Archive for the ‘ Christians & Culture ’ Category

Principles Are the Foundation

Noah Webster: Father of Early American Education

Noah Webster: Father of Early American Education

Noah Webster defined “principle” in this way: the source or origin of anything; a general truth from which one can deduce many subordinate truths.

Christians need to make sure that whatever they do in society is based on God’s principles–His general truths–and not simply on whatever is expedient. When we discover God’s general truths, we can then identify other truths that flow from the general ones. Those subordinate truths will help us understand the types of policies that must be put into effect to ensure that a society operates the way God intended.

American society today is not very principled. We are more concerned with what “works.” The major problem with that approach is that we all have different definitions of “works.” Rather, we need to have God’s perspective on all things. When we start with His basic principles, we will have truth first, but also something that “works,” as He defines that term.

What I want to do systematically in this blog is to talk about those general truths, God’s principles, that should be the foundation of everything we do. I will continue to address current events, particularly in this political season, but will intersperse comments on principles along the way. I hope you will find this thread illuminating. Focusing on God’s truths has a way of providing the illumination we need. His Word is a light for our path.

Liberated Theology?

Obama & Wright
Obama & Wright

For some, the connection between Obama and Jeremiah Wright is old news. But I want to be sure we understand just how Obama views the Christian faith. Rick Warren, at the Saddleback Forum last Saturday, just assumed Obama was a Christian. Why? Because Obama says he is.

However, the brand of Christianity Obama believes comes from Wright’s version of what is known as liberation theology. What does that theology teach?

First: God cannot be understood through doctrine and He is not perfect or unchanging.

Second: Jesus is not God, but shows us the way to God; He reveals the way one becomes the son of God.

Third: Salvation is a process of liberation from oppression and injustice. Essentially, this is a Marxist, now-centered approach that puts all emphasis on the here and now, not eternity.

In an interview with a Chicago Sun-Times columnist in 2004, Obama stated, “I’m rooted in the Christian tradition. 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.”

He continued, “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.”

The columnist then added, “Obama doesn’t believe he, or anyone else, will go to hell. But he’s not sure he’ll be going to heaven either.”

So, to summarize: he does not consider Jesus Christ to be the only way to God; he is uncomfortable with the idea that one should win people to the faith; he denies that one must embrace Christ as personal savior or spend an eternity separated from God; in fact, he doesn’t really believe there is an eternal consequence for living apart from God–no one is going to a place called hell. Why is he not sure he is going to a place called heaven? Probably because liberation theology doesn’t really believe that place exists either.

So what does all this mean? Obama is certainly free to believe what he wishes, but I don’t want anyone to be fooled by his expressions of faith. He does have a faith–everyone has a faith of some type. His faith, though, should not be confused with Christianity.

How will his faith influence our culture? It will lead to a more Marxist approach to life: the here-and-now is everything; the government is the solution for all problems; the poor are oppressed by the elites of society; envy of the rich will dominate public policy.

Christians are to influence culture and public policy, but a Biblically based worldview leads in an opposite direction than Obama’s. Let’s not be confused on that point.

Should a Pastor Be Involved Politically?

John Peter Muhlenberg's Statue in the Capitol
John Peter Muhlenberg’s Statue in the Capitol

Some have criticized Rick Warren for holding the forum I spoke about in the previous posting. He should stick to religion, not get involved in politics, they say.

I’m reminded, though, of the actions and words of John Peter Muhlenberg, pastor of a church at the time of the American Revolution. Muhlenberg’s sermon, one Sunday in 1775, ended with the words, “There is a time for all things–a time to preach and a time to pray.”  Then he said, “There is a time to fight, and that time has now come.” As he stood in the pulpit, he took off his ministerial gown to reveal a militia uniform underneath, and ended the message by urging others to join him in the militia for the common defense.

He served in the Continental Army for the duration of the war. When the war ended, he was chosen to be Pennsylvania’s Vice President, then served as a congressman in the first Congress convened after ratification of the Constitution. In 1801, he was elected to the Senate.

When Muhlenberg made his decision to get involved and serve in the army, his own brother castigated him, saying he had abandoned the church. His response? “I am a clergyman, it is true, but I am a member of society as well as the poorest layman, and my liberty is as dear to me as to any man. Shall I then sit still and enjoy myself at home when the best blood of the continent is spilling? . . . Do you think if America should be conquered I should be safe?”

Ministers, and all Christians, have to live under the laws passed in a nation. Everyone, Christians included, are impacted by those laws. They are citizens as much as anyone else and pay the same taxes. Their political rights are identical; there is no distinction. Why, then, should they be excluded from the debate over policies and the future of the nation? When Jesus said his disciples were to be salt and light, He meant in all aspects of a society, government included.

Yes, His kingdom is not of this world, but His kingdom principles should be promoted and be the bedrock for the standards by which a society lives. It is Christians who must be at the forefront of advocating His principles.

Christianity and Culture

Charles Finney: Greatest Evangelist of the Second Great Awakening

In addition to commentary on politics, government, and history, I want to offer what I hope will be insights into the larger culture of our society, always through the prism of a Biblical worldview.

Charles Finney was one of the most effective evangelists of the nineteenth century. His impact went beyond just tallying the number of converted people. Instead, his converts understood that being a Christian means taking the grace of God into the world. Redeemed people are the key to redeeming the culture of a society.

Finney introduced some new methods in his evangelistic endeavors. He created the “anxious seat,” which was a bench up front that people could come to after the service if they were “anxious” for their souls. This was the beginning of the altar call.

He also allowed women to pray in church publicly. That was a great source of controversy.

When he was asked to be the professor of theology at a new college in Ohio, Oberlin College, he told the trustees that he would not take the position unless they agreed to allow blacks to attend class along with the white students. They agreed, and Oberlin became the first college in America to have men, women, and blacks in the same classroom.

The one danger I see in some of Finney’s followers was a tendency to make their societal cause more important than the gospel. Theodore Dwight Weld, for instance, seemed (at least from my perspective) to put the abolition of slavery in the preeminent position, relegating the gospel to secondary status.

The question is this: Are Christians doing that today? Do you see any evidence of this? Are we generally balanced in our approach to changing society or do we put individual causes ahead of the primary mission, which is to lead people into reconciliation with God?