Archive for the ‘ Biblical Principles ’ Category

Hate Speech or Truthspeaking?

In the past few days, I’ve commented on the controversial topics of Islam and homosexuality. I’m certain that some readers, at least in their minds, will accuse me of hate speech. Now there’s a term that is long overdue for retirement. If you deign to say anything negative about specific individuals or groups, you can almost be assured of fostering “hate speech.”

I’m not about hate. Unlike some political commentators, though, I have a deep conviction of truth based upon Biblical principles. I see the Bible as the fount of all other truths that emanate from its basic foundations. As a result, I believe firmly that there is only one way to a relationship with God—through faith in the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. That means all other “ways” are false. Therefore, I believe that Islam is a false religion.

Does that make me a hater?

No, it simply spurs me on to teach what I believe to be true so that those who are caught up in a falsehood can be set free from it. Islam as a worldview and a religious system I reject; Muslims as individuals are potential children of God—He loves them and continues to reach out to them. But the path to Him comes only through Christ. Speaking the truth is not hate speech, and there are many former Muslims who would agree with me because they have now received a new life through Christ.

I’m also a historian. I know about American history and how this nation began. I understand the roots of our values and political system, and there is not much doubt that Islam had nothing to do with either. That’s not what some people would have us believe.

Islam’s mark on American history has been almost entirely negative. There are some Muslim leaders who would rejoice at a total overhaul of our government and culture by the installation of sharia law.

They will use the freedom of religion that we all respect to create a new America in their own image. If they are ever successful, America will be no more. If I don’t speak out about that danger, I believe I’m being unfaithful to God’s truth.

With regard to the homosexual issue and same-sex marriage, I also plead guilty of wanting to disseminate truth. As I’ve said time and again, I don’t hate those who are caught in the sin of homosexuality; rather, I want to see them set free. What I do stand against is the political agenda that seeks to normalize what the Scripture clearly calls sinful behavior.

Judge Vaughn Walker’s recent decision that opened the door for same-sex marriage would, in my view, destroy what is left of the moral fabric of our society. Many conservatives/libertarians disagree with this, but they are blinded to the reality of it. Walker’s decision has the beginnings of the criminalization of Christian beliefs. Here’s what part of his decision declared:

Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians.

That is one step away from the prosecution of anyone who publicly says homosexuality is sinful. What a chilling effect that would have on the pulpits in America. How many Christians would be willing to be prosecuted for speaking the truth?

For those who question why we should be concerned about the same-sex marriage issue, and whether government should even have a say in what constitutes marriage, I recommend reading this article by Mike Farris, a constitutional lawyer who has argued before the Supreme Court. I know Mike, and I trust his analysis. He clearly lays out the problems that will arise if we, as a society, simply let any definition of marriage become the norm.

These are weighty issues. Christians have a responsibility to tackle them, speaking the truth in love. I will not shirk that responsibility.

The Growing Conflict

I’ve written previously about the conflict that is growing over the liberty to publicly maintain the view that homosexuality is not an acceptable alternative lifestyle. Christians who hold to Biblical teaching on homosexuality are going to be increasingly under fire. Two cases in point are in the news right now, and both deal with college education.

Julea Ward was a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University. I emphasize was because she was expelled from the university’s graduate program in school counseling because she believes that homosexuality is a sin.

After the expulsion, she took the university to court, relying on the First Amendment’s right to the free exercise of one’s religious beliefs.  On Monday, U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh dismissed her lawsuit, thereby upholding the university’s action in expelling her.

Of course, the university did hold out hope for her to return to her graduate studies, but the ground rules were as follows: she would only be allowed to remain in the program if she went through a “remediation” program so that she could “see the error of her ways” and change her belief system about homosexuality.

The Alliance Defense Fund, which brought her lawsuit, responded, 

Christian students shouldn’t be expelled for holding to and abiding by their beliefs. To reach its decision, the court had to do something that’s never been done in federal court: uphold an extremely broad and vague university speech code.

On the heels of that ruling is another case, also brought by the Alliance Defense Fund, on behalf of Jennifer Keeton, another graduate student in counseling, this time at Augusta State University in Georgia. The issue is nearly identical to that of Julea Ward’s. Keeton is a graduate student in a counseling program. Her Christian beliefs declare homosexuality to be sinful behavior. That is not allowed in the program.

College officials told her that her beliefs are unethical and incompatible with the consensus within the counseling field. Faculty in the program told her she had to change her beliefs if she wished to graduate. Their demands didn’t stop there, however.

Additionally, the faculty ordered Jennifer to complete a remediation plan that includes “diversity sensitivity training,” remedial reading and writing projects, and suggested attendance at a “Gay Pride Parade.”  The purpose of the remediation plan was to change her beliefs, and if the plan is not completed to the school’s satisfaction, she could be expelled. 

One Alliance Defense Fund spokesman said that these cases should be a warning to Christians who are enrolled in public colleges and universities.

Public universities are imposing the ideological stances of private groups on their students. If you don’t comply, you will be kicked out. It’s scary stuff and it’s not a difficult thing to see what’s coming down the pike.

From the perspective of liberal secularism/progressivism, all beliefs should be allowed except one—the Biblically based Christian view. Tolerance is the watchword, unless you happen to be someone who believes in absolutes based on Christian doctrine. That view, they say, should not be tolerated.

The prophet Isaiah clearly warned,

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. [Is. 5:20]

Pseudo-Intellectualism

There are some Americans who have an inferiority complex [please excuse me for using Freudian terminology—although I think he was wrong on almost everything, this term does seem to apply]. They think that America is always behind the times, backward, and just not on the cutting edge of sophistication. For some reason, they believe that Europe is the standard for all things, so we need to change our ways and become more like Europe.

Has anyone noticed that a lot of European governments are going broke?

We’re walking right into that same “trap.” There is now a revival, under President Obama, of Keynesian economics, which says that the government must spend money to create prosperity. The more you spend, the more prosperous you will be is the motto of this administration. Try that at home sometime and see how you fare.

It’s fascinating to me that we admire thinkers who don’t really have any contact with reality. One of my favorite books is Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals. His theme in that book is that before you follow a self-identified intellectual’s ideas, it might be good to look first at that person’s life. If he is a mess, maybe he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.

A better word for some of these self-styled intellectuals might be “pseudo-intellectual.” How can you recognize them? Here’s one way:

There is a genuine intellectualism. It is grounded in reality, which is itself grounded in a Biblical framework for thinking. Biblical principles, when they form the basis for how we think, will help us use the minds God gave us in the proper fashion.

It Matters How You Get There

I’ve enjoyed contributing posts to the Big Government site. Through those, I have made a number of pleasant contacts with readers who have sent me e-mails. It’s also gratifying to write on people and issues that I consider significant.

I’ve noticed some trends in the comments on the site to my posts. First, I seem to draw out atheists. Now, I’ve hardly given an altar call; it seems all one needs to do is just mention God in a positive vein and venom will spew forth. A couple of comments were so obscene that the administrator had to remove them.

This experience has reemphasized to me that the coalition of people who want to reduce the size of government and get it back within its constitutional boundaries includes some who are motivated more by anger than anything else. Now, they are hardly the majority, but their presence and the extreme language they sometimes use is more of a detriment than an aid to the cause.

Another observation is that there are those who claim to be Christians and yet believe things that are antithetical to basic Christian faith. Again, I’m not surprised by this, but every time it rears its head, it is disappointing.

A case in point is my latest post, which dared to include a criticism of philosopher Ayn Rand. Actually, I was defending Whittaker Chambers’s critique of one of her novels, Atlas Shrugged. More than one commenter saw no problem uniting her philosophy with Christianity. The main reason for this is that she comes out on the side of the free market—as do I.

Yet Rand’s path for getting to this free-market position is not one that is compatible with Christian faith. First, Rand was an atheist. She loathed the idea of God. As an adherent of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, she favored the idea of a race of supermen who would transcend traditional morality and create their own right and wrong. She also shared with Nietzsche his disdain for Christianity, which she called “the best kindergarten of communism possible.” Christian ethics, she said, were destructive of the self, making life “flat, gray, empty, lacking all beauty, all fire, all enthusiasm, all meaning, all creative urge.” She called for an ethic of selfishness instead.

Now, self-interest is one thing: I am to take care of that which is my own first; I am to give priority to family, etc. But that’s not the same thing as selfishness, which is the dethronement of God and the enthronement of oneself as god. In her personal life, she was sexually promiscuous and dictatorial in her manner. One biographer says “she was vituperative, without humor, and increasingly Stalinist in her behavior as she aged … in the jealous demands she exercised over those who formed what was in effect her cult.”

The word “cult” seems appropriate. Some of those who follow Rand’s teachings are devoted to her in a way that comes close to cult-like worship.

Rand may have been in favor of capitalism, but it really does matter how one arrives there. I do so on the basis of Biblical principles, not through an ethic of selfishness.

If you didn’t have the opportunity to read my post in Big Government, you can find it here:

http://biggovernment.com/asnyder/2010/07/03/mr-beck-meet-mr-chambers/

I will continue to stand for Biblical principles as the basis for my analysis of our culture and our public policies. I hope to help others think things through on that basis as well.

Is Patriotism Christian?

As I sat in church on Sunday, singing songs that melded the spiritual with the patriotic, and applauding members of the military who had fought to keep America free, I contemplated more than ever the distinction between this world and the next.

There are some Christians who feel no loyalty to any country. They emphasize verses such as the one in the book of Hebrews, chapter eleven, which says of those who had been faithful to God yet never saw the fulfillment of all His promises on earth, “They admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. … They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”

As a Christian, I take those verses to heart as well. Everything of which I am a part in this world is temporary. My ultimate destination is beyond any earthly nation. I agree with that assertion.

Some, though, will take it to mean that if this is temporary, then it is inconsequential. That is a leap in logic that is not valid. What we experience now may be temporary, but it is nevertheless real; it may be temporary, but God still demands our all in ensuring that righteousness prevails in the here and now.  What I do now has eternal ramifications; the eternity into which I will enter one day will be an extension of what started here. The character I develop now will go with me into that eternity.

One of America’s founders, James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, understood these priorities very well. In a document he wrote arguing for liberty of conscience with respect to religious beliefs [as opposed to the state telling people which church they should attend], he said this:

Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign.

Madison is clear in this statement that our first responsibility is to God, and we are citizens of His country above all others. Yet that does not negate the reality of citizenship in our earthly country. We simply need to keep our priorities straight.

I have usually shied away from the word “patriotism.” That may seem strange to some of you who know how devoted I am to the Constitution and the rule of law. My concern is that what we call patriotism be more than just an emotional attachment to a physical place on this globe. Instead, we need to concentrate on the principles that form the basis for a God-honoring patriotism.

When the United States government and its culture swerve away from God’s principles, it is harder for me to “feel” that patriotism. I admit that this year it was harder than ever due to the policies the nation is currently following. Yet my God-honoring patriotism inspires me to do whatever I can to reverse these policies and to challenge that which is dominant in the culture that is unchristian.

This is what the Lord has called all Christians to do. That’s what Jesus meant by being salt and light. I will not curse the darkness [although I will point out quite clearly where it exists]; I will instead keep pointing to the Truth that can set all men free from the sins that bind them. I will do so even if I am the only one doing it. It’s nice to know, however, that I am not alone.

Jesus says to all Christians,

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Pursuit of Happiness–The Biblical Understanding

To the man who pleases Him, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness, but to the sinner He gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.

[Ecclesiastes 2:26]

For he [God] has so intimately connected, so inseparably interwoven the laws of eternal justice with the happiness of each individual, that the latter cannot be attained but by observing the former; and, if the former be punctually obeyed, it cannot but induce the latter.

[English jurist Sir William Blackstone]

Highly Recommended

In the past few weeks, while writing a book, keeping up with this daily blog, posting on Big Government, teaching a class every Sunday, and continuing to watch over the department I chair at the university—I actually read a couple of books, too. I’d like to recommend them.

Back in January, I wrote about a novel called Deadline by Randy Alcorn. It was thought-provoking and decidedly Christian in its philosophy. You can go back to January 9 to see that review. I’ve now completed that trilogy; I can say without hesitation that the second and third books are just as good, and perhaps even better.

Dominion takes readers into the world of gangs and racial animosities. It does so through the eyes of its protagonist, a black newspaper columnist still struggling with the discrimination of his upbringing, yet rejecting the liberal welfare state as the answer. He’s also groping his way toward a genuine relationship with God after the disillusionment of the “prosperity gospel” he had adopted.

His sister has been killed and he pushes for answers, sometimes in appropriate ways, other times with questionable tactics. His heart has gone cold, but he has to deal with the spiritual questions that intrude into his mind, as well as their application to the city and neighborhood where he lives. It’s a theological, social, and political combination that makes readers grapple with their own attitudes and reactions to injustices.

Deception, the final offering in the trilogy, is written in the first person, through the eyes of a detective who is trying to unravel the mysteries surrounding a murder that seemingly has no answers. The detective has recently lost his wife and carries a grudge against a God who won’t stop people from doing evil. Again, readers are drawn into a theological question that has very practical ramifications for life.

Alcorn uses a technique in all three books that is unique, at least in the books I’ve read to date: he intersperses the action on earth with the experiences of those who have died and have entered into heaven. His ideas of how heaven operates is fascinating. On a couple of occasions, he also takes us down to hell to see what it’s like for a character who has rejected the love of God.

Sound too preachy? Perhaps a little too fanciful? If I were reading this review and hadn’t experienced the books myself, I can see where you might think so. Believe me, though—both books are rooted in earthy reality. Alcorn’s gift is to combine the gritty, seamy side of life with spiritual concepts and make heaven more real than what takes place on earth.

I highly recommend both books, but you might want to read Deadline first to maintain the continuity of the characters and follow their development.