Posted by: reformedmusings | October 29, 2014

Repeat SWATer strikes again in Virginia

I wrote in this post about anti-gun zealots SWATting legal firearm carriers. Well, another incident happened right here in Northern Virginia. An individual known to police (as it turned out later) as a serial SWATter called 911 and lied about a legal open carrier committing a violent felony. You can read the details here, as well as hear the 911 call. As the linked article demonstrates, rabid anti-gun organizations and their members either tacitly or explicitly encourage and participate in these conspiracies to commit murder of innocent civilians.

We saw them succeed in having an innocent man SWATed to death in Ohio. The Inquisitr website has the FBI-synced SWATter’s 911 call and the Walmart surveillance video, clearly showing that Ronald Ritchie greatly exaggerated or outright lied about the victim’s actions, which resulted in not-too-bright Beavercreek officers killing Mr. Crawford basically for talking on his cell phone in a Walmart. Mr. Crawford was never a threat to anyone. Remember, he was walking around a Walmart on his way to purchase a BB gun and no one around him, other than the SWATer, showed any concern whatsoever. Mr. Crawford spends almost the entire 911 call simply standing in one place talking on his cell phone. Several witnesses testified to that effect. Again, I pray that the SWATter in that case, Ronald Ritchie, is charged and convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and whatever else he can be charged with. The victim’s family should also sue him for everything he has or ever will have. They should also file a wrongful death lawsuit locally as well as a federal 1983 civil rights suit against the officers involved and the Beavercreek PD.

Along with Philip, I want to congratulate the Fairfax County PD for their professionalism in not putting the SWATting victim in danger. Everyone remained calm and professional, and everyone went home safely. The trigger-happy Beavercreek police who could easily have been considered as having murdered Mr. Crawford should learn from Fairfax County.

SWATters must face felony charges for conspiracy to commit murder and worse. However, in this case as is typical with anti-liberty types, the caller is believed to be mentally ill. I’m not sure that the police are correct on that, because mental illness doesn’t necessarily mean the individual doesn’t know what they did was wrong. Repeat offenses should be enough to convict any SWATter. After all, this piece of dirt makes SWATting a habit. But even if the law cannot be brought down in full force, civil action can be. I pray that Mr. Dickens files a very heavy lawsuit against his SWATter. From a mental health commitment standpoint, Mr. Dickens SWATter is certainly a danger to others – one of the three criteria for involuntary institutional commitment.

Be careful out there, and to the best of your ability, cooperate with the police even when you know they are wrong and then take the appropriate action in court later. Go after the SWATters with everything at your disposal. After one or two go to jail with felony records or lose everything they have and will have, maybe then they will see the seriousness of murder by proxy.

Posted by: reformedmusings | October 26, 2014

Gun controllers advocate murder and lies while ISIS is at the door

Mom’s Demand Action, the latest slick Bloomberg anti-gun organization run by a slick, professional public relations professional, along with other gun controllers, now at least tacitly condone the SWATing of open carriers. There’s an anti-freedom radio jock who is even more explicit. Their mindless sycophants are frothing at the mouth. Legally, they can say what they want, but once they incite someone to murder, that’s called conspiracy to commit murder or incitement to commit murder, or even a hate crime. I pray that no one gets hurt, but if they do, the legal fallout will not be pretty. The civil courts will have a field day.

On the lie department, gun controllers have been using the talking point that there have been 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook. These folks must be complete idiots, because it’s really easy to check the numbers. The CATO institute did just that, and sure enough, the gun controllers live off of lies. Real school shootings have been decreasing slightly since the early 90’s. Now that some schools are waking up and really protecting students by arming teachers and administrators, the numbers will decrease even more. ISIS would love to pull a Beslan here in the U.S.A., and only hardening their targets will stop them.

America needs to wake up and arm up. The barbarians are already here.

Posted by: reformedmusings | October 26, 2014

Disastrous upgrade to Ubuntu 14.10 Utopic Unicorn

So, I was doing non-computer stuff the other day and noticed that Ubuntu released 14.10 Utopic Unicorn. I’ve been on 14.04 LTS, so the upgrade should have been trivial as so many have been over the years. As usual, I used the GUI updater to perform a routine upgrade. I let it run whilst doing other things until I noticed two lights flashing simultaneously on my keyboard. Checking the screen, I saw that the upgrade had frozen part-way through the installation. Rats. Now I surely had a unstable, unbootable system stuck in never-never land. Not what I had in mind.

First, I tried rebooting into a recovery mode which worked. I then used several commands to attempt to finish the upgrade:

apt-get update
apt-get dist-upgrade
dpkg –configure -a

This made sure that all packages were available, then upgraded the distribution, then lastly tried to repair any packages that didn’t install properly. The combination netted me a bootable Utopic system, but one using the Noveau open source video driver. I wanted to use my native NVidia driver, so went into Settings -> Software & Updates -> Additional Drivers, then selected the newest tested NVidia driver. I could not tell if that change completed, but I then restarted to load the new driver.

Net result was a working login screen, but after logging in, all I got was the background wallpaper. No Unity launcher or bar at the top of the screen. I was able to get into Settings by right-clicking on the desktop and selecting Change Desktop Background, but could not change the video driver again.

I dropped to the console using Ctrl-Alt-F2 in several attempts to recover the system, but all attempts to recover the video system failed. I’ll spare you the hours of details, but the bottom line is that there’s a bug in the NVidia installation script which causes problems with Unity and Compiz, and it’s not easy to recover from. In frustration, I booted into a Mint 12 setup that I had on another hard drive in my system, downloaded the Utopic DVD image, burned it to a DVD, then tried installing that.

The good news: Ubuntu recognized that I already had a 14.10 installation and offered to fix it while preserving all my apps. That seemed like a no-brainer, so I went for it.The bad news: it didn’t use my old /Home directory, but rather created its own. My regular /Home directory is a RAID 1 Array, which complicates the matter a bit. The old Alternate CD used to accommodate RAID arrays nicely, but that disk doesn’t appear to exist anymore. The Desktop DVD doesn’t have a clue about RAID arrays.

So, I went back to scratch, realizing that I’d have to reinstall all my apps but at least the settings and data would be preserved. So, I rebooted back to the Desktop DVD, manually configured the /Home directory, then learned that the mdadm RAID manager isn’t loaded by default, so I could not make my RAID 1 array the /Home directory. After several clever attempts to fool the system, I ended up making one of the RAID disks /Home by manually setting it in /etc/fstab, finishing the installation, then installing mdadm and reintegrating the array, manually setting the array as /Home in the /etc/fstab file. That worked like a charm, but was time consuming.

Since the Unity launcher didn’t work, I installed the Gnome desktop from Ctrl-Alt-F2 console and used it. I will comment on that desktop when I get a chance, but I found using that desktop extremely frustrating. But, it worked and I was able to use it to fix the Unity setup. That involved wiping the Unity (unity-tweak-tool –reset-unity) and Compiz (deleted the .compiz directories on /Home) settings clean and starting from scratch. Those actions proved the last keys to success.

I also ran into a bizarre problem with one of my USB hubs. It provided endless error messages that infused the entire recovery process and greatly slowed things down. Only by trial-and-error did I find the correct peripheral to disconnect. That hub worked perfectly before, so I plan to give it a try once I finish resetting up my system.

After finally obtaining a clean, working Utopic system, I had to reinstall all of my apps. Since I hadn’t done this for a while, I had to do some catch up on the Internet. I found help for psensors here, Adobe Reader here, Mouse help for Compiz settings here, creating an icon for grpn here, and got that icon here.

I am still installing cat and dog apps as I need them. Now that all is basically resolved, the Unity system seems stable. My experience with Gnome reinforced my appreciation for Unity. Although I wasn’t a Unity fan in the beginning, that system has progressed significantly to become almost intuitive.

As for the Ubuntu 14.10 upgrade, this proved to be the worst of any I’ve ever done over the last 7 years. Perhaps the fact that unicorns are mythical has something to do with it. I hope to see better in the future. Then again, it’s hard to complain about free.

 

Posted by: reformedmusings | September 21, 2014

Bluetooth bug in Android/Linux 3.4.103 kernel

I updated to Cyanogenmod 11.0 M10 a few days ago. Everything seemed to work great until a colleague called me Friday while I was on my Bluetooth headset. I could answer the call with the headset, but I couldn’t hear the other caller nor could he hear me. After a few moments of confusion, he hung up and called back. Same result, but I switched to speaker in time to catch the call. I lived on my Bluetooth headset on M9 (and previous) with no problem, so this was a definite regression.

After some investigation, I found that this was an issue in the new Android/Linux 3.4.103 kernel upon which CM 11.0 M10 is based. The same problem occurs in other custom kernels based on 3.4.103.

I added my voice to the bug report on jira here. After asking for kernel builds to fix this, I received help on the jira thread and also on xda-developers. Two kernels were suggested: Quantumkernel 5/16 and the BMS 20140806 kernel.

Before flashing a new kernel, common wisdom is to make a nandroid backup of your stable system, just in case. After booting into your recovery (I use CWM), you must delete both the cache and dalvik cache. Then you are ready to flash the new kernel.

I tried both suggested kernels. Quantumkernel 5/16 is based on Android kernel 3.4.99, while DMS 20140806 is based on 3.4.101. Both fixed the Bluetooth issue, but DMS contained newer Cyanogenmod commits so I stuck with it. So far, so good.

I am now fully operational again, but hoping that the Cyanogenmod team releases an interim milestone build with a kernel that fixes the Bluetooth issues. Many thanks to the wonderful Android community for helping identify the cause and provide helpful interim fixes. Thanks also to the Android community developers who provide the excellent variety of choices for open source users.

Posted by: reformedmusings | September 1, 2014

Chicago as the poster child for gun control

Here are some great stats that compare gun-hating Chicago with other big cities, even those that hate guns about as much. Contrast that with Detroit, where violent crime has dropped dramatically since Chief Jame Craig took over and encourage citizens to defend themselves against violent predators.

But there’s hope for Chicago despite the Obama thug politics there against armed citizens. Thanks to the Supreme Court, Chicagoans are now getting concealed carry permits and crime is predictably dropping as a result. Hopefully they’ll even get gun stores some day.

Liberal anti-freedom types actually do get it – it’s all about control, not guns.

miller-breakfast

Posted by: reformedmusings | September 1, 2014

Armed good guys & gals taking back Detroit

Great article about legally armed citizens taking back their city here. Detroit Police Chief Jame Craig stands firmly behind his law-abiding citizens, despite the cries of freedom haters who’d rather see the violent predators run free to terrorize and victimize unarmed sheeple. As has been said, only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun.

those-who-malign-us

Posted by: reformedmusings | August 25, 2014

How to win against Islamic terrorists

How do we defeat Islamic terrorists like ISIL? Lt Col Ralph Peters, USA (Ret.) gets it:

Yeah, he nailed it.

Posted by: reformedmusings | August 25, 2014

I am a Virginian…and I carry

Excellent video that tells the truth about citizens that carry:

Over 11,000,000 and growing fast, driving violent crime in the opposite direction!

Posted by: reformedmusings | August 24, 2014

Psalm 121 – Lord’s Day Exhortation

Delivered on Aug 24, 2014. You can listen to the exhortation here. All Scripture verses taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

OT Reading: Isaiah 43:1-13
NT Reading: Romans 8:26-39

Psalm 121 – Got Help?

Pastor Billy preached on Psalm 120 last week. As we look at Psalm 121 this week, I’d like us to see the continuity from 120 to 121 to 122. At the end of 120, the sojourner seeks help. He finds it in 121. He responds with joy in worship in Ps 122. They flow linearly like a single psalm.

We start today in Ps 121 with our daily churn, as Pastor Billy preached about last week, where we live our daily lives. We face our circumstances, sometimes a source of joy and other times a source of pain and suffering, but most times simply the churn of daily existence in a fallen world. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly as it were for you fellow Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western fans. The Fall changed everything for us.

But as the Psalm 121 shows, the Fall did not change God. That’s where our hope and confidence lies.

Psalm 121
A Song of Ascents.

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Outline
1. Yahweh as Creator in verses 1 & 2
2. Yahweh as the Guardian of His Covenant people and you as a covenant member in verses 3 – 6
3. Yahweh’s Future Blessings in verses 7 & 8

The name for God used throughout this psalm is Yahweh – God’s covenant name given to Moses and Israel at the burning bush. As we will see in this psalm, God’s care for us is inseparable from His covenant love for us.

Yahweh the Creator
In verse 1, the psalmist looks to the hills. Looking to the hills can have negative or positive connotations depending on the translation. Negative in the anticipation of an ambush while traveling. Robbers and thieves can use the rocks and crevices in the hills, plus the tactical advantage of the high ground, against the sojourner. This is still true in many areas of the world.

The connotation can be positive if the hills are at Jerusalem, seeing one’s goal. What a joy to have one’s destination finally in sight!

Or perhaps, as the hills point to the heavens and Yahweh, our covenant-keeping God. Either way, the real emphasis of verse 1 is the question at the end: From where does my help come? Is that not our question today in our fallen world?

The psalmist immediately answers this critical question in verse 2. The eternal God who created the heavens and the earth and everything in them is our help. Who can stay his hand? Isaiah 43:1-13 which Bart read earlier addressed that very well. Who can oppose him? Who can thwart his purposes? If our covenant-keeping God is for us, who can possibly succeed against us? Romans 8:31-35 gives the answer – nothing or no one in the universe can separate God’s elect from Christ’s love.

The Exegetical Bible Commentary observes:

The creedal statement, also taken up in the Apostles’ Creed, originally signified an apologetic statement on Yahweh’s sovereignty over all realms: heaven and earth, thereby excluding any claims by pagan deities. Yahweh alone is God.

When I lead the prayer time here during worship, I always declare the great privilege that we have to approach the Creator of the universe with our adoration, confessions, thanksgiving, and supplications. Phil 4:6 explicitly tells us:

…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Ponder that for a moment. God, who created all things – you, everyone you know and don’t know; everything you see and don’t see, from the sub-atomic quarks, to the microscopic bacteria, to the cosmic structures, and beyond the cosmos; everything in the physical and spiritual realms; everything that you know and all that you do not know. THAT God, the only God, wants to hear from you, yes YOU. He calls we who believe His children. In John 3:1:

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

And what does that mean?  Jesus lays that out for us in Matthew 7:7-11:

7  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.   8  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.   9  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?   10  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?   11  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Do you believe that? What great assurance we have when we do! And what if our personal churn is so great that we think that we need a can opener to get up to the bottom? Then listen to Jesus’ own words in Matthew 11:29-30:

28  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.   29  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   30  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

But that doesn’t leave the rest of us off the hook. Scripture also tells us in Gal 6:2 to

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Our help comes from God the Creator, who also created the Church to be a blessing – especially to His elect. Are we living that out?

Yahweh the Guardian of the Covenant people and person – “Your” Guardian
Note the change at verse 3 from the first person of verses 1 & 2 to the second person. Commentators interpret this change in various ways. One popular interpretation is that the Psalm presents an internal monologue within the traveler – essentially talking to himself.

Another interpretation is that Psalm 121 represents a dialogue between two people, either a father and son or an Israelite traveler and a priest. The latter has support in the emphatic authority with which verses 3 through 8 state the blessings of being in the covenant.

Let’s look at the assertions here about our Helper in heaven. The reference to our foot not being moved spoke volumes to the Israelite traveling to Jerusalem. That area of Israel is rocky and mountainous. There was no REI back then from which to procure high-tech climbing and hiking gear with which to master the terrain. To the best of my knowledge, no one sold aggressively treaded sandals with Vibram soles with which to scale the mountains. Slipping and falling to one’s death on the rocky paths provided a very real threat to the traveling pilgrim in ancient Israel. Help was needed, and God provided that help.

The Psalmist observes that God never sleeps. This seems to reference the showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. Being from Philadelphia, home of the soon-to-be champion Eagles, I especially appreciate Elijah’s approach:

27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

Obviously Baal wasn’t asleep, unless one considers non-existence a form of sleep. Pagan gods slept, ate, etc., just like the humans that created them in their fallen minds. Not so the Creator of the universe. Whenever, whereever, and however you need help, God is on duty and in sovereign control over all that comes to pass.

That sword has two edges. On the one hand, we can rest upon God’s great providence and trust in His sovereign will for our lives in every circumstance. Nothing surprises God since He ordains all  that comes to pass. On the other hand, we live coram Deo: literally before the face of God. He sees all that we think, do and say. That fact can be disconcerting indeed! He sees our love for Him and others, but He also sees our sins in all their gory detail. We can hide nothing from God. Whenever we sin, we do so before the face of God, grieving the Holy Spirit within us. That’s a sobering thought, and one certainly worthy of daily reflection.

On Psalm 121, the late Dr. James Boice noted that

Protection by God, under the watchful eye of God, is the dominant idea in the psalm.

We clearly see this from a  word used 6 times in the psalm, finding it in verses 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8. God “keeps” and is our “keeper”. The Hebrew word translated “keeper” is samar and according to the Complete Word Study Dictionary means “to watch, to guard, to care for. Adam and Eve were to watch over and care for the Garden of Eden where the Lord had placed them (Gen. 2:15)”

Note the similarity to the Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6:24, where God promises to keep his people – to guard and care for them.

Samar points to God’s providential care for His elect. Our Confession of Faith defines God’s providential care in Chapter 5 as:

God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.

The Confession goes on to say that:

…in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly…

Now, we could spend weeks just unpacking those two paragraphs. What a powerful summary of the solid basis for our trusting in God’s providential love for us. Nothing happens by “accident”, but everything has a part in God’s keeping of us and His creation – all to His glory. Remember that God is infinite and we are not, so we will not understand how everything works together for our good. As God tells us Isaiah 55:

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Throughout the bulk of Psalm 121, the psalmist lists blessings associated with God’s providential care. He notes that the God who keeps corporate Israel, and by extension the Church, also keeps the particular members of Israel and the Church. The psalmist’s easy transition between Israel and “you” in verses 3 & 4 clearly recognizes this continuity.

The psalmist notes God’s providence in a series of metaphors. God is our shade, protecting the traveler in the desert of Israel and the elect today in the desert of our broken society and the churn therein. God protects us from the baking sun during the day and the terrors in the dark at night – John Carpenter’s horror movies notwithstanding. This providential protection excludes the superstitions both of ancient Israel and today, including, but not limited to, astrology. God alone ordains all that comes to pass, not the sun, moon, stars or any travels or alignments thereof. We look to the stars to see but a small portion of God’s power and glory, not a superstitious roadmap. Scripture provides the only infallible guide for faith and practice in our lives.

Future Blessing

In verses 7 and 8, the psalmist switches to the future tense. The Lord will keep us from all evil. He will keep our life, including our going out and coming in forevermore. What a powerful set of promises that have no end!

Reality Check
So, does this mean that the elect Israelite and Christian will not see trouble, trials, or suffering? That’s not our experience nor is it the Psalmist’s message. Again, Dr. Boice observes that:

The point of Psalm 121 is not that we will not have problems, but that God will keep us safe as we go through them.

Eugene Peterson in his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction points out that the psalmist doesn’t promise the we will never encounter tribulations and suffering, but that “no injury, no illness, no accident, no distress will have evil power over us, that is, will be able to separate us from God’s purposes in us.” That again points us back to Isaiah 43, Isaiah 55 and Romans 8.

The Puritan commentator Matthew Henry also took this approach when he wrote that:

“He [God] will take care that his people shall not fall. Thou shalt not be hurt, neither by the open assaults, nor by the secret attempts of thine enemies. The Lord shall prevent the evil thou fearest, and sanctify, remove, or lighten the evil thou feelest.”

Psalm 46 recognizes this reality as well. It starts out by observing that

1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear…

Also, note that God’s help doesn’t always come in the manner we anticipate or in the timing that we would choose. Life in our broken world is full of churn and turmoil. Fallen humanity seems dominated by the philosophy of deferred gratification as the insidious crippler of youth. The Bible presents a different perspective. From Isaiah 40:

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

Brothers and sisters, be prepared wait on the Lord. His timing is not always our timing, but history demonstrates that His promises are sure.

Leslie Allen in his commentary on Psalm 121 rightly observes:

In practical terms life cushioned from all unpleasantness was never the lot of the Israelite, any more than it has been that of the Christian. But believers in any age hear this message deep in their hearts and are encouraged thereby to bear the heat and burden of the day and to sleep with contentment. God’s servants may entrust their lives to him as to a faithful Creator and derive strength from the knowledge that the peace of God keeps their hearts and minds.

Dr. Boice also encourages us:

The mature Christian is neither blind to trouble nor in fear of it, for he is following after Jesus Christ, who said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Fulfillment
Indeed, Christ has overcome the world. The psalmist looked to the sovereign providence of God the Father as he traveled the rough and dangerous terrain to God’s holy temple. God provided many shadows and types in previous times, pointing forward to a savior. But now God has spoken to us by His Son, having provided the Savior He promised as far back as Genesis 3:15.

Christ came to fulfill the law of God, obeying it in perfect fulfillment of the Covenant of Works, doing so in our place. Then, as Peter observed in Acts 2:22-23:

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—  23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

But Jesus did not remain in the grave, for Peter goes on to declare that

24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

The same power that God used to create everything from nothing is the same power that He used to raise Jesus from the dead. The merciful and loving providential care that the psalmist declared is the same mercy and love by which God forgives our sins and imputes Christ’s righteousness to all who will rest in Christ alone for their eternal salvation. Friends, believe the good news of the Gospel.

Conclusion
Do you fear that the churn of this fallen, broken world, of a society absorbed by and reveling in sin, will absorb you? Overcome you? Do your fears, concerns, needs, and sufferings press in from every side? From where does your help come? Together with the psalmist and all the saints, know that your help comes from our Triune God.

Our help comes from God the Father, who created all things and providentially guards, upholds, and continuously cares for us.

Our help comes from Jesus Christ, the second Person of the the Trinity and Son of God, who lived, suffered, died, and was resurrected for our salvation. He sits at the Father’s right hand, ever interceding for us.

Our help comes from the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, who applies Christ’s salvation to us, illumines the Scriptures for us, and works in us to perfect us and help us live lives pleasing to God.

As we make our pilgrimage through this fallen, broken world, let us always remember with the psalmist from where our help comes 24/7/365 as we live coram Deo – before the face of God, the covenant-keeping God who keeps us today and forever.

Posted by: reformedmusings | August 21, 2014

Officer Wilson beaten nearly unconsious before shooting

Officer Darren Wilson was beaten badly by the 6 foot, 4 inch, 300 pound Michael Brown before firing his service weapon in self-defense when Brown turned back to attack him again. Here are more details on Officer Wilson’s serious injuries suffered in his beating by Brown. Imagine being barely able to see out of one eye after having your face broken by a huge thug, then seeing with your good eye that thug running at you to deliver yet another beating. We saw in the surveillance video how Brown shoves the store clerk by his throat and then towers over the man to intimidate him as Brown steals from the store.

Of course, you’ll hear none of this from the lamestream media. Obama, Holder, Sharpton, and the media all profit from portraying this as a racial incident. Two autopsies and the other witness statements already show that Brown’s accomplice lied about the events leading up to the shooting. Autopsies also showed that Brown had marijuana in his system. Only those who dig from the truth will see the truth that Officer Wilson shot Brown in self-defense based on a very real fear for his life, having already sustained a severe beating from Brown. Yet again, don’t believe the media lies.

Posted by: reformedmusings | August 18, 2014

The Michael Brown shooting – the other side of the story

Tired of the Sharpton/New Black Panthers/Holder/Obama/lamestream press race baiting?  It turns out that there’s a significant body of evidence backing Officer Darren Wilson’s side of the shooting story.

It turns out that some folks apparently started cell phone videoing just after the shooting. Both FoxNews and IJReview have partial transcripts of the Youtube video (private video). The video doesn’t show much, but the conversation on the video from apparent eyewitnesses back the officer’s version of events.

Here’s the surveillance video of the strong-arm store robbery purportedly showing Michael Brown and an accomplice. The descriptions match pretty closely. Imagine that 6 foot 4 inch, 300 pound frame charging at you in the street. It was shoot or die for the officer. More on that below.

Then there’s someone calling themselves “Josie” who purports to tell Officer Darren Wilson’s side of the story. It matches the official story, the video conversation, and the autopsy results closely.

Oh yeah, the autopsy report. It clearly shows that Brown was shot in the front, consistent with him charging the officer. The locations of last shots in the head are consistent with Brown lowering his head to tackle or head-butt the officer at the end of his charge.

So, working backwards from the autopsy report, through Josie’s narrative which matches the official statements, and backed up by the video transcript, and the conduct seen in the surveillance video from the robbery, the story is consistent. Officer Wilson was rightly in fear for his life and reacted correctly under the circumstances.

One more thing. Brown wasn’t shot over a box of cigars. Brown was shot because he apparently chose, of his own free will, to violently attack a police officer. And Brown was not unarmed. He was allegedly using his 6 foot 4 inch, 300 pound frame as a deadly weapon against the officer. That’s called “disparity of force” in the law, and provides the legal basis for using deadly force in self-defense. Remember that.

The Michael Brown shooting isn’t about race, it’s about the facts which are independent of race and politics. When you see the race baiters on TV or hear them on the radio, remember, they are devoid of facts – empty bags of ill wind. Don’t be fooled. Remember the Sharpton/Holder/Obama/lamestream press race baiting in the Zimmerman self-defense case from Florida? Remember the use of a childhood picture of Zimmerman’s violent attacker to gain sympathy where none was due? They were all wrong or lying or both. George Zimmerman was exonerated by a jury of his peers who heard ALL the facts, not just the Sharpton/Holder/Obama/lamestream press race baiting, carefully crafted spin. Now they are at it again.A thorough investigation is in progress by the local and state police departments. Final judgement should be withheld until that investigation is complete. Theirs is the only apolitical investigation seeking the true facts, as opposed to the race-based spin that Holder’s politically-biased DOJ will try to produce from whole cloth.Truth is the inevitably the first casualty in politics.

Posted by: reformedmusings | August 17, 2014

Modern sporting rifles save lives

HT: GunFreeZone.

YOU-DONT-NEED

And going back to the LA riots, let’s not forget the Koreans who defended themselves and their shops while the police cowered outside the troubled area:

Koreans--la-riots

Think that the police are there to protect you? Guess again.

 

Posted by: reformedmusings | August 16, 2014

Police militarization on display in Ferguson, MO

I remember the good ol’ days when the mission of the police was to protect and serve. The police knew their communities and the communities new them. Police were respected for their courage and sacrifice.

We live in a new age where “protect and serve” has given way to “enforce and intimidate.” Folks like myself that used to respect the police now keep a watchful eye on the increasing isolation of what has morphed to “law enforcement” and their growing isolation and militarization.

The militarization started innocently enough. In the 1033 program started in 1997, the military could transfer excess equipment to police departments. The goal was laudatory – to equip local departments to handle violent drug gangs. Well, crime has plummeted since 1997. However, the war on terror, 9/11, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have produced a plethora of serious military hardware combined with a national police force called the Department of Homeland Security,  which Obama implied should rival the military in power.

How is this playing out? The use of over-equipped, under-disciplined, under-trained, and poorly led SWAT teams to serve warrants for non-violent offenses have cost many innocent lives. The former military users of that equipment had extensive and continuous training, a well-understood strict disciplinary system, and highly-trained and experienced leadership. Most of this equipment was designed for military professionals to use on combatant enemies, not civilian amateurs to use on fellow U.S. citizens.

We see all this playing out in Ferguson, MO. Leaving the igniting incident aside, we see the usual rioting and looting by animals at any perceived excuse. The looting animals aren’t protesters, but hardened thugs and predators who take advantage of tragedies. I have no sympathy for looters or rioters.

That said, the police responded to this relatively small number of thugs by terrorizing the entire community. Mashable did a photo essay comparing the police in Ferguson with our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Senator Rand Paul wrote a great essay about the police’s extreme militarization visible in Ferguson, and Ferguson is far from unique.

In the overreaction to the blow-back from the militaristic intimidation, the police have now virtually abandoned citizens, their property and their businesses. It has fallen to property and business owners to protect themselves and their interests, just as it did in the Korean community in the LA riotsthe 2nd Amendment in full action.

So, in Ferguson we see the necessity of both sides of the 2nd Amendment. First, we see the fruition of Obama’s trampling of the Constitution by building an illegal civilian army while attempting to disarm the people through “common sense gun control”, that government threat being the core reason that our Founders included the 2nd Amendment. Second, we see the government then failing to protect its citizens (as governments are all destined to fail), so that armed citizens must stand and fight to survive.

Don’t be prey. Be prepared. Be prepared to protect your freedom and your family. Arm yourself and get training for a day that we all hope never comes in our communities. But it certainly can, and with little if any warning.

Posted by: reformedmusings | August 16, 2014

Are you ready for the next Ferguson, MO, mayhem?

Something serious to think about from the president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League:

The ongoing riots in Ferguson, Missouri should serve as an important reminder to anyone who is thinking about owning a gun.  When your safety is already at risk, it may be too late to buy that first gun.

Why do I say that?

1.  You’ll be lucky to find a gun at a gun store when EVERYBODY is trying to buy one.  And IF you do find a gun, it may not be the best gun or the most suitable gun and it’s going to cost you a lot more money than it would have before the emergency.

2.  You may not be able to find ammunition for your new gun.  And IF you do find ammunition, it may not be the most suitable ammunition for self-defense, you may not find it in the quantity you want, and it is going to cost you a lot more money.

3.  You may not be able to purchase important accessories for your new gun.  Things like spare magazines, holsters, slings, and optics.  Not having enough magazines or not having a holster could put you in a real bind.  You may not have time to research which accessories you need or be able to install them quickly if you can even find them.

4.  By not having bought the gun ahead of time and now being in the middle of an emergency, you won’t have the time to take the gun to a range to do important things like:

a) making sure the gun actually works and is not a one-shot or even a zero-shot wonder

b) making sure that the ammunition you purchased works in the gun

c) practicing with the gun to become proficient in its use and to know how to do critical things, like reloading the gun quickly while under pressure

d) becoming comfortable and familiar with various controls such as thumb safeties, grip safeties, or de-cockers

e) adjusting the sights on the gun to make sure the bullet is going to go reasonable close to where the gun is aimed

f) installing and testing any accessories, like bipods, tactical lights, laser sights, or custom grips

The time to become a gun owner is NOW when you are NOT in the middle of a riot or some other emergency.

The time to do it is when you have time.  When you can purchase the gun you want.  When you can purchase and store a quantity of the ammunition you want.  When you can verify the gun functions properly and is sighted in properly.  When you can study which accessories you want and have time to get those accessories.  When you can practice and train with both the gun and the accessories so that you have confidence in your ability to protect yourself and your family.

All of that can be done in a reasonable amount of time if you put enough effort into it, but it can’t be done instantaneously in the middle of an emergency.

If you’re going to become a gun owner, and you don’t live in Ferguson, MO, there is no time better than RIGHT NOW.

Posted by: reformedmusings | July 30, 2014

Refuse to be a victim

It’s been a busy summer and I haven’t had time to post much. I hope to do some catch up in the next few weeks, but here’s a good start.

Anti-liberty Bloomberg hired a high-power ad firm to produce an anti-freedom gun control ad for his current front organizations, the euphemistically named Everytown for Gun Safety/Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense – both dedicated to making Americans helpless victims.

So, how’s that working out? Here’s their first at bat, exploiting the tragedy of domestic violence:

Bad, huh. That what Bloomberg and his fellow anti-freedom zealots want for America – helpless sheep to be sheered by the physically and/or politically powerful. Think the dark ages when the weak were simply prey for the physically strong, or Nazi Germany when the politically weak were prey for a tyrannical government. That’s the ideal future for Bloomberg. How’s that working out in Chicago and DC – gun control and murder capitals at the same time?

But, what if the woman in that propaganda video was also armed? Even the ultra-liberals on The View preferred this approach. She would have been in a better tactical position to survive. Here’s the founding fathers’ dream for a strong and free American people:

Yep – a strong and free woman able to defend herself against a physically more powerful predator.  Let’s set aside the sales pitches and talk real life:

There’s a woman who was prepared thanks to a friend. She did everything that Bloomberg and Biden want – call 911, hide in a locked room. All that was useless. The dispatcher didn’t want her to do anything rash? Seriously? The intended victim was supposed to lay back and be raped until the cops finally arrived, probably after she was dead? What saved her from that fate was having a firearm and be willing to use it. When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

Here’s another preferred outcome featuring a strong, prepared woman who dispatched a bad guy who mistakenly thought that she was helpless prey:

This dispatcher was a lot more supportive and helpful. So, which would you rather be, the helpless victim that Bloomberg, Everytown, and Mom’s want you to be as in their video, or a strong American able to defend yourself and your family from violent predators. That should be your choice. Don’t let Bloomberg or his proxies make the decision for you.

Refuse to be a victim. Write you Senators and Congressmen and tell them to keep the government’s hands off of your firearms.

 

 

Posted by: reformedmusings | May 22, 2014

Tribal Congregationalism and future of the PCA

I have used the term “tribal congregationalism” several times in recent blog posts and comments. I stated the basic definition most succinctly in this post as:

The PCA [Presbyterian Church in America] has become a tribal congregationalist denomination where particular errors find toleration in specific presbyteries that remain unaccountable to the denomination as a whole.

I have been asked to expand upon that definition, hence this post.

Amongst the important elements of good leadership are empowerment and accountability. Empowerment includes the idea of delegation, wherein I assign a task or function to a person or group. When empowered, that person or group then has the tools and authority to accomplish the assigned task or function, along with clear expectations and desired outcomes.

With empowerment must also come accountability to the leader who assigned the task or function. Accountability can include things like deadlines, progress reports, specific intermediate goals, etc., as well as the actual final outcome. A good leader delegates tasks and functions, empowers those assigned to those tasks and functions with the tools and authorities necessary, provides clear expectations and desired outcomes, and holds the empowered accountable for the results.

We see these principles generally at work in the PCA’s Book of Church Order (BCO). We have three levels of church courts, each with specific tasks and functions assigned, specific expectations, and each empowered to carry out their tasks and functions as delineated in the BCO (BCO 1-1, 1-5, 3-2, 10-1, 10-2, 11-4). Through review and control (BCO 11-4, Chapter 40), each court is held accountable to the broader courts. That is, sessions are held accountable to presbyteries through the review of their minutes and general knowledge of their activities. Presbyteries, in turn, are held accountable via the same tools to the General Assembly. That’s Presbyterianism 101.

When that process breaks down, we have processes for church discipline (BCO Chapters 29 to 40). Individual courts hold their members accountable through investigations, counseling and, as a last resort, trials. Each court’s execution of the discipline process is reviewed by the next broader court for their fidelity to our Constitution – the Westminster Standards together with the BCO. That’s Presbyterianism 102.

Unfortunately, while the theory is sound, the execution is found lacking in the PCA these days. We created an outlier judicial commission, the SJC, which as constructed differs from the actual church courts (BCO 15-3) in that it is not directly accountable to the General Assembly (which created it) for its specific actions or decisions (BCO 15-5). Therefore, the three court structure, the courts being one (BCO 11-3), is broken in the PCA because of an unaccountable judicial commission (BCO Preliminary Principle 7).

The breakdown of the above basic leadership elements and processes that implement them has been manifest in recent decisions in the PCA. The Committee for the Review of Presbytery Records rightly called out a specific presbytery’s decision accepting officers who hold to paedocommunion (the unbiblical serving of communion to infants and toddlers in violation of 1 Cor 11:27-29; WCF 29, WSC 96, 97; WLC 168-177) to the General Assembly, but the latter decided not to hold that presbytery accountable. The General Assembly permitted, by inaction, officers that practice of intinction, which also violates the Scriptural model for communion (Mt 26:26-28; Lk 22:17-20; 1 Cor 11:23-29) as well as the Westminster Standards (WCF 29.3; WLC 169) and the BCO (58-5). The SJC gave a pass to the teaching and practice of Federal Vision errors by church officers in the Leithart and Meyers cases by choosing to decide those cases based on technicalities rather than directly addressing the underlying heresies (Mt 23:22-24).

Perhaps just as bad, progressive political parties now operate freely but in secret in the PCA, outside of any accountability to the church courts. The National Partnership and Original Vision Network seek to turn the PCA into a “broadly Reformed” denomination without defining “broadly Reformed.” Given their tolerance of intinction, paedocommunion, female deacons, etc., I think that we can guess which way they lean. I sincerely believe that the word “confessional” is used as an byword in their secret emails and meetings. Secret hearts and sorry tales will never help love grow.

The net result of this lack of accountability for officers and presbyteries tolerating, holding, teaching, and/or practicing serious errors has been the creation of a system which I call “tribal congregationalism.”

The tribes refer to presbyteries that tolerate officers holding, practicing and/or teaching specific errors within their boundaries. I witnessed first hand that seminary graduates know which presbyteries are likely to accept their paedocommunion views, for example, and in which presbyteries to avoid even attempting ordination. Federal Visionists have a very good idea of which presbyteries they shouldn’t bother transferring into (Leithart obviously isn’t as smart as some folks think he is). And so on with intinction, theistic evolution, female deacons, etc. Each erroneous officer or candidate seeks out safety in his applicable tribe. Some tribes overlap or tolerate multiple errors, others do not. Safe conversations seek out supporting tribes.

The congregationalism part of the term comes from the lack of accountability outside the tribe. We nod and wink at specific presbyteries that tolerate officers who practice or teach Federal Vision, paedocommunion, intinction, female deacons, theistic evolution, et al. A majority of the commissioners at General Assembly have apparently consistently desired to avoid offending or judging deviant officers. Net result = no accountability. Specific errors thrive within the bounds of each tribe without accountability to the denomination at large. That’s what I call tribal congregationalism, and ultimately it will destroy the PCA.

Sound too drastic? Consider PCA congregants who travel or transfer around the country, which describes many in our mobile society. I have seen families bring their little toddlers up for communion, only to be refused by faithful officers who take the Scriptures seriously. Even when reached out to after the service, these families rarely return to a PCA church in a faithful presbytery, usually winding up in the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC). On the flip side, I get emails from families traveling or moving to questionable presbyteries, wanting to know which churches are faithful to our Constitution, and hence to the Scriptures since PCA officers swear that our Standards contains the system of doctrine taught in holy Scripture. Sadly, sometimes I point them to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) or Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) or other more consistent denominations because I cannot name a faithful PCA church in their area of interest. The PCA is sowing division and confusion in the wind, and will reap the whirlwind (Hos 8:7).

I hear, especially from young officers, that the PCA must reach out to and welcome the diverse cultures in our country, because we won’t survive if we don’t do so. I agree. You won’t find a more diverse cultural settings than the greater Washington D.C. area in which God planted the church in which I am honored to serve. I see first-hand every week that the gospel of Jesus Christ knows no cultural boundaries. People around the world share one overarching characteristic – they are all sinners in need of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, with the Scriptures as the only inerrant and infallible rule for faith and practice. That sentence is the most missional statement that you’ll ever see outside of Scripture itself.

That welcoming of sinners from diverse national, ethnic, economic, etc., backgrounds won’t break the PCA. Rather, by God’s grace that people-diversity will strengthen His Church. What WILL break the PCA is the diversity of theology and worship beyond the bounds of our Constitution and the regulative principle, both firmly based on Scripture, now found and growing in the PCA.

The empowerment and mutual accountability of Presbyterianism is fundamentally incompatible with tribal congregationalism. So, I’ll say it again: The PCA is sowing confusion in the wind, and will reap the whirlwind. We need to decide if the PCA will follow the church in Sardis (Rev 3:1-6) or the church in Philadelphia (Rev 3:7-13) and act now on that decision. May God give us the wisdom to take after that faithful church in Revelation 3:7-13.

Posted by: reformedmusings | May 14, 2014

Tale of Two Letters – A Response

Gentle readers – My good friend and fellow laborer-in-the-gospel TE Billy Boyce called me with some thoughts on my original post. We had an amicable discussion in which Billy differed with me in some areas. I offered Billy the chance to publish his thoughts on my blog if he so desired. By way of introduction, let me observe that Billy is solidly and confessionally Reformed, very intelligent, and does his homework. Below is Billy’s thoughtful response:

Recently, a friend and fellow elder, RE Bob Mattes, penned an article responding to a recent letter to the PCA from eighteen of her founders concerning the identity of the church. I always appreciate Bob’s research, yet disagreed with his analysis here. I consider Bob a friend and an “elder’s elder.” I value his experience and commitment to the Reformed tradition and our denomination. Though we disagree on certain things, we agree on far more, and when our opinions diverge, we still hold to our greater unity in Christ. We gladly labor together as elders at the same church in Northern Virginia, meeting frequently for conversation. This response is offered in that spirit, allowing us to continue conversation in the public forum as we normally would in person.

In his post, Bob suggests that the founders’ letter represents mission creep in the PCA, with the desire to be “broadly Reformed” representing a change from the PCA’s founding mission. While Bob offers insight into some of our denominational weaknesses, I believe that his article presents a truncated view of our history and identity. This discussion demonstrates the continued struggle to define the identity of the PCA as a Reformed church in the 21st century.

Interpreting the Past
Bob’s main contention is that the 18 elders have chosen to rewrite the original vision of the PCA, from “total commitment to the Reformed tradition” to, in his words, “big tent PCA”, i.e., “broadly Reformed.” Bob helpfully exhorts readers of the letter to remember the original vision of the PCA (hereafter OV) set forth in the 1973 “Message to All Churches”. However, he rejects the letter from the 18 as an adequate interpretation of the OV, advocating an interpretation closer to that of Dr. Morton Smith.

Much can be said regarding the history of the PCA and the OV. First, we must acknowledge that there are different interpretations of the original material. In re-reading the founding document, I noted a particular emphasis on uniting commitment to Reformed heritage with evangelistic zeal. Dr. Smith’s work retains these commitments, but casts them in the form of rigorous Southern Presbyterianism. While Dr. Smith’s view is an interpretation of the original vision, it is not the only one. Dr. Tim Keller, drawing on research by Dr. Sean Lucas, observes that the PCA was, from its founding, intentionally integrationist, with representatives from a number of different strands of the American Reformed tradition comprising her identity. Put simply, the OV alone does not necessitate Dr. Smith’s view or the view of the 18, but is broad enough to encompass both.

Second, when seeking to apply the OV to the present day, we must consider another major event in our history: the 1982 Joining and Receiving with the RPCES. The church that emerged from the 1973 OV retained much of its heritage, with many maintaining the emphasis on “the spirituality of the Church” and other characteristics of the older Southern Church. Meanwhile, the RPCES signified a primarily Northern church with a heavy emphasis on cultural engagement and a desire for unity against the background of divisive fundamentalism. Given the merging of these different strands, Dr. Francis Schaeffer exhorted the new church to practice great patience in order to more fully realize the Gospel in the world. Now, to some, the J&R represents a shift away from the OV, but to others, a logical and necessary realization of the OV (i.e., “We greet all believers in an affirmation of the bonds of Christian brotherhood. We invite into ecclesiastical fellowship all who maintain
our principles of faith and order.”). If this is the case, we must continue to let these various strands inform our Reformed identity.

What then of our commitment to the Standards? Bob sees strict subscription to the Standards as the only way of preserving “total commitment to the Reformed tradition”. Therefore, in the move to “good faith subscription” (GFS), the PCA jumped onto the slippery slope that led the PCUS astray. However, there are many who view GFS as the best way to realize our commitment to the tradition. The Westminster Divines purposely worded the Confession to be inclusive of a plurality of viewpoints on many issues; as Robert Letham demonstrates, the Westminster Standards are conciliatory documents. Additionally, mandating strict subscription alone does not guarantee true fidelity to the Standards. Too often in our history, “strict subscription” equals “subscription to one particular interpretation.” To be healthy, both strict subscription and GFS must actually be done in good faith. Thus, GFS can strengthen our commitment to the tradition, both in word and in intention. GFS at its best requires pastors to publically wrestle with the text and seek to understand its structure, nuance, and emphases, allowing the Confession to remain a vibrant document, speaking to every generation of presbyters. If Bob is right that GFS has divided us into tribalist camps, then we must take this as a call to do GFS better, striving to more strongly embody our commitment to our Reformed heritage.

Engaging the Present
In the quest to solidify the PCA’s identity in the coming generation, rehearsing history is not enough; we need to faithfully engage the present state of the church. In order to do this well, we must strive for more accurate categories and definitions. For instance, Bob describes the move towards good faith subscription as going “down the PCUS” road. Similarly, he opines that the term “broadly Reformed” “represents a slide back to towards the old PCUS ‘big tent.’ If the founders had really wanted a big tent, they would have stayed in the PCUS committed ‘to love and respect each other.’” Here, we must state emphatically that Big Tent PCUS and Big Tent PCA are completely different, and it is unfair to conflate them or say that one necessarily leads to the other.

Let’s go back to the OV. Here, the founders lay out the theological reasons for breaking camp with the PCUS, specifically the church’s “accepting other sources of authority, and from making them coordinate or superior to the divine Word.” This resulted in “a diluted theology, a gospel tending towards humanism, an unbiblical view of marriage and divorce, the ordination of women, financing of abortion on socio-economic grounds, and numerous other non-Biblical positions.” To claim that the theological battles facing the PCA now are on par with these ignores the evidence. While the issues of “paedocommunion, intinction, female pseudo-officers, Federal Vision, theistic evolution” are indeed contentious, and to many are deviations from the Scriptures, they 1) are not all held by a single camp in the PCA (i.e., some pastors may and do hold one and not the others), 2) emerge from different concerns and motivations (e.g. the motivation behind intinction is vastly different than theistic evolution), and 3) come from men deeply committed to the inerrant Scriptures. To paint these brothers with the same brushstroke as the pastors in the PCUS is simply inaccurate. As well, to suggest, as some do, that these views are all held by one camp of pastors (the liberals), and aided by the centrists (who are concerned about love and not truth), infelicitously divides the PCA into three camps, easily compartmentalized regardless of individual convictions.

As well, when discussing these matters, we need to jettison unspecified talk of left and right, and more carefully define conservative and liberal, for these too often carry around the baggage from either our political views or our church forefathers. Let’s be honest, the Federal Vision, whatever you think of it, is not to the “left” (nor “liberal” with respect to real theological liberalism – i.e., embracing of higher criticism, abandoning of the tenants of the Apostle’s Creed, etc.). When we label controversies and positions (of all sorts) as such, it draws unhelpful boundaries that work against honest, robust debate and allows brothers to be easily dismissed through caricatures and assumptions.

With a commitment to more accurate definitions, we see that being “broadly Reformed” is not simply a catchy phrase coming from some mushy middle, nor a slide into liberalism. We are not dealing with the same categories as former battles, and to label them as such prevents us from seeing what is really at stake. Given our history, we need to recognize that the PCA has always been “broadly Reformed” in that we have always had a diversity of views on certain issues matched with great unity on others. Thus, in the present, we need to continue nurturing this identity through a staunch commitment to forming study committees, and through robust and honest dialogue. To be “broadly Reformed” in the present is to engage a positive part of our identity, as we seek to embody the strengths of semper reformanda.

Entering the Future
The question remains, as Bob summarizes, what does it mean to be specifically PCA? From the OV to the present, we have worked to find a unifying identity, which recognizes the varying strands of Southern, Northern, Scottish, Puritan, Covenanter, and Dutch Reformed traditions in our midst. We are “broadly Reformed” with respect to this rich heritage, and yet conservative with respect to the character of the Scriptures and the application of GFS compared to other American Reformed denominations.

For us to better achieve unity in the coming years, we must restate our commitments. First, we are founded on the inerrant Word of God. Compared to other denominations, we honor this well; and to respect this foundation, we need to continue seeking humility, charity, and truth when we encounter those in our church with different opinions. Second, our theology and polity are given form in the Westminster Standards. It is lamentable that some of our elders tell of others’ lack of care for the Standards; especially in my (younger) generation, we need to renew our appreciation for and study of these documents with a robust commitment to public discussion in the spirit of GFS. Finally, we should engage our varied histories with integrity. Too often, cultural differences are misinterpreted as theological; frequently, brothers who, in reality, agree on many points can talk past each other because of personality or contextual differences, or simply because they are asking different questions of a common text. We must appreciate how our histories and contexts shape our theological expressions. The OV was born from the culture of the Southern Church, and we must understand how this cultural form impacts other theological commitments (e.g. how the “spirituality of the Church” impacts missiology). We need to wrestle with the cultural forms of the past and our current contexts to grow in maturity, truth, and righteousness. The answer is not getting back to the past, but embracing, nurturing, and maturing our combination of diverse strands of Reformed Presbyterianism that God has brought together in the body of the PCA. This will enable us to continue to navigate the issues we will face in the future. Thus, we can be broadly Reformed in the best sense: united in our commitment to the inerrant Word of God, given form by the Westminster Standards as our constitution, and embracing the rich, complex diversity of Reformed tradition within our walls. In this way, may we be a grace to the world, as the world experiences the Gospel in and through our church.

Posted by: reformedmusings | May 3, 2014

A tale of two letters

The Founding

On 7 Dec 1973, a new denomination sent A Message to All Churches of Jesus Christ Througout the World from the General Assembly of the National Presbyterian Church. The NPC changed names to the Presbyterian Church in America shortly thereafter. The PCA had split from the liberal-and-becoming-worse PCUS. The Message to All Churches laid out the reasons for the split (similar to the U.S. Declaration of Independence) and served as a notice of the new denomination’s beliefs. At the top of the list stood the inerrancy of the Scriptures, and their role as “the only infallible and all-sufficient rule for faith and practice.”

Against the big-tent liberalism of the PCUS, our founders wrote:

We declare also that we believe the system of doctrine found in God’s Word to be the system known as the Reformed Faith. We are committed without reservation to the Reformed Faith as set forth in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. It is our conviction that the Reformed faith is not sectarian, but an authentic and valid expression of Biblical Christianity. [my bold]

Note the “without reservation” adherence to the Westminster Standards. There was no “good-faith” subscription in view there. The PCA has already headed down the PCUS road on this issue. More on that later.

On the subject of theological error and church discipline, our founders wrote:

Views and practices that undermine and supplant the system of doctrine or polity of a confessional Church ought never to be tolerated. A Church that will not exercise discipline will not long be able to maintain pure doctrine or godly practice.

When a denomination will not exercise discipline and its courts have become heterodox or disposed to tolerate error, the minority finds itself in the anomalous position of being submissive to a tolerant and erring majority.

Anyone watching the two most recent cases against blatant teachers of the Federal Vision errors (pdf file), both of whom are now fellows at the latest incarnation of an attempted Federal Vision seminary, knows that the PCA has already started down the PCUS road in that regard. The PCA has become a tribal congregationalist denomination where particular errors find toleration in specific presbyteries that remain unaccountable to the denomination as a whole.

Please read that open message as it provides an anchor for the PCA as it considers its future. As the philosopher Santayana wisely observed: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The PCA is showing that it is not immune from that wisdom.

The Revision

A small group of 18 teaching elders who were around during the founding of the PCA in 1973 recently signed a letter (pdf file) to the new generation. I want to be clear up front that I respect these 18 elders for their sacrifices for, and contributions to, the church of Jesus Christ over many years. Nothing that follows is meant to reflect negatively on that respect. Nonetheless, my respect for them does not negate my critical thinking on the matters that they publicly present.

Early in the letter, the 18 signers endorse “good-faith subscription”:

Several years ago, after lengthy discussion, we affirmed “good faith” subscription which was a declaration of our commitment to love and respect each other and affirm doctrinal orthodoxy without becoming too broad or too narrow in the way we embrace our confessional standards.

So, since our 1973 founding, the PCA has “progressed” from “committed without reservation” to our Standards, to a “good faith subscription” approach that has opened the PCA’s door to paedocommunion, intinction, female pseudo-officers, Federal Vision, theistic evolution (e.g., Biologos), et al, all of which depart from the Scriptures and the Standards.

After observing that some think that the PCA is too strict and narrow while others think that the PCA is too broad, the 18 opine that:

…these differences of opinion reflect a healthy breadth of views and perspectives that produces an ever present need for love and mutual respect. It does, however, present the PCA with the need for our leadership to always be searching for the center so that unity might be maintained and our mission might be accomplished.

With all due respect to the 18 signers of this letter, that argument represents a significant departure from the vision laid out by the bulk of our founders in the Message to all Churches in 1973.

Keep in mind that only 18 men who were present at our founding signed this letter. Although many founders have gone to be with the Lord, many remain and did not sign the letter. Dr. Morton Smith comes immediately to mind for one. As our first Stated Clerk he had his finger on the pulse of the initial direction of the PCA. Dr. Smith’s How Thy Gold Has Become Din provided a PCA manifesto in the months leading up to the separation. Please read Dr. Morton’s address at the link.

Connections

While I do not believe that the positions from the new letter accurately reflect the consensus of the bulk of elders who founded the PCA in 1973, and hope that I have demonstrated this from original documents, I do believe that the letter agrees well with the more recent Original Vision Network started by TEs Paul Kooistra and Larry Hoop. While I appreciate the contributions that these men have made to PCA missions, their network steers us back to the PCUS “big tent.” For instance, they revised our founders’ words in the Message to All Churches to a vision that would now have us believe that our founders wanted:

a denomination committed to a broadly Reformed theological position, steering clear of both a formless evangelicalism with sketchy theological commitments and a narrow sectarianism that could consume our energies building a theological fortress;

Please go back and read the Message to All Churches and see if you can find a vision for a “broadly Reformed theological position.” Go ahead, I’ll wait. Back? Couldn’t find it? That’s because “committed without reservation to the Reformed Faith as set forth in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms” doesn’t describe a “broadly Reformed theological position.” The latter represents a slide back to towards the old PCUS “big tent.” If the founders had really wanted a big tent, they would have stayed in the PCUS committed “to love and respect each other.” Instead, our founders left an apostate denomination that trampled on both the Scriptures and the Standards.

Conclusion

The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics – the chief weapons buyer for the U.S. Department of Defense – has a great sign on his door. It reads: “In God we trust, all others bring data.” The point being that opinions are nice, but we need to see the data on which one based those opinions.

So, when I read the letter by the 18 elders, the first thing that I did was hunt up the original Message to All Churches and read it to see if the two documents were consistent. That’s what everyone should do whenever any assertion is made from history. History is best learned from original sources, not commentators decades or centuries later.

In this case, the recent letter by the 18 elders seems more in line with the revisionist and euphemistically-named Original Vision Network than the bulk of the PCA founders’ intent in 1973. The original vision is readily available for all to read in the Message to All Churches and Dr. Smith’s How Thy Gold Has Become Din. Please take the time to acquaint yourselves with these documents if you have not already done so.

In closing, I again want to be clear that I respect these 18 elders for their contributions to the church of Jesus Christ over many years. That said, I am not prone to hero worship, so although their work and sacrifices earn them a hearing by other elders like myself and the denomination at large, it does not earn them automatic agreement without the original historical context being considered. In this case, I find that the original documentation does not support their thesis.

Posted by: reformedmusings | April 19, 2014

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Trusty Tahr Upgrade

Today I upgraded from Ubuntu 13.10 to the just-released Ubuntu 14.04 Long Term Service (LTS) known as Trusty Tahr. I used the Update Manager which offered the upgrade today. Bottom line: no issues. Everything worked perfectly. No issues. I’m hammered for time, but perhaps will write more later.

Oh, one catch. VMWare Workstation 10.0.1 must be upgraded to 10.0.2 to work with the 3.13 kernel in Trusty. VMWare’s server must be hammered, because I have been unable to download the update tonight.

Posted by: reformedmusings | March 8, 2014

Uncle Sam’s healthcare scam – Dr. Seuss revisited

Awesome rework by Sarah Palin:

The words:

“I do not like this Uncle Sam. I do not like his health care scam. I do not like — oh, just you wait — I do not like these dirty crooks, or how they lie and cook the books. I do not like when Congress steals, I do not like their crony deals. I do not like this spying, man, I do not like, ‘Oh, Yes we can.’ I do not like this spending spree, we’re smart, we know there’s nothing free. I do not like reporters’ smug replies when I complain about their lies. I do not like this kind of hope, and we won’t take it, nope, nope, nope.”

Very clever and sadly true.

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