Thursday, January 26, 2012

What T.D. Jakes is Teaching Us about Orthodoxy, Heresy, and Unity

I really wasn't looking forward to yesterdays Elephant Room discussion. For one thing, my schedule simply did not allow me to dedicate an entire day to the event. Furthermore, I was honestly skeptical of the content, and the outcome.

My primary reason for this skepticism? One of those invited to participate in the discussion yesterday was T.D. Jakes, a texas pastor who founded "The Potter's House" in Dallas. It is well-known among evangelicals that Jakes spent his formative years among those called "Oneness Pentecostals," who deny the historic Christian doctrine of the trinity. Oneness Pentecostals instead confess to something called "modalism" or "Sabelianism," denying inherently the full personhood and separate consciousnesses of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Yet over the past few years, Jakes had been silent about where he stood on this issue. Furthermore, he was joined on stage by the likes of Crawford Loritts, Mark Driscoll, and James MacDonald. I've been listening to all these guys long enough to know that they are not theological lightweights, and are not easily fooled by heresy. That fact alone should have been enough for me to wait--to expect the best in hope as commanded in 1 Corinthians 13. Still, I was skeptical.

I should have known better.

To be sure, the trinity is no small thing. In fact, in many ways, it is everything! One of the first questions one must ask when considering the Gospel is "who is God?" Obviously, if you get that one wrong, it only goes downhill from there. Furthermore, each of us owes our salvation to the trinitarian nature of the Father, who chose us before creation, the Son who paid the penalty for our sin, and the Spirit who seals us and sanctifies us in our new relationship as His adopted children. Though the Scriptures as a whole are pregnant with the concept, Ephesians 1 details in the most succinct terms how the members of the Godhead work together--as separate persons--to bring about the redemption that assures us of "every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, in Christ."

To put it bluntly, if God is not a trinity, then the Gospel is a myth! No Trinity? No Gospel!

So we are right to see the issues surrounding T.D. Jakes as no small thing. At the same time, the way many evangelicals suspiciously responded to Jakes' statements to Driscoll and MacDonald yesterday betray that while we rightfully excel at sniffing out heresy, we are slow to love, to assume the best, and to celebrate when someone who has erred realizes that error through his or her own examination of the Scripture. The mixed reaction to Jakes' statements in the Elephant Room yesterday reveal that the spirit of Ephesus is still, regrettably, alive and well (Revelation 2:2-5)

I'm grateful that, through the transcripts of Trevin Wax yesterday, I was able to read that T.D. Jakes is now a trinitarian. But more than this, I was thankful to read of his life journey which has brought him to this place. He spoke of how he had embraced modalism because, well, that is the tradition in which he grew up!

According to Wax's account, Jakes elaborated on his background in this way:

They [Oneness Pentecostals] believe in Jesus Christ, he died and raised again. But how they explain the Godhead is how Trinitarians describe the gospel. I was in that church and raised in that church a number of years. I started preaching from that pulpit. But I’m also informed by the infiltration from my Baptist experience. I ended up Metho-Bapti-Costal. I’m a mixed breed. It is easy to throw rocks at people who you do not know, but when you see the work of Christ in their lives, you try to build bridges. So even though I moved away from what that church’s teaching, I didn’t want to throw rocks. Much of what we do today is teach people to take sides. But I believe we are called to reconcile wherever possible. My struggle was that in some passages, the doctrine fits and in other places it doesn’t. I don’t want to force my theology to fit my denomination. . . The Bible made me rethink my ideas and I got quiet about it for a while. There are things that you can say about the Father you cannot say about the Son or the Spirit. There are distinctives. I’m very comfortable with that.

Jakes goes on to then confess an orthodox understanding of trinitarian Christianity, while admittedly pushing back a bit on language choice, for Biblical reasons:

I believe the latter one is where I stand today. One God – Three Persons. I am not crazy about the word persons though. You describe “manifestations” as modalist, but I describe it as Pauline. For God was manifest in the flesh. Paul is not a modalist, but he doesn’t think it’s robbery to say manifest in the flesh. Maybe it’s semantics, but Paul says this. Now, when we start talking about that sort of thing, I think it’s important to realize there are distinctives between the work of the Father and the work of the Son. I’m with you. I have been with you.

So here we have a guy who was raised in a tradition that he, over time and through his study of the Scriptures, realized contained error. He studied and prayed his way through some things that were fuzzy to him, and as they became clear, he landed squarely within the realm of Christian Orthodoxy. What's not to celebrate?

And by the way, this is not the first time this has happened. The early church took three and a half centuries before what we today call "orthodoxy" was established. Are we to believe that no one was orthodox before the Council of Constantinople? Of course not! First, second, and third century followers of Jesus spread His message, organized themselves into churches, submitted to Biblically qualified leaders, observed baptism and the Lord's Supper, and lived the message of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit in front of an unbelieving world.

Throughout those three centuries, much was discussed about the nature of God. During this time the early church had to hunch and feel its way through a myriad of issues, returning time after time to the text of Scripture and thereby avoiding the theological "off-ramps" of Nestorianism, Arianism, Monarchianism, and a host of other heretical streams before finally being able to articulate what we now call an orthodox understanding of the triune God, codified in a revised Nicene Creed in 381 A.D.

My point is that seventeen centuries later, individuals sometimes take this same journey, and its a journey that is often complicated by an error-filled tradition to which they were exposed at a young age.

Does that mean Jakes' earlier error was "no big deal?" Not at all! But ff T.D. Jakes' testimony yesterday teaches us anything, it teaches us that while Christian faith may exist in a personally "pre-Nicean" form, if it is real, eventually it will emerge as a decidedly "post-Nicean" faith. I believe that's what happened to T.D. Jakes, and I rejoice in this.

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be good enough for many in the evangelical church. In some sense, this should be expected. As the heirs of the Protestant Reformers, we can be a cantankerous bunch and we can critique ourselves to death. Its in our family history! The Reformation began as critique. It was neccesary critique. It was purifying critique. It was a critique that led to the recovery of the Gospel, AND the recovery of the church!

Problem is, as the Protestant movement grew and established itself, it tended toward maintaining its posture of critique as opposed to mounting an offensive and aggressive movement forward to accomplish the Great Commission. Possibly the only legitimate criticism that Erasmus of Rotterdam leveled toward Martin Luther was when he contended that the Protestants couldn't possibly represent the "true church" because, in Erasmus' words, "you have no missionaries."

These are our theological ancestors, and we would do well to cling to the faithful teaching they left us while simultaneously realizing--and rejecting--the hyper-critical nature of our history so that the sins of the fathers are not visited on the sons any longer.

So how do we do this? Do we jettison concern for sound doctrine? Anyone paying attention at yesterday's Elephant Room should know that isn't happening. At the same time, when someone formerly in error confesses Christian orthodoxy to me, my response shouldn't be cynicism, suspicion, or on T.D. Jakes' case, the desire to know "how trinitarian" he really is.

To be sure, I differ with Bishop Jakes on quite a bit, and his former modalist views are not the only areas where I would personally have concerns. But yesterday's conversation between Jakes, Driscoll and MacDonald have put my concerns about trinitarian orthodoxy to rest, and in fact, have left me with a renewed confidence in the power of the Scriptures to transform our fallen minds and understandings.

Others may want to continue to critique and find fault. But I love my brother in Christ, and as a result will bear, believe, hope, and endure with him as he continues to walk in a right understanding of God.

As for me, I'm rejoicing that I have a brother in Dallas!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

When it Comes to Our Relationships, Are we Labeling, or Listening?

I’m not sure if its because we are in an election season, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about labels; how they are used, and how they are misused. Watching the Presidential debate in New Hampshire last week, I was struck by the way labels were used in the attempt of some candidates to pigeonhole other candidates. And after 20 years in ministry, I’ve come to the conclusion that the church participates in this same destructive exercise.

Now, I’m not against using labels. Labels can give us a sense of where people are coming from. They help us understand the philosophical rationale for decisions made, commitments kept, and why people care about the things they care about. But at the end of the day, a label doesn’t mean much unless it is understood in light of a person and that person’s context.

A personal example will illustrate this. I’m an evangelical Christian who believes in an inerrant Bible, a literal Adam and Eve, and the virgin birth, substitutionary death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’m also a complimentarian that believes the Scriptures commend male pastoral leadership in the home and in the church.

But although I believe in a literal creation, I plant no flags in the ground regarding exactly when God spoke the created order into existence. I’ve read those who believe the earth is 6000 years old, and I’ve read those who believe the earth is tens of millions of years old. My position is that, since I wasn’t there, I’m just going to say “I have no idea.”

Additionally, although I am a complimentarian, I believe women are called to every manner of ministry in the church, including the teaching ministry. I find nothing in the text that prevents a woman—under the guidance of her pastor—from teaching the Bible, planning missions strategy, leading ministry efforts in the church, or teaching in a seminary or other institution of higher learning.

I could go on, but these two issues alone are enough for some people to say that the phrase “evangelical” doesn’t fit me. On one occasion about ten years ago, someone actually referred to me as a “liberal.” That was a first!

A few other examples of labels are:

Baptist: There has been much discussion over the last couple of years about what it means to “truly” be Baptist. But which kind of Baptist are we speaking of? Paul Tillich was an existentialist theologian who eventually denied the bodily resurrection of Christ, yet he called himself “Baptist.” Jack Hyles taught that women should always wear dresses and never cut their hair, and he called himself “Baptist.” Westboro "Church" (using that term loosely, I know)in Kansas promulgates a message of hatred for homosexuals, soldiers, and the United States as a whole, and they call themselves “Baptist.”

Living in Maryland, when I identify myself as “Baptist” it is likely that the person I’m talking to might invoke any one of the above expressions. I don’t live in the south where even the dogs and cats are members in good standing of the local Baptist Church. I live in a place where we are about as numerous as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and viewed with essentially the same degree of suspicion. So the only way for someone to really know what I mean when I apply the label to myself is to get to know me.

Liberal. This is a word that often gets tossed around carelessly, especially if your goal is to make someone else look bad. Problem is, not all forms of liberalism are bad! Most of the “liberal arts” universities in America were started by Bible believing Christian groups. Furthermore, the domain of society this term is applied to makes all the difference in the world. Are we talking about political liberalism? Theological liberalism? Social liberalism? Educational liberalism? Each of these terms has an historical definition that separates many of them out from the usual perception of the “left-right” spectrum.

Muslim. Over the past year, God has opened the door for me to interact with many new friends in the Muslim community. In that time, I’ve learned much about the lives and faith of these precious people, and when I watch FOX News, the Islam I hear described bears little resemblance to that practiced by the people I’ve come to know and love.

To be sure, Muslims of the sort described on our nightly news programs do exist. But Islam is a global, and thus diverse, faith. It is practiced through Sunni, Shi’ite, and Sufi expressions in dozens of countries around the world, and among 1.6 billion people worldwide. Consequently, a Muslim living in Instanbul, Turkey is probably very different from a Muslim living in rural Afghanistan, the North African desert, or among the immigrant communities that now live in various major cities throughout Europe and the United States. Think about the difference between an Eastern Orthodox Priest in the Balkan region of southern Europe and a Pentecostal preacher in south Alabama. Both are “Christian.” That same sort of variety exists in the Islamic world as well.

Calvinist: Again, which kind are we talking about? Guys who don’t believe in evangelism? John MacArthur students committed to sound exposition? Those who minister in the tradition of Spurgeon? Dortians? Amyraldians? “Whiskey Baptists?” Those labels too can be highly confusing and polarizing.

Conservative. The present forward movement of the Republican primary season ensures that this term gets worn slick. What exactly is a “true conservative” or a “strong conservative” anyway? By the standards of some, William F. Buckley, who is arguably considered the father of modern political conservatism, would be considered a moderate today. And if ever there was a term that meant so many things that it means nothing, it’s the term “moderate.”

Is it possible to be theologically conservative yet educationally liberal? History proves that it is.

So where am I going with all this? Here is my big idea: If the labels we use to categorize others can themselves have so many different expressions, then the only way I can truly get to know another human being is to spend time with them and build a relationship. Investing part of your life in a venture as risky as getting to know another human being can sometimes be messy. Sure, its easier to simply label people and move on. But in the end, that approach cheats us out of the tremendous blessing of sharing life, and for Christians, sharing our faith.

For Christians, this is an imminently important issue. We have, to a large extent, capitulated to the cultural propensity to use labels as a device to pigeonhole people and isolate ourselves from them. Then we wonder why we have such a difficult time connecting with our communities and the world. If we don’t build bridges, we will never share Jesus. And you can’t build bridges to culture without building relationships with human beings from every walk of life.

Use labels as reference points. Use them to understand someone’s personal background. But get to know people. All the labeling in the world is no substitute for sitting down with another human being and hearing from them directly. Plus, it’s the only way we can substantively engage the world Jesus died to save.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Favorite Half of Romans 14*

One of the most annoying experiences of ministry often comes, interestingly enough, after I've preached a message. It's that moment when I'm standing in the back of the church shaking hands, and someone comes up and says "great message Dr. Rainey. I wish _________ could have been here to hear it. They need it!"

Honestly, it's hard in moments like that to keep my temper at bay. I want to ask, in righteous indignation, "don't you need it too? What's wrong with you that you see faults in others before you see them in yourself? Haven't you read Matthew 7:1-5?? Are you an idiot?? . . . .

. . .but just before exploding, the Spirit reminds me that often, I too, am an idiot.

For example, many folks on my wife's side of the family come out of a Holiness background. Because of this, they hold strong convictions that I don't hold. I remember early in our dating life when Amy would say "don't talk about movies we have seen around the relatives. They believe going to the theater is sinful."

Of course, my instant reaction was to appeal to Romans 14. After all, Paul has given us clear instruction regarding how to relate to each other on "debatable" matters. There is nothing . . .absolutely NOTHING in Scripture that forbids me from seeing a good movie, especially one in which there is lots of gunplay, fast cars, and buildings blowing up in a hopelessly gratuitous fashion. There is liberty in Christ, and where "movies for guys who like movies" are concerned, I aim to exercise my liberty!!

Furthermore, those who would object to my affinity for fast cars and bullets on the silver screen should consider carefully the following verses from Romans 14:" . . .and let not the one who abstains pass judgement on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him." v.3b"Who are you to pass judgement on the servant of another?" v.4"Why do you pass judgement on your brother?" v.10"Therefore, let us not pass judgement on one another any longer." v.13a

Wow, if only my "weaker brother" were here to read these verses. He sure needs it!

Problem is, in quoting my preferred half of this text, I've totally ignored (i.e. violated) the parts that are addressed to me in an effort to point out those parts that are addressed to my weaker brother. Talk about irony!

As a "stronger brother" in this regard, I should instead be looking at the following passages:"Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains. . ." v.3a". . .but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother." v.13b"For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died." v.15"It is not good to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble." v.21

Do such texts mean that I should totally abstain from seeing the movie "Contraband" this weekend? Not necessarily. At the same time, it probably means I should keep quiet about it around certain folks out of deference for their convictions. OF course, they have their responsibilities as well. But I'm not responsible to fulfill my weaker brother's responsibilities. I'm responsible to fulfill mine.

The same is true for any other debatable issue. My denomination, for example, has, on the whole, very strong convictions about alcohol consumption . . .convictions that I share to a large extent. So when it comes to beer, I switch teams. I'm no longer a "strong" brother. Now, I'm a "weaker" one. And within our churches, I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon: almost anytime a debatable issue divides the strong and weak, the weak come out on top in the form of additional rules. The strong are often warned against causing others to stumble. The weak are rarely called out for judging their stronger brothers.

Perhaps this explains, at least in part, why there are so many evangelical churches that are culturally unengaged—bordering on the isolationist. To be sure, some of my more aggressively evangelistic brothers sometimes do things, and go to lengths, that give me pause. But when comparing those I believe sometimes go too far with the multitude majority who don’t go far enough, I think we need more of the former!

The thing that interests me about any debatable issue is that most folks are just like me . . .they have a propensity to appeal to those verses in Romans 14 that are addressed to their opponents. The problem with this approach is that it not only ignores those texts most applicable to you, but it also violates the spirit of the very texts to which we appeal; a spirit that is best summarized by Paul's contention that "the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."

"Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then, let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding." (vv.17-18)

Appealing to my "preferred half" of Romans 14 is never conducive to the kind of peace and Kingdom thinking that Paul describes. To pursue peace, I have to appropriate the other half . . .the half that describes my responsibilities when it comes to debatable issues.

With this in mind, maybe I don't need to judge my brother who participates in activities I find I can't participate in without sinning. Conversely, perhaps I need to resist colorful descriptions of "Ironman" in front of certain family members.

Maybe, just maybe, if we all practiced such things, righteousness and peace and joy would be seen more clearly in us by those who need to know Jesus. Just maybe, this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote Romans 14.

*Adapted from a 2008 post on this blog.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Why this Evangelical is Voting for Ron Paul

I rarely write on issues that are solely political in nature. As a follower of Jesus and a regional leader of global missions, I frankly have more important things to write about, and understand that no eartthly kingdom compares to the eternal Kingdom of God I'm called to proclaim.

Furthermore, I want my primary message to always be that of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and entering exlusively into prolonged political conversation inevitably dilutes that message. For these reasons, this will be my one and only public political endorsement this year. But before I make it, a couple of qualifications are neccesary.

First, I'm making this endorsement as a private citizen, and posting it on a privately-owned website that is in no way funded by the organization that employs me. When I speak as Director of Missions, I represent 12,000 Baptists in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area, and when it comes to the political, we are a diverse bunch, so I don't in any way want to give the impression that I am speaking for them, for the churches they attend, or for the Association I'm privileged to serve. Additionally, there is always an irrational fear--usually from the political left--that in making an endorsement I'm somehow violating Constitutional law. I wouldn't want Rev. Barry Lynn and "Americans United for Separation of Church and State," the ACLU, or any other loony-left group of people who have yet to find a real job to have any reason to think that someone's "rights" are being violated by what I say here.

Second, the nature of this endorsement is likely to trouble some of my ministry colleagues, who have already expressed suprise at my personal choice for President this year. While there is no candidate in the race with whom I am in 100% agreement, I hope this post will clarify why a conservative evangelical Christian is not only able to vote for someone who is not "far right" on every issue, but sometimes SHOULD cast such a vote.

With that said, I'd like to list here the primary reasons I believe Ron Paul Should be the next President of the United States, and then address some concerns that I often hear about some of Ron Paul's views.

1. Ron Paul is the true "Champion of the Constitution." Name the issue: Whether it is fiscal policy, foreign relations, national security, or social issues, Ron Paul is the only candidate in the field who consistently appeals to the Constitution of the United States. When the left appeals to emotion when arguing for continued funding of unsustainable government programs, Ron Paul answers with our founding documents. When the right appeals to fear when arguing for stronger "security measures" that steal individual liberty, Ron Paul answers with our founding documents. Ron Paul's views, compared with other candidates, reveal him to be the only one who truly believes that we are a nation of law and not of men. In contrast to Gingrich, who has publicly stated he would purposefully go around Constitutional law if he thought it neccesary to "protect us," Ron Paul believes that no one individual is above the Constitution, including the President.

As a result, Congressman Paul has been the lone voice opposing the Federal Reserve, insisting on closing any federal department not expressly authorized by the Constitution, and sounding the alarm about how the so-called "Patriot Act" and sections of the most recent version of NDAA blatantly violate habeus corpus and our fourth ammendment rights.

Over a decade ago, former President George W. Bush suggested that the right saw the Constitution as an authoritative document to be followed, while the left saw it as a "living, breathing document" subject to interpretations not dependent on the intent of the founders. Since that day, I have come to realize that both Republicans and Democrats treat the Constitution with disdain. They just disagree about which parts of it they want to ignore. I'm weary of Presidential candidates with little respect for our body of law. I want a President who understands that no one is above that law, especially the Chief Executive. Among all the candidates in the current field, Ron Paul is the only one who seems to understand this.

2. Ron Paul tells it like he sees it. Admittedly the 76-year-old candidate isn't the most eloquent speaker in this group. Frequent verbal bridges and blunt remarks that could be better expressed sometimes get in the way of the message. This is especially true when Paul is onstage alongside such magnanimous speakers as Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. Furthermore, there have been many verbal gaffes in this campaign that have left him misunderstood. But if one only takes the time to look past the delivery to the actual message, one observes something that I don't believe is evident in any other candidates' platform: the unvarnished truth unaccosted by nuances that appeal to the "party line."

All the candidates speak about a prosperous America. All the candidates speak about a strong and secure America. Only Ron Paul has spoken in detail, and substantively, about how he would seek to bring this about. Some of his ideas are controversial, and still others highly unpopular (I would say it is because they are misunderstood, and will explain more below). But among the current slate of candidates, when asked a direct question, Ron Paul is the only one who provides a direct answer.

To be sure, there are much more eloquent candidates in the field. Indeed, there are many on that platform that appear more "Presidential" (whatever that means) than Ron Paul. But we elected our current incumbent largely due to his silver tongue, in spite of the fact that he had never run a business, met a payroll, or served in any executive capacity whatsoever. I think we've had enough eloquent speech. What we need now is plain, straight-talk.

3. Ron Paul has the only sane fiscal policy. The "bloody ram's head" that sits conspicuously on our nation's table right now is that we cannot continue to sustain a budget that created a $15 trillion debt. But there are two hard truths that must be faced in order to solve this problem that neither major political party, as a whole, wants to face. Defense and Entitlements are the two largest portions of the federal budget, and in order to get our fiscal house in order, both must be cut substantially. But Republicans won't agree to cut the former, and Democrats refuse to cut the latter. Ron Paul is the only candidate who states the unpopular but plain truth that both must be cut, and that both CAN be cut without dismantling our ability to defend ourselves or sending millions into poverty.

Additionally, Congressman Paul has consistently opposed the existence of the Federal Reserve. It was Ronald Reagan who once said "Government isn't the solution to our problem. Government IS the problem." If ever there was a government entity that tangibly proved this statement true it is the Federal Reserve System. Those on the right and left have differing views on what to do with the Fed in order to improve our economy, but neither considers that the Fed itself--with the way it has kept interest rates artificially low while simultaneously destroying our money supply with inflationary practices--might be the source of the problem.

4. Ron Paul may be the only candidate who knows the meaning of "liberty." Many examples could be given to prove this, but the most recent and obvious would be the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011. Normally a benign bill annually passed to fund the Pentagon's defense budget and the military, the current version of NDAA contains two "poison pills" that allow the incarcertaion and indefinite detention of AMERICAN CITIZENS, without due process, by the American military. This blatant violation of Posse Comitatis sets the stage for a future in which political opponents who are able to be "linked" in any way with suspected terrorist organizations could simply be locked up and silenced indefintely.

But perhaps the greatest tragedy of this piece of legislation is the way in which it could change the perception of our military. My kids are learning to honor those who serve in our military as heroes who protect our freedom, and who are on our side. The newest version of NDAA creates an environment where my kids could have their homes invaded and their parents arrested and held indefinitely by those same military personnel.

What is horrifyingly strange about all this is that no political candidate is sounding the alarm about this gross violation of the law by our current Congress, and our current President who signed it into law. Since 9/11, American's have had their right to privacy violated in every place from the internet to airports. We have been forced to succomb to an emerging and growing "police state" in which it now appears the military may even become a part of that police force. More recently, American citizens have been targeted abroad for assassination, without due process. Not a single candidate for President is saying anything about this--except Ron Paul.

There are other reasons I support Congressman Paul's candidacy, but I also realize that there are grave concerns about his positions on a number of other issues, so I'd like to address those now, as well as address how this evangelical can, in good conscience, vote for him and support him publicly:

Isn't Ron Paul "Pro-Choice?" The short answer to this question is "no." As a practicing obstetrician for many decades, Dr. Paul has publicly stated his pro-life views. This is of particular importance to me. I strongly believe respect for all human life is foundational to continued liberty, and therefore have never, and will never vote for any candidate who believes it is permissible to murder a child in the womb. Congressman Paul has also stated his opposition to abortion.

The sticky part of this argument lies in what the Congressman would do legislatively and otherwise related to this issue. Although he is pro-life, he has stated that he would appeal to the 10th ammendment on this issue, meaning that he believes it should be totally within the power of the 50 state governments to regulate and/or outlaw the practice as they see fit. For many of my fellow social conservatives, this doesn't go far enough. As one who favors a human life ammendment to the Constitution, I too believe the Congressman should go much further on this issue. But what many are forgetting is that for Ron Paul's vision of "state regulation" of abortion to be realized, "Roe-v. Wade" would need to be overturned, which is what ALL social conservatives would love to see happen.

Since "Roe" was decided in 1973, the majority of Supreme Court justices appointed have been by "pro-life" Presidents, yet we still have a Court that respects stare decisis more than innocent human life. Knowing his views on Constitutional law, I am convinced that President Paul would not compromise, as other pro-life Presidents have, when it comes to his judicial appointments. In short, I believe Ron Paul would do more do end abortion than the five pro-life Presidents combined who have come before him since the "Roe" decision.

Ron Paul's Foreign Policy views scare me. "Ron Paul wants to dismantle the military." "Ron Paul would leave us wide open to attack." Such rhetoric is stirring, concerning, and TOTALLY untrue.

Though he has been called an "isolationist," Congressman Paul's views are actually those of a "non-interventionist." In short, Paul is a consistent believer in national sovereignty. But he doesn't believe that only the United States is sovereign. He believes ALL nations are sovereign, and that the U.S. has, over the years, intervened in the affairs of other nations that should not have concerned us.

Still, the charge that Paul would leave us open to terrorist attack seems very convincing, at least to those who have never actually looked at his voting record. He voted in favor of authorizing President Bush to use force in Afghanistan after 9/11, in retaliation for the attacks on New York and Washington. Additionally, and contrary to the claims of many on the right, Ron Paul believes in a strong, impenetrable national defense. He believes the job of the military is spelled out in the Constitution, and that job consists of defending our own borders, not policing the world.

There was a time when such was the official doctrine of the Republican party. But 9/11 created a national paranoia that the far-right has exploited over the past decade that led us into a prolonged war in Iraq, a military force that is stretched thin, and a total reversal of a previous belief in "non-intervention" by the so-called "Bush doctrine." Ron Paul wants to see this trend reversed, and so do I. That said, I will say that I'm not in total agreement with the Congressman on this issue. I don't believe a doctrine of non-intervention calls for the closing of every military base we have around the world. Additionally, I believe Paul to be "common sense" enough to adjust his particular views if reality dictates. I'm sure there is something about a new President receiving his first 2 or 3 intelligence briefings that tempers one's ideology. (remember President Obama's promise to shut down Gitmo?)

But I agree with him that in many ways, our intervention has probably caused more problems than it has solved. Those of us opposed to U.S. participation in the United Nations are the first to cry "national sovereignty" when the U.N. presumes to tell Americans what to do. We should offer the same level of respect and understanding to other nations.

Don't you think Ron Paul's view that we should legalize heroin is extreme? Yes I do. However, I agree with Congressman Paul's overall view that the "war on drugs" has solved nothing. I am not pro-drug use. But like prohibition that preceeded it, the war on drugs has done little to stop or even slow down the abuse of illegal (or legal, for that matter) substances in our nation. It has, however, resulted in deficit spending, prisons overcrowded with non-violent offenders and lots and lots of dead police officers. On the more general note, Ron Paul is right: We MUST have a new approach to this issue.

I've heard strong rumors that Ron Paul is anti-semitic. These rumors are blatantly false, to the extent that they are laughable. If "anti-semitic" means you aren't a Zionist, then I suppose you could call Ron Paul anti-semitic, along with the overwhelming majority of non-dispensationalist Christians, and secular Jews around the world. Referring to certain Jews as themselves being "anti-semitic" seems a bit absurd, no?

Unfortunately for those who are trying to push this rumor, the phrase "anti-semitic" has an actual definition. If you believe we should support Israel no matter what--even if they should decide to launch an unprovoked nuclear attack on Turkey--or if you believe the U.S. should continue sending foreign aid to Israel, you will disagree with Ron Paul. That doesn't make Ron Paul anti-semitic.

Contrary to the claims of many, Ron Paul is more pro-Israel than any other Republican nominee, for the simple reason that he doesn't believe Israel should have to ask the permission of the United States before it makes a decision, including a decision to defend itself. His desire to suspend foreign aid to Israel is bundled with his position that U.S. foreign aid worldwide should come to an end. And he is right, by the way. The Israelis are more than capable of defending themselves. Come to think of it, I'd be afraid to pit our Air Force against theirs. Even Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has stated that Israel does not need the help--or the permission--of the United States to do what it believes is in its own national self-interest.

So there you have it. I want my country to stay free, to be prosperous again, and to return to its Constitutional roots. For these reasons, Congressman Ron Paul gets my vote for President.

For more information, watch this 15 minute interview conducted by CNN's Pierce Morgan: