Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Pro-religious liberty protesters arrested for praying outside White House

From Life Site News. (H/T Mommy Life via Mary)

Excerpt:

Six pro-life activists, including one Catholic priest, were arrested this morning in front of the White House while holding a peaceful prayer vigil in protest against the Obama administration’s birth control mandate. They were released shortly thereafter, after paying a $100 fine.

Fr. Denis Wilde, the Associate Director of Priests for Life, told LifeSiteNews that by their arrests the protesters hoped to send a “wake-up call” to President Obama that opposition to his mandate is not going away.

The six were arrested on a charge of “disobeying a lawful order.” The priest explained that while it is legal to hold protests in front of the White House, protesters are not allowed to remain stationary, including if they kneel down and pray.

“Occupy Wall Street protesters have been occupying federal property for months, but when we kneel in prayer, the police are called in and we are arrested,” Father Wilde said. “We knew that was the risk when we gathered today, and we will do it again regardless of the risk. What people of faith – of every faith – need to do now is stand with us.”

My previous story on Obama’s war on religion is here: The Becket Fund assesses Obama’s “compromise” on the contraception mandate.

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The Becket Fund assesses Obama’s “compromise” on the contraception mandate

Eric Metaxas shared this on Facebook, so here it is.

Full text:

Facing a political firestorm, President Obama today announced his intent to make changes to a controversial rule that would require religious institutions, in violation of their conscience, to pay for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs. But this “compromise” is an exercise in obfuscation, not a good faith effort to solve the problem. Thousands of churches, religious organizations, businesses, individuals, and others will still be forced to violate their religious beliefs.

For example, the fake compromise will not help the Becket Fund’s clients Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, Colorado Christian University, and Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), a Catholic media organization. They will still be forced to pay for insurance that provides contraceptive coverage. The White House’s claim that “the insurance companies will pay for it” is silly. For-profit insurance companies aren’t going to donate contraceptives and abortion drugs to employees; the employer will pay for it one way or the other. More fundamentally, the Becket Fund’s clients still face the same chilling dilemma they did yesterday: choosing between helping their employees buy immoral abortion drugs or paying huge fines.

“This is a false ‘compromise’ designed to protect the President’s re-election chances, not to protect the right of conscience,” says Hannah Smith, Senior Legal Counsel for The Becket Fund. “No one should be fooled by what amounts to an accounting gimmick. Religious employers will still have to violate their religious convictions or pay heavy annual fines to the IRS.”

According to a White House “fact sheet,” some religious employers will no longer be required to provide insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs; coverage for those services will instead be provided for free directly by insurance companies. This does not protect anyone’s conscience. First, the problem is helping employees get abortion drugs, not the cost of providing those drugs. Since providing insurance benefits would still help employees get insurance, religious employers still have to choose between providing health benefits that help employees get abortion drugs, and paying annual fines. Second, thousands of religious organizations self insure, meaning that they will be forced to pay directly for these services in violation of their religious beliefs. Third, it is unclear which religious organizations are permitted to claim the new exemption, and whether it will extend to for-profit organizations, individuals, or non-denominational organizations.

“It is especially telling that the details of this fake ‘compromise’ will likely not be announced until after the election,” said Smith. “Religious freedom is not a political football to be kicked around in an election-year. Rather than providing full protection for the right of conscience, President Obama has made a cynical political play that is the antithesis of ‘hope and change.’”

My previous post in which I chastised the Roman Catholic bishops for supporting Obamacare is here.

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Obama revises contraception mandate but Catholic groups still pay for abortion drugs

Life News explains.

Excerpt:

The Obama administration has revised its controversial mandate that had forced religious employers to pay for health insurance coverage that includes birth control and drugs like Plan B, the morning after pill, and ella that can cause abortions.

Responding to a firestorm of opposition from pro-life organizations, Catholics groups and even some Democrats, the Obama administration has revised the mandate in a way that pro-life advocates are saying is even worse.

The revised Obama mandate will make religious groups contract with insurers to offer birth control and the potentially abortion-causing drugs to women at no cost. The revised mandate will have religious employers refer women to their insurance company for coverage that still violates their moral and religious beliefs. Under this plan, every insurance company will be obligated to provide coverage at no cost.

Essentially, religious groups will still be mandated to offer plans that cover both birth control and the ella abortion drug.

According to Obama administration officials on a conference call this morning, a woman’s insurance company “will be required to reach out directly and offer her contraceptive care free of charge. The religious institutions will not have to pay for it.”

The birth control and abortion-causing drugs will simply be “part of the bundle of services that all insurance companies are required to offer,” White House officials said.

“We are actually more comfortable having the insurance industry offer and market this to women than religious institutions,” the White House said on the conference call LifeNews listened to because they “understand how contraception works” and it “makes sense financially.”

[...]Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan told LifeNews in response to the revised mandate that it violates the right to religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

“This ObamaCare rule still tramples on Americans’ First Amendment right to freedom of religion. It’s a fig leaf, not a compromise. Whether they are affiliated with a church or not, employers will still be forced to pay an insurance company for coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs,” he said. “This is not just a problem for church-affiliated hospitals and charities. Under these rules, a small business owner with religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs and contraception must either violate his religious beliefs or violate the law.”

“The liberal Obama administration thinks its political goals trump the religious faith of American citizens. That isn’t right, fair, or constitutional,” he said.

The abortions will still be paid for by the religious groups. They are going to pay for the drugs through medical insurance premiums. So religious organizations are still being forced to provide abortions for their workers.

Who is to blame for this? I blame Catholic bishops. Catholic bishops do believe in socialism. They do want a secular government to take money from religious people. And they do want government to hand out medical care to people, instead of letting individuals, businesses and charities provide health care.

Rick Santorum agrees with me on this.

Consider this interview with Rick Santorum in which he reacts Obama’s health care mandate.

Excerpt:

HH: Now I want to talk to you about two substantive issues, Senator Santorum. The first are these new regulations from the Obama administration. I read the letter from Archbishop Olmstead of Phoenix on the air. Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles has written a new article in First Things. It’s shocking, actually, what’s going on. Should this be a centerpiece of whoever the nominee’s campaign is?

RS: I talked about it in every speech I’ve given today. And here’s what I said, though, Hugh. I said that I took issue with the Catholic Bishops Conference, because Hugh, you may remember, they embraced Obamacare.

HH: Yes.

RS: They embraced it and said…here’s what I said to them. Be careful when you have government saying that they can give you rights, that you have a right to health care, and government’s going to give you something, because once you are now dependant on government, they, not only can they take that right away, they can tell you how to exercise that right, and you can either like it or not. And that’s the problem. That’s what the Catholic Bishops Conference didn’t get, that there’s no free lunch here, folks. If you’re going to give people secular power, then they’re going to use it in a secular fashion. And that’s why, you know, I hate to say it, but you know, you had it coming. And it’s time to wake up and realize that government isn’t the answer to the social ills. It’s people of faith, and it’s families, and it’s communities, and it’s charities that need to do this as it has in America so successfully for so long.

HH: Rick Santorum, what do you advise Catholic hospitals, Catholic colleges, Catholic…the centers of poverty assistance, the adoption agencies? What do you advise them to do in the face of, as Archbishop Olmstead said, we cannot comply with this unjust law?

RS: Civil disobedience. This will not stand. There’s no way they can make this stand. The Supreme Court, eventually, this thing’s going to get to the Supreme Court just like the ministerial hiring issue that was just decided by the Supreme Court the other day. And it was a 9-0 decision that said the Obama administration can’t roll over people of faith when it comes to hiring. Yet in the face of that decision, this radical, secular government of Barack Obama continues to have faith be the least important of the 1st Amendment. And I just think they fight. They fight in the courts, and they fight by civil disobedience, and go to war with the federal government over this one.

Evangelical protestants feel comfortable with Catholics like Rick Santorum. He gets it. If the bishops are wrong on socialized medicine and wrong on the death penalty and wrong on other things, then so much the worse for the bishops.

Obama did very well with Catholics in 2008 even though Obama is the most pro-abortion president in the history of the United States. Catholics tend to be more liberal on economic issues than evangelicals, which is why many of them voted for Obama. Evangelicals oppose economic liberalism, because they oppose government taking tax money from workers in order to provide services for other people aren’t trying to be self-sufficient. Evangelicals oppose increasing the dependence of individuals on a secular government. Evangelicals don’t want a secular government to take money from individuals and then use it to push secular leftist ideas like global warming, Darwinism and sex education in government run institutions, e.g. – public schools, public broadcasting, etc. Evangelicals trust individuals to care for the poor, and they don’t want to make it too easy for people to make reckless decisions and then get a check in the mail or a free abortion.

What causes this difference between Catholics and evangelicals? Evangelicals believe in salvation through grace ALONE through faith ALONE in Christ ALONE. Evangelicals put the emphasis on what you believe – it has to be true in order to please God. Catholics, just like Mormons, Jews and other religions, emphasize good works as a requirement for salvation. Many Catholics also support inclusivism, which is the view that you can be saved in other religions like Judaism and Islam. This means that for these Catholics, specific Christian doctrines are not essential for salvation, so long as you have sincerity and good works. On the other hand, evangelicals are exclusivists who emphasize the need for each person to arrive at true beliefs about God in order to be saved, and good works are just natural outworkings of their beliefs.

Evangelicals emphasize the responsibility of the individual to discover truth with their Bibles, reasoning, science and history. This belief in individual responsibility carries over into their approach to charity. Evangelicals believe individuals are responsible for deciding what to do about charity – you earn your own money and then you choose yourself how to share with others. But the responsibility to give away money wisely is an individual responsibility – you share your money in a way that is consistent with your beliefs. Evangelicals don’t generally accept the idea of handing money off to someone else and letting them decide what to do with it. We think that everything is our responsibility, starting with Bible study and theology, and going on through to economics and politics.

And this emphasis on individuals over big government has this effect:

(Source)

Note that this chart puts evangelicals together with born-again Christians. But evangelical Christians differ from born-again Christians, because they are firm on exclusive salvation and evangelism. Evangelicals like to study so that they can discuss their beliefs in public, using reasons and evidence to persuade others. A born-again Christian does not have that same emphasis on study and persuasion, because they don’t focus on evangelism. So, if you separate out the born-agains from that 26%, number for Obama support, then you are likely to get a much lower number for evangelicals who support Obama. We don’t like health care mandates covering abortion. Evangelicals are used to having to puzzle things out for themselves – so they puzzled out what Obama believed and then they voted against him.

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A closer look at the Christian doctrines of guilt and forgiveness

This is from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives web site.

Excerpt:

It is a critical mistake to try to eliminate feelings of guilt without dealing with the root cause of guilt. No matter how often someone says “you have nothing to feel guilty about” to someone who has sinned against God and others, his guilt feelings will remain. Why? Because he knows better. Only by a denial of reality can he avoid guilt feelings. But such a denial is inherently unhealthy. It sets him up for emotional collapse whenever something reminds him of the sin. People need a permanent solution to their guilt problem, a solution based on reality, not denial or pretense.

Because it offers a solution to the guilt problem found nowhere else, I will quote from the Bible and cite references to specific biblical books, chapters and verses. This way you may look up these verses in a Bible yourself and think about them on your own.

Because of Christ’s death on our behalf, forgiveness is available to all.

The word “gospel” means “good news.” The good news is that God loves you, and desires to freely forgive you for all your sins, no matter how ugly or destructive. But before the good news can be appreciated we must know the bad news. The bad news is that there is true moral guilt, that all of us are guilty of many moral offenses against God. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The Hebrew word for sin means literally “to miss the mark.” Sin is falling short of God’s holy standards. Sin separates us from a relationship with God (Isaiah 59:2). Sin deceives us and makes us think that wrong is right and right is wrong (Proverbs 14:12). The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Jesus Christ is the Son of God who loved us so much that he became a member of the human race to deliver us from our sin problem (John 3:16). He came to identify with us in our humanity and our weakness, but did so without being tainted by our own sin, self-deception and moral failings (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15-16). Jesus died on the cross as the only one worthy to pay the penalty for our sins that was demanded by the holiness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Being God, and being all-powerful, he rose from the grave, defeating sin and conquering death (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 54-57).

When Christ died on the cross for us, he said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The Greek word (teleo) translated “it is finished” was commonly written across certificates of debt when they were canceled. It meant “Paid in Full.” Christ died so that the certificate of debt consisting of all our sins could once and for all be marked, “Paid in Full.”

Here’s an article from CARM that talks about feeling guilty after getting forgiveness.

Excerpt:

There is an important lesson you need to learn about forgiveness that begins with understanding two things:  justification and sanctification.  Justification is God’s legal declaration upon a sinner in which the sinner is declared righteous in God’s sight; this is also known as salvation.  Sanctification is God working in the Christian, through the Holy Spirit, to make the Christian more like Christ.  Justification is instantaneous; sanctification lasts a lifetime.  Justification is easy because we receive it by faith (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8).  Sanctification is difficult because it is something we do in cooperation with God as He works in our hearts daily.  If we are not very sanctified in our actions, thoughts, and words, we are still justified; we are still saved because of Jesus.  Justification does not depend upon our sanctification.  In other words, our salvation is not dependent on our works in any way.  Justification (salvation) is based upon what Jesus did.  Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24).  Jesus paid for our sins, all of them.  They are gone because He removed them.  It is all because of Jesus and what He did, and not because of what we have done.  Praise be to Him.

Now, I have a question for you.  Can you earn your salvation or do anything at all to merit forgiveness from God?  No, of course not.  That is why salvation is by faith, and not by works or faith and works.  If you did not get your salvation by your works, then you do not keep it by your works, either.  In other words, you do not keep your salvation by doing good or by suffering for your sins so that you might, somehow, be made good enough to be with God.  It can never happen!

Finally, here is the point.  Some Christians, after they have committed a sin, punish themselves by retaining the guilt of their sin and do not receive the full forgiveness of Christ until they have put themselves through enough suffering that they have then “earned” the right to be forgiven.  Of course, this isn’t the intention of holding on to guilt, but sometimes it’s the underlying reason.  It is a danger because it is nothing more than trying to earn the forgiveness of God through our works; in this case, through suffering.  This is an insult to the cross of Christ.

Now, I am not saying that we should never feel guilty for doing something wrong.  I am saying that you should confess your sins and be forgiven (1 John 1:9).  Once confessed and forgiven, it is wrong to harbor the feelings of guilt as a way to punish yourself so that afterwards you might feel you’ve done enough to “feel” good enough to have fellowship with God.  That is what’s wrong, and it is sin.  If that is what you are doing, then you need to realize that God does not require you to pay for your sins through feeling guilty.  He has already paid the full price.  Your part is to humbly and truly confess your sin to the Lord, turn from it, and leave it.  By looking to Jesus and what He has done, you can let the guilt and the guilty feelings fall away from you.  Put your eyes on Jesus.  Praise Him for His great love and forgiveness, and continue in your walk of sanctification.  Lay it all before the cross.

I think the key thing to look for when you are asking for forgiveness is that you have to be sure that what you did really was wrong, based on the Scripture, whether it worked out for you or not. If you do something that the Bible forbids, then there is no excuse for what you did. No desire that you have allows you to sin. No noble purpose you have allows you to sin. No unfair condition allows you to sin. No imagined success or hope of victory allows you to sin. No failure of anyone else allows you to sin. Either you sinned or you didn’t. If you think you didn’t sin then you’re not needing forgiveness, and you don’t have it. If you think you did sin, then you can get forgiveness if you ask Jesus for it, and if you know that he is able to give forgiveness to you.

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Jeffrey Simon on Calvinism, free will and moral responsibility

I spent some time last night chatting with some of my readers on Facebook, and Jeffrey Simon was one. He wrote this essay on Calvinism versus Molinism which I thought was good enough to post. I am in agreement with Jeffrey on this issue, BUT I did include some debates featuring Calvinist James White at the bottom of the post. I just wanted to present an excerpt from his essay that makes a point that I thought would get lots of responses from Calvinists. Jeffrey is quite aggressive.

The essay is here, but you have to be his friend in order to see it.

Excerpt:

When harmonizing man’s perspective and God’s perspective, the Calvinist embraces what is known as theological fatalism.  They redefine free will and embrace compatibilism.  Essentially compatibilism says that determinism and free will are compatible, hence the name compatibilism.  In the same way that the wind blowing causes the trees to move, our desires and environment produce an effect which would be our action.  When we make a decision, we could not have chosen otherwise.  The Calvinist likes to say that we choose according to our greatest desire.  This would explain how God is in control of everything and more specifically our salvation.  How does God ensure the salvation of certain individuals? He changes their desires so they will freely choose Him.  This brings up an objection though.  If God desires that all are saved (1 Tim 2.4) and does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Eze. 33.11) and God “can save all whom He chooses to save”, then why are not all saved?  The Calvinist responds by making a distinction in God’s will.  While it is God’s revealed will and desire [thelo] that all men are saved, it is not His decreed will [boulomai] that all will be saved.  Essentially, God desires that all are saved and has a general love for the reprobate, but He has predestined them to Hell because His will [boulomai] trumps His desires [thelo].  Within Calvinism, there is a smaller section that claims regeneration logically precedes faith.  Because we are “dead” in our sin, we must be made alive or regenerated before believing.  How can a dead man believe and make himself alive?  In the same way that Lazarus was commanded to be raised from physical death, we are commanded to be made alive (through regeneration) from our spiritual death.

In my estimation, the main problem with Calvinism is that it embraces a causally deterministic system.  How can we freely make decisions yet God determined them for us?  It is not a mystery, but rather a contradiction.  In fact, at this point Calvinists are in agreement with naturalists because nearly all naturalists embrace compatibilism or determinism due to the fact that naturalism implies physicalism or materialism.  Now, imagine reading through the Bible with the idea that free will does not exist.  It is rather dizzying to imagine such a thing!  Dr.  William Lane Craig sums it up nicely when he says,

”Universal, divine, causal determinism cannot offer a coherent interpretation of Scripture. The classical Reformed divines recognized this. They acknowledge that the reconciliation of Scriptural texts affirming human freedom and contingency with Scriptural texts affirming divine sovereignty is inscrutable. D. A. Carson identifies nine streams of texts affirming human freedom: (1) People face a multitude of divine exhortations and commands, (2) people are said to obey, believe, and choose God, (3) people sin and rebel against God, (4) people’s sins are judged by God, (5) people are tested by God, (6) people receive divine rewards, (7) the elect are responsible to respond to God’s initiative, (8) prayers are not mere showpieces scripted by God, and (9) God literally pleads with sinners to repent and be saved (Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspectives in Tension, pp. 18-22). These passages rule out a deterministic understanding of divine providence, which would preclude human freedom” (The Only Wise God).

If God has determined our every thought and action, yet those nine things hold true, then it turns the Bible into a charade.  How can anything be expected of us if we can’t make decisions?  In response to this, the Calvinist may say “so what”.  It may violate our fallen sense of justice, but God can do as “He pleases and no one can hold back His hand or say to Him: ‘What have You done?’” (Dan 4.35).  God can determine us to do immoral things and hold us responsible because He is God.  In fact, in the Book of Acts when Peter and John are talking about Christ’s crucifixion, they say that God “anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever His hand and His purpose predestined to occur.” Even though God predestined them to crucify Christ, they were held responsible.  While this is possible it surely does not seem plausible.  Turning to the book of Judges, for example, we would find ourselves asking why God determined Israel’s rebellion so many times.  One only has to retort, so God is the author of evil, then?  If I were to pick up a stick and use it to move a rock, what moved the rock? Technically the stick moved the rock; however, no one would say that.  I moved the rock by picking up the stick and using it.  It is no different with God.  Surely those men crucified Christ, but it was really God behind the scenes.  This intrudes upon the holiness of God because He cannot stand sin (Psalm 5.4) and cannot even tempt man (Jas 1.13) yet alone causally determine evil.  Continuing, let’s take this causally deterministic system and God’s will as described by Calvinists to its logical conclusion.  First of all, as I just mentioned, the biggest problem is that God becomes the author of evil.  Second of all, there can be no “well-meant offer” of the Gospel to all persons if God has determined their destruction in hell.  In regards to God’s will, a better way, I think, to understand it would be that while God desires all men to be saved, His will is to save those who believe.  This does well with texts that say that God desires that all men are saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11) (and it also does not make God look hypocritical).  There are numerous texts where God exhorts people to believe, yet they reject Him.  For example, in Isaiah 5 God is disappointed with Israel because of their continuous sin and He asks what more could He have done for them.  God had provided all the means for godly living, yet Israel rejected Him.  Why would God waste His time with people whom He predestined to Hell and had no chance of salvation?  Also, if it’s God’s “secret” will to save some and damn some, then how can anyone know about it?

Is there anyone on the Calvinist side reading this who can explain how people can be responsible for sinning if they have no way to avoid it? I am not sure if a person can be responsible in that case because the only way that they can not sin is if God does something, and he chooses not to do it. It’s like giving a person a final exam but locking them out of the classroom all semester long.

Actually, I can see how that might actually be offensive to atheists, as in this debate between William Lane Craig and Edwin Curley of U of Michigan Ann Arbor.

Probably the best way to settle this is with debates. But I think that the only Calvinist who has debated on this issue is James White. So I put his debates below. I don’t think that famous Calvinists like Mark Dricoll and even Wayne Grudem defend Calvinism in formal public debates. Can anyone point out any debates that I may have missed? I want formal debates with good scholars on either side so I can make sure that my mind was made up based on evidence.

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