Archive for the ‘ Biblical Principles ’ Category

Religious Freedom: It’s a Simple Concept

I keep having to say “I wish I could be surprised by . . .” Fill in the blank. Our culture has changed so drastically over the past few decades, and at a more rapid pace since someone deceived his way into the Oval Office, that nothing can surprise me anymore.

The latest furor is the law passed in Indiana (my home state) that simply seeks to allow religious believers (of any persuasion) to practice their faith when any other law threatens to punish them for exercising their freedom of religion. I seem to remember something about that in the First Amendment. As a reminder, that’s in the Constitution, which ostensibly is the fundamental law of the land.

Indiana’s law is modeled on a federal law passed in 1993 and signed by Bill Clinton—who, hypocritically, has now changed his mind about the very law he signed due to the pressures of the pro-homosexual lobby.

This law is not “anti-gay.” Even though I believe homosexuality violates basic Biblical morality, so does every immoral act, from theft to lying to other types of sexual sin. As a Christian, I deal with those who are trapped in their own sins every day. I don’t treat them as lepers, but instead seek to help them see the truth of the Gospel, which has to begin, of course, with an understanding of sin, repentance, and the forgiveness offered through the Cross.

If I owned a business of some kind, I would not ask everyone first if they are involved in some kind of sin, and if so, refuse to serve them. That’s silly. I would never sell anything that way.

But if I am in a type of business that could in any way endorse or participate in a sinful action, I should be allowed a religious exemption from being forced to be a participant. We have a number of publicized cases where Christian florists, bakers, photographers, etc., are being publicly shamed, or even sued, over not wanting to participate in homosexual “weddings.”

Let’s look at another possible scenario:

Wedding Cake

Should that man be forced to participate in this ceremony? Would anyone arguing against Indiana’s religious freedom law like to stand up on behalf of this couple?

Religious freedom is exactly that—freedom. And anyone who owns a business and operates it according to one’s religious beliefs should not be compelled to act against one’s own conscience.

It’s as simple as that.

The Wisdom of William Penn

William PennOne of the more remarkable men in the history of colonial America has to be William Penn. He was imprisoned in England for his divergent religious views: he was a Quaker. Yet he was granted a huge tract of land in the New World that eventually became the state of Pennsylvania. How does someone go from a member of a persecuted group to a crown-ordained proprietor?

It had to do with his father, Admiral William Penn, who was instrumental in bringing Charles II out of exile and installing him as king in 1662. When the elder Penn died, Charles still owed him plenty, both financially and in gratitude. That’s how the son came to be the recipient of the king’s largesse.

Penn immediately had a vision for a colony that would welcome all to worship God according to their conscience. He didn’t worry about some group of atheists congregating in his colony; they were few and largely silent. So he advertised throughout Europe, promising every persecuted group of Christians that they could come to Pennsylvania and not only worship the way they chose, but also have a say in the government.

Those kinds of promises were unheard of at that time. People flocked to the new colony: not only Quakers, but Mennonites, Moravians, what we now call the Amish, along with standard denominations like Lutherans. Penn would come to his colony now and again, and kept a watch over developments.

He also wrote a Frame of Government that laid out the following principles:

  • Civil government is necessary to keep in check those who refuse to be self-governed
  • Government is established by God to terrify evildoers and to protect those who do right
  • Free government requires the rule of law and having the people themselves be involved in making the laws
  • One of the keys to good government is to have good people running it
  • Liberty without obedience is confusion and obedience without liberty is slavery

I consider those principles to be rock solid.

I’m also drawn to a statement Penn made about how Christians should treat each other. He proclaimed the following:

He that suffers his Difference with his Neighbour about the other World, to carry him beyond the Line of Moderation in this, is the worse for his Opinion, even though it be true. . . .

Since all of all Parties profess to believe in God, Christ, the Spirit, and Scripture, that the Soul is immortal, that there are Eternal Rewards and Punishments, and that the Virtuous shall receive the One, and the Wicked suffer the Other: I say since this is the Common Faith of Christendom, let us all resolve in the Strength of God to live up to what we agree in, before we fall out so miserably about the Rest in which we differ.

Translation, if necessary: We have more that unites us as Christians than things that drive us apart, so let’s work together.

That view transcends all time periods, and is certainly applicable today.

Our Blind Guide

Nashville Immigration SpeechPresident Obama, a couple of days ago, in a speech trying to justify his edict on immigration policy, brought the Bible to his side for support. I quote: “The good book says, don’t throw stones in glass houses.” Now, if you are biblically illiterate, that will sound good. The only problem—probably only a minor one in his mind—is that there is no such verse in the Bible.

Before he was president, he gave another speech in which he drew attention to a passage in the book of Romans that detailed various sins like homosexuality. His conclusion? That was an obscure passage that we need not take seriously. The apostle Paul surely would have disagreed with that interpretation. The carefully constructed argument he was using to show man’s depravity and how we reject the most basic law of God written on our hearts was not an obscure point: it was the crux of the whole need for a Savior.

What should one expect from a man who sat under the preaching of Jeremiah Wright for twenty years in a church that doesn’t qualify to be called a Christian church at all?

Bottom line: our president is no Bible scholar. In fact, when it comes to the essential elements of the Christian faith, he is way off base in doctrine, in morality, and in the worldview that true Christianity inspires.

Jesus warned, “If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” And yes, I checked; it’s really in the Bible.

The “pit” is where we have been led for the past six years. If you’ve been following this blind guide, it’s time to find the Real Guide who can show you the way.

Personal Accountability & Ferguson

The smoke (literally) has not cleared totally on the Ferguson riots. Since I wrote my blog a couple of days ago, protesters/criminals have continued to cause problems. The National Guard, which was conspicuously not called in by Missouri governor Nixon on the night of the grand jury decision, has helped calm the area, working in tandem with the police and state law enforcement officials. That’s probably not what most National Guardsmen signed up for. Our military is supposed to protect us from invasion, not from ourselves:

Danger Zones

The looters and rioters, setting fire to businesses and endangering lives, are not exactly focused on the presumed reason for the protest. Michael Brown doesn’t seem to be in the forefront of their thoughts; they are far more interested in destruction and grabbing “stuff” for themselves:

Stand for Justice

For instance, what did the woman who ran a cake bakery do to incite riots? Wasn’t she in business to offer a product to the community? Yet the destruction was indiscriminate.

Black Friday

Perhaps the most redeeming story to come out of this fiasco is that this woman has now received over $200,000 from Americans across the nation to help her rebuild her business. That’s the real America, which is far different than the racially divided country the media portrays.

Speaking of the media, some have pointed fingers at them as possible co-conspirators in this unfolding story:

Ideas

I have no problem with the media being on the scene to describe what’s happening on the ground, but whenever the line is crossed from reporting to agitation, there can be grounds for pointing those fingers.

But if we really want to get to the source of what occurred in Ferguson, there’s only one place to go:

Brown

It’s called a principle of personal accountability for one’s actions. It’s a principle that can be forgotten in the midst of turmoil, yet we need to constantly remind one another that each individual is a free moral agent given the ability by God to make decisions. Ultimately, no matter how one is raised, no matter how many wrong influences there are in one’s life, we all have to answer for ourselves. Our decisions are not predetermined; we still have the ability to choose, regardless of our environment. Society is not to blame.

Lewis: Redefining Good & Bad

Abolition of ManMy fourth and final commentary on C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man concentrates on the “conditioners” in our society who seek to remake man and society in their own image. Lewis saw this happening back in the 1940s. What would he say today about this? He saw the beginnings; we are seeing the fruit of that evil.

Who are these conditioners? Lewis says they are the scientists, philosophers, and educators who have rejected what he calls the Tao, and what has always been called “natural law.” When one rejects natural law, one rejects all objective standards of right and wrong, good and bad.

They are, if you like, men who have sacrificed their own share in traditional humanity in order to devote themselves to the task of deciding what “Humanity” shall henceforth mean. “Good” and “bad,” applied to them, are words without content: for it is from them that the content of these words is henceforth to be derived.

This is man becoming his own god, determining his own ideas of good and bad, and then forcing them on everyone else. Ultimately, where does this lead?

When all that says “it is good” has been debunked, what says “I want” remains.

Our own “natural desires” will then rule. What’s wrong with that? Lewis explains further:

Either we are rational spirit obliged for ever to obey the absolute values of the Tao, or else we are mere nature to be kneaded and cut into new shapes for the pleasures of masters who must, by hypothesis, have no motive but their own “natural” impulses.

Only the Tao provides a common human law of action which can over-arch rulers and ruled alike. A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.

In other words, throwing out the natural law, which is implanted into every human being by God (see Romans 1-2), leads to tryanny and slavery, even when it claims to be setting us free from the eternal law that God has established.

The sad results of this disavowal of God’s created order is what we have seen throughout the 20th century, and now into the 21st, where men try to rule without any standard apart from their own whims:

C. S. Lewis with BookThe process which, if not checked, will abolish Man goes on apace among Communists and Democrats no less than among Fascists. The methods may (at first) differ in brutality. But many a mild-eyed scientist in pince-nez, many a popular dramatist, many an amateur philosopher in our midst, means in the long run just the same as the Nazi rulers of Germany.

Traditional values are to be “debunked” and mankind to be cut out into some fresh shape at the will (which must, by hypothesis, be an arbitrary will) of some few lucky people in one lucky generation which has learned how to do it.

Tyranny, then, comes in many forms. We don’t see it only in a Hitler, Stalin, or Mao. We see it also in any ruler who sets himself up as the sole arbiter of what is right and wrong, good and bad. It can happen in a country where elections take place regularly. It happens whenever a ruler places himself above the law and says he will go it alone.

If that reminds you of anyone on our current political scene, you have understood the warning C. S. Lewis has given us.

Lewis: How to Destroy a Society

Abolition of ManLast Saturday, I gave an overview of the first chapter of C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man. Today, I would like to offer some of his clearheaded thinking in chapter two.

In it, he delves more deeply into the idea of natural law—that there are some things that are built into the universe, and into our very being, that can never be erased, no matter how hard some people try to do so. That natural law he calls the Tao, and it comes directly from the hand of God.

Lewis describes a book in his own time that exemplifies the desire to replace natural law with something new. He says the impulse behind this is to scrap traditional views of morality and insert “new” ones into society. A certain “set” of people are actively attempting to undermine all that we naturally know to be true, but he calls them out for their hypocrisy:

Their scepticism about values is on the surface: it is for use on other people’s values; about the values current in their own set they are not nearly sceptical enough. And this phenomenon is very usual. A great many of those who “debunk” traditional or (as they would say) “sentimental” values have in the background values of their own which they believe to be immune from the debunking process.

In other words, they have a predetermined idea that their values are better, they need to be the new values of society, and they have no desire to really examine them—to expose them to the same debunking they have applied to traditional values.

They think they are being original and that they are establishing a whole new order of things. Lewis says they are grossly mistaken:

C. S. Lewis 4The rebellion of new ideologies against the Tao is a rebellion of the branches against the tree: if the rebels could succeed they would find that they had destroyed themselves. The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of imagining a new primary colour, or, indeed, of creating a new sun and a new sky for it to move in.

Ouch. They aren’t as original as they claim to be. In fact, they are setting the stage for their own destruction by throwing out natural law.

I love Lewis’s direct response to those who proclaim they are the ones with “open” minds, and everyone else devoted to “old” ideas of morality are backward:

An open mind, in questions that are not ultimate, is useful. But an open mind about the ultimate foundations either of Theoretical or of Practical Reason is idiocy. If a man’s mind is open on these things, let his mouth at least be shut. He can say nothing to the purpose.

If you persist in that kind of trial you will destroy all values, and so destroy the bases of your own criticism as well as the thing criticized. You must not hold a pistol to the head of the Tao.

Any attempt to throw out the natural law God has instituted will result in the destruction of all things. That’s the bottom line. In our society today, the trend is toward tossing out all traditional morality; we are seeing the effects—the beginnings of total destruction of the society.

Lewis may have written this in the 1940s, but his comments couldn’t be more relevant today.

The Life-Affirming Ten Commandments

How often, when we think about the Ten Commandments, do we see them in the negative light of prohibitions? What if we were to consider instead that their main purpose was to point to a life of fulfillment in God?

Joy Davidman (who later became the wife of C. S. Lewis) wrote a book back in 1953 that is little read today. That’s a shame. In it, she takes a fresh look at those Ten Commandments and shows how we should see them, not through the face of fear or as the Ten Killjoys of life, but rather as life-affirming because they, if followed, would lead to true joy and enjoyment of life as God intended.

Smoke on the MountainThe book is called Smoke on the Mountain: An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments. Not only do I appreciate her perspective, I also am struck by her lively style of writing. In the introduction, for instance, she handles that old cliché about God being a life preserver quite deftly:

God, for many of us, is a life preserver flung to a drowning man.

And so he is, if you happen to be drowning. But you can’t drown all the time. Sooner or later you have to start merely living again; you reach shore, splutter the water out of your lungs—and then what? Throw away the life preserver?

If your interest in God is based upon fear rather than love, very likely. In such a case, you will be willing to pay very high for that life preserver as you go down for the third time; you will offer for it all your worldly treasures, your lusts and greeds and vanities and hates.

But once safely on shore, you may be minded to throw it away and snatch your treasures back.

Joy LewisDavidman then contrasts three perspectives on law:

Saint Augustine phrased the Christian law as: “Have charity and do what you like.” The modern materialist often makes it simply: “Do what you like,” and then rushes off to ask his psychoanalyst why he no longer seems to like anything. Whereas the Pharisee, alas, tends to invert Augustine into: “Neither do what you like nor have charity.”

All too often, she says, Christians make God’s law a deadening thing, not at all what He intended:

For we live in an age of fear, and we have infected our very faith with our paralysis, as certain previous ages infected it with their cruelty. No wonder the Decalogue makes us uncomfortable. We have turned it from a thrilling affirmation into a dull denial.

Yet there was the sound of trumpets in it once.

The Law, the apostle Paul said, is a tutor to lead us to Christ. But it’s not a harsh tutor—it shows us what life would be like if we were to obey it. Through Christ, we now can enter into the kind of life God has always wanted for us.