What should Christians fear?

Karen Armstrong, in her book A History of God, speculates that theology has evolved over the past 4,000 years. She states that human beings are spiritual animals, and a belief in a personal God developed from our human need to believe in a powerful being that cared enough about us to allay our fears arising from our struggle and stress in living our lives. In other words, she concludes we embraced God out of our fear for the unknown.

Christians who understand God’s Word in the Holy Bible know that we don’t worship God out of fear for the unknown. Fear and God are connected, but not in this way.  We know from reading our Bible that we shouldn’t fear the unknown because we know God, and we know He has a plan for our lives. Yet, Scripture does tell us we are to fear God. What does this mean? This confusion has caused problems for the Christian churches for many, many years.

In the Second Great Awakening in the early 1800’s, the intuitive Joseph Smith recognized many Christians were tired of hearing their pastors preach about sin and hell fire and damnation for sinners who refused to repent. Smith in fact appointed himself as a prophet of God and designed a religion to draw people away from their Christian churches by defining sin as a poor choice and telling them that very few people go to hell anyway. Smith called his religion “The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints,” aka the Mormon Church. It now has over fourteen million members worldwide and growing because Smith’s siren song continues to draw people who don’t understand what it means to fear God away from their churches. Preachers who continue to insist that God is to be feared are labeled as “hell fire-damnation preachers or as legalistic Bible thumpers. Churches are sensitive to being branded in this way because they fear losing their members. In response, many churches over the years have taken a page from Joseph Smith’s playbook and downplayed the idea of fearing God; and now this biblical concept is virtually lost in our culture and inside the Christian Church as well.

So then, how should we understand what it means to fear God? Dr. Eric B. Watkins, senior pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine, Florida, in an article he wrote for Ligonier Ministry’s Tabletalk magazine entitled “Putting the Fear of God into Practice,” explains the tension between fear and God in an attempt to reverse this trend. He connects the fear of God with love of God “Just as mercy and justice sweetly kiss at the cross, so do love and fear sweetly comply in the context of a healthy Christian life.” He explains that the fear of God should be understood as we understood our relationship with our father in growing up.

Ever since I was old enough to remember, I recall that my father was the boss in our house. We children knew there were rules, and we knew we were expected to observe them. Sure, we all feared his discipline, but I also knew our father loved us, and I felt secure in that love. Of course, there were times when we were disobedient and were disciplined, and we expected that outcome; it taught me to be accountable and responsible for my actions. From an adult perspective, I recognized he was acting out of his love for us. In fact, I recognized that there could really have been no true love without a fear of our father. Our respectful fear of his authority properly defined our relationship between parent and child. The same concept applies even more to God, our Father. To know God is to love Him and know that He loves us. To know God is to fear Him because there can be no love without fear. It is the fear that serves to define His authority as our Father, and our position as His adopted children.

What does our fear of God do for us?  It gets us out of ourselves, and that’s where Christians need to be. Without an understanding of a biblical fear of God, we are prone “to think too much of ourselves and too little of God.” Our fear of God gets us out of ourselves and focused on where we know we should be focused, on Him.

What does the Bible have to say about the fear of God? The Bible describes the fear of God and its connection with love in a number of verses which specifically provide us with what a fear of God does for us. The theme is most often repeated in the book of Proverbs, the most famous of which is probably “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” In fact, the phrase “fear of the Lord” appears sixteen times in Proverbs and helps us connect fear of God with, not only wisdom, but with hate, evil, prolong life, and enjoy satisfaction, honor, and safety.

What happens if we don’t fear God?  Dr. Watkins says that “Without the fear of God, the young listener to the book of Proverbs falls into many traps, is lured away by evil, is seduced by the desires of the flesh, and ends up destroyed by a lack of wisdom. In short, without the fear of God, our path is one that leads us away from God and to destruction.” Christians who do not fear God as a proper recognition of his Fatherly authority “live in a state of anarchy and uncertainty; they neither truly know God nor truly know themselves.”

Dr. Watkins concludes by saying “To love God as Father includes a healthy fear of Him that keeps us humble and causes us to strive to bring holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

 

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How to respond to accusations conservatives are evil

Political pundit Charles Krauthammer once said that conservatives think liberals are stupid, but liberals think conservatives are evil. Based on what they tell me and from what I read, liberals believe conservatives are evil because they don’t show their compassion for illegal immigrants and their children, the minorities, the working class, the homeless, and all other people who seem to be struggling to lead a better life in our society. I am a conservative, and to rebut their accusation, we first should examine what compassion is really all about.

Compassion is defined as a pity aroused by the distress of others, with the desire to help them. Because conservatives are usually Republicans and the Republican Party is accused of being composed of wealthier people and people who favor the rich, there is also the implication conservatives are prideful people who are greedy and look down on people who are beneath their station in life; and that’s why we conservatives are presumed to lack in compassion for others less fortunate than we. In other words, since humility is a virtue that is defined as a lack of pride, we can assume conservatives are being accused of having no humility.

Well, I think our accusers are correct in connecting compassion with having humility, but they are wrong when they accuse conservatives of being prideful if those conservatives also happen to be Christians; and polls indicate that many of us indeed claim support for this religion. True Christians understand pride is a sin and that truly compassionate people cannot be prideful people. Humility indeed is the key virtue which motivates us to exhibit compassion. We know that pride must first be destroyed for us to have true compassion for others and only humility can do that for us.

In these challenging times of discord between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, atheists and Christians, the virtue of humility seems to be absent on both sides of the issues. We seemed to be stalled as a nation in getting our problems solved. Humility is not only the key to compassion, it is important in politics because it motivates our politicians to go beyond their pride and their own personal interests and compromise to pass laws that serve the greater good. This doesn’t seem to be happening in America’s contentious and divisive society.

Based on the tone of their accusations, liberals want to have us all believe they have a patent on kindness and compassion. When they portray conservatives as prideful people who don’t care about others, I’m offended because I’m a conservative and a Republican and that accusation is unfounded because I’m a Christian, and that’s not what we’re all about. Christianity emphasizes we are to follow Christ’s example to think of others as being less than ourselves and to treat them accordingly. Only in that way can we exhibit true compassion.

So, what is true humility? Dr. John Blanchard, a Christian teacher and director of Popular Christian Apologetics, in an article he wrote for Ligionier Ministries’ Tabletalk magazine, discriminates between false and true humility. “False humility invites attention to itself; true humility is unconscious.” False humility masks pride. True humility defeats pride.

As Christians, we know our purpose is to please God, and “true humility is the key to receiving God’s favor.” We aren’t as accountable to unbelievers who oppose us as we are to our God who expects us to be humble and to show compassion for all those less fortunate than we. The truly humble person “seeks only to serve others without either recognition or reward.” That’s how Christians are to act.

So, when liberals attempt to paint all conservatives as uncaring, even evil people, Christians need to remind their opponents they are Christians and take offense at being lumped in with their criticism of conservatives or Republicans. Many of us may indeed be conservatives and Republicans, but, first and foremost, we are Christians and take offense whenever we are unjustly accused.

So then, how are we to respond to accusations that conservatives and Republicans are evil if we also happen to be conservative or vote Republican? If we are a Christian, we should first clarify that Christianity is our religion; yes, we may also politically identify with being a conservative or a Republican, but it is our religious belief that takes precedent over our politics.

What does Christianity have to say about humility? In Philippians 2:3-8, Paul tells us that Jesus Christ put aside the glory of heaven, assumed all our suffering, and humbly submitted to His own execution; He humbled Himself so that others would be saved. That’s the gospel message, and we are to share it with our liberal accusers. We are also to demonstrate with our actions that we are obedient to Paul’s instructions: we are to have the humble and compassionate mind of Christ, and witness it to others, even those who believe we are evil because we are conservative.

Dr. David Noebel’s Comparison Chart

Human behavior is less complicated than we assume it to be. This is because we are basically creatures of habit, and our behavior and beliefs are predictable. Our habits are based on our traditions, and theologians, psychologists and sociologists tell us that most people lead unexamined lives and therefore gain knowledge mostly through tradition, not reason or faith. This means they obtain their world view from what was taught to them by their parents, their friends, and their culture. Our world view is important because it determines how we think about everything. This is why we are relatively consistent in our beliefs and behavior, and the disciplines of psychology and sociology base their conclusions about human behavior on that premise. So, when a person tells me they don’t believe in God, I not only know their theology is atheism, but I also can predict with some degree of accuracy what they believe about the other disciplines like philosophy, ethics, biology, psychology, sociology, law, politics, economics and history. In his book Understanding the Times, Dr. David Noebel graphically illustrates this concept in a chart he prepared which compares the beliefs of the atheistic belief system of secular humanism with Christianity for each of these disciplines. I include a copy of this chart in the Appendix of The Cabana Chronicles: Book One.

Noebel’s chart indicates that an atheist’s philosophy is naturalism, the belief that the universe is self-contained and self-directed; there is no supernatural element present. Christianity is of course a theism because we believe there is a God. We also believe in supernaturalism; that belief is the basis for our philosophy.

The ethics of secular humanism is relativism, the belief that our ethics changes with our needs at a particular time in history. Secular humanists do not believe in a moral governor nor believe in an absolute moral code.  Christians believe that God is our supreme governor and has given us an absolute moral code in his Word: The Ten Commandments.

Secular humanists believe in Darwinian evolution; Christians believe in special creationism. Secular Humanists believe in self-actualization, the belief that we can reach our full potential as free human beings on our own. They believe that all reality is of one type or essence, and that essence is man’s natural goodness. He isn’t perfect, but he is  perfectible. They also believe that society and its social institutions are responsible for man’s evil acts; and mental health can be restored by getting in touch with his or her good self. Christians believe in dualism, which means we believe in good and evil, matter and spirit. We believe we are born sinners, and are instinctively inclined to do evil.

Secular humanists believe in a non-traditional world state, an ethical society. This means they believe in an equitable distribution of the means of life for every person; for example, they believe in economic equality, a shared life in a shared world. Christians believe in prioritizing home (family,) church and state. We believe that both the individual and the social order are important to God, mankind and society. We believe God ordained social institutions to teach love, respect, discipline, work, and community.

Secular humanists believe in positive law. This means they believe there is no law outside of what man devises as law. This view is consistent with their belief that man is inherently good and is capable of making sensible and sensitive decisions affecting conduct. They believe that, like biological evolution, the law evolves with the changing times and circumstances. Christians believe in God’s natural law and the law he expresses in the Bible.

Secular humanists believe in globalism, world government, a merging of all cultures into one. Christians believe in government based on justice, freedom and order. We believe that world government inhibits freedom. Secular humanists believe in socialism as an economic system; Christians believe in individual stewardship of property, and believe that socialism’s emphasis on equality strips us of our other rights because it ignores differences in talent and dedication among individuals. We believe the best economic system contains basic checks and balances that can guarantee the protection of human rights.

Lastly, secular humanists believe in historical evolution. They declare man’s dominant emerging ideology to be the real dynamic force in history, and the elite few who embrace it will become the proper lords of the path to the future. Christians believe in historical resurrection. This means we believe the Bible is an accurate representation of history.  We recognize that the historical Bible (the written word) and Jesus Christ (the living word) are the two cornerstones of our Christian world view.  Scripture tells us that mankind was created, then fell into sin, and that sin was subsequently erased through Christ coming to us in history to redeem us through his atoning sacrifice and resurrection. We believe Christ will come again to establish his kingdom and act as our judge. At that time a new heaven, a new earth, and the new Jerusalem will be created. Christian history is therefore linear, not cyclical.

In summary, the difference between how secular humanists view all these disciplines and the way Christians view them is based on the fact that secular humanism is centered on man and Christianity is centered on God. This is why it’s easy to predict how each party views each of these various discipline listed in this article. Discussions between people who hold opposing viewpoints are much more effective and productive when you understand where the other guy is coming from.

America’s “Truth Decay”

A recent Rand Corporation report indicates we are experiencing a “truth decay” in our country, and the problem is systemic. There is so much “fake news” circulated on cable TV and on social media, we confuse fact and fiction, and lose our trust in those who are pledged to help us lead better lives. It only makes sense that a focus on telling the truth is the most effective way for a society to function, and, for this reason, a decay in truth is imposing a grave threat to America. We must combat this threat; but how are we to do it?

As always, we can most effectively address a cure by thoroughly understanding the disease and what is causing it. Pardon another dental reference, but the “root” of the cause of “truth decay” is a loss of virtue. Truth decay is only a symptom of a greater threat to our society, the decline in morality. Relativism (the belief that all truth is relative to our needs and experiences) has, over the decades, insidiously influenced our beliefs about right and wrong. We are told such moral beliefs change with the times we live in. Proponents of relativism would say we have “progressed” away from a belief in the absolute concept of morality laid out in the Ten Commandments. Truth decay then is a predictable consequence as we ignore the commandment to not “bear false witness against another.” As the Rand Report indicates, truth decay has reached epidemic proportions in our society today.

I have presented what we Christians think causes truth decay. What do unbelievers say is the cause? From the comments I’ve received in addressing this subject in the social media, and from what I’ve read, unbelievers don’t comment on the cause; they acknowledge the disease and claim that it is the social media, and cable news programs that promote it. They blame the disease on the lack of education in civics in our schools and at home. In not addressing the cause of the disease, as I have, they ignore the probability that there’s something else going on here; that truth decay might actually be the predictable collateral damage of an inadequate code of morality. Of course, if they were to acknowledge that cause, they can only respond by maintaining that their atheistic philosophies are just as effective as the Christian code of morality in determining an effective moral code. But, that dog won’t hunt because, for the past three quarters of a century or so, from the time relativism began to rear its ugly head, our moral code has been compromised and, in the words of songwriter Paul Simon, we have been “slip sliddin’ away” into the abyss of uncertainty and confusion. This “truth decay” is only the latest recognized indication that something isn’t working in our society in this day and age.

So then, why doesn’t a moral code based on philosophy work? Theologian John Calvin had a reason for why a godless, relativistic moral code based on philosophy comes up short. He said, “they (the philosophers), while doing their best to encourage us to be virtuous, have nothing to say except that we should live ‘according to nature.'” In ignoring God and telling us to live according to nature, philosophers ignore the reality that our nature is sinful; even unbelievers recognize that there is something very wrong with our world. Our sin motivates us to be lead us astray from the pursuit of a good and truthful life. Calvin goes on to say that “Scripture draws its encouragement from the true fountain. It teaches us to contemplate our lives in relation to God, our Author, to whom we are bound.” So, the question still remains; how are we going to fix the problem of “truth decay?”

Education is critical. It only makes sense to recognize how important a role education in civics plays in trying to stem the tide of “truth decay.” But that’s just treating the symptom. We must also educate people on morality. What institution do you suppose is best equipped to do that? Not our schools; Christianity has been ostracized from our public schools. The answer of course is our churches, and even unbelievers recognize that it only makes sense to rely on an institution that teaches God is truth and to obey his absolute moral law to combat the threat of “truth decay” and, for that matter, any other moral threat to our society.

Ironically, these same people who have expressed fear of Christianity’s influence in our government and in our society and have supported laws in reducing its influence, are now the ones who are advocating reliance on our churches to help out in preventing the spread of “truth decay.” Yes, it’s an irony, but, of course, it is the right approach, and we Christians should try harder in our churches and in our witness to emphasize what Jesus believed about the importance of truth. Many times he would begin a sentence, “verily, verily, I say unto you;” that means, truthfully, truthfully, I tell you this.

Only by introducing people to Jesus Christ, and exposing them to the gospel truth, can we effectively educate people on virtue and successfully combat the threat of “truth decay.”

 

How Christians are to understand immigration

In 2011, the Southern Baptist Convention published a statement addressing how Christians are to view immigration and illegal immigration. I thought it might be helpful to summarize what they said, just to set the record straight on what we Christians believe.

The statement begins by laying the foundation of our belief. People are to believe that Christians understand that the Kingdom of God is made up of persons from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language. This means we are not to discriminate against immigrants based on their nationality, culture or race. We are reminded that our Jewish ancestors were sojourners and aliens in the land of Egypt, and the gospel (Matthew 2:13-23) tells us that Christ lived his childhood years as an immigrant and refugee. This means we Christians should easily be able to identify with the mindset and position of the immigrant. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves and show compassion and justice for all persons who wish to immigrate to this country. We are told that a response to the most vulnerable among us is a response to Christ himself. The Bible denounces the exploitation of workers and the mistreatment of the poor.

After laying the foundation of love, mercy and justice for immigrants, the statement then gets into the details of how we are to treat this relatively invisible group of our population. We must be aware of the detrimental consequences in terms of health, education, and the well-being of these people, especially the children, but we must recognize we are under the rule of law and we are to respect and support the divinely-ordained institution of government and its just laws which are in place o maintain borders to protect the security of its citizens. We therefore must not support sanctuary cities or states, nor should we support amnesty for any undocumented immigrant.

Regardless of our understanding that people who come to our country illegally are desiring a better future for themselves and their families, we must nonetheless recognize that these undocumented immigrants are in violation of the law of the land. We ask our governing authorities to prioritize efforts to secure the borders and to hold businesses accountable for hiring practices as they relate to immigration status. That said, we declare that any form of nativism, mistreatment, or exploitation is inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we deplore any bigotry or harassment against any persons, regardless of their country of origin or legal status. To that end, we ask our governing authorities to implement, with the borders secured, a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country. 

The statement ends with a request for us to pray for our churches to demonstrate the reconciliation of the Kingdom both in the verbal witness of our gospel and in the visible makeup of our congregations. I believe this statement speaks for all of us Christians, regardless of our denomination.

 

In Defense of the Electoral College

Democrats have been very critical of the relevance of the Electoral College since Hillary won the popular vote but came up short in the Electoral College and Donald Trump was elected. This reaction of course is to be expected because they are sore losers as their continual attacks on President Trump have demonstrated. The founding fathers had their reasons for coming up with this concept, and second-guessing them now is presumptuous; nonetheless Democrats have relentlessly advocated the College be removed.

I’m no expert on poly-sci, but, as I recall, ridding our country of the Electoral College would require an Amendment to our Constitution which would require ratification of two thirds of our 50 states. In other words, calling for the removal of the College is a gesture in futility; and a discussion of its relevance in this day and age would be a moot point. Regardless, maybe the next time around, it could be the Democrats who gain the White House through the Electoral College, and the shoe would be on the other foot.

Democrats advocate the majority vote should be the only consideration in the outcome of a presidential election. This opinion is not surprising, since, according to Pew Research, Democrats and those leaning toward the Democratic Party outnumber Republicans 48% to 44%. Two thirds of registered Democrats are living in our largest cities and the trend is increasing. If we didn’t have the Electoral College, it is quite possible then that the voters living in LA. San Francisco Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and New York City would always determine who was going to be president of our entire country, and that would be trampling on the right all Americans have of participating in how they are being governed. Of course, we can understand why the losing party would want to eliminate the one obstacle that stands in their way to attain unopposed power to govern this country, but I would ask all Democrats to consider that a government dominated by only one party, year after year after year is not healthy in a democratic republic, regardless of which party is in power. Compromise is the name of the game in politics, and we need a strong two-party system for it to work effectively.

In making his argument in support of majority rules, a friend of mine said that it is our law, not our leadership, that protects the minority from the majority, but I would point out that the executive branch is also involved in the making of our law through executive orders and the veto power; so law can be influenced by the president which means it is not as significant a factor in protecting the rights of the minority as one might assume.

Statistics indicate now that the majority (55%) of Democrats claim to be liberal or of liberal persuasion. The opposite is true for those who claim to be Republicans. Since the liberal world view is so different from the conservative world view, and our world views determine our politics, (as I discussed in my first book of The Cabana Chronicles series), it’s not just a struggle between political parties to gain power to govern, it’s about one world view dominating another world view. Based on the stats now and the fact that the numbers will increase as minorities continue to vote exclusively for Democrats (talk about blind tradition), conservatives are concerned they will have no voice in how we are governed in the near future. The Electoral College gives us our only voice.

We conservatives are very concerned about losing our voice because we differ from liberals in social and economic policy such as support for gay rights, the importance of the wealth gap, abortion on demand, the de-emphasis on hard work as a means of attaining success, and support for globalism, to name but a few. This division between the two parties has been increasing over the past 30 years. Perhaps this is why virtually no bi-partisan legislation has been passed over the past several administrations. Congress has gained a low approval rating because Americans don’t think the party that has the votes to pass a bill has appropriately considered the opposing point of view in enacting important legislation.

I think I can speak for most conservatives when I say that we are concerned about the majority being able to continually force their agenda down our collective throats by assuming ownership of the White House, destined to remain there for the foreseeable future. Standing in their way is the Electoral College, which gives rural voters the chance to express their opinion on who should govern us. Liberals have an opinion on what objectives they would like to see for America, and they are very different from the conservative objectives. I’ve already discussed both objectives in detail in previous posts on this website: Worldview and Politics, Have Christians Lost the Culture War?, The Evolution of Unbelief, How Can We Fix Healthcare?, Can We Speak the Truth?, The Trouble with Illegal Immigration, The Wealth Gap, Why the Democratic Party has lost the Middle Class, Why it’s easier to be a Liberal, The Future of the Republican Party, Liberal Internationalism, Separation of Church and State, and last, but not least, Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, which outlines the liberal game plan.

I’m also concerned the liberals are getting more aggressive. We need look no further for support of my concern than Governor Brown’s executive order to make California a sanctuary state in opposition to cooperation with an agency of the Federal government. In fact, Aaron Renn, a senior fellow and urban policy specialist at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, believes that leftist mayors and urban residents are pressing hard and warns that “for their part, they need to rethink their unrelenting hostility to those who don’t share their agenda.” Without the Electoral College, we would have no voice in opposing what we see as a hostile takeover of America.

Misplaced Faith

Vail Columnist Cal Thomas (“My View,” The Vail Daily), motivated me to write a follow-up to my post on Misplaced Worship.

Thomas was apparently motivated by the interest the Democratic Party is showing in nominating Oprah Winfrey for their presidential candidate to run in the next election. He questions why the Democrats would be so desperate for power that they would nominate a celebrity like her, particularly since they have been so critical of our current “celebrity” president. In politics, of course, it’s all about the power, and Thomas states that politicians on both sides of the aisle hold on to their power by typically promoting dependence on government over encouraging self-reliance.

He reminds us that the Puritans and our founding fathers favored self-reliance, and it is self-reliance, not reliance on others, that has made our nation great by encouraging hard work, obtaining a good education, being thrifty and living within one’s means. He maintains that reliance on others encourages envy of others, greed, and an entitlement mentality, and this prevalent mindset in America today is what is holding us back from becoming great again.

Thomas touts the virtue of reliance on self in calling it the parent of many other virtues. He quotes blogger Col Gornam Singh who surmises that “the self-reliant man is patient and persevering. He does not envy others, nor does he think of begging favours of others. He faces his misfortune with a quiet courage. Therefore (Ralph Waldo) Emerson calls self-reliance ‘the essence of heroism, the first secret of success’. The self-reliant man feels neither fear nor shame to labor with his own hands, if necessary. He is always learning new lessons, gathering valuable experience. His example is an inspiration and his achievement is an example to others. This confidence in himself wins him the confidence of others.”

Thomas makes a good point when he tells us that, as political power increases, our individual power decreases “by way of higher taxes, greater debt, and more regulations on business and individuals.” He really drives the point home that if government could make our life better through our dependence on it, we wouldn’t be in the sad shape we’re in today.

He concludes by saying, “People who look to Washington and Hollywood for deliverance are always disappointed in the end.” He says that this faith is misplaced and will do us no good in the end. Instead of “progressing,” our nation has regressed from its origin. We’ve dug for ourselves a deep hole as a nation, and the only way we can climb out is for our government to encourage its citizens to be more self-reliant, not more dependent on them.

Of course, the problem needs to be recognized before it can be addressed, and I fear it will take a revival or a revolution to put us back on the right track again.