Robert’s Rules of Order-Boring or Helpful?

Many people view Robert’s Rules of Order as a boring exercise in being obtuse and rule-driven. I was asked by the stated clerk of Palmetto Presbytery to be a sort of Stated Clerk in Training. Part of that training was to be, according to his recommendation, studying Robert’s Rules of Order so as to become a good parliamentarian. I agreed to that suggestion, and just recently passed my test to become a member of the National Association of Parliamentarians. I found all the caricatures of Robert’s Rules of Order (and the people who seek to know these things) to be woefully wrong.

The first caricature I wish to eradicate is that Robert’s Rules of Order is all about using rules for one’s own advantage, and being able to use tricks to get one’s way in an assembly. Actually, Robert’s Rules has as its agenda the protection of the rights of every member of an assembly, both of the majority and of the minority. Everything I have been learning has been related to this question: how do we treat everyone fairly, and how do we treat everyone’s ideas fairly in a deliberative body?

The second caricature that is wrong is that Robert’s Rules of Order is boring. My hunch is that many people who say this believe that since they cannot understand it, it must be boring. With a little application, and some help understanding these matters (the training for becoming parliamentarian is extremely helpful!), one actually becomes much more confident in one’s participation in a deliberative body. A person can understand the nature of the motions, and how they rank, and what is in order, and what is not. I have found the study to be fascinating. The logic of the ranking of motions, in particular, is a beautiful thing. It is a very useful tool to help a person become productive and useful in a deliberative body.

The third incorrect caricature that I have found is that people who are interested in Robert’s Rules of Order are only interested in rules, not in substance. Now, there is some basis for this accusation, since there definitely are some people out there who study Robert’s Rules in order to be able to manipulate the system, as it were. However, as I have pointed out, that is not the purpose of Robert’s Rules. The purpose of Robert’s Rules is fairness. Furthermore, there is a level of informality allowed by Robert’s Rules in certain areas. There are shortcuts that are allowed. Robert’s Rules actually helps streamline the process: it does not hinder it. It is actually the ignorance of Robert’s Rules that creates enormous difficulties and time wasting, in my experience. I have seen meetings where, because no one knew Robert’s Rules, the result was an absolute mess, when a knowledge of Robert’s Rules would have streamlined the process amazingly quickly. I highly recommend the study of Robert’s Rules or Order to my readers who are involved in a deliberative body. It will save time and embarrassment (since you will no longer make a motion that is out of order). It will streamline the process. It greases the wheels rather than grinding them to a halt. On occasion in the future, I may point out some things that often happen in deliberative assemblies that are incorrect. I will point out why they are incorrect, and what the solution is.

2k – Affirmations & Denials (1 of 3)

I thought it might be helpful in the 2K discussions if there were a list of principles with which we could interact. Since he has been such a prominent voice on this subject, I asked Dr. Darryl Hart if he might be willing to provide such a list. He graciously agreed to do so.

The list provides fifteen 2k principles in the form of Affirmations, coupled with corresponding denials. Following Dr. Hart’s formatting of these principles, this post contains the first six theologicalaffirmations. Two additional posts will include vocation affirmations (four) and ethics affirmations (five).

For the sake of the flow of Dr. Hart’s argument, please read all three posts first. Then post comments and questions where appropriate (corresponding to the affirmation(s) and/or denial(s) you’re commenting upon.)

I want to thank Dr. Hart for the work he put into this list and allowing us to post and discuss this here. Please remember to treat each other with the Christian civility that marks your profession of faith in Christ and your commitment to love your brother. Thanks!

(Reed DePace)

Theological Affirmations

1) Affirmation: Jesus is Lord
Denial: Jesus is not Lord over everyone in the same way; he rules the covenant community differently than those outside the covenant.

2) Affirmation: the visible church is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ
Denial: Outside the visible church is not part of the redemptive rule of Christ (even though Christ is still sovereign).

3) Affirmation: the Bible is the only rule for the visible church (in matters of conscience).
Denial: Scripture does not reveal everything but only that which is necessary for salvation.

4) Affirmation: Christ alone is lord of conscience
Denial: Christians have liberty where Scripture is silent.
Denial: the pious advice and opinions of Christians is not binding.

5) Affirmation: the visible church has real power (spiritual and moral, ministerial and declarative, the keys of the kingdom) in ministering the word of God.
Denial: the church may not bind consciences apart from Scripture.
Denial: the church may not bind consciences on the basis of one minister’s or believer’s interpretation but must do so corporately through the deliberations of sessions, presbyterians, and assemblies.

6) Affirmation: Christ’s righteousness alone satisfies God’s holy demands for righteousness, and believers receive this righteousness through faith alone (i.e., justification).
Denial: believer’s good works, much less unbelievers’ external obedience to the law, do not satisfy God’s holiness but are filthy rags.

DGH

2k – 2nd Table Only – Another Biblical Argument

(Reed DePace)

In a previous thread I presented a biblically based argument for the 2K proposition: in the new covenant era the civil magistrate’s duties are limited to the 2nd Table of the Ten Commandments (from honor to parents to no coveting of neighbor’s possessions). A number sought to challenge that argument by referencing Psalm 2, verses 10-12 in particular.

Some prayerful reflection on that passage led to a few observations, which when taken together, I believe present another biblically based argument in support of this Reformed 2K proposition. While you’re reading Psalm 2, go ahead and read Rom. 13:1-5 and also Heb. 13:17.

To begin, let’s note the context of Psalm 2:10-12. For the sake of the discussion here, let’s ignore the initial audience, the pagan civil magistrate under the Old Covenant era. (Although there appears to be an additional huge supporting biblical argument from reflections in that direction – maybe later).

Surely, given the reference in v. 6 (Zion) in part in view in Psalm 2 is Christ’s rule over His Church (2K terminology: the Sacred Kingdom). Yet it is also clear that the primary focus of the Psalm is Christ’s rule over the pagan nations of the world (2K terminology: the Secular Kingdom). In this context, the commands in Ps. 2:10-12 can only be understood as a direct command applicable to the pagan civil magistrates in the New Covenant era.

At the very least, it is a command for these civil magistrates to recognize from Whom they have their authority, and thus to Whom they are accountable for its use. Even more we could say the Psalm promise judgment to these civil magistrates for the failure to rightly use their God-given authority. Jesus is the Great King Who will demand an accounting of the civil reigning “in his name” as it were.

So now imagine the pagan civil magistrate who hears this warning? What’s the first question he is going to ask? “O.k., how do I rightly use this authority?” In the New Covenant era, the passage that best answers that question is Rom. 13:1-5. Here we see Psalm 2′s divine ordination of civil authority picked up and explained in practical terms. Again, tracking with the previous thread’s arguments, at the very least the civil magistrate would conclude he is responsible to use his authority with reference to 2nd Table issues, those dealing with man’s relationship with man.

But what about the 1st Table issues? Where in the New Covenant might I find insight into whether or not the civil magistrate’s authority includes these issues, man’s interaction with God? Hmm …

Turn to Heb. 13:17 and notice the some interesting comparisons and contrasts with Rom. 13:1-5. In both there is mention of a God-ordained authority. In both there is the notion of accountability for the exercise of that authority. Yet there are two critical differences between these passages. In the Hebrews passage, the ordained authority is the elders of the Church, not the civil magistrate. Further it is an authority that involves 1st Table matters, man’s relationship with God.

The parallels are pretty clear: both passages have in view the authority of the Great King Jesus, delegated to an ordained human authority, who will be held accountable for his use of that authority.

The differences are pretty clear as well: 2nd Table authority is delegated to the civil magistrate, and 1st Table authority is delegated to the church elder.

To be sure, these aren’t the only considerations for the authority of the church via its elders (i.e., they do exercise 2nd Table authority, but only spiritually, not materially). Nevertheless, the parallel/contrast does support the 2K argument that the civil magistrate is given authority only over 2nd Table issues.

I’m drawn to the hermeneutical principle that the unclear in Scripture is to be understood in light of the clear. This particularly applies from OT to NT. Psalm 2 is best understood in light of NT passages that inform its subject matter, such as the two here. This comparison/contrast between Rom 13:1-5 and Heb 13:17, coupled with the contextual considerations outlined in the previous thread, given me strong reason to believe the 2K proposition is right here: 2nd Table only for the civil magistrate.

(Reed DePace)

2K, 2nd Table ONLY, Biblical Based Inference

(Reed DePace)

The third “New Machen’s Warrior Children” thread is about to pass 500 comments so far. Simple observation (no criticism in view): this thread has focused itself more on theonomically informed opposition to 2K than it has understanding of the 2K position. All who want to continue to pursue those lines are encouraged to do so on that thread. (If/when it gets up to the 700-800 comment range, if folks want to keep that focus going, we’ll start a fourth thread for that.)

Here I want to shift to a different thread in the tapestry of the 2K argument. In my reading this morning I happened to be in Romans 13, a key passage for one’s understanding of the role of the civil magistrate, the civil authorities of the secular nations (one of the two kingdoms in the 2K position, the sacred, the Church being the other). Before engaging further with the argument I’m about to make, let me ask you to read Romans 13 so it will be fresh in your memory.

Note the basic pattern of the chapter:

  • Verses 1-4: the civil magistrate” role as God’s ordained minister to administer civil justice.
  • Verses 5-7: the Christian’s public-square response to the civil magistrate in his exercise of his authority.
  • Verses 8-10: the Christian’s interaction with others in the public square in light of the of the civil magistrate's exercise of his authority.
  • Verses 11-14: the Christian’s "private house" obedience to God in light of eschatological considerations.

Note specifically verse 9b-10. There the second great commandment provides the summary justification for why the Christian is submissive in the public square to the civil magistrate's authority. It is not because this authority inheres in the civil magistrate, but because it is from God. Submission to the second great commandment is part of the Christian life (no duh), and this finds explicit expression in how we submit to the civil magistrate.

I don't expect there is any disagreement between pro and anti-2K up to this point. But let me make one debatable observation. When Paul goes to apply, the exemplify his reference to the role of the civil magistrate note where he specifically goes – to the 2nd Table of the Mosaic law (commandment 5 through 10). Note what he does not mention, any law from the 1st Table of the Mosaic Law (commandments 1 through 4). He does not even make an application from the 1st Table. Nor are there any 1st Table inferences present in what Paul says.

Even when he gets into verses 11-14, where it could be argued his focus shifts from public square issues, to "private house" issues (i.e., how we live behind closed doors), Paul still does not make any reference or inference to 1st Table considerations. Again his examples are expressly 2nd Table considerations!

Now, it is admitted that this is an argument from silence, or better yet, an argument from absence. Absent from what Paul says is any reference to 1st Table considerations. This does not mean that the absence here means the absence elsewhere in Scripture.

Yet at least it is a strong argument leaning in the direction of the 2K position that the civil magistrate in the New Covenant era only has authority over 2nd Table issues. It is almost as if Paul is providing a commentary on Jesus' bifurcated render to caesar/God command (Mt 22:21; Mk 12:17; Lk 12:25). In the one place in his letters where Paul offers the fullest explanation of the gospel (comprehensively Romans is an explanation of the gospel), when it comes to a key application of the Christian life, when Paul expressly brings into view the Christian's public square relationship – it did not cross his mind to say anything about 1st Table issues.

This is a very, very strong biblically based inferential argument in support of the 2K position. The civil magistrate in the New Covenant era has no authority over 1st Table issues. These are not in Caesar's purview, but they are reserved exclusively to his Church, and her alone.

(Reed DePace)

The First Amendment

WordPress is glad that the first amendment is in place for our country. So am I. However, I wonder how much of the first amendment is left at the moment. Certain things are now said to be guaranteed under our supposed first amendment rights. Things like pornography, for example, although child pornography is still prohibited. Other things, like protesting abortion on public property, is not allowed in many parts of the country. I’ve long since felt that the first amendment is becoming a wax nose. It means whatever the people in power say it means. Now, I’m not one for identity of church and state. However, neither do I believe that a Christian has to leave his Christianity behind when he enters the public square. Otherwise, he becomes something of a schizophrenic. The first amendment, which was originally supposed to protect the right of religious free speech, is now being used in exactly the opposite way that it was intended to be used. If people want to change the constitution, then they should change it. But let’s stop pretending that we are now interpreting it the right way. Someone will no doubt answer to me that I am so, so arrogant in having the audacity to think that there is a right way to interpret the first amendment. However, the answer to this is the answer of history. History happens outside of us, and therefore there is an objective component to this history that does not depend on our interpretation. As a good Van Tillian, I do not believe that there are such things as “brute facts.” However, there is such a thing as what really happened and what did not really happen. And what really happened was that religious freedom was intended to be the purport of the first amendment. Words do not mean anything if the first amendment is now being used to curtail the religious freedoms of Christians in the US. I make can anything words mean, if depends meaning my on interpretation own. Black is white and white is black.

The Manhattan Declaration

I know I’m a bit slow to comment on the Manhattan Declaration, but I wanted some of my fathers in the faith to speak out first before I said anything. I had some initial impressions, but wanted them debated before I stuck out my neck. I shall stick it out now.

On each of the three issues, I issue a hearty amen to the position of the declaration. It would be difficult to do otherwise, when these issues are of such paramount importance, and the stance taken so completely biblical. I have picketed abortion clinics in the past, and support doing so now and in the future (as long as it is done legally). I firmly stand for marriage as God has defined it, not as how man wants to redefine it. And, in our context, where the freedom to worship God has been constantly eroded by humanistic thinking, what Christian wouldn’t be eager to say that he wants the freedom to worship the God he loves?

However, the concerns of Sproul, MacArthur, Horton, and Challies have all raised some very important issues about particular words and ideas used in the effort to create a monolithic Christian coalition on these issues. And there is where the rub lies. How is the word “gospel” and “Christian,” among other words, being used in this document? Is it a wax nose, twistable by any signer or reader into the shape he wishes? I was forced to come to this conclusion: those words are empty vessels, into which anyone can pour what meaning he chooses. I would much have preferred language like this: “Although we do not agree on the definition of “gospel” or “Christian” or “justification,” we can agree on these social issues.” This, I think, would have allowed folks like the ones linked above to sign this document in good conscience. It is really too bad that these flaws are deal-breakers for the men listed above, and for myself, especially when SOO many men I deeply respect have signed it, and when I yearn to say yes on the particular issues.

A Thesis On Gun Control

Premise one: gun control results in greater crime. Lack of control results in lesser crime. Requirements to own guns result in almost no crime.

Premise two: not all liberals are stupid.

Preliminary conclusion: liberals have the facts in hand and know these things.

Premise three: greater crime results in greater anarchy.

Premise four: the hoi polloi (the people) prefer tyranny to anarchy.

Conclusion: the liberals want anarchy so that tyranny can result with them in power.

Folks, I think the liberals have a much greater goal in mind than the simple elimination of guns. This is just a means to an end. By stirring up crime and anarchy, they will make the people so afraid of chaos that the people will flock to a tyrannical government. There is historical precedent for this in the time of Rome. According to Taylor Caldwell, Catiline was encouraged by the powers that be to commit acts of anarchy in order to make the people so afraid that the government could then disarm the people and seize complete control over everything.

Firearms, theology, and fantasy

Posted by Bob Mattes

Lane asked Are Guns Inherently Against Life? in response to Lance Lewis’ post Pro Life and Pro Glock? Lane did an excellent job in his post, as did many of the commenters under it. My purpose here is to address specific statements by Lewis in his post in which I have particular insight. [As I got about half-way through this post, I realized that to answer all of Lewis' nonsense would take too long. So, I've been somewhat selective in what I address. Commenters to Lane's post have done a nice job with other issues.] Let’s start by laying out the players.

Read the rest of this entry »

Are Guns Inherently Against Life?

Rev. Lance Lewis of Philadelphia (ordained in the PCA) has written an interesting post here about the subject. His conclusion is that “it is time for us to realize that we cannot be both pro-life and pro-gun.” However, there is an inherent ambiguity in his target (if you’ll pardon the pun). Is he talking only about handguns, or about guns in general? In most of the article, he seems to have handguns as his target, but then at the end of the article, he seems to include all guns. This is problematic, as rifles and shotguns are usually used for hunting animals these days. In fact, contrary to Rev. Lewis’s assertion (“The handguns manufactured and sold in this country today are designed and built for one purpose and one purpose only; namely the destruction of human life”), handguns are used for hunting animals, and are also used for recreational target-practice (i.e., simply for fun).

The next problematic assertion that Rev. Lewis makes is, in effect, that the second amendment has to do only with resisting government. Having artificially limited the scope of the second amendment to that, he uses a reductio ad absurdam to prove that citizens could not possibly defend themselves against the government. Therefore we should not have handguns. This does not follow. The second amendment cannot be limited to defense against the government. It also includes the right of a person to defend himself against attacks against his family. How many people today are even thinking consciously about defense against their government? The argument does not fit today’s situation.

The argument (not made by Rev. Lewis, but seemingly implied, and certainly used today all over the place by people wanting to restrict the use of handguns) that keeping people from guns will reduce crime is absolutely ludicrous. For one thing, criminals will always be able to get guns. Disarming the citizens will not prevent violence in the slightest. If anything, it will increase violence. If this argument were valid, then Switzerland, which requires its people to own guns, would have the highest crime rate in the world. Instead, it has one of the lowest. The same thing is true of Kennesaw, Georgia. Why does gun ownership decrease violent crime? One simple word: deterrence. I remember vividly one cartoon in World magazine where two criminals were high-tailing it away from a house, with the owner of the house firing a gun after them. The one criminal says to the other criminal, “Doesn’t he know how dangerous it is to own a gun?” The same thing was true of the Cold War. Having a nuclear arsenal, implementing MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) was an effective way to prevent a nuclear strike from the Russians.  Honestly, how many burglars would be willing to seek to burgle a house where he knew the owner not only kept a gun, but had training in how to use it? If I were a criminal, I would keep away from such houses, and instead prey on houses where I knew there would likely be no guns and no experience. You know, places like Philadelphia, Washington D.C, New York City.

So, completely contrary to Rev. Lewis’s assertion, pro-gun can actually be more pro-life than anti-life. And I personally resent the suggestion (I own three guns) that I am one iota less pro-life than Rev. Lewis is. Guns are not, and have never been, the problem. The problem is people and their sinful hearts. Gun control laws are a government-sponsored tyranny that simply cannot be messianic in its effect, since criminals get their guns from the black market anyway, so as to avoid the tracing. In short, there is very little logic in Rev. Lewis’s post.

How to Avoid a Recession

Compare this as an analogy. You are sitting in your agrarian home with a stockpile of wheat. This is your food. You know that a famine is coming. What do you do? Do you say, “Well, let’s eat all our wheat now, because there won’t be any more later”? This is idiotic. What you do is tighten your belt, ration the wheat, eat less, and grit your teeth while plowing on (literally). 

Similarly, when the nation is facing a recession or worse, the government should not go on spending like there is no tomorrow. It has been far worse than this before. Our current economic woes are nothing compared to the Great Depression. The problems happened when government soared it to take control, slapped a wage-price freeze, and everything disappeared. More government control is a sure way to ensure that our economic woes last as long as possible, and are as bad as possible.

What the government should do is drastically cut spending (as in, all pork barrel spending, special projects, etc.), and then cut taxes. The government should cut spending by about 50%, and then cut taxes by about 30%. These are just round figures, of course. Everyone should be paid their wages, but all excess spending should be cut. Of course, in my opinion, that also means that government should get out of schooling, Social Security, and welfare. However, that doesn’t look very likely in the near future. What they can do is to halt excess spending in the short-term projects, thereby tightening their girths.

The problem here is that many people, seeing a recession coming, think that government should get bigger so as to solve all the problems of the people. Government becoming bigger is called tyranny. It will always result in more control and less accountability. Government does not have a good track record of solving economic problems by becoming larger. Every time that happens, the economy goes down the tubes. 

Whatever one thinks of R.J. Rushdoony (and I am no theonomist), he certainly got this one right: unbelievers hate freedom, because they do not want the responsibility that goes with it. They want the credit when things go right. However, they do not want the blame when things go wrong. So is it with government and with individuals. Freedom requires responsibility. It also requires constant vigilance, lest those freedoms gradually be eroded. I am not saying that our woes can all be solved by cutting taxes. The ultimate problem is human sin, to which the solution is the gospel. What I am saying is that there is a measure of wisdom that the government needs to exercise right now if the economy is not going to melt down completely.  

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