The “niceness” handicap

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this article is very much worth your attention:

I have long observed that an alarming swath of public evangelicals seems to be driven by a consuming desire to be liked by the world. ((note: link added to excerpt by me))

Now, that is my characterization, not theirs. To their minds, they are trying to be good representatives of Jesus. They are focusing on “kingdom” issues. They eschew evangelicalism’s past mistakes of tying itself to various moralistic fads such as outlawing alcohol or opposing nylons and lipstick. They want to be sure that unbelievers know that they love them, that the GOP is not the Kingdom of God. They want to be seen as scholarly, cautious, nuanced, careful, measured, and helpful. They shrink from the thought of being seen as dogmatic, triumphalistic, or narrow.

Are those bad motivations? As stated and as far as they go, most of them are not.

However, I’ve come to fear that they mask fatal flaws. For starters,  these sorts are willing to let their motivations be judged and dictated by the reactions of unbelievers…

I can’t say it any better.  Read the whole thing here.

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How soon we (still) forget

Ninety-nine years ago today, the Bolsheviks in Russia confiscated church lands, canceled state subsidies for the church, made marriage a civil ordinance, and nationalized the schools, abolishing all religious instruction.

In 1983, prominent Soviet dissident Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, looking back at the wreckage and misery caused by communism in his land, had this to say:

More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

What is more, the events of the Russian Revolution can only be understood now, at the end of the century, against the background of what has since occurred in the rest of the world. What emerges here is a process of universal significance. And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: Men have forgotten God.

The Twentieth Century was the bloodiest in the history of mankind.  Exact numbers vary, but most historians agree that about 17 million people died in the First World War, and 50 to 80 million in the Second.  Out of the rubble of these two ruinous events emerged a virulent and murderous ideology – Marxist-Leninism, that would inspire another 110 million deaths in a vain attempt to create a ‘worker’s paradise’ that, in reality, amounted to nothing more than protection of a ruling class by another name.

Rather than return to the roots of Christendom, long since buried over in the eruption of militarism that spawned the First World War, the West has since run ever farther from God.  Determined to create its own solutions, Western Civilization decided that multiculturalism was the only way to prevent future violent catastrophes (despite history showing that multicultural societies are inherently unstable).    Wracked by guilt over the excesses of colonialism (itself a symptom of Christendom forgetting Christ), the ‘intelligentsia’ of the West opted for suicide.  Along the way, the United States has, like the Russians of 1917, redefined marriage, turned the schools hostile to any expression of Christian faith (while actively promoting alternatives), and generally tried to confine Christian expression to the confines of the sanctuary on Sunday.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.  But it seems we’re crazy enough as a society to believe that pushing Jehovah God even further out of sight will result in a 21st Century that is better than the 20th.

O come, O come, Emmanuel!

The reign of the ‘god of this world’

“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  2 Cor 4:4

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”  Isaiah 5:20

From Thursday’s New York Times (caution: difficult reading ahead):

QADIYA, Iraq — In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.

He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her.

When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.

“I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,” said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two hands. “He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God…”

Tragically, it is — drawing him closer to the ‘god (lower-case “g”) of this world,’ who is running amok in our day.  Anyone who can look upon the atrocities of ISIS, or the holocaust of unborn children in the West, and state that evil doesn’t really exist–that the term is merely a social convention based on outmoded religious beliefs–is indeed “blinded.”  Fatally so.

There are many who look upon ISIS and others, like the Westboro Baptist Church, and conclude the problem is faith itself.  Sadly, they too lack discernment.  The Enemy is shrewd — whether you serve him directly or become spiritually indifferent as a result of those who do, either way he draws souls away from the salvation Christ came to offer.  Those who believe the elimination of ‘religion’ is the path to peace don’t realize that the evils of the linked article is the default setting of a world that is enslaved by sin.  They literally risk throwing out the baby–the Christ child, the only hope of redemption–with the bathwater.

But for those of us with “eyes to see” and “ears to hear,” we know there is only One solution for this.  While it may eventually involve physical confrontation, far above the mere dabbling with airstrikes and symbolic but ineffective gestures, the real solution involves seeking to draw near to Jehovah, our creator, sustainer and savior.  It involves praying for the Spirit to bring revival — and not just in America.

The battle lines are being drawn, both abroad and at home.  May the God (uniquely capital “G”) of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Peter and Paul watch over us.  Our nation does not deserve it, but unlike those who serve hellish spirit the Times unwittingly wrote about, we serve a God of love, mercy and grace.

And the battle ultimately belongs to Him.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”    Ephesians 6:12-13

The lion’s share of human suffering

For the last week, there’s been steady public anger over the killing of a lion in Africa.  But most of those joining in to this outrage bandwagon probably don’t realize (or in many cases, don’t care) that:

– Behind the scenes of the well-publicized beheadings, ISIS has enslaved and sold thousands of Christian women and girls into sexual slavery.  (Hello, “feminist” movement… are you listening?)

– Ongoing releases about the gruesome practices of Planned Parenthood strongly suggest their “donations” to medical research may well include babies who are born alive… but whose lives are quickly snuffed out in ways meant to achieve rough compliance with technicalities of law.  Put another way: children are entering this world ever so briefly, only to have their organs harvested for ‘research’ in a way that would delight Joseph Mengele.

– The state of our economy and education system are so bad that teachers in Detroit regularly have to guess how much of their paycheck will show up each time… and fight hard to get any semblance of the wages due to them.  This is but one example of the gross mismanagement of municipal resources resulting from years of ‘educrat’ and union domination, and isn’t going away any time soon.  (Have you helped your children escape public schools — the dying relic that’s a legacy of Prussian statism?  If not, why?)

– The ever-increasing wave of illegal immigrants in our nation (and elsewhere) continues to result in chaos, crime and death… and yet there is still no serious, concerted response to cut off these invasions, enforce the laws on the book, and to secure our sovereignty and borders.  If anything, it almost seems the leaders of the Western world are out to ensure that world is swamped by the human tsunami… which begs the question: why?

– Despite the spectacular human catastrophe that resulted from experimentation with communism/fascism/statism in the 20th Century (and its continued infliction of misery today), its appeal (even if marketed under other names) seems to have grown in the U.S. and elsewhere.  Those who don’t learn from history must pay dearly for the lessons over and over again, and it seems sometimes that many are simply incapable of learning.

In short: literally hellish ideologies are resurgent, the legacy of human slavery is used as a political cudgel in America even as the contemporary version goes unlamented and unchecked elsewhere, unwanted children are being chopped up and sold for parts, and the most free and materially successful civilization in human history is being left defenseless before an onslaught of invaders whose incompatible cultures and worldviews will destroy it.  So cry for a lion if you must… but at least reserve some tears for the exponentially greater suffering of humans at the hands of other humans.  No matter how cute Simba Cecil might have been, he did not bear the imago dei.

And a world that refuses to recognize Yahweh will most certainly not care about what happens to His image bearers…

The Master and His servants

As we contemplate the events of Good Friday, and celebrate the Resurrection, we should recall the Master’s words:

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.”

In addition to this caution, though, we are given encouragement:

“So have no fear of them (emphasis added), for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul (emphasis added). Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Christians in America have been so comfortable for so long we’ve forgotten it is not the state of things we should expect in a world under the sway of our Enemy.  While giving thanks to the Father for the blessings we have been allowed during the time our civilization was largely aligned with the Faith, we should also realize that this time was an exception, and appears to be coming to a close.  Many of our brothers and sisters around the world have never enjoyed the freedoms and latitude we’ve known — and their faith is stronger because of it.  We need not fear the rise of hostility to Biblical Christianity at home.  Rome, the French Revolution, Naziism, communism in Russia and China — none of these succeeded in stamping out the message of the Gospel.  With the exception of China (which is itself not immune to the Spirit’s movement) those regimes are in the dustbin of history, but God’s Word will never pass away.

Neither today’s acolytes of aggressive atheism nor the latest surge of violent Islam should expect to succeed any better!  How frustrating it must be to the Enemy to realize that no matter how many of Christ’s followers he kills or materially ruins, that the Word of God endures forever!  We should not only take comfort in that — it should remind us that we are not here on this earth to wring our hands nervously, play defense or make this world our home.  We aren’t supposed to be waiting around to be attacked because we might have let it slip that we take the Bible as authoritative Truth.  No, with the power of the Spirit we are supposed to attack the gates of hell itself, in order that as many who will receive Him may have eternal life!

To quote C.S. Lewis yet again:

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

 

The Master died for us, was raised by the Father, and has gone to prepare a better place for us.  What are we doing to spread His invitation?  What cost are we willing to pay, that others may know Him?  Are we, like Him, prepared to be crushed if that will advance the glory of God and the salvation of others? Do we realize that even if He allows that, we can be assured that one day He will say to us, as He did to His Son, “Arise, my love!”

He is Risen!

 

The heart of the problem — literally

Just a few days ago, I observed an online conversation over the comment that “religion is the cause of all wars” (it empirically isn’t, despite the fact that’s become a favorite trope of many atheists).  One commenter tried to point out how one doesn’t have to be religiously motivated to try to force their will on another person… that there is something inherent in each of us that simply wants our own way.  Whether small scale (individual fights) or large (war), that’s the root cause of conflict.  Granted, “religion” can sometimes be the excuse/symptom of that self-centeredness…

…or it could be something as simple as wanting to park your car where and when you want:

A woman who called 911 to report a shooting at a quiet condominium complex near the University of North Carolina campus said she had heard five to 10 gunshots and students screaming, according to a recording of the call released Wednesday by the police.

The shooting, which left three Muslim students dead, occurred Tuesday around 5 p.m. and the police later arrested a 46-year old man, who lived in the same complex, and charged him with first-degree murder, saying the attack may have been a lethal escalation of a neighborhood parking dispute.

An important point here: despite the attempts of some to paint this as a potential “Christian hate crime” against Muslims, there’s ample evidence the suspect was not only an atheist, but an aggressive anti-theist.  Maybe that was part of the motivation, maybe it wasn’t.  What is clear is that three human beings are dead because of some particular aspect of self-centeredness.

I agree with atheists that we are “all people” and that religion does indeed divide us.  It is far from the only thing that does, however.  Where I take serious issue is with this ignorant mantra that if somehow religion went away completely, the world would be a more perfect place.  “More evolved” is one of the ways I sometimes hear it put, as though faith is somehow holding humanity back from its full potential.

On second thought, maybe it is: humanity, after all, has demonstrated a vast potential for abuse, self-destruction and slaughter.  And while ‘religion’ is sometimes appropriated as an excuse or cover for such things, far more often it is a restraint on them.  Actions borne of honest faith and piety have done more to free slaves, uplift the poor and bestow equal dignity than has any other function of human existence.

With that, I can already hear the objection: “you don’t have to be religious to be moral!”  While I’ll acknowledge there are plenty of well-behaved people who have no interest in God, the simple fact is that those who act that way are borrowing their values.  The objection is an attempt to ‘have your cake and eat it too.’  The atheist/materialist acknowledges no divine authority from which to derive standards of right and wrong.  If that is the case, though — that all of existence is defined by materialism — from whence do these standards of right and wrong come?  Nature is famously “red in tooth and claw,” which is part of the problem I’m describing: something is innately wrong with this universe, with conflict and death inherently bound up with it.  If the material is all there is, and evolution is survival of the fittest, then the default logically is “the strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.”

Even in the present state of moral decay, most people–religious or not–instinctively reject that conclusion.  But lacking anything “outside the box” of the material universe, on what basis do they reject it?  Frankly, those who do reject it do so based on the glimmer of Truth that still resides in our heart, even darkened as it is by the Fall.  Trying to build a moral worldview out of that, while denying the Source of that spark of Truth, is like trying to build a structure while simultaneously removing any hint of its foundation.

My faith is in Christ in no small part because, like C.S. Lewis, I believe the Bible’s description of how we all, individually, fall short even of standards we try to set for ourselves, much less those God sets for us, marries up perfectly with the world we observe around us.  What’s more, like Lewis, I acknowledge my own struggles with this brokenness, and the fact that what “success” occurs is not due to my own strength, but that of Another.

So for all those who would like to see ‘religion’ — including the Christian faith — disappear entirely, ask yourself this: do you really think that conflict, abuse, and killing would disappear with it?  On what historical evidence do you assume that?  Or is it possible the conflict, death and destruction would be all the more potent once nobody acknowledges a higher authority than themselves?

“Organized religion” absolutely can have its problems because any organization or endeavor is run by imperfect human beings.  That alone doesn’t negate the truth claims of faith.  As others have put it: “you can’t judge the -ism by the -ist.”  Truth is simply truth, whether its adherents fail to observe it, or its detractors choose to deny it.  And the truth is this: left to ourselves we are disposed to do wrong to those around us, given the opportunity.

“Choose this day whom you will serve.  As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Evil still exists

About the time the Western world produced headlines claiming “God is dead” three or four decades ago, a funny thing happened: it lost its ability to call something evil.  No matter what the outrage, the focus now is on psychoanalyzing and justifying what might have caused someone or some nation to act in that way, and less so on condemning behavior that should unanimously be deemed beyond the pale or severely punishing those who engage in it.  In such an environment, with a lack of strong response, evil–ever present–simply grows:

Evil is ancient, unchanging, and with us always. The more postmodern the West becomes — affluent, leisured, nursed on moral equivalence, utopian pacifism, and multicultural relativism — the more premodern the evil among us seems to arise in nihilistic response, whether it is from the primordial Tsarnaev brothers or Jihadi John.  We have invented dozens of new ways to explain away our indifference, our enemies hundreds of new ways of reminding us of our impotence. I suppose we who enjoy the good life don’t want to lose any of it for anything — and will understandably do any amount of appeasing, explaining, and contextualizing to avoid an existential war against the beheaders and mutilators, a fact well-known to our enemies.

The Europeans are shrugging that Ukraine is lost and will soon sigh that the Baltic states are a far-off place not worth risking the coffee shops of Amsterdam to defend. Westerners lament beheadings but then privately mutter that journalists know just what they are getting into when they visit the Middle East. Murdering and abusing a U.S. ambassador on video is not such a big deal anymore and is worth only a second or so mention on Google News.

So we wait behind our suburban Maginot Lines, arguing over our quarter- and half-measure responses, refighting Iraq and Afghanistan as if they were the Somme and Verdun, assured that we can distract ourselves from the horrors abroad with psychodramas about Ferguson, the president’s golfing, his lectures on fairness, and which naked celebrity photo was hacked on the Internet.

Meanwhile the orcs are busy and growing and nearing the ramparts…

I happen to like Victor Davis Hanson’s use of Tolkien to illustrate the point.  To take it a step further, the response of the West to the newly refreshed challenge of violent Islam seems akin to that of the King of Rohan, while still under the influence of Wormtongue (and oh, how many of those poisonous snakes we have loose in our culture today!).  With ISIS beheading Americans at will and generally throwing down the gauntlet, where is the voice to awaken us, to remind us that “open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not?”  We weren’t always so squeamish about confronting such barbarism.

Regular readers of this site know that I’m highly suspicious of overseas adventurism.  As the saying goes, war has ever been the health of the State, and I believe the modern State to be too large and powerful as it is.  And yet, said powerful State refuses to control its borders, meaning a free flow of people here from parts of the world where evil has open sway.  So at the same time we show no serious, deliberate, credible response to the murder of our people abroad, we also show no willingness to keep our enemies from coming here as well.

What message do we think this sends? 

If we are to avoid catastrophic war both at home and abroad in this generation, there has to be a willingness to confront evil, and defend right against wrong.  Another reason I’m wary of foreign adventurism is that we aren’t serious about it when we engage in it — we do enough to stir trouble, but not to address the underlying causes that allegedly generated our response to begin with.  (I say allegedly because there are always multiple hidden agendas behind the public rallying cry.)   Given the latitude evil has been given for some time, I’m not sure the tides in the world today can be turned short of massive violence at this point.  But to even attempt to do so means recognizing there *are* such things as evil, right and wrong.

I’m not sure the West is up to that anymore.  Thus to use the analogy Hanson does, we have the spectacle of trying to figure out which orcs to support, which to publicly tsk-tsk, and a border wide open to any that choose to simply walk in.  This generation of leaders bears responsibility for what I fear will be a frightful legacy.

At least Helm’s Deep had a stout wall (border) and men who knew what they were defending, even when it came to open war.

We lack even that.