The future is here and it is pre-modern

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We often hear conservatives (both the political and religious kinds) lament the decline of civilization caused by the abandonment of Judeo-Christian “values.” Every year we witness battles in the culture war over Christmas songs in malls, monuments to the 10 commandments, or students praying at football games. These controversies seem to indicate a growing hostility towards Christianity, if not religion in general. I’d suggest, though, that we have moved well beyond the post-Christian and into the post-secular.

New Age may have ended as a phenomenon of the 1960s and 70s but it ushered in an alternative spirituality that has continued to gain momentum. Yoga, mantras, meditation, and various pantheistic beliefs and practices have become mainstream ideas, accepted without question. The increasing number of Americans who identify as spiritual but not religious is a testament to its success. People have rejected Christianity (the goal of New Age) while avoiding the skepticism of a secular worldview that is hostile to any belief in the supernatural.

Next came the Age of Interfaith Religion with its central belief that there is one truth, which speaks in many tongues. Oprah is probably the most well-known advocate of this view and you can watch an interesting video of her on YouTube arguing with an audience member about whether there is only one way to heaven. This worldview compels us reinterpret our beliefs in light of other religions. No less than the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church has said that we must no longer consider sin an operative notion in the modern life. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni says that Christians need to get over their antiquated hang-ups about homosexuality:

The drama in Indiana last week and the larger debate over so-called religious freedom laws in other states portray homosexuality and devout Christianity as forces in fierce collision. They’re not — at least not in several prominent denominations, which have come to a new understanding of what the Bible does and doesn’t decree, of what people can and cannot divine in regard to God’s will.

See the problem emerging for Christians? We face increasing pressure to change our beliefs to accommodate the prevailing moral beliefs of the culture. For them, it’s not enough to win the debate. They must bring everyone into submission. As the Apostle Paul wrote:

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened…

Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Romans 1:21,25

Add to this mix a growing unfamiliarity with the Bible and Christianity and my belief is that we are heading into a time not that different from ancient Rome or other pre-Christian societies. I think that the early church will serve as a model of how to engage a culture that views Christianity with belligerent hostility and fear.

It’s a future that inspires concern but one that should drive us to look to the cross as the symbol of the ultimate victory we have in Jesus.

 

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Is Sarah Palin A Christmas Tree Idolator?

This post isn’t about Sara Palin, it’s about biblical illiteracy. Joy Reid is filling in for Ed Schultz the day after Christmas and is calling Palin out for hypocrisy regarding Christmas trees. She (mistakenly) reads Jeremiah 10:10 and draws the conclusion that Christmas trees are unbiblical.

For one thing, that wasn’t Jeremiah 10:10, but 10:3-5. It seems as if she delegates the research to someone else. If you’re going to make a tongue-in-cheek attack on someone you should probably pay attention to detail so you don’t look dumb.

The main problem, though, is that her interpretation is flawed. God is encouraging His people not to be afraid of their idolatrous enemies. The false gods cannot do anything to them because they are not real and have no power.

There are Christians who object to the whole practice involving Christmas trees because of their pagan connections but it is impossible to connect the practice with the idol worship described in Jeremiah 10. The idolators in the text cut down the trees to get the wood which they would fashion into all kinds of idols and decorate it with gold, silver, etc. The Christmas tree is a symbol because it is green even in the winter. That’s the way God created it so Christians should have no problem using it to express biblical truths simply because pagans pour their own meaning into it.

My impression is that she is cherry-picking verses in order to criticize Palin. Whatever the reason, she is reading something foreign into the text, which is called eisegesis. We want to draw the meaning out of the text (exegesis) in order to understand what we are reading. We certainly don’t want to use the text as a pretext to advance an agenda or preserve our prejudices.

Those who abuse the scriptures, in my belief, will face an especially harsh judgment. It is a very severe responsibility to handle the word of God that brings with it accountability. We want to make sure that we have all the tools we need to use it effectively. As Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3 the proper understanding of the word will help us fulfill our ultimate purpose in life.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

Obamacare And Biblical Justice

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 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.

And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.

1 Samuel 8:14,15

God had a vision for Israel in which He would be their king and they would be His people. They would be the one people chosen to be set apart from among the nations. Unfortunately, Israel wanted to be like all the other nations because that was more desirable to them than what the Lord had in mind.

The people would find out that the king they so desired would become a huge burden and source of oppression. He would be a parasite that fed off of the best of everything they had while they would be left with the scraps. This story is familiar throughout the world and throughout history. Men take advantage of each other and manipulate others for their own gain.

I write this as a long setup to what I observe about Obamacare and the different ways that Congress and the people are treated. America’s Founders advocated ratification of the Constitution because they believed that the laws would equally apply to Congress. Sadly, there are many regulations now which do not apply to Congress at all. This undermines the whole idea of the rule of law and creates a class system, one which America is notable for not having.

It is a class system in which the connected have the best of our “vineyards” and our “oliveyards” and distribute them to their “servants.” Members of Congress and their staffs get a public subsidy for their health plans that can range from $5,000-$11,000 a year. The passage of the Affordable Care Act didn’t exempt Congress and so the White House made sure that one was carved out for them.

This means that Congress will have access to high-quality, expensive healthcare even if you do not. They will not have to pay the higher premiums that many Americans are facing. Since they have the clout to put pressure on the White House they can get special privileges. But what if the rest of us do not have such lobbying power? It is a double-standard in which there are two laws, one for the rulers and one for the people. This is plain and simple biblical injustice.

Blessed be the Lord thy God, which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the Lord loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice.

1 Kings 10:9

God has instituted civil government for the purpose of doing justice for the people. When men think about their own interests and ignore thinking about what is good for the nation as a whole then evil will reign. As followers of Christ and readers of the Word of God we should always apply biblical principles to our world and call it like we see it.

 

Public Virtue Is Still Relevant In America

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This will probably seem outdated since it has been a week since the special election for the First Congressional District in South Carolina and in the current media age that is an eternity. However, I haven’t heard anyone make the argument that I’m going to make so that should make up for my tardiness.

The problem, from the social conservative’s perspective, is that Governor Mark Sanford never should have run for office in the first place. He cheated on his wife only a couple of years ago and he apparently figured that now is the right time to get back into public life. That, to me, sounds like a man who believes he’s entitled to an office. The problem isn’t that social conservatives are holding him to an impossible standard. It’s not like we’re talking about him smoking a joint when he was in college. We’re saying that if you do something as egregious as destroy your marriage you should probably not worry about running again for a long time. I highly doubt that in two years time he has even begun to repair any of the damage he’s done to his family and all the while he was thinking about when he can get out of the dog house and get into politics.

I think this also vindicates social conservatives by showing how character flaws cannot be compartmentalized and kept in the dark. It comes out. It will come out, and affect the public. Our founders knew that the people had to have the republican virtues necessary to protect their liberty and enjoy prosperity. It also matters that our elected representatives are people of virtue and character. The governor lost his job because of his adulterous relationship and the poor judgment it engendered. He was out of the country and his staff didn’t even know because he lied to keep his uncontrollable passions a secret. What if some emergency, like the one in West, TX, happened while the governor was out of the country? This is why Petraeus also lost his job, not simply because of the affair but the security risk that his bad decisions created. When you put yourself in that position you become a target. It is crucial that our elected officials remain above reproach.

Then there are the political problems. Can anyone be sure that when Sanford goes to Washington that he won’t get involved in another scandal that will cost him his seat? What does it say about the GOP that it cannot find one viable candidate to run who hasn’t cheated on his wife? I think that’s the difference between how social conservatives look at these issues compared to everyone else. I find it hard to believe that good leaders are in such short supply that the only people left to pick from are at the bottom of the barrel. What will Sanford say when there is a political debate about marriage and families? It’s no wonder the GOP can’t make the moral arguments for our views.

My short but growing experience with campaigns leads me to believe that candidate recruitment is such an important process that it can change the course of a party and the political landscape. If you want the good fruit you gotta pick it off the tree yourself. The candidates I’ve met and the stories I’ve heard about them are what depress me about the political process and I’m sure it’s what causes people to disengage. I think that with better candidates come more energy and involvement and eventually progress. Instead of going along with the conventional wisdom on successful candidates and campaigns let us do the hard work of throwing out the rule book and change the status quo.