Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Tale of Roger's Tragic Demise (Part One)

A true story of wealth and intrigue, kissing and secret passages, airplanes and stalkers, and the FBI that occurred on the campus of Bob Jones University in the Fall of 1991. Thankfully I lived to tell the tale.

Roger Was Different in a Peculiar Sort of Way.

I knew this even before I met him. On the first day back to school, I walked into my new room in Smith Dormitory and found Brian, one of my two new roommates, staring at avery large, burgundy-and-brass footlocker hogging most of our meager floor space. After introductions we turned to examine the curious footlocker together. Obviously, it belonged to our third roommate who was yet to arrive. Roger’s name and Arizona address were neatly printed on a shipping label plastered on its side. After some discussion, we agreed that its size and color was very different from what we were used to. Normal BJU students do not have huge, shiny, burgundy footlockers. Normal BJU students have cardboard storage barrels covered in magic marker graffiti, stickers, and magazine clippings. We concluded that, obviously, something was different about Roger.

Roger's arrival later that evening confirmed our suspicions. We had already unpacked, arranged our drawers and closets, and selected our bunks. Brian chose the top of the double, and I chose the bottom, leaving the middle of the triple for Roger. Roger's arrival was strangely ominous. When the door opened, he stood framed by the doorway, backlit by the light of the hallway. The short, pudgy, yet strangely slim man stared at us silently. No talking. He just stood there oddly for a few moments before sliding into the room. By that I mean he did not swagger, bob or sway as he walked. Had one placed a book on his head, it would have stayed on exactly the same plane as he smoothly walked toward his footlocker. His neck and head, capped by a carefully styled flattop, were the same width, as though they had both been molded from a single metal lunch pail turned upside down on his shoulders. He reminded me of a smaller, softer Fred Flintstone.

We introduced ourselves, but he barely acknowledged us and began unpacking the huge footlocker. Brian and I went about our business, watching him out of the corners of our eyes. Our curiosity was rewarded right off the bat. The first item he pulled out was a large metal ring laden with dozens of multi-colored neckties. It was so heavy that the little man struggled to lift it with both hands as he hung it in his closet. Brian and I looked knowingly at each other. Everyone wore ties at Bob Jones, but to have so many was unusual. He must be financially well-off to be able to afford so many ties. We politely offered to help him unload his trunk, but he said he could do it himself.

He did not say much else as he unpacked, but what little he did say throughout the evening was soft-spoken and nervous. He did not appear to trust us and kept mostly to himself. Brian and I realized that it was going to be difficult to get to know Roger. Whatever was special about him, we would not be able to uncover it quickly or easily.

In the Weeks Before the FBI Became Involved, Roger Began to Open Up Some.

This tends to happen naturally with roommates. They get to know each other whether they like it or not. We still had to ply him carefully to reveal information about himself. Bit by bit, Roger succumbed to our discrete questions and reluctantly shared small details. Eventually we were able to put the pieces together. We learned, for instance, that our initial suspicions were indeed correct—Roger was very, very different from the average student at Bob Jones University. He was, in fact, extremely wealthy--so much so that he was desperate to keep it a secret.

As we learned even more about our roommate, we understood why he was so reserved and quiet. He was trying to stay incognito. Roger told us that his family was the wealthiest in the State of Arizona. They were the single largest, private landowners in the state, laying claim to millions of acres encompassing villages, towns, farms, and vast stretches of desert. Brian and I were both good-ol’ West Virginia boys and unaccustomed to wealth, so Roger’s revelations were nearly mind-blowing. But his reticence only whetted our appetites for more. Over the next several weeks, we begged him to tell us details about lifestyles of the rich and famous. For a few weeks though, Roger shut down and would not let us in.

But we persisted. It was not until he had sworn us to absolute secrecy that he would tell us more. It was very important, he told us, that no one else at the University learn who he was and that he was attending school here. His primary fear was that other students from Arizona, especially young ladies, would learn of his enrollment and swamp him with unwanted attention. His family had very intentionally sent him to a school on the other side of the country so that he could escape the constant attention that the ladies gave him back home. His family wanted to give his life some semblance of normalcy. We, of course, promised that we would not tell a soul under any circumstances. Now that Roger could trust us, we began pelting Roger with questions every night after the lights went out. He often grew tired of our inquiries and refused to talk, but over time, Roger opened up more of his world to us.

We Learned Quickly that Keeping His Secret Would Benefit Us Greatly.

Our quiet, unassuming little roommate was a man of almost endless resources. As he got to know us better, he hinted that he might fly us to his Arizona estate during the Christmas break. We were shocked to hear that we would have to set aside at least three days to explore all the island had to offer. Yes . . . the island. In order to maintain their privacy, the family’s grand estate was located on an island in the middle of a large Arizona lake. The remote location provided security for him and his family. Being rich had its benefits, Roger explained, but the negatives were horrendous--constant media attention, stalkers, con-men, freeloaders. The island protected them from this. Our three days on the island would give us plenty of time to use the annexed bowling alley, swim in the indoor pool, ride horses at the family stables, travel the ATV trails, etc. Brian and I began to get excited, but we were very grateful. Roger did not have to be so gracious. He made it clear that he was risking much to open his life and home to us in this way. However, he kindly allowed us to discretely inform our parents so that we could begin planning our Christmas break. They were incredulous, but agreeable. This would certainly be one of the greatest experiences of our young lives.

Other benefits promised to be more significant and life changing. Due to some car trouble I was having, Roger suggested that a new car might come my way as a Christmas present. But that was not all. As I continued to prove my trustworthiness, I learned that my entire future could be affected by my relationship with Roger. His family, he explained, gave full financial support to several overseas missionaries. Since I myself was planning to be a missionary, they might support me as well, precluding several years of tedious fund-raising. A car in the present and a career in the future. I was overwhelmed by the good fortune that had come my way.

Roger’s Personal Jet Was Another Obvious Benefit.

His mother and father each had their own, and as an only child, he had been spoiled with one as well. Maintained at the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport, the jet was available to take him and friends of his choosing to whatever destinations he desired. We would probably take the jet to Arizona during the Christmas break, with a few fun stopovers along the way. His Lexus was yet another benefit. Since his parents owned a local dealership, the manager occasionally parked one behind the dormitory for Roger to use at his discretion. Since he was a sophomore, this was not officially endorsed by the University, but Roger had connections, which leads me to the most fascinating benefit that he enjoyed—his personal relationship with Dr. Bob Jones III, the President of the University.

One evening Roger returned to the dorm room with a particularly smug look upon his face. We recognized that he was hiding something and begged him to divulge his secret. After much prodding, he explained that he had just had dinner with Bob Jones III, and not for the first time. More than this, he confirmed a rumor that had been circulating among BJU students for decades—that a secret underground passage led to the President’s house on the front corner of the campus. Since Roger’s family had paid for recent renovations to the dining common, he enjoyed the occasional privilege of eating dinner with the President at his home. In order to preserve his family’s anonymity, he was secretly spirited away for these meals through the special hidden entrance. We were disappointed to learn, though, that the “secret” passageway was nothing more than the utility tunnel system that everyone knew circulated beneath the entire campus. Steam grates were located everywhere for all the students to see. The secret passages may not have been as extravagant as the rumors had suggested, but they were real nonetheless.

It was all very exciting at the time. But we did not know that very shortly we would all fear for our lives.

Don't believe it is true? I promise, it is. Read the exciting conclusion here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Content of a Personal Letter from Gordon H. Clark

While perusing a book that once belonged to a seminary student of Dr. Gordon H. Clark (1902-1985), I found lodged within its pages two folded letters--one from the student to Clark, and Clark's handwritten three page reply on unlined typing paper. Given Clark's prominent influence in twentieth century Reformed theology, I have reproduced the content of the letter here.


Dear [Redacted],

Your questions remain on the same subject, but they or some of them appear confused. Did you read my exegesis of Eph. 3:9-10 in What Do Presbyterians Believe? Because I am not clear as to the precise point that troubles you—and there are many points in the complicated subject—I shall begin with a very prevalent confusion, but one that seems to me very easy to answer. You ask, Does God condemn man before he decrees the fall? The word before here causes trouble, for it introduces an element of time in a non-temporal situation. Several theologians it is true insist that the problem is logical and not temporal, but then they either follow a temporal order, or as often fail to say what they mean by logical order. Once a person grasps the order, i.e. what the word order means, the problem is easily solved. This I have done in WDPB above.

The importance of logic as distinct from time is found also in the doctrine of the Trinity. Even Gregory of Nyssa, who wrote more on the Trinity than any else ever did, either confused them (sometimes) or thought that everybody else confused them and so [returned ?] again and again instead of completing the doctrine as a whole.

You are right when you say “In the supra’s view, to discriminate comes before the decree to permit the fall.” That is, you are correct except for the word permit. Calvin made it quite clear that there is no such this as permission with God. One who tries to use this idea is sure to be confused, for when it is logically followed, the result is Arminianism or worse.

Rejecting temporal distinctions in God one cannot agree with your wording—which may really express your own position—that “God only looks at one thing at a time and then moves on . . .”

I do not quite see the relevance of your next paragraph on creation. The best I can say is that Genesis seems to say there were three acts of creation, with developments in between.

With respect to the last paragraph on p. 1, I would say that Eph. Is not the only passage that helps this discussion along, though it is, I believe, the clearest expression of God’s motive in creating. But there all sorts [sic] of hints and inferences that must be woven into one complete doctrine.

The lump of clay is of course only an illustration. A potter can make something good or something bad out of it. So also God can make a good man or a bad man, though the literal clay illustration fits a man’s body only. The point of the comparison is that the question of justice cannot be raised against a potter by a lump of clay.

The outline of Romans may help you on your p. 2. Rom 1-3 states the main doctrine of justification and continues with Abraham as an illustration in Rom 4, with comparison between Adam/Christ in Rom. 5. Then comes a major break. No longer expounding the doctrine, Paul takes up two objections (1) antinomianism in chapters 6, 7, 8. (2) his doctrine is inconsistent with the OT, answered in chapters 9, 10, 11. Esau was condemned, not because he had voluntarily committed some sin, but because he was guilty of Adam’s original sin. Jacob was saved, not of course because of any good he did, but because God imputed Christ’s righteousness to him.

Finally you refer to II Peter 5:9. Keep in mind (1) that Peter sent his letters to Christians. He is talking to them and about them (2) In this very sentence he says, “God is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any (of us) should perish.” The verse has nothing whatever to do with universalism.

Now I hope this is of some help, and of you have further questions, send me your next chess moves soon.


G.H. Clark

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Unified Theory of Politics: Lord Government Almighty

Quantum physics has led scientists to search for a unified theory of everything, i.e. a scientific theory that adequately explains all the properties of physical phenomena and predicts their experimental interactions. To date, they have been unsuccessful in spite of scientific advancements.

For nearly two decades I have wondered whether there might also be a unified theory that explains the apparent predictability of politics. For example, if someone is known to be a liberal regarding one social issue (e.g. abortion), there is a high likelihood he or she will also be liberal on many others (e.g. homosexual rights or environmentalism). Conservatives can be just as monolithic on the other end of the spectrum. Of course exceptions exist, but they do not entirely mitigate the predictable tendencies within political allegiances. To explain the predictability of politics, particularly of the liberal persuasion, I would like to posit that a Unified Theory includes a Unifying Moral Principle, a Unifying Worldview, and a Unifying Messianic Entity.

A Unifying Moral Principle: The Fairness Doctrine

Within the heart of every human being is an impulse that directs the moral values of the human race. The touchstone of this moral impulse is the Imago Dei. Having been created in God’s image, we have an inherent sense of right and wrong that more or less resembles the dictates of the Law of God (Romans 2:14-15). At the Fall of Adam, this reflection of God’s image was shattered and distorted. Though broken and imperfect, the image nonetheless remains and still reflects a vague impression of the heart of its Maker.

This broken moral impulse most frequently manifests itself in human societies through the concept of justice or fairness. Justice or fairness is the remaining radical moral impulse of fallen humanity. Justice requires a standard of some sort. The standard for fallen humanity is every person’s sense of self, or ego. By means of this standard, we determine what is fair or just, because we have a powerful notion of what we want for ourselves. We assume that if we would want it for ourselves, we should want it for others just as well. For instance, we do not want our lives or property taken from us, so we do not want lives or property taken from others. By this standard, we determine that things like murder and thievery are wrong.

We can assume that this ego-instrument was in some way an aspect of the Imago Dei, built into us by God’s perfect design. In a perfect, unfallen world, this sense of self would have served unerringly to direct people to do what was right. Knowing how real our own needs were, we would have lived with a constant awareness of others’ needs and, loving them perfectly, would have possessed an unerring standard by which to serve others.

We know that this is the case because when Christ redeemed those who believe in him, he brought them back to this radical moral principle. He clearly stated, “Love your neighbor like you love yourself.” Instead of encouraging selfishness, a redeemed self-awareness should keenly alert us to the reality of the countless egos surrounding us. Christ viewed this redeemed self-awareness as so reliable that he even restated the timeless Law of Love for practical application—“Do to others what you would have them to do to you.”

So the idea of justice and fairness is simply humanity’s way of applying the fallen ego-instrument. To those of us who understand the biblical concept of depravity, the ego-instrument almost seems counterintuitive. We know ourselves too well and have observed countless times our own selfishness running roughshod over everyone else on the way to assuaging our own desires. However, there is a sense in which the ego-instrument still works and should be celebrated, distorted though it may be, as a manifestation of God’s image in the entire human race. When we see people fighting from the depths of their hearts for justice and fairness, we can acknowledge that they would not fight so hard or at all were it not for the simple fact that they are God’s creation.

Humanity is fallen and depraved, however. So we can expect that its applications of justice and fairness would be skewed away from God. Humanity takes what was initially implanted by God, and because it was distorted by the Fall, misdirects it away from the perfect guidelines provided in the Law of God and implanted within humanity’s conscience. We should expect the result to be a severely warped notion of justice. Lacking the redemption provided through the Son of God, efforts to apply the ego-instrument would frequently result in misdirection, imperfection, injustice, imbalance, and evil.

We can see evidence of this radical moral impulse gone awry in human society, providing examples of good things somehow gone bad. It might have some semblance of nobility in its most basic form, but its misdirection by depravity provides for wrong applications and methods. Homosexuals march on Washington for equal rights, believing it unfair that they cannot marry like heterosexuals. Women fight desperately for the right to abort fetuses because it is unjust that someone else should have the power to tell them what they can and cannot do with their own bodies. Politicians redistribute wealth, power, and healthcare because it is unjust for the wealthy to have more money and resources than the poor. Environmentalists and animal rights activists anthropomorphize the created order and claim that animals and mother earth are treated unjustly. Nearly every act of government on behalf of its people, for better or worse, is rooted in this radical moral impulse that is built into the heart of every person. The issues or causes of nearly every charity, political action committee, or community organization have the concept of justice figuratively emblazoned upon a high-flying banner. This impulse for fairness exists even in the hearts of the most godless of people, though detached from its moral foundation.

Although this unifying moral principle beats within the heart of all humanity, it lacks a divine anchor. Nevertheless, it drives people to seek justice with near religious fervor. Somehow, even those whose morality is detached from its foundation realize that morality requires some sort of religious connection. Ecclesiastes teaches that humans were created with an eternal aspect to their being so that they constantly seek for answers to life’s ultimate questions. Some have called this the “God-sized hole” in the heart of every person. Ecclesiastes makes clear that apart from God humankind will not be able to tell the end from the beginning and the search for answers will be futile. Therefore the search continues incessantly, only in all the wrong places. This search provides the unifying moral principle with a frame of reference and a domain of application. I posit that this frame of reference and domain of application flows from a Unifying Worldview.

A Unifying Worldview: The Cult of the Created Thing

A worldview, in simple terms, is a way of viewing reality. For instance, some people view reality as if God did not exist, and this belief influences how they interpret the world and everything in it. On the other hand, Christians are fond of referring to what they call a Biblical worldview—one that presupposes the existence of God and the truth of Scripture. It purports to accept what the Bible says about reality and tries to integrate that into every area of life including work, entertainment, social experiences, family relationships, politics, etc. A worldview provides an ultimate frame of reference or a paradigm that makes sense of the world in which we live. Worldviews can be expressed or unexpressed, formal or informal, known or unknown, Christian or non-Christian. Regardless, commitment to our various worldviews manifests itself predictably in their domains of application. Worldviews are unifying.

According to the Apostle Paul, those who do not look to God for answers to life’s ultimate questions will seek for them within the only other realm they know—the created order. They seek to fill the religious void within them by means of things that have been created. “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). This explains why some cultures have been inexorably driven to worship idols made of wood and stone. Other cultures may not claim a specific deity but are still driven to give their most fanatical affections to elements within the created order. Apart from the true worship of the Creator, all religious commitments will inevitably aim at something less than the One True God. I have called these religious commitments the “Cult of the Created Thing.”

When the unifying moral impulse lacks a divine anchor, and when it combines with a lesser religious anchor such as the Cult of the Created Thing, it finds its realm of application restricted to the created order. Similarly, the means (enforcer) of application for the moral impulse cannot be divine, so it must also be restricted to the created order. This inevitably leads humans to seek for a unifying messianic entity that will enforce the unifying moral impulse within the limited domain of the unifying worldview.

A Unifying Messianic Entity: Lord Government Almighty

Apart from the redeeming power of God, mankind’s only effective means for forcing the unifying moral impulse upon other moral agents is entirely earthbound. Throughout history, the supreme moral enforcer in all cultures has been their collective authority organized as government. Apart from God and the Church, human government of some sort has always been the only available and effective enforcer of the radical moral impulse. In a very real sense, government is the religious deity of the Cult of the Created Thing. It is the messiah, the savior to which all must turn to enforce the fairness doctrine.

Once again, Christians should quickly see a good thing gone bad. Scripture teaches that government was ordained by God to be his servant, ordering society by his principles. Still, to a limited extent, government does indeed serve this purpose, preserved by his sovereign power and influenced by the vestigial shattered image that brokenly reflects God’s character. But a government that fails to anchor itself in the divine and limits itself to a Godless reality will display the effects of depravity at every turn. Its applications of the ego-instrument will swerve bizarrely away from the divine standard of God’s Law. It will view itself as messianic, as the only adequate enforcer of a fairness doctrine that is uninformed by God’s love. It will become, in effect, Lord Government Almighty, the only champion of the people.

The Unified Theory of Politics Applied

How then does this paradigm explain the predictability of liberal politics? I will now posit what readers might expect from a conservative Christian—some have progressed farther down a path of depravity than others. Their applications of the fairness doctrine are a grotesque mutation of the Imago Dei. They worship the created thing in forms like unbridled secular humanism and environmentalism. They place their faith and trust in a Godless messiah to enforce justice. With a little thought, it is not difficult to see how each thread of the Unified Theory factors into fanatical obsession with environmentalism, climate change, cap-and-trade, animal rights, homosexual agendas, extreme feminism, abortion rights, welfare, universal health care, government bailouts, and Wall Street salary caps, just to name a few. The notion of degrees of progress down a depraved path might also explain why some lie at each end of the political spectrum and why some fall somewhere in between. Those farther down a path of depravity may have more fully embraced the shattered moral impulse of the ego-instrument, the Godless Cult of the Created Thing, and a messianic view of government.

Are conservatives then unscathed by the depravity’s power? I think not. They may not have traveled the same path of depravity and might have been preserved by God’s common grace to a greater degree, but this a far cry from saying that conservatives represent what is right in the eyes of God. The greed of unrestrained capitalism, the supposed freedom of deregulation, the arrogant and evangelistic rectitude of democracy, the entitlement of inalienable rights, and the legalism of moral legislation are only a few of the conservative ideals that have been polluted by depravity. Conservatives, like liberals, still see government as a sort of champion, particularly with regards to moral issues. We suffer from the delusion that government would be fixed if only we would return to the supposed Christian principles of our Founding Fathers.

Depravity has impacted the entire political spectrum. This means that any government regime, regardless of its political persuasion, cannot be trusted to accurately represent God’s perspectives. At the same time, some people will take the country more quickly into moral decline than others. The solution to all this however, is not a simple democratic victory by the moral majority. They will not be able to legislate God’s Laws in a way that fixes the human condition, and they will not be immune from the deforming effects of depravity upon their own rule. The only power and authority to countermand the effects of depravity rests in the Lord Jesus Christ. There will come a time when government shall be restored to its original created intention. That time will not come until Christ rules within the hearts of all people everywhere.