Friday, October 31, 2008

Dealing With Some Political Injustice

I’ve never been a big bumper sticker promoter. I never wear t-shirts that state a political viewpoint. And I rarely put out political yard signs during election season. It’s not that I don’t care about politics; it’s that I see little need to advertise my beliefs publicly. I doubt many people cast their vote for a candidate because of a sticker that they saw on someone’s car.

But this year, my three children are old enough to appreciate the gravity of the political situation and they have been paying attention to the daily news and polls, and how the candidates may affect their futures. So it was no surprise to me that they spent two hours last Sunday afternoon making their own homemade “McCain-Palin” sign to post in our front yard. I gave them some long garden stakes to which they could attach it, and they proudly set it up in the yard. While they are not old enough to vote, they suddenly felt like part of the political process – something that I encourage. And while it was colorful and bold, it was also clearly the work of elementary children who were proud to display their belief.

So imagine our surprise when we woke up two mornings later to find that someone had spray-painted the word “Obama” over their artwork, ruining the sign. The faces of my kids were so sad when they saw this vandalism. It was the first experience they have ever had of someone directly disrespecting their property. It made me sad to see their loss of innocence over this event.

Our family gathered together to talk specifically about the defacement of their sign, and what we could learn from it. While their first reaction was some anger over the event, they began to ask questions about the sense of this act. Don’t these people see that they are violating our free speech? Don’t they have some remorse over entering our private property and vandalizing our sign? Don’t they realize that writing “Obama” on our homemade sign is more likely to drive people away from supporting him as a candidate? I was most proud when one of my children said that we should pray for the person or people who committed the act, in hopes that they might realize their wrong. We did and we all decided that the right thing to do was to make another sign, and park our anger over the loss of the first. A new homemade sign graced our lawn the next day.

Two days later, the same spray paint showed up on their new sign. By the looks of it, we believe it’s likely the work of other kids or teens in our neighborhood. My children’s first reaction was to start writing the words for their next sign. They won’t be suppressed, and they refuse to be angry about it.

But a part of me burns over the injustice. They destroyed artwork created by my own children. Would we not be upset if someone ripped up a picture painted by a first grader that was hanging on the family refrigerator? Wouldn’t we be angry if a stranger smashed the little pottery planter brought home from school by an eight-year-old? Shouldn’t I be able to reserve some judgment for people who would destroy my children’s art and suppress their free speech?

That was my first reaction. But my children’s own example made me think twice about it, because there is something greater to be thankful for in this true story. The vandals are not my children. My children are the ones who are learning to respect the opinion and property of others, and who will keep their anger in check when they are treated unfairly. Knowing this, my own anger fades away, because I have something far more valuable than that first homemade sign in our yard. I have a father’s pride for obedient and respectful children, who will possibly grow up one day to govern with those same principles.

By the way, here is their next response…

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Racism Is Still Alive and Well

This political season, my kids have enjoyed pointing out some of the political t-shirts, signs and bumper stickers that they see. They obviously have a bias that they get from me and my wife, because their politics are always right in line with ours. We’ll take full credit and shout “Hallelujah”!

One t-shirt caught their eye recently, and they asked us to explain it. The text of the message said this – “Paint the White House Black – Obama”. After reciting the words to us, they asked us for a deeper explanation about this slogan. I’ve looked it up and found that this line stems from a rap song by Ludacris – I’ve never heard it, nor do I intend to. Senator Obama has said that Ludacris is one of his favorite artists. If you want to see hatred wrapped up in a “song”, go read the lyrics to this rap entitled “Politics (Obama is Here)”. You’ll be shocked (I hope).

How do you explain racism to young children? Aren’t the days of the Ku Klux Klan and the Watts riots past us? Is our nation still enduring the hatred and baiting that characterized the 1960’s? Do we still live in a time where skin color and nationality make a difference in how we treat people? Apparently we do.

Make no mistake - the t-shirt in question does contain a racist message. Racism is defined as any policy that fosters the idea that there are inherent differences in race or culture. As skin color in this case determines a racial difference, it’s rather easy to conclude that the wearer of the shirt believes that there is a difference between putting a black person in the White House instead of a white person. It’s a kind of reverse apartheid, where segregation is made based on skin color. The person in question here is clearly making a stand for black skin color over white, as if that has anything to do with who should be governing our nation.

To put it in perspective, imagine for a moment that I had a t-shirt made up that said “Keep The White House White – McCain”. Could I get away with wearing that in public? It’s doubtful. I would very likely get negative publicity, and possibly be accused of a hate crime in our society today. It would certainly draw all sorts of negative media attention. But isn’t it the same message as the first t-shirt? Doesn’t it somehow imply that race has something to do with the election? Wearing either shirt or rapping the lyrics to a Ludacris song are clear announcements of racism.

Here is the lesson I am teaching my children. Skin color does not matter. Policy matters. Our nation should be judging our presidential candidates by what they say, do, and believe. Their race should have absolutely nothing to do with it. And yet, for a large segment of people (on both sides) it still does. I wonder where the polls would stand today if we had locked both candidates in a box when it all started and we were exposed only to their words. The numbers would be different, I’m sure.

The sad truth is that skin color still makes a difference to some people. White people still distrust black people and their ability to govern. And some black people want to make up for years of injustice by behaving in the same racist and biased way – only in reverse. They are acting as if there is a need to offset decades of racial bias by suppressing whites for a time. Many would not admit this openly, but a glance at some of the rapper lyrics that are so popular would tell us otherwise. They want the whites to suffer for a time, as penance for slavery and suppression inflicted on them by our ancestors.

If we truly want to be a nation known for its equal treatment of race, then we need to act that way now – not by offsetting the past sins with equal and opposite treatment. This election (as in all elections) should be about evaluating each candidate on principles and beliefs, with a blind eye toward truly irrelevant issues such as skin color. Would we disparage a candidate because they were balding, or sat in a wheelchair? Then why does the amount of melanin in a person’s skin have anything to do with their ability to lead? The clear answer is that it does not.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Worldview Class – Part 8 –Christian Theology

This is a continuation of highlighted topics discussed in a worldview class I am teaching on Sunday morning. The main text for the study is The Battle for Truth by David Noebel. A good deal of this class is also based on personal research.

Theology is defined as “the study of the nature of God and religious truth; rational inquiry into religious questions”. Every worldview takes a stand on God, whether it is to believe in one Creator of all, or to say that no God exists. A critical understanding of each worldview pivots around the position taken regarding the existence of God.

To this point, we have reviewed the approach of three different worldviews to the subject of theology – Secular Humanist, Marxist, and Cosmic Humanist (New Age). The first two subscribe to the concept of atheism, while the last tends in the opposite direction – toward pantheism, where everything and everyone is god. The Christian worldview embraces theism – the concept that there is one God, who created everything and has existed for all time.

The Christian worldview rests on two foundations – general revelation, and special revelation. General revelation tells us that God is revealed through nature and the complexity, beauty, and intricacy of the world around us. By studying the “irreducible complexity” of biology, astronomy and any number of other observable systems in our universe, it becomes clear that random chance is far less believable than simply accepting that all things were created by God. William Paley gave an excellent analogy for this belief in his book Natural Theology, where he poses the idea that a man finding a watch while in the wilderness would never conclude that the watch simply existed due to a fortunate series of random events. Rather, the man would be forced to conclude that the watch was made by someone, and likely had a purpose for its creation. How much more true is this conclusion when measuring the vast complexity of the universe around us! When looking at the facts in a rational manner, it seems impossible to conclude anything other than that we were made by someone far more powerful than we are. A true scientific approach, unhindered by humanistic bias, would draw the conclusion that there is a Creator. Romans 1:20 tells us that “since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

While this general revelation points us in the direction of God, it does not answer specific questions that we might have, such as “What happens in eternity?”, “How can I be saved?”, or “Will there be a judgment?” This is where the second foundation enters, that of special revelation. Unlike other worldviews, Christian theology claims a divinely inspired Bible, which is thousands of years old and is corroborated to be accurate by countless archaeological discoveries. And while the Bible was authored by many men over large periods of time, it is amazingly consistent in its approach to morality, history, and theme. Christians also point to these consistencies as further proof that the Bible is divinely inspired by God Himself, as a directive for us to follow and teach. The claim that these words come from God is a critical underpinning of the Christian faith. For the Christian, this is also considered a significant advantage over other viewpoints. Revealed truth is better than the constant floundering and rediscovering of truth that is evident in the other worldviews.

The combination of these two foundations tells us a great deal about God and His nature. Special revelation through the Bible and the life of God’s Son, Jesus, tells us that God is personal and that He desires to be known and have a relationship with us. That is no small thing. God could have decided to “wind up the universe” and let it play out to its own ends. Instead, He chose to reveal Himself, not only in nature around us, but in words and history that tell us who He is and what His ultimate plan for us will be. On balance, the Christian worldview is a far more hopeful and meaningful approach when compared to the other competing humanist worldviews. This hope and the fact that God wants a relationship with us should be enough to turn the head of anyone who is truly seeking the meaning of life.

To Worldview - Part 9 - Secular Humanist Ethics

Or go back to the main index for all twelve Parts.

If you are interested in portions, or all of this twelve part series taught in an engaging, educational fashion, please contact Alan at Banyan Concepts.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I’m Growing Tired of Rampant Commercialism

I recently took a business trip to Lake Tahoe. While there, I felt assaulted by the commercialism and obvious marketing ploys used by the town. Everywhere I turned, I felt the pressure to give my wallet to someone else.

It’s bad enough that when travelling to Nevada you are greeted by the sound of slot machines in the airport when you step off of the plane. There are slot machines in the grocery stores, too. After landing, I was looking forward to getting to my hotel for a nice, enjoyable evening. My itinerary had me staying at a large casino/hotel – and it was relatively cheap and more updated compared to some of the seedier places I had stayed in Tahoe in the past.

After checking in, I was directed to the elevators, which were easily 500 feet away. I had to navigate several hallways of shops, poster advertisements, and even the smell of fresh cinnamon rolls for sale – all this just to get to the elevator. A slightly more faint-of-heart person wouldn’t make it through without succumbing to an attack of shopping.

Later, I went wandering to see what else I could find that was an obvious marketing strategy (I thought it would provide good blog material). It didn’t take me long. As I stepped off the elevator, I found myself in a large video arcade room – which I thought was rather nice, until I realized that this was the “dumping ground” for parents to leave their children while they went upstairs to gamble. What’s more, it seemed to me a sort of “training room” for children to prepare them for the move up to the slot machines and poker tables when they come of age. This began to weigh heavily on my mind.

Later, I went upstairs to observe the gambling tables (no worries – gambling has never appealed to me and my frugal character). I was saddened by what I saw. Dozens of people were feeding money into slot machines, without even getting the satisfaction of pulling a lever (slot machines are button-operated now). I noticed several older women frantically feeding machines, their suitcases at their feet. Confused at this, I wandered outside and found the answer. Their tour bus was warming up outside, ready to depart in minutes. These poor dears were getting in their last-minute gamble before crossing the state line back to California.

I went up to my room to do some writing and computer work, and immediately noticed that there wasn’t a good-sized table to work on. A small round table covered with casino ads was all that was available in this otherwise spacious and rather modern room. When I went to plug in my computer, I found that there was no electrical outlet on the walls anywhere near this table. In fact, the only outlet in the entire room was near the room entryway door, completely inaccessible as a practical place to work. Bottom line – I believe the room was laid out in such a way as to discourage anyone from spending time in it. Rather, everything was set up to get me to leave the room and hit the gambling tables.

Now, I know that I probably should expect all of this, staying in a casino hotel on a business trip. Nevertheless, the feeling of assault stayed with me the entire time I was there. It was frustrating to me that I constantly felt pressured to do something other than spend a quiet evening in my room reading a book or catching up on some writing (which is what I enjoy most when I’m on a business trip).

What is my point? It is that I long for a place free from the constant pressures of marketing. “Buy, buy, buy” is the mantra that you see and hear wherever you go. Our nation has become used to the constant flood of materialism in every location. Even in Hawaii, my family’s favorite vacation place, there is the uninterrupted bombardment of marketing wherever you go. Perhaps this is why my new favorite vacation spot is in my own living room, complete with a good book, my computer, and a soft rain outside to keep me from feeling guilty about not mowing the lawn.

Except for those infuriating Internet pop-up ads that assault me on my laptop. Sigh…

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Worldview Class – Part 7 – New Age (Cosmic Humanist) Theology

This is a continuation of highlighted topics discussed in a worldview class I am teaching on Sunday morning. The main text for the study is The Battle for Truth by David Noebel. A good deal of this class is also based on personal research.

Theology is defined as “the study of the nature of God and religious truth; rational inquiry into religious questions”. Every worldview takes a stand on God, whether it is to believe in one Creator of all, or to say that no God exists. A critical understanding of each worldview pivots around the position taken regarding the existence of God.

The New Age worldview is often stated in ethereal words of transcendental gobbledy-gook. I must confess that the majority of statements made by many New Agers escape logic – at least, my logic. For example, Marilyn Ferguson attempts to describe God in this way - “In the emergent spiritual tradition God is not the personage of our Sunday school mentality….God is experienced as flow, wholeness….the ground of being….God is the consciousness that manifests as Lila, the play of the universe. God is the organizing matrix we can experience but not tell, that which enlivens matter.”

I just read this quote to my fourteen-year-old daughter Molly and she called it “a load of waffle”. I don’t think I could describe it any better.

There are many problems with Cosmic Humanism (New Age thought), but one of the most disturbing is the absence of a clear truth or an absolute right and wrong. In fact, New Age theology teaches that one must look within oneself in order to search for truth. And what is true for one person may not be true for another. By searching individually for truth, the New Age follower strives to achieve godhood. That is their individual goal, and the collective aim of all New Agers is for all people to achieve godhood together. By doing this, they achieve what they call “consciousness”. In the final state, God is everyone and everyone is God. Beverly Galyean said, “Once we begin to see that we are all God, that we have all the attributes of God, then I think the whole purpose of human life is to re-own the Godlikeness within us; the perfect love, the perfect wisdom, the perfect understanding, the perfect intelligence, and when we do that, we create back to that old, that essential oneness which is consciousness.”

Another disturbing belief that is prevalent in New Age thought is that of reincarnation. They believe that souls are in a constant state of movement from one form to another as a part of the quest for godhood. And they also maintain that it is important for a person to discover “who” they were in past lives in order to gain some understanding of why they are the way they are, and what must be done to achieve godhood in the future. There are even some who claim to make “soul contracts” with other individuals in one life, with the agreement that these individuals will “help” each other in future lives. Claims are made that you can tell when you have a soul contract with another individual because of an unusually strong feeling of familiarity when you look in that person’s eyes. A lot of money is made in the psychic world to help people “discover” their soul agreements. So I’ll ask this question – is it possible that people who believe they were Emperor Nero or Abraham Lincoln in a past life are being deceived by an evil spirit? What may seem to them like fact and truth may simply be the deception mentioned by Paul in Romans 1:21 – “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” The quest to know who they were in a past life begs the act of inquiring information of the spirit world – an extremely dangerous enterprise.

Finally, an added danger to the New Age belief system is their treatment of Jesus Christ and his role in history. Rather than deny Jesus’ existence, as other worldviews tend to do, New Age followers believe Jesus existed, and was a perfect man. By living such a life, he demonstrates that godhood can be achieved. Jesus is used as an example of what New Agers want to become, and he gives them hope for the possibility. From the New Age publication Science of Mind, we read “The significance of incarnation and resurrection is not that Jesus was a human like us but rather that we are gods like him – or at least have the potential to be.”

The sum of these dangers makes Cosmic Humanism much more difficult to combat from a Christian worldview. Unlike other worldviews like Marxism and Secular Humanism, the Cosmic Humanist offers a form of afterlife, even if it is a false one. They promise a happier ending than Marxism does, and they hold to the belief that things can work out in another life if we don’t do so well in the current one. The belief in reincarnation gives the New Ager something to live for and something to look forward to beyond this life.

The key to winning over a New Age follower is to impress upon them that the Christian worldview preaches a personal God – one who cares deeply and intimately about the individual. At some point, a New Age person is certain to cry out for more, when things in this world are falling apart around them. Can they say that someone died for them long ago in order that God’s plan could be fulfilled and we could live forever in heaven with the Creator of the universe? In talking with former New Age believers, I found this to be the thing that was missing in their former life – the promise of a personal, caring God who already has the answers and who doesn’t require us to achieve godhood at His level. This is the God that I believe. I am content to let Him be God, while I remain His servant.

To Worldview - Part 8 - Christian Theology

Or go back to the main index for all twelve Parts.

If you are interested in portions, or all of this twelve part series taught in an engaging, educational fashion, please contact Alan at Banyan Concepts.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

So Who Really Knows How To Fix Wall Street?

Almost anyone who has a 401(k) or owns at least a single share of stock knows that things are a little out of control at the moment.

But that’s okay, because the people on the television news keep telling us exactly what must be done to fix Wall Street. They’ve been telling us for the last two weeks, each night, and their suggestions are usually implemented in the following days. Funny thing, though, the stock market kept going down, contrary to their predictions. Could it be that the talking heads might not know what it takes to save the market?

I’m never more cynical than when I turn on the television (which is not often) to see a news reporter asking an “expert” what must be done to avert some disaster or another. Without exception, the person being interviewed assumes a professorial tone and begins pontificating as if they are qualified to dispense advice. The disturbing part is how the news media lap up the expert’s guidance and present it in a way that makes it seem all but unimpeachable.

So, let’s step back for a moment and consider the complexity of the global economy. The value of the U.S. stock market is determined by a nearly-infinite set of events and conditions. The buying habits of billions of people, the investment confidence of those people from day to day, the status of other world markets, the price of a barrel of oil in Venezuela compared to that of the London exchange, the value of the U.S. dollar compared to the Chinese yuan, the proximity of the latest hurricane to oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico, the stability of the government in Uzbekistan, the presence of nuclear activity in North Korea – all of these circumstances contribute to the value of the markets each day. Consumer confidence is a factor that is not subject to mathematical laws. If it were, we could publish the equation and tell everyone when and where to invest, with little risk.

The fact is, no man really knows for certain what must be done to make the whole thing hang together. Some people may pretend to know, and some people may actually believe they know, but the real truth is that the system is too complex and too dependent on unknown factors for any one man to grasp it. And this, of course, leads me to my point.

God created this world. He put things in motion originally, and he does not treat us like a science experiment – where the scientist puts together the initial conditions and then remains “hands-off” until the experiment is concluded. Rather, He is active in our everyday world. Like the stories we read in the Bible, God is involved with the happenings and occurrences of his creation. Proverbs 19:21 tells us, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” How God gets this done is beyond my understanding, but I believe that His hand is touching everything that I see. When I wake up in the middle of the night with a feeling that something is wrong, or when I get stopped by an inconvenient red light only to discover that an accident just occurred ahead of me that I might have been involved in – I believe that God causes things to happen around me.

The world of finance, whether it is the complexity of world markets or just my savings account, is ultimately governed by God and it serves His purposes. James 4:13-14 tells us, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” In the grand scheme of events, the size of my own financial investments is hardly under my own control, and matters little in God’s great plan for eternity. Continuing the verse, James 4:15 says, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” This clearly indicates that’s God will is what governs events, not what men predict or calculate. In fact, this proves that we cannot know with certainty what the future holds. But this flies in the face of humanistic tendencies, where men think they are god, and so must be able to control and ensure the future. But this can never be.

We should take comfort, though, in the fact that God is in control. You see, He really cares for us and wants us to be drawn to Him. He is not the blind watchmaker, winding up his creation to spin out its own existence in a series of random events. Psalm 37:28 says, “For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off.” This truth gives me comfort, even as I watch the value of my stock portfolio erode. Perhaps God has a plan bigger that I can envision. And perhaps God is using these events as a means to have us draw closer to Him. After all, it is when people are most destitute and stripped of their earthly possessions that they finally admit that they are not in control. And if they aren’t in control, Who is?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Worldview Class – Part 6 – Marxist Theology

This is a continuation of highlighted topics discussed in a worldview class I am teaching on Sunday morning. The main text for the study is The Battle for Truth by David Noebel. A good deal of this class is also based on personal research.

Theology is defined as “the study of the nature of God and religious truth; rational inquiry into religious questions”. Every worldview takes a stand on God, whether it is to believe in one Creator of all, or to say that no God exists. A critical understanding of each worldview pivots around the position taken regarding the existence of God.

Like the secular humanist, those who proclaim themselves to follow Marxist/Leninist theology do not believe in the existence of God. In the words of Lenin himself, the Marxist “propaganda necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism.” And like the secular humanist, man is exalted as the supreme divinity by Marxists. However, Marxism pivots on an additional item – the state. Under ideal Marxist circumstances, the state (or government) becomes the authority for all things. Parental authority in education, religion or even the family is removed, since it is believed that the state will supply an integrated, superior guidance. Indeed, the Communist Manifesto states that “Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality”. Ostensibly, this statement is made because the common man’s class struggle against the oppressive bourgeoisie class will ultimately free him from their rules – and those rules include morality, religion, and law.

It’s interesting to note that the elimination of the bourgeoisie laws must be replaced by the new laws of the state, and there is very little difference between this and the original design (at least, in my mind). The state will eventually take control and provide mandates to the common man – and the state will certainly not stay true to the freedoms and rights of the individual, but will be corrupted by its own power. This was clearly in evidence during the rule of Stalin, Krushchev, and Breshnev. Communism eventually fell in the Soviet Union, but still lives today in places like China and Cuba. It remains to be seen if this model will outlast other models in place, such as democracy. In many ways, our own culture in America is displaying tendencies toward the Marxist model. For example, the Marxist tenet that the ruling class should be stripped of their power and wealth and then have it evenly distributed amongst the working man’s class sounds suspiciously like things I hear in our own presidential debates. This paradigm of “fairness” is attractive to those in the working class, and is increasingly pervasive in many democratic societies today.

Marxism relies heavily on the promise of science to save us, as increasing human knowledge is the goal to strive toward. This introduces the concept of scientific atheism, as opposed to just plain atheism. Under scientific atheism, man’s knowledge is the prize and it allows truth to “change” as man acquires new discoveries. The Atheist Handbook, published in 1959, says “Science has long since established that Jesus Christ never existed, that the figure of the alleged founder of Christianity is purely mythical.” Fortunately, the proof has gone wanting, as this is nothing more than a false statement made for propaganda purposes.

To sum up, Marxist theology can be presented in two statements – 1) God does not exist, and 2) Man is the supreme divinity. I find it distressing to think of the many millions of people who have lived under this philosophy, because it offers no eternal hope. The Marxist state can only offer up a few years on earth to enjoy (if it can really be called enjoyment), and then there is nothing to hope in beyond death. This seems like a natural place to begin the argument against Marxist theology. The Christian has an offering of hope, and a promise of eternal life spent with the Creator of the universe. A discussion along these lines has a good chance of producing fruit. I find it difficult to believe that a person can spend their whole life without wondering about the possibility of something that follows death.

Ludwig Feurbach, one of Karl Marx’s contemporaries, made the statement, “It is clear as the sun, and evident as the day that there is no God; and still more, that there can be no God.” It saddens me that he was not able to see the evidence that is overwhelmingly in favor of a Creator. Romans 1:20 tells us, “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” The Christian’s hope, and testimony, pivot on this fact.

To Worldview - Part 7 - New Age (Cosmic Humanist) Theology

Or go back to the main index for all twelve Parts.

If you are interested in portions, or all of this twelve part series taught in an engaging, educational fashion, please contact Alan at Banyan Concepts.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Why I’ll Vote The Way I Will

If you aren’t aware of the fact that it is presidential election season, then you (and your telephone) have been living under a rock. Without electricity.

In these debate-charged times, people are frequently and more easily frustrated at the bombardment from politicians in search of votes. Candidates for government tell us what they believe we want to hear, rather than just what they believe. Perhaps I’m overly cynical, but I believe most of their talk is an effort to gain votes, secure power, or write their place into history. If we ever expect these men and women to tell us what they actually believe or what they can legitimately accomplish, we are surely going to be disappointed.

As I’ve grown older, I find it harder to vote in good conscience for many of the candidates up for election. I have developed a general distrust of what is being said and promised. When a presidential candidate vows change and an improved economy, I happen to know that the Chief Executive does not actually have that much to do with that subject. True, the economy is shaped by presidential advisors, and highly-placed government leaders, but it is also affected by other nations, the lending habits of banks, the spending habits of individuals, and ultimately by God Himself. These things are not under any one man’s control – thankfully.

But a new idea has crept into how I plan to cast my vote. That idea is the concept of the moral imperative. Put another way, there are topics which are essential to Christian idealism and cannot be ignored. For me, voting for a candidate who professes against any of these imperatives is a dangerous enterprise.

Conversely, there are topics which do not contain an ethical and moral imperative. Subjects such as climate change, big vs. small government, and health care entitlements are important, but they do not rise to the level of being commanded by God. God’s ideals, as presented in the Bible, may touch on these issues to a degree, but fall short of the moral edict, such as we see in the Ten Commandments.

What do I consider to be moral imperatives today? The list, thankfully, is pretty short. Abortion is the first on my list – a candidate must be firmly opposed to any and all abortion techniques and must profess that life begins at conception, as designed by God. A candidate’s position on the legitimacy of same-sex marriage is also paramount. The Bible is clear on this topic, and there is no room to erode the institution of marriage as God has established it (Romans 1:26-28). In the same vein, it is clear that homosexuality is a contributor to the moral decline of many nations before us (Greece and Rome come to mind – they once were great nations, just like ours). I cannot willingly be a party to any erosion of God’s position on these topics.

I believe the Christian is obligated to elect officials who are in line with each of God’s moral imperatives. A candidate who fulfills this test, but with only one exception, is not a candidate for whom I can vote. Simply put, I first establish my list of godly imperatives which must be met. Then, I evaluate each candidate against that list and create a pool of candidates for which I can ethically cast a vote. After I have established that pool, then I may apply the non-imperative “nice-to-haves” against the candidates to make a selection. Sadly, in the general election, I usually don’t get to the last part where I can judge multiple candidates on secondary issues. I’m usually left with only one choice. In the event that I have no choices remaining, I cannot, in good faith, vote for any candidate who would erode God’s commanded criteria.

But we should not worry – God provides leaders and sets in place those to be elected. Romans 13:1 tells us that “there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” We must trust that God holds the entire plan in His hand, and can see far beyond the future that we might envision.

Voting is indeed a privilege. Being a child of God is an even greater one. God gives us some moral imperatives. If they want my vote, my elected officials need to declare in favor of God’s principles. Because He comes first.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Worldview Class – Part 5 – Secular Humanist Theology

This is a continuation of highlighted topics discussed in a worldview class I am teaching on Sunday morning. The main text for the study is The Battle for Truth by David Noebel. A good deal of this class is also based on personal research.

Theology is defined as “the study of the nature of God and religious truth; rational inquiry into religious questions”. Every worldview takes a stand on God, whether it is to believe in one Creator of all, or to say that no God exists. A critical understanding of each worldview pivots around the position taken regarding the existence of God.

For those in the Secular Humanist camp, the most accepted viewpoint (with rare exceptions) is that the universe is self-created, and that no God exists to rule over eternity. Paul Kurtz - professor, philosopher, and author of many humanistic tenets over the last thirty years – said, "Humanism cannot in any fair sense of the word apply to one who still believes in God as the source and creator of the universe." To be more specific, God, Satan, angels, demons, souls, and consciences, do not exist according to humanists. These entities are grouped together as the “supernatural”, and are denied existence according to any one of the three Humanist Manifestoes. I must confess, if someone has asked me if I believed in the supernatural a year ago, I would have thought twice about it. The word evokes pictures of ghosts, goblins, and magic. But, strictly speaking, those of us who believe in Christian Theism believe in the supernatural. Get used to it.

What evidence do Christians have to support this belief? We have the Bible, which is well-documented to have existed for a very long time, and has been supported by countless archaeological finds. To me, the most obvious basis for a belief in God is that there is simply no conceivable way that the universe “created itself”, as the humanists would have us believe. To believe that the order and complexity found in living entities just “happened” as a matter of chance requires far more faith for me than to simply accept that there is a Creator of all. Look into the concept of “irreducible complexity” if you want to know more (I may cover this topic in a future post).

Conversely, what evidence does the secular humanist give to deny the existence of God? I have consulted their Manifestoes and read their quotes to a great extent, but have been unable to glean any backing for this stance. In fact, the closest I have come to answering this question is a quote from Isaac Asimov, noted science fiction author and director of the American Humanist Association from 1989 to 1992. He says, “I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time.”

Insert the equivalent of a pregnant pause here.

Asimov, and all other humanists are willing to gamble that they have no eternal souls based merely on a suspicion that God doesn’t exist. Perhaps that doesn’t seem crazy to some. Let me pose an example which I believe to be equivalent. Suppose I wake up feeling “lucky” tomorrow. So lucky, in fact, that I’m willing to drive the eleven miles to work at exactly forty miles per hour without regard to other vehicles or pedestrians on the road – I won’t slow down or speed up for anything. So lucky that I’m going to drain my brake system first, since I simply won’t be needing it. I will even let my eight-year-old daughter do the driving, because I so strongly believe in my luck, that to consider any other option is a waste of my time. Is this any more ridiculous than risking eternity on a whim?

Simply put, the pursuit of knowing and understanding the existence of God can never be considered a waste of time. And this is the appeal we must make to the secular humanist. Many of them believe strongly in their own brand of theology. But it is a belief system devoid of hope or eternal meaning. The third Humanist Manifesto professes to “finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death”. By their own admission, death is the end of everything for each human being – nothing follows, and there is nothing to anticipate or for which to live after dying. What better place to start than this when discussing theology with a humanist?

Christians – we have something that they desperately need. This should be our starting point with every humanist we meet. The Christian life offers hope, eternity, and a loving God who wants to spend an infinite amount of time with us. This is not such a hard thing to promote, especially in comparison to what the humanist has to offer.

To Worldview - Part 6 - Marxist Theology

Or go back to the main index for all twelve Parts.

If you are interested in portions, or all of this twelve part series taught in an engaging, educational fashion, please contact Alan at Banyan Concepts.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Geleazium’s Stand

"Death is much sweeter to me with the testimony of truth than life with the least denial" - Geleazium, martyred in St. Angelo, Italy, Middle Ages

I searched the Web to find out more about this martyr in the hopes of understanding his story a little better. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find anything except his final quote. I guess the Internet isn’t as big as I thought.

So, I decided to reflect on his statement a bit and see where it took me. I think it’s safe to draw the conclusion that Geleazium was asked to recant his Christian faith before being killed, and his response was to reject that opportunity in favor of death. Imagine the temerity that such an act would require. How many professing Christians today would be able to do the same?

Also, consider Geleazium’s perspectives on both eternity and the importance of truth. He had a clear enough grasp of both to know that a few minutes or hours of pain would be worth what follows. I am often in awe of just how close to my eternal destination my life is. One car wreck, one defective brain blood vessel, or one incorrectly labeled prescription medicine is all that stands between me and eternity in heaven. I could be in heaven before I finish writing this sentence. I need to be reminded about this fact often, because it puts everything into a different perspective.

Finally, do I cling to truth above all? Would I be able to do the same as Geleazium if faced with the identical opportunity? Is truth more important to me than life itself? Clearly, others have had the strength to make this stand, and are now enjoying the reward that comes with it.

I strongly recommend the book “Jesus Freaks: Martyrs – Stories of Those Who Stood for Jesus: The Ultimate Jesus Freaks”, copyright 1999 by Bethany House Publishers. There are some poignant tales in this book, that will make you think twice about the solidity of your faith, and the importance of discovering what really matters. We often read these stories to our children during our evening family worship time, though many of them are difficult and have unhappy endings. But we share the martyr’s experiences because it is exactly the attitude of Geleazium that I want to instill in my children.

If anyone has any more information about Geleazium, please reply with a comment.