of a canyon is water, primarily in the form of a river. Over millions of years, water has scoured and cut away layer upon layer of rock, lowering a canyon's floor and widening its walls.
Others have been carved through multiple layers of igneous rock, which is formed by the cooling and hardening of magma, melted rock material from within Earth, and metamorphic rock, whose texture or composition has been changed by extreme heat and pressure.
Slot canyons are cut and scoured by rushing water in the form of flash floods. A flash flood is a flood that occurs after a period of heavy rain, usually within six hours of the rain event. In arid environments where there is little soil to absorb the rain, water quickly runs downhill, gathering volume and speed as it goes. When it runs over the canyon, it descends in a wall of water that blasts through the canyon, eroding the walls and floor. As quickly as the water appears, it disappears, leaving the canyon dry and slightly changed until the next flood.
Water is a natural force of erosion everywhere on Earth. Surging over a landscape, water will pick up and transport as much material from the surface as it can carry. Aided by gravity and steep slopes, rushing water can carry increasingly larger and heavier objects, including boulders as large as cars. If a river and its surroundings have been elevated from their original position by natural forces within the planet, that river will seek to return to its natural level as quickly as possible. Finding the least resistant path, a river will cut through rock layers. Lowering its floor little by little, the river will take millions of years to carve through the surrounding rock before it reaches the level it seeks. In the process, it creates a canyon.
The rivers that created the canyons on the Colorado Plateau and elsewhere did so because rivers have a natural tendency to reach a base level. This refers to the point at which the river reaches the elevation of the large body of water, such a lake or ocean, into which it drains. Aided by gravity, a river will downcut or erode its channel deeper and deeper in order to reach the level of its final destination as quickly as possible. The larger the difference in height between the river and its destination, the greater the erosive or cutting force of the river.
Rivers erode because they have the ability to pick up sediments (loose rock fragments) and transport them to a new location. The size of the material that can be transported depends on the velocity, or speed, of the river. A fast-moving river carries more sediment and larger material than a slow-moving one. As it is carried along, the sediment acts as an abrasive, scouring and eating away at the banks and bed of the river. The river then picks up this newly eroded material, which, in turn, helps the river cut even deeper into its channel.
If a river cuts through resistant rock, such as granite, its channel and the canyon it creates will be narrow and deep. If it cuts through weaker material, such as clay or sandstone, its channel and its accompanying canyon will be wide. When cutting through soft rock, a river can undercut its banks, removing a soft layer of material while a harder layer remains above, forming an overhang. The overhang continues to grow as material beneath it is eroded away by the river until the overhang can no longer be supported and collapses into the river. Repeated undercutting can lead to landslides and slumps, creating a V-shaped canyon.

i) How long this naturally takes depends on a variety of factors. How hard or soft the layers are. The volume and rate of runoff. 

ii) I'm also guessing that lava flows can rapidly create river channels. 

2. On this model, the river comes first. The valley (ravine, canyon) is the result of erosion from runoff. 

But I assume the principle can operate in reverse. If there's a preexisting valley (ravine, canyon), then that's the route that runoff will take. That will channel or funnel runoff. On that model, the valley (ravine, canyon) comes first. The river course is the result of that preexisting topography. 

3. In principle, these can be complementary dynamics. Preexisting topography might create a natural drainage outlet for runoff. Conversely, runoff will deepen and widen the drainage outlet.

4. This has potential implications for young-earth creationism. Can you tell, just by looking at a river valley, which came first–the river or the valley. What was the mechanism? 

5. Young-earth creationism has two different explanations:

i) Flood geology attributes some canyons to a global deluge. 

ii) However, young-earth creationism can also attribute some valleys, ravines, canyons, &c. to mature creation. God made the world with a preexisting topography of some sort. That could include built-in drainage outlets for runoff.

iii) It may be difficult to sort out which is which this far down the pike. Is an extant valley (ravine, canyon) the result of mature creation, Noah's flood, or normal processes? For instance, I assume a volcanic eruption or massive earthquake might create new river channels. Likewise, a depression that's the result of mature creation will widen and deepen over time due to continuous erosion. Or so I imagine. I'm no expert. 

Of course, there's the complication of conventional dating methods. 

The Pope and “The Paragraph”

HT: Kevin Johnson

The “Ecumenical” Council of Ephesus (431 AD) and a “Great Schism” that was greater than the Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox split of 1054

There is a claim that "the church was unified under the pope until 1054". But there was a "schism" centuries earlier than that, which is a far larger and messier divide than the 1054 schism between the Roman and Orthodox churches. It makes a lie of the "unified under the pope" claims of today's Roman Catholic apologists.

In fact, if you consider that "the papacy" didn't even come fully "developed" until Leo I (461 AD) -- and that it's still "developing" now under "Pope Francis", you've got the "unified Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox church under the pope" from say 461 AD - 1054 AD.

The churches in Asia, "the churches of the east", which had no idea that there was a "Petrine ministry" for many centuries, had as much of a claim to "apostolic succession" as did any of the European churches, and which grew far larger than any of the churches in Europe, before being snuffed out by Islam -- not in the 6th or 7th centuries, but the 12th and 13th centuries, likely a response to (a) the Mongol invasions (which were favorable to Christianity), and (b) the Crusades. (Not saying there were no massacres prior to the Crusades. But the Crusades exacerbated a bad situation).

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Concentric Bible interpretation

Is preterism heresy?

"I don't want a choice to die"

"Learning" from the Driscoll debacle

In the wake of the Mars Hill meltdown, you have Christian pundits who tell us what we can "learn" from the debacle. The takeaway lessons from that debacle.

I'd just point out that this way of framing the issue is presumptuous and prejudicial. It casts readers in the role of dupes who were taken in by Driscoll, and now have some hard lessons to learn from their disillusioning experience. He betrayed their faith in him. 

No doubt there are some former fans of Driscoll who fit the bill. There are, however, Christians who never cared for him in the first place. In addition, there are Christians who appreciated the good he did, especially before he began to go off the rails. But it was never unconditional support. It was the same implicitly qualified support for any minister who's doing good at the time. It always made allowance for weaknesses. And it was always provisional. Always subject to retraction. 

"Saving babies is not my primary concern"

Alan Maricle \\Back to the "Hyper-Calvinist" smear\\
Yeesh, you sound like Sye. Please quit with the "smear" verbiage.

You misrepresented my position.

\\when Toby appeals to God's activity in human affairs, that must be counterbalanced by God's inactivity vis-a-vis abolishing abortion. That's not "Hyper-Calvinistic" or fatalistic–that's just responding to Tony on his own grounds. \\ 
What you're leaving out is God's standing commands to His people to correct oppression.

You're confusing our activity with God's activity. 

\\But not doing more than I could do is not a moral compromise.\\ 
Sure, I agree. 
\\If I settle for less because it's not within my power to do more, that's not a moral compromise\\ 
As long as we don't equivocate on the meaning of "within my power". 
\\He did as much as he could, under the circumstances, even if it falls far short of the ideal.\\
In the case of incrementalist legislation about when it's OK to murder babies, 

Alan, that's the way critics attack the Bible. Unless the Bible forbids something (e.g. "slavery"), then the Bible must be "OK" with what it didn't prohibit. 

If we can't successfully ban abortion across-the-board, that doesn't make murdering babies "OK." There are many moral evils in the world which God hasn't given Christians the power to eradicate. 

1) you never know whether you can pass abolition until you try

I don't object to trying to do more. 

2) with that in mind, why try for anything less?

You're assuming that doing more hasn't been tried before. 

3) when you pass laws that say "fulfill conditions X, Y, and Z, and then it's OK to murder babies", you educate the culture that babies are actually expendable and not made in God's image.

Once again, laws that ban abortion in some cases don't mean it's okay to murder babies in other cases. You can only pass a law you have enough votes for. Or in some cases, enough extra votes to override a presidential veto. That's the nature of the legislative process. 

4) abortion is sin, and the answer to sin is the Gospel. The Gospel does not command us to taper off an adulterous relationship, sleeping with the mistress 4 times a week instead of 5.

Not doing what can't be done isn't equivalent to doing wrong. You keep resorting to manifest fallacies. 

\\Is (your goal) to save babies, or is it to be "uncompromising"? \\ 
It is to glorify Jesus Christ in all things. I don't see how He is glorified by saying "just make sure your needles are clean and then it's OK to murder babies."

Alan, are you so dug into your position that you can't bring yourself to argue in good faith? 

\\Should lawmakers not attempt to save any baby unless they can save every baby?\\ 

Alan, it's not a common canard when you keep hurling accusations of "compromise" and "worldly pragmatism." 

\\. The Amish are very uncompromising.\\ 
Obviously one can be uncompromising on wrong things in wrong ways. 
\\you're failing to distinguish between civil disobedience and the duties of a civll magistrate. A private citizen can disobey the law. \\ 
So can a civil magistrate, and what's more, he OUGHT to obey God's law, which is higher than man's. He can do what is right. The "or else" is that he MIGHT lose his job. Oh well. 

If a Christian magistrate loses his job, he can't do the things for good that only someone in a position of authority can do. If he loses his job, he can't use his lawful authority as a civil magistrate to mitigate evil. 

On the one hand you say a civil magistrate should break the law to do good. On the other hand, you say he should be prepared to lose his job. Well, which is it? If he loses his job, he can't take advantage of his job to do the kind of good that only someone in authority can do. 

\\If he breaks the law, he delegitimates his own authority.\\ 
That happens all over the country and I don't see people rising up to call that out. The people are so apathetic that you might as well be talking in the abstract, but the problem is that in the abstract he ought to disregard sinful laws in order to obey higher ones.

You're admitting that there's a lack of popular will to make things better. But in that case the abolitionist movement is a pipe dream. You can't propose a very ambitious social agenda while you simultaneously say there's no public support for your agenda. Your cynicism cancels your optimism. 

\\Why should private citizens obey a lawless magistrate?\\ 
He should obey the highest law available on the given issue.

Alan, you chronically miss the point. You think a civil magistrate should issue extralegal orders to ban abortion or "send military to padlock and guard murder facilities." The question is, why should soldiers or civilians obey unlawful orders? The only authority a civil magistrate has to tell other people what to do is lawful authority. When he exceeds his lawful authority, he has no more authority to order people around than one private citizen has to order another private citizen around.

\\"And he can send military to padlock and guard murder facilities."i) He has no legal authority to do that. \\ 

i) Alan, you keep missing the point. What's the difference between a civil magistrate and a private citizen? A magistrate has the legal authority to make other people (under him) do things. The moment he steps outside his legal mandate, he's in no position to tell them what they must do. 

ii) You confuse doing the right thing with obeying civil authorities. If you just do the right thing, that's not because you were obeying orders. You were doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do.

By contrast, the only reason to obey an order is either because the magistrate has lawful authority over you, or because he can resort to brute force to compel compliance. The power of gov't derives from the implicit threat of coercive force, viz. fines, imprisonment, the military, police powers, confiscation of property. 

\\ii) That would create a backlash which would sweep all conservatives out of power in the next two or three election cycles\\ 
How do you know that? Maybe God would honor the man's faithfulness. 

"Maybe"? There's no biblical promise that if we do the right thing, God will back us up (in this life). Scripture is rife with examples of faithful Jews and Christians who are cut down for doing the right thing. We should always to the right thing, but not with the expectation that God will back us up (in this life). 

He needs to do the right thing and let God sort out the future consequences.

You keep begging the question of what's the right thing to do in that situation. 

\\And they'd use that to strike down any restrictions on abortion, nationalize voluntary and involuntary euthanasia, revoke religious liberty, revoke parental rights, ban guns, &c. \ 
You're dealing according to worldly wisdom here. 

That's one of your favorite tropes, Alan. An intellectual shortcut. 

A basic problem is that your position is self-contradictory. On the one hand you say you want to abolish abortion. Nothing short of wholesale abolition will suffice. And you think strategy and tactics of the prolife movement are too ineffective to achieve the goal. On the other hand, when people raise practical questions about the effectiveness of your alternative methods, you dismiss that as "worldly wisdom" or "pragmatism."

Well, which is it, Alan? Do you or don't you care about effective methods? You seem to care about effective methods when you attack the mainstream prolife movement, but when we evaluate the effectiveness of AHA, that's suddenly verboten. 

\\For instance, Planned Parenthood refuses to notify the authorities of statutory rape allegations. That's a huge legal liability. And that's hard for liberals to defend. \\ 
That's been known about for like 6 years, and look at the effect it's had. Virtually none.

Alan, your'e not arguing in good faith. The question is not whether it's been known about. The question at issue is not the effect of it's being known about. The question, as I framed it, is what would happen if DOJ or state attorneys general launched criminal investigations. 

\\iv) I'm sure abortion clinics cover up botched abortions. That should be investigated. \\ 
Don't be naive. 

Alan, you're not wiser than I am. You need to drop the spiritual pride and condescension. 

Those have been known about without doubt for decades. And look at the effect it's had. Virtually none.

Once again, Alan, you're not arguing in good faith. The question at issue is what would happen if that was subject to criminal investigation–and prosecution.  

\\To take a comparison, how many babies are saved by picketing abortion clinics?\\ 
1) Quite a few.2) "Saving babies" is not my primary concern. Glorifying and obeying Jesus is.

Well, Alan, that says it all. It lucidly and painfully illustrates my limiting case. Your ultimate objective isn't to save babies but to be uncompromising. If that's representative, then AHA could hardly be more self-contradictory. On the one hand it takes an ultraist position on abortion. It "demands" the abolition of abortion (as if demanding something will make it happen). On the other hand, the real priority is ideological purity, even at the expense of saving fewer babies or (in principle) no babies at all. 

\\Why is that legit, but legal restrictions on abortion constitute an unacceptable compromise?\\ 
For one thing, I don't say to people entering the abortion mill "it's fine if you murder your baby b/c it looks like you don't have very much money".

Alan, you constantly defame pro-lifers who are doing as much as they can. 

How to destroy the liberal establishment

Residents of Oregon, Alaska, and the nation's capital voted to legalize marijuana on Tuesday, in key victories that could fuel the legalization movement as cannabis usage is increasingly recognized by the American mainstream. 
The Oregon and Alaska measures would legalize recreational pot use and usher in a network of retail pot shops similar to those operating in Washington state and Colorado, which in 2012 voted to become the first states to allow marijuana use for fun.

This is clearly a rightwing plot to destroy the liberal establishment by making them potheads.

Doing what's doable

Yesterday I got into an impromptu debate with the fine folks at AHA. 

In our lifetimes, Republicans controlled the White House, the Senate, and the House. They did nothing to abolish human abortion; in fact, they made it worse. They did virtually nothing of substance to bring our national debt under control. Etc etc etc. Call the nation to repent, not to vote Republican whilst you go back to your amusements and leisure.

Steve Hays
 What do you mean by abolishing abortion? Do you mean legal abolition? As long as SCOTUS has the final say, the executive and legislative branches can't abolish it. BTW, national debt is far worse under Obama, when he had supermajorities in Congress.

Alan Maricle
 Legally and societally, in all facets. Legally is part of it. 
  • What makes you think that a President with support of Congress couldn't make substantial steps toward actual abolition?

  • Alan Maricle
     Of course the nat'l debt is worse; we're many more years in the future; the debt has continued to accumulate.

  • Steve Hays
     The rate has increased when Dems are in power.

  • Steve Hays
     As long as SCOTUS can slap down restrictions, there's nothing a president and Congress can do to abolish it. In principle, a GOP candidate could run on a platform of challenging the authority of SCOTUS to strike down acts of Congress. That would be very Jeffersonian.
  • Alan Maricle I'm not impressed by reductions in the speed while heading toward the cliff. I want to see us retreat from the cliff. 
  • SCOTUS can "slap down" restrictions; what makes the President unable to ignore what they say, again? Would a majority Repub Congress impeach him for executively abolishing abortion in the USA?
  • An even better question is: Wouldn't that be pleasing to God even if you got impeached and removed?

  • Steve Hays
     In the current social climate, abolition is not in the cards. There's insufficient public support for abolition. Indeed, that's an understatement. Even if it was outlawed, juries would acquit defendants. We can still make political progress, but there's that glass ceiling of the electorate.

  • Steve Hays
     It would be preferable for a GOP candidate to run on that platform. That way he could claim a mandate.

  • Alan Maricle
     I know, but the legality is one area in which Christians ought to be faithful. And when they're not, I reserve the right to point it out. When they're not faithful, that's why it's not in the cards. It's b/c nobody thinks it's in teh cards and nobody will live like it's in play. All of that is wrong.
  • Alan Maricle It's sin.

    Steve Hays
     Yes, it would be nice to see a retreat from the cliff. But that's a hypothetical ideal. Real choices come down to real candidates and real voters.

  • Alan Maricle
     \\It would be preferable for a GOP candidate to run on that platform. That way he could claim a mandate.\\
  • Sure. 
  • But if he didn't, he should still abolish abortion.

  • Alan Maricle
     \\Real choices come down to real candidates and real voters\\
  • I don't know what that means. It sounds like worldly pragmatic wisdom. Better to be safe and not do evil that good may result, and watch God work through Christians' faithfulness.

  • Steve Hays
     Alan, we can't vote for candidates who don't run. That's not pragmatism, that's reality. We can't make the voters vote for the right things. That's not pragmatism, that's reality. The composition of the electorate in any give year limits what can be done in the political arena. Christians must play the hand that divine providence has dealt us. That's not pragmatism. That's submission to the will of God. To say we're "doing evil" begs the question. If by "play it safe," you mean make noble ineffectual gestures, I don't see the superior virtue in that approach.

  • Steve Hays
     What do you mean by the president could abolish abortion? By executive decree? How would that be enforceable?

  • Steve Hays
     I'd add that abortion and the national debt are not morally equivalent.

  • Alan Maricle
     Sure we can't force ppl to vote right, but we can avoid voting for bad things ourselves. 
  • \\Christians must play the hand that divine providence has dealt us.\\
  • Sure, but that doesn't mean to vote for evil things and men who thumb their nose at God's law. 
  • \\To say we're "doing evil" begs the question.\\
  • voting for a man who thinks it's OK to murder babies is evil. For example. Voting for a measure that says it's OK to murder babies if you clean the knife first is evil. 
  • \\If by "play it safe," you mean make noble ineffectual gestures\\
  • Voting is itself a noble ineffectual gesture. I am confronting the culture head-on in many different ways. Hardly ineffectual.
  • \\What do you mean by the president could abolish abortion? By executive decree?\\
  • Yes. 
  • \\How would that be enforceable?\\
  • Because you're the President. You keep firing people who refuse to enforce until you find someone who will enforce. 
  • \\I'd add that abortion and the national debt are not morally equivalent.\\
  • True. They were just two ideas I had that are prominent.

  • Steve Hays
     A president can't fire state employees or Federal judges.

  • Alan Maricle
     You know how people get mad at Presidents for "ignoring Congress" and taking all sorts of unilateral actions all the time? 
  • Like that, but for the sake of righteousness.

    Steve Hays
     There's a difference between voting for a politician and voting for a specific measure. For instance, Congressional policy depends, not on what any particular senator or representative believes, but on the party in power. The aggregate vote. Who controls the House or senate.

  • Steve Hays
     What are you suggesting, Alan? That a president declare martial law?

  • Alan Maricle
     \\There's a difference between voting for a politician and voting for a specific measure\\
  • Yes. 
  • \\That a president declare martial law?\\
  • No. He should do everything in his power to destroy abortion, and he has quite a lot of power.
  • Toby Harmon Would it be a noble ineffectual gesture if every Christian man and woman refused to vote for a man or woman who refused to do everything in their power to bring about total and immediate Abolition? What do you think would happen next election cycle if everyone made it clear that this was why they refused to vote for the lesser evil? That would hardly be ineffectual. Power to the people, remember?

  • Steve Hays
     Which doesn't address the fact that he can't fire state employees or Federal judges. So unilateral executive abolition wouldn't be enforceable.

  • Alan Maricle
     \\So unilateral executive abolition wouldn't be enforceable.\\
  • Too general. Plenty of unilateral things would be.

    Alan Maricle
     Plus, people do what the President says all the time, just from the force of position. You're being naive, which is weird, as I think generally you're one of the least naive people I've ever met.

  • Steve Hays
     Toby, you're floating utopian hypotheticals.

  • Toby Harmon
     The point is, no president has taken child-sacrifice serious enough to do all in his power to tirelessly work towards it abolition. We demand one who will.

  • Toby Harmon
     Steve, or I believe that God is real and that if His people would exercise true faith in the God they claim to believe in then perhaps He will move on their behalf.

    Steve Hays
     Alan, I'm responding to you on your own terms. Apparently, that's a mistake. The question is one of consistency with your claims. Does the president have the legal authority to unilaterally abolish abortion? LIkewise, does he have the ability to unilaterally enforce it? BTW, when you say we should settle for what he is able to do, which falls short of the ideal, you yourself are scaling back your ambitions. How is that not "pragmatic"?

  • Toby Harmon
     Its only utopian because people like yourself keep saying things and getting others to think its only a utopian idea that can never be carried out. Stop speaking and acting faithlessly and begin upholding God's standard as an individual.

  • Steve Hays
     Toby, "Demanding" one who will doesn't make it happen. That's just feel-good rhetoric.

  • Toby Harmon
     A president doing everything in his power, without a hint of compromise is not pragmatic, it's faithfulness.

  • Toby Harmon
     Steve, do you believe God is an active agent in human affairs?

  • Toby Harmon
     If the GOP wants to keep winning it will, but not if we keep giving them victories in their compromises.

  • Steve Hays
     Toby, people like me (as well as you) don't have direct control over how other people vote or what else they do. It's not faithless to admit that I'm not God.

  • T. Russell Hunter
     Legit God-fearing candidates are severely discouraged from running by the current system. Stop supporting the current system and start calling people to go into politics with an uncompromising spirit.
  • All the while calling current political leaders and lower magistrates to be consistent, uncompromising, and abolitionist.

  • Steve Hays
     Toby, God is in a position to abolish abortion all by himself, without our cooperation. He hasn't done so. So appealing to divine omnipotence is a nonstarter. God hasn't chosen to exercise his omnipotence in that regard.

  • Alan Maricle
     \\Does the president have the legal authority to unilaterally abolish abortion?\\
  • He should act like he does, and do what he can, which is an awful lot. ...See More

  • Alan Maricle
     \\He hasn't done so. \\
  • B/c professing Christians are unfaithful. ...See More

  • Steve Hays
     Russell, I happen to agree with you. One reason we haven't made more progress on social issues is because hardly any candidates even make an articulate case in public. Some of them don't even know how. So, yes, it would be good to recruit articulate Christian candidates who can explain the position. In many cases, the public has never heard the argument.

  • Clayton Strang
     The president has the legal authority to ensure that the laws of the land are enforced. Humanly speaking, any law that is not consistent with the US Constitution, which is only rightly interpreted through the lens of the Declaration of Independence, is...See More

  • Steve Hays
     Alan, "doing what he can" is a concession to reality.

  • Alan Maricle
     \\"doing what he can" is a concession to reality.\\
  • I think you got mixed up somewhere along the way. ...See More

  • Steve Hays
     Yes, Alan, it always depends on how many people demand something. But your appeal is circular. If more people were virtuous, the world would be a better place. Since more people aren't virtuous, the world is a worse place.

  • Steve Hays
     Alan, you're not my intellectual superior, so it would behoove you to drop the patronizing tone.

  • Steve Hays
     Alan, a president should "act" like he has more legal authority than he actually does? Seriously?

  • Alan Maricle
     \\it always depends on how many people demand something.\\
  • Yes, I know, which disarms your original objection. ...See More

  • Steve Hays
     Clayton, that's good in principle, but that's something a candidate needs to run on and win on so that he has a mandate to govern accordingly.

  • Alan Maricle
     \\so that he has a mandate to govern accordingly.\\
  • ^^ Pragmatic. Nobody needs human permission to do the right thing, ever.

  • Steve Hays
     Alan, it's funny how you oscillate between uncompromising positions and pragmatism. It's justifiable for the prez to pretend that he has more authority than he does because presidents do that all the time? Are you saying the end ipso facto justifies the means?

  • Steve Hays
     Alan, as to your "Hyper-Calvinist" smear, it's just a fact that God hasn't done all he could (to put it mildly) to abolish abortion. We can't force his hand. We can't make God act contrary to his will. We can only do what we are able to do as individuals. We can try to influence other individuals. But we can't dictate that others will do the right thing. We have some genuine, but very limited influence.

  • Steve Hays
     Alan, this is not a question of an individual doing the right thing, but what he can make others do.

  • Steve Hays
     Alan, did I say the prez can't do much? No. You're not arguing in good faith.

  • Alan Maricle
     \\Are you saying the end ipso facto justifies the means?\\
  • No, but in this case, yes. It's not sinful to violate unjust laws for the sake of bringing about righteousness. ...See More

  • Alan Maricle
     \\did I say the prez can't do much? No. \\
  • You're arguing his influence is limited in a way that it's actually not limited.

  • Clayton Strang
     Why cannot an elected official act in accordance with the law without a direct mandate from the people to do so?

  • Steve Hays
     Alan, legal governance involves legal means. That's not "pragmatic." That's the nature of the democratic process. If you work within the system, then that constrains the field of action. One can also work outside the system. It's good to do both. But once you posit gov't action, that commits you to a certain framework. That's not "pragmatic." That's a necessary implication of operating within that framework. You can reject the framework, but that's a different approach.

  • Clayton Strang
     I would argue that by holding the position of POTUS one would necessarily have a mandate to uphold right law and nullify wrong law.

  • Alan Maricle
     \\You can reject the framework, but that's a different approach.\\
  • Yes, what Clayton said. ...See More

  • Steve Hays
     There's a difference between private citizens disobeying unjust laws and magistrates disobeying unjust laws. The only authority a magistrate has to give orders is legal authority. Lawful orders. Otherwise, he has no more authority to tell others what they can or cannot do than a private citizen.

  • Alan Maricle
     Which means that you can't kill ppl without due process of law.

  • Alan Maricle
     \\The only authority a magistrate has to give orders is legal authority\\
  • No, he has the authority of God Almighty to do right.

  • Steve Hays
     Clayton, if he lacks a popular mandate, people will simply ignore him. We don't live under a dictatorship (as of yet). The consent of the governed is essential to effective governance.

  • Alan Maricle
     The Prez doesn't get ignored. 
  • He calls a press conf or does much of anything, the press is all over him.

  • Alan Maricle
     \\if he lacks a popular mandate, people will simply ignore him\\
  • This goes back to needing human permission before doing the right thing. No no and no.

  • Steve Hays
     Alan, if an magistrate issues extralegal orders, subordinates are not obligated to obey him. Everyone has the *moral* authority to do right, but that's not the same thing as one man having *legal* authority over another man. If, in the army, a commanding officer exceeds his authority, his subordinates are free to disobey him. Indeed, they may even be obliged to disobey unlawful orders.

    Steve Hays
     Alan, unpopular presidents are frequently ignored. That's just a fact of history. Do you need me to give you examples?

  • Alan Maricle
     \\if an magistrate issues extralegal orders, subordinates are not obligated to obey him.\\
  • yes they are, if the orders are righteous. ...See More

  • Steve Hays
     Alan, you need to learn how to argue in good faith rather than just reacting. I already explained the distinction between personally doing right and having the ability or authority to force others to comply. Those are distinct issues.

  • Steve Hays
     Alan, are you just trying to misunderstand? A subordinate officer must obey the lawful orders of a superior officer. By contrast, a military officer has no ipso facto authority to order a civilian around. The civilian is not in the command structure. Yes, morality supersedes legality. But what gives a gov't official the authority to force compliance is legal authority, not moral authority. That's his distinct sphere of authority. Otherwise, he has no more authority than a private citizen. A president can't fire a governor.

  • Alan Maricle
     \\A subordinate officer must obey the lawful orders of a superior officer.\\
  • Maybe our disconnect is at the word "must". ...See More

  • Steve Hays
     i) Back to the "Hyper-Calvinist" smear–when Toby appeals to God's activity in human affairs, that must be counterbalanced by God's inactivity vis-a-vis abolishing abortion. That's not "Hyper-Calvinistic" or fatalistic–that's just responding to Tony on his own grounds. 
  • ii) The word "compromise" has been thrown around very freely in this thread. But not all compromise is moral compromise:
  • Doing less than I could do and should do is a moral compromise. But not doing more than I could do is not a moral compromise. If I settle for less because it's not within my power to do more, that's not a moral compromise. To take what I can get because I can't get more is not a moral compromise. 
  • Consider the Hyde Amendment or the PBA Ban. Those are kind of pitiful in the sense that they only address the tip of the iceberg. If, however, that's all that a senator or representative can get passed in that session of Congress and signed into law, then it's not a moral compromise on his part. He did as much as he could, under the circumstances, even if it falls far short of the ideal.
  • iii) "Pragmatism" is another word that's been throw around very freely in this thread. But what's your priority or objective? Is it to save babies, or is it to be "uncompromising"? Is it better to save some babies by compromising, or better to save fewer babies or no babies by refusing to compromise? 
  • Again, take the Hyde Amendment or the PBA Ban. Should lawmakers not attempt to save any baby unless they can save every baby?
  • iv) Consider a limiting case of the no-compromise principle. The Amish are very uncompromising. So uncompromising that they've withdrawn completely from the political arena. They don't vote, agitate, or serve in gov't. They wash their hands of the whole mess.
  • But how pure is their purity? By refusing to sully themselves by serving in gov't or participating in the democratic process, they simply delegate those decisions to others to act in their behalf or in their stead. Yet they are morally complicit by leaving that to others. Indeed, their separatism is even more ethically compromising, for by refusing to involve themselves in the process, they do nothing to ameliorate the situation. They don't do as much as they could to make it better. Rather than mitigating the evil, they leave it in the hands of evildoers to make policy, unchecked. They imagine that by absenting themselves from the process, they won't be tainted by the process. But that's deluded.

    Steve Hays
     "Then, someone should still do what is right even if the law says he ought to do what is wrong. "
  • Once again, you're failing to distinguish between civil disobedience and the duties of a civll magistrate. A private citizen can disobey the law. 
  • But the authority of a civil magistrate is lawful authority. If he breaks the law, he delegitimates his own authority. Why should private citizens obey a lawless magistrate? In our system, his authority ultimately derives from the consent of the governed, expressed through laws enacted by their elected representatives. 
  • "And he can send military to padlock and guard murder facilities."
  • i) He has no legal authority to do that. 
  • ii) That would create a backlash which would sweep all conservatives out of power in the next two or three election cycles. The liberals would have a lock gov't. And they'd use that to strike down any restrictions on abortion, nationalize voluntary and involuntary euthanasia, revoke religious liberty, revoke parental rights, ban guns, &c. 
  • iii) There are smarter ways to target abortion. For instance, Planned Parenthood refuses to notify the authorities of statutory rape allegations. That's a huge legal liability. And that's hard for liberals to defend. 
  • There should be state and Federal investigations and prosecutions. That could shut down Planned Parenthood et al.
  • iv) I'm sure abortion clinics cover up botched abortions. That should be investigated. That has the potential of raising malpractice insurance premium (for "abortion providers") to prohibitive rates. At that point they literally can't afford to perform abortions.

  • Steve Hays
     To take a comparison, how many babies are saved by picketing abortion clinics? Surely the number of mothers who are dissuaded by that tactic is a small fraction of the total. Yet you presumably think it's worthwhile. Saving one baby at a time. Why is that legit, but legal restrictions on abortion constitute an unacceptable compromise?