Nov 27

HatfieldRockBetween a Rock and a Hard Place, by Mark Hatfield ★★★★★

Mark Hatfield is well-known to me, as he was the two term governor of the state of Oregon, and then long-term senator in Washington, D.C. from Oregon, best known as a Republican who was anti-war, and very out-spoken against the war in Viet Nam. Mark was also very outspoken as a Christian, coming from Baptist roots, and growing up on the Oregon Coast. In WWII, he served in Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and he was among the very first GI’s to hit the Japanese mainland and see the destruction of the two atomic bombs. These war experiences had affected his thinking regarding the nature and toll of war, leading to his Pacifist position. Wikipedia has a fairly even-handed description of his life ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Hatfield ) including a few episodes later in his life where he possibly succumbed to the siren-call of political power.

This book expresses the agony of many of the decisions that Hatfield had to go through as a governor and then as a senator. He expresses the challenge of not being overwhelmed or tempted by the power-structures of Washington. Hatfield, in speaking once at a Presidential annual prayer breakfast, was reprimanded by his dear friend Billy Graham, only to have Mark remind us that even Billy Graham perhaps compromised his message in order to “buddy-up” with the power-elite in Washington D.C..

Hatfield

This book has both strengths and weaknesses. The strongest point is that Hatfield continually and freely expresses a Christian world view. There isn’t a chapter or page that doesn’t refer to Scripture or the Christian mind-set in his thinking. This book, written in 1976, could never be written today without the widespread public condemnation of the liberals and the press.

It’s weakness is that Mark expresses a naiveté which is a bit inexcusable. Others, such as Francis Schaeffer, have written extensively by the year 1976 when this book was published, and quite heavily on many of the issues that Mark brings up, including war, social concerns, world hunger, the environment, economic wealth distribution, and the like. Schaeffer does a far superior job of arguing a solid case for Christian involvement in all of these areas. Hatfield gets his main orientation rather from Jim Wallis and the Sojourners mind-set, which I fear is more guilt-manipulation (a term used by David Chilton as the title of a book counteracting a Sojourners thinker Ron Sider in a  book titled “Rich Christians in and Age of Hunger”) than truly thinking things out in a Biblical fashion. Hatfield inadvertently acknowledges this in an essay toward the end of the book dealing with world hunger, where he gives a number of action points for dealing with world hunger. I then quote “The final change must come from within our hearts”. Actually, a true Christian response doesn’t make the heart change last but first.

Hatfield gives in royally to confused liberal thinking in many points. He is overwhelmed by Malthusian principles, but then, who wasn’t in 1976? He decries strong central government, but his solutions usually demand an even larger central government. He condemns the United Nations, but simultaneously calls on the UN and similar institutions to solve problems of world hunger, war, over-crowding and poverty. Hatfield definitely flunks in his understanding of economics. Interestingly, he was a friend of Murray Rothbard, and held to many libertarian type economic principles, though this book betrays any form of libertarian thinking or consciousness for fundamental economic principles. As an example, he notes that world hunger is due to poverty, but seems clueless as to the causes of poverty.

The first 9 chapters of this book is a polemic against war, with a few other side issues, such as capital punishment, thrown in on the side. It is also a personal tale of the anguish and agony that Hatfield would go through in attempting to resolve these issues from the stance as a politician. The last chapter in the first part is titled “The purist and the apologist”, where Hatfield  discusses the issues of thinking as a purist through social issues, while simultaneously thinking in a pragmatic fashion for practical solutions of world problems. He admits both sides as partially correct, but tends to create a straw-man of the apologist which he then attacks. The second part of the book, which are the last four chapters, discuss 1) the destruction of war and nuclear weaponry, 2) the meaninglessness and futility of Washington power-structures, 3) the need for a Christian environmental movement, and 4) the approach to world hunger.

This book gets five stars for being unique, in that it is about the only book that I know written by a prominent political official that expresses their heartfelt thinking from a Christian world-view. Even though he gets many things wrong, he also gets many things quite right. He doesn’t give strong arguments for his thesis, which I can easily forgive him for. His identification of the problems in Washington, D.C. have since vastly compounded themselves, and I’m sure Hatfield would be horrified by what is now going on in the national capitol. It is a book to read and weep over. Nearly every legislator, executive branch official, and judge has lost the Christian world-view, and we are only the worse for it. Without God’s grace, we will probably never again see a high political official like Mark Hatfield with a heart for God as well as a strong heart for those he served.

 

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Nov 25

RaicoGreatWarsGreat Wars & Great Leaders: A Libertarian Rebuttal, by Ralph Raico ★★★★

Sunday school is currently covering the issue of Christian involvement and attitudes towards war. I had given away most of my ethics books on war, but the class had resurrected questions in my mind. Several reviews, including this, will be dealing with the issue of war.

Raico comes from a Libertarian perspective, a perspective that I don’t entirely agree with. Yet, I stand strongly behind his stance against war, though not always for precisely the same reasons. This book doesn’t contend directly with the morality of war, but instead simply reviews the wars of the 20th century, including the 1st WW, 2nd WW, and then cold war. He focuses heavily on Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, FDR, and Truman, in all desiring war for the political means of self-promotion. Simultaneously, he more than sufficiently develops the extreme and astronomical hypocrisy of the people mentioned in stating their objections to war while purposely forcing war to become inevitable. Raico spends much time alerting us to the wanton hypocrisy of WWII, with us lambasting Hitler and his murder of innocents, without mentioning that Stalin killed vastly more Christians (for being Christian) than Hitler killed Jews (for being Jewish), that Churchill’s bombers killed unbelieveably more women, children, and civilians than were ever killed by Nazis, and that FDR (and Truman’s) atomic bombs made the petty crimes of the Nazi Nuremberg war criminals appear trivial.

From a Christian perspective, these are legitimate issues that are not addressed by the church, which smugly still believes in American exceptionalism and the impossibility of American erring in foreign policy, especially in establishing America’s interests throughout the world.

Patrick Buchanan does a better job of documenting the Churchillian hypocrisies, but Raico does a superb job of putting things together better, especially in dealing with the decisions of Truman, John Foster Dulles, and the henchmen which, in the name of Christ, repeatedly lied to the public and promoted a war fever—this fever pretended that America was on a Christian Crusade defending the name of Christ, rather than actually defending state interests in banking, oil, and other international commerce.

If we consider the destruction of Germany as evidence on God’s judgement on that nation for abandoning faith in Christ, I fear how much worse will be the lot for both Great Britain and the United States. This is a book worth reading, which I’m sure the neo-conservatives will attack in force. Niall Ferguson (reviewed previously by me) will deny British culpability in the fashion of an ostrich, being so convinced that the (English-speaking) white man’s burden is to save the world by policing and conquering the world, not realizing that salvation is in one person only, who happens to be currently ruling supreme. “He who sits in heaven laughs…” Meanwhile, Churchill and FDR will be occupying space in hell just below Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.

In terms of developing a defined stance against war, I can’t say that I’m strictly a pacifist. I’m strictly pro-life, as defined by Scripture. I will defend life, including if life comes under attack in any form. I will defend the life of both Christian, Buddhist, and Muslim, and even atheist, if there in no justification for termination of their life. Scripture defines when human life can or should be taken, and allows for personal defense. Those who argue a “holy war” perspective, such as Harold Brown fail in argumentative consistency or in providing even one remote historical example. There remains no correspondence between the current conservative American Christian in regard to military stance and Scripture. The strict pacifist also fails at being hypocritical. The Pacifist wishes for police protection, yet would never place themselves in the position of serving as policemen, possibly even killing somebody in the protection of law and order. To them, they fundamentally deny original sin, or the sinfulness of all mankind. They live in a hypocritical fantasy world.

The end of this book was a set of book reviews, which were disorganized, and did not necessarily follow the logical thought process of the book. They would have best been left out, or else summarized for their content distinctive of what was written in the book.

My next read will be Mark Hatfield’s Between a Rock and a Hard Place. I have no idea how Hatfield will develop his ideas, though I had tremendous respect for him as governor and senator for the state of Oregon. Coming soon at a blog site near you…

 

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Nov 22

ImperialJudiciaryHow to Dethrone the Imperial Judiciary, by Dr. Edwin Vieira Jr. ★★★★★

This book was chosen to be read by me, as it pertained to thoughts I was having about the “mis-balance” of powers that we currently observe in the function of our national government, particularly, that the judiciary has tended to create law, rather than just interpret the law, and to do so outside of the boundaries permitted by the constitution. Vieira, as a constitutional lawyer, develops an argument against our current court system in a manner better thought out than even Andrew Napolitano, who was recently reviewed by me. While Vieira may not be as public of figure as Vieira, Vieira deserves a much greater audience, and more seriousness given to his appeal in this book and others that he has published. Napolitano seems to have a strong public forum, since he is functionally a libertarian with leanings toward natural law theory, though he does claim to be a devout Roman Catholic. I have no clue as to Vieira’s religious sentiments or beliefs, but would be forced to identify him as a strictly natural law theorist, in part because he constantly reminds us of the statement in the Declaration of Independence which offers that “the Laws of Nature and [ ] Nature’s God” is the entitlement for their grievance. Vieira, like Napolitano, utilize much legal jargon, mostly in latin, but easily defined with the Apple computer dictionary.

The book is divided into two parts, the first being the argument that 6 members of the Supreme Court, Breyer, Ginsberg, Kennedy, O’Connor, Souter and Stevens committed high crimes and treason, but making a judgment under the veil of constitutional authority, while defying the constitution in seeking the authority of European and international law decisions. Specifically, the court case mentioned was Lawrence v. Texas, in which the Supreme Court charge was against a law on the Texas books forbidding homosexual sodomy. Vieira does a masterful piece in demonstrating how the Supreme Court ruling defied the US Constitution, and went against all previous court judgements. Vieira shows how permission of international court rulings as a basis for American law has since been frequently used to overturn the very substance of our constitution, and will eventually lead to the death of many of our freedoms.

The second portion of the book is a thoughtful and reasoned consideration of how we should react to this. Vieira discourages adding more law to the books to strike down the Supreme Court ruling. The constitution already has provision for dealing with an “imperial” judiciary, and more laws will only lead to the proliferation of even more laws. Rather, Vieira reminds us that in the Marbury v. Madison ruling, the court allowed that they had the ability to strike down unconstitutional laws generated by the legislature, but also opens the door for either the Executive or Legislative branch to do the same with the courts, in that all three branches of government are responsible for upholding the constitution, and no branch has a monopoly on interpretive “rights” to the constitution. The constitution affords the states the ability to object to court rulings, should they deem them to be unconstitutional (state interposition). The constitution also allows for impeachment of court members, and Vieira notes the absence of the Legislature or Executive branch to a renegade Supreme Court as also being negligent of constitutional duty to uphold the constitution. In his last words, he states that “if the House of Representatives cannot muster sufficient forces to put through even a basically toothless remonstrance to Lawrence, it should consider changing the nation’s emblem from the eagle to the ewe”. True story. Anybody serving in public capacity, whether it be as a lawyer or judge, serving in public office, or simply acting as a public commentator on political issues, MUST read this book.

Lest I leave the reader of this review with an absence of the humor and color of Vieira’s writings, it becomes sensible to offer a series of his notable quotes from the book. All of the following below are quotes from the book, and will not be referenced.

Whereas, a judicial decision such as Lawrence is “the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture”–and perhaps not even the original product of the Justices themselves, but of their clerks, who come wet behind the ears from the intellectual hothouse of that “law-profession culture,” infected with the latest communicable viruses of “good thinking” in “the culture war”.

If [ ] the Justices can incorporate foreign law–or even intergalactic legal principles drawn from episodes of Star Trek–into the Constitution, [  ] the sources of their inspirations are ultimately beside the point, the inspirations themselves becoming “law” of each case simply perforce of their enunciations.

…the “living Constitution” provides no excuse for promiscuously interpolating foreign law into constitutional interpretation–unless the Preamble can now be read a a mandate “to form a more perfect Union [with foreigners], insure [international or global] tranquility, provide for the common defense [of a New World Order], promote the general Welfare [of people throughout the World] and secure the Blessings of Liberty to [a global community, according to foreigner’s ideas of what constitutes Liberty].”

Truth, not power (or worse, the hubris of office), is the touchstone of constitutional jurisprudence.

Besides the logic of the situation, WE THE PEOPLE can imagine hundreds upon hundreds of possible decisions of judges that no one free to leave a lunatic asylum would dare to defend as constitutional…

There are many, many more quotes. Read the book. It’s worth it.

 

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Nov 22
Jerram Barrs

Jerram Barrs

FSchaefferEarlier FSchaefferLaterJerram Barrs on Francis Schaeffer; Part 1: the Early Years, Part 2: The Later Years ★★★★★

I’ve heard Jerram Barrs speak in the past, and thought that he was a touch boring. Thus, it was with mild trepidation that I approached this lengthy set of 23 and 25 lectures, all of approximately 45 minutes in length. This lecture series was anything but boring, one of the most gripping and fascinating lecture series that I’ve listened to in a long time. Barrs has the wonderful ability to providing an intimate discussion into the person of Francis Schaeffer, having worked with him and in the English L’Abri for many years. Barrs also offers personal life lessons that he learned from Francis Schaeffer, that makes the entire lecture series much more than a dry history of Francis and Edith Schaeffer. I’ve never met Francis Schaeffer, though I have spent time with Edith, having invited her to speak in Tacoma at a Crisis Pregnancy Center Spring Banquet. She was a real inspiration to be able to take around and provide for her care. I understand that Edith passed away a few months ago, making the Francis & Edith Schaeffer legacy now truly historical.

Francis Schaeffer

Francis Schaeffer

The first part of this series, The Early Years, is mostly historical, talking about Schaeffer’s early life, and becoming a Christian as a teenager. It speaks of his going to college against his parent’s wishes, and eventually to seminary, first at Westminster Seminary, and later at Faith Seminary when the Orthodox and Bible Presbyterian church split. Indeed, the greatest crisis in Schaeffer’s life occurred over observing the splits that occurred in the Presbyterian church, and Barrs spends much time reflecting on how this shaped the ultimate thinking and philosophy of Francis Schaeffer. The first part ends with a discussion of the structure of L’Abri.

The second part delves much more into the thinking of Francis Schaeffer, with a lot of discussion devoted to Schaeffer resolving issues as to why Christians tend to behave so badly towards each other, as well as why Christians are no longer able to communicate with the world around them. The encouragement is not to escape the culture but to engage the culture, by understanding where the culture is coming from. Culture is best learnt, according to Schaeffer, by looking at the arts, including painting, music, theater, and literature.

The only fault that I could find in this series is that the history of the later years of Schaeffer are poorly developed. Little is mentioned about Schaeffer and his development of an international presence, of his children (Frank is barely even mentioned), of his dealings with the presbyterian church in America, of his diagnosis of cancer, move to Rochester, MN, and eventual death. Barrs spends two lectures and occasional snippets in other lectures mentioning criticisms of Schaeffer, but these were the more superficial criticisms, such as those who attacked him for being a Reconstructionist while others attacked him for being a dispensationalist, neither of which is even remotely true, and obvious to anybody that has read Schaeffer. I would have appreciated more discussion of his thinking regarding presuppositional vs. evidential apologetics, which Schaeffer still receives charges about, or his stance on co-belligerency.

Schaeffer’s thinking is eminently personal, and always causes self-reflection. Jerram Barrs does a particularly exemplary job of bringing Schaeffer’s life and teaching home to an intimate and personal level. The lecture series will not leave one smugly self-satisfied. The series is not only informative but personally convicting, and Jerram Barrs does the series in a manner that approaches Schaeffer as a model of living true to his convictions, but always speaking the truth in love, something that each of us should emulate.

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Nov 16

OrganHistory1

OrganHistory2

OrganHistory3

OrganHistory4

 

The History of the Organ, Part 1: It’s Latin Origins, Part 2: From Sweelink to Bach, Part 3: The Golden Age, and Part 4: The Modern Age ★★★★

Only after I purchased each of these separately did I notice that the complete set is now available for a bit cheaper than purchasing each part separately. The production was accomplished by ArtHaus, and utilizes a number of well-known and accomplished organists to demonstrate various historical and modern organs. There is much discussion on the early invention and development of what we know of as the organ, and its evolution and development over time into the modern instrument that we know. The development of organ music was also discussed. There are episodes that spend time in a modern organ building shop, showing how both historical and modern organs are assembled.

Each episode was slightly under one hour, making the set quite pricey for what you get. Topics are treated very superficially. You are never given an in-depth view of the assemblage of any of the organs demonstrated. There are no details as to how organ music has changed over time, or what musically distinguishes one composer from another, other than a brief demonstration of some of their pieces. The technique of playing the organ is only superficially approached in one teaching episode of an accomplished organist with a student.

I enjoyed the series but feel that it could have been much better done. Unfortunately, there isn’t much out there about the prince of all musical instruments, the organ. To that, a better series on the organ is well deserved.

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