Circling the Bowl

When we recognize how our culture has changed over just the past quarter of a century, it’s obvious that the “times they are a-changin,” and it hasn’t been for the good. We have problems in this country that are crying out for a solution.  We are “circling the bowl.” But we must first recognize we actually have a problem. I think this most recent school shooting in Florida should motivate us to give some thought as to why this happens.

Liberals of course (pursuant to their objective of becoming America’s nanny) focus on gun control as the cause of the problem of mass homicide. They claim that America is at the top of the list globally in number of this type of incident occurring. Obama said, “Let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence (the Charleston, N.C. shootings) does not happen in other advanced countries.” Wrong. Dead wrong (pardon the pun).

In fact, according to the Crime Prevention Research Center, statistics (death rate per million population from 2009-2015) show that America doesn’t even make the top ten list in mass shootings. We rank 12th. Such European nations as Macedonia, Switzerland, and Belgium top the list. Regardless, both liberal and conservative alike must know that gun control is only part of the discussion. While I personally don’t understand why anyone needs to own an AR-15, I do know that gun control isn’t the answer to prevention of this problem. From my experience, I know that even liberals agree with me. The ones who don’t suffer from liberal “mud-think” recognize this violence has exposed a very complicated problem in our society that can’t be solved by taking guns away from law-abiding citizens. No, there’s a bigger picture here to take into consideration, and when we do take a hard look at it, we recognize this is a complicated problem with a variety of causes.

Mass violence isn’t the only sign there is something wrong in our society. There are other indications. Just look at what has happened over the past 25 years. Having a child out of wedlock (nearly 50 %) is no longer taboo; single parent families are becoming the new norm (every single one of the mass murderers was from a single parent family); gay marriage is now the law of the land; a national drug problem, which also includes opioid  addiction, is growing; homicidal violence in our inner cities (Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis, New Orleans in particular) continues unabated; parents and schools have seemingly given up on trying to instill values in our children. A general lack of respect for others is prevalent in our society as many of us in my generation can attest. Hollywood continues to produce violent movies, and video games have become so real from the “PacMan” days, they have become an even worse negative influence on impressionable minds. When we recognize how these signs point to times that are a changin’ for the worse, we shouldn’t be so surprised by the onset of these recent school shootings. We must recognize that something is very, very wrong in our culture today, and it just may have something to do with our changing values. As “Pogo” used to say:  “We have seen the enemy and it is us.”

Of course liberals, who like to think of themselves as “progressives,” have ignored the indications that we have actually regressed. Instead they have attempted to divert our attention away from recognizing the obvious damage done as our society pays more and more heed to the siren call of atheistic secular humanism and postmodernism, beliefs that are clearly connected with these morally regressive trends in our society. Surveys now indicate these belief systems have successfully pushed Christianity (and subsequently Christian values) aside and replaced our “outdated” Judeo-Christian moral code with relativism, the concept that our moral code should be flexible, not absolute. Ethics should be “derived from human need and interest as tested by experience (from the “Humanist Manifesto).” Liberals, of course, don’t concede that the signs of regression would seem to indicate this approach isn’t working.

I’m not smart or influential enough to come up with and implement a plan to reverse our regression as a society. I don’t think any human being can accomplish that objective.  Only God has that kind of power, and only God can reverse the path of regression the “progressives” want to guide us down. Liberals who are unbelievers of course scoff at the power of prayer, but, at least they are forced to logically conclude there is something basically wrong with human nature, and that these problems in our society are but symptoms of a fundamental cause they suspect just may have something to do with a decline in our morality. But, as one of their gurus, existentialist Albert Camus, once said when asked why he was an unbeliever: “I don’t aim so high.”

So then, I personally don’t believe that anything short of a nationwide religious revival will reverse the trend towards atheistic secularism, and, as Christians, we should pray for that to happen; but, until God wills for that to happen, our nation must prioritize the recognition and treatment of mental illness in our society, and citizens should understand they need to pull their heads out of their cell phones and become more involved in reporting people’s threatening behavior to the proper authorities; and our authorities must do their job effectively. To use Obama’s phrase, that’s what we really have to “reckon with.” And I think we can assume that even unbelievers can at least aim that high.

The first step is focusing long and hard on what the problem actually is, and I think we have begun to do that now. Once we have spent the necessary time to do that, we must all work together to formulate a policy that will successfully solve the problem. As Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

 

 

 

 

 

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“Cheap Grace”

Unbelievers and Roman Catholics typically point out that the reformed Christian belief that we are saved, not by our good deeds, but solely through the free grace of God simply motivates believers to sin because we assume we are forgiven for whatever sin we commit. They say that people need rules. “If you just preach this ‘free grace,’ people will just use it as a license to sin.” This opinion is sometimes referred to as “cheap grace.”

Roman Catholics believe that our salvation is attained through the performance of good deeds plus God’s grace. Christians of the Reformation believe in a different mathematical formula. Instead of believing that Salvation = Grace plus Works, we know that the Bible tells us that our salvation is only through God’s grace and our good deeds are the result of our salvation, not the cause. Our formula then looks like this: Salvation (by Grace) = Works. This means we have been liberated by God through His grace from our selfish mind-set to perform good works; we are motivated to love others, care for them, and build them up because we want to imitate Christ, our Savior who died in our place. Through His word, the Holy Bible, God has given us the correct understanding of the connection between our good deeds and His grace.

As in most matters of understanding our doctrine, St. Paul says it best in Romans 6:1-4: “What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Our grace is not cheap. Jesus paid the ultimate price to enable our Creator to extend His grace to us to effect our salvation.

Faith and Knowledge

Aristotle included faith as one of the three sources of knowledge. I present a detailed description of these three sources in Book One and The Foundation of Belief in The Cabana Chronicles series of books on comparative religion and apologetics. While I agree with Aristotle (normally that’s a smart thing to do), I believe faith is much more than just another source of knowledge like tradition and reason.

We Christians rely on our God-given faith to believe the Bible is His Word. In this way, faith acts as our source of knowledge. But our biblical faith is trust based on knowledge supported by reason because the Bible provides us with the evidence for our belief. You could say that our faith is based on knowledge grounded in evidence. Atheists dispute our claim and, as Mark Twain once said, “Faith is believing in something you know ain’t true.”

Author Greg Koukl says that  “Given the clear teaching of Scripture, it’s astonishing that some atheists mischaracterize the relationship between faith and knowledge. For example, philosopher Peter Boghossian defines faith as “pretending to know what you don’t know” in his book A Manual for Creating Atheists. For Boghossian—and many other so-called “street epistemologists”—faith is a way of knowing. In philosophy, this is called epistemology.

However, faith is not an epistemology. Responding to Boghossian in his weekly podcast, Reasonable Faith, philosopher William Lane Craig said,

This is so fundamental. This is a watershed. He [Boghossian] says that faith is an unreliable epistemology. He wants to make faith an epistemological category instead of a moral virtue. It is right there that we need to dig in our heels and say this is a misunderstanding of faith. Faith is not an epistemological category…. Faith is a way of trusting something. Faith is trusting in that which you have reason to believe is true. So it is once you have come to believe that something is true using reliable epistemological means that you can then place your faith or trust in that thing. To do so is a virtue.

So faith and knowledge are connected, but they are not the same thing. They are in completely different categories. Faith is not a way of knowing. Rather, faith is a way of trusting in what you know to be true.”

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.”

 

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.”