Friday, March 2, 2018

How Do You Understand the Scriptures?


First of all, deductive Bible study involves what is called “a priori” thinking. “A priori” thinking means “to the front.” In simplest terms, it means coming to the Scripture with your preconceived ideas in order to understand the essence of the passage in question. Bible students who use “a priori“ thinking come to the reading with an idea about it already or a story that defines the idea; then, the preconceived idea adds to the reading to deduce the meaning. “A priori” thinking involves adding a story to get the meaning of the reading.

If we are reading Psalm 139, and we are using this deductive thinking technique we will ask ourselves, “How can I apply this Psalm to my daily life and future, i.e., what can I deduce from it judging directly from the words of the Psalm and my own ideas about the subject. In order to understand this Psalm, I must add a story to the words expressing my own impressions.  This deductive reading can imply that the reader  already thinks he knows what is the truth of the reading; and he does not need to consult with the original writer through a posteriori thinking.
Inductive Bible study is a technique of study called “a posteriori” thinking. “A posteriori” thinking involves looking at a reading to figure out what the author actually meant when he wrote it. “A posteriori” thinking involves looking at the story that preceded the reading to get the meaning.

Let’s look at an example of what I am saying:
Again, thinking of Psalm 139, we may ask ourselves, “What does God think about this Psalm? What can we learn about Him from reading this Psalm?” This can be thought of as “thinking to the back,” This is “a posteriori” thinking.  In this kind of thinking mode, we are applying our reason to the task of literary interpretation, i.e., understanding what the Psalm means from the viewpoint of the author. We are looking at what we can understand about God from reading this Psalm.

As I have said above, however, both kinds of reasoning can be profitably applied to our understanding of the Bible. For instance, if we read inductively (“a posteriori”) we can learn some of the qualities of God, who wrote the Psalm. Then, we can ask ourselves the question, “What can I say about my understanding of how I should apply this knowledge to the life I live in the present?” This last question converts the study of Psalm 139 to a deductive process of thinking from an inductive technique. Deductive (“a priori”) thinking asks us to use our reason to understand how to fully apply the knowledge of God gleaned from our inductive (“a posteriori”) study to our lives in the present and the future in a reasonable way.
We all should use both kinds of thinking in our daily Bible reading. We need to look at the Scriptures to see what kind of God wrote it (“a posteriori” or inductive) and how we should use the information we have gained from that understanding to tell us how we should act and think (“a priori” or deductive). The utility of these understandings is that if we read the Bible, we should understand what parts of our reading tell us about God and His ways and what parts tell us about ourselves and our ways.

In reading the Bible, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I looking at God’s ideas, or am I looking at my ideas?” We must all remember that we each bring our own ideas with us when ever we open a Bible. We need to carefully separate our own ideas from God’s ideas in our understandings.  
There is one other feature of the term, “a priori” which might be somewhat confusing. The term “a priori” can also mean “self-evident.” In that case, the truth of an “a priori” statement is obvious and right out in front—the meaning of the statement is so obvious it requires no further explanation. Its meaning clearly shouts out of the passage. An example of this is the statement, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” There is no question about the meaning.

On the other hand, “a posteriori” statements are never self-evident. They require study and examination to understand their truth. For instance, the statement, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) This statement may seem to be true to some Bible students on an “a priori” basis; but I would posit that readers of the Scriptures should examine this statement to see what it says about God. Thus, understanding this statement in this way is an “a posteriori” task.
In studying the Bible, it is always best to use the inductive (“a posteriori”) method first. Seek to understand the mind of God by this kind of thinking. Then, and only then, draw your deductive conclusions using a priori ways of thinking. Don’t jump to conclusions based on your preconceived notions. Even the simplest biblical principles need inductive data to fully understand them, e.g., “God is love.” Always ask yourself this question: “Am I using inductive or deductive reasoning as I read the Scriptures? Am I reading to understand God, or am I deducing things to confirm my own preconceived ideas?”

The wrap-up of this blog post in the simplest terms is this: Look to God and his written word first; then…apply your own thinking in order to apply these concepts to your life.

Friday, February 23, 2018

UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME

The Weekly Standard ran an article in their 12 February 2018 issue entitled, The Case For Free Money. This article chronicles an idea sweeping both the Conservative and the Progressive sides of political and economic thinkers. The idea is that many people think that the nation would be better off if we would pay every citizen over the age of 21 a stipulated income without any requirement that they go to work. All entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, housing assistance, and Social Security Disability insurance would be eliminated. People would be required to pay for their own upkeep.

The idea springs from the fact that the government spends more than $1 trillion each year helping the poor, yet one in eight Americans lives in poverty. Present government welfare programs are not working! Many people are thinking that just giving free money to everyone would lift the poor out of poverty by giving them a start-up fund on which to begin establishing businesses and going to work.
The idea sounds like a beefed-up version of a huge new entitlement program. However, thinkers from both sides of the Conservative/Progressive divide are considering it. Stockton, California has even instituted such a program; that city has decided to supplement 500 of its citizens with such a give-away program! (This is apparently a pilot/experimental program in Stockton.)
This program is even being promoted by such prominent Conservatives as Charles Murray, the author of In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State and Coming Apart: The State of White America. Murray proposes giving everyone over the age of 21 years an annual income of $13,000 and compel them to spend $3,000 of it to buy catastrophic health insurance. The recipient would be allowed (but not compelled) to work and earn more money on top of the $13,000. The payment would be tax free up to $30,000/year and taxed above that amount. Government payments for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other welfare payments would cease, and everyone could spend the money any way they pleased. This money would be given to everyone regardless of his or her wealth or poverty situation.

The government presently spends $2.2 trillion in annual entitlement benefits; and his program would spend $2.6 trillion in 2014 dollars. Entitlements are projected to grow faster than the projections of this plan, so in time it would save money.
Backers of such a plan believe that this money would stimulate the poor to go to work and to establish businesses. More people would get married, as it becomes possible to live a middle-class life-style by sharing distributions and combining them with a little bit of income. Women in bad relationships would have financial independence from ne’er-do-well boyfriends. The middle class would be able to save for retirement. Workers would not be tied to soul-crushing jobs.
This whole idea is the craziest idea I have heard lately. For one thing, nobody is incentivized to work by giving them money. I believe that nobody who has lived in one of America’s rust belt cities would ever endorse such a wild idea. Nancy and I worked and went to church in the heart of Detroit’s warehouse district for 10 years. At that time, the state of Michigan had a program called General Assistance, in which thousands of able-bodied young men received cash money from the state government because they had no source of income. It seemed to us that all those young men rested on their laurels and did no work whatsoever. They had a bonanza of money income without doing a lick of work. Finally, a Republican governor came into the state house; and the General Assistance money disappeared. As a result, many of those men went back to work.
Social programs often do not accomplish what they were intended to accomplish; often, they accomplish something else; the unexpected side-effects are the predominant thing accomplished. The most blatant example of this is what happened to the money of Medicaid, a program that was initially designed to take care of medical expenses for the poor. However, Medicaid money now goes predominantly to nursing home financing for any American with less than $3000 in the bank; there is no means test for relatives of people in nursing homes.
The idea of requiring all recipients of basic income money to buy catastrophic health care coverage is ludicrous. In the first place, poor people will never have enough money saved up in the bank to pay the up-front money before insurance money becomes available to them. They will still need Medicaid money for health care. For this reason, Medicaid funding as we know it, today will still be required. And…the whole idea of not covering people under 21 years of age will require government money in the form of continuing Medicaid insurance.
It is interesting to me that Senator Bernie Sanders does not endorse such a plan. And…if a Socialist such as he does not endorse the plan, there must be something egregiously wrong with it.  

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Do States Have the Right to Over-rule Federal Law (Or, Are Sanctuary Cities and States Legal?)


The United States are currently debating with varying effectiveness the question stated in the above title. Self-defined “humanitarians” and those seeking a larger Democrat voter base think states have this right. They believe that the states and various cities around the country can cancel out Federal laws concerning immigration and the handling of illegal immigrants if the local population votes to do so. These people believe they can mandate avoidance of Federal immigration laws within their own, specific, geographic boundaries. 

Others, believe that Federal laws outlawing violation of immigration laws should be enforced uniformly and across-the-board in the whole United States.

The question of nullification of Federal laws by individual action in the various states has a long and circuitous history. The first application of the idea of nullification occurred in 1798 when Virginia and Kentucky voted to rescind the Alien and Sedition laws.

In the 1820s, laws to apply tariffs to various commodities caused severe distress in the southern states; and attempts to nullify these laws were enacted in several states.

A huge crisis ensued between South Carolina and the Federal Government over the tariff of 1828 and 1832. In 1832, a South Carolina state convention passed an ordinance declaring the tariffs unconstitutional. In 1833, the U.S. congress passed a compromise tariff, which was satisfactory and the S.C. the crisis was over.

Since that crisis, the doctrine of states’ rights has been asserted again by opponents of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, proponents of California’s Specific Contract Act of 1863 (which nullified the Legal Tender Act of 1862).

Opponents of Federal acts prohibiting the sale and possession of marijuana in the 1st decade of the 21st Century have caused periodic and sometimes painful civil unrest and damaging public demonstrations.

Opponents of laws and regulations pertaining to firearms in the late 1900s up to 2013 have produced serious opposition to federal law and proposals for state nullification.

Of course, the grand example of states’ rights nullification acts was the Civil War of 1861.

All of these nullification movements among the various states of our nation were rebuffed by judicial or legislative action and/or the popular beliefs of our people. In the case of the Civil War, only brute force continued the authority of the Federal Government over states’ rights when laws obnoxious to various states are passed.

As stated in my opening paragraph, the United States is now engulfed in an argument about the disposition of illegal aliens among us. We are also at odds with one another about what to do with issues concerning the legalization of marijuana and questions about the legality and advisability of homosexuality in our population. If history is to be observed, it seems to me that the nation will finally come around to the conclusions that Federal law continues to trump state laws; and probably will win these arguments. Individual states cannot be allowed to make their own laws in violation of Federal law. If the states prevail, we will live in a chaotic situation with even more confusion than we are now experiencing.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Do You Know God's Address?


When you send a letter, you need to know the address. Likewise, when you pray, you need to know the address to which you are sending the prayer. God has several addresses; and I have listed several that I use while praying. I’m sure you can think of many other addresses. Addressing God properly will load your prayers with thoughts that will lead to effective praying.

v Great creator/sustainer
v God of the cloud and fire
v Healer of the blind and paralyzed
v God, from whom grace cataracts down from heaven and flows forever
v God of hope
v Unchanging God
v Father of true peace
v We praise you, Ancient of Days
v God of comfort
v Thou righteous and holy sovereign
v O God, of unsearchable greatness
v O God, whose will conquers all
v O Lord God, who inhabits eternity
v Living and ever-present God
v Proclaimer of mercy, love, and justice
v Jesus, our Savior, our teacher, our friend
v Savior of the burdened, heavy-laden from the fall
v Watching and caring God
v Eternal God, our answer

Friday, December 29, 2017

Freedom of the Will?

Christians often debate among themselves questions about God’s sovereignty vs. the freedom of human will. This argument was best enjoined in the 16th Century by two of the most influential theologians to ever live. Martin Luther was a German professor of theology, composer, priest and monk, whose criticism of the established Catholic Church sparked the beginning of the Protestant reformation. The other discussant was a Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, social critic, teacher, and theologian, Desiderius Erasmus.

Both of these influential theologians saw problems within the established Roman Catholic Church. Luther is best known because he posted 95 theses, i.e., arguments against the errors in Catholic doctrine and belief at the time, on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. His action in doing that is credited with the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. He was mostly concerned with the practice of selling indulgences for forgiveness of the sins for people who had died. Another argument that raged between these two churchmen was an argument about the freedom of human will considering the statements in the Bible. Luther proclaimed that the Bible was true and authoritative; its precepts must be observed as written, all the time. Erasmus, on the other hand argued for a much looser interpretation of Scriptural dogma; he saw much more freedom of human will than did Luther.

In discussing the freedom to participate in morally and spiritually questionable human activities, Luther essentially said that “If something is not specifically permitted by Scripture, then, we humans have no right to participate in or sanction that practice.” (This is my own paraphrase of Luther’s belief.)

Luther called down fire from heaven, infusing his rhetoric with God’s all-powerful truth. This roiled human affairs and undermined concord not just in the church but in society as well. He pointed out that divine truths are not remote and inaccessible. They are revealed in Scripture with a directness and clarity that is clouded only by our bondage to sin. Luther conceded that a great deal of the Christian life requires discernment; and not everything can be covered by assertions of biblical truth claims.

 On the other hand, Erasmus would have said, “If something is not specifically prohibited in Scripture, then, we humans can do it.” (Again, my own paraphrase.) It is not hard to see that the view of Erasmus is much more liberal than that of Luther.

Erasmus recognized the need to be ruled by truth. He affirmed the “inviolable authority of the Holy Scriptures” and “the decrees of the Church.” But he added that our efforts to navigate in accord with the light of Christ involve uncertainty and ambiguity. This means we need to accord others room and scope for their own journeys. In many instances, perhaps most, what it means to serve God faithfully remains and open question. Erasmus emphasized free will in the Christian life to promote tolerance and a spirit of concord. He pointed out that we must be modest in our dogmatic statements—this will allow us to be less judgmental of the opinions of others. We must respect the free choices of others. But…this freedom is not limitless. There are some authoritative truths that properly command us. However, these absolutes of the Bible are not many, and we can make up our own minds about most things.  

R.R. Reno has brought up these precepts in his essay in First Things about this argument between Luther and Erasmus. You may read this interesting article by going to the following link:  https://www.firstthings.com/article/2018/01/bondage-and-freedom

Mr. Reno has concluded his writing with the admonition that Christians and society, in general, has emphasized the ideas of Erasmus too much lately. We have not clung strongly enough to the teachings of Luther about inviolable truth claims.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Have you heard anyone bad-mouthing President Trump lately?

mmm


6 October 2017
President Trump has soaked up more criticism lately from the media and many citizens than any president I can remember. I do not appreciate his brash, unkind, harsh, and sometimes vulgar ways; I do not like his policy of firing any and everyone who does not agree exactly with him. However, I think it is prudent to look at some of the things he has accomplished, all of which strongly reflect his policy of “America First:”
  1. Despite his friendly rhetoric toward Russia and Putin, Trump’s presidency has been marked by increased bombing of Russia-backed Syria and bombing of Russia-aligned Taliban in Afghanistan.
  2. Stricter enforcement of economic sanctions against Iran.
  3. Expansion of NATO.
  4. Liquid natural gas exports to Europe, that undercut the Russian economy.
  5. Sold U.S. missile defense to Poland and Romania.
  6. Opposition to the Russian-negotiated Iran nuclear deal.
  7. Rewritten administrative rules for businesses, resulting in soaring stock market values.
  8. Appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, which has maintained the balance of power between liberals and conservatives that was previously tilted toward the left.
  9. Trump has been filling lower courts with a multitude of young conservative judges, who have lifetime tenure.
  10. Secretary Jeff Sessions has strengthened the government’s power of civil asset forfeiture, allowing the government to seize cash and goods from people suspected of crimes.
  11. Justice Department has quit its previous opposition to a Texas voter ID law.
  12. Justice Department has also encouraged prosecutors to seek the harshest sentences for low-level drug offences.
  13. Trump’s statements of opposition to illegal immigration has caused a marked drop in illegal border crossings on the southern border. Customs and Immigration officers report the number of unauthorized people crossing the border has decreased 20% compared to the same time period in 2016. Contracts are out now for builders of the border wall.
  14. Trump has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Accord, believing it to be contrary to United States best interests, as well as ineffective in modifying world climate.
  15. The Trump administration is working to dismantle the Obama “Clean Power Plan” and the 2015 “Waters of the United States” rule, which would have regulated every small body of water in the nation by designating all of them to regulation by the EPA.
  16. Scott Pruitt’s EPA has moved to undo, delay, or otherwise block more than 30 environmental rules in order to advance apparently harmless business enterprises.
  17. The State Department has reversed the Obama Administration block on construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
  18. The Interior Department is considering reversing a rule on fracking on public lands, and it has already reversed a ban on coal mining on public lands.
  19.  Administration has made a wide range of changes on homosexual issues. This has included his stated opposition to transgendered people serving in the armed forces. Trump administration has rejected Obama-era protections for transgender students.
  20. The Trump Administration has attempted to peel back parts of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law and undermine function of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, which has been deemed unfair to citizens.
  21. Trump’s travel bans from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen went into effect on 29 June 2017, and lasted for 90 days. That travel ban is still being litigated. The administration is proposing an even more strict limitation of immigration from Muslim-dominant countries in order to prevent terrorists from entering the United States.
  22. President Trump has personally visited zones of widespread disaster in order to encourage citizens that the United States stands ready and able to help them.
Regardless of how one might view some of these actions of the Trump Administration, one cannot say that this administration has not accomplished anything significant during its 6 month tenure.  
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Utopia Won't Work!


23 August 2017

The basic tenet of the Progressive Left in America and elsewhere is that people need trained experts to run their government and tell the people what is best for them. This political philosophy has been active and well in America ever since the days of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Today’s Progressives on the left include Lyndon Johnson, Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren—they, among many others know how to be good people planners (or…so they think).

There have been other Progressives in recent history—all of whom knew what would be best for the people, e.g., Adolf Hitler, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Idi Amin, and most notably Maximilien Robespierre (leading architect of the French Revolution). They all claimed special inspiration to plan and run their respective nations. Those secular Progressives have wreaked havoc on their people. In the 20th Century, alone, Communism has taken 100 million lives; the Nazis killed 20 million more. The administration of Chairman Mao killed untold millions in China; and other left-wing utopian progressives have killed even more. 

These progressive systems have run counter to classic philosophers, especially Aristotle, who taught that man is by nature political, that is, naturally social, reasonable, morally aware, and that all human beings are equal to others in potential development. He taught that no human being is any less human than any other. This is consistent with the biblical teaching that all of mankind is created in the image of God.

The classical and biblical human rights listed above, comprised the belief structure that described the beliefs of the neoconservative movement, which were manifested in the early years after the Second World War. Later, in the 60’s and 70’s, the term “neoconservative” took on a more interventionist connotation, in that its imperatives advocated a much more interventionist quality—these interventionist tendencies were incorporated into the foreign policies of the administrations of George H. W. Bush, Clinton, and the second Bush president., The “neo-cons,” as they were called pushed for nation changing activities abroad dedicated to enlightening the foreign peoples so that all peoples over the globe might enjoy the freedoms and liberties of present-day Americans. These policies have spectacularly failed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Interventionist policies began to fade in the administration of Barak Obama; and now, I do not believe many Americans think that it is possible or practical to try to modify the polities of foreign nations.

The American founders set forth a system of government characterized by the statement in the Declaration of Independence that all men, everywhere are standing in “…the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them….” This document does not suggest that these progressive ideas of utopia on earth should hold sway over free men.

William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925-2008 He was a widely popular conservative TV host and author.) recognized the futility of progressive ideas of utopian aims; he popularized the phrase: “Don’t let them immanentize the eschaton.”

This impossibly awkward statement became so popular that people actually painted it on their T-shirts and campaign buttons. In translation, the phrase means,” Don’t fall for utopian political schemes, because they can’t work.”

In closing, remember George Orwell’s famous aphorism: “There are some ideas so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them.”

(You might notice that I am still reading a good book, i.e., “American Greatness, by Buskirk and Leibsohn.” None of the above ideas are mine; they come from Chapter 7 of this book.)