Russell and Duenes

Archive for February 2014

Nothing Can Destroy a Government More Quickly

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I was doing some research today and came across this statement by former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis:

Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example…. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law into himself; it invites anarchy. State v. Martinez, 165 P.3d 1050, 1057 (Kan. App. 2007).

Indeed, as Justice Clark said in Mapp v. OhioNothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws, or worse, its disregard of the charter of its own existence.

Few phrases better describe what the Obama Administration, and many State Attorneys General are doing. President Obama, Eric Holder and their willing surrogates have become regular “lawbreakers,” breeding contempt for the law, by failing to observe the laws the people have duly enacted. Of course no government can truly enforce all of its laws, particularly when the number of laws has multiplied exponentially as ours have. Yet there is a difference between failing to enforce all laws because it is an impossible task, and willfully deciding not to enforce laws with which one happens to disagree.

These leaders decide which parts of laws, and which entire laws, they will and will not enforce based on their own political and personal whims. And they do so with proud and brazen face. They arrogate to themselves the prerogatives of dictators and autocrats who are a law unto themselves. Many States Attorney Generals are conducting themselves similarly, no doubt emboldened by the lawlessness of Mr. Holder, who encourages such behavior. They say to the people whom they ostensibly serve: “Go take a flying leap!” Thus, the laws they have sworn by a solemn oath to uphold and defend, they trash and negate in their contempt.

Therefore, I took our Supreme Court’s words above as a cautionary tale, and wonder if Justice Clark wasn’t correct in his assessment that “nothing can destroy a government more quickly” then heaping contempt on one’s own laws in the way we are now doing.

-D

 

Written by Michael Duenes

February 26, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Posted in Duenes, Government

Michael Sams Will Be, Indeed, Must Be, Drafted

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It’s always interesting to see people getting caught in the tangle of their own unbiblical standards. As Douglas Wilson likes to say when it comes to standards: “Not whether, but which.” As human beings, we will have standards, and they will either be God’s standards, and will therefore cause us to flourish, or they will be ungodly standards, which will lead to human stumbling.

Which brings me to the Michael Sams story. We’ve been served up constant cultural bromides to the effect that we need to not only accept homosexual behavior, but to approve and celebrate it. Prior to the upcoming NFL draft, Michael Sams “came out” as gay, and this was inexorably followed by public figures and media types reminding us what a celebratory story Sams has.

But then today I heard a sports radio talkshow host interviewing an NFL insider about Sam’s football abilities, which apparently are not quite as good as we had been led to believe. Indeed, according to the gentleman being interviewed, there are some NFL front offices that believe Sams might not be good enough to be drafted. And this presents quite a conundrum, which the sports talkshow host himself saw, namely: What kind of hit will the NFL take should Sams not be drafted? The host said that because Sams came out as gay, if he’s not drafted, it’s likely the NFL will have a PR problem on its hands. Moreover, he went on to say that if Sam’s draft stock goes down far enough, people will say he was not drafted higher due to NFL front office anti-gay bigotry. Thus, the guy being interviewed said straight out: “Sams is going to be drafted.” The clear implication was, someone simply must draft Sams . . . or else.

So the NFL, along with every other sports league and most other public cultural and governmental institutions, demands that people celebrate homosexual behavior. And in the NFL’s case, the demand for approval may further demand that a team draft a player it might not want to draft, lest the league appear, well, not properly celebratory. That is, Sams’ coming out virtually assured that any explanations of his lack of football ability will not be believed, and will be taken instead as evidence of anti-gay sentiment in the league.

And if anyone thinks this kind of coercion is, or will be, restricted to the NFL, I think they have their eyes closed to reality. The standard is being imposed, and the NFL may not like it, but they are now bound by it. That may not be a big deal, in one sense. It’s only a sports league. But standards that do not come from God, and that are in rebellion against God, as this one is, ultimately catch us in their net, and have ways of subverting the good we hoped to gain by our standards. As Jesus once said: “Wisdom is proved right by all her children.”

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

February 25, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Was Jesus Guilty of Bibliolatry?

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Some people seem to think that there’s a real danger today of “bibliolatry” in evangelical Christendom. In other words, we should be clear that Jesus himself is central to our faith, and he is the one we must worship, not the Bible, lest we be like the Pharisees, who knew every word of Scripture, but missed Jesus himself. The words in the Bible must not be exalted above knowing Christ. But was the Pharisees’ problem that they held the Scriptures in too high a regard? Do we miss Jesus when we put ponder and puzzle over the Scriptures at great length, and bank on its total truthfulness, infallibility and inerrancy? De we commit “bibliolatry?”  And then I wondered, if evangelicals can be guilty of “bibliolatry” today, if they can somehow worship the Bible itself, would Jesus himself be guilty of bibliolatry based on whatever criteria modern accusers are using? I would think so.

When Jesus was attempting to repel the devil, he said, “It is written…It is written…It is written.” His answers were Scripture and only Scripture. Jesus said that “until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of the pen shall by any means disappear from the Law until everything accomplished.” Then comes the kicker: “Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” When Jesus cleansed the leper, he immediately sent him do what “Moses commanded” in the law. When John the Baptist asks whether Jesus is the One, Jesus responds by alluding to Isaiah 61. Jesus explains who John the Baptist is by quoting Scripture. Jesus describes his own ministry by analogy to Jonah in the fish and the Queen of Sheba coming to hear Solomon. When Jesus is explaining the truth about marriage and divorce, he explains it almost entirely in reference to Genesis 1. He speaks to the Rich, Young Ruler in terms of the Ten Commandments.

When we get to Holy Week, the week of Jesus suffering and death, we see him using the Scriptures quite frequently to make his points. The Temple has become a “den of robbers,” (Jeremiah), praise is ordained from the mouths of infants and children, (Psalms), Jesus portrays himself as the stone which the builders rejected, (Psalms), Jesus explains the resurrection by God’s words to Moses at the burning bush, (Exodus), Jesus conveys the most important thing by quoting the Scriptures which say we are to love God above all else and love our neighbor as ourselves, (Deuteronomy, Leviticus), and Jesus explains his own lordship based on God exalting David’s Lord to God’s right hand (Psalms). One could certainly go on to multiply examples.

Indeed, Jesus said that the Scriptures cannot be broken, (John 10:35), and he also said that it was the Scriptures that testified about him (John 5:39). I can think of no place in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John where Jesus explicitly says, or even implies, that one could read the Scriptures too much, meditate on them too much, think about them too carefully, puzzle over them for too long, revere them too highly, or somehow set them in tension with knowing God. If Jesus said that not one jot or tittle of God’s law could be set aside, then he agrees with Moses when he says: “These words [of God] are no trifle for you, but they are your life.”

The Pharisees and Scribes were not condemned by Jesus for exalting the Scripture to an unwarranted height, or for “bibliolatry.” Rather, Jesus charged them with failing to understand and apply the Scriptures they studied so diligently. They did not heed the Scriptures, even though they read them. That is why Jesus said to them: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life.” If you stop reading right there, you might think that the religious leaders’ searching of the Scriptures was the problem. But read on: “[I]t is these [Scriptures] that testify about me, and you are unwilling to come to me so that you may have eternal life.” Going to the Scriptures wasn’t the problem. Not allowing the Scriptures to take them to Jesus in humble repentance and faith, that was the problem. They did not listen to Scripture.

Jesus was Scripture-saturated. He quoted it extensively in his speech, alluded to it ubiquitously, and based almost everything he said off of the Scriptures’ teachings. I can’t see how, if he were an average Joe evangelical today, he would escape being called a “bibliolater” by some. Yet there is really no way of knowing the person of Jesus Christ, nor his saving work in history, without reading the Bible first. The Bible must be read as the very first spiritual move, otherwise the true knowledge of God is not even possible. So it’s false to pit a high reverence for the Bible against a high reverence for knowing Jesus. One comes with the other. That’s the way God has set it up. To my mind, there is absolutely no danger of “bibliolatry” in the evangelical church today. We suffer rather from the opposite problem, namely, a great neglect of our Bibles, given the importance we say that we place on them. Not only are the words of Scripture largely neglected and left unmemorized and unspoken in our day-to-day lives, but as Ken Myers says, we don’t even treat our physical Bibles very well. Perhaps we need not go the route of the Muslims and set our Bibles on a stand in the highest place in the house, nor kiss the Torah as it comes around each week as the orthodox Jews do in their synagogues. Yet I cannot believe we have nothing to learn from their practices. The Bible is precious beyond words. It is by far the most precious thing I own, and I need no encouragement to think less of it in any way, shape or form. Nor to think of it less.

Gordon Fee has a wonderful book entitled, Listening to the Spirit in the Text. I love that title, for it shows the true nature of the Scriptures. They are the authentic, reliable voice of the Spirit. When you read the Scriptures, you are listening to the Spirit of Jesus Christ, you are hearing Christ’s voice. If that’s true, then “bibliolatry” is largely a red herring. I’ll side with David, who said that the blessed man is the one who delights in God’s law and who meditates on it day and night. (Psalm 1:2).

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

February 15, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Under the Illusion that They’ve Read Origin of Species

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G.K. Chesterton aptly quipped: “[E]volution really is mistaken for explanation. It has the fatal quality of leaving on many minds the impression that they do understand it and everything else; just as many of them live under a sort of illusion that they have read the Origin of Species.” The video below – passed along to me by my esteemed colleague, Curt Russell – is a damning indictment of our educational system, but it’s also a spotlight on Romans 1, namely, that we don’t want to believe the truth. We suppress it so we can believe a lie, evidence be damned.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

February 6, 2014 at 11:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

With Whom God Desired Reconciliation

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“Still helpless”

“Ungodly”

“Still sinners”

“[Under] the wrath of God”

“Enemies [of God]”

These are words St. Paul uses to describe us in Romans 5. Yet in what context is he describing us? He is telling his readers that this is who you were when Christ died for you. This was our condition. As Jesus was going to the cross for us, He had in his heart and mind that he was going for people who were helpless in sin, ungodly, sinners, rightly under His Father’s wrath, and indeed, His enemies. Jesus was not giving up His life for good and righteous people. His love was inestimable to the point of giving up His own Son for rebellious enemies who were not only helpless to effect their own salvation, but had no interest in doing so. It is these people with whom God desired reconciliation, at a cost beyond measure. I thought this was worth pondering.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

February 4, 2014 at 9:38 am