Lewis & Humility

Sheldon VanaukenSheldon Vanauken was an American studying in Oxford in the early 1950s. He was supremely pagan in worldview and lifestyle. Then he started reading C. S. Lewis. As a student of literature, he immediately was drawn to Lewis’s Space Trilogy, then began digesting his apologetic works. He decided, since Lewis was at Oxford also, to contact him, and a correspondence between them developed.

Lewis dealt with all of Vanauken’s major questions: the uniqueness of Christianity with respect to all other religions; the need for humility and “bending the knee” to Christ as Lord of all things in one’s life. Vanauken, with Lewis’s help, bent his knee one day and became a convinced Christian. Vanauken’s wife also gave her life to Christ as a result of reading Lewis.

What’s interesting is to see Lewis’s perspective on the role he played in the Vanaukens’ conversion. It gives insight into Lewis’s own character, and the prominence of humility in someone who could easily have puffed up his role. Instead, here is how he explained his contribution:

C. S. Lewis 8I hope my interest in you both is something less blasphemous than that of a Creator in a creature (it wd. anyway be begetting not creating, see Philemon 10).

My feeling about people in whose conversion I have been allowed to play a part is always mixed with awe and even fear: such as a boy might feel on first being allowed to fire a rifle. The disproportion between his puny finger on the trigger and the thunder & lightning wh. follow is alarming.

And the seriousness with which the other party takes my words always raises the doubt whether I have taken them seriously enough myself. By writing the things I write, you see, one especially qualifies for being hereafter “condemned out of one’s mouth.” Think of me as a fellow-patient in the same hospital who, having been admitted a little earlier, cd. give some advice.

God will always use a person for His purposes who doesn’t think too highly of himself. I believe Lewis’s books and essays continue to bless readers today, in large part because of the quality of his personal character. It shines through in everything he wrote.

First Great Awakening: Results

Great AwakeningIn my ongoing American history series, I’ve completed three posts on the First Great Awakening. They have highlighted the people whom God used to bring an awakening to colonial America. William and Gilbert Tennant established the Log College to train ministers; Jonathan Edwards was the theologian of God’s love best known for his sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God; George Whitefield, an itinerant evangelist from Britain, pulled it all together with a series of trips to America, and was as popular in his day as another George—Washington—was later.

Some, though, have pointed to what they call the bad effects of the Awakening. They single out some individuals who went too far in their enthusiasm and acted strangely. They also decry the split that occurred in some denominations over the Awakening.

To those criticisms I reply: first, there will always be some who go too far, and no movement should be judged solely by their actions; second, Jesus said He came to split families along lines of those who believed Him and those who rejected Him. The split that occurred in some of those churches was sometimes merely a difference of opinion in tactics for preaching the Gospel. Others who objected were beginning to edge toward Unitarianism, which is a denial of Jesus as divine. Therefore, I don’t put much stock in the negative results of churches splitting over the Awakening.

What did it accomplish? I see three definite, positive developments.

  • First, it re-emphasized the personal nature of salvation. Each person is responsible for his/her response to God’s offer of mercy. No one gets into His kingdom by going through all the external motions: baptism, communion, church attendance. Neither is salvation a “group” thing; each one of us must give an account of our lives individually.
  • Second, it started a round of college planting for the purpose of raising up even more ministers (and those who chose other professions) grounded in a Biblical way of thinking. Colleges started during that time included what we now call Princeton, Dartmouth, and Brown. Note that they all began as Christian colleges. How the great have fallen.
  • Third, this Awakening created a common experience for all colonial Americans from Georgia to Massachusetts. Prior to this event, each colony saw itself as a separate entity with more connection to London than to each other. The spiritual experience of the Awakening also awakened them to their common interests, thereby helping to create greater unity of thought and purpose—something they would need as the crisis of the American Revolution approached.

In my view, this First Great Awakening was a genuine move of God to shake the people from their spiritual lethargy and stupor. It accomplished its purpose.

The Obama Zone

Yesterday, ISIS captured more than 100 Christians in Syria. If they are treated as other captives, the women and young girls will be raped and brutalized, then executed. The men may be burned alive or crucified. Hatred drives these Islamists, and nothing will appease them. This is no different in spirit than the Nazis. Both movements were and are fueled by Hell.

Yet what do we hear from the administration about this latest report of Christians being massacred? Not a word yet. You see, we wouldn’t want to “inflame” the captors. It might lead them to continue their rampage of terror. At least, that’s the message Obama’s spokespersons are disseminating.

Our president, meanwhile, shows no signs of changing his mind about the foolish comments he made at the Prayer Breakfast:

Not Be Named

This past week, we did get a warning about a possible terrorist attack on the Mall of America in Minneapolis. Was it genuine, or just a ploy to force Republicans in the Senate to drop their opposition to Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty? I don’t know for sure, but I do know that malls like that would make perfect “soft” targets for the terrorists.

Did you see the sign at the Mall of America, boasting that it was a gun-free zone? Well, that’s great. Now we don’t have to worry about terrorists taking guns in there. After all, it’s against the law, right? And they are so law-abiding. The absolute foolishness of our politically correct contingent is neverending.

Malls

May I take one more opportunity to make fun of the “jobs for jihadists” theme?

Drive-Through Lanes

As a nation, we have entered the “Obama Zone,” where everything we’ve ever believed is now turned upside down.

Obamaland

And here’s another thing that is now reversed:

Dissent

A poignant Scripture from the book of Isaiah is one I’ve used many times to decry what we see happening in our country. I’m going to use it again today simply because it so accurately describes what we are experiencing:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!

Obama the Christian?

ObamessiahThe mainstream media is making a big deal out of forcing Republicans to say President Obama is a Christian. As if they care. Surveys over the years have been consistent: the mainstream journalists that attempt to direct the thinking of the nation are overwhelmingly secularist; 90% or so seldom attend church, and when they do, one might question the choice of that church. What gospel is it preaching?

No, they’re not really interested in Obama actually being a Christian. They just want some Republican candidate for president to say he isn’t. Then they will have a sound bite to use against that candidate forever, painting him as a narrowminded bigot.

Fortunately, I’m not running for an office and never will be. I will say what I think. Let’s look at the evidence. Jesus did say you would know who is and is not His disciple by the fruit of their lives. He also said not everyone who claims He is their Lord is really part of His kingdom. Words are extremely cheap.

So, here is a partial list that might help us determine whether Barack Obama is a Christian. Keep in mind this is a partial list only, but pretty representative.

  • His biological father was an anti-colonialist Muslim. Obama, even though he never really knew him well, idolized him.
  • His mother was a radical leftist who wanted nothing to do with Christianity.
  • He was raised a Muslim, attending Muslim school in Indonesia. No child is responsible for where his parents school him, but it is more than obvious by his actions that he has a special place in his mind and heart for Islam.
  • He was sent to live with his maternal grandparents in Hawaii who were also radical leftists; his grandfather deliberately put Obama under the tutelage of a communist agitator, Frank Marshall Davis.
  • In both high school and at the various universities where he was educated, he involved himself in radical activities and was known to smoke marijuana, and who knows what else.
  • When he became a community organizer, he attached himself to a church because that would provide him an “in” with the community.
  • The “church” he chose was one that preached a “gospel” of Black Liberation Theology, which pictures Jesus as more of a revolutionary to bring heaven to earth rather than as the Savior of orthodox Christian belief.
  • In an interview with a Chicago newspaper when he was an Illinois state senator, he said he didn’t know if there was a real heaven or hell.
  • In that same interview, he clearly stated that Christianity wasn’t the exclusive way to God.
  • He is a radical as well on the issue of abortion, seeking to extend this “right” to every woman at all times. He has praised Planned Parenthood for its efforts to make abortion available to all.
  • As an Illinois senator, he even fought against a bill that would provide medical care to any baby “accidentally” born alive during an abortion. In effect, he favors infanticide.
  • We now know he lied about his support for the traditional Christian concept of marriage; he has favored same-sex marriage all along but hid his views for the sake of election and reelection.
  • His administration supports actions against Christians who hold to their belief that homosexuality is a sin. The Justice Dept. has repeatedly sought to take away tax-exempt status from Christian organizations that don’t go along with Obamacare mandates that violate their Christian faith.
  • He has stepped up the rhetoric against Christians lately, as he seeks to portray them as violent extremists as opposed to the actual Muslim violent extremists.
  • He won’t even condemn acts of Islamic terror by name when directed against Christians, pointedly refusing to even identify the victims as Christians.

Christians Do Stuff

I have no problem saying publicly that Barack Obama is not a Christian. In fact, he’s becoming more vocal about his true beliefs now that he won’t be running for president again.

I understand why Republican candidates have to be careful in what they say; the Obama media will scorch them if they come out too strongly with their real views. The wisest path is to redirect those questions back to the journalists. Why do they never confront Democrat candidates with the same type of “gotcha” questions? Republicans also need to focus on the positive agenda they would bring if elected.

But I’m just an academic and a blogger. I will say what I think—at least until the government stifles free speech on the Internet. I will stand firm for my Christian faith and all that implies in public discourse and public policy. If we stand together on this, we can still turn this around and make a difference. The nation doesn’t have to continue its descent into oblivion.

The First Great Awakening

Throughout American history the nation has experienced renewals of Christian faith. The first time this happened, in the 1730s and 1740s, was not a time of outward spiritual decline; in fact, studies have shown that approximately 70-75% of American colonists attended church regularly. Yet a renewal was necessary.

Historians have decided to call this event the First Great Awakening. Nowadays, we’ve become used to calling such episodes “revivals.” That word, though, has been terribly overworked and is losing meaning. “Awakening,” however, is a term I like better. It implies that people have been asleep spiritually, perhaps living in a dream and thinking it’s reality. Then they come to their senses and realize they have been living a fantasy. Their eyes are opened to the spiritual truths once again.

What had happened is that people began to think that doing all the external things: going to church, being baptized, taking communion, etc., was all that was necessary. They were focused on the outward manifestations of the Christian faith but they were missing the inward change of heart that was essential for real salvation.

William TennantThe Presbyterian father-son team of William and Gilbert Tennant took this to heart themselves and sought to send out more preachers who would emphasize the necessity of repentance and holy living. There was a problem, though. In order to become a minister with all the “right” credentials, one had to get a degree from a college with a ministerial training program. At this time in America, only three such colleges existed: Harvard, Yale, and William and Mary.

Harvard already was under suspicion for drifting away from the orthodox faith and beginning the transition to a Unitarian institution. William and Mary was for Anglicans and wasn’t known for its evangelical fervor. Yale was more suited to the task, but not everyone could afford to go to Yale, or might not be prepared intellectually for its rigor.

Log CollegeTo take up the slack, the Tennants set up what they called Log Colleges. The first was established by William Tennant, which lasted from 1726 until his death in 1746. In this primitive log house, comprised of only about 400 square feet, Tennant would give his students a crash course in Hebrew and Greek and intensive Bible study. Eventually, graduates of this “college” and those modeled after it, would fill the pulpits of the Presbyterian churches in the Middle Colonies and in the South.

This effort laid the groundwork for other men to follow in the Tennants’ footsteps. In future posts, I’ll look at Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, who became advocates of this new approach to evangelism and Christian discipleship.

Log College Marker

Our Executioner Awaits

As I continued to follow the news yesterday of the search for the Islamic terrorists in France, I wish I could say I was stunned by revelations of Western cluelessness. Unfortunately, I was not.

Imitating President Obama, we now have a multitude of voices saying that Islamic terrorists are not really Islamic. And a chorus is arising—the same chorus we’ve heard on and off since 9/11—fearful that Americans will now persecute peace-loving Muslims in our midst.

That “boy-cried-wolf” scenario, if it had any validity at all, would have occurred in those days following 9/11, but it never has.

Our mainstream media, fearful of being attacked themselves, pull back from associating this latest atrocity with Islam. They still think there can be peaceful co-existence, if only we play nice.

Whittaker ChambersListening to all this vacuous thinking reminded me of a quote from Whittaker Chambers in his book Witness. Reflecting on his world in 1925—a world unaware of the Communist threat it faced—he penned these words that could equally apply today in our time of peril:

The dying world of 1925 was without faith, hope, character, understanding of its malady or will to overcome it. It was dying but it laughed. And this laughter was not the defiance of a vigor that refuses to know when it is whipped. It was the loss, by the mind of a whole civilization, of the power to distinguish between reality and unreality, because, ultimately, though I did not know it, it had lost the power to distinguish between good and evil.… The dying world had no answer at all to the crisis of the 20th century, and, when it was mentioned, and every moral voice in the Western world was shrilling crisis, it cocked an ear of complacent deafness and smiled a smile of blank senility—throughout history, the smile of those for whom the executioner waits.

Scary words to me. Scary because they ring so true in the 21st century also. What has happened to Western culture? It has lost its Christian underpinnings. Keen analysis is rare due to our rejection of truth. We are dying, but we laugh. We have lost the power to distinguish reality from unreality because we have lost clear concepts of good and evil that come from the Biblical worldview.

Our elites, whether in government, the media, or academia, have no answers. We are in a crisis that they refuse to acknowledge. The few—the Christian few, and others who retain the Christian framework in their thinking—point to the crisis, but complacent deafness and the smile of blank senility is the only response. Our executioner awaits, if we don’t return to our roots.

A political cartoon yesterday sums up our plight:

None So Blind

Happy New Year? Will Government Help or Hurt?

The last two days I’ve looked at the role of Christians and the moral/cultural climate as we peer into 2015. I’ve said that the key to this being a happier year is whether real Christians take their task as salt and light seriously. Then I dissected the trend of the culture morally, showing the immense job we have ahead of us.

Today, let’s consider government’s role, and what it does, either to help reverse current trends or push us further along a wrong path.

Good & EvilUnlike some conservatives/libertarians, I don’t think that government is a necessary evil. Rather, it is established by God to bring order to society. According to Romans 13, it is to be a servant of God to protect those who do good and punish those who do wrong.

I can see why many chafe under civil government when it does the opposite of what it is intended by God to accomplish. I feel the same way. When I survey what our government has done in the past (and being a historian, I’ve done a lot of surveying), I can point to many times when it has deviated from God’s directive. Yet, in America, regardless of the failures, we’ve done better than almost any other nation on the globe, both currently and in the past.

Obama Arrogant LookI regard the ascension of Barack Obama into the presidency as a watershed in American history. His vision to fundamentally transform the country was not just rhetoric. He is the first president who, in the deepest part of his being, doesn’t really like and appreciate the nation he is presiding over. He doesn’t like its history, the way the government was set up in the Constitution, nor the free-market approach to prosperity.

In short, he is the antithesis of everything America was designed to be.

His election was supposed to heal the racial divide, but his words and actions have only widened that divide. He has put the federal government in charge of as much as possible, from student loans to the healthcare system. His outright support for homosexuality and same-sex marriage has encouraged our retreat from Biblical morality, and he is the first president ever to address Planned Parenthood—the foremost provider of abortions—and ask God’s blessing on their efforts.

Obama’s background is a deadly mix of anti-colonial resentment, Marxist ideology, and black liberation theology. All three fuel his drive to remake America in his own image.

During his tenure, we have seen one scandal after another—the IRS, the NSA, the VA, Benghazi, etc. In each case, he has swept the dirt under the rug, and the media has obliged by ignoring the potentially devastating nature of the infractions and the blithe dismissal of solutions.

Stymied by Congress, he has now decided to operate as a lone wolf—first by executive orders for which he has no authority; lately, by mere executive memos that even fall short of an official order. His word is all that is necessary to make law.

This is, in summary, the beginnings of a tyranny.

The Obama vision was rejected soundly in the 2014 congressional and state elections. As I’ve noted in previous posts, Republicans now control 70 of the 99 state legislative bodies and both houses of the Congress. Based on that, one might expect a genuine attempt at reversal. But will we see it?

Boehner-McConnellAlready, many suspect that Republican leaders, spurred on by the Chamber of Commerce, are in league with the president on the immigration amnesty. Will they do anything at all to counteract it? The next two months will reveal the truth.

Are Republicans truly committed to repealing Obamacare, step by step? Yes, they still have the hurdle of a presidential veto of anything they pass, but will they take a principled stand, at least? Again, we’ll see.

The Supreme Court may do their job for them on that issue: a case is going to be decided that could kill Obamacare for good. There is hope.

There are two opposite things that Christians must never do: we cannot believe that the government is our savior; neither can we withdraw from the political scene and just let things play out. We must have a realistic view of what government can and cannot accomplish, but then we have an obligation to actively work for the good it can accomplish.

Christians & PoliticsIt still comes back to what I said two days ago: the key for a happier New Year lies with those who are devoted followers of Jesus Christ. They are the only ones with the ultimate Truth to share, and they should be the ones who have the wisdom to apply that Truth properly to society.

Will we be wise? I wish I could be more certain of that, but that goal remains at the top of my prayers.