Wednesday, November 9, 2016

My Quick Take on Donald Trump's Acceptance Speech

Much of America remains stunned by Donald Trump’s rise to victory. Many Democrats, Conservatives, and even those of Trump’s own backers never expected to see the most unlikely candidate for the Republican Party clinch the presidency.

I am no great expert or student of politics. I am simply a citizen that has been involved as I have been able. I am an Evangelical Conservative who has looked for some glimmer of hope for our country in this election cycle, and who has found little.

I really do not know what protocol is for acceptance speeches. I have heard many over the years. As one who did not support Trump or Clinton, I was perplexed by Trump’s acceptance speech in the early hours of this morning. His speech struck me, who considers himself an “Average Joe Citizen,” observer, as unusual. It seemed very interesting to me, to say the least, what Donald Trump spoke about, and what he did not speak about, given his candidacy.

What Trump Mentions in His Acceptance Speech

As expected in an acceptance speech, Trump spoke briefly about unity. He encouraged all Republicans, Democrats and Independents to come together. He promised to be a president for all Americans, including “those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few.” (This makes me chuckle nervously, and wonder how Trump sees things. By last look, Trump defeated Hillary by less than 1% of the popular vote, and there was the largest 3rd party presence in recent history. A majority of people voted for someone other than Trump.)

Trump gave one additional sentence to add to his idea of unity. He spoke of his “movement comprised of Americans from all races, religions, backgrounds, and beliefs.” I was glad for that brief comment that hopefully indicates some relief from the active encroachment of government on freedom in many ways. He connected that statement with the idea that these people “expect our government to serve the people – and serve the people it will.” At best, this is cryptic by means of its brevity. A government that serves the people can either mean in attitude and function, or in its size and service. I certainly hope that it is the former. Our government is already massively outgrown its intended purpose.

Trump then spoke of “rebuilding our nation and renewing the American dream.” Without any details, he talked of bringing America to its full potential, and that “every single American will have the opportunity to realize his or her fullest potential.” I was left with no idea as to how he planned to accomplish this promise that is way beyond promises of past politicians such as “a turkey in every pot.”

One statement indicated Trump’s possible direction, which I found to be disturbing: “We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We're going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.” If this is his idea of giving everyone the opportunity to realize his or her fullest potential, we are heading for bigger government and much higher taxes. All of this is short-term, government-funded (read “taxes” or “debt”) growth that disappears when the funding goes away. It demands more of what we have been doing wrong in the first place – growing our dependency on government.

Trump then mentioned that we “will also finally take care of our great veterans who have been so loyal.” Being a veteran myself, I was not sure what he was referring to here. Is he speaking primarily of health care for those that need it? That would be my guess, and with no details, all we can do is guess.

Trump mentions again what seems to be economics, where he will “harness the creative talents of our people, and we will call upon the best and the brightest to leverage their tremendous talent for the benefit of all” to accomplish “a project of national growth and renewal.” Again, no details are given.

Following this, he mentions that he has a “great economic plan” that will “double our growth” and give us “the strongest economy anywhere in the world.” Though this great plan may have existed, I have heard nothing of this until now. We have only a promise here, and no hint of how he might carry this out.

Trump seems to direct his attention vaguely towards foreign policy. He states that while we are growing our economy to be the greatest in the world, we will “get along with all other nations willing to get along with us. We will have great relationships. We expect to have great, great relationships.” He also spoke of dealing “fairly with everyone,” seeking “partnership, not conflict,” while always putting American interests first. This is certainly a bit of fresh air.

Trump thanks a multitude of people, beginning with his (deceased) parents and his family. He highlights a great number of his staff. One that I found extremely puzzling is how much time he spent praising the chair of the RNC, Reince Priebus. As one who has touted himself as the anti-establishment candidate, this action by Trump seemed to be wholly counter-intuitive to me. Trump is anti-establishment, but all establishment just seems to be oxymoronic. As a conservative Republican voter who is part of a large contingency pushed way by the GOP, this did not sit well at all.

Trump gives a brief hat-tip to the Secret Service and the NYC law enforcement. I guess you could loosely count that as a loose mention of law enforcement.

What Trump Does Not Mention in His Acceptance Speech

In addition to what Trump said, I found it even more perplexing what the new president-elect did not mention, given the topics of emphasis of his candidacy which seemed to bring him his success. I also found it unusual that, apart from economic focuses, he did not address any real problems that truly plague our nation.

Trump did not address the rampant corruption in our nation’s government, which Hillary represents in a very real way. I can understand why in an acceptance speech he did not directly address Hillary’s corruption. However, a general statement would have been very welcome that suggests the acknowledgment of the rule of law. I do wonder if this will change greatly, since by his own mouth he has been part of the (what I would call) legal corruption of donating to candidates to get his way as a businessman.

Trump did not hint at the glaring tragedy of abortion or the related issue of the funding of Planned Parenthood. We cannot ignore the murder of over 3,000 unborn children a day as if it did not matter. Life is paramount to all other freedoms.

Trump did not mention immigration or his famous wall. To be fair (and I am trying to be so), he continually referred to “Americans” earlier in his speech, which may suggest his commitment to such. However, to be fair, he said nothing overt that would indicate his commitment to following through with all his rhetoric about immigration, whether from those fleeing the Middle East or coming in from our South.

Trump left out any suggestion of addressing our massive debt. In fact, as I have mentioned, his solution for economic growth seems to indicate greatly adding to our debt. We are committing economic suicide as a nation. Unless our next president does something drastic to intervene, we cannot continue in any sense of prosperity. We will have to pay the piper.

Close to the previous point, Trump did not indicate any direction for encouraging the private sector. Government programs and projects are temporary, grow government and dependency upon government. The only truly prosperous nation is one that earns its own way through private commerce. I have heard him mention on other occasions of bringing jobs back to the US. Maybe Trump has a plan to do that, but he did not reference it in this speech.

I was surprised that Trump did not address the military directly. He mentioned veterans (which can include those presently serving in the military), generals, and medal of honor winners. However, our current president has wholly undermined and weakened the military with his broad policy changes and drastic budget cuts. If we do not rebuild our military quickly and fix what has been broken and undermined, our fighting capabilities which allow us to protect and defend our country are questionable at best. Caring for veterans is good; having a strong military is the bigger picture.

Trump made no mention of the Supreme Court nominees. Many conservative friends who supported Trump used this as the key argument for supporting a man that went against so much of what they believed. I was really amazed that this was not mentioned first. It was not mentioned at all.

Trump made no mention of Obamacare. I find this incredulous as well, as the non-political observer. This bane has been another of his key focuses. This program has done more to destroy our nation’s economy than any other single action. It deserved air time and attention in his speech.

Two more topics absent from Trump’s acceptance speech bother me as one of many conservative Christians who live in this land. Trump did not reach out in any way to conservatives, many of whom did support him. In his stated goal of unifying the nation under his leadership, he has made no gesture that indicates he in any way cares for their presence.

Along that same vein, apart from his vague comment about Americans of all “beliefs,” Trump did not hint at addressing the issue of religious freedom and the harsh treatment many have faced already by desiring to live by one’s conscience. This concerns me greatly. People increasingly have lost jobs and businesses because of conscience. People of different “beliefs” need to have the freedom to live by those beliefs.

Lastly, I found it profound (but not surprising) that Trump did not refer to God once in his entire acceptance speech. Whether praising the parents or family he was “lucky” to have, or addressing the problems of our nation (which he did little of apart from economics), or in his closing, Trump ignored God altogether. Even his nemesis Hillary would give lip-service to this Foundational Idea under which our nation began and under which we have thrived. I found that indicative of the man Trump – his view of life and self is a view without God. We shall see how that plays out, but morality, including the keeping of one’s promises, is usually tied to belief in One who expects such from us.

Donald Trump is the president-elect. I will honor him and respect him as our president, as is my Christian duty. He is now center stage, and it is his opportunity to lead as he has promised.

Donald Trump has won. Time will only reveal if America has won.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Memorizing Scripture Brings Great Benefit

Part of our “homework” for adult/teen class studying the Answers in Genesis Demolishing Strongholds series on Wednesday nights involves memorizing eight verses from 2 Timothy 4 over the 12-weeks of the study. Someone asked me (out of curiosity, not resistance) why it was profitable for us to memorize the passage if it was communicated primarily to pastors. I thought this was an excellent question.
Here is the passage, the eight verses assigned for the 12-week series:
1 I charge [you] therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season [and] out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, [because] they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn [their] ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
I briefly went through the passage and wrote down some quick principles, lessons, and warnings that I found. (And I am sure more time in the passage would yield a good number more.)
Here, then, is my list of first glance" suggestions as to why this passage is worth memorizing by anyone, not just pastors. Needless to say, 2 Timothy 4:1-8 is brimming with profitable truths of warning and promise!
Q: If this was written to a pastor (Timothy), why would / should we memorize it?
A: Here is a brief list of challenging principles from each verse:
4:1 – I charge [you] therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:

  • We are reminded that the Lord will return (what is now will not continue forever).
  • We are reminded that the Lord will judge each of us when He returns.
4:2 – Preach the word! Be ready in season [and] out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
  • We are reminded what pastors are responsible to be doing, and how they are to be doing it.
  • We are reminded what to expect from pastors (not fluff...) and further, to encourage them to do it.
  • We are reminded that we have to be willing to be convinced (the Word should change our minds!).
  • We are reminded that we have to be willing to be rebuked.
  • We are reminded that we have to be willing to be exhorted.
4:3 – For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, [because] they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;
  • We have to be aware of the danger of giving up on sound doctrine.
  • We have to be aware of the danger of ME giving up on sound doctrine.
  • We have to be aware of the danger of our own desires dictating rather than the truth.
  • We have to be aware of our leaning what we WANT to hear (which is UNSOUND), including information that might be "new," different, easy, or exciting.
  • We have to be aware of the danger of teachers (“Christian” teaching does not necessarily = good).
4:4 – and they will turn [their] ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
  • We have to know that some will be turned away from the truth.
  • We have to know that some will be turned aside to falsehoods (fables).
  • We have to be consciously cautious that we do not become such.
4:5 – But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
  • We need to encourage our pastors to be watchful in all things, to endure afflictions, and to fulfill their ministry.
  • We need to encourage ourselves to be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, evangelize, and to fulfill our own ministries.
4:6 – For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.
  • We need to know the attitude and sacrifice of Paul near his death.
  • We need to develop the same attitude and willingness to sacrifice as Paul.
  • We need to see that sacrifice might be better than safety in the Lord's work.
4:7 – I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
  • We need to recognize that Paul "made it" faithfully to the end.
  • We need to recognize that we can "make it" faithfully to the end.
  • We need to recognize that the Christian walk is not easy, but it is like: (1) a fight that we are fighting; (2) a race that we are running; (3) and a treasure that we are protecting.
  • We need to recognize that the Christian walk is not automatic, but requires great and ongoing effort and sacrifice.
4:8 – Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
  • We need to see why Paul was willing to go all the way.
  • We need to see why we should be willing to go all the way.
  • We need to see that God recognizes and rewards the faithful and enduring efforts of v. 7.
  • We need to be focusing on the future return of the Lord for our present strength.
You can clearly see that “all scripture is … profitable!” Memorizing Scripture is helpful – even essential – to spiritual growth, obedience, and a proper awareness of the truths that God has revealed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Few More Thoughts on the Farris "Line in the Sand" Article

I've been interacting with people some on this issue. Here are some additional thoughts that I've written in these interactions:

That Farris Calls Patriarchy Harmful, Dangerous, and Extreme

Allow me to point out that a huge hole is missing in the Farris article. Farris fails to explain in any fashion whatsoever precisely what dangers are brought by these views, or why these views are dangerous. He also does not explain why so many have and do hold to such views and why such views are now harmful or dangerous when they have not been seen as such before.

Who claims the right to label these (or any views) as harmful or extreme apart from such proof? Isn’t that itself a misuse of terminology for these views? Is it “extreme” or “harmful” or “dangerous” for someone not to attend higher education? Is it “extreme” or “harmful” or “dangerous” to encourage daughters to remain under the provision and protection of fathers until married? Is it “extreme” or “harmful” or “dangerous” for someone not to vote (many DON’T vote in any given election). I cannot make the connection. Such views may be inconvenient or restrictive in the eyes of some, but not dangerous. Maybe the views come from poor exegesis or bad logic (or maybe people just don’t understand the reasons or logic that cause people to come to such views).

Is it too much to ask for an argument to be clearly articulated against any clearly documented view? Is it unfair to ask for someone placing any such label on a view to present more than just opinion, and to identify and demonstrate how it is harmful or extreme? It has to be a convincing argument as well, not an opinion. Opinions are not enough to limit someone elses freedom. Opinion is all that Farris offers by his own admission.

I would again point out that these things now labeled extreme were the norm. How can such things now be considered harmful that were the basis of our nation for over 130 years?

Whole groups before Phillips or Gothard ever breathed a breath believed in a patriarchal system, where the man was the provider and protector and the woman was the homemaker and mother. That is not dangerous. It may no longer be politically correct, but it is still a view that can be held (and is held) by many people, believing that such is what the Bible teaches.

What’s worse, Farris doesn’t actually define the patriarchal view (as if there was one definition anyway). He only hints at things that lead people who read his article to believe that holding to a traditional view of marriage and family and gender are harmful. He gives no boundaries, only vague warnings, and that affects a much larger group than any that would hold to the “patriarchal view” as it is now known, including many throughout history.

It is not wrong to come to different conclusions. It is wrong, harmful, extreme, and dangerous to attack such views with those same labels without going beyond just assigning labels. That is incredulous, and why I’m so blown away by this article by a man that I sincerely admire.

I can go further. Who’s job is it to determine who or what has a boundary placed around it? It was apparently wrong for Phillips or Gothard to do that, teaching what they believed to be the truth (and I believe that they did so with sincerity). Is it not wrong for Farris to turn around and do the same? Phillips and Gothard at least had concrete teachings that they delineated in detail (however they might have derived at them), whereas Farris does a poor job at even expressing his objections, let alone any principles that led him to his conclusions (none of which were exegetical in nature). Farris has not approached this with any true argument or evidence. He pointed out beliefs, and assumed that they were dangerous without proving so. How can there be a “moral and ethical requirement to delineate boundaries” on that basis? He also marks any and all that somehow identify with any view of Phillips or Gothard (he drew no boundaries around them or their beliefs) as suspect, and indeed harmful, dangerous, etc.

Someone or something determines absolutes, or there are none. On what basis are these things decided, and by whom?

That Farris Presented Adequate Evidence (Victims, Moral Failure, Poor Exegesis) 

Farris does not “present evidence.” He only infers victim reports (which I addressed in my original post as unusable as they are not themselves specified, extracted, studied, and validated in any way) with absolutely no clear information about who, what, how or why such harm has been done. It is interesting that the school for which he serves as chancellor has discounted sexual attacks which have much more specific details, and yet he doesn’t suggest that this school shut down.

To say that either Phillips or Gothard has a “poorly exegeted belief system” is simply opinion until a time when it is clearly argued and demonstrated to be so. This would also seem to require reasonable proof that the person doing so has a demonstrably solid and provable belief system as well. Farris has done neither.

As with my previous point above, this amounts to name-calling or empty accusation without evidence. There is none presented in the Farris article regarding what or why either man’s belief system is the result of poor exegesis. It is a horrible article because of this. Had Farris argued from that angle (a great place to start), then he could proceed on to show why various beliefs that either man held were wrong based upon a provably solid hermeneutic. He does not establish the men’s failures in their studies, so he cannot fairly label them as such (though many readily grab the labels and run with them).

Leaders fall. As I mentioned in some fashion in my original article, no group or belief system would stand if judged by moral failures within, regardless of the group. What makes this group different? (And it really isn’t a single group in any fashion, but rather a various interpretations that are similar but may or may not have anything whatsoever to do with the men Farris calls out.)

Further, Farris has not in any way connected what was taught with the presumed sins of these men. I am all for evaluating the teachings of anyone, and it should happen constantly, not just after moral failure. However, to suggest that, for example, Phillips’ teaching led him to have some sort of immoral relationship needs to be substantiated, Farris has done no such thing. There is a large group of people that hold to such traditional views who have not fallen as Phillips has fallen. Do they count for any evidence to the contrary? Why does one fallen leader who holds to a view make suspect an entire body of disconnected people who hold to the same views?

Regardless of the number of women who have come forward for Gothard (I know little about the accusations, but apparently they were not in the same realm as Phillips’ accusations), teachings and principles need evaluated. Gothard impacted people for years, and what I have been exposed to wasn’t harmful or dangerous (having a clear conscience, etc.). I did not like his hermeneutic (or lack thereof) but I wouldn’t call any of his teachings that I ever heard “dangerous” or “harmful.”

That Farris Accurately and Adequately Presented the Patriarchal View

Farris does quote from a small segment of a very large Vision Forum document. The document, though, is not an explanation of beliefs but a summary of them. That is not, therefore, a good source. You can find out what they believe from such a document, but you cannot understand fully why they believe it without further explanation. The verses at the end of each statement are just related verses which cannot be understood until the presenter explains how they related to the summary they are listed under. (We have the same kind of thing in our belief statement at our church.) How can one effectively argue against a summary paragraph and label it as dangerous? (And Farris does not argue against it.)

Farris states that the Laban passage (was it Gen 28?) was the primary Biblical citation to prove the point. That is false. The passage is simply listed below the summary, along with four other Biblical references in English canonical order. Farris is arguing against a summary rather than an explanation, and he gets it all wrong. He needed to find a full detailed explanation as a source instead of arguing from ignorance. Until one hears their explanation of the passages, they are drawing from a very limited source.

The entire argument of Farris is built upon the false premise that somehow this passage is the primary proof of this particular view:

It is a fundamental error of scriptural interpretation to assume that one narrative passage reveals a normative rule that we should all follow. In this same story, we see Laban embracing bigamy, selling his daughter in exchange for labor, and even resorting to sexual trickery. If we believe that one fact in this story reveals a universal rule from God, then all of the facts in this story should create such rules as well. Obviously, it is nonsense to use Laban’s treatment of his daughters to create universal norms. While the story may have lessons for us, the decisions of Laban are not universal commands from God.
The paragraph above the reference Farris argues against does not indicate that it is a normative rule that we should follow. The summary paragraph doesn’t explain the passage at all. That is my point. He needs better ammo before he chooses to fire. His logic is applied to a wrong premise.

I believe the next Biblical reference under that summary paragraph was Numbers 30. That passage would probably be the “primary Biblical citation” if Farris were to actually research or ask. It proceeds to define a father’s responsibility over an unmarried daughter regarding vows she might make until she is married, and once married the husband assumes that responsibility. That, to some, does indeed support the principle of staying under the protective care of one’s father until marriage – giving only two scenarios apart from being divorced. (I assume you’ve read the passage, but if not, at least look at it.) I am not arguing for or against the view. There is Biblical basis that leads some people to believe such a practice. Is it fair to let people believe such things without labeling them as extreme or harmful? Do people have the religious freedom to be Amish? To be atheist? (I hear that’s harmful…) Why not this?

That Farris Is Simply Saying Opinions Should Not Be Taught as Essential Truths

Any beliefs can probably be classified as opinions by others. Embracing absolutes really fall into another realm, don’t they? If one believes that the Bible defines gender roles and responsibilities by virtue of creation (God’s design), I might take that as an absolute, whereas someone else with an egalitarian view would not. People would approach the same passage with two completely different approaches. Regardless of which (if either) is accurate, is it fair to label one as harmful or dangerous and the other not? (I would guess that both sides might label the other view “harmful” or “dangerous” when pressed because of the ramifications of the views on many other things affected by one’s view.) Thus “God ordained” and “essential” is really somewhat subjective also. Whether they are “elevated to the same level of orthodox essentials” probably isn’t the point. If they feel the Bible teaches something, it is important to follow. It then goes back to engaging people in their views and arguing for or against the premises and proofs rather than labeling them in some way.

Marriage has been such an issue. Some could care less who you marry or if you marry at all. Others believe that marriage is specifically defined as one man and one woman, and even though that does not save someone, it is nonetheless nonnegotiable. If someone holds to any belief at that level, it is more than just an opinion from their perspective (whether others agree or not).

If we have a right to our own opinions, we should at least allow others to have those same rights. Determining what is “essential” is really what someone needs to be persuaded in his or her own mind, not by someone else.

That Farris Was Wrong to Wait, But Was Right to Call Out Men's Teachings

From what I understand, some were pressuring Farris from Patrick Henry College to denounce these leaders because of their strong affiliation with them in the past. I believe HSLDA and the college would have been better served in denouncing the men’s sins (even tentatively at the outset, since they didn’t know all the details), rather than their teachings. That’s for others to address (churches, pastors, individuals).

The role of the HSLDA has been much broader. They could just say that “We have a very broad group in the home school community which we serve. We will seek to make wise choices about advertising and affiliation, but we will continue to seek freedom for all homeschoolers. We encourage people to diligently study the Bible, and follow their convictions.”

That Farris Had to Do This Because Organizations Lack Good Accountability

I do not think that “it has to come to this” because organizations are independent and autonomous. The accountability has to be fought on a scale of ideas and arguments, not labels and shallow accusations.

The Farris article has done no one any favors. HSLDA and Farris have been harmed. The homeschooling movement as a whole has been harmed. Homeschoolers that hold to a more patriarchal view are now considered “harmful” (even though such views have been the norm until the last century).

Farris has only given the public policy makers quotable snippets from an “expert” (who spoke out of his realm of expertise) to use against anyone who schools their children at home. (Homeschooling is seen by some as harmful; this will make it even more so.)

I honestly think the homeschooling movement in general is one of the few remaining movements that resists the anti-Christian, evolution-based neo-education of the increasingly atheistic government (and I went to public school, but in a very, very different era). Firing a volley at others in one's own defense line is unthinkable, but now, reality.