Back before the nominations, I wrote a post about how I found a lot of Christian support of Donald Trump to be curious, and one name I mentioned was Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas. I’ve heard him preach a few times and I do not doubt his commitment to the gospel, but he’s also known to create controversy with his comments on politics. Recently, he made the news again when he stated in an interview with The Washington Post that he supported Trump’s strong remarks against North Korea because God has given Trump the authority to “take out” Kim Jong Un. He cited Romans 13 as his basis and said that the president, as part of the government, should not seek to follow the Sermon on the Mount in his role. His comments were met with widespread criticism from the media as well as other Christians who accused of him of warmongering and for using the Bible to justify violence.
I’ll mostly leave aside the question about what to do about North Korea. As a Korean, I know full well that North Korea has an evil government that might be the most backward on the planet, but what to do with them is not a question I’ll seek to answer here. Instead, I’ll narrow my focus to Jeffress’ use of Romans 13. He actually has a point, but the application of Romans 13 to this situation is a bit murky, and he could have worded what he said more carefully.
I went to Tulsa, OK for the third straight year last week, and though this time I at least did not go to Brooklyn and Tulsa in back-to-back weeks like I did two years ago (there was one week in between), the fact that it was the second trip made me pretty tired. Throw in the fact that stuff happened at home that I needed to deal with, and I found myself often worn out even though the schedule was less packed than the one in New York. Nonetheless, it was still a blessing to go again, and I’m always impressed by the hospitality of the host church, Tulsa Chinese Christian Church. It was good time of trying to teach kids basic Bible truths while teaching heftier matters to the youth and college students.
In the summer of 2015, I went to a predominately Chinese area in Brooklyn, NY to help out at a VBS-like summer program called Summer Splash put on by Dorcas Ministries (which I wrote about here). Last April, I went back to the same place in Brooklyn, though the reason for that was to put on a “retreat” for the youth and college students (which I also wrote about). Last week, I went back again to do a bit of both: We had some more teaching sessions for the youth and college kids on Monday and Tuesday (July 4) but also did Summer Splash from Wednesday to Friday. It was a lot of work, but God had even more blessings in store for me and my team.
There is a lot I could write about, but I will attempt to be brief so that this is not unreasonably long.
A few months ago, I went to a regional meeting for the Evangelical Theological Society at Southwestern Seminary, and while I was only able to attend one day of it, I got to hear some interesting papers. One presentation was by a Reformed philosopher who advanced an argument against the consistency of believing in eternal security–the belief that once someone is truly saved, he cannot lose his salvation–while also believing in libertarian free will (positions that are arguably held by the majority of conservative Southern Baptists). It was an interesting paper and he presented it with passion, though I ultimately did not find it very convincing. I think his mistake is that he presented a false analogy with another argument that he believed people make against Calvinism, which makes his parallel argument against eternal security unsound. Keep in mind that he believes in eternal security; he only presented the latter argument as a way to show that Christians can’t have both libertarian free will and perseverance.
Recently, former tennis great John McEnroe said something hateful, sexist, and mean about Serena Williams. Or at least that’s what most of the news and sports outlets want to say, such as ESPN, SB Nation, BBC News, Salon, Deadspin, CNN, The Huffingpost, and… well, virtually everyone. Headlines burst forth that McEnroe claimed that Serena would only rank about #700 in the men’s tour. When Serena responded on Twitter by telling him to not make statements that aren’t “factually based” and to respect her and her privacy, the media and people on social media cheered. She put McEnroe “in his place.” She “owned” him. She had a “perfect” response.
Too bad all of this is an example of childish over-sensitivity, delusion, terrible logic, and pitiful reading comprehension from most people. It’s also an example of the media taking words out of context to manufacture a controversy to get gullible people riled up. McEnroe was not only right, he was also merely answering a question. Look at his words in context:
The Little Mermaid is a Disney classic, and our family had it on VHS back in the day. The story contains one of Disney’s most endearing characters, Sebastian the Crab. He is well-known for his Jamaican accent as well as his catchy songs such as “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl.” However, when you listen to the latter one closely, it begins to sound… odd. And a little disturbing, because Sebastian is essentially encouraging Prince Eric to assume that this 16 year-old mute girl is just begging for him to go at her. He’s like the proverbial devil on the shoulder.
Here’s the song:
Now allow me to illustrate how Sebastian’s advice can look like (click to enlarge):
Perhaps it is best to not listen to talking crabs :).
Recently, former police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter after he shot and killed Philando Castille on a routine traffic stop. Castille was armed, but reportedly told Yanez that he was licensed to carry. Yanez still ended up shooting him when he believed that Castille reached for his gun as opposed to his wallet. It was yet another high profile shooting of a black man by police (though this time by a Hispanic and not white officer), and once again the public (particularly the black community) was outraged when the officer was acquitted of all charges. Cries of racism, systemic racism, and injustice filled social media again.
Much of this reaction is understandable. While critics might argue, somewhat correctly, that the way the media chooses to cover these events gives off the impression that cops just go around shooting black people for no reason when that statistically isn’t supported, it’s still disturbing how some of these incidents go down. Certainly, the Castille shooting looks very fishy at first glance, and nobody wants to see such stories whether they are rare or not. Nonetheless, people need to be better at calmly and rationally evaluating these incidents without jumping to emotional conclusions, and they need to ask themselves this simple question: Was there enough evidence to criminally convict? If not, no matter how we feel, an acquittal is the right decision for the jury to make. Pointing this out is not racist, insensitive, or apathetic to injustice; it’s simply an acknowledgement of the facts as well as the limitations of our human courts.
The DCEU has made a ton of money, but the critical reviews have not been kind. While some of the criticisms struck me as illegitimate, as I noted in my BvS review, a lot of them were spot on. Suicide Squad was straight garbage, while Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman both had some great moments surrounded by lackluster writing and pacing. However, with Wonder Woman drawing rave reviews and outperforming box office expectations, it’s possible DC might be finding its footing in its future battles against Marvel.
And Wonder Woman deserves it. It’s an entertaining origins story with humor, grit, and likeable characters, and Gal Gadot hits it out of the park with her portrayal of the titular character. Gadot was the breakout star in BvS, and her own movie did nothing to take away from that.
Honestly, I don’t really like talking about politics, especially when the NBA playoffs are going on, but I think the new health care bill that just passed the House is worth discussing because it highlights so many things that are wrong with politics. The American Health Care Act barely passed the House and will await the decision of the Senate, and it is, predictably, quite controversial.
I’m not going to discuss all the details of the bill and its differences with the ACA. One reason is because, quite frankly, my understanding of healthcare does not go much deeper than surface level. I’ve tried to do some reading on the bill, but I’m not going to sit here and pretend to be a policy expert on it. Secondly, my aim is not even to defend or criticize the details of the bill over and against that of the ACA, though some details will arise. My main purpose is to talk about the danger of political expediency over wisdom and the climate of political tribalism, a climate that makes it difficult to have honest, civil, and intelligent dialogue.
I noted in a recent post that there is no verse that straightforwardly confirms limited atonement, the belief that Jesus died only for the elect. On the flip side, there seems to be plenty of verses that flat out contradict it, which Calvinists have to deal with in order to preserve the L in TULIP. In this post, I want to focus on 1 Timothy 4:10, another problematic text for the Calvinist position.
Here’s the verse: “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers” (NASB). It is the relative clause that gets the bulk of the attention here, and it is obvious why: On face value, it sounds like God is the Savior of everyone but is the Savior in a special way for believers. This would flow quite nicely with unlimited atonement: Through Christ’s atoning death for everyone, God is the Savior of all, but this atonement is only applied to those who believe.
Such a reading, however, would contradict limited atonement, so Calvinists have proposed several ways of reading this verse. I’ll summarize and evaluate the ones that I am familiar with, and it will be shown that these attempts fail to make a convincing exegetical case and often rely on dubious word studies, faulty reasoning, and de-contextualized readings in order to preserve a dogged allegiance to a system.