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Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category


Polemical Theology, whether in written or verbal form, can quickly descend into some ungodly places.  Name calling, anger and refusing to listen to what another actually says are evidence of a lack of love.

Another form of “unfair” dispute is the use of the straw man argument.  Here is a good, quick definition:

A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

You can tell that Dr. Roger Nicole & J.I. Packer are such good friends.  At times their counsel is so similar.  How to engage in theological debate is one such area.  Dr. Nicole told us to read our opponents, not only second hand sources, so we might truly understand their arguments.

Dr. Packer inserts this wonderful little sentence in the midst of Keep In Step With the Spirit:

“But all positions should be judged by their best exponents.”

He applies this to the various proponents of the views of sanctification.  It is unfair to argue against something by using either a straw man (which doesn’t exist) or its worst example.  You may win the argument, but you defeated a foe that either didn’t exist or rarely exists.  It would be like beating the Bad News Bears, yet claiming to be MLB World Series champions.

I see these arguments regularly in books by authors who should know better.  Sometimes these arguments are used by men who place themselves in the bounds of either Reformed Theology or Calvinistic soteriology (they embrace the 5 points but not a covenantal view of Scripture or other distinctives of Reformed theology).

For instance, one book I read argued against contemporary worship songs.  It did this on the basis of the worst examples of contemporary worship songs.  It brought up the most pathetic, insipid, meaningless songs as if they were representative of contemporary worship songs.  This author may have convinced many people he was right, but he never dealt with the real deal.  Missing were interaction with the contemporary hymns of Townend and Getty, the songs of Matt Redman or Chris Tomlin or any other songs that seek to communicate biblical theology (Sovereign Grace or Indelible Grace would be other examples).

Another highly respected author attacked the charismatic movement on the basis of its worst excesses.  There was no interaction with sane, thoughtful charismatics who share his Calvinistic views like John Piper, Wayne Grudem or C.J. Mahaney.  All were lumped in the same heretical basket, ready to be tossed out &  burned up.

We who understand the doctrines of grace should be more humble & loving in our disputation.  We should argument against real people holding real positions.  And the best representatives of that position- not the Single A or college team.

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The wife and I enjoyed the new James Bond thriller, Quantum of Solace.

quan-tum  (noun)

1. quantity or amount: the least quantum of evidence.
2. a particular amount.
3. a share or portion.
4. a large quantity; bulk.

The movie begins shortly after the end of Casino Royale, and is about Bond seeking a measure of solace after his betrayal by Vesper.  He has kidnapped the man directly responsible and is being chased by his hired men trying to retreive, or kill, him.  In the process, Bond discovers an underground network that has avoided detection by all the intelligence networks called Quantum (at least I think I heard that).  In the process, Bond draws the ire of the CIA, the PM of England as well as the front organization Greene Planet.  M is not sure if she can trust Bond.  She thinks he is just a loose cannon seeking revenge.  But in following the trail of those who blackmail Vesper, he uncovers a plot to overthrow a government or two, and more importantly to monopolize our most important resource- water.

Both of us give the movie a thumbs up.  It was filled with action.  The increase in violence has drawn disappoval by critics like Roger Ebert.  I think he fails to recognize that this is a Bond for the new times.  Connery and Moore were Bond during the Cold War.  Connery was more physical than Moore, and certainly more believable.  Roger Moore was a more sophisticated Bond.  Daniel Craig is more like Sean Connery- very physical.  He is a War on Terror kind of Bond.  His sense of urgency is much greater.  He must dole out his countries wrath.  Afterall, he is an assassin as well as a gatherer of intelligence.  This Bond is less of a womanizer.  He “only” bedded one woman in this movie.  So while there is more action/violence, there is less sexual immorality.  The former is not always a sin, the latter is.  The violence here is the attempts to stop evil people from perpetrating greater evil.  But his government doesn’t always approve of his actions.  Eventually they see that he is right, and they were very wrong, in his assessment of the situation.

Quantum is not as good as Casino Royale.  It suffers a tad from the Bourne-syndrome.  The action is filmed too tight, so you aren’t sure what is actually happening.  That catches the speed at which things can happen.  But if your wife asks you, “How did he kill him?”, it is happening TOO fast.  The movie could have stood to have a few slower scenes to develop the plot line.  It was under 2 hours, and it felt as if there were a few leaps in the plot line.  These shortcomings do not ruin Quantum of Solace, but we see Bond move on without exacting revenge as we, along with M, feared.  Bond is not out of control, but using the correct quantum of violence to meet the circumstances in which he finds himself.  I look forward to his return.

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During our pastors’ meeting to discuss Nehemiah 6, Tim Rice relayed this information from a discussion with a former CFO of Publix.  It is helpful to understand a large economy, the issues that face our nation, and therefore how to wisely choose a candidate (there are NO perfect candidates, sadly).  I am not savvy enough to reproduce the diagram, so I’ll wing it.

For Profit Business => Owners, employees & dependents => Not for Profits => NFP employees & dependents => Poor, unemployed & dependents

The foundation of an economy is For Profit Business (FPB).  Those profits support the owners, employees and their dependents.  I know in this day, the idea of making profits seems barbaric. But profits are how a business stays in business and therefore support all those dependent upon them. Those businesses and people provide the funding for NFPs, both public and private.  The government is the public NFP which is funded by taxes.  The public NFPs are churches and social agencies that are funded by donations.  The more profit generated by the FPB, the more resources that are available to the NFPs. A government that wants to see revenues increase, wants to see the NFPs do well, not stifle them. It is simply increasing the pie, so the slices of the NFPs increase as well.

There is an inverse relationship between the public and private NFPs.  The more the government takes in taxes, the less that private NFPs end up receiving.  The employees and their dependents are dependent on how well the NFPs do, which is a result of how well the economy (read For Profit Business) does.  The poor and unemployed (and their dependents) rely upon the NFPs until they work for either the FPBs or NFPs.

(more…)

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You just have to love politics and how politicians of both stripes play loose with the truth.

A very interesting example arises as Barak Obama claims that his campaign experience gives him MORE executive experience than the Republican VP nominee.

“Well, my understanding is that Governor Palin’s town of Wasilla has, I think, 50 employees. We’ve got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month. So I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute I think has been made clear over the last couple of years,” Obama said.

  1. It is interesting that Candidate Obama has finally gotten the memo that Sarah Palin is the Governor of Alaska.  Yet, he compares his experience to her experience … as mayor.
  2. He’s not running against Sarah Palin, but John McCain.  So why is he comparing himself to her?  This is a great example of lousy logic, not excellent leadership.
  3. He neglects facts that put him in a dimmer light in order to place himself in a better light.  He’s comparing himself favorably, in an unfair, deceptive manner.  Certainly not what I want in a President.  He does not mention the size of the government and budget of Alaska, which is larger than his campaign staff and budget.

“For Barack Obama to argue that he’s experienced enough to be president because he’s running for president is desperate circular logic and its laughable. It is a testament to Barack Obama’s inexperience and failing qualifications that he would stoop to passing off his candidacy as comparable to Governor Sarah Palin’s executive experience managing a budget of over $10 billion and more than 24,000 employees,” said spokesman Tucker Bounds.

I don’t find such sleight of tongue inspiring.  Once again Obama displays a lack of integrity that I find frightening.  And THIS is supposed to be an example of change he wants- selective truth.  If he wasn’t running for President, it would be funny.

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Barak Obama wants change, so he says.  He’s selling change, or so he says.

If he wants change why would one of his closest advisors be the Sr. Senator from Massachusetts- Edward Kennedy?  He has been firmly entrenched in DC for decades- an utter insider.

If he wants change why would he choose Senator Joe Biden from Delaware?  Joe has also been firmly entrenched in DC for decades.

Oddly, both have had voting records to the hard left, and ethical issues that have given them attention they haven’t wanted.

Obama is merely an incredibly charismatic version of John Kerry (I guess the charismatic part is the change).  He’s “so smart” we can’t understand his verbal gymnastics as he fails to clearly articulate a definitive answer to a question.

Change: a return to the far left policies and maintaining power despite breaches of ethical standards.

That is some interesting definition of change.  I’d rather not change, thanks.

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The hype on this movie was big.  And, quite frankly, The Dark Knight delivers.  Christopher Nolan, as writer, producer and director, has taken this series to a place no one ever dream Batman could go.  It exceeded my high expectations.

Think of the first go round.  In my opinion, the 1st and 3rd movies were the best ones.  Batman Returns was ruined by all the sexual talk of the Penguin.  It was just plain dark and dreary.  Val Kilmer was smart not to retun for the 4th installment which saw a retun of the campy feel of the TV show. 

Nolan restarted the series with the decidedly dark Batman Begins.  In The Dark Knight the story continues faster, louder and more dangerous.  In terms of continuity, most of the original cast returns.  There is a cameo by Scarecrow at the beginning, and Bruce Wayne still longs for childhood friend Rachel Dawes.  Batman and Lt. Gordon are close to shutting down the mob with the help of new DA Harvey Dent.  Bruce sees the day that he can retire the mask and Gotham can have a respectable hero in Dent.

This is when all Hades breaks lose in the person of the Joker.  He has been hired, he actually extorted them, to end the threat by putting an end to Batman.

The Joker is utterly diabolical; something of an anti-christ figure who unleashes chaos and destruction on Gotham.  Unlike the other villians, he has no origins we know about.  He appears mysteriously.  We never know who he really is, or why he is the way he is.  He even tells different stories about why he has the nasty smile-shaped scar on his face.  He does not have the usual motives- money or power.  He wants to destroy people, to test them and reveal that they can become evil if pushed to the edge.  He is the devil while Batman plays the role of Job in this theodicy without a God.

The Joker wants to corrupt Batman, and then Dent, not through seduction but through heartbreak.  He figures that if he pushes the right button they will reject their code of ethic.  He is downright scary.  Heath Ledger turns in a fantastic performance, somehow channeling both Caesar Romero and Jack Nicholson yet giving him a completely unique personality.  His bent personality is matched by his bent body.  His head often hangs.  His perspective is just as bent.

Batman is not a true vigilante.  He tries to bring criminals to justice, rather than mete out justic himself.  And he displays an unusual respect for the dignity of human life.  He does not shoot criminals, or apprehend them using guns.  The guns he uses are typically used against inanimate objects.  He uses strength, technology and craftiness to defeat his opponents.  Sorry, this all dawned on me this morning.

 This version has many more explosions and gun shots, in addition to the hand-to-hand (the real meaning of mano a mano) combat.  The Joker is a violent psychopath who murders plenty of people.  He has no respect for human life.  He sees it all as a game between himself and Batman (the unstoppable force meets the immovable object).  Nolan creates an exciting, thoughtful story filled with one memorable character in the Joker, and a very hideous character in Two Face- the ‘converted’ Harvey Dent who was driven mad by Joker’s insideous plan.  He gives in to the notion of chaos and chance ruling the universe.

But Batman stands in contrast as the man who doesn’t forsake his ideals in the midst of terror.  Though tempted, he refuses to destroy even Joker.  But in the process, he becomes a scapegoat.  He bears the sins of Two Face to preserve Harvey Dent’s reputation lest the Joker win and the people lose hope.  Batman becomes something of a messianic figure to the Joker’s devil.

All this in one action-packed adventure story.  Chris Nolan has outdone himself- making more than a great super-hero movie, but a great movie, period.  This tale of good and evil is worth watching repeatedly.  Just not for kids.

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I expected more from American Gangster.  It stars two first-rate actors, and personal favorites, in Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.  It is directed by Ridley Scott.  The acting and direction were very good.  The story was interesting too.  So, I’m not quite sure why I’m not content, or as content, with this movie.  Perhaps my expectations were too high.  Perhaps it was that the story takes place over such a long period of time, but offers no time line to better understand its development.  And I thought it would have more action.

It is the story of 2 men whose lives intersect, and are very similar.  Denzel plays Frank Lucas, a body guard for a Harlem mob boss.  He watches his boss, and after his death decides to step into his shoes as the neighborhood’s beneficent dictator.  He must remove some competition, and convince the Italians that he is their equal.  His is a story of dogged determination and perseverence.  He had a good head for business, but decided to use his abilities for evil instead of good.  But he justifies it based on the good he does for his family (whom he’s brought up from NC to work for him) and the community.

Russell Crowe is Ritchie Roberts, a clean cop who also displays dogged determination and perseverence.  As head of a drug task force, he hunts Lucas for years.  In the meantime, he passes his bar exam.  He cares about his son, but has trouble relationally.  He’s a womanizer, so his wife left him.  One of the subplots is the fight for custody of his son.  Since he refuses to take any bribe money or steal evidence, he drives a beat up junker through most of the movie.  It is his conflict with his wife that opens up one of the most amazing lines of dialogue.

“Don’t punish me for being honest.  Don’t take my boy.”

“You don’t take money for one reason: to buy being dishonest about everything else. … You think you’re going to heaven because you’re honest, but you’re not.  You’re going to the same hell as the crooked cops you can’t stand!”

Wow!  What an apt description of how self-righteousness functions in our lives.  We narrow God’s law down to a few things- in this case being a clean cop.  As long as we do that- we are righteous in our own eyes.  We neglect the rest of God’s commands which would condemn us, and use the ones we keep to condemn others.  He blinds himself to just how messed up he really is, and feels a martyr for suffering for his one area of obedience.  This is a great window into our souls!

Those crooked cops stand between the men for years.  Lucas hates the fact that he has to pay them off.  In another great line of thought I couldn’t find again to copy- he compares their love of money to an addict.  The crooked cops (and the hangers on in his life) can’t get enough- they are just as addicted.  Another great window to our souls!  They also hinder Roberts’ efforts to bring Lucas down.  When Roberts get the goods on Lucas, he uses him to bring them down.

The movie ends with Lucas getting out of prison to be met by Roberts who is now his lawyer.  Oh, the irony of it all.  Roberts is essentially on the take as a defense attorney, but probably sees himself as defending men from the crooked cops.  He, too, is now addicted to money.

American Gangster is what you’d expect of a gangster movie- plenty of bad language, shocking violence and a bit of nudity.  But as a morality play, it does offer us some insight into human behavior.  As a morality play, it doesn’t offer us insight into how to change and be free of our self-centeredness and addictions.

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