Friday, May 29, 2009

Attack on Liberty University

from Dr. Gary Cass...

The “Reverend” Barry Lynn and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) are it it again. Known for their over-reaching attempts to silence Christians who are speaking out for our Christian values, Americans United is calling on the IRS to review Liberty University's tax-exempt status.

Liberty University, founded by the late Jerry Falwell in 1971, is the largest evangelical university in the world. Known for its conservative theological and political views, the school has become a training ground for many outstanding Christian leaders.

Why has AU complained that the school is in violation of their tax-exempt status? Because Liberty revoked its recognition of a student-run Democratic club.

On May 15 Liberty alerted the club that they would no longer be recognized by the university. Since then, many have questioned the university’s intentions. Americans United argues that Liberty's recognition of a Republican club offers GOP candidates support that is not available to Democratic candidates.

But Liberty’s chancellor, Jerry Falwell Jr., disagrees. “The club's recognition was revoked because the Democratic Party's abortion and homosexual rights positions are contrary to the university's principles. Liberty University will not lend its name or financial support to any student group that advances causes contrary to its mission.”

Because Liberty is a private university, the school is fully within its rights to make decisions like these.

Intimidation Tactics of Barry Lynn Under Investigation

Just last year Americans United founder, Barry Lynn, found himself under investigation because of his longtime intimidation of pastors who support political candidates. A non-profit 501(c)(3) itself, AU has often sent threatening letters to churches warning pastors that if they individually endorse a candidate of violating their IRS tax exempt status could be revoked.

Although pastors are clearly allowed to do this, they are often intimidated into silence by AU’s threats because pastors are afraid of the financial repercussions. A group of pastors filed complaints against AU for violating their 501 (c) (3) by trying to intervene in a campaign by silencing a candidate’s supporters.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009

Why Europe Needs John Frame

The nature of European theology has undergone radical change in the last centuries. A primary presupposition of the theology of the medieval period was the presence of an archetypal structure in the universe that provides cohesion for the whole of human life. It is this structure which supplied the underlying premise of “Christendom.” Despite the magisterial Reformers quarrel with High Scholasticism, they too believed that Christian theology articulates holistic implications for the whole of life. Luther and Calvin’s doctrines of vocation, in particular, did much to facilitate this message.

However, by the mid-eighteenth century, the Virtuosi and men of letters were seeking to replace what they perceived as the darkness, ignorance, and grip of Christianity that had ruled men’s minds from the Middle Ages to the Thirty Years War with the “light” of human reason, autonomy, and tolerance. The “Age of Reason” revealed a prevailing trust in the twin pillars of science and human reason that together could harness nature to achieve nothing less than a new world.

Since the Enlightenment, European theology has worked hard to find a voice which again heralds Christianity as a complete way of life, but with a modern twist. The concern turned to striking a chord with Europeans that balances the insular concerns of faith with the objective claims of science, reason, and culture. In the eighteenth century, Kant’s critical limitation of reason did more to regain this ascendant voice and also to provide the basis for the modern articulation of “worldview”: the idea that life and all things in it can be seen holistically and interconnected. Friedrich Schleirmacher expresses this concept in Reden uber die Religion where the Divine is expressed in the most encompassing of terms. But the Romantic attempt to regain an overarching context for theology was somewhat hampered by the fact that religious scholars, following Kant, sought to identify and to justify a continuing role for the Christian faith in an intellectual context that had become inhospitable. In that sense their efforts were mainly apologetic rather than transforming.

Many years later, Europe witnessed a brilliant, though unbiblical, response to the Enlightenment’s displacing of theology in the form of the Neo-Reformation theologians. Barth, Brunner, and Bultmann offered a much more moderate response to the Enlightenment’s delimiting of faith by remaining committed to the transcendent acts of God while acknowledging the use of modern historiographical methods and modern culture. Nevertheless, the Neo-Reformation theologians claimed theology as one academic discipline among others and thus failed to make theology the queen of the sciences once more. Of further disappointment is the fact that in reacting harshly to the decentralization of God in European thought before Kant, the Neo-Reformation theology swung the pendulum to the opposite extreme, whereby it replaced the radical anthropocentric syllabus with an equally unbalanced stress on the transcendent nature of God – the “wholly other,” making the transition to how Europeans could think culturally very difficult.

Years later, Pannenberg and Moltmann, hoping to imbue theology with a quickening reaction among Europeans, turned the emphasis in theology from a transcendental view of God toward its eschatological future; from a theocentric, otherworldly starting point to the concrete processes of culture. While the “theology of hope” – a rubric which itself was pregnant with meaning among Europeans on the heels of two world wars – was well intentioned, in the end it influenced more thinkers in America than it did among continental European theologians and philosophers where its impact was limited.

During the early twentieth century, Hegel saw a renaissance among some theological guilds; and despite its continuing struggle to adequately bridge individualism and multiculturalism, many academics today view postmodern thought as holding out hope for Europe’s civilizing paradigm. But overall, the jury is still out on postmodernism, whereby the European scene still awaits a central character and thought-system to rally around.

Enter John M. Frame. An introduction of Frame’s lordship theology could very well provide a fresh assessment of theology, one in which even competing interests in European theology can find renewed inspiration. On the one hand, Frame reaffirms the archetypal structure of theology which enabled medieval thought to create a basis for Christendom and the Reformers to speak of Christianity as embracing the whole of life. Yet, like Kant, his lordship criterion limits reason, reminding us that all knowledge of God is “creaturely.” But contra Kant, Frame presents us a unified worldview that is able to dialogue with science, and culture, without leaving the realm of faith to enter the “phenomenal” — thus demonstrating the applicability of faith to the concrete processes of our living environment.

Like the Neo-Reformers, he affirms the high role of Scripture, but unlike them is not burdened by a philosophical view of God’s transcendence that is sometimes at odds with scripture and with God’s immanence. So Frame’s theology shows us the linkage between God’s transcendence and our need to live culturally.

Further still, Frame’s historical position is like Pannenberg and Moltmann on one level only: it is proleptical. But whereas these men sacrificed God’s transcendence and his acts in history for the vindication of faith at the end of history, Frame maintains both emphases, creating much needed balance between the two. Frame’s consistent obsequiousness to God’s lordship in the processes of history provides us a proleptical view of history in which history is not seen merely as hopeful events, but as descriptive events which anticipate a coming reality.

In all, I believe that to the extent European’s are exposed to Frame’s theology they will find in it a treatment of Christianity that is rigorous in theory yet consistent and practical. It may be an important step toward furthering the return of Christian theology in Europe from the edges of marginalization to a central and high place among other academic disciplines.

John Frame is one of the best Reformed theologians writing today. I have always found his work to be stimulating and thought provoking.”
A.T.B. McGowan, principal and professor of theology, Highland Theological College; honorary professor of Reformed doctrine, University of Aberdeen

Clarity, warmth, thoroughness, and the charm of unassuming mastery are the marks of all John Frame’s published work. As a systematic theologian, he is in fact one of the giants of our time.”
—J.I. Packer, Regent College

Monday, May 18, 2009

David

David: Before Or After?

Art historians ask of Michelangelo’s David, “Is David sizing up Goliath, or looking in satisfaction at the defeated giant?”

There are political and cultural ramifications to David. He was sculpted during a time of lingering political unrest in the city of Florence, this mostly due to the mess left by the ordeal of Savonarola (powerful and unprincipled Barons stepped in to rule Florence). Michelangelo chose to represent David as an athlete, very concentrated, holding a stone in his right hand, and ready to fight. Michelangelo was devoted to the ideals of the Republic and wanted each citizen to rightfully discharge his or her responsibilities by being committed to returning the city to its former freedom and political greatness. Michelangelo would write in his diary of the commission,

“I found myself famous. The City Council asked me to carve a colossal David from a nineteen-foot block of marble -- and damaged to boot! I locked myself away in a workshop behind the cathedral, hammered and chiseled at the towering block for three long years. In spite of the opposition of a committee of fellow artists, I insisted that the figure should stand before the Palazzo Vecchio, as a symbol of our Republic. I had my way. Archways were torn down, narrow streets widened...it took forty men five days to move it. Once in place, all Florence was astounded. A civic hero, he was a warning...whoever governed Florence should govern justly and defend it bravely. Eyes watchful...the neck of a bull...hands of a killer...the body, a reservoir of energy. He stands poised to strike.”

That David stands “poised to strike” reveals that the image represents David just before he attacks Goliath.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Adminstration Without A Prayer

May 7th 2009 marked the observation of the National Day of Prayer. President Obama said vety little about this day. I cannot help but wonder why. Does this adminstration think that it can succeed and prosper without God's blessing? Let us consider how far we have fallen as a Christian nation in light of Abraham Lincoln's declaration setting aside a national day of prayer...and, I might add, "humiliation."

A Proclamation.

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.

And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to fell the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in to the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State

Thanks

I wish to thank those of you who have commented positively about my book, The Road From Eden. I do hope it is of great use to those of you who are interested in the study of this subject. Any further comments, pro or con, are most welcome right here.-- John

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My New Book



The Road from Eden: Studies in Christianity and Culture by John Barber

Here's a statement regarding the book by Dr. John Frame, professor of Philosophy and Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida.

"With an encyclopedic knowledge and a sharply discerning eye, John Barber analyzes here the whole history of Western culture, including art, music, philosophy, theology, science, and politics. Further, these analyses are not superficial, as one might fear, but solid and substantive. I found the book a great learning experience, even when John's interests overlapped mine, as in philosophy and theology. There is a great sweep to this discussion that we usually associate with mega-thinkers like Toynbee. There has never been anything like this in evangelical Christian circles. Francis Schaeffer tried to analyze civilization and culture comprehensively in How Shall We Then Live? But Barber's work is far more detailed, far more knowledgeable, and far more careful in its analysis. --John Frame

To purchase the book, go to www.monergism.com and click on "Bookstore."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Holiness is Part Of The Gospel

From an observational point of view, compare the average Christian to the average non-Christian and generally speaking what do you see? One goes to church on Sunday, the other might, but likely doesn’t. One shows some level of interest in Christian theology, the other likely has very little interest at all. One anticipates attending some sort of mid-week, Christian corporate gathering, the other probably doesn’t. Now we could go on, but let me stop to ask a question. Where do you see similarity between the two? In how they live. These days, it’s become increasingly difficult to discern any real difference between the way Christians and non-Christians live. It’s a question of ethics.

Those who make claim to the holiness of Christ, but show no manifestation of the Holy One who indwells them, are close to Jesus in their profession, but closer still to the atheist in practice. Such people are not fooling the Holy God of heaven. Paul couldn’t be more to the point. “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:16). How can a person whose lifestyle is basically indistinguishable from the heathen world be certain of his salvation? He may confess a new life and that the Spirit of holiness now occupies him like a guard, but if what he professes isn’t seen to bear testimony with his outward acts, then how can this man, or any who observe him, have confidence that God has truly separated him unto Himself? What the puritans and Jonathan Edwards called “Experiential Religion” is not to be confused with charismatic affectations of body and soul in worship. Its concern is a passionate desire to be separate from the world and one with God and with godliness.