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Saturday, November 28, 2020

News Weakly - 11/28/20

It's Not a Conspiracy
For months some have been saying, "You watch. If Biden gets elected, the Covid vaccine will be ready almost immediately." Well, of course, we normal folks all said, "Are you paying attention? Fauci says April of 2021 maybe." Of course, NPR is reporting that Americans could see a vaccine by mid-December. It's not a conspiracy! It's not a conspiracy! Let's keep telling ourselves that.

Another Trump Death
The politicians and the media assured us that the 200,000+ deaths in the U.S. from Covid were all Trump's fault. Now we have another. A 55-year-old man was pulled from the water in Western Australia after being attacked by a shark. He died from his injuries. Australia has seen the highest fatalities from shark attacks since 1929. Clearly Trump's fault.

No Change
In September, 2019, our national debt was almost $23 trillion. In September, 2020, it was almost $27 trillion. What happened? Well, of course, Covid. Or, more precisely, our national debt increased by $1 trillion from normal debt growth and $3 trillion from Covid relief. Now, Trump hasn't let Congress pull out another $3 trillion for a second investment (although he would have allowed $2 trillion), but the good news is that Biden will back Pelosi on the next multi-trillion-dollar coronavirus relief bill. There was outcry over excessive government debt, so the plan is to double down on it. So, no, expect no change ... in your pockets or your coin jar. It will all be gone because we know where the government will get it from. And, look, with nothing left in your pockets, why not just switch over to socialism? That ought to work better anyway, right?

What Could Go Wrong?
So Seattle has seen the light. They raised the city's minimum wage for the lowest paid workers to $15/hr and cut safety of their citizens by cutting police funding by 18%. What could go wrong? (Considered the higher cost and lower police presence, I would recommend avoiding Seattle for some time ... you know, just to be safe.)

Proof of Climate Change
Take that you anti-climate-change naysayers. Australia is bracing for a major heat wave in November, perhaps getting to 104°F. Proof of climate change. Of course, Australia is in the southern hemisphere which means Australia is beginning their summer, but, still, climates change, see?

Mostly Peaceful
All around the country protesters vandalized or destroyed statues and damaged and vandalized buildings in the name of the Native American LANDBACK campaign to ask peacefully for their land back. Because clearly the best way to get what you want is by being "mostly peaceful" -- or not.

Finally ...
I hope you had a good Thanksgiving.

In an effort to supplant God for the next Thanksgiving, Democrats are hoping to bring you Medicare for all, more masks, more national debt (~ $2 trillion) for climate change, more gun control, and more immigration. So in the next few years we can gather at Thanksgiving to thank the Democrats for our new utopian overlords.

In the meantime, Democrats warn against excessive thankfulness, concerned that it could lead to conservatism. And Oregon's governor emptied the prisons of now-legal drug offenders in order to make room for Thanksgiving gathering violators. Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Not So Amazing

"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound," the song says, and even unbelievers know the song. What's sad, however, is the numbers who haven't a clue about how amazing grace is -- unbelievers and believers.

You see, we often give God's grace lipservice, but then manage to minimize it to near meaninglessness. We agree that we're saved by grace and then sing about how God thought I was worthy of being saved. God's grace is magnificent because we don't deserve His favor, but we'll minimize our sin and maximize our value to God until, frankly, He likely would have been a fool to miss out on saving us. We are not particularly stunned that He saved us and complain that He doesn't save more.

Paul saw it differently (Rom 9:22-24). He understood the human race as "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" and God as a God whose will was to demonstrate His power and wrath. The hammer is ready to fall, and all of justice would demand that it happen. But God, in His amazing grace, withheld that complete judgment and showed mercy to "vessels of mercy" that He prepared. He did it all. Paul's question isn't, "Why wouldn't God save me?" or "Why doesn't God save more?", but "Why does God save one?"

We sing about amazing grace, but we diminish it in our minds. We deserve it. We're not that bad. He is lucky to have us. In fact, any good and wise God would know that. Not so amazing grace at that point. Thus Paul's, "By the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." (Rom 12:3) A right picture of a just God and the true nature of humans will bring into clear focus how utterly amazing God's grace truly is.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving, 2020

It's Thanksgiving Day in the United States -- a day, oddly enough (in a non-Christian nation), set aside to give thanks. It's odd because we deny God on the surface, but no one thinks of "Thanksgiving Day" as a day to give thanks to neighbors or family or whatever other earthly options we have. It's a day to give big thanks ... which is only reasonable if there is a Big Giver.

It's okay, though. Most Americans exult in Thanksgiving not because they seek to thank God, but because they like family and turkey. Oh, and you can drop the "family" part this year because it's outlawed in a lot of places due to the pandemic. So we love turkey. Oh, and a day off. Because, you see, at the core of our being we have an underlying problem -- we don't give thanks (Rom 1:21). Thanks is vital (1 Thess 5:18), but we tend not to be very good at it.

I think that we here in America have a particular problem with it. With our affluence and our sense of entitlement, it's hard to be grateful. It's hard to be grateful when your boss pays you what he (or she) owes you. "What 'grateful'? I had it coming." Unfortunately we've acquired a case of enlarged entitlement and we are owed everything. Like the kid who asks and receives every Christmas, we lose track of the fact that God's many gifts to us are gifts, not payment due. And, of course, we seem completely unable to give thanks for things we don't particularly like because, apparently, God is doing bad things (like allowing the wrong guy to get elected or letting a pandemic mess up our Thanksgiving or ...). "Grateful for that stuff? No way!"

If giving thanks in everything is the will of God for us (1 Thess 5:18), it is my prayer, "Dear Lord, for whatever we are about to receive make us truly grateful. Truly. Amen."

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Reconsider

According to the UN, "The repercussions of the pandemic are causing more harm to children than the disease itself." Lockdowns and school closures are killing more than 10,000 additional children every month. And not just children. another study estimates that tens of thousands of adults are dying by avoiding treatment because of fear of Covid in hospitals. Experts warn that there will be 1.4 million deaths from untreated TB infections alone. Hundreds of millions are dying from starvation because of the reaction to Covid. The UN is saying somewhere around 150 million will die this year from the response to Covid rather than the pandemic itself. Comparing that with the 1.4 million who have died from the pandemic itself, there seems to be a problem in our approach, and it's not merely economic.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

What What You Say Says About You

I had to do that title. It just rolls trippingly off the tongue, right? Well, no, but speaking about the tongue ...

... James 3:1-12 is a section about the tongue. (Nice segue, eh?) And if you take a look, it is a bit disturbing. James says, "We all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body." (James 3:2) Note first, then, that James is not saying, "I've got this. Look at me." He includes himself in "We all stumble in many ways." So the topic: Stumbling in what you say. He goes on to paint word pictures of the smallness of the tongue and the magnitude of its effects. The tongue, he says, is "a world of unrighteousness," "staining the whole body," and is "set on fire by hell." (James 3:6) "No human being can tame the tongue," he says (James 3:8). And the result is irrationality. "With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so." (James 3:9-10)

Jesus said something similar.
"It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person ... What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person." (Matt 15:11, 18)
James suggested that taming the tongue required taming the entire self. Jesus said that what comes out of our mouths reflects what is in our hearts. Same thing. Therefore, what we say can tell us about who we are inside. So Jesus warned, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matt 12:34-37)

As it turns out, then, it's not merely a clever title. What you say says a lot about you. From truth claims to casual conversation ("every careless word"), we are accountable for our words because they reflect our hearts. What do your words say about your heart?

Monday, November 23, 2020

Why I am an Adeist

There are gnostics -- people who know special things -- and agnostics -- people who don't know. There are theists -- people who believe in God -- and there are atheists -- people who believe in no God. Clearly in these things that "a" is important -- it is a negative. So if there are deists -- people who believe there is a God, but He's a "hands-off" God -- and there must be adeists -- people who don't believe in a "hands-off" God.

We Christians can be a funny lot. We can stand boldly for God -- "We're theists; we believe in God" -- and we can be practical atheists at the same time -- "Sure, I believe in God, but at this moment I'm not too concerned about what He thinks." We can be theists at one moment and deists at another. In fact, I have to say it seems like a sizable number of genuine believers are practical deists. They believe, but they approach life as if God is not directly involved.

For years I've heard Christians bemoaning the state of the church. "If things keep up," they'll say, "there may not be a church anymore." Or this Covid thing. Dire predictions from Christians about outcomes. I recently read where there are fears that the new Covid vaccine might alter your psyche. Lots of stuff like this. And in a natural world, very scary. Can you lose your salvation? Maybe. What will happen if Trump loses the election (as he appears to have already done)? Terrible things! Except ... it has to come from a deist perspective. None of these fears take into account a God who is there. All of them assume a hands-off God. Every aspect of life is affected by a God who is there and, in that, peace that surpasses understanding is available.

That's why I'm an adeist. I don't believe that God is hands-off. I don't rely on a God whose hands are tied either by His creation or Himself. I'm a theist and believe that nothing even exists without His present attention. Not an agnostic. I know it. Not an atheist. I'm sure there is a God. Not a deist. I know He's here, involved, working, guiding, protecting. But you go ahead with your fears and concerns. My mother told me not to believe it when they tell you worry doesn't help anything. Look, 99% of what you worry about doesn't happen. See? It works fine.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

My Great Reset

Time magazine dedicated an issue to The Great Reset. Some, including the ever-dependable, thoroughly unbiased New York Times, are calling it a wild and baseless conspiracy theory. Time, apparently, thinks it's a good idea. It comes from the World Economic Forum and, ostensibly, hopes to take over the world -- a one-world government. Say goodbye to capitalism, democracy, private property, freedom. The Covid-19 vaccine will be forced on us all because it will encourage submission. Then we'll all be chipped and tracked and ... well, you get the idea. Canada is on board. New Zealand is working its way toward it. Even MSN is reporting on it.

I have talked to people recently who have seen it, who have worked on it, who are so convinced that they're preparing for it. It really is the end of the world as we know it. Or so it goes.

So I ask myself, "What's a guy to do?" Without digging into "Is this just a crazy conspiracy like one side says or is it actually true like the other claims?", I wonder, because of the magnitude of it, what is expected of me if all of it is true? If such a thing is coming, what then?

Well, there are all sorts of possibilities. I know people planning to hide. I know people planning to fight. I don't think I have either of them in me. And since I'm one of those foolish fellows that intends to take my cues from God's Word, what do I find there? I find things like,
Why should the nations say, "Where, now, is their God?" But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. (Psa 115:2-3)

God "works all things after the counsel of His will." (Eph 1:11)

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)

I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (1 Tim 2:1-2)

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Php 4:6-7)
Different people of God have different callings from God, so maybe some are called to flee and some are called to fight. Maybe I'll be called to flee or fight or something else. But I discard the first response -- abject terror -- and rely on the God who saves. I claim that peace that surpasses all comprehension, whether or not the conspiracy is real, because I serve a living God, and He does as He pleases. That is a great reset in a world terrorized by Covid, politics, wars, and rumors of wars.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

News Weakly - 11/21/20

Like We Didn't Know?
The race was called already, but the results are still coming in. Georgia's Secretary of State is certifying Joe Biden as winner. In the category of "bad loser," Trump continues to lock out Biden from getting any necessary information to move forward. Did you expect anything better from him? And in the "bad winner" category, the media keeps touting this feat. In 2012 Barack Obama got 65,915,795 votes in his successful bid for president. Joe Biden broke that record with more than 70 million. What no one is reporting is that President Trump also broke that record with more than 70 million votes. The last time I checked, it was 79 million to 74 million. But, hey, your guy won, so go ahead and beat this horse to death. It is a record, but it is not a landslide like the media is trying to make it.

Because ... Science
Once again there is a run on toilet paper as COVID numbers rise again. Because, as we all know, the best masks are the ones made out of TP. No, that can't be it. Because TP makes you immune? Nope, that isn't it, either. Because ... Science! Nope, not that, either. Because people are sheep and will pursue whatever the others do with or without reason or evidence. Science remains a puny god. The scientists and the media keep saying, "Facts, not Fear" while they continue to provide us with terrifying claims and terrifying consequences. Their mantra is a false dichotomy and they're really good at being terrorists without admitting it.

Sure, It's Hopeless, But I Feel A Lot Better
The latest model says it's too late. We're past the tipping point. We cannot recover from global climate change anymore without simply removing humans entirely. (Okay, I added that last part.) And, still, Canada plans to be "net-zero emissions" by 2050. Of course, "net-zero" is not zero and simply shifts the cause to another source to make people feel better.

Make Me Laugh
I was just wondering. Is that run on toilet paper because of a fear of COVID or a fear of the next administration? I can't tell.

In the meantime, Democrats are pushing to keep nonessential things like schools closed so that the kids will be dumb enough to swallow socialism.

And was it just me, or did that CDC scientist that announced that we must cancel Thanksgiving look suspiciously like a turkey in a lab coat?

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Retreat

I'm out for the day. I'll be back tomorrow. Enjoy the quiet in my absence.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

What Does That Mean?

"It is entirely possible," my friend was saying, "that a true believer could continue sinning until he (or she) became so hardened that he (or she) could lose their salvation." I asked for Scripture. "Well, there are lots, but the first one that comes to mind is 'When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.' Now, the unsaved are already dead, so that has to be talking about the saved." "Can you tell me how you understand 1 John 3:9 in that light?" I asked.
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. (1 Jn 3:9)
You understand the question. What does that mean? Let's assume for the moment that it doesn't mean what it says at face value (because what it says is that no one who is born of God can keep on sinning -- they lack the ability), what else can it mean that allows for a genuine believer sinning oneself to eternal death? You see, we can't rip out these pages; we have to connect them.

"Not everything that happens in the world is God's will," another friend firmly declared. "God doesn't will bad things to happen." There ensued a brief conversation on the definition of "God's will," which led me to ask, "How does your definition of God's will fit in with Eph 1:11?"
In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will. (Eph 1:11)
You understand the question. What does that mean? Let's assume for the moment that it doesn't mean what it says at face value (because what it says is that God works all things according to the counsel of His will), what else can it mean that allows things to happen outside of God's will? We can't delete some texts to embrace others. We have to find how they correlate, not contradict.

This is a constant effort, an ongoing process. You and I will continually find things in our thinking, our feelings, even our theology that, as it turns out, contradicts something in Scripture. We have options. We can ignore Scripture or we can try to change what Scriptrue actually means to align with us or we can examine God's Word diligently to see how He is always right when we are not. So we are always asking, "What does that mean?"

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Media Propaganda Machine

It's all over the Internet ... again. In October Relevant reported that "61% of Evangelicals plan to vote for Trump." After the election The Guardian reported that 75% of white Evangelicals voted for Trump. And Politico reported that Trump only got 76 to 78% of the white, born-again, Christian vote.

Except ... it's just not true. It's interesting how the media is using this to paint "white Evangelicals" in a negative light rather than a truthful representation of the facts.

In truth, barely 60% of Evangelicals were registered to vote. According to estimates, white Evangelicals make up 25% of the nation. That is, 25% (or so) of Americans identify as Evangelicals. Subtract the non-whites. Subtract the non-voters. What are you left with? Well, if 1 in 4 claim to be Evangelicals and 1 in 3 of them didn't vote, you're quickly losing ground. Put another way, if 75% of those who claim to be Evangelicals and are white constitute only 60% of white Evangelicals, then only 45% of self-identified white Evangelicals voted for Trump this election. Now, subtract the "actual" Evangelicals from the "self-identified" and you're going to end up with a smaller number.

As it turns out, then, the under-story is clear. it's not about how many white Evangelicals voted for Trump. The point of the constant chatter is that whites in general (Why didn't they report the number of minority Evangelicals?) are evil and Evangelicals in particular are particularly evil. They're dangerous. They support the wrong side. They're not your friend. Don't you forget it. We'll have to do something about that someday. Maybe not yet, but ...

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Target Practice

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom 3:23)
In the New Testament there is a word, paraptōma, translated "transgression" or "trespass." Literally, it is a "side slip." But the word we're most familiar with is "sin" -- hamartanō. That one means "to miss the mark." Sin, then, is to "miss the mark." Now, the word could be used for a lot of things. If you were shooting a bow and missed your target, you "sinned" in those terms. The question then becomes, "What mark?"

We understand the mark to be the law -- the rules. We were supposed to do this and we did that or, at least, not this. But "miss the mark" can make that appear fairly minor, like missing your target in a shooting competition. Sure, it's not good, but it's not horrible. This text we all know above answers that critical question, "What mark?" It says, "All have missed the mark." What mark? "The glory of God."

Frankly, that changes things. Now we're not talking about a faux pas, a misstep, a goof. Why? Because the mark we're supposed to hit is "whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Cor 10:31) Jesus's primary success in His sinlessness was doing all for the glory of His Father (John 1:14; 7:18; 17:5, 22). Jesus said that the primary purpose of our good works was that "they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matt 5:16) (Note: if the purpose of good works is to glorify God, you can see immediately why Scripture says, "There is none who does good; no, not one." (Rom 3:12) Doing "good things" to the glory of God is not in the natural human being.)

Thus, the problem. We were made to glorify God. It is our primary purpose. It is what we're supposed to do. It is our first-and-foremost target. And we miss it. We miss our primary purpose. We fail to glorify God ... even when we do good. Suddenly this is much bigger than missing the bullseye in an archery contest. And the fact that many of us don't know that's supposed to be the target we're trying to hit only makes it worse.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Passing the Blame

It's hard to argue that COVID is not a thing. It's not really possible to show that COVID is not causing problems. It takes a conspiracy theory extremist to go there. On the other hand, I am quite certain that there are unintended consequences in this COVID response that are potentially devastating, and the COVID pandemic is masking them.

Not least of these is the unmasking (pun intended) of an underlying theme in America. When restrictions went into place, "nonessentials" were shut down. Included in the nonessentials were social gatherings. We could do without those for awhile. Included in those things that weren't absolutely necessary was human touch. Avoid that at all costs. Included in the things that were nonessential was church. Specifically, church attendance. These kinds of things, however, are not nonessential and I think we're paying a price we didn't anticipate. We are normalizing these kinds of things.

Most disturbing to me, however, was that last item. Christians nodded and said, "Yep, gathering as believers is nonessential, at least for the moment. We'll certainly comply." The reason it disturbs me is that it tells me that Christians don't seem to get "church." If anyone should, it should be Christians because it's our thing. As time has gone by, a relatively few have pushed back, but more have totally succumbed. "You know," they're saying, "this remote church thing is just fine. We can get the music and the preaching and stay comfy at home." And we've missed it entirely. Christians -- not all, but many -- consider the gathering for fellowship as nonessential. "An approximation is just fine."

It is, I believe, this kind of thing that has been largely responsible for bringing America to her moral knees. Oh, no, not directly. That would be Satan's work. But in the past Christians have stood strong. When Christians form a biblical gathering with biblical teaching and biblical fellowship and the underlying, foundational love that Jesus said marks His disciples, there is an impact on those around. As we've receding into the background and given up those strong positions, the limiting forces have been removed in our society. Yes, the forces of evil are to blame and human sin is the problem, but I think we Christians, failing to make disciples and love one another and be a living temple, have contributed by our blind withdrawal. We are not guiltless in the current American moral climate when we can't hold to the beliefs and actions a biblical worldview calls for.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Trust Issues

It's easy in a fallen world to have trust issues. If it is true, as it biblically and demonstrably is, that humans are inclined to evil, then it would be equally true that we might expect that people might hurt us, disappoint us, or worse. So we approach warily. We attach carefully. We hold back cautiously. Trust issues.

It isn't a surprise, then, to see a believing wife reticent to submit to her husband. Put herself in his hands? "Me? Submit to him? He doesn't know enough to come in out of the rain! Just how reliable is he?" It isn't a shock for a Christian husband to hold back the denial of self for his wife called for in Scripture. "Give myself up for her? Who is going to meet my needs?" And on it goes. This can be husband and wife, family, friends ... all the same concept. Trust issues.

So we go through life taking good care of ourselves because we're not sure who we can trust to do that for us. Trust issues. Except, as it turns out, it isn't other people that we aren't trusting. It's God who said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Heb 13:5) It's the God about whom Paul declared, "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content" (Php 4:11) because "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." (Php 4:13) It's the God whom Scripture assures us "works all things according to the counsel of His will." (Eph 1:11) Paul told the Philippians, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Php 4:6) "In everything." Therefore, he could guarantee them, "My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." (Php 4:19) Paul wrote, "We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." (Romn 8:28) If that were true -- if we actually knew that -- how different would our responses and attitudes look?

Our very real trust issues plague us constantly. It is true that humans aren't always trustworthy. Even the best of us will let people down at some point or another. But it isn't people that God asks us to trust; it is Him. We look to others to give us what we need and they fail, but Christ asks us to look to Him. We expect things from our spouses or our family members or our friends and when they don't deliver, we get wary, but God asks us to look to Him. Our very real trust issues are not with them; they're with Him. And He never fails.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

News Weakly - 11/14/2020

God is Wrong
Hebrews 12:5-11 talks about God as a loving Father who chastises His children, so we should, too. If God lived in Scotland, He could be in trouble with the law. They just outlawed corporal punishment in order "to protect the most vulnerable members of society." Oddly, abortion has been legal in Scotland since 1967, so apparently "the most vulnerable members of society" do not rate protection, and God is not to be trusted in Scotland.

President for All
By now, of course, it's old news, but Biden is now our de facto president elect. In his victory speech, he vowed, "I will work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me, as those who did." You understand, of course, that he does not mean the millions of unborn children who will die under his watch. And, of course, neither does he mean the people who agreed with or benefited from Trump's policies that Biden will eliminate on Day 1 via executive mandate -- because "Emporer" works much more efficiently than "President." He said, "The people of this nation have spoken. They delivered us a clear victory — a convincing victory, a victory for the people." So clear that they're still recounting because the margins are so thin. This is not a mandate from the people; it's a whisper. Nor is it a victory for the people, regardless of what this career politician promises. But, oh, that's what we expect from politicians, isn't it? "Are his lips moving? He's lying."

The Blind Leading the Blind
Since at least April the CDC has assured us that masks help protect us from COVID. Mind you, they don't help protect you from getting infected. The message has been, "My mask protects you, and your mask protects me." Now the blind god, Science, has changed his tune. Now they say a mask can give you up to 70% protection from getting infected. Because Science always knows what's best. Puny god.

Something Fishy
It's just odd. For months people have joked, "You know, this whole COVID thing will be over the day after the election." Yeah, yeah. So Biden ran on "Trump has killed 200,000 Americans and I will fix it" followed by this story a mere week after the election: Pfizer says they have a vaccine. And the eternal optimist, Dr. Fauci, now assures us that "The cavalry is coming" and we should have the vaccine widely available by April. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but it seems strange how things "get better" as soon as the Democrats get what they want.

Recount
I am not a conspiracy theory guy. I am not yelling, "Fraud!" "But, there is a video out there where a guy fills out 11 ballots for Biden!" Oh? Really?? Fine. Those won't make a difference. Leave it alone. But I do think that in states like Arizona (Biden: 49.4%; Trump 49.1%) and Pennsylvania (Biden: 49.9%; Trump: 49.0%) and Georgia (Biden: 49.5%; Trump 49.2%) where differences are less than 1% should probably recount their ballots just to be sure of an accurate count. (Georgia is doing so.) You know what? North Carolina (Trump: 50.0%; Biden: 48.7%) might want to do the same, just to show due diligence. Just my opinion. Still, with margins like these, this cannot be viewed as a "mandate."

Dazed and Confused
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has shaken up the news cycle by having "political views" Well, okay, not for having them; for expressing them. He opposed sweeping COVID restrictions and the court's decision to legalize same-sex mirage among other things. Critics complain about his "extreme right bias" because, as we all know, the correct bias is extreme left. And, as we all know, you cannot have a view that, say, same-sex mirage is wrong without it being a "political view." One commentator wrote, "Alito's speech is actually making the best argument for Court reform. There's just no good justification for a system that gives an angry partisan like this a veto on legislation." (Read "People with these views should not be allowed on the court ... or, possibly, anywhere.") Of course, hard-left justices are justified in vetoing legislation based on their beliefs. Just to be clear, no one is without bias. You're confused if you think otherwise.

The Babylon Bee Gets Too Close
After hearing (I kid you not) a Christian associate suggest that a coup might be necessary come January, it appears that the Babylon Bee is trying to get in the way. First they offered, "Uh-Oh: Trump Seen Reading 'Military Coups For Dummies'." On the same day, there was the headline, "New Bible Features Removable Romans 13 For When You Don't Like The President." Ouch! Ok, now back off, Babylon Bee; a little too intrusive. Or not. What next, Bee? "I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings [or presidents] and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way"? Oh, wait, someone else already said that (1 Tim 2:1-2).

Friday, November 13, 2020

Husbands

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (Eph 5:25-30)
It's an interesting command. It's interesting because, while lots of people protest the preceding command ("Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." (Eph 5:22-24), almost no one objects to this one. And yet, neither do most of us obey it.

Notice a key point in this command. The object of attention is clearly not the husband. He's the one being commanded, sure, but he's not the focal point. Nor is it the wife. You might have thought so, but, no. Instead, the focal point of this command is Christ. Love her "as Christ loved." Give yourself up for her as Christ "gave Himself up for her." Wash her with the Word as Christ does. It's about Christ and what He has done and is doing. Look at that. Look intently. Now, go and do that with your wife, husband.

So how did Christ give Himself up for the church? Oh, that's easy. He died. "Go and do thou likewise." It's funny. We can see that, but we don't get it. If He would give it all up (Php 2:5-8), what are we to do? The same. "As Christ loved the church." As far as dying, if necessary, but that would certainly involve anything less. "I don't want to go shopping with you; I wanted to do something with the guys." "I don't like that couch; I'd be more comfortable with this one." "Why do you expect me to let you have your friends come over but I can't do the same?" "Hey, you know that's my favorite ice cream. Don't you think I should get the last scoop?"

The people that complain about the wife's command to submit do so generally with verse 22 in view. We are commanded to be "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Eph 5:22) And I say, "Exactly!" Surely, husbands, you can see how this kind of giving yourself up for her is extreme submission. No, it doesn't look the same as the wife's version, but it is submission just the same. Unfortunately, most of us, at best would say, "Sure, if called upon to die for her, I will. In the meantime, I'll do what's best for me." So it's interesting what it says in the text. "He who loves his wife loves himself." So, then, if we love our wives in this kind of sacrificial way, it is also in our own best interest. But we've managed to completely invert what God had in mind for our priorities -- Christ, then wife, then husband -- to the exact reverse -- me, then her, then Him. Which is clearly not obedience.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Gear Up

Day after day we pick up the fight. The world around us is opposed to Christ, the Gospel, the Father, the Word. And we're supposed to make a defense (1 Peter 3:15). And so we should.

So we gear up and step out. We have our training, our material, our arguments, our Scriptures, our testimony -- all that we need. The only thing is we tend to forget what we're fighting.

"No we don't," you may reasonably respond, "you just said it's the world." Yes, but I'm not sure that's clear enough. We see "the world" and think "those people around us." That's not what Scripture says.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12)
Well, now, that's not exactly what we were thinking. In fact, if we suggest such a thing, we're labeled "conspiracy theorists" or the like. "You're overstating the problem," some might say. Maybe, except we aren't stating the problem; we're repeating the Bible's version of the problem.

We do need to do battle. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, even though it sometimes feels like it. They say all manner of evil against us for Christ's sake. They seek to rescind our freedom of religion. They dismiss our reasoning and make light of our faith. But it's all misdirection. God's Word says our fight is with "the cosmic power over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."

We do need to make a defense, but we need to know against whom we defend. It's the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), the father of lies (John 8:44), the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2). So gear up for spiritual warfare (Eph 6:10-18) and count on God who works in you (Php 2:13). Don't bring just your wits to a spiritual fight.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Veterans Day, 2020

On June 28, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed ending the "Great War" -- World War I. The treaty concluded the war that had ceased in the previous year on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. It was regarded as "the war to end all wars." So in November of 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11th to be Armistice Day that recognized the heroism of those who died serving the country and America's sympathy with peace and justice among nations. It didn't become a legal holiday until 1938, but in 1954 it was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day to include every soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine that served, from World War I through Korea.

Veterans Day is a good idea, but it's always problematic for Americans. When they think of "veterans" they tend to think of those who went into combat. Those are worthy of respect and honor, but they do not make up all that are classified as "veterans." Estimates are that some 15% of those in military service do so in combat. The vast majority of veterans served the mission in supply and logistics. And our first thought is often, "Oh, that's not what we're celebrating." That would be a mistake.

A veteran is defined as "a person who has had experience in a particular field." Of course, on November 11th we're talking about a person who has served in the military, but the concept carries on in the rest of life. Veterans are invaluable. Veterans know the ins and outs, the tricks and the pitfalls. Veterans have what is sometimes referred to as "tribal knowledge," the unwritten set of information gathered over time through experience that makes the task possible. The military, businesses, governments, communities, and even churches need these veterans.

Of course, veterans have fallen into dishonor in our culture. It used to be that experience was the best teacher and veterans, either in military or in life, had some of the most helpful experiences to help us face life. No more. Innovation is the new queen. Out with the old; in with the new. We see it in our entertainment, where kids are portrayed as the wisest beings on the planet. We see it in our production where "cool" is gaining ground over functional. (We recently had our dishwasher repaired after 15 years. The mechanic said, "We can replace the motor or we can replace the dishwasher -- about the same price. However, you won't find a dishwasher today that washes dishes as good as the one you have.")

Scripture takes a different view. Paul says that God comforts us in our affliction so that we can comfort others who experience the same affliction (2 Cor 1:3-6). Tribal knowledge. In the New Testament the primary biblical leadership of any local church is made up of "elders" (e.g., Titus 1:5; 1 Peter 5:1-3) and the word there is actually a reference to people who are older. Paul specifies that an elder can't be "spiritually younger" (1 Tim 3:6). Solomon wrote, "Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life" (Prov 16:31). Paul describes a structure where older women teach younger women (Titus 2:3-5). The aim is not innovation; it is maturity (Eph 4:11-14).

Scripture -- God's Word -- values children, but it also values adults -- especially older adults. Scripture values experience over innovation. Unfortunately we in the church these days are tending toward the world's approach of minimizing the veterans in favor of the youth. We don't much want to see them or hear them. We like them alright. I mean, they're typically contributing more money to the cause than the younger folk, but we're not too concerned about their opinions, views, preferences, feelings, or experiences. They aren't the preferred teachers or pastors. We honor military veterans, but we're not too keen on highly prizing the experience and maturity of our older members. The loss will be maturity and tribal knowledge, that accumulated learning and experience that shortens the same trip for the younger people if they can just learn from them. Refusing to learn from their history, we're just doomed to repeat it. A subtle but effective trick of the devil.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Equity

The other day Craig on his blog talked about equity. Well, now, I've written a few things lately about equity, too, so we're on the same topic, right? And the correct answer is "No." You see, Craig was talking about "the monetary value of a property or business beyond amounts owed on it" and I was talking about "the quality of being fair or impartial." Two absolutely correct but very different definitions. You can see, then, that without being prejudiced, sacrcastic, alarmist, or whatever other extreme you might assume, it is important to understand what we're talking about before we ... talk about it.

So, the big topic of the day -- on everyone's lips, it seems -- is equity. Not the monetary version; the "fair or impartial" version. Maybe it's racial equity. Maybe it's sexual equity. I think those are the two big ones right now, although -- and I don't know the term for it -- equity for the LGBT crowd is in there, too. "Oh," you might think, "so now we have that definition nailed down and we can discuss it." Not so fast. What do you mean by "equity" in this context? I talked about "equity of opportunity" vs "equity of outcome" recently. These are two very different things. Which is it? But, more importantly, how do you define this "fair and impartial"? Is it in terms of equal -- the same -- or some other "equitable"?

You see, in today's world, you had better not suggest that a man can do something better than a woman. Women can do anything a man can do and likely better. And if you hint that men can do something better than a woman, you're a sexist pig, and that's not "equity." Interestingly, if you suggest that women can do anything a man can do and probably better, now you're simply approaching "equity" even though you just indicated that the one gender -- female -- is superior to the other. Not equitable. And, look, reality is always a problem in these types of discussions because the truth is that women can have babies far better than men can and, alternatively, men are much better at impregnating women than women are. That is, nature is clear; women do some things better and men do some things better and that has no bearing on equal worth. But, there, I went and did it. I said men are better than women at impregnating women. Clearly I'm a sexist. I was not a sexist for suggesting that women can have babies better than men; that's just fact.

You see, we're all excited over equity -- fair and equal -- but we don't even know what we're talking about. Is it "equal" as in "the same" or is it "equitable" as in "fair"? And who gets to define "fair"? Does racial equity mean that white people and people of color should have the same number of people in, say, CEO positions? Or is it a percentage? You know, 70% of Americans are white, so 70% of CEOs should be white and so on? And you know it doesn't stop there. Factor in income, housing, standard of living, location, power, health care, education, and so much more in question, and it just gets too confusing without a definition. Equal opportunity, they tell me, is right out. It has to be equal outcomes. But what does that mean? And how is it equal when the solution is to minimize (discriminate against) those who are perceived to have "too much" (whatever that may mean in the context of the complaint)?

We keep using that word. I don't think it means what we think it means.

Monday, November 09, 2020

ESL

It's a standard acronym -- English as a Second Language. It is taught in schools for kids who come to this country and haven't yet learned English. There are adult ESL classes for the "big kids." There are online learning resources for ESL -- learning or teaching. English, you see, is a tough language. Other languages have their difficulties. There are new alphabets, new phonemes (the distinct sounds of a specific language), new concepts. Mandarin Chinese, they tell me, has the same word pronounced with four different "tones" that you won't see in their transliterated language. So when my friend whose last name is Yan brought his wife from China whose last name is Yan, I said, "Oh, so it is the Chinese custom for a wife to take her husband's last name?" "No," he told me and proceeded to tell me that his name and hers were different, although I still can't tell you why.

For English, it's different. English is a hodgepodge of languages from around the world. With heavy influences from Latin and Ancient Greek, we've also stirred in French, German, Norse, Saxon, Spanish, and more. Then we have portmanteaux which is plural for "portmanteau" which is from a French word for a carrying case but now means a blending a word constructed from combining two or more others. See what I mean? This is a tough

Some people who know me call me a "wordsmith" because I write words and, well, my name is Smith. I'm getting to the place that I don't think so. I'm getting to the point that I think I'm an ESL guy. We have so many new words and changed words. Dictionary.com reports that over 15,000 entries were changed in 2020. That includes 650 new entries alone. They even offer to send you weekly "LGBQTIA Language Updates." Weekly. There are, of course, new terms from science and technology for things that are, well, new, but it's so much more. There is politics and pop culture and the environment and the new stuff from COVID and BLM and racist issues (like "brownface" or "whitesplain") and more.

Between the new terms we're dreaming up and the definitions we're changing, I can't keep up. Factor in all the standard terms that have now become offensive, and the rate of change of the English language is making me a prime candidate for ESL. "Does anyone here speak Old English? You know, like from the 20th century?"

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Pure Religion

In James's epistle he describes something that a lot of Christians today say doesn't exist -- "pure and undefiled religion before God." (James 1:27) A lot of Christians are offended at the use of the term "religion" in Christian usage. "It's not a religion; it's a relationship." It appears that James disagrees.

Pure and undefiled religion to God, according to James, is a two-pronged thing. First, it is visiting orphans and widows. And I suspect we're already failing to practice God's version of religion, pure and undefiled. The first component of God's pure religion is taking care of the needy, the vulnerable. That's not an SJW thing; it's a God thing.

It is, I think, at least partly an SJW thing that they focus so much on taking care of the needy that they miss entirely part two: keep oneself unstained from the world. The word is ἄσπιλος -- áspilos. It means "not" ("á") "defiled, spotted, stained" ("spilóō"). Jude used the positive version (no "á") in his epistle when he urged us to save people "with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh." (Jude 1:23) Now, clearly we're not supposed to be defiled by the world. On the other hand, can that really happen? I mean isn't it we who defile ourselves? In which case it would be our choice of accepting the world's values with which to defile ourselves. And, indeed, James had just made the case that our problem with sin is our own doing (James 1:13-15). However, in this case, the word used here is "from," not "by." We are to keep ourselves unstained from the world. So there is a very real sense in this text that there is "muck" -- dirt that can rub off and stain -- in the world and we're not supposed to get that on us. It's reminiscent of Paul's, "Do not be conformed to this world." (Rom 12:2)

Now, clearly it doesn't mean that we're supposed to be out of this world. Obviously you can't care for widows and orphans without being here. You can't care for the needy and the lowly without being among the needy and the lowly. So it's not a separation that is in view here. It is being in the world but not of it. It is maintaining a biblical (read "Christian") worldview while living in a worldly worldview. It is seeking to save the lost while remaining unstained from their sin (Jude 1:23). It is seeking to restore sinning believers while watching out for our own sin (Gal 6:1). It is being among the people God has created without absorbing their views that pollute them.

We are often unaware of it, but this is a major problem for believers. It has been said that conservatives are merely the shadow of liberals waling into their graves, following a little behind. You might recognize this if you look at where liberals and conservatives were 50 years ago, then compare them to where they are today. Modern conservatives look much more liberal today than their conservative predecessors did 50 years ago. So it is with God's people. What our predecessors absolutely banned we embrace and celebrate. We do it unknowingly. It has just rubbed off on us. We've failed to heed James and become stained from the world. Feminists complain that it is morally wrong to say that a man should be the head of the house (1 Cor 11:3) or a wife should submit to her husband (Eph 5:22-24) or that a woman shouldn't teach or exercise authority over men in church (1 Tim 2:12-14) and instead of straining all that through "the implanted Word" (James 1:21) we strain it out. The world tells us to "follow your dream," to "just be yourself," that "loving yourself is the greatest love" and we buy it. Scripture says that we are our own worst enemy when it comes to sin (James 1:13-15), but let's go with whatever we want. That's much better. Pyschology assures us that corporal punishment is harmful to children while the Bible clearly teaches that it is a valuable tool in the arsenal of any good parent (e.g., Psa 89:32; Prov 13:24; Prov 23:13-14; Prov 29:15; Heb 12:5-11). So we discard the Bible and go with psychology.

According to James, there is such a thing as good religion -- religion that is pleasing to God. It absolutely includes caring for widows and orphans, people in need. We don't seem to do that well. And it clearly includes keeping ourselves unstained from the world. Apparently we're not doing that very well, either. Is it possible that this is the reason that so many Christians object to religion? We're not doing it very well.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

News Weakly - 11/7/2020

Injustice
Kelly Kean Sharp had been an assistant professor at Furman University in South Carolina. Last week she resigned when it was learned that she was not Chicana -- an American woman of Mexican descent -- as she had claimed. Cancel Culture strikes again. If you can identify as a girl when you were born a guy, why can't you identify as a Chicana just because you aren't of Mexican descent. Where's the justice? In a world driven by intersectionality and relative truth, who gets to define what you can and cannot identify as? Apparently the current ruling class -- the oppressed.

It's Getting Better
Five states legalized recreational marijuana this week, but Oregon went farther. Having previously legalized marijuana, they decided to go to the next logical step and legalized possession of drugs like cocaine, heroin, and meth. Oh, and the use of psychedelic mushrooms as therapy. Woo hoo! Now you know where to go to get high. Probably better not drive.

Triggered Again
Words mean something ... until they don't. Rhode Island voted to strip off the official state name, "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations," not because it was too long or cumbersome, but because the word "plantation" has a loose connection with 18th century slavery in the South. It is about racial injustice. Now, the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations banned slavery of both blacks and whites in the 1600's, but that doesn't matter. And very, very few outside of the state even knew the full name, but that doesn't matter. And the word referenced large farms established in the New World as a colonial base, not a slave camp, but that doesn't matter. They had the "P" word in their name, so they had to remedy their racist injustice ... which apparently wasn't there ... because someone was triggered by the word.

Kill 'em all
While Louisiana voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that declared that there is no right to an abortion in their state, Colorado voters went the other way. "Oh, you think that just because they're viable at 22 weeks they ought to be protected? Oh, no! We will give no protection to unborn babies whatsoever. We're a liberal people." By which they do not mean "generous" or "caring."

Gender Reveal
National Geographic is excited about a find in Peru that demonstrated that there were female hunters 9,000 years ago. They weren't just gatherers. I thought it was ironic that they determined her gender by examining her bones. I would have thought that the hunting gear found with her body would have clearly demonstrated that she identified as a male. But, fine, we'll go with science instead.

Election Madness
Too much election news, so I'll just keep it short. Nevada declared same-sex mirage a contitutionally protected fiction. Arizona -- the state previously known for Goldwater conservatism -- voted for Biden (the 2nd Democratic president ever), legalized marijuana for fun and profit (but not schools), raised taxes, and elected its 2nd Democratic senator, all the kinds of things that Blue State Democrats are leaving blue states to escape and, oh, look, they bring it with them. Americans elected a guy who decided he was a girl and a girl who can't figure out what she is. ("All she has to do is look.") Kind of makes "the first openly gay Afro-Latino person to serve in Congress" almost sound tame. This should dispel once and for all any notion that America is a Christian nation. It was a command to Judah in captivity, but probably a good one for us, too, considering. "Seek the welfare of the [city/state/nation] where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare." (Jer 29:7)

Laugh or Cry
Just to stoke the fires, the Babylon Bee ran a story about how Wisconsin boasted about their 3000% voter turnout. Not to be outdone, Genesius Times ran a piece on Fox News calling Arizona for Biden in 2024. Elections are always ripe for humor ... if you can stomach it.

Friday, November 06, 2020

Process or Product?

Recently I wrote on Social Justice, contrasting modern versus biblical. Commenter Craig pointed out that the modern version focuses more on outcomes and the biblical version focuses more on process. I think it's worth examining.

It's interesting to me that in God's Word He makes commands but rarely talks about outcomes of those commands. Of course, there are consequences for failing to obey those commands, but not what the expected product of obedience to those commands would be. We are commanded, for instance, to love God, but beyond a sort of "that it may well with you" outcome, we don't get any particulars. We are commanded, "You shall not commit adultery" (Exo 20:14) but not "because obedience will produce these results and and failure will produce those problems." We can figure some of this out, but God didn't specify it in His Word. In fact, Jesus suggests that we are obedient because we love Him rather than obeying Him in order to love Him (John 14:15). When the Bible speaks of rewards (e.g., 2 Tim 2:8; 1 Peter 5:4; Rev 2:10), they aren't viewed as products of obedience -- the aim or end of obedience -- but rather as rewards to return to our Lord (Rev 4:10). Now, we can certainly deduce a variety of positive outcomes from obeying God and negative outcomes from defying God. That's clear enough. It's part of the nature of things. But it's not so easy to find the whys and wherefores of what outcomes we should expect for not stealing, for showing kindness, for loving our neighbor. Very few commands express an expected outcome.

These products of obedience, then, are not the point. Loving God and, as a consequence, loving others is. Obeying to the glory of God is (Matt 5:16). The process is important. In fact, loving God is defined as obedience (1 John 5:3). The result of loving God is that we will obey God. Thus, the process is in view here -- loving God as demonstrated in obeying Him -- as opposed to the outcomes of obeying God. But, as is so often the case, our world has this all turned around. The current worldview dictates that outcome is the important thing. It's not "equal opportunity," for instance, that defines justice, but "equal outcome." If the outcome is not equal, it is clearly unjust. If a greater percentage of blacks are in prison than whites, it can only be because of racial inequity. If whites have more wealth than blacks, it is only due to racial inequity. The only way to achieve racial equity is to diminish the positive outcomes for whites and elevate the positive outcomes for non-whites. (Just examples.) Because our current worldview is more concerned about the product than the process. And God is more concerned about your motives than the outcome.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Anti-racist

Anti-racism is not "not racist." While it must start there, it is more. Anti-racism is the practice of opposing racism and promoting racial tolerance and equity.

Now, if you've read much of what I've written, I'm sure you can see the problem. We might (should) all agree that we should not be racist and, in fact, we should oppose racism; we should all be anti-racist. But, of course, that doesn't work for very long because, as you would expect, all the terms have changed. "Tolerance" has moved from "allowing views with which I don't agree" to "embracing and encouraging views with which I don't agree." "Racism" has moved from "the belief that ones own race is superior to other races" to "white," to "the systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another." Anti-racism, then, has moved from "opposing the notion that ones own race is superior to others" to "opposing the advantage that white people have over other races." And, quite obviously, what is the solution to that racism? Discrimination against white people. (Just to be clear, that's not my guess, my conclusion or my interpretation. That's what has been stated explicitly.)

But it doesn't stop there. Included in racism (and, therefore, anti-racism) now is any idea, for instance, that wives should submit to their husbands (sexism) or that homosexual behavior is a sin ("homophobia") or that God is opposed to transgender ("transphobia"). If you are to be truly anti-racist you "must also be anticapitalist, feminist, non-homophobic, and non-transphobic." If you agree that we should all be anti-racist, accepting the new definitions, then you agree that we should all be actively working toward bringing down white people. You would oppose the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, and economic freedom. You would count as offensive at the very least and possibly illegal the biblical commands of a wife to submit to her husband or that homosexual behavior is a sin or that God created male and female. You would oppose capitalism and necessarily seek to replace it. And, of course, you would absolutely need to ignore the fact that those values you are now opposing are the things which have brought about your freedom to oppose them.

If you thought that you could be "racially neutral," you were wrong. In fact, if you thought you could be a capitalist or a Bible-believing Christian and be anti-racist, you were wrong. Welcome to your new reality.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Finney Again

Recently I've heard multiple references to the well-known and much beloved preacher, Charles Finney. I don't know how many of those who love Finney know what he believed. He was best known as the "Father of Modern Revivalism" and a leader in the Second Great Awakening (1830-1831). He is credited with being the forerunner of Pentecostalism, beginning with what" he described as "a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost." He started the altar call and the "anxious bench" near the front of the revival hall for people to come if they were concerned about their spiritual condition. Finney is highly venerated in many circles. Not all. Way back in 2006 I did some research into the theology of Charles Finney. What I found was disturbing. Here is what I wrote back then.
_______________________

From Finney’s Systematic Theology

On a Christian who sins:

“Whenever he sins, he must, for the time being, cease to be holy. This is self-evident. Whenever he sins, he must be condemned; he must incur the penalty of the law of God...If it be said that the precept is still binding upon him, but that with respect to the Christian, the penalty is forever set aside, or abrogated, I reply, that to abrogate the penalty is to repeal the precept; for a precept without penalty is no law. It is only counsel or advice. The Christian, therefore, is justified no longer than he obeys, and must be condemned when he disobeys; or Antinomianism is true...In these respects, then, the sinning Christian and the unconverted sinner are upon precisely the same ground.”

On God’s demand for perfection:

“...full present obedience is a condition of justification. But again, to the question, can man be justified while sin remains in him? Surely he cannot, either upon legal or gospel principles, unless the law be repealed...But can he be pardoned and accepted, and justified, in the gospel sense, while sin, any degree of sin, remains in him? Certainly not.”

On the Reformation's formula "simultaneously justified and sinful":

"This error has slain more souls, I fear, than all the universalism that ever cursed the world. … Whenever a Christian sins he comes under condemnation, and must repent and do his first works, or be lost."

On Original Sin:

"anti-scriptural and nonsensical dogma"

On Atonement:

The first thing we must note about the atonement is that Christ could not have died for anyone else's sins than his own. His obedience to the law and his perfect righteousness were sufficient to save him, but could not legally be accepted on behalf of others.

Why did Christ die, if not for our Atonement?

"The atonement would present to creatures the highest possible motives to virtue. Example is the highest moral influence that can be exerted...If the benevolence manifested in the atonement does not subdue the selfishness of sinners, their case is hopeless."

On the substitutionary atonement:

"(The doctrine) assumes that the atonement was a literal payment of a debt, which we have seen does not consist with the nature of the atonement...It is true, that the atonement, of itself, does not secure the salvation of any one"

On the new birth as a gift:

"Regeneration consists in the sinner changing his ultimate choice, intention, preference; or in changing from selfishness to love or benevolence," (as moved by the moral influence of Christ's moving example). "Original or constitutional sinfulness, physical regeneration, and all their kindred and resulting dogmas, are alike subversive of the gospel, and repulsive to the human intelligence."

On Imputed Righteousness:

“The doctrine of an imputed righteousness, or that Christ's obedience to the law was accounted as our obedience, is founded on a most false and nonsensical assumption." After all, Christ's righteousness "could do no more than justify himself. It can never be imputed to us...It was naturally impossible, then, for him to obey in our behalf." This "representing of the atonement as the ground of the sinner's justification has been a sad occasion of stumbling to many.”

On Justification by Faith Alone:

"Present sanctification, in the sense of present full consecration to God, is another condition...of justification. Some theologians have made justification a condition of sanctification, instead of making sanctification a condition of justification. But this we shall see is an erroneous view of the subject."

On the Sovereignty of God:

"There is nothing in religion beyond the ordinary powers of nature. It consists entirely in the right exercise of the powers of nature. It is just that, and nothing else. When mankind becomes truly religious, they are not enabled to put forth exertions which they were unable before to put forth. They only exert powers which they had before, in a different way, and use them for the glory of God."

**************

Thus, in Finney's theology, God is not sovereign, man is not a sinner by nature, the atonement is not a true payment for sin, justification by imputation is insulting to reason and morality, and the new birth is simply the effect of successful techniques. So ... why is Charles Finney held in such high regard in Evangelical circles? Why is Finney's approach the approach of the day? Finney originated the Altar Call. He believed that if we get people worked up enough, we could get them to respond. He is the father of many of today's "givens". Is he really a good choice for source material?