Thursday, March 31, 2005

Jawbones Created Equal

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (Declaration of Independence, approved July 4, 1776)

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." (Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19, 1863)

"...all men are created equal..." This phrase seems to inspire many high-minded thoughts and discussions, both concerning the intrinsic worth of all men and rationalization for the more enlightened to enforce politically correct religion upon society.

As he came from his mother's womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. (Eccles. 5:15, ESV)

"...all men are created equal..." Zero. Some philosophize... a blank slate.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
(Psalm 51:5, ESV)

Or... somewhat less than zero. The slate is badly smudged.

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it
? (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV)

The slate is mired in its inherent entropy.

You felt secure in your wickedness,
you said, "No one sees me";
your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray,
and you said in your heart,
"I am, and there is no one besides me."
(Isaiah 47:10, ESV)

Man is not only born with a fallen nature, but also chooses sin willingly.

"Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
'Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?'
(Isaiah 58:1-3a, ESV)

Man-made religion in attempt to assuage his latent guilt before God.

Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
(Isaiah 58: 3b-4, ESV)

Man's works of self-righteousness only serve to multiply sin, "yet you refuse to come to me that you might have life." (Jesus, in John 5:40, ESV)

Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?
"Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
(Isaiah 58: 5-8, ESV)

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Of Jesus, Acts 4:12, ESV)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (Jesus, in John 15:4-5, ESV)

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:2-5, ESV)

After receiving salvation by grace through faith and beginning to live more and more in this grace, one cannot expect his life to be anywhere near heaven on earth. One does not hope for what he already has, but only for that which he is waiting. While living this life we pass through as pilgrims in that portion of creation subject to decay, among a mass of humanity that are in total rebellion to God's authority, among Satan and his minions that hate God and his people, and even in constant battle with our own old natures as they continue convulsing in their death throes. Often circumstances will seem to the natural eye and mind that there exists no reasonable expectation for which to hope. But, God...

"Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, "The Lord will surely deliver us. This city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria." Do not listen to Hezekiah. For thus says the king of Assyria: Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards. Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, "The Lord will deliver us." Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?' " (Rabshakeh on behalf of Sennacherib, King of Assyria, in Isaiah 36:15-20, ESV)

There are countless situations such as this by which the only obvious hope of deliverance was not by the wisdom, strength, and works of man, but by special providence. It is no difference for each of us. Our earthly life is constantly surrounded by powerful enemies that boastfully predict our doom, in circumstances large and small. But, God...

Behold, it was for my welfare
that I had great bitterness;
but in love you have delivered my life
from the pit of destruction,
for you have cast all my sins behind your back.
(Isaiah 38:17, ESV)

For the glory of His own Name.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Sneering Jawbones

Adam exhaled as life surged through his being. He opened his eyes, sat up and surveyed his surroundings. Although the garden was idyllic, it paled in comparison to the glorious presence of another being. Adam could only bow and fall on his face in awe, worship, and praise before the indescribable glory of God.

God commanded Adam to take care of the surrounding garden; to work it and to till it. For Adam, this work in service to God proved altogether pleasant and joyous.

God permitted Adam to eat of the fruit of any of the trees with which he worked, save one. Adam was specifically commanded not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the joy of being in God’s great light, in the satisfaction of his work, in the total sufficiency of the permissible food, and in the ominous threat of death for disobedience, Adam unquestioningly complied with this simple edict.

The Lord God brought the animals to Adam to see what he would name them. While Adam was classifying them, his sense of humor began to develop. In remembering the forbidden fruit, he chuckled, “If I were to eat from that tree, there would be two sure things in life– Death and taxa.”

Since there was no helper suitable for the man, God put Adam in a semi-comatose state, removed one of his ribs, and formed a woman from it that was suitable for him. (Etymology intimates that the name Eve is not an abbreviation for evil, but, rather, a combining form of Evel, meaning a cause of men doing crazy things. cf. Kneivel.)

Late one morning while Adam and Eve were tilling near the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Eve became hungry and began to decide which fruit she would eat. The serpent, seeing his opportunity, spoke to her and questioned whether God really did forbid the fruit from this particular tree. Eve stated that, indeed, God did prohibit this action and added that they was not even to touch it. The serpent, seeing that the woman’s knowledge of God’s word was somewhat inaccurate, attacked with a frontal assault. He exclaimed with a sneer that if the fruit was eaten they would not die, but instead they would be like God and be able to exert the authority that He had usurped. Eve saw that the tree’s fruit was good for food, very pleasant to the eye, and desirable to gain wisdom. She took it and ate, then gave some to Adam who was with her.

When the time came to settle accounts with God and answer for their disobedience to His single command, Adam blamed Eve (and God since He gave Eve to him), Eve blamed the serpent, and the serpent sneered.

In His condemnation, God paints a picture of mankind’s fate instead of the delivering the expected lethal bolt of lightning. God bloodily butchers an animal to make clothing for the naked pair. He proclaims agony in childbirth for women while living under the rule of men. The man’s labor will retain little of the pleasantness and fruitfulness with which he has become accustomed. The creation will operate under the principles of entropy, requiring pain, sweat, and thorns and thistles. As Adam and Eve are evicted from The Garden and separated from fellowship with God, they also understand that they too will return to the dust in suffering and death. Man’s nature had become one of sinfulness, replacing the original righteousness.

Man’s inclinations now have become twisted beyond recognition. Whereas, at the first, Eve saw that a thing and perceived that it would ‘be good for food, very pleasant to the eye, and desirable to gain wisdom’ under the auspices of God, it had now become ‘the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life’ under the auspices of a sinful nature and corrupt world. At first, God was seen as the provider of all things. Now He is viewed as the enemy, who, if acknowledged at all, must be defined as something much different that He actually is; an imaginary creation of the hands or mind of man.

Mankind did now possess the knowledge of good and evil. He experienced the good in the Garden of Eden, and in fact, to this day, they still know of Him. But, man’s heart has chosen to neither give God glory nor give Him thanks. As a result of deeming God as worthless, and desiring, rather, to partake in ‘the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life’ God gives what is so heartily coveted and with it gives leanness in their souls.

Men’s superficial souls enable them to willingly take blind leaps of faith and swallow any foolish idea that comes down the pike. The modern rational man replaces logic within the framework of God’s word with an illogic that is free to capriciously imagine any vain thing. If man is the measure of all things there are billions of inequitable standards informing men’s measurements and drawing fantastic conclusions from their amorphous data. He can irrationally call evil, ‘good’, and good, ‘evil’ and feel justified, ethical, and superior.

One can imagine the fiery darts that the serpent flung through Eve’s mind as he successfully deceived her to choose sin over obedience. When you first awoke, how do you know that Adam and God didn’t awake at the same time and God aggressively, albeit illegitimately took charge? Have you seen any miracles other than His ‘Wizard of Oz’ pomp and flash? Why does He want hold you down in your growth as a person? Why does He think He’s the ‘boss of you’? And Adam... couldn’t do his work by himself so needed your help? Pah-leez! Anything sound familiar?

After the deed was done and the accounting took place, so did the finger pointing. ‘It was that woman YOU gave me.’ ‘The serpent, he...’ Anything sound familiar?

Back in the time of Isaiah, a few thousand years ago, the situation was thus:

People will oppress each other–
man against man, neighbor against neighbor.
The young will rise up against the old,
the base against the honorable.”

The look on their faces testifies against them;
they parade their sin like Sodom;
they do not hide it.
Woe to them!
They have brought disaster upon themselves

Youths oppress my people,
women rule over them.
O my people, your guides lead you astray;
they turn you from the path.”

The women of Zion are haughty,
walking along with outstretched necks,
flirting with their eyes,
tripping along with mincing steps,
with ornament jingling on their ankles
(Isaiah 3:5, 9, 12, 16, NIV)

Anything sound familiar? There is nothing new under the sun. ‘Question Authority' did not originate in the '60's.

At any rate, since Man’s fall into sin, men have not been able to think logically. During the wilderness travellings, the Israelites directly experienced the parting of the Red Sea, the pillar of cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night, the daily manna, the quail, water from the rock, clothing and sandals that did not wear out... And yet they chose to always rebel and ‘question authority’. Jesus’ disciples saw all His works and miracles and heard all His words. Yet they were as dull as a box of rocks when it came to understanding, at least until the Holy Spirit enlightened them well after the crucifixion of Christ.

Even as believers, we must echo Paul’s statements:

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God– through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.” (Romans 7:21-25, NIV)

The Lord is our only boast. In and of ourselves, we are nothing.

And what, then, of the unbelievers that pursue life on their own terms, choose to be the measure of all things, the masters of their fate, the captains of their own souls? Unless they, too, are graciously given life and repentance from the Lord, they will suffer the death promised to Adam and Eve for their sin, eternal death. “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools...” and will suffer the just consequences.

And the serpent sneered.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Jawbones Chomping at the Goads

It is often said that humans are rational creatures...

Any fans of C.S. Lewis, especially of The Screwtape Letters, will really enjoy this modern 'addendum' to his book by Meghan Cox Gurdon published in The National Review Online. Here are four short excerpts of the conversation between Screwtape and Mildew.

"Screwtape presses on. "What does Man want? He wants sex, he wants comfort, he wants to be young. He does not want to be told he can't have what he wants, or to be inconvenienced, or, worse, to be told his desires are wrong. This is where the Enemy's agents end up doing our work for us, Mildew, countless times!" Screwtape chortles. "Man is a creature of appetites, Mildew. Remember that."

"It is true," Screwtape continues with a shrug, "that much of the groundwork was already laid. We had already convinced people of the rightness of destroying inconvenient life. Now they talk quite coolly of "blastocysts," and "clumps of cells" and "surplus embryos." My genius was to recognize that they needed just a little push to be convinced, with their mania for recycling, that by harvesting something that would otherwise be chucked out, they are doing a positive good! Think of it: They believe they occupy "the moral high ground." Oh, the profits for us — "

"Do you think," says the uncle witheringly, "that people who believe that life on earth is the only one they have, that once they die there is nothing, that there are no consequences to their choices — one of Our Father Below's most successful slogans, by the way, choice — do you think, my boy, that they will hesitate if we give them the chance to cut and sew their medical destinies for the mere price of another's life? As Our Father pointed out to the Enemy during that unfortunate incident involving the man Job, "A person will give up everything in order to stay alive."

"The wonderful thing for us? It is increasingly easy to take that Enemy-given sense of intrinsic worth and twist it into cruel self-interest. With man's vanity, and a little medical breakthrough here and there, we can tempt them the prospect of a life without illness, inconvenience, or parasitical relatives. It will, for humans, be heaven on earth.""

Take time to read the whole piece.

(A Tip of the Hat to The Anchoress).

Monday, March 21, 2005

Sinking Jawbones

It is often said that humans are rational creatures...

One program on TV that I often enjoy watching is CSI. It is a modern ‘good guys’ versus ‘bad guys’ scenario using modern criminal forensic technology along with old-fashioned policework to solve crimes. The plots are generally well done and very dramatic with regularly scheduled twists. The script writers, however, can seldom resist insertion of gratuitous worldly philosophical assertions.

In one segment, a particular divorced female criminalist, a good guy, confesses with incredulity that it had been eight months since she had had sex. Of course, later in the show, she plays the co-seduction game with a male witness. At the end of the program she leaves the office ‘dressed to kill’ in route to a date with this man and, apparently, on the road to personal, nirvanic fulfillment. The tenor of the circumstance is that the viewing audience should be happy for her. Just groovy.

Even aside from what the Scriptures command concerning fornication and adultery–‘ Simpletons, turn in here, the road to Sheol’– this selfish action strains a few other less religious wisdoms. Perhaps I could write the remaining script. This hot-to-trot young gal contracts AIDS. She becomes a ‘Rocky Training Facility’ by this young man who cannot respect his newly acquired piece of meat. Her adolescent daughter becomes pregnant by a Las Vegas casino dealer who asserts that having sex will bring her total personal fulfillment– no zits.

Humans are indeed rational creatures. They can cleverly rationalize anything they want. There’s an old adage of the open-minded– ‘Whatever floats your boat.’ Just don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out. Although all boats definitely float, only one boat floats indefinitely; Noah’s Ark, floating for eternity upon the grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Smart Ass, Dumb Ass

It is often said that humans are rational creatures...

“Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road.

Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with walls on both sides. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam's foot against it. So he beat her again.

Then the angel of the LORD moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with his staff. Then the LORD opened the donkey's mouth, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?"

Balaam answered the donkey, "You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now."

The donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?"
"No," he said.

Then the LORD opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.

The angel of the LORD asked him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her."”
(Numbers 22:21-32, NIV)

Balaam was a man of high repute in this area of the Middle East. He had been summoned by the king of a neighboring nation for assistance. The messengers sent would be akin to President Bush sending Condoleeza Rice to request someone for a tete-a-tete with the President of The United States. And there was a potential for a large monetary reward.

Balaam was a gifted, rational human. But, in his anger, it didn’t phase him that his donkey spoke to him in rebuke. Comically, Balaam was angered at this impudent upstart and argued with her. The donkey’s logic was soundly outwitting that of Balaam. Then as the angel was ‘uncloaked’, Balaam began to see that a common donkey saved his life.

We, too, are rational human beings, each gifted in some way. But, like Balaam, we generally become angry at the ‘donkeys’ in life that seem to be impeding our own narrow, self-serving ways. If the Lord, by His grace, opens our eyes in those times to see His mercy in sending those donkeys, we, too, would bow low and fall face down in gratitude.

Jawbones Askew

It is often said that humans are rational creatures...

Regularly, in conversations with people one will hear questions (commonly resembling accusations) concerning God’s omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, justice, or love. Why do good people suffer or experience tragedy? How could God let catastrophic occurrences like the recent tsunami take place? Why would a God of love condemn someone to Hell’s torment for eternity?

In most cases, these questions are prime examples of the mind set of relativity. With this world view we erroneously subject life in this universe to our own created orthodoxy. When you live in a pig pen few things stink.

That which is conveniently absent from the relativist’s pattern of thought is sin. Euphemistically, sin’s edge is dulled by terms and phrases such as ‘mistakes’, ‘I’m only human’, and ‘to err is human’. Such a methodology is like assessing the catastrophic tsunami results as equal to the discomfort caused by flatulent bathtub bubbles. Sin kills. The virulent fruit of mankind’s sin include war, poverty, disease, crime, and death.

According to God’s standard, sin must be viewed in a somewhat different light. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, NIV) Humanity’s status within this standard; “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12, NIV) Man’s unaided destiny; “For the wages of sin is death,” (Romans 6:23a, NIV)

God paints a picture of our just deserts in His command to King Saul. “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” (1 Samuel 15:3, NIV)

One cannot expect that any who suffer and die are more worthy of such judgment than anyone else. “Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them– do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:4-5, NIV)

From this world view, the questions asked in regular conversation would differ from those asked earlier. Why don’t all people suffer or experience the tragedy we deserve? Why don’t catastrophes happen more often? Why would a God of justice and love ever let any human into heaven?

God, Himself, has provided a way for unrighteous, worthless human beings to go to heaven and worship and enjoy Him forever. God, Himself, provided the sole means. “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Open Mandible, Insert Metatarsals

We humans are interesting critters. It is said that we are rational creatures. (I’d better move along, ‘cause I feel an inspired spawning of jokes and anecdotes acomin’ on. And the first million of those are just on me.) Our thinking and planning rely quite heavily on probabilities and odds. This appears reasonable since few of us will claim prescience.

The reality of our condition, however, is that odds and probabilities are just guesses. Actually, there are only two accurate odds or probabilities, 100% and 0%. Although our limited knowledge, understanding, and wisdom cause us to propose shades of gray, the verity is of black or white. Yes, Virginia, there is an Absolute.

The foundations of this country were laid by a culture that acquiesced to the Absolute. It was also understood that no man or group could act as or stand in place of that Absolute. As a colony, this land served under a king. That monarch and his bureaucracy assumed authority as an absolute. This usurpation of Another’s power ultimately lead to a war of revolution. The colonist’s thoughts were stated in ‘The Declaration of Independence’. “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

In effect, the Colonists’ Revolt was the antithesis of Israel’s demand to the prophet Samuel thousands of years before.

“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have."
But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do."” (1 Samuel 8: 4-9, NIV)

The forthcoming warning about the desire and acceptance of an earthly absolute undergirds the reasoning of the colonists to reject such an absolute.

“Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.” But the people refused to listen to Samuel. "No!" they said. "We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles."” (1 Samuel 8: 10-20, NIV)

Now that’s taxation with willful forfeiture of representation.

The American revolutionaries cast off faith in a human absolute to turn and trust in the higher Absolute. The ensuing prosperity and growth parallels Israel’s growth and prosperity when they properly acknowledged the Absolute above themselves.

It is of some interest to note that it is not the type of government that is responsible for cultural decline. Death and decline follow the hearts of the people. When Israel asked for a king, their hearts were rejecting God in favor of a king. But when Israel’s, and their king’s, heart turned in repentance toward God, they prospered as a nation. America’s founders had this same heart and for this reason chose to reject a mortal king. These men understood that although the type of government chosen wasn’t the ultimate issue, but that great power given to imperfect humans opened the door to abuses through a multitude of temptations.

Nevertheless, the progress and success of a constitutional republic also depends upon the heart of its people. As the people, in accordance with incomplete knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, begin to exalt the gray of mankind over the black and white of the Absolute, things begin to drastically change.

Modernism arose with a decision that the grays could be eliminated and absolutes could be could be discovered by human rationality, logic, and effort in a closed universe. In this, not only did technology flourish, but also the grays in ethics and morality since the universe is as dumb as any box of rocks in discerning them.

Post-modernism and relativity rejected modernism’s supposed ability to eradicate the gray. By some means this religion expects man and society to successfully evolve through an amorphous mix of science, intuition, and emotion. Post-modernism attempts to eradicate the Absolute, forcing the black and white to be dissolved into the totally gray universe.

As the heart of the people chooses to place its faith in its own feelings, guesses, calculated odds, and mathematical probabilities, even a constitutional republic tends toward an absolute monarchy (or oligarchy) in that the vacuum created by rejection of the Absolute creates that ‘giant sucking sound’ as the inrushing struggles for raw power ensue.

America is undoubtedly the greatest nation on earth, maybe even of all time. As is every day, today is the day that our hearts must choose or reject the Absolute as king. To reject is to be like King Nebuchadnezzar of millennia past.

“All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?"” (Daniel 4: 28-30, NIV)

“Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.” (Daniel 4: 33, NIV) (I aver that this pasture was also well manured, so Neb’s diet consisted of grass and....)

Then Nebuchadnezzar changed his choice of King.

“At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.

All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: "What have you done?"

At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (Daniel 4: 34-37, NIV)

Our science has shown success since God created an orderly universe. Our advancements in medicine, communication, agriculture, transportation, and civil engineering have been truly remarkable. But science is neither the Absolute nor has it improved the fallen human nature.

Post-modernism has shown us that human logic and science haven’t been able to answer any of man’s most important questions such as the meaning of life. But post-modernism has succeeded in little but deconstructionism in religion, culture, tradition, knowledge, and history. It has, however, tended to produce a world full of competing worldviews by petty little gods creating their own truths and universes.

Yes, California, there is an Absolute– One more sure than gravity and more inevitable than death or taxes. So ya makes yer bets and takes yer chances, presumed odds and probabilities notwithstanding.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Fractured Jawbones

In the words of that great theologian, Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?" In John 17:22b, the Lord prayed, "that they may be one as we are one." Throughout the broader Christian community, within specific churches, and between individuals it seems as though Jesus' prayer has fallen upon deaf ears. The Body of Christ appears to be self-mutilating.

How can it possibly be that persons who are brought from death into life, saved from this present evil age, spared from the wrath to come, and by no merit of their own will spend eternity glorifying God and enjoying Him forever have so much trouble 'getting along'? Folks that only have one thing in common such as a favorite sports team seem to get on happily together for greater periods than Christians. How is this so? Two contributing factors could be listed. 1) Satan, his cohorts, and his implanted human tares have no pressing need to attack sports fans, but their hatred for Christ and His Church is immense. 2) Christians most often don't know the Word of God or are not as ‘spiritual’ as they may think. Since sanctification is ongoing, the old human nature lifts it ugly, religious head in thoughts, words, and actions.

Divisions within the Church fall into two main categories: 1) Those encompassing life and death issues and 2) those involving the growing pains of sanctification among the immature. In the epistle to the Galations, the Apostle Paul addresses a division of the former variety. Here he states that anyone that preaches a false Gospel of salvation, either by adding to or taking away from the Gospel which the Lord revealed to him, (salvation by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ), deserves to go to Hell. In a cultural environment that is steeped in relativism and post-modernism, Paul's assertion doesn't go over well. In Paul's day, a major variation from his Gospel included circumcision in order to be saved. He refused all attempts to require Titus, a Greek, to be circumcised to 'get along' with those teaching the false gospel of faith and works for salvation. In our time and culture the works 'required' for salvation may include baptism, church attendance, giving, or even voting Republican. Although most of these actions will be done by one who is saved, they are not part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The disunity involving this truth is a matter of eternal life or eternal damnation.

The second category of division, involving our incomplete sanctification while here on Earth, is addressed by Paul in the epistle to the Romans in chapter 14. Verse one states, "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters." (NIV) Many divisions in churches and between individual believers abrogate the command in verse one. Either one 'strong' in faith demands his way, or the one 'weak' in faith demands his way concerning some disputable matter. (These demands, however, prove that both are 'weak' in faith.) In Paul's day some of these disputables included the eating of meat (it may have been sacrificed to idols) and considering one day more sacred than another. In our day these matters might include any of the multitude of cultural preferences; modes of dress, worship styles, child rearing techniques, socially acceptable activities, etc. The only requirement in participating in these nonessentials is that one does them for the Lord and gives Him thanks. Alternately, if one refrains from participating in them, he also refrains for the Lord and gives Him thanks. Meddling in these affairs of another in the name of spirituality is sinful. (This meddling smacks of irony within a culture of relativity and post-modernism!)

Paul appears to act in contradictory ways in reference to circumcision, but in reality he is battling both categories of division. As stated in Galations, he refused to require Titus to be circumcised to 'get along' with preachers of a false gospel in Jerusalem. In Acts chapter 16, Paul had Timothy circumcised 'because of the Jews who lived in that area.' With Titus, it was forbidden in order to deny that circumcision was required in order to be saved. With Timothy, it was allowed in order to become acceptable to those to whom the Gospel was to be preached-- to become all things to all men so that by all possible means he might save some. "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts." 1 Cor. 7:19 (NIV)

The Lord is building His Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it, our apparent disunity notwithstanding. We must give due diligence to keep the Gospel pure and pray to be able to discern our words and actions concerning disputable matters. We ultimately can be confident in this, "That he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Phil 1:6 (NIV)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

In the Fiery Furnace

It is my prayer that my postings on this blog will bring glory to my God and Savior, my Lord Jesus Christ. I desire to accurately handle his Word and project it into this community of conversation. I would also wish to be used to build up His church and edify fellow believers.

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." Daniel 3:16b-18.(NIV)

May I join these three young men in their standard.