A Meditation on Knowledge & Wisdom

I spent many years earning a doctorate in history. When I began that quest, I had turned my back on the Christian faith. I wondered if the world of academia could provide the answers. One master’s degree, a multitude of courses, and three comprehensive exams later—all prior to the doctoral dissertation—finally convinced me that the educated elite were just as clueless as the rest of the world.

“Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?” These questions come from the pen of the apostle Paul. He answers himself:

Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

He then makes a statement that I’m sure sets the intellectual elite’s teeth on edge: “The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

Am I saying that higher education is worthless? It can be. It all depends on the context of the learning. Anything divorced from God’s truth is not going to be beneficial in the long run. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake is pointless. Man’s wisdom is often little more than arrogance and stupidity—people thinking they are intelligent, yet not realizing they are intellectual pygmies in light of God’s truth.

Some people seek advanced degrees to feel better about themselves. They want to be respected; they want to be important. Yet,

God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.

Boasting is one of man’s primary activities. This is particularly true of those who hold political power. They make promises seemingly without end: “Here is what we will do for you”; “We will end this problem once and for all”; “If you want answers, elect us!” Most of them, however, trust in their own minds and are disconnected from the Ultimate Mind.

The apostle Paul continues,

We speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

What was true of Paul’s age remains true today. There is a wisdom that comes from God that provides all we need to know for having relationship with Him and with all others. If followed, it solves the world’s problems. Sinful man, though, refuses to submit his mind and his will to the One who has the answers.

“Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.”

This calls for humility; humility only appears after genuine repentance; repentance only occurs when a person is grieved over his sinful heart. How often does this happen? According to Jesus, not often enough:

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

May we all come that place.

Kavanaugh, Accusations, & Evil Intent

As I’m sure many of you have, I’ve listened carefully to all the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh. Why? I want only people of sterling character in important positions in government. I also watched the interview Martha McCallum of Fox News conducted with him. I wanted to see how he would respond to the controversy that has erupted concerning his nomination to the Supreme Court.

By the way, a Supreme Court nomination never should have this degree of importance. It is important, true. Yet our system of governing is so out of line with what the Founders intended that we now deem a seat on the Court almost as significant as the choice for president. Any conservative who seeks to accept that nomination is usually in for a trial by fire. One must be willing to have one’s reputation blown away.

Kavanaugh, in the interview, was obviously tense. Who wouldn’t be, after all the sordid accusations? He also kept repeating the same lines: his desire for a fair process; the opportunity to defend his reputation and integrity. While he could have been less robotic in his responses, I understand his concern to keep the focus where it belongs—that there is no substance to the charges being leveled against him.

He came across to me as a kind, thoughtful man, seeking to exhibit grace under duress. He refused to speculate about the motives of the accusers, both the women themselves and the Democrats who want to ensure he never takes that seat on the Court.

Clarence Thomas, when he suffered the same type of trial during his confirmation hearings, didn’t hold back. He let the world know that there was evil intent in the effort to block him. I respected that because the intent was so blatantly obvious. That same animus is evident toward Kavanaugh. A man with an unblemished record prior to these accusations (the FBI already did a full background check) has been dragged through the mud.

Of course, he’s not the only one in the mud. He didn’t choose to be there, but others have jumped in voluntarily.

If anyone ever had any doubts about the level to which we have sunk in our current politics, the Democrats have now erased all such doubts:

Kavanaugh has been a victim, to be sure. Yet there’s another victim rarely mentioned:

Why, some may ask? Why have all the stops been pulled out in this attempt to derail someone who is so greatly respected as a judge that even the liberal-leaning ABA gave him its highest rating? What is behind it all?

I have a simple answer: abortion.

If Kavanaugh were merely replacing another conservative justice—as when Gorsuch replaced Scalia—the animus would never have been this great. The problem is that he’s replacing Kennedy, and the fear on the Left is that this means the Court will now have a solid conservative majority for many years.

At the root of that fear is the moral depravity of abortion-on-demand. Nothing, in the fevered brains of the Leftist radical feminist movement, can be permitted to interfere with the “right” to kill unwanted, yet innocent, children.

Yes, this is where we are now as a nation.

My hope for Brett Kavanaugh—and for the nation—can be found in the poignant words of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 54:

No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.

May it be, Lord. May it be.

Jeremy Lanphier & the Prayer Revival of 1857

I teach about this man when I cover the Civil War era. This account is taken from a Christian History e-mail I receive daily. I thought it was worth sharing today.

JEREMY LANPHIER was born in Albany in 1809 but he made his mark in New York City. He moved there to find employment and became a success as a clothing wholesaler.

Although he attended church to sing in the choir, he was not a Christian. While attending the Broadway Tabernacle he discovered Christ’s provision for his salvation and claim on his life. Lanphier immediately became concerned for the souls of those in spiritual darkness around him. Unmarried, he was able to give his evenings and spare time to passing out tracts and talking to people.

Meanwhile, a Dutch Reformed church in lower Manhattan had been declining in numbers because as members prospered they tended to move to wealthier districts. The leadership decided to reverse this trend with an active visitation program. They offered the job to Lanphier and he accepted. He would spend entire days visiting members, witnessing in the blocks around the church, and holding Bible studies with anyone he could interest. The work depleted him spiritually, but he found he was recharged if he spent an hour at noon in prayer. Even so, his efforts seemed fruitless.

It occurred to him that if prayer were vital to himself, perhaps others would benefit, too. He obtained a room on Fulton Street and printed 20,000 flyers, setting the first meeting for noon on this day, Wednesday, 23 September 1857.

If ever there was a time to pray, this was it. Americans in the 1850s feared that a civil war was coming. Many were disillusioned with the church because William Miller and others had preached the end of the world in the 1840s.

Lanphier knelt to pray alone. His flyer, it seemed, had been dismissed by all who saw it. For half an hour, he remained praying in solitude. Then a man showed up and, without a word, knelt beside him. Then another. By 1 PM, ten knees were on the floor beside Lanphier. The following week, several more men appeared. By October, Lanphier had to get a larger building. On 7 October, he had forty businessmen as prayer partners and they asked to meet daily. The timing could not have been more perfect.

On 10 October 1857, financial panic struck America. Banks folded, railroads went bankrupt, factories closed, and unemployment skyrocketed. Desperate people turned to prayer. Such a great number of people flocked to churches that soon many places of worship around the city were forced to open their sanctuaries at noon and evening for prayer.. A reporter who rushed from sanctuary to sanctuary one noon counted over six thousand people praying—and he was not able to visit every meeting place. The New York Herald and the New York Tribune covered the phenomenon, bringing it to the attention of others.

Chicago, St. Louis, Cleveland, and other large cities began noon prayer meetings. The YMCA also held prayer meetings wherever its branches had formed.

The result was labeled America’s Third Great Awakening. People began to inquire how they might be saved. As many as a million people were converted or renewed in the revival that followed. Churches that had been dying filled anew with worshipers. The revival leapt around the world, primarily in regions occupied or influenced by the British Empire but also on the European continent.

Jeremy Lanphier continued his work in New York’s streets until he was too old to get around any longer. He died in 1898.

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.

Bring Down the Curtain on This Theater of the Absurd

Just when we thought the Brett Kavanaugh hearings were over, the judge is hit with an eleventh-hour accusation of sexual harassment. From his high school days. Thirty-six years ago.

The hearings themselves were a ludicrous display of manufactured outrage and protests as extremists deliberately disrupted the proceedings. The screaming and hysterics were carefully timed to erupt every half hour or so, it seemed.

Yet Kavanaugh is the extremist?

As the vote for confirmation was about to happen, suddenly Sen. Diane Feinstein leaked the harassment allegation. From a letter she had in her possession since July. Keep in mind that Feinstein had met with Kavanaugh one-on-one while in possession of that letter, yet never mentioned it to him. There were private hearings before the public ones in which she could have questioned him about it, but didn’t.

No, it was kept back until it could do the most damage. Actually, I’m not sure she really thought it would ultimately undo the nomination, but it was at least the kind of distraction that might delay his elevation to the Supreme Court. That part might be working.

The accuser, Prof. Christine Blasey Ford, is a Bernie Sanders supporter (which undoubtedly makes her a socialist). Although I haven’t read this specifically, can anyone believe she is pro-life on the abortion issue? Really?

There is no corroboration from anyone she knows about the alleged incident. She can’t even remember many of the details herself. It’s all kind of a muddle. Yet we are supposed to take her word for it regardless. All such accusations are to be accepted as fact simply because she is a woman making the accusation.

Never mind that 65 women who know and have worked with Kavanaugh over those last thirty-six years signed a letter attesting to his honor and decent behavior toward them. Somehow that doesn’t count. Never mind that two of those women even dated him when they were all in high school and attest that he was always a perfect gentleman. No, we must believe Ford instead. Both Democrats and the media (I repeat myself) are convinced of his guilt.

Now Ford, who at first said she wanted to be heard, has declined to testify before the committee. She’s been offered a closed-door meeting, she doesn’t have to be in the same room with Kavanaugh, and the committee has even gone out of its way—far beyond what is required—to say it will come to her in California to hear what she has to say.

No, she now demands that there be an FBI investigation first. The accusation is not a federal crime; the FBI has no jurisdiction. And what about all those background checks the FBI has already conducted on Kavanaugh’s past? Why did nothing of this nature surface? He seems to have an impeccable past.

What we are seeing here is theater of the absurd taken to new levels of absurdity. Kavanaugh is the victim, not his accuser.

It’s an established fact that most of the senators, Republican and Democrat, already knew how they would vote before any hearings convened. Democrats were poised to discredit whoever the nominee would have been. It didn’t matter who it was; that person, male or female, would be depicted as an ogre of some type.

When President Obama put forward his nominees for the Court, you never saw this kind of hysteria among those who questioned his choices. Decorum prevailed even on the side of those who opposed them. Why is it that only Republican nominees have to face this kind of whirlwind?

I have my answer: Roe v. Wade. That’s what it’s all about for many on the Left. They are afraid that Kavanaugh on the Court will finally deal the death blow for that supposed right to abortion. It’s about as simple as that.

It’s time to bring this lunacy to a close. It’s time to vote and then move forward.

Character: That Which Is in Our Hearts

We are all free moral agents made in the image of God. In order for His creation to operate the way He intended, we must reflect His character. If we don’t, everything falls apart [which is evident just by observing the world].

Noah Webster’s dictionary definition of character, distinct from the human aspect, was simply “a mark made by cutting, engraving, stamping, or pressing.” Like a typewriter—you remember those? Put in the paper, press the key, the arm jumps up and cuts, engraves, stamps, or presses on the paper, making a “mark.”

It works the same way with people. Our character is made by the various cuttings we must endure, the engravings that sometimes hurt, the stamping and pressing that oftentimes leaves us wondering how we are going to survive. Yet those very circumstances of life make us into what we are. They form our character.

Character is created within; it reveals itself externally. We cannot simply grit our teeth and determine we will have godly character; it must spring from a heart that is changed. The Apostle Paul alluded to this when he wrote to the Corinthian believers:

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (II Cor. 3:2-3)

The real change takes place in the heart. What is in the heart will be manifested. Some may not like this explanation:




Truth can disturb us—but that’s the nature of truth. Only when we face up to the truth and acknowledge it for what it is can we be set free.

The Only Question That Really Matters: Lewis’s Final Interview

The final interview C. S. Lewis gave was with Sherwood Wirt of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Wirt spoke with him at Cambridge University in May of 1963, just six months before Lewis died. I was re-reading that interview this morning and found it enlightening as to Lewis’s thoughts during that final stage of his life—although, of course, he didn’t realize he was in the final stage.

At first, Wirt was interested in drawing out Lewis on the type of writing Christians should do. When asked his opinion of the kind of Christian writing being done at that time, Lewis was blunt:

A great deal of what is being published by writers in the religious tradition is a scandal and is actually turning people away from the church. The liberal writers who are continually accommodating and whittling down the truth of the Gospel are responsible.

I cannot understand how a man can appear in print claiming to disbelieve everything that he presupposes when he puts on the surplice. I feel it is a form of prostitution.

Strong words.

As the interview proceeded, Wirt asked Lewis how Christians can help foster an encounter of people with Christ. “You can’t lay down any pattern for God,” Lewis replied, but added that he had learned to be cautious in passing judgment on different approaches to delivering the Gospel. Above all, he urged commitment to the message:

As Christians we are tempted to make unnecessary concessions to those outside the Faith. We give in too much. Now, I don’t mean that we should run the risk of making a nuisance of ourselves by witnessing at improper times, but there comes a time when we must show that we disagree. We must show our Christian colours, if we are to be true to Jesus Christ. We cannot remain silent or concede everything away.

Lewis also decried the increasing use of obscenity in literature in order to create what some called a more “realistic atmosphere.” He viewed that development with dismay, seeing it as “a symptom, a sign of a culture that has lost its faith.” There is a progression, Lewis warned: “Moral collapse follows upon spiritual collapse. I look upon the immediate future with great apprehension.”

Modern culture, he felt, was in the throes of de-Christianization. While he refrained from commenting on the political aspects of this development, he did have “definite views” on what was happening within the church:

I believe there are many accommodating preachers, and too many practitioners in the church who are not believers. Jesus Christ did not say, “Go into all the world and tell the world that it is quite right.” The Gospel is something completely different. In fact, it is directly opposed to the world.

The interview concluded with Wirt asking Lewis what he thought would be occurring “in the next few years of history.” Lewis’s response was quite practical—and Biblically based:

I have no way of knowing. . . . The world might stop in ten minutes; meanwhile, we are to go on doing our duty. The great thing is to be found at one’s post as a child of God, living each day as though it were our last, but planning as though our world might last a hundred years.

He then echoed words he had written in more than one of his earlier writings:

We have, of course, the assurance of the New Testament regarding events to come. I find it difficult to keep from laughing when I find people worrying about future destruction of some kind or other. Didn’t they know they were going to die anyway? Apparently not.

My wife once asked a young woman friend whether she had ever thought of death, and she replied, “By the time I reach that age science will have done something about it!”

Unlimited faith in man’s science is a fantasy. We all will die. The only question that really matters is whether we have remained at our post as a child of God, continuing to do His will until the end comes. Lewis did exactly that in the six months he had left. We need to follow his example.