Principle: The God Who Is There

Christian Apologist Francis Schaeffer
Christian Apologist Francis Schaeffer

A few postings ago, I started writing about principles and how they should be the basis for everything we do. Principles are general truths, and they come from God.

And that should be the first principle we consider: the fact of God’s very being. One of the most influential writers in the Christian world, who speaks to us even after his death, was Francis Schaeffer. I’m reminded of the title of one of his books–The God Who Is There. Schaeffer stressed that God was a distinct being to whom we are all accountable, and in his books he continually argued that there is such a thing as objective truth, which has its origin in the being of God.

The Psalmist has told us, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” The Apostle Paul, in the book of Romans, spends a considerable amount of time in the first two chapters setting out this one salient fact: we all know He exists; we are all accountable to Him, yet we try to suppress the evidence; we have no excuse for our disobedience. His words are strong:

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.

No matter how many doctorates one may possess, no matter how many books and articles one has written, no matter how many appearance on TV programs as an “expert,” if any person denies the existence of God, he or she is a fool. God’s existence is one of those general truths; it is foundational for comprehending the meaning of the world in which we live.

Why Should We Be Surprised?

The media jumped on any rumor to attack Sarah Palin. They were embarrassed (or should have been) by the result. The next attempt, which is already beginning, will be to “reveal” her church as an extremist organization, far from the mainstream of American life.

Now, how should Christians respond? While it is understandable to be outraged by the accusations, we need to keep in mind that false accusations against the faith have abounded throughout the ages. The apostle Peter reminds us,

Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. but rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. . . . If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

In America, we have been so accustomed to being in the majority historically that we are sometimes shocked when we are targeted in this way. Perhaps we have forgotten Jesus’ own words:

Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

Jesus Reminds Nicodemus that Men Hate the Light

Jesus Reminds Nicodemus that Men Hate the Light

I think we need to get used to this type of treatment, while we remember that this is hardly the ultimate sacrifice. As another Scripture notes, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

Rather than be outraged by false accusations, we should turn these occasions into opportunities to speak the truth. If the world sees us respond in a good spirit, patiently explaining the truth in the midst of false accusations, their falseness will become more evident.

Above all, God is more concerned that we take on the character of Christ than that we seek a redress of grievances. If we do exhibit appropriate Christian character, some of those grievances will naturally be redressed.

Palin, McCain, and Prayer

Palin Speaking at the Republican Convention

On Wednesday evening, those who watched Sarah Palin speak at the Republican convention saw something quite amazing. The media who attacked her for five days prior to her speech still aren’t sure what to make of it.

She wasn’t supposed to be so at ease. She wasn’t supposed to be so effective in introducing herself to the American people. And above all, she wasn’t supposed to actually know anything about how government works and be able to offer sensible and rational prescriptions for the future. Instead, she was supposed to be beaten down, timid, and lost in the bright lights of public scrutiny.

It didn’t turn out that way and I, for one, am delighted.

I don’t want to repeat the many accolades she has received since the speech; neither do I want to dwell on the attitudes and smears that have passed for news this past week. Others have commented quite perceptively on both.

What can I, as a Christian, offer that is different?

First, I want to appeal to all who are Christians to pray specifically for her. The more I have read about Sarah Palin, the clearer it becomes that she is a committed follower of Jesus Christ. I, and all Christians, have a responsibility before God to lift her up in prayer. She will need the strengthening that can come only from the Holy Spirit in the next two months.

Second, we are to pray for the future of this nation. We really are at a critical juncture. I seem to say that every four years, and I keep hoping I won’t have to say it the next time a presidential election comes along. However, each election does impress me as more significant than the last one.

John McCain was not my first choice for the Republican nomination. Yet I am convinced he is a man who has learned a couple of valuable lessons along the way. His speech last night made clear one of those lessons: you must live for something greater than yourself. And when he recounted his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, he did so in a very personal way. He did not call himself a hero. In fact, he rather astonished the media by admitting that he broke under the torture. It was others, he said, who gave him the courage to continue. There was a humility in his remarks that was unmistakeable.

God will always bless genuine humility. We need to pray for McCain as well.

I posted earlier that I consider myself a Christian first and an adherent to a political party only to the extent that the party advocates Biblical principles. Today I am more convinced than ever that, as a Christian, I must support the Republican nominees.

John McCain Giving His Acceptance Speech

John McCain Giving His Acceptance Speech

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.