The World and College


Elizabeth Devos, Donald Trump’s nominee for the Department of Education testified before an often hostile group of elected representatives where she made an interesting point but not quite in the way she believed she was making it. When asked about a campus culture of sexual assault she pointed out that the wisdom telling us that if you work hard and study hard then you can go to college and the world will be opened has become a danger for women.

Without arguing over the drastic increase in sexual activity in college among men and women, or the frequency of which false claims of assault are reported I believe she has a point. College has become the place where the “world” is indeed opened and not in a positive way. We see young men and women entering an environment where free speech is measured and dictated with approved phrases and a never ending chain of new pronouns by which we must politely refer to other people, places and things. Fraternities and Sororities engage in violent hazing, college athletes are seduced into vices beyond their years and faculty lean so far towards one political spectrum that the only word for their methods of education must be propaganda.

Indeed college has become the place where the secular world is mot fully realized and alarmingly seductive. Young men and women enter an environment absent parental authority, fraternities and sororities engage in violent and humiliating hazing rituals, binge drinking and sexual activity are at endemic level, athlete’s engage in vices beyond their years, swelled with pride in youthful strength and the promise of wealth and fame, faculty have evolved into such left-leaning bias that the only suitable word for their teaching method must be propaganda and students engage in binge drinking and sexual activity at rates that are endemic. The only moral foundation these children find is whatever they take with them, and this is often lacking due to parental inattentiveness or quickly diminished under the crushing weight of peer and professorial  ridicule. The world that students find is not friendly to honesty, morality, social responsibility or a relationship with God.

Faithful parents must understand that sending your child to college is not merely a way to ensure a good job or increased knowledge, is a dangerous path that must be walked carefully. It is a path through paganism, through vice and the reduction of the soul into a thing of mockery and scorn. The world that is opened to our children is the same world that has always been open, sexual immorality, deviance, intellectual dishonesty, Silence bought with apathy, greed and pride.  College is a journey, but it is often a journey through dark places at a time when children are most impressionable and most uncertain of where they belong. That darkness will claim them if they are left to their own devices.

Consider this… Parents today insist that children remain children until 25 (after college) for insurances purposes. Society argues that college students should be absolved of student debt, based on the sad but not incorrect assumption that college age children are incapable of making sound financial decisions. Everywhere we turn we see the age of maturation extended further and further with commensurate responsibility stretched to the breaking point.  Yet when it comes to morality and matters of conscience the going rule is that youth is more equipped to make those judgements.

How sad that Americas first Universities were built to provide churchmen, that prayer and the Bible were enshrined in foundational education and yet today, that has been forsaken in the name of new forms of tolerance that allow for everything accept morality, responsibility and personal accountability.  It has not happened in a vacuum. As college chapels grew silent, safe zones emerged to take their places and faithful men and women stood by, sending their children off just as Jephthah, through a fools vow and ignorance of the state of the world sent his own daughter through the fires. Will you, the parent see college as something it is not and sacrifice your children or will you see it as a dangerous, but perhaps necessary place, allowing your children to go, filled with wisdom, courage and a moral foundation that is unshakable?

If you think college is just a place, then you are already on the wrong side and your children are unequipped to face the very real dangers.

 

 

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7 stages of estrangement from God.


In a recent “Q” seminar hosted by Dr. Mark Yarhous, Philosopher and Clinical Psychologist and Theologian speaking of the issues of Transgenderism utilizes three lenses through which people, especially Christians see and define those suffering from gender Dysphoria, Identity, Disability and Diversity. I found the arguments compelling and attempted to match these three lenses of understanding to the larger issues of estrangement from Gods plan for us. Of course this goes well beyond Dr. Yarhous’ original thesis but I felt, intuitively that there was a connection that could be explored.

In doing so, I came to the conclusion that the three lenses made perfect sense but were also too limiting to address the full challenge of understanding and then defining the  different ways we become separated from God. As I delved deeper I came to identify an additional four lenses. I also discovered something curious. The seven lenses were more than ways we see, they were also logical stages that can be traced from the garden to the modern era, and through various movements of human history, political, social and religious. I don’t claim these seven stages to be ironclad rules, or fixed points nor do I suggest there is a specific biblical foundation for these stages. Instead my thesis is that the seven stages are identifiable only looking backward and once identified can be used as a yardstick looking forward. Let me be clear up-front. I do not claim these stages are final, or set in stone. The seven emerged after careful consideration and I have no doubts that some people may find alternate ways to define a given stage. Also, in careful analysis I identified other stages that initially seemed to expand the list but I felt that, after prayer and scrutiny they were mere sub-groups under one of the seven stages. Perhaps I was drawn to the number seven because of its symbolic power. Of this I confess possible guilt and ask the reader only to be open and forgiving.

So dear reader, here I present the seven stages of estrangement from God. As a word of caution I want to remind the reader that as Christians, indeed as human beings we are all suffering through these stages because we are all to some degree estranged from our Lord and Savior. Therefore this list is not meant to be a hammer by which to drive others into submission but instead a mirror through with we may see reflected where we are, culturally and personally in relation to where God would like for us to be.  As in all things, use it wisely… Use it prudently… Use it with humility and always use it in service to the Kingdom.

Integrity – The level to which we are integrated into Gods purpose for us, through Jesus Christ emotionally, intellectually, physically and psychically.

In the garden man’s integrity was complete through his direct connection to God. Man was gods beloved created being, tasked with the care of the garden and the naming of and thus care of animals. Once Adam Fell, the integrity of humans was compromised. The fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil created man’s first division. Good and Evil, or to put it more accurately, the knowledge of Gods plan for us and the knowledge of a world unleashed form our creator, surrendered to absolute autonomy. Because we are created beings, autonomy is not the state of being we are meant to be in and so we are divided first within ourselves, then within our families and communities, then against our fellow human beings.

Disability – Our state of living in a world that is broken through Adams fall, and our inheritance of that failure of obedience.

Man, is made aware of his nakedness. This means more than simply a sudden awareness of being naked, it means that for the first time we felt our nakedness, from hot and cold to the sting of thorns on our flesh to the weariness of our bodies through exertion. Man’s mortality was manifest first in this stage. Our fall disabled us just as the limb severed from the body disables the whole body. But this disablement, though painful and fatal is also part of the corrective for just as a phantom limb is still felt so too is the phantom presence of God felt by all generations of men. This is what was only recently called the voice of our conscience and that today is largely ignored as irrelevant to the psychological state of a human being. Through this we have become conscience disabled.

Disorder – The state in which we begin to justify our disablement at a self-centric level.

The state we come to when we identify by our differences and not by our common or shared realties, specifically the reality of our creation by and dependence on a creator God. Through modern arrogance we have ceased to see our fundamental disability, instead choosing to call it a specialness, making even our brokenness a thing to be celebrated. We relish in being different and in taking our own way. Radical autonomy becomes a pathological urge to utterly self-reliant, self-dependent and self- centered. When we speak of the right to choose through abortion or the right to be gay, or the right to pick your gender as being a right to choose, we are in fact speaking through the disorder of our broken nature.

Dysphoria – Allowing natural disorders to become pathological. Sickness becomes disease.

When we enter the dysphoria phase of our estrangement from God we begin to see the breakdown of our conscience. What we know to be right conflicts with what we want to be right, and being self-centered beings we ultimately choose what feels good to us, if we are left to our own devices.

In the days of the Christ, the Pharisees faced dysphoria and chose ultimately what felt good, what was comfortable and what didn’t require making sacrifices rather than accept the truth as it was then revealed to them through Jesus Christ, God on earth. Truth became an obstacle to comfort because disorder had been justified by so many and for so long that it became pathological.

Diversity – The one who is disordered seeks to create diversity, reducing normalcy by refusing to accept any single norm by which to live.

Moving from Dysphoria in a steady evolution we arrive at diversity. The conscience is still present, and still at work but at this stage we have determined that conscience is itself the enemy of our desires. What makes us feel good becomes the central focus of nearly all our efforts. But because we are thinking animals, we recognize that what makes us feel good is not the same as what makes another feel good so we invent diversity to explain the differences. Suddenly all morality is completely relative, there is no right or wrong, only subjective degrees to which the individual interacts within a society. Humanity created enclaves into which those of similar self- interests seek asylum. By this stage the choices that we invented the stage of disorder shift and become innate traits and protected classes of human kind.

Diaspora – The removal by degrees of groups that are different from a culture that defines itself as morally neutral and radically -autonomous.

In our brokenness, we strive to find unity and absent the integrity of a truly divinely centered life, a life lived in the shadow of the garden we find unity only in what makes us feel good. Because this is motivated by self-interest it doesn’t take long for other enclaves within our society to be viewed as the enemy and a threat to the self-interest of your group. Once this happens individual enclaves are dispersed further and further apart, either by force, coercion or through a desire to set themselves further apart, to be purer in thought and action. This happened among Gnostics in the Early Church, it happened to the ancient Israelites, to the Jews from the middle ages to the modern era and to Christians in communist states, and today to an ever-increasing number of groups that do not fit into the mold of radical autonomy. Why this happens is not clear but I believe it is to do with the need for morally autonomous groups being unable to face the reminder of the previous levels of estrangement. It is far easier to maintain self-interest if you have no reminders that there may be other ways to live.

Eventually wee stretch ourselves further from the source of our creation and the font of our happiness, creating more and more sub-cultures to fit a growing list of types of people, each one needing to maintain the illusion of its integrity by eliminating reminders of the presence of the other. For ancient Gnostics it was the need to retreat into the desert, to be free of conventional Christianity, for ancient Jews it was the emergence of the different sects in power up to the 2nd century BC and the fall of Jerusalem. For Christians at various times it was the radical movements within the reformation and counter-reformation and the denominational schism that still occur up into the 21st century over issues such as abortion and gay rights. For sexually liberal sub-groups this has been the steady evolution from the lifestyle choice of only a few years ago to the innate traits or genders as we term them today. For the issue of abortion this has evolved quickly from a woman’s right to choose not to be a mother, to the termination of an unborn baby as a matter of a woman’s general health.

But most important for this stage of estrangement is that each of these sub-groups find themselves estranged from all other communities. So called gay affirming churches in almost every case become churches that focus exclusively on social issues that relate to the gay community, with all other biblical teaching either removed or reconciled to a lower status. Equal rights groups ted to focus on the rights of single groups, often at the expense of others as happens with groups like the NAACP, which fights to deliver greater rights to black communities even as the rights of other groups are diminished. It becomes easy to ignore pleases of religious discrimination when your sole focus is on minority discrimination.

When all else fails, if we don’t fit we simply create a new sub-culture and invent a growing list of acronyms by which to ourselves. As is seen in the evolution from gay rights to the rights of LGBTTQQIAAP people or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual. And the list continues to grow.

Entropy – The state in which we have allowed ourselves to become so defined by our brokenness that we are unable to see what is wholesome and good and normal.

By this stage of estrangement even the complete emersion within our own sub-groups is insufficient to alleviate our latent feelings of estrangement but we have move so far from our foundation that we no longer have sight of or understand what we have lost. Because radical self-interest is hungry it must be fed and it is fed through hatred and animosity. In the absence of other groups, we begin to hate the groups we belong to. They no longer do enough to protect us or serve our needs, they are not sufficiently committed to your being at the center. Groups like Black Lives matter, the Tea Party, grassroots socialist movements within the DNC, all represent splinter groups that exist to feed off the groups they broke away from. Their primary motivation is to feed the exclusivity of the sub-group. The emergence of these in large numbers also represent the near end of the larger cultures from whence they evolved, in effect they become harbingers of the greater cultural decay in its final stages.

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For the Bible Tells Me So: Different ways to approach the Bible, why they matter and how they divide us.


The Bible is the worlds most important book. It has endured, been validated, argued over, denied, rejected, embraced and changed peoples lives unlike any other text, sacred or profane that ever was. Atheists deplore what it says, humanists find a snapshot of mankind’s past efforts at approaching wisdom, the faithful love it even as they seek to deconstruct it looking for mysteries, codes, secrets, hidden truths, or validations of doctrine.

No other book has done so much, to so many; yet it remains misunderstood and mocked. Perhaps the reason is how we approach it as a book, a cultural artifact, a sacred text, a historical text and a romance.

How do we approach the Bible? How should we? Can the Bible tell the truth and not be itself always factual? Can myth and reality be one and the same? Do inerrancy and reliability mean the same thing and does it even matter?

I wont pretend to have the answers here, Theologians and philosophers fare greater than I have made efforts and always they have fallen short. The best of them, quickly abandon the effort, or make it clear how difficult the effort has been and how subjective their conclusions might be and yet one thing stands. If the Bible matters it must speak to what is real and meaningful and so we must approach it openly, honestly and with the respect due such an important work, be it the work of man or God.

There are two ways of approaching the Bible the secular and the faithful and within each category there are different avenues that should compliment and overlap. Many apparent contradictions appear only because we fail to understand how different narratives do this, and once we identify a contradiction, even only an apparent one, the tragic process of deconstruction begins until all that is left is a collection of unread words we known through the interpretations of those with whom we decide are reliable, and we decide this based on the level to which their conclusions agree with our preconceived ideas about how the Bible should interact with our culture.

What is the Bible? Such a simple question, yet no two people would give you the same answer. Partly this is because though it is the most widespread book in history, it is also the most misunderstood, argued over and for many of its biggest fans, the least read.

To properly understand all the Bible has to tell us we must first consider what sort of book it is. To call it a collection of stories is too simple and fails to do justice. Nor should we forget that in looking at the typology of various texts we mustn’t loose sight of the overall scope and narrative journey of the book as a whole.

The Bible is a book comprised of a set of stories that were central to the people of Israel as an affiliated group of tribal nomads, as a nascent national collective, as a unified then fractured kingdom, later a people in exile, then a people who could finally understand the scope of their own story and how they fit within the stories of the Bible. Later still the Bible became the foundation of a new set of stories that in part fulfilled what was unfulfilled in the earlier text, now called the Old testament and in part created a new covenant that was fulfilled on the cross to form the foundation of a group that would come to be called Christians. Muslims use a term for the three peoples who very existence stems from this most peculiar collection of stories; the People of the Book. And that is a term I wholeheartedly approve of.

The people of the book are a diverse people, not always born into a national identity but  fashioned into new identities quite apart from the particulars of their birth. or to use a biblical term, grafted onto the vine.  This matters because the people of the book are not merely an audience or transmitters of stories, but  an integral part of the book itself. We, the human race both believers and non-belivers are as much as part of the narrative as is the Book of Proverbs or Genesis or Matthew’s Gospel or the Letters to the Church at Corinth.

So now lets begin to explore the Bibles Typology.

  1. The Bible as it relates to people
  2. The Bible as a book
  3. The Bible as a cultural artifact
  4. The Bible as a sacred text
  5. The Bible as a historical text
  6. The Bible as mythology
  7. The Bible as romance.

After we begin to understand the various typologies within the bible we can turn our attention to how might we as the faithful approach it.

How do the faithful approach the Bible?

The truth of scripture: Does the Bible tell the truth.

The narrative of scripture: How does the Bible tell its truths.

The meaning of scripture: What did the truth of the Bible mean to the original audience, to later audiences.

The importance of scripture: In what ways does the Bible matter?

The value of scripture: What is the integral value of the Bible as opposed to other ancient or modern texts.

The cost of scripture: Truth comes with a cost, what cost does the Bible ask us to pay?

The priority of scripture: Where does the Bible (as a book) ask us to put it in relation to other things or concepts?

What is the Bibles authority: From who, to whom and for what purpose does the Bible deliver its message?

But of course, the Bible does speak only to the faithful. This is no mystery religion, or basic set of instructions for membership. It is the story of mankind, of how we fell away from grace and how we now live in a broken world in need of mediation, repair and ultimately transformation. In this the Bible speaks to everyone who lives in the world and by the worlds ethos.

How do secularists approach the Bible?

Is the Bible fair: Does the Bible treat different groups differently and if so why?

Is the Bible relevant: If the Bible was once relevant is it still so?

Is the Bible changeable: In what ways is the Bible as we have it today different from the oldest known translations, texts or traditions?

What was the originals authors actually saying: The Bible may have once spoken some philosophical truth, and to know it requires finding hidden meaning or seeking what has become authentic Christianity.

Is the Bible needed: The Bible might be a great book, but we live in a world of science and objective morality where such a book is simply no longer required. Its value lies only in its presence as a cultural artifact but no one actually needs it any longer.

How the Bible is similar to other myths: The Bible is interesting but only in as much as it reflects one groups primitive attempts to make sense of the universe. It is no more than a collection of myths and fairy tales.

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Why we fail to grow…


People want the attention that goes with voicing their problems, and this includes groups as culturally, socially and politically diverse as Black Lives Matter, Christians living in “post-Christian” America, Conservatives who feel Liberalism is destroying the nation and Liberals who believe Conservatives want to hold the nation back from this or that imagined social Utopia. Gays scream for equality, abortion rights activists vie for attention against pro-life protestors.  People are demanding that we accept gender is fluid even as they argue that a persons sexual orientation is fixed at birth. Pastors and Christian authors and popular atheist pundits try to over shout one another by building massive arks or free though billboards.

Life has become a contest to see who can get the most attention by being the loudest and we are all suffering because of it. You see, the way to really succeed is not to voice your problems, real or imagined, but to understand them yourself and then to share that understanding with others. Until we all learn this lesson nothing we say, no matter how loud or true will ever make a positive impact in the world and guess what; black and white children, men and women, gay and straight, faithful and faithless will continue to tear one another apart in a vain attempt to force the other to yield.

 

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How do we fight, when we must fight


 

Facing Conflict under the shadow of the cross

By Candkewycke

georgewashington-praying

“Justice is in the interest of the strongest” – Thracymachus in Plato’s Republic

“The most disadvantageous peace is better than the most just war” – Erasmus

“ The purpose of all war is peace” – Augustine of Hippo

“ The LORD is a man of war, the LORD is his name – Exodus 15:3

“Praise be to the LORD my rock who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle – Psalm 144: 1

 

These quotes above represent only a small fraction of the diverse opinions on the nature of War and its relation to living a godly life. They come from Christian thinkers, pagan philosophers and the Bible itself. If there is no easy answer to the question is war ever justified then how are we to make sense of a violent world and if our role is to be passive participant, active agent or righteous crusader?

I believe the only war that can be truly called a just war is a war that is holy and fought for the righteousness of the Lord, that is called to be waged by the Lord and that is guided by the Lord and his anointed leaders. But how can we be sure our war is a just war Are we deceiving ourselves into believing GOD supports us because we want to be in the right, not because we are in the right? The Bible tells us that biblical war is waged as a means to carry Gods people forward or as a means to level Gods Judgement against his people as a result of their great and sinful falling away. God seems to use war and call for war even as he condemns it. Is this a contradiction?

Christ, as he so often did, realigned the nature of a thing, in this case war by reminding people that an eye for an eye leads to evil and that we must turn the other cheek saying “you have heard it said love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your father in heaven”. Yet we can’t deny that if war is forbidden the Christian then it would certainly have been mentioned as so many other things clearly were. So once again, even with the words of the LORD we are left to contemplate what we are to do. This struggle has led great church minds to formulate philosophies, sometimes logical and sometimes contorted to define rules which we might use to navigate dangerous times.

The need for peace and a love of your enemy and the very real world facts of evil seeking to do evil led St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas to formulate what came to be called the just war theory in an effort to fill in the gaps. During St. Augustine’s time the might of Rome was collapsing and the threat of invasion was omnipresent. Could a Christian fail to protect his family, and his faith through pacifism? These were not idle, abstract questions but very pressing matters of life and death. Out of this began to emerge the just war theory, the basic tenant of which are as follows…

 

  1. There must be a just cause for the war.
  2. War must be waged only in response to certain, grave and lasting damage inflicted by an aggressor
  3. The motive for war must be advancement of good or avoidance of evil.
  4. The ultimate objective of war must be to bring peace.
  5. Revenge, revolt, a desire to harm, dominate, or exploit and similar things are not justification for war.
  6. Every possible means of peacefully settling the conflict must be exhausted first.
  7. There must be serious prospects of success; bloodshed without hope of victory cannot be justified.
  8. The war must be declared by a legitimate authority. Private individuals or groups should seek redress of their rights through their governments, not by acts of war.
  9. The war must not cause greater evil than the evil to be eliminated.
  10. Non-combatants (civilians) must not be intentionally harmed.
  11. Prisoners and conquered peoples must be treated justly.

 

In response to Just war theory some Christians affirm complete pacifism, among them Mennonites and the Society of Friends (Quakers). The difficulty in keeping this position comes when we are forced to confront evil in a scale larger than the personal and when the pacifist maintains his peace safely behind the shield of the soldier. It is easy to turn the other cheek and live pure pacifism when you are the only one on the line, but what about when your children are threatened? Even Christ seems to have allowed his apostles to carry swords and nowhere did he implicitly refute the need to fight against evil. Indeed his very presence on earth was a direct confrontation with evil and his return is described as a victorious leader mounted on a white horse in very clear military imagery. For this reason the gentle lamb could say “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” We should also consider why God chose the time of the Roman Empire to break into our physical world in the person of Jesus Christ? We see the disciple traveling Roman roads, taking advantage of the stability that Rome provided and even Paul relying on the protection of his roman citizenship, none of which could have been possible without Rome’s military might. And can we so easily condemn all war as pure evil when David, a great warrior who was a man after Gods own heart and through whom the messiah would be born. We cannot say that war is evil nor can we say that war is good when we understand that God often uses evil men and evil things to further his purpose.

If you are confused you are not alone. In the Gospel of Mark we see that Christ, understanding human nature recognizes that war will continue and in the Gospel of Luke and in Acts we are led to accept the necessity of militaries. (Luke 3:14 and Acts 10:1-6) so if you are still convinced that your position, just war or pacifism is the only right position then you are blind. Reading this in light of Christ’s complete teachings it is difficult to see anything amounting to total admonition against any and all war, but it is certainly a radical realignment on how Godly men should view and wage war and it certainly should force each of us to reexamine the reasons we are fighting.

The reality is that this is one of those areas each of us is left to navigate. Trust that we not asked to do this alone but to open up ourselves and allow Jesus Christ to become the captains of our hearts. It may well be that this is an area that is deliberately left grey because Gods plan for mankind is still unfolding. So take care not to be quick to judge the soldier or the pacifist too harshly.

Why am I writing this now? A radio call in show features a caller who was no doubt a decent man, a moral man even yet one who seemed to be rushing to war as a means of vengeance and anger. A delusion perhaps, but one that is recognizable and even understandable. The consensus was that we should fight fire with fire and beat them at their own game. These are just some of the phrases used to describe opinions as to how we should conduct the war on terror. In light of our current leaderships refusal to rightly define the threat and their efforts to downplay the danger and the ever growing risk of domestic attack it is little wonder that so many people are willing to fight terrorists at their own level but this is a terrible mistake. Liberals by contrast seem to offer a more Christian view but they too make a fundamental error of logic in viewing human nature as good and at risk through violence. The Liberal argument suggest that to fight fire with fire risks harming something within ourselves. But the harm we face is not from within as if to say that human nature is good, because it is not. In fact human nature dictates that we seek vengeance and if left to human nature surely war and violence would be embraced by everyone. Rather the harm we risk doing harms something far more precious that exists without us in the form of Gods saving grace.

 

How, when and under what circumstances is America at war justified?

       How often do we hear about America being the greatest nation on earth? Just as ancient Israel, that conceit presupposes that America is on the moral high ground, not counting for the fact that Israel was chosen by God while America simply chose itself. To be sure we are on far higher ground than the terrorists but are we really operating from a moral base? Remember that when Israel waged war righteously she was protected but when her unrighteous behavior went unchecked she saw only defeat and ruin. How are we then greater than Gods chosen nation when it is so easy to look around and see our sins manifest and manifold in horrible abundance?

Human nature demands that we go “old-testament”, a common reference to holy conflict, but are we as a nation, as communities, as local churches or as individuals living lives of righteousness worthy of calling on Gods might? This was the hallmark of the old-testament way of War. To put it simply, we cannot invoke Abraham or Joshua or Gideon or David or Josiah and their success on the battlefield without also understanding that they lived righteous lives, doing gods will for God’s purposes. Under these godly men Israel saw victory and we should emulate them. But we should not ignore the lessons of the wicked Ahab who persecuted the Prophet Elijah and who “sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord”. Or Jeroboam whose wickedness resulted in judgement on the whole people. Are we to forget that “God will give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he sinned and which he caused all Israel to commit”? Or what of Rehoboam whose sinful ways and pagan worship led to Israel’s plunder by Egypt

Are we better than the wicked rulers of Israel and the people who followed them? Are we greater than the Israelites who made the golden calf? Are we better than Ahaz who sacrificed his son to Moloch as we have sacrificed 55 million of our precious children at the altar of convenience and self- autonomy through abortion?

The Bible gives us many examples to learn from but too often Christians skim over the uncomfortable parts, assuming that America is a Christian nation and is somehow exempt from calls to righteousness. But we are to live for something finer than human nature and make no mistake, it was human nature these wicked rulers followed. It is this human nature liberals speak of as a reason for not sinking to the level of the terrorist, in effect protecting the very thing that leads us to ruin. But if we live to protect human nature then we have already fallen as low as the terrorist because we have forsaken Gods purpose for us.

When the Puritan father John Winthrop gave his famous City upon a Hill speech he was calling for his people to build a new city in the mirror of what Israel was at its most Godly and righteous. He may have been mistaken on many of his goals and his means but his heart I believe was in the right place. It was to be a beacon not of freedom and liberty for the sake of man, but of Godly virtue and that has been the mold of America save for the last 75 years as we have seen God has been stricken from the public sphere and faith isolated more and more to the narrow confines of a nebulous, shadow area removed from public view. There is still hope, we still have countless churches and people of faith but unless we realign ourselves immediately these too will fall away.

There are no easy answers and perhaps this is a good thing because it forces us to be prayerful, to engage in a deeper communion with the Lord and seek his guidance in these turbulent times just our ancestors once did, when prayer came out from the pulpit, from schools, from the halls of congress and in local communities from elected officials to humble farmers and workers. Are we today morally superior to our forebears? It is time we take Jeremiah to heart and stand at the crossroads and ask for the old paths. We may not find easy answers, but we will find the comforting presence of the Lord to walk with us as we navigate difficult decisions.

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When science takes a faltering step towards recognizing God


Albert Einstein once said that the Universe could have been chaotic, random and ugly. And yet we have this gorgeous synthesis at the origin of the Universe itself, giving birth to the galaxies, the planets, DNA, life.

He was describing a creator, though he did not go so far as to define this creator in any real sense, nor did he attempt to link his creator of the cosmos to the creator of his own Jewish roots as found in the Bible.

Thomas Huxley, famous 19th century Biologist believed that science and religion shared a common human mission to understand our place and role in the universe. Absent a creator there is no created being, only chance mingling’s of atomic matter that formed together to make a thing that would come to be called mankind. In this worldview, one governed by pure chance there can be no meaning or perhaps I would say that there is only the meaning that we define for ourselves, which is to say that we are defining ourselves through a lens of pure ego. As if a robot claims personhood because it has a sensors capable of recognizing its own form in a mirror. Neither represent meaning.

Now, noted physicists and co-founder of String Theory and respected futurist Dr. Michiko Kaku has taken a step back to reconciling the once shared objectives of both science and religion by not only using religious vocabulary to describe what he sees scientifically but also by evolving his views over the last few years to the point that he now readily admits that the cosmos was created because it bears the stamps of a created system. This is not to say that Dr. Kaku has suddenly bowed at the alter or stands in the shadow of the cross. Indeed Dr. Kaku could not rightly be called a Christian, or  a member of any religion nor would he define himself as such.

The real power in his public professions are seen in how humanists and atheists respond by scouring over every word he has ever spoken, attempting to piece together separate and conflicting quotes to formulate a coherent atheist statement. The reason for this is evident. People of faith can have their faith questioned and tested. Faith when it is true emerges stronger from the struggle but self-centered philosophies including humanism and atheism are incapable of surviving direct challenges from those of faith. The reason is simple, self must always elevate the self.

Everyday we see subtle hints of Gods presence emerging all around us. From biblical sites that show once suspected biblical narratives were accurate , including places, Kings and civic titles to science struggling to maintain its god-absent agenda in light of those stamps of created order, not to mention the emerging presence of Christians in places hostile to the faith and at a time when not to believe has never been easier or the worldly cost of unbelief so slight.

None of this proves the idea of Deity and it certainly doesn’t prove the God of Jews and Christians or indeed Muslims as part of a larger tradition, but no longer can the humanist and atheist so easily claim proofs of science as a close ally.

 

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Why Russel Moore and the SBC gets it wrong on religious freedom and Muslims building Mosques in the Unitd States


I come from the Baptist tradition with a long history of religious tolerance and acceptance of pluralism in the world religious sphere. The right to worship as one sees fit is and always has been an integral part of Baptist thought and this has always extended to non-Christian religions as well. While any true Baptist should seek to evangelize it should never be done through compulsion or mandate or edict because doing so runs counter to Soul Freedom. Further I believe that any such conversion or evangelism through force creates poorly catechized Christians, weak and unstable in their faith and this, as we see played out all to often introduces instability in churches and leads to believers who fall away when confronted with challenging questions or life circumstances.

Though Islam is far removed from Christianity these rights to soul freedom should be granted them as a matter of course, this includes their right to worship and build mosques in communities where they live. However as is true of all important matters truth is nuanced and rights and freedoms MUST be weighed against certain realities if they are to be protected for future generations. This is not a way of ceding to security over freedom but rather a way of acknowledging that true freedom comes with certain obligations.

As we consider the building of Mosques in America today we need to consider the following…

a. is there a historical role of Islam in the United States?

b. Does Islam offer something of value to the United States or its citizenry?

c. What is the goal of Islam in America today?

Before we get ahead of ourselves lets get one thing clear. Most Mosques are no more a threat to the United States than any other group of like minded people. However mosques in todays world need to be given special scrutiny.
What is a mosque? Literally, it is a place of submission to the word of Allah, or the Quran.  Unlike Judeo-Christian religious thought Islam demands only submission and grants the believer certain rights to deceive non-believers in a process called the Taqiyya. Around the world we see terror groups using mosques to radicalize Muslims and create “home-grown” terror operatives that act independently of core groups, such as ISIS and Al-Queda but under the general orders of Jihad and too often these operatives mesh in with society because they utilize the Taqiyya to deceive their neighbors, families, co-workers and government agencies. By contrast our Christian faith looks to peter and his denial of Christ as a point of great shame from which Peter sought desperate forgiveness. We are called to pick up our cross not conceal it and to be lights to the world, not candles flickering hidden beneath a basket.

Until such time as the greater Muslim faith begins to police it’s own or the threat of terror becomes a manageable threat every mosque should be held in suspicion and given greater scrutiny. So yes Russell Moore, it is right and proper to extend religious freedom to its maximum limits, but it is foolishness and very much un-biblical to allow evil to rise because we do not wish to confront it or define it in real terms. At one time the radical mosques that gave sanctuary to the perpetrators of the San Bernardino shootings, the Orlando shootings, the Boston Marathon bombing,  the Fort Hood Massacre, the shooting in Chattanooga and so many others here and around the globe were once looked upon with suspicion because there is something inherently troubling about Islam, a feeling of unease that goes back centuries and is not a matter of paranoia, but of very real events.

In the aftermath of the Orlando shootings I remembered an old action movie, Delta Force where Chuck Norris fought Lebanese hijackers to save hostages. This was of course only a movie but it was inspired by the real Iranian hostage crisis and bore striking similarities to the hijacking of Flight 847 only a few month earlier.

Then I thought of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre perpetrated by the Palestenian Group Black September, a philosophical forerunner to Hammas.

And can we forget what the Taliban did to Afghanistan or what happened on 9-11? All these have one thing in common, Islam. And contrary to some liberal arguments this is not a corrupted version of Islam, but a divergent and literal interpretation of Islam that carries widespread acceptance of if not always the methods, then at least the ultimate goals. And for America it goes back even further if we were to be honest, to the Barbary Pirates who were sanctioned by the Islamic state to prey upon Christian merchant shipping. This is the same Islamic state groups like ISIS today want to rebuild.

The threat is not knew, the methods are not new. The only new thing is how we are responding, by surrendering our values in  the name of a false promise of toleration. I suspect that Russell Moore and the SBC are more motivated by diminishing church numbers and frequent accusations from secular corners than by any real philosophical agreement on religious freedom.

The sad truth is there are many ways of surrendering and one way is to lose the strength of your convictions, and an understanding of what they really mean and embrace moral relativism. I doubt that Christ would have sought to tear down a mosque had they been present then and he certainly would have spoke of love and forgiveness and of not casting stones but I doubt he would have been so quick to welcome a group into his community whose sole motivation was to destroy that community. In fact Chirst warned his disciples about being vigilant.

As Americans it is incumbent upon us to protect our freedoms, provide a safe space for the fullest exercise of freedom and establish those freedoms  for future generations.

As Christians we must confront evil in the name of Jesus Christ and under the guidance of the Holy Bible

Ephesians 5 11:12 “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” By continually praising toleration no matter what we are taking part in dark deeds and failing to expose them for what they are. Can the good man praise sin and still be counted as good?

And finally, thought this will be uncomfortable to many in America, freedom and democracy themselves can become idols which we worship.  When we place patriotism, and ideals of freedom and democracy on a higher platform than upholding the word of God and doing what is right, under obedience to Gods words then we are worshiping nationalism and national ideals just as surely as the Israelites worshiped the golden calf.

As 1st John, 2:15 tells us, “stop loving the world and the things that are in the world. If anyone persists in loving the world, the Fathers love is not in him.

In closing, ask yourselves do you so love American democracy and our idea of what amounts to freedom that you would value it above the holy things?

 

 

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