Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Jacob - Part 2

If you've been following the blog, you know that I've been continuing to dialogue with a LDS I met at their Easter pageant this year. Click here for our previous exchange.

Thankfully, Jacob has expressed a desire to stay focused on one subject and continue our discussion of the gospel. Below is my latest email to him reviewing what we discussed at the temple the night we met. I've left out our more personal discussion for obvious reasons. So please don't get the impression that my email began here =)


Lets start on where you left off when we met. That is a great idea!

Cool. As I recall, we discussed the tract I was handing out. The tract is basically talking about how I believe sinful men can have a right relationship with God.

I began by introducing my belief that we are born sinful. Psalm 51:5 says that we are conceived in sin: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me."

The reason we are born in sin is because we bear the guilt of Adam's sin. Romans 5:12 says: "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned"

Not only are we born as sinful creatures, bearing the guilt of Adam's transgression, but we also commit our own sins. In fact, we sin on a regular basis.

In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul explains his argument of how sinful men can have a right relationship with God.

In Romans 1:18-32, the Apostle Paul began his argument: "18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them."

Verse 18 says that the wrath of God is presently being poured out against all the wickedness of men who actively suppress God's truth. This suppression of God's truth is also being done in unrighteousness, meaning that they are sinful in their suppression of it.

Verse 19 brings out the fact that God has revealed Himself to all people. Indeed, God has made it evident to them.

What exactly has God revealed to men about Himself? Verse 20 answers that question: God's invisible attributes, His eternal power, His divine nature. These things are "clearly seen" through all of creation. This means that there are no true atheists =) ... for God has truly revealed Himself to them through creation. But Paul ends this verse with an amazing statement: "...so that they are without excuse." Men have no excuse before God. Why do men not have an excuse? Because God has clearly revealed Himself to all men.

Now to make it a bit more personal: you and I have no excuse before the living God. We stand before Him with a clearly revealed knowledge of who He is.

Verse 21 tells us that even though men know who God is they still do not honor God or give Him the thanks He deserves! Men are described as futile in their thinking, as having foolish hearts, and as darkened.

Verse 22 - men claim to be wise ... but became fools.

Verse 23 - men exchange the clearly revealed knowledge of God for idols.

Verse 24 - Because of the wickedness of men, God gave us over to the wicked desires of our hearts.

Verse 25 - Men have exchanged the truth of God that He has given to us for a lie, and worshipped other created things, rather than the Creator-God.

Verse 26-31 - Paul describes mankind's sinfulness.

Finally in verse 32, the Apostle again reminds us that men know the truth of God. He continues by saying that those who commit the sins mentioned in verses 26-31 deserve death. Even knowing all this, they still perform these sins and approve of those who perform them.

Paul continues in Romans chapter 2. Verses 5-12 read: "5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God. 12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law;"

Because of man's stubborn and unrepentant heart, man stores up wrath for himself on the day of Judgment. For God will give to each personal according to his deeds - this is not good news for the sinner. The one who has no excuse before God should tremble at these words! Those who obey God's Law inheret eternal life. But those who do not obey God's Law inherit wrath and indignation.

Paul makes an important statement in verse 12: "For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law..." Everyone who does not have the written Law of God (the Scriptures) will perish. So even the Gentiles (non-Jews) who do not have the Law have no excuse before God, and will therefore perish. Now the rest of verse 12: "...and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law" Even if you have the Law of God, you still have no excuse before Him.

Verses 14-16 read: "14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus."

Paul's argument is becoming ever stronger. Not only are men found without excuse before God because He has revealed Himself to all men ... but even non-Jews who do not have the written Law, instinctively do the things of the Law because they have the Law written in their hearts. Verse 16 brings out the importance of His entire argument up to this point: there is a day coming when God will judge the secrets of men.


This passage is clearly more bad news. Jews and Greeks ... everyone ... are all under sin. Now, carefully consider the meaning of each of these Old Testament passages that Paul has strung together. No one is righteous. No one seeks after God. All have turned aside. No one does good. All deceive. They curse with bitterness. They are quick to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their paths. They have not known the path of peace. They do not fear God.

Again, one might ask: "But who is it that Paul is addressing?" The answer is found back in verse 9: Jews and Greeks (Gentiles, or non-Jews) ... everyone. Paul is addressing everyone.

Verses 19-20: "19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin."

We know that everyone is under the Law: Jews and non-Jews. And everyone has the Law applied to them so that every mouth may be closed and become accountable to God. Not only are men without excuse but men are now accountable to God for their sin. Paul's next statement in verse 20 is shockingly important: no one is justified in the sight of God by works of the Law! The term "justified" is a legal term that carries with it the concept of the Jewish law-court. If the accused is declared "not guilty" by the judge, he is considered to be "justified" in the eyes of the court. In the same way, God is our judge, and we stand as the accused in His court. We stand as guilty sinners, deserving of wrath and judgment. And we cannot be justified, or declared "not guilty," based on the works of the Law. What are the works of the Law? Up to this point it has reference to good works in a general sense and to the Jewish Old Covenant Law. Therefore, we as sinful people cannot be justified, or declared "not guilty," in God's sight based on anything we do.

How then does one become justified before God?

Romans 3:21-28 reads: "21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law."

This is truly an amazing passage of Scripture! The Apostle begins by saying that the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the Law. This righteousness comes through faith for all who believe in Christ. Sinners are justified as a gift by God's grace. I should point out that a gift given by grace cannot be earned by good works. How is this gift given by grace? Because of the redemption provided by Christ ... who was a propitiation for sinners. The term "propitiation" means to "satisfy the wrath of God." So then Christ's redemption on the cross turned aside the wrath of God against His people. In verse 26 we see that God is just and is the Justifier of those who have faith in Jesus. This again means that those who have faith in Christ are declared "not guilty" by God. Because sinful men can only be justified in God's sight because of the graciousness of God in sending His Son to save all who would believe in Christ, no one can boast before God. Paul concludes by saying: "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law."

Paul wrote elsewhere in Ephesians 2:8-9, "8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."

The Apostle wrote to the Christians at Ephesus that they have been saved from sin by grace through faith. They were not saved because of anything in them. This salvation from sin is God's gift, not given because of good works they had done. Therefore, they cannot boast.

Back to Romans...

Continuing on with Paul's argument in Romans, in chapter 4:1-8 we read: "What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 "BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. 8 "BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.""

Paul asks what Abraham discovered about the subject of sinners being justified before God. Constrasting the hypothetical statement of verse 2, verse 3 informs us that Abraham had righteousness credited to him because He believed God. In verse 4, we see that when one works, what he earns is not credited as a favor but as what is owed to him. Using that analogy, Paul then says in verse 5 that those who do not trust in their works to be justified in God's sight, but believe in Christ, their faith is credited as righteousness. Then in verse 6 Paul says that those who have righteousness credited to them apart from works are blessed. The word for "credit" here can also be translated as "impute," which is a legal term meaning to "consider," "count" or "reckon." So when one has faith in Christ and is justified in God's sight he has righteousness credited to Him. Who's righteousness is credited to the justified believer? I believe it is the righteousness of God (Romans 3:21), but more specifically the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). The reason it is important that an alien/foreign righteousness is credited to the believer is because the Christian stands before God not based on what he has done but based on what Christ has done on his behalf. When the Father looks on the justified sinner, He sees that he is covered by the righteousness of another - that of Jesus Christ. Not only does the justified person receive the righteousness of Christ, but his own sin is not counted against him. In fact, in verse 8 the word for "account" is the same word used earlier that is translated as "credited." It is the word for "impute." Rather, the sinner's sin is borne by Christ (1 Peter 2:24).

I think it was at this point that you asked me that night: "But if you're saying that we are justified by faith and not by works at all, ... what about faith? Isn't faith a work?" Excellent question. Faith is certainly something that we do. But I believe that inherently all people lack the ability to have faith in God. Consider a text we've already looked at, Romans 3:11, "11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;" What does it mean that no one understands? Does Paul mean that no human being understands any knowledge? I don't believe that's what he means =). I think Paul is referring to spiritual understanding - people do not have spiritual understanding specifically with reference to seeking God. But what does it mean that no one seeks for God? I will say right off the bat that yes, I do believe some seek after God. But why? Why does anyone seek after God? I believe people seek after God because God has granted them the ability to seek after Him. If God has to grant people the ability to seek after Himself, this obviously means that I believe people do not inherently have the ability to seek after God. And this is what I believe Paul means when he says that none seek after God. No one seeks after God apart from God granting the ability. Philippians 1:29 says, "For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake" Paul writes to the Christians at Philippi that it was granted to them to believe in Christ. If something must be granted to you, it is not inherently yours. Sinners do not have the inherent ability to believe in Christ. It must be granted to them. Therefore, since faith must be granted to sinners, it is not something the believer can boast in - since the only reason he has faith is because God has given it to Him.

One more thought on justification and how it "fits" into the gospel ... Romans 4:16, "For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, ..."

The reason sinners are justified through faith in Christ is because it is in complete accordance with the grace of God. Salvation is a gift, including the gift of faith. Therefore all of salvation is in the complete control of God. Salvation is by grace alone, and comes through faith alone because of what Christ alone has done.

Now we've reached where we left off =), Romans 5:1, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ"

The Apostle reminds all Christians that they have peace with God because they have been justified by faith. "Have been justified" in the Greek (the language the New Testament was written in) is a past tense action. This means that one is justified at a point in time ... when he has faith. Also, notice that the one who has been justified by faith has peace with God. The one justified by faith has peace. And this is a lasting peace. The justified person now has a right relationship with God.

This, in a nutshell, is the good news of the gospel of Christ. Sinners are saved not by anything they do. Sinners are saved from sin and the punishment of sin by grace through faith because Christ.

I know that this email is a mouthful and that you probably have a number of questions, thoughts and comments =). Hope to hear from you soon.


Friday, May 26, 2006

X3 Quick Review

Two thumbs up!

I laughed. I gasped. I loved it.

See it, you must.


Thursday, May 25, 2006


You’ve waited for almost a week now for Casey’s take on “The DaVinci Code,” well today is that glorious day – well, maybe not “glorious,” but whatever =).

I was sort of expecting multitudes of DaVinci followers to show up in costume or something. But I couldn’t find any of them. There appeared to be little reaction to the film at all – good or bad. The movie played for 2.5 hours, the lights brightened up, and everyone left the theater. There was no applause. No shouting. No Hooray’s. I honestly felt that most people were bored with the movie. They were glad it was over – maybe glad to have seen it – but glad it was over nonetheless.

Personally, I was not bored for a single moment. But I’m not an ordinary person either =). My motivation for watching TDVC was completely different than most folks: I was there so that I could give a meaningful response to the film. I gave the movie my full attention and was fascinated by it.

Tom Hanks and Ian McKellen were great, as always. McKellen’s reasons for playing Teabing were obvious: so that he could play the most anti-Christian role in the film. What I did not expect was how offended I would be at hearing the many heresies brought out in the film. I wanted to scream out of pure frustration. Thankfully, I don’t think many people bought it. Tom Hanks’ character, Langdon, played a much more conservative role than in the book. In fact, Hanks’ character served as the only challenge to TDVC’s theories. Contrary to the book, this left the strong impression that TDVC’s theories were indeed fiction, and nothing more. Praise God for that.

If you are an unbeliever, or an undiscerning believer – I do not recommend this film.

If you are a discerning believer – I do recommend this film.

After the movie, me and the two friends I was with tried to witness to a Mormon who was with us. Our strategy was quite simple really: talk about the film, and the conversation will naturally turn towards the gospel. Isn’t it amazing how apologetically minded Christians think alike? Unfortunately this LDS fellow was completely unwilling to even talk about the movie. I’ve never seen such unwillingness before. We certainly could have forced the conversation, but that would have been casting pearls before swine. Pray for this young LDS guy.

I wonder what a Latter-day Saint’s perspective of “The DaVinci Code” would look like? What would they find offensive? Early Mormon leaders taught that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene … which is an interesting fact to consider. Anywho, just food for thought.

The Count

Monday, May 22, 2006

Quite the Evening

The other night I had quite the evening. It was fantastic really, and emotional. Where to begin? Where to begin?

I met up with my old dgroup at Goldbar, a wanna-be coffee shop. We were planning on discussing the Bible: transmission, translation, historicity, inspiration and canonicity. Sound like a mouthful? Yea, it does to me too. We’ll probably be breaking it up into parts =). Only one student showed up so we just hung out. Me, Dan (my old co-leader and good friend), Tim (Dan’s co-leader), and Scotty (one of our students). I am honored to be able to still see those guys. It was a good time of fellowship =).

As we were wrapping up our totally chillaxed-out evening at Goldbar, the owner walked up and asked, “Are those Bibles?”

“They sure are,” I replied. “Are you a Christian?”

“You probably wouldn’t consider ME a Christian, but in some sense I consider myself one,” he said.

From there he jumped all over the place: the Bible’s origin, the canon, was Jesus God or man or both, monotheism or polytheism, the Trinity, the gospel, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, the Reformation, the Crusades, homosexuality, head coverings, women pastors, and the list goes on. He went through all that in no time flat! You can imagine that I had a heck of a time staying focused on the essentials: (1) who God is and (2) how we come to know Him. Ultimately what it came down to was that he didn’t believe one can properly interpret the Bible, and that Christianity is not the only true religion. I did point out his presuppositions to him and challenged him to think through his conclusions. Overall, it was a beneficial conversation. We were encouraged and thankful for the opportunity.

From there I jetted over to my Bucks. I ran into some good friends from Sovereign Grace Ministries (Gilbert). We chatted while drinking good coffee (as opposed to the lame imitation I was drinking earlier). Isn’t it good to catch up with fellow believers you haven’t seen in a long time?

Shortly after they left I bumped into another Regular who attends a local Vineyard church. It was also encouraging to hear of this man’s recent conviction to study the Scriptures.

Starbucks closed … and I was headed towards my truck (honest!) when something caught my eye: two open Bibles accompanied by two individuals reading them. I turned around and asked if they were Christians. Turns out they were doing a Bible study. We briefly discussed Justification by Faith Alone, and exchanged phone numbers.

What a wonderful night =)

If you thought I would post on “The DaVinci Code” film, stay tuned! I’ll undoubtedly post my thoughts, umm, soon.

Until next time,

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Jacob Update

You might remember from my report in April of the Mormon Easter pageant about a great convo I had with Jacob. We were able to have a decent discussion about salvation by grace alone. Weeeell, Saturday night I got an email from Jacob:

Subject: I got some questions for you! They’re From Jacob! We met near the LDS Temple!

Please answer these questions according to your belief:

Do you believe in Modern Revelation?
Who are the twelve apostles of your church?
If you dont have twelve aspotles at the Alpha and Omega Ministries then why not?
How is the "LDS" God different than yours?
Where were we before we came to earth?
Why are we here on earth?
Where will we go after we die?

From Jacob!


My first thought was that he is genuinely trying to figure out what I believe. These are all important and very relevant questions … especially from his worldview.

In my response I wanted to give him direct answers to these questions, because they are sincere questions that deserve answers. But at the same time I didn’t want to answer them at length, otherwise we’d get off track. Here’s how I responded:

Hey Jacob!

I do remember talking with you at the Easter Pageant. What a pleasant surprise it was to receive your email.

Let me again thank you for that conversation Friday night. I was impressed with the way you handled yourself in being kind and reasonable - something that is difficult to find these days =).

I'll do my best to answer each of your questions directly.

Do you believe in Modern Revelation?
I believe that the Bible is God's final and sufficient revelation to His people. This does not mean, however, that God does not continue to speak to His people - for to read the Scriptures is for God to speak directly to you.

Who are the twelve apostles of your church? If you dont have twelve aspotles at the Alpha and Omega Ministries then why not?
I am a member at the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church (in Phoenix =)), and we do not have 12 Apostles. I believe that the gift of Apostleship ceased being given with the death of the Apostles of the first century. The reason I believe this is because the Apostles were given for a specific purpose: to lay the foundation for Christ's Church. I should point out that we still benefit from the ministry of the Apostles through their message, which is found in the New Testament.

How is the "LDS" God different than yours?
There are quite a few differences between the god of Mormonism and the god that I worship. Let me list a few areas of disagreement: Mormonism teaches that more than one true god exists. I believe that only one true god exists. Mormonism teaches that the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings and three gods. I believe that the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost share one being and are therefore one god. Mormonism teaches that the Father was once a man who was exalted to His present god-like status. I believe that the Father has eternally (or always) existed as God. I could go on, but that'll do for now. But perhaps we'll get to the topic of God next =).

Where were we before we came to earth?
I do not believe that human beings existed before the creation. I believe that nothing existed before God, and when God created, He created everything in the universe from nothing. Therefore, I believe men did not exist before God created us on the earth. God made man's physical makeup, then created man's soul within him.

Why are we here on earth?
All of creation, including human beings, exist to give God glory. Human beings are here on earth for the glory of God.

Where will we go after we die?
Those who worship the true god will spend eternity with God in heaven. Those who do not worship the true god will spend eternity in Hell.

I'm sure you can tell that each of my responses has been greatly summarized because we could honestly spend a lot of time working through each of these questions individually. I purposefully did not support any of my answers with Scripture because it would have turned this email into 20 or 30 pages to honestly and fairly interact with the text of Scripture with reference to these topics. But I wanted to give you you direct answers to your questions, because they are all fair and even relevent questions to the discussion.

Because each of the questions you've raised are all important and do deserve valuable time, I would suggest that we talk about one issue at a time - that way we can stay focused and not overload ourselves with too much information. The night we spoke at the temple we talked primarily about the tract I was handing out, titled "Grace plus works is Dead... (being meaningless)." As I recall we also pretty much stuck in the text of Romans 1-5, and just got to 5:1 when you joined your family/friends in their seats. I'd like to briefly review what we went over that night, to refresh our memories, and then press on with that same discussion ... so we can finish that one topic which we both agree is a very important one. What do you think?

On another note - are you wrapping up the semester? Didn't you mention that you were getting a head start on your college education and attending the community college? If so, do you have a major selected?

I'm finished with finals myself. I'm a secondary education major at ASU, and have one more year before I graduate =). One regular semester of classes, student teaching, and I'm done!

Anywho, it was good to hear from you, and I look forward to your response. Have a wonderful Mother's Day with your family.

Casey Ryan

Pray for me: that I would be faithful to proclaim the truth of the gospel to Jacob. Pray for Jacob: that God might be pleased to grant to him salvation.

Case of Base

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Machiavelli the Pragmatic

“The chief foundations of all states, whether new, old, or mixed, are good laws and good arms. And as there cannot be good laws where there are not good arms, and where there are good arms there must be good laws…” (Machiavelli. The Prince. Pg. 72).

Niccolo Machiavelli wrote The Prince during the rising of the Reformation. He was an Italian man who wrote to Prince Lorenzo the Magnificent. Niccolo had two purposes in writing the book: (1) to regain favor from the Prince, that he might no longer be banished from Florence; (2) to encourage Prince Lorenzo to deliver Italy from foreign invaders.

I knew going into it that The Prince is forcefully blunt. Machiavelli is crystal clear in his writing, so much so that the reader is never left wondering what he meant to say. I laughed out loud when I read Machiavelli’s explanation that if a conqueror is to be cruel, it’s best to be cruel in the beginning and not make it a regular occurrence: Whence it is to be noted, that in taking a state the conqueror must arrange to commit all his cruelties at once, so as not to have to recur to them every day, and so as to be able, by not making fresh changes, to reassure people and win them over by benefiting them. Whoever acts otherwise, either through timidity or bad counsel, is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him. For injuries should be done all together, so that being less tasted, they will give less offence. Benefits should be granted little by little, so that they may be better enjoyed. And above all, a prince must live with his subjects in such a way that no accident of good or evil fortune can deflect him from his course; for necessity arising in adverse times, you are not in time with severity, and the good that you do does not profit, as it is judged to be forced upon you, and you will derive no benefit whatever from it” (Pg. 62).

I should say that Machiavelli wrote for the one ruling. This book is not sympathetic towards the masses. He is pragmatic in an ultimate sense and offers the many choices faced by a government’s leaders. Here, Machiavelli writes that it is not necessary for a prince to have moral qualities but only to seem to have them: “It is not, therefore, necessary for a prince to have all the above-named qualities [merciful, faithful, humane, sincere, religious], but it is very necessary to seem to have them. I would even be bold to say that to possess them and always to observe them is dangerous, but to appear to possess them is useful. Thus it is well to seem merciful, faithful, humane, sincere, religious, and also to be so; but you must have the mind so disposed that when it is needful to be otherwise you may be able to change to the opposite qualities. And it must be understood that prince, and especially a new prince, cannot observe all those things which are considered good in men, being often obliged, in order to maintain the state, to act against faith, against charity, against humanity, and against religion. And, therefore, he must have a mind disposed to adapt itself according to the wind, and as the variations of fortune dictate, and, as I said before, not deviate from what is good, if possible, but be able to do evil if constrained” (Pg. 91).

Soooo, be moral when it is convenient and popular, but feel free to betray morality when it is to your advantage? Ahhh, Machiavelli =)

It is interesting that Niccolo recognized that it is now more important to satisfy the people rather than soldiers. Prior to the 16th century, a leader’s greatest concern was keeping his soldiers happy. That drastically changed during the Reformation and Renaissance.

Listen to what The Prince has to say about citizens who’ve experienced liberty: “But when cities or provinces have been accustomed to live under a prince, and the family of that prince is extinguished, being on the one hand used to obey, and on the other not have their old prince, they cannot unite in choosing one from among themselves, and they do not know how to live in freedom, so that they are slower to take arms, and a prince can win them over with greater facility and establish himself securely. But in republics there is greater life, greater hatred, and more desire for vengeance; they do not and cannot cast aside the memory of their ancient liberty, so that the surest way is either to lay them waste or reside in them” (Pg. 47).

I must admit that I am impressed with the amount of wisdom and understanding Machiavelli had, even though I disagree with him in not just a few things =).

One final quote, and that’s all the time I will spend on Machiavelli: “Therefore a wise prince will seek means by which his subjects will always and in every possible condition of things have need of his government, and then they will always be faithful to him” (Pg. 66). In this statement is the most basic truth of human government: governments exist because people believe they need them and can benefit under their rule.

The Count

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I still can't believe it

You will not believe what happened after I saw “United 93.” My two buddies and I decided to go discuss the movie at Bucks. Still in shock, we began talking about the intensity of the film. Somewhere in there I began to talk about how angry I was at the terrorists. I specifically mentioned that “I couldn’t look at the Muslim terrorists and not want to kill them myself.”

It was then that I was interrupted mid-sentence by a young 20-something guy … “Hey! You need to watch your mouth!”

Stunned, I turned towards him and answered in a puzzled tone, “Excuse me?”

“We’re Muslim,” he said, pointing to his family sitting with him.

One of my friends then responded, “So you associate yourselves with them?”


“You associate yourselves with terrorists?” my friend said.

“Well, no,” he said angrily.

“Oh, well that’s who we’re talking about. We’re talking about the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks,” my friend declared.

The family turned their backs to us, and I … I continued right on as if never interrupted. Approximately 60 seconds later the family angrily stood up and left without looking in our direction.

What is most shocking about that whole thing is that even after this Muslim family discovered that we aren’t actively trying to kill Muslims on sight, they didn’t apologize, but remained angry. It makes me wonder … it makes me wonder whose side they are on. I’ll grant the possibility that their pride may have been stepped on, but still, wouldn’t any normal American apologize for such a misunderstanding? Maybe … maybe it wasn’t a misunderstanding after all. Maybe they understood us perfectly. I just don’t know.

Anywho, I had to share that story with ya’ll. Good to get that off my chest =)


Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Crusades Shmusades

Late Tuesday night I finished reading The New Concise History of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden, “professor of medieval history and chair of the department of history at Saint Louis University.” I was introduced to Madden’s book through Michael Medved’s radio talk show, with Madden as a guest. He was talking about his new book and made an amazing statement that caught my attention: “By far the single greatest error people have about the Crusades is that they were the beginnings of Western Imperialism. This is completely false. The Crusades were an expression of religious piety aimed at helping Eastern Christians reclaim land that was taken from them by the Muslims. The Crusades were a response to Muslim aggression” (paraphrase). To say I was intrigued would be an understatement. At the first opportunity I ordered his book from Amazon.com and couldn’t wait to get it in the mail.

Currently, I’m a Secondary Education major with an emphasis on history, and was a history major before I decided to teach history. Obviously I love history. Even though I have taken classes on the Crusades, the Middle Ages, Western Civilization (4 parts), the Enlightenment, the Reformation, the Renaissance, and post-Enlightenment periods, I still felt somewhat ignorant about the purpose(s) of the Crusades. What were they? Why did they happen? What were the motivations of both the Crusaders and the Muslims? Even with the knowledge I possessed I felt unqualified to answer these questions. After finishing Madden’s book, I now feel like I have a much better grasp of the subject.

I do strongly recommend this book. As the title reveals, the book is a concise history of the Crusades. It is not overwhelming with information, but only serves as an introduction. Perhaps if Donald Miller read this book he would not have apologized to unbelievers for the Crusades … (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

You can expect to see a blog series about the Crusades themselves in the near future. There are at least a hundred pages I marked with unbelievable stories and events that are worth retelling. But this is not the entry for that =). First, I’d like to talk about why people today have such disdain for the Crusades. Professor Madden comments:

“The rise of secular and decline of ecclesiastical institutions in Europe, coupled with centuries of destructive religious wars, increasingly led Europeans to focus their attention on this world rather than the next. In the eighteenth century writers like Voltaire went so far as to decry any form of institutional religion, calling for general toleration of all faiths. Religion in Europe was becoming no longer a central identifying feature, but simply a matter of personal preference. Voltaire and other Enlightenment writers ridiculed the crusades as wars of intolerance waged at the behest of a power-mad clergy. Along with the Inquisition, the crusades became an emblem for what these authors believed was the hysteria, superstition, and ignorance of the “Dark Ages” (pg. 214).

An error we make today is to apply our current political standards to those of the past. What motivates our secular, nationalistic society today would not have motivated a single European living at that time. We fight for nationalism and patriotism. They fought to preserve their Christian way of life. Both then and now, we fight for what is most important to us. Dare I say, even in this post-Enlightenment era we are no more civilized than the Crusaders. Human beings are still human beings. This isn’t to say that no good came from the Enlightenment: reaction to the oppression and control of the Roman Catholic Church, experimentation with new forms of government, and a drive towards the sciences. But there were also negative results from the Enlightenment: a general negativity towards religion.

But what about Muslims? What is their opinion of the Crusades? It will probably surprise you, as it did me, that Muslims did not know of the Crusades until the 17th century! In fact, most Muslims learned about the Crusades during the early part of the 20th century! Madden writes: “It is commonly said that memories in the Middle East are long, that although the Crusades may have been forgotten in the West, they were still vividly remembered where they happened. This is false. The simple fact is that the Crusades were virtually unknown in the Muslim world even a century ago. The term for the Crusades, harb al-salib, was only introduced into the Arab language in the mid-nineteenth century. The first Arabic history of the Crusades was not written until 1899” (pg. 217). How is it possible for the Crusades to go unnoticed by Muslims? The simple answer is that from the Muslim perspective the Crusades were insignificant. They believed it was only a matter of time until they conquered the globe, converting all peoples into submission. Therefore, the Crusades were seen as futile attempts against the unstoppable force of Islam. Muslims utterly failed to recognize the purpose behind the Crusades. Furthermore they misunderstood the Crusaders, whom they called “Franks,” to be mercenaries allied with Byzantine Christians.

Muslims were first introduced to the Crusades by Europeans during the Enlightenment. This meant that what Muslims did learn of the Crusades presented a history where Christians, under the “Dark Ages,” savagely attacked a peaceful Muslim civilization. And this is how Muslims have perceived the Crusades ever since.

Rather than overloading you with more factual information, I’ll stop there.

Earlier in the week I bumped into a friend at Bucks who took some interest in this book. He flipped through the pages then remarked, “Man, there was so much violence because of the Crusaders…” I responded by saying, “You’re so right. The fact that the Crusades were necessary to fight off Muslim aggression is a terrible thing.” He was stunned. Never before had he heard that the Crusades were a direct response to Muslim jihads. It seems that most Westerners believe as my friend did (or as I did at one point). We need to get the facts straight, especially in a post-9/11 world. I’m hoping he buys the book … score one more for Western Civilization! =)

My hope is that I’ve spurred you on to read Thomas Madden’s work, or other works on the subject. Just today I picked up a copy of Jonathan Riley-Smith’s The Crusades: A History. If anyone’s interested, I would love to hang at Bucks and talk about the Crusades, or even go through Madden’s work with someone. Lemme know.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Most Important Movie of the Century

I heard that anti-war protestors hated the movie … Liberals hated the movie. “America isn’t ready for a movie like this!” they screamed. I reasoned that if anti-war protestors and other Libs hate this movie I’ve got to see it. What movie am I talking about? “United 93” of course =).

Having seen the film opening night, I can honestly say that “United 93” is the most important film made in recent history. I will do my best not to provide any spoilers, but then again, we all know what happened that day (unless you’re a 9/11 conspiracy theorist).

The movie provides a few unique moments from the terrorists’ perspective. Each of these moments brought out the sincere belief that some Muslims have about killing non-Muslims for the spreading of Islam.

Once Flight 93 was airborne, the movie was intense. Terrorists made their move to take over the plane, and I was angry. It was shocking to see.

Also incorporated into the film were the other events of the day: the twin towers and the Pentagon. These were necessary to include because it had an impact on the passengers of Flight 93. We also got to see the frantic response from our government, military and Air Traffic Controllers.

The many phone calls that were made by the passengers of Flight 93 were reenacted. This is also a difficult thing to see - family members saying goodbye to friends and loved ones. Many actors played themselves: the head of the FAA, military personnel etc. Even some played their own family member who died in the crash.

I can boldly report that “United 93” is completely non-political. It is information and facts being acted out. No matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on, if you’re a patriotic American you will enjoy this movie. (And if you find yourself empathetic towards the terrorists, you should probably join Al Queda, or at least move to Canada).

Never before have I shaken through so much of a movie. I think the reason for this is because I knew this really happened. I was awe-struck. More than once I teared up – and apparently many in the theater did as well.

Why is “United 93” the most important movie in recent history? Because it brings to life the fact that there are many in this world willing to fight and kill for their religious beliefs. 9/11 was so shocking for most Americans because we can’t relate to the Muslim worldview at all. Their worldview is stuck in the Middle Ages. There are many Muslims who will kill and destroy for the sake of Islam; to pretend otherwise is to live in a dream world.

Thomas Madden’s The New Concise History of the Crusades makes some remarkable comments in his opening chapter: “When the crusades of the Middle Ages are remembered, it is usually with disdain and derision. In a post-Enlightenment world, the concept of religious warfare is odious, largely because most people no longer believe that one’s religious beliefs are relevant to one’s view of the world or place in it. Traditionally, modern wars are fought for political and ideological causes, like democracy or nationalism—ideas that would not seem worth the shedding of one drop of blood to most medieval men and women. Only recently, in the aftermath of September 11, have westerners discovered that religion remains a reason to wage deadly war. Nevertheless, war has not changed much in nine hundred years, only its weapons and tactics. Rather than fighting for a patriotic vision of a nation-state, thousands of medieval Europeans marched off to fight for Christ. In both cases, the soldiers felt similarly about their causes. They were willing to sacrifice their lives to defend what they held most sacred” (pg. 1).

A few paragraphs down Madden writes, “Mohammed began his prophecies and preaching in Mecca, a trading city in Arabia. In 622, he moved to nearby Medina and became that city’s ruler. There, Mohammed inspired more than just a religion. Because the Prophet was both a political and religious leader, Islam was at once a faith and a means of government. Commerce, justice, diplomacy, and war were built into the bedrock of the religion. Unlike Christian leaders, who tried to reconcile their prestige, power, and wealth with Christ’s life of poverty, Muslims had in their founder a model of a worldly and spiritual leader. Mohammed waged war, first against other Arab towns and then against Mecca. Muslims called each of these wars a jihad, or holy war” (pg. 3).

Madden continues by discussing the idea of Muslim expansionism being tied to jihad, “After the conquest of Arabia, Mohammed envisioned the continued expansion of Islam. Indeed, expansionism working hand-in-hand with jihad became an important component in the Muslim worldview. … The rapid expansion of Islam was truly remarkable. After Mohammed’s death in 632 a series of caliphs (“successors”) waged energetic jihads against neighboring peoples. Within a century, Arab Muslims had conquered Persia, Egypt, and Syria” (pg. 3).

Is anyone else uber excited after reading that? Doesn’t it make you want to go out and buy a dozen books on the Crusades?! *giggles with glee* … … … *clears throat* Ahem, umm, where was I? Oh yes –

As I sat watching “United 93” I saw Muslim Jihad lived out before my very eyes. Like the Crusaders of old, it is now time for Western Civilization to respond to Muslim aggression. Let us not allow our civilization to be destroyed by the greatest threat our society has ever known: Islam.

See the movie and talk about it with your co-workers, friends and family.