Dear Sir: That’s not what the verse means

Dear Sir,

I’m not a reguar listener to your radio program, but I drop in from time to time just out of curiosity. Today I heard you quote Prove 29:18a as a way to explain the trouble we’re having in America:

Where there is no vision, the people perish {Prov 29:18, KJV}

Your point was that our country is in trouble because our leaders have no vision for the future and/or have abandoned the vision laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Politics aside, you have misinterpreted and misapplied this verse. Allow me to elaborate.

First, the OT meaning of vision means something completely different from what we modern Westerners mean when we talk about vision. We speak of vision as a product of creativity or imagination, especially as it expresses our goals and aspirations (e.g. CEO’s vision for where he wants to take the company; my vision for the future). The OT speaks of vision as divine revelation. In the case of Prov 29:18, the OT sense of the word is readily apparent when we read the entire proverb and find that vision is used in parallel with the law:

Where there is no vision, the people perish;
but he that keepeth the law, happy is he

Second, you quoted the KJV version which is arguably the pithier translation but also the poorer in this instance. Due to the surprising popularity of the KJV rendering, most people don’t even know that all of the other major English versions (i.e. ESV, NAS, NIV, NKJ, RSV) translate the line differently:

Where there is no vision, the people perish (KJV)
Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained (NAS)

We can be more sympathetic with this misunderstanding due to an unfortunate translation, but a correction is still in order. You seem to take the proverb to mean something like “without a vision, the people will not prosper/thrive” when the author means something like “without divine revelation, the people have no inhibitions.”

In short, the proverb isn’t warning us about the dangers of doing business without a five-year plan; it’s telling us that blessing is found when we live in light of God’s revealed will.

I trust I haven’t come across as overly critical. Your misappropriation of the verse is far less irritating than when the error is made by someone who should know better—say, a Christian author or pastor. In fact, you’re probably just passing on what you heard from one of us in the first place. I suspect that if we handled our Scriptures more carefully, we both could’ve been saved the trouble of this letter.



On binding a stone in a sling (or Why I won’t vote Trump)

At the end of the day I oppose Trump not because he’s a cad but because he’s a fool.

slingThe gist of the evangelical argument in favor of voting for Trump seems to be this: Vote the policies not the man. Yes, Trump is morally reprehensible; but his policies more closely align with biblical values and that warrants a Christian’s vote.

In many respects I understand this argument and under different circumstances I might even subscribe to it myself. Even so, I assume we’d all admit that “separating the man from his policies” has its limits. A mad scientist may be on the cutting edge of his field but at the end of the day he’s still mad. It makes little difference to the peasants that the mad scientist accedes to the orthodoxy of scientific laws while his monster goes on a rampage through the village.

Assuming a vote for policy is justified in this election, the approach seems ominously short-sighted for at least two reasons.

First, the “policy matters” mantra comes with a subtle but significant change in our political discourse. Behavior that was once deemed unacceptable must be downgraded to indefensible as a candidates character moves from a central issue to a caveat in many of our debates. To be fair, I don’t think a Trump vote signals indifference on character issues. Evangelicals for Trump (ETs) can argue that character will still matter in future elections but they should also admit that after 2016 it won’t matter as much as it once did. Character will no longer be an evangelical trump card (no pun intended).

Second, since ETs admit their candidate suffers from a dearth of personal integrity, I can’t understand the confidence they place in Trump’s policies. The “vote policy” argument seems to require a willing suspension of disbelief since there’s no reason to believe Trump’s policies are any more inviolable than his wedding vows. To cite just one example, much was made of Trump’s commitment to defend religious liberty and free speech. But when a religious leader had the temerity to criticize Trump he responded with nonsense like this:

Call me a skeptic but were The Donald to become the most powerful man in the free world I seriously doubt he’d take a stiff rebuke from his Evangelical Executive Advisory Board when he begins to drift.

But set all of that aside. Reasonable Christians can and will disagree on whether a vote for policy sans character is justifiable. That discussion should be had but it’s not the definitive issue for me.

At the end of the day I oppose Trump not because he’s a cad but because he’s a fool.fool in the biblical sense:

A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind. (Prov 18:2)

Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel. (Prov 20:3)

A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back. (Prov 29:11)

And since Trump fits the profile I find it hard to shake these next proverbs:

Prov 26:8, 10 Like one who binds a stone in a sling, So is he who gives honor to a fool. Like an archer who wounds everyone, So is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by.

Needless to say, appointing a fool to high office sounds less than advisable even if others are looking to appoint a corrupt and hostile alternative. Lest this sound like moral preening, I’ll go on record and say that were it not for Trump’s temperament, his lack of governing acumen, and his inability to articulate anything resembling a political philosophy I could vote for the lout in opposition to “crooked Hillary.”

In my thinking our nation will suffer for at least four more years no matter who holds office (albeit on different fronts). And here’s where my Proverbial protest meets American pragmatism: I’d rather dodge the rocks hurled by the opposition than suffer disfigurement by a self-inflicted rock to the face. As Alexander Hamilton once said:

If we must have an enemy at the head of Government, let it be one whom we can oppose, and for whom we are not responsible, who will not involve our party in the disgrace of his foolish and bad measures.

#NeverTrump #NeverHillary
(Donald, please prove me wrong!)

Liberty without virtue

levin-the_greatOne of the books I’m working through right now is Yuval Levin’s The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left. I came across this quote from Burke last night:

But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint. Those who know what virtuous liberty is, cannot bear to see it disgraced by incapable heads, on account of their having high-sounding words in their mouths.

Apropos, no?

Pastors may keep Atlanta from hosting the Super Bowl

Nothing screams “invidious discrimination” like an SBC pastor who refuses to officiate a gay wedding.

This may be difficult to hear for those of you who look on Georgia as a land flowing with sweet tea and gravy, but something stinks in God’s country. Elected representatives are about to drag the citizenry into an abyss of lawless discrimination.

Last week the GA senate, under cover of darkness,  passed an amended version of the insidious Free Exercise Protection Act–HB 757 if you don’t want to sugarcoat the wanton violation of civil rights. The bill now sits on the governor’s desk awaiting a signature. Legalized discrimination is just a pen stroke away.

While equal protection for all may become a relic in the South (who says history doesn’t repeat itself?), injustice isn’t marching on unopposed. Along with political action groups, more than 400 businesses have joined the coalition Georgia Prospers which is pressuring Gov. Deal to veto the bill. Even the NFL, the gold standard of American morality, has said that Atlanta may not be able to host the Super Bowl if the ‘anti-gay bill’ passes.

But the righteous indignation heard in the public square doesn’t adequately convey just how offensive HB 757 is. You have to read the bill to get the full impact. Since loyal Script readers are certain to read the bill for themselves I’ll just summarize the offending proposals:

  1. Ordained ministers, in keeping with their religious convictions, would be free to choose whether or not they will officiate a wedding, perform a religious rite, or administer any sacraments. (sec 2.b.)
  2. Anyone[!] would be free to attend or not attend a wedding, performance of any rite, or administration of any sacrament in keeping with the exercise of their religion. (sec 2.d.)
  3. Faith based organizations (i.e. churches, religious school, etc.) would not required to provide their facilities or services if it violated their religious beliefs (sec 4.a-b)
  4. Faith based organizations would not be required to hire or keep as an employee anyone whose religious beliefs/practices aren’t in line with the beliefs/practices of the faith based organization. (sec 5.b.)

To sum up: religious leaders would be free to practice their religion, religious institutions would be free to determine how their facilities & resources are used, and everyone would be free to choose whether or not to attend a wedding or religious ceremony.


Is it just me, or does the actual content leave you underwhelmed?

HB 757 will not lead to a proliferation of water fountains–half for heterosexuals, half for homosexuals. HB 757 will not create shop signs reading “No shirt, No heterosexuality, No service.” And HB 757 offers no protection–zero–for religious individuals in the marketplace. Only formally recognized religious leaders and institutions “benefit” from this legislation.

But even if Gov. Deal signs the bill into law, Georgia Prospers’ weeping may only last for the night. The dawn will bring an inevitable court challenge where an enlightened judiciary will rule that the bigot bill provides an escape clause:

“Nothing in this chapter should be construed to permit invidious discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal or state law.”

Let’s face it. Nothing screams “invidious discrimination” like an SBC pastor who refuses to officiate a gay wedding.

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