Archive for the ‘ Biblical Principles ’ Category

Baltimore: The Deeper Issues

Baltimore is burning. What, exactly, is happening? There are many layers to this; most people focus on the superficial ones, the ones most clearly visible, but there are foundational problems that have led not only to this particular incident, but to an atmosphere like this that is sweeping our nation.

Freddie GrayThe top layer has to do with the arrest and death of a young black man, Freddie Gray. We still don’t have all the facts about what occurred. The investigation is apparently still ongoing. However, the lack of information is part of the problem. No one knows what led to his arrest in the first place. By all accounts, he was not actively involved in wrongdoing. Yet because he ran away from the police, he was arrested. While in the police van, something happened; he was so severely injured that he died shortly afterward.

Yes, that’s suspicious beyond question. Yet there have been no formal accusations against the officers, no explanation as to what took place in that van, and this gives the appearance, at least, of a coverup.

Stephanie Rawlings-BlakeProtests began peacefully, but by last Saturday, they began to change. As violence broke out, another top layer to this episode was added. Baltimore’s mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, in her desire not to crack down immediately on the emerging violence, actually made a public statement that she had ordered the police to give “space to destroy” so that the protesters wouldn’t be harmed. Since when does a government provide a license to destroy? Later, she angrily insisted she hadn’t said what she really said, and that the media were misinterpreting her statement. Well, if that’s the case, the protesters who easily turned into rioters “misunderstood” her as well, and decided they had the “liberty” to turn this into large-scale violence.

Suspect Dies BaltimoreYesterday, that’s exactly what happened. As the school day ended, students, urged on by comments in social media, began to riot. Police were attacked, many were hurt, with one policeman described as “unresponsive.” I haven’t yet heard an update on his condition. Businesses in the community, largely owned by minorities, and the places that provide jobs for the people in the community, were torched. Police cars also were set on fire; wholesale anarchy prevailed.

The police simply weren’t prepared for this. Did that have something to do with the attitude emanating from the mayor’s office? We now hear they were told to stand down, to hold a perimeter, but not get too involved in stopping the looting, burning, and outright riots. Mayor Rawlings-Blake was missing in action for many hours before finally facing the media. Utter chaos reigned, and the entire city is now on a virtual lockdown.

Those are the facts of the top layer of the problem. But it all goes so much deeper.

Naturally, some want to turn this into a racial issue. Yet keep in mind that the mayor is African-American and the police force, unlike in Ferguson, Missouri, is nearly half-black, half-white. No, the problem is greater.

One has to know history and government philosophy to realize what has happened over the decades to lead us where we are today.

Losing GroundAs well documented in Charles Murray’s superb book that was published in the 1980s—Losing Ground—the black family was intact prior to the policies of the Great Society, which pledged to end poverty in America once and for all. Government largesse began on a large scale, making the government the source of sustenance for the underprivileged, and replacing the father in the home. Marriage in the black community was practically destroyed. Statistics now show more than 70% of children born in these minority communities grow up without a father. Some people don’t mind that; they think that’s an “improvement.”

They are wrong.

Poverty increases exponentially in single-mother homes. Lack of discipline in the lives of the children becomes commonplace without a stable environment that is based on a two-parent family. Couple this with an education system that no longer educates, and the problems increase.

On the political side, what is now occurring in Baltimore is hardly the fault of conservatives or Republicans. That city, as most cities in America, is, and has been for many years, controlled by the Democrats. What we see is the fruit of policies promoted by the philosophy of government championed by progressives. In one sense, Baltimore is the progressive utopia. It should be a lesson to us all.

Biblical WorldviewBut now go one layer deeper still. Why do we allow all of this? What is the root cause? It’s simply this: we have abandoned our Biblical basis for thinking and acting. Our culture—led by the media, the entertainment industry, the education system, and the progressive politicians—has rejected eternal concepts of right and wrong delivered to us by God. We have set up our own gods, devised our own morality, come up with our own “solutions,” and promised our own version of heaven on earth.

When a society abandons that which is designed to preserve it, last night in Baltimore is one example of the result. The Biblical principle still holds: we reap what we sow. And we have been sowing some poisonous seeds for quite some time.

So, yes, let’s do what’s necessary to handle the top layer of issues: indict anyone, policeman or rioter, who has violated the rights of another. But we cannot stop there; we need to return to our Biblical roots. If we don’t, we will only be putting bandages on the cancer that is eating away at us. We are a culture in distress, and only the pure Gospel message will change that.

My Ideal President

Presidential SealLet’s talk about an ideal world, where we have someone residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. that we can trust. Having the right president is not the solution to our national problems; those problems go much deeper, since they are spiritual in nature. But it can make a difference who the chief executive is.

What am I looking for in this ideal president? I’ve been thinking a lot about this as I’ve surveyed the field of candidates for 2016. Here are the characteristics that I want.

Dedication to Biblical Principles

This is the starting point. Our president should understand that God’s law is the basis for man’s law, and that anything in man’s law that contradicts God’s law is invalid and should be changed. He or she needs to be someone who honors God above everything else, realizing that public opinion is not the final judge of one’s actions.

This president would advocate for the sanctity of life, the Biblical definition of marriage, a limited role for government in our lives, and private property and free enterprise. The rule of law would be this person’s hallmark, overturning the rule of man that has characterized the current administration.

As I said, this is the starting point, but it’s not enough.

Christian Character

I could give a whole laundry list of character traits I would like to see in this president’s life, but I can summarize with these three, which I believe might encompass many others: integrity, courage, and humility.

Integrity means this president would be a person who does what he/she says, and acts with complete honesty, above board and truly transparent. This president must be a person who has the kind of courage that will tackle the knottiest of issues, regardless of the personal cost to one’s popularity, which is fleeting at best anyway.

As an aside, what we have witnessed the past few days in Indiana and Arkansas is lack of courage on the part of the governors in those states. The so-called Religious Freedom Restoration acts eventually signed into law in those states are worse than useless now; they actually may be turned against Christians’ freedom of religion. That kind of spinelessness at the national level would ruin us completely.

The courage I seek in the ideal president would be coupled with a genuine humility. This president needs to acknowledge that he/she is not the “savior” of the nation, but merely a servant who is fulfilling God’s command to do His will. There is no room for arrogance; pride leads to destruction.

Strategic Wisdom

It’s not enough to simply believe in the right things and have the proper character. This president must know how to make things happen to turn the country around. There might be any number of candidates who fit into the first two categories, but who lack the wisdom to carry out the correct policies. How do we get where we need to be? Not everything can be a frontal attack. Politics is a tricky business. This president will have to know how to manage the system for good without compromising principles or personal character.

Excellent Communication Skills

My ideal president will be a great communicator, in the style of Ronald Reagan, who knew how to connect with the people. Unfortunately, Republicans often choose a candidate who is marginal, at best, in being able to help citizens understand the principles that the country needs to be based upon and the policies that flow out of those principles. We need someone who can articulate those principles and policies clearly.

There may be other traits necessary, but if those four exist, I will be ecstatic. I think that kind of candidate can win this next election. Who is that candidate? I’m still evaluating the options before us. I see solid principles in some; I resonate with the character of many; I have opinions about the strategies they have used in the past and about their ability to communicate effectively.

One thing is for sure: the mainstream media will hold Republican candidates to a level of scrutiny that they will not apply to Hillary Clinton.

Media Bar

I’m holding the Republican candidates to a high bar also, but it’s not the same one the media is interested in. Let’s make our decision for the best candidate based on the kinds of traits I’ve listed above. This next presidential election could be the most crucial in our nation’s history.

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.