Archive for the ‘ Biblical Principles ’ Category

Principle vs. Pragmatism

This divisive presidential election has brought forth a discussion that has all too often not been as productive as it should be: the issue of what is principled and what is pragmatic and whether there is a line that should not be crossed.

In my courses, I give a definition of principle as follows:

The source or origin of anything; a general truth from which one can deduce many subordinate truths.

Principled people believe in foundational truths that span all ages and circumstances. To be principled is to think and act consistently with those truths and to be willing to stand alone for them, if necessary.

Of course, one must have a proper understanding of what is a foundational truth and what is not:

self-indulgence-principle

Then there is pragmatism, which is defined in this way:

Truth is based on the usefulness of ideas (whatever works is true); truth is a process, constantly changing according to time, place, or personal experience.

Pragmatic people are willing to dismiss foundational truths in order to do whatever seems expedient to achieve some goal.

And then there’s someone like this:

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There is the crux of the problem, in my view.

This election has brought out a lot of pragmatism on the part of those who have decided to go with Donald Trump. Those who have made that decision will say that it is a principled one because it keeps the obvious wrong choice out of power. However, my question is what has been sacrificed by making that decision.

Here’s my rule of thumb:

A compromised principle leads to unrighteousness, but a principled compromise is a step closer to the principle’s ideal.

In supporting Trump, are we led closer to our principles or are we instead pulled down into unrighteousness? Some have answered that by keeping Hillary Clinton out of the White House, we maintain our principles. While I understand that reasoning to some extent, I cannot accept it.

For me, putting Donald Trump into the White House rather than Hillary Clinton only gives us another model of unrighteousness in the highest office in the land. By supporting him, I believe I am compromising a principle of Christian character.

Now, those who disagree with me respond that I am promoting unrighteousness by allowing Hillary to take the reins of power. No, I see both options as unacceptable; both are deplorable, despicable, corrupt individuals who should never be in any position of authority.

Consequently, supporting either one would be, in my opinion, a compromise with principle.

There is no Biblical mandate saying I have to vote for one of those two. The Biblical mandate is to stand up for righteousness. That’s what I believe I am doing.

I will never question the genuineness of anyone’s Christian convictions if they decide to vote for Trump. I will critique that decision as unwise, but I will not challenge their Christianity.

It would be nice if those who question my decision would do the same for me.

Let’s keep our attitudes right toward one another. This election will soon be over and we will have to move forward together without sacrificing Biblical principles. I only hope we can agree on how to do that.

Discerning Good & Evil

The Book of Hebrews has always been one of my favorites. I’ve been reading it again on my path through the whole Bible. Two passages in chapter four stand out to me, the first reminding me that in a world filled with selfishness, duplicity, and enmity toward God and His ways, He is still the One who sees everything and takes it all into account:

swordFor the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

The first application of any Scripture needs to be personal. I must keep in mind that the Lord is constantly seeing what’s in my heart. He knows my intent in everything I do. In one sense, that’s sobering, but in another, it’s a spur to keep my heart right out of love for Him and all He has done for me.

The second application is to the world in general, in which I can rest in the assurance that He does know the truth about everyone and that, in the end, things will be made right: those who deny Him and His truth and who may seem to be “winning” will have to give an account to Him ultimately for their intent and their actions.

Later in the chapter, there is a challenge to those who say they are His disciples to prove that they are disciples indeed.

good-evilFor though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

The message of that passage? Grow up.

One of the things that is most troubling to me is that so many Christians seem to believe the lies the world tells us, all the way from excuses for sinful behavior in society to the bald-faced untruths emanating from the mouths of politicians eager to puff up themselves as our “saviors.”

Sins as described in the Bible remain sins today regardless of the trends we see around us.

No politician is the answer to our myriad problems. No one should ever say he or she alone can set things right.

God wants to work through us to set things as right as possible in this unsettled and topsy-turvy world, but we must grow up first if we are to make a difference. We can’t stay in the infant seat, wanting all our needs met. We must discern good and evil and be steadfast in our determination to stand for the good.

God’s righteousness in our own lives and in our society must be our twin goals.

Friends, Colleagues, Former Students–Lend Me Your Ears

I am going to make a concerted effort next week to turn to other subjects in this blog, but for today, I feel compelled to make a heartfelt appeal to those I count as friends or colleagues, and to a multitude of former students of mine who appear to be supporting Donald Trump.

Please lend me your ears. I come not to praise Trump, but to expose him.

But I’m sure you already know that.

Donald Trump at DebateWhen Trump first announced his candidacy, which seems like an eon ago, I immediately viewed it as a joke. After watching his debate “performances,” that view only strengthened. Nothing he has done since has changed my mind, despite the fact that he is now the Republican nominee. The joke is now on us.

My first real indication that something was going terribly wrong was when I went to speak to a Tea Party group here in Florida. This was in early February, prior to the vote in Iowa’s caucuses. The group conducted a poll of its members and Trump won by an astounding margin. The man who spoke right before me was a Trump surrogate who assumed everyone was on his side, and judging by the response, he was correct.

Frankly, I was stunned.

Since the Indiana primary, it now seems as if nearly everyone in the Tea Party and/or 9/12 movements in my area has come out enthusiastically for Trump.

Book Cover 1In January of this year, I spoke to a large gathering of Republican women from across the state. My talk, which was about my book on Reagan and Whittaker Chambers, went over so well that I was besieged afterwards with invitations to come speak to various local Republican clubs.

That has not yet happened. Neither was I invited to speak to our local club this summer, even though I always have done so in recent years. I understand. My vocal opposition to Trump makes that rather untenable.

One of my regular readers, a man who has been active in Republican circles in another state but who also has chosen not to endorse Trump, wrote to me and said he has never felt so isolated from fellow Republicans and that he has been treated pretty much as an outcast.

I’ve also noticed that a good number of friends, colleagues, and former students who used to “like” my blog posts regularly have fallen strangely silent lately. Of course I know why; they have decided to back Trump, even though many, I’m sure, have come to this decision with deep reservations.

If you are part of that group, let me tell you that I do understand your frustration with the way things are. I’m also interpreting your silence as a measure of respect for me, not wishing to publicly come out against my position.

The most bothersome thing to me is that most of us all want the same thing, but we disagree on how to achieve it. Rest assured, your difference of opinion on Trump doesn’t sever our relationship, but it does sadden me.

Why? Well, in the case of former students, in particular, I had hoped that all I’ve taught so fervently these past decades would help ground you in principles. I’m not saying you aren’t principled—you continue to stand firm for all those things we believe in with respect to the rule of law, religious liberty, the proper type of education, etc.—but you somehow think that Donald Trump will protect and preserve what we all cherish.

That’s where I think you are violating your principles.

I’m especially disturbed by those who would say I am part of the establishment, and that’s why I oppose Trump. Good heavens, would anyone who really knows me say anything like that? I ask you, who is in bed with the “establishment” right now? Isn’t it Trump himself? Didn’t the “establishment” cut off all opposition to his nomination? Why are you now siding with the very people that have so angered you all these years?

After the Republican convention, an organization called Conservatives Against Trump came out with a statement that accurately conveys where I stand and why.

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Let me share some of those comments.

The statement makes it clear that the goals of this group are what “we” have always encouraged: limited government, religious liberty, freedom of speech, the sanctity of life, and a strong national defense. It goes on to note,

We see no small irony in the fact that the Republican Platform Committee produced one of the most deeply conservative platforms in modern electoral history, but nominated a candidate who has taken positions contrary to its central tenets. Donald Trump is a contradiction to most everything the Party states as its core beliefs.

Abdication of principle is not the problem of those who oppose Trump; that abdication is found within the party that nominated him.

Then there is this reminder of where Trump has stood on policy and his previous political commitments:

Trump begins as a liberal Republican, arguably more liberal than any other Republican presidential candidate in recent memory. He repeatedly praises Planned Parenthood. He has donated significant money to liberal politicians – including Hillary Clinton.

He wants the government to run health care. He opposes entitlement reform. He supported the Obama stimulus spending plan, the auto bailout and the banks bailout. He opposes free trade agreements. Trump is much closer to the Democratic Party than the Republican. He is a man whose deepest creed is himself.

It continues with commentary on his character, which should be a primary concern of all real conservatives, and Christian conservatives in particular:

Donald Trump Addresses GOP Lincoln Day Event In MichiganThis pretend Republican has preyed on misunderstandings, ignorance, and sometimes violence and rank bigotry. He has been vulgar, coarse, demagogic, and cruel. He has mocked disabled people, lauded dictators, and insisted that military leaders would follow his lawless orders should he attain the Presidency. He has been slow to condemn racists – the very reason the Republican Party was founded. He has praised torture as a form of punishment and promised to extend retribution to the innocent.

4.1.1But what about the Supreme Court? Even if everything else I’ve said about Trump is true, we can’t let that slip through our fingers, can we?

Some of our fellow conservatives have argued that the Supreme Court vacancy compels them to vote for Trump. We respect them and their reasoning, but we do not agree. We do not trust that Trump would appoint a good Justice or, if he does, would fight for a conservative jurist against an adversarial Senate.

The statement correctly notes that the Supreme Court is only one part of the government and that a Trump presidency would probably be just as disastrous to the whole concept of our government as a Hillary presidency:

Furthermore, we would be gambling on a good Supreme Court nomination at the price of constitutional integrity – and this coming from a Republican President leading a party that prides itself on originalist jurisprudence.

We do not trust Donald Trump to bow to the authority of the Constitution or the laws of Congress. He is running on a platform of strength and action, and our Constitution was formed to hobble not just quick lawmaking, but the very kind of strongman governance Trump embodies, despite the angry clamor from a justifiably frustrated electorate.

The antidote is not to seek a “strong man” who will force everything to go the way he perceives it should. Recall Trump’s words at the Republican convention when he said only he can solve the problems of the nation. Really? That’s been the attitude of a steady stream of dictators throughout history.

So what is the solution?

The antidote is to put forward leaders who will appeal to our reason and virtue, not our instincts and vices. We are committed to the principles of the Republican Party, not because they belong to the Party but because we believe they are right and just. We are conservatives before we are Republicans.

We believe that politics is about the art of the possible. We have often been in a position of supporting the lesser of two evils. But Donald Trump appeals not to our better angels but to our baser instincts.

Constitutional RepublicThe statement then ends with the following declarations:

We will not compromise core principle for the sake of Party allegiance.

We will not allow vulgarity to stand in the place of virtue.

We will not allow Trump to be the face of the nation to the world – not with our votes.

We will not sit by idly and allow conservatism to be hijacked by a man who shares none of the values of Reagan and Lincoln.

We will support conservative candidates down-ballot.

We will vote our conscience because we believe such a vote is our right and duty as citizens and is never wasted — whether that be voting for another conservative candidate or a write-in.

We will continue to speak out on issues important for our nation. We will seek to impact the newest generation of voters and educating them on the Constitution, the role of faith, family, and freedom as the basis of limited government.

I am in agreement with every one of those declarations. I appeal to all of you—friends, colleagues, and former students—please rethink your support of a man who is just as much a threat to our government and our culture as the horrible candidate put forth by the Democrats.

It’s time to see Donald Trump for what he really is, not for what you hope he will be.

David French: A Principled Man

David FrenchDavid French is an outstanding man. Not only is he a constitutional lawyer who has stood firm in defense of religious liberty, but he’s an Iraqi Freedom veteran who won the Bronze Star, is a bestselling author, has a fine Christian testimony, and has a wonderful family that includes an adopted African American daughter.

For the past week, French contemplated an independent run for the presidency simply because conservatives have no real choice in this election. Last night he announced that he would not make that run, for various reasons. I honor that decision, even as I would have honored the opposite decision by voting for him with a clear conscience.

What he left us with, though, was a thoughtful and direct statement of where we are as a nation, given that the presumptive nominees are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. First, French explains why he even considered making the run:

I gave it serious thought — as a pretty darn obscure lawyer, writer, and veteran — only because we live in historic times. Never before have both parties failed so spectacularly, producing two dishonest, deceitful candidates who should be disqualified from running for town council, much less leader of the free world.

If Trump supporters don’t like to hear words like that, they should remember that one of the reasons they say they support Trump is because he “tells it like it is.” Well, French is much better at telling it like it is than Donald Trump.

Having provided the overall perspective on why he considered running, he then zeroed in on those two candidates, beginning with Clinton:

Hillary Clinton lies habitually and changes position on virtually every public issue except for her pro-abortion extremism, and she has a suspicious record of making public decisions that favor donors to the Clinton Foundation. Her signal foreign-policy “achievement” was helping launch a war in Libya that not only cost American lives in Benghazi but also helped transform the nation into ISIS’s latest playpen.

To add to all that, she’s in the middle of an active FBI investigation. If I had handled classified information the way we know she handled classified information, my career would already be over, and the single goal of my life would be persuading the prosecutor to reach a lenient plea bargain.

In other words, Hillary Clinton should be disqualified from the presidential ballot for things that would end other people’s careers. But, of course, she’s a Clinton, so there are different rules for her.

French then laid out some truth about the other party’s nominee:

Donald Trump also lies habitually (sometimes minute by minute), and changes position based on his moods. In one breath he claims to support working men and women, and then with the next breath he threatens to destroy our economy through trade wars or by playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States.

He believes an American judge — a man born in Indiana who spent months hiding from drug cartels after they’d put a “hit” on him – can’t rule on a case involving Trump University because the judge’s parents emigrated from Mexico.

His supporters believe it demonstrates “strength” when he mocks the disabled and bullies women. He has attracted an online racist following that viciously attacks his opponents and their families — including my wife and youngest daughter.

Shoot Him

French then offers some hope for the future:

I believe with all my heart that there is an American movement ready to both resist the corruption, decadence, and dishonesty of the American elite and restore the promise of the American Dream. But that movement may not emerge for some time, and it might emerge only after further heartache and pain.

What this nation needs might not come to fruition immediately, but we should continue to work toward the goal of righteousness. And for those who would demean the efforts to provide an alternative to the two presumptive nominees, French adds,

Let me also say that each person involved in the effort to recruit an independent candidate is a patriot. They are standing strong on principle when the GOP leadership — in lockstep — now marches to Trump’s beat. I admired them before this process began, and I admire them more even now.

Then he takes on the Republican establishment—you know, that entity that Trump presumably abhors:

Last week, Reince Priebus said that those involved in the independent effort were “embarrassing themselves.” But what is more embarrassing? Is it doing your best to defend the nation you love from two people who are unworthy of its highest office? Or is it using your God-given gifts and talents to advance the interests of a man who cares only for himself and who rejects the very values you’ve long claimed to uphold?

He then ends with a personal word and a Reaganesque statement about America’s future:

To those who prayed for me and my family, I’m grateful beyond words. To those who defended my wife and kids from vicious attacks — engaging in a fight you didn’t seek — I’m forever in your debt. To those I’ve disappointed, I’m sorry. It is your devotion and integrity that help keep America great, and I believe you will ultimately prevail.

What a system we have that puts forward a Clinton and a Trump as our choices, but relegates principled men and women to the back burner. We only have ourselves to blame; the voters have made two utterly unqualified people the nominees for the major parties.

I’m not sure I have the same hopes French does for the eventual direction the nation will take, but I would like to think he is correct. I appreciate people like David French whose lives are built on the solid rock of faith in Christ and in the principles that flow from that faith. May that number be multiplied. That’s our only real hope.

If the Foundations Are Destroyed?

I have taught Biblical principles in my courses for the past twenty-seven years. I’ve wanted my students to understand that we must look deeper than outward appearances when we scrutinize historical events.

A principle is a source or origin of anything; it is a general truth, that is, a truth that is so broad and sweeping that many other truths can be considered off-shoots of it.

The idea of general truths that apply to all of society formerly had wide acceptance in America. The key word is formerly. So my goal has been to reintroduce those principles as best I can through my teaching and writing.

FoundationsThat’s why, back in 1993, I published a book based on the principles I teach in the classroom. I’ve revised it a few times along the way.

If the Foundations Are Destroyed: Biblical Principles and Civil Government is a primer on the principles that I believe come out of Scripture and ought to be applied to everything in our society.

The onset of evolutionary philosophy and the pragmatism to which it has given birth have led us to think more in terms of expediency than principle. People sacrifice principles to that which is less troublesome.

Standing on principle can be wearying when no one else seems to care or understand what you are doing. Yet God calls on Christians to make His principles the foundation of all they say and do.

Christians get in trouble when they conform to the world’s thinking and ignore principles. They are tempted not to cause waves, forgetting that the world already is a turbulent place and that men are seeking—whether they realize it or not—for the stability of fixed principles.

America has always had those turbulent times; historians probably understand that better than most. There was a presidential election in 1800 that was quite controversial. Leading up to that election, one man, Jedidiah Morse—a Congregational minister, the compiler of the first American geography book, and father of Samuel F. B. Morse, the inventor of the telegraph—preached a sermon that issued the following warning:

Jedidiah MorseOur dangers are of two kinds, those which affect our religion, and those which affect our government. They are, however, so closely allied that they cannot, with propriety, be separated.

The foundations which support the interests of Christianity are also necessary to support a free and equal government like our own.

To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness, which mankind now enjoy. In proportion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief, or the corruption of its doctrines, or the neglect of its institutions; in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom, and approximate the miseries of complete despotism.

Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them, must fall with them.

If that dire warning was applicable in 1799 when Morse preached that sermon, how much more so today?

America may be more bitterly divided now than it has been since the Civil War, and there is no guarantee that Biblical principles will gain the ultimate victory in this earthly realm. But God does reward and protect those who serve Him with a whole heart. He is looking for faithful individuals through whom He can work to make changes.

Jesus asked the best question for our times: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

The book of Hebrews says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” That is the kind of faith He seeks; it is the only kind of faith that will make a difference. May it be the faith that He finds.

If you would like to peruse the principles in my book, you can find it at Amazon by clicking here.

My doctoral dissertation was on Noah Webster, widely considered America’s first schoolmaster. His Speller taught generations how to read; his 1828 Dictionary was unique, not only in its being the first produced by an American, but in its Biblical basis. Webster’s illustrations for words included Biblical citations and short homilies on the significance of some key words. His influence in early America was great.

Noah Webster Books

I’m highlighting him today because he offered insight to his generation when it came to choosing political leaders. His words are timeless; they apply to our current situation.

“In selecting men for office,” Webster urged, “let principles be your guide. . . . Look to his character as a man of known principle, of tried integrity, and undoubted ability for the office.”

To ignore lack of principle and integrity in a candidate is to violate the sacred trust given to us as citizens:

When a citizen gives his vote to a man of known immorality, he abuses his civic responsibility; he not only sacrifices his own responsibility; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor; he betrays the interest of his country.

Webster continued: “If rulers are bad men, it is generally the fault of the people.” After all, who puts men of depraved character in office? We can too often be deceived by them, he notes, but often we vote them in simply because they belong to “our” party. Here’s how he framed it:

Noah WebsterThey choose men, not because they are just men, men of religion and integrity, but solely for the sake of supporting a party [emphasis mine]. This is a fruitful source of public evils.

But as surely as there is a God in heaven, who exercises a moral government over the affairs of this world, so certainly will the neglect of the divine command, in the choice of rulers, be followed by bad laws and as bad administration.

I trust you know why I chose to emphasize that one phrase in the quote above.

By 1837, Webster was becoming distraught by what he was seeing in the culture and politics of his nation. He wrote to a friend,

Principles, sir, are becoming corrupt, deeply corrupt; & unless the progress of corruption, & perversion of truth can be arrested, neither liberty nor property will long be secure in this country.

And a great evil is, that men of the first distinction seem, to a great extent, to be ignorant of the real, original causes of our public distresses. Many of our greatest men are making vigorous efforts to remove present evils, but not an effort is made to correct the radical cause of our political calamities.

Webster’s concern in 1837 should be our concern today. Our principles have been corrupted; integrity is discounted; truth is being perverted. Yet we don’t address those fundamental issues. Instead, we rally to someone who either promises free stuff or who pledges to build a wall.

Webster’s prescription for the ills in our society is a return to Biblical principles and integrity of character. I agree with that prescription. That’s why I will never vote for anyone who lacks the very rudiments of those qualities. That’s why I will not vote for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or Donald Trump.

WebsterNoah Webster was a man of his time, but the ideas he fostered are based on the Book that applies to all men at all times. If you wish to know more about Webster, his views, and his influence during his lifetime, my book, Defining Noah Webster: A Spiritual Biography, is available. You can find it on Amazon right here.

We are faced with virtually no good choice in this coming presidential election, so let’s keep in mind that government is not our savior. There is only one Savior. Our responsibility is to be faithful to Him and maintain our integrity. Stand for righteousness, then stand back and see what God will do.

There Is a Line I Will Not Cross

Sometimes I think that if I had another life to live on this earth after this one, I would choose to follow my musical inclinations. I really love music and, at various times, have taken piano lessons, achieved first-chair trumpet status in my high school band, followed by learning how to play the guitar.

All of those “talents” have fallen into disuse over time, but I have music playing constantly when I drive, both Christian and “secular.” I put secular in quotes because really good music is from God, regardless of the intent of the writer of the song. He gives mankind the ability to create it.

Some songs combine insightful lyrics with a tune that stays with me. A prime example for me is one titled “There Is a Line,” sung by Susan Ashton. The first time I heard the lyrics, I was gratified by the solid philosophical understanding of where Christians need to be in their response to the decaying culture around us.

The song begins with this:

It’s hard to tell just when the night becomes the day
That golden moment when the darkness rolls away
But there is a moment none the less

In the regions of the heart there is a place
A sacred charter that should not be erased
It is the marrow; the moral core that I can not ignore

The second stanza continues the theme:

Ask the ocean where the water meets the land
He will tell you it depends on where you stand
And you’re neither right or wrong

But in the fathoms of the soul that won’t ring true
Cause truth is more than an imposing point of view
It rises above the changing tide
As sure as the morning sky

The chorus then zeroes in on the stance a Christian must take:

Within the scheme of things
Well I know where I stand
My convictions they define who I am
Some move the boundaries at any cost
But there is a line, I will not cross
No riding on the fence – no alibis
No building on the sands of compromise
I won’t be borrowed and I can’t be bought
There is a line, I will not cross

Those words resonate in my soul: my convictions define who I am; I won’t be borrowed and I can’t be bought.

There is a line I will not cross.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the song, have a listen.

Find your moral core in Christ. Don’t be bought. There is a line we never should cross.