Friday, October 23, 2020

The Wussification of Jesus

Having read Machen, I returned to a realization that I have carried for years. We have emasculated Jesus. Machen was correct but he could not foresee the Post-Modernist movement. The Modernists have seen science does not always arrive at the conclusions for which they had hoped. A new, more fluid Christianity was needed. Now, rather than rely on science alone, they rely on “feelings.” Someone’s “feelings” can never be judged, because their “feelings” are just as valid as your “feelings.” You will also notice that there is no longer the scientific premise of “absolute truth.” Now, everyone has “their truth,” which may differ from “your truth.”  Did O.J. Simpson kill Nicole or Ron Goldman? In “his truth” the answer is “no;” in Fred Goldman’s “truth” the answer is “yes.” Our truth does not matter. 

So, how do you make the Bible align with the Post-Modern movement? Easy, you make Jesus a Post-Modern man! Except that men are threatening, so we can’t identify Jesus with any “manly” characteristics. Jesus was gentle. Jesus never judged people. Jesus sat with prostitutes and criminals. Jesus was all peace and love, more of a Gandhi-type or even a Che Guevara. (Never mind that Che would have executed the same people that celebrate him today). Jesus exists only to make us feel good about ourselves. 

That old vengeful God guy of the Old Testament is gone. Hippy dippy Jesus is just all right with me, man. (Never thought you'd see the Doobie Brothers in one of my blogs, did you?) 

I have been a member of churches that are led by these Post-Modernist preachers. They want to tear down everything in the church that might make someone uncomfortable. The exception being white, middle-aged or older males who caused all these problems in the first place. Someone offended by the Bible declaring an act or omission a sin? Don’t worry, God knows what is in your heart and he forgives you. Jesus won’t judge you and no one else should either.

The problem is, this is a false Christianity. A wussified Jesus is not a Savior. A God that is only vengeful is a one dimensional God. It ignores what we learn in Isaiah 41:13, “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”  It ignores what we learn from Jesus in Matthew 10:34, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  

God is vengeful AND loving. Jesus judged AND forgave. The Post-Modern Christian does not want to deal with the fact that some people will be condemned to eternity in Hell. (The same Hell that the Modernists disposed of as superstition- a lie to get people to behave). The Post-Modernist response? “A loving God would never send someone to Hell.” The fault with this thinking? “A perfectly holy God could not tolerate sin, and Jesus died for the redemption of those sinners who God has chosen to enjoy eternity with Him.” If Jesus is not the Son of God, he is either a liar or a madman. Even if you don’t believe in limited atonement on unlimited atonement, the idea that everyone goes to Heaven (universal atonement) was ruled heretical in 543 at the Council of Constantinople.

No one likes to be called a sinner. No one likes to hear that their child is a sinner. No one likes to hear that their friend is a sinner- but guess what? WE ALL SIN. The Bible sets a high standard, because God sets a high standard. 

My sin is no different from your sin. Our sin is no different from your child’s sin. Your child’s sin is no different than your friend’s sin. We all sin- but when we try to excuse it by declaring it is not a sin, we compound that sin because we put ourselves in the place of God. 

Fortunately, we don’t need to take on God’s responsibility because He can do it for us. The path isn’t always easy and you will slip along the way, but the ending is beyond description. How can I be sure? I can be sure because that is the absolute truth found in the Bible. The Bible makes you uncomfortable? IT SHOULD! If you could read the Bible with a clear conscience, you would not need the Bible, or God, or Jesus. The truth is always hard to hear. But we are not children who get participation trophies. We need to hear the hard truths.

It is because we are all created imago Dei (in the image of God) that I care about you and I want to share that destination with you. It is because I love you as brothers and sisters in Christ, that I share this passage: 

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.


II Timothy 3:2-5

Use the Bible and be discerning. Don’t be fooled by the Modernist and Post-Modernist. And don’t fool yourself.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

My Reading List: Liberalism and Christianity


I recently finished reading Christianity and Liberalism (Machen, J. Gresham; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009). Before I begin my analysis, a brief history of the author and the purpose of the book may be in order. J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) was a Princeton Theological Seminary professor who caused great consternation due to his resistance to the liberal tendencies of the day. When he deemed that Princeton was being lead “inexorably to a sentimentalized religion that had nothing to do with the God of the Bible or, indeed, with real life,” he departed to founded Westminster Theological Seminary (near Philadelphia) and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. (The above quote comes from the Foreword to this new edition, written Carl R. Trueman the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Westminster). 

What led to the book being originally published in 1923? To understand the time, there was a division in the Presbyterian Church between the Fundamentalist and the Modernist factions. Machen did not fall into either camp. He viewed the Fundamentalist position as lacking an appreciation for scholarship and based on false pietism. (Machen was not a smoker but, like C.H. Spurgeon, saw the value of a good cigar). Machen viewed the problem of the Liberal/Modernist position as taking the history and meaning of the Gospel and trying to make it more palatable to the more progressive elements of society.  Christianity and Liberalism was based on a sermon he delivered and subsequent article he wrote to demonstrate the flaws of the Modernist position. 

Machen starts from the premise that the Modernist position placed emphasis on advances in science and understanding and viewed “truth” not as absolute, but as pragmatism- viewing an acceptable outcome as more productive. While this may be troubling, it was the Modernist tendency to discount Biblical miracles as fiction based on science and the redefinition of Christian understanding that most troubled Machen. 

The overarching theme is that the Modernist Christian use Christian vocabulary and ideas, but their meaning to the Modernist is entirely different from the meaning of the Orthodox position. And therein lies the problem. The Modern church uses the trimmings of Christianity, but for fear of seeming unsophisticated, minimalizes or discounts the essential meaning of Christianity. Orthodox essentials such as the inerrancy of scripture, the Virgin birth of Jesus, vicarious atonement, etc., are discarded as superstition or ignorance. 

Machen’s analysis of the Modernist movement is coherent and thoughtful. His premise is not based on a straw man easily defeated, but by careful examination of the Modernist theology. Machen articulates the reasons that Modernist Christianity has developed not from Christianity, but as its own separate religion. He does this through a logical progression of the “if…, then…” type. Machen takes the dogma of the Modernists and, through careful analysis, demonstrates how their beliefs are not supported by the Christianity they seem to proclaim, but are in direct conflict with Christianity.  Machen starts in the area of Doctrine and develops the argument through key areas of Christianity, pointing out the hazards and pit-falls along the way. 

In the end, although written nearly one hundred years ago, Machen is prescient in his analysis. The so-called “Main Line” denominations have wandered down the Modernist path. One only need to bring up the Westminster Confession of Faith, which states, “[The Holy Scripture] being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion the Church is finally to appeal unto them.” (6.008). I have heard in churches who purport to follow the Westminster Confession, as it regards certain New Testament scriptures, “Well, Paul said that, so we don’t really rely on it.” Machen seems to have proved his point by such examples now common in churches today. That is why it is so important to read Christianity and Liberalism. 

To be continued…

Thursday, August 27, 2020

A Christian Lawyer Silenced... The Court Worships at the Secular Altar


It has finally happened. In Pennsylvania, the practice of law is governed by The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. They promulgate the Rules of Professional Conduct which are enforced by its Disciplinary Board. 

On June 8, 2020, the Court amended Rule 8.4 (related to misconduct) to include a new subsection: 

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer in the practice of law, by words or conduct, knowingly manifest bias or prejudice, or engage in harassment or discrimination, as those terms are defined in applicable federal, state or local statutes or ordinances, including but not limited to bias, prejudice, harassment or discrimination based upon race, sex, gender identity or expression, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, or socioeconomic status. This paragraph does not limit the ability of a lawyer to accept, decline or withdraw from a representation in accordance with Rule 1.16. This paragraph does not preclude advice or advocacy consistent with these Rules. (The Rules of Professional Conduct, 8.4(g)). 

I am going to be in deep trouble. I am an unabashed believer in God. I believe that The Holy Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God. I believed that we a conceived in total depravity. I believe that God directs us according to His perfect will and that Jesus died for the sins of those people chosen by God. I believe that those not among the elect are condemned to Hell. I believe that there is nothing we can do to resist God’s grace, and that once we have been saved by grace, there is nothing we can do to lose God’s grace. If that sounds a lot like Calvinism- yes, I believe in classical Reformed teaching. 

So, how can a Christian who believes that sin is sin continue to practice law? I am the Legal Advisor to the board of a non-profit organization (which will go un-named unless I obtain permission) that believes, as I do, in the inerrancy of scripture. If I affirm their beliefs, I will have committed misconduct. If someone objects to my choice of art or literature in my office, I will have committed misconduct. If someone at church asks me my legal opinion regarding an issue as it relates to the secular world, I am likely to have committed misconduct. To live my faith, I may lose my career. 

Of course, Jesus warned all of us about that in the Bible. “…and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” (Matthew 9:22; ESV). 

Maybe you think I am being a little dramatic.  You may be saying, “Rule 1.16 gives you an out. You don’t have to accept someone as a client.” 

Guess again. I do have latitude to determine the clients I choose to represent.  According to 8.4(g), I would not be able to ask the questions to find out if my representation could expose me to misconduct. Furthermore, I would not be able to terminate my attorney/client relationship if there is some conceivable way that my termination might relate to a protected class.

 Maybe you think that I’m still being too dramatic. You may be saying, “Surely they won’t go after you- that isn’t what this rule is about.” 

I hope you are right, but I don’t place much hope in that.  Just ask Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers. A same-sex couple asked the 75 year old florist to provide flowers for their wedding. Ms. Stutzman declined based upon her religious beliefs. The Washington State Supreme Court ruled against Stutzman. If the Washington courts were willing to rule against a florist, there is no doubt in my mind that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, who promulgated the rule, would discipline me. 

Where does that leave me? The answer is simple and stated by Martin Luther in 1521 at the Diet of Worms, “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason, … my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. So help me God. Amen.”

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Review: Seeing Jesus from The East

Ravi Zacharius and Abdu Murray, Seeing Jesus from the East: A Fresh Look at History's Most Influential Figure (Zondervan Reflective, 2020).

I have been anxious to read this book, and it did not disappoint. Ravi Zacharius was not on my radar prior to the beginning of June 2019, when he was recommended to me by the mother of a friend. Some time after that I planned to go to a Christian Legal Society retreat where the guest speaker was Abdu Murray, the senior vice-president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. In between those two events Ravi was diagnosed with cancer and after the retreat COVID-19 hit, Ravi died, and the release of the book was delayed by an extra month.

Abdu Murray was one of the most powerful speakers I have had the privilege of hearing. Born to a Muslim family from Lebanon (the country, not the city in Pennsylvania) he converted to Christianity. Along the way, he also became an attorney.

Both Murray and Zacharius excel at apologetics- the defense of Christian beliefs or, as Peter states, "being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you....." (1 Peter 3:15, ESV). Murray's legal training and construction of his defense issuperb, but that is not what fascinated me.

In this book, Zacharius and Murray write separate chapters highlighting how the Western interpretation of the Bible is different from the Eastern interpretation. While we know intellectually that Jesus was from the Middle East, we seem to think of his teachings as Westerners. We force the "Jesus-peg" into our hole. When Murray spoke at the retreat, he re-cast the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard into an Eastern perspective. That was one of the "a-ha" moments I had.

If the book was just a matter of demonstrating how we miscast the teachings of Jesus, it would be well worth the price. There is, however, so much more.  The reader learns how to witness to others and exposes some of the popular fallacies and misconceptions of Christianity and other faiths. 

In a little over 200 pages, plus endnotes, there is too much information for me to cover here. Just buy two copies- one for you and one to give to a friend (or donate to a church library) and keep your eyes open for another book from Abdu Murray- he intends to write a book on the subject of Jesus and slavery.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

What Can I Do?


I always like to take a few days before I comment on something. Often, the initial story is incorrect or misleading and new facts come to light. Other times I might be inclined to let emotion- or lack thereof- interfere. 

So it was with the murder of George Floyd. And Ahmaud Arbery. And Trayvon Martin. And so many more. 

I grew up in a time when the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. were the goal of society.  “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I earnestly tried to live these words. To me, color was unimportant- because I was more interested in the person.  The color blind world was something noble to be achieved. We are no closer to achieving that goal now than we were when those words were first spoken. 

My realization is that I am complicit in the failure. I my fault lies in trying to be color blind before I had earned that right. I never understood the “Black Lives Matter” movement- until recently. The fact that Black Lives Matter was so obvious to me, that I missed the point. The point is, that in many circles Black Lives DON’T Matter.  If you question this, you haven’t been paying attention to prison population, poverty statistics, and the deaths of so many black men. 

So where do we- where do I- start to combat the problem? 

I don’t believe I have the right to decide how to combat the problem. I am not the one affected. There have been too many people who condescend with the best and worst of intentions. I can’t understand the history. I can have ideas- I can have suggestions, but I have no skin in the game. I have never been a black man, so I can never know what it is like to be a black man.

How does a white man stand for his brothers and sisters of other colors and beliefs? I must admit, I don’t know. I believe that ultimately there must come a meaningful conversation that transcends differences- while acknowledging differences exist. We cannot rely on government to direct us. None of our groups are monolithic. I am open to suggestions. 

Monday, May 4, 2020

The Secret Behind Legal Fees

Did you ever wonder why lawyers charge so much?  You'll hear the same old story about arcane knowledge and student loans. Malpractice insurance and office leases. Books and continuing legal education.  You'll hear the excuse that there so much that goes into a legal action and that if you want to get results you have to pay for it. Then there is the pet food for all those bull dogs, lions, tigers, and bears that attorneys try to convince you they are. Finally, you know they are competent because they either smile with artificially white teeth or the don't smile and strike a stern and threatening posture with their arms folded.

You may ask, "Are there any other reasons?"  Funny you should ask because there are other reasons.

1. Attorneys make money because you let them. They will ask for a retainer of several thousands of dollars. Many attorneys will not even consider a case unless you can pony up $5,000.00 or more of retainer. Twenty-five hours at $200.00 an hour. They will earn every penny of that. They will give you status updates when there is nothing has changed. They will send emails and make phone calls and draft letters and review your file. And they will dutifully mark the time on their billing software. Question them and the excuse is that "the other attorney is ___________ (fill in the blank)." You see, opposing counsel is responsible for the fees you are being charged.

B. More conflict = More fees. You have gone to see an attorney because there is conflict that you have been unable to settle. If you have one issue, the attorney will make "X" amount of money.  If the attorney can convince you that there are other issues, the attorney will make multiples of "X" amount of money. So, in an attempt to get you "what you deserve," the attorney "creates" conflict where none necessarily need exist. Furthermore, "what you deserve" is always something that the other person has- so it is their fault for not giving it to you in the first place. Opposing counsel is the reason you have to pay more.

Let me give you a real-life example from the case files of Christopher B. Enck. I was handling a divorce that could have been very simple. The parties were living apart and most of the marital estate had already been divided. There were a few minor issues that needed to be resolved and I presented the unrepresented spouse with a settlement proposal that was, in my eyes, very reasonable. That spouse decided to hire an attorney- which was their right. The simple litigation was prolonged for more than a year, cost the spouse several thousand dollars and my client several hundred. In the end, we reached an agreement that cost the spouse more than if he had accepted the proposal that I presented earlier.

It is true that my "loyalty" was to my client. It was also true that we discussed the settlement and I told my client that the opportunity existed to possibly receive a better settlement. My inclination is generally to be reasonable in an offer and to reasonably negotiate. It saves time and money if both parties are realistic and meet in the middle, rather than negotiate from extremes and meet in the middle anyway. My client respected that approach and approved of the position.

To be fair, there are times when conflict may need to be created and sizable retainers make sense. If you are planning a divorce and you have young children, working on custody might prevent future trouble. If you are faced with criminal charges, a big retainer to an attorney might keep you out of prison. There is also the fact that, unlike a mechanic who can keep your vehicle if you don't pay your bill, an attorney's work product is their knowledge and creativity. Once litigation is over, a client does not have an incentive to pay a bill- and I have had to file suit against numerous clients to recover my fees.

In the end you pay for what you get; you don't necessarily get what you pay for.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Der Kommissar's in town

Four months since my last post and I start by making a reference to an 80's pop song.

This is the world in which we find ourselves.  In my state of Pennsylvania, we have had millions, er
thous, wait hundr... tens!  Yes, tens of cases of COVID-19!  76 as of Tuesday morning, March 17 to be exact.

Before you accuse me of insensitivity or thought-crime, I understand the seriousness with which the government and the media imbue this crisis.

Governor Wolf (according to his website "strongly urged non-essential businesses across the state to close for at least 14 days to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19." Strongly urged? That sounds ominous. He also, "ordered all restaurants and bars close their dine-in facilities."  Ordered? That is ominous. Finally, Governor Wolf is "relying on businesses to act before the Governor or the Secretary of Health finds it necessary to compel closure." And there we have it- compel closure.  All this over tens of cases.

To be fair to Dear Leader Wolf, he is only following the lead of Emperor Trump. And really, when we run out of toilet paper we can just use our copies of the Constitution of the United States of America. We have a right to assembly pursuant to the First Amendment- but for some reason we have decided that we can do without that.

35 Pa Code §§7301 et seq places responsibility for dealing with crises in the Governor. Specifically the governor "may issue executive orders, proclamations and regulations which shall have the force and effect of law." (Emphasis added). Among the specific powers awarded the governor is the ability to "suspend or limit the sale, dispensing or transportation of alcoholic beverages, firearms, explosives and combustibles."  Anyone see a problem with this? Bueller?\

There is another solution- one so painfully obvious there should be no need to pose it. But I will.

Let the people decide!! If a business owner believes it is wise to close the business, let it close. Likewise, a business owner may decide to keep the business open and, as the owner sees fit, implement whatever strategies are desirable.  And We the People can decide which businesses we want to patronize. Are we really that feeble-minded that we can't decide these things for ourselves? Yes, some people will get set. Yes, some people will die.

Or let Der Kommissar decide. "He's got the power and you're so weak."