Archive for the ‘ The Christian Spirit ’ Category

Pull Out of Politics?

I am linking to an article by commentator Kathleen Parker. It is entitled “Christians at the Gate.” The thesis is that the Christian Right has failed in its endeavor to influence politics. The culture war has been lost. She then quotes some Christian leaders who say that we instead need to model the character of Christ rather than press for political change.

Please do read it and feel free to comment. The main problem I see with the article is that it seems to present the dilemma of an either/or situation. It’s as if one cannot be involved in political life and simultaneously display the character of Christ.

There was a time in my life when I thought it might be better for Christians to just fly under the radar, concentrate on cultural change outside of politics, and set aside ambitious goals in government. After all, government is not our savior. But after a while, I realized that it is not one or the other—it is both. We work with people one-on-one to bring them to a saving knowledge of Christ while doing our best to stay the hand of the Destroyer in the political realm.

Yes, there are some Christians who allow political involvement to overshadow everything else. They are in danger of setting up a false god. But there are also those who avoid any cultural confrontation politically, thereby silencing the Christian voice in the public sphere. We should do neither.

The Lord is Lord of all aspects of life. Nothing is outside his Lordship. When Christians fulfill their responsibilities, no matter what the arena, they are bringing His Lordship to bear on the culture—government or otherwise.

This, I believe, is the task the Lord sets before us. When we accomplish it with the proper spirit, we honor Him.

One more point: He never said we would always be successful, but He does require obedience and faithfulness to His calling.

Liberty of Conscience Denied

The United States Senate apparently doesn’t believe in liberty of conscience. A vote Thursday denied doctors and medical centers the right to abstain from participating in abortion procedures. Read the entire story here.

The story lists the senators from each state and how they voted. Check yours. Some of you may be surprised by how some so-called moderate Democrats voted. See in particular Virginia and Florida.

A Christian doctor has no option here. To participate in an abortion is to deny the sanctity of life as created by God. May Christian doctors take a stand. May that stand make many uncomfortable in their sins. May the discomfort lead them to the Comforter after a sincere repentance. May God make something good out of something evil.

Principle: Unity & Union (Part II)

Building on the concept that unions must be voluntary and that there must be internal unity before an external union can be successful, we can look at examples in certain nations. Remember the old Soviet Union? The official name was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—one of the most dishonest names imaginable.

First, it wasn’t a true republic—that would have required representation and the protection of inalienable rights, ideas foreign to its government. Neither was it a true union as understood by this principle. Look at the map below:

Notice all the appendages to the Soviet Union—places such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. None of them were eager to join this “union.” They were forced into it; voluntary consent was not an option.

This union held together for about 70 years, but when the central government could no longer keep it in line militarily, most of those appendages broke away and became independent nations. The reason? There never was any real unity.

The United States, on the other hand, provides a different image at its founding. Unique for its time [and pretty much ever since], the United States came together voluntarily, based on common agreement on basic principles. We had a consensus on the essentials: a Christian framework for understanding the nature of man; the need for a representative government that divided powers to protect from tyranny; the belief in inalienable rights granted to man by God.

It has been a model much imitated, but rarely with the same Biblical foundation. The Founders, despite their disagreements on specifics, were united on the general principles. They could hold a convention, write a Constitution, debate it in all the states, and voluntarily set up a new government. They accomplished all this because of their common worldview.

What would happen if we tried to hold a constitutional convention today? What consensus do we have now? How have we changed as a people? Would there be any hope for agreement? I submit that we are polarized as a society, one segment retaining the original Biblical framework, another rejecting it totally, and the mass of citizens in the middle, not really knowing what they believe.

We can wring our hands over this situation or . . . we can see it as an opportunity to speak Biblical truth into our society. I choose the latter.

Principle: Unity & Union (Part I)

In politics, we are always hearing appeals for “bipartisanship.” That’s great in theory, but overlooks a basic reality. A Biblical prinicple that I call “unity and union” helps explain.

Those two words—unity and union—are not the same. Unity is an internal voluntary agreement; union is the external joining of two or more things into one. External unions should be built on internal unity. They really need to be voluntary unions for them to succeed. Forced unions that lack unity will ultimately fail.

The prophet Amos put it this way: Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?

I don’t think Amos was opening up a discussion with that statement. It was meant to be rhetorical. Everyone understands that agreement is necessary for people to work together.

That’s why so many of the calls for bipartisanship are hollow. It will work only if two people or groups are united in a few things first: beliefs, purposes, goals, interests, and something called unity of spirit.

When I was in junior high, I joined the science club. I think I did so simply because I liked the science teacher. That provided some basis for my being part of that union, but it wasn’t sufficient. At one meeting, we all held hands while the teacher made contact with a battery. The shock that went through each of us convinced me that I lacked sufficient unity of purpose with the rest of those students. I didn’t consider that to be a “thrill.” I dropped out of the club.

In politics, if I firmly hold to a belief about how government should operate, or if I have strong, principled reasons for a policy position I hold, I cannot set aside those beliefs just for the sake of working together with others. The result might be a denial of basic principles that I consider essential to the proper working of government or that would lead to ungodly policies.

Being bipartisan is fine as long as you don’t deny truth, but we have been called to stand up for truth. For Christians, first and foremost, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and it is that truth only that will set people free. Further, only His truths—principles—will be beneficial for society. If I ever set those aside, I am denying Him.

Who Holds To a Biblical Worldview?

Being a Christian is more than having good feelings about Jesus. A real Christian maintains a set of beliefs that are foundational. If any of those basic beliefs are missing, that person either is not a genuine Christian or is teetering on the edge of losing the faith.

The Barna group defines a Biblical worldview as believing the following basics: that absolute moral truth exists; the Bible is completely accurate in all of the principles it teaches; Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic; a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; and God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.

How many people are on board with this definition? Well, among the general population, Barna says that less than 1 percent of the youngest adult generation [ages 18-23] has a Biblical worldview. Only 9 percent of all adult Americans have a Biblical worldview. It should be much better with those who identify themselves as Christians, right?

The sad truth is that only 19 percent of those self-identified Christians believe all the basics of the Christian faith. Less than half [46 percent] believe that moral truth is absolute; a mere 40 percent believe Satan is a real entity. If you want to see a fuller disclosure of the findings, go here.

Those who adhere to these truths must continue to spread the message of Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Christianity is not a matter of the feelings; it is a changed heart and mind. Both are necessary for a right relationship with God.

The Ultimate Provider

As we listen to all the economic news, and see people who are devastated by the losses they have suffered, we might be tempted to forget some big truths. Some of those big truths can be found in the pen of the Apostle Paul, who suffered in many ways as he labored to spread the Good News. While in prison, he wrote,

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)

This is the attitude that Christians should be displaying before the world at all times, but particularly in times like these. If we go around burdened down by worry, we are not offering a solid testimony to God’s provision.

Like everyone else, I have watched as my supposed retirement funds have drained away. Beyond that, we have had to spend money in the past few months that was a significant part of our emergency fund. Well, that’s what an emergency fund is for, isn’t it?

In the midst of all this, I have to remember that no bank, no mutual fund, no government promise is my source of provision. God is the ultimate provider, and that’s where my faith must rest.

Paul, later in the same chapter, talks about the generosity of the Philippians, and then says, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” That promise must be understood in context. He will supply our needs, but only if we continue to give generously and look to Him as our source. In another place, Paul notes that God loves a cheerful giver. That’s especially true when the giving is more of a sacrifice. But if we remain faithful, He will honor that faithfulness.

Our nation needs to see Christians who respond in this way to the economic crisis. It needs to see a shining manifestation of faith.

Change of Heart

This political cartoon leads me to say something that I have only hinted at, but need to emphasize.

I have been highly critical of the views of our new president, and will remain so. Yet, as a Christian, I believe that even the worst of sinners can change. The apostle Paul started as Saul, the persecutor of Christians. John Newton was a slave trader who was converted and became the writer of “Amazing Grace.”

Can Obama change his views? Yes. Will he? The “odds,” if that is the right term, are against it. He has held these views all of his life, and he was fed a constant radical worldview in college and in all those years in Jeremiah Wright’s “church.”

Yet I cannot close the door to the possibility that God’s Spirit will break through all of those presuppositions. The only way this can reasonably happen is if Christians pray for a true change of heart. We must be faithful to that mission. If Obama does not change, we are in for a very rough patch over the next 4-8 years. That’s why we must concentrate on praying for godly enlightenment.

This does not preclude criticism of his policies and his attitudes. We need to see the reality. There is another reality, however–one that is hidden from human eyes. God is still God. We need to work with Him to see His will done. Isn’t that one of the key provisions of what we call the Lord’s Prayer?

For those of you who are Christians, I urge you to pray for the change of heart that is so desperately needed–for the sake of the unborn, for those who desire to teach Biblical principles, and for the nation as a whole.

Christians really are supposed to be salt and light to this world.