Sunday, December 25, 2011

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Christian Martyr or Courageous Liberal

Bonhoeffer’s books (e.g. Letters from Prison, Cost of Discipleship, Ethics, Essays from Gen 1-3) are becoming increasingly popular among Christians today. In some ways he sounds like an man of exemplary faith. He believes the law of God should be obeyed. He believes Christians should transform culture. He believes Christianity is not just a private affair of our heart, as did many Germans of his day and Americans of our day; he understood we have to be Christians in the marketplace and not just on Sunday morning. Hence his denunciation of religion (i.e. Christianity) that was only an inner religion. However his Christianity is not the Christianity of the Bible.

He is a liberal – in the technical theological sense of the word. That means he uses the same words as Biblical Christians, but means something very different by them. Because he uses the same words, at times he can sound very orthodox. But as one can see from what he says below, he is anything but orthodox.

Liberals do not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Neither do they believe that Christ’s death was a penal substitutionary atonement that expiated the guilt of our sin and propitiated the wrath of God. That doesn’t stop them from saying many wonderful things about Christ, his resurrection, and our need to cleave to him. But when one parts all the verbiage about what salvation is, the heart of the gospel is completely missing. According to Bonhoeffer,

It is not some religious act that makes a Christian what he is, but participation in the suffering of God in the life of the world.[1]
We might agree that is it not some religious act that makes man a Christian. And we might agree that as Christians we suffer in this world even as Christ did. But we have to vehemently disagree that our sufferings do anything to merit our salvation or in any way are the basis of our salvation. There are a number of martyrs that have died for good causes that won’t be in heaven.

Liberals do to the scriptures what old earth creationists do to the Genesis account of creation. They claim that the scriptures are true, maybe even inerrant (once all the errors are removed from the text), but they do not believe that Jonah was actually swallowed by a fish. They might allow that understanding as one theory of interpretation that a few “less informed” people might hold, but not one that is necessary if one is to believe the Bible. They view the Bible like any other ordinary book, something which is evidenced in Bonhoeffer’s comment to a friend [Eberhard Bethge] about Christ’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane,

I have often wondered how the Evangelist came to record this prayer, which nobody can have heard. The suggestion that it must have been revealed by Jesus during the great forty days is only a subterfuge. Have you any explanation to offer?[2]
Liberals in his day thought we had to separate the myths in the scriptures from the Word of God which was also in the scriptures. Referring to Rudolf Bultmann’s paper on demythologizing the New Testament, Bonhoeffer writes in another letter to the same friend,
My view of it today would be not that he went too far, as most people seem to think, but that he did not go far enough. It is not only the mythological conceptions, such as the miracles, the ascension and the like (which are not in principle separable from the conceptions of God, faith, and so on) that are problematic, but the “religious” conceptions themselves. You cannot as Bultmann imagines, separate God and miracles, but you do have to be able to “interpret” and proclaim both of them in a “non-religious” sense.[3]
He writes in a later letter to the same friend,
Bultmann would seem to have felt Barth’s limitations in some way, but he misconstrues them in the light of liberal theology, and hence goes off into the typical liberal reduction process (the ‘mythological’ elements of Christianity are dropped and Christianity is reduced to its ‘essence’). I am of the view that the full content, including the mythological concepts, must be maintained.

The New Testament is not a mythological garbing of universal truth;[4] this mythology (resurrection and so on) is the thing itself – but the concepts must be interpreted in such a way as not to make religion a precondition of faith (cf. circumcision in St. Paul). Not until then will liberal theology be overcome, and at the same time, the question it raises be genuinely answered – which is not the case in the positivism of revelation maintained by the confessing church.
[5][emphasis added]
Positivism of revelation is his language for the Christian and Biblical doctrine that the Scriptures are the word of God. They do not merely contain truth that we have to separate from myth. They are not myths that somehow communicate a “truth.” They are not merely the words of men, but revelation “breathed out” (2 Tim 3:16) by God himself. I think it almost goes without saying that to call the resurrection a myth is to deny Christ and make the gospel meaningless.

Bonhoeffer is rightly critical of liberals for wanting to demythologize the scriptures. He is rightly critical of Christians who make God into nothing more than a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge.[6] But his solution to these errors is just as bad as the errors he’s criticizing. He wants to leave God out entirely because that’s what God wants us to do and that’s what God teaches us to do in the scriptures. He goes on to define “interpret in a religious sense” as meaning, “to speak on one hand metaphysically, and on the other individualistically. Neither of these is relevant to the Bible message or to the man of today. Is it not true to say that individualistic concern for personal salvation has almost completely left us all? Are we not really under the impression that there are more important things than bothering about such a matter? Is there any concern in the Old Testament about saving ones soul at all?" [7]

This more detailed explanation of what he means by "define in a religious sense" adds a whole new dimension to his earlier comment that we have to interpret and proclaim God and miracles in a "non-religious way." Whatever else the scriptures may mean, Bonhoeffer's God has nothing to do with personal salvation. He makes this point again when he writes a little later,

To resume our reflections on the Old Testament. Unlike the other Oriental religions, the faith of the Old Testament is not a religion of salvation.[8]
He goes on to write,
There is no longer any need for God as a working hypothesis, whether in morals, politics, or science. Nor is there any need for such a God in religion or philosophy. In the name of intellectual honesty these working hypotheses should be dropped or dispensed with as far as possible.

At this point nervous souls start asking what room there is left for God now. And being ignorant of the answer they write off the whole development which has brought them to this pass. As I said in an earlier letter, various emergency exits have been devised to deal with this situation. To them must be added the salto mortale back to the Middle Ages, the fundamental principle of which however is heteronomy in the form of clericalism. But that is a counsel of despair, which can be purchased only at the cost of intellectual sincerity. It reminds one of the song:

It’s a long way back to the land of childhood
But if I only knew the way.

There isn’t any such way, at any rate not at the cost of deliberately abandoning our intellectual sincerity. The only way is that of Matthew 18:3, i.e. through repentance, through ultimate honesty. And the only way to be honest is to recognize that we have to live in the world etsi deus daretur. And this is just what we do see – before God! So our coming of age forces us to a true recognition of our situation vis a vis God. God is teaching us that we must live as men who can get along very well without him. The God who is with us is the God who forsakes us (Mark 15:34). The God who makes us live in this world without using him as the working hypotheses is the God before whom we are ever standing. Before God and with him we live without God.[9]

God allows himself to be edged out of this world and on to the cross. God is weak and powerless in the world, and that is exactly the way, the only way, in which he can be with us and help us. Matthew 8:17 makes it crystal clear that it is not by his omnipotence that Christ helps us, but by his weakness and suffering.

This is the decisive difference between Christianity and all religions. Man’s religiosity makes him look in his distress to the power of God in the world; he uses him as a Deus ex machina. The Bible however directs him to the powerlessness and suffering of God; only a suffering God can help. To this extent we may say that the process we have described by which the world came of age was an abandonment of the false conception of God, and a clearing of the decks for the God of the Bible, who conquers power and space in the world by his weakness. This must be the starting point for our “worldly” interpretation.[10]

His view of Scripture is also closely aligned with classic liberalism. In a book recently translated into English he rejects the Biblical idea that the Scriptures are the Word of God, the self revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who became flesh and dwelt among us, suggesting instead that we must glean what truth we can from a fragile and broken book.

As illustrated by the form of the Bible, this procedure means that the concept of the canon must he rejected as meaningless. Text criticism and source analysis are applied, sources are identified, form criticism and history-of-religions approaches fragment the text into its smallest units. After thoroughly reducing the text to rubble, the critics depart from the battlefield, leaving behind debris and shavings, their work apparently done.

In terms of its content, the biblical picture is smoothed out to correspond to the spirit of its time, miracle stories are paralleled, and yes, even the person of Jesus himself is stripped not only of his divine but of his human splendor and disappears without any distinguishing marks into the lists of rabbis, sages, and religious enthusiasts. Of course, the reflective historian will also recognize that this book deals with particularly strange and profound things, that one catches sight of figures of outstanding magnitude, and so forth—otherwise he would surely he a poor historian. But he would be no better a historian if he believed that with such observations he could show that the Bible is the word of God.

There is no historical access to the person of Jesus that would be obligatory for faith. Access to the historical Jesus must come by way of the Resurrected One, by way of the word of the resurrected Christ, who testifies to himself. It is the Risen One who himself creates faith and opens up access to historicity.

From this point of view, the historian’s word, whether it claims to affirm or deny Christ, is irrelevant. In faith, history is seen to be what it actually is from the point of view of eternity, not in terms of itself, from within. At the same time it must he maintained that the testimony of Jesus as the Risen One is nothing else than what is presented to us by the Bible.

We remain also clear headed and objective as believers. We must read this book of hooks with all human methods. But through the fragile and broken Bible, God meets us in the voice of the Risen One.[11]
His death at the hands of Hitler has been called a martyrdom. But I think from the few quotes above, taken from letters written in the last year of his life, it is clear he is not a martyr for the gospel. Many people heap praise on him for his courage and leadership; but many people also heap praise on Dr. Tiller, a prolific murderer of babies murdered by a less prolific murderer. One comment from a NYT article on him at his assassination serves as a representative example.
Thank you for this brilliant article. Of all the pieces I have read about Dr. Tiller and his medical practice, this is the most accurate. He was a decent man and a caring medical professional who cared deeply about his patients. His death is a loss for his city, his state, and our country. We are diminished by this tragic, senseless murder. –Bob Martin
Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Albert Switzer are other examples of people who, though they were outside of Christ, captivated many hearts by their selfless dedication to humanitarian causes.

[1] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Letters and Papers from Prision, (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1953), p223
[2] Ibid, p125
[3] Ibid, p 167.
[4] The standard liberal notion
[5] Ibid, p 199-200.
[6] Ibid p 190.
[7] Ibid, p 167-168.
[8] Ibid p 204.
[9] This is classic liberal doublespeak!
[10] Ibid, p 218-220.
[11] Bonhoefer, Dietrich, Reflections on the Bible: Human Word and Word of God. Translated from Dietrich Bonhoefier, Die Antwort auf unsere Fragen: Gedanken zur Bibel, edited by Manfred Weber, © 2002, Gütersloher Verlagshaus GmhH, Gütersloh, Germany by M. Boring. (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, 2004). p14-15 ISBN 1-56563-988-X , P. O. Box 3473, Peabody, Massachusetts 01961-3473

Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Christian Martyr or Courageous Liberal?

Reposted here. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Should a Christian Vote for Dr. Ron Paul?

The answer to this question rides on whether or not he meets the biblical qualifications for civil office. If he does meet them, then we may vote for him. If he doesn’t meet them, then we should not vote for him. To do so would be to choose a man who is not included in the group from whom God has commanded us to choose our civil magistrates. There are a number of passages that address the necessary qualifications for civil magistrates. A set of passages that provide a relatively complete sample of the qualifications would be Exodus 18:21, Deuteronomy 16:18-19, Deuteronomy 17:15-19, and Proverbs 31:4-5.

From Exodus 18:21 we learn that they must be able men of truth who fear God and hate covetousness. Dr. Paul obviously satisfies the requirement to be male. More importantly, he is a man of truth. He has spoken the truth about the Federal Reserve far longer than many Christians. R. J. Rushdoony is probably one of the first Christians in modern times to publish criticism of the Federal Reserve. But as a federal congressman in the early 1970’s Dr. Paul was not far behind. He understands and boldly proclaims the immorality of fraudulent money, deficit spending, unjust war, and abortion. He proclaims in word and deed that life begins at conception. He has done so from the very beginning of his practice over 40 years ago. A couple of years ago the wife of one of his early partners told me that Dr. Paul told her husband on his first day, “There were two things we do not do in this practice – We do not perform abortions and we do not accept government money.” That was spoken in a day when many reformed Christians did not fully grasp the nature of abortion. Likewise in the area of unjust war, he has been a consistent voice of truth, calling Americans, even many Christians, to reconsider their support for wars in which we have no Biblically valid basis for participation. On the flip side there are areas where Dr. Paul’s testimony is not a clear as I would like, e.g. the use of “the pill” and the proper application of the Old Testament penal code today. This shows up especially when he deals with crimes of adultery, sodomy, or murder. However, even in these weak areas, he is not far from the truth in that he does not condone or support the practice of sodomy.

Dr. Paul is able. He has been tested more than any other current candidate, other than possibly Newt Gingrich. He was not only willing to speak honestly about the mess our nation is in when few others had the courage to speak truthfully about the seriousness of the crises we are facing, but he also published solutions to the problems facing our nation that are real, detailed, and achievable. Few others can even articulate specific and detailed solutions, let alone develop an achievable plan to address them. Dr. Paul actually understands the economic principles behind the solutions he is touting.

Dr. Paul is a man who fears God. Proverbs equates the fear of God with hating and departing from evil. (Proverbs 8:13, 16:6) His life evidences a carefulness not to do unrighteousness. Even his biggest detractors have to acknowledge that Dr. Paul is a man of impeccable character. He has remained faithful to one wife for over 50 years. With over 30 years in office, how many scandals of any kind have been alleged by anyone? All of his 5 children respect and honor him – which is more than can be said of even President Reagan. Some have even followed in his footsteps as an OB/GYN doctor – a testimony to his character in the home as a father. The fact that Dr. Paul hates covetousness is clearly evidenced by the fact that he returns excess money to Congress that was not needed for running his office. He does not covetously search for ways to spend this money simply because he has it to spend. This is not a publicity stunt; he has been doing this for decades, long before he was considered anything more than an eccentric crank.

Deuteronomy 16:18-19 adds the requirement that a civil ruler judge justly and not take bribes or be a respecter of persons. Again Dr. Paul meets this requirements. Lobbyists don’t even bother taking him to lunch. They know he cannot be bought. He does not change his ideas to win endorsements and will even call out fellow republicans where they need to be called out. Because of his unwillingness to go along to get along, the republican party in his own state was unwilling to announce his name and allow him to join the rest of the Texas republican congressional delegation on the stage at a recent state convention. How many other candidates are that principled when it comes to getting party recognition?

Deuteronomy 17:15-19 adds the requirement that civil magistrates be natural born citizens which Dr. Paul is. It also forbids them from multiplying horses – a qualification Dr. Paul, with his plan to close many overseas bases and bring our troops home, uniquely meets.

This passage commands the civil magistrate to have and read a copy of the law of God. Dr. Paul has shown that he has a knowledge of the word of God. He recently gave an address in which he not only quoted at length from scripture (1 Samuel 8), but he also properly explained the passage at some length. It wasn’t a passing reference. He didn’t take it out of context or misapply the passage for rhetorical purposes. I submit this evidences a man who actually reads the scriptures.
Proverbs 31:4-5 adds that wine and strong drink are not for civil magistrates. Again Dr. Paul meets this requirement.

Admittedly there are places Dr. Paul is weak and even wrong. He voted for a bill this session (HR 2267) that authorized internet gambling, contravening valid state laws forbidding it. He should have only voted to repeal the federal ban on internet gambling, allowing state laws to stand. He also voted to repeal the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy respecting sodomy in the US military. But of what man, other than Christ, could it not be said they were at times weak and, in some places, wrong? King David had some flaws – he committed murder by conspiring against his own army and adultery. King Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah were also at times weak or wrong in their actions. But, nevertheless, scripture calls these men good kings because, despite their sins, they sought the Lord and followed his ways in most of what they did.

The hard question in my mind is not whether Dr. Paul is qualified or even who is the best among the current republican slate of candidates since all of the other republican candidates either don't meet the basic qualifications for civil office or lack both understanding of, and credible solutions to, our national problems. The tough debate will come if he wins the republican nomination. If that is the case, I expect the November 2012 election will offer several Biblically qualified candidates from which to chose, some of whom will be able to articulate biblical solutions better than Dr. Paul. Now we'll have to chose between an Biblically acceptable candidate and a Biblically superior candidate who lacks the experience and popularity of Dr. Ron Paul.That will be a first in my voting life...but one that I am really hoping to experience.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Counterfeiting Gold

UT Endowment Fund buys $1 Billion in gold bullion and takes physical delivery because COMEX does not have enough gold to cover even 5% of their futures contracts.
Futures trader Ralph Preston calls their physically holding what they actually bought, "poor sportsmanship."
The call to take delivery is more of a challenge to the system and it borders on the anarchistic,” said Ralph Preston, a principal at Heritage West Financial Inc., a San Diego company that specializes in futures trading. “It’s like the Republicans trying to overturn President Obama over the birth certificate issue. It’s poor sportsmanship.”

Allowing people to trade contracts to buy and sell gold that does not actually exist creates the appearance that there is more gold than there actually is. This drives down the price of gold. Increasing the margin requirements results in brokerages calling margin accounts forcing people to either sell contracts or add money to their account. Many will sell contracts. This creates the appearance of a contraction and drives prices down. In this way the price of gold can be fraudulently manipulated by a few people. Although this type of manipulation is legal (of the form of law), it is not, in fact, lawful or proper. It allows the transfer of wealth to those who know in advance about the margin changes from those who do not know in advance about the margin changes. Such transfer of wealth constitutes theft by unjust enrichment.

However, the guilt is not all one-sided. It requires the willing participation of those who will trade commodities without taking possession of them. If everyone took control of all commodities they wished to trade (which would require full payment), there could be no margin trading and thus no ability for those who control the brokerages to steal money from those who don't by indirectly manipulating the market. Once again, God is not mocked. Destruction and loss accompany theft. 

Friday, August 05, 2011

What’s Wrong with the Trans Texas Corridor and the Concomitant Toll Roads?

A full and satisfactory answer to this question is somewhat complicated. Not that the answer is conceptually complicated, but demonstrating the validity of the answer requires the collation of substantial background information. A relatively easily digestible overview is Barbara’s Minton’s summary published on Natural News in 2008. A detailed, albeit somewhat old, description of what is planned for the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) can be found in the’s description

The roots of the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC) are deeply entwined in the North American Union. The motive force driving the TTC is the realization of a political and economic union between Mexico, Canada, and the United States which itself is connected to other global unions. The corridor is part of a greater highway network which bypasses our borders and customs and allows foreign trucks to reach foreign free trade zones throughout the US and into Canada. For example see this CCN story.

The economic purpose is to provide a western Mexican port for Chinese merchandise to be offloaded and transported throughout North America with cheap non-American labor. The political purpose is the subjugation of America.

At a local level, the TTC is literally highway robbery. Public Private Partnerships (aka PPP’s) create private monopolies in roads and infrastructure that are analogous to the Federal Reserve’s fiat money monopoly. Roads that have been paid for by tax dollars on land seized by eminent domain are being sold to private companies along with the right to set tolls. If these companies had bought the land with private capital in voluntary transactions with private land owners and then build roads on their land with private capital, then no one would have problem with them collecting whatever tolls they desired for the privilege of driving on their property.

Even if they had negotiated voluntary road easements through private land on mutually agreeable terms to the landowner, much like pipeline companies do today when they want to build a transnational pipeline, few would be complaining. But this is not at all what is happening. Public infrastructure, acquired with the sheriff’s gun, is being sold to foreigners who are, in effect, being given taxing power over US citizens. How can other companies compete on a fair basis with the sheriff’s gun? To add insult to injury, citizens must still pay the road tax every time they buy gas, effectively paying twice every time they utilize the toll road. If roads are going to be privatized, all land seized by eminent domain must first be offered back to those from whom it was taken for the same price for which it was taken. Yes, the subjugation of America is without doubt God’s judgment on a land that has rejected him and his law, sacrificed their children to Moloch, and committed all sorts of abominations in their pursuit of hedonism. But the right response is repentance, not aiding the rape of America families and the theft of American wealth or voting for those who do.