Saturday, September 24, 2011

Texas Prisons: Reacting Like Typical Crybaby Boomers Abolish Mercy Meal for Inmates Being Executed


A last meal or last request for any man or woman facing execution for crimes is an act of mercy by civil authorities. It reinstates both the humanity of the convict and that of the executioner (most often the state). It recognizes fundamental elements which, to some degree, allow the both the state and the prisoner to understand and express that this is a matter of law, not something personal. And while not all governments have done this, here in the United States its practice rose from our place of distinction with regard to our view of life.

Recently a man in the state of Texas was executed. And the following account of how his last meal was enjoyed was reported by the AP:

The controversy began after Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed on Wednesday for the hate crime slaying of James Byrd Jr. more than a decade ago, asked for two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, three fajitas, a meat lover's pizza, a pint of ice cream and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts. Prison officials said Brewer didn't eat any of it.

Certainly Brewer took this act historic act of a mercy meal or mercy request by the state of Texas and used it as an experssion of contempt toward the state. In other words he poured dirt on their act of mercy. He thumbed his nose at them.
This petty act was certainly no display of dignity but I am not Lawrence Brewer and I do not know what it is like to be exectuted for murdering another man. Honestly, I am not surprised it is not done more often. After all, not every person convicted of murder concludes within themselves while doing their time that what they did was wrong and that paying for their crime is appropriate. And when a person murders another they cross an unsual line. But understand it does not make them an less human than me nor me any better than them. It simply is a line most people never cross so, when I hear about a last meal used to thumb a nose, it is not surpirsing.

But what is more surprising is the even greater act of pettiness by the state of Texas and again, as reported by the AP here is an account of Texas' act of smallness:

"It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege," Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, wrote in a letter Thursday to Brad Livingston, the executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Within hours, Livingston said the senator's concerns were valid and the practice of allowing death row offenders to choose their final meal was history.

"Effective immediately, no such accommodations will be made," Livingston said. "They will receive the same meal served to other offenders on the unit."

Initially in this post, I explained that the mercy meal was an act which enabled both the state and the executioner to restate the humanity of both, that it was not personal, rather it was judicial.  Well, for Sen. John Whitmire, unfortunately he decided to make it personal and that is not only the problem here but much of the problem in the creation of criminal legislation and enforcement today and I attribute this, in large part, to the nature of the ruling demographic, the Crybaby Boomers.

But let me say this about the "personal" thing. When I say it is not personal this has a meaning which has been lost, today, with the Crybaby Boomer and beyond crowd. Personal has to do with one's person so that when we say, "that is not personal" it means that your person, itself, is not what is being considered, rather what has occurred.

Brewer was executed for his crime, not his person. The executioner performs the execution, not because his person is offended (it may or may not be but it is irrelevant) but because this is the order of the state, it is judicial, not personal. Now it is true that the victim and his family can experience and do experience the matter as personal, but even then with their interests and personal experience in mind, Brewer was not found guilty or sentenced to death based on their personal context, again it was judicial.

But today so many laws revolve around the Crybaby Boomer generation and beyond that are formed and enforced based on personal tailoring. One of the greatest boondoggles I can think of are the sex offender registries. They have been formed and enhanced based on personal and isolated crimes. Yet legislation, reactionary legislation, has been formed requiring those involved in all kinds of non-predatory offenses involving sexual activity to register in a public forum as if this is going to somehow stop future crimes. The truth is sex offender registries are to satisfy the rages of a fractional group of those who were offended against and an emotionally/hysterically oriented group of citizens that identify with these victims who want criminal legislation tailored for their own personal wants. The bad news (for all of these people who think this registry or any other does any real good verses the investment and punitive/shaming nature) is that well, very, very little good, if any, is done. The vast majority of new sex crimes are committed by those not on a registry.  And those on a registry who do wish to reoffend, they are not going to be stopped by being on a registry. It simply is a tool to humiliate people to satisfy the personal demands of a small group.

And this is what we have in Texas. Texas has lost its dignity because one murderer lost his. Is this what Texas needs to demonstrate to the world, that a petty act by a man who is being executed will control and determine the response of Texas. What the state of Texas should say is this:

Lawrence Brewer was given a mercy meal, a last meal and he chose to use it in a petty manner. We are all the more sorry for Mr. Brewer since this shows his capacity for remorse and dignity is absent. But he is not going to dictate to us, like a spoiled child, whether we show further mercy to condemned inmates because we will. And we will do so because he have dignity and we wish to make clear their humanity and ours. We will continue to distinguish ourselves in a final act of mercy toward condemned inmates.

Shame on Texas but in particular shame on Sen. Whitmire and Brad Livingston, the executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for their selfish posturing and personalizing of mercy.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved", Lordship Salvation's Biggest Misconception


Lordship salvation (a term coined to represent the view that before someone can be saved they must accept Jesus as Lord of their life which is proof of their genuine repentance hence, qualifying them to be saved) wishes so much to be correct but it is not. It is zealous, sincere and rather heavy in gravity but still erring and it's greatest misstep is its misunderstanding of the gospel itself.

What is the Gospel? 

The gospel is not about our promises to God but His promise to us. As Peter says we have an inheritance "kept for you in heaven". God does the doing, we do the receiving. Lordship salvation makes a demand on a person that the gospel does not, namely making a commitment of some sort to God before believing it. What commitment, pray tell, are you going to make to God that will qualify you to believe the gospel? Certainly not one you can keep.

That is not what the gospel is, my friend. The gospel is God's promise to us. He says to us "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved...". It is the promise that if, today, this very moment, you will believe what you have been told God will automatically, immediately and eternally save you and secure you in Christ.

The Shorthand Gospel Needs Explaining

Now it is true one must have the gospel, itself, explained. In the books of Act it states, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved....". Some have issues with this, questioning whether it is this simple and whether or not that all I have to do is believe this to be saved. Their concern is with those who respond, rather abruptly, with, "Okay, I heard the words you said and I believe them". Does that make one saved by saying they believe it? No, saying you believe something and believing it are not the same. But in reality this is not the core of the issue, rather it is the expression, "Lord Jesus Christ".

If I gave you a mathematical formula and you did not know what any of it meant but responded that you believe it is true, what have you done? You have stated you believe something that you do not understand which makes your claim disingenuous.

In the book of Acts, the expression "Lord Jesus Christ" is shorthand for the gospel, hence it must be explained. That is, the titles and their properties, Lord, Jesus and Christ, must be defined so that someone may understand the gospel. Believing the gospel is not merely responding by uttering words of agreement if one does not genuinely understand the meaning of the words, particularly here with the title or expression, Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord

The title, Lord, refers to the Divinity of Christ. In other words it means God Himself. The word here is κύριος which is also translated master. It is in reference to Christ not merely being of God but indeed, God himself. This is His Divine person. One must be informed that Jesus was not just a human or a nice person from heaven or some angelic form but God Himself. Therefore when we say Lord we mean God. And why is this necessary? Because our Savior, the one who would be our innocent representative, must possess Divine righteousness and only God does.

Jesus

This is the humanity of Christ. Because of the first Adam we are all born in sin. And (forgive the reference here) as Dr. Phil has said, "this situation needs a hero". But in the human race no one, not even ourselves, can save us since we are all born condemned from birth in sin. Therefore, God formed a plan in eternity past and determined that it would be Himself via the Second Person of the Trinity, who would come to earth and be born in the form of a man acquiescing to all of its conditions, yet without sin. So not only is He Lord but He is also Jesus, our second Adam, our brother in the flesh yet our God in embodiment. Our brother and our God is here to represent us and serve our greatest and most desperate need.

Christ

This is the reference the reality that He is "the anointed one" or Messiah . In other words He is not just Divine and He is not just human but He is the anointed one who is both God and man, the Christ, the Messiah or as is termed theologically, the hypostatic union. This was prophesied in varying forms from the fall, onward, and this prophecy of God coming to earth and His embodiment as a man, though not always fully understood, was fulfilled and with clarity we now can identify and describe in the full light of God's revelation the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Explaining the Gospel to Others in Light of This

What value and and application does this have to us in sharing and receiving the gospel as well as challenges it presents to Lordship salvation? Fundamentally this, that when we present the gospel as we should, we present it that God Himself (Lord) came to earth and was born a human being (Jesus) and this was God's ordained means by which an innocent, sinless and perfect Savior could save us from the penalty of our sins (Christ). He did this by living without sin and in fact being Divine, by suffering not just a physical death but separation (a form of spiritual death) from God the Father of which He never experienced, then being resurrected into His eternal state which has given us the power to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life through faith in this work.

The Lord Jesus Christ stands ready to be your Advocate and the moment you believe that He, God Himself, paid for your sins and God Himself judged this death sufficient for all mankind and whoever will believe shall be saved from being judged of their own sins, he or she may do so by just this means, faith or believing and believing alone.

Believing on the Lord Jesus Christ is Accepting Jesus as Lord

The assertion of Lordship salvation, that before one can be saved they must accept Jesus as Lord of their life, is their greatest misstep because what they do not understand is that to believe the gospel is to accept Jesus as Lord since it is the Lord who is giving them forgiveness and eternal life. If the gospel is explained as it should be, "the Lord Jesus Christ" then anyone believing it has done just this, accepted Jesus as Lord since only the Lord can forgive.

I believe one of the fundamentally greatest problems with gospel presentation are the erring additives that many theologies wish to impose upon the promise of God. God says to the world, "you are condemned and in sin, you face eternal judgment and cannot save yourself". But then God says, "but if you will not trust in yourself but believe My plan and My means, which is the Lord Jesus Christ, your sins will be forgiven and you will have eternal life". It is His promise to us. However, so often Lordship and all other kinds of schools of theology, wish to impose its proprietary additives to the promise of God and in reality they create stumbling blocks to faith in Christ.

God offers forgiveness, God makes the promise to us and only calls us to believe and nothing else. If a man or woman is not ready to believe the gospel then they are not ready for the Lord Jesus Christ but if they are ready to believe the gospel then they are quite ready for the Lord Jesus Christ and they do not need someone badgering them about their pre-emptive willingess to commit their lives to Jesus. No friend, it is Jesus' willingess to commit His life to them that they must receive in order to be saved.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

'Les Miserables' Musical: Russell Crowe, Hug Jackman in Dec. 2012 Film Adaptation


I doubt there are few adults of considerate mind and soul who fail to appreciate Victor Hugo's profound novel, Les Misérables, of protagonists ex-convict Jean Valjean and his nemesis, Inspector Javert. Well, some even better news than the 1998 film version staring Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush and Uma Thurman (that had a poor box office but was thoroughly followed in DVD and digital format) has arrived. Variety reports that the Broadway musical version (third longest running in Broadway and longest running world wide) is coming to the big screen with Hugh Jackman as Valjean and Crowe as Javert.

The story, itself, is irresistibly compelling for audiences as the struggle for redemption by Valjean and then, later, Javert, unfolds. If there ever was a story that could be complimented by musical telling, it is this one. The musical's release is set for December of 2012 and undoubtedly will be showered (and probably appropriately so) with many awards, including one or more Oscars.

In a day and age when movie content is wanting, this is worth the wait.  On a side note, for Russell Crowe fans, he is also busy in the midst of this project with some action flicks. One of particular interest is called, "Man of Steel" where he will play Superman's biological father, Jor-El.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Gospel Contemplation: The Mask of Christian Mysticism



This is a brief post with a critical link to Paul's Passing Thoughts and with much appreciation to his blog. For some time we have been hearing, in Evangelical Christianity, the musing of Gospel Contemplation (GC) and its supposed prescription for spirituality and all ills human. It is incumbent upon those of you drinking at such a trough to consider just what is in your water.

In his article, Piper, Carson, Keller: The Only Cure For Pornography is Gospel Contemplation, Paul Dohse approaches this conversation with the following response:


In the following video, Piper, Carson, and Keller teach that the key to overcoming pornography is contemplation on the gospel. If we come to grips with how horrible our sin is and what Christ had to do about it, and what He did do about it, we will realize how much Christ loves us on the one hand, and learn to loath the sin on the other. Keller also mentions that realizing how much Christ loves us (because of the cross) will lead to us not hating ourselves which he notes as a major contributor to sin. Of course, the Bible states the opposite: a primarily source of sin comes from loving ourselves more than we love others.

Furthermore, the biblical prescription for learning to hate sin is not contemplation on the gospel, but rather investment. We learn to hate something by not investing in it, but instead investing in something else. People unwittingly learn to hate their spouses in this way. Lack of investment verses other things and a dwelling on their negative aspects only which is not truthful thinking to begin with.

Yes, after Piper advocates spiritual contemplation and Keller adds to the error by adding self esteem psycho-babble, Carson mentions accountability, but be not deceived and listen carefully—he is saying that accountability is only a temporary stopgap until gospel contemplation kicks in. In other words, practical measures as instructed by Scripture are not curative, only gospel contemplation is. In the end, they all agree that accountability lingers close to legalism, and the absolute necessity that those holding one accountable are also gospel centered.

The following video clarifies the fact that there is a line in the sand. The church cannot continue to pretend that both philosophies will help Christians—that’s not true. Also, New Calvinists cannot continue to call the biblical prescription “legalism” unfettered and without contention. How Christians live is at stake.

Just as enjoyable and edifying was a contribution at Paul's Passing Thoughts by guest writer and wife of Paul Dohse, Susan Dohse, in her Provoked by Her Husband essay. In it she succinctly tackles the fundamental error of this Gospel Contemplation dialogue (Italics mine):
Recently, Paul has provoked me to move from the foot of the cross to a greater joy and reveling; that being, doing the work that God calls me to do each day.  Jesus taught his disciples how to have a servant’s heart by taking up the basin and towel.  He warned his followers that there would be a yoke to carry, a harvest to glean, a going, a teaching, a discipling that must be continued until He comes again. This cannot be accomplished if I stay at the foot of the cross contemplating my precious Savior’s death, burial, and resurrection.  Jesus said to take up the cross and follow Him.

This cuts to the misapprehension (sincere and filled with a lot of seemingly heavy spiritual language, though it may be) of Gospel Contemplationism. Susan Dohse's observation despoils the indulgent and misguided posturing inherent to the GC construct. With gratitude to the Dohses I encourage you to think long and hard about this trend in Evangelicalism, particularly in the Neo-Reformed and Neo-Calvinist corners.