Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Pastor Matt: five books Christians should read to understand politics and public policy

I agree with this list by Pastor Matt.

About Pastor Matt:

Hello, my name is Matt and I am a book addict (i.e., well read, sophisticated, sad and lonely here is evidence).  But I want my sickness to help you.  I have been a political junkie since 1992 when I was recruited by my then Congressman to work for him. I then ran several campaigns including helping a businessman win a seat in the U.S. House in 1994.  I spent two years working in the House during the Gingrich years of 1995-1997.  I then attended seminary and law school but have remained a political and public policy junkie.  During this week’s political dust-ups, I read a lot of statements from Christians that qualify as “bumper sticker” logic at best.  So, for those interested, here are five books every Christian leader should read if they want to truly understand politics and public policy.

The list:

  1.  A Patriot’s History of the United States: From Columbus’s Great Discovery to the War on Terror by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen
  2. The Heritage Guide to the Constitution by Ed Meese, Ed. (Regnery 2005)
  3. Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell (Basic Books 2010)
  4. Politics According to the Bible by Wayne Grudem (Zondervan 2010)
  5. The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus (Crossway 2013)

I think it’s nice to see that pastor Wayne Grudem appears twice in the list. He has a PhD from Cambridge University and is the best theologian who writes books about economic and political issues. (Notice how I left room for Pastor Matt to be the best overall on economics and political issues!)

Here’s the detail on number three:

Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell (Basic Books 2010).  Most Christian leaders (and apparently most Americans) have a poor understanding of economics.  Most seem to believe wealth is fixed (it isn’t), incentives and effectiveness are secondary to fairness (they aren’t), etc. Sowell, a long time professor of economics who has taught at Cornell and UCLA, has penned a long but very reader friendly work that you should take chapter-by-chapter.

On this blog, I feature Thomas Sowell a lot. The good thing about him is that even if you can’t buy his book, you can read lots of his current events stuff for free. In fact, he wrote a great column recently explaining the government shutdown that I think everyone should read. You can also get great sermons on politics and public policy from Wayne Grudem’s “Essentials” class.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , ,

Is it good enough to quote the Bible when discussing public policy issues?

In a recent post, I stated my view that holding up signs with Bible verses on street corners was a foolish way to argue against homosexuality and legalizing same-sex marriage.

Marshal Art wrote this in response:

It might be much better to have scholarly spokesmen, but can we wait about until they show up, are sought out by the media and left-wing enablers or can command the same level of attention as the activists? I don’t think so. The fact is that we need everyone who opposes the sanctioning of this attraction as normal and the attendant behavior as morally benign to speak out often and loudly. The problem with the goofs, like Fred Phelps for example, is that they are among the few who are vocal about their position, without more rational people risking blowback by being outspoken opponents themselves.

And then Lindsay Harold replied to me, and this is the one you need to read closely:

Exactly. People who make a public case against same-sex marriage (or abortion, etc.) solely on religious grounds are basically painting a big target on everyone who holds the same position. They make it easy for people to ridicule them and ignore the facts by saying that the only opposition to these things is religious in nature – that conservatives just want to “force their religion” on others. That’s a difficult charge to overcome precisely because, in many cases, there is a lot of truth to it. Too many people only want to stop same-sex marriage and abortion because they believe they are wrong according to the Bible.

The problem is, that’s not sufficient reason to make something illegal. There are plenty of things that are wrong (coveting, lust, not remembering the Sabbath, etc) that are not and should not be illegal. Thus, if you are going to make a case for why something should or should not be legal, you must have more than religious reasons. Making only a religious case in such a situation is indeed attempting to force religion on others. And it hampers the real work of using evidence and logic to make the proper legal case by painting all the others defending marriage or fighting abortion with the label of “religious fanatic.”

Probably the hardest part of defending traditional marriage or arguing against abortion is convincing the other side to listen to the facts and logic rather than dismissing you as religiously-motivated. The reason for this is that there are too many well-intentioned, but ignorant and misguided, people out there making things harder for their own side with their faulty arguments.

She actually wrote a similar post on her blog, “Lindsay’s Logic”, but on the abortion issue on her blog recently, and here’s a snippet:

You see, laws in this country are not based on religion. In fact, our Founding Fathers specifically planned to create a nation where religious freedom was protected. In order to do that, one must have a secular country based on logical principles, not a theocracy. History has shown that government based upon religion inevitably persecutes those who disagree with the religion in power. Many, if not most, of those who came to America and founded this nation came to escape religious persecution. They knew firsthand the dangers of living in a church state. They wanted to ensure freedom for all, so they set up a secular government and laid out basic principles to limit the government’s power and prevent oppression of the people. Their principles were based on the concept of inalienable rights – rights that are innate in every human being and which government cannot grant or take away. These rights include the right to life, liberty, ownership of property, religion, a fair trial, and many others – all developed from basic logical principles. And, in this country, laws are to be made by the people, but only in accordance with these principles so that no one’s rights will be violated.
Of course, these logical principles are quite consistent with a Biblical worldview – and not by accident. The concept of inalienable rights, for example, comes from the view that mankind is the product of a Creator who has endowed them with these rights. Religious freedom is also consistent with the Bible. After all, even God Himself does not force Himself upon anyone, but gives all people the free choice to choose Him or not. But one cannot enforce every doctrine from the Bible in a secular society. There are things that are wrong, according to the Bible, which cannot be made law. How would one, for example, make lust or coveting illegal? And while the Bible commands us to remember the Sabbath day, one cannot enforce this on all people within a society without violating their freedom of religion. Thus, not everything that is wrong should be illegal.

It looks to me like Lindsay’s logic is pretty sound. My own view is that I get my moral views from the Bible, and then when talking about those views with people in the the public square, I use secular arguments (unless they happen to be evangelical Protestants like me – but then they probably would not need convincing?!)

What do you think? Is Marshal Art right or is Lindsay right? Although both of them are good people and mean well, which approach do you think will actually solve the problem?

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

John Piper writes a pro-life article with broad appeal to everyone

Unborn baby scheming about pro-life apologetics

Unborn baby scheming about pro-life apologetics

Previously, I have held Pastor John Piper accountable for expressing opposition to same-sex marriage in ways that would only be persuasive to Christians. I didn’t like the way that he would not use arguments outside the Bible to argue against same-sex marriage, so that non-Christians would also be persuaded. I wanted him to have arguments and evidence to offer people who are not conservative evangelical Christians. I also disagreed with him for doing the same thing on the issue of abortion.

Well, something changed. And now I guess it’s time for me to eat crow.

Take a look at his new reasons for opposing abortion:

4. Being small does not disqualify personhood.

The five-foot-eight frame of a teenage son guarantees him no more right to life than the 23-inch frame of his little sister in her mother’s arms. Size is morally irrelevant. One inch, 23 inches, 68 inches — does not matter. It is morally irrelevant in deciding who should be protected. We know what we are doing in killing the smallest.

5. Not having developed reasoning does not disqualify personhood.

A one-month-old infant, nursing at his mother’s breast, does not have reasoning powers. But only a few dare argue that infanticide is therefore acceptable. Most know better. Outside and inside the womb the infant cannot yet reason, but is a human person. We know what we are doing.

6. Being in the womb does not disqualify human personhood.

Location or environment does not determine a right to life. Scott Klusendorf asks, “How does a simple journey of seven inches down the birth canal suddenly transform the essential nature of the fetus from non-person to person?” We know what we are doing.

7. Being dependent on mommy does not disqualify personhood.

We consider persons on respirators or dialysis to be human beings. The unborn cannot be disqualified from human personhood because they are dependent on their mother for food and oxygen. In fact, we operate on the exact opposite principle: The more dependent a little one is on us, the more responsibility we feel to protect him, not the less. We know what we are doing.

(Those last four observations, #4-7, were summed up by Scott Klusendorf under the acronym SLED: Size, Level of development, Environment, Degree of dependence — none is morally relevant for the definition of human life.)

8. The genetic make up of humans is unique.

The genetic make up of a human is different from all other creatures from the moment of conception. The human code is complete and unique from the start. Once that was not known. Now we know.

9. All the organs are present at eight weeks of gestation.

At eight weeks of gestation all the organs are present. The brain is functioning, the heart pumping, the liver making blood cells, the kidney cleaning the fluids, the finger has a print. Yet almost all abortions happen later than this date. We know what we are doing.

10. We have seen the photographs.

The marvel of ultrasound has given a stunning window into the womb that shows the unborn, for example, at 8 weeks sucking his thumb, recoiling from pricking, responding to sound. Watch this four-minute video of the developing unborn child. We know that they are children.

Now note that he makes those arguments to non-Christians, and he has even more arguments to make to Christians:

For Christians who believe the Bible, we could add at least ten more reasons why we know what is happening in abortion, and why it is wrong. But the aim here is threefold.

    1. To make clear that we will not be able to defend ourselves with the claim of ignorance. We knew. All of us.
    2. To solidify our conviction to resist this horrific evil.
    3. To intensify our prayer and our preaching toward gospel-based soul-renovation in our land, because hardness of heart, not ignorance, is at the root of this carnage.

He’s not changing really, he’s adding more to what he already had said, by targeting a new audience, while still addressing the old one. It’s a both-and. It’s a win-win.

Scott Klusendorf and Life Training Institute

Pastor Piper credits some of his arguments to Scott Klusendorf in his article. Mr. Klusendorf is the top pro-life debater in the world, in my opinion. I recently wrote about an interview that Scott did with Brian Auten of Apologetics 315, too. And I also posted a debate that he did with Nadine Strossen.

You’ll remember that I picked Scott’s “Life Training Institute” as my charity of the year for 2012. I really recommend LTI if you are looking for a charity to support. Scott is the William Wilberforce of our age, and that goes for all pro-lifers who can make the pro-life case to anyone, not just Christians.

If you’re looking for a good pro-life book, check out Scott’s “The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture”.

And he has a new book out as well, called “Stand for Life: Answering the Call, Making the Case, Saving Lives”:

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gay marriage: John Piper won’t endorse traditional marriage amendment

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune, headline: “Key Minnesota pastors opt out of marriage fight.”

Excerpt:

Two key conservative evangelical leaders in Minnesota are not endorsing the marriage amendment or directing followers to vote for it, marking the first time during debate over the measure that major faith leaders have not encouraged members to take a stand on the issue.

Influential preacher and theologian the Rev. John Piper came out against gay marriage during a sermon Sunday but did not explicitly urge members of his Minneapolis church to vote for the amendment.

The Rev. Leith Anderson, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s longtime pastor, also said this week he does not plan to take a public side on the amendment, which would change the state Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Religious observers say the lack of formal backing from the two influential figures could signal that evangelical leaders in Minnesota are taking a less active role in supporting the amendment — a marked departure from evangelicals in dozens of other states where similar amendments have passed.

“Don’t press the organization of the church or her pastors into political activism,” Piper said during his sermon, posted on Bethlehem Baptist Church’s website.

[...]Piper had been under pressure from conservative groups to weigh in on the amendment, according to his spokesman David Mathis, adding that Piper did not hold back over concerns the church could lose its tax-exempt status.

“Basically our position is, we’re not taking one as a church,” Mathis said.

John Piper has no opinion about whether the state of Minnesota legalizes gay marriage or not – he doesn’t want to get involved in politics. He is famous for pushing “Christian Hedonism” in his books, and also believes in predestination.

My advice for pastors who are pro-marriage

I think that it is important for pastors who want to take conservative positions and really have an effect on the real world to base their positions on logical arguments and evidence. Many pastors seem to just read what the Bible says to people in their churches, but they don’t really think about how the Bible applies to public policy. They don’t really think that the Bible has any bearing outside of the church – this is called subjectivism, and in Christian circles, it is closely tied to fideism.

Pastors who pass on studying apologetics often find themselves having to back away from what the Bible says in public, because they are afraid of being labeled bigots. If your views on moral questions are just held on faith, then it’s hard to tell people that public policy should be based on private faith. It’s like condemning people to Hell because they don’t like the same flavor of ice cream as you. It is much easier to tell someone that smoking is bad for their health though. Why? Because if you put the work in, you can use arguments and evidence, and it’s easy to be bold when you have arguments and evidence. But it takes work to build your case.

Neil and other people are telling me that Piper has stated his view against gay marriage in a sermon, and he cites Bible verses. My problem with this is that Piper’s sermon only applies to people who are inerrantists – who think that the Bible is authoritative. If Piper really opposed gay marriage, then he would support the marriage amendment, and he would persuade people in his state – not just his choir and congregation – using arguments and evidence that people in his state find convincing.

Here’s my argument:

1) If Piper sincerely opposes gay marriage, then he doesn’t want gay marriage to be legalized
2) To stop gay marriage from being legalized, the marriage amendment must pass
3) To pass the marriage amendment, the majority of Minnesotans must vote for it
4) The majority of Minnesotans are not Biblical inerrantists who are persuaded by Piper’s sermon and his citing of Bible verses
5) Piper’s flock cannot persuade the majority of Minnesotans with Piper’s sermon and his citing of  Bible verses
6) Therefore, Piper will have to have some way to persuade these non-inerrantist Minnesotans, if he sincerely opposes gay marriage

If your friend is on fire, you do not preach a sermon and quote the Bible to him. You throw a bucket of water on him – that’s what works. If you really want something to happen, you do what works. Preaching sermons with Bible verses to your flock and then declining to support the marriage amendment in public with evidence and arguments that appeal to the majority of Minnesota voters is not going to stop gay marriage. There are other pastors, like Wayne Grudem and Mark Driscoll who do study the research that bears on these sorts of issues and they do use evidence to persuade others – even non-Christians. They have arguments and evidence – they are bold and they do not care about sounding nice. Grudem even writes about politics and urges Christians to be involved in specific policies and legislation.

The secular left is very happy with pastors who don’t make any arguments or cite any evidence in public. They are easily marginalized and then non-Christians have NO REASON AT ALL to vote with us on social issues. It even has an effect on Jews and other religions, because they are told by the media “the only reason to oppose gay marriage is religious bigotry”. It’s similar to how Darwinists can marginalize opposition to evolution by pointing to fideistic pastors and then claiming that the only opposition to evolution is religious, not scientific. The pastors who refuse to study and make public arguments and cite research papers play right into this. They make it easy for non-Christians to vote against us because this is just “our view”. It’s not true of the real world. It’s just Bible verses. It’s not Bible verses supported by evidence.

Many pastors also kept silent during the time of slavery and Nazism, and said that they didn’t want to get involved in politics or approve specific legislation. Presumably, they expressed their personal opinions to their church choirs behind closed church doors, citing Bible verses which slave-owners and Nazis would not find convincing. But they thought that this was the best they could do since “you can’t argue anyone into the Kingdom of God” and “Jesus isn’t a Republican or a Democrat”. Not every pastor is going to be bold like a William Wilberforce or a Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and make their case in public.

The continuous refusal to engage in the public square with reasons and evidence is not good for Christianity. In fact, we may even lose our religious liberty when we only speak about Bible verses to the church choir behind closed church doors.

Look at what happened in Canada where gay marriage is legal:

In what they are touting as a “world first,” a Quebec homosexual activist group has launched a “registry of homophobic acts” with support and funding from the Quebec Government’s Justice Department.  Standing alongside Montreal Police Chief Johanne Paquin and Commander Alain Gagnon, the leadership of the group Gai Ecoute launched the anonymous tipster registry at a press conference today.

Included in the definition of actions classified as “homophobic” and deemed worthy of reporting to the registry are: “any negative word or act toward a homosexual or homosexuality in general: physical abuse, verbal abuse, intimidation, harassment, offensive graffiti, abuse, injurious mockery, inappropriate media coverage and discrimination.”

A press release from the group says that anyone who has experienced or witnessed an act of homophobia “must” report it to the registry of homophobic acts.

And here’s what happened in Denmark where gay marriage is legal:

Homosexual couples in Denmark have won the right to get married in any church they choose, even though nearly one third of the country’s priests have said they will refuse to carry out the ceremonies.

The country’s parliament voted through the new law on same-sex marriage by a large majority, making it mandatory for all churches to conduct gay marriages.

Giving sermons in church is safe. But speaking out against gay marriage in public on public policy is not completely safe. If pastors pass on making arguments and producing objective evidence and pointing to current events now – when it is still relatively safe to do so – then we mustn’t shed a tear when the next piece of legislation forces pastors to have to perform gay wedding ceremonies in their churches.  Knowledge and practical wisdom are needed to be a good faithful pastor, I think. By being unable to speak out persuasively on moral issues, we leave ourselves open to the things that happen in Canada and Denmark… and around the world. We shouldn’t wait too long before we make our stand – voting “present” is not a good idea.

UPDATE: People are asking me what arguments Piper should be using instead of the sermons and Bible verses, which have limited appeal to the majority of Minnesota voters.

In order to influence the culture as a whole, Piper would have to use arguments like these:

Philosophical:
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722155

Evidential:
http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/06/5640

Human rights:
http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No3_Severinoonline.pdf

If Piper’s goal is to DO GOOD at a practical level, then he has to use public square arguments that are convincing to people who do not accept a very very conservative view of the Bible (which I accept). He has to decide whether Christianity is something subjective and private (about him and his life, and maybe the people who hear his sermons in his church) or public and practical (about society and law). Right now, he is enjoying the liberties that exist because the foundation of the United States is Judeo-Christian, but he has to do his part in public using secular arguments and evidence to protect those foundations, or they could be taken away.

If Piper wants children to *actually* have a mother and a father, and wants Christians to *actually* retain their religious liberty and freedom of conscience, then he will have to GO PUBLIC and use PUBLIC means of persuasion. If every single person in his church agreed with him, and every fundamentalist Christian in Minnesota agreed with him, that would still not be enough to defend marriage.

Related posts

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

New study finds that parental notification laws reduce abortions by 15%

Unborn baby scheming about possible research topics

Unborn baby scheming about possible research topics

From Life News. (H/T Mary)

Excerpt:

Michael New, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Alabama, recently published a study on abortion in State Politics and Policy Quarterly demonstrating the effectiveness of pro-life laws.

The study, “Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post-Casey Era,” evaluated abortion data from nearly every state over a span of 21 years, from 1985 to 2005 – a longer period than nearly any other peer-reviewed study. It contributes to a substantial body of social science research which finds that parental involvement laws and public funding restrictions are effective.

New found in his study that data from both the Centers for Disease Control and the Guttmacher Institute provide solid evidence that Medicaid abortion funding restrictions, parental involvement laws and informed consent laws effectively lower abortion rates. His findings included that parental involvement laws reduce in-state abortion rates for minors by approximately 15 percent. This is among the first peer reviewed studies which shows that informed consent laws have an effect.

[...]The study is now part of a substantial body of academic literature showing that such laws are effective in cutting abortions — and back up the anecdotal evidence seen in states like Mississippi, Michigan, South Carolina, Missouri and others where abortions have been cut by half from their previous highs thanks to the passage of several pro-life measures limiting abortions.

[...]Dr. New issued a previous study in 2008 showing parental involvement laws reduce abortions anywhere from 19-31 percent for teenagers.

He also issued a prior study looking at 1985-1999 finding pro-life laws cut teen abortion rates by as much as 50 percent. Parental involvement laws were part of the reason for this decline but not the only reason.

State Politics and Policy Quarterly serves as the official journal of the state politics and policy section of the American Political Science Association and is one of the top state politics journal in the country.

Wow! When I talk about raising children to have an influence by leading them towards areas where they can make a difference, this is what I am talking about. I think we need to do a lot of good research on family, marriage and pro-life issues to be able to influence policy makers and voters with the truth. Like it or not, it is very important that Christian parents push their children on to get Masters degrees and Ph.Ds in areas that matter. A lot of people are complaining about the weather, but Christians need to get serious about doing something about it – with quality academic work.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wintery Tweets

RSS Evolution News

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
Click to see recent visitors

  Visitors Online Now

Page views since 1/30/09

  • 4,338,534 hits

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,047 other followers

Archives

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,047 other followers

%d bloggers like this: