Obamacare defenders taken by surprise

Even fans of Obamacare are admitting how poorly the administration lawyers handled the argument before the Supreme Court.  It is as if they didn’t anticipate the opposing arguments, much less prepare an answer for them.  It is as if they didn’t even conceive of how anyone could disagree with the goodness of the law.  From Rand Simberg (links to the quotes are in the linked article):

Having seen the transcripts of Tuesday’s hearing before the Supreme Court of the United States, I can only conclude that . . .testing their arguments against those of their political opponents. . .not only never occurred to the solicitor general or his defenders in the media, but that the very notion that their arguments had any flaws never crossed their minds.

In fact, even Mother Jones said that it was a judicial disaster for the government:

“Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. should be grateful to the Supreme Court for refusing to allow cameras in the courtroom, because his defense of Obamacare on Tuesday may go down as one of the most spectacular flameouts in the history of the court.

…Justice Samuel Alito asked the same question later. “Could you just -— before you move on, could you express your limiting principle as succinctly as you possibly can?” Verrilli turned to precedent again. “It’s very much like Wickard in that respect, it’s very much like Raich in that respect,” Verrilli said, pointing to two previous Supreme Court opinions liberals have held up to defend the individual mandate. Where the lawyers challenging the mandate invoked the Federalist Papers and the framers of the Constitution, Verrilli offered jargon and political talking points. If the law is upheld, it will be in spite of Verrilli’s performance, not because of it.”

The months leading up to the arguments made it clear that the government would face this obvious question. The law’s defenders knew that they had to find a simple way of answering it so that its argument didn’t leave the federal government with unlimited power. That is, Obamacare defenders would have to explain to the justices why allowing the government to compel individuals to buy insurance did not mean that the government could make individuals buy anything -— (say, broccoli or health club memberships, both of which Scalia mentioned). Verrilli was unable to do so concisely, leaving the Democratic appointees on the court to throw him life lines, all of which a flailing Verrilli failed to grasp.

It apparently never occurred to him that he might be challenged on these issues. Why was he so unprepared?

For months we’ve been hearing from the usual suspects in the MSM about how ludicrous was the notion that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to compel someone to purchase a product, as though proponents of the proposition were advocating the legitimacy of slavery, or the notion that the government couldn’t prevent someone from growing wheat for their own use on their own land, or that it couldn’t prevent an individual from growing marijuana to treat her own cancer.

As evidence for their scoffing, they pointed out how that great constitutional scholar Nancy Pelosi was incredulous at the notion that there could possibly be an issue with it, or the more honest Democrat congressman (who somehow inexplicably later lost his election) who didn’t even think that it mattered. They also pointed out the sophisticated legal argument that it must be constitutional, otherwise its proponents would have actually put forth legal arguments supporting the case:

“That the law is constitutional is best illustrated by the fact that — until recently — the Obama administration expended almost no energy defending it.”

Could there be a more airtight defense? Perhaps, if one had a sieve.

All of this is evidence of the media/academic cocoon in which so many of these commentators live. It is a world in which it is unimaginable that Wickard v. Filburn may have been wrongly decided, in which there may actually be limits to federal power. It is unimaginable that the great solons on the Hill — Pelosi, Reid, Dodd, Frank — could possibly write a bill which might actually be unconstitutional despite its hundreds of pages that not one person read, and that we couldn’t possibly know what was in it until they passed it.

As a specific example of how completely gobsmacked they were, read “legal analyst” Jeffrey Toobin’s reaction to the hearing:

‘“This law looks like it’s going to be struck down,” he said. “I’m telling you, all of the predictions including mine that the justices would not have a problem with this law were wrong.”’

Shocking, Jeffrey, we know. Just shocking.

Shocking, that is, to anyone completely unfamiliar with the founding document and the intent of the Founders. Sadly, this includes most people in the traditional media, on which too many continue to rely for their analysis. The White House could have avoided, or at least mitigated, this disaster by hiring the smartest opponents of the law to come in and do a moot court exercise against them, in order to prepare their advocate in advance. But, whether due to arrogance, incompetence, or both, it did not.

via PJ Media » The White House/Media Cocoon on ObamaCare.

He made Himself nothing

What a sermon we had on Palm Sunday to introduce Holy Week!  Pastor Douthwaite preached on Philippians 2:5-8:  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

He made Himself nothing.

The word used there is the word ekenosen, which means He emptied Himself. Some Bibles translate it that way, and so its important to know what that means, and what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that the Son of God left His godness behind in heaven when He became a man. It doesn’t mean He left His power and glory in heaven when He became a man. It doesn’t mean that when He was arrested and manhandled by the Roman soldiers, when He stood before Pilate, and when He hung on the cross, He was helpless and couldn’t do anything about it. He could have. Easily. The same Son of God who healed folks of every disease and sickness, who knew the thoughts and hearts of men, who could command all creation by His Word, whose glory shone in His transfiguration, and who had power over death – that is the Jesus of the Passion. The Son of God who willingly didn’t use all that power when it came time to save Himself. He made Himself nothing.

Yet perhaps we could go even farther than that, if that’s possible – He made Himself less than nothing. Taking upon Himself the sin of the world, He was the greatest sinner ever. Whoever you usually think has that title, the most evilest person you can think of, you’re wrong – it’s Jesus. He is the worst idolater, the worst unbeliever, the worst hater, the worst scoundrel, the worst murderer, the worst adulterer, the worst thief, the worst liar, the worst cheat, the worst everything . . . because He’s got all your sins and all my sins and all the sin of all the people out there, on Him.

Unfair? No. He took them. He wanted them. So that they would be on Him and not on you. So that they would be held against Him and not against you. So that He would be forsaken for them and die for them and not you.

He made Himself nothing.

The king becomes a servant. God becomes man. The One subject to none makes Himself subject to all. The author of life dies. The glory of God is hung on a cross.

Why? For you.

That’s what this day, and all this week, is all about. With all that you hear today, all that you hear this week, the thought to put in your mind is this: He did all this for me. For me. Not just for the world. For me. He made Himself nothing, to make you something. To make you a child of God. And that was worth it. For the Father, that was worth sending His Son. For Jesus, that was worth all the pain and agony and death. You were worth it. You may not be anything in anybody’s eyes; maybe not even in your own eyes. But you are in God’s eyes.

Maybe you think you’re nothing and that’s why you spend so much time trying to make yourself something. But there is simply nothing greater you can do or make yourself than what Jesus has made you: a child of God. That gives you more value than anything else in this world. And God has done that. He said it to you when you were baptized: You are now My beloved Son.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Palmarum/Passion Sunday Sermon.

April Fool’s Day round-up

What April Fool’s jokes did you find on the internet?  Here is one:  Richard Branson headed to ‘center of Earth’ – Yahoo! News Canada.

The Final Two

One of my alma maters, the University of Kansas, will play in the NCAA basketball championship game tonight against the University of Kentucky!  What is your prognosis?

Kansas, Kentucky to Meet in Power-Program Final – ABC News.

Holy Week radio

The talk radio show Issues, Etc., has a great line-up for Holy Week.  This would be a good time to check it out and to see what the big deal is about that program.  It airs live from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Central Time and can be heard on the web, as well as a number of radio stations across the country.  (Go to the website for a list of stations that carry it.)  The daily programs are archived on the website, so you can listen to them at your leisure.  (And check out the iPhone and Android apps, the latter of which is a creation of Michael O’Connor, who goes to our church.)

Here are the topics and guests for each day of Holy Week:

Monday, April 2–The Events of Holy Week.  Dr. Paul Maier of Western Michigan University

Tuesday, April 3–The Last Supper According to Luke’s Gospel.  Dr. Arthur Just of Concordia Theological Seminary

Wednesday, April 4–The Last Words of Jesus from the Cross.  Pr. Bill Cwirla of Holy Trinity Lutheran-Hacienda Heights, CA

Thursday, April 5–The Passion of Christ.  Dr. Norman Nagel of Concordia Seminary

Friday, April 6–The Hymn, “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.”  Pr. Will Weedon of St. Paul Lutheran-Hamel, IL

Saturday, April 7–Luther on the Passion of Christ.  Pr. Paul McCain of Concordia Publishing House

via Steadfast Lutherans » Issues Etc. — Talk Radio for Holy Week.

For those of you who are fans, what would you say is so special about Issues, Etc.?  What would you say to convince someone–say, who is not a Lutheran–to tune in?

Lutheranism–and the Gospel–in depth

On the surface, Lutherans often seem placid and easy-going, solid folks who don’t make much of a stir.  And yet their theology consists of stormy clashes between Law and Gospel, glory vs. the Cross, the dark struggles of anfechtungen, the ecstasy of grace.   Lutheran spirituality centers on things as ordinary as going to church, going to work, and spending time with one’s family.  And yet, there is an unfathomable depth to what Lutherans see in the Cross, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the Two Natures of Christ, and the Word of God.  Underlying the conservatism are teachings that are deeply radical.

Larry, frequent commenter on this blog, alerted me to this book by Steven D. Paulson entitled simply  Lutheran Theology.  It’s part of a series demonstrating the ways different traditions “do” theology.  But this is far from a dry textbook.  As Amazon reviewer Judith Guttman says, “If this book doesn’t knock your socks off, you aren’t paying attention. It is electrifying, exciting — am I talking about a theology book? Yes.”

Paulson says that we usually think of religion in terms of a “legal scheme,” a set of moral assumptions involving award and punishment with everybody getting what they deserve.  The Gospel just sets all of that aside.  So does God’s wrath, actually, which condemns completely and without proportion.  (He says that Luther as a monk goes far beyond the New Atheists in his resentment of a God whose wrath against sin seems so unfair.  The atheists react to God’s wrath by denying God’s existence, an act of wish-fulfillment Luther did not indulge in.)  But then God becomes flesh in Christ, who though innocent “becomes” sin and takes the wrath of God into Himself, giving us sinners the promise of salvation, which breaks into our lives through the voice of a preacher.  The “legal scheme” is completely set aside, though we–including many theologians in the history of Lutheranism–keep trying to re-introduce it, though since we cannot fulfill it of ourselves, we need constant recourse to Christ’s promises.  And  the consequent Christian life is also outside the “legal scheme,” having to do not so much with rules and score-keeping but with a free, spontaneous, and grace-filled love of neighbor.

As I read this book on my Kindle for Lent I found myself bookmarking virtually every page, so packed it was with illuminating insights.  Sample it yourself with the Amazon’s “Look inside” feature.  Another Amazon reviewer, David F. Sczepanski, was kind enough to type out some excerpts:

Lutheran theology begins perversely by advocating the destruction of all that is good, right, and beautiful in human life. It attacks the lowest and the highest goals of life, especially morality, no matter how sincere are its practitioners. Luther said the “sum and substance,” of Paul’s letter to the Romans “is to pull down, to pluck up, and to destroy all wisdom and righteousness of the flesh.” (1)

This is no ordinary philosophy about life, nor is it ordinary Christian religion. For thousands of years Christians routinely described life using an allegory of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt. They said life in general, and Christians in particular, were on an exodus out of vice into virtue. They were on a journey away from badness toward goodness. But Luther bluntly said faith is not a transition from vice to virtue, it is “the way from virtue to the grace of Christ.” (2)

`I forgive you’…Luther taught and demonstrated that these simple words give absolute, indubitable certainty, and no one is more dangerous than a person who is certain. The certainty was not based on human self-certainty; it was the opposite of that. It was the certainty of forgiveness because of what the Son of God did by taking the sins of the world upon himself and defeating them at the cross. The decisive cosmic battle of God against sin, death, and devil was already waged and won when Christ was raised from the dead to make a new kingdom of people who live with no law, nowhere to go, and nothing to accomplish. They were simply–free. (7)

God is always and ever God whether someone believes in him or not… God who is above time and space now enters the world with a steely determination…the sinner’s justification…so that the stories of God’s arrival to sinners make the great tales of Scripture (Abraham, David, Mary) and our own lives like Augustine’s Confessions. (55)

…the heart is not made for itself; it is made to go outside of itself and cling to that which speaks to the heart. Humans are therefore “hearing” creatures whose heart is always clinging to some word or other. (56

For Luther, fear…must be taught only so that it can be extinguished so that one will flee from this God [of wrath], not to him. We are to fear God who has no words (unpreached), and run from him to the place where he has given himself in words [of promise] — that is to the preacher. Only there do fear and wrath end in Christ incarnate as he gives himself to sinners… What is life like before a preacher arrives? Life is filled with voices that are “passing judgment” (Rom 2:1)…so that life comes under constant judgment. The judge could be outside one’s self like a father telling you to live up to your potential, or a written law that says, “Thou shalt not steal.” The judge can also be inside, called a conscience, holding itself to a standard of judgment. Life without a preacher is life with a knotted collection of voices that either accuse or excuse, but in either case end up used in the service of self-justification. Because judgment stands ever at hand…life becomes a search for an escape. (69)

Each time sins are forgiven it is experienced as a breakthrough, a miracle, a new and unheard of redemption that sets a person free — body and spirit — from an oppressive force. (89)

The crux of the issue in forgiveness is what happens to a sin which was real, actual, and loaded with consequences in many peoples’ lives… (90)

Sin is deep in the flesh; it is material, and it does not go away by wishing it so. It is not an idea that can be thought away, it is not a feeling that can be gotten over through great effort, it is a thing that corrodes life’s goods like debt; sin infects healthy life like a virus and it must be disposed of. (90)

Forgiveness first negates — by violently removing trust put in the wrong place. Then it puts faith in the proper place, which creates something new out of nothing… (90)

via Amazon.com: Lutheran Theology (Doing Theology )) (9780567550002): Steven D. Paulson: Books.


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