Archive for the ‘ Biblical Principles ’ Category

Onward to a Mature Faith

Elwin Ransom, C. S. Lewis’s protagonist in his Space Trilogy, tells the fictional Lewis in the novel Perelandra that he [Ranson] is about to be transported in a rather mysterious fashion to another planet. The Lewis character asks Ransom if he has any idea what to expect. Is it safe? Will he be able to breathe? What will he eat? Does he have any confidence that he will return?

“If you mean, Does my reason accept the view that he will . . . deliver me safe on the surface of Perelandra?—the answer is Yes,” said Ransom. “If you mean, Do my nerves and my imagination respond to this view?—I’m afraid the answer is No. One can believe in anaesthetics and yet feel in a panic when they actually put the mask over your face. I think I feel as a man who believes in the future life feels when he is taken out to face a firing party. Perhaps it’s good practice.”

We all probably can identify with that feeling. Our minds will tell us one thing—a thing that we believe deeply is true—while our emotions may be screaming at us, urging us not to step out onto that limb of faith. What if we fall?

This coming Wednesday evening, in my class on Mere Christianity, we’ll be covering the chapters that deal with faith. Lewis, from his own personal experience, shares how our moods are so very changeable—yet we cannot allow those moods/emotional episodes to dictate truth. He explains it in his typical relatable style:

Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience.

Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.

It’s particularly interesting to me that Lewis confesses even atheists have doubts about their atheism. Don’t we sometimes think that it’s only those of us who have professed the faith who have those doubts? No, doubting is common to all. What is the solution?

This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion.

When we allow our moods—our emotional ups and downs—to determine what we believe, we are, in effect, telling God we really don’t trust His character: His love for us through Christ; the ultimate Sacrifice He paid; the forgiveness He has offered; the new life He has granted us.

The apostle James tells us,

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

I want to persevere. I want to be mature. I seek the kind of faith that sets aside all doubts about God’s goodness and trusts Him implicitly. May that faith grow in us all.

About Those Midterm Elections

Midterm elections mercifully come to an end tomorrow evening. That means we will be spared from the constant barrage of criminal charges against one’s political opponent. Although I’m no longer surprised by the extremely nasty nature of most political ads, I think they’ve raised the nasty factor a few notches this year.

I don’t needs ads anyway. My voting decisions are not based on ads that I know are designed to mislead. My vote is based on the principles that I believe are necessary for government to function the way God intended.

Despite my personal disappointment that Republicans have chosen the wrong man to be the public face of the party, I continue to believe that voting for Democrats will promote not only a government, but a society, hostile to Biblical principles and the morality that should naturally follow those principles.

The Democrat platform has drifted increasingly toward an affirmation of concepts that are not only opposed to Biblical principles but that have a track record of proven incompetence and failure.

That’s not the man I would follow.

Democrats also need to think through the logic of their positions more carefully.

Marxism is not simply a different point of view. History reveals it to be, in its very nature, a movement toward totalitarianism. You must agree or you will pay the penalty. What should we expect if Democrats don’t do as well as they hoped in these midterms?

Be prepared for a level of incivility and outright violence that will take most people by surprise.

How should Christians respond if this occurs?

Be on the alert. Stand firm in the faith. Be men of courage. Be strong. Do everything in love. I Cor. 16:13-14

Notice how one can be firm, courageous, and strong while simultaneously carrying ourselves in love toward others. That’s the goal. That’s God’s way.

Socialism: A Principle-Based Critique

Conservatives speak out against socialism, and I am glad they do. Often, though, the critique is too much on the surface. I wish more conservatives would base their critique on solid Biblical principles.

While I agree that socialism simply is unworkable and has never shown any indication, in any nation, of being the engine that brings prosperity, my critique is more fundamental.

Defining socialism is important. The definition that I think is most appropriate is when the government controls all the means of production and distribution of goods. That can be by outright nationalization of all industries or by regulating them in such a manner that they, in practice, are no longer truly private—the ostensible owners can’t really make the decisions they wish because the government has intervened and interfered on every level.

Where does my critique begin? It starts with the belief that God has created each individual in His image, which includes the abilities to reason and to make decisions in life.

The second principle is that God seeks to lead us into maturity by teaching us how to govern our own lives—under His laws and guidance. He wants us to grow up and be able to know, without someone always standing over us, what those right decisions are.

Third, if that principle of self-government is correct, the natural extension is that we are to make our own economic decisions also. If government makes all those decisions for us, we never learn how to be accountable in that arena. We can never graduate from God’s School of Accountability if the government takes over our lives.

That’s why I believe that limited government and a free market are the ideals. That’s why I believe that capitalism is the source of genuine prosperity.

Can capitalism go wrong? Every human endeavor dependent on sinful men can go wrong. But it can go very right as well. Socialism, meanwhile, is inherently wrong because it violates all those principles I just described.

I said socialism hasn’t worked anywhere. I can give the former USSR and its satellite states as a prime example: 70-plus years of abject failure.

Nations like Sweden, which are often used as shining examples of socialism, have never outlawed private ownership of businesses; the government has simply tried to use the prosperity that stems from those businesses to finance a welfare state. if you haven’t noticed, there is now trouble in that nation trying to maintain its high level of social welfare. As Margaret Thatcher so famously stated (and I paraphrase)—socialism always runs out of other people’s money.

Venezuela is the latest tragic example, where people are searching garbage cans for food, and where hordes of its citizens are now voting with their feet, leaving their native land—a land that was once the richest in all of South America. The late Hugo Chavez, the dictator who began this disaster, was the instigator of this move away from reason, and let’s be honest: it was also a play for complete control over his people and maximum power for himself.

He didn’t live long enough to witness the full fruit of his warped ideology, but his people have lived with the consequences ever since.

Young Americans seem rather taken with socialism. I believe it’s because they don’t really have an understanding of it. They seem to think it’s some newfangled theory that no one has ever tried. Take Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the new darling of the socialist agenda in the Democrat party. She actually seems unaware of the many failures. She somehow thinks we can pay for everything she wants to make “free.” She is woefully educated.

Her rapt audience is a sad combination of the ideologically blind and the gullible, both of whom are devoid of solid principles:

Democrats are counting on those young voters in the upcoming midterm elections. For some reason, they seem to want to remake America in the image of Venezuela.

Maybe this is the argument they need to make to convince people to vote for the socialist agenda:

Meanwhile, we need to speak out on these principles: man is made in the image of God; God expects us to grow up and mature, making our decisions based on His truth; we are to learn accountability by making our own economic decisions.

And the system that these principles all lead to is capitalism.

May those principles be re-established.

Evil Is a Parasite, Not an Original Thing

One could argue, quite convincingly, I think, that every sin is simply something good being misused. Food is for our good and we are to eat; gluttony is the misuse of what was meant to be good. Sex is a gift of God provided as both a means to create unity between husband and wife as well as for procreation. Yet we see what it has become—a complete perversion of God’s intent.

As I’ve been going through Mere Christianity with my university class on C. S. Lewis, we recently came upon the passage that emphasizes what I’m trying to say here. Lewis, in the chapter titled “invasion,” attempts to make sense of the wickedness of man and the motivation for doing that which is evil.

He begins by saying essentially what I have just written, only in his much better and more lucid style: “Wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way.”

He elaborates:

You can be good for the mere sake of goodness: you cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness. You can do a kind action when you are not feeling kind and when it gives you no pleasure, simply because kindness is right; but no one ever did a cruel action simply because cruelty is wrong–only because cruelty was pleasant or useful to him.

In other words badness cannot succeed even in being bad in the same way in which goodness is good. Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness.

“Evil,” he concludes, “is a parasite [emphasis mine], not an original thing.” The directness of that statement can be startling, but it most certainly nails down the nature of evilness.

Lewis highlights this contrast between good and evil also in his Reflections on the Psalms when he notes,

If the Divine call does not make us better, it will make us very much worse. Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst. Of all created beings the wickedest is one who originally stood in the immediate presence of God.

Satan is not the opposite of God in his nature. He is not the evil god but merely a created being who once belonged to the heavenly realm. He threw away that glory and attempted to become glorious himself. He failed most miserably, thereby transforming himself into the most wicked of all created beings.

The calling of God on our lives and His expectation for how we are to live can be summarized in Galatians, chapter 5:

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh. . . .

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. . . .

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

By the Bible or the Bayonet?

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) was a Dutch lawyer, scholar, theologian, and author. His most noteworthy work, The Law of War and Peace, made him famous as the foremost authority on the law of nations, which we now tend to call international law.

There is a statement attributed to Grotius that I wish I could document as actually emanating from him, but I haven’t found the source. I’ve read some of his Law of War and Peace, and the statement certainly sounds like something he might say. If anyone knows for sure if he said it, or if not, who did, I would welcome that information.

However, I’ve decided that even if Grotius didn’t write this, it’s so good that it needs to be shared. As I tell my students, if he’s not the author of this thought, then I’ll claim it for myself.

Here’s how it begins:

He knows not how to rule a kingdom that cannot manage a province; nor can he wield a province that cannot order a city; nor he order a city that knows not how to regulate a village.

Notice the progression. The concept is that one should not be given a greater realm of authority if he cannot handle a lesser realm. One must prove himself at a lower level before being granted more responsibility.

The statement continues:

Nor he a village that cannot guide a family; nor can that man govern well a family that knows not how to govern himself.

The principle keeps getting extended downward. Yet how many men and women in our day, particularly in politics, are awarded by the people with high office when they cannot even govern themselves?

Shall I insert here Senator Ted Kennedy, who drove a car off a bridge and swam away while the woman with him in the car (not his wife) was left to drown? The people of Massachusetts, in their electoral wisdom, made him a senator for life. Should that have been?

You would think the statement might end where I’ve already ended it, but it goes even further:

Neither can any govern himself unless his reason be lord, will and appetite her vassals; nor can reason rule unless herself be ruled by God, and be obedient to Him.

Will and appetite refer to desires/emotions—they need to be servants to one’s reason. Desires and emotions cannot drive one’s actions. Yet even reason, as we know, can go astray. Autonomous human reasoning is a mini-god itself. Therefore, our reason also has to submit to God and His loving rule.

I call this the principle of self-government, and I’ve devoted a chapter to it in my book, If the Foundations Are Destroyed: Biblical Principles and Civil Government.

Proverbs 16:32 tells us, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.”

There have been many “great” men in history, at least by standards other than God’s. On the outside, they may look like “winners,” but God looks at the heart.

A society with Biblical self-government at its roots, and that looks to place people in positions of civil authority whose lives reveal that self-government, will be a society substantially free from oppressive rules and regulations. Only a people not self-governed under God will turn to a strong civil government to hold themselves in check.

In truth, the people of a nation receive the type of government that their level of self-government deserves. What does this say about modern America? After all, our representatives, from local officials to congressmen to the president are merely a reflection of us.

One more quote—this one documented.

Robert Winthrop (1809-1894), who served as speaker of the House of Representatives and also as a senator, gave an address to the Massachusetts Bible Society in 1849. What he said in that address is a fitting conclusion to the thoughts I want to share today:

All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. The less they may have of stringent State Government, the more they have of individual self-government. The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they rely on private moral restraint.

Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without [outside] them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or the bayonet.

May we be controlled by the Word of God and show ourselves worthy of self-government.

Rejecting God-Ordained Reality

As a Christian, I believe what Scripture tells me about mankind—that sin abounds. Even if I were not a Christian, the testimony of man’s sinfulness is everywhere, and that, in itself, should be enough to convince anyone of the truth of what Scripture says.

Sin is heinous. It’s also stupid. Its stupidity manifests itself in many ways. Some would not call what I’m about to highlight “sin,” but I insist it is because anything that goes against God’s created order stems from man’s rebellion against Him.

I’m about to begin another academic year. Thankfully, I don’t teach at a university that has succumbed to the erasure of God-ordained truth. I don’t have to worry about this, for instance:

Man, woman, he, and she are still allowed where I teach. The God-ordained reality remains as a cornerstone of my university’s culture.

The environment is one of God’s gifts to us. We are to be stewards of this gift. Yet, even something as good as the environment can replace God in people’s estimation; they can sometimes turn it into a mini-god of its own. This results in some rather silly concerns:

If there is a problem with toxic waste, let’s take care of that. But to place so much blame on straws??

The media often considers itself another one of those mini-gods. It can create its own reality, promoting what it believes to be true while ignoring God-ordained truth. Self-defense is a basic human right given by God. Yet some would seek to overthrow such common sense and replace it with their own version of reality. The media’s role, all too often, is as a filter against reality:

As is obvious, false worldviews bleed over into politics rather easily. Principled arguments in favor of one position or another would be the reasonable, God-ordained way of figuring out the best policies. There is another way, however, that dominates our politics, and it’s based on pure selfishness of personal gain:

Accuse anyone you don’t like of racism—as one example—and you can “win.” When “winning” is everything, and you have no scruples with regard to how you “win,” you actually lose. Tossing aside principles is not the God-ordained way to live.

We currently have a revived trend toward the false religion of Marxism. Yes, I called it a religion, and for good reason. Although Marx rejected God, he still had his own god—himself. He claimed to be working for the common man, yet was not acquainted with too many of them. He spent most of his time immersed in his own thoughts in libraries. He never really had a long-term job or provided for his family; he sponged off of others his entire life.

Yet for many today, he is an icon. They still try to fashion their politics around his vision, but often without any real understanding of God-ordained reality.

Bottom line: man wants to reject God and his ways, and always sets up his own mini-gods (all false). The consequences are all around us.

Hell Cannot Veto Heaven

One of my favorite C. S. Lewis books is The Great Divorce. This fanciful account of a busload of occupants of hell getting an opportunity to visit heaven allows Lewis, through conversations between the passengers from hell and heavenly denizens, to discuss all the objections to the faith raised by those who reject it.

In one such discussion, Lewis deals with those who say it’s unfair that those who enter into eternal bliss should be so happy when the rest have to endure eternal torment. In the words of one of his characters, he provides this rejoinder:

What some people say on earth is that the final loss of one soul gives the lie to all the joy of those who are saved. . . .

That sounds very merciful: but see what lurks behind it. . . .

The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven.

Although we will mourn for those who selfishly chose to follow their own path rather than God’s, that cannot diminish the utter joy of living in the very presence of the Lord. Those who are hellbound have no grounds to demand we be miserable. They have made their choices; we have made ours. In one very real sense, God sends no one to hell. Here’s how Lewis expresses it, again in The Great Divorce:

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.”

All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.

It all comes down to our choice. We have no one to blame but ourselves if we live a life apart from Him. And that earthly choice will go with us into eternity.