Friday, March 30, 2018

Christ the Fulfillment of Passover

This is something I wrote years ago. I have read much less political writing from non-Christian sources in recent years.

Some people crave chocolate. It's their "guilty pleasure."

Political Similarities between conservative Jews and Christians

Metaphorically speaking, for me that's reading conservative blog satire. The news is depressing enough as it is, so getting the big picture, without having to try to guess what the television is telling you that's true and what's false, together with a healthy dose of humor to mock the outrageousness of the situation, is something I recommend for all conservatives, and all Christians.

And some of the best conservative satire I've found on the Internet is the product of one man: Daniel Greenfield, a NYC-dwelling Orthodox Jewish guy who writes more in a day than many people talk. Far from only producing satire, however, Greenfield's blog turns out amazingly profound commentaries on just about every aspect of national and global politics. Prodigious, that is the word to describe him.

Why'd I emphasize that he was Orthodox Jewish? Because the nature of our worldviews is such that for a true-believing Christian and a true-believing Jew, that aspect is the "only" aspect of our beliefs which diverges. In nearly everything else that can be imagined, our political beliefs are almost perfectly aligned. Consequently, it's enjoyable to read what he writes because I very rarely find things to disagree with him on, and am able to learn a lot from his insights about history and politics, without having to question his interpretation, as much as with other sources.

Incidentally, I put "only" in quotes, because to minimize the theological differences between modern Judaism and Biblical Christianity would be a monumental oversight, since these beliefs are in no way casual preferences of those that choose them, and their implications are massively profound with eternal consequences. From a theological point of view, I look at Orthodox Judaism and think "so close, yet so far away." In a purely political perspective, however, we're nearly identical.

Today, I want to try my best to make a few theological points using Mr. Greenfield's recent blog post about Passover.


Analysis of From Slavery to Freedom, by Daniel Greenfield

Greenfield's main points from the article:

It's possible to be enslaved without being physically bound. Slavery of the mind leaves a man physically free to act but limited by his mental enslavement to only do the things which please his taskmasters. He thinks he is free but he isn't.
Passover does not simply remind the Jews that they escaped slavery at one time in the past, but it embodies the realization that freedom from slavery was and is a continual journey. I would add that this hearkens to the theme of the book of Judges, that after being delivered, a new generation would rise up, forget God, and be turned over to judgment. The famous Reagan quote, that 'freedom must be fought for and defended by each generation,' also applies.
Pharaoh did not have to be simply defeated, but discredited. That is what the 10 Plagues accomplished. They showed that Pharaoh was not God, but only God was God. 
"Ritual is the gateway to a state of mind. A ritual of freedom only succeeds when it invokes a state of mental freedom. Otherwise it is a rite, a practice, a habit whose codes may help some future generation unlock its meaning, but which means little today." 
 As a Jew, Daniel Greenfield says that Passover is a journey; it's a beginning and an end but the Jews are always in the middle.  In him saying this, I perceive a nascent understanding that there is 'unfinished business' in the celebration of the Hebrew holidays. I suspect that Daniel may have a future united Jerusalem led by free Jews in mind. I acknowledge that that day is coming, but Passover is pointing to something even greater than that.

Amazing Continuity

Let me elaborate on that ending note. I've had the privilege to speak with some Orthodox Jewish guys at my university, and I've gotten the impression that it is a common belief among Jews that they are awaiting a political salvation. They, like their forefathers, the Pharisees (often seen as the bad guys in the Gospel, though Jesus' criticism of them was not for their theology--in Matthew 23 He says "the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore do what they tell you," (Matthew 23:2-3) rather, His criticism of them was for their hypocrisy and their addition of man-made interpretations on top of the Law (Matthew 15:8-9)(Isaiah 29:13)), do not accept the Suffering Servant as their savior because they aren't looking for Him. They're looking for a political leader who will rebuild the Temple and restore Jerusalem. (incidentally, the passage about the 'suffering servant' is interpreted by Orthodox Jews to refer to Israel)

As Solomon said, "there is nothing new under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9) Judaism has not evolved. Not only are the Jews remarkable for their preservation of ancient manuscripts, and the preservation of their lineages and culture, but also in their commitment to the faith of their fathers. We Christians today are by and large met with Jews who are essentially the same as the Jews which Peter and the other Apostles encountered in the book of Acts, and which Jesus walked with and spoke to in the Gospels.

It's truly fascinating.

At the same time, as a Christian I am grieved somewhat by the thought that my Jewish friends are setting their sights too low. What is offered to them is more than just a kingdom, but eternal life and God Himself. How I wish that they would see this.

The Missing Pieces

It's such an eerie thing to listen to someone talk about something and come so close to figuring everything out, when you know what the finished puzzle looks like. I yearn for these Orthodox Jewish guys to put all the pieces together and see the whole picture.

No one who understands the nature of beliefs that are exclusive and contain promises of reward and judgment would be offended by the expressed desire by someone with such a belief that they (the first person) would come to know 'the truth.' Of course it can strike you as insulting because it supposes that what you believe is wrong, but it's genuine, whether their belief is true or not.

I’ve always said, you know, that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize.  I don’t respect that at all.  If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell, or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that, well, it’s not really worth telling them because it would make it socially awkward . . . How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?  How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?  I mean, if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you.  And this is more important than that . ~ Penn Jilette, outspoken atheist
Of course I believe your theology is wrong. Otherwise we wouldn't call ourselves different names. But I won't be afraid to speak on this issue, even if you'll dislike me for it, Daniel -- and it's 'cause I love ya. :)

The Passover clearly points to Christ. It symbolizes the necessary covering of the blood of a sacrifice that is necessary for us to escape God's judgment (Hebrews 9:22) (Leviticus 17:11). It foreshadowed the later institution of formal sacrifices which temporarily covered the sins of the faithful and prefigured a coming perfect sacrifice.

Jews would disagree with that latter part, about the perfect sacrifice. But I'd like to offer these passages for consideration:

"Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams." (1 Samuel 15:22)
"What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats." (Isaiah 1:11)
"For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6)
"To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice." (Proverbs 21:3)

I decided not to include the passages which warn of judgment when the Israelites had gone astray, lest the rebuttal be offered that the verses above do not refer to sacrifices at all times. To my knowledge, the ones I've selected do.

God doesn't want sacrifices. I suppose that the Jewish explanation for why sacrifices are not now offered is because there is no Temple. I want to tell you that the real reason that sacrifices are not needed any longer is because Jesus Christ has been offered up, "once for all," (Hebrews 7:27) for all people who will take Him as their substitute--their scape-goat, if you will.

Daniel speaks an ironic truth when he says, "[ritual] is a rite, a practice, a habit whose codes may help some future generation unlock its meaning, but which means little today."  He doesn't realize how right he is. The Jewish holidays were given for a purpose. Their practice became habit and its true meaning has been lost, but looking back, a willing spirit can see the scarlet thread running through history, connecting the memorials with that which they commemorate and prefigure. Daniel doesn't understand that he himself is included in the group of those who are not fully free but only ritually free. Like he said, "ritual is the gateway to a state of mind." I would say that the Jewish rituals are meant to point toward something greater and more profound than themselves.

Until the understanding dawns on any given Jew, individually, that the meaning of all their rituals and holy days is to point toward a Messiah who will not only give them an everlasting kingdom--that's just the icing on the cake--but who will save them from their sins and reconcile them to their heavenly Father, the Passover will remain a journey that they remain perpetually stuck in the middle of, unable to come to the end and find rest.

Hebrews 10:
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:1-18)
My prayer is that my Jewish brothers through Adam, whom I love dearly, would have their eyes and hearts opened so that they may also be my brothers in Christ. 


Further reading
How Did Jesus Fulfill the Jewish Feasts? GotQuestions

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Missionary To A Pagan Culture

For the past six years, I've been living as a Christian missionary in a pagan culture. I have been trying to, like Paul, "be all things to all people," in order to gain their confidence, but some things are impossible to imitate. I cannot match the indigenous people's lack of dress or profane speech, and so my behavior is sufficiently different to theirs that they distrust me. What is different is often feared, and this group of people has been doing things one way for a very long time, and are comfortable with it.

One example of this is their longstanding tradition of having a festival of lights during the darkest part of the year, something they hold in common with many other cultures around the globe. The people I'm ministering to are very prone to loneliness, depression and suicide because of weak family relationships. Monogamy is unheard of, and due to the excessive variety of sexual partners, almost none of the mothers know who the fathers of their children are. Without the affection provided by two parents in a stable relationship, the children grow up to seek comfort elsewhere. At certain times of year, the inability to find or form constructive relationships with other people becomes a crushing burden that leads to reckless self-endangerment.

The native people, in an attempt to encourage their society's most depressed not to commit suicide, have developed this yearly festival into a season where everyone acts unnaturally cheerful toward friends and strangers, to cheer them up. This may have backfired, because participants still only spend extra time with people they already like, whereas those who are not interacted with by the celebrants are apt to feel even more left out than usual, and experience this as social ostracism. The suicide and depression rate therefore remains high. There is a real need for these people to hear a message of hope.

It is interesting to note that this region's light festival didn't begin as a social intervention to address the ills brought on by social isolation of its inhabitants. In fact, the holiday began much longer ago.

The holiday is so old that most people greeting others with it no longer speak the language it was first introduced in, which makes for a strange irony. The indigenous peoples greet each other a happy "shav kippur," which roughly translates as 'happy insufficient sacrifice day.' It's very curious that people should have at any point been happy about a sacrifice that wasn't good enough, but after studying their religion, I've discovered that there is a legend associated.

Long ago, a half-human god had come to these people and promised to help them get to heaven. The people were offended at the idea that they needed help. But when the half-human, half-god being tried to offer a sacrifice for the people, it was not good enough to open heaven for the people. This meant that they had to work for it themselves, and they found meaning and purpose and satisfaction in trying hard to do good to put in the rest that was needed to get to heaven. After all, if the sacrifice had opened heaven to everyone, then everyone would be equal, and that was an obscene concept to this society which was dependent on a caste system where everyone knew who was superior and inferior to them.

Because of the insufficient sacrifice, man's pride was restored, and to pagans who view themselves as the authors of their own fate, this was very very good news. For this reason, they inaugurated the feast-day of the insufficient sacrifice, and placed it at the time of year when men were most likely to doubt their own greatness.

The celebration, naturally, is full of debauchery.

For much of recorded history, the way Insufficient-Sacrifice-Day has been celebrated includes such things as:
  • shuttering local businesses from being able to buy and sell
  • heavy drinking
  • mob violence
  • pagan religious rites including human sacrifice
Over time, due in part to the gradual improvement in this society's morality due to the influence of Christianity, the open debauchery has graduated from the mainstream to the fringes. The majority of the culture doesn't celebrate the old ways, with mobs running through town making sure businesses stay closed. In fact, because there is so much money to be made in supporting the festivities with religious iconography and clothing, businesses largely stay open during the holiday. The human sacrifice still occurs, sadly, in greater numbers than ever before, but curiously, there has been an increase in religious activity of non-state religion, without the barbaric practices. It seems obvious to me that these observances are attempts to draw support away from the more traditional worship and gain converts from those who have gone along with the insufficient-sacrifice celebration without understanding what it's about.

Nowadays, the way that the feast-day of the insufficient sacrifice is celebrated is as follows:
  • Openly deceiving children about the existence of a deity not a single adult believes in.
  • The promise of gifts as a reward for good behavior, to encourage moralism.
  • The expectation of gifts, as if they are deserved, to encourage entitlement.
  • Drunken revelry, among the youth, especially.
  • The singing of religious hymns, relentlessly, everywhere in public.
  • Decorating one's home with images of barbaric human sacrifice
  • Many arbitrary traditions that have cropped up over time but (of) which nobody knows why they are celebrated.
  • Excessive eating.
  • Openly insulting those who don't wish to participate or be made a party to it.
  • Threats of ostracism of family members and friends who don't participate to others' liking.
And much more. 

By now, you might have figured out that I'm speaking metaphorically about 'Christmas.' But perhaps you're confused about some of the references or symbolism. To help with that, it's important to realize the perspective I'm coming at this from:

- The pagan culture is the Anglosphere, the West, or for simplicity, America.
- The traditional religion here is taken to be roman catholicism.
- Christianity and catholicism are not the same.
- The insufficient sacrifice is a reference to the fact that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is seen in roman catholicism as not being sufficient, once for all, to wash away all sin. Instead, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that every time the Mass is performed, Jesus is re-sacrificed, and even goes so far as to say that the Mass itself is 'propitiatory,' i.e. that it saves you from hell by appeasing God's wrath. Source: CCC 1365-1367 specifically. In the view of the RCC, Jesus didn't save anyone -- Jesus just got you most of the way there, and your own good works are necessary both to secure and maintain your salvation. This robs God of the glory that He deserves as our Savior, by saying that man can save (or not) himself by his own deeds. It also tacitly states that Jesus is not God -- if He were, His sacrifice would be infinite in worth--there would be nothing anyone could add to it to perfect it.
- "Christ-Mass" was celebrated largely as a religious holiday a few hundred years ago, and revelers (yes, they did get drunk) demanded that businesses be closed, upon threat of looting.
- The holiday has since entered the mainstream, where non-catholic churches participate, either out of ignorance of the history of the holiday or meaning of the mass, or because they hope that some good may still come from it if they can "control the narrative" and persuade people "what christmas is all about."
- And the way that the holiday has been celebrated has changed due to Christianity. Whereas roman catholics, without the Holy Spirit, were given over to orgiastic immorality in celebration of the holiday, back in England, America, on the other hand, was majority Protestant for the first 150 years or more, and, consequently, the presence of true Christians at all levels of society moderated the way that people were encouraged to celebrate. 
- I implied that Christianity is a minority religion, not endorsed by the state, whereas roman catholicism is.....because that's the truth.

And thus, we have the present strange state of affairs.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

An Old Poem I Wrote

In the ABAB rhyme scheme, this is one of the more cohesive personal works of poetry I've produced, which makes me quite pleased. First written 4 1/2 years ago, it accurately represents the general point of view that I've had for more than ten years, since beginning to pray under starlight and contemplate my life in that setting.

Please be gracious in understanding that it's difficult to convey exactly what you mean while adhering to a specific meter (A: iambic pentameter, B: iambic tetrameter). 'Anxious' and 'kiss her' come to mind. Nevertheless, enjoy the poem!

Ode to An Outdoorsy Wife

Come, let me read you a tale from the heart
And soon you will quite understand
How a person like me could consider it art
How the mind works inside of a man

Dusk, when the sun sinks below all the trees
Is my favorite time of the day
Why should it be that the sweet evening breeze
And the night sky incline me to say,

"God, I am thankful to be here this night
And I love what I see with my eyes. 
Please give me grace that I walk in the Light
And to not fail to strive for your prize." ?

Nature, I reckon, inclines me to worship
The One who created it all
One day, yet future, a songbird in courtship
My bride it shall also enthrall

For if we would ever be joined in one flesh
We can't be too different, you know
As husband and wife, our interests should mesh
And our differences help us to grow

No doubt, she'll be unlike myself in most ways
But I figure we both can agree
That a walk in the evening outside on most days
Will us both inspire genuinely

There's something quite soothing 'bout being outside
And it's something that I want to share
With a wonderful woman--my sister, my bride
I am anxious until I get there

For now, it's just me and my awesome Creator
Conversing on star-studded nights
The hills and the trees are a natural theater
The world is afire with lights

It is easy to see when the sun is up high
And the colors are vibrant and stark
But the light that I seek is a different design
It is one that will shine in the dark.

It is true that I'm never truly alone
My Savior is with me always
But until that day when He bids me come home
There's something inside me that says,

"Lord, let me grow and become a good man,
So that one day a woman will find
That our mutual love could be part of Your plan,
That I will be hers and she mine

Let her be someone who like me loves mountains
And let her also love You
Give me the strength to love like a fountain
Always outpouring anew."

I hope against hope that I'll find her one day
And that when I do, I don't miss her
So until I am ready, I still watch and pray
Until finally, I get to kiss her.

Artful, perhaps, is the mind of this writer
Full of God, nature, women and more
Against loneliness, romance is a fighter

But it's God who foreknows what's in store.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Repost: Don't Die Twice for A Straw Man

From about 4-5 years ago, this reflects my thinking on common atheist objections to Christian morality.

"Don't Die Twice for A Straw Man"

Who would die for one of those, anyway?

I was having an online discussion with an atheist I've had occasional back-and-forths with for a few years, and he trotted out this line:
I don't want my philosophy to comfort me, I want it to tell me the truth at all instances.

When I see a dying, starving person, I don't want to see a person going to heaven. To me, that is one of the most sinister lies and I wouldn't want my children to believe this about a person in strife. Strife is a REAL thing, and for me, it is something that does not end in heaven or hell. Truly, I am only comforted by atheism to know that the REALITY of life, including a dying and sick world, is a real one. I can't do anything about this dying and sick world except be my best, but at least I know it isn't a fight of devils and angels--rather in humanity's control.

I believe life comes once, I don't want to be a good person because I will be tortured and my skin burned off if I don't. That's not morality for me.
You know, I suspect he thinks this would upset me most because it supposedly reveals the hypocrisy of people of faith. Namely, that of supposedly being concerned with people's "greater good," to the point of ignoring their earthly needs. He thinks faith breeds fatalism, with regard to making the world a better place. What really upsets me is that he still has this wrong view of faith, despite months and years of telling him the truth.

Here was my full response:
I can tell you what, [opponent], when I see people dying it doesn't comfort me to see people going to hell. That's what motivates me to reach out to them with the Gospel lest they perish in vain.

[Opponent], being a good person won't get you into heaven. You're already going to hell because you're INCAPABLE of being a good person. This is what you don't get. We Christians don't behave morally because God threatens us. We do good in grateful response to the fact that He saved us from hell even though we did not deserve to go to heaven. If you think we do good to bribe God you are mistaken. That's not Christianity, that's works-righteous false religion. Don't die twice for a straw man.
Every day, 200,000 people die. Realizing that so many people are slipping into eternity without you having even the slightest opportunity to do anything about it is distressing. It's not comforting at all. What is comforting in moments of realizing that, is that God is sovereign. Simply, He's in control. You don't have the responsibility over all those people. God will ensure that there are Christians strategically placed just where He wants them, to be salt and light for a dying world. And guess what? You are the one that He's handpicked to do just that, where you are.

So the understanding that the world is perishing and I have a part to play in saving it motivates me to be more aggressive in spreading the Gospel. I'd gladly take the risk of being seen as "one of those crazy Christian nutjobs," than to make people feel comfortable even as their eternity is in peril. My conscience won't let me accept quietness. I must speak.

What saddens me so much is when guys like him say that they don't think it's legitimate to be good because otherwise you'll be tortured. I TOTALLY AGREE! That IS illegitimate! And it isn't the Christian way! We don't do good because God is threatening us. We do it to repay Him with gladness for everything He has given us. We honor Him out of love, not out of mortal terror. I wish my opponent would understand this...

I think he chooses to believe that because it makes it easier to reject the Christian faith. But if you're offended by something that isn't actually Christianity, and you turn around and reject Christianity, you've made a terrible mistake.

The Straw Man Fallacy is the logical misstep of misrepresenting what you're arguing against. Then you defeat this 'straw man' and claim to have defeated what you were arguing against. But if you don't ever attack the actual position, you can't ever defeat it, and so you're never justified in rejecting it. That's the mistake my opponent made above. He's right to reject what he describes, because a belief system that makes God out to be an extortioner is clearly false. Sadly, he makes the error of asserting that this is the Christian faith, and this is not so.

I said 'don't die twice for a straw man,' because hell is referred to as the "second death." (Revelation 20:14)

It's not worth it to go to hell because you insisted on believing a lie. The character Yossarian in the novel Catch-22 was having a debate with a lady friend of his, and though they were both atheists, the woman was upset at how Yossarian characterized God--angry, mean, stupid, evil, etc. Yossarian reaches a compromise by saying, "the God you don't believe in is not the same God that I don't believe in." (That's paraphrased).

My atheist friend, the god you don't believe in is not the God I believe in. Repent and live.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Submission to Authority and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

July 4th Post

Suppose you were compelled by law to take some action you deemed immoral, or face incarceration and fines? While we seem to be trending that way with Orwellian crimespeak in some quarters, this has happened before.

If you thought you would have to decide whether you thought owning slaves was right or wrong, if you lived in the 1850s, and opt out of participating in it yourself, you thought wrong. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 not only required law enforcement in Northern states to apprehend escaped slaves (and paid them a hefty bonus for it), but:
"In addition, any person aiding a runaway slave by providing food or shelter was subject to six months' imprisonment and a $1,000 fine" (Article on Wikipedia)
If you let a runaway stay on your property, or if you gave them a cup of water, without reporting them to the authorities, you could be fined the equivalent of $30,000 in today's dollars AND thrown in jail. 

So here's the question:

Is it right or wrong to give food and shelter to a runaway slave in this situation?
Is it right or wrong to decline to report a runaway slave if you know of one?

For some, one might be easier than the other, and for others, the reverse. I could see how one person might feel ethically compelled to provide food, feeling that it is a violation of James 2:15-16 to refuse their neighbor in need. I can also see how someone else might feel justified not telling the authorities so long as they provided no aid, because at least then they wouldn't be in violation of the law, so they might think. I could see how some might provide aid, and tell the authorities afterward. I could see how some would delay to tell the authorities. And I could see how some might defy the law on both points, utterly.

But I would like to point out that regardless of which way you're convicted, the difference between a Christian and a Republican (you know, the anti-slavery party) lies in how you would respond when you get caught.

Do you: flee? Go down guns blazing? Have your friends bust you out of prison? Lie when questioned? No.
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. Romans 13:1-7

So what does the Christian do? He exercises his discernment in helping those he can practically help who are indeed in need. He exercises his conscience in deciding to report himself to the authorities. And if he is caught, he submits to the arrest without unlawfully resisting the government's right to detain. In all of this, he obeys God's law, choosing to ignore human government when it compels him to do evil, but submitting to it when it acts in accordance with God's law. 

And that means that even though the crime is no crime, for which he is arrested, the government is still legitimately authorized TO arrest, and the Christian rejoices that he is counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus.  Acts 5:41

The Christian obeys the government's authority. This includes the authority to imprison, fine, and execute you, even under false pretenses. But he does not recognize the government's authority to compel him to commit evil. At this point, the Christian takes a stand and lets everyone know that his fidelity to God is what compels him, so that even in his persecution, he might witness to unbelievers whose hard hearts God has determined to soften by means of the unjust spectacle.

In other words, you could say that, while you're not obligated to obey the government if it tries to make you do evil, you're obligated to obey the government even if the government's actions are evil. The fact that it's perpetrating injustice doesn't render our submission to its authority voluntary. If this were true, then we would never be in submission to government, because government is composed of men and men are sinful, so government will always be acting sinfully to some degree. We simply can't justify rebellion based on how bad our government is. We justify disobedience to the government when our obedience to the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2) requires us to refuse a command to the contrary. This is the Christian ethic of civic responsibility.

I'm posting this on July 4th because there is a tendency toward uncritical patriotism of country, among Christians, pseudochristians and conservatives in America. Too often, in practice, the country itself is held up as the highest ideal and that which most richly deserves our honor and commitment. But this ignores the fact that in both the present, future, and past of this country have included laws which punish good and require evil, which Christians cannot gloss over. The highest ideal is the Law of God. The fact that no one, and no country, can aspire to that naturally brings up the doctrine of Soli Deo Gloria. You can't do it, and that's precisely why you need God. His glory is the highest good, and thwarting those who seek any other glory is His specialty. Submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6

May this country indeed return, or this somewhat abstract exercise is due to become painfully practical as it ceases to be a thought-experiment and becomes our daily reality.

The practical reason why we must respond Biblically, not politically, to unjust government -- a far distant second to the primary reason that we should obey God because we love Him and desire to obey because it is right to obey, and His Spirit in us compels us to do right -- is that while God doesn't guarantee national blessing, He only promises to bless nations that follow His precepts, so when things don't work out when your primary objective is political victory, don't be surprised.

Consider this, instead.

“Although slavery is not uniformly condemned in either the Old or New Testaments, the sincere application of New Testament truths has repeatedly led to the elimination of its abusive tendencies. Where Christ’s love is lived in the power of His Spirit, unjust barriers and relationships are inevitably broken down. As the Roman empire disintegrated and eventually collapsed, the brutal, abused system of slavery collapsed with it—due in great measure to the influence of Christianity. ... New Testament teaching does not focus on reforming and re structuring human systems, which are never the root cause of human problems. The issue is always the heart of man—which when wicked will corrupt the best of systems and when righteous will improve the worst. If men’s sinful hearts are not changed, they will find ways to oppress others regardless of whether or not there is actual slavery.”~ John MacArthur


I credit Todd Friel, John MacArthur, and the endless parade of Christian martyrs for persuading me of the correctness of this Biblical approach to government law and order.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Meaning of the Terms "Conservative" and "Liberal"

There's a reason why terms like 'conservative' and 'liberal' sometimes serve to confuse political discussions. It's because those words are adjectives -- another word for adjective is a "noun modifier." In other words, nothing is conservative or liberal in and of itself, but with respect to something that can be conserved or loosened. Let's look at the terms:

Conserve: to conserve, restrain, hold back, maintain, preserve, hold fast to, etc.

Liberally: profusely; Liberate: to loosen, set free, relinquish control over, etc.

From what I remember, the Founders made a distinction between the concepts of "freedom" and "liberty." The short summary is this: total individual freedom, a 'state of nature,' is not true freedom at all because it's unstable. The strong eventually conquer the weak and impose their own rules. By contrast, liberty is freedom with some minimal, reasonable restrictions on the individual, that makes society safe for individuals to exercise their freedom, enabling them to be more free than they would be otherwise, without those restrictions.

Back on topic: Conservatives wish to conserve something, but Liberals wish to relax, or be free from those things. But what is that thing?

This is where I wish to make an important point. Conservatism and Liberalism mean different things in different countries, because their different histories, by definition, mean that that which would be conserved varies based on the established historical culture of those places.

That's why, in Iran, conservatism means Shia Islam. In Saudi Arabia, it's Wahhabi Islam. In Spain and Italy, it's Roman Catholicism. In the US, it's Protestant Christianity. In the UK, "conservatism" is just slightly more pro-capitalist liberalism. In Russia, it's Communism, and in China, it's a mixture of that and, religiously, ancestor-worship is the traditional spiritual belief. So on and so forth.

The US differs from the UK, despite their common language and some similar facets of culture. While they have a similar theological history, their political culture is very distinct. The UK was a Constitutional Monarchy since the good old days when King John signed the Magna Carta. It still is, but the monarchy is much weakened in its power. The US, on the other hand, has never had a king. It has always been a mixture of a Republic (leaders decide the laws on behalf of the people) and a Democracy (the leaders are chosen by the people). The democratic aspect of this is deeply embedded in American society because of generations of asserting the ideal of individualism. In America, the political unit is the individual. This is in turn supported by the theological teachings of Christianity, which says that all people are made in God's image and are responsible for themselves.

American Conservatism, then, is extremely unique because no other country has over a hundred years of history at its foundation that supports the political position that says that every individual has the right and responsibility to make their own decisions, provided they are not immoral, without any other person interfering with their ability and prerogative to do so.

That's why Conservatism in the US can be boiled down to a single phrase, as far as it concerns the relationship between the individual and his government: personal responsibility.

This is the functional secular definition that most people on the political right conceive the term to mean. It's how come Catholics, Mormons, Jews, and even Atheists can be politically conservative -- and not just in name, but genuinely have many opinions in common with genuine conservative Christians.

To be more specific, however, American Conservatism, understood historically, means the maintaining of Biblical Christian principles in all areas of public and private life.

That's my working definition. It, once again, can be agreed to to an extent by people with other philosophies. "Biblical Christian principles," without the faith, are often borrowed by those with less internally consistent views, because of their inherent usefulness. That doesn't make them true, but because they are true, they are inherently worthwhile to pursue, in ways that are sometimes obvious and sometimes revealed after a time, and so atheists can often see the value in limited government, and Catholics can express strong convictions about the value of human life and the blessing of doing marriage God's way. In this way they are conservative in ways that Christian conservatives can agree with politically, but the ultimate reasons are different. The Christian is concerned with glorifying God, and does not get lost in secondary causes. We stand for what is right not because it seems practical, but because even if it does not, we trust that God knows best and we want to glorify Him by our obedience.

This is all to distinguish between holding political positions that are consistent with Biblically conservative Christianity, and being reborn by the Holy Spirit so that, as a natural outgrowth of your continuing sanctification, you follow God's principles from the heart.

The liberal view, meanwhile, would be, rather than maintaining those principles, loosening and/or abandoning those principles.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Let's Play A Game: Popular Songs As Summarized by Puritans

This gets worse as you go down the list.

Point 1: While Puritan is often used contemporarily as a derogatory term, it is a historical term that refers to English Reformers specifically, and, since then, conservative protestants specifically. You could be considered a puritan for having a less liberal attitude about what is proper language, behavior, dress, etc than the wider culture. In some sense, all Christians should be puritan.

"In the world, not of the world" - (John 17:14-15) - comes to mind often when I observe contemporary culture through song or television. There is no sign of self-awareness, by content producers,  of the fact that what they project is not affirmed as good by everyone who sees it, and this is very ironic. I often reflect on the significance of language, attitudes or beliefs which are taken for granted, and feel increasingly more isolated from and marginalized by the culture I live in. I suspect many believers can say the same.

For those who do not, I'd like you to consider a few highly popular recent songs that many young people sing along to and enjoy, I suspect uncritically. I wondered how a Puritan might characterize the lyrics if he heard them, and if it would shock some modern listeners, if only because of their numbness to what they're actually singing along to.

In other words, this is how I would describe the songs.

Carly Rae Jepsen -- "Call Me Maybe"
Young girl improperly pursues a man after lusting over him, boasting over how many other suitors she has had.

Adele -- "Hello From the Other Side"
Older woman mourns the dissolution of a past relationship, desperately trying to reconnect with a man she was once intimate with, because she is lonely and afraid of "running out of time."

Ellie Goulding -- "Love Me Like You Do"
A girl so overcome with lust that she spends the whole song begging a man to take advantage of her sexually.

Taylor Swift -- "Wildest Dreams"
A cynical woman holds no hope for a stable relationship, merely wishing that a man she fornicated with will remember her from time to time.

Sia -- "Chandelier"
A girl who is the 'life of the party' admits that she's becoming an alcoholic as a result of how much she drinks to keep from feeling the pain of her raging depression and emptiness.

Tove Lo -- "Habits"
Woman describes how she became a chronic drug user, prostitute, and developed an eating disorder after a break-up with a man she was very emotionally involved with.

Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj -- "Side to Side"
A profanity-laden song performed on the Dangerous Woman tour which featured a concert that was targeted by a muslim terrorist. Graphically describes a variety of sex acts, encourages pursuing sexual relationships against the protests of one's friends, and is named after a post-coital gait characterizing some young women.

There's a theme here.

Nearly all new songs that chart describe, whether in positive, negative, or ironic ways, unhealthy romantic relationships...if you can even call them romantic.

I could unpack this in a lot of different ways, but let me make a few short points and be done:

1. The lifestyle promoted by these lyrics also describe terrible consequences for mental and physical health, one's sense of identity, the ability to be content, and the ability to form healthy relationships.

2. If you listen to this sort of music un-ironically, you're allowing yourself to be influenced by it. Does it paint a picture of something you wish to emulate? Please be selective about the messages that you listen to. Especially if you're Christian.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Spurgeon on Prayer

     “There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God's Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord. . . .”

    "It is interesting to remark how large a portion of Sacred Writ is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. We scarcely open the Bible before we read, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord;” and just as we are about to close the volume, the “Amen” of an earnest supplication meets our ear. Instances are plentiful. Here we find a wrestling Jacob—there a Daniel who prayed three times a day—and a David who with all his heart called upon his God. On the mountain we see Elias; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises. What does this teach us, but the sacred importance and necessity of prayer? We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in his Word, he intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If he has said much about prayer, it is because he knows we have much need of it. So deep are our necessities, that until we are in heaven we must not cease to pray. Dost thou want nothing? Then, I fear thou dost not know thy poverty. Hast thou no mercy to ask of God? Then, may the Lord’s mercy show thee thy misery! A prayerless soul is a Christless soul. Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant, the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling asleep in Jesus. It is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honour of a Christian. If thou be a child of God, thou wilt seek thy Father’s face, and live in thy Father’s love."
    ~ C H Spurgeon

    I have a personal belief now, developed years ago and after many long nights of prayer, that there is no mystical way in which prayer benefits the Christian in spiritual growth. But I think I can finally understand how Spurgeon could make such a big deal out of it. Since God doesn't audibly talk back to us, the nature of a prayer conversation will begin with thankfulness and supplication, and progress to drawing on memorized Scripture passages (i.e. "meditating on the word") to "talk it out" with God, explaining your reasoning process and in that process coming to discoveries that refine your conduct of speech: you realize that how you were asking could have been wrong/fully motivated, so you alter your requests and acknowledge that He knows best and maybe you oughtn't get what you ask for. You "happenstance" come across new or more profound Theological truths than you had in mind before, simply by thinking about the truths you know. This lets you grow in spiritual wisdom. I think the strength of an active prayer life is an active thought life.