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.

Palin's Daughter: The Christian Response

The Palin Family

The big news yesterday, of course, was that the Palins’ eldest daughter Bristol, seventeen years old, is pregnant and unmarried. What should the Christian’s response be to this?

First, sin is sin and should be acknowledged as such. What she did was a step into unrighteousness. It requires repentance and a renewal of obedience to God.

Second, forgiveness is available to all. A sincere repentance brings God’s mercy, although consequences remain.

While I don’t know the heart of this young woman, I do see the outward actions and can make some type of analysis based on that. Here are the positives:

  • She has refused to abort this child. She recognizes that the life within her is a real person made in the image of God. In doing so, she follows in the footsteps of her mother.
  • She and the young man are planning to be married. That used to be a given in society; not anymore. They are taking responsbility for their actions.
  • Her family has pledged full support in helping her through this difficult time–difficult because she is such a young mother and because she is in the national spotlight. The family is actually a real family, present not only when things are going well but in the midst of trials also.

I certainly wish this had never happened. Yet this child has the opportunity to be raised in a family with God’s love as the foundation.

As for Sarah Palin herself, I am afraid that some Christians will pounce on this as a means of chastising her for not being a good mother. Some may say that she has been too distracted by her public life to keep tabs on her own children.

My response? I will let her answer to God for that. I am not going to sit in judgment on that point. I do know one thing, however: it is much easier to be judgmental about this if you have never raised a family of your own. We need to keep in mind that every person has a free will. Even in the best of families, such things may happen. Christian parents can do their very best and yet see one of their children go astray. We should not rush to judgment in this case. God is merciful, and we should mirror that mercy.

The Palin Pick

Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin
Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin

When John McCain chose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin yesterday to be his running mate, I was delighted. I had done some research into her credentials when her name first popped up as a possibility weeks ago, and I had hoped she would be chosen.

In the adult class that I teach at my church, I had outlined, prior to the Florida primary in January, my guidelines for choosing a candidate to support. I would like to share those.

First, is the candidate a genuine Christian?

Most claim to be Christians, but we have to look deeper. From all accounts, Palin is a convinced evangelical whose faith informs all aspects of her life.

Second, are the candidate’s policies consistent with Biblical principles?

From pro-life to limited government to property rights to the right of self-defense to energy independence, she is on target with what I believe are the policies that flow from a Biblical worldview. I may not agree with everything she promotes, but the essentials are solid.

Third, what type of experience does the candidate have and how much?

Already she has been criticized by the Obama campaign as not ready for the office. They need to be careful here. Such attacks invite comparisons with Obama himself. She has been in elected office longer than he has. She has executive experience as a mayor and governor; he has none. She is currently in charge of the Alaska National Guard; he has never had such a responsibility. The vice president is part of the executive branch; it is executive experience that she brings.

Fourth, does the candidate manifest Christian character?

Palin’s reputation is one of intense integrity. She has fought against the corruption in her own Alaskan Republican party and won. She ousted a sitting governor and has dismissed a number of officials who have betrayed their public trust. She says that people should never forget that a public servant is exactly that–a servant, not a lord or master. For her stance, she has alienated many in her own party, but she is doing what she considers morally right rather than politically expedient. Much also has been written about her new baby, born earlier this year. She knew ahead of time that her son would be a Down Syndrome child, but she considers it a privilege to be his mother; abortion was never an option for her. I am impressed by her character.

Fifth, can the candidate effectively communicate principles and policies?

We will find out as the campaign progresses, but if what I have already seen in video interviews and in her short introductory speech yesterday is any indication, she will be an excellent spokesman for the principles we need to believe in and the policies that should follow from those principles.

A final word: Sarah Palin will be attacked vigorously in the coming weeks. She needs the prayers of all those who want Biblical principles to be at the foundation of our society.

A Pause in the Action

I do plan to make comments on Obama’s speech last night and the surprise that McCain pulled on the nation with his choice of Sarah Palin as his VP. But, for now, I just want to pause a minute and say something else that is on my heart.

It is very easy to get caught up in the drama of politics. It is also easy to spend all one’s time trying to ensure that Biblical principles permeate the society, whether in government or other aspects of culture.

But one thing must remain fundamental: a strong personal connection to the One who gives life meaning. Without Him, there is no reason for any of this.

I recall a time in my life when I was sick of politics. What caused it? I had been working so hard to educate people in the need for Christians to get involved, but then experienced a season of disillusionment over the types of Christians I saw getting involved. Some of them seemed more concerned with the perks of office and the prestige that political power gave them. They would talk a good talk, but I was less than impressed by their walk.

I began to wonder: is this what happens to everyone who gets involved? Would it perhaps be better to avoid high-profile positions and simply work behind the scenes?

Well, that disillusionment didn’t last too long. While working on my book about the Clinton impeachment, I came face to face with individuals who were effective in office and maintained their integrity. It was refreshing to be reminded that even though some may lose their way spiritually, there are others who continue to be faithful.

At one point, the prophet Elijah moaned that he was the only faithful person left. The response he received from the Lord was that He had preserved a remnant who were still faithful. That remnant is still here, and God is still at work in our society.

Our job? Simply be one of the faithful remnant.

No Longer Biden My Time

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

I said in a previous post that I would come back to Sen. Joe Biden. I would like to do so now in relation to Clarence Thomas, who has been the subject of my last two postings.

When Thomas went through his confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, Biden was chairing the Judiciary Committee. Prior to the hearings, he seemed very courteous, promising Thomas that he would make him feel comfortable by giving him some easy questions at first, so he could relax in the hearings. Thomas expected that to be the case, since Biden had promised. When the hearings began, however, he immediately hit Thomas with a supposed quote from a speech Thomas had given that seemed to indicate that he [Thomas] was in favor of restricting property rights. Thomas wrote in his autobiography, “Instead of the softball questions he’d promised to ask, he threw a beanball straight at my head.”

Thomas was beside himself trying to recall how he ever could have said such a thing. During a break, the lawyers helping him searched for that speech, found it, and showed him the wording. Biden had taken everything out of context, ignoring the two sentences that immediately followed that quote, which made it quite clear that Thomas did not agree with restricting property rights. That’s when he first realized what he was dealing with, and that some people will do whatever is necessary to twist your words and besmirch your reputation. His opinion of Biden sank. He now understood “the dangers of trusting the hypocrites who ‘pretend to be your friend’ while secretly planning to do you wrong. Now I knew I’d met one of them: Senator Biden’s smooth, insincere promises that he would treat me fairly were nothing but talk.”

Later, Biden called Thomas to tell him he had decided to vote against his confirmation. “Judge, I know you don’t believe me,” Biden said, but he then promised he would be Thomas’s “biggest defender” regarding his character. Thomas’s response in his autobiography says it all:

He was right about one thing: I didn’t believe him. Neither did Virginia [Thomas’s wife]. As he reassured me of his goodwill, she grabbed a spoon from the silverware drawer, opened her mouth wide, stuck out her tongue as far as she could, and pretended to gag herself.

This same Sen. Biden, of course, will be speaking this evening at the Democratic National Convention, accepting the nomination of his party as the vice-presidential candidate. If you listen to him, the stories Thomas relates should not be far from your mind.

Obama's View of Clarence Thomas

Obama at Saddleback Forum
Obama at Saddleback Forum

I posted about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, whom I greatly respect, as a prelude to commenting on Barack Obama’s response to Rick Warren at the Saddleback Forum. When asked which current Supreme Court justice he would not have nominated, Obama immediately, without hesitation, chose Thomas. He claimed it was because Thomas was not really prepared for the job, as well as his basic disagreements with his judicial philosophy.

As others have noted, for Obama to use lack of experience as a basis for his answer is rather ironic. Clarence Thomas first worked as a lawyer for the Attorney General of Missouri, then with the Monsanto Company. He spent most of the 1980s in the Reagan administration as director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before being appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. He had a well- developed judicial philosophy grounded in original intent of the Constitution.

Obama, by way of contrast, served in the Illinois State Senate starting in 1996, lost a bid to be a congressman in 2000, then finally was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. Almost upon taking office in 2005, he began running for president. As has been noted by others, the number of working days he has spent in the Senate is less than 200. His background is not nearly as accomplished at Thomas’s, yet he aspires to the highest office in the land.

Let’s be serious about his real reasons for opposing Thomas: as a justice, Thomas has ruled consistently with his philosophy of original intent. This disallows judicial activism, which is the primary avenue by which Obama and fellow liberals change the country. This is how abortion became legal, and Obama wants to protect the “right” to abortion. His devotion to abortion rights is so pronounced that, while a state senator, he even voted against a bill that would have allowed medical treatment to babies born alive during an abortion procedure. I encourage you to follow this story; it has only begun to resonate and should become more of an issue as the campaign unfolds.

A Man I Respect

Meeting Justice Clarence Thomas at the Supreme Court in 1995
Meeting Justice Clarence Thomas at the Supreme Court in 1995

When people say that there are no principled men in government, I must disagree. There are men and women who are living their principles in public life.

One of the men I respect most is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. For the record, Justice Thomas does not know me personally and would not recognize me if introduced. I did meet him twice–once at the Supreme Court when the government school at Regent University took students there in 1995, and again a few years later when he came to the Regent campus to speak. As a faculty sponsor for the Federalist Society, I did once again greet him at a reception.

But I have read his recent book, an autobiography entitled My Grandfather’s Son. Once I began the book, I could hardly put it down. The story he tells–of his childhood in poverty, his anger over racism as a young man, his return to the Christian faith in his later years, and the trials of his Senate confirmation hearings–is riveting. It shows, to me, how God will use everything in a person’s life to shape and prepare that individual for a calling in this world.

Thomas has been attacked by many people because he espouses a view of the Constitution that says you don’t ignore the limitations that the document places on the authority of the federal government. But in taking the stance that he does, he is abiding by principle.

Yes, principled people are in the minority, but they do exist. Rather than promoting cynicism about government, we should be sharing the stories of those who try to apply Biblical principles such as the rule of law to society.