Learning How to Think

Just a quick commentary today on education. How many times have you heard educators say, “Don’t tell children what to think, but teach them how to think”? I understand the concept, really. I want my students to learn how to think also. Yet aren’t there some things we have to tell them first? Aren’t there some building blocks that must be in place before they can launch out and do their own thinking?

How to Learn

This is applicable at the college level as well. When I teach an American history survey course, I don’t start off by asking students what they “think” about certain people or events in American history. Why? Because most of them don’t have any thoughts about either the people or the events.

That’s why I concentrate on giving them the basic facts, along with Biblical principles, so they are ready to think more deeply about our history and its application to our society today.

There are far too many educational clichés making the rounds. Examine each one carefully before adopting it. In other words, learn to think for yourself.

Why “Pondering Principles”?

Every once in a while, I like to remind readers of this blog just why it’s called Pondering Principles. A principle is a general truth from which one can begin reasoning to proper conclusions with respect to God, man, and society. One must make sure, of course, that the principles one espouses are valid.

Self-Indulgence Principle

Here are some principles I believe are demonstrable in Scripture, and that are confirmed throughout history. These form the basis for all my commentary, whether on faith, culture, education, government, or a score of other subjects:

  • We all bear the image of God within us. We are inherently valuable because of that image. Each of us is distinct and unique, called by God for the purpose for which He created us. That’s why I am strongly pro-life in my views. To destroy innocent children who never have made any choices in life is to destroy someone made in the image of God. The same applies to the handicapped, the seriously ill, and the aged.
  • We were created with free will, and therefore accountable for our actions. God expects us to govern ourselves according to His precepts. We have the capability to make right choices. Sin is a voluntary rebellion against the reasonable and righteous commands of God. This ability to govern oneself extends as well to families, churches, various voluntary organizations, and civil government.
  • The model for civil government can be found in the basic principles God established for ancient Israel. Contrary to popular perception, He didn’t ordain kingship, but instead gave His approval to a system that allowed for representation, the separation of powers, and different levels of government authority. Totalitarianism, in whatever form, is not God’s goal because it violates the first two principles mentioned above.
  • God has given man property, both internal and external, over which He wants us to exercise control. Internally, we have the ability to think, feel, and choose (as already noted), and we must never go against our conscience, which informs us of basic right and wrong. Externally, He has ordained private property of various types so we can learn how to manage things properly. Any economic system that denies private property hinders us from learning in this “school of accountability.” Therefore, I believe that a free-market, private-enterprise system is what this principle supports.
  • Due to that free will given by God, we are to enter into cooperation with others voluntarily. All external unions should be based on internal unity. Forced unions without unity will eventually fail. This applies to marriage, church, all clubs and associations, and even civil government. The United States is the prime example of a government that was deliberated, ratified, and established by the voluntary consent of its citizens. All collectivist forms of government, whether called socialist or communist, destroy the inherent, God-given value of the individual and violate self-government and the voluntariness of union.
  • Only by taking on the character of God, i.e., becoming Christlike, will this world operate in the way God intended. Every deviation an individual makes from the righteousness of God has a ripple effect throughout society. When a society accepts sinful actions as normal—abortion, homosexuality, theft, racism, etc.—there will be disastrous consequences. This flows smoothly into the final principle, which is . . .
  • We reap what we sow. If we sow Biblical principles in our society, we will reap blessings. Conversely, if we sow unbiblical, humanistic seeds, we will suffer the bad effects of those corrupted seeds. In my view, the wide acceptance of evolutionary theory spawned a wide array of evil applications in America. Biological evolution morphed into a social Darwinism that has led us away from God’s path. The key to any sowing of seeds is the education system. When it is controlled by government (first mistake) and then an unbiblical philosophy is inserted into it (second mistake), we create a society that ultimately rejects Biblical truth and the morality that stems from it. This is why I write often about education and its failures.

These principles don’t necessarily cover all of God’s truth, but they are a good start. They form the basis for all of my thinking about how Godly principles should apply to us individually and to our society as a whole. That’s why this blog is called Pondering Principles.

Liberty vs. License: Where I Stand

Comments from one reader of yesterday’s blog post leads me to want to explain something further. Yesterday’s post was concerned with the rush to judgment in Ferguson and the possibility that the greatest potential victim in this entire episode is the death of due process. There has been, in my opinion, too much pre-judging taking place. You saw it in the many nights of protest that included looting and rioting. You saw it in the statement of Missouri’s governor when he said a vigorous prosecution had to go forward. You saw it also in the arrival on scene of Eric Holder, who made it clear he empathized with the protesters. I questioned whether the DOJ would really conduct a fair and balanced investigation, based on Holder’s public position on the event.

Yes, I have serious doubts about the storyline being promoted by Michael Brown’s defenders. First, the main eyewitness was Brown’s partner in the manhandling of a store clerk and the robbery of the store just prior to the fatal incident with the policeman. Is this a trustworthy witness? There are also accounts of the policeman who fired those fatal shots being attacked by Brown. Who is telling the truth? All I’m asking for is an approach that gets all the facts first, then makes a judgment as to guilt afterwards.

I was asked by one commenter if I wasn’t concerned about how the police acted, and that this might be an indication of statist control of society. Let me be very clear here. Anyone who has ever read this blog on a regular basis cannot fail to understand that I sound the alarm on statism constantly. I firmly believe in the rule of law. The end-run the Obama administration always tries to make around the Constitution is a genuine threat to liberty.

That word “liberty” requires some explanation as well. Some people have a terrible understanding of what liberty actually comprises. It is not licentiousness. That’s why I can never be a libertarian politically. Ideological libertarians want nearly a non-existent government, not only in the economic and educational spheres (where I have substantial agreement with them), but also in the moral sphere (where I disagree with them vehemently). They replace the God of the Bible, who has ordained civil government for very specific purposes, with the god “Liberty.”

True liberty always includes personal accountability and a framework, in society, for order. Liberty to do whatever one wants is not true liberty, but license. What I saw on the streets of Ferguson, as business owners had to defend their private property from those who wanted to just grab things for themselves, was license. A police force must stand against those actions. The responsibility of the police is to protect the innocent from those who are out to hurt and destroy.

Did the Ferguson police go too far? There is an honest difference of opinion on that. I suspect that some of those business owners wish the police had been more of a presence than they were. Did the police charge the protesters, killing and maiming everyone in their way?  I didn’t see any footage like that, did you? In fact, they seemed rather tentative at times, worried perhaps about the reputation they were getting. That never would have stopped Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or Castro. We are hardly on the verge of a police state, at least at the local level.

Now, does that mean I have reached a definite conclusion about the events of that night when Michael Brown died? Regardless of my leanings, which are based on what I have read and seen thus far, I nevertheless would have to continue to suspend any final judgment. If I were a resident of Ferguson, I would have a clear conscience sitting on a jury to decide this matter. I would look carefully at all the evidence and make my final judgment only after reviewing the facts as presented by both sides.

But there are some things that are clear to me:

  • Scripture requires an orderly society based on the rule of law.
  • Government is not a necessary evil, but an institution established by God to restrain evil and maintain order.
  • Rioting and looting are sinful actions that need to be met with the force of the government and put down with a force equal to the sinful actions themselves.
  • Guilt or innocence will be decided in a court of law, not in the media or on the streets by the loudest voices.

This is where I stand, and I make no apologies for my stance.

On Race & Intolerance

As a Christian, I take seriously the Biblical concept that all men are descended from an original couple, Adam and Eve. Consequently, we are all part of the same family genetically. Sin is what divides people. We tend to cluster around those who are more like us and develop suspicions toward those who are different in physical appearance. Talk of racism always bothers me because I don’t really believe in racial classifications. From the Biblical point of view, there is only one race, and it’s called “human.” The external differences we see are simply testimony to God’s creativity and love of diversity—a word that has been maligned lately due to its misapplication.

What people call racism is actually just a dislike for those who are not like “us.” It cuts across the divide and infects all people, no matter what color they are or ethnicity to which they belong. It’s not the exclusive province of Americans descended from Europeans. The attempt to remedy past ill treatment of blacks in America via affirmative action policies has only created greater injustice and division. Good intentions are not the same as good policy.

That’s why I applaud a recent Supreme Court decision that tore down the affirmative action barrier to equal treatment of all people, regardless of color, gender, or ethnic background. All that decision did was help fulfill the vision of a society in which people are judged by individual merit, not outward characteristics. Naturally, though, there are those who will cling to the old vision:

That's Racist

It’s particularly pernicious when some of those sit on that Supreme Court. Nevertheless, we should rejoice that at least one small step has been taken legally to reverse the trend.

Unfortunately, we still have an administration that uses past inequalities to hammer the current generation. Some find it exceedingly difficult to see anything outside of the “racial” box. Whenever President Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder are criticized, they immediately find refuge behind the racial wall:

Race Cards

Frankly, any other attorney general exhibiting the degree of racial bias Holder has shown would have been out the door well before now.

What’s particularly distasteful to me is that they always speak the language of tolerance, while themselves showcasing some of the most intolerant attitudes imaginable. Whenever Biblical morality is held up as a standard, its advocates are attacked as intolerant. It’s the Christians who are now being portrayed as the intolerant ones, and we are told that our views will not be tolerated:

Tolerant Community

As I’ve noted before, the real battle for the future is not political; the real battle is theological and cultural. Winning the hearts and minds is where we need to focus our attention.

Whatever Happened to Sin, Guilt, & Shame?

I’m hardly the first or only person to comment on how we seem to have lost a sense of shame. There’s rarely, at least among the political leadership, the news media, and the entertainment segments of our society, any embarrassment over actions that used to bring public disgrace. The opposite now seems to be happening: outrageous, disgusting behavior is either ignored or rewarded.

Yet how can one feel shame if one has no sense of guilt over that behavior? Why has guilt gone the way of shame? Let’s trace it back to the loss of belief in sin and one’s accountability before God for one’s thoughts, attitudes, and actions. We used to be a society that had a set standard of right and wrong based on Biblical morality. While that’s not completely gone, we are now experimenting with what a society might be like if it jettisons Biblical morality entirely. We are seeing the wreckage all around.

One of the more obvious symptoms of a deceived heart is the outward acceptance of—no, make that the active push for—homosexuality. What was once considered deviant behavior is now encouraged. When anyone comes out of some kind of supposed closet, society applauds the “courage” it takes to make that public declaration of deviance. We are in the process of redefining right and wrong. Wrong is now intolerance of previously degenerate behavior. It’s the Christians who continue to hold to the former standard of morality who are now perceived as the real threat to societal harmony.

The most blatant example, of course, is same-sex marriage, an oxymoron of the highest caliber. The sad tale of Brendan Eich, who is now the former CEO of Mozilla simply because he made a contribution to the California effort back in 2008 to maintain the traditional concept of marriage as between one man and one woman, is the latest warning to those of us who are not going to bow before the new gods of immorality.

Mozilla

We used to be concerned about genuine threats to the safety of the nation, such as when underground communists were stealing nuclear secrets and placing their devotees in key positions within the government. That’s passé.

Traditional Marriage

Culture can change without the government’s aid. However, when the government is in on it as well, it provides a greater impetus for that change. The current administration has led the way. It began with the refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act and gradually morphed into outright promotion of same-sex marriage, linking it to the civil rights movement. We have an administration that picks and chooses which laws it will support. That puts us on the cusp of utter lawlessness:

The Law

Whether it’s the push for same-sex marriage, the attempt to force businesses to provide abortion services, or the desire to silence political opponents through the agency of the IRS, we are at a precarious place. The rule of law is on the verge of extinction because we have destroyed the Biblical concepts of sin, guilt, and shame. Only by restoring those will we restore what we have lost as a people.

Lewis: From the Portraits to the Original

The Four LovesHuman love. What is it, exactly? Is it a lesser love than love for God? Does it get in our way of loving Him? Or is it a manifestation of His love? Do we set aside any human loves we have experienced when we enter His presence at the end of this earthly existence? This passage from C. S. Lewis’s The Four Loves is one to be read slowly, in order to capture the fullness of what he is saying. So don’t rush through it; meditate on it and enjoy the richness of these thoughts:

We were made for God. Only by being in some respect like Him, only by being a manifestation of His beauty, lovingkindness, wisdom, or goodness, has any earthly Beloved excited our love.

It is not that we have loved them too much, but that we did not quite understand what we were loving. It is not that we shall be asked to turn from them, so dearly familiar, to a Stranger.

When we see the face of God we shall know that we have always known it. He has been a party to, has made, sustained, and moved moment by moment within, all our earthly experiences of innocent love. All that was true love in them was, even on earth, far more His than ours, and ours only because His.

In Heaven there will be no anguish and no duty of turning away from our earthly Beloveds. First, because we shall have turned already; from the portraits to the Original, from the rivulets to the Fountain, from the creatures He made lovable to Love Himself.

But secondly, because we shall find them all in Him. By loving Him more than them we shall love them more than we now do.

That beautiful passage is a commentary unto itself, requiring nothing more.

Lewis: Unique in God’s Eyes

One of the great truths I find in Scripture is that God has made each individual unique, distinct, and for particular purposes. Yes, He follows a pattern in how human beings may look, but He is infinitely creative. When we stand before Him after this life, we won’t be part of some nameless, faceless mass of humanity that gets lost in the crowd of some heavenly choir; we will be close to Him on an individual basis.

C. S. Lewis 2C. S. Lewis delves into this truth in The Problem of Pain:

He [God] makes each soul unique. If He had no use for all these differences, I do not see why He should have created more souls than one. Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you. . . .

Each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the divine beauty better than any other creature can. Why else were individuals created, but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently.

This reminds me of the Biblical promise in I Corinthians 13 (Message version):

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing Him directly  just as He knows us!

We never will lose our uniqueness; rather, it will be fulfilled in eternity.