Thomas Paine’s Common Sense

August 28, 2009

Last Saturday, I published a book review of Glenn Beck’s Common Sense.  In that review I noted that I was particularly impressed with the wisdom of the founders of our country and the framers of our constitutional government.  So, I decided that I would share a few of the gems that I found in the “appendix” to Beck’s book that are from the pen (quite literally, a quill pen I suppose), of Thomas Paine.  I could have listed many more, these are just the ones that struck me. 

“a long habit of not thinking  a thing wrong, gives it the superficial appearance of being right,”

“government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one,”

“Wherefore, security is the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.”

“The reformation was preceded by the discovery of America, as if the Almighty graciously meant to open a sanctuary to the persecuted in future years, when home should afford neither friendship nor safety.”

“As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensalble duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith.”

Brilliant!  Where can this sort of wisdom be found among the political leaders of our day? 

I dare say, it does NOT exist.  Sad, but I am afraid, true.


Who can?

August 27, 2009

One of those Town Hall “Crazies.”

August 23, 2009

Glenn Beck’s Common Sense

August 22, 2009

GB's Common SenseI am guessing that you have read a book or two that has been authored by a person with whom you are “acquainted.”  And by acquainted, I don’t mean that they are a personal friend, or that they are even someone you have actually met in person.  Instead what I am talking about are people such as politicians, entertainers, celebrities, or pastors that you are familiar with and have heard speak.  I find when I read such a book, I almost “hear” the author as I read.  I “hear” his/her intonation, and their emotions rise and fall as the points are made in print.  Such was the case with Glenn Beck’s Common Sense.  Glenn Beck, is the talk radio and Fox News Channel host.

This “hearing” Beck as I read his book was something of a double edge sword for me.  On the one hand, it made the reading come easier and faster, as if it was being read like an audio book.  On the other hand, I felt as if I was not reading anything new.  With virtually every word I read, my sense was, “I have ‘heard’ all of this before”, either on the radio, or on TV.  And that is disappointing because, I am not what I would describe as a regular listener to Beck’s radio program, and only infrequently watch his hour on Fox News.  If someone were to tell me after the fact that this book was nothing more than transcripts of his radio or television monologues, edited for a book, I would have to say, “I’m not surprised.  That said, I don’t believe that to be the actual case.

Don’t misunderstand the comment above as me being unhappy with the book.  I enjoyed reading it.  And many of the points that Beck makes are right-on with respect to the myriad of problems we are facing in our country and the apparent inclination to solve them with more and more and still more and then even more government spending and interference.  To his credit, Beck supports his arguments against the expansion to government influence and control, with statistics and historical examples of the failure of such a strategy.

Beck was inspired to write his book, by another book with the same title, written 230 some odd years ago, by Thomas Paine.  In 1776, Paine wrote a pamphlet decrying the impact of the British Empire on our original 13 colonies and encouraging a revolution.  The one that actually took place just a few months after the publication of his pamphlet.  Paine’s Common Sense was apparently inspirational to the framing of our Declaration of Independence from England.

While I enjoyed the points that Beck makes in this book, perhaps even more enjoyable was the fact that Beck published Thomas Paine’s Common Sense as an appendix to his own.  Not only was this a really interesting read, but it also stood as an important reminder of the almost indescribable wisdom of those men who were responsible for the forming and framing of our nation.  And what a stark contrast they present to the current day nuckleheads that populate the halls of Congress and the West Wing of the White House, and their breathtaking lack of that same wisdom.

God help us!

Even Norman might get a laugh out of this.

August 21, 2009

This painting was used as the artwork for the cover of the February 13, 1960 issue of the Saturday Evening Post.  The oil on canvas hangs in the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA.   It is titled, for reasons that should be obvious, “Triple Self-Portrait.”

triple self portrait

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) is one of my favorite American artists.  Some might call him more of an illustrator than artist.  He drew and painted stuff.  That makes him an artist to me.  Not surprising, many contemporary art critics pan his work and diminish it for being overly sweet or too sentimental and idealized.  Nevertheless, I like his work because it really did capture a slice of American history and the values that we held as a nation when he was living.  We could use a dose of those values today.  Besides, a lot of his work captured life when I was a child, and frankly, I can relate to much of what is depicted in his paintings.

This spoof on Rockwell’s “Triple Self-Portrait” is simply hilarious.  No commentary is necessary.  Like real Norman Rockwell art, this one has a  message that speaks very clearly for itself.

obama self-portrait


HT:  Dan Phillips by way of Stan McCullars for the Obama spoof.

Relativism in Louisville: Where winning trumps moral failure.

August 13, 2009

No question about it, college basketball is big in the state of Kentucky.  The Universities of Kentucky and Louisville are both winners in the sport and that makes them big deals in their home state.  And apparently, winning in basketball is sufficient to cause administrators at Louisville to overlook a particular covenant in the contract they hold with their head basketball coach, Rick Pitino.  That covenant stating that Pitino can be terminated for: “Employee’s dishonesty with Employer or University; or acts of moral depravity.” (emphasis mine)

Pitino has admitted to having engaged in extramarital sexual relations with a woman (who later became an assistant coaches’ wife…talk about awkward), and paying her $3,000 to obtain an abortion of the child that the she claimed was his.  The matter has become national news as the woman involved in this situation tried to extort Pitino for $10 million dollars and is now under arrest.  Pitino had revealed the details of his extramarital relationship to the University of Louisville prior to the woman being arrested.  This fact, I suppose, allowed him to escape certain of the clauses of his employment contract dealing with honesty, that could otherwise have resulted in his dismissal.

But what is odd to me is the apparent relativism of the term “moral depravity.”  If the sexual betrayal of his wife, now a fact known far and wide, does not qualify as moral depravity, I am not sure what would.  Apparently Louisville has no plans to dismiss Pitino as a result of his breach of this clause.  Should we therefore conclude that only such things such as theft or embezzlement, or fraud, or other matters of that nature qualify as “moral depravity”? 

Or with respect to sexual morality, would only the more radical forms such as paedophilia, or homosexuality, or bestiality be extreme enough to qualify as “moral depravity” under the terms of Pitino’s contract?  I have to wonder exactly what would be the trigger mechanism to activate this clause in Pitino’s contract thus leading the university to terminate him. 

Oh, wait a minute, maybe “moral depravity” is only something related to losing basketball games.  Perhaps losing, and losing alone, is what constitutes immorality and depravity at the University of Louisville.  That is about the only conclusion you can draw from this whole “affair”, pardon the expression.

Ancient Word, Changing Worlds

August 13, 2009

Ancient WordAncient Word, Changing Worlds the Doctrine of Scripture in a Modern Age by Stephen J. Nichols and Eric T. Brandt, is another one of those jewels that I ordered largely on the basis of needing to increase my order for some other books, to recieve free shipping.  I’ll grant you that the title of this book caught my attention, but I was not really shopping for a book on the doctrine of scripture.  Nevertheless, I am very glad I bought it.  I found it to be an informative and helpful read.  I am also pleased that I now have this as a resource in my library because it contains the writings of some really brilliant minds, representing orthodox and reformed Christian theology.  More about this in a moment.

While perhaps not in the league with a seminary textbook on the subject of the doctrine of scripture, this book still provides a tremendous overview on the subject, and one that particularly focuses on the changing and “emerging” views that have characterized modernity and post-modernity. 

The authors have organized the book in a very friendly and readable structure.  The book first of all, centers around three critical words with respect to the doctrine of scripture, inspiration, inerrancy, and interpretation.  These three words receive treatment from the authors in a separate chapter dedicated to each.  In these chapters, they provide a narrative of the history and development of these three critical words as they relate to scripture and the differing points of view that have materialized from the mid-1800’s to the present.  Following each of these chapters is another dedicated to select readings from the primary source documents that were used to construct the author’s narratives. 

I don’t believe I have ever read a book structured quite like this, and I admit that initially I didn’t quite “get it.”  But it proved to be very effective.  Effective in the sense that rather than quoting a reference and simply footnoting it, the authors provide the actual texts from which they drew their conclusions, in the succeeding chapter.  The three chapters containing these source readings are titled, fittingly enough, “In Their Own Words.”  The theologians represented in these source readings include Hodge, Warfield, Wescott, Manly, Machen, Preus, Henry and Packer among others.  But the authors also include some opposing views to these conservative theologians such as Barth, Berkouwer, Beegle and Fosdick along with others, who have succumbed to varying degrees to modernist/post-modernist sensitivities.

Ancient Word, Changing Worlds is an excellent book, but definitely not suited for the casual reader of “religious non-fiction“.  Although it reads easily, and I found it incredibly helpful, anyone who is comfortably challenged theologically by authors such as Max Lucado or Rick Warren will likely be very frustrated by the technical content and more academic nature of this book.  My guess is you will be frustrated within the first chapter.  You will find a vast resource of information in this book, but very little in the way of reflection and contemplation, such as you might expect in books written by those two authors and others who are similar.  But, if you are interested in a challenge and a trip that takes you much deeper into the important, let me correct that, the essential teaching of the authority of scripture, this really is an excellent book.