Saturday, November 19, 2005

The rise of anti-Catholicism

I must say that it’s pretty shocking to see all the harsh words directed at representatives of Mother Church by Tim Enloe and Kevin Johnson in the last several days. Whatever happened to the spirit of Catholicity?

The tender ears of Eric Svendsen, James White, Frank Turk, the Pedantic Protestant, and myself are just not used to hearing such mean-spirited exchanges.

I would earnestly counsel Tim and Kevin to follow our kinder and gentler example by cultivating a more respectful and charitable tone when addressing their Catholic brethren. Constructive dialogue is impossible when parties to the dialogue are so bitter and rancorous in word and register. “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers to dwell in unity” (Ps 133:1).

Friday, November 18, 2005

Nattering nabobs

Back in my junior high science class, we had a phrase: “dry-labbing.” Dry-labbing was where you took a short-cut. Instead of actually performing the experiment, you simply made up the data.

Tim Enloe is a past master of dry-labbing:

“I've heard tell of a hue and cry being raised of late about the ‘apostasy’ of Paul Owen, a contributor to our sister site Communio Sanctorum.”

Notice the introductory verb: “I’ve heard tell.”

In other words, this entire screed is based on hearsay information.

“Now these posts have caused conniptions in certain corners of the blogosophere inhabited by self-appointed Reformish Watchdogs of True Orthodoxy, because in them Owen "dares" to imagine that catholicity and sound doctrine are not defined exclusively by eensy Protestant (or in some cases, sub-Protestant) sects pretentiously opining that they have, by the use of a sola grammatica method of hermeneutics, discovered the Objective Meaning of the Bible's doctrine of the atonement.”

Given his lazy-brained addiction to hearsay information, Enloe naturally misstates the basis of the objection. For him to accurately state the objection, he would actually have to read the posts upon which he presumes to comment.

No doubt it saves Tim a certain amount of time to skip the reading process altogether and comment on a document without having ever seen what it says. One wonders if Enloe bring this same lofty standard of scholarship to his exposition of Medieval Conciliarism.

As a matter of fact, one of the basic objections to Dr. Owen’s position is not that we are judging him to be found wanting by our own criteria, but that we are judging him to be found wanting by his own criteria. Dr. Owen has identified himself as a “convinced Presbyterian.” He has been a member of a PCA church.

In this particular controversy, and at other times. Dr. Owen has attempted to defend his position as consistent with the Westminster Standards.So that supplies one point of reference in this debate.

And it should be unnecessary to point out that James White, for one, does not adhere to the Westminster Standards. He is, after all, a Reformed Baptist—and not Presbyterian. Unless I’m mistaken, he subscribes to the London Baptist Confession of Faith.

Dr. Owen's criteria may or may not coincide with our own. For now, we are arguing with him on his own turf.

But to know that, Enloe would have to make an elementary effort to know what he’s talking about. Yet, for Enloe, knowing and talking are two independent operations which only occasionally intersect—say, on the second Tuesday in April of every other leap year.

“Owen argues from Scripture quite extensively, yet the best he gets from the self-appointed Watchdogs is fire-and-brimstone accusations that he has "apostatized" by denying penal substitution.”

Once again, Tim is dry-labbing. If he’d bother to acquaint himself with what was actually said before he went public with his screed—and I realize that this may strike the average “Reformed” Catholic (all three of them) as a pretty unreasonable standard of evidence—then he'd know that this is another palpable false statement of the facts.

No, the best he got was not a fire-and-brimstone accusation. What he got, rather, was a detailed exegetical counterargument for penal substitution and against his denial thereof.

Yet in order to know this, Tim would have to actually read…but you’ve heard that before.

“For of course, in the obscurantizing land of backwards Fundamentalism which produces such self-appointed Watchdogs, penal substitution is as absolutely unquestionable as the Virgin Birth and the Second Coming.”

i) Remember, penal substitution is the doctrine of the Westminster Standards. This is one of the doctrinal standards of Enloe’s very own denomination.

ii) In fact, penal substitution is much more broadly attested in Scripture than the Virgin Birth. So why affirm the latter, but deny the former?

iii) Given that Enloe is a preterist, on what basis does he believe in the Second Coming?

iv) What is Enloe’s own position on penal substitution? Either he doesn’t believe it at all, or else he believes it, but regards it as so trivial that belief or unbelief in penal substitution is a matter of complete inconsequence.

“It's interesting to note that all these complaints come from low-church, baptistic Evangelicals masquerading as "Reformed" men.”

Since I’m not a card-carrying Baptist, I don’t have a dog in this fight. But I will observe that the distinction between high-church and low-church is simply a linguistic convention.

If you take the position that membership in the church is a natural birthright due to your parentage, one which requires no credible profession of faith, is that a higher ecclesiology than the position that the church is a communion of visible saints?

“So zealous are they for the traditions of their two or three historical ancestors that they simply cannot hear the combined weight of the overwhelming mass of the rest of their ancestors.”

Once again, all we’re doing is to hold Dr. Owen accountable to his own stated standards of doctrinal orthodoxy.

“For these sectarians, unlike for all who partake of a catholic life, the minority is nearly always (if not always) right in opposition to the majority. The True Faith has only ever existed among the most isolated, institutionally-repressed little groups.”

Another one of Enloe’s cardboard fictions. We “sectarians” don’t approach the question with any a priori burden of proof.

But as long as he chooses to broach the subject, just what is Enloe’s own denomination if not a congeries of little splinter groups? Is Enloe’s denomination recognized as a true church by the Roman Catholics or the Eastern Orthodox?

What is the total membership of Enloe’s denomination in comparison with the Catholic church or the Orthodox church or Anglican Communion? How many decimal places must we make allowance for?

For that matter, what fraction of a fraction of a fraction does it represent in relation to, say, the SBC? If to be in the minority creates the presumption of error, then Enloe’s criterion is either self-refuting or self-incriminating. Take your pick.

Believe it or not, I’ve actually read about an old church that only had 120 members in toto. You could fit the entire congregation into the upper room of a private home (Acts 1:12ff.). This schismatic little breakaway sect was so “self-absorbed” and “unteachable” that it “simply could not hear the combined weight of the overwhelming mass” of traditions comprising the oral Torah. “They deliberately shut their hearts and minds to any corrections from the rest” of the religious establishment—scribes and lawyers, Pharisees and Sadducees, and the High Priest to boot!

“It gets so bad in this Flatland of intellectual obscurantism that you can actually find some of these folks claiming that a statement written only 2o or so years ago by a very small minority of ultra-conservative Evangelicals (the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy) is the cream of all Christian theories about Holy Scripture, and that if one dissents from this statement one necessarily ‘owes the Christian world an explanation’."

Well, I suppose that the Chicago Statement was framed by “ultra-conservative” Evangelicals. Notice how Enloe uses “ultra-conservative” as a pejorative epithet. So where does that leave him?

As I’ve often said, if Enloe doesn’t like the Chicago Statement, he is free to state his own position in his own words, or refer us to some other statement which is more representative of his own views.

Why is he so persistently coy and cagey on such a simple question? Because he has something to hide, perchance? Why is he ashamed of publicly stating what, exactly, he believes about the inspiration of Scripture? Why this endless count-and-mouse game?

What is a Christian if not a believer? A believer who is prepared, at any time and place, to publicly profess his faith? Is that an unreasonable demand? Is that asking too much?

You expect liberals to play dodge-ball. To be vague and evasive. To keep their cards close to their vest. When Enloe plays the artful dodger, it makes you wonder if there is any there there.

“This all begs the questions: Who says that the Christian world is limited to the eensy sect?”

But Enloe belongs to an eensy sect. What are the membership figures for his own denomination? Let’s see the numbers. Why doesn’t Enloe ask himself his own question for a change?

“Who says that the private individual, alone with his Bible is better equipped to understand biblical truth than the whole body of Christians?”

Does the “whole body of Christians” agree on the interpretation of Scripture? Obviously not. That’s why we have the Catholics and Armenians and Copts and Anglicans and Orthodox and Lutherans and Baptists and Presbyterians and so on and so forth. Enloe’s own denomination is a consortium of different Evangelical traditions with differing creeds. Why doesn’t Enloe ask himself his own question for a change?

“Who says that when the individual decides to check his interpretations of Scripture with others, these others are only to be members of his own sect? Isn't that a recipe for learning only about the insides of one's own head? What justification is there for being so suspicious about historically larger bodies that the input of these bodies is immediately ignored in favor of the sect's view?”

As I read this statement I glance over at my overstuff bookshelf of Bible commentaries. Most of the commentators are not Reformed. Rather, they span the theological spectrum.

And I seriously doubt that that Dr. Svendsen’s private library is any less well stocked than mine. You know Dr. Svendsen—the Great White Whale of Enloe’s nightmarish imagination.

BTW, have you ever noticed the tone of escalating paranoia that attaches to Enloe’s writings whenever he gets on the subject of the Reformed blogosphere? Does he go around with a tinfoil cap to keep the little green men over at aomin and ntrmin from beaming impure Anabaptist thoughts into his noggin?

When someone constantly suspects the “other” of harboring suspicious motives, isn’t he projecting his own conspiratorial suspicions onto everyone else? Tim, be sure to check your house and car for bugs and hidden cameras. Oh, and beware of chain-smoking men in trench-coats who stand under the streetlight at 3AM.

Tim, I wish I could assure you that no one is out to get you—but we’re not allowed to tell. If I told you, I’d have to fit you with a brand new pair of concrete galoshes and take you on a little fishing trip.

Little Hitler: creating an old kind of Jew-hater

Harry Seabrook has made use of some of my material to justify his “kinism.” What is kinism? Kinism is a euphemism for white supremacy.

This raises the question of whether I should respond to Seabrook’s misuse of my material. Is it worth the time and effort?

On the one hand, I suspect that Seabrook is just spoiling for a fight with any Christian blogger he can bait in order to raise the public profile of his own little cult. In addition, I have better things to do with my time than get into an open-ended debate with a bunch of fanatical dead-enders.

On the other hand, I’m a Christian apologist of sorts. Christianity is a missionary faith. So it is worthwhile to make some effort at evangelistic outreach.

I don’t expect to win over Seabrook. He has found his cause in life. He would lose face were he took recant his racism.

However, we live in a country where many young people are raised in a moral vacuum—a moral vacuum which is filled by a radical ideology that denies them their manhood or woman, as well as their Christian heritage.

Young people are naturally idealistic. Ethical indirection and misdirection makes them easy targets for a twisted idealism. You can see this in young anarchists who protest globalism, Zionism, and the Iraq war, not to mention young skinheads who protest…well…who protest globalism, Zionism, and the Iraq war.

It would be tempting to dismiss little Geneva as the counterfeit Christian cult and hate-mongering fringe-group that it is. That is the liberal modus operandi. Don’t reason with the opposing side. Just slap a pejorative label on the opposing side and then pat yourself on the back for being so very virtuous.

But that is, as I say, not the best way to address the issue. For one thing, cultic fringe-groups like little Geneva thrive on this sort of abuse because it reinforces their sense of “us” v. “them.” The more they are demonized and ostracized, the more that solidifies their in-group allegiance and sense of being the righteous remnant.

Moreover, they piggyback on some legitimate social grievances to legitimate their own ideology. These grievances need to be addressed and not dismissed.

Furthermore, Seabrook appeals to certain verses of Scripture in which the average Christian is not well versed, and therefore ill-equipped to respond.

As such, I think it best to out-argue the cult-member rather than wave him aside without benefit of argument. That, of course, assumes that it is possible to have a rational discussion with a cult-member—which remains to be seen.

This runs the risk of drawing more attention to a fringe-group that deserves to fade away in well-earned obscurity. So there’s a trade-off. But the truth is our best offensive and defensive weapon. I’m not responsible for what people do with it.

I therefore propose a compromise. I’ll comment on little Geneva, but I’m not going to make an open-ended commitment to debate every Klansman and skinhead and Neonazi who crawls out from under a rock. I have my own priorities.

My primary aim is to give young people—mainly young men—who may have been lured into this false gospel the other side of the argument. To treat them with dignity and respect. To give their legitimate grievances a fair hearing. And to point them in another direction. God has something better for you.

Surfing little Geneva, it is clear that Harry Seabrook is very prolific. He’s been blogging since 2001. I don’t pretend to have read all his stuff.

If, in what I’m about to say, I leave out some crucial supporting argument, I’m sure that my critics will fill in the gaps. So I leave that to them. From what I have read there’s already a redundant quality to his argument.

His major statement appears to be his speech on “Kinism.” One thing I’d note at the outset is the contrast between his speech and the other stuff on his blog.

In his speech, Seabrook tries to assume a very high-minded tone. This is good PR. You lead by putting the best public face on your opening gambit.

When, however, we turn from his speech to the other stuff on his blog, where the description of Jews, blacks, and Latinos reflects the common coinage of the white supremacist movement, interchangeable with what you find among Nazis, Neonazis, skinheads, and Klansmen, it is clear that his sales-pitch on “Kinism” is just a softening up exercise to prep the patient for a decidedly less high-minded agenda.

BTW, one wonders how his Jew-hating rhetoric is supposed to comport with a postmill reading of Rom 11.

It’s not that there isn’t plenty of objectionable material in his speech on “Kinism.” But the reality is, if possible, even worse.

Let us begin with some of the grievances that are feeding into the white supremacist movement. The Federal gov’t has been overstepping its Constitutional boundaries for decades. Illegal aliens have more legal rights than law-abiding citizens. Western civilization is being marginalized and demonized. Whites are subject to reverse discrimination. Christian expression is in process of being criminalized. The South had a right to secede. The power elite is using increasingly coercive measures to impose its will on an unwilling populace. The democratic process is subverted by a tyrannical judiciary. Our Constitutional rights are being systematically denied us. Popular sovereignty as well as national sovereignty is under steady assault, in favor of judicial tyranny and one-world gov’t. The natural family is under attack by the queer lobby. Plus the clamor for reparations. And so on and so forth.

There’s much here that the average conservative—be it libertarian, hawk, businessman, social conservative, or member of the religious right can agree with.

All this and more gives a sense of moral validation to the white supremacist movement. The liberal establishment generates reactionary fringe-groups. Because the liberal establishment is so iron-fisted, because it doesn’t give a fair hearing to genuine grievances, because it denies the right of dissent and tramples on the majority, it naturally invites a backlash.

To the extent that the white supremacist movement provides a forum for disenfranchised Americans, it will recruit its members from the refugees of political correctness.

And yet this is purely opportunistic. For none of these grievances is evidence that white folks are superior to other ethnic groups, and therefore entitled to subjugate other ethnic groups.

What you have is a virtue-by-association, in which some valid social grievances are commandeered to justify a proposition that is logically unrelated to the grievances in question. And, indeed, if the white supremacist had his way, he’d simply substitute one injustice for another, one idolatry for another, one tyranny for another.

As a practical matter, life is unfair, and many historical developments are irreversible. I think we should do our best to elect representatives who respect the principle of limited gov’t. But it’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever return to a nice little Jeffersonian democracy. We just don’t have the votes to pull that off.

You improve the things you can change, and make peace with what you cannot alter. Seabrook’s vision, even if it were commendable rather than condemnable, is simply a recipe for a permanent class of malcontents and irreconcilables. These are people who live in a perpetual state of rage and resentment. Indeed, it’s of a piece with liberal victimology.

If you don’t learn to adapt and adjust to the inevitable, you’ll be left behind, and deservedly so. Seabrook’s cause is an unworthy one, but even if it were a worthy cause, it is a lost cause. Either move on or die.

Culture is fluid. For better or worse, culture changes over time. Sticking your finger in the dike isn’t going to hinder the river of time. Better to buy a sailboat.

And there’s also such a thing as making a virtue of necessity. If it were up to me, I’d expel the Muslims from our land. But as long as they’re here, let’s seize the opportunity to evangelize them. It’s infinitely easier to reach them with the gospel over here than in the Muslim world—where evangelism is illegal and conversion is criminal.

I’m inclined to agree with Dabney that the Confederacy had a legal right to secede from the Union. But the argument cuts both ways. If the Confederacy had the right to secede from the Union, then the slaves had the right to secede from the Confederacy. Why did Southern whites have a right to be free from Northern whites unless Southern blacks had a right to be free from Southern whites? So I happen to agree with Dabney’s premise, but, unlike Dabney, I’d take his premise to its logical conclusion.

It is difficult to see how you could possible justify white supremacy by appeal to Scripture. According to Scripture, all men are Adamites. They are all of a kind. So how could one “race” be biologically superior to another?

Racial differentia are simply a climatic adaptation. You might as well contend that we have one race of white rabbits and another race of brown rabbits. If a Snowshoe rabbit turns brown during the summer months, it’s a different species, and what is more, inferior to the very same individual which exchanges its brown fur for a white pelt come winter.

And while we’re on the subject, what race was Adam? Was Adam a white man? Doesn’t seem very likely. For one thing, Caucasian features are recessive.

Indeed, that’s one of the central ironies of outlawing “miscegenation.” That interracial marriage will defile our “pure” Aryan bloodlines. But if the Aryan race is naturally superior, then shouldn’t our own genes be dominant rather than recessive? Should our white antibodies zap those racial “impurities”?

In addition, Eden was a semitropical climate, so we’d expect Adam and Eve to be preadapted to a semitropical climate. Adam and Eve probably looked Polynesian.

Then there’s the little matter of a Jewish Messiah, along with his Jewish Apostles, and underwritten by Jewish prophets.

This is the rocky shoal on which any “Christian” version of white supremacy will invariably shipwreck. You cannot logically graft an anti-Semitic ideology onto a Semitic revelation with Jewish prophets, Jewish heroes, and a Jewish Messiah.

To make one’s racial identity one’s primacy source of self-identity and social identity is simply idolatrous. For a Christian, his Christian identity is first and foremost.

Here’s a third irony. Unlike an ascribed status or an achieve status, race is something you are born with. It is a matter of being, not becoming. It is a state of nature, not a state of mind.

That being the case, the racial self-consciousness of the white supremacist betrays a profound radical insecurity. If you are a white man, you don’t need think about being a white man. You don’t need to study the part, as if you were going to play the role of Hamlet.

Whites who try to be white are inauthentic. Whites who try to be white are play-acting. Either you’re white or you’re not. If you are, you just do what comes naturally to being white—whatever that is. But the problem this poses for s white supremacist is that, at that basic biological level, blacks and whites, Arabs and Asians all have the same passions and drives and fears and longings.

The white supremacist is acting like a confused adolescent who is unsure of his sexuality. Does he like boys or girls? But if you’re a normal man, you don’t need to ask yourself that question, now do you?

So does the white supremacist regard race as biologically determined or socially constructed? Sometimes he speaks as though it’s biological, but at other times he speaks as thought it’s a social construct. The liberal social engineers have misassigned a certain role to white folks, and the white supremacist calls upon us to reassign a different role to white folks and acculturate them to the white way of thinking and acting. On that view, racial distinctives are programmed in by culture, not genetics. This is the view of the anthropologist and the sociologist.

Moving along—on the one hand, Seabrook is opposed to the “Jacobite” doctrine of equality. This is an allusion to the French Revolution, filtered through Dabney.

On the other hand, Seabrook resents the fact that the victors in the Civil War (or should I say, the War of Northern Aggression?) treated the Southerners as second-class citizens.

I appreciate that particular complaint. My own mother is a daughter of the South. But if equality is a Jacobite doctrine, then why should Northerners treat Southerners as equals?

We also need to say a few things about slavery in the Bible. Historically speaking, slavery is a cultural universal. So the Mosaic code did not introduce slavery into Palestine, but rather, regulated a preexisting institution.

There were different sources of slavery: POWs, indentured servant, birth, inheritance, and a slave trade. At the same time, kidnapping to supply the slave-market was a capital offense (Exod 21:16; Deut 24:7).

Provision was made for the redemption of a Hebrew slave, and if a Hebrew slave could not exercise that option, he was automatically manumitted in the year of Jubilee. This situation was different in the case of foreigners (Lev 25:44-45).

That’s only to be expected. At a general level, the Mosaic law was all about erecting a wall of separation between Israel and her pagan neighbors. The Israelites were adopted and consecrated by God to be a people set apart from heathen immorality and idolatry.

At a specific level, God redeemed Israel from Egyptian bondage to be bond-servants of Yahweh. Hence, they could not enslave each other.

A partial exception to this rule was indentured service. Because Israel was a tribal society, land holdings were held in common by the clan. This conditions the laws of inheritance.

If an Israelite fell into debt, he couldn’t sell his property to redeem the debt. But he could sell himself into temporary indentured service.

i) Even these distinctions are not absolute. A foreigner could become a proselyte. In that respect, he would become an honorary Hebrew.

ii) Conversely, an Israelite could be excommunicated for apostasy.

So, ultimately, the distinction was covenantal rather than racial.

iii) The church doesn’t have the same vocation as Israel. The church is called to be holy, but not in the sense of ritual purity. The church is not separate from the world in that physical and ritualistic respect. To the contrary, the church is to evangelize the world. The church is an international and multiethnic institution.

As such, Dabney, Thornwell and other S. Presbyterians misappropriated the Bible in their attempt to justify the Southern institution of slavery. In this respect they acted as Southerners who happened to be Christian rather than as Christians who happened to be Southern.

Even if, for the sake of argument, race-based slavery were generally licit, that admission would not favor or disfavor one race over another. In principle, a black or Latino supremacist could just as well redeploy Seabrook’s appeal to justify the enslavement of the white race by black masters or Latino overlords.

Seabrook also appeals to Acts 17:26. In context, the Greeks regarded other peoples as barbarians. Hence, the verse, with its allusion to the creation account (Gen 1:27-28; 2:7), is a slap in the face of Greek racism.

In addition, Seabrook disregards the contrast between the OT and NT. In the OT, God did, indeed, partition various people-groups (Gen 10-11; Deut 32:8) so that the heathen could not unite to extinguish the godly remnant.

But as the setting of Acts 17 in particular and the program of Acts generally (1:8) make plain, the point of the New Covenant is to evangelize the nations and thereby incorporate them into the one people of God as members of a common covenant community. This already has its background in the terms of the Abrahamic covenant.

Notice that Paul talks about “times” as well as “places.” Places are static, but redemptive history is progressive. The status quo ante has changed with the coming of Christ (17:27,30-31).

Seabrook systematically blurs the distinction between interfaith marriage and interracial marriage. The Bible does not condemn interracial marriage per se, but only interracial marriage in its incidental connection with interfaith marriage.

Whether interracial marriage is good or bad is a prudential rather than ethical or theological question. It can only be answered on a case-by-case basis, and answered by posing the same prudential questions that one would properly pose of any contemplated marriage.

Seabrook also blurs the distinction between legally enforced segregation and legally enforced desegregation. One can oppose the former without supporting the latter. I doubt that blacks were ever interested in integration, per se. They just wanted freedom of choice, freedom of opportunity.

What has probably done more than anything to promote racial reconciliation is the desegregation of the military and professional sports. Men respect other men who can prove themselves on the battlefield or the ball-field. This is a competitive arena. A meritocracy. And a source of camaraderie.

Seabrook further blurs the distinction between race and kinship. If siblings are born to a mixed-raced couple, then they are kin to their parents as well as their brothers and sisters.

Seabrook blurs the distinction between race and culture. Culture is portable. Cultural diffusion is an ancient and widespread phenomenon. The NT is a classic example of cultural diffusion and fusion. Jewish theology in Greek garb. Western civilization is a classic example of cultural diffusion and fusion: Jewish faith and Greco-Roman culture.

Seabrook complains about the declining birthrate among Caucasians. And whose fault is that?

What is racial purity, anyway? It is a blood type? Eye-color? What’s the criterion?

When Seabrook isn’t busy blurring distinctions, he’s busy erecting arbitrary distinctions. For example, he draws a contrast between whites and Mexicans. But is that a racial distinction?

What about Mexicans of Spanish extraction? Spaniards are Europeans, just like Italians. Are they a race apart from Frenchman or Germans or Greeks? Isn’t Spanish culture a part of Western civilization? Isn’t Spanish a Romance language like French, Italian, and Latin?

There’s also the question of how to define the ethnicity of modern-day Jews. A lot has happened in 2000 years. Is an Ashkenazi Jew not Caucasian? What about a Sephardic Jew?

Seabrook says “the founding race of any nation has the right to determine its ethnic composition and its citizenship.”

What was the founding race of America? Isn’t there more than one contender for the title? The Spaniards. The French. The English. The Indians.

It’s amusing to see Seabrook wax nostalgic for the antebellum order. One consequence of slavery is that white masters felt free to turn the slave-quarters into their private harem or brothel. If racial purity is your objective, then slavery is a very counter-productive institution to facilitate your objective. Many a white supremacist has been a staunch segregationist during business hours, but an avid integrationist after the lights were out.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Where the WMDs Went

Where the WMDs Went
By Jamie Glazov | November 16, 2005

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Bill Tierney, a former military intelligence officer and Arabic speaker who worked at Guantanamo Bay in 2002 and as a counter-infiltration operator in Baghdad in 2004. He was also an inspector (1996-1998) for the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) for overseeing the elimination of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles in Iraq. He worked on the most intrusive inspections during this period and either participated in or planned inspections that led to four of the seventeen resolutions against Iraq.

FP: Mr. Tierney, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Tierney: Thanks for the opportunity.

FP: With the Democrats now so viciously and hypocritically attacking Bush about WMDs, I’d like to discuss your own knowledge and expertise on this issue in connection to Iraq. You have always held that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Why? Can you discuss some actual finds?

Tierney: It was probably on my second inspection that I realized the Iraqis had no intention of ever cooperating. They had very successfully turned The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections during the eighties into tea parties, and had expected UNSCOM to turn out the same way. However, there was one fundamental difference between IAEA and UNSCOM that the Iraqis did not account for. There was a disincentive in IAEA inspections to be aggressive and intrusive, since the same standards could then be applied to the members states of the inspectors. IAEA had to consider the continued cooperation of all the member states. UNSCOM, however, was focused on enforcing and verifying one specific Security Council Resolution, 687, and the level of intrusiveness would depend on the cooperation from Iraq.

I came into the inspection program as an interrogator and Arabic linguist, so I crossed over various fields and spotted various deception techniques that may not have been noticed in only one field, such as chemical or biological. For instance, the Iraqis would ask in very reasonable tones that questionable documents be set aside until the end of the day, when a discussion would determine what was truly of interest to UNSCOM. The chief inspector, not wanting to appear like a knuckle-dragging ogre, would agree. Instead of setting the documents on a table in a stack, the Iraqis would set them side to side, filling the entire table top, and would place the most explosive documents on the edge of the table. At some point they would flood the room with people, and in the confusion abscond with the revealing documents.

This occurred at Tuwaitha Atomic Research Facility in 1996. A car tried to blow through an UNSCOM vehicle checkpoint at the gate. The car had a stack of documents about two feet high in the back seat. In the middle of the stack, I found a document with a Revolutionary Command Council letterhead that discussed Atomic projects with four number designations that were previously unknown. The Iraqis were extremely concerned. I turned the document over to the chief inspector, who then fell for the Iraqis’ “reasonable request” to lay it out on a table for later discussion. The Iraqis later flooded the room, and the document disappeared. Score one for the Iraqis.

On finds, the key word here is “find.” UNSCOM could pursue a lead and approach an inspection target from various angles to cut off an escape route, but at some point, the Iraqis would hold up their guns and keep us out.

A good example of this was the inspection of the 2nd Armored Battalion of the Special Republican Guards in June 1997. We came in from three directions, because we knew the Iraqis had an operational center that tracked our movement and issued warnings. The vehicle I was in arrived at the gate first. There were two guards when we arrived, and over twenty within a minute, all extremely nervous.

The Iraqis had stopped the third group of our inspection team before it could close off the back of the installation. A few minutes later, a soldier came from inside the installation, and all the other guards gathered around him. He said something, there was a big laugh, and all the guards relaxed. A few moments later there was a radio call from the team that had been stopped short. They could hear truck engines through the tall (10”) grass in that area. When we were finally allowed in, our team went to the back gate. The Iraqis claimed the gate hadn’t been opened in months, but there was freshly ground rust at the gate hinges. There was a photo from overhead showing tractor trailers with missiles in the trailers leaving the facility.

When pressed, Tariq Aziz criticized the inspectors for not knowing the difference between a missile and a concrete guard tower. He never produced the guard towers for verification. It was during this period that Tariq Aziz pulled out his “no smoking gun” line. Tariq very cleverly changed the meaning of this phrase. The smoking gun refers to an indicator of what you are really looking for - the bullet. Tariq changed the meaning so smoking gun referred to the bullet, in this case the WMD, knowing that as long as there were armed guards between us and the weapons, we would never be able to “find,” as in “put our hands on,” the weapons of mass destruction. The western press mindlessly took this up and became the Iraqis’ tool. I will let the reader decide whether this inspection constitutes a smoking gun.

FP: So can you tell us about some other “smoking guns”?

Tierney: Sure. Another smoking gun was the inspection of the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Special Republican Guards. After verifying source information related to biological weapons formerly stored at the National War College, we learned at another site that the unit responsible for guarding the biological weapons was stationed near the airport. We immediately dashed over there before the Iraqis could react, and forced them to lock us out. One of our vehicles took an elevated position where they could look inside the installation and see the Iraqis loading specialized containers on to trucks that matched the source description for the biological weapons containers. The Iraqis claimed that we had inspected the facilities a year earlier, so we didn’t need to inspect it again.

Another smoking gun was the inspection of Jabal Makhul Presidential Site. In June/July 1997 we inspected the 4th Special Republican Guards Battalion in Bayji, north of Tikrit. This unit had been photographed taking equipment for the Electro-magnetic Isotope Separation (EMIS) method of uranium enrichment away from inspectors. The Iraqis were extremely nervous as this site, and hid any information on personnel who may have been involved with moving the equipment. This was also the site where the Iraqi official on the UNSCOM helicopter tried to grab the control and almost made the aircraft crash.

When I returned to the States, I learned that the Iraqis were extremely nervous that we were going to inspect an unspecified nearby site, and that they checked that certain code named items were in their proper place. I knew from this information the Iraqis could only be referring to Jabal Makhul Presidential Site, a sprawling mountain retreat on the other side of the ridge from the 4th Battalion, assigned to guard the installation. This explained why the Iraqis caused the problems with the helicopter, to keep it from flying to the other side of the mountain.

We inspected Jabal Makhul in September of 1997. The Iraqis locked us out without a word of discussion. This was the start of the Presidential Site imbroglio. The Iraqis made great hay out of inspectors wanting to look under the president’s furniture, but this site, with its hundreds of acres, was the real target.

During the Presidential Site inspections in Spring of 1998, inspectors found an under-mountain storage area at Jabal Makhul. When the inspectors arrived, it was filled with drums of water. The Iraqis claimed that they used the storage area to store rainwater. Jabal Makhul had the Tigris River flowing by at the bottom of the mountain, and a massive pump to send water to the top of the mountain, where it would cascade down in fountains and waterfalls in Saddam’s own little Shangri-la, but the Iraqi had to go to the effort of digging out an underground bunker akin to our Cheyenne Mountain headquarters, just so they could store rainwater.

A London Sunday Times article in 2001 by Gwynne Roberts quoted an Iraqi defector as stating Iraq had nuclear weapons in a heavily guarded installation in the Hamrin mountains. Jabal Makhul is the most heavily guarded location in the Hamrin mountains. With its under-mountain bunker, isolation, and central location, it is the perfect place to store a high-value asset like a nuclear weapon.

On nukes, some analysts wait until there is unambiguous proof before stating a country has nuclear weapons. This may work in a courtroom, but intelligence is a different subject altogether. I believe it is more prudent to determine what is axiomatic given a nation’s capabilities and intentions. There was no question that Iraq had triggering mechanisms for a nuke, the question was whether they had enriched enough uranium. Given Iraq’s intensive efforts to build a nuke prior to the Gulf War, their efforts to hide uranium enrichment material from inspectors, the fact that Israel had a nuke but no Arab state could claim the same, my first-hand knowledge of the limits of UNSCOM and IAEA capabilities, and Iraqi efforts to buy yellowcake uranium abroad (Joe Wilson tea parties notwithstanding), I believe the TWELVE years between 1991 and 2003 was more than enough time to produce sufficient weapons grade uranium to produce a nuclear weapon. Maybe I have more respect for the Iraqis’ capabilities than some.

FP: Tell us something you came up with while conducting counter-infiltration ops in Iraq.

Tierney: While I was engaged in these operations in Baghdad in 2004, one of the local translators freely stated in his security interview that he worked for the purchasing department of the nuclear weapons program prior to and during the First Gulf War. He said that Saddam purchased such large quantities of precision machining equipment that he could give up some to inspections, or lose some to bombing, and still have enough for his weapons program. This translator also stated that when Saddam took human shields and placed some at Tarmiya Nuclear Research Facility, he was sent there to act as a translator. One of the security officers at Tarmiya told him that he had just recovered from a sickness he incurred while guarding technicians working in an underground facility nearby. The security officer stated that the technicians left for a break every half hour, but he stayed in the underground chamber all day and got sick. The security officer didn’t mention what they were doing, but I would say uranium enrichment is the most logical pick.

What, not enough smoke? There was the missile inspection on Ma’moun Establishment. I was teamed with two computer forensic specialists. A local technician stood by while we opened a computer and found a flight simulation for a missile taking off from the Iraqi desert in the same area used during the First Gulf War and flying west towards Israel. The warhead was only for 50 kilograms. By the time we understood was this was, the poor technician was coming apart. I will never forget meeting his eyes, and both of us realizing he was a dead man walking. The Iraqis tried to say that the computer had just been transferred from another facility, and that the flight simulation had not been erased from before the war. The document’s placement in the file manager, and the technician’s reaction belied this story. UNSCOM’s original assessment was that this was for a biological warhead, but I have since seen reporting that make me think it was for a nuclear weapon.

These are only some of the observations of one inspector. I know of other inspections where there were clear indicators the Iraqis were hiding weapons from the inspectors.

FP: Ok, so where did the WMDs go?

Tierney: While working counter-infiltration in Baghdad, I noticed a pattern among infiltrators that their cover stories would start around Summer or Fall of 2002. From this and other observations, I believe Saddam planned for a U.S. invasion after President Bush’s speech at West Point in 2002. One of the steps taken was to prepare the younger generation of the security services with English so they could infiltrate our ranks, another was either to destroy or move WMDs to other countries, principally Syria. Starting in the Summer of 2002, the Iraqis had months to purge their files and create cover stories, such as the letter from Hossam Amin, head of the Iraqi outfit that monitored the weapons inspectors, stating after Hussein Kamal’s defection that the weapons were all destroyed in 1991.

I was on the inspections that follow-up on Hussein Kamal’s defection, and Hossam said at the time that Hussein Kamal had a secret cabal that kept the weapons without the knowledge of the Iraqi government. It was pure pleasure disemboweling this cover story. Yet the consensus at DIA is that Iraq got rid of its weapons in 1991. This is truly scary. If true, when and where did Saddam have a change of heart? This is the same man who crowed after 9/11, then went silent after news broke that Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence operative in Prague. Did Saddam spend a month with Mother Theresa, or go to a mountain top in the Himalaya’s? Those that say there were no weapons have to prove that Saddam had a change of heart. I await their evidence with interest.

FP: So do you think the WMD is the central issue regarding Iraq?

Tierney: No, and it never should have been an issue. The First Gulf War -- and I use this term as a convention, since this is actually all the same war -- was a prime example of managing war instead of waging it. Instead of telling Saddam to get out of Kuwait or we will push him out, we should have said to get out of Kuwait or we will remove him from power. As it was, we were projecting our respect for human life on Saddam, when actually, from his point of view, we were doing him a favor by killing mostly Shi’ite military members who were a threat to his regime. I realize that Saudi Arabia, our host, did not want a change in government in Iraq, and they had helped us bring down the Soviet Union with oil price manipulation, but we should have bent them to our will instead of vice versa. Saddam would not have risked losing power to keep Kuwait, and we could have avoided this whole ordeal.

We topped one mistake with another, expecting Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party, a criminal syndicate masquerading as a political party, to abide by any arms control agreement. Gun control and Arms control both arise from the “mankind is good” worldview. If you control the environment, i.e. get rid of the guns, then man’s natural goodness will rise to the surface. I hope it is evidence after more than a decade of Iraqi intransigence how foolish this position is. The sobering fact is that if a nation feels it is in their best interest to have certain weapons, they are going to have them. Chemical weapons were critical to warding off hoards of Iranian fighters, and the Iraqis knew they would always be in a position of weakness against Israel without nuclear weapons. The United States kept nuclear weapons to deter the Soviet Union, but we would deny the same logic for Iraq?

There is also the practicality of weapons inspections/weapons hunts. After seventeen resolutions pleading with the Iraqis to be nice, the light bulb still didn’t go off that the entire concept is fundamentally flawed. Would you like to live in a city where the police chief sent out resolutions to criminals to play nice, instead of taking them off the streets?

As I said earlier, I knew the Iraqis would never cooperate, so the inspections became a matter of illustrating this non-cooperation for the Security Council and the rest of the world. No manipulation or fabrication was necessary. There was a sufficient percentage of defectors with accurate information to ensure that we would catch the Iraqis in the act. UNSCOM was very successfully at verifying the Iraqis’ non-cooperation; the failure was in the cowardice at the Security Council. Maybe cowardice is too strong a word. Maybe the problem was giving a mission that entailed the possible use of force to an organization with the goal of eliminating the use of force.

On the post-war weapons hunt, the arrogance and hubris of the intelligence community is such that they can’t entertain the possibility that they just failed to find the weapons because the Iraqis did a good job cleaning up prior to their arrival. This reminds me of the police chief who announced on television plans to raid a secret drug factor on the outskirts of town. At the time appointed, the police, all twelve of them, lined up behind each other at the front door, knocked and waiting for the druggies to answer, as protocol required. After ten minute of toilet flushing and back-door slamming, somebody came to the front door in a bathrobe and explained he had been in the shower. The police took his story at face value, even though his was dry as a bone, then police proceeded to inspect the premises ensuring that the legal, moral , ethnic, human, and animal rights, and also the national dignity, of the druggies was preserved. After a search, the police chief announced THERE WERE NO STOCKPILES of drugs at the inspected site. Anyone care to move to this city?

FP: Let’s talk a little bit more about how the WMDs disappeared.

Tierney: In Iraq’s case, the lakes and rivers were the toilet, and Syria was the back door. Even though there was imagery showing an inordinate amount of traffic into Syria prior to the inspections, and there were other indicators of government control of commercial trucking that could be used to ship the weapons to Syria, from the ICs point of view, if there is no positive evidence that the movement occurred, it never happened. This conclusion is the consequence of confusing litigation with intelligence. Litigation depends on evidence, intelligence depends on indicators. Picture yourself as a German intelligence officer in Northern France in April 1944. When asked where will the Allies land, you reply “I would be happy to tell you when I have solid, legal proof, sir. We will have to wait until they actually land.” You won’t last very long. That officer would have to take in all the indicators, factor in deception, and make an assessment (this is a fancy intelligence word for an educated guess).

The Democrats understand the difference between the two concepts, but have no qualms about blurring the distinction for political gain. This is despicable. This has brought great harm to our nation’s credibility with our allies. A perfect example is Senator Levin waving deception by one single source, al-Libi, to try and convince us that this is evidence there was no connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda, as though the entire argument rested on this one source. Senator Levin, and his media servants, think the public can’t read through his duplicity. He is plunging a dagger into the heart of his own country.

Could the assessments of Iraq’s weapons program been off? I am sure there were some marginal details that were incorrect, but on the matter of whether Iraq had a program, the error was not with the pre-war assessment, the error was with the weapons hunt.

I could speak at length about the problems with the weapons hunt. Mr. Hanson has an excellent article in “The American Thinker,” and Judith Miller, one of the few bright lights at the New York Times, did an article on the problems with the weapons hunt that I can corroborate from other sources. But if the Iraqi Survey Group had been manned by a thousand James Bonds, and every prop was where it should have been, I doubt the result would have been much different. The whole concept of international arms inspections puts too much advantage with the inspected country. Factor in the brutality used by the Baath Party, and it amounts to a winning combination for our opponents.

I was shocked to learn recently that members of the Iraqi Survey Group believed their Iraqi sources when they said they don’t fear a return of the Baath Party. During my eight months of counterinfiltration duty, we had 50 local Iraqis working on our post who were murdered for collaborating. Of the more than 150 local employees our team identified as security threats, the most sophisticated infiltrators came from the Baath Party. This was just one post, yet the DIA believes no one was afraid to talk, even though scientists who were cooperating with ISG were murdered. You can add this to the Able Danger affair as another example of the deep rot inside the intelligence community.

I believe that once the pertinent sources have a sense of security, a whole lot of people are going to have egg on their face. I believe the Iraqis had a WMD program, and I am not changing my story, no matter how many times Chris Matthews hyperventilates.

FP: Before we go, can you briefly touch on some of the prevailing attitudes in the U.S. military that may hurt us?

Tierney: There is a prevailing attitude that the U.S. is too big and ponderous to lose, so individual officers don’t have to take the potentially career-threatening risks necessary to win. I have heard it said that for every one true warrior in the military, there are two to three self-serving, career-worshipping bureaucrats. We shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the Army advertised “Be all you can be!” Or in other words, get a career at taxpayer expense.

President Clinton changed the definition of the military from peace makers to peace keepers, and no senior officers resigned or objected. President Clinton took a one star general who ran a humanitarian effort in Northern Iraq, Shalikashvilli, and made him Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The signal was out, warriors need not apply. Shalikashvilli later spoke at a U.N. meeting and listed the roles for the military in the “Revolution in Military Affairs.” He included warm and fuzzy things like “confidence building,” but failed to mention waging war. In my five years at CENTCOM headquarters, I very rarely heard the words, “war,” “enemy,” or “winning.” This was all absorbed into the wonderful term “strike operations.”

Operation Desert Fox was a perfect example of the uselessness of strike operations. Iraqis have told me that the WMD destruction and movement started just after Operation Desert Fox, since after all, who would be so stupid as to start a bombing campaign and just stop.

It was only after Saddam realized that President Clinton lacked the nerve for anything more than a temper-tantrum demonstration that he knew the doors were wide open for him to continue his weapons program. We didn’t break his will, we didn’t destroy his weapons making capability (The Iraqis simply moved most of the precision machinery out prior to the strikes, then rebuilt the buildings), but we did kill some Iraqi bystanders, just so President Clinton could say “something must be done, so I did something.”

General Zinni, Commander of CENTCOM, and no other senior officer had any problem with this fecklessness. They apparently bought into the notion that wars are meant to be managed and not waged. The warriors coming into the military post 9/11 deserve true warriors at the top. I believe the house cleaning among the senior military leadership started by the Secretary of Defense should continue full force. If not across the board, then definitely in the military intelligence field.

The Eclipse of Inspiration

Flipping through John Nolland’s new commentary on Matthew today reminded me once again of something I’ve observed in a lot of contemporary “Evangelical” scholarship. Nowadays, many Evangelicals will make allowance for “minor” errors in the record of Scripture while defending its “basic” historicity or “reliability.”

Let’s call this the Neoevangelical view of Scripture. And we need to be clear on what this amounts to. Neoevangelicals have simply ditched the doctrine of inspiration. This never figures in their deliberations. They may allow for a supernatural element in the events recorded, but not in record of the events.

So the only difference between the liberal and the Neoevangelical is that the Neoevangelical regards the Bible as historical, but uninspired—while the liberal regards the Bible as both uninspired and unhistorical.

The Neoevangelical approaches the Bible in the same way he’d approach Tacitus or Josephus. The Bible writers are to be treated as serious historians who are faithful to their sources. Nevertheless, like any uninspired historian, they are fallible. Although they’re generally reliable, they make honest mistakes.

I’m not aware that there’s has been any conscious attempt to deny the doctrine of inspiration. It seems, rather, to have dropped out of sight due to the intellectual milieu in which Neoevangelicals circulate.

What this means is that there is no longer any presuppositional difference between the liberal and the Neoevangelical in terms of the process of inscripturation—only the quality of the end-product.

Now, there is an apologetic strategy, popularized by J. W. Montgomery and his spiritual protégés, in which you bootstrap from the “basic reliability” of Scripture to inerrancy via Christology. But what I’m observing is not apologetic strategy.

It is possible that Neoevangelicals would cling to some theory of partial inspiration, but not only would this be illogical, I just don’t see it in evidence. The very idea of inspiration seems to be irrelevant to the way in which Neoevangelicals approach Scripture.

To the extent that they still affirm certain miraculous events in Scripture, what we end up with is a naturalistic doctrine of Scripture grafted onto a supernaturalistic philosophy of history. God still intervenes in history, but not in the historical record.

So they have an activist theology underwritten by a deistic Bibliology. And it is only a matter of time before this unstable compromise degenerates into a more consistent Deism or atheism.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005




‘What does it matter where this path leads, nowhere or elsewhere, if the furrow continues flowering, if the flash of lightning still inflames the night?’ writes Dominique de Villepin, Prime Minister of the French Republic, in his 823-page treatise on poetry. ‘If the poet still consumes himself, he refuses the enclosures of thought, certainties, to camp in the heart of the mystery, in the living spirit of the flame.’

Few people are as camp in the heart of the mystery as the flowery-furrowed M. de Villepin, but after the last two weeks he may be less enthusiastic about all those flashes inflaming the night. Poets, said Anatole France, are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. But in making one of them an actual acknowledged legislator the French have stretched the thesis beyond breaking point. Few countries are in such desperate need of ‘the enclosures of thought’.

Instead, the Prime Minister has announced ‘a raft of measures’, although, as rafts go, this one doesn’t seem likely to make it to shore. The measures include ‘the creation of an anti-discrimination agency’, ‘20,000 job contracts with local government agencies’ reserved for those in the less fashionable arrondissements, an extra E100 million for ‘associations’ in said neighbourhoods, etc.

In other words, M. de Villepin’s prescribed course of treatment is to inject the patient with a stronger dose of the disease. When you’ve got estranged demographic groups with 50–60 per cent unemployment and an over-regulated economy that restricts social mobility, lavish welfare is nothing more than government-subsidised festering. That doesn’t seem a smart move.

My colleague Rod Liddle writes elsewhere in these pages about the media’s strange reluctance to use the M-word vis-à-vis the rioting ‘youths’. I’m sure he’s received, as I have, plenty of emails arguing that there’s no Islamist component, they’re not the madrasa crowd, they may be Muslim but they’re secular and Westernised and into drugs. It’s the lack of jobs; these riots derive from conditions peculiar to France, etc. As one correspondent wrote, ‘

Well, it’s true there are Muslims and there are Muslims: some blow up Tube trains and some rampage through French streets and some claim Mossad’s put something in the chewing gum to make Arab men susceptible to the seduction techniques of Jewesses. Some kill Dutch film-makers and some complain about Piglet coffee mugs on co-workers’ desks, and millions of Muslims don’t do any of the above but apparently don’t feel strongly enough about them to say a word in protest. And it’s also true that it’s better to have your Peugeot torched than to be blown apart on the Piccadilly Line. But what all these techniques — and those of lobby groups who offer themselves as interlocutors between bewildered European elites and ‘moderate’ Muslims — have in common is that they advance the Islamification of Europe.

Just for the record, I don’t think everything’s about jihad. Rather, I think everything’s about demography. It wasn’t a subject I took much interest in pre-9/11. A decade ago, for example, I tended to accept the experts’ line that Japan’s rising sun had gone into eclipse because its economy was riddled with protectionism, cronyism and inefficient special-interest groups. But so what? You could have said the same 30 years ago, when the joint was booming. The only real difference is that Japan’s population was a lot younger back then. What happened in the 1990s was what Yamada Masahiro of Tokyo’s Gakugei University calls the first ‘low birth-rate recession’. It’s not the economy, stupid. It’s the stupidity, economists — the stupidity of thinking you can buck demography.

Let’s take that evasive media characterisation of the rioters — ‘youths’ — at face value. What is the salient point about youths? They’re youthful. Very few octogenarians want to go torching Renaults every night. It’s not easy lobbing a Molotov cocktail into a police station and then hobbling back on your Zimmer frame across the street before the searing heat of the explosion melts your hip replacement. Civil disobedience is a young man’s game.

Now go back to that bland statistic you hear a lot these days: ‘about 10 per cent of France’s population is Muslim’. Give or take a million here, a million there, that’s broadly correct, as far as it goes. But the population spread isn’t even. And when it comes to those living in France aged 20 and under, about 30 per cent are said to be Muslim and in the major urban centres about 45 per cent. If it came down to street-by-street fighting, as Michel Gurfinkiel, the editor of Valeurs Actuelles, points out, ‘the combatant ratio in any ethnic war may thus be one to one’ — already, right now, in 2005. It is not necessary, incidentally, for Islam to become a statistical majority in order to function as one. At the height of its power in the 8th century, the ‘Islamic world’ stretched from Spain to India, yet its population was only minority Muslim. Nonetheless, by 2010, more elderly white Catholic ethnic frogs will have croaked and more fit healthy Muslim youths will be hitting the streets. One day they’ll even be on the beach at St Trop, and if you and your infidel whore happen to be lying there wearing nothing but two coats of Ambre Solaire when they show up, you better hope that the BBC and CNN are right about there being no religio-ethno-cultural component to their ‘grievances’.

I’ve got three kids under the age of ten, and it seems to me that by the time they’re in young adulthood a lot of the places I know and love — including, believe it or not, France — will be a lot less congenial, if not lost for ever. I’m in this thing for me and mine. I am the story. And so’s Mr Doyle. And so are you. And, if you reckon you’re not, you’d better be a childless centenarian in the late stages of avian flu. Unless you act, you’re going to lose your world.

So the question is: do you think M. de Villepin’s one last shot of failed French statism will do the trick?

Finished laughing yet? OK, on we go. It’s possible that, as Europeans often say, the American century is over, and the hegemonic lardbutt is about to keel over and expire. Anything might happen. Was it Timothy Garton Ash or Will Hutton who suggested that giant space monkeys might suddenly descend and eat Cleveland? Could be. I wouldn’t rule it out. But the point is that, while one can draft all sorts of hypothetical apocalyptic scenarios for the Great Satan, the European catastrophe isn’t hypothetical, but already under way.

Right now, the US produces roughly 25 per cent of global GDP. Most analysts figure that by mid-century it will still be producing 25 per cent, and so will India and China, but Europe will be down to 10 per cent. As National Review’s John O’Sullivan has noticed, the three global heavyweights are all strongly attached to traditional notions of national sovereignty, so European countries which have bet on EU-style ‘transnationalism’ as a way out of their individual weaknesses are likely to find that, far from being the inevitable way of the world, it’s already on the wane.

And that’s the optimistic scenario. More likely, those Continental demographic trends will accelerate, as they did during the decline of the Roman Empire, when the imperial capital’s population fell at one point as low as 500. Some French natives will figure that they don’t have the stomach for the fight and opt for retirement elsewhere. The ones who don’t will increasingly be drawn down the old road to the neo-nationalist strongmen promising to solve the problem. That’s why I call it the ‘Eurabian civil war’. The de Villepin-Chiraquiste tendency will be to accommodate and capitulate, but an unreconstructed minority will not be so obliging and will eventually act. Meanwhile, it will be the Muslims who develop a pan-European identity, if only because many have no particular attachment to France or Belgium or Denmark and they’ll quickly grasp that cross-border parties and lobby groups will further enhance their status. The European Union is already the walking dead, but the Eurabian Union might well be a goer.

It’s remarkable to me how many European commentators cling to the old delusions — mocking Bush for being in thrall to his own Texan version of Osama-like fundamentalism. I look on religion like gun ownership. That’s to say, New Hampshire has a high rate of firearms possession, which is why it has a low crime rate. You don’t have to own a gun and there are sissy Dartmouth College arms-are-for-hugging types who don’t. But they benefit from the fact that their crazy stump-toothed knuckle-dragging neighbours do. If you want to burgle a home in the Granite State, you’d have to be awfully certain it was the one-in-a-hundred we-are-the-world pantywaist’s pad and not some plaid-clad gun nut who’ll blow your head off before you lay a hand on his $70 TV. That’s the way it is with religion. A hyper-rationalist might dismiss the whole God thing as a lot of apple sauce, but his hyper-rationalism is a lot more vulnerable in a society without a strong Judaeo-Christian culture. American firearms owners have a popular slogan: ‘If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.’ Likewise, if you marginalise religion, only the marginalised will have religion. That’s why France’s impoverished Muslim ghettos display more cultural confidence than the wealthiest enclaves of the capital.

So what can be done? For the political class, the demography’s becoming an insurmountable obstacle. When your electorate’s split between a young implacable ethnic group and elderly French natives unwilling to vote themselves off their unaffordable social programmes, there aren’t a lot of options your average poll-watching pol will be willing to take. And the trouble with the social democratic state is that, when government does too much, nobody else does much of anything. At the very least, European citizens should recognise that the governing class has failed, that the conventional wisdom has run its course, and that it is highly unlikely that those culturally confident Muslims will wish to assimilate with anything as shrivelled and barren as contemporary European identity. Donald Rumsfeld, a man confined to the enclosures of thought, likes to say that weakness is a provocation. And for the last two weeks that’s all the French state has projected.

As evidence of anti-Europeanism in America, Timothy Garton Ash has quoted on several occasions — and, indeed, preserved in book form — a throwaway line of mine from April 2002: ‘To the list of polities destined to slip down the Eurinal of history, we must add the European Union and France’s Fifth Republic. The only question is how messy their disintegration will be.’ That may be ‘anti-European’ (though I don’t regard it as such) but so what? What matters is whether the assessment is right, and after the last couple of weeks that prediction looks better than the complaceniks’ view that there’s nothing wrong with the EU that can’t be fixed by more benefits, more regulation, more taxes, more immigration, more unemployment, more crime and more smouldering Citroëns. If you carry on voting for the Euroconsensus, you’re voting for a suicide pact. M. de Villepin put it very well: ‘What does it matter where this path leads, nowhere or elsewhere?’ The Euroconsensus leads nowhere. Time to try elsewhere.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Reformata Blog

A new Reformed weblog has just been launched. They've even managed to bring the great Paul Helm on board. Be sure to bookmark it as part of your regular reading.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Paul Owen: Cross-burner

Paul Owen has penned yet another public attack on the doctrine of penal substitution—to follow up on his previous assault.

It is striking that, to my knowledge, none of his confreres in either the “Reformed” Catholic or Federal revisionist camp has deemed the doctrine of penal substitution sufficiently important to mount a pubic defense. Says a lot about the company he keeps. He can put a match to the cross of Christ while they simply yawn and turn the page. Remember that the next time you’re tempted to look to Tim Enloe or James Jordan or Doug Wilson or Peter Leithart or Andrew Sandlin for spiritual guidance.

Before commenting directly on his remarks, I’ll briefly summarize the Scriptural evidence for penal substitution. We’ll quickly see that the categories are interrelated.

Although there are verses which explicitly teach penal substitution (e.g. Rom 5:12-21; 1 Cor 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pt 3:18; 1 Jn 3:4-5), it isn’t necessary to find this combination in a single prooftext. All you need is find the work of Christ separately described in both penal and vicarious terms, and then combine both truths to form the doctrine of penal substitution.

I. Penal

i) Divine wrath

a) The wrath of God is a pervasive theme in Scripture. By the reckoning of Leon Morris, it occurs over 585 times in the OT alone. It also occurs at strategic junctures in Matthew, Luke, John, Romans, Ephesians, Colossian, 1 Thessalonians, Hebrews, and Revelation.

The wrath in view is not mere anger, but moral outrage or righteous indignation in relation to sin. Although the Bible depicts the wrath of God in anthropopathetic terms (e.g., Isa 30:27-30), this is a colorful way of expressing a literal truth about God’s attitude towards sin. Divine wrath presupposes that sin is culpable or blameworthy.

As you’d expect, divine wrath is also associated with the judgment of God. Hence, the wrath of God has a punitive dimension. God will exact justice on sinners.

b) Wrath and propitiation are correlative. Even if the Bible had no separate term for propitiation, the concept would be implicit in the nature of salvation, for salvation would, of necessity, include deliverance from the wrath of God.

ii) Covenant

A covenant is a legal arrangement. Breach of covenant carries legal sanctions. Both the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant are expressions of contract law. The New Covenant is God’s law for the church.

iii) Sacrifice

Nowadays we ordinarily use sacrificial language as a figure of speech. But a sacrifice is literally putting to death a man or animal or propitiate the deity. In Scripture, a sacrifice is a sin-offering or guilt-offering. The penalty of sin is exacted on victim to secure a reprieve or pardon for the sinner.

This has its foundation in the Mosaic code. It underlies Isaiah 53. And the author of Hebrews makes systematic use of this framework to explicate the work of Christ.

iv) Sin

Sin is a forensic category. Sin is a violation of God’s law (1 Jn 3:4). The sinner contracts guilt as a result of sin. The sinner is liable to divine judgment for his sin.

v) Blood

In Scriptural usage, blood is generally a synonym for violent death. It is often used with reference to the OT sacrificial system, where the sacrificial animal is penalized in lieu of the sinner.

In the NT it is, of course, associated with the shed blood of Christ, as a synonym for his death upon the cross.

vi) Death

In Scripture, death is a penalty for sin (Gen 2:17; 3:19; Rom 5:12-21; 6:23; 1 Cor 15:21-22). If death is penal in character, then atonement must be penal in character.

vii) Hell.

Hell is a penalty for sin. If hell is penal in character, then atonement must be penal in character.

viii) Redemption

In OT usage, redemption can be either figurative (e.g. the Exodus, post-Exilic Restoration) or literal (e.g. manumission of indentured servants). The sense of the word can sometimes shade into the bare idea of deliverance.

More directly relevant to NT usage is where the offender must make restitution to avoid the death penalty (Exod 21:28-29; Num 35:31-32); likewise, where a sacrificial animal is offered in lieu of the firstborn son (Exod 13:2,13; 22:29-30; Lev 18:15; 19:20; Num 3:46,48,51). The firstborn Jewish male escapes the Plague of the Firstborn, unlike the firstborn Egyptian male, because his life is ransomed by an animal sacrifice.

The flip side of this provision is the avenger of blood who redeems the life of a kinsman by taking the life of his murderer (Exod 13:2,13; 34:19-20; Num 3:12; 35:19; Deut 15:19-20) in a vicarious life-for-life transaction.

In NT usage, the ransom price is the blood and/or death of Christ (e.g. Rom 3:24-25; Eph 1:7; Heb 9:12,15; 1 Pet 1:18).

In passages like Mk 10:45 (par. Mt 20:28), the case for substitution doesn’t turn on the mere meaning of a given preposition (Gr. anti, hyper). Rather, the vicarious dimension is evident both from the explicit statement of a one-to-many relation as well as the way in which the action actually plays out. Jesus, and Jesus alone, dies on the cross.

In addition, Christ redeems us from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13). His death is nothing less than a judicial execution.

ix) Reconciliation

Reconciliation presupposes a prior state of enmity.

x) Propitiation

a) In secular Greek, hiliaskomai means “to placate, propitiate, appease.” In Septuagintal usage, it is associated with the wrath and judgment of God. Although that association doesn’t define the word, it confirms the secular import.

b) In its NT occurrences (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10) it also denotes propitiation.

c) Again, even if the Bible had no term for propitiation, the idea would be implicit in the principle of divine wrath and sacrifice to appease the deity.

For standard word-studies on the meaning of hiliaskomai, cf. D. Hill, Greek Words & Hebrew Meanings (Cambridge 1967), chap. 2; L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (Eerdmans 1983), 144-214; R. Nicole, “C. H. Dodd & the Doctrine of Propitiation,” Standing Forth (Mentor 2002), 343-85.

xi) Justification

Justification is a forensic category. The sinner is guilty, but acquitted on account of his Redeemer. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer.

II. Substitutionary

i) Covenant

In the ANE, a king would enter into a treaty with another king. Each king acted as the official representative of his royal subjects. It is generally held that the genre of Mosaic covenant is literarily indebted to this legal form.

In divine covenants, a human being like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David, acts as the official representative of his people. In the NT, this role is assumed by Christ, who acts on behalf of his people.

ii) Sacrifice

In a sacrificial system, the victim takes the place of the sinner. (e.g. Isa 53; Heb 9:26). This is signified by the imposition of hands, with its symbolic transfer of guilt from the sinner to the victim (Lev 1:4).

iii) Kinship

The OT category of redemption is related to the OT principle of kinship. For example, an indentured servant could be ransomed by a kinsman-redeemer (Lev 25:49; Deut 25:5-10). Likewise, next of kin could function as collateral (Gen 43:9; 44:32-33).

This underlies covenant theology. In a tribal society, the chieftain or patriarch would act on behalf of the clan. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David assume this role in the OT.

iv) Kingship

Kingship is an extension of kinship. The king was head over all the tribes.

v) Priesthood

A priest would act on behalf of the sinner. He would intercede for the people.

Already in Messianic prophecy we see the fusion of the royal and priestly office in one incumbent (Ps 110:1-4; Zech 3:8-10; 6:9-15; 9:9-10).

vi) Redemption

In the OT avenger of blood we have a vicarious life-for-life transaction as the avenger takes the life of the murderer to atone for the life of the victim.

Using the classic Exodus paradigm, Isaiah says that God paid a ransom for Israel, and the ransom-price was Egypt in exchange for Israel (Isa 43:3-4).

vii) Reconciliation

Reconciliation is not inherently vicarious. However, the NT describes the reconciliation effected by Christ in vicarious terms of a one-for-many exchange (2 Cor 5:14-15,19-21).

Let us now consider Dr. Owen’s objections:
“My rejection of the propitiation model, and penal substitution (as it is commonly understood), is not a new development. These are views I have rejected since my graduate school days (mid 90’s). They are not indications of some alarming new shift in my theological compass.”

Whoever said that Dr. Owen’s view marks an alarming new shift in his theological compass? His heterodoxy is more indicative of an abortive conversion process. He never made a complete transition from Mormonism to Evangelicalism—much less Calvinism. This accounts for his eclectic and eccentric theology. You can take Owen out of the cult, but you can’t take the cult out of Owen.

What he’s been doing all along is a softening up exercise. He started out sounding nominally Evangelical to lower the guard of the gullible and unsuspecting. But as time goes he slowly unveils his hidden agenda. Having suckered and snookered the easily deceived with the tar-water of his cure-all catholicity, he shows his true colors.

“2. I do not reject propitiation because I do not believe in the wrath of God. My primary reasons for rejecting it are:
i)The OT nowhere associates the slaughter of animal sacrifices with the appeasement of God’s anger toward sinners. Since Jesus’ death is plainly to be seen as the anti-type of those sacrifices, I see no reason to link his death with the appeasement of God’s wrath either.”

i) In my brief summary of the Biblical evidence, I have argued otherwise.

ii) But even if what Dr. Owen says here were true, penal substitution is a broader category than propitiation. You don’t require an explicit link between sacrifice and propitiation to establish the penal character of the atonement.

iii) Since, to judge by his double negative, Dr. Owen does admit to the wrath of God, how can he affirm the wrath of God in the very same breath as he denies the propitiatory character of the atonement? Wrath and propitiation are correlative.

“2) I do not believe it to be consistent with eternal election and limited atonement. God’s election of sinners indicates an already present love for them, and a willingness to forgive them. The death of Jesus therefore cannot be understood as causing or effecting God’s benevolent disposition towards them by appeasing his wrath. Christ’s death does not cause God to be willing to forgive those whom he has already determined in his decree to forgive.”

This is a fallacious objection. All you have to say is that apart from penal substitution, God’s wrath would terminate on every human being. The elect are deserving of judgment, deserving of hell. Were it not for penal substitution, they would be objects of God’s wrath, like the rest of mankind. This is a necessary precondition of the atonement.

“3. The expiation model which I hold to does agree that Christ’s death delivers us from destruction. But the logic is different. Christ’s death is not designed to satisfy the offended honor of God, nor his punitive justice. The eternal punishment of the unrepentant will do that. Rather, the death of Christ is designed to satisfy: a) God’s holiness (through expiation); and b) God’s demand for righteousness in his creature (through Christ’s obedience). Now it is true that it would be out of character for God (and in that sense unjust) to allow sin to abide in his blessed presence. So in order to maintain his holiness, God must do one of two things: a) destroy the sinner; or b) destroy the sin (understanding sin as an offensive stain). He can either propitiate his wrath, or allow a substitute to offer an expiating sacrifice. He can either punish or pardon. Christ’s death is the means of granting pardon, in such a way as to satisfy the demands of God’s holiness (which cannot abide the presence of sin).”

This is exceptionally confused.

i) Appealing to expiation only pushes the issue back a step. What need is there for expiation unless sin is offensive to God?

ii) Expiation is just a placeholder. It fails to explain how atonement is made. Hence, it is no an alternative to penal substitution.

iii) Eternal punishment may satisfy the justice of God with respect to the reprobate, but that hardly explains how the elect are able to escape the judgment of God.

iv) Notice the false antithesis: God can “either punish or pardon, propitiate his rather, or allow a substitute to offer an expiating sacrifice.”

Somehow it never connects with Dr. Owen’s furry brain that God pardons the sinner by means of exacting retributive justice on the sin-bearer. Otherwise, there is nothing to underwrite the pardon. Like a voucher, the pardon must be redeemed. It has to have something to back it up.

How would the death of Christ satisfy the claims of divine holiness unless the death of Christ were the very retribution which divine justice demands?

“4. So it is true that Christ dies instead of us (since we would be destroyed if we were not pardoned through his blood). It is also true that Christ dies the death that we deserve. However, he dies our death, not to satisfy God’s punitive justice, but to take away our sin, so that we need not die. The penal substitution model sees the wrath of God being poured out on Jesus so as to satisfy the demand for a just punishment of the pardoned sinner. Inevitably, in effect, this takes the emphasis off of the physical death of Jesus, and places it upon some supposed outpouring of God’s anger upon Christ on the cross as the unfortunate substitute. This leads to the erroneous idea that God killed Jesus on the cross instead of us.”

i) As an aside, notice how Dr. Owen constantly talks about the sinner being “destroyed.” Is he an annihilationist?

ii) Back to the main point, observe what a remarkably illogical mind Dr. Owen possesses. He begins by admitting that Christ dies instead of us, dies the death we deserve, dies our death. But then he ends by speaking of “the erroneous idea that God killed Jesus on the cross instead of us.”

“It is very important to distinguish between Jesus being punished in our place so that we do not have to be punished, and Jesus dying in the place of our sin so that we do not have to die.”

i) Dr. Owen is doing far more than drawing a distinction. He is driving a wedge between the two.

ii) Why is this a very important distinction, anyway? Death is a penal sanction for sin.

iii) Strictly speaking, Christ doesn’t die for sin. This is just a shorthand expression for the fact that Christ dies for sinners. There is no collective reservoir of anonymous sin for which Christ dies.

Sin is not some nameless, free-floating hypostatic entity. There is the sin of Adam as well as the sin of his posterity. Christ doesn’t die for sin: Christ dies for (elect) sinners, and he dies to atone for their sin and the sin of Adam imputed to them.

“One model emphasizes the punitive justice of God (an extra-biblical concern), and the other model emphasizes the purity and holiness of God (a biblical concern).”

He can only say that God’s punitive justice is an extra-biblical concern in defiance of literally hundreds of Biblical verses to the contrary. This may be good Mormon theology, but Biblical it isn’t.

“5. To illustrate: The penal substitution model sees God bringing down his celestial hammer to smash the guilty sinner. But at the last moment, Jesus steps into our place and takes the blow upon himself. God does not care that the one who got smashed was in fact innocent; just so long as he smashed somebody. Jesus was smashed just as if he had been guilty of the crime. Since God’s wrath is now spent, he does not feel the need to lift the hammer again and smash us. So we escape punishment.”

This is an amazingly obtuse statement coming from someone who claims to be a Calvinist and adherent of the Westminster Confession.

i) No Calvinist sees Jesus as stepping in at the last moment. Jesus dies for the elect. That was the deal all along. Those whom the Father chose, the Son redeemed, and the Spirit renews.

ii) God doesn’t care who got smashed as long as someone got smashed? So Jesus just happened to be at the wrong place and the wrong time? Is Dr. Owen really so dense that this is his conception of penal substitution?

iii) God doesn’t care that the one who got smashed was in fact innocent? What a perverse way of putting it, as if God were indifferent to the innocence of the sin-bearer, as if, what is more, this were a miscarriage of justice.

It should be unnecessary to point out that the innocence of the sin-bearer is a presupposition of the atonement. To turn this around as though it were incidental at best, and unjust at worse, misses the whole point—and no minor point at that.

iv) Jesus was smashed just as if he’d been guilty of a crime? See how Dr. Owen poses this statement as something objectionable, something to be rejected out of hand. You’d think the Calvinist made this up whole cloth. You never know that it comes straight from the pages of Scripture.

Yes, that’s exactly what the Father did: to punish his Son just as if he’d been guilty of the crime. You get that from reading the Bible.

What it comes down to is the old rationalistic objection to penal substitution and vicarious atonement. It’s so unfair! Is downright immoral!

At this point it’s no longer a question of defending “whether” the Bible teaches penal substitution, but defending “what” the Bible teaches about penal substitution.

For a Bible-believing Christian, our point of departure is what God has actually said and done. But the rationalist has to begin and end with his intuitions. And his intuitions are culturally-conditioned.

So, I’ll now shift from exegetics to apologetics. As I’ve already noted, penal substitution takes certain things for granted, like kinship and sacrifice.

Many contemporary westerners have lost their sense of kinship. When we think of a family, we think of a nuclear family at best, and a broken family at worst. And family members typically live hundreds or thousands of miles apart. This has resulted in the felt loss of kinship that comes of village life, extended families, tribes, elders, and chieftains. And we haven’t really put it all behind us, for this fragmentation and diminution of family life has taken an emotional toll.

In Bible times, it would seem perfectly natural for a king or kinsman to act on behalf of his people—taking their place, if need be. That was a socially accepted and expected role for them to play.

And remnants of this instinctual bonding linger on. Let’s say that Peter and Paul are friends, while Paul and John are friends, but Peter and John are not friends. They’re not enemies, just not friends.

One day, Peter does something to offend John. He would like to patch things up with John, but he doesn’t dare approach him. So he prevails on their mutual friend Paul to intercede.

The assumption here is that John will forgive Peter as a favor to Paul. Peter has done nothing to deserve this. Paul is deserving, but Paul wasn’t the offender.

Now, if you wanted to be contrarian, you could object that favoritism is unfair, even immoral. And if you took that position you wouldn’t have any friends left because favoritism and friendship are correlative. Friends do favors for each other. That’s the essence of friendship.

I use this simple illustration for its universal appeal. Maybe we find penal substitution repugnant, but if we think it about it, we all operate with very similar honor-code.

To take another example, Christian children naturally relate to the idea that Christ died for their sins. Indeed, they’re more receptive to that precious truth than are many adults. It’s only when some folks grow up that they become very self-conscious, inhibited, and easily embarrassed by their “childish” beliefs. They lose their natural spontaneity and become red-faced at what they used to believe. Instead of difficult things becoming easier to understand, easy things become more difficult.

Which brings us to another point. Every culture is a shame-culture. We may pretend that this is irrational. That I shouldn’t feel ashamed of what my close associates do. But we feel it all the same.

Sacrifice is another cultural universal. If this were so counterintuitive, why is it so ubiquitous?

Nor is this just a thing of the past, or backward regions of the globe. The only difference is that we’ve learned to disguise it or put a nice name on it. We still wage war. Murder one another. Revel in abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. Indulge in high-risk behavior. Watch violent movies and play violent video games.

Contact sport is a domesticated form of warfare. So is hunting.

All we’ve done is to sublimate the sacrificial instinct. Bloodletting by another name.

“On the cross, Jesus was not paying the price to satisfy the punitive justice and anger of God; rather, by means of sacrificial love, he performed an act of sacrificial obedience which so pleased and moved the heart of God, that the offensive stain of our sin was destroyed.”

So the Father bloodied and brutalized his own Son, not because it was necessary to discharge a judicial debt, but to give his boy a chance to impress the old man—something like that? This is Dr. Owen’s preferred theory of the atonement?

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