Saturday, November 12, 2005

Paul Owen: Judaizer

According to Paul Owen:


Romans 2:13 says: "For it is not those who only hear the Law who are just before God, but those who do the Law will be justified." In this verse, Paul plainly says that doing the Law is necessary for justification at the final judgment. This may not go down very well at your local Evangelical church, but it is biblical and Catholic theology. The following are a few reflections on this verse:

First of all, it shows us that we must distinguish between present and future justification. It is those who are just before God in this life (by faith; 1:17) who will be justified in the future (according to their works).

Therefore, justification not only changes our status, it also changes our condition (though it is not itself based on that change of condition).

Since justification is simply being joined to Christ and his benefits (Rom. 6:5; 7:4), Christ’s righteousness is not only imputed to us for justification in this life (Rom. 4:6, 11), it is imputed to our good works as well (Rom. 15:18; Gal. 2:20), so that the works we do in the power of the Spirit will be truly accepted as perfect in the sight of God, and meriting the reward of eternal life (Rom. 2:6-7).


There are quite a few problems with this analysis:

1.Notice how he distances himself from “your local Evangelical church.” Now, Dr. Owen claims to be a Presbyterian who subscribes to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Concerning the immediate point at issue, the Confession says that “those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth…not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone.”

But according to Dr. Owen, in his distinction between present and future justification, we are justified in part both by something done in us and by us.

So Dr. Owen subscribes to the Westminster Confession with his fingers firmly crossed behind his back.

2.St. Paul has a stereotypical way of expressing the instrumentality of justification. He does so through the use of a prepositional phrase. The exact syntax varies with the Greek noun which supplies the verb, as well as any contrasting phrase. In standard English versions, this takes the form of saying that we are justified by (or through) faith (Rom 3:28; Gal 2:16,24; 3:8), or grace (Rom 3:24; Tit 3:7), or Christ (Gal 2:17), or the blood [of Christ] (Rom 5:9). By contrast, we are not justified by works (Rom 4:2; Gal 2:16; 3:11; 5:4).

Now, according to Dr. Owen’s gloss on Rom 2:13, we are justified by works at the final judgment.

Notice, though, that Paul doesn’t use that stereotypical construction in Rom 2:13. He doesn’t say that we are justified by the law, or by keeping the law. He doesn’t say that law-keeping is instrumental to our justification.

What he states is not a causal relation, but a correlation. There is a correspondence between the class of the justified and the class of the law-keepers.

But to say that antinomians will not be justified is not to say that we are justified by keeping the law. If that is what Paul wanted to say, he had a standard formula for expressing that relation.

3. What Paul is doing at this preliminary stage of his argument is a ground-clearing exercise to show that Jews have no automatic advantage over Gentiles when it comes to justification. Appealing to their membership in the Mosaic covenant would only be advantageous if they were faithful to the law of Moses, but since the Jews are law-breakers, this is, if anything, disadvantageous. So if they and the Gentiles are to be justified, it must be by some other means.

4.Paul uses the future tense in Rom 2:13, not with reference to a future act of justification but a future event—the day of judgment. Because the context is eschatological, the verb is in the future tense, just like the verbs in the preceding verse. The eschatological verdict and sentencing phase take place in the future because the event itself takes place in the future. But unless we are already justified when we appear before the bar of God, we will be condemned. And one purpose of this event is the public revelation who, indeed, was justified in Christ—as opposed to mere hearers of the word (13,16).

5.Dr. Owen also has a morally and intellectually loose habit of citing prooftexts to say things and prove things which, if you look them up and actually read them, they never state or imply.

Rom 6:5 and 7:4 do not say that justification is simply being joined to Christ and his benefits. Indeed, they don’t mention justification at all. Rom. 15:18 & Gal. 2:20 do not say or imply that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to our own good works. Rom. 2:6-7 doesn’t say that our good works are accepted as “perfect” in God’s sight, much less that our good works “merit” eternal life.

Dr. Owen is furiously feeding nickels and dimes into the expired meter after spotting the parking citation stuck in-between the windshield and the windshield wiper of his car.

Friday, November 11, 2005

President Commemorates Veterans Day

At this hour, a new generation of Americans is defending our flag and our freedom in the first war of the 21st century. The war came to our shores on September the 11th, 2001. That morning, we saw the destruction that terrorists intend for our nation. We know that they want to strike again. And our nation has made a clear choice: We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity; we will not tire or rest until the war on terror is won. (Applause.)

In the four years since September the 11th, the evil that reached our shores has reappeared on other days, in other places -- in Mombasa and Casablanca and Riyadh and Jakarta and Istanbul and Madrid and Beslan and Taba and Netanya and Baghdad, and elsewhere. In the past few months, we have seen a new terror offensive with attacks on London and Sharm el-Sheikh, another deadly strike in Bali, and this week, a series of bombings in Amman, Jordan, that killed dozens of innocent Jordanians and their guests.

All these separate images of destruction and suffering that we see on the news can seem like random, isolated acts of madness -- innocent men and women and children who have died simply because they boarded the wrong train, or worked in the wrong building, or checked into the wrong hotel. Yet, while the killers choose their victims indiscriminately, their attacks serve a clear and focused ideology -- a set of beliefs and goals that are evil, but not insane.

Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant Jihadism; and still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it's called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism, subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against Christians and Hindus and Jews -- and against Muslims, themselves, who do not share their radical vision.

Many militants are part of a global, borderless terrorist organization like al Qaeda -- which spreads propaganda, and provides financing and technical assistance to local extremists, and conducts dramatic and brutal operations like the attacks of September the 11th. Other militants are found in regional groups, often associated with al Qaeda -- paramilitary insurgencies and separatist movements in places like Somalia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Chechnya, Kashmir and Algeria. Still others spring up in local cells -- inspired by Islamic radicalism, but not centrally directed. Islamic radicalism is more like a loose network with many branches than an army under a single command. Yet these operatives, fighting on scattered battlefields, share a similar ideology and vision for the world.

We know the vision of the radicals because they have openly stated it -- in videos and audiotapes and letters and declarations and on websites.

First, these extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace, and stand in the way of their ambitions. Al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, has called on Muslims to dedicate, their "resources, their sons and money to driving the infidels out of our lands." The tactics of al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists have been consistent for a quarter of a century: They hit us, and expect us to run.

Last month, the world learned of a letter written by al Qaeda's number two leader, a guy named Zawahiri. And he wrote this letter to his chief deputy in Iraq -- the terrorist Zarqawi. In it, Zawahiri points to the Vietnam War as a model for al Qaeda. This is what he said: "The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam -- and how they ran and left their agents -- is noteworthy." The terrorists witnessed a similar response after the attacks on American troops in Beirut in 1983 and Mogadishu in 1993. They believe that America can be made to run again -- only this time on a larger scale, with greater consequences.

Second, the militant network wants to use the vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country -- a base from which to launch attacks and conduct their war against non-radical Muslim governments. Over the past few decades, radicals have specifically targeted Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and Jordan for potential takeover. They achieved their goal, for a time, in Afghanistan. And now they've set their sights on Iraq. In his recent letter, Zawahiri writes that al Qaeda views Iraq as, "the place for the greatest battle." The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. We must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war against the terrorists. (Applause.)

Third, these militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region, and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia. Zawahiri writes that the terrorists, "must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq." He goes on to say: "[T]he jihad ... requires several incremental goals. ... Expel the Americans from Iraq. ... Establish an Islamic authority over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraqo Extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq."

With the greater economic, military and political power they seek, the terrorists would be able to advance their stated agenda: to develop weapons of mass destruction; to destroy Israel; to intimidate Europe; to assault the American people; and to blackmail our government into isolation.

Some might be tempted to dismiss these goals as fanatical or extreme. They are fanatical and extreme -- but they should not be dismissed. Our enemy is utterly committed. As Zarqawi has vowed, "We will either achieve victory over the human race or we will pass to the eternal life." (Applause.) And the civilized world knows very well that other fanatics in history, from Hitler to Stalin to Pol Pot, consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history. Evil men, obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience, must be taken very seriously -- and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply.

Defeating the militant network is difficult, because it thrives, like a parasite, on the suffering and frustration of others. The radicals exploit local conflicts to build a culture of victimization, in which someone else is always to blame and violence is always the solution. They exploit resentful and disillusioned young men and women, recruiting them through radical mosques as pawns of terror. And they exploit modern technology to multiply their destructive power. Instead of attending far-away training camps, recruits can now access online training libraries to learn how to build a roadside bomb or fire a rocket-propelled grenade -- and this further spreads the threat of violence, even within peaceful democratic societies.

The influence of Islamic radicalism is also magnified by helpers and enablers. They've been sheltered by authoritarian regimes -- allies of convenience like Iran and Syria -- that share the goal of hurting America and modern Muslim governments, and use terrorist propaganda to blame their own failures on the West, on America, and on the Jews. This week the government of Syria took two disturbing steps. First, it arrested Dr. Kamal Labwani for serving as an advocate for democratic reform. Then President Assad delivered a strident speech that attacked both the Lebanese government and the integrity of the Mehlis investigation into the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister.

The government of Syria must do what the international community has demanded: cooperate fully with the Mehlis investigation and stop trying to intimidate and de-stabilize the Lebanese government. The government of Syria must stop exporting violence and start importing democracy. (Applause.)

The radicals depend on front operations, such as corrupted charities, which direct money to terrorist activity. They are strengthened by those who aggressively fund the spread of radical, intolerant versions of Islam into unstable parts of the world. The militants are aided as well by elements of the Arab news media that incite hatred and anti-Semitism, that feed conspiracy theories, and speak of a so-called American "war on Islam" -- with seldom a word about American action to protect Muslims in Afghanistan and Bosnia and Somalia and Kosovo and Kuwait and Iraq; or our generous assistance to Muslims recovering from natural disasters in places like Indonesia and Pakistan. (Applause.)

Some have also argued that extremism has been strengthened by the actions in Iraq -- claiming that our presence in that country has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals. I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001. (Applause.) The hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue, and it will exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse. The government of Russia did not support Operation Iraqi Freedom -- and, yet, the militants killed more than 150 Russian schoolchildren in Beslan.

Over the years these extremists have used a litany of excuses for violence: the Israeli presence on the West Bank, the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, the defeat of the Taliban, or the Crusades of a thousand years ago. In fact, we're not facing a set of grievances that can be soothed and addressed. We're facing a radical ideology with inalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world. No act of ours invited the rage of killers -- and no concession, bribe, or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder. On the contrary, they target nations whose behavior they believe they can change through violence. Against such an enemy, there is only one effective response: We will never back down, we will never give in, we will never accept anything less than complete victory. (Applause.)

The murderous ideology of the Islamic radicals is the great challenge of our new century. Yet in many ways, this fight resembles the struggle against communism in the last century. Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is elitist, led by a self-appointed vanguard that presumes to speak for the Muslim masses. Bin Laden says his own role is to tell Muslims, "what is good for them and what is not." And what this man who grew up in wealth and privilege considers good for poor Muslims is that they become killers and suicide bombers. He assures them that this road -- that this is the road to paradise -- though he never offers to go along for the ride. (Applause.)

Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy teaches that innocent individuals can be sacrificed to serve a political vision. And this explains their cold-blooded contempt for human life. We have seen it in the murders of Daniel Pearl and Nicholas Berg and Margaret Hassan and many others. In a courtroom in the Netherlands, the killer of Theo Van Gogh turned to the victim's grieving mother and said, "I don't feel your pain ... because I believe you're an infidel." And in spite of this veneer of religious rhetoric, most of the victims claimed by the militants are fellow Muslims.

Recently, in the town of Huwaydar, Iraq, a terrorist detonated a pickup truck parked along a busy street lined with restaurants and shops, just as residents were gathering to break the day-long fast observed during Ramadan. The explosion killed at least 25 people and wounded 34. When unsuspecting Muslims breaking their Ramadan fast are targeted for death, or 25 Iraqi children are killed in a bombing, or Iraqi teachers are executed at their school, this is murder, pure and simple -- the total rejection of justice and honor and morality and religion. (Applause.)

These militants are not just the enemies of America or the enemies of Iraq, they are the enemies of Islam and they are the enemies of humanity. And we have seen this kind of shameless cruelty before -- in the heartless zealotry that led to the gulags, the Cultural Revolution, and the killing fields.

Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy pursues totalitarian aims. Its leaders pretend to be an aggrieved party, representing the powerless against imperial enemies. In truth, they have endless ambitions of imperial domination -- and they wish to make everyone powerless, except themselves. Under their rule, they have banned books, and desecrated historical monuments, and brutalized women. They seek to end dissent in every form, to control every aspect of life, to rule the soul itself. While promising a future of justice and holiness, the terrorists are preparing a future of oppression and misery.

Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy is dismissive of free peoples -- claiming that men and women who live in liberty are weak and decadent. Zarqawi has said that Americans are, "the most cowardly of God's creatures." But let us be clear: It is cowardice that seeks to kill children and the elderly with car bombs, and cuts the throat of a bound captive, and targets worshipers leaving a mosque.

It is courage that liberated more than 50 million people from tyranny. It is courage that keeps an untiring vigil against the enemies of rising democracies. And it is courage in the cause of freedom that will once again destroy the enemies of freedom. (Applause.)

And Islamic radicalism, like the ideology of communism, contains inherent contradictions that doom it to failure. By fearing freedom -- by distrusting human creativity and punishing change and limiting the contributions of half a population -- this ideology undermines the very qualities that make human progress possible, and human societies successful. The only thing modern about the militants' vision is the weapons they want to use against us. The rest of their grim vision is defined by a warped image of the past -- a declaration of war on the idea of progress itself. And whatever lies ahead in the war against this ideology, the outcome is not in doubt. Those who despise freedom and progress have condemned themselves to isolation and decline and collapse. Because free peoples believe in the future, free peoples will own the future. (Applause.)

We didn't ask for this global struggle, but we're answering history's call with confidence, and with a comprehensive strategy. Defeating a broad and adaptive network requires patience, constant pressure, and strong partners in Europe and in the Middle East and North Africa and Asia and beyond. Working with these partners, we're disrupting militant conspiracies, we're destroying their ability to make war, and we're working to give millions in a troubled region a hopeful alternative to resentment and violence.

First, we're determined to prevent attacks of the terrorist networks before they occur. We are reorganizing our government to give this nation a broad and coordinated homeland defense. We're reforming our intelligence agencies for the incredibly difficult task of tracking enemy activity -- based on information that often comes in small fragments from widely scattered sources, both here and abroad. And we're acting, along with governments from other countries, to destroy the terrorist networks and incapacitate their leadership.

Together with our partners, we've disrupted a number of serious al Qaeda terrorist plots since September the 11th -- including several plots to attack inside the United States. Our coalition against terror has killed or captured nearly all those directly responsible for the September the 11th attacks. We've captured or killed several of bin Laden's most serious deputies, al Qaeda managers and operatives in more than 24 countries; the mastermind of the USS Cole bombing, who was chief of al Qaeda's operations in the Persian Gulf; the mastermind of the bombings in Jakarta and Bali; a senior Zarqawi terrorist planner, who was planning attacks in Turkey; and many of their senior leaders in Saudi Arabia.

Because of this steady progress, the enemy is wounded -- but the enemy is still capable of global operations. Our commitment is clear: We will not relent until the organized international terror networks are exposed and broken, and their leaders are held to account for their murder. (Applause.)

Second, we're determined to deny weapons of mass destruction to outlaw regimes, and to their terrorist allies who would use them without hesitation. (Applause.) The United States, working with Great Britain and Pakistan and other nations, has exposed and disrupted a major black-market operation in nuclear technology led by A.Q. Khan. Libya has abandoned its chemical and nuclear weapons programs, as well as its long-range ballistic missiles.

And in the past year, America and our partners in the Proliferation Security Initiative have stopped more than a dozen shipments of suspect weapons technology, including equipment for Iran's ballistic missile program. This progress has reduced the danger to free nations, but it has not removed it. Evil men who want to use horrendous weapons against us are working in deadly earnest to gain them. And we're working urgently to keep the weapons of mass murder out of the hands of the fanatics.

Third, we're determined to deny radical groups the support and sanctuary of outlaw regimes. State sponsors like Syria and Iran have a long history of collaboration with terrorists, and they deserve no patience from the victims of terror. The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them, because they're equally guilty of murder. (Applause.)

Fourth, we're determined to deny the militants control of any nation, which they would use as a home base and a launching pad for terror. This mission has brought new and urgent responsibilities to our armed forces. American troops are fighting beside Afghan partners and against remnants of the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies. We're working with President Musharraf to oppose and isolate the militants in Pakistan. We're fighting the regime remnants and terrorists in Iraq. The terrorist goal is to overthrow a rising democracy, claim a strategic country as a haven for terror, destabilize the Middle East, and strike America and other free nations with increasing violence. Our goal is to defeat the terrorists and their allies at the heart of their power, so we will defeat the enemy in Iraq. (Applause.)

Our coalition, along with our Iraqi allies, is moving forward with a comprehensive plan. Our strategy is to clear, hold, and build. We're working to clear areas from terrorist control, to hold those areas securely, and to build lasting, democratic Iraqi institutions through an increasingly inclusive political process. In recent weeks, American and Iraqi troops have conducted several major assaults to clear out enemy fighters in Baghdad, and parts of Iraq.

Two weeks ago, in Operation Clean Sweep, Iraq and coalition forces raided 350 houses south of Baghdad, capturing more than 40 of the terrorist killers. Acting on tips from local citizens, our forces have recently launched air strikes against terrorist safe houses in and around the towns of Ubaydi and Husaybah. We brought to justice two key senior al Qaeda terrorist leaders. And in Mosul, coalition forces killed an al Qaeda cell leader named Muslet, who was personally involved in at least three videotaped beheadings. We're on the hunt. We're keeping pressure on the enemy. (Applause.)

And thousands of Iraqi forces have been participating in these operations, and even more Iraqis are joining the fight. Last month, nearly 3,000 Iraqi police officers graduated from 10 weeks of basic training. They'll now take their places along other brave Iraqis who are taking the fight to the terrorists across their own country. Iraqi police and security forces are helping to clear terrorists from their strongholds, helping to hold onto areas that we've cleared; they're working to prevent the enemy from returning. Iraqi forces are using their local expertise to maintain security, and to build political and economic institutions that will help improve the lives of their fellow citizens.

At the same time, Iraqis are making inspiring progress toward building a democracy. Last month, millions of Iraqis turned out to vote, and they approved a new constitution that guarantees fundamental freedoms and lays the foundation for lasting democracy. Many more Sunnis participated in this vote than in January's historic elections, and the level of violence was lower.

Now, Iraqis are gearing up for December 15th elections, when they will go to the polls to choose a government under the new constitution. The new government will serve a four-year term, and it will represent all Iraqis. Even those who voted against the constitution are now organizing and preparing for the December elections. Multiple Sunni Arab parties have submitted a list of candidates, and several prominent Sunni politicians are running on other slates. With two successful elections completed, and a third coming up next month, the Iraqi people are proving their determination to build a democracy united against extremism and violence. (Applause.)

The work ahead involves great risk for Iraqis and for American and coalition forces. We've lost some of our nation's finest men and women in this war on terror. Each of these men and women left grieving families and left loved ones at home. Each of these patriots left a legacy that will allow generations of fellow Americans to enjoy the blessings of liberty. Each loss of life is heartbreaking. And the best way to honor the sacrifice of our fallen troops is to complete the mission and to lay the foundation of peace for generations to come. (Applause.)

The terrorists are as brutal an enemy as we've ever faced, unconstrained by any notion of our common humanity or by the rules of warfare. No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead, nor should they overlook the advantages we bring to this fight.

Some observers look at the job ahead and adopt a self-defeating pessimism. It is not justified. With every random bombing, with every funeral of a child, it becomes more clear that the extremists are not patriots or resistance fighters -- they're murderers at war with the Iraqi people themselves.

In contrast, the elected leaders of Iraq are proving to be strong and steadfast. By any standard or precedent of history, Iraq has made incredible political progress -- from tyranny, to liberation, to national elections, to the ratification of a constitution -- in the space of two-and-a-half years. (Applause.)

I have said, as Iraqis stand up, Americans will stand down. And with our help, the Iraqi military is gaining new capabilities and new confidence with each passing month. At the time of our Fallujah operations a year ago, there were only a few Iraqi army battalions in combat. Today, there are nearly 90 Iraqi army battalions fighting the terrorists alongside our forces. (Applause.) General David Petraeus says, "Iraqis are in the fight. They're fighting and dying for their country, and they're fighting increasingly well." This progress is not easy, but it is steady. And no fair-minded person should ignore, deny, or dismiss the achievements of the Iraqi people. (Applause.)

And our debate at home must also be fair-minded. One of the hallmarks of a free society and what makes our country strong is that our political leaders can discuss their differences openly, even in times of war. When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support. I also recognize that some of our fellow citizens and elected officials didn't support the liberation of Iraq. And that is their right, and I respect it. As President and Commander-in-Chief, I accept the responsibilities, and the criticisms, and the consequences that come with such a solemn decision.

While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. (Applause.) Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.

They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction. And many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: "When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security." That's why more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate -- who had access to the same intelligence -- voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power. (Applause.)

The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges. (Applause.) These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them. (Applause.) Our troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough. (Applause.) And our troops deserve to know that whatever our differences in Washington, our will is strong, our nation is united, and we will settle for nothing less than victory. (Applause.)

The fifth element of our strategy in the war on terror is to deny the militants future recruits by replacing hatred and resentment with democracy and hope across the broader Middle East. This is difficult, and it's a long-term project, yet there is no alternative to it. Our future and the future of the region are linked. If the broader Middle East is left to grow in bitterness, if countries remain in misery while radicals stir the resentment of millions, then that part of the world will be a source of endless conflict and mounting danger, in our generation and for the next.

If the peoples of that region are permitted to choose their own destiny, and advance by their own energy and participation of free men and women, then the extremists will be marginalized, and the flow of violent radicalism to the rest of the world will slow and eventually end. By standing for hope and freedom of others, we make our own freedom more secure.

America is making this stand in practical ways. We're encouraging our friends in the Middle East, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to take the path of reform, to strengthen their own societies in the fight against terror by respecting the rights and choices of their own people. We're standing with dissidents and exiles against oppressive regimes, because we know that the dissidents of today will be the democratic leaders of tomorrow. We're making our case through public diplomacy -- stating clearly and confidently our belief in self-determination, and the rule of law, and religious freedom, and equal rights for women -- beliefs that are right and true in every land and in every culture. (Applause.)

As we do our part to confront radicalism and to protect the United States, we know that a lot of vital work will be done within the Islamic world itself. And the work is beginning. Many Muslim scholars have already publicly condemned terrorism, often citing Chapter 5, Verse 32 of the Koran, which states that killing an innocent human being is like killing all of humanity, and saving the life of one person is like saving all humanity. (Applause.) After the attacks July -- on July 7th in London, an imam in the United Arab Emirates declared, "Whoever does such a thing is not a Muslim, nor a religious person." The time has come for responsible Islamic leaders to join in denouncing an ideology that exploits Islam for political ends, and defiles a noble faith. (Applause.)

Many people of the Muslim faith are proving their commitment at great personal risk. Everywhere we've engaged the fight against extremism, Muslim allies have stood up and joined the fight, becoming partners in this vital cause. Afghan troops are in combat against Taliban remnants. Iraqi soldiers are sacrificing to defeat al Qaeda in their country. These brave citizens know the stakes -- the survival of their own liberty, the future of their own region, the justice and humanity of their own tradition -- and the United States of America is proud to stand beside them. (Applause.)

With the rise of a deadly enemy and the unfolding of a global ideological struggle, our time in history will be remembered for new challenges and unprecedented dangers. And yet this fight we have joined is also the current expression of an ancient struggle -- between those who put their faith in dictators, and those who put their faith in the people. Throughout history, tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that murder is justified to serve their grand vision -- and they end up alienating decent people across the globe. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that regimented societies are strong and pure -- until those societies collapse in corruption and decay. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that free men and women are weak and decadent -- until the day that free men and women defeat them.

We don't know the course of our own struggle will take, or the sacrifices that might lie ahead. We do know, however, that the defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice, we do know the love of freedom is the mightiest force of history, and we do know the cause of freedom will once again prevail. (Applause.)

Thank you for coming. May God bless our veterans, may God bless our troops in harm's way, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

The Problem with Ben Witherington

Ben Witherington has written a new book. Ben Witherington writes a new book every other week. Well, not exactly, but he’s nothing if not prolific.

His new book is a critique of three Evangelical traditions, of which Calvinism is a prime target. Since he’s such a high profile figure in the Evangelical community, it is worthwhile to comment on his approach.

He recently gave an interview plug his new book.

While it’s not entirely fair to judge a book by an interview, his answers give us an idea of his argumentative strategy.

Let’s begin with a few quotes:

“The issue is not really with Christology, the Trinity, the virginal conception, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, or the Bible as the Word of God. The issues I'm concerned about are the distinctives of Calvinist, Arminian, dispensational, or Pentecostal theology. When they try to go some particular direction that's specific to their theological system, that's precisely the point in their argument at which they are exegetically weakest.”

“In addition, we are all children of the Enlightenment, so we've tended to treat the Bible as if it were a history of ideas, where topics like soteriology, justification, the new birth, sanctification, going on to perfection, and glorification were the main themes, and our job was to link one idea to another.”

“I think part of the problem is that we are still doing theology in an Enlightenment frame of mind, as if it were a string of ideas that we should logically link together, and once we've produced a nice logical circle, then we're home free. The truth is that life is a lot messier than that, and the Bible is more about stories than the history of ideas that are embedded in the stories.”

The problem with these remarks ought to be obvious. To take a couple of his own examples, the doctrine of the Trinity is a theological construct. The doctrine of Christ is a theological construct. The way we arrive at the Trinity or a high Christology is precisely by logically linking one idea to another.

Witherington seems to be rejecting the harmonistic principle, which is the basis of systematic theology. But the harmonistic principle isn’t limited to the distinctives of a particular theological tradition. It is equally relevant to Christology and the Trinity.

If he repudiates the harmonistic principle, then how is he going to maintain any standard of orthodoxy? Couldn’t the Arian and the Unitarian take refuge in the criterion of messiness?

After all, there are problem passages for the Trinity. There are problem passages for the deity of Christ. The Arian has his prooftexts. The Unitarian has her prooftexts.

Witherington goes on to say: “That would suggest that what matters is not truth, what matters is, "Can't we all just get along?"…This is all about truth with a capital T. Therefore, we need to work these things out…”

But how can we be faithful to the truth if Scripture fails to furnish “an abstract collection of eternal principles that we can then link”? How can we work these things out if we relegate logic to Enlightenment thinking? How can we “be more faithful to honoring the Word of God,” if the witness of Scripture is so messy that it sends us mixed signals?

Moreover, don’t we have NT writers like Paul, in Romans and Galatians, or the author of Hebrews, stringing ideas together to drive home their point? They wander all over the OT, plucking a passage here, pulling a passage there, and linking these into a logical chain or bracelet.

Furthermore, didn’t Jesus often fault the rabbis for failing to attend to the implicit teaching of Scripture? They failed to take an OT teaching to its logical conclusion. So the business of drawing inferences and comparing one inference with another is a theological method we find in Scripture itself.

It is true that a lot of Biblical teaching takes the form of narrative theology. When, however, there is a point of theological controversy, we see Bible writers (e.g. Paul, the author of Hebrews) and speakers (e.g. Jesus, Stephen) shift to a different genre. In polemic writing and discourse, they don’t only tell more stories. They comment on stories. They tell stories to illustrate a point they’ve made by non-narrative means. They draw inferences. They link one idea with another.

Narrative theology is more than story-telling. Narrative theology is interpretive history. And there are many literary genres in Scripture besides historical narrative.

Incidentally, one wonders why Witherington dates the method of systematic theology to the Enlightenment. Calvin is pre-Enlightenment. For that matter, Aquinas wrote commentaries on the Bible—commentaries in the Scholastic mode.

Witherington tries to bolster his contention by the following claim:

“We have to remember that those who wrote the Bible were not late-Western Christians suffering from post-Enlightenment psychoses. These were people who lived in storied worlds, in an oral culture where storytelling was the essence of the thing. Most people in that culture were not even literate. They didn't live in a world bound by texts.

The Bible was not written in a text-oriented culture but for an oral culture. So these documents were meant to be heard. When you read them out loud in Greek, you notice alliteration and poetry and all kinds of things going on that are totally lost in translation. I think the oral dimension of the biblical world, very much connected to storytelling, is a crucial dimension and is a key to understanding the theology in those texts.”

There are a couple to basic problems with this claim. To begin with, it fails to draw an elementary distinction between orality and aurality. It is true that Scripture is written for the ear more than for the eye. But that does not imply a preliterate or illiterate culture. That does not imply an oral culture.

Literality is prior to orality. Speeches are committed to writing. Or writing is read aloud. So we still have a text-based language community. The spoken word may be the common mode of communication, but the spoken word is simply a delivery mechanism for the written word.

Witherington goes on to say that “Part of the problem is the temptation to form our theology almost independently of doing our exegesis. We run to the biblical text to shore up or find proof texts for things we already believe.”

This is true. Indeed, it’s a truism. And it suffers from the limitations of a truism. For it points in no particular direction. Everyone can agree with it, and apply it to the opposing side.

At the same time, it’s also somewhat misleading. Due to the redundancy of Biblical teaching, a systematic theologian can get it right on predestination, irresistible grace, and perseverance, even if he sometimes gets it wrong on a particular verse of Scripture. His specific exegesis can be off from time-to-time without his being generally mistaken.

Moving from generalities to specifics, Witherington says:

“The Calvinist system links the ideas of predestination, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. Each of those has its own exegetical weaknesses, especially perseverance of the saints.

You have in the Homily to the Hebrews (usually called the Letter to the Hebrews) a long discourse warning Jewish Christians in Rome about falling away, defecting, backsliding, renouncing the grace they've received. There's this huge warning in Hebrews 6:1-6 that says, in effect: Look, you've tasted of the Holy Spirit, you've heard the gospel, you've come to the altar 15 times; if you've done all of these things and you turn back, then you've committed apostasy, and what you're facing is final judgment. He is warning all of the Jewish Christians in Rome, not a select group. That's perfectly clear from the trajectory and flow of the argument if you pursue it right through Hebrews. Christians who are eternally secure in this lifetime don't need those kinds of warnings. But the author of Hebrews doesn't think there are such people. He doesn't think you're eternally secure until you're securely in eternity.”

I plan to post something on this subject, so I won’t go into detail. But a few comments are in order:

1.Perseverance and eternity security are not interchangeable concepts. Eternal security is associated with fundamentalism, not Calvinism. It is antinomian. It confines the grace of God to the objective work of Christ to the exclusion of the subjective work of the Spirit. Every objection to eternal security is not an objection to perseverance.

2.The author is writing to everyone in the sense that a letter is a medium of mass communication. That doesn’t mean that everything in the letter is equally relevant to every member of the audience. For example, there’s no reason to assume that every Jewish Christian in Rome was contemplating apostasy. The fact that it’s written to everyone doesn’t mean that it’s for everyone. Unlike a private letter, the author cannot individualize.

3.In terms of the trajectory and flow of the argument, the leading theme in Hebrews is not the danger of apostasy, but the supremacy of Christ. The author mounts a spiral argument to show that Christ is superior to the prophets and the angels, to Moses and Aaron.

But if Christ, as the high priest of his people, cannot save his people from apostasy, then how is he superior to the prophets and the angels, to Moses and Aaron? What does the high priestly intercession of Christ amount to if he cannot preserve his people from damnation?

4.It isn’t enough to say that they tasted of the Holy Spirit. You have to ask how the work of the Spirit is delineated in the Book of Hebrews. Is this equivalent to regeneration—or inspiration? Is this about the New Birth? Or is it related to the agency of the Holy Spirit in the authorship of Scripture? Are they resisting the grace of regeneration? Or are they resisting the voice of the Spirit speaking in Scripture?

5.Let us also not overemphasize the warnings to the detriment of the assurances, for the writer has a habit of beginning with a stern admonition, but ending on a note of encouragement (3:14; 6:9-12; 10:39; 12:4ff).

6.The doctrine of perseverance isn’t simply a logical inference from election, or special redemption, or irresistible grace. There are also direct prooftexts for this teaching, viz., Jn 10, 17; Rom 8.

P.S. Hat-tip to Gene Bridges for drawing my attention to this interview.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Church of the Jedi

Jonathan Prejean has taken exception to my modest little review of The Revenge of the Sith. One reason is that Prejean has a deep emotional investment in the Star Wars saga. I do not.

Assuming that a movie is worth watching at all, the best way to enjoy a movie is not to overrate it. For example, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? is a camp classic. Folks enjoy it precisely because it’s so campy.

In this respect, a lot of B-movies are more enjoyable than a lot of “great” movies. But the best way to ruin a good B-movie is to judge it by the standards of a “great” movie.

Now, whether, and to what extent, you enjoy a Star Wars movie is a matter of personal taste, so I’m not going to get into a big argument over that.

Speaking for myself, the more I enjoy a Star Wars movie, the less seriously I take it. If I took a Star Wars movie as seriously as Jonathan Prejean or George Lucas does, it would instantly collapse under the staggering weight of its monumental silliness.

For the record, I think that the only installments of the sextet that are really worth watching are the original Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Revenge of the Sith. And I’d rank them: #1: The Empire Strikes Back; #2: Star Wars; #3: The Revenge of the Sith.

Everyone is entitled to rank the sextet however he likes. I just mention my particular preferences so you know where I’m coming from.

Jonathan treats the saga as an allegory for natural law and natural theology. But this is a very flawed analysis. There’s a big difference between a pre-Christian and a post-Christian outlook. What is post-Christian is self-consciously anti-Christian.

Lucas is a child of the Sixties. The Beatles popularized Eastern religion. In our own day and age, “spirituality” is “in” as long as it’s anything but Christian spirituality. Buddhism, Yoga, Sufism, Cabala, the vision question, animal guides, spirit-guides, &c.

This is a political statement. It’s a way of sticking it to Christianity.

In addition to Lucas, Joseph Campbell was a paradigmatic syncretist. For him, Jesus was interchangeable with any number of other mythological heroes.

It’s hardly surprising that Star Wars saga predisposed Jonathan to become Catholic, for Catholicism is very syncretistic in its own right. Patron saints assimilate patron gods. Iconography assimilates idolatry. The sacraments assimilate mediumistic magic. The Pope assimilates the pagan Pontifex Maximus. Apostolic succession assimilates shamanistic apprenticeship.

In Scripture, the paradigmatic sin isn’t pride, but idolatry. Classical Protestantism (e.g., Calvinism, Lutheranism, Anabaptism) respects this prohibition.

Another parallel with Catholicism and Buddhism alike is the fact that the Jedi are a celibate order, which is why Anakin must keep his marriage secret. Of course, Buddhist monks and Samurai had a solution for that: pederasty. Somehow Prejean managed to miss that particular parallel. I wonder why.

And notice, once again, like Buddhist monasticism, that the Jedi recruit little boys, separating them from their natural families.

Apatheia is not a Biblical value. Moreover, apatheia is not at all the same thing as the Aristotelian golden mean. Furthermore, apatheia is not at all the same thing as divine impassibility. Prejean is systematically confounding one thing after another in his desperate effort to defend the indefensible.

Jonathan offers up a completely abstract, intellectualist definition of grief: “the proper Christian feeling of grief is over the failure of the opportunity for virtue, the failure of goods being rightly ordered to their ends, not the loss of temporal goods.”

This is a prescription for hypocrisy and recipe for false piety. It’s an “ideal” that no one either can or ought to live up to. It’s a Gnostic, world-hating ideal. Jonathan is the one who is erecting his piety on the negation of natural goods. Moreover, this is not something he believes in for a moment. This is play-acting, folks. Let’s pretend that we wouldn’t or shouldn’t be grief-stricken over the loss of a wife or child or friend or father or mother. Who does he think he’s kidding, anyway?

There’s nothing the least bit monastic about Prejean’s lifestyle that I’m aware of. He hasn’t taken the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience—much less a vow of silence. March with the Whigs, dine with the Tories—that’s his philosophy.

My criticism of the old republic had nothing to do with human authority in general. I was quite specific on that point. Of course, Jonathan is a frustrated royalist, so he naturally waxes nostalgic for these aristocratic regimes.

My stated point was that the relationship between the republic and the Jedi is analogous to the relationship between the Japanese imperial cult and the Shogunate. The Samurai are the security detail, the palace guard, for the royal court. And that’s the role of the Jedi as well.

I don’t regard it as an especially idealistic vocation. The old republic is a police state in which the Jedi exist to protect and defend the oligarchs. I find this calling no more admirable than a banana republic in which five families own 90% of the arable land.

Now, as I said before, I doubt this has anything to do with Lucas’ personal ideology. I expect it has more to do with his love of spectacle, which is a pretext for epic special effects, such as his penchant for virtual palaces.

I also suspect, as I said before, that he’s tapping into the audience of royal watchers, a la Princess Di, as well American “royalty,” viz. rock stars, movie stars, &c.

But whatever the director’s motives, this is the old order which the Jedi defend. And I don’t see much moral difference between an empire and an aristocracy.

Prejean then has an odd way of dragging in voluntarism, which he associates with Protestant theology and piety. But it’s the Jedi who embody voluntarism. They discipline themselves to totally repress their emotional life.

Conversely, Calvinism does not subscribe to voluntarism. The appeal to God’s will is not an appeal to a sheer will, divorced from God’s other attributes, but a will characterized by all of God’s other attributes. To take one classic formulation, “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass” (WCF 3.1). The will of God is a wise and holy will, not a sheer will.

Sola Scriptura is not “the Protestant concept of authority as an imposition on the will).” Scripture is the record of divine revelation, a revelation of the very mind of God. That’s a property-instance of supreme reason.

In the line “only a Sith deals in absolutes,” Jonathan glosses this in terms of “absolutes of will.” But there’s no textual justification for his interpretation. This is something Jonathan made up whole cloth. He’s using Star Wars as a pretext and cipher to do his own brand of theologizing.

Perhaps, though, his ridiculous overreading of the line is an example of living tradition and allegorical exegesis. This represents Prejean’s magisterial reading of the screenplay, based on the development of doctrine. I can hardly wait for Prejean’s penetrating theological insights into The Cat and the Hat.

“On the contrary, Lucas (rightly) views the Christian solution as the only thing that can answer the questions that pagan philosophy asks… his Incarnational and universal account of redemption is more von Balthasar than Buddha.”

Where is this coming from? Not from the movie itself. Does Prejean have an earpiece with Lucas whispering these subtextual revelations into his ear?

You see, Prejean interprets a screenplay the same way he interprets Scripture. He simply makes it channel whatever he wants to believe.

On a related note is his absurd summary of the Reformation: “The fear-based reaction of the Reformation, the "sky is falling" mentality, resoundingly proclaims a tale of people who fear the loss of the thing they value so much that they desperately need to put their faith somewhere.”

Where in Luther or Calvin is this a stated motive of the Reformation? What does this have to do with the Reformation soli? Prejean invents whatever he needs to make his case.

In this essay, Prejean refers the reader to an early essay, in which he laid out “an analogy of nearly-crystalline precision” between Anakin and Luther.

Here is Prejean’s central thesis:
“Luther's first negation was sola scriptura, the fundamental negation of the organicity of the Church. By limiting what is permanently binding on the Church by reference to a fixed and unchanging referent (Scripture), the possibility of real growth, real production within the experience and life of the Church is cut off at the knees. His second negation was in the concept of imputed justification, which is nothing less than denying the reality of Christ Himself. The underlying concept of imputed justification is that holiness is a thing that cannot inhere in creation, that humans cannot partake of the goodness of God. There can be no more pointed denial of Hart's concept of creation, and if one follows the premises of his argument, such a denial contradicts any possibility of the Incarnation.”

Notice the aprioristic character of Prejean’s objection. He doesn’t study what God has actually said and done. Prejean’s whole theological edifice is founded on nothing more than a theoretical postulate.

Likewise, justification by imputation is an exegetical finding. A revealed truth.

Again, the question at issue is not the abstract question of whether a creature can exemplify divine goodness, but whether a fallen creature or sinner can merit divine acquittal.

This is quite irrelevant to the metaphysics of the Incarnation since the Son of God is sinless and impeccable.

But Prejean always approaches theology through the interpretive grid of an extrinsic conceptual scheme. Anything that doesn’t fit within his preconceived scheme is eliminated and execrated. Prejean’s theology is a monumental exercise in make-believe. No wonder he finds so many parallels with the Star Wars saga. For him, there is no line between fact and fiction, history and theology.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Intifada Spreads to Brussels and Berlin

Intifada Spreads to Brussels and Berlin
From the desk of Paul Belien on Mon, 2005-11-07 12:34

Will the whole of Europe be burning by next week? As was expected, the Muslim insurgency did not stop at the French borders. Last night five cars were torched in Berlin. The cars were set alight in five different streets of Moabit, an immigrant neighbourhood of Berlin, and the Tiergarten area, only a few kilometres away from the seat of the German government. The German police are investigating whether the incidents can be linked to the events in France. Meanwhile, the Berlin police announced that they will step up their presence.

In Brussels, too, five cars were destroyed by fire last night. The cars were parked in Sint-Gillis, one of Brussels’ Muslim quarters. Sint-Gillis is the area surrounding Brussels’ Midi Station, where the Eurostar trains from London arrive. It is barely three kilometres from the European Parliament. The Belgian authorities admitted that cars had been destroyed, but is reluctant to give more details because “the Brussels Fire Brigade is providing no further information in order to avoid knowledge of these acts of violence spreading.” Believe it or not, that is the official explanation. According to the Brussels police there were “only a small number of youths on the Brussels streets.” National radio said this morning that everything is calm. People do not believe it.

In France the violence gets worse every night even though the moderate Union of French Islamic Organisations issued a fatwah stating that “it is formally forbidden to any Muslim seeking divine grace and satisfaction to participate in any action that blindly hits private or public property or could constitute an attack on someone's life. Contributing to such exactions is an illicit act.” When will we hear from the ambassadors of Muslim countries?

In France's eleventh consecutive night of lawlessness more than thirty policemen were severely wounded, including two who were taken to hospital with bullet wounds in their legs and neck. For the first time Christian churches (one in Lens in the North of the country and one in Sète in the South) have also been attacked. More than 1,400 cars were set ablaze. Riots have engulfed the entire country and, like the French revolution of 1789, it is contagious: The rebellion is spreading to Muslim areas in neighbouring countries.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The French Intifada

As we witness the French intifada, it is worth asking how France arrived at this point. In the spiritual vacuum left by atheism, the French establishment lacks the moral and political will to resist an absolutist ideology which is more powerful than its secular nihilism.

Paul Ricoeur is arguably the greatest living French philosopher, and a Protestant of sorts by the anemic standards of modern-day Europe. He wrote an article over fifty years ago which is all the more current for being so dated.

“To understand contemporary French Protestantism one must keep in mind three main factors which form the background of our thought, our life and our work as Protestants in western Europe. The first is what one might call the failure of the Reformation. The great fact which conditions the life of the churches in continental Europe is that, except in the British Isles and the Scandinavian countries, the Reformation did not succeed in replacing the Catholic form of Christianity and in building a new European civilization. It was completely destroyed in Spain, Italy, Austria and Belgium; it was nearly destroyed in France; and even in Germany the Thirty Years’ War left a country divided into a multiplicity of religious provinces.

The second fact to be remembered is the profound disturbance of modern culture by the 18C Enlightenment. No other country was as radically shaken by this movement of ideas as was France. This shock is responsible, among other factors, for the strains within our literature, which encompasses the traditions of both Voltaire and Pascal. Our system of education is torn by the struggle for monopoly between the anticlerical state and the church, a struggle which has resulted in the rigid character of our present school system. Our political parties too are often brought back to the old oppositions between clericalism and anticlericalism. It is always difficult for a Protestant to find his place in this old struggle between conflicting ideologies, neither of which represents his own spirit.

The third factor to be kept in mind is the dechristianization of the working class since the middle of the 19C. Before that period the bourgeoisie tended to be Voltarian, rationalistic and agnostic, whereas the workers crowded into the churches. But in the middle of the last century the bourgeoisie found again the path to the churches, while the laborers deserted them. Unfortunately, this was also the time when children started working in the coal pits. Women were forced into the spinning mills, and men had to work 12 to 18 hours every day to earn starvation wages.

The workers’ desertion of the churches is the background for the widespread conversion of the French working class to communism after the Russian revolution. The midwife of this conversion was the French socialism of the 19C which was one of the true heirs of 18C rationalism. This convergence of agnosticism and communism in the working class poses a difficult problem not only politically but also, as we shall see, for evangelization. In this connection the Protestants are not necessarily in a better position than the Catholics because, as a consequence of the failure of the French Reformation, Protestantism has its roots among the peasantry and the bourgeoisie, but little influence among the workers.

These three facts—the failure of the Reformation, the strains in our culture created by the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and the dechristianization and passage to communism of a large part of the laboring class—form the background of our existence as French Protestants.

This huge process which started in Europe with the Renaissance, or even earlier, is a kind of titanic revolt—not only the product of freedom but also the result of destruction of the bonds which tied the creature to the Creator. Secularization involves both moral greatness and sin, destiny and deviation, man both finds his stature in every field of though and action, and loses himself in dangerous adventures which he pursues without limit. The death of God that Nietzsche spoke of is the fate of Europe and perhaps of America,” “French Protestantism Today,” The Christian Century (October 26, 1955), 1236-37.

Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time!


Updated: 12:54 PM EST
Police Find Fuel Bomb Factory Near Capital

Some 2,300 police poured into the…region to bolster security overnight while firefighters moved out around the city to douse blazing vehicles. Police reported nearly 200 arrests nationwide.

Police also found a gasoline bomb-making factory in a rundown building… that contained 150 explosives, more than 100 bottles, gallons of fuel and hoods for hiding rioters' faces.

Inside the city, three cars were damaged by fire from gasoline bombs…where residents said they heard a loud explosion and saw flames shooting into the sky.

Unrest spread…”Arsonists burned at least 50 vehicles, part of a shopping center, a post office and two schools,” said Patrick Hamon, spokesman for the national police.

Five police officers and three firefighters were injured in clashes with youths in the town, Hamon said.

"Rioters attacked us with baseball bats"…"We were attacked with pickaxes. It was war."

The number of cars torched overnight…was the highest since the violence began Oct. 27…The night before, 900 vehicles were burned throughout the country.

Government officials have held a series of meetings with Muslim religious leaders, local officials and youths from poor suburbs to try to calm the violence.

Arsonists have also burned grocery stores, video stores and other businesses in what Hamon called "copycat" crimes. "All these hoodlums see others setting fires and say they can do it, too."


See what Bush has brought us to? He and Rove and Rummy and Cheney and the Neocon cabal lied us into an immoral and illegal war to line the pockets of the oil execs.

An insurgency like this is just what happens when you invade and occupy a sovereign nation. This is also what you can expect when you prop up the Zionist entity as it continues to oppress the Palestinian people.

We warned Bush that if he went ahead with this immoral and illegal war, it would be the greatest recruiting tool for Muslims militants that you could imagine. Is it any wonder that they hate us so?

But our cowboy president along with the Taliban-wing of the Republican party were way too ignorant and arrogant to heed the warnings of the world community, the advice of Kofi Annan, and the counsel of stalwart allies like France and Germany. This is what happens when you substitute smart bombs for smart diplomacy.

So now we’re stuck in a quagmire of urban warfare with no exit strategy.



Upon rereading the AP article I now see that it’s not about the capital of Iraq, but the capital of France. Sorry ‘bout that.