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Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Wishes

The New Year is upon us, and I pray that God would indeed "crown the year with goodness" (Ps. 65:1).

Happy New Year, one and all!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

China Sets a Trap [?]

The British periodical _Guardian_ reports that Wikileaks reveals that China is privately ready to abandon North Korea, and may be open to Korean re-unification under Seoul. This sounds very suspicious. It is more likely that Chinese officials are planting misinformation with their American counterparts, possibly setting a military trap.

It is more than conceivable that pretending a willingness to abandon the Kim dynasty of Pyongyang is a way to make America over-confident should Pyongyang re-open the Korean War. A renewed Korean War in which America remains unprepared for massive Chinese Communist support for the North Korean state provides Beijing with a golden opportunity to trap US forces, move on Taiwan, isolate Japan, and possibly remove the American presence from the Western Pacific for good. It would allow Beijing, in a single dramatic conflict, to fulfill a large part of the what the regime sees as its historic mission, namely, to end the legacy of Western imperialism in the Far East. Beijing's official organs never broach the possibility that Taiwan's continuing wariness about reunification, despite its clear lack of international support and a government headed by the pan-Blues, may just have to do with differing indigenous political evolutions on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait; but insist that the existence of a "China Irredentia" can only be because of the nefarious plots of first Tokyo, then Washington. Similarly, the performance of the Chinese forces in the Korean War of 1950-53 remains a large part of China's self-image as a rising power. Should a Beijing-Pyongyang alliance win a second Korean War, with Communist absorption of Taiwan as a further benefit to Beijing, China would be in an excellent position to completely eclipse Japan as a power in the Far East.

Naked Chinese pressure on a number of neighboring governments to boycott the Nobel ceremony that honored Liu Xiaobo is a reminder that Beijing remains the last, best hope of 20th century totalitarianism. It is certain that China feels that its rising power permits it to censor critical voices not only at home, but abroad as well. It is therefore inconceivable that a Korea reunified under a multiparty government allied to the United States (and, with reunification, possibly confident enough to undertake a final reconciliation with Japan) could be truly welcome to Beijing's rulers. The Korean minority in China's northeast is already a vector for underground Christian propaganda; and the possibility of their becoming a vector for political dissidence would only be strengthened by Korean reunification on Seoul's terms.

As students of Sunzi, China's leaders know that one of America's great weaknesses is a deep desire to believe that the Chinese Communist regime is fundamentally benign, internationally responsible, and not really represented by the continuing anti-American message found in China's government-controlled media. This is something they know they can use for political and military leverage, just as they have used it to gain international economic respectability in the face of such practices as using prison and child labor.

Hence, the US Government should take such feelers from Beijing with a large grain of salt.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas Meditation

Matthew 1:1-21

I don't really make that much about Christmas. It was not commanded in Holy Scripture, so its observance cannot be imposed on the conscience. However, I have nothing afainst people who choose certain times to focus on the great events of Jesus Christ's life among us; and Christmas is a time when many are open to hearing something about the Savior, so here goes with a meditation.

I love the Gospel stories about the birth of Christ--Matthew 2 and Luke 2. I love the prologue to John, the Gospel that reminds us up front how Jesus isn't just man, but God Incarnate and "pitching his tent" among us.

But, believe it or not, I really love Matthew One, with all of its boring "begats".

Why, Uncle Cephas? Are you just a dull old man?

The Genealogy of Jesus reminds us of several things, not least of which is how God the Son chose to identify with real, flesh-and-blood people, despite all of our fallenness and misery.

Jesus, like all the rest of us, has a history. His genealogy in Matthew One shows us that this history is the long, long history of ancient Israel. His line begins with Abraham, passes through Kings David and Solomon, the greatest of Israel's kings, and moves on down to that point which the Apostle Paul calls "the fullness of time", when world-empire belonged to Rome and Herod the Great sat on the throne of Judaea. Jesus identified with a people and its story.

This, perhaps, is why Matthew plays with the idea of fourteen major generations from Abraham to the Babylonian Exile, then fourteen from the Exile to the Messiah (which is just the Anglicization for M'shiach, or "Anoiinted One", which in Greek is "Christos"). Seven is the number of perfection, fourteen is perfection doubled. Matthew's point isn't that he's playing a game of "Catch me if you Can in my Knowledge of Biblical genealogy"--one, by the way, that he loses, since many a Bible student has found gaps in his genealogy--but that the flow of Hebrew history isn't random, but follows a divine plan that meets its fulfillment in the Redeemer of the world.

As an American, I know this doesn't particularly flatter me; nor does it flatter my dear spouse who was born Chinese. But it is a reminder that God has his own purposes in history, and they are not necessarily purposes there to aggrandize me and mine. But it should be enough for us that God was concerned enough with us as historical persons that when he chose to become one of us, that he did not ignore history with all its lumps, warts, and imperfections. And, perhaps, in choosing a relatively small nation for his own, he reminds us that our notions of power, greatness, and national glory are not necessarily his.

Apart from God's guiding hand in human history, Jesus' genealogy reminds us that God chose to identify with sinners.

Many have the idea that the Savior of mankind had to come from the great and good. As a descendant of kings and Persian satraps from David to Zorobabel (Zerubbabel in the Old Testament), Jesus does descend from the great. But a reading of the Old Testament reminds us that Jesus does not necessarily descend from the good. The incarnation of God the son is not about congratulating mankind on a job well done, but about the redemption of sinners.

Judah and Tamar (Judas and Thamar in verse 4, following the Greek spellings) show us a sordid tale of deception, anger, and violation, in which a man lies with his daughter-in-law when she is disguised as a prostitute (Genesis 38). We see as well Rachad (Rahab) the harlot, who with her house was the only survivor of the city of Jericho following its capture by Joshua. And from which of David's numerous marriages did the Savior come? From David's adultery with Bathsheba and and the murder of Uriah the Hittite (Urias in the Greek spelling)--the very crime for which, as Nathan the prophet announced, the blood would not depart from David's house (II Samuel 11).

Following these unedifying tales come the kings of Judah. What a contrast the books of Samuel and Kings offer to the boasting chronicles of virtually every other ancient nation! Yes, wise Solomon, and the pious kings Asa, Hezekiah, and Josiah are mentioned. But Solomon, for all his wisdom, was the one who multiplied wives and horses, contrary to the mitzvot of Deuteronomy 17, and whose foreign wives--the staple of ancient Middle Eastern diplomacy--distanced him from the God he originally served. And Solomon's glorious, extensive kingdom, stretching from the wadis of the Sinai peninsula (the Brook of Egypt) to the Euphrates River, came into the hands of his son Rehoboam (Roboam), who ignored the counsel of the older, wiser men and took that of his contemporaries, that he might oppress the people of Israel, showing a "little finger thicker than [his] father's waist" and putting aside the whips with which Solomon chastised men to chastise them with scorpions. And to this, the ten northern tribes answered with secession under Jeroboam.

Most of the other kings are not remembered as good men. Throughout the books of the kings sound the gloomy refrains "he did evil in the sight of the LORD" or "He walked in the way of Jeroboam, who taught Israel to sin". They culminate in Manasseh, who, the Old Testament tells us, walked in all the Canaanite abominations, for which Israel was commanded to cleanse the land. It was for the sins of Mannaseh that Judah herself was condemned to destruction and exile.

And here is a reflection of how Jesus puts the importance of family in persepctive--especially since Christmas is a time of family gatherings and remembrances. Many of us wish to think of ourselves as good people, who descend from good people, and whose families are exemplars of what is right rather than of what is wrong. Hence the ancestral cult found in many cultures across the globe. Hence the importance to many of "good family". But Jesus' genealogy reminds us that we worship a transcendent and holy God rather than dead men; and that we need not walk in the sins and follies of our fathers.

The genealogy ends with the naming of Jesus. He is the namesake of Joshua, who led Israel into the promised land, bearing a name that means "YHWH saves", for Jesus' mission is to save his elect people from all nations, kindreds, people, and tongues from their sins (Mt.1:21; Rev. 7:9). This he accomplished in his life of obedience to divine law in the place of our law-breaking, his sacrificial death on the cross in which he bore our sins, and his resurrection--body AND soul--from the dead.

Reading this genealogy, I am floored by how the sinless Son of God identifies with sinful men. If any had the right to disown his family, it was Jesus Christ. Yet he did not; and through his apostle, shows us his identification with sinners for the sake of their salvation. I pray that from meditation on this passage, I and other Christians would put aside the "holier than thou" facade that comes too easily. It is not the case that we were wiser and better than others that brings us to salvation, but rather that our salvation comes from God's grace shown in Christ. I pray that this witness would be effectual to the salvation of many more.

Matthew One is the great testimony to the humanity of Jesus Christ (even if Matthew confesses Jesus' divinity in recording the apostles' awestruck "who is this, that even winds and waves obey him?"), just as John One is the great testimony to his divinity (even if John also records Jesus' humanity in his weeping over the death of Lazarus). As the Epistle to the Hebrews says, it reminds us that despite our sin and shame, the Lord is not ashamed to call us brethren, and partakes of our nature for the sake of bringing us salvation (Hebrews 2:12 ff.). It is my prayer that many will hear this message in this time of year, and that Christmas of 2010 may be the start of spiritual renewal and salvation for many.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dhimmitude and Secularism

There's an interesting column and discussion over at Robert Spencer's _Jihad Watch_:

My caveats about the post are that the author, one Roland Shirk, does not seem to see the importance of theological [specifically, Reformed Christian] ideas in the nurturing of Western ideals of rule of law, consent of the governed, and political compact. Further, it is probably also time to open the question about whether ignorance of theological tradition (including their own) has not crippled Western states, peoples, and governments from squarely facing the jihadist menace.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thinkers, musicians, etc.

Here are bits of miscellaneous doggerel which I wrote in my spare time. For some odd reason, I have always loved the limerick, although I cannot claim to have any connection with the city that named it.

Old Hobbes said out loud, with a snort,
That particular lives of the sort
Unfettered by kings
Are most unhappy things:
Being nasty, brutish, and short!

Rousseau, the great libertarian,
Celebrated the noble barbarian.
Using science abysmal,
He said society's dismal,
And made politics contractarian.

Rousseau said that people are good,
And that the nasty young thugs in the hood
Obtain notoriety
From evil society,
And not out of nature or blood.

A pastor named Martin Rinkart--
His flock must have wounded his heart!
When plague killed half of them
He penned a great hymn
Entitled "Nun Danket Alle Gott".

Beethoven justly may boast
That in music he did more than most.
His setting to Shiller-
's "Ode to Joy" is a thriller,
Although he was deaf as a post.

Igor said "My_Sacre du Printemps_
Created a great contretemps.
Some Petersburg louse
Booed it out of the house,
So I took myself off to douce France!"

A guy named Muhammad said, "God
Must think it incredibly odd!
The Christians and Jews
Greet my message with boos,
And the Qureish want me under the sod!"

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Birther Red Herring

Now that the Republicans have regained control of the House of Representatives, many are clamoring for an inquiry in to whether President Obama was born in the USA or not, presumably to prove his Constitutional ineligibility for office. While a conservative, never a supported of the current president, and concerned about how the president's radical Left connections constitute a danger to the republic, Uncle Cephas holds that the birther movement is a political red herring, doomed to failure, and a diversion from the more important task of crafting alternative policies, shrinking government, and exposing a radical agenda.

It is said that the president was born in Kenya rather than in Hawaii. If this is indeed the case, it may prove the president a liar, but it would not constitutionally disqualify him from the presidency.

The Constitution, in Article II, requires that the president be a "natural born citizen" of the United States. This indeed covers persons born in the USA (exclusive of those born to foreign parents in diplomatic status or visiting heads of state). However, it also covers a large number of people born outside the USA. With large numbers of Americans living and working overseas, US immigration and nationality law recognizes that American citizenship can be transmitted to offspring born outside the USA. In the 1980's and 1990's, when Uncle Cephas worked in the Far East and became the father of two sons over there, the requirements were that the US citizen parent must have resided in the USA for five years or more, two of which were after the age of 14 years. Hence, while my sons do not have birth certificates from any state in the USA, they do have Consular Reports of Birth Abroad issued by responsible US diplomatic offices. Further, their earliest entries into their country of citizenship was on passports rather than immigration documents.

If President Obama was indeed born in Kenya, but nonetheless was the son of Ann Dunham, he was born a US citizen. All evidence indicates that Ms. Dunham, however ill-advised her union with Barack Obama, Sr., was an American citizen who met transmission requirements. No evidence has been brought forth alleging that the President was born to any other mother. The President's Indonesian-born half-sister also benefited from transmission requirements descried in American nationality law. Obama's hypothetical birth in Kenya would disqualify him only if it were proven that he was not only born in Kenya, but also born to a couple of which neither parent was a US-citizen.

Should conservatives wish to question the president's fitness for office, let them examine his support for partial birth abortion and the unsavory crowd of Communists, race-baiters, Troofers, and Maoists that surround him. Let them look into the wisdom of pushing through major entitlement legislation at a time when the United States economy is all but bankrupt. Let them look into allegations that Obama's justice department is unwilling to look into possible voter intimidation by members of the New Black Panther Party during the 2008 election. By all means look into organizations such as ACORN. Let them also ask that if Obama was such a brilliant professor of Constitutional Law, where is his published scholarship?

It might also be useful to remind the detractors of Mrs. Palin that Alaska does indeed share a border with Russia--a maritime one passing through the narrow straits between Big and Little Diomede Islands in the Bering Sea, right off the easternmost peninsula of Siberia. The fact that the Left--official, media, and academic--failed to notice such an elementary fact suggests that their Eurocentricity renders them thoroughly unfit to guide American foreign, security, defense, and intelligence policy.

But following the birther line will prove to be no more than barking up the wrong tree.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Robert Spencer of _Jihad Watch_ has just engaged with Dr. Peter Kreeft in a debate on whether the only good Muslim is a bad one--apparently meaning that only a Muslim who disregards much of his religion (contempt for the Kufr, supremacism towards the Ahl-al-Kitab, jihad) is a "good" person.

I have not grown in my appreciation for Peter Kreeft--and not just because he is an apostate from my community of Reformed Christians.

His regard for Islam seems to stem from how it brings a "fear of the LORD" back into a liberalized Western Christendom that has forgotten that beginning of wisdom; and its apparent stand for "morality". Both views, I believe, are thoroughly mistaken.

As someone who has accepted as part of the cost of discipleship the scorn, ridicule, insults, and palpable misunderstandings of many (including those near and dear to me), I can see in Islam only fear of the community and the sword rather than the fear of the living and true God. And, from the standpoint of biblical ethics, Islam is about the most immoral religion there is--and all the more immoral for its pretense of honoring the God of Abraham, Moses, the prophets, and Messiah. At best, Islam is only another "rod of God's anger", like the Assyrians of old (Isaiah 10:5-11,15) raised against the iconodule Christians of the early medieval era, and now raised against the blithely amoral post-Christian West.

Every corrective that modern Christians need can be found in the Old and New Testaments. For too long, our Christian supposed "scholars" and "thinkers" (or, are they supposed "Christian" scholars and thinkers?) have faced issues like Hell, the ban on the Canaanites, and other such things by crying "barbarian!" at Moses our teacher, the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus Christ himself (while pretending to avoid doing such with the last-mentioned). Yet how they bend over backwards to "understand" Islam, along with the grievance-mongering of every third world bandit -cum-liberator-and-president-for-life! This is the only reason why Kreeft can be fooled into thinking Islam's shame culture and fear of community is the same as biblical fear of the LORD.

The God who can raise up the Assyrian as the rod of his anger against Israel and Judah (Isaiah 10:5-11,15) can raise up others against the iconodule church of the 6th-8th centuries and against the careless, clueless, destroyed-for-want-of-knowledge one of the 21st--to say nothing of a culture that welcomes rediscovery of the beggarly religions of ancient Europe as mere "spiritual experimentation". The God who can destroy both body and soul in Hell is fearful enough--and how much greater should our gratitude for His mercy in Christ be against such a backdrop!

Against such things, a god (allah) who can be driven away from the prayers of a congregation by a leader who mispronounces a single word in a language not his own or breaks wind is just plain silly.

And, if we want allies against the Sodomites, how can Kreeft dare suggest that a religion whose holy warriors sing about "peach-bottomed boys" in between prayers and murder is such an ally?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Jews, Christians, and the Land of Israel

There have been a number of discussions on this topic from commentors on Jihad Watch, especially in reaction to commments of various Eastern Catholic prelates from the Middle East. This has raised questions that reveal rifts between Dispensationalist, supercessionist, and Confessional Reformed Christians on the place of ethnic Israel in Christian theology.

This is an issue on which I plan to post some comments before long.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In the Interests of Fairness...

Not all Muslims celebrate the 9/11 attacks. This is from the Uighur-American Association. It's cut and pasted in full:

UAA stands with the victims of terrorism on September 11
Yesterday | Press Releases

For immediate release
September 10, 2010, 10:20 am EST
Contact: Uyghur American Association +1 (202) 478-1920

Nine years ago, terrorists attacked America and the freedoms America stands for. The Uyghur American Association (UAA) mourns the loss of those killed in the attack, and stands with the victims of terrorism around the globe.

"Today, the United States is rebuilding in the wake of the September 11 attacks, even as it remembers the loss of so many innocent people, and the deep wound this caused to the entire nation," said Uyghur human rights leader Rebiya Kadeer. "America continues to stand as a beacon of hope and freedom to people throughout the world."

Thousands of Americans from all walks of life perished in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and on Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania. Citizens of dozens of other countries were also killed in the attacks, and we must remember that terrorism threatens all civilized nations in the world and remains a constant threat to all free societies.

"The Uyghur people support the global struggle against terrorism, and we know that democracy and human rights can only be achieved and sustained through dialogue and peaceful means," said Ms. Kadeer. "The desire of the Uyghur people, and people throughout the world, to live in a peaceful and free society is threatened by acts of terrorism."

In the past nine years, the Chinese government has used the threat of terrorism and the sad occasion of September 11 as a justification for its repressive treatment of Uyghurs in East Turkestan and has re-branded its repressive actions against peaceful Uyghurs as "anti-terror" efforts. The Chinese regime continues to attempt to portray the Uyghur people's struggle for the recognition and protection of their fundamental human rights as being motivated by violent and 'terrorist' intent.

This campaign against the Uyghur people has resulted in a deteriorating human rights situation in East Turkestan. A series of crackdowns has led to detentions, arrests, torture, and executions, as the PRC government has attempted to silence all forms of Uyghur protest, no matter how peaceful, by labeling them as "terrorism". Internationally, the PRC has used its influence within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to pressure neighboring countries to return Uyghur activists to China, where they are subjected to the country's arbitrary and non-transparent legal system. In addition, the government has attempted to influence overseas Uyghur activists by harassing family members who remain in East Turkestan.

Since July 5, 2009, when security forces brutally repressed a peaceful demonstration of Uyghurs in the regional capital of Urumchi, and ethnic violence broke out in the city, the Chinese government has not moved to heal the ethnic divide between Uyghurs and Chinese or recognize the legitimate grievances raised by Uyghur demonstrators. Chinese officials have instead actively worked to further heighten ethnic tensions, and to silence Uyghurs whose voices may have provided a bridge between the two ethnic groups. Chinese authorities have categorized the July 5 protests as an incident orchestrated by "outside hostile forces", including terrorist groups, and among the many Uyghurs arbitrarily detained in the wake of the July 5, 2009 unrest have been a number of Uyghur journalists and website staff.

"For the Chinese government to become a truly responsible member of the international community, it must promote human rights and democracy for all of its citizens, and stop misusing the "war on terror" to persecute Uyghurs," said Ms. Kadeer. "Only in this way will it be able to ensure peace and stability in East Turkestan and throughout the People's Republic of China."

A Lost Teaching Opportunity

Now, on Spetember 11, a day that will live in infamy (as a famous recorded voice once said), the media are abuzz with reports about the proposed Ground Zero Mosque (aka Cordoba House) and a Florida pastor's plans to burn the Qu'ran. I'm against both, and feel grateful that Pastor jones of Gainesville has decided to back off the burning. But I remain greatly bothered by the plans of a sleazy slumlord to build a mega-mosque so near Ground Zero. It smacks of Islamic triumphalism. I am further bothered by our national leadership's gutless reaction to not-so-thinly veiled jihadist threats. It was a lost opportunity to teach something important.

Perhaps Pastor Jones backed off because he noticed that in spite of jihadist bravado and bullying, there is a noticeable movement away from Islam going on in the world today. Not too long ago, the teenaged daughter of Sri Lankan immigrants named Rifqa Bary made headlines by fleeing home claiming that she feared becoming an "honor killing" victim over her conversion to Christianity. Missions organizations have been both pleased and taken by surprised at unprecedented numbers of Muslims elswhere inquiring into Christianity. In the little Teherans of America, Christians of Muslim heritage are beginning to catch up with ethnic Armenians and Assyrians of Iranian national origin. A quiet flow of previously Muslim West African immigrants into Christian churches is also happening in some of the major urban areas of the USA.

Hence, the right thing for any Christian leader to do in times such as these is to make it clear to Muslims that the Gospel is not a club held over their heads, but the doorway through which they are invited to pass in order to know God. This is why I salute Pastor Jones' decision to back off an action more at home in the streets of Karachi, Cairo, or even Jakarta than in America.

But in the past week, why did our leadership ignore a marvelous teaching moment? While its concerns were understandable, Obama, Petraeus, and Clinton all failed to remind the world that America has such a thing as the First Amendment. The portion of the US Constitution that would have protected the burning of the Qu'ran also protects many things dear to our Commander-in-Chief.

Saul Alinsky used to urge the have-nots of America to pitch their demands so high that they would bring down "the system". The would-be Green Jobs Czar Van Jones' right to be a "Troofer" and claim that George Bush engineered the destruction of the Twin Towers is also protected by the First Amendment. Safe Schools' Czar Kevin Jenning's right to advocate teaching children the glories of sodomy also is protected by the First Amendment. The Reverend Jeremiah Wright's twenty years of preaching to the Obama family that God should d__n the USA is also covered by the free exercise and free speech clauses. Michelle's shame in the country that made her a rich woman prior to her husband's winning the Democratic nomination, disgusting as it was and remains, is also protected.

The Fist Amendment also protects the right of many a Muslim imam's right to call the Jews the kin of apes and pigs, accuse Christians of polytheism, and deny that the Shoah took place; and do it in the heart of America.

Our leaders should have told the entire Muslim world that while they did not condone Jones' earlier proposal--a statement with which I am in complete agreement, by the way--the actions of a pastor leading a 50-member congregation was not something in which the US Government was obligated to interfere. Indeed, had the major media not been so desperate for a Christian "equivalent" of Muslims' burning Christians alive in northern Nigeria or kidnapping Christian girls, forcibly converting them to Islam, and marrying them to Muslims (usually following rape) in places like Pakistan and Egypt, nobody would have noticed Jones' earlier plan.

Let's only hope they don't miss the opportunity next time.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blood for Fifteen Minutes of Fame

The Wikileaks are out, and now the American public knows that American allies in Afghanistan have a corrupt, incompetent, and none-too-trustowrthy regime. Why, it's even said that a senior police official in Afghanistan is actually an Iranian spy.

I was never much of a fan of going into Afghanistan. It would have been far better to wait until Osama Bin Ladin decided he wanted to crow about bringing down the Twin Towers and the front of the Pentagon, let him get on an airplane, and then send in fighters to grab him the way the Achille Lauro hijackers were grabbed. Afghanistan is one of the dark places of the earth, where there is little save rocks, poverty, and extremely bigoted Islam which, within not-to-distant historical memory prided itself on closing down the ancient Syriac Christian communities that once made the country home, and now, within living memory, have liquidated a Jewish community that has existed since before the book of Esther was written.

But I hope that if the authorities catch the real perpetrator of the leaks and convict him in court, they have the good sense to hang him.

One important group that has been "outed" in the leaks is a large number of people who have provided America and its allies with information on the movements of key Qaida and Taliban actors. These were people who thought we offered something better to their country (such as the right to educate one's daughters and listen to music), and trusted us enough to give us real help. And, before Michael Moore starts tarring such people as the equivalents of the Vichy and Quisling collaborators of World War II, let us remember that the people outed were those who were helping us hunt down some criminals who killed 3,000 of us on 9/11. It is now almost certain that these outed Afghans and Pakistanis will probably be butchered by their pro-Taliban neighbors, whose "Religion of Peace" thinks that if a neighboring Christian or Hindu girl is pretty, she is fair game to be kidnapped, raped, forcibly converted to Islam, and married off to her abductor.

Congratulations, Mr. Leaker. You've signed the death warrants for hundreds, if not thousands, who saw 9/11 as a crime, and were helping us bring its perpetrators to justice. And for this, you've gotten your fifteen minutes of fame.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Judgement on Comrade Duch--a Travesty

Today, a tribunal in Cambodia sentenced Comrade Duch, former supervisor of Tuol Seng Prison, to a lengthy prison term. I join the chorus of those who see a miscarriage of justice. Instead of justice, it is yet another instance of the ghost of the former Soviet Union hijacking the conscience of the world, and, in so doing, corrupting it.

First of all, it is wrong to identify only the Pol Pot Democratic Kampuchea movement as responsible for the Cambodian horrors of 1975-78. Second, it is a travesty to turn the Tuol Seng prison into a monument, and focus on what happened behind its walls as the symbol of Cambodian suffering. Tuol Seng was simply the place where the Khmer Rouge regime incarcerated its own, while ordinary Cambodians suffered and died in their own villages or resettlement areas. Tuol Seng is a monument to that portion of the Cambodian Communist Party which fell afoul of its own movement's propensity for internal intrigue and purge.

Immediately after the Khmer Rouge victory, the faction associated with Hun Sen was equally culpable in the mass murders of mostly non-Communist countrymen. Only following a personal falling out between Hun Sen and Pol Pot did the former rush to seek "rescue" from the Vietnamese. Prior to that falling out, Hun Sen and his henchmen were very much part of the Angka Loeu, aquiescent in the "revolutionary catharsis" taking place across their country, and part of the relatively privileged ruling elite.

The mass of the Cambodian democide's victims fell and went into unmarked graves in the countryside, especially in the northwestern portion of the country. These were the people who had the misfortune of having more than an elementary education, proficiency in a language other than Khmer, adherence to a traditional religion, myopia, or the peasant stubbornness that cannot understand why it must give up the family buffalo and farm tools to the abstraction known as the collective.

However, the people who suffered at Tuol Seng are remembered because they, like so many 20th century people, smoked the Marxist opiate of the intellectuals. Ultimately, their faction came into alliance with the Soviet Union, the power under whose benign supervision the mass of the European intelligentsia hoped to live and work. Never mind that this idea whose time had come between 1917 and 1989 proved to be a singularly bad one. Never mind that it counted more killed, imprisoned, or exiled for the political or ideological crimes in seventy years (indeed, still does in North Korea and Cuba) than suffered for the wrong kind of Christianity or none at all in the fifteen centuries between the conversion of Constantine and Ruggles v. New York (1811). Never mind that when "The Revolution" failed to unleash the unheralded productive forces promised by Marx and Lenin, its adherents began to blame those fortunate enough to escape the revolutionary wrath. Never mind that, after loudly accusing all who questioned it of racism, it blamed the Slavic Untermensch, primitive Asiatic, and Caribbean Mulatto for the backwardness it imposed on all lands it conquered. Too many invested their minds and consciences in the Soviet Marxist project to reconsider when it failed. Well spoke Eugene Ionesco when he accused his Communist colleague Sartre of being the "unconscience of Europe".

But Hun Sen had the fortune to ally himself with the Soviet Union before it was too late.

The faces on the walls of Tuol Seng are those of cannibals eaten by their own colleagues; the Ernst Roehms who fell to a Southeast Asian Hitler. The ordinary victims of the Cambodian horrors have no monument apart from the memories of their relatives between Poipet and Long Beach.

As with the corruption of conscience and memory by the Marxists of the West, Tuol Seng is a hijacking and corruption of the world's conscience concerning the Cambodian democide. For Comrade Duch to stand in the dock while Hun Sen's people enjoy power and honor is yet another modern travesty masquerading as justice.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What the dickens is this?

Jihad Watch's Robert Spencer reports the following:


July 24, 2010
Sharia in New Jersey: Muslim husband rapes wife, judge sees no sexual assault because Islam forbids wives to refuse sex

Muhammad said: "If a husband calls his wife to his bed [i.e. to have sexual relation] and she refuses and causes him to sleep in anger, the angels will curse her till morning" (Bukhari 4.54.460).

He also said: "By him in Whose Hand lies my life, a woman can not carry out the right of her Lord, till she carries out the right of her husband. And if he asks her to surrender herself [to him for sexual intercourse] she should not refuse him even if she is on a camel's saddle" (Ibn Majah 1854).

And now a New Jersey judge sees no evidence that a Muslim committed sexual assault of his wife -- not because he didn't do it, but because he was acting on his Islamic beliefs: "This court does not feel that, under the circumstances, that this defendant had a criminal desire to or intent to sexually assault or to sexually contact the plaintiff when he did. The court believes that he was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited."

Luckily, the appellate court overturned this decision, and a Sharia ruling by an American court has not been allowed to stand. This time.

"Cultural Defense Accepted as to Nonconsensual Sex in New Jersey Trial Court, Rejected on Appeal," by Eugene Volokh in The Volokh Conspiracy, July 23 (thanks to CameoRed):

From today's opinion in S.D. v. M.J.R. (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div.), a domestic restraining order case:

The record reflects that plaintiff, S.D., and defendant, M.J.R., are citizens of Morocco and adherents to the Muslim faith. They were wed in Morocco in an arranged marriage on July 31, 2008, when plaintiff was seventeen years old. [FN1] The parties did not know each other prior to the marriage. On August 29, 2008, they came to New Jersey as the result of defendant's employment in this country as an accountant....

[Long discussion of the wife's allegations of abuse, which included several instances of nonconsensual sex as well as other abuse, omitted for space reasons. -EV]

Upon their return to the apartment, defendant forced plaintiff to have sex with him while she cried. Plaintiff testified that defendant always told her

this is according to our religion. You are my wife, I c[an] do anything to you. The woman, she should submit and do anything I ask her to do.

After having sex, defendant took plaintiff to a travel agency to buy a ticket for her return to Morocco. However the ticket was not purchased, and the couple returned to the apartment. Once there, defendant threatened divorce, but nonetheless again engaged in nonconsensual sex while plaintiff cried. Later that day, defendant and his mother took plaintiff to the home of the Imam and, in the presence of the Imam, his wife, and defendant's mother, defendant verbally divorced plaintiff....[...]

While recognizing that defendant had engaged in sexual relations with plaintiff against her expressed wishes in November 2008 and on the night of January 15 to 16, 2009, the judge did not find sexual assault or criminal sexual conduct to have been proven. He stated:

This court does not feel that, under the circumstances, that this defendant had a criminal desire to or intent to sexually assault or to sexually contact the plaintiff when he did. The court believes that he was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was something that was consistent with his practices and it was something that was not prohibited.

After acknowledging that this was a case in which religious custom clashed with the law, and that under the law, plaintiff had a right to refuse defendant's advances, the judge found that defendant did not act with a criminal intent when he repeatedly insisted upon intercourse, despite plaintiff's contrary wishes.

Having found acts of domestic violence consisting of assault and harassment to have occurred, the judge turned to the issue of whether a final restraining order should be entered. He found such an order unnecessary, vacated the temporary restraints previously entered in the matter and dismissed plaintiff's domestic violence action....

The appellate court reversed this absurd decision, saying:

As the judge recognized, the case thus presents a conflict between the criminal law and religious precepts. In resolving this conflict, the judge determined to except defendant from the operation of the State's statutes as the result of his religious beliefs. In doing so, the judge was mistaken.

A close call. But no doubt more of this is to come.


My comment:

How culturally relativistic have we become? With any other demographic, this case would've been called rape. How is it that a supposedly "secular" American jurist now gives a Muslim male a blank check to abuse his wife because of something in Bukhari?

American liberalism has apparently become so open-minded that its brains have fallen right out of its head.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bad Faith in the Middle East--and Israel is not to Blame

The Oslo Peace Process is dead, or at least proven to have been stillborn.

Reuters reports that on July 9, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told the Arab League that he would support a war with Israel if the Arab League joins in. Yet the following day, he received a telephone call from President Obama thanking him for his contributions to the Mideast Peace Process. Hasn't anyone else noted that there is something terribly wrong with this?

To Americans, the Palestinian Authority speaks of seeking peace and desiring negotiations with Israel. Yet with its fellow Arabs and Muslims, it speaks of another war. Taken against a backdrop of persistent holocaust denial (and, worse yet,the lack of any admission that the post-1948 policies of Arab governments throughout the region may have had something with the mass emigration of Jewish communities that had been in existence since before Arabic was a written vernacular). This does not bode well for the future of a peace process.

A peace process can go on only if both sides desire peace, and are willing to reach compromises to enforce it. Israel showed such a desire in its complete withdrawal from Gaza; which was followed not only by the destruction of every trace of Israeli occupation includidng greenhouses built to aid the Gazan economy, but also by frequent rocket and other terror attacks launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel.
Indeed, Hamas' record since being voted into power in Gaza is one of continued provocation, testing defenses, strengthening ties with Iran and Iranian proxies in Lebanon, plus ceaseless agitation while basic services and all non-patronage employment come to a standstill.

Nor have the supposed "moderates" of Fatah on the West Bank been much better. Suicide bombers continue to be lionized as heroes and martyrs,and lower level attacks on Israel continue to be launched from the West Bank. Nor has Mr. Abbas' administration taken any concrete steps to reduce such attacks--if it has any ability or even desire to do so.

Now, as Mr. Abbas attempts to enlist the Arab states in a renewed shooting war with Israel,it is clear that all talk of peace from Abbas and his associates has been in bad faith, a ploy to gain aid from the United States. Israel has been criticized for its building of Jewish housing in eastern Jerusalem and stopping a Turkish aid flotilla organized by a group that has supported terrorism. Perhaps it is now time to demand more action from the Palestinian side.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Where is the State Department's Public Diplomacy?

The following News item was reported not too long ago (

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden revealed his plans to improve relations between America's space exploration agency and the Muslim world to Al Jazeera before Congress, the Washington Examiner reported.

Bolden called a couple of lawmakers with the news on June 28, after his interview with the Middle East news organization but before it aired, the newspaper reported.

"He ran down some of the things from the president's new space policy, and mentioned outreach to Muslims," Rep. Pete Olson, the top Republican on the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics recalled to the newspaper. "That stunned me. I didn't believe it."

Bolden's interview with Al Jazeera ignited a firestorm of controversy that has gone largely unreported by major news outlets. Michael Griffin, the NASA administrator during the latter half of the Bush administration told that he believes the Muslim outreach plan is "deeply flawed."

"NASA ... represents the best of America. Its purpose is not to inspire Muslims or any other cultural entity," he said...

[End of Quote.}\\

News likes this leads one to wonder why NASA was asked to engage in outreach to the Muslim world rather than some agency of the US Department of State or US Information Service. After all, NASA is theoretically about space exploration, astronomy, engineering,and other empirical sciences; public diplomacy seems rather far from such concerns.

One wonders what the current administration is thinking!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Back on Track

And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
(Jonah 3:1-4).

As a teacher, I often tell my students that the reason why experience is the best teacher is that it is Mr. Experience's job to teach those who will neither listen to their elders or read a book. If a student walks into a class interested in learning, any fool with more knowledge of a subject than the student has will be able to help the student learn, but if a student is going to be stubborn and unwilling to listen, he'll learn only from the school of hard knocks--perhaps the instruction of the stocks of which Proverbs speaks?

Jonah has proven a learner from his experience on the sea and in the great fish. He heads for Nineveh, and proclaims the message which God commissioned him to proclaim.

Jonah's message is what once was called fire-and-brimstone; a warning of terrible temporal and eternal judgments to come. The genre has become very unpopular in modern times, and is generally held up for ridicule by people who consider themselves enlightened and taken as a handy excuse to ignore the teachings of Scripture.

Yet it is hard to escape the conclusion that the human condition, whether today's or that of the ancient Assyrians, is a dangerous one. The casualties of war occupy the headlines and television news, yet traffic accidents claim many times the number of young American lives that distant battlefields do. Those who went to work in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 did so unaware that thousands of them would die or be seriously injured as their ordinary working day began. All of us work hard and try to save, but a combination of imprudence and expediency may well lead a government to adopt policies which might wipe out our economic security in a matter of months. And, to fortify ourselves against the dangers of life, we adopt a number of comforting lies, such as that a group of people no better than ourselves will, if given sufficient power, guarantee secure lives for all. We do this in order to ignore the uncomfortable truth that life is a bit like being a fiddler on the roof--he needs to make beautiful music without falling down and breaking his neck. At least fire-and-brimstone is a reminder of the fact that life is lived on a dangerous precipice.

It also reminds us that there is a terrible significance to life. While Jonah does not speak of the world to come, the warnings given by Jesus Christ and others about the coming day of judgment is a reminder that, unlike the Zen koan that speaks of man entering the water and leaving no ripple, our lives leave ripples that go on forever. Are our lives the sort that honor God; or are they such that they provoke a righteous God to not only snuff them out, but also sweep away the society that they have helped shape, and then cast us and all around us on that great burning rubbish heap of history called Gehenna?

Perhaps the citizens of ancient Nineveh, on the day Jonah came to town, figured that their powerful monarch who had begun the systematic conquest and looting of neighboring tribes and nations would ensure that sufficient booty would flow into Nineveh to keep it the most prosperous of cities for eternity. Perhaps the Ninevites believed that their craftsmen, merchants, and farmers would be able to eternally keep up a flow of trade with those with whom they were not at war as well. Yet to them, Jonah announces that their world is to be overthrown in forty days.

The task of prophecy is not to stroke the ego and soothe consciences that ought not to be soothed. Jonah has accepted and followed that calling. It remains to be seen what his prophecy brings about.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jonah's Prayer

Now the LORD had prepared a greta fish to swallow up JOnah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish's belly, and said,
I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD,
And he heard me;
Out of the belly of hell cried I,
And thou heardest my voice.
For thous hast cast me into the deep,
In the midst of the seas;
And the floods compassed me about:
All thy billows and thy waves passed over me.
Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight;
Yet will I look again towards thy holy tmeple.
The waters compassed me about, even to the soul;
And the depth closed me round about,
The weeds were wrapped about my head.
I went down to the bottoms of the mountains;
The earth with her bars was about me for ever:
Yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption,
O LORD my God.
When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD:
And my prayer came in unto thee,
Into thine holy temple.
They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy,
But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving;
I will pay that which I have vowed.
Salvation is of the LORD.

And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
(Jonah 1:17-2:10)

In the Gospel (Matthew 12:40), Jesus speaks of how an evil and adulterous generation seeks a sign, but no sign would be given save the sign of Jonah: as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so would the Messiah be in the earth three days--in short, Jesus promised the sign of his death and burial.

In the last posting, we observed how Jonah accepted his responsibility for the storm and subsequent loss of property that overtook the ship on which he was sailing along with its crew. Jesus, however, did not lay down his life as a penalty for his own sin, but on behalf of sinners.

This typology is all the more interesting in liht of Jonah's prayer from the belly of the fish. Jonah gives vent to his despair and fear of death; yet in so doing, he also expresses hope. Was this because Jonah thought he would die in the sea for his disobedience in seeking to go to Tarshish rather than Nineveh? Certainly our disobedience to divine commands--even if we do not have the prophetic gift enjoyed (or thrust upon?) Jonah--renders us worthy of death. If so, Jonah's prayer can be seen as expressing the hope of resurrection.

Indeed, God was merciful to Jonah in having the fish vomit him out onto the dry land. But it is also a reminder of how God is generally merciful to us. We may scoff at those who suddenly "get religion" when they are in danger; or note that whereas there are no atheists in foxholes, many seem to be made when soldiers discharged from their service. Yet Jacques Ellul once observed that in both this chapter and the preceding one, we see how God takes the fears, anxieties, and terrors faced by his elect with the utmost seriousness.

But our passage also speaks of a stubborn faith that does not give up even in the most hopeless of situations (such as being eaten alive by some great sea creature). "Hope maketh not ashamed", Paul wrote to the Roman Christians (Rom. 5:5). Indeed, because of the resurrection of Christ which Jonah's rescue typifies, we know that there is one more powerful even than death itself, and we are invited to put our trust in him.

Sorry for the Hiatus

My apologies to readers for the long hiatus in blogging. I have had a busy end of the school year, but now plan to get back to work. My last post, on Jonah, has been edited and finished, and a Chinese blurb provided. Chinese readers are welcome to comment.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

More on Jonah--Mission rather than Fish Story

Then said they unto him, What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us? for the sea was wrought, and was tempestuous. And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: For I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you. Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land: but they could not: for the sea was wrought, and was tempestuous against them. Wherefore they cried unto the LORD and said, We beseech thee, O LORD, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O LORD, has done as it pleased thee. So they took up Jonah and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. The then men feared the lORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows. Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was inthe belly of the fish three days and three nights. (JOnah 1:11-17).

Jonah is here a reluctant missionary. His shipmates determine that he is the cause for their predicament, but instead of precipitously taking matters into their own hands, they ask him. And Jonah, instead of trying to hide, prevaricate, or protect himself, accepts his responsibility and the fate he faces.

This is an important matter in dealing with God. God is to be accepted and approached on His own terms, not on those that we think are proper. Indeed, the sailors, although probably originally Canaanitish in religion, and hence belonging to a nation hateful to God and under his ban, seem to be here recipients of great grace. Before, they called on their own gods. Now, they call on the true God, confessing him to be the one who rules wind and waves when they formerly saw such powers as gods in themselves. Further, after hearing the prophet Jonah, they accept and approach the true God through a sacrifice--presumably a goat or sheep upon reaching dry land. Too many of us think that if we do that which is good in our own eyes without a thought to what God himself desires, God owes us a favor. The sailors who carried Jonah, however, rebuke this attitude with their conversion.

As for Jonah, God is not finished with him. Jonah has shown that he understands that his disobedience to God has put other lives in peril, and he owns his sin before both God and the sailors. But after Jonah is cast into the sea, God sends a special provision in the form of a great fish.

Both the devout and the scoffer waste much breath and more ink in determining whether or not there is a known sea animal, whether whale or fish, that could carry a man inside it. This degenerates Jonah into a mere "fish story". The point, however, is that God may use whichever means he wishes to fulfill his purposes. Originally, God had purposed to have the prophet Jonah warn the Assyrian capital of its impending doom. To get Jonah back on track, he uses the storm and the great fish.

And note how Jonah is like Jesus Christ. His sacrifice leads to the conversion of his shipmates. Certainly Jonah, like all other sinners, was not capable of bearing the sins of others as was Jesus, the sinless one. Yet God gives us here an Old Testament picture of New Testament truth.

I write this confessing myself to be the sort who lets out a stream of angry words when things go wrong. But Jonah is a reminder that danger, frustration, loss, and terrors may be means whereby God returns us to himself. Jonah underwent peril on the sea to get him to return to his God-given mission. But more importantly, these perils won the souls of sailors who were otherwise lost in their false religion.

美国人常常喜欢打鱼。 如果他们抓不到一条鱼,他们说他们没得的鱼是何等大的怪物。这样的故事叫做"fish story". 很多人认为圣经之约拿书也是“鱼故事“。


那些水手大概试腓尼基人,就是迦南族的一部分。迦南族原来位非常凶恶的民族,他们的习惯是把头绳的孩子邵在火里。上帝吩咐以色列民八家男人灭绝,并且警告以色列民他们若跟随迦南人的道路,他们也会遇到灭绝。可是这些水手虽然从那么不好的背景,上帝施恩於他们。海平静了之后,他们向耶和华献上祭物,不再对他们从前所拜的神祈祷。 如此,约拿当作了传教士,领导那些水手认识真正的上帝。同时,在牺牲自己,约拿让他的伙伴认识上帝。如此,他像未来的耶稣基督。

Friday, May 28, 2010

Obama's Keystone Kop-outs

The recent Arizona law allowing police to look into the immigration status of a a person already arrested or under investigation has popped open the follies of the current U.S. Government. Eric Holder, the nation's top lawyer, it now appears, does not read. In accepting Mexican President Felipe Calderon's chutzpah in criticizing the Arizona law, Mr. Obama and the honorable members of the House and Senate who applauded him show an appalling lack of perspective. Undersecretary of State Michael Posner's tinny apologies in the face of China's criticism of the Arizona law show him--and perhaps Hillary Clinton, his boss--a mere ninny. Or, perhaps, the issue reveals a government that would rather accuse other Americans of bigotry and racism than face up to a host of serious international problems.

Felipe Calderon's performance before the US Congress was chutzpah ranking with that of the man who murdered his parents with an axe and then pleads for mercy on the grounds that he is an orphan. The Mexican government has long regarded emigration to El Norte as its own safety valves; yet at the same time, its own ambassador to the United Nations has admitted that Mexico cannot lecture the USA on how it treats Mexican illegals in view of Mexico's own treatment of Guatemalans and Salvadoreans who enter Chiapas illegally. Further, given that illegal entry is a misdemeanor in the USA and a felony in Mexico renders President Calderon's speech all the more fatuous, and the applause given by American Senators and Representatives all the more craven.

China's lecturing the USA on the Arizona law is an inexcusable insult, and Undersecretary Posner's tinny apologies and mea culpas are worse. Even within China gives no welcome to desperate North Koreans who cross the Yalu and Tumen Rivers. This population, like American illegals, lives in the shadows, only with no access to public education for its children. Far from allowing debate on how to treat such people, the Chinese government offers bounties to Chinese who turn them in, and gives its law enforcement discretionary authority to shoot them. Whereas Arizona could not deny illegals the protections of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments even if it wanted to, Communist China regards such protections as extreme cases of irrational bourgeois sentimentality. China's leaders, observing Posner's performance, probably now see America as all the more contemptible.

Illegal immigration is indeed a complex problem. It reveals serious problems inherent in the society and government of America's neighbor to the south. It does indeed raise a host of humanitarian issues. The Arizona law does have the potential to unleash discriminatory actions. When police chiefs from several western states express concerns over the Arizona law, the nation should listen. But the law should spark a common sense dialogue about national interest and the character of America's international partners and rivals--not polarization that is geared only to short-term political gain. The Obama government has now shown the world America the Inept.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

More on Jonah--Crisis and Faith

But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep. So his shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call uon thy God, if so that God will think upon us, that we perish not. (Jonah 1:4-6)

Jonah has gone way off course. God wanted him to go east, but the prophet has chosen to go west. In doing this, he causes great loss to himself and to those with whom he travels. But in this, the Holy Spirit teaches us that trouble is often God's way of waking us from our carelessness and slumbers. In Jonah's case, "slumbers" can be taken in both the idiomatic and literal sense!

We are taught that God is sovereign. Here, this is shown by his control of the winds and waves. "Who is this, whom even winds and waves obey?" asked the apostles of Christ when they saw Jesus still the storm on the sea of Galilee. But here, we see God raising rather than stilling the storm when his prophet disobeys.

But not only Jonah needs to be awakened from his pre-dogmatic slumbers!

The sailors appear to be either heathens, who have long been accustomed to worship false gods, or Israelites seduced away from the divine covenant. Their reaction to danger is to call on their various gods to save them, even as they cast their cargo overboard to lighten the ship.

This is instructive. Probably, the sailors were Phoenicians, those intrepid traders and explorers of the ancient Mediterraneans; and the Old Testament gives little indication of the Israelites having seafaring proclivities. Indeed, it seesm that Solomon's ships of Ophir were manned by crews provided by his ally Hiram of Tyre, a Phoenician ruler. The Phoenicians were a folk eager for gain, and no port from the Levant to the southwestern corner of Britain--where tin was to be had--was ignorant of them. One Phoenician mariner, Hanno, was even the first to circumnavigate Africa. Yet these famed traders are willing to sacrifice their material wealth in the form of their trade goods in danger, even while they cling to their gods.

Nothing else so clearly reveals man as a a worshiping creature. This is evident even today, in those who claim to be "free" of religious taint. None have been so fanatically purposive in the pursuit of pleasing their gods as those who call themselves "athesits"--meaning that they disbelieve in the Christian God. Communists have made great sacrifices in the service of what Arnold Toynbee once called the goddess Historical Necessity. Others, in the name of the goddes Liberty, have made themselves into the worst of tyrants. Nietsche drove himself insane (perhaps aided by syphilis) in his search for a Godless intellectual integrity.
This has been the case with man since Jonah's Phoenician shipmates cast their costly goods into the sea down to the present day. It is no wonder then that many a Christian theologian has concluded that the worshiping impulse is one great evidence of man being created after the image of God.

Yet, oddly enough, while his shipmates worship their gods and sacrifice their livelihoods, Jonah is asleep. "It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so he giveth his beloved sleep," says Psalm 127:2. Perhaps Jonah is an odd perversion of this great truth, for he sleeps as he flees God's mission and his companions are in danger. Perhaps nothing better illustrates the sinful complacency and silence of the church in too many ages! People perish without hope of salvation, yet we remain asleep. It takes the heathen captain's intervention to rouse God's prophet from his slumber.

The military chaplains say that there are no atheists in foxholes. The behavior of Jonah's shipmates is instructive. In crisis, man seeks God. But will those who have the truth be there to help them?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thoughts on Jonah--Pitfalls of Patriotism

Now the word of the LORD came unto JOnah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the far thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish, from the presence of the LORD.
(Jonah 1:1-3)

The book of Jonah is a short portion of Scripture, but extremely rich. The village atheists of the naive, innocent early 20th century era loved to attack it for its great "fish story", only to be answered by a barrage of "answers" from our side about how known fish or whales of various species were indeed capable of holding a man inside them. But the book is far deeper and more wonderful as a tale of divine grace meeting the recalcitrance and folly of man--especially in its reminder that the purposes of God are far larger than human sin; and not changed or derailed because we refuse to cooperate.

Apart from the book that bears his name, Jonah is mentioned only in a few citations in the New Testament and II Kings 14:26. In II Kings, he is said to have prophesied that the borders of Israel would be restored, which happens under Jeroboam ben Joash (not to be confused with Jeroboam ben Nebat).

Jonah thus received the blessing to know that God was prepared to preserve and aid his people even in a dark, sinful, and thoroughly unworthy time. Jeroboam ben Joash, it is said, "departed not from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin"--specifically, an idolatry repeating the infamous episode of the golden calf (Exodus 32:1-20; I Kings 12:28-30), as if the people and their leaders learned no lessons from the past. Yet in those days, God was nonetheless willing to rescue and restore part of Israel's patrimony by an unworthy instrument. And, in those days, a prophet who recognized the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob arose to foretell such an event--Jonah the son of Amittai.

In the book of Jonah, Jonah receives a second call from God:

Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it, for their wickedness is come up before me. (Jonah 1:2).

Yet Jonah, instead of heading northeast towards Nineveh, flees to the coast and takes a ship to Tarshish--lands at the Western end of the Mediterranean--in exactly the opposite direction from that which God ordered.

It is easy to be hard on Jonah at this point. How many of us think in our hearts that, had we been in Jonah's sandals, we would have gladly heeded the divine call! We glibly envision ourselves striding boldly out the gates of some Israelite city, Scripture under one arm and staff in hand, ready to speak mightily against a sinful heathen city in northern Mesopotamia!

But let us pause. The Assyrians, the people whose capital Nineveh was, were a fierce and dangerous people. One author has described them as the storm troopers of antiquity. Archaeology has uncovered their monuments and literature, in which they boast of impaling men alive and smashing in the heads of children after conquering an enemy city. After conquering most of Mesopotamia and Aram (today's Syria), could they be expected to heed the rantings of a wandering Israelite? Could Jonah, accustomed to being the patriotic prophet of restoration, welcome the mission to speak to a people whom his own people hated and feared?

In 1940, the Japanese Christian Toyohiko Kagawa went to prison for openly expressing remorse and apologies for his country's invasion and occupation of much of the Republic of China--at a time when China was still fighting. On his release, he went to the United States in an ultimately futile attempt to short-circuit the path towards war on which both Japan and the USA were already travelling. Certain American pastors went to Japan for the same purpose, and similarly failed. But Kagawa and his American counterparts in 1940 are exceptional cases, and remembered as giants for their determined pursuit of peace. They are remarkable for how few of their kind arose in those perilous times.

Similarly, we remember the Dietrich Bonhoffers, the Wang Mingdao's, the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyns who bravely stood up in Christ's name against the horrors of 20th century totalitarianism. But again, if faced with a similar situation, would not most of us prefer to acquiesce, to go along and get along?

The refrain of these first verses of the book are that Jonah went away "from the presence of the LORD". This warns us that we must guard against self-righteousness and complacence. As we walk before God, we must adopt a posture of humility; as we deal with our fellow humans, we must cultivate both humility and charity--difficult gifts when we deal with many whom we are predisposed to see as enemies. If one who enjoyed the prophetic gift could flee from the presence of the LORD, how much more can the rest of us?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Elena Kagan Must Go

In nominating Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, the Obama administration paves the way for the not-so-slow death of the First Amendment. While Kagan has not made a paper trail with judicial decisions, she has left one as a scholar. Her writings suggest a fundamental disrespect for both the First Amendment as written and a jurisprudence of the First Amendment crafted by justices on the liberal side of the political spectrum.

In her 1993 article "Regulation of Hate Speech and Pornography After R.A.V," for the University of Chicago Law Review, she wrote:

"I take it as a given that we live in a society marred by racial and gender inequality, that certain forms of speech perpetuate and promote this inequality, and that the uncoerced disappearance of such speech would be cause for great elation."

In a 1996 paper, "Private Speech, Public Purpose: The Role of Governmental Motive in First Amendment Doctrine," Kagan argued for the suppression of speech because it may be offensive.

That paper asserted First Amendment doctrine is comprised of "motives and … actions infested with them" and she further states that "First Amendment law is best understood and most readily explained as a kind of motive-hunting."

In fact, the First Amendment represents the distilled wisdom of two centuries of struggling with the British Crown's attempts to suppress inconvenient opinions. The struggle for free speech in the Anglosphere goes back at least to late 16th century Puritan preachers who had their ears cropped for questioning the propriety of vestments. Today, the same persecuting spirit comes in a boyish bob, winsome smile, and the desire to see to it that nobody questions the wisdom of encouraging schoolchildren to engage in anal sex.

Time was when American liberals were not afraid to let Brandenburg spew his white supremacism in Ohio or American Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois. Time was when Justice Douglas could speak of Communist propaganda as "unsold goods". Time was when every New Leftist in America honored Lenny Bruce's "How to Talk Dirty and Influence People". Time was when offensive speech was allowed into the open so it could be refuted in rational give-and-take. But now, political speech, which a generation of Supreme Court justices has seen as an unquestioned right in the First Amendment, is too dangerous.

It is just too bad that there are not enough conservative Senators to be sure that Professor Kagan gets a well-deserved Borking.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

More Thoughts on Modern Religion

A guy named Muhammed said, "God,
Must think it exceedingly odd!
Folks say I'm no prophet,
But headed for Tophet!
Why, they ought to be under the sod!"

They call it "religion of peace"
But I think we're all being fleeced.
Its pillar jihad
Is something quite bad,
And really should be made to cease.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thoughts on China

While we're talking of thorny international issues, I have a modest proposal for the US.

The next time China whines about how international imperialism deprived it of the fair and beautiful island of Taiwan--where even those who proudly and loudly call themselves Chinese seem very wary of reunification just yet--the US needs to put a counter-offer on the table.

Let's ask the international community to de-recognize and penalize those counter-revolutionary reactionaries and running dogs of English imperialism who live north of Line Forty-nine and the Great Lakes. After all, the United States of America is the sole legitimate heir of Great Britain's one-time North American Empire. While we're at it, let's throw in Belize, the Bahamas, and all those Caribbean islands, too. Once upon a time, when we were an up-and-coming power, we truly and sincerely believed that our manifest destiny was to incorporate the whole North American continent from the Arctic Ocean to the Isthmus of Panama and from Atlantic to Pacific.

For the benefit of all those humorless liberals and others out there, I was being facetious about Canada being illegitimate. Yes, they seem to treasure their ceremonial ties to Britain, but if the hatchet got buried good and deep back in 1815, let it stay there, and let the USA, Canada, and UK take pride in keeping it there for almost two centuries. Heck, if they want an international celebration of two hundred years of Anglo-Canadian-American peace in 1815, I'll gladly march in the parade, if my arthritic knees and spine permit it. And, while I'm at it, I'm all for the continued independence of our Latin American neighbors. I'll even support Puerto Rican independence if the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party to rally enough support for giving up US citizenship on that island (and, I'll gladly hang out a flag with a fifty-first star if the Puerto Rican Statehood Party gets enough support, too!).

Taiwan, when it was under the administration of President Lee Teng-hui, made it clear that it wanted a formal end to the Chinese Civil War. That was an honorable and honest stance which, if allowed, would solidify a truly pacific "Pacific [Ocean] Era". If there is no trust between two peoples with similar ethnic, historical, linguistic, cultural, and religious backgrounds, a period of separation is a must in order to build the trust necessary for future reunification. Otherwise, a forced reunification will only result in a disaffected and potentially rebellious territory threatening the stability of China and its neighbors. Since the 1920's, there has not really been "One China", and international fictions to the effect that one existed only served to encourage the stronger Chinese entity to threaten or launch civil war.

Hence, whether Taiwan [with associated smaller islands] calls itself the rump of the Republic of China established in 1911, Taiwan, Great Liuqiu, or even Bob, it deserves international recognition. If, after fifty years or so, the two sides realize that they can trust each other and reunite, fine. But let's make it clear that the world does not want the threat of hot war looming over the Western Pacific.

A Dreadful Middle Eastern Imbalance

Now that Premier Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has called on President Obama to impose a two-state solution, it seems that the armies of brave jihadis out to martyr themselves to liberate al-Quds are probably incapable of the task without American help. But this is not the only obscene imbalance between Israel and its neighbors.

A far more serious one is that after four generations in camps, the Palestine Arab refugees of 1948 and their offspring are not citizens of Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, and other Arab states. This population has voting, property-rights citizenship only in Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel itself. Worse, this is a situation aided and abetted by the international community, including the United Nations. It serves no other purpose than to keep a raw wound raw.

Some argue that the Palestinian Arabs want their olive and orange groves between the Jordan and the Mediterranean; or that Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, lacking oil wealth, cannot absorb this population. This is utter nonsense. Palestinian Arabs who ended up in the United States have become citizens, despite the vast linguistic difference between the President's English and Levantine Arabic. As for lacking oil wealth, many more millions of refugees were displaces at roughly the same time by the partition of British India, yet they and their descendants are no-questions asked Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis today. This situation has reached the point where Lahore-born Manmohan Singh could sit down with Delhi-born Pervez Musharaf to discuss defusing tensions between India and Pakistan. Yet the resettlement and absorption of the millions of displaced Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians from East Bengal, West Punjab, and Sindh and that of displaced Muslims from the Gangetic Plain went on without a penny of oil wealth to aid it.

Further, those descended from the ancient Jewish populations formerly living in lands from Iraq to Morocco and from the Hauran to Yemen, expelled and dispersed with no more than the clothes on their backs, are today no-questions-asked Israelis. And, it is worth noting, these populations predated the Arab presence in all of their lands of domicile prior to the Islamic conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries. Indeed, the prayer of Qol Nidre was probably heard and recited throughout Babylon every Yom Kippur long before the Arabic Azan was ever dreamt of. Yet today, Iraq, the second homeland of Jewry, which held large and thriving Jewish communities since the sixth century B.C. (I unapologetically write as a Christian) and where several of the Old Testament prophets are buried, is now Judenrein. The same can be said of Egypt, where a prominent Jewish community lived since shortly before the Babylonian exile, and where the Greek Septuagint, the first major translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, was produced. Yet where is the world's outrage over the destruction of these communities, whose contributions to civilization worldwide, were immense?

Further, there are many, many Greeks whose grandparents speak Turkish, whose family memories go back to the lands that were once Proconsular Asia, Pontus, and Cappadocia; and numerous Turkish families whose ancestors once lived in Thessaly and Crete. Countless states with seats in the United Nations--and others without--which have absorbed many more refugees than those displaced by the establishment of Israel in 1948. It is time to make the naturalization and permanent resettlement of the Falastin refugee population in the Arab countries--which, after all, share a language and religion with the majority of Palestinians--part of a permanent Middle Eastern settlement. That the United States has not made such calls loudly and persistently is the shame of our diplomacy. That the Arab states--apart from Jordan--have not taken steps on their own to do such a thing is their own lasting disgrace.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Another Version

WIth fannies high, Obama's marching minions
Go prancing down America's main drag!
It's time to pack up all your un-PeeCee opinions,
Whether in blog, in airwaves, or in mag! (repeat last line)

The media, subservient and gaga
Care not that Geitner cheats the IRS
Of cunning pol's tale they have made a sacred saga--
"Messiah'a come!" They loudly doth profess. (repeat last line)

Our youth will be regimented and vapid,
The better formed to serve our leader's will.
Social transformation will be sudden and quite rapid
Till all us Yankees live on trash and swill (repeat last line)

Can you name that tune?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Some Thoughts on Religion

Moderns, with great consternation,
Despise Calvin's predestination.
For economics, we know
Or our genes run the show
Of our lives. This we call "liberation".

A guy named Muhammad said, "God
Must think it uncommonly odd
That the Christians and Jews
Greet my message with boo's,
And the Qureysh want me under the sod."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

George Will Blows it on Birthright Citizenship

George Will has just come out in favor of ending birthright citizenship, and believes that doing such a thing would be within the powers of Congress. While I generally agree with Will's positions, this is one time when I think he has thoroughly missed the boat.

The Fourteenth Amendment states that those "born or naturalized in the US" and subject to American jurisdiction are citizens. This was passed chiefly to clarify the status of freedmen. This was further clarified in two other post-Civil War Amendments that affirmed voting rights--and hence citizenship--for freedmen.

The wording of the Fourteenth Amendment speaks of those under the jurisdiction of the United States as enjoying the full protection of the laws. Will rightly notes that such rights were not extended to American Indians until the 1920's, but that was because of a fiction that viewed tribes registered with the Bureau of Indian Affairs as sovereign "nations". However, this fiction is now a dead letter, and, since illegals are neither visiting heads of state nor diplomats, they are most clearly under the jurisdiction of the United States. This is one reason why deportation is such a cumbersome process: an illegal who is caught deep inside the
USA can be deported only following court proceedings.

Further, the Fourteenth Amendment also was passed at a time when over 600,000 Americans, both North and South, had been killed in the Civil War. America needed immigration, and immigration laws reflected this condition. Since the United States could never realistically implement an "ethnic" definition of citizenship, birthright citizenship was an easy and effective way to ensure the ultimate assimilation of immigrant groups.

Also, does the USA want a permanent class of non-citizens? The Turkish communities in Germany and the Korean communities inn Japan, both of which find themselves barred from citizenship, are fruitful sources of discontent and organized crime. The Falastin Arabs across the Arab world, who are also kept as stateless refugees, are an infamous source of instability. Unless effective physical barriers complete with guards operating under orders to shoot to kill were built along both of America's borders, it would be impossible to keep unwanted people out. Wretched conditions in much of Mexico and Central America would continue to push emigration from those countries in any situation. The flow of illegals from Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, and southwestern China into Thailand during the 1990's, or the presence of large numbers of Southeast Asian guest workers in Taiwan--to take two examples of states with stringent rules for naturalization--are reminders that any country that is doing anything right will become a magnet for migration.

The only countries that do not host migrants of some kind or another are those that have made either economic, political, or social conditions intolerable for many or most of their citizens. This alone should cause Americans to develop at least a little sense of proportion about illagal immigration. Yes, it is a problem. Yes, something needs to be done. But, do cost to benefit analyses truly suggest that we need to go through the trouble of a Constitutional Amendment to solve the problem?

While deportation and other laws probably need some teeth, abolishing jus soli citizenship is no solution. And, since we live in an imperfect world in which the USA will remain a migration magnet unless it learns to turn itself into another Afghanistan, Haiti, Cuba, or Sierra Leone, jus solis citizenship will at least give the children of illegals a stake in the USA, and prevent the growth of a permanently disenfranchised and hostile class of people within its borders.

If the USA were serious about illegal immigration, it would simply appropriate the funds needed for the immigration service to do its job, and enforce the laws already on the books.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Another Excerpt from "Covenant to Constitutionalism", by Peter J. Herz (2001)


A limited and mixed monarchy, such as is in Scotland and England, seems to me
the best government, when parliaments, with the king, have the good of all the
three [Aristotelian constitutions]. This government hath glory, order, unity
from a monarch; from the government of the most and wisest, it has safety of
counsel, stability, strength; from the influence of the commons, it hath
liberty, privileges, promptitude of obedience. (Rutherford 1980 [1644]:192).

Omnipotency in one that can sin is a cursed power (Rutherford 1980

Glen Burgess, discussing recent literature on Scottish political thought between the 16th and early 18th centuries, holds that the disciples of Andrew Melville left no political treatise behind, and wrote little on political matters (1998:585). This refers probably to political writings produced after Buchanan and prior to James’ accession to the English throne. However, the influence of Buchanan’s De Iure Regni Apud Scotos remained strong among the Scottish Presbyterians during their conflicts with the crown. The Presbyterians found a political spokesman in Samuel Rutherford (1600?-1661), whose _Lex Rex_ (1644--hereafter LR in notes) was a major political tract of its time. Rutherford’s work makes no pretense to great originality, but is valuable as an example of how the thought of Buchanan, continental monarchomachs, Johannes Althusius, and Rutherford’s own training in early 17th century Reformed scholasticism came together to support the rule of law, a popular voice in government, and limited monarchy. Rutherford also illustrates the dogged loyalty of Scots Presbyterians between the appearance of Buchanan’s De Iure Regni Apud Scotos and the Claim of Right of 1689 to these political ideals and a vision of Scotland as a covenanted community. But he is also important as an example of the Christian roots of constitutional, and even republican, government.

(A). Rutherford in Context

Although an obscure figure today, Rutherford was anything but obscure in his own era. While Hobbes worked in semi-retirement, and Locke published his Two Treatises anonymously and without a publication date, Rutherford stood in the thick of the theological and political controversies of the 1630's and '40's. In 1636 he was exiled from his parish in Anwoth, in southwestern Scotland, to Aberdeen, where, the Caroline bishops hoped, the influence of Arminian theologians would temper the fiery critic of both Arminianism and episcopacy. After 1638, he emerged as a spokesman for the victorious Scottish Presbyterians. He served as a Scottish commissioner to the Westminster Assembly (1645-48), which drafted a common confession for the churches of the three British Kingdoms. John Milton names him as one of the “new forcers of conscience”, while the government of James VII and II deemed treasonous the possession or dissemination of his _Lex Rex_, along with Buchanan’s _De Iure Regni Apud Scotos_. Thomas Hobbes may have been thinking of Rutherford and his associates as dividers and dispersers of political power, when he relegated the Presbyterian party of his age to “The Kingdome of Darknesse” in his _Leviathan_.

After the Restoration, Sir James Steuart and other Covenanter stalwarts echoed his political theory (Hunt 1964:85). The Claim of Right (1689), whereby the Estates of Scotland offered the crown to William and Mary, echoes the monarchomach theory of public law which Rutherford systematized. While James Dalrymple, Viscount Stair was by no means as radical as Rutherford, the kinship is clear between Rutherford’s understanding of natural and divine law and limits on kingly power and Stair’s views expressed in _The Institutions of the Law of Scotland _1681). John Witherspoon, the Immigrant Scottish clergyman who signed the Declaration of Independence for his adopted state of New Jersey, and educated a number of influential founders of the American republic at the College of New Jersey, held Rutherford in high regard. A comparison of Rutherford’s _Lex Rex_ and Locke’s _Two Treatises of Government_ reveals some kinship between their views of government as a compact and the supremacy of law. Given that Locke kept hidden much of went into his Two Treatises, the possibility that he read and used Rutherford cannot be ruled out entirely, although the ideas Rutherford set forth also may have reached Locke via other means during Locke’s Puritan youth, since Rutherford was self-consciously (and conscientiously) the spokesman of a large party in both church and state.

Rutherford recently has emerged as an icon among Evangelical conservatives in late 20th century America, who see parallels between his struggles against royal prerogative and their own struggles against an intrusive secular state. A renewed interest in the connections between covenant theology and political constitutionalism in the modern West, exemplified by scholars such as Donald Lutz, Barry Shain, and the late Daniel Elazar, gives the study of Rutherford’s thought a new relevance for academic political science as well, since these and others have traced the roots of American constitutionalism from the Scriptures via the 17th century Reformed theology which the early British colonists brought to America (Lutz 1986).

Scotland’s position on the border of England, its monarch’s position as heir to the English throne, and the Kirk’s desire to be part of the wider European movement of Reformed Protestantism worked together to make 17th century Scotland a battleground over conflicting visions of church, state, and public law. At the beginning of its Reformation, Scotland had a mixed church polity, in which superintendents exercised oversight in the church. While Gordon Donaldson (1960) contends that the original Scottish polity of Knox was episcopalian, his thesis has been convincingly challenged by Maurice Lee (1964) and James Kirk (1980), who note the movement of most of the earlier superintendents toward a more thorough Presbyterianism rather than to the episcopacy favored by the crown. Kirk observes that the Scottish superintendency was more a case of a “bishop in presbytery” (parallel to king in council) than an episcopacy similar to the Anglican model (1980:146-48). John Knox’s _Appellation_ and _Address to the Commonality_ exhibit a keen dissatisfaction with the English model, and may already be pointing to the sort of Presbyterianism which Andrew Melville is often credited with introducing later.

In 1578, the Scottish church drafted its Second Book of Discipline, which the aged George Buchanan helped prepare. It reflects the developed Presbyterianism advocated by Andrew Melville and already operative in the Reformed churches of Switzerland, Geneva, and France. The first great triumph of presbytery over crown came in 1592, when the church, despite the preferences of James VI, transferred all powers of the tulchan bishops to presbyteries.

The period between the Union of Crowns and the National Covenant (1603-38) shows a hardening of positions in Scotland, the temporary imposition of episcopacy, and the emergence of presbyterian resistance. James VI and I long admired the English model of an episcopally-organized national church headed by the monarch. At the Hampton Court Conference (1604), James, responding to the Puritans, made both his famous observation on the incompatibility of presbytery and monarchy and his threat to “harry [the Puritans] out of the land”. But James, whose long presence in Scotland had given him a keen appreciation for the political realities of his northern realm, proceeded cautiously against the Kirk. His son, Charles I, however, had little Scottish experience, and consistently mishandled both church and nobility in Scotland between 1625 and 1638 (Macinnes 1991:1-3).

Rutherford’s _Lex Rex_ (1644, rpt. 1980) is ostensibly a reply to the _Sacrosancta Regum Majestas_ of John Maxwell (1590-1647), an excommunicated Presbyterian minister whom Charles made bishop of Ross, later archbishop of Tuam. In his shorter work, _Presbytery Displayed_, Maxwell criticizes Presbyterianism as a matter of framing mischief by law (1681[1644?]:1). He is scandalized that Scottish presbyteries refuse royal direction, and quotes approvingly James VI and I’s dictum at the Hampton Court Conference that “A Scottish Presbytery as well agreeth with a monarchy as God with the Devil” (1681:7-8). The practice of church sessions’ fining malefactors or putting them in the pillory appears to the prelate as usurpation of civil power (1681:4). He notes the boldness of the Presbyterian ministers in speaking on state matters, including criticism of James’ reception of the Spanish ambassador at a time when Spanish arms persecuted Protestants in the Low Countries (1681:29-35). He states his agreement with James’ fear that Presbytery would usher in a “Democraticall Government” and rightly associates with Presbyterianism the monarchomach view that royal authority is derived from the community (1681:45).

Against Maxwell’s criticism that laymen (such as ruling elders and doctors) sit in prebysteries and general assemblies with learned divines, Rutherford charges that “[George] Buchanan and Mr. Melvin [Melville] were doctors of divinity; and could have taught such an ass as John Maxwell”. But Rutherford is also plainly bothered by the charge that the Presbyterians are anti-monarch. He admits that James VI and I charged his party with disagreement, but adds, “but King James meant of a wicked king; else he spake as a man” (LR 1644:xxii).

But Rutherford’s critiques of such other royalists as William Barclay, Hennig Arnisaeus, Ninian Winzet, Jean Bodin, and others tend to swallow up his “papal prelate”, as he scathingly labels Maxwell. Rutherford thus shows that his purpose is far broader than the refutation of merely one royalist voice. _Lex Rex_ may be understood as the summation, systematization, and capstone of monarchomach theory, in which Rutherford openly admits his admiration and indebtedness to Stephanus Junius Brutus, Théodore de Bèze, Johannes Althusius, and numerous other Reformed writers, and even draws on such Roman Catholics as Suarez, Soto, and Covarruvias.

John Coffey (1997) notes that Rutherford as student and young pastor was greatly influenced by David Calderwood (1575-1650), an uncompromising Presbyterian whose _History of the Church of Scotland_ (rpt. 1678) both builds on Knox’s work and chronicles the struggles of the Presbyterian party and its ultimate success. In his _The Pastor and the Prelate, or Reformation and Conformity_ (1625? rpt. 1692), he castigates the episcopacy which James and Charles sought to impose as “that bitter root of human invention” and the English ecclesiastical model which Scotland was being forced to emulate as “superstitious” (1692:A2).

Rutherford came of age in an era in which the introduction of Episcopalian polity and forms of worship had progressed far under James and Charles, despite the church’s adoption of presbyterian polity in 1592. But there is scant evidence that Rutherford’s own Presbyterian commitments ever wavered. He underwent Presbyterian ordination around 1627, taking a charge at Anwoth in southwestern Scotland, exercising pastoral duties until 1636, when his anti-Arminian polemics and verbal attacks on the Caroline bishops led to his exile in Aberdeen. Coffey holds that Rutherford knew and was influenced by David Calderwood, Scotland’s ecclesiastical historian and one of the most uncompromising members of the Presbyterian party. With the Scots’ signing of the National Covenant in 1638, his exile ended. He then became professor of Hebrew at St. Andrews before serving as a Scottish Commissioner to the Westminster Assembly. Between 1638 and Cromwell’s invasion, Rutherford’s political and ecclesiastical party would be supreme in Scotland, and a power in the wider politics of all three British kingdoms.

Few thinkers better exemplify the connection between the theocratic vision of Reformed orthodoxy and the constitutionalist ideal. In 1636, he penned a Latin polemic against Arminian theology, which was also taken as an attack on the Caroline bishops who advocated it, thus earning exile to Aberdeen. His _Due Right of Presbyteries_ (1644) defends the Presbyterian polity of graded church courts which prevailed throughout Reformed Europe, and belongs to a war of words with Thomas Hooker, the learned English Independent who emigrated and contributed much to the establishment of Connecticut, as well as to one directed against the attempt of Charles Stuart and his autocratic, Arminianizing archbishop, William Laud, to impose an alien doctrine and discipline on the Scottish Kirk. While Rutherford’s politics accept multiple sources of power and authority in monarch, estates, magistrates, and people, his _A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience_ (1649) shows that his political pluralism was quite untinged with any hint of theological pluralism. Rutherford thus belongs to an era which viewed political society as a holistic partnership between the ecclesiastical and political wielders of Gelasius’ two swords

Rutherford’s chief political works are _Lex Rex _(1644, rpt. 1980) and _A Sermon Preached Before the Honorable House of Commons at their late Solemne Fast_, Wednesday, January 31, 1644, both dating from his London sojourn of 1642-47. Rutherford’s _Sermon Preached to the Honorable House of Commons_ underscores the duty of the lesser magistrates of Britain to care for the well-being of the re-reformed church of the three British Kingdoms, reiterating the standard 17th century view of magistrates and rulers as “nursing fathers” of the church. Lex Rex (hereafter LR in notes) is a position paper written for the Presbyterian party in interregnum British politics, describes government as divine in its root, but popular in its mode (1644:1-2). A generation before Locke, it speaks of the monarch, or, for that matter, the democratic or aristocratic magistrate, as the deriving his power from the consent of the governed. The work answers the charges of Bishop John Maxwell and other royalists that the Presbyterians despised not only monarchy, but all civil government. It takes the form of forty-four questions and answers on the powers of the throne, people, and law. Scripture, especially the Old Testament, is an important influence in Rutherford’s thought, but Lex Rex also reflects a wide interaction with other political thinkers from both the Protestant and Roman Catholic camps. Although Rutherford claimed to be a monarchist, his ideal monarchy is tinged with aristocratic and democratic elements (LR 1644:192). He uses the language of divine right, but in a conditional rather than an absolute sense (LR 1644:2-4). While turgid and dense in style, Lex Rex shares with the _De Politica_ of Johannes Althusius (1610) the distinction of being the most thorough and detailed exposition of monarchomach constitutionalism written from a Reformed perspective.

As a homiletician and devotional writer, Rutherford challenges Ralph Hancock’s assertion that Calvinist theology stressed the transcendence of God to the point where it ceased to affirm the relevance of his providential government in day-to-day affairs (1988:691-93). Rutherford's posthumously collected Letters show a deep devotional life and his encouragement of the same in others as they face both the ordinary trials of life and the specter of religious persecution. Significantly, while Lex Rex is turgid and dense, the Letters exhibit a clear, lucid, and lively style, suggesting that their author was far more at home in his pastoral role than in his political one, as well as suggesting why, in an age which largely forgot Rutherford as a political theorist, the Letters remained a classic of Evangelical devotional writing. John Coffey (1997) uses a variety of Rutherford’s letters and sermons to convincingly demonstrate the role of an apocalyptic vision in Rutherford’s thought which, at least in the 1640’s, saw in the success of Scotland’s covenanted revolution and its English parliamentary allies a harbinger of the eschatological millennium.

But the context of the Letters points to their significance for political history as well as spirituality. Written while Rutherford was exiled to Aberdeen, far from his charge in Anwoth in southwestern Scotland, the Letters represent a continuing and very close bond between Rutherford and a flock which included both nobles and commoners. While defense of Presbyterial church government sporadically appears in the Letters, it receives little of the sustained apologetic which might be expected had Rutherford’s correspondents seriously entertained thoughts of conformity to the episcopacy. He seems certain that his people share his conviction that the crown rights of King Jesus trump the claims of King Charles. This may be one reason why Rutherford, unlike a later age, could see no latent conflict between his vision of a covenanted commonwealth and a his acceptance of a democratic element in the organization of the state.

The combination in Rutherford of calls for supremacy of law, limits on powerholders, and even a good word for democracy with a strongly theocratic vision of society shows a preliberal constitutionalism rather than an illiberal one. A parallel reading of Rutherford’s _Lex Rex_, _Locke’s Two Treatises_, and the 1689 Claim of Right permits understanding of how 18th and 19th century liberals in Great Britain and America could develop a “Whig myth” of a Puritan proto-liberalism. Robert Burns, in the early 19th century, exemplifies this “myth” in the introduction to Wodrow’s Church History:

The principles of Mr. Rutherford’s Lex Rex...are substantially the principles
on which all government is founded, and without which the civil magistrate
would become a curse rather than a blessing to a country. They are the very
principles which lie at the basis of the British constitution, and by whose
tenure the house of Brunswick does at this very moment hold possession of
the throne of these realms. (Quoted in the Preface to the 1980 reprint of Lex
Rex ).

The work of Shain, Elazar, and Lutz suggests that the “Whig myth” wrapped a solid core of truth with a filmy tissue of fiction, even though these recent authors do not read the ideals of the present into the minds of the past. By identifying the concept of the divine covenant as a theological pillar of Anglophone constitutionalism, they have pointed to the past as setting a trajectory on which the present and future travel. This is the core of truth around which the older Whig interpretation of the Puritan era wrapped its tissue of liberal fiction.
The study of Samuel Rutherford and his contemporaries supports the late 20th century American theory concerning the connection between the covenantal idea and later constitutional liberalism. But it also shows that other loci of Reformed theology predisposed the Reformed of the 17th century to struggle for constitutionalist principles. The mediatorial work of Christ and his redemptive work, which, in the Reformed system are connected to the idea of covenant, also tumble out in Rutherford’s arguments for limiting royal authority; as do the divine works of creation and providence, and a highly biblicist epistemology.

(B). Interpreting Rutherford

While mentioned by many historians of 17th century Britain, Rutherford as a subject in himself has attracted little attention. Surprisingly, one of the most sympathetic sketches of Rutherford’s life, theology, and politics comes from a modern Anglican bishop, Marcus Loane. Loane’s work, focusing on Rutherford as a churchman, fundamentally accepts a tradition which views Rutherford as a precursor of later Whig liberalism and a posthumous victor whose politics were remarkably close to the constitutionalism Great Britain ultimately came to enjoy following the Glorious Revolution of 1689 (1961:84). Much of Loane’s sympathy for Rutherford stems from Loane’s own evangelical theology, which normally finds itself in greater sympathy with the early Puritans than with either 18th century Latitudinarians, 19th century Tractarians, or 20th century theological liberals. Loane, while writing for a wide audience, may represent a meeting of evangelical piety with the “Whig myth”, which sees Puritan ideas of compact and constitutionalism as a stepping stone to classical liberalism. Yet while perhaps liberalizing Rutherford more than is warranted, Loane’s work is valuable as a short general biography and introduction.
George Hunt’s _Calvinism and the Political Order_ (1965) includes an essay on Rutherford’s politics by J.F. Maclear and mentions Rutherford in several of the other essays in the collection. Maclear notes that in the Scottish context of a weak monarchy pitted against estates, Kirk, and coalitions of powerful nobles, Rutherford is very much a conservative who believed that extant Scottish constitutional institutions sufficed to justify resistance to Charles Stuart (1964:69). Winthrop Hudson, another writer in the Hunt volume, notes a strong kinship between several of Rutherford’s ideas and those of John Locke in the _Two Treatises of Government_. Both writers spoke of government as a compact between people and rulers, and denied that Adam’s dominion over the rest of creation implied the crown’s absolute dominion over his fellow men. Hudson does not make Locke directly dependent on Rutherford, but suggests that Locke imbibed related ideas from the Puritan climate of opinion prevalent during his youth (1964:113).
Ian Michael Smart (1980) sees Rutherford as a key political theorist of the Scottish Covenanters, devoting a section of his survey article to an exposition of the main points of Rutherford’s thought. He interprets Rutherford’s Lex Rex as an attempt to produce an exhaustive refutation of the major English and Scottish advocates of absolute monarchy. He notes that Rutherford and his fellow Covenanters stand in a tradition with continental Reformed monarchomachs and George Buchanan (1980:169-70). He sees Rutherford’s work as most comprehensible if recognized as a product of the period of solidarity between the Scots Covenanters and English Parliament (prior to the rise of Cromwell and the New Model Army), and notes a contrast with the post-Restoration Covenanters. Whereas Rutherford and earlier Monarchomachs held that resistance to a tyrant should be based on a parliament and lesser magistrates, their successors in Scotland after 1660 developed a more popularly based view of resistance (1980:181).
The first 20th century book-length study of Samuel Rutherford is John Coffey’s _Politics, Religion, and the British Revolutions: the mind of Samuel Rutherford_ (1997, Cambridge). Coffey’s project is to place Rutherford in as much of his theological, academic, historical, and political context as possible. He criticizes the 19th century views of Rutherford and/or Puritanism as a precursor of Whig liberalism (Flynn 1920) on which Loane depends, noting that Rutherford was far too bound to a Calvinist Scotland determined to preserve its religious institutions and, if possible, impose them on the rest of Britain (1997:187).
While Rutherford’s place in the taxonomy of political and theological thinkers is clear, certain questions about his political thought remain. Coffey bifurcates his subject between a “reactionary” Rutherford who stood for Scotland as a nation covenanted to the views of John Knox and Andrew Melville, biblicist orthodoxy, and jus divinum Presbyterian church polity versus a “liberal” Rutherford who appealed to natural reason and advocated limited, contractarian government and the right of resistance, noting that Rutherford even described himself as a “man of parts”. Coffey sees in the bifurcation of Rutherford’s mind an important key to the ultimate political failure of the Covenanter and Puritan movements (1997:114ff.).
Application of Alasdair MacIntyre’s contention that tradition defines political discourse(1988:3, 348) reconciles Coffey’s bifurcation of Rutherford’s thought into an underlying unity. Rutherford may be seen as “reactionary” precisely because the modern myth of progress measures “rationality” as the degree of liberation from the demands of revealed theistic religion; whereas for 17th century Calvinists, the “rational soul” was at its most rational in the glorification of its Creator. Rutherford lived and worked in that pre-Spinozan (and pre-Barthian) world in which faith and reason, Scripture and logic, supported each other. The Westminster Confession of Faith speaks of “good and necessary consequence” as a tool which helps divine from Scripture things not necessarily plain therein, and allows that the “light of nature” may provide partial truth, although not the entire content of saving knowledge(1647:I,6). Reformed scholasticism in both Britain and the continent represents a re-discovery of Aristotelian methods as applicable to theology, hence ecclesiastical historians’ comparing it to medieval scholasticism. Thus, an appeal to natural reason in a 17th century Puritan or Covenanting divine is not necessarily a defection from his tradition’s orthodoxy.
While the constitutionalist vision of Rutherford and the monarchomachs anticipated in many ways the institutions of later constitutional liberalism, it nonetheless grew out of the 17th century struggle of the Scottish Reformed church to free itself from the supervision of civil authority. At the time, a foe to the “right” of Rutherford, John Maxwell, was scandalized at the possibility that the king himself, as a member of a Presbyterian church, might be subject to commoners serving as church elders (1691:5). While present-day readers may be intrigued by Rutherford’s good word for democracy, Rutherford’s contemporary to the “left”, John Milton, named him as one of the “new forcers of conscience”, and declared that “new presbyter is but old priest writ large” (Loane 1961:80).
The view of the mid-17th century British world as a group of clerical dictatorships owes much to both monarchists of Maxwell’s stamp and radicals ranging from Milton leftward to the Diggers and Levelers. Yet Rutherford, that “forcer of conscience”, nonetheless spoke of the limits which presbytery imposed on itself:

But we place no sovereignty in presbyteries, but a mere ministerial power of servants, who do not take on them to make laws and religious ceremonies, as prelates do, who indeed make themselves kings and lawgivers in God’s house (LR:211).

...for we deny that Synods or pastors have a peremptory, absolute and
unlimited authority, and power to determine as they please in sermons and
Synods, their power is limited according to the Word of God, and their word is
only to be believed in so far as it is agreeable to the Word of God (Due Right
of Presbyteries 1644:4).

The answer Rutherford and other Reformed writers gave to the claims of absolute authority by either Pope or King was that no such authority was available to any mortal man. While jealous for the independence of their church and determined to defend it against what they saw as illegitimate interference by the state, the Presbyterian clergy nonetheless held themselves accountable to a law above themselves, setting limits to their own powers.

(C). God and Man in Law and Government

The first two of the forty-four questions Rutherford poses concerning government is whether it is warranted by divine and natural law (LR:1). The answer is a simple yes to both, for both Rutherford and his most vehement royalist opponents lived and thought in an inescapably theological context, in which natural law was natural precisely because it represented something “hardwired” into man by God at creation. For this reason, Rutherford sees part of his task as refuting the idea that the Puritan movement reduced the divine commission of the monarch to a bare permission (LR:1980:xxi). But Rutherford, and the tradition in which he stands, also asks how monarchial, aristocratic, and democratic rulers receive the divine commission. His thesis is that civil society and the commission of the ruler are indeed divine and natural in the root, but voluntary in their manner of coalescing (LR:1).

In the first several questions of Lex Rex, Rutherford views government as the means God has ordained for the preservation of the mankind. Along with Buchanan and the Huguenot monarchomachs before him, he accepts that sociality is natural, and that the ruler is under a charge to preserve and protect the community. Against the royalist contention that monarchs receive their authority immediately from God, Rutherford contends that popular consent is a second cause lying between the divine will and the making of a king, or in making some rather than others a group of aristocratic or democratic magistrates:

This is what we say, God by the people, by Nathan the prophet, and by the
servants of David and the states crying, “God save King Solomon!” made
Solomon king [rather than Adonijah]; and here is a real action of the
people. God is the first agent in all acts of the creature. Where a people
maketh choice of a man to be their king, the states do no other thing, under
God, but create this man rather than another; and we cannot here find two
actions, one of God, another of the people; but in one and the same action,
God, by the people’s free suffrages and voices, createth such a man king,
passing by many thousands; and the people are not passive in this action,
because by the authoritative choice of the states the man is made of a
private man and no king, a public person and a crowned king (LR 1644:7).

He notes not only the case of Solomon above, but also those of Abimelech (Judges 9:6); the anointing of Saul (I Sam. 11:15); and that of David himself (I Chron 12:38). Against the royalist contention that the divine anointing of the monarch is immediate, Rutherford argues that it is mediate--along with all other works of divine providence. Elsewhere in his argument, Rutherford charges that if kings are made immediately by God without popular consent, one might as well argue that God preserves human life without food and sleep (LR 1644:6).

The presence of human means in the divine end of establishing a government is by no means novel or inconsistent with the Reformed doctrine of providence. As was noted elsewhere, the Reformed saw God as working through secondary causes to bring about His purposes. Just as the preaching of the Gospel is the means whereby God actualizes the salvation of the elect, so are the people themselves instruments of God’s purpose of preserving them by means of government. He notes that in Scripture, only prophets were immediately anointed by God, but that throughout the Old Testament, kings were made and chosen by both the acclamation or choice of the people and an anointing administered by prophets and priests. He challenges the royalists to find a voice from heaven or prophets to anoint their rulers--a challenge he knows they cannot meet, since Anglican as well as Reformed doctrine saw the cessation of the prophetic office as a corollary of the sufficiency of Scripture (LR 1644:6-9).

Maxwell’s fear of “democraticall government” does not embarrass Rutherford. In viewing the popular choice as a providential means towards the establishment of a government, Rutherford asserts the ius divino character of aristocratic and democratic governments as well as monarchial ones. This is by no means as radical as it seems. In the 17th century, the absence of monarchy in such states as the Netherlands, the Swiss Cantons, and Venice was known and accepted in the diplomacy of the era. Rutherford expects even his opponents to find absurd the notion that the republican Netherlands of his day lacked a lawful magistrate, and also seems to expect that such an example is unanswerable (LR:27-28). For Rutherford, anarchy, not aristocracy or democracy, is the unthinkable condition for mankind.

A word may be said about Rutherford’s anthropology apart from his view of man as social. Rutherford speaks much throughout _Lex Rex_ about a natural liberty of man, but by the standards of a later liberalism, this natural liberty is highly qualified (LR. 51). He does not believe in an unfettered free will of post-lapsarian man, for his communion would have tolerated no such doctrine, and Rutherford’s polemics against Arminianism suffice to show his abhorrence of such a view. For him, men are born free only in that they are not subject to specific political rulers by birth, although even without the fall of Adam, parental and marital government would remain. However, although Adam’s fall brought sin and misery to his posterity, Rutherford holds that the image of God remains, rendering man a res sacra which cannot be bought and sold (LR:50ff.).

Rutherford is aware of an argument that men are slaves by nature, although it is not certain that it is specifically Robert Filmer from whom he has heard it. Rutherford’s refutation of the doctrine is also brief. He notes that Adam’s fall, not his creation, requires the establishment of governments with penal powers, and lies behind the institution of slavery. The slavery of which Rutherford takes note is not an Aristotelian one whereby some are slaves by nature, but the debt slavery found among the Old Testament Hebrews and slavery resulting from capture in war. It is also a condition which would not exist but for the fall of Adam into the state of sin and misery. But even this slavery is regulated, and an absolute dominion of master over slave is repugnant to Christianity, for the righteous man is merciful even to his animals, and a slave, if a Christian, remains the temple of the Holy Spirit. Since Scripture sees the absence of government as a curse and freedom from servitude as a blessing, servitude and being under lawful government cannot be the same. Hence, the power of kings and magistrates can only be “fiduciary and ministerial [rather] than masterly” (LR:64-65).

The law of nature, worked into the makeup of man at creation, confirms this, since man is a social creature, and God intends for man to enjoy peace. Only the institution of government can fulfill this law. But there is a crucial difference between the royalists and their monarchomach opponents:

Now God only by a divine law can lay a band of subjection on the conscience,
tying men to guilt and punishment if they transgress (LR 1644:1).

This statement from Lex Rex merits is best understood in concert with the confession Rutherford helped frame:

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines
and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to His Word; or
beside it, if matters of faith and worship. So that to believe, or to obey
such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and
the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to
destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also (WCF 1647: xx:2).

The Westminster divines’ attack on “blind obedience” and their solicitude for liberty of conscience and reason should not blind the modern reader to a real difference between the 17th and 21st centuries in the matter of liberty. The freedom of conscience of which Rutherford and the Westminster divines spoke was not the modern liberal’s openness to all shades of theological opinion, for God’s lordship over the conscience was understood as meaning that the conscience of the Christian was bound to accept whatsoever the Holy Spirit had revealed in Scripture, and by the same token, reject that which was repugnant to divine revelation. The Reformed thought of liberty within limits rather than of liberty as an absolute good in itself, and these divinely imposed limits applied to political life as well as to all other areas of life.

It should also be noted that the theology of British Puritanism, including Scots Presbyterianism, as expressed in the Westminster Confession, spoke of human nature in a fourfold state of innocency, depravity, redemption, and glorification. In innocency, Adam was not guilty of depravity or moral turpitude before God , yet capable of sinning (which, of course, he did). In his fallen state, man is not capable of not sinning, and thereby is under God’s wrath and curse. This fallen state of depravity is the one into which all mankind since the fall of Adam is born, and in which much of it remains. In the redeemed state, the possibility to not sin arises again, although the Reformed confession denied the possibility of a sinless perfection or supererogatory merit in this life, believers always standing in God’s favor via the merit of Christ rather than their own. Finally, the redeemed are destined to the state of glory, in which they will no longer be able to sin.

The Reformed doctrine of total depravity since the fall of Adam comes into play. As the second quote at the head of this chapter indicates, human nature after the fall of Adam could not be trusted with too much power, even redeemed human nature. Hallowell and Porter are incorrect to assert that “high Calvinism” supports Hobbes’ argument for the supremacy of the sovereign (1997:333). If anything, Rutherford was a “higher Calvinist” than Hobbes, even a shaper of what Calvinism would be for the centuries following via his role in the Westminster Assembly. If Hobbes’ mistrust of human nature calls for a strong ruler to check the dangerous passions of man, a similar mistrust of postlapsarian human nature in de Bèze, Althusius, and Rutherford leads these disciples of Calvin to search for means whereby no single sinner or small group of sinners might destroy multitudes. The society which most approximated the divine pattern was not one in which certain members of society could “play God”, for Puritanism was all too aware that Genesis 3 reported “playing God” as the original temptation of the Old Deluder. Rather, the godly society was one in which all members, including those charged with government, recognized their limits under God.

(D). Scriptural Hermeneutics in 17th Century Political Debate

In Reformed theology, the fallen state of man necessitates special revelation (Scripture) in order to guide human beings to the knowledge of God and salvation (WCF 1647:I,1). Although appeals to natural law abound not only in Rutherford, but also in Buchanan, Althusius, de Bèze, and other Reformed writers, Reformed theology held that since the fall of Adam, the moral sense of man is subject to perversion, and as capable of misleading man as it is of leading. Scripture, therefore, offered the mind of God on all matters of which it spoke. It therefore could not be ignored in the political debates of the time. Indeed, The politico-theological debate of the 16th and 17th centuries may be considered a prolonged, civilization-wide dispute over the proper interpretation of Romans 13:1-5:

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but
of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever resisteth the
power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to
themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to
evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and
thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for
good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the
sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath
upon him that doeth evil. (AV)

If the key Pauline clause for the royalists was let every soul be subject, the key clause for the monarchomachs was for he is the minister of God to thee for good, with the stress on the word "good". The same New Testament read by both sides of the argument also contained Peter’s retort to the Sanhedrin’s injunction “to obey God rather than men.” (Ac. 5:29, AV). But this leads neither side to conclude, in modern fashion, that the Scriptures are self-contradictory, and hence to be abandoned as a guide to such practical ethical questions as public law. Neither side possessed a simple-minded, unproblematic textual approach, and the attempt to find a proto-enlightenment or the retreat of God as a political actor in the monarchomach tradition fails to do justice to the shared attitudes which permitted Rutherford’s polemics to “hit home” with his contemporaries, most of whom would have identified themselves as Protestant Christians of one kind or another, and who would have understood that Scripture is to be read and heard with reverence.

Question XXXIII of Lex Rex explores whether or not Romans 13 permits resistance to the monarch. He notes chiefly that the “higher powers” are plural, and finds in them inferior judges and lesser magistrates as well as kings. Comparing First Timothy 2:1-2 as a parallel passage, Rutherford notes that Paul speaks of “all in authority”, embracing again lesser officers of the state. Rutherford, like Buchanan before him, notes that the same Nero who reigned when Paul wrote had a senate alongside him, which had the right to declare him an enemy of Rome as well as its father. Thus, the people of Scotland, in joining with the estates of the land in rebellion against Charles I, violate neither divine nor natural law as properly understood, for the estates and lesser magistrates leading the revolt are also “higher powers” to be obeyed.

Rutherford engages in a battle of texts with William Barclay and Hugo Grotius. In Question XVIII of Lex Rex, Rutherford argues that recognized authorities in both the Roman Catholic and Reformed communions see a divine anointing of lesser magistrates, and apply Romans 13 to masters and magistrates as well as to monarchs. Rutherford argues that Scripture makes the judge speak for God rather than for the supreme magistrate or monarch alone. Applying a favored principle of using Scripture to interpret Scripture, her notes that Psalm 82 speaks of the varied judges of the earth as “gods”, which he takes as an analogical description underscoring the independent authority of lesser magistrates as well as kings. He notes that Jehosaphat of Judah, in appointing judges, charged them that they judge for God, echoing Deuteronomy 1:17. In these texts, Rutherford sees all charged with the good of the community as possessing a divine call, rather than having their call as a derivative of that of the king.

Rutherford’s dispute with Barclay and Grotius deals with divergent readings of the mishpat hammelek (“law or manner of a king”) passage in First Samuel 8. Barclay is seen as using the Samuel passage to describe the lawful power of the monarch as against Deuteronomy 17, in which the office is described; while Grotius’ arguments in _De Iure Belli ac Pacis_ are seen as treating the Samuel passage also as a listing of royal prerogatives and proof that the lesser magistrate is a mere “private person” vis-à-vis the king, and that the people have recourse only to “tears and prayers” when under tyranny. Rutherford argues that Barclay’s distinction between office and power is unwarranted, for it makes God give moral warrant for sinful tyranny. Rutherford views the Deuteronomy passage, describing a king under torah who is brother rather than master to his people, as the divinely given normative command to which earthly rulers must conform, while Samuel’s purpose was to dissuade the people from placing themselves under a tyrannous king (LR: 72-73). Samuel’s warning to the people in the passage is seen as a prophesy of the decline of Saul’s monarchy, which was replaced by that of David. Its fulfillment, after Saul’s arrogating to himself priestly prerogatives, provides an important precedent for such a removal, although David’s example of refusal to attack God’s anointed also shows that removal of a perjured king is not to be done precipitously or rashly. Elsewhere, he charges that the royalist contention that the king enjoys prerogatives above the law makes monarchs neither the imitators of David nor reflections of Christ, but imitators of Babylonian tyranny (LR:109).

Rutherford’s sensitivity to the nuances of Hebrew grammar and vocabulary is striking. He is aware that the term mishpat covers a variety of meanings, including “judgment”, “manner”, and “law”. In the mishpat hammelek of First Samuel 8, Rutherford follows Buchanan, seeing Scripture as speaking of the empirical “manner” of the monarch rather than as a divine donation of royal prerogatives to which the monarch may justly claim a right, and gleefully points out the royalists’ apparent insensitivity to Scriptural context (LR:8, 73ff.). Other examples from the historical books provide evidence that resistance to unlawful decrees also took place in the Israelite theocracy, including the people’s refusal to kill Jonathan for breaking Saul’s rash injunction (LR:208); David’s maintenance of an army apart from Saul’s (LR: 167); and the anointing of monarchs by the people as well as by prophets and priests (LR:11). The flow of biblical history and prophecy show more the judgment of God against the wicked rulers (and people) of ancient times than any supposed “blessings” offered by prerogative-seeking monarchs (LR:211 ff.).

(E). The Fifth Commandment and the Divine Ends of Government

Early modern thinkers found the ius divino a warrant for government in the fifth commandment, Honor thy father and mother (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16). This derivation of civil from parental authority was by no means rare or unique to British Puritanism. Scriptural descriptions of rulers as “nursing fathers” and the easy juxtaposition of admonitions to children, parents, slaves, and masters in the Pauline letters led the Reformed divines to see the fifth commandment as covering all relations between those holding authority and those under it. Before Rutherford, the Heidelberg Catechism makes a similar point about the fifth commandment, as does the Swiss theologian Johannes Wollebius (d. 1629--Beardslee 1977:230ff.). It is also behind the common theological position that magistrates and princes were to be obeyed by the common people. Rutherford stands in this tradition of thought. The comparison of family and civil government arises in the second section of _Lex Rex_, where Rutherford argues that family government is the precise point where it is seen that civil society is natural. He defends democratic and aristocratic polities as acting within the meaning of the fifth commandment in their selection of magistrates (LR:5).

But Rutherford, in Question XV of _Lex Rex_, treats the analogy between civil and paternal rule in detail, arguing that it is an analogy only, and not a formal and essential identification of the two types of authority. The analogy lies in that just as fathers protect and nurture their children, so do rulers protect and nurture the public. But differences between paternal and civil power are found in that fathers remain fathers even if insane or criminal for as long as their children live, since their paternal position is purely natural; while the laws of most states permit the removal of kings and magistrates for such deficiencies, since their power is by the suffrage of the people. The Scottish divine happily notes that even such royalists as Arnisaeus, Grotius, and Barclay permit the deposition of the monarch should he sell his subjects or violate the express conditions to which he consented when enthroned.

Rutherford also holds that magistrates and leaders other than kings are also, by analogy, fathers, and that the obedience to them is also covered by the fifth commandment. By the same token, Rutherford observes from First Corinthians 4:15 that pastors are also fathers, yet may still be cast out of the church should they “turn wolf” and damage the flock by heretical doctrine or scandal. Similarly, the Scriptures also speak of tyrannous judges as leopards and wolves, but this does not mean they are essentially and formally such.

Question XV of Lex Rex also involves a discussion of Adam’s paternity and the nature of his authority over primitive mankind. While confessing Adam’s paternity over the entire human race, he denies that this implies the monarchial rights of the sort Filmer defended in Patriarcha, anticipating certain arguments Locke sets forth in the First Treatise:

But I do not believe that, as royalists say, the kingly power is essentially
and univocally that same with a paternal or fatherly power; or that Adam, as a
father, was a father and a king; and that suppose Adam should live in Noah’s
days, that by divine institution and without consent of the kingdoms and
communities on earth, Adam hoc ipso , and for no other reason but because he
was a father, should also be the universal king, and monarch of the whole
world; or suppose Adam was living to this day, that all kings that hath been
since, and now are, held their crowns of him, and had no more kingly power
than inferior judges in Scotland have, under our sovereign king Charles, for
so all hath been, and now are, lawful kings, should be unjust usurpers; for if
fatherly power be the first and native power of commanding, it is against
nature that a monarch who is not my father by generation, should take that
power from me, and be a king over me and my children (LR:62).

Two important differences between royal and paternal power lie in the latter being natural and universal, applicable even if Adam had not sinned; while the former, along with other forms of civil power, arises only after Adam’s fall into sin, and involves the power of the sword mentioned in Romans 13. Rutherford argues that had God given Adam power to kill Cain for the murder of Abel, this would have been a donation separate from his paternal position. This is because had Adam remained in the state of innocency, his posterity would not have known sin and violence, and hence would have no need of the sword-wielding magistrate. Rutherford remains very much in the Augustinian tradition of viewing the power of the sword and lawful war as given to men in the state of sin.

Rutherford also finds warrant in Genesis that magistracy and the power of the sword may exist apart from royal dominion. To Maxwell’s contention that the institution of the death penalty for murder in Genesis 9 indicates that Noah was a king, Rutherford argues that a line of distinguished commentators from Eusebius, Jerome, and Augustine down to Jean Calvin find no king in Scripture prior to Nimrod (Gn. 10:8-12), the grandson of Ham whose story is part of that of the post-deluvian repopulation of the earth, and, according to a strict reading of the numbers in the patriarchal narrative, may have begun to reign as king over Nineveh while Noah was yet alive (LR:27-28). This shows both that the power of the sword implicit in the post-deluvian institution of the death penalty implies only government per se, and that neither patriarchal right and position provide the foundation of monarchy.

Although most modern (and post-modern) Americans are raised to see in Puritanism a harsh and authoritarian system, Rutherford and his contemporaries were scrupulous in affirming that rulers, parents, and masters are quite as capable of violating the fifth commandment as citizens, children, and servants. The Westminster Assembly, which Rutherford attended as a Scottish commissioner, set forth in its Larger Catechism a listing of the sins of superiors nearly twice as long as its listing of the sins against which it warns inferiors (1647:QA 123-133). This represents a sensitivity to the divine purpose expressed in the commandment itself as well as in the midrash offered in such passages as Ephesians 6, namely, that the commandment is offered to preserve the life of the obedient rather than as a warrant for superiors to destroy their inferiors.

(F) The Political Covenant and the role of the Lesser Magistrate

That the theology which Rutherford inherited from his tradition had long been accustomed to describing God’s relationship with man in terms of a covenant, or legal framework, greatly helped the Scottish divine in the task of discovering the lawful limits of the ruler’s power. The chief difference between Buchanan’s and Rutherford’s understanding of the political compact and the political supremacy of law is that Rutherford is the beneficiary of somewhat more time during which his community reflected on themes which Buchanan and the French Huguenots set forth. During the five decades between the death of Buchanan and the signing of the Scottish National Covenant, the covenantal themes present in Zwingli, Bullinger, and other early reformers had been worked out into a developed system of doctrine, which came to influence the way members of the Reformed communion understood their place as members of political society.

While governments are made by the people entering into a contract, Rutherford does not allow all natural or divine right to be surrendered in toto to the sovereign. Retention of rights by the people and lesser magistrates is the means whereby the arbitrary exercise of royal power is checked, and the monarch subjected to civil penalties should he violate the political covenant (LR:78ff.). The political compact also involves analogies with the covenant between God and man:

And this is clear by all covenants in the word of God: even the covenant
between God and man is in like manner mutual,--”I will be your God, and ye
shall be my people.” This covenant is so mutual, that if the people break the
covenant, God is loosed from his part of the covenant, Zech. xi. 10. The
covenant giveth to the believer a sort of action of law, and jus quoddam, to
plead with God in respect of his fidelity to stand to that covenant that
bindeth him by reason of his fidelity...and far more a covenant giveth ground
of a civil action and claim to a people and the free estates against a king,
seduced by wicked counsel to make war against the land, whereas he did swear by
the most high God, that he should be a father and protector of the church of
God (LR:54).

The elements of the covenant include legal stipulations binding the various parties, mutual obligation, the right to plead according to the stipulations of the covenant, and most importantly, a solemn religious oath. In Rutherford’s context, the oath in question is the king’s coronation oath, which Rutherford and other Scots believed perjured when Charles I attempted to impose the episcopal service book on Scotland, waged war against the Estates of the two British kingdoms, and left off his punitive campaigns against Irish rebels who were massacring Protestant settlers in Ireland, many of whom were Scots (LR: 158, 161, 165).

The coronation oath renders the king a vassal to both God and the state (LR: 201). To the objection of Arnisaeus that only God may punish the king, Rutherford replies that the same logic would hold that a similar immediate divine action is necessary for the removal of a scandalous clergyman, or that the husbandman is unnecessary for God to make a vineyard fruitful. Rutherford does not elaborate on the removal of the scandalous clergyman, but it is certain that he was thinking of the Presbyterian congregation’s right to petition presbytery for investigation and action in such a case.

Examples from the life of the Israelite monarchy are of great importance to Rutherford’s argument. He observes that anointing alone did not suffice to make kings of Saul and David, for the monarchs also covenanted with the elders of Israel, understood as representatives of the people, at Mizpeh and Hebron respectively (LR:8-9). He also reduces the arguments of royalists such as Barclay, Ferne, and Arnisaeus to absurdity by pointing to the covenant made between Jehoiada and the people to serve God and destroy the idols of Ba’al (II Kings 11), which, by the royalists’ logic, would oblige only the king of Judah to maintain the true religion, and not his people (LR:55).

Rutherford thus provides a good example of why Elazar and others are correct in pointing to a connection between covenant theology and 17th century theories of public law. The Reformed saw the divine covenant as a legal framework through which God dealt with man, covering not only the duty of man and the penalties involved in its dereliction, but also explaining the redemptive work of Christ in terms of the restoration of a broken covenant, and the sacraments as signs and seals of this covenant. Rutherford calls attention to a pre-existing legal framework by which the monarch rules, and which binds him both to his subjects and God. As a fallen, human subject of God, the monarch is not free from penalty should he violate the covenant made with the other parties of the community, namely, the people and God. The protection and strengthening of the legal limits on power which keep the monarch within the bounds of the covenant thus became, for the embattled Scots Presbyterians, the central political concern.

A central concept in both the theological covenantalism and the political thought of the era involves the public person. In the political and juristic language of the 17th century, public persons included all empowered to represent and act on behalf of a wider group. The Reformed theologians habitually spoke of Jesus Christ as the Mediator of the covenant of grace, representing all the elect before God the Father, and thus acting as the ultimate “public person”. The use of the language of anointing used in Scripture for the prophets, priests, and kings of the Old Testament and for Jesus Christ himself is applied to rulers and magistrates by the early modern writers because, as heirs of a millennium of Christendom, they call on powerholders to model and typify Christ. But, by the same token, this Christocentric covenantalism may be one reason why Rutherford reserves the right of royal birth to only Jesus Christ. Other kings rule only conditionally, on the sufferance of the people. While censure and the sword to punish evildoers are communicable to men, the headship of Christ is communicable to “no created shoulders”(LR:211). The fiduciary power kings receive from God is always limited by the divine will as revealed in Scripture, and by the covenant made with the people and/or their representatives.

In Question XX of Lex Rex, Rutherford also uses the language of public persons. He agrees with his royalist opponents that the monarch is a “public person” representing the whole community. But he and other monarchomach thinkers differ with the royalists in that they see a divine anointing of lesser magistrates as public persons as well. Charged with modeling Christ no less than the king, lesser magistrates have the call to defend the community and subdue its enemies (language used in the Westminster Catechisms of Christ in his kingly office), including, if necessary, the king should he become a danger to the community.

In discussing lesser magistrates and their role in the organization of the political community, Rutherford points towards the separation of powers which would find its ultimate expression in American constitutionalism. Against the royalists, he notes that the cities of both England and Scotland selected magistrates who were not necessarily the creatures of the monarch, and that judges sometimes rule against the king in disputes between the king and private parties (LR:168). Parliament is also an independent center of power. That it deposed Mary of Guise, accepted the Reformation and promulgated the Confession of 1560, and tried Mary Stuart for the murder of Henry Darnley clearly point to its independent responsibility for upholding the law of Scotland (LR:217-20). As “public persons” enjoying a divine commission to discourage evil, lesser magistrates may lead the commons in revolt against a king who has violated the covenant joining him to his people. This justifies the war of the Scottish estates and English Parliament against their king (LR:187ff.), especially since Charles’ attempt to impose alien ecclesiastical usages on the Scottish church and destroy the traditional constitutions of the two kingdoms represents a violation of the covenant implied in the coronation oath.

Failure to protect the people--including their religion, which in Scotland’s case meant Presbyterianism--means that rebellion against the king and his removal is permissible under certain conditions. In this, one may safely guess that the attempt of Charles I to impose alien forms on the Scots lay uppermost in Rutherford’s mind when he raised the issue of Saul’s rashness. Questions XXVII-XXXVII of Lex Rex consist of a long argument for the people’s right of self defense against their ruler, including an appeal to the natural right of self-defense, applying it to the commonwealths of Scotland and England in their struggle with the throne.

Although Smart is correct in seeing Rutherford’s and other Covenanter arguments for resistance as based on Scripture and reason (1980:186--perhaps Scripturally informed reason might be a more accurate description), historical precedent also informs _Lex Rex_, albeit in a smaller way than in present in George Buchanan’s _De Iure Regni_ or François Hotman’s _Francogallia_. In Question XLIII of _Lex Rex_, Rutherford denies the assertion of James VI/I in _Basilicon Doron_ that Fergus I conquered Scotland, but quotes Buchanan to the effect that the early Scottish kings convened and consulted with parliaments--although much of Buchanan’s _Historia_, which Rutherford uses, includes much purely legendary and mythical material concerning Scottish monarchs in pre-Christian times. But Rutherford is on firm ground in noting that the estates of Scotland exercised real power during the period between the Reformation and his own era.

G) Theology, Theocracy, and Constitutionalism

Many of the ideas of later contractarian liberal constitutionalism are present in Rutherford and his fellow Reformed monarchomachs. The view of government as a compact between ruler and ruled, the political supremacy of public law, and the consent of the governed are present a generation before Locke--and Rutherford's own authorities stretch the roots of these ideals even further back in history. Rutherford’s view of lesser magistrates and the estates as representing the people harks both backwards to the federal principle of Covenantal theology and to the theory of government enshrined in later British and American constitutionalisms. At the same time, the authorities whom Rutherford cites, his commonplaces, his method of argument, all harken back to far older models, supporting Antony Black’s contention that political republicanism (and constitutionalism) can be expressed as easily in a Christian as in an enlightenment idiom.

If many features of Rutherford’s crowned constitutionalism anticipate Locke, they differ from post-enlightenment liberalism in that Rutherford and his coreligionists thought in terms of a world subject to divine authority revealed in Scripture, not in terms of the autonomous human person. Here, perhaps, is the key difference between the constitutionalism of the Calvinists and that of the enlightenment liberal. The liberty which the Reformed monarchomachs sought was not an end in itself, but an instrument whereby the Reformed faith might be freely preached and practiced, and man liberated to serve, glorify, and enjoy his creator. The Reformed believer saw liberty as the liberty to do good, as defined by divine law, not as liberty to define his own standards and goals. Rutherford’s use of the language of natural liberty represents no retreat from the divine sovereignty affirmed by his church. In _Lex Rex_, liberty is not opposed to either God, government per se, or obligation, but to the prerogative of rulers set forth by Maxwell, Arnisaeus, and other theorists of royal absolutism. Rutherford does not question God’s ownership of His human creatures, but denies that any human power holder possesses such a God-like mastery over his fellow men. Rutherford’s argument with the royalists does not take place on the high plane of a discussion of the nature of God, but on the very mundane one of balancing the prerogatives of the ruler with those of the people.

Covenantalism, which many have identified as the key theological doctrine informing Reformed exaltation of law as a political institution, was itself the result of the careful attention which the Reformed theologians paid to Scripture. It was part of the same ad fontes project which led to the rejection of an episcopate well over a millennium old, the church calendar, liturgical art, clerical vestments, and numerous other traditions. In Rutherford and other Reformed writers, sensitivity to a legal framework through which God governs His human creatures led to an awareness that neither liberty nor power can be an end in itself, but must always relate to a host of obligations and responsibilities to God and fellow men, who may be superiors, equals, or inferiors. If the Puritans were killjoys to 17th century fops and singers of bawdy ballads, they were also killjoys to monarchs who sought to replace ancient laws and local liberties with personal prerogative.

The Calvinist Scripture, understood as the voice of God the Holy Spirit, did not offer a blank check to earthly power holders, including the ministers and ruling elders who sat in presbytery. The Scriptural examples to which royalists appealed were checked against Scriptural precepts which taught that power was a divine trust held for the preservation of man and society rather than the grandeur and majesty of fathers, masters, magistrates, and kings. Scriptural example, as Rutherford’s reading of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles shows, could also take with one hand what it seemingly granted to the royalists with the other. In addition, the Reformed mistrust of fallen human nature rendered careful attention to the revealed Word of God all the more important, since acceptance of merely human tradition in both church and state had fostered the growth of numerous abuses which required reform. Divine precept which enjoins honor and respect from inferiors turns out to cut in two directions, demanding that superiors behave justly towards those over whom they have charge. In the end, government is a system of limits, not least of which are the limits to which governors themselves submit.


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