Theological Debates on Facebook- Are They Profitable?

I’d like to ask a question—can profitable discussion on a theological issue actually happen on Facebook?

I had an experience recently where someone took offense because they felt I was commenting too much on their theologically oriented wall post.  But the determination of “too much” was based on his purely subjective notion of how much commenting on his post was appropriate.  Now I’ll admit — after he posted a critique of a theological “meme” (i.e., statement) I was quite dogged in asking him to provide the reasoning behind his several assertions about it.   He declined to do so, which of course, is his prerogative.  On the other hand, it was also my prerogative to continue to comment and engage with others in the discussion, which is what I did.  But this seemed to disturb him.

I chose to comment on this particular post because it touched on God’s sovereignty, a theological issue I think extremely important and practical for believers. In declining to respond to my request for explanation of his argument, one reason he gave is that Facebook is not a conducive forum (for intelligent debate).

Well,  in one sense he may be right.  The Facebook feed comes at you with many random streams of data.  Perhaps for many of us the experience of being in FB is like watching TV while flipping through channels– one is just looking for passive, mindless entertainment.  Yet we can choose to focus our attention, can’t we, even while in Facebook?

Now it’s true Facebook discussions can be utterly worthless and a waste of time when the participants simply talk past one another.  We see this all the time.  But, especially among Christians talking theology, I don’t see why civil, gracious, intelligent, even fruitful discussion may not occur, if we actually take time to hear one another out and respectfully present our arguments.   Of course, because Christians are sinful human beings, discussion may devolve from noble passion to fleshly, ignoble heat.  Yet as long as folks refrain from personal attacks, imputation of bad motives, and maintain focus on the issues at hand,  giving each other some grace, I think discussions can stay on track.  We may even learn from them.

I have been involved in debates both good and bad.  In bad ones (and for me these seem to occur more often on Facebook) folks seem impatient with the process of discussion/argument itself– thus they neglect thoughtful responses and are very reactive (I’ve been guilty of this myself, as I’m sure many of us have).   Also it seems some want to state their opinion just as a soundbite (perhaps related to the ephemeral nature of Facebook?), but are not  prepared (nor seemingly interested) to defend their view/opinion against possible objections.

I’ve also participated in more interesting and productive online theological “debates” (over at the Theologica forum, for example).  I believe the difference between good and bad theological discussions relates in part to whether participants are confident enough in their own position to open the floor to debate and allow various sides to present their respective cases.  Sure, maybe 9 times out of 10, such debates end with folks remaining firmly convinced of the truth of their own original position, but at least those participating and/or “listening in” can examine the reasoning and arguments of all the positions and form their own conclusions.  In this way, I think such dialogue may be beneficial. Also, when one has to defend one’s position, it challenges you to think more deeply on it, if only to be able to articulate the reasons for one’s stand and to answer objections.  This can surely sharpen one’s thinking.  Debate isn’t necessarily bad (as some tend to think); if handled well, it can be educational, even edifying.  Though not necessarily easy, I think fruitful theological debate is do-able.  It’s a shame we don’t often achieve it.

Going back to my recent experience, again I own up to the fact that I was very insistent on continuing the discussion even after the originator of the post said he did not want to engage further with me.  I was so eager to make a persuasive case that Gods’ sovereignty is a crucial, foundational and practical truth in the believer’s life, one that can help us even as we try to make sense of all the bad and evil things that happen in a fallen world.   So I pressed on in the discussion, with the thought I would interact with others who were also commenting.  Was continuing like this a breach of commenting etiquette?  I don’t know.  But I would also ask, if one is not interested in the give and take required for a theological dialogue to be productive and/or educational, then why initiate a discussion in a public forum?

Thoughts?

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Bible Reading Plans: ReformingChristianity.com Resources

At the beginning of the a new year,  many Christians will want to challenge themselves to read through the Bible.  Why?  Because we understand that regular intake of God’s word is critical to developing our relationship with God, and to our daily vitality as believers.  Through the Bible, God speaks His truth to us by His Spirit.  We come to know who God (Jesus) is more and more, and this strengthens our faith in Him, which helps us believe and act upon the truth that living for Him brings us into an abundant life full of purpose, meaning and blessing.  The Bible imparts supernatural wisdom, its truths challenging and correcting us, convicting and conforming our hearts and minds to His will, teaching us to think and act in accordance with God’s ways. Yet, it is a spiritual battle to read the Word and to stay in it– our natural selves resist spiritual food, and the world’s distractions and spiritual forces of darkness also conspire to keep one from reading the Word.

But we are truly blessed these days to have so many free resources and tools we can use to help us in our goal of Bible reading.  At my ReformingChristianity resources site I’ve collected many different Bible reading plans, all designed to help one read through the Bible, in part or in whole, according to some kind of schedule.  Using one of these plans, you might choose to read and/or listen to the Bible everyday online; or you could download and print out a plan to guide you in your daily “offline” reading.  You could have the reading plan sent to you by email.  Many plans may be done via your mobile phone.

Classic reading plans (e.g., “M’cheyne“) have been used successfully by many for years to read through the entire Bible, and are typically designed to have one read from different sections of Scripture each day, a few chapters a day.  There are also “partial Bible” reading plans (e.g., just New Testament, or Proverbs and Psalms).  There are plans to take you through the Bible in historical order, or in just 6 months, or according to different topics.  There is even a site that lets you design your own customized reading plan.  You’ll find all these variations and more, at my resources site.

If you’re like me, so many choices may actually be too much of a good thing– you may get paralyzed just trying to decide which plan to use!  But I would suggest you not overthink the decision; simply choose a plan that is easy and practical and suits your style.   If you like to read from your print Bible, print out a plan and mark readings completed as you go.   If you like to read and listen on the go, download an app like YouVersion or BibleGateway for your cell phone or tablet.

Whichever plan you choose, do try to pick a plan that will help you read all of Scripture, not just your favorite parts, for we know all Scripture is inspired. All of the Bible therefore contains something of importance God wants to communicate to us.  Also, I think plans which allow one to read through entire books of the Bible may be better than those which have you reading from different parts each day, because you may be able to better grasp the thought of the book you’re reading if not distracted with reading from many other books simultaneously.  On the other hand, some may find it more interesting (and therefore be better able to stick with it) if they read from different books.

If you lapse in your reading and miss a day or two (or more), don’t fret too much– simply pick up where you left off.  Don’t be overly perfectionistic (as I tend to be) and feel if you’ve missed a few days you have to start all over, or that you’ve failed totally.  The important thing is, we’re reading so we may connect with God through His Word on a regular basis and thus deepen in love and devotion to Him. He in turn blesses us with His fellowship, His peace, His joy and His power, as we walk with Him and obey the truths we learning.

Another factor that may be helpful for consistency is accountability– tell a friend you’re reading through the Bible and ask them to pray for you, and check up on you.  Many of the web-based and mobile apps include this helpful “social” component.

What Bible reading plan do you currently use?  Is it online, offline, mobile?  Do you have someone helping you with it?  How’s it going?

May the Lord bless all those who seek to meet with Him faithfully through reading His Word.

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Too Fat to Be the Next President?

Chris Christie

Governor Chris Christie is getting a lot of press lately and it seems much of the focus is on his weight (he’s a big guy–probably well over 300 pounds).   Since he’s also a rising star in the Republican party and there’s speculation he may run for President in 2016, folks are wondering whether his weight could be problematic if he does decide to run in 2016.  I have somewhat mixed thoughts on the topic.

  1. We ought not assume that people who are overweight are necessarily so simply because they choose to be– some have underlying physical conditions that predispose them towards gaining weight. Christie claims to be the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seenStatistically, it may be that being overweight isn’t as dangerous as it’s cracked up to be.
  2. On the other hand, being overweight can reflect a certain lack of discipline or overindulgence in regard to food consumption, which may reflect on the person’s character.  Scripture speaks of gluttony as a sin (Proverbs 23:20-21, Proverbs 28:7, Proverbs 23:2).  Being over-indulgent in eating may reflect a certain lack of self-control in other areas. If voting for Christie, one must decide just how much “weight” to give the fact of his being overweight.
  3. But if Chris Christie does his job effectively and his political philosophy is one a voter agrees with, maybe the question of his being overweight is not so weighty.
  4. Since we live in free country, if the guy wants to eat a lot, it’s none of our business. If one thinks it will affect his ability to govern well, don’t vote for him.
  5. Some think a fat guy has little chance of getting elected for President in our visually obsessed society, but again, if can do the job well, perhaps that factor ought to be given the most heft.
  6. Maybe a fat president is just what we need to help us as a society not be so utterly obsessed with physical appearance.  Maybe the country will get tired of being scolded by the health police about what we eat and our weight.  Electing Christie could send the message– “I’m free, lay off”.  If Michelle Obama wants to encourage people to be fit that’s fine, but in the end, it’s our choice.
  7. I really like that he told a doctor to shut up.

I have a strong feeling that if he did make a run for President in 2016, he’d probably lose a few pounds for the campaign.  What do you think about Christie’s weight and possible Presidential aspirations?

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Mr. President, You’re Fired! Obamacare, the Lousy Economy and Benghazigate

Every recent US Presidential election has been deemed a critical one– but the stakes in this election are indeed exceedingly high and portentous for the future of America. Why? Because when President Obama came into power he said he was doing so with the intention of “fundamentally transforming” America.  Many thought he meant this merely in regard to the way politics is done in America, that he would somehow operate in bipartisan fashion (which he utterly failed to do). But over these past 4 years Obama has shown us exactly what he means by “transforming America” — he is in the process of creating a government state that will have increasing power over Americans and their liberty.  He has started America down the road to socialism with Obamacare.  In the process, he failed to deliver on his promises to turn around the economy and to become a unifying rather than a dividing figure.  In addition, the Obama Administration’s response to the September 11 attack that killed our Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave American men serving in Libya has been, not only a great tragedy, but symbolic of the failure of Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East.  President Obama’s handling of the situation demonstrates his lack of trustworthiness as a leader and a lack of fitness to be America’s Commander-in-Chief.  Thus, there are at least 3 important reasons we need to fire President Obama:  Obamacare, the terrible economic recovery, and the “Benghazigate” cover-up.

Obamacare

It is true that Obama came into power in the midst of a very deep recession, but with a resounding Democratic victory, he had lots of political capital to spend.  He chose to spend this capital by focusing his energy on radical reformation of the healthcare system during his first two years in office, rather than focusing on job creation.  His Administration’s signature achievement, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, was an unpopular bill that most Americans were against and which received zero votes from Republicans. A 2,700 page monstrosity of rules and regulations, Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said we’d have to pass it to know what’s in it. Needless to say, the legislation was not posted at a website for public comment as Obama promised all his legislation would be.  Instead it was pushed through in the most partisan fashion, when the opportunity (a 60 seat Democratic Senate majority) presented itself.

Obamacare is the symbol of this Administration’s way of doing things and of its political philosophy. When this Administration doesn’t agree with a law or policy,  it circumvents it by non-enforcement.  On issues such as gay rights, drug enforcement, Internet gambling, school achievement standards, immigration, defense of marriage, and welfare reform, “the administration has chosen to achieve its goals by a method best described as passive-aggressive”, reports Steve Friess.  This bypassing of established law sets a dangerous precedent for the executive branch of government.  Yet such a methodology fits an Administration that operates according to the philosophy that government always knows what’s best for the country, and that usually includes more government.

For Obama, the answer to poverty, the answer to a poor economy, the answer to education, etc. is inevitably increased government spending via more government programs.  Again, Obamacare symbolizes this– it imposed an unconstitutional mandate that forces Americans to buy insurance from the government, or pay a fine, in the form of a tax. Not only is this system a serious blow against freedom, but according to some studies it won’t improve health care nor reduce costs.  As Ann Coulter has argued, is government involvement really going to improve upon the private sector’s efficiency?  Obamacare is wrong for America- not just because critics advise that it will ultimately increase costs and reduce consumer choice, but because of the political philosophy it represents–  we-know-what’s-best-for-you government as the primary solution to societal ills, which leads to creation of huge, expensive and inefficient bureaucracies that dangerously concentrate power in government. Is Obamacare what America really needed in the midst of trying to emerge from a crippling recession? When he did turn his attention to the economy,  President Obama got what he requested–a $700 billion dollar stimulus package– yet this failed to turn around the economy, which continues at record levels of unemployment and anemic growth.  Adding Obamacare to our nation’s struggling economy was certainly not what the doctor ordered.

So President Obama gave us a healthcare program we didn’t ask for, all the while failing to deliver on his promises to dramatically turn around the economy and be a uniting rather than a dividing figure as President.  Amazingly, with broken promises and failed policies as his record, President Obama says to us now, “we’ve come too far to turn back now”!  Yes, we agree, we have gone too far down this road of failure.  Still, Obama without shame asks America to give him 4 more years to continue his fundamental “transformation” of our free country into one more dependent on government.

The Ailing Economy

While campaigning Obama in July 2008, Presidential candidate Obama said that adding $4 trillion in debt was “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic.” Obama was referring to the $3.764 trillion that had been added to the national debt during the seven and one-half years Bush had been president. Obama of course got his facts wrong when he falsely claimed President Bush increased the national debt by $4 trillion “by his lonesome.” When Speaker Pelosi took over Congress on January 3, 2007, the national debt was $8.7 trillion. So the Democrats must get some of the credit for one of the four trillion dollars candidate Obama tried to blame on Bush.

But as President, Obama has added in just four years an additional five and a half trillion dollars to the national debt!  Is President Obama now pointing the finger at himself as both irresponsible and unpatriotic?  No, but he’s still blaming the Bush years for the manifold failures to improve the economy that have happened under his watch:

  • 23 million Americans still unemployed
  • 43 straight months of 8 percent unemployment
  • Current unemployment at 7.8% same as when Obama took office
  • Household income down by about $4,000 dollars or -5%
  • 15 million more on food stamps
  • US credit rating downgraded for 1st time ever
  • 2011 budget increased total welfare spending to $953 billion, a 42 percent increase over welfare spending in 2008.
  • Through September 2012  job growth averaged 139,000 per month vs. an average monthly gain of 153,000 in 2011.  Job growth is decelerating.
  • Persons in poverty increased by 6.4 million
  • Gas prices are up 106%

To be fair, there are a few signs of growth in the economy under President Obama.  The stock market has rebounded, and consumer confidence index has risen to 86%, from 37.7 % from when he took office. We’re not losing jobs at the pace we previously were and have begun adding jobs.  Still, the pace of the recovery has been exceedingly slow under Obama’s economic policies — job growth is not keeping pace with population growth.  Comparing Obama’s recovery to both the Reagan and the Bush recoveries in a similar 29 month span, theirs created more jobs than Obama.  In addition, by this point in the Reagan and Bush job recoveries, the unemployment rate was 7.2% and 4.9% respectively, compared to Obama’s average of around 8%.

Of course, arguments about which economic policies work best are always contentious.  Competing experts tout statistics which support their opposing arguments.  The economy is a complex topic, so a healthy debate on this and other issues is most welcome.  Yet political discussion has become more and more a negative enterprise.  President Obama has betrayed his promise to rise above the partisan fray and has diminished the office of the Presidency with the tenor of his re-election campaign.   Of course, there is guilt on both sides, with all the highly negative ads and the strident tone of so much of the political conversation.  Nevertheless, Obama campaigned as a President who promised to be better than this kind of politics, yet has run a campaign chock full of petty attacks (“Big Bird, Binders and Bayonets”) .  He calls Mitt Romney a liar at every opportunity, even using crass language (BS’er) in an interview with Rolling Stones to do so.  A recent ad compares voting for Obama with being de-virginized.  Obama has not disavowed it.  Through it all, Obama claims Romney is not a man to be trusted, but points to himself as a man who can be trusted.  We must beg to differ. Which brings us to Benghazigate.

Benghazigate

On the anniversary of September 11, our Libyan embassy was overtaken by hundreds of well-armed men who in the course of obliterating the embassy by burning it down, brutally murdered 4 Americans on what is considered sovereign American soil.  Despite the President’s closing campaign pitch as the man who can be trusted because he “means what he says”, evidence is mounting daily that President Obama and his Administration have been, and are now engaged, in a most serious cover-up of these tragic events in Libya that took the lives of four brave men: US Ambassador Chris Stevens, Former Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Dougherty, and U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith.  It is becoming apparent that although the Administration had ample forewarning of dangers in Libya  they failed to provide the mission with adequate security, denying the additional security measures the mission had requested prior to the attack.  They also apparently withheld available military aid during the attack (see the following articles for detailed reporting that supports these statements: Cable Shows Benghazi Consulate Not Prepared for Coordinated Attack, New Bombshells Rock Benghazi Scandal, Unfolding Benghazi Disaster Destroying American Confidence, The Obama Doctrine: American Lives Are Expendable, Behind the Benghazi Cover-up, Why Obama Chose to Let Them Die in Benghazi). This is horrific, and if true, the President and his team have much to answer for. One report claims “Ambassador Stevens was engaged in smuggling sizable quantities of Libyan arms from the destroyed Gaddafi regime to the Syrian rebels, to help overthrow the Assad regime in Syria.”

Whatever the true story, the Administration has not been forthcoming in providing details. How has the Administration responded to inquiries thus far?  First, they presented for weeks a phony narrative of a video being somehow behind the attack, and now, they’re stonewalling (until the election is safely past) claiming an investigation must first be completed in order to get to the bottom of what happened and answer the many pressing questions of the American people.

During the 2nd presidential debate, Obama used a clever word game to trip up his opponent.  Romney was attempting to point out the Obama Administration’s many days of delay before they definitively labeled the Libyan attacks as terrorism.  But Obama knew he had used the phrase “acts of terror” in his initial Rose Garden remarks about the embassy attacks, and used this fact to score a cheap debate point.

Obama implied that in his initial Rose Garden statement he was saying that he knew the Libyan attacks were terrorism from the beginning, when in fact he knew full well that his team spent the next two weeks following the Rose Garden remarks specifically denying the acts were terrorism!

Even debate moderator Candy Crowley, who in effect handed Obama a win on this point by interjecting herself into the debate, voiced her agreement with Romney on the latter.

In any case, if indeed President Obama was calling the acts terrorism in the Rose Garden, the Administration becomes all the more culpable, because they then have no excuse for the media campaign they conducted in the days that followed in which they emphatically denied these acts were terrorism, and instead continually pushed a narrative of a video protest gone wrong.  It was not until Sept 20, nine days after the attack, that Obama’s WH press secretary Carney stated that the Libyan attacks were a “self-evident” terrorist attack.  In these remarks, Carney acknowledged (contrary to the President’s debate insinuation) that the Administration had NOT called the Libyan acts terrorism prior to his statement.  But even as the Administration finally acknowledged these Libyan acts as terrorism, Carney still did not fully abandon the prior narrative, saying, “We do not have any specific intelligence that there was significant advanced planning or coordination for this attack.”  So here we have the Administration for the 1st time acknowledging that the acts in Libya were terrorism, yet at the same time still pressing the idea that these terrorist acts were somehow unplanned and uncoordinated.

Since much of the mainstream media has not given priority to this important but politically damaging story, it is not unreasonable to conclude they harbor bias towards re-election of President Obama.  But now, as even mainstream stations such as CBS, CNN and ABC  begin covering this story, I’m convinced the truth is going to emerge, even if only post-election.  The President owes the American people a full explanation of what happened in Libya– why these brave men died under his watch. The evidence gathered thus far indicts President Obama as, at best, guilty of gross incompetence and negligence, and at worst, guilty of calculated political coldness that was willing to let these brave Americans die.

Friends and fellow Americans, I believe President Obama has shown by both his actions and the governing philosophy behind them that he is not the man many thought they were electing.  He promised positive “hope and change”, fundamental transformation of business as usual in Washington, and transparency in government.  He made specific promises about where he thought the economy would be, if his stimulus was passed.  He has not delivered on any of the above.  Additionally he has shown a willingness to acts in ways that set a dangerous precedent for the executive branch of government by appointing unelected czars that wield incredible power, not enforcing laws he disagrees with and/or writing executive orders to work around them.  Obamacare seems to have been pushed through, not because Americans were clamoring for it, but because Obama and his team thought it was good policy and took advantage of a rare political opportunity to get it passed in partisan fashion.  Last but not least, President Obama and his team have misled the American people regarding the events that took place in Benghazi, apparently to protect their political interests.  This is not the kind of leadership America needs at this hour.  We need a leader who views America as great despite its flaws, one whose view of America is not so fundamentally negative that it feels compelled to essentially apologize for America’s ways.  As we can see from watching the news of our embassies under attack all over the world, this approach has not in fact earned the respect of our enemies around the world but has emboldened them to hate us and attack us all the more.

As a Christian, I also have other reasons for thinking Obama is not right for this country.  Perhaps I’ll share those reasons in my next post.  But for now I share with you the above thoughts and urge you to cast your vote for Mitt Romney for next President of the United States.  I commend the following articles to you for the positive case for supporting Mitt Romney:

The Case for Mitt Romney

Romney Is What the Country Needs Right Now

A Better Choice: The Case for Mitt Romney

Columbus Dispatch: The case for Romney

Bring in the turnaround expert: The case for Romney

And some helpful articles to help keep this all in proper perspective:

Won’t Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils?

Politics Is Not a Cure-All

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Filed under Election 2012, Political Issues

Romney’s Missed Chance on Libya

In the debate last night Governor Romney unfortunately seemed caught off guard by President Obama’s dramatically indignant, yet dishonest grandstanding towards the end of the debate, in which he yet again accused Romney of exploiting the Libyan situation for political gain. Now, it is not so easy to charge the President of the United States with deliberately lying to and misleading the American public.  Thus distracted by President Obama’s bold tactic, Romney seemed unable to follow through with a logical response to Obama’s statement.

Remember, Obama was now saying he had from the beginning described the events that killed Ambassador Stevens and three others as ‘acts of terror’; in other words, terrorism.  Romney’s response to this ought to have been that if Obama indeed thought this a terrorist attack from the beginning, apparently having received intelligence to that effect, why then did he and his Administration go out of its way to present an alternate, non-terrorist narrative of what happened?  Why did they for weeks, all over the media and even before the UN, claim the acts were not pre-planned but rather, the spontaneous, violent reaction of a mob to an offensive video made by a US citizen?

Here then, is what Romney could have said to President Obama during last night”s debate.

Mr. President, with all due respect, in the Rose Garden, when you used the phrase “acts of terror”, you implied that the attacks on the Libyan Embassy that left 4 Americans dead were indeed terrorism.  Everyone knows terrorism means a planned attack, not the spontaneous acts of a mob in response to a video. Why then did your Administration and you yourself, over the course of the following few weeks, keep explaining these events as violence in response to an offensive American-made video? Apparently you deemed the initial intelligence presented to you convincing enough to lead you to the conclusion that these were “acts of terror” and this in turn is what you presented to the American people.  But ‘acts of terror’ contradicts the narrative your administration strongly pushed in the days that followed, when it kept claiming that this seemed to be not terrorism at all but spontaneous acts in response to a video.  Your administration also said it could not be more conclusive about what happened until the results of its investigation were in.  Nevertheless from day one this Administration, as you just claimed, described these events as an ‘act of terror’. So you must have believed the intelligence info was good and accurate enough in order to make such a statement.  Indeed thus far your State Dept has corroborated the classification of these events as a planned terrorist attack, saying that from the start they knew this could have been nothing but terrorism, based on the nature of the events.  Thus it is becoming more and more apparent to the American people that this Administration, though it knew from the beginning that the attacks on the Libyan Embassy were terrorist in nature, have purposely misled the country about them.  It seems it was not politically expedient for a terrorist attack to kill 4 Americans on the anniversary of Sept 11 in the midst of re-election campaign.  This is a great tragedy.  So on behalf of my fellow Americans, especially on behalf of the families of the 4 brave men who died in service to this country, I ask you to stop obfuscating in an attempt to protect your bid for re-election, and give the American people the honest answers it deserves as quickly as possible.

Romney didn’t say this, but let’s hope the American people will hold President Obama accountable on these things.
But perhaps, as some are saying, Obama’s Rose Garden remarks about “acts of terror” were not meant to definitively categorize the Libyan attacks as an act of terrorism.  Yet Obama during last night’s debate was more than happy for his Rose Garden statement to be interpreted as him saying it was terrorism.  In any case, whether Obama was clear from the start that the Libyan attacks were terrorism, or not, what is clear is that his Administration had more than enough intelligence from the field to be able to categorize the acts as terrorism.  It is the height of hypocrisy for President Obama and his team to accuse Romney of politicizing the Libyan events, when it is for political motives that the Administration did not label these acts terrorism, when all along they knew better.

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Dr. Mohler hits the nail on the head: 2012 Election Analysis

Dr. Mohler hits the nail on the head with his #election analysis: The Great American Worldview Test The 2012 Election http://bit.ly/OcypJ1

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A Reformed Dude named Alex Jordan Sings “Yesterday” by Paul McCartney

A couple of nights back, I posted my video cover of Paul McCartney’s “I Will” (from the Beatles “White” Album.  Along with the video upload, I also wrote a little piece to say that Reformed people (like myself) are not necessarily terribly serious all the time.   There are many sides to us, just as there’s many aspects to most of us, but whether you’ll enjoy all the “sides” is determined by whose side you’re on, and also, by the size of your appetite.  Drum roll, hit the high hat.  OK, so Reformed folk try to be funny sometimes… doesn’t always work.

Anyway, so when I posted “I Will” a commenter said they loved “Scrambled Eggs”.  A rather strange comment, but knowing Beatles folklore I knew what they really meant is that they like Paul McCartney’s most famous song, “Yesterday (a tune whose working title, pre-lyric, was, you guessed it, “Scrambled Eggs”).  The comment seemed a coy, indirect way of saying, “please record and post “Yesterday”, reformed dude!”  I confirmed that indeed this is what they wanted, and since I really like the tune and I’m eager to please; also, I want to practice making videos of me singing covers; I have now recorded my version of Yesterday, again using my cell phone videocam.  This time, I did add a bit of effects to the video/audio to enhance the quality.  So without further delay and cutting short these somewhat silly verbal preliminaries, I present to you, “Yesterday”, sung by me, Alex Jordan, on my Taylor acoustic.

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A Reformed Dude Named Alex Jordan sings I Will by Paul McCartney

Readers of this blog who don’t know me too well probably think I’m very, very serious all the time, because I write on heavy topics like “hell”, I’m studying Reformed theology and seem to enjoy theological debates and quoting Scripture.   Well, I won’t deny that I have a serious side to my personality– we should be serious about serious topics!  But honestly, I’m really rather silly (when no one is looking) or at home, joking around with my wife (uh oh, this is sounding like Ann Romney’s speech last night about her husband Mitt Romney— how he’s so serious in public but in private makes her laugh all the time… it was a great speech, by the way).  Anyway, my wife could testify that I am quite the clown and that my humor is even a bit strange sometimes.

All that to say that I think sometimes we all get stereotyped because folks may know only one facet or aspect of one’s personality.  But all of us are more complex and interesting than that; we can’t be defined by just one thing.  And especially in the Internet age, you may be able to know something of what makes me tick from reading this blog, but of course this blog is just a public persona I present and of course doesn’t encapsulate who I am as a person.  On the other hand, I am trying to make this blog more reflective of my total personality, and I think reformed theology at its best is wholistic and tries to deal with man in his totality.  Anyway, here I am getting all serious again.

Today I want to share another side of myself– the musical side.  I am a Beatles music fan and to some that may seem out of place for one who professes to be a reformed Christian.  But I like the Beatles for their music.  I’m not following them in their philosophy, some of which I agree with and some of which I don’t.  I think talent is a gift from God, and I have always admired Paul McCartney’s way with a tune, which has inspired me in my own songwriting.  Anyway I have been meaning to post videos of songs (both original and covers), and keep procrastinating about it.  So tonight I just decided to record and post a quickie video of me singing Paul McCartney’s song “I Will”, from the Beatles’ White Album.  I recorded it using my Samsung Galaxy SII phone, and the results were not bad considering it’s just a phone.  For future videos I’ll be experimenting with better devices for recording both the audio and video, but right now, without further ado, may I present you my rendition of “I Will”.   Hope I “pass the audition”, as John L. once quipped.

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Filed under From Me to You, Original songs

Is Christ’s Death Sufficient to Pay for Sins? A Conversation Continued

A couple of days back, in a post titled Discriminating, Unfathomable, Precious Grace, I shared a theological conversation I have been having with someone from the Internet regarding hell, the Cross of Christ, and the nature of God’s grace.  Below, the conversation continues, since my friend wasn’t satisfied with the answers I have given him.  He writes,

Thanks for trying to answer, but you don’t see the logical inconsistency in your answer?

The penalty for sin is by definition paid by those who don’t repent – after all, those who repent have their penalty pardoned. So if Jesus was pardoned, he paid the penalty equivalent to those who repent, which is no penalty at all.

That means that Jesus didn’t pay the full penalty for sin that is and will be paid by sinners. In other words, he didn’t pay the price for sin, because if he did, he would still be in hell.

Corcoran, I will respond to what you wrote, point-by-point:

The penalty for sin is by definition paid by those who don’t repent

Do you mean by this that people who don’t have their sins atoned for by Christ must pay the penalty for their sins themselves?  If that’s what you mean, I agree.

… after all, those who repent have their penalty pardoned.

Yes, their penalty is pardoned through repentance, but only if by “repent” you mean that they place their trust and faith in what Jesus did for them at the Cross.  The repentance God requires is perfect obedience to His law, but no one except Jesus Christ ever achieved this. Repentance that saves is repentance that receives Jesus’ perfect record as one’s own, by faith.

So if Jesus was pardoned, he paid the penalty equivalent to those who repent, which is no penalty at all.

To say Jesus was “pardoned” is incorrect.   The Cross is the opposite of pardon— Jesus was punished there, for the sins of others, so that they might be pardoned through Him.  He achieved a pardon for sinners by paying their penalty. Contrary to what you seem to be saying, Jesus paid a penalty that was required because mere human repentance is imperfect and would never satisfy the demands of a perfectly righteous, holy God against sin and sinners.

That means that Jesus didn’t pay the full penalty for sin that is and will be paid by sinners. In other words, he didn’t pay the price for sin, because if he did, he would still be in hell.

No, the Bible teaches that He indeed pays the full penalty of sin for sinners who by faith appropriate what He did for them, but sinners who spurn and despise that salvation obviously won’t get the benefits of it, instead they will be punished by God for their disobedience.

Again the full price for all the sins of the elect (thereby giving the sinner eternal heaven in place of the eternal hell he deserved) was paid at the cross, for God chose to invest the action of Jesus Christ on the Cross with eternal authority, scope and power.  Therefore Jess does not need to “still be in hell”– I’m not even sure He went to hell at all in the sense you’re saying.  Certainly Scripture teaches that Jesus overcame the power of death and hell on behalf of many sinners, but whether He did this by actually going to hell is a matter of debate. If He did go to hell as part of this process, it was obviously for a few days only and Jesus did not have to remain there since He successfully accomplished the salvation of the sinners whom the Father gave Him and for whom He laid down His life.

You may find the above “logic” unsatisfying, but I think it’s what Scripture teaches.

Jesus pays the penalty for those who cannot repent in a satisfactory and complete way, because they are too sinful (Romans 3: 20, 23, 28; 4:13-14) to keep the law.  If anyone could have been justified with God by keeping the Law, there would have been no need for Jesus to sacrifice Himself on the Cross.  There is only one way for one’s sins to be paid for fully -to place one’s trust/faith in what Jesus did, seeing His death as something done for one’s personal sins. According to Scripture, not everyone will believe in this way, and those who do not will be condemned for not believing in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:18). That condemnation is hell, where sinners will have to face the wrath of God apart from the covering or forgiveness of sins offered through Jesus Christ.

It’s my aim not to win the argument here but to give God glory because He is the One who purposed to use the death of Christ to save many, and I think it is dangerous and irresponsible to deny Jesus’ urgent warnings about the hell to come.  I hope then that you and everyone who reads these comments will be persuaded, if you do not already believe, to trust in Christ Jesus’ death alone as the death that saves sinners, since as Scripture testifies whosoever believes in Him will be saved from the wrath to come, and will receive eternal life.

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Filed under Grace, The Cross, Theology

The Word of God and The Faith

What is the Bible– the Word of God or the word of men? If it’s God’s word then what it says has timeless relevance and application. Moreover God who wrote it through men intended it to speak to future generations, including our own. Did He not anticipate the fantastic number of cultural changes that would happen throughout the centuries? Peter describes the Word as prophecy that comes from God through men.  And Paul could write that there was “a faith” we need to know, pass on and defend. Obviously he thought that the content of the Christian faith– its essential message– could be defined and understood, both in his day and into the future.

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:16-21 ESV)

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:3-5 ESV).

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1 ESV)

They must hold the mystery of the faith with ma clear conscience (1 Timothy 3:9 ESV)

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving (Colossians 2:6-7 ESV)

O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you (1 Timothy 6:20-21 ESV)

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Filed under The Word of God, Theology