Archive for the ‘ Biblical Principles ’ Category

Trump, Principles, & Conscience

When I first began this blog eight years ago, it didn’t take me long to decide on a title. My life and teaching have always focused on Biblical principles. My desire was to share those principles and to apply them to what we experience in this trek through a sinful world. That’s how the name “Pondering Principles” came about.

With that name, though, came a deep responsibility to remain true to the principles I believe the Lord has ordained. I’ve thought a lot about what I want to say right now with respect to the upcoming presidential contest. What I’m going to say will not sit well with many, but I will say it because it comes from that commitment I made to speak and write from those principles.

I’ve always voted Republican, no matter how much I’ve disagreed with the chosen nominee for president. Despite some misgivings over George Bush, I believed he was a good man, trying to do what was right. The John Kerry alternative gave me nightmares.

When John McCain got the nomination, I sighed and dutifully fell in line because I knew Barack Obama would be the most radical president in American history and would attempt to undo every constitutional precept that he could. At least McCain had shown remarkable courage as a POW and could be counted on for some conservative policies. There really was no comparison between the candidates.

Mitt Romney was, for me, a step further away from genuine Republican principles. After all, it was his health plan in Massachusetts that provided the blueprint for Obamacare. Neither had he been solidly pro-life. But the alternative, of course, was another four years of Obama, and I did believe Romney was a decent man who could be prodded in the right direction by conservatives in the party.

Now, in 2016, I don’t have a decent man to vote for on the Republican side. And that’s really what it comes down to for me. I have a lot of reasons to decide not to vote for Donald Trump, but the most basic one is that I see him as a totally despicable human being who may do irreparable harm to both the Republican party and the nation.

Please stay with me.

For those of you supporting Trump because he is an outsider, consider his personal history. He has been on the inside his entire life, using all his political connections for personal gain, often to the detriment of others. This is something he and Hillary Clinton have in common: they have used the system cynically and corruptly for their own advancement.

Crony Capitalists

Clinton’s corruption is clearly seen in multiple ways, but the investigation into the use of a personal e-mail server and the funneling of funds through the Clinton Foundation are the real icing on this half-baked cake.

Trump’s corruption is in how he has bilked people over the years (interesting, isn’t it, that the trial for the fake Trump University has now been delayed until late November), how he has attempted to use eminent domain to take private property away from an elderly lady to use for his own purposes, and how he has cleverly used the bankruptcy laws to stay on top while throwing others out of work.

Yes, they are a dynamic duo.

Bratman

On policy, he is all over the place, promising whatever will get votes. Now that he has the nomination all but sewed up, he’s tacking clearly to the left, saying he wants to get the Bernie Sanders voters.

This is our Republican nominee?

He claims to be pro-life now, but has always supported abortion, even the infanticide of partial-birth abortion. Even now, he hasn’t really opposed Planned Parenthood. It pains me to read of some pro-life leaders now being swayed into the illusion that he won’t be that bad on this issue after all.

I could go on about all his other “policies,” but the real issue for me is Trump’s character.

Unlike some people who only glance at headlines, I am a student of politics and government and the connection with character. I’ve watched Trump carefully for the past year, hardly believing what I’ve seen.

He has no dignity. His main avenue for personal opinion is insulting tweets. He has mocked and ridiculed his fellow candidates mercilessly. He is beyond rude; he is an arrogant, condescending, unprincipled mess of a man.

He is the classic spoiled child who never grew up. Putting him at the head of this nation, in my view, would be tantamount to elevating into power someone with the emotional maturity of a third-grader.

The planted fake story in the National Enquirer about Ted Cruz being an unfaithful husband is ironic, given Trump’s blatant immorality. The photo he used of Heidi Cruz is what a middle-school guy might do in a pique of adolescent rage.

And then there are the conspiracy theories he seems to delight in: Obama’s birth certificate (sorry, but I never bought into that one, as much as I would have liked to); George Bush somehow behind 9/11 and deliberately lying to get us into a war with Iraq; Cruz’s father as a co-conspirator in the JFK assassination.

Really, Republicans? This is your standard-bearer?

And after all of this, you call upon me to support this man for the sake of unity?

Time for Unity

And then you have the nerve to lecture me that if I don’t vote for this awful person, I am, in effect, casting a vote for Hillary?

A vote is a vote for something or someone. If I cast a vote for Donald Trump, I am saying I am for an unrepentant serial adulterer (possibly a rapist—that accusation is out there and not too hard to believe) who has always championed leftist causes with his donations, and who, even now, is pulling the wool over the eyes of his starry-eyed minions.

No, I cannot do this.

If Hillary Clinton wins this election, I place the blame on those who ignorantly raised this reality-TV “star” into a credible candidate when the joke of his candidacy should have been apparent to all. Those of us who sounded the alarm all along are not the ones who deserve the blame for his ascendancy.

Many Republicans are now falling in line with the reality of a Trump nomination. They are dutifully remaining loyal to the party.

Next Trick

I will not put party loyalty above principle. In the end, I don’t give an account to Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus, or Trump supporters who will try to convince me to change my mind.

In the end, I give an account to God only, and my conscience must be clear before Him.

There are people I love and respect who will disagree with me today. That doesn’t alter my love and respect for you.

If your conscience doesn’t bother you by voting for Trump, that is your decision. But please don’t call on me to violate my conscience. I simply won’t do it.

God Is in Control?

In the wake of the Trump triumph/impending disaster, a number of Christians have resorted to what is certainly a wonderful promise in the Scripture. It’s found in the book of Romans:

Romans 8-28

I love that promise as much as anyone, but I’ve always been dismayed by comments about it that seem to overlook the condition mentioned therein: this is a promise “to those who love the Lord.”

What I hear all too often is that this is a promise that no matter what happens, everything will work out okay. After all (repeat the refrain after me), “God is in control.”

That’s a cliché of the highest magnitude.

What’s the matter with Snyder? Doesn’t he believe God is in control of the universe?

If you simply mean that everyone will ultimately answer to Him for their lives and the decisions they make, I agree. If you mean that He is the One who sovereignly determines when this sorry thing called humanity will come to an end, I agree again.

Yes, He is in control.

But if you mean that somehow even the worst decisions of mankind are all part of God’s plan, you lose me there. If you think that sin is ever part of what He wants, count me out of the congregation of the simple-minded.

I take comfort in Romans 8:28 in the sense that even in the worst of times, if I hold tightly to Him and His Word, and if I remain steadfast in my love for Him, He has promised to take the worst of times and turn it around somehow and bring unforeseen blessing out of it.

That’s not the same as a false hope that nothing will ever go wrong because “God is in control.”

Consider the faith chapter in the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, where the writer extols how God did miraculous things for his people in the past, saving them out of terrible circumstances. We love to quote that part of the chapter. Then comes the hammer-blow:

Others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment.

They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

We would like to ignore such passages.

Again, I’m not saying that God’s Word is untrue; I’m saying we need to interpret it correctly. We’ve never been promised that all things on this earth will turn out right. Some of us will live lives of utmost misery, being mocked and scourged and, yes, even put to death unjustly.

But what we can say, with certainty, is that in all the turmoils we face, God stands with us, doing all that can be done to work things out for our good—provided we continue to love and obey Him.

Trump’s Biblical Insights

It’s a dangerous things for some politicians to talk about the Bible in public. In the book of Exodus, we’re told, “But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”

The impetus behind this command is to ensure that whenever someone has committed a wrong, the penalty will not be greater than the wrong that was committed. In our day, we refer to the principle as making sure the punishment fits the crime.

Donald TrumpThat scripture came into play yesterday—sort of—in a mangled way when Donald Trump was asked if he had a favorite Bible verse that had helped shape his character and life. His response, if you can follow the flow of his thought, was,

When we get into the Bible, I think many, so many. Look, an eye for an eye, you can almost say that. That’s not a particularly nice thing.

If you look at what’s happening to our country, when you see what’s going on with our country, how people are taking advantage of us and how they scoff at us and laugh at us and laugh at our face. They’re taking our jobs, they’re taking our money, they’re taking the health of our country. We have to be very firm and we have to be very strong, and we can learn a lot from the Bible, that I can tell you.

Okay. Tell me again, how does that scripture passage fit here? What I see is someone who is focused on how others treat us badly and the implication is to get back at them for doing so. Well, while that does incorporate some kind of “justice,” it’s not the context of the passage, and certainly not the spirit of it.

Keep in mind, this is the candidate who says he reads the Bible more than anyone. If I were you, though, I wouldn’t trust his insights into Scripture.

Trojan Head

During Jesus’ time, there were people who understood this passage from Exodus in a Trump-like manner also. Jesus wisely redirected their thoughts by saying,

You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.

Jesus made a personal application here as a corrective. Too many people were using that Old Testament call for proper justice as an excuse for getting back at others who they felt had wronged them. Jesus focused on the heart attitude.

Can anyone reading these words today say that Donald Trump has ever exhibited, in this long campaign season, any inclination to manifest this spirit of setting aside perceived wrongs? Can anyone point to a pattern of behavior that shows he has the willingness to go the extra mile for others, even if they have caused him harm—“harm” interpreted loosely?

Or have we instead been inundated with one insult and tantrum after another?

Raw Deal

It’s well past the time to bring this sad spectacle to an end. But that’s up to the voters in the Republican party. Pray that they will be wise from this point on.

Another critical election looms. With each new round of presidential elections, I tend to be astounded by the way people vote—usually without any solid foundational thinking. So I decided to publish how I approach this very serious responsibility.

Here, therefore, is my attempt at a personal manifesto.

I believe in Christian principled constitutional conservatism. Let me now explain what that means to me.

Christian

Jesus Christ is Lord of all aspects of life. My own life would have no meaning without His love, His forgiveness, and His direction for me. Politics and government fall under His Lordship. Consequently, whenever I think on those issues, I do so with a desire to ensure that His truth is the cornerstone for all governmental policies.

Biblical WorldviewI want to see all of the vital questions before us through the lens of Biblical faith and solid doctrine. I want a Biblical approach to the way government is organized and I want, as much as possible, people serving in that government who are dedicated Christians. Where that is not the case, I at least want to support those who are not hostile to Christian faith, but have respect for liberty of conscience.

I seek to help put into practice a Christian worldview on all manner of legislation, whether that be right to life/abortion, religious liberty, marriage, taxes, education, welfare, immigration—well, that’s the short list. I believe that no matter what the issue, there is a Biblical way to understand that issue.

Principled

PrinciplesI shouldn’t have to make this a separate section. Christians ought to be, simply by the nature of their relationship to God and truth, naturally principled. However, I am dismayed by how often those who profess the name of Christ make disastrously unprincipled decisions. They allow emotions or self-interest to set aside what they claim to believe.

What principles mean the most to me?

  • The inherent value of human life—we are all created in the image of God.
  • The concept of self-government—God has so designed us to grow into maturity and make most decisions ourselves without the oversight of civil government. Not only individuals, but families, churches, voluntary organizations, etc., should be free of undue government influence.
  • The sanctity of private property—government has no mandate from God to be our overlord on economic matters; He instead, as part of our maturity, seeks to teach us how to be His stewards of all types of property: money, material goods, our minds, and the free will He has given us.
  • Voluntary association without the force of government coming down on us—people only unite when they are united, and that unity is internal, not provided by government coercion.
  • Christian character—God intended us to carry out our lives as reflections of Him; the world only works correctly when we do things His way.
  • Sowing and reaping—man is accountable for his actions, and he will receive back what he has sown: if obedience to God, blessings; if disobedience, dire consequences; we can’t blame society and claim victimhood status in God’s eyes because He will always hold us personally responsible for our choices, whether right or wrong.

Constitutional

I believe in the concept of the rule of law, meaning no man, regardless of high rank in society, is above the law. We all are to be judged by the same standard.

Constitutional ConventionI believe in the system set up in this nation through the Constitution that gave us a solid basis for the rule of law.

I believe we need to hold firm to the original meaning of those words in our Constitution and not allow judges, legislators, or presidents to stray from the limited authority granted in that document.

Changes to the authority given to our federal government must go through the proper constitutional channel: the amendment process as outlined in the Constitution. A judge’s gavel is not a magic wand.

Anyone running for the presidency or for Congress, and anyone nominated for a federal judgeship, at whatever level, all the way to the Supreme Court, must pass muster as constitutionalists. No one who denigrates the rule of law should ever be supported for public office.

Conservative

Nash BookThis is a relative term. In a totalitarian system, a conservative would be one who wants to conserve totalitarianism. But in our system, a true conservative is someone who seeks to conserve what the Founders established. Often that can happen only by acting to overturn or reverse what has been done to destroy the Founders’ ideals. If a revolution has occurred, a real conservative might have to take on the nature of a counterrevolutionary in order to reestablish the foundations.

Conservatism does not merely conserve the status quo—if that status quo is a deviation from the constitutional system bequeathed to us.

Conservatism is not “reactionary”; it is a positive movement to secure the blessings of liberty to us and to future generations.

Application

As I survey the political field in this upcoming election cycle, and as I think through everything I wrote above, this is where I come out.

First, I can never support the Democrat party. Its very tenets are antithetical to my basic Christian beliefs; its principles are the opposite of mine; its radical anti-constitutionalism is in the process of destroying the rule of law; and rather than seeking to conserve the Founders’ ideals, it instead foments a secular, Marxist revolution against those ideals.

On the Republican side, I find that the current frontrunner, Donald Trump, has no real grasp of Christian faith and only pays lip service to its tenets, as far as he may understand them—which is not very far. I also don’t trust him to protect religious liberty.

Ted Cruz, on the other hand, has a Christian testimony that I believe stands the test. I don’t see lip service only, but a commitment to the truths of the faith.

Trump-Cruz

Trump, with respect to principles, falls far short. In fact, it seems to me the only principle he follows is whatever promotes himself. Does he really believe in the sanctity of life when he defends Planned Parenthood? Can we trust him on religious liberty? Will he use the government to strongarm people who disagree with him, or perhaps prosecute them for their disagreements? I have no confidence in him on any of those issues.

Cruz, though, is about as principled a politician as I can find at the presidential level. When I look at those principles that I listed above, I see him as solid on them all. Why? He has proven to be faithful to them in public office thus far.

Does Donald Trump even know we have a Constitution that set up a limited government? He never talks about it. It’s obviously not a priority for him as he seeks the highest office in the land. He has even hinted—well, more than hinted—that maybe there should be some curtailment of political expression, that maybe there should be more lawsuits against the press.

Now, as much as I may criticize the American press—in print, on television, and on the Internet—any curtailment of political opinions sends a chill up my spine. Under a Trump administration, would this blog be considered a target if I should deign to criticize our fearless leader?

Ted Cruz is a staunch defender of the Constitution as intended by the Founders. How do I know? Again, look at his record. Restoring constitutional thinking and practice has been his life’s work.

Donald Trump is no conservative, at least as defined in the American context. He has not been schooled in conservative thought and has a record of supporting key Democrats throughout his career. When you give a lot of money to Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, etc., etc., you are not only not conservative, but you are helping the enemies of constitutional conservatism propagate their radical revolution.

Ted Cruz, meanwhile, is the most consistent conservative left in the Republican presidential field. I am entirely comfortable with his understanding of how conservatism should play out in our constitutional system.

This, then, is how I approach thinking about politics and government. This determines how I vote.

I only hope these few thoughts will prove helpful to those who are trying to make sense of the decision before us.

Lewis: Jesus as the Original Origin

As avid a reader of C. S. Lewis as I have been throughout my life, some of his lesser-known works escaped me until recently. For instance, after seeing the video Planet Narnia, I was fascinated by the way Lewis incorporated the medieval worldview into the series. I also discovered that he had explained it in The Discarded Image, so I readily obtained that book and burrowed through it (not one to recommend to a new reader since it is one of his most scholarly).

Then I decided to delve into a few others I’d never read. The first was Reflections on the Psalms. I admit I have always been reluctant to read that one because I’m not in complete agreement with his view of how to understand the Old Testament as part of God’s Word, but I finally realized that since this was Lewis, I had no need to doubt his genuineness or his high view of Scripture.

I’m glad I jumped over that mini-obstacle. Reflections on the Psalms is like all of Lewis’s works—brimming with insight and unique ways of expressing the faith.

Reflections on the Psalms

Reviewing it once again, I was struck by a passage that compared the Old Testament with the words of Jesus. Lewis begins,

This is one of the rewards of reading the Old Testament regularly. You keep on discovering more and more what a tissue of quotations from it the New Testament is; how constantly Our Lord repeated, reinforced, continued, refined, and sublimated, the Judaic ethics, how very seldom He introduced a novelty.

While some critics might see the lack of novelty in Jesus’ words a reason to discount His significance, Lewis exposes the faulty reasoning behind that criticism:

This of course was perfectly well-known—was indeed axiomatic—to millions of unlearned Christians as long as Bible-reading was habitual. Nowadays it seems to be so forgotten that people think they have somehow discredited Our Lord if they can show that some pre-Christian document (or what they take to be pre-Christian) such as the Dead Sea Scrolls has “anticipated” Him. As if we supposed Him to be a cheapjack like Nietzsche inventing a new ethics!

Lewis then brings the reader to the main point:

Every good teacher, within Judaism as without, has anticipated Him. The whole religious history of the pre-Christian world, on its better side, anticipates Him. It could not be otherwise. The Light which has lightened every man from the beginning may shine more clearly but cannot change. The Origin cannot suddenly start being, in the popular sense of the word “original.”

You simply cannot make “The Origin” more original. Everything flows from Him already. He is the “original Origin,” and we don’t really add anything to what He already is.

A Personal Perspective on Evangelical Support for Trump

This is going to be a calmer post than I originally intended. My emotions ran high Saturday night with the results of the South Carolina primary. Make no mistake, I am deeply disturbed by political developments in the Republican party, but I will attempt to offer a reasonable commentary to explain my deep concern.

While Trump’s victory, in itself, is disturbing, it’s the way he won that bothers me more—with the apparent backing of a plurality of evangelicals.

Donald Trump 4According to the exit polls, Trump took about 34% of evangelical voters, while Cruz got around 25% and Rubio slightly fewer. One can always say that at least the combined tally for Cruz and Rubio was greater than Trump’s number, but just the fact that 34% self-identified evangelical Christians would vote for this man defies logic.

Perhaps logic is in short supply. Perhaps real evangelicalism is in short supply also. Perhaps the term “evangelical” has come to have so many different meanings that it is now a worthless word.

To me, an evangelical is a true disciple of Jesus Christ, committed to reflect the righteousness of God in one’s own life. A real disciple of Christ would want to see His ways permeate society, and a real evangelical Christian would never vote for a person whose lifestyle and policy positions were in direct opposition to the Biblical message of salvation and moral behavior.

Yet that is precisely what 34% of evangelical South Carolinians did.

First, let me say that I don’t necessarily accept the notion that all self-identified evangelicals are really Christians. Many are probably “cultural Christians” in the sense that they grew up in the church and still attend but have never had a face-to-face encounter with the Living Christ followed by a genuine heart change and desire to serve Him gladly.

God & GovernmentThen there are those who may be genuine Christians but who either don’t have a good grasp of how Biblical principles apply to government or who are operating out of emotion—angry over the trends they see in the nation and allying with Trump simply because he expresses their anger well.

Voting on emotion, and particularly the emotion of anger, is not the Christian way. We need to stay focused on principles and vote according to which candidates are most consistent with those Biblical principles.

I’ve said the following things previously, but the time is ripe for a reminder. If you vote for Trump, here is the man you are voting for:

  • Donald Trump has publicly stated that he can’t think of anything for which he has had to ask God for forgiveness. That’s because he claims to be a good man. This means he has no understanding of sin in his life and no desire to get rid of it. Neither does he have a clue as to why Christ laid down his life for sinners, since Trump doesn’t consider himself to be one of them.
  • Trump dumped two wives at his own personal whim when another woman appealed more to him.
  • He has boasted of having had sex with many married women. He also calls his sexual dalliances his own personal Vietnam (where he was able to avoid serving) because he dodged his own bullets of sexual transmitted diseases.
  • He built a casino with a strip club. How is that in any way acceptable to a Christian?
  • Up until recently, he was aggressively in favor of abortion, even the partial-birth variety. He says he is now pro-life, yet continues to claim that Planned Parenthood does many good things for women. He even touted his sister, a pro-abortion judge, as a possible candidate for the Supreme Court. That sister, by the way, decided a case that rejected a partial-birth abortion ban.
  • Just last week, he said he endorsed Obama’s healthcare mandate while simultaneously saying he would get rid of Obamacare, as if the mandate has nothing to do with that monstrosity. Does he even know what he’s talking about?
  • His entire campaign has been built equally on vague generalities, personal insults toward other candidates and anyone else who crosses him (e.g., Megyn Kelly), profanity-laced harangues, and phony threats of lawsuits (even a threat against Cruz using a video of Trump in his own words displaying his abortion views).
  • Increasingly, he has become an embarrassment by his over-the-top behavior at debates and rallies. He never really answers criticisms of his positions with reasoned responses. Rather, he starts yelling that the accuser is a liar, constantly interrupting and losing his temper. Is that what we should want in a president?

No one in the Republican field of candidates is more inherently contrary to a Biblical worldview than Donald Trump.

Yet he gets 34% of the evangelical vote.

This is a travesty. Those who claim to be the representatives of Jesus Christ in this woeful world need to match their words with their actions, and one of those actions is to vote according to the Biblical worldview they profess to believe in.

To vote for a man like Donald Trump is to violate one’s confession of Christian faith.

I’ve said it rather bluntly, but I will not back down despite the criticisms that may come for being so blunt. It’s time to be serious about how our faith ought to be expressed in the political realm.

Do Not Fret . . . Trust in the Lord

In this daily blog, I attempt to offer what I hope are insights into our culture and society overall. I often comment on politics, government, education, and the media. The developments all around us can be depressing, if we let them overwhelm us.

On a personal level, I have other potential issues that can lead to discouragement as well. I’m not at liberty to share what those might be. Suffice to say there is a strong temptation to give in to despair at times, even though I know God is with me always. The weakness of our humanity sometimes leads us to doubt the promise He has given that if we love Him, He will take all things, even the evil intended against us, and work it for our good.

Psalm 37This morning, feeling on the cusp of being overwhelmed, I simply had to lay it all out before the Lord and seek His guidance and protection. As I did, He brought a certain passage to mind; I had to look it up to find it specifically. It was from Psalm 37. I would like to share some of the highlights of that psalm and pray it will be an encouragement to you today also.

It begins with a dash of reality:

Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb.

Then comes the loving command:

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

As if that weren’t enough, the encouragement and the promise continue:

Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday.

Throughout the rest of the psalm, the refrain repeats, each time reminding us of our responsibility to trust and of His overarching care and love for us:

Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. . . . Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more. . . . But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. . . .

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,  because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

God’s character comes out clearly when the psalm says,

For the Lord loves justice and does not forsake His godly ones.

Love StoryThen I felt directed to a familiar passage in the book of Philippians, one that we all need to be reminded of daily:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I intend to follow these Scriptural admonitions today. The older I get, the more I understand just how hollow and deceptive are all the world’s enticements, and the more I realize that there is no purpose in life without Him. He is all, and in Him we live and move and have our being.

May you be encouraged by these few thoughts given directly from the Word Himself.