Archive for the ‘ Biblical Principles ’ Category

Do Not Fret . . . Trust in the Lord

In this daily blog, I attempt to offer what I hope are insights into our culture and society overall. I often comment on politics, government, education, and the media. The developments all around us can be depressing, if we let them overwhelm us.

On a personal level, I have other potential issues that can lead to discouragement as well. I’m not at liberty to share what those might be. Suffice to say there is a strong temptation to give in to despair at times, even though I know God is with me always. The weakness of our humanity sometimes leads us to doubt the promise He has given that if we love Him, He will take all things, even the evil intended against us, and work it for our good.

Psalm 37This morning, feeling on the cusp of being overwhelmed, I simply had to lay it all out before the Lord and seek His guidance and protection. As I did, He brought a certain passage to mind; I had to look it up to find it specifically. It was from Psalm 37. I would like to share some of the highlights of that psalm and pray it will be an encouragement to you today also.

It begins with a dash of reality:

Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb.

Then comes the loving command:

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

As if that weren’t enough, the encouragement and the promise continue:

Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday.

Throughout the rest of the psalm, the refrain repeats, each time reminding us of our responsibility to trust and of His overarching care and love for us:

Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. . . . Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more. . . . But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. . . .

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,  because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

God’s character comes out clearly when the psalm says,

For the Lord loves justice and does not forsake His godly ones.

Love StoryThen I felt directed to a familiar passage in the book of Philippians, one that we all need to be reminded of daily:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I intend to follow these Scriptural admonitions today. The older I get, the more I understand just how hollow and deceptive are all the world’s enticements, and the more I realize that there is no purpose in life without Him. He is all, and in Him we live and move and have our being.

May you be encouraged by these few thoughts given directly from the Word Himself.

Wheaton & the State of Christian Higher Education

I suppose by now most of my regular readers are already conversant with the controversy at Wheaton College over tenured political science professor Larycia Hawkins. This erupted while I was on my Christmas sabbatical so I’ve not written anything about it yet.

Today I believe it is time to share what I think, not because I am the final word on it but simply because I’m so committed to Christian higher education that a turmoil like this affects the realm in which I minister and work.

Larycia HawkinsLet’s review briefly what this controversy involves.

Larycia Hawkins, as you can see in the photo here, decided to wear the Muslim hijab as a statement of solidarity with her Muslim neighbors and/or friends.

But she didn’t stop there.

Hawkins also made a statement to the effect that both Christians and Muslims are people of the book (assuming she means the Bible) and worship the same God.

Hence the controversy.

Wheaton, an evangelical institution, suspended her temporarily while starting the process for her to explain her position more carefully before making a judgment on her future with the college. The result of that investigation has now led Wheaton to recommend her termination as a professor. That recommendation must now go through the rest of the process before it is finalized.

Is this fair? What should we think about Hawkins and this episode?

First, I stand solidly in the camp that says Christians and Muslims definitely do not worship the same God. Neither do I believe Muslims are followers of the Bible. Just because they trace their ancestry back to the patriarch Abraham, that is not sufficient. The Koran is not the Bible. Mohammad is not Jesus. The place of Jesus in Islam is subordinate; He is not considered the true Son of God who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

The fact that there is any controversy at all about these points sheds light on the sad state of modern evangelicalism.

Further, Hawkins sought out the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for guidance on wearing the hijab. That organization has been linked to radical jihadism while simultaneously putting on an appearance of even-handedness and fairness. It is one of the most deceptive organizations operating in our country with respect to what it actually promotes.

That she would seek out CAIR says a lot to me about her views. Reports now also show that she has been questioned previously three times with regard to her Christian orthodoxy:

  • She wrote an academic paper on black liberation theology that seemed to endorse Marxism;
  • She was at a party associated with Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade;
  • She has challenged the college’s Biblical stance on sexuality.

Rather than perceiving her as a persecuted individual, I think these incidents reveal Hawkins as someone outside the mainstream of Christian belief. Wheaton has every right to terminate someone with her views, given the college’s statement of faith.

Let’s be clear: either a Christian college stands by its statement of faith or it should surrender its identity as Christian.

What’s more troubling to me, though, is that Hawkins appears to have rather widespread support at Wheaton, by faculty, students, and alumni. If true, what does this say about the solidity of its Christian witness?

Why was Hawkins hired in the first place? Was there no indication of her views at that time? Or, more disturbing, are her views accepted and/or commonplace in the political science department?

Why would so many students support her, given her deviations from orthodoxy? Is this an indication of what they are being taught by the majority of the faculty? Is the statement of faith merely window dressing for parents thinking they are sending their children to a bastion of Christian fundamentals (which is not identical with fundamentalism as a movement)?

20140806_091616I have no animus toward Wheaton. When I did some research there last year, I was treated well by those at the Billy Graham Center and at the Marion E. Wade Center. Rather than an animus, I have a special place in my heart for such memories and the help I received.

My concern is simply that Christians be Christian, and that they make a strong witness to the world as to what that means. Accepting ideas that blend Christianity and Islam, that promote an anti-Christian Marxist philosophy, or that dismiss Biblical doctrines on sexuality are an attempt to undermine clear Christian teaching.

I’ve been concerned about this trend for a long time. The Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) claims to represent conservative Christian institutions of higher learning, yet when two of its member colleges decided homosexual marriage was acceptable, there was not an immediate dismissal of those colleges from membership. They were relegated to a lower status in the organization, but apparently continue to have ties to it.

Evangelicals are sending an unclear message to the world. Well, maybe that’s not quite accurate. Perhaps the message is clear after all: we no longer take Biblical truth seriously.

I hope I’m wrong. You can be sure I’ll be following developments very carefully.

“The Witness and the President” Makes Its Appearance

Witness & President DrawingTen years ago, I had the vision for a book on Whittaker Chambers and Ronald Reagan. I wanted to compare/contrast the pessimism of the former with the optimism of the latter. I also wanted to know just how much Chambers influenced Reagan.

I had read Chambers’s masterful autobiography, Witness, back in the mid-1980s. It affected me deeply. I also was very appreciative of the principles that guided Reagan in his life and administration, an appreciation that grew over time as the nation floundered under successors who weren’t as solidly grounded—and some of whom, like Bill Clinton, who never deserved the office in the first place and who destroyed the respect and esteem we should hold for the presidency.

I read everything else Chambers wrote—his journalistic essays and his posthumous work, Cold Friday. I researched diligently the papers of Reagan’s presidency at his library, combing through all his speeches, and read as many as I could of the myriad books about him that kept appearing.

It all came together, and now the result is The Witness and the President: Whittaker Chambers, Ronald Reagan, and the Future of Freedom. The book is now available through Amazon at this URL.

Am I relieved that this has now come to fruition? Absolutely. But this is more than merely the satisfaction of getting the book published; this is part of my effort to help our citizens understand basic Biblical principles upon which our society must be based.

Chambers left the Communist Underground and found the Christian faith. He gave witness to the need for Western civilization to return to the faith. Reagan, unlike Chambers, had a Christian upbringing. Whatever straying he may have done during his lifetime, he came back to that same solid foundation of faith that Chambers found.

These two men have a message for our generation. This book tells their stories and, I trust, will challenge you to think about the principles we must never lose.

I hope you will get a copy, read it carefully (it tells a good story, too), and ponder its message.

Recognizing “The Agenda”

The Agenda marches on. What agenda, you ask? The attempt to paint a portrait of evangelical Christians as the narrow-minded bigots of the world and the obstacles to “progress,” as defined by the new Progressive Movement.

We see this in many facets, but let me point out two in particular today.

One prong of The Agenda is to say that we are agents of propaganda against Muslims. It’s Christian bigotry, some say, when we warn of the Islamic threat to what once was a society based on a Biblical worldview.

This gets tied in to concerns about the border and illegal immigration, where we can also conveniently be called “anti-immigrant” and racist.

Yet the concerns are real. This latest wave of sympathy for refugees from Syria is a case in point. I would welcome all the persecuted Christians from that region. I would even welcome Muslim families fleeing the radicals. But is that what we will be receiving? Reports from European nations accepting these refugees tell us something different.

Refugee Trojan Horse

I, and other evangelicals like me, make a distinction between individuals and stereotypes. Every individual, Muslim or otherwise, is a potential child of God. We have no qualms opening our hearts to those who are in genuine need and who might be able to see the errors of the way in which they have been raised. We reach out to offer the good news of the Gospel to anyone with ears to hear.

Another prominent prong of The Agenda is to portray Christians as “homophobes.” Let’s be clear—I do fear a society that accepts homosexuality as mainstream because that destroys the family structure as established by God, thereby ultimately destroying that society in the end.

However, I would gladly welcome anyone struggling with that particular sin to sit down and talk about God’s absolutes and the freedom He offers through the Cross. I don’t hate anyone caught in that sin, but I do believe it is essential to recognize it as sin; that’s the first step in being set free.

What I do object to is The Agenda, which is to use every avenue in our culture to normalize homosexuality and to depict anyone opposed to it as hardhearted and evil.

It has become nearly mandatory for television programs to include a homosexual story line to accompany the main theme. The latest instance for me came in the latest episode of an otherwise fine Masterpiece Theater WWII drama called Home Fires. It is a superb story of how one English village had to deal with the problems of the war. Yet in the middle of the plot, we now see a lesbian relationship.

Home Fires

The character on the right is the new schoolteacher in the village who has gone there to escape the bigotry of those who fired her for her lesbian relationship with the character on the left. The one on the left has now followed her to the village and we were subjected to a full and lingering mouth-to-mouth kiss. We are to understand that they are not allowed to express their love openly because of the stilted morality that continues to dominate England in this “backward” time.

So what I object to is The Agenda. It is very real, and the eventual goal is not only to drown out the voice of Christian morality but to prosecute those who continue to be so “bigoted.”

If you don’t think that’s the goal, you are not paying attention.

The irony for those on the “progressive” side, of course, is that if they have their way, and we become Islamicized, all homosexuals will be put to death. Christians only want to help them out of their sin, not kill them.

So what do we do? We continue to proclaim truth and reach out to all who are open to that truth. Will we ever reclaim the entire society? No one can guarantee that, but I do know that the Lord has called us to be faithful, and if we are, there is no telling what He may be able to do through us.

Lewis: A Warning about Nature Worship

The Four LovesIn The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis issues a warning about love of nature. It’s not that nature is a bad thing; contemplation of nature might lead us to contemplation of the One behind nature. However, we must not be led astray. When we look at nature, we are not seeing God but merely an image of His glory. Here is where Lewis offers a warning:

We must not try to find a direct path through it [nature] and beyond it to an increasing knowledge of God. The path peters out almost at once.

Terrors and mysteries, the whole depth of God’s counsels and the whole tangle of the history of the universe, choke it. We can’t get through; not that way.

What, then, is the proper path? Lewis continues,

We must make a detour—leave the hills and woods and go back to our studies, to church, to our Bibles, to our knees. Otherwise the love of nature is beginning to turn into a nature religion. And then, even if it does not lead us to the Dark Gods, it will lead us to a great deal of nonsense.

These words from Lewis have a special significance, I think, because he himself so greatly appreciated nature. We must keep everything in its proper perspective. Enjoy what God has created, but never allow His creation to be a substitute for Him.

Lewis: Nature Is Our Sister, Not Our Source

NatureC. S. Lewis, in a number of his works, both books and essays, comments on the nature of Nature. Some people, he says, think that Nature is all there is, and that we simply spring out of this mechanistic, impersonal “thing.” Yet, as he reminds his readers continually, how can one even trust that conclusion if one’s own reasoning ability comes from this mechanistic, impersonal source? In an essay called “On Living in an Atomic Age,” he writes,

If Nature when fully known seems to teach us (that is, if the sciences teach us) that our own minds are chance arrangements of atoms, then there must have been some mistake; for if that were so, then the sciences themselves would be chance arrangements of atoms and we should have no reason for believing in them.

Why trust what science (both real and pseudo) tells us if there is no basis for trusting one’s own reasoning? After all, if there is no Intelligence behind our existence, what can we really know for sure? He continues,

There is only one way to avoid this deadlock. We must go back to a much earlier view. We must simply accept it that we are spirits, free and rational beings, at present inhabiting an irrational universe, and must draw the conclusion that we are not derived from it. We are strangers here. We come from somewhere else.

No matter how much “at home” we may think we are in the world around us, there is this nagging feeling, this sensation, that this is really quite temporary, and that our place in it is only a passing stage of what we call “life”:

C. S. Lewis 8Nature is not the only thing that exists. There is “another world,” and that is where we come from. And that explains why we do not feel at home here. A fish feels at home in the water. If we “belonged here” we should feel at home here. All that we say about “Nature red in tooth and claw,” about death and time and mutability, all our half-amused, half-bashful attitude to our own bodies, is quite inexplicable on the theory that we are simply natural creatures.

Even as he stated in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, and repeated in Mere Christianity, how, if there is nothing outside of Nature, can we have any idea of right and wrong? “If there is no straight line elsewhere,” Lewis notes, “how did we discover that Nature’s line is crooked?”

So what is the real nature of this Nature that surrounds us? He concludes,

What, then, is Nature, and how do we come to be imprisoned in a system so alien to us? Oddly enough, the question becomes much less sinister the moment one realizes that Nature is not all. Mistaken for our mother, she is terrifying and even abominable. But if she is only our sister—if she and we have a common Creator—if she is our sparring partner—then the situation is quite tolerable.

Nature is not our enemy; Nature is not our source of anything; Nature is merely the creation of God as much as we are. We are in this together.

Principle & Compromise: Not Always at Odds

I’ve called this blog Pondering Principles because I’m dedicated to laying a principled foundation for whatever subject I scrutinize. I also want to see principles—Biblical principles—become the basis for all public policy. Those of us oriented toward principles have a natural aversion to compromise; we have a tendency to see all compromise as a step backward. I would like to argue that is not the case.

Let’s start historically and work our way to present-day issues.

At the Constitutional Convention, a major disagreement erupted between states with lesser populations and those with greater. The less-populated states desired representation in the Congress to be based on equality; they wanted an equal vote for all states. Their concern was they would be outvoted on everything if population became the cornerstone of representation. Larger states naturally felt the opposite: since they had the most people, they should have a greater say in legislation. Who was correct? I think both had valid points. Their concerns were genuine and needed to be addressed. The convention came up with a compromise that divided the Congress into two houses, one based on population, the other on equality.

That is an example of an excellent compromise because it didn’t sacrifice principle on either side. Without that compromise, there would have been no Constitution. The nation might have split into three or four warring factions, with all the misery that would have been connected with such a division.

Then there’s the example of New York state during the governorship of John Jay at the turn of the nineteenth century. Jay, an evangelical Christian, had often worked for the abolition of slavery in his state. Now, as governor, he had the opportunity to sign into law a gradual emancipation bill. This bill did not free all slaves immediately; rather, it laid out a plan that would eventually eliminate slavery in the next generation. As someone who believed slavery was contrary to God’s purposes, should Jay have signed such a bill? He had no hesitation in doing so. Why? Because it set slavery on the course of extinction in New York. Long before the Civil War decided that issue nationally, New York had resolved it gradually.

Was Jay disobeying God in signing that bill? I believe just the opposite. His was a principled position. The compromise of gradual abolition achieved the long-term goal of his principle—getting rid of slavery once and for all. The new law made a step in the right direction. Therefore, I consider his action to have been consistent with his principles. Not to have signed it meant the perpetuation of the slavery institution, not its demise.

Now let’s bring this up to date. Let me offer two more examples.

First, let’s look at the issue of abortion. I firmly believe that the taking of an innocent human life is immoral. It is opposed to God’s moral law. My principled position is that all abortions should be outlawed. What if, as a legislator, I were faced with a decision on a particular bill that would eliminate 95% of all abortions in America? Should I vote for it? If I were president, should I sign it into law?

There are some who would say no. Why? They consider it a compromise of principle. Any law that doesn’t eliminate all abortions is less than what God requires. Consequently, support for a proposed law that would take care of “only” 95% of them would be a sin.

Again, I disagree—vehemently. If I have the opportunity to save 95% [or even 50% or 10%] of all babies who would otherwise have their lives snuffed out arbitrarily, I must take that opportunity. I would be advancing the principle in which I believe. By supporting such a measure, I am moving my society closer to God’s purposes. If we take an all-or-nothing approach, I believe we are deceiving ourselves in believing we are standing on principle. I would call it stubborn foolishness instead.

Congress is going to be dealing with raising the debt ceiling again soon. I am opposed to doing so. I am opposed to raising taxes in any way that will harm those who provide jobs for others. I wholeheartedly seek spending cuts. Now, do I hold out for everything I want or is there a way to advance what I believe is principled even while compromising temporarily?

One thing that all principled conservatives have to recognize is that in politics you don’t always get everything you want immediately. We can, though, push for as much as may be possible.

If an agreement is reached, for instance, that raises the debt ceiling, yet also includes “real” spending cuts, a cap on future spending, no increase in taxes, and at least a vote on a balanced budget amendment, why would I not support this? Enacting measures like these would lead us further on the path toward a principled and sane tax-and-spend framework.

Here’s how I summarize it: a compromised principle leads to unrighteousness, but a principled compromise is a step closer to the principle’s ideal.

I wish I could convince everyone of the wisdom of this perspective, but I’ll settle for whoever has ears to hear.