Archive for the ‘ Biblical Principles ’ Category

God, Government, and Eternity

I do a lot of political commentary in this blog. I also write a lot about the role of civil government. As I do, my goal has always been to point to the Biblical principles that undergird my thinking. After all, the name of this blog is Pondering Principles: Reflections on God, Man, and Life. Therefore, I try to offer my comments within that context.

This makes my ponderings different than the typical political commentator. And I know some of you read these musings without the background of a Biblical framework for thinking and/or no personal relationship with the One who made us all. I welcome your readership. Yet you must keep in mind that my starting place for reflecting on politics and government will be distinctly Christian. I actually believe the Bible is the Word of God, that it contains truth that is applicable not only to a personal knowledge of God, but also to every aspect of His creation.

Government is one of His creations.

I’m currently reading a book by Randy Alcorn with a very simple title: Heaven. Yes, I do believe there is a literal heaven, and I agree with Alcorn’s concept that there will be a renewed earth—the New Earth—after Christ returns, and that those who have linked themselves to Him will rule and reign in an eternal sphere.

As Alcorn discusses the nature of this New Earth, he highlights principles that apply on the Old Earth as well, particularly in the area of governance. Stay with me as I share some of his comments that I found especially insightful:

We’ve been conditioned to associate governing with self-promoting arrogance, corruption, inequality, and inefficiency. But these are perversions, not inherent properties of leadership. Ruling involves responsibility—perhaps that’s why some people don’t look forward to it. Some people live in anticipation of retirement, when responsibilities will be removed. Why would they want to take on an eternal task of governing?

He then wants us to refashion our concept of taking on governing responsibilities:

Imagine responsibility, service, and leadership that’s pure joy. The responsibility that God will entrust to us as a reward can only be good for us, and we’ll find delight in it. To rule on the New Earth will be to enable, equip, and guide, offering wisdom and encouragement to those under our authority. We’ve so often seen leadership twisted that we’ve lost a biblical view of what ruling, or exercising dominion, really means. God, ruler of the universe, is living proof that ruling can and should be good.

And what of this concept of leadership? What kind of leader is God seeking, whether here on earth or in eternity?

Some of the most qualified people to lead in Heaven will be those who don’t want to lead now. Some who are natural leaders here but have not been faithful will not be leaders in Heaven. Remember, it’s not the proud and confident who will inherit the earth and rule it; it’s the meek. And even the meek will be stripped of their wrong motives and the temptation to exploit others. We’ll have no more skepticism and disillusionment about government. Why? Because we’ll be governed by Christlike rulers, and all of us will be under the grand and gracious government of Christ himself.

So what does this mean about politics on the earth on which we currently reside?

Some Christians err by demeaning and ignoring politics, thereby failing to exercise their God-given stewardship. Others put too much confidence in politics, failing to understand God’s insistence the he alone will establish a perfect government on Earth. … Meanwhile, God calls us to cultural reform and development. Christians should be involved in the political process, and we can do much good, but we should never forget that the only government that will succeed in global reform is Christ’s government.

These comments explain my perspective also. God wants us to work diligently to set up as good a government as possible, yet always with the recognition that perfection will not be achieved in this world at this time. We are to make this world as much a reflection of its Creator as we can, while simultaneously acknowledging that there will be limitations on our efforts. Our endeavors now are just the first steps toward what will become reality in eternity.

My interest in politics and government springs from the basic belief that God is interested in them, too. Everything I say or do in this realm should be an attempt to bring a little more of His life and character into political practices and government policy.

That’s what inspires me to keep writing and teaching.

The Restoring Honor Rally: A Reflection

I wasn’t able to attend the Restoring Honor Rally in D.C. last Saturday, but I know a couple of people who did. They were deeply impressed by what they experienced. The crowd easily exceeded expectations, with estimates running as low as 300,000 [how’s that for a “low”?] up to more than 500,000. The central stage was the Lincoln Memorial.

In this picture, you get only some idea of the size of the crowd. A bird’s-eye view provides a better perspective:

That’s the Lincoln Memorial in the distance. Up close is the WWII Memorial. The crowd filled the entire space between the two, and even went further back than this picture shows, all the way to the Washington Monument.

Impressive, to say the least.

What inspired people to make this journey? Well, there certainly were some attractions. For one, Sarah Palin was a key speaker, and undoubtedly a drawing card for many. She, and all the other speakers, set aside partisan politics for the day and spoke instead about honoring those who have served in the military, remembering another speech at this spot in 1963—“I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King—and calling for a return to faith in God.

Of course, the main organizer for this rally, Glenn Beck, was on hand as well. His stated goal was to bring together people of all faiths for a common purpose, what he and others termed a spiritual revival.

This is where it gets controversial. Before going any further, let me say that I am in complete agreement that a spiritual revival is essential to bring this country back from the brink of an untold disaster. I understand Beck’s desire and support him in that quest. The real question is whether there can be a genuine spiritual renewal if Jesus Christ is not central to it.

I have watched Beck’s television program on a consistent basis. I applaud most of what I see. He has provided a valuable service in exposing the roots of progressivism, in upholding the authority of the Constitution and the rule of law, and in telling people that faith in God is the most significant factor for any restoration of the Founding principles. Building a coalition of groups who have that same vision is a good thing. Therefore, I do support the intent of the rally and I know that it was a force for good in the country.

The key, though, is whether this movement, as it goes forward, is going to be a Christian-based endeavor. Beck is a Mormon. I have some knowledge of Mormon theology, and it is decidedly not Christian. I know it is politically incorrect to say such a thing. I can never now run for office. That’s okay—I never planned to do so. The Mormon concept of the nature of God and Jesus is not compatible with orthodox Christianity. The theology of salvation for Mormons is not the same as the Christian explanation.

Now, as I’ve listened to Beck, I’ve wondered just how much he really understands Mormonism because his words, at least as he explains his view of salvation, sound as orthodox as any Christian’s. I can safely let God be the judge of his heart. However, a clear line does need to be drawn between what is definitively, uniquely Christian and that which is not.

In the political world, as I’ve noted, coalitions need to be formed. I can unite with Mormons, Jews, and anyone else who wants to see the same political result as I do. But a government is not the church. Salvation will never emanate from any government. The message of individual salvation remains in the Christian faith, which proclaims that Jesus is the only way, truth, and life.

I’ve read some critiques of the rally that have been rather censorious of it due to its mixed leadership—the attempt to meld all religious beliefs into one. I understand that. However, we should keep in mind that the movement, such as it is, does promote basic Biblical attitudes and principles, even if some in the movement are not personally Christian. Anything that nudges us closer to the truth is welcome.

When I teach about the American Founding, I make it clear that not everyone was a Christian at that time, yet nearly everyone operated on a consensus that was formed from the Biblical worldview. We could be seeing that same development today.

I think it is highly likely that the majority of those who attended the Restoring Honor Rally did so as proponents of the Biblical worldview. If the rank and file is made up of that type, there is hope for our future. We certainly could do worse than return to the status of the Founding, where even those who were not Christians still understood the world through the Christian prism.

Therefore, I urge my Christian brethren not to be too critical at this point. Let’s see where this leads. God works through His people, but He also works through those who don’t always realize He is doing so.

Obama's Religious Beliefs

A poll stunned the news media last week, and its reverberations haven’t ceased. Fully one in five Americans believe Obama is a Muslim. Reaction from the White House and the news media has been identical: no, that’s mistaken—Obama is a Christian. Even conservative commentators and news media have taken up the same chant.

What’s the truth?

First, I don’t believe Obama is a Muslim. To be a real Muslim, he would have to be adhering to all the tenets of Muslim belief. Is he praying five times a day toward Mecca? I doubt it—unless he does it on the golf course. He’s obviously not an observant Muslim. Yes, he was raised as one as a child, but I don’t honestly think he is committed to that today. You can understand the confusion of the populace, however, since he definitely comes across as sympathetic to Muslim causes. He’s always praising Muslim influence in the world and, supposedly, in the United States.

But that doesn’t make him a Muslim.

So then he must be a Christian, right? After all, he went to a church for over twenty years. Is that what it takes to be a Christian? The problem with the political and media response—yes, he’s a Christian—is that it is based on externals only. And even those are abysmally weak.

What about that church he attended? Surely you remember the so-called Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor of that church. He is an adherent of black liberation theology, which turns Jesus into merely a great man who came to set free those who are oppressed politically. He attempted to “save” them from the oppressor but was cruelly crucified for trying to do so. It’s a Marxist theology.

This is not the Jesus of the Bible. This is not the message of salvation.

Jeremiah Wright is a radical of radicals, devoted to the Palestinian cause, saying America, by supporting Israel, is sponsoring state terrorism. The terrorist group Hamas, on the other hand, has been given a voice in Wright’s church bulletins.

Wright’s other highlights: Jesus was black and was oppressed by white Europeans; the American government created HIV to commit genocide against minorities; America is worse than the Islamic extremists because of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII; 9/11 was simply the “chickens coming home to roost” because America’s policies deserved that response.

This was Obama’s pastor for more than twenty years. There’s nothing orthodox Christian about him.

Obama himself, in a 2004 newspaper interview said, “I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.” In other words, there is nothing unique about Christianity or the person of Jesus. All paths lead to the same place. That’s a direct contradiction of the Biblical dictum that Jesus is the only way and the only truth.

In that same interview, he stated,

The difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and proselytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that if people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior, they’re going to hell.

Notice he calls this a “difficult thing,” something he clearly doesn’t accept. Consequently, he doesn’t really believe the Christian message because he doesn’t believe someone will be separated from God if they don’t have faith in Christ, nor does he believe in spreading the message.

Obama is not a Christian.

We’re also told by Jesus that you will know true Christians by the fruit of their lives. This doesn’t mean that Christians will always be consistent with their confession of faith; they will do things at times for which they need to repent. However, if one promotes continually positions that are at odds with Biblical morality, how can one really be a Christian? Let’s look at the record:

Obama, as a state senator in Illinois, vocally and forcefully fought against allowing doctors to come to the aid of children born alive in an attempted abortion. This is infanticide, pure and simple.

Here are more:

  1. He is one of the foremost politicians in favor of paying for abortions with taxpayer money.
  2. He advocates embryonic stem cell research.
  3. He advocates repealing the Defense of Marriage Act.
  4. He advocates repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military.
  5. While saying he opposes same-sex marriage, his actions indicate just the opposite.

These are the most obvious issues. There are others I could point to, but they are derivatives of these.

Based on everything I know about Barack Obama, there is no way I can consider him a Christian. Yet like everyone else, he is a potential Christian. The path is the same for everyone: recognition of sin, genuine repentance over one’s sins, faith in the atonement of the Son of God [not just a great man sent by God], and a life that shows the fruit of that faith. Nothing short of that qualifies as Christian.

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.