Russell and Duenes

Archive for June 2013

Stand for God’s View of Marriage and You’re No Better Than a White Supremacist

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dysonHere you see the indictment with the gloves off. And it’s not going to be just about “gay marriage” as we go forward. For too long we’ve thought that Jesus was just whispering sweet nothings when He said that we would be insulted, reviled, persecuted and falsely slandered on account of Him and His gospel. Perhaps Professor Dyson’s views in the video below are simply the most egregious and shameless example of outright slander against what God has revealed, but I think we can already begin to see more of what it will cost God’s people when we articulate and defend the beauty and wonder of God’s truth.

And those Christians who think they can make themselves cozy and safe by supporting gay marriage but not also supporting every manner of homosexual behavior, well, let’s just say that they won’t be able to escape the “you’re as bad as the racists of old” tag either. So it’s either abandon God’s Word – which is already beginning to happen among “evangelicals” – or get ready for the ride. Further, it will be of no avail, as you can see, to point to Obama or Clinton or other supposedly “enlightened” celebrities who once believed that traditional marriage is the way to go. What it will require is Christians, including those who go on TV, saying, “God says that marriage is between a man and a woman, and God is Lord of all, He defines all things, He is the ground of all knowledge, and all judgment is His. His Word is the foundation for human flourishing. And if someone’s view is going to be imposed, which is inescapable in human affairs, then I side with God.” And then let that play out. I know that sounds unthinkable in our overweening secularism, and no one should doubt the amount of courage it will take. But what this does is shift the ground upon which the discussion will be had, and allows the Christian to frame the questions and issues, rather than the secularist. That’s right where we should want to be.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

June 30, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Gay Marriage, the Supremes, and the Supreme

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JusticeKennedyHeaven and earth may pass away, but My words will never pass away. – Our Lord Jesus Christ

May the Lord grant you courage and humility. – Vic Downing

“Hath God said?” That is the only question that matters in light of these recent Supreme Court decisions, and the answer that should resound in our ears and in our hearts, again and again is, indeed, “Thus saith the LORD!” I happened to be reading John Piper’s book, Finally Alive, the other night, and though he discusses the biblical doctrine of the “new birth” in Christ, his words cut straight to the heart of the Supreme Court decisions of this week. Piper lives everyday “seeking to bring my vagrant feelings into line with ultimate reality. My feelings are not God. God is God. My feelings do not define truth. God’s word defines truth . . . And sometimes – many times – my feelings are out of sync with the truth.” (p.165). This is the most important thing I can say in response to United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry.

God has spoken, and He has spoken with clarity. To borrow Jesus’ phrase, “the time is coming and now is” when those who would be Christ’s disciples must stand on, yea, must delight in the fact that God has spoken and that His Word is truth. (John 17:17). The eternal, unchanging, beautiful and true Word of God is being abandoned in droves in the Western Church, and the cultural pangs and groanings we are witnessing are a significant evidence of it. Yet this may ultimately be revealed as good news for the gospel, as Russell Moore believes.

God is clear that His Word “is no empty word for you, but it is your very life.” (Deut. 32:47). His law is perfect and His testimony is sure. (Ps. 19:7). His every word proves true, (Prov. 30:5), and is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. (Ps. 119:105). God’s Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword. (Heb. 4:12). Indeed, the words of Supreme Court justices blow away like dandelion spore, but the Word of the Lord remains forever. (1 Peter 1:25). Only God is wise. (Rom. 16:27). Only in Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col. 2:3). God alone teaches us knowledge. (Ps. 94:10). God alone is able to instruct sinners in the way and lead the humble in what is right. (Ps. 25:8). Mankind truly lives upon every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, (Matt. 4:4), even if in his rebellion he refuses to acknowledge it. In God’s light, we see light. (Ps. 36:9).

More specifically, God has spoken about marriage and sexuality. A cacophony of so-called “authorities” surrounds us, much of it coming from Christian circles, that somehow God has not spoken, or if He has, He has not been clear. Yet Jesus regularly said to his inquisitors, “Have you not read?” “What did Moses command you?” “Is it not written?” He assumed that His Word was understandable, that “applying our hearts unto His knowledge and hearing the words of the wise,” is the way to “know what is right and true.” (Prov. 22:17-21). The time has come to stop listening to those who would tell us that “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.” For it is simply not true. It would be beside the point even if it were true, since “all Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16). It does not matter if Paul or Peter or James of John said it. If it’s in Genesis through Revelation, our Triune God says it! God’s design for men and women in marriage is there for anyone who cares to see, and it is a beautiful design. Indeed, the gospel is suffused with God’s thoughts on marriage, and cannot really be appreciated in its fulness without marriage imagery.

God speaks in Ezekiel of His love relationship with His people, using the imagery of marriage. He says to Israel, His beloved, “When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine.” (Ezek. 16:8). God proclaims through Isaiah the prophet: “Your husband is your Maker, the LORD of hosts is His name.” (Isa. 54:5). God says to Israel that He will make a “new covenant” with them which will not be like the old covenant, a covenant which Israel broke, “though I was their Husband, declares the LORD.” (Jer.31:32). God calls Israel an “adulterous wife who receives strangers instead of her Husband.” (Ezek. 16:32).

God says that he will “betroth” His people to Himself forever, “in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.” (Hosea 2:19). God exclaims that “as a bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isa.62:5). Moreover, God says that marriage between a man and a woman images forth the relationship between Christ and His Church. (Eph. 5:21-33). Christ, as a Husband to His bride, the Church, “sanctifies her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” (Eph. 5:26). A man leaving his father and mother and joining himself with a wife “is a profound mystery” that “refers to Christ and the Church.” Indeed, in Revelation, the apostle John is shown a vision of “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” (21:9). The New Jerusalem comes “down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Rev. 21:2). God is clear about marriage, and just as clear that He is the inventor and author of it; and He has worked beautifully and mysteriously in creating it. It is a picture of the gospel, and we do well to live and speak this truth most especially in light of our times.

I begin with a recounting of God’s truth, for I take the current Supreme Court rulings on so-called “gay marriage” to be of a piece with a world, and much of a Christian world, that scoffs at God’s Word, casting it aside as irrelevant, quaint, un-hipster, embarrassing, and hateful, along with those who gladly give allegiance to it. Indeed, Justice Alito rightly said that the majority’s opinion in Windsor “would cast all those who cling to traditional beliefs about the nature of marriage in the role of bigots or superstitious fools.” Justices Kennedy, Kagan, Breyer, Sotomayor and Ginsburg said nothing that should shock anyone. What will this mean for God’s people? Will it mean that we, too, will feel embarrassed when and if our pastor preaches a sermon that tells the truth about marriage and sexuality? Will it mean that voicing one’s opinion about God’s truth in public forums will bring disciplinary consequences? Will it mean that promotion of homosexual sex and marriage will overrun the public schools in large parts of our nation? Should we just shut up and keep our heads down, as if that were going insulate us? I do not know for sure, but I suspect that the import of the Court’s words will be decidedly negative as it pertains to spiritual truth. Perhaps, as Russell Moore says, this will cause us to “repent of our pathetic marriage cultures within the church.” For as he further says, “Regardless of what happens with marriage, the gospel doesn’t need “family values” to flourish. In fact, it often thrives when it is in sharp contrast to the cultures around it.”

In terms of the Windsor and Hollingsworth themselves, anyone not living in a cave can hardly be unaware of Justice Kennedy’s denunciation of those who would stand against so-called “gay marriage.” His opinion is only further evidence that we are already in the midst of a generation who will increasingly find any articulation of God’s truth on marriage and sexuality to be on a par with uttering racial epithets. Justice Scalia, in dissent, says that “[b]y formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition.” Yet this “arms” not only those challenging state laws, but those who would seek to inflict personal, social and vocational punishment upon “narrow-minded” persons holding to a “traditional” view of marriage. In addition, the demeaning and disparaging views of homosexuality that Justice Kennedy says he finds in DOMA also demean those who want to marry Sally, Sue and Sandra all at the same time. Those polygamists too will not want to be tarred and branded as inferior, nor denied the “equal dignity” that polygamous marriage would afford them. It’s all about “liberty,” baby! Our vaunted “freedom of religion” will be no bulwark against the supposed “hatefulness” of Christians holding to God’s Word. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that we need such a bulwark. What we need is true love for God and His Word, we need preaching of repentance and faith, and we need a good dose of courage and humility. Nothing has changed in that.

Windsor and Hollingsworth tighten the general squeeze on religious truth and freedom in the United States. We have the Obama Administration deigning to tell us what counts as religion and what doesn’t so that it can require just about everyone to fund abortions through its HHS mandate. The Supreme Court, along with universities like Vanderbilt, has already told Christian groups on campus that they will have to open up their student leadership elections to anyone and everyone, no matter whether they worship Jesus or think he’s the devil, or be de-recognized and kicked off campus. See Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. We have people being sued, successfully, who refuse to do things such as photograph gay wedding ceremonies. (See here). And I reiterate that none of this surprises me, alarms me, or discourages me. It does not cause me to despair or become paralyzed. It also does not create indifference in me or a “live and let live” attitude. Nor does it make me think it is “loving” to just acquiesce to laws that enshrine as wonderful things that God despises. Rather, it throws me upon Christ and His Word. It causes me to see even more the beauty of Christ and the Church that is at the heart of marriage. It makes me want to see the power of the gospel in people’s lives, including my own. For love and healing cannot be divorced from truth.

Just to make this post even longer, a few final observations about the two cases. I was struck by the fact that the Court tortured itself to find jurisdiction which would permit it to hear the DOMA case, but then turned around in the Prop 8 case and told the 40 million Californians who voted for it, essentially, to go take a flying leap, you have no standing to bring suit. Justice Alito remarks on this in his dissent in Windsor. In other words, you Californians have absolutely no way of getting redress for the injury you have suffered by your political leader’s usurpations and arrogance in refusing to defend Prop 8, the very thing that California’s initiative process was to supposed to prevent, as Justice Kennedy’s dissent in Hollingsworth points out. As Hadley Arkes says, this is tantamount to giving state governors a pocket veto. Indeed, I think it spells the ultimate ruin for the initiative process in any states that have them. How hard is it for a complainant to find a sympathetic judge who will strike down a constitutional amendment such as Prop 8? Thus, the California citizens who wanted Prop 8 in the state Constitution can’t have it, and worse, are stuck with the shameful, travesty of a decision on Prop 8 handed down by Federal District Court Judge, Vaughn Walker; an opinion which Justice Alito properly castigated as “at times…reach[ing] the heights of parody.” I find this to be in keeping with the growing lawlessness we see in our politicos. It is getting rather brazen these days.

Speaking of lawlessness, I can’t help but regard the refusal of President Obama’s DOJ to defend DOMA as an example of such lawlessness. I thought the same thing when the Obama Administration made it clear that it would not enforce federal immigration statutes. There are times when it may be proper to defy the rulings of Congress or the Court in particular (see Lincoln’s refusal to enforce the order of Dred Scott v. Sanford), but the American people should be wary when the Executive, sworn to faithfully execute the laws of the United States, simply decides that it will defend or enforce some laws and not others. I try to imagine what kind of outrage we would be hearing were a President Romney to have said that his DOJ would not defend Obamacare against the many lawsuits against it. The horror! What may be worse is that the legislative branch, both of the U.S. and California, refuses to confront a president (Obama) or a governor (Schwartzenegger) who will not execute and defend duly enacted, constitutional laws such as DOMA and Prop 8. If Justice Scalia is right, and I think he is, that it’s not the courts that should decide issues between the Executive and Legislative branches, but rather a good “arm wrestle” between these two branches, then we seem to be in for future shenanigans and chicanery as more presidents and governors dare the legislature to confront them on their willy-nilly enforcement, or lack of it, of our laws.

Yet the upshot of all this is that I agree once again with Russell Moore: “It’s time for us to point beyond our family values and our culture wars to the cross of Christ as we say: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,'” and with Douglas Wilson: “If our way out were political, we can be (and have been) thwarted, out-spent, out-maneuvered, lied to, and betrayed. But if our way out is Jesus, not only do we have a sure and certain hope, but our adversaries have no hope at all.”

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

June 29, 2013 at 7:57 pm

DOMA/ Prop 8: I’ll Get To It!

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For my loyal readers – all four of you – I’ll have some thoughts on yesterday’s DOMA and Prop 8 Supreme Court decisions very soon. For integrity’s sake, I think I ought to at least attempt to digest the opinions before I say much about them. Much was swirling in my mind yesterday, but really, nothing that hasn’t been there for awhile. A couple of things strike me right off the bat, however, and perhaps I’ll develop them more. Namely, nothing in yesterday’s opinions changes one iota what I believe the church’s engagement should be on these issues, and my belief that an explicitly Christian education is what God wants for His people is stronger than ever. More to come.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

June 27, 2013 at 10:59 am

G.K. Chesterton: Man Does Not Evolve from Barbaric to Civilized

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The dawn of history reveals a humanity already civilised. ~ ch. 3, The Everlasting Man: “The Antiquity of Civilisation”

g-k-chesterton1Chesterton continues to give us a glimpse into “the creature called man,” and then into “the man called Christ.” Thus, he remains in his “sketch of the main adventure of the human race in so far as it remained heathen.” He is trying to put to rest the notion that mankind moves from a primitive, barbaric state to an “advanced” civilised one. According to Chesterton, what we find when we look at ancient ruins are not only civilisations, but perhaps civilisations “already old.” He chooses to focus on Egypt and Babylon, and then the Mediterranean world, as representative of ancient man’s civilized state.

First, Chesterton dispenses with the common myth that all primitive governments were “despotic and tyrannical.” Indeed, they may have been despotic, but all signs point rather to despotism and tyranny cropping up in more advanced societies, even “tired democracies.” He writes: “As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep.” People often stand aghast at Nazi Germany, wondering how such an advanced and highly educated society could embrace such barbarism. I can’t help but think that Chesterton has gotten at something of it in his analysis here, and it is interesting to ponder what Chesterton might have thought of Europe in the 1930s and 40s, had he lived that long. At any rate, Chesterton concludes that “[i]t is far more probable that a primitive society was something like a pure democracy,” for “[d]emocracy is a thing which is always breaking down through the complexity of civilisation.” This is certainly my read on what is going on in the U.S. right now.

Chesterton says that it is nothing but pretension to suppose that we can “trace everything in a consistent course from the amoeba to the anthropoid and from the anthropoid to the agnostic.” What we find instead is that barbarism and civilisation “existed side-by-side,” as they continue to do today. There are nomads today who apparently like their nomadism and desire to retain it; and there were non-nomads back then, who equally liked their stationary status. “The chronological rearrangement of” the nomad and the farmer, as though one evolved inexorably into the other, “is but a mark of that mania for progressive stages that has largely falsified history.”

Further, Chesterton seeks to put the lie to the notion that religious people are backward and primitive, always obscurantist and resisting change and “progress.” He quips: “[A] politician once told me in debate that I was resisting modern reforms exactly as some ancient priest probably resisted the discovery of wheels. I pointed out, in reply, that it was far more likely that the ancient priest made the discovery of the wheels. It is overwhelmingly probable that the ancient priest had a great deal to do with the discovery of the art of writing.” Chesterton’s argument here cannot be made often enough. Modern man likes to act as if the society and technological advances upon which he lives somehow burst onto the scene through an exalted humanism released from the shackles of the superstition that is religion. All hail, Renaissance Man, for bequeathing us all that is good, or so we’re told.

It’s also interesting to note how Chesterton’s thinking here applies to our supposed understanding of Muslim terrorists, they all being “stone age,” “backward,” and jealous of our modern life. They are angry at us because our “advanced,” secular, nihilistic, technocratic societies “work.” Indeed, the West prospers, unlike the Old-Testament-like barbarian societies within Islamic fundamentalism. The claim is, as Chesterton puts it, “the vulgar assumption that terrorism can only come at the beginning and cannot come at the end” of civilisation. They “hate us” because we’re at “the end” and they are “at the beginning,” or so the trope goes. Yet I wonder how “stone aged” those men were who hijacked our airliners on 9/11. Did they believe they had to strike at us because we are civilisationally superior to them? Did they foreswear all modern accoutrements? Moreover, it is an open question whether the supposedly “tolerant, liberal, democratic, advanced” society has the virility to endure the onslaught of those more “primitive” societies of which religious fundamentalists are supposedly a part. Indeed, Chesterton ponders whether the enslavement of other human beings which is no doubt coming in the future (protestations of slavery’s extinction in “the West” notwithstanding) might be a good deal worse that the slaveries of the past.

From Egypt and Babylon, Chesterton moves on the juggernaut of the Mediterranean world, noting that “[i]f the world becomes pagan and perishes, the last man left alive would do well to quote the Iliad and die.” Yet the apex comes from one place in particular, which “shone like the shield of Hector, defying Asia and Africa; till the light of a new day was loosened, with the rushing of the eagles and the coming of the name; the name that came like a thunderclap when the world woke to Rome.”

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

June 23, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Public Schools: I’m Not Qualified to Teach My Children

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school busAnother argument often given in favor of sending one’s children to public schools is that the teachers have training in education. The public schools have many dedicated, gifted, bright, equipped and motivated teachers and staff, and the reality is, there are many parents who are not equipped to teach their children advanced subjects such as Algebra II, Chemistry, Physics, Spanish, and World History.

Let’s dispense with the “trained” part from the start. Education programs are boondoggles for universities and “for profit” outfits like the University of Phoenix. I would wager that most of the “training” that goes on there is actually detrimental. To take an egregious example, the New York Times, great champion of government schools that it is, had an op-ed piece from 2006 (The Fog of ‘Math Wars’) where the author was lauding George W. Bush of all people. Things have to get pretty bad over there for that to happen. So what happened? Some bright-minded “educators” decided that something called “constructivist math” would be a good idea. In other words, dispense with the good-old memorization of times tables for something more “fun” and “engaging.” Yet as the piece puts it, some of the townspeople “were gradually waking up to the fact that their kids, educated in a constructivist or ‘inquiry’ program, which emphasized pupils’ ‘constructing their own knowledge’ rather than learning math formulas or computational rules, were unable, by junior high school, to make change at McDonald’s or multiply two-digit numbers.” Further, the teachers “dismissed parents’ complaints about the curriculum” because, well, it was “working.” Turns out, what was really working was parents supplementing with good-old memorization at home.

Are there good things that can be gained from education programs? Sure, as with everything else. But again, the best teachers did not become the best because of “teacher training.” Further, any kind of training that your local teacher can acquire is also available to any parent or private school teacher who cares to learn about teaching methods. Moreover, I taught at a private school and virtually everything I learned that worked came from sources other than “training.” Much of it came from common sense, consideration of the nature of human beings, trial and error, and talking with others. And I don’t think I was half-bad (and my colleague here, R, is virtually no-bad, and he also didn’t come out of an “education program”).

But still you say, “What about chemistry?” Keep in mind that I am not making an argument for homeschooling. I’m making an argument that public schools should be put to the curb. This can be accomplished by supplanting them with privatized education. Give us our tax money back, let schools compete, and my guess is, you’ll have even better teachers. Many people who would be phenomenal teachers do not become teachers. There are many reasons for this, but I think John Taylor Gatto hits on a main one when he says, “school staffs, both line and management, are involved in a guild system; in that ancient form of association [where]  no single member is allowed to outperform any other member, is allowed to advertise or is allowed to introduce new technology or improvise without the advance consent of the guild. Violation of these precepts is severely sanctioned – as Marva Collins, Jaime Escalante and a large number of once-brilliant teachers found out.” He should know. He was three times NYC teacher of the year and once New York State teacher of the State.

Further, homeschooling does not run by some ironclad law that says, “Thou, and thou alone shalt teach thy children all subjects at every grade level.” Most of these run as co-ops and by the time your kid gets to calculus, he can handle it at the local junior college, his worldview largely formed. Further, the well hidden secret, from John Taylor Gatto again, is that “[i]t only takes about 50 contact hours to transmit basic literacy and math skills well enough that kids can be self-teachers from then on. The cry for ‘basic skills’ practice is a smokescreen behind which schools pre-empt the time of children for twelve years and teach them the six lessons I’ve just taught you.” (If you want the “six lessons,” read here). Of course there are parents who are not equipped to teach their children, but I cannot imagine this is true for any parent with even a modicum of college education from anywhere. So we’re talking about a very small group of parents, and even some of them can teach their children perfectly well during the elementary grades, which are so important for forming one’s worldview.

The point is, I am not capping on gifted, competent, motivated teachers in the public schools. I am simply saying that such teachers could do just as well in a privatized system, and in such a system, we’d get even better ones. I am also saying that most kids can learn at an appropriate pace with a lot less “classroom” time than they get in public schools. Let’s be frank, half of “classroom time” is makework time, while the teacher attends to 5 of her 35 students who really need help. I’d estimate that when I was teaching high school, out of a 45 minute class period, only about 15-20 minutes of it was of any pedagogical quality, seeing as I had to take role and get kids settled down from their break, get their minds out of the class they just came from, and deal with their checking out 5-7 minutes before the bell rang. In addition, we are in a position to utilize a lot more tutoring than we do, should it be needed, and churches could really help here, particularly ones with hopping youth groups. Much more could be said, but I’ll leave it at this for now.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

June 20, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Posted in Duenes, Education