Psalm 2

nations-rage

The fall of Rome by Thomas Cole (1801 – 1848)

Charles H. Spurgeon’s opening remarks set the stage for this beautiful and comforting Psalm.

We shall not greatly err in our summary of this sublime Psalm if we call it THE PSALM OF MESSIAH THE PRINCE; for it sets forth, as in a wondrous vision, the tumult of the people against the Lord’s anointed, the determinate purpose of God to exalt his own Son, and the ultimate reign of that Son over all his enemies. Let us read it with the eye of faith, beholding, as in a glass, the final triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ over all his enemies.



Why do the nations conspire,
and the peoples plot in vain?

Both “conspire” and “plot” refer to secretive plans.  Very few people would deny that there are legitimate cases in which secrecy is necessary.  However, the loss of accountability and the associated temptations for corruption and duplicity in secretive organizations argue powerfully against thoughtless acceptance.

But this conspiracy and plotting are claimed to be “in vain.”  The world is filled with people, both powerful and powerless, who claim that they understand the mechanisms by which events can be controlled.  They imagine that by pressing this lever or pushing that button they will obtain specific, predetermined outcomes.

History argues decisively to the contrary.  For it is filled with the occurrence of unintended consequences, unexpected twists and hidden motives that baffle and overturn those foolish enough to imagine they are in control of events.

The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and his anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds asunder,
and cast their cords from us.”

The kings and rulers of the earth imagine endlessly that they can control events so as to increase their wealth and power.  But it is not against each other that they fight, but rather “against the Lord and his anointed.”  They presume to operate above and outside the “bonds” and “cords” of morality due to their will to power.

Does the Lord passively accept this rebellion?  Are His anointed powerless?

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord has them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“I have set my king
on Zion, my holy hill.”

These great rulers and revolutionaries are pathetic objects of derision to the Lord God.  They act with clever planning, malicious deception and power of arms only to be utterly overturned by a word spoken by the Lord God.

And what is that word? “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.”  That King is no other than Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

Today we know this promised Anointed One as the Lord Jesus Christ. It is impossible to submit to God without submitting to Him as Lord and Savior, for the Father has made Him Lord and Christ, bestowing upon Him the name above all names (Acts 2:36; Phil. 2:5-11). John Calvin comments, “All who do not submit themselves to the authority of Christ make war against God… . It is in vain for them to profess otherwise.”

I will tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, “You are my son,
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron,
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

God is not in the slightest passive in the face of this rebellion.  Yes, in this fallen world the kings and rulers will rage against God’s purposes.  But Jesus Christ, the begotten Second Person of the Christian Trinitarian God will ultimately “break them” and “dash them.”

The word “begotten” must not be passed over without comment.  The Nicene Creed uses this word to explain Jesus Christ’s eternal place in the Godhead.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Ligonier Ministries provides additional insight.

The Son is eternally generated by the Father. This generation, or begottenness, never had a beginning. The Son has always existed and has always been fully God even though He is begotten of the Father. And the Father has always begotten the Son such that the Son and the Father are both fully God.

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
with trembling kiss his feet,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way;
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

A king (or ruler) can only be wise if they understand that they are subservient to a just and omnipotent God who will intervene in human affairs as He deems right.  The opposite of the initial kings who plan and conspire is the king who serves “the Lord with fear.”  There is no secrecy that this omnipresent God cannot penetrate, no motives that are hidden from Him.  Were we to truly believe this our thoughts and actions, even those hidden from all human sight, would be fundamentally transformed.

The message of this Psalm is well summarized as follows.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that Christ executes the office of king by “subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies” (Q&A; 26). All who oppose this work do so in vain. He will conquer the hearts of His elect, drawing them all to Himself. He will defeat His enemies and ours. He is the mighty King and Lord of all, and we need not fear anything if we are in Him.

Amen!

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The Passing Progressive Parade (1b)

Progressives Abandon Effort to Educate Trump Voters Out of Their Moronic Hatred, Now will Leverage it to Their Advantage (Part 2)

BERKELEY, June 28, 2019 -- by Mack Tool and Patricia Hack

This is Part 2 of a two-part series on the always brilliant Progressive movement’s strategic direction.

After great altruistic effort to educate Trump voters, the Progressive movement has made a radical strategic change in direction.  Multiple current and past members of the Progressive inner-sanctum (who wish to remain anonymous) have revealed this strategy exclusively to Morning Woke.

Having sorrowfully concluded that this voting block is indeed comprised of irredeemable hateful morons, the Progressive movement will from now on seek to hijack and then direct this hate to their political advantage.  The key insight is that, since these voters have virtually nothing but primitive brain-stem mental capability, they can be easily reprogrammed to serve Progressive goals.

The “Canuck Threat” (Phase 1)

Given that Trump voters are inherently xenophobic, the Progressive movement will reorient that hatred from the U.S./Mexican to the U.S./Canadian border.  Hollywood will subsequently begin cranking out movies and shows in which terroristic Canadian villains threaten all that we hold dear in the United States.  The Mainstream Media will simultaneously begin publishing stories about the “Canuck Hordes” that are massing just north of the U.S. border.  Google searches on “illegal immigration” will return links to the Canadian threat and the auto-fill feature will only include Canadian suggestions.  The dim-witted Trump voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin will see images such as the following plastered on bill-boards and mass media sites accompanied with terrifying commentary.

canuck-hordes

They started by dominating hockey, now they’ve conquered pro basketball, next they’ll invade our nation and destroy our way of life!

Images showing that the Mexican population is distributed in an unthreatening manner will also become prevalent in the mass media.

US-Mexico-Border

The nation of Mexico has moved its population far from the border to show that they have no intentions of illegally entering the U.S.!

Finally, an intense propaganda campaign will be launched that claims Trump has been lying to the American people about the real source of danger.

trump-putin

Why would Trump have lied to you about the Canuck Threat?  Because he’s a puppet under the mind control of Vladimir Putin!

By these means Trump voters will become convinced that the real threat is located in Canada and that Trump, as a traitorous Russian puppet, has been lying to them.

Progressive Heroes to the Rescue (Phase 2)

Having convinced Trump voters of the Canuck Threat, the Democrat Presidential Nominee (blessed be Agender/Androgyne/Androgynous/Bigender/Cis/Cis Female/Cis Male/Cis Man/Cis Woman/Cisgender/Cisgender Female/Cisgender Male/Cisgender Man/Cisgender Woman/Female to Male/FTM/Gender Fluid/Gender Nonconforming/Gender Questioning/Gender Variant/Genderqueer/Intersex/Male to Female/MTF/Neither/Neutrois/Non-binary/Other/Pangender/Trans/Trans Female/Trans Male/Trans Man/Trans Person/Trans Woman/Trans*/Trans* Female/Trans* Male/Trans* Man/Trans* Person/Trans* Woman/Transfeminine/Transgender/Transgender Female/Transgender Male/Transgender Man/Transgender Person/Transgender Woman/Transmasculine/Transsexual/Transsexual Female/Transsexual Male/Transsexual Man/Transsexual Person/Transsexual Woman/Two-spirit‘s name) will propose building a massive defensive wall on the U.S./Canada border.  After winning the election tens of billions of dollars will be allocated to this wall.

However, since the Canadian threat in nonexistent, the wall will be made from corrugated cardboard covered with polyurethane. Thus it will cost only 1% of the allocated money.  The other 99% will go to Socialist dominated trade unions who will contribute a large portion back to the Democrat Party.  Thus Trump will be defeated, his voters will become Progressive voters and the Democrat Party will be able to outspend Republicans at a 10:1 ratio in future elections.  By this means we will finally be able to bring the Socialist utopia into being!



Some might ask why we are publishing this strategy given that it might tip-off Trump voters.  However, we have concluded that they don’t have the curiosity to seek out non-neo-Nazi / white supremacist web sites or the intellectual capacity to understand should they stumble into this information.

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Oh great and wise high-priestess of Progressivism, lead our vanguard of the superior on to the Socialist Green Promised Land!

The Passing Progressive Parade (1a)

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Question asked and answered…NO!

Progressives Abandon Effort to Educate Trump Voters Out of Their Moronic Hatred, Now will Leverage it to Their Advantage (Part 1)

BERKELEY, June 26, 2019 -- by Mack Tool and Patricia Hack

Leading Progressives have just completed a strategic directions conference in Berkeley California at which a major change in direction was debated and overwhelmingly ratified.  Although the official document is shrouded in the secrecy necessary to ensure maximum public transparency and participation, Morning Woke has obtained  reliable information on the content from current and former members of the Progressive movement who wish to remain anonymous.

Previous to this change Progressives had sought to influence voters who eventually became the Trump base by encouragement and education.  The first national politician to identify and constructively engage with this cohort was Barack Obama (blessed be His name) in the 2008 Presidential campaign.  After campaigning in Pennsylvania Senator Obama offered up these words of educational encouragement to a humility-filled Progressive audience in San Francisco.

And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Since Mr. Obama carried Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections the Progressive movement’s leadership became convinced that these words of wisdom has sufficed to divert these needy loser communities from “bitter clingism.”

However, in the 2016 presidential election cycle the ever wise and perceptive Hillary Clinton (blessed be Her name) began to sense an almost imperceptible (to common folk) ripple in the political force.  Noting the previous success of President Obama’s strategy, she commented on this disturbance at a LGBT for Hillary Gala in New York City.

You know, just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people, now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric. Now some of those folks, they are irredeemable. But thankfully they are not America.

To the utter shock and amazement of the Progressive movement, this kindly educational guidance turned out to be “casting pearls before swine.”  Rather than thanking Mrs. Clinton, these “irredeemable deplorables” in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin rose up as a “stiff necked people” voting against their moral and intellectual betters!

Rather than rethinking their engagement strategy (due to their kindly and humble nature), Progressives (and their Never-Trump fellow travelers) increased their educational efforts, summarized in the following excerpt from The Guardian.

Stories marveling at the stupidity of Trump voters are published nearly every day. Articles that accuse Trump’s followers of being bigots have appeared by the hundreds, if not the thousands. Conservatives have written them; liberals have written them; impartial professionals have written them. The headline of a recent Huffington Post column announced, bluntly, that “Trump Won Super Tuesday Because America is Racist.” A New York Times reporter proved that Trump’s followers were bigots by coordinating a map of Trump support with a map of racist Google searches. Everyone knows it: Trump’s followers’ passions are nothing more than the ignorant blurtings of the white American id, driven to madness by the presence of a black man in the White House. The Trump movement is a one-note phenomenon, a vast surge of race-hate. Its partisans are not only incomprehensible, they are not really worth comprehending.

More in sorrow than anger the Progressive movement has decided to abandon this strategy of positive educational engagement.  Since these people have shown themselves to be irredeemable a new and brilliant strategy of leveraging their moronic ignorance has been embraced.

This strategy will be revealed in Part 2.

 

Psalm 1

psalm-1

This first Psalm is considered to be introductory for the entire Book, and representative of the major themes that will be developed and explored throughout.

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

The conflict with contemporary sensibilities is immediate.  The first four verses of the very first Psalm warns against those who are designated as “wicked,” “sinners” and “scoffers.”  No attempt is made to explain what they have done to warrant such denigration. The unavoidable implication is that people with these characteristics exist and that they are to be identified as such.  They are recognized for what they are by the “blessed” man and then avoided like the plague.

Who in this time of “diversity” and “openness” would dare to speak of someone as wicked?  Since we have been taught to look upon other people as first and foremost members of racial, gender, religious, national and orientation groups, to designate virtually anyone as wicked is viewed as identical to vile prejudice towards their entire group(s).  Thus it becomes problematic to call, say, even the Muslim terrorists who planned and executed the 9/11 attacks as wicked.  So we wander around aimlessly looking for any and every other explanation rather than the one staring us straight in the face.

The idea of sinners is also verboten in our current culture.  After all, aren’t we all presumed to be essentially good, and, that good is best found by being “true to ourselves?”  Isn’t whatever we are predisposed to desire “how God made us,” so our best morality is found in following whatever these predispositions or desires might be to their ultimate extremity of experience?  And how dare anyone say that we are all sinners in need of God’s invasion of grace to redeem that which is utterly corrupt and evil in our own natures?  Perish the thought!

Finally, isn’t the direction of our dominant cultural, economic and governing institutions set towards mockery of God and those who have faith in Him?  If “god” exists at all isn’t it most likely some sort of demiurge who has pathetically and evilly messed up the worlds it has created?  And aren’t those ignorant, close-minded people who worship it to be identified and denigrated for their idiocy?  Yes, they certainly are.

A person, even a Christian, saturated by the assumptions of contemporary Western culture will read these four first verses as red flags that scream “don’t go any further, here there be monsters!”

but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

It’s only getting worse.  Now the Psalmist is talking about God’s Word as if it isn’t a means of patriarchal oppression but rather as a source of goodness and wisdom.  It isn’t defined as a product of the human mind but rather as an external, objective communication from the divine mind of God, that is, revelation.  It is something to be delighted in, rather than something to be twisted by human cleverness into whatever is needed to advance a partisan position or sovereign personal desire.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

The blessed man’s life yields good fruit.  His goodness leads to prosperity.  Thus he can only be seen as having “more than his fair share,” be it in possessions or any other aspect of well being.  How can this be “the good” since it doesn’t conform to the Socialist utopia that must be worshiped and obtained by any means necessary?

The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

Oh no!  Now the “wicked” are said to be “like chaff.”  They will “not stand in the judgment” nor be allowed “in the congregation of the righteous!”  How judgmental!  How dare anyone speak of the “wicked” and the “righteous!”  That is, unless the “wicked” are anyone who opposes or even insufficiently supports todays ideological secular talking points.  But this interpretation isn’t viable since the standard is God’s Word rather than human ideological fashion.

for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

So the eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent God looks down on us humans and separates us into the righteous and the wicked?

After reading Psalm 1 how can any contemporary Western human not sense that this is something utterly foreign to their presumptions and experience?  What possible good can come from continuing down this fraught path?

Perhaps the sanctification of our souls?

There are here described two distinct paths.  It’s time for deciding.

The Psalms

the psalms

There was a time, many centuries long, when the Psalms were both influential and beloved.  They seem to have fallen into disfavor during my lifetime.  Why?

The Book of Psalms is quoted more often than any other Old Testament book in the New Testament.  Psalms is also quoted most often by Jesus Christ.  Yet I rarely hear sermons on the Psalms and even devoted students of the Bible seem to avoid deep engagement.

Is there something about the Psalms that disturbs contemporary Christians?  I think so.  Therefore we must look into this Book.  For it is often by disturbing our souls that God presses us forward into profound discoveries about our new life in Christ.

What Have We Lost? (3)

Burning-Constitution

This is What We Have Lost

As I have previously discussed, there have almost always been issues in this nation’s political life for which “middle ground” was difficult if not impossible to find.  However only once, during the Civil War period, did our politics degenerate into general violence.  The reason behind this amazing stability was a wide and deep consensus among the contending parties that our founding documents provided a legitimate framework within which to resolve our differences.  Therefore, even when a partisan faction lost they yet accepted that the political processes involved were legitimate.  And the winning side accepted that their position could at some future point be reversed by the same processes that had led to their victory.

I contend that when people in my age cohort, be they Conservative, Independent, or Progressive, speak wistfully of something precious from our past that has been lost it is this to which they refer.  That is, there is no longer a stable consensus that our founding documents and associated political processes are legitimate.

The reader may ask, since I pointed the finger at Progressives in the last post, why I include Progressives in this formulation.  I do so in clear conscience because there are many people who call themselves Progressive who have not abandoned our founding documents and consensus.  However, it’s harder for them to express this concern because of their shared end goals with those more radical Progressives who have come to detest our founding.

I’m not alone in voicing this concern.

The strength of our democracy is its legitimacy. Hillary Clinton noted this during the 2016 election campaign when she asked candidate Donald J. Trump if he would accept the election results. When he hesitated, she spoke of the implications for American democracy if he failed to do so.

Ironically,it is Hillary Clinton who has not accepted the election results. She has crisscrossed the speakers’ circuit telling eager listeners that the Russians stole the election from her. Similarly, Stacey Abrams, who ran unsuccessfully for the Georgia gubernatorial post, has attributed her loss to electoral suppression. These themes have been both sustained and embellished by the current flock of Democrat presidential candidates, notwithstanding the absence of evidence. Even in the wake of the Mueller report, Democrat strategist Donna Brazile said that Russia caused Trump to win the election.

trump-uc-berkeley-federal-funds-anti-fascist-protest

Progressive “resistance” to the 2016 Presidential election

Let there be no doubt, it is the radicalized Progressives who are seeking to delegitimize our Constitutional political framework.  Without this force there would not be the taking of so many anti/extra-Constitutional policy positions by a large majority of Democratic Presidential candidates.

We therefore are living in a highly volatile, dangerous political climate.  The radicals in control of the Democratic Party have made it abundantly clear that they no longer consider election loss to be a legitimate outcome of our political process.  What transpired before, during and after the 2016 election shows that their will to power can no longer be contained within the nation’s received political framework.

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Delegitimizing election losses by a Democratic Presidential candidate

In reaction to the revelations (with many more to come) associated with the Russia collusion hoax, many Republicans have lost faith in the nation’s government’s bureaucracy.  Independents also have serious concerns about our governmental institutions and the fairness of our elections.  Returning to the previously linked article:

Democrats continue to refuse to accept the results of the 2016 election while Republicans believe there is an illegitimate deep state that is more harmful to the democratic process than the Russians could ever become.

My concern is that, particularly for a close electoral outcome in 2020, we may face a situation in which the losing side (be it Republican or Democrat) rejects the election’s legitimacy.  This could put the match to an explosive environment with unforeseeable dire consequences.

The irony is that this situation is exactly that most desired by our adversaries in China, Russia and elsewhere.  The tragedy is that we have brought this situation upon ourselves. Can out culture and body politic heal itself?  We may have a better idea by 2021.

What Have We Lost? (2)

BenFranklin-Republic

Living in a Republic that We May Not Keep

In the previous post I pointed out that there have been (and will continue to be) social and political issues for which compromise by finding the “middle ground” isn’t a realistic option.  Thus, when people pine for those lost times when compromise ruled the day they are imagining a past that never existed.  However, they are correct in believing that something from our past has been lost.

That “something lost” is a shared commitment to our Republic as founded through our Constitution and Bill of Rights.  That shared commitment broke down entirely during the Civil War.  However, aside from that tragic failure it has managed to hold even when issues upon which compromise was difficult or impossible to find roiled the nation.  Using the two examples from the previous post, the nation was able to hold together even when faced with terrible win/lose situations.  Yes, there was great acrimony and sometimes even violence.  But the parties on both sides of these issues didn’t break from republican values (as defined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights).

What we are experiencing now is a powerful desire by one political group, the Progressives, to “fundamentally transform” the foundations of our nation’s political life.  And this group has come to dominate the Democrat Party.  Thus, the Progressives have achieved fundamental transformation of the Democrat Party and are using this institution to seek fundamental transformation of the United States.

Many people would like to ignore this seismic shift.  However to not take note is to be purposefully blind, as its proponents are screaming their views from the roof tops.

electoral-college-abolishAbolish the Electoral College

Many Presidential candidates in the Democrat Party are openly pledging to abolish the Electoral College because it, in 2016, prevented them from winning the Presidency.  This is a popular position with the party’s base, as explained in this article.

Elizabeth Warren kicked things off at a CNN town hall Monday night when the Massachusetts senator drew enthusiastic applause by saying: “Every vote matters, and the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting, and that means get rid of the Electoral College.”

The next day, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke said there was “a lot of wisdom” in abolishing the Electoral College. California Sen. Kamala Harris told late night host Jimmy Kimmel on Tuesday night that she’s “open to the discussion.” Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, tweeted a clip of him saying the Electoral College “has got to go.”

Were they to somehow achieve this end our Republic would indeed be transformed from a federation of states into a direct democracy completely dominated by our major urban centers.  Of course this transformation would benefit the Progressives.  But it would also nationalize the urban political dominance that has led to great anger in states like New York and Illinois.  I very much doubt that citizens in states like Nebraska or Alaska would accept such an outcome.

In normal times I’d be confident that the rules for Constitutional change would prevent this from occurring.  However, given the demonstrated will to power by the Progressive movement it’s not beyond belief that extra-Constitutional means could be brought to bear.  The consequences of such a move are unpredictable, but could well be dire for the nation’s life.

DefProg-GNDThe Union of American Socialist States

I have previously discussed how even partial implementation of the Green New Deal (GND) would necessitate transformation of the United States from a democratic republic to a socialist police state.  But this end doesn’t in the slightest prevent our Democrat presidential candidates from giving it rhetorical support.  I take small comfort in their refusal to vote for it on the record.  However, were they elected they would likely take that result as a mandate to implement the GND even if they dissembled and outright lied to the voting public about their intentions in the campaign.

So Much More

The Progressives have also clearly communicated their intention to repeal our Constitutional protections contained in the FirstSecond and Sixth Amendments.  There is also pressure to abolish the Senate.  In these and other areas the Progressives who now control the Democrat Party have made it crystal clear that there is nothing in our founding documents that they will not destroy if it diminishes their ability to seize and keep power.

In the next post I’ll discuss what this means with regard to what has been really lost.

What Have We Lost? (1)

Common Ground Venn Diagram Shared Interest Agreement Compromise

Is compromise the universal experience of “common ground?”

Common Ground as Compromise

One of the commonly recurring themes in political discussion with people in my rough age cohort (i.e., 60 +/- a decade) is the loss of “common ground.”  The discussion often leads to the conclusion that what has b been “lost” is the ability to respectfully discuss partisan political positions in order to identify a compromise position that is acceptable (though not optimum) to the contending parties.

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Measure of increasing political polarization in U.S. politics.

I agree that this understanding of “common ground” has been significantly attenuated over the past couple of decades.  As shown in this figure, between 1994 and 2004 the median political positions between Democrats and Republicans was reasonably close and thus supportive of compromise in many cases.  However, between 2004 and 2017 the gap widened significantly, creating a chasm that is difficult to bridge through compromise.  So, yes, in this contemporary political environment it has indeed become far more difficult to find “common ground” with political opponents.

I believe that this definition of “common ground” is neither universally valid nor historically true.  And, when people voice deep concern about this loss they may well mean something else; something more disturbing and destructive than a simple inability to find a compromise.

Historical Counter-Examples

It isn’t difficult to find cases in our national history in which compromise eluded our polity.  The most extreme example is the Civil War.  However, this extreme (and tragic) example isn’t helpful here since the result was literal divide and bloody war.

The Vietnam War

Vietnam-No-Common-Ground

Where was the “common ground” between pro and con groups on the Vietnam War?

A better and more recent example may be the Vietnam War.  The people pining for the days of compromise seem to have forgotten just how divisive and polarizing became the national conflict over this issue.  On one side you had people who thought that stoping Communist expansion in Indochina was an absolute moral imperative.  On the other side were people who considered the war to be utterly immoral and none of our business.

This internal conflict led to riots and violence (e.g., the 1968 Democratic Convention).  Radical anti-war groups conducted bombings and other violent crimes.  At Kent State National Guard troops fired on anti-war protesters with lethal results.

This rift in our national politics was not resolved by compromise.  Rather an exhausted nation eventually abandoned South Vietnam and Cambodia.  To the pro-war side this result was a moral catastrophe and to the ant-war side a hallow victory.  The wounds of this unresolved conflict are unhealed almost 50 years later.

Abortion

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Where is the stable “common ground” on abortion?

The issue of abortion has roiled American culture since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision of 1973.  Some believe that stable “common ground” was found by formulations such as abortion should be “safe, legal and rare,” or “except for cases of rape or incest or when the mother’s life is in danger.”

Yes, these positions have and still do serve as “in the middle” ground.  However, that ground has proven to be unstable and unreliable given the current Progressive political actions to extend abortion rights right up to the moment of birth and even after birth (i.e., infanticide).  States dominated by more conservative cultural beliefs have responded by passing laws imposing restrictive limitations on abortion.

This disappearance of “common ground” is less surprising if we acknowledge the fundamental chasm separating pro and anti abortion camps.  On the pro side is the belief that a fetus belongs to the mother’s body and therefore is completely under her moral and physical control.  The anti side believes that from the moment of conception the fetus is an independent human life that deserves respect and protection.  Thus, although clever slogans may have papered over this chasm, eventually the lack of real common ground would assert itself, which is what we are now seeing.

Clarifying the Issue

My point isn’t that people with differing philosophies can’t through debate and compromise find “common ground.”  Rather it is that there are issues in which “common ground” simply doesn’t exist or can’t be practically maintained.  And yes, due to our current political polarization there are fewer opportunities to resolve issues on found “common ground.”

I contend that what we have lost strikes far deeper than the issue of finding “common ground” through debate and compromise, which will be the focus of my next post.

Human Free Will Within God’s Providential Control

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Joseph’s brothers sell him into captivity (1855, Konstantin Flavitsky)

Note: The following post is an excerpt from my third eBook — God’s Acts of Providence.  If you have an iOS device (i.e. an Apple device) then you can use this link to access.  If you do not use an iOS device, a PDF version can be found using this link.

Background

If God allows our wills freedom to operate then what happens when our corrupt wills collide with God’s eternal decrees?  It appears that God weaves His eternal purposes into the fabric of our willful acts.  That is, though we do indeed make decisions and take actions that are based upon our free wills, God is able to ensure that the accumulated result accomplishes His purposes.

The most notable Biblical story that reveals this dynamic is Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37-50).  Recall that Issac became the child of the fulfilled promise to Abraham and Sarah.  In turn Issac had twin sons, Esau and Jacob.  Although the younger, it was through Jacob’s line that God chose for the keeping of His promise.  Jacob had twelve sons, the second youngest of whom was Joseph.

Joseph’s Story

To call Jacob’s family dysfunctional may be an understatement.  Jacob showed extreme favoritism towards Joseph, who responded by becoming conceited and boastful.  Not surprisingly this situation created great resentfulness in his ten older brothers.  They eventually became so furious that they decided to sell Joseph into slavery and tell their father that he had been killed by a beast.

Joseph ended up in the Egyptian empire.  There he experienced great danger and suffering.  However, due to God’s gift of prophecy, Joseph miraculously ended up being the second most powerful man in Egypt, with only the Pharaoh above him.

Although the story centers on Joseph in Egypt for a long period of time, we are told that his brothers’ scheme crushed their father’s spirit.  One need no special gift of imagination to infer that their father’s grief coupled with the keeping of a shameful lie must have created gaping wounds in the family’s life.

None of the people in this story were originally attempting to cooperate with God’s providential purposes.  Quite the contrary, they were driven by pride, envy, greed, hatred and selfishness, among many other moral failings.  One would be hard pressed to create a family situation less supportive of God’s purposes.  In fact, their wills appear to have been aligned directly against God by tending to destroy the very family through which God sought to fulfill His promise!

And yet, in the end, it is God’s will that is done.  Not only does Jacob’s family survive, but it does so because of the sequence of sinful events willed by the human participants.  That is, because Joseph becomes powerful in Egypt he can offer his family salvation from a devastating famine.

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Joseph recognized by his brothers (1863, Leon Pierre Bourgeois).  Joseph’s brothers didn’t recognize him until long after they had been introduced to the second most powerful man in Egypt.

Far beyond mere physical survival, the experiences of Joseph and his brothers create in them softened hearts, humility and mercy that enable the family to reconcile.  This process only reaches completion upon the death of Jacob.  For, in spite of Joseph’s apparent kindness, his brothers yet fear that he is only waiting until Jacob’s death to take revenge.

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.”  So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died:  ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him.  His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”  But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.  So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Genesis 50:15-21

In Joseph’s astounding statement we find wondrous insight into God’s working of His providential purposes within context of human free will.  There is unambiguous clarity that Joseph’s brothers were willfully intending evil when they sold him into slavery.  However, there is also no doubt that God’s intentions were the exact opposite, and, were operating throughout.  How can these apparently contradictory statements be reconciled?

Meditation

Put another way, where in creation does God have the opportunity to inject His will so as to ensure a chosen outcome within context of human free will?  Here we enter the realm of conjecture.  However, it is conjecture illuminated by the entire Biblical story concerning God’s dealing with mankind.

One obvious place to look is the dimension of time.  We can easily recall numerous historical events when the difference of hours, or even minutes, had a controlling impact on the outcome.  For example, had the caravan to which Joseph was sold arrived hours later his brothers might have decided to kill him (Genesis 37:25-28).  Is it beyond God’s power to influence the sequence of events in time so as to cause a desired result?

Or consider the dimension of human character.  We all should be able to agree that each human being has a unique, multifaceted character that powerfully influences how they respond to ideas and events.  Is it beyond the power of God to imprint upon us character traits that will lead to our freely choosing one path over another?  Does not Scripture explicitly teach that this is indeed so?

For Scripture says of Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. Romans 9:17,18 (NIV)

Who are we to say just where and how this hardening of Pharaoh occurred?  Is it beyond God’s power to create particular character traits that will cause one person to freely respond in one way to a set of circumstances and another differently?  Can this not be an aspect of God’s action when we are being fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)?

These two possibilities are not intended to definitively explain how God’s acts of providence operate.  Rather, they are intended to expand the scope of our investigation to allow room for God’s acting within the simultaneous application of our free wills.

Perhaps a generalized statement of the above specific examples would be:

God, through various and sundry means that are independent of human will is able to ensure that the accumulated result of events will lead to the outcome that He has foreordained from eternity.

Of course, as we have seen in this work and throughout the Bible, none of this precludes God from directly intervening in creation as He deems fit.  However even on these occasions the dynamic is not that of a puppet master pulling strings, but rather of the infinite, eternal God engaging in relationship with frail flesh and blood.  That is, even within these direct invasions of the divine room is made for the operation of our wills.

Thus, the only issue excluded from influence of our wills is that of our salvation.  However, as we have seen, were God to here leave us to our own devices no one would be saved.  Thus our merciful God only overpowers our wills in the one place that they are utterly helpless.

The Romance of 1970s Hi-Fi

Please forgive my bout of nostalgia. I’ll be back to “normal” soon.

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Marantz 1070 Integrated Amplifier (top), Pioneer AM/FM Tuner (middle), Pioneer Turntable (bottom)

My son recently sent me a link to a video about “record changer” systems that existed in large numbers up to the 1970s.  These devices allowed multiple records to be stacked and played one after the other.  Given that I was born in the late 1950s this was a familiar review of something I hadn’t thought about for decades.  I think my son sent it because he thought I’d be interested, but also because of the novelty and strangeness of such a device too a Millennial.

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Bose 301 speaker system.  Note the plastic vane to control the “direct/reflected” listening experience.

This video reminded me of my years in the 1970s as a moderate budget Hi-Fi audiophile.  I saved money obsessively from my first real job as a grocery bagger to buy a Hi-Fi stereo system.  I can well recall walking into the local Hi-Fi shop with five one-hundred dollar bills in my pocket and leaving with a Marantz receiver, a turntable and Bose speakers.

This first system lasted only a couple weeks because I started reading Hi-Fi magazines and became convinced that my stereo receiver needed to be replaced with separate components (i.e., and integrated amplifier and an AM/FM tuner).  I still remember the disgust with which the shop owner eventually lived up to his “no questions” return policy when I brought back the receiver.  But I also bought the new equipment and became a regular as more Hi-Fi components became “necessary” for my listening experience.

Listening to a record went far beyond the content.  I used elaborate disk cleaning kits prior to each play.   I hung my speakers from the ceiling with chains so that the “direct/reflecting” feature could be optimized.  When the music was playing it wasn’t just the instrumentation and vocals that I heard but also my mighty Hi-Fi components creating this sonic wonder. In sum, playing a record was a complex ritual of human senses intersecting with analog custom purpose “computers” programmed to deliver a “realistic” listening experience.

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Pioneer 707 reel-to-reel tape deck (top) and TEAC 400 cassette tape deck (bottom)

I very quickly became a recording enthusiast.  When I bought a new album I would record it on the first play onto tape.  From that point on I played the tape, thus (in my fevered youthful mind) recreating the virgin play of the record indefinitely.

From there I built up a mobile recording system of microphones, mixer and a reel-to-reel tape deck.  I hooked up with some folk music people and ran around my town recording folk and jazz performances.  I loved the electro-magnetic/mechanical technical “magic” by which audio information was transferred from the actual experience onto tape.  It was a wonderful experience.

I’m certain that it was the Hi-Fi magazines’ equipment reviews that got me interested in my eventual vocation, electrical engineering.  The reviews often included photos from the test lab, showing the complex equipment used for the tests.  I loved the idea of technical measurements being connected to the human experience.

The entire adventure was a blast.  It knocked me off my default plan of becoming a history or english professor.  My electrical engineering career in wireless technology has been extremely rewarding, so Hi-Fi was a portal into another world that I didn’t know existed.

Now I just touch a couple soft buttons on my iPad which communicates via Bluetooth with my integrated speaker and music plays.  Ho hum.

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My 2010s hi-fi system.  Convenient, good sound, zero romance (playing the classic 1970s rock ballad, Thunder Road).