Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Problem of Knowing God

The agnostic claims that God cannot be known. And this claim would be true were it not for God’s self-revelation. If left entirely to himself, man could not know God; but man is not left only to himself, for the transcendent God is also immanent. Because man is God's creature living within His creation, God is manifested both internally and externally to man. Therefore the agnostic's agnosticism is willful, self-inflicted, and inexcusable.

Furthermore, God has revealed Himself, in no uncertain terms, in the Holy Bible. He filled the pages of His self-revelation with accurate and objective truth. Certainly, man could not know God if God desired to be unknown but this is not His desire. God has spoken. He has spoken in His world and in His word. Thus, in the universe generally and in the Bible specifically we have context and content for knowing God.           

Man can know God. Let that sink in. What a marvelous truth. Because God wishes man to know, man can know. But it is important that we qualify this claim of knowing God thusly: Man’s knowledge concerning God is apprehensive but not comprehensive. Our knowledge of God is apprehensive and not comprehensive due to the disparity between God and man. That is to say, God is infinite and man is finite. That which is finite can never fully grasp that which is infinite, thus certain theologians refer to the infinite-finite tension as the “problem of the knowledge of God.”

We could add to man’s finitude the noetic effects of sin. And to man’s finitude and sin we could also point out the dilemma of limited semantics, or the limitations of language. Yet for all of this we mustn’t conclude that knowing God is problematic in the agnostic sense of the word “problematic;” for God has addressed and answered this “problem of knowing” in His self-disclosure contained in the Holy Bible.

So then, it is not a question of knowing or not knowing. Rather, it is entirely a matter of knowing apprehensively and partially, versus knowing comprehensively and exhaustively. We must be very clear: There is no problem of knowing God truly and accurately. We can know God truly and accurately because He has truly and accurately revealed Himself to us in the scriptures. We have certain, albeit limited, knowledge of God; i.e. our knowledge of God, as predicated upon the Bible, is true or real knowledge, as opposed to spurious or vain imaginings.

Because of God’s self-disclosure it is not presumptuous or prideful to know that one knows. The “problem of the knowledge of God,” so called, need not lead one down a darkened path of pessimism and agnosticism; but rather the challenge to know God more fully should compel one up the way of God’s self-revelation in humble and fruitful discovery. When we admit that our knowledge of God will never be comprehensive [and this is an eternal "never" because He will ever be infinite and we will ever be finite], we are simultaneously asserting that our knowledge of God is cumulative.

This cumulative aspect of our knowledge of God is exampled in the Bible itself. In the Bible we find the knowledge of God increasing with new revelations, culminating ultimately of course in the Person and revelation of Jesus Christ. Similarly, as our personal knowledge of the Bible increases, our individual knowledge of God increases and matures as well.

Apart from the Bible sinful man cannot know God accurately or adequately or savingly. Likewise, apart from the Bible, the Christian’s knowledge of God cannot grow or deepen. True and objective knowledge of God is not to be found in subjective, mystical experiences. This is why the Christian who pursues the mystical does so by leaving, to some degree or another, the orthodox.

Furthermore, the one who seeks content-less, existential and emotive, or experience oriented revelations of God; denies in practice, the sufficiency of scripture. The scriptures are the only sufficient basis for objectively and accurately knowing God, so let us devote ourselves to the task, the joyous task, of sufficiently knowing them. For one thing is certain: Our love for God cannot surpass our knowledge of Him.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Beautiful, Ugly Story

During this “most wonderful time of the year” we hear much concerning what is commonly called the “most beautiful story ever told.” The drama of Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus is beautiful, romantic, and wistful; filling us with nostalgia. But let us be most careful not to forget what is most important about this beautiful story: The story is true.  

As Christians in a secular society, we can ill afford to romanticize away the reality, the historical reality, of the birth of God’s Son. We must, this Christmas and every Christmas, hold forth to an unbelieving world the historicity of Jesus' birth.  

Now, this holding forth of the Son of God's historical reality will not be looked upon with favor by some. Today, in the name of tolerance, “the most beautiful story ever told,” has become a most offensive story which should be left untold. To the few but powerful “tolerant” among us, the story of the birth of God’s Son is so ugly that it ought never to be spoken of in public places.  

So what is the Christian to do with such a beautiful, ugly story? I suggest to you that we follow, this Christmas and every Christmas, the example of some chosen misfits who experienced the reality of the infant Incarnate Son.
And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. (Luke 2:16-18)
Notice the shepherds do two things: 1) They “came” and “found” Mary and Joseph, and baby Jesus; and 2) They joyously and unashamedly--and I would venture to say breathlessly--told those who cared to listen [and even perhaps those who didn’t care to listen], the story of the newborn Child who was the Son of God. How could the shepherds possibly keep quiet?
Christians have done these same two things, every year, for over two thousand years. And we can and we should do these same two things again this year. We can and we should revisit, with awe and holy reverence, The Nativity. We can and we should “make widely known” what we know to be true. What do we know to be true? 

Well, we know to be true what the shepherds knew to be true, viz. The beautiful story of the birth of Jesus is “good tidings of great joy which will be to all people,” and the baby born in the “city of David” is the “Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11).  

Certainly, the world was not overly receptive to the beautiful story as told by the shepherds. It never has been. There were scoffers then as there are now. After all, there is another side to the most beautiful story ever told, isn’t there?
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt...for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” Then Herod...sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under...Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet saying, “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.” (Matt. 2:13,16-18)
Matthew shows us the terrifying depths of human depravity, the unmasked and hateful face of sin. When Christ was born in Bethlehem, there was an ugliness in the world. That ugliness was the consequence of human sin and it remains with us to this day. King Herod exemplifies how antichrist and anti-God philosophies inevitably result in antihuman behavior.  

Only when one understands the ugliness of sinful man can one even begin to truly appreciate the beauty of the birth of Jesus. What makes the “most beautiful story ever told” truly beautiful? It’s not simply the purity of Virgin Mary. Nor is it the tender strength of Saint Joseph. As beautiful as these things are, there’s more.  

What makes the story of Christmas beautiful is not found in man, but in God; specifically, in the God-man. Against the backdrop of a dark and ugly world, there shone and shines still, a beautiful and glorious Light. That the Creator Himself would enter into and redeem His rebellious creation is a beautiful grace beyond comprehension. It is the most beautiful story ever told because it recounts the most beautiful deed ever done: God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.  

I watch the same news programs as you. I see the same ugliness. Let’s revisit the Nativity of our beautiful, sinless Savior. Then let’s boldly, lovingly share what we find there. As you finish reading, close your eyes and journey along with me, “Silent, night, holy night, all is calm all is bright. Round yon Virgin mother and Child...”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christian Socialism?

My article from last week, “Christian Economics,” contains this thesis: There is no such thing as voluntary socialism. Socialism is primarily about one thing: The forced redistribution of wealth. The forced redistribution of wealth is entirely unbiblical for it denies private property and equity; and ultimately, it undermines industry, which inevitably precludes compassion.

Naturally, my position did not go unchallenged. The advocates of what I shall term, Christian Socialism, came to the defense of their beloved economic system, with Bibles firmly in hand. But please be advised: Though they enjoy an abundance of Bibles they suffer from a poverty of verses. Metaphorically speaking, the Christian socialist defends his position with big guns firing big blanks. That is, there is nothing of biblical substance to Christian socialism. Thus, the Christian socialist, like the Christian atheist, is a living, breathing oxymoron. 

My challenge to the aspiring Christian socialist is simply this: Present one verse of scripture which calls for the civil government to take by force the property of one group of citizens and give it to another group. I'll take just one.

To begin, some Christian socialists challenge the idea that there is no such thing as voluntary socialism; that socialism is the forced redistribution of wealth. They argue that because America, Britain, France, and others consistently vote socialistically, socialism is therefore not involuntary nor is it about the use of force.

The simplistic implication is that when a majority votes socialistically, socialism is NOT to be equated with the forced redistribution of wealth. But this ignores the very real coercion of the minority who thinks otherwise. It also overlooks the fact that those who most want socialism are the people who will be RECEIVING the wealth which is being TAKEN--by force--from other folks. As H.L. Mencken observed, some people work for a living while others vote for a living.

By in large, tax consumers--not tax payers--vote socialistically. Thus, "social democracies" are indeed guilty of redistributing wealth by FORCE. Said another way, that group of citizens, from which the government takes wealth, must--UNDER PENALTY OF LAW--depart with its property; so that it may be given to others.

Consider this: Are taxes paid in America voluntarily? Are taxes compulsory in Europe? Once these questions are answered it becomes clear that even the Brits and the French prove my thesis correct.

Some Christian socialists deny the principle of “private ownership.” They will say things like, “God owns all things. Man owns nothing. Therefore, to speak of private ownership is to speak of that which is impossible.” Such a notion betrays a total confusion of categories. True, in relation to God, man can call nothing his own. In relation to God, not even one’s mind or one’s body is his own. Man is the Lord’s.

But we are not here speaking of private ownership in relation to God. We are dealing with private ownership in relation to other men. In relation to other men, one may biblically say: This is mine. This is not yours. To insist otherwise is to stand the word of God on its head.

Christian socialists are fond of Leviticus 19:9-10 and 25:23-28. However, such passages actually undermine their position. These scriptures, which speak of crop gleaning and buying, selling, and redeeming private property; FORBID the taking by force of private property. These verses very strongly uphold the principle of private property rights.

There is nothing socialistic in these passages. In no sense is Mosaic Law analogous to our welfare system. To insist otherwise is nothing more than contrivance. Any attempt to shoehorn God’s Law or the redemptive principle of Jubilee to fit into the modern idea of the welfare State is utterly ridiculous.

Other Christian socialists insist that Christians have a biblical duty to pay taxes which cover "the cost of government." And this is true. However, the enormous tax burden which is bankrupting and crushing America and Europe has very little to do with "the cost of government." Rather, it has to do with ENTITLEMENTS.

I do not consider welfare and entitlements to be "the cost of government." Socialist governments are simply taking by force the wealth of those who earn it and giving it to others who do not earn it. Where does God instruct the civil magistrate to do this?

The civil magistrate/government may enforce only what God ordains in His word. The authority of the State is NOT absolute, but derivative. The civil magistrate is to punish evil and reward good (Romans 13). And it is God's word which determines what is "good" and what is "evil"--not the leftist social agenda.

Nowhere in the Bible does God give the State the authority or the right to TAKE its citizens' wealth by FORCE and then give that STOLEN wealth to other citizens. There's not even a hint of this in God's word.

(And yes, taking something by force which rightfully belongs to another is theft; whether an individual does this or a corporation or a government. YOU SHALL NOT STEAL applies to all persons and entities.)

Which brings me to this: In addition to my initial challenge for the Christian socialist--to present one socialistic passage or verse--I have another. Please demonstrate, from scripture, how "YOU SHALL NOT STEAL" does not properly pertain to the civil government plundering its citizens' wealth.

The State which believes it has the authority to redistribute wealth by force is guilty of breaking the 8th Commandment of God: YOU SHALL NOT STEAL. The government which does this elevates itself above its God-given authority and thereby sets itself up as though it is absolute and autonomous and above God's Law.

When a government determines that it can usurp one's wealth and give it to others, what can prevent it from spoiling its people of everything they hold dear? If Christian socialists are correct, what recourse is left, what court of appeal exists if not God in His word?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christian Economics

Several years ago I heard a lecture presented by R.C. Sproul which he titled: Christian Economics. We don’t normally hear these two words placed together, do we? Many Christians, perhaps thinking of Jesus’ famous, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” think in a false dichotomy. That is, they think of Christianity as being confined to the spiritual, and economics as being confined to the material.

Yet, historic Christianity is not dualistic--with the spiritual and the material being absolutely separated--but rather, Christianity has a holistic or integrated view of reality and the world. Said another way, the Christian worldview is not stunted or constricted; but it is comprehensive.

Economics is a major force in the world and in the life of every person in the world, and the Bible has much to say concerning the economy or stewardship. (Economy comes to us from combing two Greek terms for “house” and “law,” so etymologically economy means “house law” or “law of the house.")

We could undoubtedly list numerous biblical principles of economics, but we will here limit ourselves to four very broad and fundamental categories. Without discussing these in any particular order of importance, I begin with the biblical principle of private property.

Vital to Christian economics is the recognition and the respect for the individual’s right to own property. The right of the individual to own private property is the implicit philosophy behind the commandment of the LORD: “You shall not steal” (Ex. 20:15).

The second principle of Christian economics is equity. By equity I mean “justice” or perhaps, “fairness.” Equity in this sense speaks of just or fair wages and just or fair prices. We may look to the teaching of Jesus [spoken in the context of preaching the Gospel]: “...the laborer is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7). The Apostle Paul combines this saying of Christ with Deut. 25:4 “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain (1 Timothy 5:18).

Next, we find the principle of industry. Like private property, industry is also implicit in the command “You shall not steal.” Many mistakenly believe that industry or labor or work; is the result of the sin of Adam and Eve. Yet, we find Adam and Eve working before we find them sinning: “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). The principle of industry is a creation ordinance predicated upon or patterned according to the work of the Creator God Himself.

The fourth principle of Christian economics is compassion. God’s Law is clear: the poor are not to be taken advantage of or exploited. Biblically, we are not to exploit the poor, and further, we are to practice benevolence; i.e. we are to feed and clothe the starving and the naked. “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

Now, there is another principle which under girds the above four. This underlying and necessary principle is freedom, economic freedom. Dr. Alvin Schmidt aptly observes,
Just as God does not want people to be coerced in spiritual matters, so too He does not want them to be coerced in earthly matters, for instance, in their economic activities.  There is not a single reference in either the Old or New Testament in which God denies economic freedom to people, as do fascism, socialism, and communism. (Under The Influence, p.205)
Communism is largely a failed economic and social experiment, but socialism is alive and well (Or should I say “alive and unwell”?) in much of Europe and in the hearts of many Americans. Often times the American socialist or communist or fascist will use the Bible--in an appeal to the principles of equity and compassion--to justify their economic philosophies. But is socialism or communism agreeable to Christian economics?

The answer is “no.” First, we must point out that socialism (communism and fascism are two kinds of socialism) is not, in the final analysis, concerned with equity, but rather is devoted to equality. Equity is not equality. The laborer is certainly worthy of his wages but the laborer is not necessarily worthy of his neighbor’s wages. Clearly, Jesus’ parable of the talents shows that equity is not equality. Socialism confuses and conflates the two and thus proves to be unjust and unfair.

We should also point out that some of the lowest standards of living are not to be found in capitalist countries, but in socialist countries. Making all people poor is a poor act of compassion. Still, many American socialists appeal to the nascent church of Acts 2. The Bible says that the Lukan-Acts community “had all things in common and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need” (Acts 2:44-45).

There is one basic and obvious difference between the infant church and socialism: The early Christians behaved in such a way temporarily and voluntarily. There is no such thing as voluntary socialism. Socialism is primarily about one thing: The forced redistribution of wealth. The forced redistribution of wealth is entirely unbiblical for it denies private property and equity; and ultimately, it undermines industry, which inevitably precludes compassion.

In short, Christian economics ensures freedom to the individual to own private property so that he may perform worthy work for a worthy wage. It honors the profit motive—yet precludes exploitation--so that industry may increase production; thereby helping the poor (scarcity helps no one, especially the poor). And finally, Christian economics encourages--not enforces--benevolence, to curb the callousness of unbridled selfishness; the sinful selfishness which knows no categories of “haves” and “have nots.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Safe & Secure?

 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble...(2 Peter 1:10)
In the Bible verse above we are admonished by the Apostle Peter to diligently pursue the assurance of our own personal salvation. The Christian is instructed to know with certainty the answer to this one all-important question, “Am I truly saved?” Can you, dear reader, answer this question with certainty? Do you know beyond any doubt that you are in fact saved?

Louis Berkhof in his little book, The Assurance of Faith, observes: “There are comparatively few Christians today, who really glory in the assurance of salvation.” He wrote this in 1939 and I suspect, as Christians persist to doctrinally drift, that his words have only increased, and will continue to increase, in relevance. Berkhof himself surmises,

[W]e also meet with some professing Christians today--and it is to be feared that their number is on the increase--who apparently do not think about the matter of assurance, or who, if they do, fail to take it seriously. They simply seem to take it for granted, and speak of it as a matter of course. They assert their assurance in an off-handed way, but leave the impression that they hardly know what it means...the matter of personal assurance has not gripped their souls. Their spiritual life moves on the surface and is utterly lacking in real depth.
I’ve met many Christians who fit the description offered above by Berkhof. One gentleman stands out in particular. If I could ask him today, “Are you truly saved?” I’ve no idea what his reply would be. But I can tell you, at one time he would have answered, “Oh, yes, I am saved.” I can’t tell you what his answer would be now, because he couldn’t give me an answer for now, back then. In other words, even when he thought he was saved, he had no assurance.

This poor Christian once said to me, “I believe I am saved right now, but if I pulled onto the highway and was hit by a truck and died, if I said a bad word just before impact; I would be lost.” Before me was a man who had no biblical concept of salvation, no understanding of justification by grace through faith, and who, therefore had no ground or basis for assurance whatsoever.    

Assurance of salvation has nothing to do with man-centered thinking such as, “I am saved today and I hope I can somehow keep myself saved tomorrow.” How can one be confident today while doubting tomorrow? How can one be confident in the ability of man? “With men this is impossible...” (Matt. 19:26a).

However, the one who meditates upon or contemplates the joyous doctrine that he is saved and kept by the power of Almighty God,  has no room for doubt: “...but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26b). Granted, our assurance of salvation is not perfect, in the sense that even the most devout among us can battle confusion, discouragement, depression, fear, and yes, even doubt or anxiety. But this is not the normal or persistent mental and spiritual state of God’s elect.

The elect of God can be, and are admonished to be, assured that they are in the state of grace and that they are kept in that state of grace by grace; i.e. We are saved and we are kept saved by the power of God.  This saving and keeping power of God is spoken of in the Apostle Peter’s first epistle when he writes to the elect that they are “...kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1:5).

Subsequently, we are encouraged in Peter’s second epistle to make our “call and election sure.” How should we go about doing this? How can we have certainty instead of conjecture? To begin, we must start with that which is objective rather than subjective, viz. The promises of God in the scripture. The promises of God in scripture are foundational to the believer’s assurance of salvation.

In looking to the promises of scripture, we are also beholding the Christ of scripture. Christ is our perfect Savior who saves perfectly. "This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day...And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My Father‘s hand" (John 6:39;10:26).

We also read in the scripture that the believer should be assured of salvation due to the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, who “Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). Here, Berkhof quotes from the Canons of Dort: “This assurance, however, is not produced by any peculiar revelation contrary to, or independent of the Word of God, but springs from faith in God’s promises, which He has most abundantly revealed in His Word.”

Along with the promises of God and the perfect Christ of scripture, and with the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, we must also consider the testimony of the Christian graces, the fruits of salvation, in our own lives. The Apostle John speaks of the believer’s assurance of salvation in ethical terms.
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments...Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us  (1John 2:3; 3:24).
Because we are saved, kept, and transformed by God’s power, let us live in holy, humble assurance.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sam Harris: Deep Thought for Shallow Minds

Sam Harris is a grave embarrassment to atheism, intellectuals, and the Stanford University philosophy department…His ignorance of the basic tenets of the faiths he targets most directly is astonishing…Harris is also shamelessly intellectually dishonest. Anyone planning to debate Sam Harris would do well to ensure that there is a moderator, preferably one with a shock collar, as Harris is one of those slippery characters who invariably attempts to avoid answering all questions posed to him while simultaneously accusing the other party of arguing in bad faith and failing to address his points. (Vox Day, The Irrational Atheist, p. 113,114,115)
The above quote comes from a chapter entitled, “The End of Sam Harris” [an obvious allusion to Harris’ book, “The End of Faith”]. As one reads Day’s withering deconstruction of Harris’ thought and body of work, one realizes that his characterization of Harris is not a caricature. It’s an accurate portrayal. Day’s chapter on Harris is well documented and his logic is irresistible.

Thus, having read Day’s treatment of Harris, I was somewhat intrigued when a devout atheist, a few weeks ago, challenged me to watch an address given by—you guessed it—Sam Harris. This particular devotee refused to even interact with me until I had witnessed first-hand the object of his adoration.

So I indulged him. I watched. I also listened. And while I am under no illusion that any amount of truth will shake the atheist’s faith, I've come to the obvious conclusion that Vox Day couldn’t be more correct: Sam Harris is astonishingly ignorant of the Christian faith.

Harris begins his lecture with this little gem: “Christianity is founded on the claim that the Bible was dictated by the Creator of the universe.” This is a total misstatement of fact. In no sense is “God dictated the Bible” a foundational truth claim of Christianity. In fact, it’s not a truth claim of Christianity at all. No orthodox Christian believes God dictated the Bible.

Rather, Christians profess that God used the individual author’s intellect, thought, vocabulary, and syntax in the writing of the sacred text. Each human author’s style and idiosyncrasies is readily apparent. God superintended the writing, yes, but He in no sense dictated it. Hence, the Bible is entirely, in the original autographs, the inspired word of God and man.

How can we trust anything Sam Harris says, regarding Christianity, when he is inexcusably ignorant of what he claims to be a foundational truth claim of the faith? Is he intellectually lazy and incompetent or is he intellectually dishonest and untrustworthy? (I suppose it need not be either/or…it could be both/and.)

But let’s move on. Not only is Harris witless as to what the Bible is, he is also breathtakingly clueless as to what it says. Harris builds a case for religious sexism on this stupid premise: “While man was made in the image of God, woman was made in the image of man, according to Christianity.”

So says Sam Harris. But what does the Bible say? “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). Does Harris not know this is in the Bible? Could such a level of illiteracy be feigned?

He continues his baseless assault by alluding to the Bible’s “wives submit to your husbands in all things.” Conveniently, he fails to mention “husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church,” which appears in the same passage—the very next sentence. (Oh, my, Sam, how hellish would this world be if every wife respected her husband and every husband cherished his wife—the horror of it all!)

Harris asserts that one way theists “defend God” is to claim that “religion is useful.” Granted, many folks see a utility to religion. But what Bible verse or Christian creed or confession espouses a utilitarian view of religion? What Christian offers: “I believe in the resurrection of Christ because I find it just so useful”? What a silly notion.

Predictably, Harris makes a lot of noise concerning morality. He proudly preaches, “The most atheistic societies on the planet, like Sweden and Denmark and the Netherlands are in many respects the most moral.” Has he not considered that perhaps these countries are “most moral” [whatever that means] due in part to the residual effects of a strong Christian heritage?

Furthermore, on what basis can he affirm “superior morality” when he denies the very existence of an objective moral standard? In his unbelievable denial of the generally and specially revealed moral Law of God, Harris goes so far as to compare human moral capacities to “chimpanzees comforting each other.”

Presumably he means the same ethical chimps that mercilessly maul their primate cousins for breakfast, cannibalize their infant offspring for lunch, and munch human limbs and faces for snacks—all of this, it seems, without a twinge of regret.

Is this the pinnacle of atheistic moral reasoning? Is Sam Harris the brightest of the “Brights”? If so, perhaps Alister McGrath’s assessment is correct and we are indeed entering the “twilight of atheism.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dead Atheists: All Dressed Up & Nowhere to Go

The following is a correspondence with a grieving Christian. He and a friend had recently lost a mutual neighbor to a sudden death. His good neighbor, Sylvia, was a devout Christian woman who faithfully attended and worked for the church. His friend is an avowed atheist. Here is the request from our dear, crestfallen brother.
My atheist friend who lives right across the street from her and they were very close…asks me tonight, ‘If there's a God, why would He let her die alone? While doing God's work??’ I didn't have an answer for him. Help me understand.
The following is my reply. I pray it will bring comfort and greater understanding to you; for we all must face --and most of us already have faced--death. When we face it we need answers, comfort, and hope. We find all of these things in Christ. May God bless your reading.
As for your friend's question and our need for understanding: several things come to mind. First, we cannot know, with specificity, why God does what He does. Even in scripture, we see God acting in the lives of the saints; but He rarely if ever explains Himself. (For example, Stephen in Acts 7. He was murdered while he was preaching Christ--doing God's work. With the exception of John, every single Apostle of our Lord was martyred--doing God's work. And Jesus told the people that they had killed all of the Old Testament prophets, as well. Jesus Himself was murdered--doing God's work.)

Certainly, God has revealed Himself and His moral will in scripture; but when it comes to saying "why" God does what He does--especially outside the content of scripture--we really lack solid warrant. In other words, it is presumptuous of us to speak for God apart from the revelation of scripture. [Unfortunately, this doesn't stop many folks from doing so--Pat Robertson and the like.]

Second, Jesus was confronted with "why do bad things happen to good people" in Luke 13:1-5. I would encourage you to read this passage. Notice, Jesus doesn't say "why" tragedies occur. His twice stated response was, "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (3,5). When tragedies/deaths occur, they should not provoke us to anger towards God but to repentance before God.

That is, we know why humans die (Rom 5:12). The physical and spiritual death of man resulted from Adam's sin. We know that because of sin, Adam's and our own, we will all die in due time. Yet, to this point, God has mercifully given us life and opportunity to repent. When we are confronted with death, we are reminded of this. This is how Jesus instructs us to contemplate such things.

Third, your friend's questions [Which are actually statements to the effect: There is no God!] are not rational but emotional. That is, he is not questioning God's existence rationally, but emotionally. And this is understandable. He loved Sylvia. Anger is a common emotional response to pain. Your friend's pointed statements in the form of questions [though I don't want to be insensitive to his genuine need] reminds me of what Vox Day wrote in his book "The Irrational Atheist." He says the atheist's creed goes something like this: "1)There is no God and 2) I hate Him."

The fact is, there's just no rational reason to see human death as evidence for the non existence of God. The atheist wants to have his cake and eat it too. The atheist who insists that human life is NOT evidence for God's existence; is the same atheist who insists that human death IS evidence for God's non existence. (This is true of human life and death in general, and in particular. Was Sylvia's exemplary life evidence for God's existence? Your atheist friend is obliged to say "No." Was her seemingly untimely death evidence for God's non existence? Your atheist friend says "Yes.") One simply cannot have it both ways--not if one wishes to think rationally and consistently.

As for the question: “If there is a God, why would He [God] let her die alone?” First, I would insist that Sylvia died “alone” only if your friend’s worldview is correct. He knows there were no other people around, but he ASSUMES there was no God around. But we do not concede his assumption. The scripture is clear: To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2Cor 5:8). It is impossible for the believer in Jesus to die “alone.” Upon death, the believer is welcomed into the immediate presence of the Lord. The scriptures are abundantly clear concerning this.

From the Christian worldview, no believer in Christ dies “alone.” However, from the atheist worldview, all people, in the final analysis, die “alone.” Many times I’ve been around death and dying. Most of the time family members have been present. And yet, when the final breath was taken--the gathered family remained while the loved one departed. From the atheistic worldview--who was with the departed upon their departure? Not God, not anyone.

In fact, from the atheistic worldview, upon the death of the loved one, there is no loved one. They have ceased to be entirely. According to atheism, the deceased have no more being. No soul. No self. No consciousness. According to atheism, death must be “alone” and is the absolute loss of being. Thus, the question now is: According to atheism, what does it really matter if one dies “alone”?

If the atheist is correct and death is the total loss of being, not only does it NOT matter how one dies; but ultimately, it does not matter how one lives. Which brings us to the quandary of God’s allowing Sylvia to die while she was “doing God’s work.” Doing God’s work is not a matter of dying but of living.

Sylvia was doing exactly what she wanted to do. She was serving the Lord. I can think of a plethora of things I could be doing just before dying. None of them are more significant or rewarding than serving Christ. Sylvia met her Master whom she had just seconds before been actively serving. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).

Some die young and others die old. Some die very quickly and others so very slowly. If I had my way I’d die old and very quickly--and painlessly with all of my mental and physical capacities. These things are not in our power, but God’s. But we do know that if we live in Christ, we shall die in Him and resurrect in Him. This is our great comfort in this life and our assured hope for the life to come.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What's An American?

Hakim attends the local mosque and is formally educated in the neighborhood madrassa. He devoutly prays five times a day and religiously reads the Koran. He harbors a deep-seated resentment for the United States’ involvement in the Middle East and it’s preferential treatment of Israel. Furthermore, he feels the culture--or lack thereof--of the U.S. is pure poison, infecting young Muslims with Western ideals.

Adriana is Roman Catholic, really, for no other reason than she was paedo-baptized into the faith. Like Hakim, she too resents the United States for what she considers to be injustices past and present. It is her firm conviction that her people’s birth rite has been stolen; that nearly all of the southwestern United States rightfully belongs to Mexico; that her people have languished under U.S. conquest and exploitation since the Mexican-American war.

Then there is Leah. Leah’s grandparents were Holocaust survivors. She is ethnically Jewish but not religiously. Were she to label her spirituality she would choose “agnostic,” because she has no idea of what or who God is and quite frankly doesn’t deem the subject worthy of much contemplation. As a secularist she is philosophically--and for the most part politically--progressive and contra Hakim, she very much supports the United States simply because the United States supports her beloved homeland, Israel.

Finally, we have Qeshawn. Qeshawn was raised Methodist (AME) but is entertaining notions of converting to Islam. Within Qeshawn burns a smoldering passion. This too, stems from perceived injustice, unabated suppression, and exploitation. Qeshawn believes, with every fiber of his being, that his people have been victimized by the U.S. for two hundred years; that the U.S. government, with it's racist, genocidal policies, is responsible for his personal pain and poverty.

What do these fictitious, but real to life, individuals have in common? They’re Americans. And so I ask you: What’s an American? Obviously, being American has absolutely nothing to do with ethnicity; for Hakim is Iraqi, Adriana is Mexican, Leah is Jewish, and Qeshawn is African. They--but not necessarily their parents--are bonafide Americans. Why or how is this so? It’s quite simple: They were born in the United States.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is clear: “All persons born…in the United States…are citizens of the United States.” I honestly can’t think of a lower common denominator, a lower standard for citizenship, than: “I was born in the USA.” Can you? How can one conceptualize an American, in any meaningful way whatsoever, if the only thing which makes for being an American is reduced to nothing more than having been born in the United States? This is our one essential quality?

 Some would offer, “Well, ‘American’ has nothing to do with nationality but everything to do with ideology. We are ‘American’ because we all believe in the American ideal or the American dream.” Really? And what would this “ideal,” this nebulous “dream” entail? What is this common or shared American vision? Perhaps you’re thinking the American ideal is liberty and the pursuit of happiness; “freedom” if you will.

But are Americans agreed as to what constitutes liberty, freedom, and happiness? I think not. Every American is screaming for their particular tribe’s “rights” and nobody seems to know what their rights are or from whence they come. Thus Americans have the right to kill their babies but not to make them fat.

Adriana enjoys the right to pursue happiness by “marrying” Leah but nobody has the liberty to say they’re living in sin. Hakim exercises the freedom to make money and Qeshawn feels entitled to claim it as his own. And so on.

Watch the news. There is no single American vision or shared ideal. Some worship in the cathedral of free market capitalism while others zealously preach socialism in the high church of Marx. The "Tea Party" pledges to the flag while "Occupy Wall Street" poops on it--literally. What of the Constitution? Is there a common commitment to the Constitution? No.

Most Americans have never read the Constitution and those who have, have forgotten it. The few Americans who are conversant with the Constitution are disagreed as to how it is to be interpreted. We’re a corrupt government’s dream come true: A “constitutional republic” in name only.

Where is our common ground? (And no, I’m not speaking of geography.) Is our place of birth (now I am speaking of geography) our only commonality? If so, is that which divides us greater than that which unites us? Have we lost our collective soul? Who are we? What defines us?

What’s an American? I’m not sure anymore.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Problem of Pain

When I consider my crosses, tribulations, and temptations, I shame myself almost to death thinking of what they are in comparison to the sufferings of my blessed Savior, Jesus Christ. (Martin Luther)
Martin Luther is a towering figure of both secular and sacred history. And while the “crosses, tribulations, and temptations” of which he speaks are no doubt unique to his own person and particular calling; each and every Christian, of necessity, must endure their own crosses, tribulations, and temptations. Are we not individually called by our Lord, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mtt 16:24)?

Sadly, many Christians falter in their faith during tribulations because they’ve been duped by the unbiblical, false doctrine of the “prosperity” heretics. These are false brethren who insist that God wants nothing more than to make us happy, healthy, and wealthy. But in the Bible we are not promised a life of ease here and now. Quite the opposite: “In the world you will have tribulation…” (John 16:33).

When we consider the clear teaching of scripture, in both word and example, we find that people of faith are inevitably tried and tested. Thus, though we may naturally wonder why we are faced with seasons of sorrow, we needn’t falter or lose heart.
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings…(1Peter 4:12-13a).
Unlike false world religions and cults, Christianity unflinchingly acknowledges or faces the problem of pain. Biblical faith does not deny the reality of suffering [treating it as merely illusory] as does Christian Science. It does not ignore or pretend to “speak away” suffering as does the “Word of Faith” movement. Nor does it seek to escape suffering through mental discipline, as does Buddhism. Instead, in no uncertain terms, Christianity addresses and understands suffering through the lens, if you will, of the Cross of Jesus Christ. The corrective lens of Christ brings our personal fragmentation sharply into focus.

Like Luther, the Christian may readily acknowledge his “crosses, tribulations, and temptations.” But rather than drown ourselves in a sea of self referential anguish, we must also, like Luther, look to the Author and Finisher of our faith. Luther, when tested, followed the admonition of God’s word.
Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. (Heb 12:2-3)
Notice, the author of Hebrews gives a reason for looking to Christ and considering Him when we are experiencing difficulty: “lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” It is when we give into the natural inclination to become self absorbed in our pain, that we are most susceptible to weariness and discouragement. But when we look to Christ and consider His vicarious suffering, we find in Him the necessary strength and encouragement to persevere.

Though we may be afflicted and heavy of heart, as we look to the Christ of scripture, we are borne of the Spirit. How can this be? How is the suffering soul succored by the Spirit? The answer is in Christ’s sufferings for us. “He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3-4).

Christ has already borne our grief and carried our sorrow and thus the Spirit aids us in all adversity. When our heart is overwhelmed, we must hear the word of the Lord: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you” (Isaiah 43:2).

As we are tried and tested, we must not only look to the sufferings of Christ, but we must also contemplate the mind-set of our Lord. The above passage from Hebrews says that Christ endured the cross and despised its shame because He anticipated “the joy that was set before Him.” This we must not lose sight of: though suffering is necessary, it is not an end in and of itself. There is an everlasting joy that awaits us. As C.S. Lewis quipped, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

But joy not only awaits us. Because Christ is on His throne, and because we are united to Him; we experience joy now, even in the grip of our brokenness. We close with the sentiments of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. “Joy is not the absence of pain. Joy is the presence of God.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Lost Art of Integrity

Integrity: 1) the quality or state of being complete; unbroken condition; wholeness; entirety 2) the quality or state of being unimpaired; perfect condition; soundness 3) the quality or state of being of sound moral principle; uprightness, honesty, and sincerity (Webster’s New World College Dictionary)
Conversations concerning integrity [even though the actual word “integrity” may go unspoken] are commonplace these days. And it seems our banter has more to do with the privation of integrity than the possession of it. This has always been the case east of Eden. But when God created man, man was the possessor of inherent integrity. He was complete and unbroken. He was unimpaired and morally sound. Man was the unmarred image of God his Creator. All of this changed with the first man’s first sin.

With the first man’s first sin, human integrity was no more. Sin caused and continues to cause, man to be broken and impaired, immoral and insincere. This is the universal indictment of scripture.
There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God…There is none who does good, no, not one…There is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:10-11,12,18).
While some are certainly better than others, none are upright in the eyes of God. We often hear of the loss of integrity. We know what is meant by this expression. But the truth is this: one cannot lose what one never had. In light of God’s word, none of us, in and of ourselves, has integrity to lose.

Yet, we do speak of certain people as being a “person of integrity.” Here we are not referring to righteousness in the eyes of God, but of a person’s standing among his peers. In other words, when one sinner is compared to other sinners; he may be said to have [or conversely, lack] integrity. Here we are understanding “integrity” in the relative sense of the word.

If we speak of a carpenter as a man of integrity we are saying he does excellent work with fine materials at a fair price. If we mention a store owner to be a woman of integrity we mean she sells her wares without deceit. If we talk of an employer who has integrity, then we believe he pays equitable wages. Clearly, if we speak of a politician of integrity, then we are spinning tall tales or dealing in sarcasm. And so on.

What is troubling to me is that integrity, even in the relative sense of the word [the normal usage], is becoming somewhat of a lost art. Where does one turn to find integrity? I spoke--only somewhat tongue-in-cheek--of politicians. Politicians have never been known for their integrity. Ambrose Bierce defined politics as “The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” And hasn’t this been the case with our government officials? It seems every branch at every level of government is rife with corruption. Very, very few Americans look to our government in hopes of discovering integrity.

There was a time, at least in popular expectation (however right or wrong or naive), that a trusted profession labored to counter, or at least expose, the dishonesty of individuals and institutions. Of course, I am speaking of the field of journalism. Increasing numbers of people are waking up to the fact that journalists and news corporations are far from neutral reporters of fact.

This has always been the case, but yesteryear’s news--if only in pretense--attempted to objectively convey information. But no more. Media bias is so prevalent that I have heard time and again--coming from newsmen--“Journalism is dead.” This is but another way of admitting that a great number of journalists lack integrity, and that this deficiency is now common knowledge. With the advent of twenty-four hour cable news and the internet, the quest for truth has openly devolved into the race for ratings. How often I have asked: Who do I believe? Who can I trust to tell me the truth?

Let’s turn our gaze elsewhere. What of education? Can anyone convincingly argue that government run schools, filled with secularistic philosophy put into practice by godless teacher’s unions, are bastions of integrity? I think not. This is true from top to bottom. The most censored places on this planet are universities. There is nothing more closed than an open-minded professor.

At every level of formal education, intellectual honesty has been jettisoned for political correctness and the progressive agenda--all cloaked in the garb of “academic respectability.” Freedom of thought has been killed so that “free-thought” might live. But to sacrifice intellectual honesty on any altar of the sacred academy is a breach of trust and is grossly immoral.

What has happened to us? In the late 19th century, R.L. Dabney penned, “There can be, therefore, no true education without moral culture, and no true moral culture without Christianity.” I agree with Dabney’s assessment and now I must lament that Christianity itself faces various crises of integrity. It is painfully clear that the church faces crises of integrity in both belief and behavior. And “if the salt loses its savor...?” Our culture desperately needs Christianity and our Christianity desperately needs Reformation.

Indeed, where can our culture and Christianity turn to find integrity? In short, we must look to Christ and His word. When we turn to Jesus we see integrity embodied--not integrity in the normal, relative sense of the word; but integrity in its full and unqualified beauty. Reread the definition of integrity.

Is not our Christ physically, intellectually, spiritually, and morally: complete, unbroken, whole, unimpaired, perfect, sound, upright, honest and sincere? He perfectly practiced what He perfectly preached. In every thought, word, and deed He was and is the epitome of integrity. Thus, we look to Him as our example and we run to Him as our Savior. We find in Him—and only in Him--what we lack and we cling to Him, by faith, to obtain it.

Naturally, because we desire to be His disciples, we too should do our best to live lives of integrity. That is, all that we do we will do to the best of our ability and to the glory of God. Because Christ is Lord over every aspect of our lives, we will strive to ever narrow the gap between our profession and our practice, eschewing the presence of personal hypocrisy. For one thing is certain: We cannot forsake integrity if we would follow Christ.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Mythical Separation, pt. 2

The following is a private and cordial letter written by President Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association on January 1, 1802. It is here--not in the Constitution--that we find the phrase “separation between Church and State.”

The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist Association, give me the highest satisfaction. My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect and esteem.

One must admire Jefferson’s eloquence. And one can easily see how his sentiments have been misconstrued and used as a proof-text for secularist propaganda. The mythical “separation of church and state” [as practiced today] is not only repugnant to the Constitution; it is foreign to Jefferson himself. I should begin with a brief historical context.

Jefferson wrote this letter in answer to a correspondence he received from the Baptist Association located in the state of Connecticut. Baptists were a minority and had some apprehensions [understandably so, given their history with the Church of England] that perhaps the majority, Congregationalists, would interfere with their religious convictions. The Association wrote: "Religion is at all times and places a Matter between God and Individuals -- that no man ought to suffer in Name, person or affects on account of his religious Opinions.” Of course, Jefferson concurred.

Furthermore, previously I said that the First Amendment applies only to the legislature; and Jefferson quite agrees. Notice how he qualifies his remarks to refer to “legislative powers of government.” Unlike activist judges, Jefferson respects the Constitution and adheres to what it says. Nowhere in this letter does Jefferson advocate secularism. He was simply assuaging the concerns of the Baptists by affirming that there should be no Church of Connecticut or Church of the United States.

Regrettably, out-of-control federal courts abuse the Constitution and misuse Jefferson’s metaphor while the masses are unaware. Matthew D. Staver, Esq. observes,
The "wall of separation between church and state" phrase as understood by Jefferson was never meant to exclude people of faith from influencing and shaping government. Jefferson would be shocked to learn that his letter has been used as a weapon against religion. He would never countenance such shabby and distorted use of history. 

Perhaps Jefferson’s metaphor, in its rightful context, was useful. However, former Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, William Rehnquist, agrees with Staver: “The ‘wall of separation between church and State’ is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned.

It has been said that the freedom of worship has degenerated into the worship of freedom. And in regards to the public square, we could say the freedom of worship has devolved into the freedom from worship. This is the goal of secularism: to strip the public sphere of religious ideals and influence. But will the thus denuded public square be truly naked?

Not exactly, no. Why? Because secularism is itself a religion--and a highly evangelistic one at that. As secularist Robert Ingersoll exults,
Secularism is the religion of humanity. It is a protest against theological oppression...it means the abolition of sectarian feuds, of theological hatreds. Secularism is a religion, a religion that is understood. http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/robert_ingersoll/secularism.html
Certainly there are secularists who would disagree with their own Ingersoll. They would disagree with him but only in part. They would disagree with his characterization of secularism as a religion, but they would not disagree with his stated ideology. Yet these secularists, who deny that secularism is a religion, zealously believe the ideology of secularism to be true. This is why, in the name of tolerance, they loathe and prosecute [Could we say persecute?] those who dare to disagree with them.

They religiously practice and evangelistically propagate secularist ideology. The cult of Secularism holds its doctrine to be exclusively true and it harbors suspicion and hatred-- born of irrational, intense fear--against all “others.” Indeed, Secularists are true believers. This cannot be denied.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Mythical Separation

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia sued the Giles County School Board on Tuesday for displaying the Ten Commandments in area schools. The ACLU argued that the display of the 10 Commandments favor a specific religion and violates the Constitutional provision of separation of church and state.
Do you recall the national firestorm surrounding a statue of the Ten Commandments, displayed in the rotunda of the Supreme Court of Alabama, a few years ago? A federal judge ruled that the statue must be removed and the militant secularists won the day. I would say, “They’re at it again!” but that would imply that they, at least momentarily, ceased assaulting people of faith. But such is not the case.

The fact is, the ACLU never tires of bullying folks who dare to disagree with their godless agenda or who “step off the reservation.” So long as Christians cower within the imposed confines allotted to them by secularist progressives, all will be well. But to venture beyond the private and into the public is to invite the wrath of the almighty ACLU. (Don’t let the moniker fool you--there’s nothing American, or civil, or libertarian with this godless cadre of unscrupulous lawyers.)

In regards to the Supreme Court of Alabama, and now the Giles County School Board, several issues are at stake--but neither God nor His Law are among them. That is to say, the displays may be forcefully removed but God remains unmoved and His Law continues unchanged and indelibly inscribed upon the human conscience. You see, man is powerless to be rid of the Omnipresent and he is helpless to alter the Immutable.

But what is at stake is the future of the republic of the United States and her law, namely the Constitution. The Constitution of the United States is virtually ignored and unknown by the overwhelming majority of our citizenry. Furthermore, the Constitution is violated with impunity by our judiciary who often behave as secular, liberal activists rather than judges and protectors of law.

Article VI of our Constitution reads, “This Constitution...shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby...” With so many judges this is not the case. Rather than be bound by the Constitution, they hold the Constitution hostage by their own social agendas. Rather than abide by the Constitution and adjudicate, as prescribed in Article III; the judiciary seems to prefer to legislate--a power which constitutionally belongs only to Congress, per Article I.

The ignorance [not unintelligence] of the general public and the disregard of the judiciary for the Constitution has led to the acceptance of abuse of power. The Constitution calls for checks and balances. The executive and legislative branches seem to do this for each other. But the judiciary is practically--though not constitutionally--unchecked and therefore unbalanced. Yes, the Senate has a great deal to do with approving the appointment of federal judges, but this “checks” the President, not sitting judges.

Consequently, the ignorance and abuse of the Constitution has brought us to the case studies in question: the suing of a school and the removal of a statue. The school is sued and the statue is removed on the basis of the separation of church and state. But herein lies the quandary: There is no separation of church and state in our Constitution. Look for yourself. You’ll not find the words “separation of church and state” anywhere in the document.

Regardless of what historical revisionists will tell you, the words aren’t there and neither is the concept. The Constitution reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” This is no separation of church and state as some would have you believe. The First Amendment applies to whom? Congress. What did the founders mean by “Congress”? Well, look at the rest of the Constitution for proper context.

Every usage of the word “Congress” in the entire Constitution applies strictly to the legislative branch of our government as described in Article I. Congress cannot make laws establishing a certain religion, nor may they prohibit worship. Since when does public prayer, manger scenes, statues in a courthouse, or posters in a school building; constitute Congress making law? The Constitution does not seek to secularize the state it only seeks to limit one branch of our government: the legislative. The Constitution has been hijacked and we’ve been sold a bill of goods.

The “separation of church and state” is a myth accepted as fact. I find it laughable when I hear a sophist exclaim, “Well, the actual words aren’t there, but we know that ‘separation of church and state’ is what is meant.” Funny, I thought our founders were very intelligent and quite articulate. But this is precisely what activist judges do: They try to tell us that the Constitution does not mean what it says. Then of course, they tell us what it does or should mean according to their own philosophy. It has been said tongue-in-cheek: Someday a judge will declare the Constitution unconstitutional.

If a secularist judge imposes the principle of “separation of church and state” that’s one thing. But then to feign that one is basing such a decision upon the Constitution is another. The separation of church and state, as commonly believed, is a fabrication which has no constitutionality.

In fact, read the sentiments of the fourth President of the United States--also known as the father of the Constitution--James Madison:
We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of the government, far from it. We have staked the future upon the capacity of each and every one of us to govern ourselves, to sustain ourselves, in accordance with the Ten Commandments of God.
I wonder what the “father of the Constitution” would think of activist federal judges and secularist progressive thugs declaring the Ten Commandments to be unconstitutional? But if the words “separation of church and state” are not in the Constitution, from where did they come? We’ll explore the answer next time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Quest For Relevance

Do you remember how “The Passion” movie was touted by some as the greatest evangelistic tool of our times? Remember how this movie was supposed to impact society, as churches turned into theaters, to reach the lost? This is but one high profile example of how, in many quarters of the church, there has been an underlying philosophical or theological shift; a trans-denominational movement.

Some, in their quest for relevance, believe that if we as the church are to be significant to the postmodern man and woman in 2011, then we must change. We must find out what people are looking for, what they want. And if they’re looking for entertainment--and we know they are--then we’d better be more and more entertaining. Sadly, this is the mind-set of many churches today who have completely sold themselves to the seeker-sensitive, felt needs, and consumer mentality of the church growth gurus of today. Like Hollywood, these churches have a bottom line: attract an audience.

Unfortunately, the seeker-sensitive, felt needs church, whose “driving purpose” is to market Jesus to the unbeliever, [the unbeliever who is viewed as a consumer who will do business with us if we package everything just right], is not impacting the culture. Today’s seeker-sensitive, felt needs church mimics the culture. It mimics the culture in various, and often obvious, ways. This church’s philosophy is: We will look how you want us to look. We will speak the words you want to hear. We will play the music you prefer. We will even offer multiple services to suit your preferences--a veritable smorgasbord of the sacred to satiate your every whim. This church will say, “It’s all about Him” and then behave as if “It’s all about you.”

This type of church will not preach the biblical Gospel. It will not preach the biblical Gospel because the biblical Gospel will offend the unbeliever. After all, if the unbeliever is a consumer and our product is Jesus, we must make our product more palatable to our sensitive consumer‘s tastes. Certainly, it will meet its bottom line [getting people into the church] but it fails to realize that getting people into the church is not at all the same thing as getting people into the Kingdom of Christ.

For example, the seeker sensitive, felt needs church will never tell the unbeliever/consumer that he is a sinner deserving the wrath of God. Goodness no. Instead, it will invite him to its small group fellowship which is entirely devoted to helping him discover how to live his best life now. It will non judgmentally share how to be more whole, healthy, wealthy, and fulfilled.

Then two or three sessions later, a few testimonials will be offered in order to demonstrate how "having Jesus" improves marriage, children, work, social status, and finances. The seeker will find that Jesus will do all of this if he'll just "let Him;" if he will simply choose to be on Jesus' team-- or if he’ll graciously decide to let Jesus be on his team (we wouldn't want an unsettling argument as to whose team it is). And should the unbeliever/consumer venture into a Sunday morning service, he will hear a 15 minute speech comprised of a joke and 3 points about how God wants us to think as highly of ourselves as He does.

I ask you, reader: Is this the Gospel message of the Holy Bible? I think not. Some contend that while they appreciate the Gospel, given our cultural milieu, simply preaching the Gospel will not work. The idea is that while the message may not change the method must change. Clearly, this sentiment is misguided.

It is misguided because when the method changes, i.e. when our paradigm of ministry shifts from that which is God-centered to that which is man-centered; the message does change. It is also misguided because it fails to realize that God not only ordains the message, but also God ordains the method. The Apostle Paul is emphatic: “Preach the word!” (2Timothy 4:2). Are we so presumptuous as to believe that biblical methodology is antiquated; that the advice of church growth experts is superior to the exhortation of the Apostles of our Lord?

Yes, the church must be relevant. But the church is never more irrelevant than when she tries to be relevant. The church is never more misguided than when she abandons that which is absolute and eternal in her quest for that which is "relevant" and temporal. Think of it thus: Cultures are in constant motion. The prevailing superficial philosophies of today, the fads of the present, will be outdated ten years from now. If the church is to mimic the culture she will be in a state of perpetual flux.

But God does not change. Truth does not change. Human nature does not change. In the 21st Century--like every century--only the message and method of the Holy Bible will suffice. Only when the church is fixed on the eternal, rather than fixated on the fluctuating, can she be true to her Lord and relevant in all ages.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

One Nation Under Government

The following piece is inspired by a gentleman I shall refer to as, “Joe Liberal.” Joe Liberal is a socialist with a heart as big as the outdoors and a head just as empty. His tired theories of government and economics put me in mind of the immortal words of Ronald Reagan: “Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.

Joe Liberal says of the Tea Party that it engages in “economic terrorism.” He also offers this little gem: “if we ruin our credit rating the poor will either join the armed forces and fight for the Neo Cons or die some other way.” [I’m almost positive the vast majority of us are going to “die some other way” regardless of the credit rating…but I digress.]

Finally he elucidates, “Osama’s ‘record spending’ saved this country's ass from a crippling depression . Had the stimulus bill not passed there would have been unimaginable havok [sic] and tragedy in America. At least have the minimum amount of class and dignity to thank our leader for doing his job and pulling us back from the brink of disaster…”

Talk about the minimum amount of class and dignity! Whew…no wonder I was inspired.

During those final days of the collapsing Marxist experiment in the Soviet Union, Soviet novelist Chingiz Aitmatov retold the following story, which has been paraphrased here.
On one occasion, so it was narrated, Stalin called for a live chicken and proceeded to use it to make an unforgettable point before some of his henchmen.
Forcefully clutching the chicken in one hand, with the other he began to systematically pluck out its feathers. As the chicken struggled in vain to escape, he continued with the painful denuding until the bird was completely stripped. “Now you watch,” Stalin said as he placed the chicken on the floor and walked away with some bread crumbs in his hand.
Incredibly, the fear-crazed chicken hobbled toward him and clung to the legs of his trousers. Stalin threw a handful of grain to the bird, and it began to follow him around the room, he turned to his dumbfounded colleagues and said quietly, “This is the way to rule the people. Did you see how that chicken followed me for food, even though I had caused it such torture? People are like that chicken. If you inflict inordinate pain on them they will follow you for food the rest of their lives.” (Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God, pp. 26-27)
Are once proud eagles now naked chickens? The early Americans wanted limited government. They wanted government to protect their persons and properties against foreign and domestic enemies; and then pretty much LEAVE THEM ALONE.

When did the American ideal of government morph into the desire--the actual desire--for a monstrous, intrusive, regulatory, thieving, socialistic, nanny nightmare bureaucracy? Why have so many pledged themselves and all others to be one nation under government?

Joe Liberal’s comments embody the ever spreading and ever insatiable mind-set of “entitlement.” The entitlement mentality is more than willing to sacrifice LIBERTY--true liberty--on the altar of security--FALSE security. People of his persuasion do not want liberty from governmental control. Rather, they want to be taken care of [perhaps not taken care of personally or directly, but they see the government as THE SUPREME AGENCY of managing and enabling peoples' lives--literally from cradle to grave].

As I said, historically, this was not the American ideal, but rather the European statist ideal. Nevertheless, America has many "Joe Liberals" with pipe dreams of utopian, democratic socialism.

These folks long for government to manipulate and control the economy, on nearly every level. For this to happen they are more than happy to have government manipulate and control every aspect of life [which is the inevitability of statism according to F.A. Hayek's classic work, "The Road to Serfdom"].

According to the “Joe Liberals” of the world, Americans are utterly incapable of managing personal liberty. We need the government to put food into our mouths. (In fact, we need the government to regulate the kind of food and the correct amount of food to put into our mouths. Furthermore, government must also restrain the condiments we put on our food before it puts the food into our mouths.)

Government must provide us with health insurance. (Which is not to be confused with actual health CARE.) Government must control how we parent our children--and how we school them. Government must house us. Government must invade our privacy to protect us from ourselves. Government must police our thoughts lest we express things which are politically incorrect or inexpedient....and on and on.

Early Americans cherished independence. The “Joe Liberals” of America today crave DEPENDENCE. Nothing pleases them more than government money and mandates. That is, they suffer from acute, and perhaps incurable, “naked chicken” syndrome. It was a democratically elected socialist [Adolf Hitler] who quipped, "What good fortune for governments that the people do not think."

One simply cannot have both liberty from and dependence upon government in the same sense or within the same relationship. And as Ben Franklin remarked: "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chrislam: Finding Common Ground & Losing Common Sense

The following is an online dialogue, concerning Islam and Christianity, with a gentleman who attacked the beliefs of a friend of mine, and was attempting to make the case for the popular belief that Islam and Christianity are essentially one and the same. For clarity, my opponent’s words appear bold and italicized. May God add His blessing to your reading.

The Quran is as loving and vengeful as the Bible.”
This statement of yours is entirely simplistic or reductionistic. When I read such statements I can only conclude that the person making the assertion has studied neither the Qur'an nor the Bible in any depth whatsoever. It displays a total lack of understanding. (This is the kind of sophomoric analysis one finds in an introductory "comparative religions" class.)

Indeed, the Bible contains passages of horrific violence. However, such passages are descriptive, rather than prescriptive. That is, the Bible describes such things but it nowhere prescribes such behavior on the part of believers in Jesus Christ. (And do not fallaciously equate or confuse church history with biblical theology.)

The Qur'an on the other hand, does indeed prescribe such behavior. For example, the followers of Islam are exhorted: “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned...” (Surah V, 33). [Any attempt to parallel such teaching to the case law found in the Pentateuch is nothing more than contrivance.]

Further in Surah V we read: “O you who believe! Do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people” (51).

Passages such as these are found throughout the entire Qur’an. I know because I’ve read it from cover to cover. Jihad [often translated as “striving” for Islam/Allah] is a constant theme. Moderate Muslims attempt to soften the concept of Jihad to mean “internal struggling.” But this goes against the plain reading of the text itself. Jihad [understood and applied in a very broad context] is a central tenet to those who follow Islam.

I believe that your motives are pure. I’m sure you’re a very loving and peaceful man. Most people are. But the pluralistic philosophy that all religions are equally true and valid or that they’re essentially the same is little more than naiveté or wishful thinking.

Whether you like it or not, it comes down to one's own interpretation of what one is reading.”
There you go again. You are making an authoritative statement. With magisterial authority you pronounce that everything “comes down” to private interpretation, whether I “like it or not.”

And yet again, you are mistaken. The Bible itself is clear: no scripture “is of any private interpretation” (2Peter 1:20). According to the Bible, God is the originator and interpreter of His word. That is, the Bible is self authenticating, authoritative, and perspicuous.

The Bible is not to be treated as a “wax nose” to be twisted or formed according to personal whim. Upon what logical or rational basis do you assume that the Bible means what the individual says it means or that the individual is the final arbiter of truth? You are making authoritative statements based upon nothing but personal opinion. With no ultimate authority other than yourself, what can you possibly offer us other than your own personal dogmatism?

Why is it that many of us can't seem to remember both religions came from the same damn family?
Well, friend, many of us find it difficult to remember things that never happened.

Christianity is a revealed religion. That is, it didn't come from man. Rather, God revealed Himself specifically in His Son and through His apostles and prophets in scripture. Now, you may reject this truth statement of Christianity. This is your prerogative. But please don't offer simplistic and ahistorical nonsense that Christianity and Islam come from the same source. You're entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.

Both Christianity and Islam came from God, or Allah if one so chooses to use this name. However, you've made my point for elitist babble.
No. Christianity and Islam did not both come from God. Christianity and Islam each make absolute truth claims concerning the nature of God and of Christ; truth claims which diametrically oppose each other. To claim that God has revealed Himself in contradictory truth claims, is tantamount to believing a = -a is a true mathematical statement. In other words, such a claim is illogical and absurd.

Islam vehemently denies the Trinity. Christianity is rooted in Trinitarian theology. Islam vehemently denies that God is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. That God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Islam vehemently denies the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christianity affirms the full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Islam denies that Christ died and resurrected for sinners. Christianity upholds this as the central tenet of the Faith. I could go on and on. (But I don't want to bore you with facts and "elitist babble.")

The "similarities" between Christianity and Islam are contrived by people who know next to nothing of either religion.

Interesting, Steve, that u speak for god and that u know Christianity and Islam both don't come from god.....wow, do u know in advance winning lotto tickets as well.....???
I don't presume to speak for God. God has authoritatively and sufficiently spoken for Himself in His Son and in scripture. “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds…” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

You may refuse to listen to God in His word and in His Son, but this doesn’t mean He hasn’t spoken. As for winning lottery tickets...why don't you try to argue with the state that truth is relative and that your ticket is every bit as true and valid as the winner's? Insist that it is narrow minded bigotry to assume there could be only one set of winning numbers. See how far this gets you.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Zionist Creed: Give us Your Money but Keep Your Jesus

The Roman amphitheater hosts some of the wildest concerts in Israel, but it rarely sees a crowd as excitable as this one. After all, this was no mere musical act, but the conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck.
The former Fox News talk-show host was joined on stage by the American evangelical icon John Hagee, who, in a twist on Kennedy's famous "ich bin en Berliner" comment had the crowd chanting "ani yisraeli," which means: "I am an Israeli."
Today was the first fixture, a rally attended by 3,000 people, mostly Americans who traveled to Israel especially for the Beck events. It took place at Caesarea Amphitheater, an impressive venue built in the first century by Herod the Great.
Sunday evening, I chanced upon this event as it was being televised on TBN. (Obviously I chanced upon it because who purposely watches TBN?) I watched 4 speakers, including John Hagee.

I heard “Jesus Christ” mentioned only one time--by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. The context? "Christians are standing with us [Jews]. We believe Jesus was a good Jewish teacher, but not God or the Messiah." (This is not an exact quote, but with these very words he SPECIFICALLY and FORTHRIGHTLY denied Jesus was and is God the Messiah.)

And all the Christians were cheering. It made me sick. Shame on Hagee and every Christian mindlessly "standing" with Christ deniers--on the mistaken notion or basis that they [Jews and Christians] are worshipers of the same God. "Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son" (1Jn 2:22).

The Bible couldn't be more clear: Those who deny the Son do not have the Father and actually call "Him [God] a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son" (1Jn 5:10).

Hagee and others consistently referred to the writings of Moses--as though this is common ground. But what does JESUS our LORD say to the Jews [and everyone else] who deny Him? "If you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me" (Jn 5:46).

Ultimately, the only biblical thing, the only truly loving thing, is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our Jewish friends. It is utterly unloving and unchristian to tell Jews “You’re okay” or “You’re God’s chosen people"--APART from faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of all men.

Rather than follow Christian Zionists, let us emulate the attitude of the Apostle Paul.
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved…For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:1,3-4)