Archive for the ‘ Biblical Principles ’ Category

The Pilgrim Story: Communism Rejected

The financiers who provided the funds for the Pilgrims’ voyage to America had as one of their requirements that the farming in the new settlement be set up communally. No individual or family was to have their own land. Rather, everyone had to work on communal land and receive an equal share of the crops. This wasn’t the Pilgrims’ idea, but they felt bound to the arrangement. For a while, at least.

William Bradford 2As governor, William Bradford had to make a decision at a critical point. It was becoming obvious this communal farming was far from ideal. He had difficulty convincing people to take responsibility for their allotted work time. There was no equivalency between how hard one worked and what one received in the end. A hard worker got no more than the person who decided to lean on his hoe half the time. Incentive was non-existent.

So Bradford, trying to stay within the guidelines to some extent, altered the rules to allow a certain portion of the fields to be given over to individual families to see if that made a difference. It certainly did. Bradford commented in his History of Plimoth Plantation that now people went out willingly to work, knowing that whatever effort they put into it, they would receive as a reward. He even noted that some of the women, who had previously found many excuses not to farm, now grabbed their children and took them to their private plot of land to labor.

The conclusion Bradford reached is instructive, not just for the Pilgrims’ circumstances, but for us today as well. He wrote,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe failure of this experiment of communal living, which was tried for several years, and by good and honest men, proves the emptiness of the theory of Plato and other ancients—that the taking away of private property, and the possession of it in community . . . would make a state happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God.

Let none argue that this is due to human failing, rather than to this communistic plan of life in itself. I answer, seeing that all men have this failing in them, that God in His wisdom saw that another course was fitter for them.

So here we have, in the early 1620s, a prime example of the failure of communism, more than two centuries before Karl Marx penned his Communist Manifesto. Private property, and the sense of personal responsibility that comes with it, is one of those principles with a Biblical basis. As I said, this understanding is still important for us today. May we learn from history; it’s foolish to repeat the failures of the past.

The Ferguson Debacle

I’m glad having a black president and a black attorney general has taken care of the racial issues in America once and for all.

Yes, I’m being slightly sarcastic.

I’ve watched the unfolding events in Ferguson, Missouri, as I’m sure everyone else has also, but have refrained from commenting until all the facts are established. That may not happen for some time, though, so I do want to offer some thoughts on what is already obvious.

First, the killing of Michael Brown has exposed once again the deep racial divide that exists in the minds of some. I emphasize “in the minds of” because it’s rather baffling to me how anyone can call America a basically racist society when the president, attorney general, and key figures in the media, academia, and the sports world are now black. I guess it depends on one’s perspective:

Long Way

I freely admit I’m of the opinion that we truly have come a long way. Now, a critic would say that’s simply because I’m white, but I would counter that critique with my bedrock conviction that God created only one race—it’s called “human”—and that He sees us all as His potential children. I firmly believe there is no Scriptural basis for setting people against each other for any external reason, whether that’s the color of one’s skin or ethnic background. God looks at the heart.

That leads me to another observation: what’s in the hearts of those who think that justice is served by rioting, looting, and destroying legitimate businesses in the Ferguson community? Looting and destruction are not racial issues; they are sin being manifested. I don’t know if hatred was at the root of the Brown shooting; I can’t see into the policeman’s heart. But when I see resentment blazing into outright hatred and destruction of other people’s property, it’s not hard to read the hearts of those involved in such actions. Of course, what they don’t realize is that their selfish, sinful actions are only destroying what they claim they want to preserve. That’s what sin always does.

Back Off

The media has focused on the reaction of the police force and has condemned what it calls an “overmilitarization” of the police. Here’s how one cartoonist has expressed that feeling:

Tear Gas

Not being on the ground in Ferguson myself, I don’t know if the police have overreacted. However, I do know that some of the business owners don’t believe the police have done enough. The rioting and looting continue, and their livelihoods may be destroyed. Police also are being criticized for releasing a video that seems to implicate Brown in a convenience store robbery just prior to his death. I’ve seen the video; it looks pretty conclusive to me that Brown was acting like a thug. At 6’3″ and 300 pounds, I hope you might forgive me if I wonder if the policeman who came upon him later might have felt rather intimidated. The police are also criticized for having only 3% of the force black in a city where nearly 70% of the citizens are black. The former mayor was on TV this morning, though, explaining that they have an active search for black officers, but the pool is small from which to choose. In other words, racism is not the cause of the ethnic composition of the force.

On top of that, we now have the federal government getting involved. Both President Obama and Attorney General Holder are now inserting themselves into this local problem. How is this a federal government responsibility? Look at the pattern: these two men have spoken out on previous events that they concluded were racial, even when that was not necessarily the case—the Louis Gates incident in Boston and the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman spectacle in Florida. If they can fan the flames of racial division, they seem intent on doing so.

Let all the facts come out. If the policeman was out of bounds, acted wrongly, and his actions led to a death that should not have occurred, he should be punished for that. If Michael Brown was the one initiating the action, let’s don’t put him on a pedestal as some kind of martyr.

Above all, don’t let these incidents become trigger points for increased racial tension. Recognize that there are sinful people of all races and ethnicities who would like nothing better than to use such events for their own selfish purposes. Let’s be wise in our analysis and try our best to see this through the lens of Biblical principles.

Finney: What It Means to Be a Witness

Charles Finney QuoteCharles Finney always spoke out of his vast experience dealing with those who needed to hear the Gospel. In his Revival Lectures, he pinpointed just what Christians are supposed to be doing to help the world understand truth.  Here’s his perspective:

One grand design of God in leaving Christians in the world after their conversions is that they may be witnesses for God. It is that they may call the attention of the thoughtless multitude to the subject, and make them see the difference in the character and destiny of those who believe the Gospel and those who reject it.

Finney speaks of the thoughtless multitude. I believe that’s even more of a problem today. At least in Finney’s time, the American society generally maintained a basic Biblical worldview. In our time, much of that has dissipated. He then becomes specific:

More particularly, Christians are to testify to:

  1. The immortality of the soul. This is clearly revealed in the Bible.
  2. The vanity and unsatisfying nature of all earthly good.
  3. The satisfying nature and glorious sufficiency of religion [by which he means the Christian faith, not some general religious belief[.
  4. The guilt and danger of sinners. On this point they can speak from experience as well as from the Word of God. They have seen their own sins, and they understand more of the nature of sin, and the guilt and danger of sinners.
  5. The reality of hell, as a place of eternal punishment for the wicked.
  6. The love of Christ for sinners.
  7. The necessity of a holy life, if we think of ever getting to heaven.
  8. The necessity of self-denial, and of living above the world.
  9. The necessity of meekness, heavenly-mindedness, humility, and integrity.
  10. The necessity of an entire renovation of character and life, for all who would enter heaven.

A Christian’s witness takes two forms:

How are they to testify? By precept and example. On every proper occasion by their lips, but mainly by their lives. Christians have no right to be silent with their lips; they should “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (2 Tim. 4:2) But their main influence as witnesses is by their example. . . .

All the arguments in the world will not convince mankind that you really believe this [Christianity], unless you live as if you believe it.

In other words, to resurrect an old cliché, your walk must match your talk.

Lewis: Stop Making Mud Pies

Weight of Glory“The Weight of Glory,” a sermon delivered by C. S. Lewis at Oxford in 1941, has to rank in the upper echelons of all his thinking/writing. It is filled with memorable images. One of the best is this one:

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith.

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

While we wallow around in the mud, the Lord wants to show us a greater glory than we’ve ever imagined. It’s time to look up from our silly little mud pies and walk—no, run—to the glorious “holiday” He has promised. That’s where the real joy is found.

Convictions in an Anti-God Culture

Thomas FactorI’ve been reading evangelist Winkie Pratney’s book The Thomas Factor: Dealing with Doubt. Although it’s not necessarily intended as a devotional book, that’s the spirit in which I’m reading it, and so many of his comments and explanations have served to confirm what I already know and have challenged me to remain committed to the Truth.

I was particularly impressed with his treatment of what it means to have deep conviction of belief. Here’s a sample:

We are to take truth and personal convictions seriously. How do you know if you really have convictions? . . . No conviction is truly your own unless you’re prepared to hold it even if all others are against it. I’ve sometimes told young Christians, “You need to follow Jesus even if everyone you know who is supposed to be a Christian turns his back on both Him and you.”

Nebuchadnezzar StatuePratney then expounds on the well-known Biblical example of the three Hebrews who refused to bow down to the statute of King Nebuchadnezzar. They stood out like the proverbial sore thumbs while everyone else bowed. Nebuchadnezzar was irate and gave them one more chance: either bow down or go into the fiery furnace. Pratney then invites us to be one of those three and think about how we might have rationalized our disobedience to God:

What would you do? Would you smile and, so as not to offend, go ahead? Would you bow (certainly not enthusiastically) and mutter to yourself: “Well, God knows I am not really bowing ‘in my heart.’ After all, He has gone to all this trouble to put me in a place of some leadership and influence with these ungodly pagans and He certainly wouldn’t want all that to come to an end now because of some silly little external show. I’ll bow (outwardly only, of course) just to please the king, but God knows that it is all only an outward appearance. In my heart of hearts, am I not still following God?”

If those rationalizations sound familiar, they are. They’ve been used time and again throughout history to sidestep real conviction and try to convince oneself that disobedience really isn’t disobedience. The three Hebrews knew what awaited them, yet they stood firm. Pratney continues,

These boys knew who God was. They knew something of His wisdom, His character, and His power. They knew what He could do. They also knew some way or other, in life or by death, they would shortly be out of the king’s power. They knew God could intervene. But they did not know, for them, for then, if God would. And knowing the king as they did, knowing that he would do exactly as he said, knowing fully the consequences of a polite but firm refusal, they refused anyway. “But if not, we will not bow down.”

That’s conviction. It has to do with commitment—even if you don’t understand the whole thing, even if you don’t know what’s going on , even if you don’t know what is going to happen to you.

In our day, with the culture rapidly slipping away from even tolerating Biblical convictions, will we stand firm? If we rationalize our disobedience, it doesn’t change the fact that it is disobedience. The Lord is looking at each heart, seeking those who will remain faithful under trial.

C. S. Lewis on the Second Coming of Christ

As a college student back in the 1970s, and caught up in the Jesus Movement of the era, I anticipated the Second Coming to be very near, probably sometime in the 1970s, of course. Even though I was spiritually immature at the time, that doesn’t mean the Second Coming is some kind of fantasy. As C. S. Lewis explains, it is essential to a proper understanding of the Christian faith. In an essay entitled “The World’s Last Night,” he had this to say about the doctrine:

Second Coming 2It seems to me impossible to retain in any recognisable form our belief in the Divinity of Christ and the truth of the Christian revelation while abandoning, or even persistently neglecting, the promised, and threatened, Return. “He shall come again to judge the quick and the dead,” says the Apostles’ Creed.

“This same Jesus,” said the angels in Acts, “shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” “Hereafter,” said our Lord himself (by those words inviting crucifixion), “shall ye see the Son of Man . . . coming in the clouds of heaven.” If this is not an integral part of the faith once given to the saints, I do not know what is.

Later in the same essay, Lewis juxtaposed the doctrine of the Second Coming with modernist thought:

The doctrine of the Second Coming is deeply uncongenial to the whole evolutionary or developmental character of modern thought. We have been taught to think of the world as something that grows slowly towards perfection, something that “progresses” or “evolves.”

Christian Apocalyptic offers us no such hope. It does not even foretell (which would be more tolerable to our habits of thought) a gradual decay. It foretells a sudden, violent end imposed from without; an extinguisher popped onto the candle, a brick flung at the gramophone, a curtain rung down on the play—“Halt!”

The curtain will come down someday. I no longer try to guess when that will be, but if the time was short in Jesus’ day, how much shorter is it now?

Political or Spiritual?

Christians & PoliticsMy last post was my best attempt to explain why Christians have a responsibility to engage in politics and government, and that by doing so we are not diluting the Gospel. I received an e-mail response from a friend who has worked diligently in the public arena for many years now. He pointed out one very significant fact I failed to emphasize, one that I wish I had included. So, with his permission, here is his response. Read for edification:
As someone who is regularly criticized by my fellow followers of Jesus Christ for daring to apply my faith in the political arena, I thank you for your blog post.  It’s not that I need affirmation, but it is always good to read something insightful about what God has called me to do.
 
I would add one comment to your post.  When I am chastised for being involved with “political issues” that “drive people away from Jesus,” I always ask to which issues they refer.  Of course, the common responses are abortion or marriage or both.  To which I respond: No, I asked which political issues. Those aren’t political issues, they are issues of fundamental Biblical principle concerning who God is, who we are, His design for us and for social order.  Yes, they happen to be debated within the political realm, but that doesn’t make them political issues.  I believe Christians fall for that trap all the time.  We allow that which is spiritual in nature to be labeled as secular (or political) only to find ourselves then on the defensive when in fact what we are discussing is spiritual. 
Of course, the dichotomy is in and of itself, for the believer, a false one anyway, since there is nothing “secular” to God.  But good luck explaining that concept to most believers! 
 
Anyway, I say all that to say simply that I don’t deal with political issues.  I deal with spiritual issues that are being debated in the political sphere.  But, of course, if they are “political,” then they are open for debate and compromise.
He is absolutely correct, and I appreciate his amendment to what I wrote. The murder of innocent children is first and foremost a spiritual issue because it is blatant immorality. Marriage, as I noted, is a God-ordained institution, so any tampering with it is tampering with God’s order of things. Both are political only when politicians try to alter eternal right and wrong. Christians, therefore, cannot be silent when moral atrocities become ever more prevalent and accepted by society at large.
 
God simply calls us to be faithful and to take His truth into every corner of the world, even corners we would like to avoid.