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Is U.S. Now On Slippery Slope To Tyranny?

 

By THOMAS SOWELL
Posted 06:13 PM ET

When Adolf Hitler was building up the Nazi movement in the 1920s, leading up to his taking power in the 1930s, he deliberately sought to activate people who did not normally pay much attention to politics.

Such people were a valuable addition to his political base, since they were particularly susceptible to Hitler’s rhetoric and had far less basis for questioning his assumptions or his conclusions.

“Useful idiots” was the term supposedly coined by V.I. Lenin to describe similarly unthinking supporters of his dictatorship in the Soviet Union.

Put differently, a democracy needs informed citizens if it is to thrive, or ultimately even survive.

In our times, American democracy is being dismantled, piece by piece, before our very eyes by the current administration in Washington, and few people seem to be concerned about it.

The president’s poll numbers are going down because increasing numbers of people disagree with particular policies of his, but the damage being done to the fundamental structure of this nation goes far beyond particular counterproductive policies.

Just where in the Constitution of the United States does it say that a president has the authority to extract vast sums of money from a private enterprise and distribute it as he sees fit to whomever he deems worthy of compensation? Nowhere.

And yet that is precisely what is happening with a $20 billion fund to be provided by BP to compensate people harmed by their oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Many among the public and in the media may think that the issue is simply whether BP’s oil spill has damaged many people, who ought to be compensated.

But our government is supposed to be “a government of laws and not of men.”

If our laws and our institutions determine that BP ought to pay $20 billion — or $50 billion or $100 billion — then so be it.

But the Constitution says that private property is not to be confiscated by the government without “due process of law.”

Technically, it has not been confiscated by Barack Obama, but that is a distinction without a difference.

With vastly expanded powers of government available at the discretion of politicians and bureaucrats, private individuals and organizations can be forced into accepting the imposition of powers that were never granted to the government by the Constitution.

If you believe that the end justifies the means, then you don’t believe in constitutional government.

And, without constitutional government, freedom cannot endure. There will always be a “crisis” — which, as the president’s chief of staff has said, cannot be allowed to “go to waste” as an opportunity to expand the government’s power.

That power will of course not be confined to BP or to the particular period of crisis that gave rise to the use of that power, much less to the particular issues.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt arbitrarily took the United States off the gold standard, he cited a law passed during the First World War to prevent trading with the country’s wartime enemies. But there was no war when FDR ended the gold standard’s restrictions on the printing of money.

At about the same time, during the worldwide Great Depression, the German Reichstag passed a law “for the relief of the German people.”

That law gave Hitler dictatorial powers that were used for things going far beyond the relief of the German people — indeed, powers that ultimately brought a rain of destruction down on the German people and on others.

If the agreement with BP was an isolated event, perhaps we might hope that it would not be a precedent. But there is nothing isolated about it.

The man appointed by President Obama to dispense BP’s money as the administration sees fit, to whomever it sees fit, is only the latest in a long line of presidentially appointed “czars” controlling different parts of the economy, without even having to be confirmed by the Senate, as Cabinet members are.

Those who cannot see beyond the immediate events to the issues of arbitrary power — vs. the rule of law and the preservation of freedom — are the “useful idiots” of our time. But useful to whom?

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Why I fled Facebook

On April 27, 2010 I declared my Independence from Facebook.  I have broken ranks from the masses and ran for the exit, though I fear it may have been in vain and I fully expect to hear, ‘Relax, we are programmed to receive. You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!’  [1] 

“Why” seems to be the question Inquiring Minds want to know.  Why bail out on such a good thing.  To answer that I have to confess that I am not wired like other people, and I may be a little too, Fox Mulder-ish.  Where others see Facebook as innocuous and something good, pointing to the old friends and classmates that it allows one to reconnect with, I see it as more insidious where way too much information is being collected and the collected information is being used to mold an experience.  That is social engineering and a type behavioral modification.  When the machine dictates what you see then it can influence how you think.  In my mind that is dangerous.

Why did I choose April 27th?  This was a day of convergence turned divergence for me.  I had already been toying with the idea of leaving FB for a number of personal reasons but then there were two articles, a change to FB that confirmed one of the articles and one posting in particular that convinced me it was time to go. 

From one of the articles (http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/04/27/tom-helou-internet-cybersecurity-al-qaeda-password-google/ ) there is a heads up regarding corporate security and privacy issues.  In part it says, “As the global recession drags on, sensitive information only becomes more valuable – and more vulnerable. Former employees, upset over a recent layoff in these hard economic times, have insider information that can be used to access company networks and obtain corporate data. Depending on how big their axe to grind is, now it’s all too easy for the disgruntled former staffers to plaster sensitive intelligence all over the cyber-world.”[2]   Now the phrase that pays in this article is “more valuable and more vulnerable.”  Anywhere there is the lure or temptation for making $$$ there is the possibility for corporate hanky-panky and industrial espionage.  This article also talks about last month’s attack on Google where their source code was hacked. Again the article points out, “Consumer records can be left uncovered in the process of a breach, and the virtual identities of millions are left for the taking. In 2008 alone, 285 million consumer records – or nearly one per American – were compromised.”[3]  So the problem is both real and imminent.  I realize that is true of all sites that gather personal information on its users.  So why do I worry about FB so?

Glad you asked.  Now as most of you know I am a conservative and I never in my wildest dreams ever, never thought that I would be on the same side of an issue with Sen. Chuck Schumer… but here I am.  Today, the 28th I ran across this article and find I am in league with the Senator and others as, “Senators ask Facebook to alter feature that shares info.”    The lead  for this story begins, “Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg‘s latest vision of making the social-networking giant more visible on the Internet may resonate with marketers, but not all of its 400 million members are sure.”  What that means is FB, in order to make more money for themselves, and create a personalized internet experience for you, will now be, ”involved intermingling your life as a Facebook user with other activities around the Internet.”[4]  In other words they are going to make your information available to other websites that you visit so that when you visit these other sites you get a page that has been customized to your personality based on your FB information . 

Now Facebook has already been doing this.  You know all those ads on the right hand side of the page?  They all have the like button with the thumbs-up in the lower left and the “x” in the upper right.  If you like the ad and give it a thumbs up you  will see more of the same type and category of ads.  If you click on the “x” then you see less of those.  I remember when they started using that information to customize the in house ads that we saw.  In a way I am thankful for the machine’s use of that information because I remember how ugly it was when the ad would pop up for unwanted hair removal  accompanied by the gal with the Sasquatch pits. I probably should have ran screaming from FB back then… but I stayed.  FB has now evolved to the point that it leads instead of following.  It is now powerful enough to dictate what it will do and how it will do it.  This is seen as a boon to the movers and the shakers and all the marketing types.  Cha-Ching!  I see this as social engineering, corporate manipulation and behavorial modification that is beyond my ability to control.  To my way of thinking this level of manipulation is dangerous and borders on brainwashing.   Of course we have been under such attacks since the first marketing ad that was ever put on a shingle and hung outside a business.  It has now taken on the sophistication of fine art and we just fall in line and get in step.

Then there was the app that sent me over the edge.  FB is full of all these “Fun” questionaires.  This is where FB seems to take on a darker air.  Take a look at the questions.  They are very generic it seems but if you look at those questions you see a profile developing.  The FBI could not do any better at gleaning information in a full on interview as people give up willingly in these questionnaires.  Now let’s go all hypothetical shall we.  Person “A” fills out several of these funzie questionnaires.  Putting all of their personal info on them: age, gender, likes, dislikes, wants, desires, traits they admire in others, types of people they like… you know the spiel.   Along comes person “B”, a friend of a friend.  Now “B” is a creeper, a stalker type.  They read about “A” and since “B” is well versed in manipulation they soon strike up a conversation with “A” and using all the information that was freely and willingly supplied by “A”, “B” soon gets into the confidence of “A” and from there the games begin.  Maybe “A” becomes a missing person not long thereafter?  Who knows… that is a hypothetical postulation but the information that is so freely shared with others is real and is forever in memory in cache somewhere. 

Now look at your info tab on your profile page.  What can we learn about you?  Lets see: age, gender, education, likes, hobbies, music, movies, relationships, books you read, email, websites, your political and religious affiliations.  This is the info that FB is opening up to other sites you visit so that they can “customize” your experience.  Maybe it’s just me but I remember that Michael Crichton techno-western Yule Brenner played in, Westworld  “Boy have we got a vacation for you… where nothing can go wrong!” [5]

I am at a transition point in my life right now and it seemed a good time to escape the assylum.  Arkham was getting crowded and I needed to work on other endevors, including this blog.  I am on the mend physically, and mentally and emotionally I have excised some demons from my past that have haunted me for years.  It is time to start some reconstruction amidst all the deconstruction that I have been doing here lately regarding my worldview.  I also have to devote more time to preparing myself to go back to work.  So here at this cross-road I choose to take the road less traveled.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost[6]

I may yet return but not right now.


[1] http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/eagles/hotelcalifornia.html

[2] http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/04/27/tom-helou-internet-cybersecurity-al-qaeda-password-google/

[3] Ibid

[4] How to Take Control of Facebook Privacy, http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/04/27/control-facebook-privacy/

[5] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070909/combined

[6] http://poemhunter.com/best-poems/robert-frost/the-road-not-taken/

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“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

This arose as a quotation by John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902). The historian and moralist, who was otherwise known simply as Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887: (1)

Lord Acton took a great interest in America, considering its Federal structure the perfect guarantor of individual liberties. During the American Civil War, his sympathies lay entirely with the Confederacy, for their defense of States’ Rights against a centralized government that, by all historical precedent, would inevitably turn tyrannical. His notes to Gladstone on the subject helped sway many in the British government to sympathize with the South. After the South’s surrender, he wrote to Robert E. Lee that “I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo.” (2)

In 1870 came the great crisis in Roman Catholicism over Pope Pius IX’s promulgation of the doctrine of papal infallibility. Lord Acton, who was in complete sympathy on this subject with Döllinger, went to Rome in order to throw all his influence against it, but the step he so much dreaded was not to be averted. The Old Catholic separation followed, but Acton did not personally join the seceders, and the authorities prudently refrained from forcing the hands of so competent and influential an English layman. It was in this context that, in a letter he wrote to scholar and ecclesiastic Mandell Creighton, dated April 1887, Acton made his most famous pronouncement:

“I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” (3)

_______________________________________________

I apologize for the history lesson but I felt is was necessary to lay a foundation for the argument I stated in the title. In this history of Lord Acton’s dictum we see that he makes application both in the political realm and the religious. Given today’s socio-political climate I could just as easily argue from the political angle showing the relevance of his statement to 2010 America, but I would rather persue my own leanings and follow the Religious path.

We see that Lord Acton himself made a stand against the corruption in religion that results from an unhealthy accumulation of power. In Lord Acton’s day it was a stand against the man-made notion of papal infallibility. Here today I wish to take a similar stand against a parallel crisis. Whereas the Roman Catholic system has a centralized Pope which Lord Acton recused for such a power grab as papal infallibility, I wish to make the same accusation against modern Christianity where the Local Pastor is infact a defacto local pope. Unlike Acton I will step over the Theological line and call into question the Protestant (and Baptist… for those Landmark folks who claim the Baptists were never protestants) use of the leftover Clergy/Laity system that came over from Roman Catholicism and whether such a system can be defended biblically.

My premise is that any man who is given authority over others will, if left unchecked, make full use of that authority for both personal gain and personal power. The amount of corruption by this person will ultimately be decided by the amount of power that is available. As Lord Acton says, “Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority.”

In modern Christianity most church congregations are based on a simple design. The authority is vested in the persons of the (so called) clergy, usually at the consent of, or at least the tacit agreement of the (so called) laity. This Catholic Idea of Clergy/Laity came from the teachings of Ignatius, Irenaeus, Cyprias, and Augustine who created and promoted the whole “Christian” class/ caste system. While not addressing the theological issues of this problem Lord Acton actually does a marvelous job of attacking just such a system, “There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” As true today as when Acton said it.

In Ephesians 4: 11-16 it says, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

In this passage we do not see offices to be filled but gifts that are given to “equip the saints for the work of ministry…”

Yet, by and large, most “churches” see the gifts as offices and positions to be filled. This idea of ecclesiastical offices would have been reinforced in the King James translation of Scripture especially since, thanks to Henry the VIII in 1534, the English monarch was also the head of the English church. The translators would be sure to frame their wording to reflect the offices of the church in deference to their King. Therefore, we see that the offices of the clergy were firmly established in a translation that was Authorized by a political ruler who was also head of the English Church at the time. This is the beginning of the protestant veneration of the person who holds the office rather than the service and the doing of ministry by the gifts given to the body of believers. This kills the spirit of service and produces professional “office holders” that I refer to as hired guns.

“There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” This has become a real problem in the churches of America today. Most churches today have a “pastor” who oversees the entire opperation, and there may be a deacon board that is either working with the pastor or against him… either way it is doubtful that either “office” is operating biblically. With the advent of the Professional Clergy there has been a rise in the cult of personality as well. The Professional is seen in a light that is clearly not biblical and we see that wheather by “influence” or by acquired “authority” these men rise to prominence. Even the small rural churches are patterened after this and the pastor is looked on as a man of authority over the congregation. And there is the rub.

The man holding the office is elevated above all the rest and his position is considered more sancitfied, more holy, and more powerful simply because of the office. This is heady stuff even for the best of men to guard against. The drug of power is very seductive and there are few men who do not succumb to it’s influence. At some point men holding these offices begin to believe in their own positions and begin to use both the assumed authority that the office brings and the power and influence it affords, for their own purposes. The Christian world is replete with tales of those who have abused their (so called)”offices” just as often and just as wickedly as any of the pedophile Priests in the Catholic church. That is the problem, the office creates a caste system where the Clergy is the ruling caste and the Laity is the subordinate serving caste reinforcing the political framework in the religious setting. At best men succumb to the evil over time; at worst men of poor character seek the office for the very reason we are discussing, to acquire power. Once the seduction with power begins the level of corruption will be commensurate with the level of power that is available.

Is there a cure? I believe that there is but it is so radical I doubt very seriously it would ever be adopted. The first step would be, to do away with the professional Clergy. Practically speaking this will never happen. The established Clergy and the pattern for their existence is too powerful. Never, of their own free will, would any of the professional “pastors” ever give up their position of power.  Even the meanest paid rural “pastor” would not willingly give up “his power” over even the smallest group of people. It is not about the money, heaven knows many, if not most, small congregations pay at or below the poverty level. No, it is about power to influence and control a group of people and mold their worldviews.(This is the danger of the passive approach to worship where a one-way conversation takes place.  The only view allowed in these meetings is the pastor’s.  This affords almost total control by the speaker to inject his own views as ‘god breathed’.  Whatever the “anointed”, “man of god” says while behind the “sacred desk” will be seen as, and accepted as, the “word of God”.) That is an especially strong allure for men of lesser character who are drawn to such positions. I have no doubt that there are good men who are trying to do what is right in these positions and I commend them and pray for them but the position itself is the enabler, the seductress; and even the best of men will, sooner or later, succumb to the temptation of power. We see a picture of this in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings Trillogy”.   As a Ring Bearer, Frodo Baggins had an awful burden to carry yet, even he failed in the end and succumbed to the power of the ring; unable to destroy it he claimed it for himself.  The thread through-out the tale is about power, the use and the abuse of it.  Many who would have taken the ring would have done so out of a nobel purpose but would have been corrupted by it’s power and their corruption would (like Sauron) only be limited by the (unlimited) power of the ring.

1. http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/288200.html
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dalberg-Acton,_1st_Baron_Acton
3. Ibid.

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Has anyone viewed the alter call as a typical cult trick?

What other “traditional” IFB routines are really mind/emotional control tactics?

Some of the answer is:

Altar calls are a modern manipulation started by Charles Finney in order to be able to make a head count so he would know how effective his manipulative techniques were. There is no “Altar” in a New Testament Church building. The Altar was where either an animal sacrifice was made or inscense was burned. There were no “Altar” calls practiced in the New Testiment Church until Finney started it. Finney did it solely to be able to get a head count of the “decisions” he had successfully brought about.
It has gotten harder to get people down to the “altar” so now all people are asked to do is raise their hands.

As for other mind control tricks, there is the whole range of rhetoric and falacious arguments from the pulpit, Ad Hominem, strawman arguments (here’s a list: http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html#hominem ) most pastors are either religious Sophists or ignorant and unlearned men glorying in their ignorance and lack of education.

One of my favorite tricks is the pregnant pause…… and if the “preacher” does not get an immediate “Amen” or “Preach it Brother” then he will ask for one. And if he’s not getting enough “Amens” or “PIB’s” He will inject his own either with a “Amen?” or a “Now that’ll preach…” or “I don’t care if I am preaching, that deserves an ‘amen’!” These are subtle ways the “preacher” lets “his” congregation know that they need to appreciate his preaching more.

There is always the Immaculate Message announcement as the “self-anointed man of god” mounts the pulpit and stands behind the “sacred desk” and tells what an awful time he has had getting peace about what to preach, when all of a sudden that beautiful song by Sister Peaches Spandexburst  touched his heart and the Holy Spirit gave him the message. This sets up his message as god-breathed and prepares the audience to accept eveything he is about to say is infallable and directly from the throne of god. (kool-aide line forms on the right, bro Jim Jones will be serving today)

Can anyone think of some others?

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Raging against “Churchanity

Churchanity: the cult like practice of attending “church” three times a week merely to sing six congregational songs, give a laundry list of wants, needs, whinings and problems to God, hear two “special” songs, take up an offering, and sit through three sermons (spoon-fed to the congregation so no-one has to think)… and feel like we have been good “Christians” and worshipped because of it. Yeah buddy, we do God such a favor don’t we? Ummm-hum, that will cause people to grow won’t it? Grrrrrr!

It grieves my very soul to think that this milk toast, anemic, anorexic practice we call “Church” has anything to do with Jesus Christ. Where did we come up with this idea that every service has to be a lecture? Does anyone study his or her Bible? In the Synagogue we see Jesus and Paul, the Scripture was read and then it was discussed… The modern abomination is for the hired gun to mount the pulpit and lecture to everyone for 30-45 minutes and get out in time to be first in line at the restaurant. Sometimes a passage of Scripture is read, and then never referenced again in the lecture. Many times Scripture or a passage is merely used as proof text to under gird the point the “professional” is trying to make from the pulpit. (taking text out of context)

Then there is the idea that there is a difference in “Preaching” and “Teaching” as if there is an either/or aspect to them. This idea that Preaching is for the pulpit and teaching is for the Sunday school room is pure bunk! Most preaching is the hired gun spoon-feeding (or bottle feeding) the flock. There is no opportunity to discuss the “message” or sermon. It is accepted that the hired gun is on a higher spiritual level and a better “Christian” so he is above questioning and his word is “directly from the throne of God.”

Additionally there is the, “all we need to know is right here in our 1611 King James Bible! The 1611 was good enough for Saint Paul…it’s good enough for me.” (I have actually heard that statement “preached” by some Independent, Fundamental, Baptist preacher on a local “christian” radio show.) Then scripture is interpreted in light of 2009 instead of the century in which it was written.

In conclusion, if that is all there is to Churchanity, and we are not growing, and being educated in the Church about church history (good and bad) about doctrinal soundness and the differences between essential and non-essential issues… then we deserve to be ridiculed as cult members following a myth religion.

So what do we do? How do we make the change? How do we touch a world that sees these issues in us (who claim to be Christians) better than we do ourselves? How do we make a difference? How do we break away from “Churchanity” and show the world around us the Jesus Christ who is revealed in Scripture? How do we throw off the traditionalism of Churchanity and be true followers of Jesus Christ?   I don’t want mediocre churchanity any longer, I want a radical world changing fellowship with fellow believers in Christ who are living Philippians 1:27-28, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.”

It is a sad commentary that we look on the pews of our modern day churches as a “mission field”, which speaks volumes to our misconception of the Biblical Church mandate. We have watered down the Gospel to the point our churches are filled with lost people… who think they are saved… only to occasionally find out they aren’t. Modern Evangelistic methods have us inviting the lost to come to church where they will get under the sound of the hired gun [i.e. Professional Preacher] and get saved. We present such a weak anemic, anorexic version of the Gospel that everybody is saved… just ask him or her. That begs another question,  “Why do we think we have to make the gospel presentation so over simplified?”  Jesus never made it easy… look at how he addressed Nicodemus, or the rich young ruler. So the result is our churches are full of posers and wanna-be’s that are living a lie… I know I was one.
So where did we get this idea that three sermons or lectures a week constitutes going to “Church?
I may offend everyone but this idea that Church is just a lecture series doesn’t add up. More and more it seems that the lectures are the requirement for giving the pastor a paycheck. Or the other side of that coin, we are paying the pastor to preach and we expect him to preach… we want the three sermons we are paying him for. How much learning takes place in a lecture? Facts can be given and ideas communicated, and truth can be told… but it is limited one-way conversation! How does a pastor feed the flock and take care of it if all there is… is a lecture? If the pastor cannot have conversation with the congregation and answer the “Why” questions to at least the second degree… How can the average pew sitter learn to give an answer for the hope that is in them?

When did “Church” become this one-way conversation?
Someone asked me about 1 Timothy 5:18 stating it is proof for freeing the pastor from “from worldly labor, that he may focus on his teaching ministry.” Paul went to great lengths to support himself in the ministry, so I’m not sure he was advocating for the paid “Professional” preacher. Especially in the IFB and IFBx movements there has been too much abuse of the paid Professional position. This creates a slippery slope that becomes a vocation. And when you have a small church what does the “Pastor” do with all that extra time on his hands???
But I digress…
… where do we get the idea from, that attending three sermons a week (the lecture series) constitutes feeding the flock (or going to Church)? How can there be learning and growth in one-way only conversation? Don’t get me wrong, I have not arrived, I do not know it all and I appreciate good expositional preaching (hard to find in the rusted buckle of the Bible Belt) and I appreciate godly men who are apt to preach/teach. I am just fed up with what passes for “church” these days. Where is the, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” That takes a hands-on approach and may include lecture… but is not left exclusively to lecture.

I’m still wrestling with this issue and I cannot reconcile what passes for modern day church and modern day Christianity with what I find in the Bible. And I realize it starts with me… I’m having a Jacob moment here wrestling with what is and what ought to be.

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http://www.stufffundieslike.com/

This blog is a humerous look at the cult of IFB-ism, a.k.a. Independent Fundamental Baptist.  The posts are so funny mostly because of their accuracy in portraying the excesses of a good ideal gone horribly wrong. 

So Sit back, relax and enjoy “Stuff Fundies Like

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Deconstructing Church (pt 1)

In my quest to find, “What is Church”, I have found that I have had to de-construct everything I thought I knew about Church. As I have looked to the Biblical blueprint for church and how we are to participate in church function I find the American Church model is woefully off track and has very little resemblance to the Church found in Scripture. (I know, that statement was a little “churchy”.) From the Brick and Mortar edifices that we have constructed, to the services, the lectures, the one man focus, the passive pew occupation, the authoritarian offices that man has imposed on the flock of God… every aspect of ‘church’ we see in America today is more traditionalism than it is biblical.

Let’s begin by looking at the “How we do Church” model. I realize that one of the most effective ways to teach a group is in using the lecture style, “I teach, You listen.” Massive amounts of information can be transmitted to the greatest number of people using this method. And there is a place for such teaching/learning. What has taken place in the American church is this has become the exclusive method for a “pastor” to use. This method has helped create a caste system in the body of Christ where it is no longer a gathering of equals but has become a showcase for the “anointed” (I have heard pastors referred to as “God’s anointed” and called “the man of God.” I will address this a little later) to stand, perform and be over other believers. Total control is placed in the person behind the lectern. There is no place for Hebrews 3:13, or Hebrews 10:23-25, or 1 Peter 4:9-11 in the “service” of the lecture ready congregation. Then somewhere along the way we have held the Epistles of Timothy and Titus apart as though the Scripture in these passages are only for the “anointed” or the “spiritual” or the “called…man of god” as if the teaching of these Epistles somehow created a special office, and a special class of Christian believer who is above all others. Mark 10:42-44, “But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.”

 At this point many will be ready to hammer me with Ephesians 4: 11, and if Ephesians 4:11 was a stand alone thought I would say, “Okay, you’re right” but it is not the main emphasis of that passage. The emphasis of that passage is not that Jesus Christ gave “some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,” to be offices of the church. No! He gave these as functions of the church in order to equip the body for service; “for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” Even the King James Version says, “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”. The “ministry” is not the functions given, but what each and every believer is to be engaged in and to be equipped to do. The function of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor/teacher is to equip the body of believers to minister the Gospel of Christ to a lost and dying world.      (more…)

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What is Church?

I have been struggling with this issue for several months now. Our congregation is currently without a Pastor (or Preaching elder) and one candidate we interviewed asked us, “Why do you exist, or why should the doors remain open at your building and not merge with another Bible-believing church?” That really started me to thinking and the only answer I could come up with, is, “If all we are, and are going to be, is another Independent Baptist Church in a sea already polluted with Independent Baptist Churches then we have no purpose and I cannot find justification for our continued existence.” I have wrestled with that question long and hard which naturally led me to the other question you have to ask, “What then IS Church?”

I know more about what it is ‘not’ right now, than what it is. It is not the bunker where “Christians” gather in order to “be ye separate” nor is it a place where we invite ‘sinners’ in so that that they might get under the “sound of the gospel” preached by the “man of God.”

First: The assembly of the saints of God is for their edification, exhortation, and a time to be built up in the faith through the word, fellowship and most of all worship of the one who is worthy, our Lord God Jesus Christ and God the Father thru whom, in whom and by whom all things exist. (a bit preachy but true). The Assembly is not to be made into the primary source of evangelism that it has become in so many American “Churches”.

Second: The “sound of the gospel” is such a cop-out. That is the mantra of lazy so-called Christians who have thrown off their primary roll as priests and ambassadors. Each and every one of us who name the name of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour are called to be witnesses and be ready to give to anyone who asks us, reason for the hope that is within us. To drag a lost person to “Church” so that they get under the “sound of the gospel” is nothing less than Roman Catholicism re-dressed in some other denominational camouflage. Every believer should be able to tell anyone who asks what we believe, why we believe it and tell what Jesus Christ had done for us. (Nowhere in scripture does it say we have to be “deal closers” as if we are part of some divine marketing campaign.)

Third: there is the whole “man of God” issue. Last time I checked everyone who is Born again is a Child of God and that makes us, men and women of God. The very idea of Clergy and Laity came out of Ignatius, Irenaeus, Cyprian, and Augustinian teachings that created the whole “Christian” class/ caste system.

I recently read, Jim Petersen’s “Church Without Walls.” there is much I learned in this book about what Church ought to be.  There is so much more that I will have to read, research and pray about but I know for myself I have already jettisoned the normal version of the American church, along with most of the pop-dispensationalism that comes with it. I have come to the conclusion that the pre-mil/pre-trib rapture theory is deadly to the health of a church, because it soon settles for becoming a bunker where everyone is content to merely “occupy” until Jesus comes. And then every disaster and calamity that makes the news is heralded as “you know we are living in the end days” and “it can’t be long now…” and many churches climb in the bunker and close the hatch… then the world around us no longer sees a people of God who have good news… but members of an increasingly irrelevant sub-culture.

The answer is out there…  so on I go…

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Independent, Fundamental, Baptist …..bunker-ism

For some time now I have been wrestling with several issues that are “Church” related and I have finally come to a few conclusions about where I stand on them.  Not long ago I asked everyone to comment on the words I posted: Independent, Fundamental, Baptist, and some others.  The answers I got back were about what I had expected.  Mostly negative.   My own thoughts on those terms and definitions were about the same.  The original definitions were not what they mean today.  I could mostly agree with R.A.Torrey and those old-timers on how they defined the terms back then, but what the movement has become today is poison to the soul.  The Independent, Fundamental Baptist has become synonymous with spiritual tyranny, and modern Pharisee-ism.  If you don’t look like us, walk like us, talk like us, listen to the same music we do, cut you hair like we do, believe in the end times like we do, and believe that the 1611 King James Bible is the only English version, and the only true version of the Bible… then you cannot be ‘right with God.’  To all this I say, “Horse feathers!” 

     Recently we had a group in at ‘church’ that showed us a glimpse of how “Church” ought to be.  There was praise music and hymns, which truly prepared our hearts for worship.  There was Scripture reading that pointed our minds in the direction of the message to come so that by the time we arrived at the message we were ready for the word of God.  The Exposition of God’s word was like going to Golden Corral after rooting around in Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard!

      The only thing that would have made it better would have been if the Scripture had been ESV, NKJV, or NASB.  The strict adherence to KJV, even if only to say it is the ‘preferred” version is to leave an anchor smack dab in the middle of the IFB harbor.   (Don’t get me wrong; I believe that the KJV is a beautiful English Translation of the Scriptures.  I grew up on the KJV but dogmatic adherence to the KJV is an unnecessary restriction of the Gospel message.)  It is not the KJV version I have issue with, it is the ignorant, militant, arrogance with which the KJV camp declares you cannot be “right with God” unless you only preach out of the KJV. Here is a link to a prime example of ignorant, militant, arrogant, anti-intellectualism:   http://amazinggracebaptistchurchkjv.com/Download99.html

Once you start down that slippery slope of legalism this is where you end up.  So, we need to get over our cultic adherence to the KJV as some, “you can’t be right with God unless you only use this bible,” standard.  Too many are making a Bible version out to be essential doctrine…  Again, to this I say, “Horse feathers!” Get over it.  I do agree with John Piper, make sure the Bible you use has all the words in it… so preach from a word-for-word translation not a thought-for-thought.  (But even then, to say one can’t be saved by reading God’s word as found in the NIV and others is poppycock! “Horse feathers” to that as well.)  God has used his word in many different translations to bring men, women and children from all tribes and tongues to repentance and saving Grace.

     Now most of this note has been to make a stand against the movement known as Independent, Fundamental Baptist. ” Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”  Luther said these words as he stood against what he knew to be error in doctrine and practice in the Church of his day.  I feel the same way regarding the way church is practiced in the IFB world.  The IFB model says anyone can preach so long as they “say” they are called to be a preacher; then go on to make  a major emphasis on the difference in the “pew” Christian and the full-time “man of God.”   There is a mystical veneration that is shown toward the “man of God” aka “God’s anointed“(Read Ephesians 4:8-16, the emphasis is not on the ‘gifts’ but on why the gifts were given and what they are to be used for) …and all the congregation is to be in submission to this super saint.  (horse feathers)

      Ok, let’s unpack all that.  For the most part the little Independent Baptist churches have a pastor that is usually, not formally trained in any of the disciplines (literature, language, grammar, leadership, logic or philosophy) that one would associate with the gifts of teaching. If they are trained it is at an IFB college where they are trained in the IFB way.  This model perpetuates an anti-intellectual mindset that is killing Christianity. All they  really require is the calling to “full-time” service.  (“Full-time service” in the IFB model means preaching is one’s chosen or ‘called to’ vocation.  i.e. a full time paycheck.) Last time I checked every believer is called to “full-time” Christian service. 

Which brings us to the IFB “man of God” myth.  Last time I checked if you are a born again Child of God then you are a “man (or woman) of God.”  The IFB Model creates a Christian Caste system where there are different classes of Christians.  Basically it is the IFB version of Roman Catholicism, only the pope is localized -vs.- the centralized version found in RC.  The Biblical model is that God has, “…gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Ephesians 4:11-14    Nowhere in the Scripture do we find some mystical anointing that creates a special Christian “Priesthood” apart from the general Ambassadorship and Priesthood all redeemed Saints of God are called to.  According to Scripture, all we who believe are Priests and Ambassadors of and for our God and His kingdom.  Some are gifted to be able to preach/teach, and some to sing, and some to help, and some to administrate but all to minister! 

What IFB bunker-ism leaves us with is a “one-man rule” model;  where the “anointed one of God” is not to be questioned (especially not from the congregation, ie.”Touch not god’s self anointed”).  Much like the Charismatics, while the “man of God” is behind the “sacred desk” his words are “God breathed.”  This in turn either leads to the “man of God” becoming a tyrant without accountability to anyone but God… or it leads to a power struggle in the church.  I have seen both.  Usually this leads to a split and more often than not those who leave will toss a rock down the street and wherever it lands… they start a new IFB Church (instead of finding an existing Church family to plug into.)   The biblical model for church rule is in multiple elders who have the gifts to lead, preach/teach (the pastor is required to be gifted to both proclaim and explain) and shepherd the congregation.  No one man should ever have the absolute power in a church… that leads to guys wearing sunglasses preparing you some special kool-aid.  It is the breeding ground for cult like practices that are killing Christianity in America. (Think Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggard, Jim Baker, Jack Hyles

So, having said all that, “what do I now do?”  I know that I am going to make a stand to purge all IFB practices my family is exposed to, wherever I find them.   I want to see radical Biblical Christianity in practice.  It is not to be found in the experiential form of church that is the mainstay of the IFB movement.  That is, where the people are looking for someone to preach ‘hard‘ to them, and step on their toes.  (In the IFB world this is the manifestation of “good” preaching, having one’s toes stepped on.)  Such experiential “churchanity” allows the hearer to rely solely on the experience and not have to read the Word of God and think about the word of God.  It is the ability to warm the pew, have the message spoon or bottle-fed to you, get burped and have a warm fuzzy about having gone to church that week.  The experiential ‘churchanity’ undermines the “Sufficiency of God’s Word.” 

I want to have to stretch for the message… I want to have to reach up and grasp the fruit of truth, not have it pre-chewed and regurgitated on me.  So, I am drawing a line in the sand and like Luther here I stand.  My family and I choose to follow the path of the Reformed Theology first, and then Baptist if it is available as reformed.  Sola scriptura – Sola fide – Sola gratia – Solo Christo – Soli Deo gloria

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One of the most deadly issues facing the church today is that of ignorance. In many churches here in the rusted buckle of the Bible belt one’s “godliness” is measured in direct proportion to one’s ignorance. This “doctrine” is taught based on a fallacious interpretation of Acts 4:16, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” An entire subculture has grown-up around the veneration of ignorance. All you have to know is Jesus and you don’t have to have any higher learning… (according to the proponents of Ignorant Christianity {IC} there is no higher learning than Jesus). [aside: I will agree with them there is no higher learning than Jesus… but the first and great commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This means you don’t continue in your ignorance wearing it as a badge of honor.  You cannot love someone you do not know and the more you know about all of God’s creation the more the ignorance melts away. ] In fact, to emphasize the unlearned and ignorant part of the passage takes away from the implicit awe that the rulers saw in Peter and John. Knowing that Peter and John were unlearned according to a formal education, the passage implies that they were offering a magnificent apologetic regarding the Christian faith to the academia and intelligentsia of that time. Yet we have men standing in the pulpits of Churches here in America, who declare their ignorance with arrogant pride as if that makes them more godly. When we get to heaven I don’t see these men standing before God, and the Lord saying, “Wow, you were really, really ignorant! Here is a “special” crown for you.” Remember: Ignorance is curable… stupidity is not.
Oh, and contrary to popular belief… education and faith are NOT mutually exclusive issues in the Christian’s life. Education does not kill faith… it kills blind faith, but not Godly, righteous, just, or saving faith. It enhances right faith because it reinforces reason, and in turn we are better able to articulate the reasons for the hope we have within us.

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