The Intellectual Elitism of Leftist Activists: An Attitude of Tyranny

As I watch the political left drift more into “regressive left” territory, where they try to silence dissent, bully people into their views, use the government to enforce them, and threaten freedom of speech and thought, I am reminded of an episode a few years ago that really showed the hypocritical and contradictory attitude of so many progressives.  A couple of years ago, there was controversy over a man named Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist.  He was an important consultant for Obamacare (this is indisputable, no matter how much backtracking the White House and the likes of Pelosi tried to do), and videos surfaced of him admitting that the White House intentionally tried to mislead the Congressional Budget Office and the American voter in order to get the bill passed.  He called the American voter “stupid” and then proclaimed that while the lack of transparency was unfortunate, it was well worth it because he’d rather have the bill than not.

Naturally, conservatives had a field day with this while it sent liberals reeling, with many in the liberal media being slow to discuss the story and criticize him and Obama.  It was doubly entertaining to see many liberal journalists or commentators try to spin it.  To his credit, liberal comedian Jon Stewart, who at the time was still host of The Daily  Show, admitted the whole thing was slimy and ridiculed how the Democrats responded (though he still defended the bill), but satirist Stephen Colbert, then host of The Colbert Report, in the typical guise of his conservative character, did nothing but defend the left. MSNBC predictably downplayed the whole thing.  Bill Maher, unsurprisingly, was completely unapologetic.  This is not even mentioning many columnists who took up the task of trying to defend the integrity of the administration on this issue.

A couple of quotes from Maher and Colbert are very telling when it comes to the mind of progressives these days.  Maher agreed that the voters of America are stupid, and because of that, they cannot be trusted.  He likened Gruber’s and the administration’s strategy as hiding medicine in dog food because the dog is too stupid to realize that the medicine is good for it.  Colbert, in his satirical way, stated, “Yes, contemptuous Democrats looked down on the American people from their ivory towers and thought, ‘What a pathetic horde of dullards, let’s give them health care!’”  I actually find Colbert to be funny, but I was pretty disappointed how defensive he came off and how non-sensical his satire was that day.  After all, healthcare wasn’t “given,” as if it was something free that dropped from the sky.  And of course all government programs are funded by taxes (another specious thing he made fun of); the issue is that Obamacare represented what was effectively a new tax even though they wrote the bill to try to hide this fact.  The message of these two (and other progressives) was clear: We know better because you’re stupid, so shut up and accept it.

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Can Calvinists Make a Meaningful Distinction Between the Sufficiency and Efficacy of the Atonement?

A while ago, I wrote about John Owen’s famous trilemma argument in favor of limited atonement and criticized it’s shortcomings.  I noted that it is reliant on a commercialist view of the atonement, which is faulty, and that it diminishes the importance of faith.  Philosophical arguments like that one are not out of bounds by nature and can guide interpretation, but it is not nearly strong enough to overturn better interpretations of passages such as 1 John 2:2 that speak against limited atonement.

Now, I want to discuss another problem for Calvinists who advocate the double payment argument.  Many of them insist that though there is a sense in which Christ did not die for everyone, there is another sense in which he did.  In other words, while Christ’s blood and sacrifice is sufficient for everyone, it is effective only for the elect.  I think this, along with the double payment argument, leads to a contradiction.  Even for those few Calvinists who reject Owen’s argument, this distinction is meaningless and confused.

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Supporting Trump Requires More Careful Explanation From Christian Supporters

Because I care about much more important things like college football (even though the Longhorns remain frustrating), I did not bother to see what kind of new stupid thing Trump said that made social media freak out.  I finally got around to it yesterday, and it made me laugh out loud.  Not because I think what Trump said in the video was funny itself or acceptable but because of the absurdity of what he said and of the situation.

While I may be able to laugh at the absurd, many Republicans and conservatives found no amusement in the video and started to actively withdraw support.  Politicians such as John McCain formally withdrew support while Paul Ryan, who was always cautious of Trump, affirmed his position that he would not support or campaign for the Republican nominee.  Theologian Wayne Grudem, whose article I criticized for presenting weak arguments for supporting Trump, also withdrew his support and admitted his error.  Outrage and disgust are the typical responses for Trump’s comments, and in many ways, rightly so.

However, while I am glad many of these people see Trump more clearly now, this response is also a bit frustrating for a few reasons:

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Philosophy: Unavoidable in Theology

In my systematic reading seminar last fall, we read through several systems of theology: Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, liberal, etc.  A common theme tended to pop up among the conservative Protestant authors, and that is to denigrate philosophy while upholding some supposed pure theology of Scripture.  In fact, virtually every conservative Protestant author would take potshots at other systems, seeing them poisoned by philosophy, while claiming that his system was the one that was based purely on Scripture.  This sentiment is very common today, even among (or especially among) professional theologians.  Philosophy bad!  Scripture good!

On a certain level, this conservative Protestant suspicion of philosophy is understandable, given the downright nonsensical roads that liberal theology has taken.  However, as pious as this sounds, it shows a lack of self-awareness and a lot of presumption.  Though all of those authors claimed to jettison philosophy for the sake of Scripture, every single one of them would then sneak his own philosophy through the back door, seemingly without realization.  This remains true today, and it is both aggravating and amusing.  Christians need to realize this: Philosophy and reason are unavoidable when interpreting Scripture and developing theology.  That does not mean that they displace Scripture as the lead, but it does mean that pretending that one does not engage in philosophy at all is a quick way to adopt underlying philosophical ideas without awareness or critical thought.

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Tulsa: A little late, but I’ll write about it

Like last year, I went to Tulsa, OK to help out at a church’s VBS, teach their youth and college, and train up members of the team that went.  Also, like last year, I am morally obligated as a Longhorn to make jokes about Oklahoma:

“Why did Oklahoma raise the drinking age to 25?  To keep alcohol out of their high schools.”

“How do Oklahoman brain cells die?  Alone.”

“Why do Oklahomans have a hard time dialing 911?  They can’t find the number 11 on phone.”

Now that I have fulfilled my obligation, I can say this: Tulsa was another great experience, even though I was very tired, because the people there were great, hospitable, and encouraging🙂.

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Insecure Church Girl Fishes for Compliments by Asking About Modesty

PARIS, TX–Daisy Michaelson, a 25 year old member of Elmcreek Baptist Church, has sought to boost her low self-esteem by disguising her attempts to receive affirmations that she is beautiful as intellectual discussions about modesty.  Endlessly insecure, Daisy has figured out that a good way to brag about her looks and receive compliments is to ask questions about modesty, share horror stories of boys hitting on her, and innocently ask how she can avoid leading guys on.

“At church, we are taught not to boast, and we are also taught that physical beauty should not be emphasized because it is fleeting,” Daisy mused.  “But I still want to hear that I’m cute because, deep down, I’m scared that I’m not.  I’ve found that if I force discussions on modesty, I can get others to tell me that I’m gorgeous.”

Daisy’s conversations and social media posts confirm this strategy.  Late last week, Daisy posted on Facebook:

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Is Trump the Moral Choice? Responding to Wayne Grudem

For many people, this election season is about as distasteful as it can get.  Even for a guy like me who dislikes politicians in general, this upcoming election is particularly bad.  On the one hand, the Democratic party continues to drift in a direction that seems unacceptable for Christians, but on the other, Donald Trump basically completed a hostile takeover of the Republican Party because that party was so disorganized and disappointing.  After the circus shows of the national conventions, we officially have our candidates for America’s two major parties, and for many people, it feels like choosing between drowning in a lake or in a swimming pool.

I’ve already written before about Trump’s puzzling popularity.  Now, more and more evangelicals are talking themselves into supporting Trump, including revered systematic theologian Wayne Grudem.  Grudem is well-respected as a theologian and as a man, and the respect is earned; even though I would disagree with him extensively on Reformed theology, I don’t question his intellect or his heart.  However, in his article saying that voting for Donald Trump is a morally good (or at least, morally better) choice, I think he overstates his case in many respects.

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Racial Reconciliation: Nebulous, Elusive, and Contentious

Racial tensions have skyrocketed again in recent weeks.  There are two more incidents of the police killing a black man.  Philando Castille in Minnesota was shot during a traffic stop, and the aftermath was recorded by his girlfriend.  I always preach patience for all the facts to come out, but it sure does look like the officer panic shot him for no rational reason.  Castille was armed but apparently had already told the cops that he was carrying and was licensed to do so.  The other man who was shot was Alton Sterling.  Sterling was killed after a struggle with police, and the officers allege that he was reaching for a gun.  Protesters have objected and tried to paint Sterling as a harmless man at first; others then responded by posting Sterling’s rap sheet, which showed a history of criminal acts, some violence, and even sex with a minor.  The other side then furiously fired back that his criminal background was irrelevant.

Then, with all of this going on, a sniper open fired on police during a Black Lives Matter protest last Thursday in Dallas.  Five officers were killed and several more were injured.  The shooter, Micah Johnson, was former military and specifically said he was targeting cops, especially white cops, out of a sense of revenge.  He was not directly associated with the BLM movement, but the fact that a black man gunned down cops (some of them Hispanic) in the most cowardly way did not help race relations at all.  It especially did not help as many people on social media, quite stupidly, labeled him a martyr and said that his actions were justified (though of course, most people, including most in the BLM movement, denounced his actions).  How killing random cops in a completely different city (a city with a black police chief at that) from where these other shootings occurred constitutes justified action is beyond me.

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“Expository” vs. “Topical”: Overstatement on Both Sides

If you go to certain conservative seminaries these days, you’ll probably see a heavy emphasis on what’s called “expository” preaching.  This is taught in contrast to “topical” preaching, which is often considered, implicitly or explicitly, inferior and less God-honoring.  Such criticisms have ruffled feathers of pastors who practice topical preaching, and some have shot back by calling expository preaching arrogant, disconnected, and sometimes even unbiblical.  One such article is this one here that was written a few years ago.

I myself engage in expository preaching the few times I’m in the pulpit, and even when I teach elsewhere, the majority of the time it is in an expository manner.  However, I agree that some who champion expository preaching do so in an overly superior way and that their arguments against topical preaching can be overstated and haughty.  Likewise, some responses against expository preaching are often too defensive and fail to see some of the good points brought up by those who prefer expository preaching.  I think it is more of a pro/con thing, rather than a matter of right or wrong.

Still, I do prefer expository preaching most of the time, and I’ll explain why this is the case, though I am not against topical sermons per se.  I will also discuss the potential advantages of topical teaching and argue that it is not wrong to do and can be very beneficial.

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Why Christians Need to be Careful and Nuanced With Boycotting

When Target announced their plans to allow people who identify as a certain gender to go to any bathroom they want, many conservatives threatened to boycott the supermarket chain and then carried it out.  Because of this, Target’s stock price has dropped like a rock, and while their corporate headquarters are pretending it’s no big deal, there’s no doubt that they’re feeling it.  After all, it’s not like there aren’t plenty of other options for people to do their shopping.

On the one hand, I don’t have much of a problem with people doing this.  Liberals have long threatened boycotts on things they don’t like, so they can’t really complain when someone pushes back in like manner.  Also, people are certainly not obligated to shop at Target and can choose to shop elsewhere for virtually any reason they want, such as disliking Target’s logo.  Such an action is well within their rights.

On the other hand, I think many conservatives, particularly Christian, need to be careful with public boycotts on companies that do things that we disagree with.  The reason is rather quite simple: A lot of companies do things that we disagree with, sometimes without us really knowing about it, and it is decidedly impractical to boycott everyone.  If we are going to publicly champion boycotting a certain company, we need to be clear with our reasons for doing so or else we make ourselves look self-contradictory when we don’t boycott another company.

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