Archive for the ‘ Christians & Culture ’ Category

Expectations

Inauguration day is coming very soon. A word of caution for the media seems appropriate at this time:

For all who voted for this “change,” please do keep that in mind. For those of us who didn’t, support when we can, critique when necessary. Never lose sight of foundational principles and pray that those principles can still be manifested even through someone who doesn’t share them.

One more thing: remember that civil government is not the answer to everything; God works in individuals and other institutions as well. Society is more than the government.

My expectations for the new administration are low. My faith in God remains high.

32% of Young Evangelicals Voted for Obama?

That’s what we are being told. A new article by Phyllis Schlafly points to the use of “social justice” as code for inculcating young people into a faith in government-sponsored “change.” And all of this comes, of course, via the taxpayer in the public schools.

I have not said much yet about public schools, but the issue of who should be educating the young has been one of my primary teachings. When given the opportunity, I like to point out that sending one’s children to government-sponsored schools is a risk. Beyond the immediate risk is the rather stark fact that the Bible does not endorse using government as the means for education. There is too much of a temptation to provide a government-approved curriculum, one that will be at variance with the Christian faith.

I have often been amazed at how Christians would never support a state-sponsored church–because it would tell people what they ought to believe–yet they have no problem supporting a state-sponsored education system–which will do exactly the same thing.

If you are interested in the article mentioned above, go to http://townhall.com/columnists/PhyllisSchlafly/2008/12/30/public_schools_change_young_evangelicals_values

I will come back to this issue periodically. It’s too important to avoid.

Evangelicals and Obama

Just how far can evangelicals go with Obama? How about with homosexual advocates? There is good insight in the following article. I highly recommend it. Check it out at

http://townhall.com/columnists/DavidRStokes/2008/12/28/an_evangelical_bridge_too_far

Warren & the President-Elect

The latest political controversy that involves the Christian faith is one I’ve had to think about more than usual. Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback megachurch in California, has been tabbed by Obama to offer the invocation at the inauguration.

My first reaction was one of disbelief: how could Warren possibly join Obama on the platform and invoke God’s blessing on his administration?

My second reaction was to think more about the responsibility we all have as Christians to pray for our elected leaders, no matter how much we may disagree with them. Perhaps, I reasoned, this is God’s way of putting someone with His heart near the heart of this new administration. After all, didn’t Billy Graham counsel both Democrat and Republican presidents?

The prophet Daniel served at the court of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. His presence there was a way that God used to bring His message to that pagan monarch.

Christians do have a responsibility to pray for government officials. If we have the opportunity to influence them, we need to take it. So why should I not want Warren to pray at the inauguration?

I know all of this, yet I still have trouble with this latest development. If Obama wants to receive counsel from Warren or any other evangelical with a proper understanding of God’s righteousness on issues of public policy, that is one thing–and it would be a cause for rejoicing. But to pray at the inaugural itself is tantamount to a public profession of solidarity with the new president. Our role is to hold up God’s standard and lead officials closer to what He intends for government. I’m afraid that Warren’s presence on that platform will appear to be more of an endorsement.

Now, I know Warren does not endorse Obama’s views on abortion, and that his church took a decided stand against homosexual marriage. It’s possible that people will realize this, and in the eyes of those who are part of the great American “middle,” that confused mass of humanity that doesn’t know what it thinks, hearts and minds may be opened to rethink their views.

Already the main problem is that Obama is getting grief from his homosexual supporters, as they demand that Warren be removed from the agenda. Perhaps that reaction will accomplish the opposite of what the protesters desire; people may reject their protest.

I understand the various possibilities for how this could turn out, and some of it could be for the good. Yet I remain unconvinced. I ask myself, “Could I do what Warren is being asked to do?” Quite honestly, I could not.

I welcome the perspectives of my readers on this issue. As long as your comment is civil, I will publish it.

Principle: Property–Christian Communism? (Part II)

Some Biblical interpreters note a particular incident in the early church that, they say, indicates God is in favor of communism. They refer to the Ananias and Sapphira story.

As believers were voluntarily selling property and giving the proceeds to the apostles to help the needy (see the previous post for a fuller explanation of this), one couple, Ananias and Sapphira, came up with a little scheme. They sold some property and brought part of the profit to the Apostle Peter, declaring that this was the entire profit, even though they had kept back a portion for themselves. The Biblical account tells us that God struck them dead for this deed.

Ananias Struck Down by the Lord for His Hypocrisy

Ananias Struck Down by the Lord for His Hypocrisy

“See,” we are told, “God judged them for continuing to hold private property. They were struck down because they kept some for themselves.” Not exactly.

If we look at the text, we are told precisely why they were judged, and it has nothing to do with owning property.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.

It is obvious from this passage that Peter is not condemning Ananias for owning land. He makes it clear that it belonged to Ananias, and that he could have done whatever he wished with the profit–it was his to dispose of as he chose. Peter also points to the real sin here: lying/hypocrisy. Ananias and Sapphira were attempting to appear they were giving all the proceeds of the sale to the church, while secretly holding back. They wanted people to think they were doing a wonderful thing, when in fact they were not.

So, bottom line: they were judged for being liars and hypocrites. They could have used that money for anything they wished; instead, they deliberately decided to deceive. There is nothing in this passage that mandates communism for Christians.

Christian communism? An oxymoron.

Principle: Property–Christian Communism? (Part I)

Is God’s design that the church model communism? Some point to the example of the early church in Jerusalem in the book of Acts where we are told,

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had…. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (Acts 4:32, 34-35)

Well, that settles it then, right? Owning private property is wrong; you should turn it all over to the authorities who will distribute to those who have a need. Sounds like the Marxist maxim, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

There is only one big problem with that interpretation: the Acts example was one of voluntary giving, while communism is one of coerced giving. In fact, that can’t really be called giving at all. Coercion and giving are inherently contradictory. The believers in the passage above saw a need and, from their hearts, chose to sell what was rightfully theirs to help their brothers and sisters. There is no indication of coercion; neither is there any further indication in the entire New Testament that the practice of the early church was to force everyone to forfeit private property.

And what precisely were they selling? If they actually sold the houses they lived in, that would make them homeless. Now someone else would have to take care of them; they would have made themselves a burden to the entire church. I believe that what they sold was property they had in abundance that they decided could be put to better use for the benefit of all–extra land, a second home, etc.

Confused About Communism?

Confused About Communism?

There is a clear difference between giving from one’s heart and being told by an authority that you are now going to “give.” When Obama was accused during the campaign of promoting redistribution of people’s money, he tried to make a joke about it, saying that his critics would probably accuse him of being a communist if, as a kindergartener, he shared his toys with other children.

Either he was being disingenuous or he really doesn’t grasp the distinction. If it was the former, he is counting on the political and economic illiteracy of the American people to shield him from close scrutiny. If it was the latter, it reveals that he is a profound economic illiterate. Neither option bodes well.

Christian communism? Another refutation in the next post.

Principle: Property–The Intangibles

Mention property, and nearly everyone will focus on material possessions. We naturally think in terms of money, land, homes, etc., as being the essence of property. Yet those are merely the external forms of property–the things we can see or touch. There are other properties that are more significant, and which form the basis for the external properties.

God has given us internal properties: a mind with which to think; emotions with which we can interact with the world and others; a will that determines our actions; a conscience that informs us of right and wrong; a spirit, which is the eternal part of us (although it will be joined to a resurrection body as well).

How we handle these properties–mind, emotions, will, conscience–will make all the difference as to where that eternal spirit will reside. Our thoughts need to be taken captive to the love of God; our emotions must be directed by our thoughts; our will must be submitted to God’s will; our conscience will let us know which path to follow, and when we have failed to follow the right one.

The conscience is delicate. The apostle Paul talks about a “seared conscience.” What does that mean?

Look at it this way. If you violate your conscience once (this can apply to any particular sin), you feel remorse for doing so. But if you resist that feeling, and never repent of the sin, the next time you do it, you won’t feel quite as bad as the first time. The more often you repeat the sin, the less your conscience is going to bother you. Finally, you can commit that sin without feeling any remorse or regret. It doesn’t make the sin any less sinful, but you no longer respond to the conscience God gave you.

Each of those internal properties are gifts from God. They need to be appreciated as gifts, and we must be good stewards of them. When we misuse them, we suffer what Paul calls a shipwrecked faith. When those who claim the name of Christ violate their consciences, we contribute to the spiritual devastation in the world.

This does not have to be the norm. We can obey God. We can be the examples He wants us to be. We can bring His principles to bear on the world. We can make a difference!