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When President Obama met today with Pope Francis I, part of their agenda involved the giving of gifts. The president presented the pope with seeds of the sort used in the White House vegetable garden in a box made with wood reclaimed from the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The pope returned the favor by giving Obama two medallions and a copy of Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Francis’ heavily socialist Apostolic Exhortation released in November 2013.

Doubtless, the gift was warmly received.

For all the whining and posturing of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding the contraceptive provisions of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), they must be delighted with the socialist tone of the current administration, which jibes nicely with historic Roman Catholic Church-State social teaching.

The only question seems to be, which will run out first, the pack of vegetable seeds or the US Treasury from paying for Roman Catholic inspired, socialist health care?

Please click here for a link to a New York Times article on the meeting.

During the 1960 presidential campaign John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism was a big deal to American voters. It was thought by many that a Roman Catholic president would have divided loyalties, that he would attempt to do what Jesus said could not be done: serve two masters. In this case, the Constitution and the pope. This was such an issue that Kennedy felt compelled to give a speech on this topic to a group of Protestant ministers in Houston, in which he stated his belief that the separation of church and state was absolute. Referring to this speech during the 2012 presidential campaign, Republican candidate Rick Santorum said he almost threw up when he first read the speech and that Kennedy had thrown, “his faith under the bus.”

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While listening to the Ken Ham, Bill Nye evolution debate tonight, I was reminded of something a Latin professor told my class many years ago. He related to us a story about a Harvard classics professor, who, so the story went, would make the same statement to his incoming class of hot-shot graduate students, “You may have small opinions,” he would say to them, “tenuously held.” The professor, it seems, sought to disabuse his students of the notion that they were in the business of discovering truth. At the end of the day, the most even a brilliant scholar could claim for his conclusions was that they were his opinions. They were not truth.

This bothered me a bit at the time. “Is there any hope at all of discovering truth,” I thought to myself. In retrospect, I realize the wisdom of the Harvard professor. Indeed, he was right. Classics does not furnish us with truth. But this is not a shortcoming unique to that field. All other secular academic disciplines fail in the very same way, including, though this is hard for may to believe, science.

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Summary: There is abundant evidence, at least in the eyes of some observers, that Western civilization is undergoing a collapse. In fact, it already may have collapsed. That war, brutality, coercion, and immorality are on the rise is not in dispute. But what are we to make of this? Some view these as signs of civilizational collapse; others take them as evidence of progress. Who is right? The answer must be found in the more foundational philosophical discipline of ethics.

What is it that makes for a great writer or thinker? One could spend a great deal of time arguing this question. Many would hold the test of time to be an important criterion. Does an author’s work remain relevant ten, twenty or a hundred years after publication, or does time, like an ever rolling stream, bear all its import away? By this standard alone, the work of Gordon Clark achieves greatness. Reading through this section of chapter 2, the relevance of Clark’s work to our current day situation in the West is obvious. In his 2005 forward to the Trinity Foundation edition of A Christian View of Men and Things (CVMT), John Robbins observed, “Although it is now more than fifty years old, A Christian View of Men and Things is as timely as it was in 1952 [the year CVMT was first published], perhaps even more timely, for the crisis of our age has deepened, and the solution to that crisis has not changed.”

In Chapter 2 of CVMT under the heading “An Appraisal”, Clark walks the reader through contemporary evidence for the collapse of civilization. Working in ascending order from the most specific to the most general, Clark discusses the increase in war, brutality, coercion and immorality evident in the US and throughout the West. The timing of his remarks is worth noting, for Clark wrote CVMT in the early 1950s. a period many Americans fondly recall as a sort of Father-Knows-Best golden age of American civilization. A time when you could leave your house unlocked and not worry. A time when abortion was illegal. A time before anyone had ever heard of school shootings, LSD or the sexual revolution. In other words, the good old days.

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One Hundred Trillion dollars. Sound like a fortune, doesn’t it? King Solomon sort of money, no doubt. Well, maybe not so fast. You see, depending on whose dollar you’re talking about, it could be a king’s ransom or it may amount to less than the change in your pocket. Take for instance the Zimbabwe bank note pictured here. I have one just like it on my desk as I write, a 2008 Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe 100 Trillion Dollar bill. I got mine on Amazon for $1.74 plus shipping.

Zimbabwe, you see, experienced a phenomenon known as hyperinflation, which is where a nations currency – whether it’s called a dollar, a drachma or a peso – becomes worthless. The principle reason why inflation, and in extreme cases hyperinflation, occurs is this: : the government creates too much money. Money is not some magical, mystical item. If it has value, it does so for the same reason that all other things have value. It’s not valuable because it’s festooned with pictures of dead politicians, or its ornate engravings, or is signed by the Secretary of the Treasury, or tradition. Money, all money, is valuable because people impute value to it.

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Woe to those who join house to house; they add field to field, till there is no place where they may dwell alone in the midst of the land!.Isaiah 5:8

Isaiah’s thundering indictment of Judah rivets the reader’s attention right from the beginning of the book bearing his name. The accusations fall like hammer blows from the prophets pen. Everything has become twisted, everything perverted: Worship, “I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting” (v13); Civil Society, “righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers” (v21); Business, “Your silver has become dross, your wine mixed with water” (v22); Civil Government, “Your princes [are] rebellious and companions of thieves” (v23); and the Judiciary, “Everyone loves bribes, and follows after rewards. They do not defend the fatherless, nor does the cause of the widow come before them” (v23).

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Puritans!

I’m always amazed at how the terms “Puritan” and “puritanical” have become universal pejoratives applied to anyone or anything the speaker or writer deems a killjoy. Those who so easily hurl these terms about, have they ever read a puritan writer? Do they know anything about the puritans? I mean anything apart from pop culture references or their memories of reading The Scarlet Letter in 10th grade English class?

I was happened upon a financial commentary today by Art Cashin, a well know Wall Street figure. I don’t claim to know Mr. Cashin, but he seems like a decent sort of fellow. Today, however, he wrote something in his market commentary that irked me a bit, Cashin wrote, “To celebrate stop by the Boston Grog Inn and explain to the Puritan on the next stool that sugar can be dangerous before it’s distilled,” as though the Puritans were a bunch of teetotalers. Cashin seems to be confusing the Puritans, who were by no means teetotalers, with 19th century prohibitionists, who were by no means Puritans.

Of course, I can’t be too hard on Mr. Cashin. Even in supposedly Evangelical circles, the Puritans are often slandered. When I was at Knox Seminary, which advertised itself as a Presbyterian and Reformed school, I had a professor who took shots at the Puritans, whining about how they shut down theaters in England and lacked poetic imagination. Of course, since we all know how morally upstanding the theater is, I can’t imagine why any group of Christians might be concerned about it. As for poetic imagination, this technique was the basis for the professor’s method of biblical interpretation. Which went something like this: Develop a slick sounding narrative that’s to your liking and then impose it on the text of Scripture regardless whether the actual Biblical text supports it. So yes, my Knox professor was entirely correct. The Puritans did indeed lack poetic imagination. They actually attempted to interpret the Bible faithfully, horrible people that they were. It would seems as with Balaam and the Israelites, in seeking to curse the Puritans, my Knox professor blessed them instead.

As an object of ridicule, the Puritans have few rivals. That the world would hate and disrespect them should come as no surprise. Such has always been the reaction of carnal minds to those who seek to honor God and live by his word. As Christians, let us take care that we not adopt the prejudices and vocabulary of the world. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “puritanical” as “having the character of a Puritan.” Though usually meant as an insult, among Christians the word ought to be held in high esteem.

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