Don Ho dies

When I first saw this headline my intial thought was that it was another Imus story, a true confirmation of the media overkill the Imus/Rutgers story has become. How fitting that someone named “Don” and “Ho” should die at the end of this fiasco of a media feeding frenzy.

MSNBC: Don Ho dies

Calvin to the Rescue of a Culture in Crisis

Can a Calvinist make a serendipitous discovery?  Serendipity is “an unexpected and fortunate discovery.”  Certainly my discovery was unexpected, but I’d much rather credit it to sovereignty than fortune.

There is a small bookstore in Allen Park, Michigan that I frequent, not because the staff is exceptionally friendly (because they aren’t) but because they are the only bookstore (that I am aware of ) in all of Southeastern Michigan that carries a great theology/Puritan selection. While there to pick up a copy of Alistair Begg/Derek Prime’s book On Being a Pastor: Understanding Our Calling and Work I was browsing and happened upon Henry R. Van Til’s The Calvinistic Concept of Culture.  Forgive me, but I had never heard of Henry Van Til, but soon learned that he was the nephew of the better known Cornelius Van Til. Henry, as it happens, was a professor of Bible at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI for 15 years until his untimely death at the age of 55 in 1961, just two years after The Calvinistic Concept of Culture was published.

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. I bought this book soley on the basis of its cover – the title and the author.  I figure if I am going to host a program called The Center for the Study of God and Culture, it might not be a bad idea to explore the Calvinistic concept of culture. And am I ever glad I did.

The central theme boils down to this truth: the natural is as holy as the spiritual, and the work of the Father in creation is of equal significance with that of the Son in redemption. A Calvinistic view of culture is one that seeks the restoration of the law of God in every sphere of life: commerce, politics, church, home, et al.

The Reformers sought to overcome the dualism of Roman Catholicism, which separates the supernatural from the natural, in the words of Henry Van Til:

Christianity is (viewed as) something added pyramidically to the natural, but it does not enter life like a leaven to transform it.

The consequence of this view was a dichotomy between church and world: the church being the domain of the spiritual and the world being the domain of the profane or material, with neither being impacted by the other.

Along comes Calvin insisting on the influence of the word of God in “the whole of life,” not just the religious sphere.  Says Van Til,

Christ truly saved the world, including human culture. He injected new life, new blood, new vitality into the lifestream of humanity. Christ made men whole, he redeemed the cultural agents, thus transforming culture also. Moreover, the Protestant Reformation was the greatest revolution in human history since the introduction of Christianity. It too came at a time when culture was in crisis, and it gave Europe a new lease on life. And it was Calvinism that saved the Reformation, that made it effective in Western Europe and America. Calvinsim had the courage, over against both Armininianism and Catholicism, to maintain the consistent supernaturalism of the Christian Scriptures, that is, to confess Christianity in its purest form without compromise.

But cultural achievements do not in themselves restore man to his true end, point sout Van Til.

Men must become new creatures through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21) in order to regain the true human perspective of that which is true, good, and beautiful. Culture, then, may be either godless or godly, depending on the spirit which animates it…Culture is a must for God’s image-bearers, but it will either be a demonstration of faith or of apostasy, either a God-glorifying or a God-defying culture.

Culture is not merely civilization or refinement. Van Til defines culture as

the total human effort of subduing the earth together with its total achievement in fulfilling the creative will of God.

Culture, then, is any and all human effort and labor expended upon the cosmos, to unearth its treasures and its riches and bring them into the service of man for the enrichment of human existence unto the glory of God.

Our hope in the midst of our present cultural crises – both in the secular as well as in the sacred realm – is a resurgance of the Calvinistic committment to maintaining the supernaturalism of Scripture and to confess Christianity in its purest form, without worldly inducements and attachments, thus without compromise. All of life – our politics, our leisure, our work, our commerce, our media – must be utilized as leaven – infiltrating the culture and changing its very nature by our very existence as redeemed followers of Jesus Christ, enriching humanity through our service to mankind to the ultimate glory of God.

Imus Will Rise Again – May Already Have!

Al Sharpton says the other shoe has dropped on Don Imus.  The shoe belongs to the liberal black activists in this country and it didn’t drop on Imus.  It dropped on CBS and MSNBC.

Within weeks Don Imus will sign a multimillion dollar contract with Sirrius or XM, leaving CBS to figure out how it will recoup the ad revenue from its capitulation to the latest extortion effort by Sharpton and Associates.  The only viewers who ever watched MSNBC were the few thousand generated by the simulcast of Imus in the Morning. MSNBCs capitulation to the whining of the liberal black activists is a nail in their own coffin, driving them further down the ratings ladder.

CBS and MSNBC didn’t fire Imus because of what he said. MSNBC repeated the phrase three times in a four paragraph article; if “nappy headed hos” is such a slur (and it is), why are they so freely repeating it?  The firing of Don Imus also wasn’t on moral grounds; if that were the case he would have been gone at the first commercial break after he spoke the reprehensible words. And Imus certainly wasn’t fired because he injured the Rutgers Women’s basketball team.  Are you forgetting they lost the NCAA final?  The way things normally play out, the losing team walks off the court into oblivion. In this case, can you even name the women’s team that won the championship game Rutgers lost? Yet it’s the losers who are paraded out on Oprah for their 15 minutes of fame.  We wouldn’t even be talking about the Rutgers women if Imus hadn’t spoken the unspeakable. Other than their feelings being hurt, what real injury have they suffered? 

Don Imus was fired because of the extortion pressure put on advertisers by Sharpton and Company.  Imus will move over to Sirrius within a month where the listener pays for the content – and will gladly pay to hear Imus in the Morning – no matter how loudly the loud mouth hypocrites on the Left attempt to plug their ears. 

Al Sharpton’s Beam v. Don Imus’ Speck

Far be it from me to defend Don Imus’ characterization of the Rutgers Women’s basketball team as “nappie headed hos.”  Imus himself has characterized his words as “repugnant” and they certainly were.  Imus has sincerely apologized.  He is being drawn and quartered by the Left and its media machine.  He will lose advertisers. He will lose prestige.  He will lose in more ways than can be calculated. And in many respects he ought to lose.  But should he lose his living – his source of income – because he said something stupid and without racial intent?

And now we hear from the women he ostensibly offended.  Do we really need to parade the team out for a press conference, as if putting them on display will somehow prove that what Imus said about them isn’t true?  We all know what Imus said wasn’t true.  When Imus spoke the words he himself knew they weren’t true. My momma always said that just because someone called you a name didn’t mean that was who you were. The harder you tried to prove you weren’t what they called you, the more you looked like you were. So just let it go. The person you really are will be finally determined by the life you live, not by what others say about you.

Imus isn’t the hypocrite here.  Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the entire leadership of the (liberal) African-American community are the hypocrites.  Truth be told, Sharpton and Jackson have more racist tendencies than Imus has compassion for disadvantaged children (and Imus has a TON of compassion for disadvantaged children). And if Sharpton and Jackson were truly concerned about the portrayal of African-American women in the media, they would have used their platforms to rid this country of the deplorable rap music industry.

When talk radio host Glenn Beck pointed out to Al Sharpton that the lyrics of rap songs written and performed by black rappers show more disrespect to black women than Imus’ 30 second comment, Al Sharpton excused the rappers on the grounds that they don’t have nationally syndicated talk shows.  What?!?!  Here’s a partial transcript of the exchange:

BECK: This is what really bothers you, right?

SHARPTON: Absolutely. I mean, that is what hits me to the core. As I said, I have two daughters. And when I heard that, I heard him calling my daughters, who are not thugs, not in the street, not doing wrong, in college.

It`s like she said, when you excel, people call you that anyway. I had to come forth, and many others have come forth.

BECK: I have to tell you, it`s — I have — I have three daughters, and it`s not just if they excel. Calling your daughters — this is why this story reaches me, is because it is just so offensive on so many levels.

But here`s some women who have really accomplished something and to call them, you know, nappy headed hos is offensive.

However, Ludacris has a song called “Hos”. “Can`t turn a ho into a housewife,” apparently good advice from Ludacris.

How about Tupac: “I get around, all respect to those who break their neck to keep the hos in check.”

Notorious BIG: “Ain`t that a slut who” — and it goes into describing things that she does with her butt, different kinds of showers she likes and calls her a ho. DMX: “It`s all good. I`ve done it all to hos. Dominican hos, country hos, from sister to country hos.”

Three-six Mafia: “I heard it`s hard out there for a pimp. Couldn`t keep up with my hos.” Uses the “N” word. I mean, this is everywhere with rap.

Now I know you`ve given — you know, you`ve gone out, and you just had a press conference a couple of weeks ago. Will you tell me that you are trying to get these guys fired from their record contracts as much as you`re trying to get Don Imus thrown off the radio?

SHARPTON: No, what I will tell you is I`ve said that these record companies — ironically, the same conglomerate owns some of the record companies that you`re talking about, owns the radio station that Imus is on. These record companies ought to be hit so that we will take the profit out of that.

BECK: But you are not saying that with Don Imus. You are saying…

SHARPTON: With Don Imus…

BECK: You are saying, “I want you fired.”

SHARPTON: Don Imus is on a federally regulated radio station and television. If these guys were talk show hosts, I`d be marching to get all of…

BECK: These guys are being played not only on radio stations, but they`re also connected right to our daughter`s ears with their iPods.

SHARPTON: Glenn Beck — Glenn Beck…

BECK: This is much more hazardous.

SHARPTON: I am surprised. You have a good research department. I was surprised that when I met with the FCC about this about 18 months ago…

BECK: What I`m asking you…

SHARPTON: You don`t want the answer to that.

BECK: I do want the answer. Al, you and I have talked about this.

SHARPTON: I`m the guy that went to FCC and talked about this language and violence in hip-hop. “Nightline” even did a extensive report on this. So you don`t have to sell me. I want to know where all the people, including Mr. Imus, who claimed to be outraged by it, where were they when I were raising this, because it was…

BECK: I will be with you any time. We just don`t put people out of business, out of political correctness. Let`s encourage people to shed that.

SHARPTON: You cannot correct the rapper if you don`t have the same courage to stand up to people like Don Imus.

The lyrics of black rappers repeatedly referring to black women as “hos” and much worse, are played on radio stations around the nation and not a peep about those racial slurs from the so-called leadership of the African-American community. Yet Sharpton says that because rappers aren’t talk show hosts he won’t march to stop them from characterizing black women as hos.  He blames the lyrics of black rap on the “conglomerates” rather than on the black artists who write them! What a hypocrite!

Shouldn’t the leadership in the African-American community get the beam out of its own eye before it goes messing with the speck of dust in Imus’ eye? Truth be told, it isn’t the speck in Imus’ eye Sharpton and Jackson are after.  It’s his wallet. Once Imus’ writes the check to the black activist group of their choosing, this will all go away.

CNS News: Jesse Jackson accused of ‘shaking down’ Toyota

Rocky Mountain News: Rev. Jackson’s extortion racket

Divorce: American (Evangelical) Style

David Instone-Brewer writing in the April 6 edition of the Wall Street Journal raises a compelling question relative to the evangelical right and the current field of Republican presidential candidates: “Why are evangelicals so willing to accept divorce among their political leaders?”  Dr. Instone-Brewer points out:  “[A]mong GOP presidential front-runners, only Mitt Romney is in his first marriage.”

Dr. Instone-Brewer offers two answers to his question and a way out of the traditional strict interpretation of Jesus’ teaching on divorce (Matthew 19) which limits the cause for divorce to adultery:

  1. Many evangelicals have privately abandoned the Bible’s teaching on divorce.  Instone-Brewer argues that modern realties (“reasons for divorce go well beyond adultery, and fairly rapid remarriage is common”) and American law have both contributed to the abandonment by evangelicals of what the Bible says about divorce.  In was Ronald Reagan, himself divorced and yet also an icon for conservative evangelicals, who aided in shifting the cultural conversation away from marriage’s mutual obligations toward personal fulfillment when as governor of California he signed the nation’s first “no-fault” divorce law in 1970. The worldview of followers of Jesus in the 21st Century are informed more by the realities of the cultural than by Jesus’ own words. Clearly Jesus offers only one exception for divorce in Matthew 19.
  2. An emphasis on the rights of individuals encouraged by the current crop of evangelical preachers.  This is an insightful observation.  Instone-Brewers specifically mentions Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer with their emphasis “on promoting individual development,” which for some married persons may require they leave their spouse.  If you are going to merely market the gospel rather than proclaim it, the message is highly dependent on the consumer. And if point number one above is true, the message is by necessity driven by the whims and desires of hearer.  The prominent “pulpits” in America today look more to the culture than to the word of God for their authority.  Success in ministry is defined more by audience response than by faithfulness to the character and calling of the Church, a character and calling defined by Scripture, not by polling data.  The authoritative gospel is abandoned because it doesn’t play well to the focus groups.  Personal fulfillment trumps moral obligation in the 21st Century.

How can we have our cake and eat it to? How can we abandon the Bible’s teaching on divorce, fulfilling our own desires, while at the same time saying we have not abdonded the Bible’s teaching on divorce?  Dr. Instone-Brewer offers this way out of the evangelical dilemma: “new scholarship.”

As it happens, new scholarship supports a slightly less strict biblical understanding of divorce than the traditional one. Scrolls found near the Dead Sea, which confirm indications found in ancient Jewish authors like Philo and Josephus, show that the key phrase “any cause” was actually the name of a type of divorce. That is, Jesus did not reject divorce for any cause but rather, he rejected “Any Cause” divorce.

This “growing scholarly consensus” expands Jesus exception for divorce from adultery only to also include abuse, neglect and abandonment.  In 1 Corinthians 7:15 Paul seems to support this view when he says that marriage partners who are abandoned by their spouses are “no longer bound.”

None of this quite explains why evangelicals are letting their divorced conservative candidates off the hook.  Most, if not all, of the divorced candidates in the current presidential race – both Republican and Democrat – do not meet even the “new scholarships'” interpretation of the grounds for divorce.  When were Giuliani or Gingrich or McCain “abused, neglected, or abandoned” by their spouses?

David Instone-Brewer is senior research fellow in rabbinics and the New Testament at Tyndale House in Cambridge and the author of Divorce And Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities (2006, Intervarsity Press).