Gun control or technology control?

In the aftermath of another mass shooting, we turn to each other and say that it is time for sensible gun control. We don’t know the details, but we proclaim that something must be done.

In my view, we don’t actually want gun control. What we really want is the ability to control how military technology—actually, all technology— is used. The same technological advancements that make our military and police the best equipped in the world are what make bad actors so dangerous.

U.S. defense spending has always subsidized research and development in the area of efficient killing. President Lincoln was a famous military tech guru. Consider some obvious breakthroughs from the Civil War: submarines, machine guns, aerial surveillance, and ironclad ships. During World War II, we turned jukebox manufacturers into armories.

Defense spending itself is the lamentable result of the fall. If men were angels, we wouldn’t have to buy Sherman Tanks. As it is, we are left to hope that the good guys always have the best weapons.

The Las Vegas shooter had the most efficient killing technology that was reasonably available to him. As devastating as that episode was, there is much better technology out there. You can treat the symptom, guns, but you can’t cure the disease, human sin.  

Advancements in the field of efficient killing should be met with awe and terror. The U.S. and Russia have nuclear arsenals capable of wiping out humanity. This is incredible power in the hands of politicians. Trigger-happy governments are much more dangerous than deranged civilians. Compare the devastation of World War I to that of the Las Vegas shooting.

We are just citizens in the hands of an angry president.

We want all the benefits of innovation without the baggage of human sin. This general statement is true in all areas of our lives from reproductive technology to farming. In the last 100 years, humans have developed all sorts of amazing tools, but all of them can be used for good or evil.

If our moral reasoning doesn’t keep pace with our technological innovation, well, you get something like abortion pills, environmental ruin, and death camps. We constantly heap praise upon praise on the innovators, but we don’t have the slightest clue as to what innovation hath wrought.

Dr. J. Budziszewski lecture in Grand Rapids

I am pleased to share some news about an exciting event hosted by the Society for Law and Culture and the WMU-Cooley Law School chapter of the Christian Legal Society.

On Thursday, November 2, Professor J. Budziszewski will be giving a lecture entitled, “Natural Law: Why and So What?” at the WMU-Cooley Law School’s Grand Rapids Campus. A scheduled reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. The lecture will commence at 6:15 p.m.

Dr. Budziszewski is a prolific author and scholar in the area of natural law. His books include Commentary on Thomas Aquinas’s Treatise on Law, On the Meaning of Sex, and What We What Can’t Not Know: A Guide. Dr. Budziszewski also keeps up an active blog: www.undergroundthomist.org. I recommend his recent post, “How Not to Have Clean Hands,” which evaluates claims of ethical neutrality.

J. Budziszewsi flyer 11-2-17

The Society for Law and Culture was formed under the auspices of the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal. The Society for Law and Culture is an organization for lawyers, judges, professionals, and academics. Through engagement with the best of philosophy, literature, history, theology, and the arts, the Society aims to strengthen the ties between law and culture and promote a renewed sense of the law as a vocation and humane profession.

For more information about this event or the Society for Law and Culture, please contact Maxwell Goss.

Mackinac Island’s churches

Ste. Anne Catholic Church

Mission Church

Trinity Episcopal Church

Little Stone Church

Mackinac Island Bible Church

© 2017 Tyler Gaastra

Calvinist trailer and release date

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The Calvinist movie release date is officially October 2. I was able to see a rough cut edit of the film, and I’m super excited for the release.

The film features the great R.C. Sproul along with a couple of my favorites, Kevin DeYoung, Joel Beeke, and R. Scott Clark.

Check out the new trailer below, and pre-order the movie and swag here.

The Linkin Park generation

On the evening of November 29, 2001, I was standing on the floor of the DeltaPlex taking in the Linkin Park concert. Looking back on it, that concert was a rite of passage.

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My faded Linkin Park concert ticket

“Don’t turn your back on me. I won’t be ignored!”

For 28–35 year-old white dudes, Linkin Park’s music was the soundtrack of our adolescence. But, it was much more than just background noise, Linkin Park was formative. Chester Bennington, who managed to scream in tune, belted out our emotions for us.

Linkin Park’s sound was new, angry, and mesmerizing. Linkin Park made grunge rock sound unsophisticated and slow, and it absolutely shredded the ballads of our parents’ generation. See The Who.

We punched the air to Linkin Park’s first two albums, Hybrid Theory and Meteora, and walked the halls of school with an attitude, sporting a black t-shirt and a LP wrist band. Linkin Park was like MIRACLE-GRO for all of the dark moods of our teenage wasteland. We had a volatile, unbalanced relationship.

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The author circa 2003

We fought terrorists, both real and virtual, with “Papercut” playing in the background. Pushed by the music and our energy drinks, we engaged in risky behavior and euphemistically called it “extreme sports.” We [I] didn’t try in school because nothing mattered.

The music video for “What I’ve Done” is a gripping montage of humanity’s path of destruction. We are all just parasites.

“This is my December.”

Thankfully, most of us matured and took a break from Linkin Park. It’s not that we stopped listening, but it was for shorter periods of time, and we didn’t identify with the anger or despair. Our life experiences had shown that Linkin Park’s message was too flat. Life is full of light and happiness. Who listens to Linkin Park as they fall in love, start careers, find God, and have children? We “broke the habit.”

Art conveys real emotions. Lyrics mean something. Listening is not passive. For these reasons, Linkin Park’s music should be consumed in moderation. Sadly, some people never see the other side of life. How do you escape the pain if you are Linkin Park?

That is the tragedy here. Chester Bennington’s darkness was not just for a season. The anger and sadness went all the way down. Chester’s struggles were consumed by all of us. We identified with him and paid for his pain.

“Who cares if one more light goes out?”

Ironically, Linkin Park’s song, “One More Light,” from the new album of the same name expresses a love of life that is true and beautiful. The song’s message is that life matters and that people care. Even though there are billions of people on this earth, every life is precious and meaningful. “Who cares if one more light goes out? Well, I do.” There is hardly a message more inconsistent with suicide.

As we mourn Chester’s death and all that it represents, I hope that the message of “One More Light” shines through the darkness. Who cares about the Linkin Park generation? Well, I do.

What is the lost cause to a black man?

There is much to appreciate about the Civil War. I can’t get enough of it. Walking battlefields is an emotional (spiritual?) experience for me. Unfortunately, obsession with the Civil War is not entirely healthy. The nagging presence of the lost cause myth can turn Civil War “nerdery” into something sour.

As an authentic Civil War nerd, the lost cause is something with which I have to contend. To put it into the most general terms, the lost cause is the sentiment that the antebellum South was a bastion of Christianity, liberty, limited government, and virtue. In contrast, Lincoln’s “Black Republicans” promoted soaring deficits, massive federal agencies, and cities filled with degenerates.

I’m not going to debate the merits of the lost cause as such. In order to make things simple, I’ll grant that the antebellum South was a pretty great place—for white people.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like for a black man to visit the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library? Jemar Tisby , co-founder of the Reformed African American Network , provides the answer in this fascinating blog post.

Tisby laments the white-washing of our family friendly museums and the long-term consequences of the idealized lost cause.

Did the parents who brought their children to visit the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library point out that the museum’s designers rendered slavery all but invisible? Did they comment on the fact that the Confederacy represented chains and shackles and not freedom for people of African descent?

. . .

Did these white parents teach their white children about the lasting effects of slavery and segregation including thousands of lynchings, the convict-lease system, the Jim Crow racial hierarchy, generational poverty, red-lining of property, inequitable distribution of G.I. Bill benefits, the purposeful formation of ghettoes, the law and order rhetoric that relegated millions of black people to prisons, disproportionately high infant mortality rates, and the collective racial trauma African Americans continue to endure?

I’m going to hazard a guess and say, no, most white parents aren’t teaching their children about the Confederacy’s true purpose and the effects of glamorizing the antebellum South.

Tisby forces me to ask: what is the lost cause to my black brother? And, what is the lost cause to my Christian witness?

Whatever one’s subjective intentions might be for celebrating the Confederacy, the lost cause necessarily reveres men who fought for pro-slavery governments. Let’s not get distracted. At its best, the antebellum South was just a shadow of the kingdom to come. At its worst, it is a painful reminder of our nation’s original sin and of the blood shed as recompense.

John Calvin’s prolonged martyrdom

This week, I finished Bruce Gordon’s, Calvin, a highly recommended biography of John Calvin. While there is so much to learn from the book, I have found myself reflecting on one consistent theme from Gordon’s biography: John Calvin sacrificed his life to promote the Gospel. In fact, Calvin’s life was a prolonged martyrdom. We can’t imagine the focused and unrelenting work of the reformers.

John Calvin was a refugee, and he lived a life filled with great passion, political clashes, and endless theological disputes. Calvin did everything from writing biblical commentaries, theological treatises, and polemical tracts to delivering multiple sermons a week, teaching students, leading the Company of Pastors, and traveling to important conferences in Swiss and German lands.

The demands of Calvin’s life wore him down, and he required the assistance of his wife, brother, peers, and secretaries to maintain his productivity. Gordon speculates that Calvin’s work sent him to an early grave. Bruce Gordon, Calvin 339 (2011).

Calvin had the intellectual ability to do anything he wanted in his native France, but his conscience compelled him to flee from all that was known and comfortable. To his fellow Protestants who remained in Catholic lands, such as France, Calvin believed that there could be no compromise with Roman practices. True religion was to be maintained up to the point of exile or death.

While most of us would assume that death would be “Option B,” this sober and illuminating letter from Calvin suggests otherwise.

Believe me, I had fewer troubles with Servetus and have now with Westphal and his like than I have with those who are close at hand, whose numbers are beyond reckoning and whose passions are irreconcilable. If one could choose, it would be better to be burned once by the papists than to be plagued for eternity by one’s neighbors. They do not allow me a moment’s rest, although they can clearly see that I am collapsing under the burden of work, troubled by endless sad occurrences, and disturbed by intrusive demands. My one comfort is that death with soon take me from this all too difficult service.

As quoted in Bruce Gordon, Calvin 233 (2011).

What are we to make of this? Clearly, at that moment, Calvin viewed the demands of his life to be worse than burning. I don’t think that this was some passing lament. Calvin’s situation in Geneva was always tenuous, and his influence across Europe waxed and waned.

To Calvin, the Christian life is a prolonged martyrdom. All Christians must give up worldly comforts and live a life of service to God and neighbor. Some will perish quickly at the hand of the government. Others will pass away peacefully in old age after a long life of faithful service. In all cases, suffering is to be expected.

Calvin’s commentary on Matthew 24:43 is an illustrative example of Calvin’s heavenly disposition. Calvin wrote, “God does not bestow the honourable title of his children on any but those who acknowledge that they are strangers on the earth, who not only at all times are prepared to leave it but move forward in an uninterrupted ‘course towards the heavenly life.'” As quoted in Gordon, Calvin at 335. From Gordon’s biography, you get the sense that Calvin lived in anticipation of death and the life to come.

While it is foreign to us, Calvin’s perspective is not depressing or dour. Death is the fate of every living thing on the earth. To be a martyr for Christ in this life is a small sacrifice compared to the joy of eternal life. Calvin would instruct us to pity not the Christian martyr. Pity instead the man who lives for the insignificant and dies in the fog of his distractions.

Tweeting synodically (cynically?)

As you may have heard, the RCA’s General Synod and the CRCNA’s Synod are in full swing. The RCA is meeting in Holland, Michigan at Hope College. The CRCNA is meeting in Palos Heights, Illinois at Trinity Christian College.

Monday was a busy day for both synods. In fact, I expect proceedings to continue into the evening. Follow the hashtags #rcasynod and #crcsynod for comments and reactions. Here are some highlights.

How the CRC Synod Stole Christmas

No Christmas shoe boxes for you! I think this is a referendum on Franklin Graham more than anything else. On the other hand, it’s possible that the CRC Synod does hate Christmas gifts.

RCA #StaleStream

The RCA stream is running on a 30-minute delay because of swear words and wardrobe malfunctions, obviously.

Do Justice [As Instructed by the Bible]

Classis Minnkota’s overture relates to denominational oversight of the Do Justice blog’s content. This overture caused much discussion and has not been resolved. I kind of want to be like Classis Minnkota when I grow up.

Minnkota to the United Reformed Church?

Dr. James K.A. Smith has had enough of your intransigence.

RCA Membership

The RCA does need to figure out what can be done to stop this nasty trend.

RCA Statistics

The RCA has always been the progressive older sibling of the CRCNA. Through its actions, such as elevating the Belhar Confession, the RCA has invited fights over social programs and political preferences. There are macro headwinds to be sure, but some decline has been self-inflicted.

Choose your own adventure: CRC or RCA or URC

Did you know that the CRCNA and the RCA will hold a joint session next year? Is this not the future? The conservative classes and churches remaining in the CRCNA and the RCA should join the URCNA, as suggested by James K.A. Smith, and the remaining classes and churches of the CRCNA and the RCA should merge. Do it.

Our blessings are complicated

Today, my wife and I will celebrate our 10-year anniversary.

I typically make our anniversary public with a sappy Facebook post and a profile picture update. That’s what we moderns do, right?

I should celebrate my marriage. It’s an incredible blessing. Aside from my life in the church, nothing is more central to my identity. I grew up with my wife. We figured out life together.

At the same time, I want to be thoughtful about the endless celebrations to which we are involuntarily subjected. The fact is that our public celebrations don’t always hit our friends at the right time. Our news feeds and timelines can be cruel.

My wife and I know what it is like to experience great loss. It can be difficult to rejoice with those who rejoice. Some social media posts strike at the most vulnerable sections of our hearts. Sanctification takes a lifetime.

I don’t know why God blesses some of us with supportive, Christian spouses.

I don’t know why God blesses some of us with loving Christian families.

I don’t know why God blesses some of us with many children.

I don’t know why God blesses some of us with great health.

I don’t know why God blesses some of us with an abundance of material possessions.

I do know that we don’t deserve any of it. This is a great mystery. 

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”

35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?”

36 For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Romans 11: 33-36 (NIV)

My life happened in May

My life happened in May