Friday, January 29, 2016

"The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment" by CS Lewis: An Essay - Part 3

The following is an exert from CS Lewis's prophetic essay "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment." His basic argument is simply that when society treats crime as a disease its benevolent attitude becomes more oppressive than anything in human history. It is, to say the least, prophetic. As erotic rights continue to become the norm (even surpassing Constitutional rights) those who stands against sinful erotic lifestyles (like homosexuality, polyamory, etc.) will not be labeled criminals, but sick in need of being cured. We are already seeing signs of this with the labels "homophobia." The following essay is now available in the book "God on a Dock."


"The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment" by CS Lewis: An Essay - Part 1
"The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment" by CS Lewis: An Essay - Part 2
"The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment" by CS Lewis: An Essay - Part 3


It is, indeed, important to notice that my argument so far supposes no evil intentions on the part of the Humanitarian and considers only what is involved in the logic of his position. My contention is that good men (not bad men) consistently acting upon that position would act as cruelly and unjustly as the greatest tyrants. They might in some respects act even worse. Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level with those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. But to be punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we ‘ought to have known better’, is to be treated as a human person made in God’s image.

In reality, however, we must face the possibility of bad rulers armed with a Humanitarian theory of punishment. A great many popular blue prints for a Christian society are merely what the Elizabethans called ‘eggs in moonshine’ because they assume that the whole society is Christian or that the Christians are in control. This is not so in most contemporary States. Even if it were, our rulers would still be fallen men, and, therefore neither very wise nor very good. As it is, they will usually be unbelievers. And since wisdom and virtue are not the only or the commonest qualifications for a place in the government, they will not often be even the best unbelievers.

The practical problem of Christian politics is not that of drawing up schemes for a Christian society, but that of living as innocently as we can with unbelieving fellow-subjects under unbelieving rulers who will never be perfectly wise and good and who will sometimes be very wicked and very foolish. And when they are wicked the Humanitarian theory of punishment will put in their hands a finer instrument of tyranny than wickedness ever had before. For if crime and disease are to be regarded as the same thing, it follows that any state of mind which our masters choose to call ‘disease’ can be treated as a crime; and compulsorily cured. It will be vain to plead that states of mind which displease government need not always involve moral turpitude and do not therefore always deserve forfeiture of liberty. For our masters will not be using the concepts of Desert and Punishment but those of disease and cure. We know that one school of psychology already regards religion as a neurosis. When this particular neurosis becomes inconvenient to government, what is to hinder government from proceeding to ‘cure’ it? Such ‘cure’ will, of course, be compulsory; but under the Humanitarian theory it will not be called by the shocking name of Persecution. No one will blame us for being Christians, no one will hate us, no one will revile us. The new Nero will approach us with the silky manners of a doctor, and though all will be in fact as compulsory as the tunica molesta or Smithfield or Tyburn, all will go on within the unemotional therapeutic sphere where words like ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ or ‘freedom’ and ‘slavery’ are never heard. And thus when the command is given, every prominent Christian in the land may vanish overnight into Institutions for the Treatment of the Ideologically Unsound, and it will rest with the expert gaolers to say when (if ever) they are to re-emerge. But it will not be persecution. Even if the treatment is painful, even if it is life-long, even if it is fatal, that will be only a regrettable accident; the intention was purely therapeutic. In ordinary medicine there were painful operations and fatal operations; so in this. But because they are ‘treatment’, not punishment, they can be criticized only by fellow-experts and on technical grounds, never by men as men and on grounds of justice.

This is why I think it essential to oppose the Humanitarian theory of punishment, root and branch, wherever we encounter it. It carries on its front a semblance of mercy which is wholly false. That is how it can deceive men of good will. The error began, with Shelley’s statement that the distinction between mercy and justice was invented in the courts of tyrants. It sounds noble, and was indeed the error of a noble mind. But the distinction is essential. The older view was that mercy ‘tempered’ justice, or (on the highest level of all) that mercy and justice had met and kissed. The essential act of mercy was to pardon; and pardon in its very essence involves the recognition of guilt and ill-desert in the recipient. If crime is only a disease which needs cure, not sin which deserves punishment, it cannot be pardoned. How can you pardon a man for having a gumboil or a club foot? But the Humanitarian theory wants simply to abolish Justice and substitute Mercy for it. This means that you start being ‘kind’ to people before you have considered their rights, and then force upon them supposed kindnesses which no on but you will recognize as kindnesses and which the recipient will feel as abominable cruelties. You have overshot the mark. Mercy, detached from Justice, grows unmerciful. That is the important paradox. As there are plants which will flourish only in mountain soil, so it appears that Mercy will flower only when it grows in the crannies of the rock of Justice; transplanted to the marshlands of mere Humanitarianism, it becomes a man-eating weed, all the more dangerous because it is still called by the same name as the mountain variety. But we ought long ago to have learned our lesson. We should be too old now to be deceived by those humane pretensions which have served to usher in every cruelty of the revolutionary period in which we live. These are the ‘precious balms’ which will ‘break our heads’.

There is a fine sentence in Bunyan: ‘It came burning hot into my mind, whatever he said, and however he flattered, when he got me home to his House, he would sell me for a Slave.’ There is a fine couplet, too, in John Ball:

‘Be war or ye be wo; 
Knoweth your frend from your foo.’

All Around the Web - January 29, 2016

Get Religion -  Hey reporters: Donald Trump tries to woo Iowa evangelicals, by attending liberal church?

Trevin Wax - The problem with Trump’s change of heart on abortion (COMMENTARY)

Thom Rainer - Six Ways Ministry Spouses Get Hurt

Christianity Today - Public's trust in clergy plummets

Paul Chitwood - Southern Baptists moving from sinful past into a bright future

Scriptorium Daily - An Introduction to Karl Barth


Thursday, January 28, 2016

We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Complete Series

It has taken some time, but I have finally finished my series on the theology of the English classic Beowulf. You can read each installment of this series in the links below. My basic thesis is evident in the title: like Beowulf's monsters, we are descendants of Adam by Cain. We need a hero, not from external villains, but from ourselves.
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Introduction
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Why Beowulf Matters
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 1
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 2
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 3
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 1
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 2
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 3
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 4
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 5
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 6
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 7
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  Conclusion

For more:
"Beowulf": A Review
A Shrewd Apologetic: Doug Wilson's Take on Beowulf
Beowulf: Resources and Links
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien's Monsters Documentary

All Around the Web - January 28, 2016

Joe Carter - The FAQs: Grand Jury Indicts Filmmakers Who Secretly Recorded Planned Parenthood


The Gospel Coalition - 5 Reasons to Keep Politicians Out of Your Pulpit

Gavin Ortlund - 7 Ways to Fight Distraction During Prayer

Erik Raymond - Having Trouble in Ministry? Just Face it. Literally.

The Guardian - Search engine lets users find live video of sleeping babies

Trevin Wax - The Great Ebook Battle of 2016


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

"Whosoever Will": Blogging Through Allen and Lemke - The Atonement

"Whosoever Will": Blogging Through Allen and Lemke - Introduction
"Whosoever Will": Blogging Through Allen and Lemke - Preaching John 3:16
"Whosoever Will": Blogging Through Allen and Lemke - Total Depravity"Whosoever Will": Blogging Through Allen and Lemke - Congruent Election
"Whosoever Will": Blogging Through Allen and Lemke - The Atonement


The one theological doctrine most debated among everybody - from both non-Calvinists, Arminians, and even Calvinists - in the often-used acronym T. U. L. I. P. is the "L" which stands for "Limited Atonement." We could debate all day about the term itself (most Calvinists prefer the term "Particular Redemption"), but such a conversation would be unfruitful and dodges the real issue. Is Jesus' death upon the cross - the atonement - limited exclusively to the elect? Non-Calvinists hold to a universal atonement whereas Calvinists embrace a limited atonement.

As expected, the editors of Whosoever Will offer their critique of Particular Redemption. One of the general editors of the book, Dr. David Allen, writes this chapter. From the beginning, Allen offers the following assurance:
The goals of this essay are to be firm but fair, simple but substantive, biblical but not bombastic, and to avoid an unbecoming pride of ignorance as well as an arrogant elitism. (62)
I appreciate his goals and I wish more would pursue the same in this discussion.

In this essay, Allen defends the traditional non-Calvinist view: "Jesus' death is sufficient for all but efficient only for the elect." (66) The primary means by which he goes about defending that thesis is not by quoting Arminianism, but by quoting other Calvinists - specifically, four-point Calvinists.

First, he suggests that some of the best known Calvinsts in history (including Calvin himself) rejected particular redemption. The list of men include, but are not limited to, Heinrich Bullinger, Thomas Cranmer, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Stephen Charnock, Isaac Watts, Jonathan Edwards, David Brainard, Charles Hodge, and JC Ryles. Anyone familiar with the issue will not be surprised by Allen's strategy or the above list. In fact, a latter chapter of the book looks extensively at Calvin's view on limited atonement and concludes that he likely rejected.

The point of this historical sketch for Allen is three-fold: 1) "First, there has been and is significant debate over beliefs concerning the extent of the atonement in Calvinistic history." 2) Baptists, whether Calvinistic or not, need to be more historically self-aware concerning the extent of the diversity on the point. 3) "[O]ne needs to see the novelty of the Owenic view of limited atonement in church history." (68)

Secondly, Allen considers the exegetical evidence for universal atonement. He begins by stating that there are "Three key sets of text in the New Testament" which "affirm unlimited atonement: the 'all' texts, the 'world' texts, and the 'many' texts." (78) Again, for those familiar with the issue, there is nothing new here.

In this section, Allen makes some strong points against the Reformed position while occasionally straying toward disingenuous statements about Calvinism. For example, he takes John Owen to task over his exegesis of John 3:16. He writes:
When Owen said the use of the word kosmos in John 3:16-17 must designate "they whom he intended to save, and none else, or he faileth of his purpose," it is clear his theology precedes and determines his exegesis. His argument proceeds in this fashion: since "world" is used elsewhere in senses other than "all humanity," it cannot be used in that sense in John 3:16. He also argued the same for the use of the world "all." Since "all" sometimes means "all of some sorts" or "some of all sorts," it can never mean, according to Owen, that all humanity includes each and every person. The logical fallacy of such an approach is evident. (79)

I agree. He then adds later: "If Owen is correct that 'world' means 'elect,' when John 3:16 says 'whosoever believes shall not perish,' the possibility is left open that some of the elect might perish." (79). Again, a valid point.

These are strong arguments for the non-Reformed position. Yet many on that side of the aisle have a tendency to immediately jump to disingenuous conclusions. Allen does that here. On the very next page, he writes "This distortion has immense repercussions for evangelism and preaching!" (80) We all know that some Calvinist do flirt with hyper-Calvinism, but non-Calvinists overuse it. Hardly a page goes by, it seems, in books like this without stereotypical accusations against Calvinism are made - Calvinists are against missions and evangelism, Calvinists don't believe in free will, Calvinists don't believe in altar calls, etc. One should note that near the end of the chapter, Allen extends this comment and suggests that limited atonement is a serious challenge for motivating evangelism.

Sigh!

The final section of the essay regards a number of practical concerns Allen has with affirm limited atonement. In general, this section is Allen's way of not just criticizing particular redemption, but criticizing Calvinism.

These practical concerns include, but are not limited to, the standard stereotypical matters addressed above: "Problems for Evangelism" (96-98), "Problems for Preaching" (98-100), "Problems Concerning the giving of Altar Calls" (101)", etc. Most of these points address stereotypes I will not rehash here.

There is, however, one concern Allen raises that I do believe is legitimate: "Problems When Non-Calvinist Churches Interview a Calvinist Potential Pastor or Staff Member" (102-103). His main point here is that a church that is convictionally non-reformed should not hire a reformed pastor and any candidate being considered should be open about his convictions about the doctrines of grace. He rightly points out the tendency among reformed pastors and candidates to hide their Calvinism during this process. This is concerning to Allen.

A few brief thoughts. First, I am in general agreement with Allen here. Both churches and candidates should be open about theological convictions during the hiring process. With that said, the frustration among many reformed ministers is that most churches are woefully uninformed on what the issues actually are. Even books like this one continue the narrative that Calvinists do not believe in missions, evangelism, altar calls, or free will. Calvinism is a dirty word and is being avoided by many who would otherwise adopt the name. Many churches are hostile to Calvinism out of ignorance and fear, not because they have actually read the Bible or know an ounce of theology.

Conclusion

Of all of the chapters in this book, this is the one I knew I would likely find the most agreement with theologically. Yet even here the frustration I have with this entire conversation seeps through. Allen emphasizes the high number of Calvinists who reject particular redemption yet no one on either side ever seems to ever question why.

Could it not be that particular redemption is a modern theological category that Scripture never addresses? Do Allen, Calvin, or John Piper honesty believe that the apostles Paul and Peter discussed the topic in Jerusalem, Antioch, or Rome? It is my contention that the entire conversation on the extent of the atonement is a waste of time and thus we are creating unnecessary dividing lines. I fear entire dissertations and books have been written on a subject the Bible never truly addresses which is why both sides hold fast to their group of favorite verses.

All Around the Web - January 26, 2016

First Things - Nikabrik's Candidate

Chuck Lawless - 10 Things Pastors Will Think about as They Preach this Weekend

Thom Rainer - Seven Ways NOT to Follow Up with Church Guests

The Gospel Coalition - 3 Ways to Share the Gospel This Week

Washington Post - In the age of Amazon, used bookstores are making an unlikely comeback


Monday, January 25, 2016

"Decision Points" by George W. Bush: A Review

The following was originally published in January 2011.

Perhaps the most anticipated and widely read book of 2010 came from the pen of former President George W. Bush in his book Decision Points.  After almost two whole years of silence, the former President returned to the public eye to promote the book and did countless interviews and speeches promoting the book and as a result his book has sold more than recent books written by recent former Presidents.

Without a doubt President Bush was one of the most controversial, and oftentimes hated, Presidents of modern times. The vitriol thrown at him on a daily basis was nonstop since the day of his election (which wouldn't officially be decided for several weeks) until today where most of what is going wrong with this country is still being blamed on Bush.

To read the book is to almost forget all of that. This is both a compliment and a critique. A compliment because it was nice to hear things from the President's perspective. From the perspective of a voting citizen that dedicated a lot of time to following the President and the days events, all we ever got was fog. Everyday was a reminder of bias from the media and other outlets as politicians succumbed to political backbiting than actually trying to solve anything.  The first two years of the Obama administration has proven this.  Many of the controversial things raised during the Bush administration have been passed and continue in Obama's administration even though Bush's opponents opposed virtually all that Bush did.  This is political hypocrisy and it is why many American's are tired of the program and this is the sort of hypocrisy present in every party.

It was nice to be able to sift through all of the fog fed to Americans on a daily basis and see things from the President's perspective.  It is easy for us on the outside to say what we would do if we were in the President's shoes, but when we are brought inside the President's office we are humbled. The President lays it all out on the line. He goes into detail about Iraq, Afghanistan, 9/11, stem-cell research, enhanced interrogations, Katrina, and so much more. The President's primary goal isn't to defend himself, but to explain himself. The President masterfully takes the reader into his administration, presents the case for his decisions, and lets the reader decide without much of the fog that clouded his presidency.

This adds to one of my major critiques of the book:  Where was any of this during Bush's presidency? Certainly Bush's awe of the office of the President prevented him from lowering himself into partisan politics of bickering, complaining, and blame shifting. However, one cannot read this book without asking the question. If Bush was this articulate and honest with the American people about the why of his decisions, perhaps the opinion polls would have been different and the last years of his presidency wouldn't have been so difficult. Certainly the President made many mistakes and he admits that in this book, but the arguments put forward in this book are reasonable.  Even those who disagree with the former President will have to admit that Bush is no lightweight and certainly knew the issues he was faced with and made the best and reason decisions (from this perspective) he could make. The fact that Americans turned to a man who could articulate his views reminds us of Bush's greatest weakness. Bush failed utterly in defending himself and presenting a case to the American people.

Overall, however, this is one of the most important books to have been published in some time.  Whether one liked Bush or not is irrelevant at this point. To gain a better understanding of the Presidency and to understand the decisions that our elected officials make is imperative to being a citizen and fulfilling our role as a voter. Bush's book is readable and easy to understand though the issues he present are difficult. The caricatures of Bush prevalent during his presidency are stripped away and we are presented with a man who loves his country and did the best he could given the circumstances he was given. Love him or hate him, this is a must read for every American.

Bush tackles everything in this book.  Certainly I found reasons to rejoice, celebrate, and agree with the President and there were moments where I disagreed and wanted to skip to the next page.  However, Bush writes honestly and invites the reader to look at the evidence, listen to his argument, and make their own decision. This is rare among politicians and presidents. Bush doesn't seem consumed with his legacy (he trusts history's unbias lenses for that), but instead offers his account of things free from all the political and media fog.

I must admit that Bush's post-presidency has impressed me. The first President I remember seeing on TV was Bush's father, Bush-41. Though I was born during the Reagan administration, I remember nothing of it. But all my life I have seen Presidents refusing to stay out of it.  Refusing to retire.  Instead it seems like many past presidents use their mantel as an opportunity to play president. Many are looking to insure their legacy instead of trusting their decisions to history's lens. Bush-43 on the other hand has respected his successor by staying out of the limelight.  I greatly respect the President for that. He isn't interested in partisan politics or analyzing the political events of the day. He's not a pundit. He's a man who respects the office enough to not defend himself everyday. When called upon, he serves. Otherwise, he stays out as a private citizen.

If you have not read this book, read it soon. Though long, it reads very fast and well worth the investment.






For more biographies on the Presidents
President Barack Obama - "The Audacity of Hope" by Barack Obama: A Review
President George W. Bush - "Decision Points" by George W. Bush: A Review
President George W. Bush - "Rebel in Chief" by Fred Barnes: A Review
President Bill Clinton - "The Natural" by Joe Klein: A Review 
President George H. W. Bush - "41" by George W. Bush: A Review
President Ronald Reagan - "Ronald Reagan" by Dinesh D'Souza 
President Gerald Ford - "Gerald R. Ford" by Douglas Brinkley: A Review
President Richard Nixon - "The Greatest Comeback" by Pat Buchanan: A Review
President John F. Kennedy - "Killing Kennedy" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard: A Review
President Dwight D. Eisenhower - "Ike: An American Hero" by Michael Korda: A Review
President Abraham Lincoln - "Abraham Lincoln: A Man of Faith and Courage"
"The Preacher and the Presidents" by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy: A Review


American Experience Documentaries:
Woodrow Wilson: An American Experience
Dwight Eisenhower: An American Experience
Richard Nixon: American Experience
Jimmy Carter: An American Experience
Ronald Reagan: An American Experience
HW Bush: An American Experience  
Clinton: An American Experience

"Rebel in Chief" by Fred Barnes: A Review

Bush is a big-picture person, eager to concentrate on major issues and delegate smaller ones. That explains why he let Laura design the oval Office rug. He treats Washington, D. C., like a detention center and is no admirer of congress. Bush has set records for days spent outside the nation's capital by a president. He makes no excuses for this. (201)

If your doing any sort of presidential historic research one of the worse places you can look is books mid-term. The reason should be obvious; they do not know how the story ends. One would not read an expose on the Lincoln administration prior to Gettysburg. Nor would one seriously consider a cheerful piece on Lincoln immediately following his second inauguration knowing that his second term would be cut short due to an assassins bulletin.

This is not to suggest such books are useless. They are insightful in understanding the mood of country or of a movement at the time and gives you perspective on how one's perception of a figure - like a president - has changed.

These were my thoughts while reading Fred Barnes 2006 book Rebel in Chief: Inside the Bold and controversial Presidency of George W. Bush. Barnes provides great insight into the mind, the method, and the presidency of George W. Bush. Certainly it borderlines hagiography - most books in 2006 on President Bush were on one extreme or the other. Barnes also provides keen insight into the Washington world that Bush called his home for eight years. It is in this regard that Barnes' work remains relevant.

W. was a different president. No doubt about that. Though I did not agree with everything W. stood for (his belief in an activist government and disbelief in strong state's rights are just two that immediately come to mind). Nevertheless, his stubbornness on the essentials in the midst of the cesspool of Washington is admirable. This is what Barnes means by "Rebel in Chief." W., he argues, viewed Washington as his job sight and thus went out of his way to reject the culture of that city. W. had little interests in making friends in Washington and, as expected, made few friends in Washington.

W.'s approach to the presidency was to work and for that I applaud him. He understood that the presidency was meant for leaders and he was driven to lead. W. was not interested in poll numbers (clearly!) or always doing what was popular (or even best for his party), but doing what he thought was right for the country. Bush went to Washington to lead and to leave a mark. He certainly did that.

This is one of the ironic parts of the book. Barnes decries the inside world of Washington DC as an insider. He is a political junkie that has made a living off of the beast. So while explaining and decrying big government that requires infinite regulations and lobbyists, Barnes himself is one who struggles to see beyond the bubble.

Overall, however, the books wealth regards the man himself. Those who have a favorable opinion of W. will like this book recognizing that it lacks the perspective of history. Barnes struggles to acknowledge that Hurricane Katrina was a disaster for Bush's second term and years later his successor, President Barack Obama, continues to blame everything on Bush with little backlash from the nation.

In the end, take it or leave it. This is not where I would turn to explore the presidency of George W. Bush, but that does not mean it is useless. Barnes has keen insight into the culture of DC and the man who was at the top for eight years and did not forfeit his soul.


For more biographies on the Presidents
President Barack Obama - "The Audacity of Hope" by Barack Obama: A Review
President George W. Bush - "Decision Points" by George W. Bush
President George W. Bush - "Rebel in Chief" by Fred Barnes: A Review 
President Bill Clinton - "The Natural" by Joe Klein: A Review 
President George H. W. Bush - "41" by George W. Bush: A Review
President Ronald Reagan - "Ronald Reagan" by Dinesh D'Souza 
President Gerald Ford - "Gerald R. Ford" by Douglas Brinkley: A Review
President Richard Nixon - "The Greatest Comeback" by Pat Buchanan: A Review
President John F. Kennedy - "Killing Kennedy" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard: A Review
President Dwight D. Eisenhower - "Ike: An American Hero" by Michael Korda: A Review
President Abraham Lincoln - "Abraham Lincoln: A Man of Faith and Courage"
"The Preacher and the Presidents" by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy: A Review


American Experience Documentaries:
Woodrow Wilson: An American Experience
Dwight Eisenhower: An American Experience
Richard Nixon: American Experience
Jimmy Carter: An American Experience
Ronald Reagan: An American Experience
HW Bush: An American Experience  
Clinton: An American Experience

All Around the Web - January 25, 2016

Courier-Journal - Commentary | U of L's diversity gone awry

Thom Rainer - Eight Reasons Your Church Should Have an Email Newsletter

WORLD Magazine - Survey: Prepubescent porn exposure has doubled in a generation

Carey Nieuwhof - 9 Things That Worked in the Church A Decade Ago That Don’t Today

Sean McDowell - Did Jesus Even Exist?

Friday, January 22, 2016

"The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment" by CS Lewis: An Essay - Part 2

The following is an exert from CS Lewis's prophetic essay "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment." His basic argument is simply that when society treats crime as a disease its benevolent attitude becomes more oppressive than anything in human history. It is, to say the least, prophetic. As erotic rights continue to become the norm (even surpassing Constitutional rights) those who stands against sinful erotic lifestyles (like homosexuality, polyamory, etc.) will not be labeled criminals, but sick in need of being cured. We are already seeing signs of this with the labels "homophobia." The following essay is now available in the book "God on a Dock."


"The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment" by CS Lewis: An Essay - Part 1
"The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment" by CS Lewis: An Essay - Part 2


The Humanitarian theory, then, removes sentences from the hands of jurists whom the public conscience is entitled to criticize and places them in the hands of technical experts whose special sciences do not even employ such categories as rights or justice. It might be argued that since this transference results from an abandonment of the old idea of punishment, and, therefore, of all vindictive motives, it will be safe to leave our criminals in such hands. I will not pause to comment on the simple-minded view of fallen human nature which such a belief implies. Let us rather remember that the ‘cure’ of criminals is to be compulsory; and let us then watch how the theory actually works in the mind or the Humanitarian. The immediate starting point of this article was a letter I read in one of our Leftist weeklies. The author was pleading that a certain sin, now treated by our laws as a crime, should henceforward be treated as a disease. And he complained that under the present system the offender, after a term in gaol, was simply let out to return to his original environment where he would probably relapse. What he complained of was not the shutting up but the letting out. On his remedial view of punishment the offender should, of course, be detained until he was cured. And or course the official straighteners are the only people who can say when that is. The first result of the Humanitarian theory is, therefore, to substitute for a definite sentence (reflecting to some extent the community’s moral judgment on the degree of ill-desert involved) an indefinite sentence terminable only by the word of those experts—and they are not experts in moral theology nor even in the Law of Nature—who inflict it. Which of us, if he stood in the dock, would not prefer to be tried by the old system?

It may be said that by the continued use of the word punishment and the use of the verb ‘inflict’ I am misrepresenting Humanitarians. They are not punishing, not inflicting, only healing. But do not let us be deceived by a name. To be taken without consent from my home and friends; to lose my liberty; to undergo all those assaults on my personality which modern psychotherapy knows how to deliver; to be re-made after some pattern of ‘normality’ hatched in a Viennese laboratory to which I never professed allegiance; to know that this process will never end until either my captors have succeeded or I grown wise enough to cheat them with apparent success—who cares whether this is called Punishment or not? That it includes most of the elements for which any punishment is feared—shame, exile, bondage, and years eaten by the locust—is obvious. Only enormous ill-desert could justify it; but ill-desert is the very conception which the Humanitarian theory has thrown overboard.

If we turn from the curative to the deterrent justification of punishment we shall find the new theory even more alarming. When you punish a man in terrorem**, make of him an ‘example’ to others, you are admittedly using him as a means to an end; someone else’s end. This, in itself, would be a very wicked thing to do. On the classical theory of Punishment it was of course justified on the ground that the man deserved it. That was assumed to be established before any question of ‘making him an example arose. You then, as the saying is, killed two birds with one stone; in the process of giving him what he deserved you set an example to others. But take away desert and the whole morality of the punishment disappears. Why, in Heaven’s name, am I to be sacrificed to the good of society in this way?—unless, of course, I deserve it.

But that is not the worst. If the justification of exemplary punishment is not to be based on dessert but solely on its efficacy as a deterrent, it is not absolutely necessary that the man we punish should even have committed the crime. The deterrent effect demands that the public should draw the moral, ‘If we do such an act we shall suffer like that man.’ The punishment of a man actually guilty whom the public think innocent will not have the desired effect; the punishment of a man actually innocent will, provided the public think him guilty. But every modern State has powers which make it easy to fake a trial. When a victim is urgently needed for exemplary purposes and a guilty victim cannot be found, all the purposes of deterrence will be equally served by the punishment (call it ‘cure’ if you prefer) of an innocent victim, provided that the public can be cheated into thinking him will be so wicked. The punishment of an innocent, that is , an undeserving, man is wicked only if we grant the traditional view that righteous punishment means deserved punishment. Once we have abandoned that criterion, all punishments have to be justified, if at all, on other grounds that have nothing to do with desert. Where the punishment of the innocent can be justified on those grounds (and it could in some cases be justified as a deterrent) it will be no less moral than any other punishment. Any distaste for it on the part of the Humanitarian will be merely a hang-over from the Retributive theory.




** "to cause terror."

All Around the Web - January 22, 2016

Albert Mohler - The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem


Justin Taylor - "Donald Trump Is Not Capable of Serious Moral Reasoning”

Thom Rainer - The One Common Factor of Effective Church Leaders

WORLD - Poll: 81 percent in U.S. want abortion limits

Joe Carter -  Comments on the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal

Entrepreneur - Is Amazon's First Brick-and-Mortar Bookstore the Future of Retail?


Thursday, January 21, 2016

We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Conclusion

We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Introduction
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Why Beowulf Matters
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 1
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 2
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 3
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 1
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 2
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 3
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 4
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 5
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 6
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  The Theology Part 7We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf -  Conclusion


Before leaving the theology of Beowulf behind, it might be best to pursue a modern parallel to the argument we have made here. Our thesis has been to understand the monsters of Beowulf as being mirrors of both the characters in the story and the readers who pick up the story. I am greedy like the dragon and violent and vengeful like Grendel and his mother.

There is an interesting parallel to this in modern literature worth noting: CS Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Like in Beowulf, greediness is attached to dragons. Most famous in Dawn Treader is Eustace's metamorphasis to and from being a dragon. Yet Eustace is not the only dragon in the story. Here is Michael Ward's discussion of the issue in his book Planet Narnia:
The first of these defeats occurs in chapter 6 when we see the death of an old lugubrious dragon. This episode is powerfully redolent of the killing of the dragon Python in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo. There we learn that the sun-god sent arrows into the monster so that it lay 'rent with biter pangs, drawing great gasps for breath and rolling about that place. An awful noise swelled up for unspeakable as she writhed continually this way and hat amid the wood; and so she left her life, breathing it forth in blood. Then Phoebus Apollo boasted over her. In the Dawn Treader we read that there came from the dragon 'a great croaking or clanging crying and after a few twitches and convulsions it rolled round on its side . . . A little dark blood gushed from its wide-opened mouth.' Lewis frames the account of this death by telling us, first, 'the sun beat down' and then, straight afterward, 'the sun disappeared.' However, here it is not Apollo Sauroctonus who boasts over the dragon's corpse but Eustace, who 'began to feel as if he had fought and killed the dragon instead of merely seeing it die.' His presumptuous claim to Solar power is shortly to be upended when he is turned into a dragon himself.

Eustace, who metamorphosis occurs after he falls asleep on the dead dragon's hoard 'with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart,' finds that he is unable to free himself of the 'the giant lizard' or 'serpent with legs' that he has become; for that to happen he has to submit to Aslan, the true Sol (that is, the true God, figured as Sol). . . . Eustace is in deed released from his cupidity by Aslan for, as soon as he is restored to human form, he slips the bracelet (which he had planned to steal) off his arm and announces, 'Anyone can have it as far as I'm concerned.' This same spirit of liberation from greed is communicated tot eh whole ship's company: no one feels any desire to go back to the first dragon's valley to search for its treasure.

Receptiveness to Solar influence among the ship's company is tested in the very next chapter as they have to defeat the third dragon of the story, the great Sea Serpent which tries to crush the ship, but which only succeeds in breaking off the Dawn Treader's carved stern.

That carved stern is shaped, we must remember, like a dragon's tail, just as its bowspirit is like a dragon's head and its sides like dragon wings.the ship itself is the fourth dragon in the story, and here Lewis modulates the them of liberality into a more theological or religious key. The ship may be taken as the expression of Caspian's own avariciousness: eh is her maker (she is the first ship he has built, we are told) and his own cabin is decorated, ominously, with 'crimson dragons.' Despite all his nobility and heroism, Caspian is not immune from the worse kind of illiberal motivation. 'All dragons collect gold,' says Edmund, in connection with the dragon-that-is-Eustace, and the Dawn Treader's dragon-shape tells us something about her builder and king. Int eh final chapter we suddenly discover that Caspian harbours a self-serving ambition to abdicate and seize Aslan's country by his own will. His urgent wish to go beyond the eastern edge of the world is another manifestation of dragonish greed, a kind of simony, a rapacious desire to grasp religious enlightenment -- even at the price of his own life. It is akin to what Austin Farrer perceptively calls, in connection with Lewis's suspicions about the origins of sehnsuscht, 'the ultimate refinement of covetousness.' Caspian is restrained from this course of action first by the near-mutiny of the ship's company, then by a painful encounter with Aslan: 'it was terrible - his eyes'. This religious crisis brings the Sauroctonus theme to an intense and unexpected, but entirely appropriate, climax. Aslan-as-Sol burns away the dross in Caspian's motives. He makes the dragonish king and his dragonish ship subject to the spirit of gratuity, symbolized now in three main ways, by freshening of the sea so that it can be drunk in deep enriching droughts; by the mysterious current that carries them across windless seas; and by the sublime 'fate' that directs the last moments of the voyage. (113-115)
The point about King Caspian is the parallel worth making here. Eustace becomes a literal dragon due to his greed. However, though Caspian never becomes an actual fire-breathing serpent, he is no less dragon-like. The ship he built with his own hands gives evidence of that.

Lewis, then, is not just telling a story but unveiling his theology. Lewis, a Christian, is making a Christian point. Lusts like greed drives men like you and me. I am Eustace Clarence Scrubb (who almost deserved the name) who desperately needs Aslan to set me free. I am King Caspian who has everything but still does not not have enough. Lewis is indicting human nature much like the Beowulf author(s).

I am a son of Cain and so are you.


For more:
"Beowulf": A Review
A Shrewd Apologetic: Doug Wilson's Take on Beowulf
Beowulf: Resources and Links
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien's Monsters Documentary

All Around the Web - January 21, 2016

Christianity Today - Mormon Church reveals its founder Joseph Smith had as many as 40 wives, including a 14-year-old girl

Canon Fodder - How Diverse Was Early Christianity? Clearing Up a Few Misconceptions

Sam Storms - Does the Bible Endorse Slavery?

Telegraph - Down's Syndrome people risk 'extinction' at the hands of science, fear and ignorance

Kevin DeYoung - Once Again on Wheaton and Worshiping the Same God

Iceland Magazine - 0.0% of Icelanders 25 years or younger believe God created the world, new poll reveals


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Two Types of Pastors: Lessons Learned from Presidential Leadership

While reading through Fred Barnes book, Rebel in Chief: Inside the Bold and Controversial Presidency of George W. Bush, I came across the following passage:
There are two types of presidents: those who govern and those who lead. A governing president performs all the duties assigned by the Constitution, deals with whatever issues or crises crop up during his term, and does little else. He's a caretaker. Richard Neustadt, in his seminal book Presidential Power, characterized such a president as essentially a clerk. Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, was a president who mainly governed. So was Dwight Eisenhower and, for most of his time in the White House, Bill Clinton.

Bush is a president who leads. "If we do not lead, people will suffer," the president told me in an interview I conducted specifically for this book. He controls the national agenda, uses his presidential powers to the fullest and then some, proposes far-reaching policies likely to change the way Americans live, reverses other long-standing policies, and is the foremost leader in world affairs. All the while, he courts controversy, provokes the press, and polarizes the country. The president doesn't worry about running the day-to-day activity of his own government; all he has to manage is the White House staff and individual cabinet secretaries.

His job, he told me, is to "stay out of minutiae, keep the big picture in mind, but also make sure that I know enough about what's going on to get the best information possible." To stress the point, during our interview in the Oval Office Bush called my attention to the rug; he had been surprised, he said, to learn that the first decision a president is expected to make is what color the rug should be. "I wasn't aware that presidents were rug designers," he told me. So he delegated the task—to Laura. Typical of his governing style, though, he gave a clear principle as guidance: he wanted the rug to express the view that an "optimistic person comes here."

An approach like Bush's allows a president to drive policy initiatives, so long as he has a vision of where he wants to take the nation and the world. Bush, despite his wise-guy tendencies and cocky demeanor, is a visionary. So were Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. They, too, were leaders, as controversial and polarizing as Bush.

Regardless of what one may think about former President Bush, the dichotomy (perhaps oversimplified) is an insightful one in regards to Presidential leadership. Some Presidents govern - Barnes names Bush 41, Clinton, and Eisenhower specifically (we could add others). Others lead; though Barnes only names W. specifically, we could certainly name other leading Presidents like both Roosevelts, Kennedy, Reagan, Lincoln, and others.

This latter category of presidents usually have big agenda's and are focused almost exclusively on that agenda. Reagan famously was focused on defeating the soviet union, making tax cuts as key to economic growth, and shrinking the size of government. Almost everything else fell under those goals (for example increasing defense spending was related to defeating the Soviet Union). Presidents who govern are usually focused on smaller items (what is Clinton's big legacy item again?).

My immediate thought upon reflecting on the above is how it might be applied to pastoral ministry. I think Barnes might be on to something here as it relates to shepherding the local church. Some pastors govern while others lead. Like the presidents, each pastor serves in a way that comes natural to them.

Though pastors should be a little bit of both, I believe that pastors are called to lead (shepherd) more than to merely govern. So what are some of the differences between a leading pastor and a governing pastor?

First, leading pastors are more focused on the needs of the community than the day-to-day expectations of the church members. A leading pastor organizes ministries and efforts to reach the community and is less focused on making sure that every member is visited weekly. This is not a mitigation of regular visitation. Rather visits are strategic and part of that leadership process. Governing pastors, in my experience, have checklists. Leading pastors have goals and utilizes visits as the means of accomplishing those goals.

Secondly, a leading pastor expects things to change sooner rather than later. A governing pastor wants change but is more patient in that regard. This is a real weakness of many leading pastors. A gifted leader can often enter a situation and almost immediately see the weaknesses that need to be changed. In congregational life that can be dangerous. Sometimes the smallest of changes can cause the greatest of problems. Leading pastors must not forget they are pastors and are called to shepherd their people and that does take time. Sacred cows are difficult to crucify. Some need to be exorcised immediately. Others need to slowly die.

Thirdly, a leading pastor expects criticism. Leadership breeds criticism by definition. For those who loathe criticism, any position of leadership is not for them. Leadership requires vision, integrity, and success. Fail at any of these and people will begin to grumble. Leaders without humble confidence and thick skin will not be in leadership for long.


Finally, it is important that a leading pastor serves a church that wants to be led and not governed. Likewise, it is imperative that a governing pastor serves a church that wants to be governed. To try to lead a complacent church will end in disaster in short order. To govern a church ready for change will likewise end in disaster.

These are just a few thoughts I had. No doubt those more qualified to speak on this subject will provide greater insight than I can but I believe the paradigm is useful.

So which are you? A leader or a governor?

All Around the Web - January 19, 2016


The New York Times - Hallelujah College

The Blaze - Report: The Abortion Rate is Declining in the United States

CNN - Christian persecution reached record high in 2015, report says

Thom Rainer - Eight Characteristics of the New Bivocational Pastor

The Gospel Coalition - What the Church Alone Offers the Community on Race

Monday, January 18, 2016

Free eBook: "The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus" by Habermas & Licona

The good folks at Kregel Publications are offering their ebook The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona. Both scholars are well respected in this field and I consider this to be a must download for Christians. At the root of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 15) and amazingly there is incredible reasons for believing this historic event. These two men make their case.

Download here.

Free eBook: "Getting to No" by Erwin Lutzer

The good folks at David C. Cook books are offering their book Getting to No: How to Break a Stubborn Habit by Erwin Lutzer for free as a digital download. I have not read the book myself but I have downloaded it on my Kindle. Lutzer I trust and from the title, this is a subject I think we should all consider. 

Here is the description:
Everyone is familiar with the cycle: We decide to break a bad habit once and for all. We may even experience some short-term success. Yet almost inevitably, we fall back into that undesirable behavior and the frustrating process starts all over again. The experience can leave us feeling powerless to make changes in our lives.

Popular author and pastor Erwin Lutzer believes it is possible to break the cycle of addictive behavior. Filled with biblical insight, Getting to No: How to Break a Stubborn Habit takes an honest look at the temptations lying beneath the surface of every bad habit. Lutzer examines tough issues—such as why temptation exists, what purpose it serves in our lives, and what happens when we fail again—and provides practical tools that will help you find freedom from bad habits for good.

Download here.


"The Quiet Man" by John Sununu: A Review

I believe George Bush was the right man for his time. He was the last American president of the so-called Greatest generation, which came of age during World War II. internationally, the time called for a man who inherently understood the historical imperatives of postwar Europe, who was unafraid to project power in the face of tyranny, and who respected the power of his position enough to use it judiciously. The time also called for a man who knew why he loved America and was willing to make it better.

George Herbert Walker Bush is much too modest a man to brag about what he accomplished as the forty-first president of the United States. The conventional wisdom regarding his administration ignores many of his great achievements. Here I put into context not only how he reshaped the face of the world, but also his extraordinary domestic achievements, which have not received the recognition they deserve. (xii)

Outside of theology and Christian studies, there is nothing I enjoy exploring more than the Presidents. Though I am generally not a fan of "tell-all" books where those who served in the White House under a certain President who use their position as a means of additional income to feed a salacious and gossip-hungry culture and media, occasionally there is an insider book that peaks my interest. Former governor of New Hampshire and chief-of-staff of former President George H. W. Bush, John Sununu, has recently written a book as one who had the Presidents ear for the majority of his one term and has published a book that seeks to set the record straight (from his perspective) and promote Bush as being a man of great success. The book is called The Quiet Man: The Indispensable Presidency of George H. W. Bush.

Governor Sununu is bias as most books like this are. That's not a criticism, but something that needs to be said upfront. It is virtually impossible to read a book about a President (especially one still living) that is without clear and obvious bias. Sununu believes that Bush has not received the respect he deserves on multiple front and personally I believe there may be some truth to that.

First of all, Sununu believes Bush to be a man of honor and integrity as the title suggests. Instead of being a flamboyant braggart that uses every political victory as reason to spike the ball, Bush was measured and carried himself as a statesmen. The best example of this regards both how he handled Desert Storm and the fall of the Soviet Union. Most now agree that Bush's soft persona (as opposed to spiking the proverbial football) allowed the Soviet Union to die the way it did. Sununu quotes Mikhail Gorbachev as saying as much. The same is true of Desert Storm. At the time, the media portrayed Bush's "quiet man" approach as troubling and boring, but Sununu shows that most now agree it was appropriate.

Secondly, Sununu repeatedly emphasizes that Bush was more than a great foreign policy President. Much of the book is dominated by Bush's leadership on domestic policy issues from taxes (yes, that issue), the budget, education, child care for working mothers, the environment, and energy. Sununu may be right in his criticism here, but it is difficult to see how Bush's domestic policy will ever equal that of his foreign success. Desert Storm was wildly successful. Furthermore, the former Ambassador and CIA chief turned Vice-President naturally was gifted with foreign policy. Bush oversaw the end of the Cold War which dominated the world scene for over fifty years. It is difficult to see how passing the Americans With Disabilities Act compares with any of that.

With all of this said, Sununu is not so loyal to the former President to not believe his administration was perfect. Mistakes were made. One chapter I was interested in regarded Supreme Court Justices. President Bush made two appointments: David Souter and Clarence Thomas. The former turned out to be a liberal judge that betrayed the president who appointed him. The latter has turned out precisely the opposite. Regarding Souter, Sununu writes:
Over the years, I anguished along with my conservative friends as we watched David Souter become more and more liberal. To add insult to injury, Souter waited to retire until there was a Democratic president so he could be replaced with a justice as liberal as he was. As I watched Barack Obama replace David Souter with Sonia Sotomayor, I ruefully marveled at how artfully David had demonstrated, all those years ago, who easy it is to deceive by saying next to nothing. (348)
His discussion of 1992 is similar. Sununu claims to prophetically foretell the rise of Bill Clinton. He also criticizes the vindictive Ross Perot whom he believes cost Bush the election. For those who love campaign history, this chapter alone is worth the price of the book.

Ultimately, Sununu offers an insightful book in an often overlooked presidency. For the last 30 plus years only one president has not served two terms and that was Bush 41. He stands between the personalities of the Great Communicator and Slick Willy. "The Quiet Man" will never be able to compete against that. For political junkies this is a great read. Sununu gives a true insiders view of the Washington world - a world that turns my stomach (his discussion in how the media operates is shameful). The author seeks to set the record straight and succeeds at doing that. The question will be if historians will listen to him.


For more biographies on the Presidents:
President Barack Obama - "The Audacity of Hope" by Barack Obama: A Review
President George W. Bush - "Decision Points" by George W. Bush
President Bill Clinton - "The Natural" by Joe Klein: A Review 
President George H. W. Bush - "41" by George W. Bush: A Review
President George H. W. Bush - "The Quiet Man" by John Sununu: A Review
President Ronald Reagan - "Ronald Reagan" by Dinesh D'Souza 
President Gerald Ford - "Gerald R. Ford" by Douglas Brinkley: A Review
President Richard Nixon - "The Greatest Comeback" by Pat Buchanan: A Review
President Lyndon B. Johnson - "Lyndon B. Johnson" by Charles Peters: A Review
President John F. Kennedy - "Killing Kennedy" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard: A Review
President Dwight D. Eisenhower - "Ike: An American Hero" by Michael Korda: A Review
President Calvin Coolidge - "Coolidge" by Amity Shlaes" A Review
President Abraham Lincoln - "Abraham Lincoln: A Man of Faith and Courage"
"The Preacher and the Presidents" by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy: A Review
"The First Family Detail" by Ronald Kessler: A Review
"Double Down" by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann: A Review


American Experience Documentaries:
Woodrow Wilson: An American Experience
Dwight Eisenhower: An American Experience
Richard Nixon: American Experience
Jimmy Carter: An American Experience
Ronald Reagan: An American Experience
George HW Bush: An American Experience  
Clinton: An American Experience

All Around the Web - January 18, 2016


Canon and Culture - The (Religious) Problem with Liberalism

Sean McDowell - Was Paul Beheaded in Rome?

Justin Taylor - What’s Going on at Wheaton? A Modest Proposal for the “Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God” Debate

WORLD Magazine - California judge: Catholic hospital can’t be forced to do sterilizations

The Blaze - Christian Farm Owners Fought Back Against $13,000 Fine for Refusing to Host a Gay Wedding — but Here’s What Just Happened in Court

Cinema Blend - How The Narnia Franchise Plans To Reboot With The Silver Chair
 


Sunday, January 17, 2016

All Around the Web - January 17, 2016

The Blaze - The 10 Absolute Worst and Most Deadly Places in the World to Be a Christian

Kevin DeYoung - Answering the Abortion Question that Is Sure to Come

Doug Wilson - Misbehaving With Pronouns

Russell Moore - 2 Chronicles 7:14 Isn’t About American Politics

Thom Rainer - Seven Social Media Tips to Begin the Year

Tim Keller - What I’ve Learned About the Bible


This is not an endorsement of Ted Cruz, but in case you wondered who Phil Robertson was voting for and why, well, wait no longer

Friday, January 15, 2016

"The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment" by CS Lewis: An Essay - Part 1

The following is an exert from CS Lewis's prophetic essay "The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment." His basic argument is simply that when society treats crime as a disease its benevolent attitude becomes more oppressive than anything in human history. It is, to say the least, prophetic. As erotic rights continue to become the norm (even surpassing Constitutional rights) those who stands against sinful erotic lifestyles (like homosexuality, polyamory, etc.) will not be labeled criminals, but sick in need of being cured. We are already seeing signs of this with the labels "homophobia." The following essay is now available in the book "God on a Dock."


In England we have lately had a controversy about Capital Punishment. I do not know whether a murderer is more likely to repent and make good on the gallows a few weeks after his trial or in the prison infirmary thirty years later. I do not know whether the fear of death is an indispensable deterrent. I need not, for the purpose of this article, decide whether it is a morally permissible deterrent. Those are questions which I propose to leave untouched. My subject is not Capital Punishment in particular, but that theory of punishment in general which the controversy showed to be called the Humanitarian theory. Those who hold it think that it is mild and merciful. In this I believe that they are seriously mistaken. I believe that the “Humanity” which it claims is a dangerous illusion and disguises the possibility of cruelty and injustice without end. I urge a return to the traditional or Retributive theory not solely, not even primarily, in the interests of society, but in the interests of the criminal.

According to the Humanitarian theory, to punish a man because he deserves it, and as much as he deserves, is mere revenge, and, therefore, barbarous and immoral. It is maintained that the only legitimate motives for punishing are the desire to deter others by example or to mend the criminal. When this theory is combined, as frequently happens, with the belief that all crime is more or less pathological, the idea of mending tails off into that of healing or curing and punishment becomes therapeutic. Thus it appears at first sight that we have passed from the harsh and self-righteous notion of giving the wicked their deserts to the charitable and enlightened one of tending the psychologically sick. What could be more amiable? One little point which is taken for granted in this theory needs, however, to be made explicit. The things done to the criminal, even if they are called cures, will be just as compulsory as they were in the old days when we called them punishments. If a tendency to steal can be cured by psychotherapy, the thief will no doubt be forced to undergo the treatment. Otherwise, society cannot continue.

My contention is that this doctrine, merciful though it appears, really means that each one of us, from the moment he breaks the law, is deprived of the rights of a human being.

The reason is this. The Humanitarian theory removes from Punishment the concept of Desert. But the concept of Desert is the only connecting link between punishment and justice. It is only as deserved or undeserved that a sentence can be just or unjust. I do not here contend that the question ‘Is it deserved?’ is the only one we can reasonably ask about a punishment. We may very properly ask whether it is likely to deter others and to reform the criminal. But neither of these two last questions is a question about justice. There is no sense in talking about a ‘just deterrent’ or a ‘just cure’. We demand of a deterrent not whether it is just but whether it will deter. We demand of a cure not whether it is just but whether it succeeds. Thus when we cease to consider what the criminal deserves and consider only what will cure him or deter others, we have tacitly removed him from the sphere of justice altogether; instead of a person, a subject of rights, we now have a mere object, a patient, a ‘case’.

The distinction will become clearer if we ask who will be qualified to determine sentences when sentences are no longer held to derive their propriety from the criminal’s deservings. On the old view the problem of fixing the right sentence was a moral problem. Accordingly, the judge who did it was a person trained in jurisprudence; trained, that is, in a science which deals with rights and duties, and which, in origin at least, was consciously accepting guidance from the Law of Nature, and from Scripture. We must admit that in the actual penal code of most countries at most times these high originals were so much modified by local custom, class interests, and utilitarian concessions, as to be very imperfectly recognizable. But the code was never in principle, and not always in fact, beyond the control of the conscience of the society. And when (say, in eighteenth-century England) actual punishments conflicted too violently with the moral sense of the community, juries refused to convict and reform was finally brought about. This was possible because, so long as we are thinking in terms of Desert, the propriety of the penal code, being a moral question, is a question in which every man has the right to an opinion, not because he follows this or that profession, but because he is simply a man, a rational animal enjoying the Natural Light. But all this is changed when we drop the concept of Desert. The only two questions we may now ask about a punishment are whether it deters and whether it cures. But these are not questions on which anyone is entitled to have an opinion simply because he is a man. He is not entitled to an opinion even if, in addition to being a man, he should happen also to be a jurist, a Christian, and a moral theologian. For they are not question about principle but about matter of fact; and for such cuiquam in sua arte credendum.* Only the expert ‘penologist’ (let barbarous things have barbarous names), in the light of previous experiment, can tell us what is likely to deter: only the psychotherapist can tell us what is likely to cure. It will be in vain for the rest of us, speaking simply as men, to say, ‘but this punishment is hideously unjust, hideously disproportionate to the criminal’s deserts’. The experts with perfect logic will reply, ‘but nobody was talking about deserts. No one was talking about punishment in your archaic vindictive sense of the word. Here are the statistics proving that this treatment deters. Here are the statistics proving that this other treatment cures. What is your trouble?


* "We must believe the expert in his own field." 



Part 2 next week

All Around the Web - January 15, 2016

Marvin Olasky - Abortion numbers: How many were there? How many women died?

Doug Wilson - Pro-Life Basics

Thom Rainer - Six Things You Need to Know about Pastors Who Leave Their Ministry

Christianity Today - C. S. Lewis Was No Sexist

Tom Schreiener - Romans 7 Does Not Describe Your Christian Experience

Russell Moore - Books I’m Looking Forward To In 2016–Politics and Culture


Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Mainstreaming of Eugenics: Hillary Clinton, Planned Parenthood, and the Attack on the Poor

For those following the day-to-day soap opera of the 2016 presidential primaries, you are aware that Vermont Senator, and open European socialists, Bernie Sanders is not only gaining on the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but could possibly win the nomination. Iowa is close and New Hampshire continues to grow farther away from the former first lady.

For those who remember the 2008 race between then-Senator Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, its Deja vu all over again!

In response, pundits continue to note how Clinton keeps going farther to the left even of Barack Obama who is himself a hard-left President (perhaps the most left-wing since LBJ, FDR, or even Woodrow Wilson). A recent speech by Clinton shows just how far she is willing to go and how far left the Democrat party base is.

Hillary Clinton has been a favorite of Planned Parenthood for years and recently the nation's leading abortion provider has fully endorsed her candidacy. Typically Planned Parenthood waits until the DNC has finally chosen its nominee (both Clinton and Obama spoke at Planned Parenthood in 2008 before Obama won the nomination), but it is clear that Mrs. Clinton is struggling and Planned Parenthood wants to help her.

In her speech thanking them for their coveted endorsement, Clinton stated the following:
I want you to know where I stand. First of all, I will always defend Planned Parenthood. And I will say, consistently and proudly, Planned Parenthood should be funded, supported, and appreciated, not undermined, misrepresented, and demonized. I believe we need to protect access to safe and legal abortion, not just in principle but in practice. Any right that requires you to take extraordinary measures to access it is no right at all. Not when patients and providers have to endure harassment and intimidation just to walk into a health center. Not when making an appointment means taking time off from work, finding childcare, and driving halfway across your state. Not when providers are required by state law to recite misleading information to women in order to shame and scare them. And not as long as we have laws on the book like the Hyde Amendment making it harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.
Rare does the honest truth come from the mouth of a Clinton, but such language is either done in political desperation or personal conviction. No doubt Clinton is desperate, but here I believe she is being honest. Consider carefully what she says.

First, Mrs. Clinton unequivocally promises to, as President Obama has, "defend Planned Parenthood." The next sentence is clearly in reaction to the recent undercover videos which exposed Planned Parenthood's operation of harvesting the organs of aborted infants. Frankly if profiting from the organs of executed infants is not enough to question one's loyalty, nothing will.

She then clearly states that the federal government (what she means by "we) must "protect access to safe and legal abortion." Apparently the slogan "safe, legal, and rare," is now on the wrong side history. But of course, the left was never concerned with limiting abortions. It is only recently that such honesty is being confessed. The American left does not care how many children are aborted, they only care that there is a right to an abortion and that Americans are using.

But what concerns me most is what follows. Mrs. Clinton finds the current system of abortion too inconvenient for mother's. Clinton is clearly against all pro-life legislation passed in recent years. Rather, she promotes unfettered, unquestioned, and celebrated abortions even if it means forcing employers to pay their employees to be off in order to end their pregnancy.

Molech is one thirsty god.

She then condemns the Hyde Amendment - a law that bars federal funds from paying for abortions. Her main argument here is that "low-income women" should be able to use government funds (i.e., medicaid) to have abortions.

Clinton, and the American left applauding her, are revealing her cards. Abortion is a form of eugenics in America. History reveals that abortion in general and Planned Parenthood in particular (dating back to its founding and its founder, Margaret Sanger) have utilized the contraceptive and abortion movement as a means of controlling certain segments of the population including the poor, racial minorities, and the handicap. In my book The Death of Death, I wrote the following regarding the abortion movement's preying on the poor:
Consider also the economic motivation for abortion. Children simply cost too much for both average and low-income families and the expanding cradle-to-grave welfare state. One does not need to look far to see this argument. Abortion Reduction proponents readily site poverty as a common reason for abortion and thus seek to eliminate poverty in order to reduce the number of abortions.

The logic is quite simple. The unwanted pregnancy of a single mother or of an unmarried, poor couple face a heavy temptation to abort. Who would, after all, want a child to grow up in poverty? Furthermore, such unwanted pregnancies, and the children they produce, oftentimes prevent a mother, or even both partners, from pursuing an education and a career that might establish some fiscal stability. Thus it would be better, the logic goes, to abort the child now and postpone having children until financial security can be established.

Similarly, the state itself might encourage an abortion. With such high rates of families and single mothers on welfare, food stamps, and health insurance programs plus the cost of running public schools and other government institutions, the state simply cannot afford to feed increasing numbers of impoverished children. Consider, for example, Ron Weddington, the lawyer who represented Roe in the infamous 1973 Supreme Court case, who wrote a letter to newly inaugurated President Bill Clinton in May 1993 on this very issue. He wrote:
Some years ago another Southern Governor, when asked about the possibilities for prison reform, supposedly said something to the effect of, “Well, I don’t think we’re going to get very far until we get a better class of prisoner.”

Well, I don’t think you are going to get very far in reforming the country until we have a better educated, healthier, wealthier population . . .

But you can start immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy and poor segment of our country. No, I’m not advocating some sort of mass extinction of these unfortunate people. Crime, drugs and disease are already doing that. The problem is that their numbers are not only replaced but increased by the birth of millions of babies to people who can’t afford to have babies.

There, I’ve said it. It’s what we all know is true, but we only whisper it, because as liberals who believe in individual rights, we view any program which might treat the disadvantaged differently as discriminatory, mean-spirited and . . . so Republican. . . .

And, having convinced the poor that they can’t get out of poverty when they have all those extra mouths to feed, you will have to provide the means to prevent extra mouths, because abstinence doesn’t work. . . . It’s time to officially recognize that people are going to have sex and what we need to do as a nation is prevent as much disease and as many poor babies as possible. . . .

No, government is also going to have to provide vasectomies, tubal ligations and abortions . . . RU 486 and conventional abortions. Even if we make birth control as ubiquitous as sneakers and junk food, there will still be unplanned pregnancies. There have been about 30 million abortions in this country since Roe v. Wade. Think of all the poverty, crime and misery . . . and then add 30 million unwanted babies to the scenario.

This is perhaps the most straightforward and honest admission by a pro-choice advocate anyone can find. Weddington says, without hesitation or embarrassment, that the state cannot afford to pay for so many mouths and it would be better to abort the undesirables for the sake of the tax payer. An astonishing admission, but at least he is honest.

Added to this, one could cite the language used by current Supreme Court Justice, appointed by former President Bill Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the New York Times. The interview reads:
Q: If you were a lawyer again, what would you want to accomplish as a future feminist legal agenda?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Reproductive choice has to be straightened out. There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to me so obvious. The states that had changed their abortion laws before Roe [to make abortion legal] are not going to change back. So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.

Q: Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae — in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.

Q: When you say that reproductive rights need to be straightened out, what do you mean? JUSTICE GINSBURG: The basic thing is that the government has no business making that choice for a woman.

Justice Ginsburg uses the language of economics when she suggests that “There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore.” Unless abortions are legal (she clouds it in the language of “choice”), poor families will not be able to escape poverty with unwanted pregnancies. The quote highlighted most by pro-life advocates regards her comments regarding population control “and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” She clarifies by suggesting that Roe “was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion.”

Finally, consider the words of former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi who suggested that “family planning services reduce cost.” The context regards President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package passed in early 2009 in response to the Great Recession. ABC News asked the Speaker regarding some of the “controversial” items in the stimulus package “including hundreds of millions to expand family planning services.” Her answer from the article:
“The family planning services reduce cost,” Pelosi said, “One of the elements of this package is assistance to the states. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children’s health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those – one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.”

“So no apologies for that?” I asked her.

“No apologies. No,” Pelosi said. “And this is a, to stimulate the economy, is an economic recovery package and as we put it forth we have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy. Food stamps, unemployment insurance, some of the initiatives you just mentioned. Believe it or not, they’re the right thing to do but they also stimulate the economy.” So part of the argument that abortion is an economic strategy of the then-Democratic led House of Representatives and the President’s policies was to “reduce cost” by reducing and preventing the number of unwanted children. With the federal government suffering under a growing seventeen trillion dollar debt, terminating pregnancies instead of feeding the mouths of the unwanted children they produce appears, in such a worldview, to be an economic stimulus and solution.

To a certain extent the current welfare state is a serious challenge financially and morally that can unfortunately at times encourage those on the government toll to have more children. Children are a tax credit and a means to increase welfare support. Whatever the solution to this problem is it cannot and should not be found in the deaths of the unborn or the unwanted. What Weddington, Justice Ginsburg, former Speaker Pelosi, and others are arguing, however, is not “choice,” but eugenics.
Abortion is an attack on the poor and is a form of racism. Imagine, as Rush Limbaugh recently opined, if a conservative had suggested opening the federal treasury to pay for abortions for the poor. The civil rights activists and the ACLU would protest and rightly so. But when the left encourages the poor to take the life of their children, hardly a word is said.

National campaigns have a way of revealing just how far the country has come. Months ago the left agreed that that climate change is a greater threat than jihadism. That is simply asinine. Now the left is more publicly sharing their eugenic dream of abortion-on-demand. That is barbaric.