The Shooter, Or The Gun?

For the past couple of days I’ve been emotionally stunned, disrupted by the madness of the Las Vegas massacre. I made the mistake of watching the news this morning while drinking my cup of coffee. Gun control zealots have now jumped on this tragedy, as they always do, as a springboard to dictate their own brand of madness, supposedly to deal with the threat of firearm violence.

It’s madness because legal restrictions to gun access for normal citizens don’t make us safer. They only make it more difficult to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and put us even more at the mercy of those who aren’t law-biding and will obtain whatever weapons they want to, despite the law. It’s madness because as we have seen, when gun ownership is stringently controlled, there are plenty of other options to choose from: knives, home-made bombs, driving vehicles into crowds, the use of toxins and poison gasses, anthrax spores — There is no limit to human creativity, even in the mind of a mass murderer.

The relative effectiveness of gun control can be illustrated by looking at the very first murder. Genesis 4:8 tells us that Cain “rose up against his brother Abel and killed him”. It doesn’t say how. He may have used his bare hands. As they were in “the field”, he may have used a stone or an implement. Applying gun-control mentality to this case, all farm implements and all stones would have to be registered and strictly accounted for. If it was known that Cain’s weapon was his own hand, their solution would be to cut it off.

While such a cruel punishment would certainly prevent future killings by the same means, if Cain really wanted to kill someone else bad enough, he could always train himself to become a lethal kicker and simply use his foot the next time. It is interesting to note that God’s punishment of Cain was protected banishment, marking him so that others would not take vengeance on him (Genesis 4:12-16).

The point is that the murder of innocent people cannot be prevented, reduced or controlled by restricting access to weapons. Murder is a sin that begins in the heart. Once it has taken hold, a murderer will use whatever means and whatever instrumentality he can devise to bring his plans to fruition. Gun control laws will never prevent tragedies like the Las Vegas massacre.

On the other hand, gun control laws do make it more difficult for every-day citizens to protect themselves — a God-given right enshrined in the 2nd amendment of our Constitution.

An informative article that uses statistics to put things in perspective: https://www.facebook.com/tednugent/posts/10154772622887297

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Sock ’em In The Face?

Back in July 8, 2012 Jeremy N. Choate wrote an essay entitled, “Dear Liberal…Here’s Why I’m So Hostile”. You can read it at http://sufficient-reason.tumblr.com/post/26781491317/dear-liberalheres-why-im-so-hostile

On the up side, this is a well-written and well-reasoned essay. But on the down side, who reads essays any more? Who reasons out controversies any more? Who bothers any more to become enlightened, to investigate the facts, engage in their discovery, weigh their consequences and share what they’ve learned? Seems like precious few.

Our “culture”, if you want to call it that, is in an intellectual slump. The market place of ideas is in the midst of a depression. Considering all the sophisticated communication technology available to us, there is little real connection between the Left and the Right. The connection that does exist has more characteristics of a gang war than a meaningful exchange of ideas. Rather than discussing differences with the idea of reaching a fuller understanding, we use rhetoric that leads to violence. We start by shouting at one another and end up throwing stones — and worse.

Rational debate seems to have been abandoned by most of us. Even in institutions of so-called “higher learning”, the solution to controversy is now seen as the gagging of “offensive” speech, rather than respecting and honoring free speech. A significant portion of society has given up on the goal of intellectual freedom, the free-flow of ideas and freedom of conscience. In its place stands an abomination of desolation called political correctness — a monument resting on the premise, “some animals are more equal than others”.

I used to believe that it was possible to win people over to your side by using superior argument, presenting facts, respecting history and aspiring to moral and principled goals. But experience demonstrates that such a scenario is impossible when your opponent consistently chooses to call you names and mischaracterize your position, rather than actually engaging in the merits of your argument.

I have long considered William F. Buckley Jr. to be the finest proponent of conservatism. I particularly consider his book, God & Man at Yale (1951), a seminal work which clearly drew the line of secularist philosophy that separated the progressive Left from the traditional Right. For half a century Buckley was recognized as one of the most articulate spokesmen for conservatism and considered by some to be the father of modern conservatism. But even he fell victim to relentless name-calling from the Left and their persistent twisting of his conservative positions.

Buckley made the mistake of debating Gore Vidal in an ABC series covering the 1968 Democratic convention. There was a long-standing antipathy between the two of them, being mirror images of each other in matters of politics and morality. Near the end of the debates, continuing in his pattern of using personal insults, Gore Vidal called Buckley a “crypto-Nazi”. By then Buckley had finally had it. He had been pushed as far as he could go. Completely losing his usual composure, he rose from his seat, pointed his finger at Vidal and said, “Listen to me you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in the goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered.”

In losing his temper, Buckley was perceived as losing the “debate”. But in actuality Vidal had gutted the exchange of any real intellectual substance and pulled the level of their discourse down to name-calling and character assassination. Buckley had allowed himself to be pulled down to Vidal’s level. And maddened, as if by Chinese water torture, he lost the thin veneer of comity that civilization affords.

Had it occured in a recorded program, this incident would have been edited out, never to be seen by the public. But the program was live, for the whole world to see. The truly sad thing about this incident was that it boosted ABC’s ratings. Apparently, this was the kind of thing people wanted to see on a news show: something as satisfying as the thrill of a professional wrestling match or as entertaining as your favorite drama.

Because of that, news programs began using point/counterpoint segments where opponents would spew their arguments at each other without any real resolution of an issue. Their purpose was to rile up people into opposing camps, rather than to give background to stories or create an informed perspective. In the 49 years following the Buckley/Vidal exchange, this adversarial approach to the “news” has intensified political polarization and eroded our attitudes about how we should discuss our differences.

I myself have tried to make reasoned arguments for my conservative, traditional values, only to be responded to by voices of intolerance, name-calling, bullying and even threats of violence. These voices refuse to engage the substance of conservative arguments. They only want to discredit, malign and silence them. The more they mischaracterize conservatives the angrier I get, because meaningful discussion is impossible when everything you say is twisted into a lie designed to rouse anger and disgust against you.

I not only identify with the intellectual anger expressed by Jeremy N. Choate in his article above, but I identify with William F. Buckley’s threat to “sock [them] in the goddamn face”. Even the most reasonable person in the world can be pushed too far. So, in terms of “winning the debate”, I don’t see much hope in changing society’s views on subjects of morality. The opposition comes from a mindset that rejects the authority of God. The Left believes that the solution of humanity’s ills can be found in collective human efforts, and maximizing those efforts requires government leadership.

And so the Left is always looking for government programs to solve our problems. As Jeremy Choate’s article so clearly points out, the more government gets involved in solving everyone’s problems, the fewer freedoms individuals are allowed and the greater the tax burden becomes. The worst aspect of dependence upon big government is that people then tend to put their trust and reliance on government. And in that sense, the government usurps God’s role in our lives.

When people look to government for their salvation, then arguments about political issues become matters of faith. God and the Bible are then viewed as being in opposition to effective governmnet. In that significant sense, the argument between the Left and the Right hinges on how a person views God’s authority. To support homosexuality requires discarding what the word of God says about sin. To support gender selection requires throwing out the Biblical teaching that God created us male and female. The Left feels they can create themselves. They are their own gods. To support abortion requires the denial that an unborn child is a person whom God has created. It requires the rejection of Jeremiah 1:5 that tells us, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”. To believe that government knows best how our money should be spent to help the poor denies the Biblical principle of voluntary giving (Exodus 25:2; 2 Corinthians 9:7).

Frankly, there can be no compromise between the godly and the godless. They live in different worlds. There cannot be a meaningful discussion of political issues until there is agreement on what role God plays in the affairs of men. At the founding of our nation, Americans agreed on the Biblical world view and designed our government and laws to conform to that view. But as a nation, our world view has changed, taking our government and laws with it. American society has departed from its Biblical roots. It has become increasingly deaf to Biblical arguments. Secular society simply will not listen anymore. Not only that, but to a large degree they hate Christians and Christianity. In that sense, we have lost the argument.

The only thing left in our arsenal is to speak the truth of the gospel in a clear and gentle way. Paul said, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Exactly how that translates to how we address secular values in society today, I cannot say. But each of us must be ready to give an answer when we are asked to give reasons for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15-16). We are called to be witnesses, which is a verb — something we must do. We have to tell it like it is, straight from the heart. And just as our Savior was mocked, so will we. They will call us names, belittle us, threaten and attack. Still, we must love them enough to speak the truth in love.

The argument is lost. Perhaps it always was. All that is left is our testimony. Yet that is a powerful thing. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Lord, grant us the faith to obey you, and make disciples by sharing the gospel.

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“Feed Me, Seymour!”

Anyone who’s seen Little Shop Of Horrors will recognize those words from the song of the mysterious potted plant named Audrey 2 that grew to a giant size on a diet of human flesh and blood. You can read the dialogue that leads up to the song and the lyrics at http://www.metrolyrics.com/feed-me-git-it-lyrics-little-shop-of-horrors.html

Audrey 2 is a selfish, manipulative plant from outer space that takes advantage of Seymour’s simple desire to help it flourish. It does everything to cajole Seymour into feeding him human beings. He whines like a dependent child, playing on Seymour’s sympathies. Audrey 2 entices Seymour with promises to make his every dream come true, but in reality this potted plant is a menacing threat, not worth Seymour’s slavish devotion.

As fans of the movie will tell you, there is something very laughable and entertaining about the character of Audrey 2, even though it eats people. This is dark humor, couched in science fiction. But humor and fiction cannot succeed without dramatizing something that is honest, true or real. There is something strangely real about the destructive self interests of this alien plant.

The line between comedy and tragedy is very thin. The very same elements that make people cry also make them laugh. It’s just a matter how those elements are presented. Why do we laugh at the tragedy of a man-eating plant? Because it represents qualities we have seen in actual people we have known.

There is a certain type of self-proclaiming Christian who attends church, makes friends, acts nice and blends in, like everyone else. You can’t spot them in a crowd. Their sole identifying mark is that at some point they leave the church, saying, “I’m just not being fed”. These aren’t new believers who really do need to be fed. They have been around for a while, but they do not stay. They only remain in a church as long as the church – usually the Pastor – is feeding and watering them, as if they were some potted plant.

I have seen so many of these potted church-goers that I am convinced they are sincere in their belief that they need to be fed. Yet they are sincerely wrong. They are stuck in a stage of development that is only appropriate for seedlings. But even seedlings aren’t supposed to remain in the nursery. At some point, they need to be taken out of their pots and placed in soil, where their roots can grow and they can feed themselves.

1 Corinthians 10:3 points out that all Israel “ate the same spiritual food”. This was the manna that God gave them. He also fed them meat, by bringing quail to them, not to mention the water he had Moses bring forth from a rock. So, Israel was being fed. Nevertheless, we read in verse 5 that God was not pleased with most of them and they were overthrown in the wilderness. This represents a serious spiritual dysfunction. God in fact provided them with what they needed to live, asking in return that they live according to his commands. But those Israelites who perished in the wilderness did not heed God’s commands. They only complained about what they were being fed.

For a Christian, the metaphor of being fed applies to new Christians who have been born again but still need to be discipled. How long should a Christian be discipled? In part it depends on their age and their ability to learn, but most importantly it depends on their personal devotion to the Lord and how much they want to grow. It is not the role of a church or pastor to continue to disciple everyone in the congregation indefinitely. All Christians have the responsibility to mature in Christ.

When a person first receives Christ, those who are more spiritually mature need to teach them what it means to be a Christian – how to live, how to grow. They need to be taught to pray, to serve, to fellowship, to worship, and they need to learn what the Bible says. Those are things we would call spiritual “feeding” for “babes in Christ”. They don’t know what they need, so believers who are more mature need to feed them.

As new believers grow, they (should) gradually learn to pray for themselves, serve by themselves, seek for themselves fellowship and worship with other Christians, and learn Scripture themselves by reading, meditating, studying and memorizing. Church is designed to supply opportunities for all these things.

But an important part of spiritual growth is learning to feed yourself so that you do not remain spiritually dependent upon others. Just as babies cannot feed themselves, but must be fed milk, children grow and learn to eat solid food and how to feed themselves. This is what is meant by Hebrews 5:12 when it says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.” Those folks should have been feeding themselves, but were acting like spiritual babies.

And babies who grow from eating milk to eating solid food also grow from being held, to crawling and finally to walking. Christians are being childish and self-absorbed when they continue to expect to be fed long after they have had time to mature and learn to walk with the Lord. Spiritual maturity means you can’t spend your life as a potted plant needing constant feeding by someone else. Believers are not to remain babes in Christ. We are to grow up and learn to feed ourselves.

The church is the body of Christ. Our dependence should be upon the Head, not on our pastors or church leaders. What we have in the church body is loving, inter-dependent relationships with one another. And that is always (or should be) reciprocal (going both ways) and mutual (equally helpful to one another).

We are all different parts of a single body. We have a shared purpose for which we are joined together in unity to accomplish God’s will. When new Christians are babes in Christ, they need to be nourished by the whole faith community until they mature enough spiritually to participate in ministry themselves and serve others as the Holy Spirit directs. But that cannot happen when people look to “someone else” for their own spiritual development, expecting “someone else” to feed them.

Immature believers tend to see church leaders (especially pastors) as extraordinary servants to be placed on a pedestal over everyone else. They are seen as more-perfect beings who have somehow reached a higher level of spirituality. More is expected of them in terms of their time, energy, availability, tolerance, interest, wisdom and service. It’s a wholly unrealistic expectation, but somehow it persists on the part of these potted church-goers who demand they get their feedings.

I confess to feeling angry about this because pastors and church leaders are just human beings. They struggle with the same difficulties and temptations as everyone else. When a church member says, “I’m not being fed” they have an expectation that has no basis in Scripture, and they are making a demand that abrogates their own accountability to the Lord and transfers it to someone else. That is a childish, spoiled and irresponsible attitude. If you are a Christian who is reading this and thinking I am wrong, then answer these questions:

  • What do you want from your church or your pastor? What do you think is the purpose and function of a church? How do you need to grow spiritually? How would you describe your personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Where does the church’s responsibility end and yours begin?

  • Is your faith based on the Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible, or do you pick and choose what you want to believe? Do you believe you must submit to the authority of Scripture or do you only consider it a guide?

  • How well do you know God’s word? Are you reading your Bible regularly? Are you in a Bible study? Do you meditate on the word? Do you memorize Scripture? Do you discuss it with others?

  • How much time do you spend in prayer? Who and what do you pray for? Do you meet with others to pray?

  • Do you regularly attend Sunday worship services? Have you formed relationships with other believers? Do you meet with some of them during the week? Are you a witness to your faith in your daily life?

  • Are you serving in some capacity in any church ministry? Do you know what your own ministry is? Have you seen a need and tried to fill it, or thought of a new ministry and brought the idea to your church leaders?

All of these are indicators of your spiritual walk. If you are crying, “Feed me!” while the above opportunities are offered at your church, you are no more able to walk with the Lord than a potted plant. If you go to church to be entertained by the worship music, social activities or stirring oratory, you are there for the wrong reasons. You are just a pew warmer. Jesus didn’t say, “Sit and act nice; the pastor will teach you what you need to know.” He said, “Deny yourself” and “Follow me” and “Go and sin no more”.

In Matthew 5:6 Jesus spoke of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. There is the tacit presumption in his words that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness do more than merely demand to be fed. Just as faith without works is dead (James 2:17), to be hungry but not be willing to feed oneself is senseless.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are to make every effort to seek righteousness, pursue righteousness, and take whatever steps they can to feed themselves. God expects us to grow up and take responsibility for how we work out our own salvation (Philippians 2:12).

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. – Hosea 10:12

Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the LORD: look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. – Isaiah 51:1

Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD. – Zephaniah 2:3

When Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it will be opened to you” he was not speaking to infants who needed to be fed by someone else. He was speaking to adults who needed to learn to be persistently engaged in seeking answers from the LORD. The verbs in Greek mean to keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking. That requires maturity, responsibility and persistence in our faith walk, not demanding that others do what we should be doing for ourselves.

Christians who think like potted plants and leave their churches because they “aren’t being fed” are seriously deceived. They think the kingdom of heaven is built up when churches give them what they want, leaving to look elsewhere when they don’t get it. It’s really all about what pleases them, not about what is pleasing to God.

This is a distortion of the shepherd and the sheep model because the Bible tells us that Jesus is the true Shepherd, not pastors or leaders. While pastors and leaders do indeed have some “shepherding” tasks, the folks in the congregation – as sheep – are not to remain helpless or dumb animals. Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commands” (John 14:15). So, as I mentioned above, we are all to work out our own salvation. I am very sure that Jesus commands us to live and grow according to his word, rather than expect our happiness to come from how our church “feeds” us.

Rather than acting like that bizarre potted vegetable of Little Shop of Horrors fame, seek the Lord in prayer (Hebrews 11:6), look for wisdom in his word (James 3:17), remember that his thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9), and ask him how he wants you to build up his body (1 Corinthians 14:12). He will build you up as you obey him and learn to function as part of his body (Colossians 2:19).

Remember, Jesus said, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28) and “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35). If you want to be Christ-like, seek to feed others. Don’t demand that others feed you.

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A Very Long, Long Answer

This post is much longer than I had anticipated. Some may think it tedious. But I felt compelled to fully express my thoughts as I sought to answer a particular comment. I sincerely hope that there is someone who reads and appreciates what I say here. This is primarily written as a response to a comment by Jeffrey Liakos to my post of May 23, 2012, The Heart Has Its Reasons.

I recently received several comments to a variety of my older posts from him. My reaction to these comments was a mild annoyance because I felt that in general they reflected a kind of quarrelsome one-upmanship – a tossing of the hat into the ring. It seems to me that’s typical of what commenting has come to. And that may be why so many people prefer social media to commenting on my kind of blog. Most people seem less inclined to articulate the pros and cons of an issue than simply state what side of the issue they are on, repeating the same, tired talking points. I do not find such “discussion” to be constructive.

The highest and best use of argument or debate is to arrive at a more informed or thoughtful place than where we started. Yet, when was the last time that happened? So, I decided to stop trying to swat away each comment as I might if they were irksome insects, and rather engage at some length with one single, representative comment. Hopefully, the quality of discussion will improve.

By the way, six years ago I wrote an article, Your Comments which will help the reader understand what I am looking for in comments.

There is a twofold motivation for this post. First, I have grown weary of answering his many comments, because no matter how hard I try, he simply doesn’t seem to get where I am coming from, despite saying he agrees with me on most things, which leads to the second and most important issue: Every point I attempt to express in this blog is based on my Biblical Christian world view that all meaning, value and authority come from God, and that this truth is absolute, not relative. That is what I will be emphasizing here.

The problem with much of the discussion of social and cultural issues today is that popularly held positions usually proceed from post-modern world views which are littered with humanist, relativist and self-centered presumptions. Like the argument between pro-abortionists and anti-abortionists, there can be no meeting of the minds until they can agree on their basic assumptions. And there can be no agreement on basic assumptions until there is unanimity in our world views.

So, before I present Jeffrey’s comment and my response to it, I feel it necessary to lay out my world view as it relates to the posts I write. If you can understand and appreciate my overall world view, then it doesn’t really matter if you don’t agree with me on specific particulars. It’s OK to disagree, but it’s not OK to quarrel about our disagreements (see Romans 14).

First, I believe in God, the infinitely perfect, loving, holy, just and merciful God of the Bible. And I believe the Bible to be the authoritative word of God. I believe God created everything in the universe (For the philosophically challenged, that doesn’t mean he created evil. Evil is the absence of God, just as darkness is the absence of light.). I believe God has absolute authority over human beings and that we all are personally and directly accountable to him. I believe all of humanity is subject to God’s judgment.

I also believe that humans changed their very nature by sinning (disobeying, rebelling) against God, and that our sinful nature separates us from God. Humans tried to bridge the gap of our separation and get back to God through religion, but history has shown that we are incapable of reconnecting to God by our own efforts. Sin totally separates us from God.

But in his mercy, God provided a way for both punishment and debt to be cancelled, and joyful fellowship with him to be restored for eternity. That provision is Jesus, God the Son, who came to earth as a man, lived a sinless life, yet freely offered himself as the only possible sacrifice (ransom) sufficient to pay for our sin. The way each person can appropriate God’s provision of forgiveness and eternal life is to humbly receive Jesus Christ, accepting his sacrifice for our sin, and then turning our very lives over to him. This “faith” is not simply a matter of mentally agreeing to do so. Faith means actually doing it.

Jesus said if we want to follow him we must “deny” ourselves, yet we live in a day and age when everyone does what is right in their own eyes, justifying what they do by seeing themselves as their own authority, either because they don’t believe in God or don’t believe he has authority over them as revealed in Scripture.

In C.S. Lewis’ book, The Problem Of Pain, the author mused, “The moralities accepted among men may differ – though not, at bottom, so widely as is often claimed – but they all agree in prescribing a behaviour which their adherents fail to practise. All men alike stand condemned not by alien codes of ethics, but by their own, therefore are conscious of guilt.” (page 11)

In other words, a moral person tries to do the right thing, and yet fails. As an example, Paul said, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” – Romans 7:15. Contrast this with the immoral person who no longer even tries to do right. They no longer feel guilt because their consciences have become “seared as with a hot iron” (See 1 Timothy 4:1-2).

The third chapter of The Problem Of Pain is titled, “Divine Goodness” in which Lewis differentiates God’s goodness from human goodness and God’s love from human love. There is a popular saying these days that “love is love”. But Lewis points out that while human love can be both egoistic and altruistic, God’s love transcends those parameters.

The love relationship Christians enjoy with their heavenly Father is a direct result of our submission to Jesus Christ as our Lord. Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” – John 14:15.

C.S. Lewis echoes this sentiment: To experience the love of God in a true, and not an illusory form, is therefore to experience it as our surrender to His demand, our conformity to His desire.” (page 44)

He goes on to say, “Those Divine demands which sound to our natural ears most like those of a despot and least like those of a lover, in fact marshal us where we should want to go if we knew what we wanted.” (page 46) And, “…whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want.” (page 47)

This Biblical Christian world view makes no sense to those whose pride prevents them from humbling themselves before God. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” – 1 Corinthians 1:18. And in our society today there is such a particularly high regard for self-esteem and the rights of each individual to fulfill whatever desire they may have, that any thought of being answerable to the absolute authority of God threatens their self-centered outlook, which devolves from their relativist world view. That is one reason there is such intense hatred of Christians when they reflect to those who identify as LGBTQ that God has given us clear moral instructions for how we are to express our sexuality, and how we are not.

It is not that I as an individual am judging or condemning others, or that I am telling others what to do. What I say here and what I have said in the past is a response to what I see as people who are slaves to sin insisting that all of society approve of their sinful behavior and pass laws that enable them to continue to freely sin and draw others into sin along with them.

Ezekiel 33:6 says, “But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.”

Christians are called to be witnesses to God’s truth. If we see evil and yet remain silent, we become responsible for the consequences that might have been different had we warned others, giving them the chance to repent. And so it is the duty of those who know the truth to warn those in jeopardy of God’s judgement.

Now that I have explained my reasons for writing what I write, here is the comment made by Jeffrey Liakos to my post of May 23, 2012, The Heart Has Its Reasons. Following it, I will respond to each of his points.

That may be true, however, like Qur’an, the Bible has stories that depict violence. Also, the book of Revelation depicts stories of the apocalypse. Do you honestly think gay people choose to be gay or that they are born that way? If they choose to be gay, than they are engaging in what the Bible calls sinful behavior. Assuming that they are born that way, the implication of sinful behavior is not credible. Back to my earlier comment where I said that the United States was not a nation based on religious supremacy but religious freedom, you did not actually deny that insofar as I know. If you are married, how exactly is your marriage threatened by same sex couples wanting the same basic rights? Please, don’t give me the they can marry a person of the opposite sex line. That is something I came across in another forum that talked about the issue of same sex marriage. People who talk about freedom in some cases mean that freedom means freedom for everybody. Other people view freedom as their right to impose their will upon others. Also, what about people who preach about the importance of marriage to society? Newt Gingrich championed DOMA, the Defense of marriage Act, however, he has been married 3 times. Anybody who champions a defense of marriage and has been through multiple marriages is by definition a hypocrite. The only downside to same sex parenting is being faced with “Go ask your Mother” for lesbian couples or “Go ask your Father” for gay couples that have children. In a straight household context, you can hear the “Go ask your Mother, or “Go ask your Father” line. So, in a straight household context, you can get the normal suggestion of your Mother or your Father. Also, government should have no place in marriage debate. Leave it to the Churches or have a civil union, the latter which should be acknowledged by the government. In some other forums that I have participated in, the subject of same sex marriage has been a topic that is discussed. Even though my views differ from yours, your views seem to be more well thought out than other people’s in my opinion.

Here is my point-by-point breakdown:

Let me begin by explaining what “That may be true” relates to. In one of Mr. Liakos’ previous comments he had said, “Quoting Scripture can lead to misinterpretations of it by some people.” Using that same “reasoning” one could shift the blame of disinformation from those who distort the truth to those who report the truth. Mr. Liakos is apparently unaware of the non sequitur here. I responded, “It isn’t the quoting of Scripture that leads to misinterpretations. It’s ignorance and hearts that are open to spiritual deception.” This is what he referred to when he said, “That may be true”. Leaving that thought, he continued with…

however, like Qur’an, the Bible has stories that depict violence. Also, the book of Revelation depicts stories of the apocalypse.

So, starting by talking about the problem of misinterpreting Scripture caused by quoting it, now he adds that both the Quran and the Bible depict violence. I suppose he expects me to read between the lines because he doesn’t actually say it, but what I think he means is that the Bible is no better a source of truth than the Quran, and that for every Biblical quote that I might use to support a point, an Islamic scholar might use a quote from the Quran in opposition.

If that is the case, then should no one in any debate ever quote sources that support their position? He seems to imply that conclusion because there are major differences between the Bible and the Quran. So, is he suggesting that we should throw out all source material as authoritative and just go by our gut feelings?

Aside from the problems that arise from the abandonment of basic logic and critical reasoning skills, the idea of not quoting Scripture for fear it may lead to misinterpretation overlooks the possibility that the Bible may very well be the best evidence available to teach us the truth about God. Unless a person is open to that possibility and willing to examine it, there is no likelihood that he will ever discover the truth. Scripture is evidence. Evidence is supposed to be examined.

In particular, before anyone makes the decision to treat the Bible and the Quran with equal regard or to discard the Bible altogether out of reverence for the so-called “perfect and eternal” words of the Quran, I suggest they read, No God But One, by Nabeel Qureshi. He is a Christian apologist who converted from Islam after four years of arguing for Islam with his Christian friend, former atheist, David Wood. In the end he discovered answers for all of his objections and questions, and saw from scholarly research that the best evidence by far was that the Bible teaches truth while Islam is a false religion.

His book covers in detail the incontrovertible evidence. The only real question is, “So what?” How much does the truth really matter to those whose world view questions the very existence of absolute truth? In the conclusion of No God But One, Nabeel Qureshi writes, “But if there was one thing Islam had taught me, it was that I must submit to God and not to man. That meant following the truth, no matter where it led…The evidence in favor of Christianity was far, far stronger than the evidence for Islam.” (page 290)

I submit that a thorough and objective examination of the Bible in comparison to the so-called holy books of other religions will produce convincing evidence of the truth. That’s why I will always quote Scripture to support my position.

Continuing on, Mr. Liakos asks,

Do you honestly think gay people choose to be gay or that they are born that way? If they choose to be gay, than they are engaging in what the Bible calls sinful behavior. Assuming that they are born that way, the implication of sinful behavior is not credible.

The Bible teaches that everyone is born into sin. We are all sinful by nature. Does that alter the fact that we are responsible for our sin? No. God holds us accountable because he creates us with free will. We have the capacity to choose to repent from sin and turn to God. And yet, we are incapable of saving ourselves from the wages of sin, which is death.

Even when we choose not to sin, none of us are perfect. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” The solution to this dilemma isn’t to accept our sinfulness and continue in our sin. The solution is to confess our sin, ask God’s forgiveness and then go and sin no more. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Every sincere Christian struggles with sin. When we fall, we pick ourselves up, ask the Lord’s forgiveness, and then try once more to walk in his light, that is, live our lives in close fellowship with him, denying our fleshly desires to sin. This is called living in grace. Over time, we learn to be more holy, as he is holy. And this process is called our sanctification. The question of whether or not homosexuals are “born that way” is spiritually irrelevant.

Next, Mr. Liakos wrote,

Back to my earlier comment where I said that the United States was not a nation based on religious supremacy but religious freedom, you did not actually deny that insofar as I know.

No, I didn’t. I have no idea what he meant by “religious supremacy” because he didn’t explain it.  Back in 1787 when the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, the word “religion” was primarily used to refer to the various Christian denominations, and Judaism – the “other Biblical religion”. “Pagan” religions were specifically considered “false” religions whose adherents were targeted by missionaries to be saved from perdition by teaching them the gospel. There were very few adherents of Eastern religions in early America. They were largely understood as belonging to the Orient and therefore foreign to America and American thought.

Therefore the idea of “religious freedom” had to do with the fact that different denominations drew different doctrines from the same Biblical text. The framers of the Constitution believed that men were free in their accountability to Scripture to worship God as they were led by their conscience, and not to be taxed in order to support any particular State religion over all others. Thus, article 1 of the Bill of Rights specifies, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.

“The free exercise thereof” means that a constitutional government does not have the power to regulate religious expression unless such expression crosses the line into criminal behavior. The doctrine of separation of Church and State, which is not in the Constitution, does not prohibit citizens from bringing their religious convictions and values into the workings of government. That current misunderstanding is a perversion of the original intent of that Jeffersonian doctrine.

Next, in shotgun fashion, Mr. Liakos lists a string of objections to my post, The Heart Has Its Reasons. He begins,

If you are married, how exactly is your marriage threatened by same sex couples wanting the same basic rights? Please, don’t give me the they can marry a person of the opposite sex line. That is something I came across in another forum that talked about the issue of same sex marriage.

Well, this does pose a problem in his thinking. The truth is the truth, whether you want to hear it or not.  Either the issue of same-sex couples is one of morality, which Bible-believing traditionalists argue, or it is one of legality. Legally speaking, homosexuals have always had the exact, same marriage “rights” as heterosexuals – that is, to marry someone of the opposite sex, which is what marriage is.

Homosexuals have done two things in this arena. First, they have tried to humiliate anyone who would say that homosexuality is immoral, by calling traditionalists who believe in the Bible “homophobes” and characterizing their argument as coming from fear, hate, ignorance or bigotry, rather than what it is: a moral conviction derived from sound Biblical teaching that has been historically consistent for millennia.

Second, they have changed the argument from one of morals to one of “equal rights”. Their idea of equal is if heterosexuals are free to marry someone of the opposite sex, then homosexuals should be free to marry someone of the same sex. There is a fundamental error in that rationale. The only way they can succeed in that argument is to change the legal definition of marriage. And that is what they have done.

Marriage is and always has been a formally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman. It is so singularly important to Biblical theology that the Church is spoken of as “the bride of Christ”. And the relationship between husband and wife is modeled after the relationship Christ has with the Church (Ephesians 5:22-28). In the eyes of God, two persons of the same sex can never constitute a marriage, regardless of how human laws may be changed to accommodate them. Under God’s law marriage offers no “basic rights” for homosexuals.

Using the same rationale as changing human laws to conform to their lifestyle, those who support same-sex marriage revert to changing the tenets of their religions to suit themselves or change the meaning of Scripture to suit themselves. They either deny the existence of God altogether, or pick and choose what they are going to believe in the Bible and change the meaning of any verse that offends them.

The overarching issue here is that they deny God’s authority in their lives and they deny the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture. Am I saying I want everyone to belong to my religion? No. I want my society to reflect the morals of a people who acknowledge the supreme Creator and respect those who submit to his authority. That is the basis upon which our nation was founded.

The effect of legalizing same-sex marriage is one of the moral decay of society at large. It eats away at the very underpinnings of civilization. By approving of behavior that God considers an abomination, we as a people are garnering the wrath of God. As our nation thumbs its nose at God, we are daring him to stop us. And in his timing, he will bring his judgment to bear upon us.

The effect on generations yet to be born will be to lose any sense of the holy sanctity of marriage, and see it as nothing more than a legal partnership for the purpose of legal rights. Marriage as the root of the family, the cornerstone of community and the anchor of morality will disappear, only to be replaced by the sterile, empty, selfish lie that two men or two women together can please God or benefit society. That’s not my opinion. It’s truth from Scripture.  Are you open to the truth?

Jeffrey’s comment continues,

People who talk about freedom in some cases mean that freedom means freedom for everybody. Other people view freedom as their right to impose their will upon others.

And the point is…? Freedom isn’t a matter of opinion. It is not a vague concept or a disembodied theory. Freedom is something very real, so real that countless people have willingly died to gain it or defend it, including especially those who fought and died in our Revolutionary War against Great Britain. If you want to know what freedom is, talk to anyone who has escaped the tyranny of a totalitarian regime. They can tell you exactly what freedom is.

Unfortunately, few Americans seem to have the slightest idea of what freedom is, because they keep bargaining away their freedoms for Nanny State entitlements. The price of freedom is responsibility and restraint. The kind of “free country” originally intended by the Declaration of Independence was one in which each person is free to pursue their own happiness. That means they, not the government, are responsible for their lives. Most people today can’t even grasp that. Freedom is seen more as getting things “for free” from the government.

The phrase, “impose their will upon others” is loaded because EVERYONE knows that imposing your will on others is the opposite of freedom, the absence of restraint. When government imposes taxes on working citizens in order to provide entitlements (“for free”) for those who don’t work, that certainly isn’t freedom. When florists or bakers are forced to provide floral arrangements or cakes that celebrate same-sex marriages, in violation of their deeply held religious convictions, that’s not freedom. That’s an example of, how did you say it? “impose their will upon others”.

Freedom is only and always freedom for all. But you can’t have freedom for all by restricting the religious freedoms of those who believe that homosexuality and other sexual deviancy is sinful, disgraceful and an abomination to God. You may have noticed the name of my blog is “For Freedom – Galatians 5:1”. I am for freedom because God is for freedom. Our social freedoms all are derived from our spiritual freedom. Freedom is not man-made. It is the way God has created us to live.

God gives us all free will and doesn’t force anyone to be a moral person. Nevertheless he gives us his moral standards and expects our laws to reflect his laws. (This is called “natural law”, the philosophy of law under which this nation was founded and developed for its first century.) John Adams wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other”.  Thus problems arise when laws are made that do not conform to our traditional moral and religious values.

But we have abandoned God, we have abandoned God’s laws, and in our human wisdom we think we can legislate morality and create freedom outside the framework of godliness. It simply cannot work because what is substituted for the wisdom of God is the wisdom of popular opinion.

Basically, the mantra of utilitarianism is “the greater good”. And the only way the “majority” can be satisfied is to force the minority to conform to their will for the “greater good”. It’s a lie. An illusion. The only thing utilitarianism can accomplish is that one group of people is denied their true freedom in order to provide some imitation of freedom for a specially entitled group. So, no, I don’t care what some people may call freedom. I know what it is.

The comment continues:

Also, what about people who preach about the importance of marriage to society? Newt Gingrich championed DOMA, the Defense of marriage Act, however, he has been married 3 times. Anybody who champions a defense of marriage and has been through multiple marriages is by definition a hypocrite.

The validity of any argument does not rest on the virtues or faults of the person making it. There is a difference between the message and the messenger. If you’re going to fault Newt Gingrich’s support of DOMA because of the failure of his marriages, then do you also fault Martin Luther King Jr.’s support of civil rights which were based on the Christian message he preached? He too was an unfaithful hypocrite, so should we discount his message?

If you discount the truth or virtue of any principle or ideal because the person aspiring to it has personally failed, or if you refuse to listen to the ideals held by anyone who has a fault, then you will never be able to glean anything good from others.

No person who ever lived is perfect, except for Jesus Christ. Will you listen to him? The fact is that there’s a bit of hypocrite in every one of us, even you. But when it comes to working at making our society a moral one, I believe the ideal of DOMA is far more positive and constructive than the ideal of same-sex marriage.

I’ve heard critics say, “Churches are full of hypocrites”. And that is true. But it is equally true that the rest of society is also full of hypocrites. At least the ones in church are trying to come to grips with themselves, face their short-comings and try to live in a way that is more pleasing to God.

Next:

The only downside to same sex parenting is being faced with “Go ask your Mother” for lesbian couples or “Go ask your Father” for gay couples that have children. In a straight household context, you can hear the “Go ask your Mother, or “Go ask your Father” line. So, in a straight household context, you can get the normal suggestion of your Mother or your Father.

This is clumsily written (poor communication). Please take the time to learn how to put cogent thoughts into written words. Otherwise, why bother? Simple logic tells us that “same sex parenting” can only be “for gay couples that have children.” Aside from that, telling your child to ask the other parent is simply bad parenting. It may look cute or humorous on TV but in real life it is an irresponsible cop-out. The maker of such a comment is either not a parent himself, or is a poor one who has no business speculating on the effectiveness of same-sex parenting.

Hopefully, in 20 years or more we will have statistical information available on the actual results of same-sex parenting. My guess is that the politically correct crowd will continue to avoid looking at the evidence objectively and just make excuses for the sad outcomes. But that’s just my opinion, and no less valid than anyone else’s speculation.

Next:

Also, government should have no place in marriage debate. Leave it to the Churches or have a civil union, the latter which should be acknowledged by the government.

Finally, something I can agree with. Unfortunately the horses are already out of the barn. The gay agenda has slowly seduced society into going along with their godlessness. The government has stepped in and in many states same-sex marriage has been given the sanction of official law. But as I said previously, now religious rights will be taken away from anyone whose religious convictions teach them that transgenderism, like homosexuality is immoral and wrong.

And this is only the tip of the ice burg. Not only are transgenders pressing for special restroom accommodations, but the very idea of gender itself is becoming a legal issue, framed in the concept of freedom of choice. Yet, according to the Bible, God created man in is image – male and female – genders obvious from birth. We are either born male or female, according to how God decides to make us. But contrary to the designs of God, man-made laws are being made to allow everyone to choose whatever gender they want. They can even make up a new gender if they want, because gender is no longer considered “binary”.

The problem with man-made laws is that they cannot forever stand against the will of God. The sixth chapter of Daniel records the story of the lions’ den. Three times in that chapter it is repeated that the law of the Medes and Persians cannot be revoked. So, in accordance with the law, Daniel was put into the lions’ den as punishment for praying to God instead of to the king. In his sovereignty, God nullified the law and kept Daniel safe. So, the mere fact that human laws now recognize multiple, optional genders doesn’t make those genders real in the eyes of God.

The comment closes with this statement:

In some other forums that I have participated in, the subject of same sex marriage has been a topic that is discussed. Even though my views differ from yours, your views seem to be more well thought out than other people’s in my opinion.

Considering the comment as a whole, I consider this last statement to be high praise. Thank you. I appreciate it. My response is that I wonder where a person can go these days to share well thought-out views and not get into stone throwing contests or name calling quarrels? The whole purpose of freedom of speech is to find a way of working out disagreements among civilized people by connecting them, not separating them into factions, which people now call “communities”.

Rather than choosing to build unity out of disparate elements (“E Pluribus Unum”), society seems to increasingly choose fighting and the destruction of their opponents. As a society, we seem more concerned with eliminating functional differences than working them out. We used to be a society of “Christian consensus” wherein classical Biblical ideals were generally accepted, but not forced upon everyone. Now, as a society, we are forcing those with a Biblical world view to accept the permissive license of godless relativism while being restricted in the expression of their faith.

When we speak of an “open” society, we mean open to ideas, open to discussion. That is not the same as being open to immorality and lawlessness. Real freedom means responsibility and personal restraint, not anarchy; maturity and judgment, not wild abandon. In our republican form of government, the principle of Democracy was never intended to be as immediate as mob mentality or as variable as wherever the wind is blowing.

Every decision we make as a society should proceed from composed, honest, deliberate, rational, principled, respectable and informed debate. That’s what Congress is supposed to do. That is what media is supposed to do. That is what higher education is supposed to teach us to do. Instead, we get fighting mad. We yell. We curse. We call each other names. We turn to violence and hatred. We feel the only solution is to shut up anyone who opposes us. Shut them up and beat them down. And this way of doing things is undercutting the very foundation of our civilization.

So what’s the solution? Arguing the minutiae of every controversy that divides us as a people? No. I think the human mind is incapable of solving human dilemmas. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” At the root of all of the controversies we face in life is the problem of sin. We cannot master sin, but the LORD can and does. So the best we can do is look to him and follow him.

That is why regardless of any position we take on any social issue, we ultimately must trust in the LORD for the solution. I would suggest regular reading and studying the Bible in order to help in learning how to do this. There are also many good books written by Christian thinkers that clearly demonstrate rational explanations for the ways our Christian faith directs us to live our lives.

For skeptics of the Christian world view, I recommend reading William Lane Craig, or Nancy Pearcey, especially her books, Total Truth and Saving Leonardo. For those who like to lump all religions together, I recommend Jesus Among Other Gods by Ravi Zacharias. For a direct comparison of Christianity to Islam, I recommend Nabeel Qureshi’s book, No God But One. For examining the deity of Christ, read Lee Strobel’s The Case For Christ. Everyone has heard of C.S. Lewis. For those who are tempted to consider that the very existence of the supernatural defies rational thought, read his book, Miracles.

These authors represent a mere smattering of the written works available to anyone open to learning what intelligent, rational and scholarly people have written about the Bible, the God of the Bible and Biblical faith. In my opinion, only the most closed-minded person would refuse to rationally examine what these authors have written. Such a refusal can only mean they prefer to remain in the bliss of their own ignorance.

Posted in Christian Attitudes, Christian Faith, Christian philosophy, Debate, World View | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts On Prayer

God calls all believers to pray, both privately and corporately. Because prayer is how we communicate with God, it involves every aspect of our life and our relationship with him. That covers a lot of ground. In fact, it has been suggested that our prayers are effective when they “cover” everything we do. While this serves as a good illustration, it has the effect of separating prayer from our specific endeavors, placing prayer over and above them.

And while it is a perfectly valid idea that prayer can serve as a protective cover, it also serves to undergird all we do, making prayers for guidance, planning, equipping and preparation equally vital before anything exists that might need to be “covered”.

Beyond the need to pray for the designing, creating, establishing and concluding of our personal and corporate ministries, prayer needs to be part and parcel of our routine efforts in the ongoing continuance of those ministries. In other words, there should be no separation, no compartmentalization between our prayers and our actions. We need to fully integrate our doing with our praying.

In this busy and often hectic age we are less prone to consider walking as an option for traveling to our various destinations than driving in a car or flying in an airplane. But the Bible was written before such conveyances were used. Walking was the most commonly relatable mode of transportation in those times. When 1 John 1:7 speaks of walking in the light, it refers to the ongoing fellowship we have with him as we abide in Christ, step by step as we move toward each goal and destination.

That sense of remaining in him as we move through each day means essentially the same thing as 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without without ceasing”. This is perhaps difficult for some to understand because we tend to see prayer as stopping whatever we are doing in order to set the time aside to just pray, as opposed to incorporating prayer into whatever it is that we are doing.

We look at the model of Jesus, who often would go off by himself to pray, and we are tempted to think that’s the only way. While Jesus did teach against praying like the hypocrites but to pray “in secret” (Matthew 6:5-6), he also taught us to pray together. The “Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13) begins with Our Father, refers to our daily bread, our debts, our debtors, lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil. It is clearly intended as a corporate (not private) prayer.

This makes sense because in our walk with the Lord, he holds us accountable not only as individuals but also as his church (e.g. Revelation 2 and 3).

As we learn to begin, continue and finish all of our activities in prayer we come to be more open to the full spectrum of prayer. Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think of prayer is that it’s asking God for something, or telling him what we want. We do that not only for ourselves but we intercede for others whose needs we are aware of. When believers make specific requests of God, whether for themselves or for others, by themselves or joining with others, that’s called petitioning.

Yet there are many other ways to talk to the Lord as we walk in his light. Prayer can be simple fellowship with God – being aware of his presence and being open and receptive to him. As conversation with God, prayer can also be hearing him – if not his voice then perhaps the revelation of an insight or a particular verse of Scripture. Prayer can be worship in the form of praise, confession, glorification, adoration, dedication, thanksgiving, blessing and more. Prayer can be accompanied by the uplifting and infilling experiences of joy, hope, peace, love and reassurances without number that God gives us through our faith relationship with him.

Prayer – both private and corporate – can be a much broader and deeper part of the Christian experience than the obligatory ritual or religious habit that some apparently think it is. If we consider prayer as part of our ongoing step-by-step walk with the Lord, then just starting with prayer or just ending with prayer isn’t enough. Especially as a body, we can’t begin to have a relationship with God without communicating. The better we communicate, the more meaningful that relationship is. We need to begin, continue and finish everything we do in prayer.

Posted in Christian Faith, Prayer, The Church | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

“Crucify Him!”

That’s what the mob said of our sinless Savior, while at the same time demanding freedom for the known murderer and insurrectionist, Barabbas.  See Luke 23:18-25.  Today we are seeing a variation of that mob mentality, which I find ugly and repugnant.

Something that’s getting spun, slanted and twisted in the media about the recent violent events in Charlottesville, Virginia really bothers me. I keep hearing about the scourge of white supremacists, something no reasonable person could find an acceptable political rationale. There is no end to the mantra, “They are bad, bad bad!”  Yet the claim these extremist groups make to represent the political right is utter nonsense. And what I find even more irrational is that the press on the left seems intent on characterizing the entire political right as the same as these racist thugs.

Conservatism is not an expression of hatred, racism, bigotry or the devaluation of any human being. And yet the politically correct opinion is that everyone who does not go along with the progressive agenda — particularly conservatives, Republicans, whites, Christians or anyone who supports President Trump — is no better than and no different from racists who would violently oppress those they hate.

Much of the media blames what happened in Charlottesville on Trump and his supporters — “white nationalists, who were thrilled to hear Trump mock the Black Lives Matter movement on the campaign trail and declare that ‘all lives matter’.” I got that quote from MSNBC. So, if you believe in nationalism and happen to be white, you are no different from those hate-driven terrorists. And I find it very revealing that to say all lives matter is construed to be racist. The Black Lives Matter movement has made it abundantly clear that white lives don’t really matter to them. But somehow they consider themselves absolved from any accusation of racism.

I confess I have purposely tried not to pay much attention to the Charlottesville violence. It’s deeply troubling to me. It takes two to tango. The white supremacists weren’t alone. They were met with extreme opposition. What I have heard is that what initiated the problem was the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. The decision was made to take the historical statue down because it was deemed racist and offensive to black Americans.

I believe history shows that Robert E. Lee was an honorable and noble man, not a racist. Though he had led the Confederacy as an enemy of the United States, upon his surrender he, along with his troops, was treated with respect. Just two months before the close of the Civil War, President Lincoln concluded his second inaugural address by saying, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

It was in this spirit of binding up the nation’s wounds that our nation drew a line and tried to move forward, beyond the tragedy of that great conflict. The slaves were free and the Republican government (those on the right) made good faith efforts to see that former slaves were given equal treatment under the law. But it was Democrats (those on the left) who reversed Republican decisions and sought to keep African Americans oppressed. Read Black Yellow Dogs by Ben Kinchlow, Morgan James Publishing, LLC 2008.

Our civil war ended 152 years ago, yet extremists of every ilk are still trying to fan the flames of hatred. At this point, rational people need to get their ducks in a row, unless we want to repeat history. First of all, who started the violence? Was it those racist white supremacists? I heard that they had originally planned a peaceful demonstration against taking the statue down. Would they have turned violent had they not been confronted by equally enraged counterdemonstrators? As much as we love to hate them, even racists have the right to protest the removal of the statue of an important historical figure. But because they are racists, many tend to feel justified in not allowing them freedom of expression, and using force to shut them up.

Another one of those ducks is the name game. While white supremacists may call themselves the “alt right”, it is a poor and inaccurate political description, intentionally designed to give those extremists a sense of association with respectable conservatism. Unfortunately, that perception is turned around, and instead of making them look good, it makes all conservatives (those on the right) look bad. The fact is, as much as the left tries to paint the right as a bunch of bigoted, racist haters, it simply is not true. It’s an intentional lie. And the lie comes from the left’s own hatred.

What a word picture they paint: Nazis! Fascists! Heartless extremists on the right with less concern for people of color than they would for animals! And it doesn’t take too much imagination to see that what they mean is ALL white people on the right are fascists, which is itself nothing less than the most extreme form of racism and bigotry.

It is a fact that fascism is a political movement of the left, not of the right. Nazis were socialists, not conservatives. The real fascist movement in our nation today is from the left. On college campuses they only want to allow the free expression of politically correct ideas. They seek to stifle conservative speech everywhere.

And while it goes without question that white supremacists are entangled by their own hatreds, they represent a infinitesimally small part of what drives the American psyche. Far more troublesome to me is the fascist insistence coming from the left that says if you hold an opinion contrary to what they deem proper for the “greater good” that you must be shut up. That is not freedom. That is tyranny.

The final duck, looking for its spot in the row, is the question of Christians. Not just how Christians should respond to these kinds of violent confrontations, but even more telling, is how does society see the attitudes and values of Christians? What does society think Christians think about this issue? It is distressing to consider because extremists such as the KKK can claim to be Christians but that doesn’t make it so. Anyone can say they are a Christian. And yet we keep hearing Christianity misrepresented as a form of bigotry and hatred. The sad result is that statements made in ignorance generate hatred in audiences who believe and react to those lies.

So then Christians feel they must be defensive and post quotes such as Albert Mohler’s “Racial superiority in any form is a heresy.” Of course that is absolutely true, and obviously so. But must we as Christians feel obligated to make such affirmations in order to prove we have no association with skin heads, nazis, white supremacists or the KKK? My faith and my politics didn’t do anything wrong!

Nothing about what happened in Charlottesville was related to the Christian faith or to conservative politics. It was a criminal product of racism — on both sides. Those on the left are not without blame. Their fascist intolerance for the freedom of expression of all citizens set the stage for violent confrontation. Freedom of speech means nothing unless those whose views are in opposition to the majority — even hateful — are given equal protection to express themselves.

Posted in American History, Christian Terrorism, News Media, political correctness, Racism, Trump, Violence | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Fake News!

Fake news is just a euphemism for lies.  And I have no tolerance for the lies of ignoramuses about what the Bible supposedly says.

Glancing at news headlines featured by Bing I noticed a story being run by several news sources — the New York Times, MSM and Daily Mail to name a few. They all were running a story on a recent DNA analysis of human remains in Sidon, Lebanon, which they contend proves the Canaanites were not wiped out, but that 90% of modern Lebanese DNA was of Canaanite origin.

This is all very interesting, but what caught my attention was the claim that this scientific discovery somehow disproves the Biblical record. This headline was typical:

“The Bible got it wrong: Ancient Canaanites survived and their DNA lives in modern-day Lebanese”

You can read the article at https://www.pulseheadlines.com/bible-wrong-ancient-canaanites-survived-dna-lives-modernday-lebanese/65495/

But the fact is that the Bible got nothing wrong. The Bible does not say the Israelites wiped out the Canaanites. But it seems as if the press goes ahead and writes lies about the Bible, assuming no one has ever read it who might correct them or let them know what the Bible really does say.

The LORD told the Israelites that he would DRIVE OUT (not obliterate) several peoples from the land he promised to give to them. Those peoples are named in Deuteronomy 7:1 as Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. The land is described in Deuteronomy 1:7 as, “…the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negev and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river Euphrates.” Genesis 10:19 describes the territory of the Canaanites as extending “from Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.”

One article described Canaan as being part of the Biblical land called the Levant.  This is a gross distortion.  While the Levant indeed refers to the geological area in which Canaan is located, it is not a Biblical term or a Biblical concept.  The Levant is the Arab name, not a Biblical name.  In the minds of Arabs the Levant is Arab land to which Jews have no claim.  On the other hand, the Bible records that God gave the Promised Land to the Jews, not the Arabs.

While the LORD commanded Israel to “devote them to complete destruction” [all who remained] (Deuteronomy 20:17), the Bible records that Israel failed to do so. Long after Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land, they still continued to do battle with those they had not completely destroyed. For instance, Joshua 17:12 records, “Yet the people of Manasseh could not take possession of those cities, but the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land.”

This recent scientific discovery is very interesting, but it doesn’t disprove anything in the Bible.  “The Bible Got It Wrong” is not true.  Fake News!

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In The Navy

Last month the U.S.S. Fitzgerald, a modern, state-of-the-art destroyer, was involved in a collision at sea with a cargo ship. The Fitzgerald suffered tens of millions of dollars worth of damage and seven sailors died. The U.S. Navy, U.S. Coastguard and Japan are currently investigating the incident.

I’m waiting to see what facts those investigations uncover. In the meanwhile, I am left with a sinking feeling that our military command isn’t what it used to be, and whereas naval training used to be focused on drilling discipline and vigilance into our sailors, now it rests almost entirely on a mythological belief in the power of high-tech equipment to perform the duties human beings have always performed before.

All that expensive equipment is signed for by the commanding officer, who is responsible for the care and maintenance of the ship. It’s government property, and the commanding officer is legally responsible for it. That’s why protocols are established, training is required and regular exercises are (or used to be) conducted, to make sure every crew member knows exactly what they are to do, exactly how to do it, and through practice, become proficient at their duties.

In the days of wooden ships, a lookout was stationed in the crow’s nest to keep watch. If he saw another ship he had to scream the information to those on deck. In today’s era of sophisticated, computerized electronics, whoever is “on watch” (not in a crow’s nest but in a communications control room, monitoring multiple screens, dials and other data readout devices) should be trained to read and understand the information being monitored by their hi-tech equipment.

Their job is basically the same as the old-time look out: they see indications of an approaching ship, as picked up by their radar, and they report it to the officer in charge. He doesn’t have to yell. He just calls them up, waking them up if necessary. Yet, obviously, that did not happen.

There are only three possibilities: 1) equipment failure; 2) no one was monitoring the equipment; or 3) there was a failure in communication. All of these scenarios come under the responsibility of command. If the radar or other equipment was not functioning, it was the commanding officer’s responsibility to take some form of remedial action, such as …posting lookouts on deck. If no one was manning the communications, that failure ultimately falls to the captain. Breakdowns in communication come in many forms. It is still the captain’s responsibility to make the chain of command work, and train his crew to deal with human error contingencies.

I do not think there is any excuse for the Fitzgerald’s mid-sea collision. As I said at the top, I’m waiting to see what the investigations reveal. Bottom line, the Navy cannot effectively conduct any mission with this level of ineptitude. Seven lives were needlessly lost. A valuable war ship was almost lost. It never should have happened. Someone was “asleep at the wheel” and that someone should pay the consequences. It troubles me that I have not heard this same level of concern from the Navy or Pentagon.

Frankly, it seems to me our Military has lost its pride, purpose and prestige. Flunkies are in authority, and they care more about forcing gender preference policies and keeping Christian chaplains from praying in the name of Jesus than actually training our sailors for military preparedness. If the crew of the U.S.S. Fitzgerald had been trained with the tough values of the WWII era, this tragedy would never have happened.

[UPDATE]:

I read today (August 23) the Navy announced that the commander of the 7th Fleet, Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, was dismissed “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command” due to a string of accidents at sea this year involving serious damage to vessels and the tragic loss of lives. Included in this “string” of accidents was the collision of the U.S.S. Fitzgerald.

Admiral John Richardson, the chief of U.S. Naval operations, was quoted as saying, “I’ve directed a more comprehensive review to ensure we get at the contributing factors… the root causes of these incidents.” The captain of the U.S.S. Fitzgerald, Commander Bryce Benson, was relieved of duties and other members of the crew have been punished, indicating that mistakes were made which led to their collision.

The investigations being conducted aim to find the causes of these accidents, including any possible dereliction of duty, lack of training or improper certification. This is exactly the level of concern I expected when I originally wrote the article, and the dismissals of Vice Admiral Aucoin and Commander Benson justify my original assertion that the Fitzgerald’s collision at sea indicated a problem at the command level.

[UPDATE] 9/18/17  I believe the level of concern that originally led me to write this article is being vindicated.  According to this article: http://www.latimes.com/politics/washington/la-na-essential-washington-updates-u-s-navy-officers-fired-amid-rash-of-1505772171-htmlstory.html, ‘The Navy has “a tradition of holding officers accountable’.  It appears they are now doing just that.

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Hot Dogging In Hamburg

Today (July 6, 2017) in the news, we are hearing a lot about the angry and violent protests aimed at the G20 economic summit in Hamburg, Germany. What are these protesters protesting? Contrary to the fact that this question is of international significance, I find very little discussion of it in the media.

One news commentator said they are protesting globalism. Perhaps it is easy to jump to this conclusion, since the G20 involves major world economies and international banking, whose purpose is to promote international financial stability. That is definitely a global issue. However, if that is what motivates these protesters, then why don’t we see similar protests at the United Nations?

Simple anti-globalism does not have the ring of truth for the reason behind these protesters. In fact, one group of “Zombies” were up front about specifically opposing capitalism, not globalism. http://www.ibtimes.com/why-are-there-zombies-g20-meet-welcome-hell-protesters-2562028

Another commentator has said these protesters are against both globalism and capitalism. But while I find hatred of capitalism very believable on the part of these protesters, they only oppose globalism that embraces capitalism. I do not see the same opposition to globalism that embraces socialism.

Evidence of this is the fact is that the city of Hamburg is extremely global-friendly. Coinciding with the G20 summit, Hamburg is also hosting the Global Citizen Festival, anticipating an attendance of 11,000 “Global Citizens”. A glance at the “luminaries” at this globalist festival will give you a hint as to whether they have a capitalist or socialist bias. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/these-are-the-leaders-luminaries-attending-global/

The truth-deficient media will likely make it difficult to get much information about what’s really happening at either the G20 summit or the Global Citizen Festival. But if I were a betting man, I would venture to say there will be no protests of the latter. In brief, the politically correct overview here is, to paraphrase the Frankenstein monster, “Capitalism bad! Globalism good!” Ergo, socialist globalism is the politically correct ideal for all nations to pursue.

What strikes me as sad about this globalist fantasy is that the poor suckers who think of themselves as citizens of the world have taken what amounts to a step of faith, way beyond the bounds of reality. A one world government would mean there are no longer any citizens, only subjects – subjects without recourse to the dictatorship of unelected, global bureaucracies.

Most nations do not have governments that are truly representational. How can anyone in their right mind imagine that if all the countries in the world got together, they would somehow design a “free” or democratic global government that recognized our inalienable, God-given rights? It simply never can happen.

In order for global government to exist, national sovereignty cannot exist. The only sovereignty possible would be in an individual leader or controlling council. If you think national politics is messy now, imagine a world-wide electorate of multiple billions of people trying to agree on their leaders. Even the idea of “regional autonomy” is anathema to globalism.

Whether you are talking about government or economics, both have always and will always go hand-in-hand. In the end, globalism only helps the captains of international industry and those in governments who partner with them. There will never be such a thing as a global citizen. Having said that, what do these protests in Hamburg mean?

In my opinion, the protests represent opposition to diplomacy, opposition to America, opposition to nationalism, and opposition to the definition of international economic and political issues in terms of agreements between sovereign nations. They want a pan-socialist world. I don’t.

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Islam And Freedom Of Religion

What is freedom of religion? Because of the Left’s new Nazi movement I doubt if many people even know any more. There is a rabid, mad dog attitude in the country today that seeks to demonize and shut up anyone who doesn’t say or believe the approved dogma of the Left.

For an hour and a half of brilliant commentary on the importance of free (and diverse) speech, watch Dinesh D’Souza speak at Brandeis University.

Everything from “Dump Trump” vitriol, to fake news, to forcing acceptance of same sex marriage and transgenderism, to insisting that climate change is man-made, to the socialist ideal of the nanny state, to providing “safe” places where students can go to avoid the anxiety of hearing someone say something they don’t agree with, to the shouting down of conservative speakers at places of higher learning (being made even higher through the legalization of pot) – everything points to our society’s growing intolerance of diversity in thought and belief.

The leftist mantra of “diversity” is non-inclusive of traditional views. In my home State of California the assembly is considering several pieces of legislation that infringe on freedom of religion. One thing they want to do is outlaw codes of conduct at Christian schools based on religious values that go counter to contemporary secular values. The Left wants government control of religion.

But the premise of freedom of religion is to protect and preserve the mutual tolerance of different faiths (pluralism), so that within the context of an open society everyone can peacefully coexist, regardless of their religious opinions and practices. Freedom is the antithesis of government control, and having the freedom to believe as one chooses also includes the option of not ascribing to any formal religious beliefs at all. Freedom of religion means government does not force you to conform.

Freedom of religion arises from our innate human desire to be free because God creates us to be free. That freedom is threatened when laws and institutions coerce us against our will. That is why this principle of human freedom is enshrined in the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof“. In other words, freedom of religion means the government will neither coerce nor restrict its citizens in how they choose to live and pursue happiness, according to their faith.

For this very reason President Thomas Jefferson wrote the Danbury Baptist association, that this constitutional principle builds “a wall of separation between Church & State”. Twisting the essential meaning of this phrase, there exists today strong political forces who interpret it to mean that religious beliefs should have no part in the governing of our nation.

But that is the opposite of what Jefferson wrote in his letter to the Danbury Baptists. He referred to the “free exercise” of religion, as among “the rights of conscience” based on his assertion that, “religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions”.

In a broader sense, this concept reflects the Biblical view of freewill. Until the mid-15th century Bibles were rare and valuable because they had to be hand-copied, one by one. Add to this a high degree of illiteracy, most Christians were dependent upon their leaders to tell them what Scripture taught. But the development of the printing press and translations from the Latin into the languages of believers set the stage for the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.

When Martin Luther posted his 95 theses challenging doctrines of the Catholic church, he was exercising both freedom of religion and freedom of speech. While this opened a debate that led to the Reformation, the personal consequence he suffered for his honest questioning of church authority was that he was excommunicated. Very basically, the Catholic church rationale was, “If you can’t accept how we do things then you can’t belong to our church”.

The practice of excommunication has a New Testament basis. Regarding a morally unregenerate man, 1 Corinthians 5:2 says, “Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” And 5:5 says, “…deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” The Bible does not teach us to destroy another’s flesh. This is not a veiled command to execute this person, but to turn him over to Satan by removing him from the protection of fellowship in Christ.

Excommunication is the extreme form of non-violent banishment or “shunning”. In some cases, a church will practice a kind of disfellowship which is temporary and intended to be restorative. For those who have been hurtful, 2 Corinthians 6-8 prescribes: “For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.” And for those corrected for their sin, Galatians 6:1 instructs, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

But had Luther been a Muslim and had his 95 theses been about how Islamic leaders were misrepresenting the Quran and Hadith and abusing the integrity of Islam, he would not have simply been excommunicated. He would have been put to death for the crime of blasphemy. There are two reasons for this. First of all, Islam’s holy books – the Quran, Hadith and Sira – teach Muslims to kill blasphemers.

Secondly, where Western Civilization teaches us to seek truth by examining evidence and arriving at consensus through open debate, Eastern thought is more focused on respect and submission to authority. The act of questioning authority is seen as disrespectful and rebellious. And in Islam, challenging authority is considered blasphemy.

In the West, we cherish our Western Civilization values of inquiry and open debate of our beliefs. This is the basis for all political freedoms, including freedom of belief, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of expression, etc. In stark contrast, Eastern authoritarian values do not engender freedom of religion or plurality at all, but a homogeneous submission to authority.

In his book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi writes, “People from Eastern Islamic cultures generally assess truth through lines of authority, not individual reasoning. Of course, individuals do engage in critical reasoning in the East, but on average, it is relatively less valued and less prevalent than in the West. Leaders have done the critical reasoning, and leaders know best.” (p. 79, chapter 12, “Muslims in the West”).

Because of its general cultural values and specific religious directives, Islam is by definition incompatible with the principle of freedom of religion. One of the core teachings of Islam is Jihad, which is literally fighting against all other religions in order to spread Islam. Some sects of Islam argue that Jihad does not mean violent fighting, but their arguments are silenced by the most credible Islamic scholars. Make no mistake about this. Jihad is violent and it targets anyone who is not a Muslim.

This fact alone should be sufficient to disqualify Islam from enjoying freedom of religion in any free and open society. To grant Islam freedom is to put all other religions in jeopardy, because it is the goal of Muslims to force everyone to convert to Islam.

This goal is diametrically opposed to the Christian idea of “witnessing”. To Christians, proselytizing means sharing your faith with others and respecting the free will they have to make their own decisions. But in Islam, proselytizing is more often a matter of coercion, intimidation and the use of force, which should disqualify them from enjoying the benefits of religious freedom.

This begs the question: How can our society grant freedom of religion to a religion whose very goal is to oversee the dismantling of all other religions? To welcome Islam into the community of faith under the banner of freedom of religion is to invite a murderer into a sewing circle. It makes as much sense as transplanting a cancerous growth into a healthy body.

Verses in the Quran that teach violence (over 100 of them) are in stark contrast to violence in the Bible. Biblical violence is specific to particular peoples and places at specific times in history. Quranic violence is directed to non-believers in general and are universally applicable to all peoples, places and times. The Bible does not direct believers to proselytize by the use of violence. The holy books of Islam do.

For this reason, unless a Muslim or Islamic sect is willing to disavow those portions in the Quran, Hadith and Sira that instruct believers to fight non-Muslims, they should not be allowed to legally practice their religion in America. Because of the threat they pose to all other religions, Muslims should only be allowed to practice their religion if they are willing to foreswear those portions of their holy books that urge violence against non-Muslims.

While it is true that there are many “moderate”, peaceful Muslims who believe Allah is loving and that Muhammed was a paragon of virtue, such religious convictions come in spite of the actual teachings found in the Quran and Hadith. The idea that Islam is “the religion of peace” comes from ignorance of what the holy books of Islam actually teach, and a fantasy understanding of Muhammad that lacks historical foundation. If those “moderate” Muslims were to research into what their own scholars have to say about the life and teachings of Muhammed, they would be shocked to discover that he was nothing like the prophet of God as they have been taught.

Such was the experience of Nabeel Qureshi. Because he firmly believed, as he had been taught, that Islam was true and Christianity was not, he eagerly debated Christians with the goal of convincing them of the truth of Islam. He approached his dialogues with non-Muslims with the same level of scholarship and intellectual integrity he needed to use in his pre-med studies in college. Because he was motivated to win converts to Islam he not only dug deep to learn the best arguments Islamic scholars have made, but he sought to research the weaknesses of all the Christian arguments. As a result, he began to learn what the Bible really teaches and eventually he came to understand the truth.

I have read two of Qureshi’s books: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and No God But One. The first tells his personal faith story. The second is a masterful apologetic comparison of Christianity and Islam. Both books contain a wealth of insight into the religion of Islam. I highly recommend them to anyone who is honest about wanting to know the truth.

Nabeel Qureshi’s spiritual journey was only possible because freedom of religion allowed him to be authentic about his faith, seek answers to his questions, and openly discuss them without fear of being accused of blasphemy. Whether or not people are willing to respect the fact that he left Islam is a litmus test for religious freedom.

Quran 4:89 says, “They wish that you should reject faith as they reject faith, and then you would be equal; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them, until they emigrate in the way of God; then, if they turn their backs, take them, and slay them wherever you find them; take not to yourselves any one of them as friend or helper.”

This is just one example of many, directing Muslims how to treat apostates. As pointed out above, if a Christian converts to Islam, other Christians may feel sad, disappointed or even angry, but they aren’t going to kill him. On the other hand, Muslims killing ex-Muslims because they have abandoned Islam is commonplace.

The idea of welcoming Islam into our open society on the assumption they will simply join in and become a contributing part of the religious community is totally irrational. It expects that all Muslims will choose to remain ignorant of what Muhammad was really like, continuing to ignore teachings from their holy books. And that is suicidal because we continually are seeing all over the world the terrorism being conducted by Muslims who actually believe what their holy books teach.

Freedom of religion for Islam is a non-sequitur. Anyone whose religion approves of killing another person because they refuse to believe their way does not deserve to enjoy the free exercise of that religion.

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