Cross Streets

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A Little Bit On Politics, The Church, And The Bible

We are currently looking for a Church. I listened to a preacher on line, one that I actually appreciated for not pretending that the things I deal with in my heart and head all week are not actually happening and so ignores it, and I was struck by a thing he said near the end of his sermon. (Sermon title:  “Psalm 73”) I’ll paraphrase it from memory.  He said that some Christians see Donald Trump as the savior of America, then he laughed and talked about how absurd that was. Well, I couldn’t agree more. But I couldn’t help but wonder where he got the idea that Christians see Trump as a savior. I also wondered if he realized that, in saying this, he was making a straw man.  Now, while I’m sure that one could say just about anything they wanted, good or bad, about christians, and then find one that actually fits the description, I can only say that when it comes to a Christian who sees Trump as the savior of America, I’ve never met one. I’ve only met those whom it would be easy to make that accusation against, if one happen to be running a little short on charity as he was making it.

Still, as I said, I liked this preacher somewhat because what he preached was comforting to me in an age that has gone insane. He broached many a hot button issue in light of scripture, and then taught from the scriptures on how to hold to faith in the midst of it.

I also loved another thing he said, because I have been suspicious all along about this one thing, and he confirmed it for me. At the beginning of another sermon he gave a list of subjects that were the hardest to preach on, and of course, politics made that list. (Sermon title: The Marriage You Had At First 8/13) He said that he was once asked during a campaign season if he would be preaching on politics and his answer was no, because if he did he would lose his job. I really appreciated his honesty in admitting that he avoided at least that one subject because of his fear of man.

In another sermon (at about the 12 minute mark)  from another church, the preacher presented a different straw man. I have to give this preacher some kudos though because the name of his sermon was, “The Gospel and Politics”. In his sermon he said that there were people who thought that the Bible should be put aside and that he should talk only about politics during the run up to an election. I highly doubt that anyone really wanted that, rather, I’m guessing that, by reframing their desire into a caricature, it was easier for him to reject them. He said that government can’t legislate morality. That’s easy preaching right there and I couldn’t agree more. He said that hearts have to be changed, and government can’t change hearts. That’s more easy preaching and I couldn’t agree more, and if this is revelatory news to his congregation I have to say that I kind of feel sorry for him and them. What I want to know is, what do these things have to do with politics? He’s told us what the government can’t do. Why doesn’t he teach what it is doing that it ought not be doing in specific terms? Of course, I know the answer to that one. It’s because a lot of what it is doing, like killing babies and indoctrinating children into a secular humanist LGBT mindset, many in his congregation love, and he knows they love it.

As for my own experience, the fellow Christians I’ve met realize that a government that teaches children that there is no god but government, that they are nothing but evolved cosmic dust, that homosexuality is a good and righteous thing, that calling the things sin that God calls sin is wrong and evil, that we can, if we want to, choose our gender, and that extends the red carpet for the butchers at Planned Parenthood to teach promiscuity and murder, is an evil government. But then again, another topic that made the list of unsafe topics earlier was the raising of children. So my guess is that, for a preacher to suggest that steeping your children in 12 years of LGBT and anti-Christ secular humanism training might not be one of the most loving things you could do, is unlikely to happen.

I also read an article this morning posted on Townhall, a site that I have the highest regard for, and that also presented a straw man. I like the guy who wrote it too.  His name is Cal Thomas. But the subject wasn’t Trump this time. It was Roy Moore who is at present being accused of “sexual misconduct” during his campaign for the senate. Thomas presents for our examination an argument from the Bible given by some unknown fellow named Jim Zeigler in favor of Moore. I won’t address the argument he made, and whether it was a good or bad argument because that is irrelevant. True Christians (not blindly assuming that describes Zeilger) making bad arguments from scripture is not, after all, an uncommon thing. And if making arguments from the scripture wasn’t bad enough,  when such arguments are made on behalf of a fellow sinner in an election campaign, such is more than likely akin to adorning your pigs with pearl necklaces during their morning slop.

Thomas’ slight of hand in the article is, I’m sure, unintentional. Here it is for you to judge for yourself:

That the religious left has made similar analogies to advance their political agenda is no excuse. It proves my point. Religious liberals long ago stopped preaching a gospel of personal salvation in favor of a social gospel that is more social than gospel.

Conservative evangelicals are repeating this error.

The straw man is “the religious left”, and if you support Moore then you are becoming just like them. But there is a huge difference between allowing your politics to inform your religious views and allowing your religious views to inform your politics. If you want to know what the religious left believes, all of them, the Bible is the last place you’d want to look. You’d get a more accurate picture by visiting the DNC website. And, to the extent that this is true for conservative evangelicals and the RNC website, I would have to whole heartedly agree with Thomas. The only trouble is, the RNC hates Moore just as much as the Democrats do. Ultimately, however, the question is, is Zeigler a true enough example of conservative evangelicals to label everyone under that heading as “making the same mistake”?  I think not.

But in defense of those who are making this “same mistake”, I must admit that they have my compassion because when it comes to all things political, as I’ve already pointed out, it is a fairly safe assumption that their teachers on this subject were not their shepherds, because our shepherds were too afraid of being fired for broaching the subject. And the shepherds who have this fear of man have my compassion also, because we all have something to lose when it comes to speaking the truth in these dark times, and we were all raised in a time where silence reigned as supreme when it came to the touchiest of issues.

Thomas goes on with his article to take us into a confusing morass of apparent contradiction. To outline, he started with Zeigler’s Biblical argument and how he thought  it was a bad argument. So far so good. Then he associates conservative evangelicalism with Zeigler and asserts that they are in danger of becoming corrupted themselves for being willing to overlook the corruption of Moore… I think… I guess. I honestly am not entirely sure. Then he suggests that political activism by conservative Christians is the same as confusing the Gospel with politics. After that he swerves right back on a true track with this paragraph:

In an essay for Modern Age Journal, titled “Beyond the Reformation of Politics,” Alec Ryre, professor of Christianity at England’s Durham University, writes that Luther believed governments were ordained by God to restrain sinners and little else. Real transformation of individuals and thus societies, he reasoned, could be achieved only by a changed heart, which is the work of the church, not government.

So I’m now completely confused. I look around me and see evil being condoned and institutionalized by my government. I see every day the carnage in lives. And my response is to… what? Not support Roy Moore who supposedly did something decades ago that can only be termed in our age as “inappropriate”? Am I suppose to believe also that “a changed heart” is an impossible thing to be hoped for when it comes to supporting a person who will have a little say in exactly how our government ought to go about “restraining sinners”? I agree with Thomas with all I can muster that the government has no mandate from scripture, and I’d add even the constitution, to “transform individuals”. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what our government does do, and on a massive scale via public education. Am I supposed to look at all of this evil and at the same time try to keep my own hands squeaky clean by not deigning to suggest that one corrupt sinner might do a better job at restraining evil than the corrupt sinner who is outspoken in his belief that we all ought to glorify more sin, teach more sin to children, and celebrate the killing of more babies?

But this is a normal thing in our day is it not? Christians are confused, and understandably so. We are hamstrung when it comes to being a salt and a light to a dying world. We watch with a feeling of helplessness all week long as our communities spiral downward. And we go to church on Sunday and we enter another world, a world in which the past 6 days never happened. We are asked to look inward, and to try to live more moral lives. When it comes to processing all the murkiness that we swam through the last 6 days, as we waded neck deep in politics from dusk till dawn, we can be assured that we will be offered no help on how to process it. So we are left with the Rush Limbaughs, Sean Hannitys, and Fox Newses, or maybe even the MSNBCs and CNNs of this world, and their worldly perspectives, to teach us how we ought to digest, respond and react to all the evil that we see. And then we are ridiculed for doing our best, and warned that we are in danger of becoming corrupted because we hate what we see and experience, and we think that the very evils being condoned by our government ought to be restrained.

I’m sorry, but I’m not buying any of it. I know I don’t love like I ought to love, but I still can’t drive by a school house without being heart broken. I can’t watch the vast majority of the young people I’ve seen grow up in our Churches walk away from the faith after 12 years of secular humanistic indoctrination, and not be a just little upset about it. If that’s wrong, if wanting a government that restrains evil with the power of the sword, rather than endorses and perpetuates it with that power, is the same as being corrupted, then I’m afraid that I’m hopelessly corrupted, and that I’ve horribly misunderstood the concept of being salt, light and love. But I dare not pray that what little love I do have grows cold so that I can be like others who are able to look with indifference on what I see, and proclaim within my own heart to my self, “at least I’ve got mine, at least I’m not corrupted like them”.

 

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The 2nd Amendment, A Win Win

Let’s face it, guns are for killing. But it’s worse than that really. Yes, they are for killing animals for food and protection, but for the moment the killing of animals is not a problem. The fact is they are made for killing people, and for some, including myself, that’s a real problem.

When it comes to living in a Utopian paradise, put me in the front of the line. Who wouldn’t want to live in a place where there are no guns, and there is no need for guns, and whatever other fantasies one might have that seem ever to be in our futures if we could only get that one benevolent dictator to control us, and rid society of evil, and allow all us good folk to have no worry but how to enjoy ourselves? But… I’m also a realist.

Being a realist, I realize that there are harsh realities with which I must cope. One of the harshest of those realities is that man is not basically good in his heart and core. Those who preach the contrary are the same ones who create Hells on earth attempting to bring about their fantasy land Utopias. They’ll do great evils because they are convinced that their Utopian goals justify it. All the while they preach that evil is relative. They have to preach that in order to hold on to their concept of man as being, at his core, good while simultaneously observing the unpleasant realities that the same is not true.

So, what if they’re right? What if man actually is basically good? In that case, I’ll keep my weapons because they won’t be a problem anyway. I won’t need them to protect myself, and I won’t hurt anyone, because everyone else is basically good, and I’m basically good, and good people don’t do things that cause others to need protection from them. And what difference does it make if lots of other good people have weapons also? We’re all basically good. Right? But we all know that this is a pipe-dream, but it’s still a win for me, because my ability to protect myself and my family from evil is not threatened for one thing. And, there is a deterrence to evil for another thing.

On the other hand, what if they’re wrong about the heart of man? If man is not basically good, as the famers of the constitution supposed, then what man will we hand our guns to in order to bring about their promised Utopia? What government would we trust to not enslave us once we’ve been disarmed, as history teaches us that governments most certainly do? Well, the answer would be no one, which is why we have the 2nd amendment in the first place. So it’s another win.

CS Lewis said it in as good a way as I’ve ever heard it said. He accused the Utopians with: “You castrate, then bid the gelding, be fruitful”. We are told over and over that morality is relative, that what is right for one person is not necessarily right for another. We are preached to day and night that we evolved from nothing to life, that we are nothing more than bags of chemicals that exist as the result of happenstance. That, dear friends, is the moral castration. But then we are told to act as if morality and goodness actually does matter in the grand scheme of things. We’re not told why, we’re not given a basis for it, we’re just supposed to take someone’s word for it, because, Utopia. In short, we are told to be morally fruitful. Why, might I please ask then, are we shocked when people act according to what they are taught, and not according to a made-up morality that bears no ultimate consequence for ignoring. Yet evil continues to happen. Out of the moral fog of moral nothingness comes a hand that continues to slap us silly. And then we become confused. What we are told to think, and reality, are all of a sudden in mortal combat. And then we are comforted by the promise of ever more laws, as if the evil perpetrated against us was not already illegal. And blame is then placed on the realist, for he knows that laws can’t fix bad hearts, and bad governments who assist in making hearts evil can’t protect us.

 

 

Do We Really Have A Two Party Political System?

This post has nothing to do with Trump, but, nevertheless, it’s a new day in politics thanks largely to him. The truth is, Trump is downstream of the political realities as are all politicians. So if we are going to discuss politics, we must look upstream of the politicians and Trump.

One of those realities is that we really do have a de facto three party system of sorts in the US. There’s the Democrat Party, of course, that’s one. And then there’s the Republican Party which is constituted by social and fiscal conservatives. So lets look at our current situation considering these three “Parties”. For the sake of discussion, I’ll not refer any longer to the Republican Party, but rather, I’ll refer to the Social and Fiscal Parties that actually do make up that party.

To start, there is no love lost between the Socials and Fiscals. They are in sync only as it pertains to fiscal policy. They are in favor, though in varying degrees, of less regulation, lower taxes and less spending, perhaps slightly more so than the rarely ever heard of group, moderate Democrats. But moderate Democrats do exist, and I’d say in larger numbers than we think. The Democrat must live with the likes of Frederica Wilson, naked men dancing in front of little girls, and men in the girl’s bathrooms. They differ from the Fiscals only in that they’d rather join with these guys and embrace tyranny than to be in any way associated with the Socials and their agenda. This fact has hitherto seamlessly welded the otherwise moderate democrats to the leftist radicals with which they share their party. They have always united around their holy grail, abortion. That’s why in every election abortion is a major issue that rises to the surface. It simply unites the left.

The fiscals, on the other hand, hate tyranny more than they love perversion, vice and the government funding and institutionalization of both. So they are willing to at least pay lip-service to the Socials, especially when they know that they are powerless to advance the their profile and pro-family agenda. It is in this way that Trump has leached the Republican divide to the surface. He is willing–or he is wonderfully bluffing–to, at worst, not stand in the way of the Social Party, and at best to help. That combined with a Republican majority has forced the Fiscals to tip their hand just enough to prevent the Social’s agenda.

Speaking as a Social, I see advantages in this given the fact that I live in a predominately liberal culture, which the US clearly is. One of those advantages is the fact that Fiscals are stymied in their desire to join with democrats in their agenda of advancing Secular Humanism, abortion and indifference to the importance of the family. Social’s, though I’m convinced that most of their unpolitical constituents don’t realize it, are a small group. And, when you throw in another twist that many of the Socials love their government checks more than they love the social agenda, then we can see that the power actually wilded by Socials is rather small. This is especially notable we we consider the ease with which those who want to indoctrinate the next generation into perversion and Marxism are allowed access to children in the public school system.

But what would it look like if there really was a split and the Republican party found itself relegated to the history books? Well, to start with, I think the Fiscal party would explode with an exodus from the Democrat party by giving the democrat fiscal moderate a place to go while still holding securely to their Secular Humanism, their holy grail, and their new perversions. It would hand the Democrat party over to the radicals, and perhaps for the first time in quite a while that party would be seen for what it is.

It would also force lip-service Republican politicians to choose between their pontificating and their actions. I’d venture to guess that considerably more than half would throw in with the Fiscals. But then, the Socials would also have to do some soul searching. Their favorite politician might force their own hands and their true allegiances. For those who deep down see the government as the ultimate provider of security, liberty can feel scary, perhaps a little too scary.

The final fallout would find the Fiscals as the largest party. It would be constituted by wealthy Republicans, moderate wealthy and middle class democrats and Socials beholden to their government checks. The second largest party would be the Democrats, constituted by the rich elites and their masses of uneducated, uninformed dependents from the inner city. The smallest would be Socials I do believe, because let’s face it, there are consequences for handing the institutions of indoctrination over to Marxists and Secular Humanists. There are the red states, and then there are the blue schools, but there is no such thing as red school… even in red states, and even if there were a couple, they are outside the reinterpretation of the constitution.

Still, to advance their agenda the Fiscals would need the help of one of the two other parties. So we could expect at least two things to happen, and the politicians, believe me, would understand this. Bills would be tailored to exploit the commonalities between the Fiscals and the other two parties. So we’d all get that tax cut because a bill would be presented to cut taxes and the Fiscals and Socials would be all in. The amendments thrown in to destroy the Bill, or to carve out pork, would be rejected outright. There would be plenty of opportunities for that later. Then a bill would be written with Secular Humanism’s agenda in mind. It would be perversion lite, yes, but it would pass because it would be written to appease the Fiscals and the Democrats. If you can imagine a way to expand abortion, even including being paid to have one perhaps, then it would get passed.

Second, spending would go through the roof, because government spending is the freeway to power. For the more liberal fiscals, there is no problem so big that government spending won’t cure it. Utopia has always been just beyond a little more government spending, and in search of that paradise this new party would go. The Fiscals will find their knew best liberal political friends most accommodating when it comes to advancing their agenda with the Democrats. Of course, the president would always be a Fiscal, sense he would be able to easily cast off the Social’s agenda, and the extremist sexual perversions that had before plagued liberal candidates during the campaign as well.

In my mind, the split in the Republican Party would be the last hoorah. Like the Titanic breaking in half before it sunk, this would be the end of America as we know it. The deficit would explode. Poverty would explode too, because lets face it, Fiscals are concerned only with keeping what’s theirs and not with creating a society capable of civility, and so therefore capable of prosperity. “I’ve got mine, and so the fatherless can take their government checks and go to Hell.”

If you’re still reading, I’d like to know your thoughts.  I’d like to be challenged with some other angles.

Neon Words

“Neon words” is a name I’ve given to words that stand out for me. They are hinge points that can cause what is said to sway one way or another broadly. One of these words that I’ve been hearing a lot lately is “could”. Of course there is also, “might”, as in, this horrible thing “might” happen if you don’t think the way we’re trying to get you to think. The first time I noticed this particular word was in a news cast several years ago that was reporting on an airplane crash. The pretty little talking head on my television reported that officials said that the plane “could” have crashed into a neighborhood. You think?

The climate change fear mongering thrives on the word. The oceans “could” rise. All the fish in the sea “might” die. That sort of thing. I’ve just watched a weeks worth of news coverage on what “could” happen in Florida. And each “could”, for me, was written in neon. The fact is that they may have been right. There actually could have been a lot more damage. The airplane could have crashed into the neighborhood. Yet, because something could happen doesn’t mean that anyone should interpret “could” with it, without a doubt, positively, definitely is going to happen. Sure ,it’s good for ratings, and selling bottled water. But eventually you begin to sound like the lonely shepherd crying wolf. As for me, when it comes to the media, that happened a long time ago.

Another place we see the use of “could” is in explaining how evolution happened. “Could” is extremely necessary because no one was around to observe what did happen. So we are all left with just-so stories that “could” have happened masquerading as scientific, at least until something else that “could” have happened becomes all the scientific buzz.

I just saw this article recently exclaiming that life on Mars “could” have happened years ago. That life might have existed on Mars has been all the rage for some time in the religion of secular humanism. It’s popular because it would help to move the narrative that we are nothing more than bags of chemicals reacting and that life really doesn’t, after all, have any meaning. So do what you want, just as long as you do what I want… I guess.

Here’s another article. Title: “…Supervolcano May blow..”.

A caption under one of the photos says:

Beneath the ground of Yellowstone National Park, lies a monster volcano that had its last ‘super eruption’ more than 630,000 years ago. It could erupt again.

Oh dear.

 

 

The Death Of Dan Rohrbough At Columbine High School

Brian Rohrbough, the father of Dan Rohrbough, gives an account of April 20th 1990, the day of the Columbine Massacre.  This is an excerpt from “INDOCTRINATION, public schools and the decline of Christianity in America”. (click here for link) I recommend that you beg, borrow or steal a copy of this documentary if you are a Christian with children in the public school system.

_____________________________

Transcript of “Indoctrination” producer Collin Gunn’s interview of Brian Rohrbough:

Rohrbough:

On the morning of April 20th, before noon, I received a phone call.  And in a panic stricken voice, Dan’s mom said to me “Brian, have you heard from Dan, do you know what’s going on?”.

And I said “no”.

And she told me that two gunmen had entered Columbine High School with machine guns and hand-grenades and they were killing kids.  And so me and my co-worker dropped what we were doing and we headed toward the school, and we got to where we could look across the park and we could see the school.  And there were two police cars parked there blocking our way and we couldn’t go any further.  And we stood there, watching, and a lady burst out a front door and she was screaming and crying, and she said to the police “save that boy, do something, save that boy!” and that’s really where I realized how bad things were.

We heard they were going to start bringing school buses, and the first bus came and I watched as the kids got off and they would run to their parents and they would cry and they would hug.  And all to often I heard this hollow promise that you’ll never set foot in that school again.  When the last bus came…when the last bus came, it was empty.


When the next morning came, we opened the newspaper, and there was a picture… of a young man… wearing green… a green shirt, and bluejeans…, (choking) lying dead on the sidewalk, was my son

That was… our only notification.

I knew how bad the public schools were, and I knew that because I was in the public schools.  And as parents I think that we want to believe that things have gotten better, when in fact they have gotten much worse.  It was my responsibility to make sure that my son was safe, that he was educated properly, but I failed that.  I put him in a pagan school where they teach there is no God, there is no creation.  There’s evolution based on a cosmic accident.  And evolution breaks down to one simple belief, and that is that the strong kill the weak as a form of survival and that there’s nothing wrong with that.

________________________

Gunn:

“Both of the killers Klebold and Harris had received good grades from their Columbine High teachers for their graphically violent writings.  They showed their violent videos in the classroom with approval. One of them wore a tee shirt brazened with the words ‘Natural Selection’, the other with the word ‘wrath’.”

Ideas do have consequences.”

________________________-

Rohrbough:

They had taken evolution much further than most people do, but if you stop and think through it, their logic was correct, if evolution is true, and yet it is taught in the school… and I put my son there.  Even though I’m a Christian… so, when we talk about my son’s murder, yes it’s right to condemn these two murderers, it’s right to condemn this school system that taught these wicked things, but you must remember, I am the one who put him there, and I am the one who is responsible for his death.

 

How Do We Reconcile God’s Love And Hell

The modern day Christian lives in a dilemma as he contemplates his religion and his culture.  The dilemma is between having an internally consistent worldview and serving a God who, through the eyes of man and culture, has the propensity to be seen as a monster.  The question in the title of this post highlights at least part of this dilemma, and the question demands and deserves an answer in this day, as in all days!

But to answer this question a starting point is required. So we should start by ever distinguishing between cultural assertions and biblical truth.  The culture asserts—mostly unwittingly I would say–that, as far as the “self” is concerned, it is sovereign. That is that the average individual we meet will reject the existence of an objective basis for right and wrong and instead insist that each individual is privy to his own set of moral standards. In a culture that has embraced this view the individual finds himself floating on a sea of opinions based on personal feelings. In the modern mind, “That doesn’t make me feel good” carries the same weight as “Thou shalt not…”. In fact, it carries more weight.  So our starting point is the understanding that it is the cultural norm to be self-oriented in matters of morality. But more than that, we are self-oriented in matters of righteousness.

The mind oriented according to itself becomes a fortress. And for the average modern man to be told that he is not a good person is a full frontal assault on that fortress as well as his sensibilities.  Any concept of deity that would suggest such a thing, therefore, must be the figment of the imaginations of little monsters themselves.  Either that or God actually is a monster. For if the reference point for good and evil is the self, how can any “self” conclude that itself is wicked while using the same self as a basis for good and evil?  And if the self doesn’t conclude that it is wicked, how can it ever conclude that it is heaping up for itself the wrath of God, as the Bible plainly says it is?  And if it can’t conclude that it’s in a position of dire eternal straits before a holy and righteous God, how can it ever realize that it is in desperate need of some eternal good news? The short answer is that it can’t.

This current zeitgeist poses a problem for the contemporary Christian because the spirit of this age is averse to the eternal truths of scripture which says in no uncertain terms that man is wicked to the core, dead in his sins, unable to do anything to remedy that fact, and is in desperate need of salvation from that predicament without which he will pay an eternal price. That is the Biblical view of man.  And needless to say, man doesn’t like it–not back then, not now, and not ever.

But it doesn’t end there.  A holy, righteous, and good God would also necessarily be a just God. And being just, therefore, necessitates that He is a God of wrath against all injustice, a God who sees all men as deserving of eternal damnation; yes, every last one, male and female.  These words of Jesus put it best:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already… (John 3:17-18)

This contrast presents to the Christian his dilemma.  He is afraid that if he presents the truth about God and man, his religion will be rejected.  And he is right in thinking that if he is faithless, or if God is powerless, or cared nothing for His creation. And the Christian would be wrong in moderating the truths in his message because the Bible is also clear that he does care for His creation. But to thrust home the point of this essay, I must quickly assert that if He cared nothing for this creation he would still be a loving God, holy and righteous in every way. Such is the stark reality of man’s existence. Man does not determine if God is holy and righteous according to his own circumstances, feelings or thoughts. God has already determined that man is not, and his being condemned on account of it puts him in no position to judge God according to his own internally inconsistent and self-oriented standards.

In light of these truths, or in ignorance of them, a moderated message has been the pragmatic response. Early last century the truths of the Gospel began to be moderated by the teaching of half truths about the love of God. The wrath of God was increasingly downplayed and eventually and increasingly ignored because it was unpalatable, and as went the wrath of God, so went the fear of God, and with the fear of God, the unspeakable beauty of grace.  I will expound on this later, but my point now is that these half-truths were not presented to a static world.  Generations are ever being born and passing away.  A half-truth in one generation will become the whole in the next. It will have the same cumulative effect on the culture as drinking salt water has on the human body.  The more half-truths we imbibe, the more we need. In the end, unless we get pure water, death is certain.  And we are observing this very death all around. We are living our lives in a dying culture that reaches out in vain for pure water; some sort of truth to which it may cling.

These half-truths also ushered in the internally inconsistent Christian worldviews that are best summed up by the expression that God loves everyone unconditionally.  I was born in the 1960’s, back when people still talked about the Bible a little bit, and I knew that Jesus had quite a lot to say about lakes of fire and eternal torment.  I rejected the notion of unconditional love because I knew that the person who was preaching that message either worshiped a different God than his Bible proclaimed or he was ignorant of what it said.  In either case, the message of unconditional love was equally pathetic and un-compelling to this sinner who knew at least a little about the realities proclaimed by Jesus. His was a reality in which an eternal fate of agony or bliss hung in the balance.

Through the generations, this God-loves-everyone-unconditionally message eventually became the mainstream of Christian thinking which has gutted the western church of sound doctrine.  If Christianity either rejects, ignores, hides or is ashamed of a fundamental component of its own religion involving man’s condition and certain attributes of God that it sees as offensive, or “unloving”, what’s left?

When the truth about man and God are ignored or downplayed, then good and evil themselves transition from truths that are objective to subjective opinions. The self is returned to the throne as judge over what is to be considered good and evil. The individual then becomes the basis from which all things are measured with the assurance that no matter what that basis is, the individual can still know that God loves him unconditionally. Feelings are king. This is evidenced in the experience and self-oriented worship so prevalent in this time. Service and mercy-oriented works to “help the poor” are exchanged for the Gospel.  “Grace” covered licentiousness, especially when it comes to libertine freedoms, are increasingly the norm. In addition, we see wholesale heresy with entire denominations becoming apostate. Around every corner there arises another Christian pop-star who announces his or her coming out of the closet as an active homosexual, or by publicly embracing and defending what scripture clearly teaches is wrong… all under the umbrella of “God loves everybody unconditionally”.  Unitarianism and Universalism are also on the rise. Here is a statement made by a pastor on the subject of “Chrislam”, which is a combination of Islam and Christianity. It is typical of all sorts of misguided theology that finds itself rooted in God’s unconditional love:

“But let’s make sure that we view God through the eyes of Jesus, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the beauty of a Savior, the loving open inclusive arms of a loving God.  (1)

We can be sure that whether Christianity is being synchronized with the world or other religions, the root of the problem is tapped into the same soil of a misguided notion of God’s love. But there is one doctrine that should not, and ought not, let us grasp this false sense of “love-wins” peace so easily, and that is the doctrine of eternal damnation.

This brings us back to the question in the title. How does one reconcile the love of God and Hell?  What is the whole truth?  When we elevate man to a state of goodness, only with a few flaws; when we make goodness dependent on man’s internal compass, when we see God’s love as something that we deserve, the true love of God is diminished.  It’s one thing to love someone who we think deserves to be loved.  But that love is not the same as loving someone who hates us and wants us dead.  But that is the picture the Bible paints of man, who is, in his natural state, at war with God.  So if God loves, even one of us, he is first loving someone who hates Him.  On the same token, when we are ashamed of a God who would send people to eternal torment–when we reject the wrath of God against all unrighteousness and suppress the fact that the just, right, and holy thing for God to do is to send all men to Hell, we are judging God according to our own standards, and at the same time obscuring the real love of God found in the cross, for it is only in the contrast of the total depravity of man and the holiness of God that God’s love can truly be witnessed for the amazing thing that it is.  And to the extent that we miss that contrast in its harsh reality, the true love of God is missed; the true love that a holy God would demonstrate to depraved man by sending his sinless Son to pay the price for his sins, even though not one deserved it.  And it is precisely here that we find the condition that makes God’s love conditional. But it also makes God’s love an amazing thing, unfathomable even, in the minds of sinful man.

The confusion concerning God’s love demands, therefore, biblical inquiry. What exactly can we know about the love of God from the scriptures? With such an emphasis as we see in the present age on God’s unconditional love for each and every one of us, you’d think that the Bible would be filled with references to that love. But I’m afraid that that’s not the case. While it’s true that the word, “love” is used quite often, it may surprise some to know that the vast majority of those references are found in God’s commands for us to love Him, and to love others.  In the Old Testament, His love is clearly not extended to every human being but rather is expressed to his chosen people, Israel. In the New Testament we are told several times that God loves us, but take notice, with one exception that I know of in Romans 8, it is always mentioned in close proximity to the cross. It is mentioned in Romans 8 also, but not as close in proximity. Here are a couple of examples. I’ve attached many more in the notes (2):

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Rom 5:4-9 …and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 

So this raises an important question.  If I am saved by grace alone, why is God’s love conditional?  Therein we find the answer to the question of how the love of God is reconciled with Hell.  God’s love is conditional in the sense that we are dead in our trespasses, yet he still saves some.  There is nothing the dead can do as a condition to bring that about.  But after being saved, our sanctifying process begins and we begin to grow into Christ-likeness.  In the same way that birds are not birds on the condition that they can fly but rather birds fly because they are birds, Christians don’t obey God’s commands as a condition of salvation, they obey His commands because they are Christians.  Therefore when we disobey God’s commands, although we are heartsick, we are still in His love.  But as we disobey, we realize even more the great love He has for us because we see who we are, and what a great salvation it was that saved us.

But these are strange words in many of the ears of the modern Christian.  For one, there is no law, and with no law there can be no lawlessness.  If there is no lawlessness, there is no sin. If there is no sin, it makes perfect sense that we are loved unconditionally by God. Yes, we are saved by grace, but who needs it really—perhaps for the few imperfections of otherwise basically good humans?  If there is no law, then there is no requirement for grace. We can do anything we want except “judge” anything as unrighteous.  But this complete disconnect from the objective truth that man has fallen short of the glory of God and that God’s mercy, which was shown when He sent His Son to die for sinners, has set the vast majority of the western church adrift on that sea of opinions.  It should be no surprise then when a husband abandons his family to chase after temporal dreams.  Why not?  He’s not under any law and he can be sure that God loves him unconditionally, and wants him to have his best life now, and if he’s not sure about that, Christianity seems insistent on making him sure. After all, he is made in God’s image, and to call his sin sin would be judgmental, unforgiving, and unloving.   The husband can now sow to the flesh in this world and reap a harvest of heavenly bliss in the next.  The same goes for wives abandoning their families, and for the murderer of children in the womb, and every other sin that this culture loves, defends and embraces.  God loves everybody and we can do as we damn well please, thank you very much. We can even turn Christianity into Christlam because we know that a loving God is also an “inclusive” God. The only problem is, none of that is true.

When our thinking starts with man and works its way to God, we are doomed to deceptions like these wherein man is at the center of his own universe, and thus becomes his own reference point and the creator of his own God. We must instead start with God and then work our way to man if we’re to walk in the light. If we start with man we must contort God to fit into an image conjured up by man, and which is more to his liking. We must reinterpret God’s word to conform to our true basis for “truth”, ourselves. But if we start with God, and attempt to understand his attributes, his holiness, and righteousness, and then work to man, our perspective must change. Then when we see things in the scriptures that make us uncomfortable, rather than an inclination to put God on trial, we put ourselves on trial. Such passages point to the need for further conforming of our own thinking to God’s Word. Once we’ve done that; once we’ve lowered ourselves, and we can see ourselves as we really are, and once God is on the throne of our minds and hearts, we can more easily understand the things that the natural man cannot.  We are then aided in becoming a true light in a truly dark world, and it gives us confidence to say things, to believe things, and to live in a way that causes us to stand out in a crowd and to be heard above the noise. It also, as Jesus promised it would, causes the world to hate us.

Ponder these facts. We now live in a nation that helps a child pretend to be the opposite sex with blessings from the highest levels of government while at the same time ridiculing those who call such things child abuse. All the while there is an abundance of churches, preaching God’s love. We live in a nation in which not only can a man “marry” another man, but such things are taught in public schools as good and righteous. But by the numbers, Christianity abounds.

It’s well known among recovering addicts that to fix a problem there must be an understanding that there is a problem, and an understanding of exactly what that problem is. I’d say that the fact that there is a problem is not in question. What is in question is the nature of the problem. According to some, it’s that people don’t understand that God loves them. I think that’s a misdiagnosis. I think the real problem is that people are actually confident that God does love them, just as they are. And so they have asked a question in return that modern evangelicalism can’t seem to answer, which is, why change?

 

After saying what I’ve said, let me concluded with what I haven’t said.  I am not suggesting that the spearhead of the Christian message to this lost world should be a message of eternal damnation. We are not faced with a dilemma between two extremes, one being that God loves everyone unconditionally so everyone is free to live according to their own flesh, the other being a steady drum of condemnation. Jesus demonstrated wonderfully in his epic discourse with Nicodemus in John 3. He started with God’s love, then transitioned to man’s need of it due to His condition. Jesus did not shy away from that kind of message, and nor should we. What I am saying is that no true Christian should think more highly of himself than he ought; that every believer should understand exactly what it is that they are saved from, and that their salvation and God’s love is not based on any merit of their own, none! I am saying that every believer should endeavor their entire lives to grasp the holiness of their God and creator, and their condition before their God that required the bloody cross, and the magnificence of the work that took place there. And equipped with this knowledge of their own previous predicament, and the eternal destiny of their fellow man, should take the message of the cross to his fellow man, with gentleness, empathy, understanding, and yes, love.

 

__________________

Note 1:

This was written several years ago and the link that once existed for the pastor’s quote concerning Islam is no longer available.

Note 2:

Rom 8:33-36 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies;  who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.  Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

2 Cor 5:14-15  For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;

Eph 2:4-5 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him,

Eph 5:2  …just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God …

Eph 5:25-26 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 

Titus 3:4-7 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

1 John 4:9-11  By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

The list above is not an exhaustive list of scripture telling us that God loves us, but I do believe it almost is.  God does not love us unconditionally, at least not in the way modern man understands “conditionally”. Let me show why I say this:

John 14:21-22 He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”

1 John 2:3-5 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.

1 John 5:3-4 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 2:29-3:1  If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.  See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.

 

 

 

Individualism and Feminism And Their Impact On Modern Society

I Had the opportunity to speak with a 20-year-old Jewish man on a flight recently. But it really wasn’t a conversation. He did most of the talking as he meandered through a host of topics. He was nerdish, a little overweight, and seemed younger and more immature than his years. So I was a little surprised when one of the topics he broached was Hamas and the rockets they routinely fire into Israel. Realizing that most Jews are politically liberal and that they generally tend to support politicians who are anti-Israel, I was moved by those assumptions to begin asking him a host of questions. I’m fascinated, you see, that anyone can live their lives filled with gross inconsistencies. So I saw this encounter as an opportunity to perhaps gain some insight.

As I began, the conversation took on the feel of an interview. I purposed before we started that I would not interject any of my own thoughts, but rather would only ask questions. My intent was not to trap him, as we can sometimes do in this sort of interchange, but rather to understand how his mind dealt with its own inward contradictions.  I asked far too many questions to delve into here, even if I could remember them, but there were a few that I’ll share as a basis for this essay.

The first and key question was, does absolute truth exist? I wasn’t surprised with his answer, nor was I surprised that his explanation for his point of view was inconsistent with most of his expressed opinions. He explained to me that there is only one truth which was that there is no truth, and then continued with a fairly accurate description of relativism. So, a little later, in hopes of learning how he would personally deal with it, I ask him if it was wrong to torture and kill a baby? His answer was fairly typical of anyone who understands the quandary that holding to relativism places them in. He could only affirm that it was wrong for him personally, but not in any universal sense was it wrong. It no longer surprises me that there are so many who hold this moral position. But I do find two aspects of it unsettling. First, that anyone could feel as comfortable with such a view as they obviously do, even though their comfort, I realize, is with an abstract idea. We can be sure that those who hold such a view still have no problem imposing their views of morality on others as if those values were absolute when they are themselves violated. But I propose that there is a root issue that not only brought this young man to his current worldview but which also brings to us the rise in false and wayward Christian teachers, denominations and local churches. And that root issue I’ll call radical individualism.

We all have a moral reference point, a somewhat stationary moral datum from which we judge a thing to be moral or not. Some of us are aware of that fact, others, like this young Jewish man, not so much. I suppose that whether we’re aware of it or not will depend on whether or not we knowingly established that standard according to some objective point, or if it was inculcated into us without our knowledge. But nevertheless, it is there. We can examine our own reference points by asking ourselves similar questions to the ones I asked this young man, like for instance, why is it wrong to torture and kill babies? Our answer will give us some insight into our own reference points. If you were to answer the question by appealing to your own feelings, then your feelings are your reference point. If you appeal to the consensus of society, or to government law, then what your society does and approves of is your reference point.  But if your first reaction is to look past all the seemingly obvious reasons to not torture and kill babies, and point instead to something more absolute, timeless and transcendent, then congratulations you have an objective worldview, and as such, we can reasonably assume that the object to which your moral compass points is not somewhere between your ears. But knowing that it’s wrong to torture and kill babies, and realizing that you know this because of some standard that exists outside of yourself, is easy. In life, morals can be tricky, especially as social mores ebb and flow with the whims of culture from generation to generation.  Add to that our own flesh and emotions, as well as our tendency to exalt the self, and reality is certain to become cloudy to one degree or another. And the more cloudy it becomes, the easier it is for us to be swept away by the zeitgeist that rules our time. As I discuss this, “radical individualism”, I’ll start with two parallel histories of it. First in government, which is a reflection of culture, and then in the Church.

 

The founders faced a problem in setting up their new nation. The question was, how could it be established that all would be represented in the republic while yet allowing that the government would retain power sufficient to govern? It was obvious that certain barriers would be needed between the individual and government. Suffrage would be the vessel for carrying most of these barriers, so a difficult question revolved around who could vote. That such a questioned was even asked then has the potential to dredge up indignation in the modern heart. That indignation demonstrates the extent to which we have been steeped in individualism. The vote has become sacred, even if most don’t exercise it, and less educate themselves on the ramifications of their choices. But the founders foresaw a problem that we in our present age have in large part lost sight of. They understood the dangers of democracy, and so wanted all who would be deciding the ultimate fate of this little republic to be invested in what would be best for it, and not so much for the individual. So it was perhaps thought, as goes the welfare of the nation, so goes the welfare of the individual. Or, as God put it, “…seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. ” (Jer 29:7) It was settled that the future of the nation would not be left to the individual as much as to the household by way of the male vote.  Whether the thinking behind the male-only vote was based on one vote per household, or it was a simply a matter of the zeitgeist of that age, is a matter for further inquiry. But nonetheless, in God’s providence, the end effect sacrificed individualism in favor of the family unit.

It was settled that the future of the nation would not be left to individuals therefore as much as to the household by way of the male vote.  Whether the thinking behind the male-only vote was based on one vote per household, or it was a simply a matter of the zeitgeist of that age, is a matter for further inquiry. But nonetheless, in God’s providence, the end effect sacrificed individualism in favor of the family unit. This was one barrier.

There were several other barriers also installed based on the concepts of groups trumping individuals. One of those “groups” was the electoral college, which would establish a barrier between the individual and the office that allowed for the most power in the fewest hands. Another barrier was inserted between the individual and the upper chamber of congress by way of the state being charged with choosing their senators. The reasoning behind this wasn’t as much based on inserting barriers as it was the result of understanding that the states were their own sovereigns and as such in need of representation in their own right. The effect, however, was still a barrier. But it also had the effect of adding yet another barrier between the individual and the courts by requiring the consent of the state-appointed senate for appointments to the bench. As we study these barriers, we can see that the founders had a healthy fear of pure democracy. They understood in their age the sad condition of the hearts of men and did what they could to protect the whole from the possibility of a mob-like majority of individuals.

As the name implies, the founding of the “United States” was a federation of groups, or states. Compared to the present, the pre-Civil War Federal Government played a minuscule role in the nation’s internal affairs. It dealt with issues that were necessarily beyond the scope and ability of the states to control; issues like conducting war, and international and interstate affairs. It might be said that the federal government didn’t as much have a relationship with the household as it did with the state within which the households resided.  The average citizen in pre-war America considered themselves to be citizens of their states first and then the nation. After the Civil War, the American citizen was more likely to see himself as a citizen of America than his state. That conflict was, after all, a power struggle between two sovereigns, the State, and the states united.  The central government from that point forward grew in power at the expense of the constitution and state governments. This eliminated a smaller whole to which the individual once belonged, as well as barriers set against an out of control federal government.

By the early 20th century the barrier that stood between the household and the senate was discarded by way of the 17th amendment, which in effect removed a barrier to the courts as well. It’s worth noting in the present how different our history might have been if the mostly conservative legislatures had had a say in the appointment of senators, and so subsequently judges. History recounts many reasons that this amendment was made. But whatever the reasons appeared to be on the surface, we can be sure that it was carried along, as most historical events are, on the undercurrents that were the shifts in the mindsets of individual citizens. The end effect was no doubt a movement away from republican and toward democratic governance.

The next barrier fell 7 years later in 1920 with the 19th amendment, which was a great leap forward for radical individualism. The household vote was abolished in favor of the individual votes within the household. This eliminated yet another “whole” to which the individual once belonged. The individual’s interests would now trump that of the family’s. This amendment had the effect of abolishing the family as it pertains to representation. The husband and wife were no longer considered one, but rather would eventually join, in the modern politics of identity, two separate voting blocks. Anticipating lots of challenges to my propositions concerning this matter, and given the extent to which feminism is permeated and often borne along by emotion, and given that expounding on this exceeds the scope of  this piece, let me suffice to say that I am speaking in very broad terms with the intention of discussing the growing impact of radical individualism. My assumption in this discussion is that the reader is a conservative, and if my assumption is correct I only point to the national polls that paint the vast majority of single women as a reliable voting block for liberalism. But the mere numbers of single women are in themselves evidence of a seismic shift in worldview that has occurred since the nation’s founding. But not only this, anecdotal though it may be, this self-styled news organization posted a story on the conflict that this individualism has wrought on two households in particular. The story suggests that there are many households suffering from this malady, and I’m inclined to agree.

The mid 20th century was marked by explosive growth in reach and power of the federal government. The great depression opened the door for centralized government to take on the role of caretaker and husband. Franklin D. Roosevelt remained president for a decade and a year, during which time he was able to stack the bench with judges sympathetic to his cause. The constitution by design was difficult to amend. But as Roosevelt discovered, it was rather simple to reinterpret, and so reinterpreted it was.

In the mid-twentieth century, we began to see the fruit of the individualism that had been incubating in the previous generations. Religion was evicted from the federal government’s schoolhouse by judicial decree, which opened the door for the secular humanism that was already there to set up shop without obstacle. Divorce and illegitimacy were just beginning their meteoric climb. It was as if the individual was awakened from what seemed to it to be a long sleep in the catacombs of the “wholes” within which it had previously been confined and constrained. The sovereignty of the self was finally being realized, and the sky appeared to be the limit as every new generation was not only indoctrinated with ever more individualistic notions in the public schoolhouse, each set out on their own trek to discover what boundary it could test and destroy. And each test had the same score. They were all shot through with rot.

As I write this, the masses of self-sovereigns have fixed their gaze on another barrier that now stands between the individual and the presidency, the electoral college. For those who appreciate its purpose, there is at least some comfort in the fact that the nation is polarized, which means that a constitutional amendment is, at present, out of the question. But we shouldn’t take too much comfort. It would be folly to underestimate the craftiness of a liberal judge. One thing is for sure. We are marching toward a pure democracy. And there will most assuredly come a day when many of those now demanding it will wonder what happened to the protections that once guarded them against an all-too-powerful government.

 

Radical individualism within the Church has grown as well. But before I explore that, I’m inclined to first touch lightly on an age old question. This question involves the one and the many. It’s one of those philosophical questions that we often consider without realizing it. Like all questions of this nature, it doesn’t apply to the Church alone but rather to any situation wherein the one functions as a part of the many, like within a nation. But the question finds its source in the very essence of God. In fact, it illuminates the very fingerprint of God concerning his own being in the Trinity. As it pertains to this discussion, the question will involve the delineation between groups of people, like nations, cities, religions, families and households, who act corporately as one, and the individuals who make them up. These delineations are a pattern in the scriptures as well, and it is through the study of these patterns that we can gain extra insight into the scriptures as well as their application in our lives. Here are a few patterns that give us reason to decipher between the “one and the many”:

  1. The Trinity. God’s relationship with Himself can be seen within the God-head. There is more than one. There is hierarchy. There is love. There is oneness. There is One.
  2. The Church. The Church, so we are told by Paul, is one yet many. Paul uses the anaolgy of a human body with some individuals being hands, others eyes and so on with Jesus being the head.
  3. Marriage.  God says that within marriage the “two shall become one flesh”. As the two become one, there is established an internal hierarchy. Neither the husband, the wife or the children are free to act independently of the family. There is a relationship in this oneness. There is equality in value in this oneness. Yet there are differing roles by design. Throughout scripture we see God calling the heads of the house to meet with him. Paul also often speaks in terms of households.
  4. Groups of people. We see a pattern also in God’s relationship with his creation as being conducted through leaders, all of which, with little exception, were male. We note a hierarchy in creation that reflects the hierarchy in the Godhead as well. There are obvious patterns too in God’s interactions with the centerpiece of his creation. One of those patterns is that collective groups play a more prominent role than individuals. A quick list of prominent individuals would be minuscule compared to the millions of people who make up the histories of the scriptures. There’s simply no getting around the fact that the Bible paints for the individual a picture in which God’s interaction with His creation is through groups. The individuals who do emerge, Noah, Abraham, Isacc, Jacob, Joseph, Judges, prophets and so on, carry out God’s plan and are either the heads of groups, God’s intermediaries, or are representative of man in a general sense. Yet, I am quick to point out that I am not suggesting that we are not individuals. We most certainly are, just as Jesus is, and we are accountable to our Creator as individuals. Such are the mysteries found in the question of the one and the many.
  5. The administration of justice. It’s clear that an individual is not to take action for the sake of justice. It must be the collective society as a whole. In the Old Testament law we can see God granting the governing authorities the responsibility to punish, but not individuals. In the New Testament, Paul speaks in Romans 13 of the “governing authorities” bearing the sword. These are not individuals taking revenge, but ministers acting on the behalf of God as one for the people.

Having been steeped in a world that sees the individual self as supreme, any suggestion that anyone, as an individual, is not as important–“important” being defined as having the weight of a sovereign–as the whole is an abomination. With these thoughts in mind, let us examine for a moment the Trinity. Does Jesus have reason to see Himself as lesser than the Father? Is he concerned with His value? Or with losing his personal identity? While such a thing would seem silly to most believers, to suggest that a woman is to be subordinate to her husband in our current age is seen as an attack on her value as a human being. She is to be seen as an individual, and an autonomous and independent individual at that.

And what are we to make of Jesus, who looking over the city of Jerusalem said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Jesus does not speak to any one individual here but rather a collective whole as one. He says, “and ye would not”. We can also note that throughout much of the Old Testament God is dealing with “Jacob”, and not the peoples of the earth. So does this mean that God is saying that each individual in the group is somehow a lesser-than? Second class? Of course not!

Yet if we’re to understand anything about our cultural surroundings, we must understand everything in light of this post-modern era where the self reigns supreme. To see one’s self as a lesser part of a larger whole, which serves the interest of the whole, is to denigrate the value of the self. The self is the reference point, not only for all internal matters but it’s also the reference point from which external values are to be measured and subjected also. “Jesus is Lord” does not, nor can it, fit into this framework. External impositions, such as God’s law, are to be judged according to the self-sovereign. Good and evil, therefore, only apply to the self as the self dictates. Without grasping the supremacy of the self in this day, it will be impossible to grasp the morality of an individual who can only say that it is personally wrong to torture and kill babies. It must be understood that when the self is appealed to, that is the highest authority to which an appeal can be made. There is no god but self, which is one.

As is always the case, the Church must fight wayward mindsets. It has also always been the case that the Church never completely escapes syncretism with the culture it serves. We can see this as we consider the word religion, which not long ago carried a favorable connotation, but which has of late, fallen on hard times? Religion, in these new times, is considered a polemic. That concept, in light of the new radical individual, has been rejected and replaced with an exclusive, individual to individual, relationship. “It’s not religion”, so the mantra goes, “it’s a relationship.” So supposedly, what it has always been for the last two thousand years, which was both, it no longer is. Such is a familiar refrain.

The skyrocketing divorce rate in the Church near the end of the 20th century was also a symptom of the awakening of radical individualism. The concept of two becoming one has become an impossible concept. Ask anyone about their hopes for their daughters. They’ll tell you that they’re raising her to be independent. Independence is just another way of saying, a sovereign individual. Sadly, concepts like “independent” and “individual” do not work in marriage as God intended for marriage to work. There is no such thing as becoming one with another human being while at the same time remaining an independent individual. All that can be hoped for then is a partnership. But in that partnership, the self-sovereigns remain, and should the need arise, the partnership is easily dissolved. In fact, why get married in the first place since oneness is not the aim?  Why not simply share a house and expenses while using each other as objects? The love of a car, or a home, is not so far-fetched… why not a partner? And besides, it feels right, and so it is also must be moral according to the highest authority, even for the Christian.

Perhaps nowhere, however, does radical individualism express itself more in the modern zeitgeist than in feminism, which now directs our attention back to the history of the Church, and feminism’s influence on it.

To examine this, we’ll need to go back into Church history a bit to dig up its roots. I’ll start with a website called, The Art Of Manliness which recently posted a series on “The Feminization of the Church“. They point to its beginnings in the middle ages. At issue was God’s metaphor for the relationship between the Church and Jesus being the husband and wife in marriage. But there was a move toward viewing the self as the bride rather than the Church. We can see this in the excerpt from the website. I added the italics.

But in the Middle Ages, female mystics, following the lead of Catholic thinkers like Bernard of Clairvaux, began developing an interpretation of the bridegroom/bride relationship as representing that which existed not only between Christ and the collective church, but Christ and the individual soul. Jesus became not only a global savior, but a personal lover, whose union with believers was described by Christian mystics with erotic imagery. Drawing on the Old Testament’s Song of Songs, but again, using it as an allegory to describe God’s relationship with an individual, rather than with his entire people (as it had traditionally been interpreted), they developed a new way for the Christian to relate to Christ – one marked by intimate longing.

This article defines the feminization of the church in terms of gender gaps in attendance. But even though that gap is pertinent, for my purposes of exploring radical individualism, I want to examine feminism’s historical influence on the corporate versus the individual aspects of Jesus and His bride. While I understand some women’s inclinations to view the individual self as Jesus’ bride 1000 years ago as significant, I’m quick to note that such notions were insignificant as far as it concerned the whole of the Church at the time. Yet it may well have been a seed planted in the midst of a zeitgeist that was hostile to such views. The concept of the individual throughout history was predominately one in which the one interpreted his existence in the context of the many. Radical individualism, however, would much later provide the soil needed to bring forth fruit from that seed.

Looking forward now to the 19th century, whether feminism was wrought by radical individualism, or whether radical individualism gave us feminism, I’m not sure. But I am sure that feminism has thoroughly infiltrated modern thought and theology, and that it, together with radical individualism, are key factors in the great falling away of our time. In my studies of societies, I’ve learned not so much to pay attention to the great social shifts, but instead to study the incubating mindsets from which those shifts were birthed. Many see the mid-twentieth century as a point in which one of these massive social shifts took place. And while that was the reality, it’s a mistake to ignore the moral shifts that brought it forth. The underpinnings of Western morality had been deteriorating for years and were in fact, by the 1950s, a top-down facade of morality in which the absence of the fear of God had turned a projected image of law-keeping before others into the basis for the Christian religion. For the children raised behind that facade, experiencing only the hypocrisy of image casting, they saw no good reason to retain even the image. All that remained with the onset of the 1960’s was a paper mache portrait of what once was, and this portrait was unable to endure the pressures of affluence and the birth control pill. Its collapse began a great avalanche which to date continues to tumble humanity toward some unknown bottom. The moral foundations must necessarily be constituted by a religious moral inculcation that includes the fear of God, and a reverence for His law. This truth was summed up in a now popular quote from John Adams:

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

And also by William Penn:

Those who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.

We can see the supremacy of scripture begin its slide in the early 1900’s. And like Roosevelt’s changing of the constitution, the scriptures would suffer the same fate. After 1800 years of Church history the smart men finally began to get an inkling that God had made a serious mistake in the patterns He had established up until their day with His prohibition against feminine leadership in His Church, and so we begin to see the ordination of women. The scripture that prohibited this was downplayed or reinterpreted. Interestingly enough, looking at the list of denominations that had finally “figured it out” is like looking at a who’s who list of the denominations that would lead the way into apostasy. They were also the first to realize that God had made a horrible mistake with His Stance on homosexual sex too, by, you guessed it, reinterpreting scripture. And so it stands to reason that homosexuality would also eventually be embraced by the nation and a significant portion of Christendom. These reinterpretations coupled with an individualistic mindset that interprets marriage as more of a partnership of self-sovereign individuals in pleasure and resources would pave the way for homosexual marriage. That those who “marry” the same sex are physically incapable of becoming one flesh, or producing offspring is of no import.

Of course, it wasn’t the ordained women who brought the fall of those denominations into apostasy. Such movements were mere symptoms of something worse, the usurping of God’s revelation by man’s “wisdom”. It should be understood that those ordinations were rare occasions early on. They were outliers in comparison to the rest of the society then. But deception is not stationary.  Right or Wrong, very little of modern Western Christianity would be recognizable to the average Christian of that day. And even though a century prior to the present gave us the first ordinations of women, that period is still viewed today as prudish, narrow and closed minded, even to a conservative. But it’s worth pondering that within that hundred years God’s truth remained constant. The children of that early 20th-century generation would become the parents of the sixties generation. It would be this generation that would discover that, even though the culture had kept the law, it had lost its basis in objective reality for the law.  “That’s how we’ve always done it” doesn’t hold up under the pressures that the radicals in this generation, with the jack hammers of the television set, mass production of the arts, and an elite class chomping at the bit to become the new gods of the nation, would apply.

One of the indicators of the way things were headed can be seen through the introduction of an iconic movie, Jesus Christ Superstar, in the early 70’s. It had Jesus in it. It had Bible stuff in it, so it was thought by many a Christian parent, it must be good. Never mind that it portrayed Jesus as “just a man”, which, not surprisingly, was how its creator, Tim Rice saw Jesus. But Jesus, in Rice’s view, wasn’t just a man, as much as He was a superstar man, like, say, John Lennon, who, rightly in my opinion, suggested in his heyday that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. But the Beatles are not more popular than Jesus anymore, however, I’m sure there is some other superstar who now is. Such is the problem with painting Jesus as “just a man”, albeit a superstar man. And in keeping with the new zeitgeist, included in this production was a romanticized relationship between Mary Magdalen and Jesus. The movie is a prime example of the power of the arts. A tiny fraction of those who were exposed to this new “theology” would have sat through a dissertation on Rice’s view on Jesus.  But millions flocked to the theaters to be infected with it.

This defanged, romantic, hippy, rock-star Jesus was a bell weather indicator of the Jesus who would be making his way into the Church leading it into many deceptions.

One of those deceptions is related to feminism as it involves the differences between men and women. Paul recognized these differences when he gave husbands commands to love their wives and wives directions to respect their husbands, which are very different commands. God made women with a desire to be loved and cherished, and men are commanded to fulfill that need. And so as feminism’s influence began to impact theology, we see a change in the Gospel as it transitions to an expression in terms of a personal relationship with Jesus wherein we are loved and cherished by God as individuals. But this love and cherishing are based on our own value as self-sovereigns.  We are loved because we are worth loving. The self remains the center and the reason for God’s love, and as such, we deserve to be loved, and even if this world can’t see how wonderful we are, at least we can rest in the assurance that God does. (I’ll revisit this later with an example.)

But this is not how scripture paints the relationship. Actually, scripture paints the love as a much higher love than we see expressed in this post-modern era. The Bible says that we are loved by God even though we are totally unworthy of that love and deserve not only to not be loved, but God’s wrath instead. When God loved us he wasn’t looking at us and seeing our inward beauty. He loved us in spite of the fact that we were His enemies. This is a much deeper and more beautiful love than the feminine version of love currently being flouted. In fact, the “personal relationship” love so popular in this day obscures the much deeper love that scripture reveals.  Gone is the great salvation which was given to us on a bloody cross. Now we have a relationship with a boyfriend-like being who cherishes us night and day and who wants us to have an awesome life, but who also is, evidently, unable to pull it off beyond an occasional parking spot and warm feelings.

Another deception brought to us by feminism and radical individualism is the assertion that individuals need to accept Christ as their Lord. This is the language of a self-sovereign, capable of judging the Creator God and concluding that entering into an individual-to-individual relationship with Him is the best course.  It is a relationship in which the savior is worthy of worship because that savior, not only sees the value in the saved, and so loves and cherishes it, but is the only hope for the saved to live a trouble-free life.  That the self-sovereign stands condemned before the God of the universe, and that his only hope is that that God would accept him, has no place in the modern mindset.  We are assured instead that God is love–with love being defined according to our standards–and He would do nothing to hurt all us individuals who are, after all, made in His image. Any message that contradicts this one, like those that Jesus gave, are mocked and ridiculed as Hellfire and damnation messages. Unfortunately for those who “accept” Jesus, the true joy of salvation is often missing because it is a joy based on self-worth rather than on the Savior’s work. If we have any merit for God’s love, then it follows that we can lose it. Judging from much of what I read in this day, Christianity is defined by a state of being in which one is in a constant state of questioning, in which one wonders, tosses and turns night and day with one question, does God love me? And the ministers of our day sing a constant refrain, God loves you, God loves you, God loves you… just as you are. But deep down inside we know who we are, and deep down inside we’re not buying it, nor should we.

This brings us to, perhaps, the most twisted and damaging deception of all. This deception is based on a modern understanding of love, and I use the word “understanding” loosely because it denotes a cognitive action, and the modern “understanding” is anything but thoughtful. Rather it’s based on the feminine qualities of feelings and emotions. Good and evil is reduced to good and bad feelings. All things are judged according to how they make the inner sovereign feel. And since the light of Jesus exposes our evil deeds, and that makes us feel bad, it is to be deemed as unloving and evil. And since, in the same way, we feel bad making others feel bad, it’s also unloving of the self to shine the light of Jesus on anyone else. Better to jettison the whole repentance thing Jesus preached altogether, and to be more pragmatic by dreaming up something more “loving”; something that makes us feel better, like exchanging the Gospel for an invitation to a relationship based on our acceptance of Jesus, who, after all, has a better plan for our life than we do.

This love renders the Gospel dead on arrival. The good news of the true gospel is that there is hope for us, even though we stand guilty and condemned before a holy and righteous God. That is our state. We are Ephesians 2:1 through 4 without the Gospel. But since the most “loving” thing to do is to avoid this reality, because it makes us feel bad, we instead are told to focus our religion on things that make us feel good, like helping the poor, preferably with someone else’s resources. That is what qualifies as love in our day. And I would agree that it does qualify as a very deep love, for it is based on the deepest love mortal man can know in the flesh, and that’s the love of self through appeasing its desire to feel good about the self through works.

 

Pairing these two histories, let us now examine the present in light of them. We can sense the radical individualism by the social indicators that are based on our inability to connect with others. There’s a marked increase in the last half-century of divorce, declining church involvement, single parenthood and shacking up, to name a few. But the isolation that comes with this individualism also causes us to become our own legislators and judges in our personal little worlds. And while that might all seem well and good, the end result is a collective lawlessness; or, as the scriptures paint it, “Everyone [doing what is right] in their own eyes, because they have no King”, which is to say that they recognize no authority beyond themselves, especially where it involves libertine freedoms.

In the revolution that began the great casting off of restraints in the sixties, “Question Authority” was a popular slogan. And indeed even the founders understood that authority ought to be questioned. This is evidenced by their casting off the authority of England. But that authority was cast off because it was seen to be in violation of an even higher authority. The authority being questioned in the sixties wasn’t based on some higher order by which all of man’s existence ought to be governed. No, its slogan was based on the questioning of the concept of authority, and as such, anyone who presumed to impose it. The new higher authority that would be doing the questioning of authority, and the judging of it, would be the sovereign-self.

The rejection of a higher authority would also mean the rejection of an objective good and evil, at least in theory. That objective good and evil exists was initially assumed. In an interview with Tim Rice and Frank Lloyd Webber focused on their Jesus Christ Superstar productions, Rice opined that a follower of a superstar, like say, Elvis, would like everything that star does regardless of if it was good or not. This same sentiment was then applied to Jesus. But “good” was quickly becoming an open-ended question during the time of this interview. Who did Rice think he was to suggest that what some superstar might do was wrong? Such judgments were at that very time in the process of being relegated to the trash bin of opinion. The premise of the entire movie is now obsolete in our day of radical individualism and self sovereignty.

As we can see, with the increasingly feminized and secular society, good and evil were quickly becoming a matter of emotional subjection. Today, they are all but completely emotionalized by the culture as a whole. We are told that love is all that matters. But the love of which is spoken is never based on any objective reality. It’s based instead on personal feelings. But these feelings can be easily manipulated, and manipulated they are by the arts and entertainment media. Almost anyone or anything, with the right portrayal in movies put to emotional music, can garner a favorable emotional response from the masses. This is especially so if those masses have been feminized and whose internal compass continually points to a point inward, and as such, see themselves individually as final authorities. But being the final authority on all matters is to be without a mental gate through which emotions must pass. For years homosexuals have painted themselves in the arts as otherwise normal, fun and loving people who are being victimized by evil perceptions of their lifestyles. This elicits an emotional response without mental inquiry. Suddenly our society is fixated on how homosexuals are treated. And yes, this makes its way into the Church as well, where the biggest question that plagues the church would seem to be whether or not homosexuals are being loved? Why the sudden concern about a certain type of sinner, and not every sinner? Well, because Church people watch TV, and they’re sufficiently feminized.

But homosexuality is old news. The new victim is the “gender confused”. And while a sizable portion of Christendom has decided to reject God’s Word, and instead follow their “heart” and feelings on this matter, not all have. Yet even many of those who haven’t are plagued with feelings. Let us look at what a pastor of what seems to be a somewhat conservative church has to say about this new victim we’ve suddenly found in our midst. The article is by Marty Duren, a pastor from Nashville, TN. The title is, For God So Loved Caitlyn Jenner. Here is an excerpt:

I do not know how we demonstrate the love of Jesus to the transgender, gender confused and gender reassigned among us if we do not begin by trying to understand what they are going through or have been through. Contrary to prevalent response, condemning people at every turn is an ineffective evangelism strategy. Listening and loving works better.

The entire article is mostly an admission of not “knowing” much, and then an appeal to feelings. We can see that there is a struggle going on in the heart of this pastor, who doesn’t seem to know much, but who doesn’t like the way reality makes him feel. This excerpt begs for the defining of terms. To love the transgender why not do what the Bible said that Jesus did, which was to preach repentance? Why does anyone need to know what the sinner is going through? We’re all sinners. We already know. I wonder if he wrings his hands over what the porn addict, the wife beater, the liar, cheat, thief, adulterer or idol worshiper is going through? Of course not. There are no movies drawing up emotional responses to those kinds of sinners.

We can see in this video of an interview with Todd White an excellent example of the feminization of theology wherein we are the ultimate cause of God’s love. Man, or at least some people I must assume, have value worth Jesus dying on the cross for.  White says:

“The cross isn’t just a revelation of my sin, it’s the revealing of my value. Something underneath of that sin must have been a great value for Heaven to go bankrupt to get me back.”

This, of course, exalts man and diminishes God. It also requires a metamorphosis of the word “love” as it pertains to the great salvation.

White’s sentiments are also echoed in a new phenomenon in “Christian” publishing. Popular authors are raising feminism and radical individualism, especially as it regards our relationship with Jesus, to a new level. The most prominent example of this is a book called “Jesus Calling”, which reads like a devotional, with the author, Sara Young, penning what Jesus is saying to his romantic interests. An excerpt:

I am the culmination of all of your hopes and desires. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last: who is and was and is to come. Before you knew Me, you expressed your longing for me in hurtful ways. You were ever so vulnerable to the evil around you in the world. But now My Presence safely shields you, enfolding you in My loving arms. I have lifted you out of darkness into My marvelous light.

This book has been especially difficult because most of what Young is saying that Jesus is saying can be found in scripture. But there is an undergirding idea here that appeals to the same feminized mindset that keeps the romantic novel business humming along; the desire for that perfect lover. This combined with the radical individualism that exchanges the Church for the self as bride and we’re off to the races. These sorts of books are, not surprisingly, almost exclusively popular with women. It also goes a long way in explaining why masculinity is vacating the modern Church.

And then there is the now ever-present vocal minority who assume a place in the Church that they don’t really have, the Christian left, or progressive. They seem larger than life given that they have the backing of this world and its “wisdom”. For the true Christian, it’s to be expected that his language might come off as somewhat scripted because he is likely to be weaving scripture into his speaking. The language of this minority of “progressives” in the same way has a scripted sound to it, except that they only allude to an alternate perception of scripture while weaving their extra-Biblical mantra of sorts into their speech. Here’s an example that comes from an article explaining why the “LGBTQI” will win the day in the Church due to parents of those in that “community”.

These parents and others are a force committed to radical love and inclusion. The same way Jesus was.

…Parents who have LGBTQI children and who know in the deepest places of their hearts and souls, that the only thing their faith requires of them, the only thing in line with the heart of God and the teachings of Jesus, is to unconditionally love their precious children. Period.

This language of “love and inclusion” begins to sound like a broken record, and is typical of any article explaining why God and the Church got it wrong for 2000 years on a whole host of issues. Its foundations, of course, feelings-based “love”, and not scripture. One could argue against it pointing to scripture. But since it feels bad to call sin what God called sin, and since to use logical arguments against feminized, subjective, feelings-based words and ideas is a fool’s errand. Besides, countering progressives gives the impression that you hate inclusion and love, so why bother?

let’s also look at an old word that has expanded into our world in new ways. “Community”. The heart of man does not fare well alone. It desires to connect with others. There’s an attempt to offset the isolation and loneliness wrought by a radically individualistic society by joining varying communities with religious-like zeal. It could be the black community, which evidently only requires one to be progressive, not black, to join. There is the already mentioned LGBT community, the “trans” community, the animal lovers community, the conspiracy community, the Man-Boy-Love community and even the politically conservative community, all of which have a Godless religious feel to them. But there’s also the community that we live in, which has been raised to prominence as of late in its own right. We are told that we have an obligation to our community. But it’s not in the same sense that such an obligation was once understood. No, our new obligation is to look to it for a sense of what is right and wrong, and then to conform to it as opposed to offending it.

 

In conclusion, I’ve attempted to introduce a combination of radical individualism and feminism into our understanding of the times, both in and out of the Church. That said I’d like to quickly make a few caveats. First, the Church of Jesus Christ exists by His power, not by ours. It is in no danger of fading into the sunset unless “man” gets his act together and becomes more pragmatic, loving and inclusive. The mature Christian understands that Jesus was the antithesis to the world when He walked the earth and was crucified for it, and is the antithesis today and that He will be the antithesis tomorrow.

Second, understanding a problem is helpful in dealing with the problem, both as it’s found in the Church as a whole, but more importantly, as it’s found in our own hearts. I’ve yet to see these concepts codified as I’ve done here. The greatest difficulty in writing it was on what to include without sounding like I’m simply ruminating on the woes of our times.

Third, I realize that there’s enough within to offend many, especially considering that it is my belief that women’s suffrage was a mistake. I’m eager to engage anyone who would like to take me to task on anything I’ve written. But before you do, please make every attempt to understand what I actually said, and perhaps more importantly, what I didn’t say, which is that women are lesser people. Truth always requires humility when we have believed a lie for a long time.

Fourth, I’d like to restate one more time that we are individuals, each and every one. We are not saved nor condemned as a group, and as such are accountable to God individualy.

Fifth, some of our human traits are more according to an understanding of the feminine nature, and some of the masculine nature. When I speak of these things I’m simply expressing the nature, and how we understand it, and not any specific person male or female.

And finally, if I have provoked your thought life by this time-consuming project I have been heartily rewarded.

 

The Serpent, The Dove and The Shack

I’m not sure what to make of the emotions I feel concerning this book, “The Shack”. That doesn’t mean I don’t know what I think about it. The truth is, it isn’t even the book that’s dredged up these emotions as much as it is that the fault-line it has caused them appears to run right through the middle the Body of Christ.

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Yes, we have the apostates and liberals who have become hostile to scripture’s clear teaching in our day. And there’ll always be those in any Church who, though they profess to be believers, in reality, believe and live as practical atheists. But I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about those who are generally (1) orthodox in their faith and who are just as opposed to the apostasies so prevalent in Christendom today as anyone else, even virulently so. There are many who I respect and love, who really like this book and see no problem with it, and that’s the problem for me.

It’s worth noting, I think, that The Shack has brought about the same sort of infighting and bickering in the Body that the recent presidential campaign did, which I think ought to bring us all to a point of reflection. Is God using these things to work in the midst of us? I’m not sure of the answer, at least as far as it concerns this topic, but it does bear our attention. There are plenty of good arguments on the internet that explains the problems with this book. And I have to admit that I haven’t seen any reasoned arguments in defense of it, but that’s perhaps because I haven’t looked for any. And to be honest also, I haven’t read the book either, nor do I suspect that I ever will. But that’s simply because of priorities. But my interest isn’t really in the book as much as it’s in the Body’s internal reactions to it. So that’s what I will be discussing.

On the one hand, I don’t find it helpful to simply unload on those who are generally orthodox in their faith with a frontal assault concerning the book. Such things feel and look like a frontal assault on the reader of the book, especially if they’ve already said how much they’ve liked it. I’ve come to the conclusion that simply pointing at something and unleashing a list of polemics against it, is probably unfruitful, and I think the effect can be opposite of what is desired. It also makes the “attacker” seem hard, wooden and, dare I say it, unloving. Jesus told us to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. Gentle is important, especially when we’re dealing with a brother or sister, or we have insufficient knowledge to make a reasonable assumption along those lines one way or the other. Not that I don’t think that the truth should be brought to bear concerning this book, or anything else for that matter. But how it’s done is important as well. And I’m quick to add that those who have attacked the book are not the only ones who need to take a lesson in gentleness and wisdom.

I’ve also seen an arrogance in those who accuse those who speak against the book as having put God in a box, as if those who are making arguments against it haven’t risen to a spiritual level sufficient to grasp the higher meanings being related by the author. Both of these actions have the propensity to entrench us in divisions.

Regarding division, however, let me digress for a moment to stave off any wrong conclusions. Jesus divides. Truth divides. It may sound redundant, but unification is insufficient grounds for unification. I must part ways with those who want to subject truth to unification in the same way that I must part ways with those who reject the truth of the scriptures as they have been understood for the last 2000 years. But on the other hand, I must look at my own self in the light of this truth just as much as I look at others. I must give others the benefit of the doubt, and consider their thoughts, or even where their thoughts are coming from. I think the brotherly love so often spoken of in scripture ought to be brought to bear on ourselves as we interact with others. We must not assume the worst, but on the other hand, assume the best in each other, especially in social media interactions where we really don’t know much about those with whom we interact. In my decade of online interactions, I do believe that this truth has been the most expensive of all to have come by. In other words, I think anyone would be hard pressed to be more of a jerk than I’ve been in on-line discussions.  But this also means that I must try to be tolerant (2) and understanding of those who are now as hard and wooden… or arrogant as I feel that I sued to be, and possibly still am. In other words, I must be as wise as a serpent, and gentle as a dove.

As far as the Body goes, I think there are answers to what ails us, and those answers can be found in scripture. I’ll point to one of the most unlikely people in all of scripture as an example to live up to in our discussions, and that is the Canaanite woman with the possessed daughter:

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masterstable.” Then Jesus answered her, O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

The first time I read this passage I hated it. This wasn’t the Jesus I expected. He virtually calls this poor woman a dog! But now I love the story. It’s one of my favorites because of the woman’s extraordinarily humble disposition. And I think her implied “dogness” represents all of humanity, and if not all of it, certainly all of the gentile portion of it. But she’s not indignant at all. The pride of life is missing in her response. She simply agrees with him, and then continues with her supplication, and then finds herself being given great honor. How many of us would not love to hear Jesus say to us, “Oh ______, great is your faith!”?

I think that this ought to be our disposition as we interact with each other in His Body. If our brothers and sisters say something too harshly, we ought to look past it as much as we can. And we ought to pray that we’d be able to do it all the more. We ought to examine ourselves constantly, especially when the views and actions of others bring us distress in our spirits. I can personally say that the lack of discernment by many in the body brings me distress, and not just a little. But I must also keep in mind that I have brought others distress as well. I’d be completely foolish to assume otherwise. The question is not whether we have all inflicted distress on our brothers and sisters, but rather, how does God use that distress for growth? In answer, I have several suggestions as to how we might bring that about.

  1. Humility, humility and more humility. Being told that God loves you and that you’re his child and are worthy, and the very best thing ever in all of eternity is easy. But having achieved such greatness, where does one go? Or, what growth is there left to achieve? No, the growth is experienced in the pain. It’s when we realize that we’ve behaved badly, or believed wrongly, or have made mistakes in some other way that growth is available to us for the taking. Our flesh rejects criticism. When we’ve invested in an idea, or a movement, or a person, or something else, and then someone comes along and challenges us about that investment, our natural reaction is to reject it outright, without giving it much thought. I have a saying: “If you don’t want to be deceived, assume that you are”. I say that because I know that I’m deceived. But part of being deceived is not knowing that I’m deceived. So when someone comes along to challenge me in something, I must realize that it could be an opportunity to reduce my deception. And I don’t want to miss that. Many of the religious leaders missed the Messiah because they were too proud and too invested. But the poor Canaanite woman garnered His praise.
  2. We are part of a body! Paul paints a beautiful picture of the Body of Christ as many parts making up the whole. He clearly points out that we are all lacking, as in there are eyes, ears, hands and feet and so on, and we are but a part. Therefore we must work to shed the current zeitgeist of individual autonomy. We are not alone complete. We are incomplete alone. If you are a Christian, you are not an individual. You are a part of something much larger. Yes, this means that you have gifts, which means that you have strengths. But you also have weaknesses. And those weaknesses are covered and supplemented by other parts of the body. I personally am one of the least loving people I know. When it comes to loving others I am dreadfully deficient. But I know some really loving people who help me and challenge me to love others better. And there are a lot of times that I don’t even like them. I’m also deficient in organization. I couldn’t even organize intentional chaos. But I know people who are great administrators. I am suspicious as to what gifts have given me, but I dare not say them, nor do I feel the need to. I am satisfied that they are apparent to those who need them in the Body.
  3. A discussion is not an argument even if the discussion is among those who disagree. But it can sound and look argumentative. Frustration can enter the discussion, emotions, anger and the like. But this doesn’t have to mean division. And we ought not avoid discussions because of the fear of division. Pretending that there is no division is not unity, it’s just cracks covered with paint. But discussions done rightly, and humbly, make for growth and strengthens the Body. They force us into the word for study and into an evaluation of ourselves and our beliefs. But we must be patient. It may be years before a discussion might bear fruit. I’m sorry for anyone who can’t discuss ideas and be challenged because their growth is surely stunted.
  4. look for the root of the matter.  We must also ever be searching for the roots of things; digging ever deeper to see what ideas and beliefs begot what ideas and beliefs which begot other ideas and beliefs. We must attempt to discern what is a symptom and what is a cause, both in the minds of ourselves and our fellow interlocutors. As for me, when I disagree with someone, I’m not so much interested in persuading them as I am in understanding the roots of our disagreements. I generally assume that there are deeper divides, and if I can discover them, we don’t have to necessarily agree to disagree, for I’ve never agreed with anyone to disagree with them. But I do at least want to know precisely what it is that we disagree about. Only then is there hope for growth if it is I who is in the wrong.
  5. Emotions confuse and convolute. Emotions are powerful. They’re even great. They’re God created and given. But they’re also flaky and fickle. They don’t last, and they also have the propensity to lead us astray. I once had my children listen to some instrumental music. I asked them if they thought it was beautiful and their answer was yes, that it was. Then I told them that there were words that went with the music, and that it was about a man who was preparing to leave his wife for another woman. I asked them if the music matched the feelings that they’d have if I left their mother for another woman. Their answer was, of course, no! I then admonished them to pay attention to the arts, which caters to our emotions. I warned them to be careful what they allowed themselves to be exposed to, for these things have the ability to use emotions to bypass our minds and instill into us things that we would otherwise reject. And worse for all of us, once these things are put there, they’re very difficult to dislodge because their presence is based on emotions and feelings. Again, humility is required, and when it comes to emotional issues, pain is required also. God rarely appeals to our emotions in scripture, he generally appeals to our minds. Satan on the other hand generally does appeal to our emotions in addition to our flesh. (3) That is not to say that emotions are of the devil, only that they’re very poor guards of our hearts. So before we allow emotions to drive us, let us restrain them and keep them in check.

 

notes_____

  1. Orthodoxy can be different. What I mean by “generally orthodox” is that they hold to the essentials of the faith and that their lives match their professed convictions
  2. The word tolerance has been redefined to currently mean that we accept a thing. But having been redefined I’m not able to describe what the word use to describe using another word, so I simply point out that in this I’m using it as it was always used before. It means that, even though we don’t agree, we also don’t become violent or verbally abusive.
  3. I said that God rarely appeals to our emotions and Satan rarely doesn’t. If you can think of any scriptures that would disqualify this I’d be indebted to you if you shared them.

 

 

Modern Luxuries

Americans enjoy many luxuries; this is true, but what kind of luxuries are they? When we hear that word, luxury, we generally think of something generated by material wealth, like big houses, boats, and cars.  But I contend that we take for granted luxuries that have nothing to do with wealth. Consider a few of them:

  1. Not having to bother to vote.
  2. The ability to abandon a wife or husband with ease.
  3. The security, real or imagined, that comes from the government’s bottomless bucket of deficit spending and social programs.
  4. To live and conduct our affairs, official and personal, as if there were no God.
  5. The ability to craft a God that aligns him/her self as with our desires.
  6. The denial of absolute morality.
  7. The conflation of compassion to an occasional trip to the ballot box to cast a vote for the politician who promises to give more of your neighbor’s stuff to the poor .
  8. An education system that trashes it’s own country, including the tax payers who are footing its enormous and bloated bill.
  9. Unlimited and anonymous access to any pornography the wicked mind can conceive of.
  10. Promiscuity without the consequence of shame.
  11. Ignorance of the Constitution.
  12. The denial of the existence of borders.
  13. Ignorance of history.
  14. Pacifism without fear of harm.
  15. No-expense-too-high-for-someone-else-to-pay environmentalism.
  16. The ability to borrow seemingly endless amounts of cash from those who can’t refuse… the unborn.
  17. The pretension that evil doesn’t exist.
  18. The belief that this world could be perfect, and will be some day once the right people are in charge and have unlimited power.

Of course, there are costs for these luxuries, including material costs, that eventually come due and must be paid… one way or the other. There are also many ways the reaper may reap his due, paid in ways that are unassociated with materal “wealth”. Here are just a few examples:

Opportunity– Commerce depends on morality. You expect that whatever it is that you’ve exchanged your wealth for will operate, perform of be whatever you were told. As morality increases, trust decreases. As trust decreases, the ability to do business becomes more cumbersome. And, as the ability of business becomes more cumbersome, it not only becomes more expensive. And by business I don’t mean large corporations. No, I mean you making a simple purchase.

Government Solvency–Our governing bodies at every level are bankrupt. We have thus far enjoyed the luxury of passing off the trial of compassion to government. But people in the governments are not interested in compassion. What they are interested in is keeping their jobs and foisting the cost of their “new” ideas and social experiments gone bad onto a yet born generation. But these governments are now on a collision course with reality. The payday for these promises of security is now looming large. Still, any attempt to make a course correction or to apply a little common sense are met with howls from the sedated populace as we discover that masses of people have become compassionees.

Unraveling of Society–Single parent families, for one, are taking their toll on the social fabric. Social institutions that once provided a nurturing environment for offspring that would be productive members of society have been impugned and dismantled. Now, any insinuation that out of wedlock births, or behavior that leads to them, is a moral issue are met with contempt and the offered solution of killing the child. Suggestions of real solutions are called extremism.  You can’t impose your morality on others we are told. But still, morality is imposed, by way of payroll deductions as financial payments are made to fund some of the luxuries listed above.

There is also the luxury of expectation. We now have an expectation of these luxuries as a given, like the air we breath, along with the luxury of prosperity.

This brings me to the last luxury worth mentioning. This luxury will be ever persistent; exacting payment long after the other luxuries have been paid for and are collecting dust on the shelf of fading memories. And that luxury is self-delusion.

What If God Simply Wants To Glorify His Son’s Bride?

This started as a comment in response to a shared article on FB that seems to be popular. But as my comment grew, I moved it here. I disagree with the pastor who wrote it, almost entirely and for lots of reasons that are not readily obvious in the article and are based on a little more subjectivity on my part. But here I will show why I think it’s wrong based on scripture. The article:

What If God Doesn’t Want To Make America Great Again?

I’m not going to include any excerpts except for the part where scripture is referenced, so you’ll have to click over to the article to read what I’m responding to. The article does qualify, in my opinion, for Spurgeon’s quip that discernment is not the ability to tell right from wrong, but rather to tell right from almost right. So here are my thoughts on this article in three points:

1. The question is never about America. It’s always about Jesus’ Bride. Yes, the American Church exists in America, in the same way that the Chinse Church exists in China. But both are working toward the same end, with different challenges, which is God’s Kingdom.  So my first point is the most important, and I think that we should infuse it into our thinking: there is a difference between a nation and God’s Church in that nation. This is crucial. It is crucial, it is crucial. Did I say that it was crucial? By golly, I think I did. We get into trouble when we conflate the
state and the Church in our minds, and we do that a lot, and we’re in trouble a lot. If you want a lesson in horror, study Church history. When the state and the church merged, it always went much worse than not very well. And there’s a reason for that, which brings me to my second point.
2. The state is not the Church, but it is a minister of God. The state is ordained by God and its ordained purpose is to protect and to restrain evil. We are having problems because we are living in the midst of an antinomian zeitgeist, and the American Body of Christ has not escaped its effects. The modern Church has taken, to one degree or another, the truth that, “you cannot earn your salvation by obeying the law” and morphed it into, “there is no law, period; no law for the state and no law for Christians”. But Paul begs to differ. Not only does he appeal to law a lot, he calls it good. Paul tells Timothy in his first letter:
“We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.”
Why do I harp on the law so much? Because if you live in the U.S. you are immersed in antinomianism, and you must break free from its shackles if you’re to discern the difference between almost right and right in this present age. Paul clearly says in Romans Chapter 8 “There is therefore now no condemnation“. Is that what he says? Yes, but that’s a  dangerous place to stop because he continues with an all-important condition for acquiring our escape from condemnation with, “…for those who are in Christ Jesus“. That means that, not only are most Americans still under the law, they are condemned by that same law; a very sobering thought in my opinion. That is America’s situation, indeed it’s the world’s situation. The law is still in place, it defines evil and God has given the state authority to restrain the evil that it defines. Speaking to believers God says:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
But unfortunately, the state, having untethered itself from God’s law–and it has done so with help from an ever increasingly antinomian American Church–creates its own law. And when the state creates its own law, it also necessarily creates another definition of evil. It then falls under a “woe” from God, which is never a good thing, and much worse, I fear, than we can imagine.
Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
3. The state and the Church have God ordained jurisdictions, but they are not even remotely the same thing. So here I will show the confusion introduced in this article that explains to me why a God hating blogsite like the Huffington Post would even consider publishing it. In reading an article like this I think it’s important that, not only is there an appeal by the author to scripture, but that that appeal is applying scripture as the scripture intended itself to be applied. So let’s see about that by looking at a couple of the author’s references.  I’ll let you see if you can see the problem with the rest of his scripture references. (hint: it’s the same problem) Here are all his references in an excerpt from the article:

These things do not line up with the Gospels where I learn of a Jesus who says to welcome the stranger, forgive extravagantly, give radically, and do not resist an evil person (and love them instead). A Jesus who erases cultural and political and religious divisions.

Jesus who flat out says, “Whoever wants to be great needs to become a servant of everybody else.

I’ll start with the first one, “welcome the stranger”. Here is the passage:

For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.

A rule I try to teach to my children to use when they’re reading the Bible is when you see that word “you”, you better know who “you” is lest you be confused or led astray. So my question is, when Jesus is referring to “you”, who is He referring to?  Is he referring to a pagan caesar and his minions? No, not at all. No, Jesus has just separated the sheep from the goats, and he’s talking to the sheep. He’s talking to his bride! He is most definitely not talking to a nation, and that’s an all-important distinction.

Here’s the author’s next reference:

forgive extravagantly,

 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.

This is from Matthew, who uses the term “Kingdom of Heaven” rather than “Kingdom of God”. But he’s referring to God’s Kingdom nevertheless, not America, or any other kingdom. And he is speaking to those who are “In Christ” and so therefore, have been forgiven. He is most certainly not talking about those who are still goats, who are still under condemnation, and therefore who have no reason to forgive anyone for anything because they have not been forgiven themselves and are in fact still transgressors themselves, are at war with God and are under His wrath. But let’s take this a step further with Romans 13 in mind. Do you really want God’s minister, the state, to simply forgive all evildoers “extravagantly”? I wonder if this pastor is willing that the Christian florists and bakers who have become evil in the eyes of the state for their unwillingness to participate in  “homosexual weddings”, simply be forgiven extravagantly and their money and livelihoods returned to them?  Or what about the person who rapes, tortures and murders a poor child, then throws that child in the dumpster like a piece of trash. Do we really want our government to look at this man and say, “You know what? I forgive you. Go, and sin no more”.  Of course not.  And if it did, it would be abdicating its God-ordained responsibility. But what about the Christian parent of the murdered child?  Should that person forgive, especially if the killer is sorry and asks for forgiveness? Yes, and by God’s grace he will be able to. See? There’s the state and the Church. They’re not the same.

Again, we must remember that the state’s primary purpose is to restrain evil. And it has God’s permission to use deadly force in doing that. But a government, or nation, that does not fear God will not only not restrain evil, it will encourage evil while at the same time outlawing righteousness as we can see in Roman’s 1.

So, in conclusion, I’ll give my answer to the author’s question, what if God doesn’t want to make America Great. My answer is that God raises empires up, and he tears them down. His actions are not about nations, they are about His Son’s Bride. It is a distraction to focus on politics and issues outside of that context. It is faithlessness to put our faith in nations or any government or any man.  It is idolatrous to look to government as our provider, or for so-called economic security. In the end, the earth burns, the nations evaporate, and the goats are sent to eternal judgment. As John says:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of lifec—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
All that remains is God’s main focus here on earth, His Son’s Bride. But does this mean that God’s people are not supposed to be a salt and light in government? Not at all. But we must understand that we are not the state and the state is not us. I think Paul gives us some insight into our relationship with rulers and authorities in 1 Timothy 2:1:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
In short, I think Paul is saying here that we simply want the rulers and authorities in our lives to restrain evil, and to otherwise leave us alone to be the salt and the light we are ordained to be. With a good state with good rulers, there is a healthy desire for our salt and light, for where there is salt and light, restraining evil is not near the task, and not near as expensive. But a state that is at war with God will hate the salt and light. It will not exist peacefully with us, and evil will abound and confound the state. Yes, these things can cause us temporary discomfort, pain, and suffering, which, according to the Bible, glorifies Jesus’ bride before an evil world. But our eyes are not set on those things which are seen, like states, empires, and nations. No, our eyes are set on that which is unseen and is eternal. So to answer the question I posed in the title, God will most definitely glorify His Son’s Bride.

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