Martin W. Bender
I recently listened to another set of lectures on iTunes U: Dr. John Frame’s Christian Apologetics from Reformed Theological Seminary. It was an explanation of presuppositional apologetics. Presuppositional apologetics is a specialized method of arguing for the veracity of the claims of Christianity. It differs from other apologetic methodologies in that it bases all its argumentation on the presupposition that God exists and is the basis for all knowledge, thought, and communication. The most significant presuppositional apologists are Cornelius Van Til and Gordon Clark. Modern presuppositionalists typically fall under one of these two thinkers.
I really enjoyed the class. Dr. Frame quickly explains the majority of apologetic methods as well as the history of the field as it’s been used through the ages. He is able to explain fairly complex ideas in common language and argues convincingly for Van Til’s approach. It might be important to note Frame is a Van Til fanboy to a certain degree, but he clearly identifies minor differences in his own approach.
Dr. Frame argues the superiority of presuppositional apologetics is that it is fundamentally based on divine revelation. That isn’t to say scripture explicitly indicates how arguments for the existence of God are to be made, rather, that the idea of a personal, tri-theistic God is the basic presupposition for rationality of any kind. Every person builds their system of thought on the orderliness of God as seen in creation. Arguments against this are inevitably built upon the theist's presuppositions and therefore are self-nullifying.
Based on this series I will eventually get Cornelius Van Til’s Christian Apologetics to bone up a little more.
Martin W. Bender
I recently finished listening to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Conference on iTunes U. It discussed the issues surrounding the complementarian/egalitarian debate taking place among evangelicals. The fundamental question being asked is whether there is a qualitative difference between men and women. I realize it seems boring, but it is an area that will increasingly need to be addressed by American Christians as the distinction between male and female is being questioned in our society.
The general answer is yes, there is a difference between the sexes. It seems obvious, I know, but at this point in history, one has to make definitive obvious statements. One of the lectures focuses specifically on this issue using the creation account in Genesis 1-3 to clearly point out men and women are different and have different roles in life. The rejection of gender roles is a rejection of the created order. Before the fall both Adam and Eve had particular roles to play in creation that had been given to them by God. They were dissatisfied with them then just as many still are today, but a rejection of God’s decrees doesn’t negate them, it just makes us look silly.
Another lecture of note discussed homosexuality. Oddly enough, the seemingly separate debate on the nature of homosexuality has many parallels to the question of gender roles between men and women. The most significant shared issue is the rejection of the created order as discussed above. The arguments created to allow for the rejection of the male/female distinction bear striking similarity to those used argue for the viability of homosexuality from the Bible. Essentially, the male/female distinction and the rejection of homosexuality are identified as specific issues for congregations Paul is writing to and are therefore not necessarily applicable to the church today. Such arguments fail to take into account the rest of the Scriptures’ teaching on these issues and fails to make a distinction between didactic and illustrative statements. The lecture goes into it a little bit further.
Perhaps the greatest reason for the debate as it stands is the question of whether or not women should hold authoritative or teaching positions in the church. This is best discussed when a panel of women is asked whether or not they are in violation of Paul’s exhortation that he does not permit a woman to teach a man in 1 Timothy 2:12. They explain that they do not see themselves as in a teaching or authoritative capacity, but are attempting to help explain the feminine perspective of biblical womanhood. This is significant because a panel at a conference is not the same context as the worship service at a church. The discussion of the issue is ongoing and perpetuated by the arguments of secular feminism which has heavily clouded the conversation.
For more information about the issue check out Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
Martin W. Bender
Having spent the past few years listening to a variety of podcasts on a regular basis I now find myself a little bored of news and discussion about pop culture (except of course for what can be found here every Thursday). In light of this, I have taken to listening to courses on iTunes U instead of my normal schedule of jokers and smokers that I had been enjoying of late. So far I have listened to courses on philosophy, preaching, the New Perspective on Paul, and have just finished a rather long collection on church history.
Having finished about seventy forty-five minute lectures on church history in last two weeks I can say with confidence I have only the slightest grasp of the most important issues on the subject. There is so much to gain from understanding the manner in which the church has come to us and yet, for some strange reason, there is surprising little interest. A solid grasp of church history helps us to know the reasons for much of what happens in the church today, and yet we dismiss it as boring or of little value. Below you’ll find some of the reasons I think church history should be studied by all Christians.
Those are just three quick reasons why we need to study church history. There are more. I hope that as I continue to learn about the history of the church I will come to a greater understanding and love of the Christian faith.
I recommend listening to:
Ancient and Medieval Church History
Martin W. Bender
Serial Season two completed this week. Like the previous season, it lacked a satisfying conclusion. Just as there remain touches of doubt about Adnan, there are also mixed feelings about Bowe Bergdahl. In fact, Bergdahl’s case is far more polarizing.
Bowe’s actions are not as unique as they seem. There are many reported cases of soldiers leaving their posts. Bowe was unique in what happened to him after he left. There are several deserters, but only one long term POW in the Global War on Terrorism. It is the uniqueness of Bowe’s circumstances that have caused his case to capture the attention of the American people. This is no small feat as the US has lost interest in this, its longest war.
Trading five GTMO prisoners for one soldier placed the Afghanistan war back in the forefront of national conversation. Americans are asking why the conflict continues as they revisit the fifteen-year war in Asia. It’s a fair question, one political leaders seem hesitant to answer. This may be why there is such vitriol over the Bergdahl case. In many ways, it is a microcosm of the Afghanistan war.
If one accepts Bowe’s reported motivation for his actions, he was taking drastic action to solve a serious problem. In his mind, it seemed reasonable. Generally, the war began the same way: drastic solutions. And just as Bowe did not expect where his actions would take him, so too the war did not proceed as planned. As situations changed perceptions shifted to the point where the original plan and desired outcomes seem ridiculous. Bowe wanted his unit to be safer, after he left they were in far more danger searching for him. The US wanted reduced support of terrorist operations, the results here are definitely mixed.
When Bowe disappeared he became an unknown. Thousands of people were searching for him, millions of dollars spent, and he was never found. Kind of makes movies like Eagle Eye and Enemy of the State seem like nonsense. For five years, no one knew if Bowe would come home. Fifteen years into the war in Afghanistan no one knows if America will achieve its objectives will. There remains a cloud of uncertainty over the entire operation. As the mission continues to drift, it seems unlikely the US will succeed in its original objectives.
With Bowe's return home, the process of sorting out his actions is taking place across the world. It is unlikely there will be a unified consensus on his situation. Some will listen to the news reports and podcasts, read the books, and watch the movies and see Bowe as a hero, while others who engage the same material will identify him as a villain. There isn’t likely to be a satisfying conclusion to the story. When the war concludes and the military returns home the same thing will happen. To some, the US will be heroes and to others, villains. There’s not likely to be a unified understanding of this war. There rarely is.
The sad truth is war is brutal. When people witness and engage in this brutality they are pushed to extremes where drastic solutions seem reasonable. This seems to be what happened in Bowe’s case and at the start of America’s war in Afghanistan. With any luck, both experiences will enable all to consider the ramifications of their actions.
I enjoyed Serial Season Two and recommend it to anyone interested in the war in Afghanistan or the Bowe Bergdahl case.
Martin W. Bender
If you’re into podcasts you’ve probably heard of Serial. Serial is a show that in its first season explored the issues surrounding a murder trial and exploded into a phenome of low budget journalism. It draws the listener into the story of Hae and Adnan and makes them feel like fellow researchers in case. It’s excellent storytelling and very gripping.
Because the first season was so very prolific the second season had to be even more impressive. Enter Bowe Bergdahl.
This isn’t going to be a review of Serial Season 2, nor is it going to be a rant about the mysterious actions of a misguided E-5. Instead, these are the thoughts of a fellow veteran who identifies, in part, with the reported idealism of this generation’s most infamous sergeant.
I met Pix (an abbreviation of his last name) while working at UPS. Pix was a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism. I identified with him immediately as soldiers do in civilian environments. He had been medically discharged from the Army and was not happy about it. I remember him telling the story of how he and a few other soldiers daydreamed of taking over their FOB and running it the way they saw fit. This, it turns out, is not an unusual fantasy among enlisted men and Bergdahl’s story sounds strangely familiar to those of us who drank in those Army Values and made them our own.
The difference between Bergdahl and Pix, myself, and every other soldier I’ve spent time talking to is that he actually acted on his fantasy. His plan was to leave his post, cause an uproar, and show up at the main camp in order to gain an audience with a general. He hoped to explain the leadership problems within his unit and accept the punishment for leaving his post. The plan is absolute lunacy.
This type of lunacy, though, is not uncommon. When pushed to an extreme position only extreme actions seem reasonable. Bergdahl likely thought his position was extreme, but there is a fundamental flaw in his planning: It violated the most basic standards of military behavior.
“I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved.”
If there are equivalents to the greatest commandment of Jesus in the Army, they are the general orders. Privates in basic training say them like prayers before meals. They are recited, sung, repeated and for good reason; a soldier must be reliable. For all Bergdahl’s claims to have the best interest of his unit in mind he missed this fundamental truth.
Heinlein writes in Starship Troopers that it is the right of the soldier to complain. It is their job to do things they do not understand for the accomplishment of greater missions they will never hear of. This is why they maintain that right. They can complain all they want. What they cannot do is violate those greatest commandments. The general orders must be held higher than all perceived injustice and complaint because the general orders save lives.
Bergdahl claims he acted to save lives, but the reality is his actions cost the lives of fellow service members tasked to find him. This must never be overlooked.
During my deployment to Kuwait and Iraq our unit had leadership issues. Don’t think it is an exact correlation to Bergdahl’s situation, it wasn’t. We were running redeployment missions not patrols and while there was danger from occasional IED’s and coordinated attacks the bulk of what we did was drive. Thankfully, our entire company made it through the deployment with zero combat related injuries. That’s a success.
The leadership issues we had caused numerous complaints, but to my knowledge, there were no drastic plans to draw attention to our problems. Sure, there were IG complaints and a few people got into trouble, but for the most part, we put our heads down and continued with the mission till it was time to rotate back to reality. The best way to deal with the leadership conflicts was to stay on the road, keep on mission, turn and burn. That is precisely what we did.
Having trusted leaders is the greatest gift a soldier can receive. On our clip (or squad) we were blessed to have an experienced SSGT who took great care of us. Despite issues that may have occurred at the battalion, company, or even platoon level, our clip, led by Irish, knew we were the main priority with her.
Perhaps this is why feelings of pity arise when thinking of Bergdahl. He obviously didn’t feel like he was a priority to his leadership. No soldier should feel that way. In the service, one expects to have to do difficult things, but at the same time there is a rightful expectation that those difficult things must be done. Risk is mitigated as much as it can be. Personal differences don’t affect assignments. It seems like Bergdahl’s perception of his situation was at best flawed and at worst self-created.
It would be great if every squad could have a leader like Irish. It would be wonderful if all commanders could adequately communicate their concern for the well-being of their troops, but the real world is different from our ideals.
Idealism in the military is dangerous. Everyone has a hard time. Everyone has an image of their ideal leader. Everyone faces challenges. The question each soldier must ask is are they willing to forgo their ideals and work within the situation they find themselves? Bergdahl decided to bow out. He chose to act outside of the structure in which he placed himself. When he did that, when he violated his first general order, he abandoned that which makes soldiers different from civilians. He chose his own ideals over the ideals of the Army. That is why he must face court martial.
Like Bergdahl, I’m an idealist. Based on what I’ve heard about him from the second season of Serial my guess is that we would get along well on a personal level. I imagine if one of his leaders better fit his idealized image of military leadership his entire ordeal would not have happened, but perhaps all of the drama surrounding his experience will prompt this and the next generation of leaders to take seriously the concerns of all those under their care.
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Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein – Just so you know, this is as much a book about political theory as it is about giant space bugs. It has been required reading at a number of military academies and officer training courses. If you are interested in purchasing this book, please consider doing so through the Two Bearded Preachers affiliate link. It will help us defer the cost of hosting. Thanks.