Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Check out First Things

If you haven't read it already, I recommend readers head over to First Things "On the Square" and peruse the thought-provoking post called "Sympathy for Hook: Toward a Christening of Peter Pan" by R. Patard.

I am a great admirer of those classics that appear to be written for children, or, perhaps, are written for the child of the Kingdom in all of us. Barrie's Peter Pan is one of those. Like many my age, I can remember Mary Martin playing the part of Peter, as well as the Disney version. I think at one point someone in the family had an LP of Disney's audio which I mainly recall for its incessant demand that I believe in order to save Tinkerbell. It seemed like a lot of responsibility at the time.

I never considered it one of my favorites. For one thing, I wondered why they couldn't find an actual boy to play Peter. For another I don't think I sensed enough of the real danger in Disney to be drawn into it. Not until I ran across a print version as an adult did it start to take hold on me. The ticking crocodile is funny to a child. To one whose life is controlled by alarm clocks and deadlines, it's funny in an entirely different way.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Possibles

For with God nothing shall be impossible – Luke 1:37

Miracles by definition do not happen on a regular basis. A miracle cannot be replicated by formula. It is not subject to study except in its aftermath. It can be determined to have happened, and, perhaps, in some cases, the chain of events or the mechanisms that led up to it can be known. Examined under a magnifying glass like a dead butterfly, there may be some who conclude that it was simply a most fortuitous coincidence. If Christmas means anything, though, it means that we still cultivate a sense of the miraculous. We still believe that the possibilities are endless and that, united with God in Christ, we are without limitations. We believe this in spite of the rude material intrusions of humanity’s all too common sense. The angel’s declaration of God's limitlessness came as a result of Mary’s blunt statement of the human condition.

In a way, the humanists and the materialists have usurped our hope for the impossible. The difference is that they believe in the limitless power of human will, human knowledge, and human government. Some believe that highly evolved primates can warp time and space to travel to distant galaxies, or that we might be visited by advanced entities that have discovered ways to move faster than light itself. Others believe that man can be transformed by education and communal cooperation – if only the right people are in charge. I am not opposed to their hope or antagonistic toward their goals and dreams, any more than I am opposed to my own Mitty-ish daydreams. I simply recognize them for what they are. Those who dismiss fairy tales are always more susceptible to the confidence man for it.

Man’s best efforts to control his own destiny, to build his tower of Babel eventually come to nothing, collapsing in confusion under the rains of God’s grace. The magicians of materialism are scattered to their huts, often still thinking that if only they had altered the incantation just here it would have worked. There is always, for the true believer, a next time. Though technology advances, it makes little difference in the way things end while the wielder of the wand remains unchanged.

Those are the ultimate magic words: With God. With God, it all changes. With God there is purpose and direction arising from the chaos. The impossible takes shape before our eyes and that which cannot be becomes that which must be. The archer looses his arrow at random without thought yet it finds the mark, slipping even between the joints of the armor to strike at the heart. At Christmas, we are reminded that all things are possible. God the very God took on human form and flesh, walking among us, walking with us, attesting by signs to the glorious possibilities of the impossible, until it was time to bear away the burden of sin and break down the wall that separated man from God.

Now the Spirit of God abides with us and dwells within us always.

At Christmas, there are angels among us – bright messengers of God -- proclaiming again that the Lord dwells with man. Again, the Spirit lives in human flesh, and nothing is impossible.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

When he was yet a great way off

Now the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him – those who depend on His faithful love – Psalm 33:18

A friend of mine once said that God will not allow us to think better of Him than He will be to us. Another way to put it might be that it is impossible to think too highly of God. “Be it unto you according to your faith,” Jesus tells us. The Hebrew word that we translate as fear carries with it that idea that God’s awesomeness is not limited. Those who know the fear of the LORD do not test Him, but they do learn to trust Him and depend on Him completely in every circumstance.

It is a misunderstanding for us to look at where our own misdeeds or faults have landed us and think that we must now get out of the mess all on our own. If the Lord only helped us when it wasn’t our fault, He’d have a lot more free time – not that free time’s an issue with Him anyway. I do think He intends for us to learn from our mistakes, and, if we fail to learn, we may well find ourselves thinking a situation looks like all too familiar. As Billy Joe Shaver says in The Deja Blues, “Sounds like the same song all over again.” Consequences may intensify as we loop through the iterations until we get it -- or it gets us. Nevertheless, if we will depend on the Father’s faithful love, He will deliver us. Our deliverance may not be without pain, loss, or a fat slice of humble pie – all to our good, but we will be delivered.

All one has to do is go back and read about Abraham, who, for all his faith, missed God on more than one occasion. Yet God called him His friend, blessed him, and brought him through all of his trials, naming him the father of the faithful. We can look at the Lord’s patience with Israel, as well. Time after time just in the desert wanderings with Moses, God’s faithful love is demonstrated. From the Red Sea to Kadesh Barnea to the crossing of Jordan, the children of Israel tried the Lord’s love and mercy. He never failed them until they completely lost faith in His love. A generation fell in the wilderness but only because of their unbelief. The one thing God’s faithfulness cannot overcome is our lack of faith. He’ll get us through anything when we are willing to believe and trust in Him.

Never are you going to depend on God and find that He has let you down. Never is the Lord going to abandon anyone, no matter how often they have failed, if they will this time put their trust in Him and in His goodness. He never “teaches us a lesson” about the past if we will depend on Him in the present. God may be a practitioner of tough love at times, but He is never vindictive, never petty, never bitter or unforgiving. It is just not His nature. If anyone wants to know if there is anything God cannot do, that’s it. He cannot fail, cannot fail to love, cannot fail to respond to our humble dependence upon Him. He will come through for us.

The only way I can cut off the faithful love of God is to think too little of Him, to think He is an easily offended tyrant rather than the loving, caring Father ready to welcome me back with rejoicing. He did not spare His own Son in order to bring me home, what’s a fatted calf to that?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Lurks in the Shadow

Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. – Romans 12:21

I don’t watch many horror movies, and the ones I do I usually find amusing. Occasionally, however, I will find one that makes me think. What provoked me to contemplation in the last one I saw was a view that is quite common to horror movies, as well as many other films. I would sum it up as: evil, apart from the exceptional, is more powerful than good. Evil, in the natural world, has all the advantages. It is not bound by the rules – whatever the rules might be, for evil is by definition a transgression of the law – not the whimsical laws of human government -- but the laws of nature and nature’s God. Villains mock the rules, using them to protect themselves against the law-abiding while having no respect for any constraint when it suits them. The good cannot simply slam evil against the wall and beat it severely about the head and ears. The legal system, like a referee in wrestling or the Big 12, appears only to see the infractions on the part of the hero.

In real life we have the fact that Marines were falsely accused of murder in a combat zone by the despicable Murtha. Now we have a group of SEALs being court-martialed for apparently punching a captured terrorist in the face. Sadly that sentence is not satire. We are not allowed to torture the murderers of innocents to save the lives of other innocents. It makes no sense on the part of the godless left. I don’t even know why leftists believe in protecting the Constitutional rights of non-citizens. For the perspective of a believer, I can make a case for it. I don’t believe the rights we have are solely “Constitutional rights”. I think every individual’s rights are God-given. Our Constitution merely enshrines the recognition of pre-existing rights. Everybody everywhere is born with the right to speak freely, to defend himself and his property against depredation, to worship God or not as he sees fit, to be free of excessive government intrusion into his affairs, etc. Oddly enough, it is generally leftist governments that violate these God-given rights. Statists are consistent only in their relentless inconsistency.

In fact, though, despite appearances, evil is not more powerful than good. God is good. God is the ultimate Grand Master of this vast, seven-layer chess game. There is no such thing as sovereign evil. It appears to have a will of its own, but it is a tool, a mere tool in the Master’s hand. I have to remind myself of this on a daily, if not hourly basis these days. It can get pretty frustrating. I really want the Lord to strike down the reprobates. It is satisfying for a moment, but it does not solve the problem. Evil, after all, is an internal state with most of us. Until what is within me has been conquered there is really not much use in my praying for God to smite the wicked. Smiting begins at home.

Though evil might appear to be the default state, and though it seems to occupy a strongly fortified position, it has already been cut off and taken out of the fight. Jesus did it for us. By appropriating the victory of the Cross, where evil was once and for all overcome by Good, we triumph in our own lives. No longer is there a need to resort to evil’s tactics in order to defeat it. It never worked and never would have. Our goal is purity of purpose and intent, transparency before the eyes of our Father – to be so flooded with light that darkness is left without a place to hide.

Letting go of the natural craving for vengeance, even if I call it justice, is the hardest thing I will ever do, but a lot of rats and cockroaches can hide in the smallest of shadows. I have often wondered how so much that is of the old nature can continue to cling to me. It is because I continue to cling to something that casts a shadow – in my case I cling to my hammer of justice. I just want to make the evil pay, but it is a blackness like a blotch of ink on a clean, while shirt. It taints and spoils. No good will come of it. I must let it go.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Word

Again the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, what is this proverb you people have about the land of Israel, which goes: The days keep passing by, and every vision fails?

"Therefore say to them: This is what the LORD God says: I will put a stop to this proverb, and they will not use it again in Israel. But say to them:

"The days draw near,
as well as the fulfillment of every vision. …

"But I, the LORD, will speak whatever message I will speak, and it will be done. …” – Ezekiel 12:22-25

It used to be a big thing among certain flavors of Spirit-filled Christians to prophesy over people. I’ve had it happen to me. I was sitting in the back of a church in Keller, Texas one Sunday night when the preacher came all the way from the front to me, slapped me in the chest with his big, red Bible and began to prophesy over me. I don’t remember what was said. I was in another church in – well, let’s just say somewhere close to Dallas – where the speaker for the evening was a cute little blonde woman. It was a decent crowd of probably four or five hundred people. My wife and I were off to the side, several rows back from the stage. After the service, the blonde rushed off the platform and up to my wife to ask her for permission to give me a hug, which my slightly bemused wife graciously granted. She apparently did not make the all too common error of mistaking me for George Clooney. Instead, she thought I was sad and discouraged, which I was, and she wanted to encourage me – spiritually, of course. Another time, I was in church in Oklahoma where prophesying was going on. I learned afterward that the lady playing the keyboard (not a blonde) had a word for me, but I looked so mean, she, lacking the courage of the woman in Dallas, was afraid to approach me. Once up in Columbia, Missouri, a minister called for me to come up so he could prophesy over me. When I shook my head, he just nodded and said, “That’s wisdom” – whether he meant on my part or his, I’m not sure. I don’t think he was blonde, either.

There were some other occasions, but I never paid too much attention. Even a charismatic dancing on the back of the pew will admit that a “word” is never something wholly new but rather a confirmation of what we have already heard or sensed at some level. I’m not denying or questioning the validity or value of words of knowledge, words of wisdom, or personal prophecy. I’m just a little uncomfortable being singled out and prefer to pick up my insights wholesale from the pulpit or the Bible, as has happened many times, including an instance or two where I thought the entire church service was orchestrated solely for my benefit.

It may be that the closest I have ever gotten to an honest-to-goodness personal prophetic utterance came from my sixth-grade teacher who said, “You should be an engineer.” Wherever you are Mrs. Mickelson, I owe these eighty-hour weeks and 3:00AM hotline calls all to you. Of course, she was probably thinking of a reasonably sane kind of engineering, like civil or mechanical. No one had heard of software, let alone software engineers, back in those days. The only thing I knew about engineering was that you got to wear cool boots. Nevertheless, despite my best efforts to go in a completely different direction, this is where I wound up. It could be worse; she could have said, “You should be a mime,” which is what the music teacher said, but it came too late to alter destiny.

Most of the time, God speaks to most of us through our circumstances. I’m not sure if that’s His preferred method or simply the most expedient means of getting our attention. Nothing says you’re walking on thin ice like falling into the creek. And, like ice water in your jock, a prophetic word is not only a wake-up call but an often disturbing revelation. It only seems that it is about the future and predictive because everything needs time to happen. By revealing Jesus, prophecy shows us who we are. As He is revealed in us and through us – that’s really the only way He can be revealed to us, we begin to understand who and what we are, why we’re here and where we are going.

I like the way God put it to the people of Ezekiel’s day – whatever I say, that’s what’s going to happen. We can believe and live it out, or we can reject it and find life getting out of our control. What we can’t do is claim the word of the Lord has failed or will fail. The enemy was at the gates of Jerusalem. The prophets had foretold the destruction of the city and the temple and the death or captivity of the inhabitants. Ezekiel’s listeners did not want to believe that the day of reckoning was upon them. They were like the man who fell off the skyscraper saying as he passed each floor, “So far, so good.” It hasn’t happened yet; therefore, it is never going to happen, though reality looms, ever larger. That’s the negative side.

Through the Cross, there is a positive side. The Lord says that He has chosen us to be holy and blameless in His sight (Ephesians 1:4). There are plenty of people around to tell us He didn’t really mean us or that it will never happen, and they might even have some evidence to back it up. Whose report will you believe? You and I are holy and blameless -- not in the far-off future, in heaven or the sweet bye-and-bye. Now. It is the fulfillment of every vision, with nothing missing, nothing lacking. Every prophecy about Christ and about His Body – about all of us holy and blameless believers is accomplished. What God says it is, it is.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Assignment: Thanksgiving

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus – Philippians 4:6-7

I will be out this week, and I want to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. This is truly the American holy day.

As part of your Thanksgiving, I’d like to make a suggestion, a sort of assignment for us. First, get something in which to keep a journal. It can be your computer, a notepad, or the backs of some old envelopes. Next, as early as possible after you wake up in the morning, write down as many things as you can think of for which you are thankful from the day before. Try to come up with at least five.

For example, in the morning, I’m going to note that I was thankful for a quadruple expresso I had yesterday, that my wife complained very little about my driving, that I was able to find some coffee on sale at the supermarket, that I got a decent haircut, that my daughter has found a reasonably nice place to rent, that she has agreed to let me do the painting before she moves in, that I found the cheapest gasoline ($2.35) in the area right across from Arby’s, that I got an Arby’s roast beef sandwich and the curly fries were actually hot, etc.

Try to make entries in your thankfulness journal every day this week. If you feel it is beneficial, continue. It’s not something that is related solely to the holiday. It’s not something that takes a lot of time to do. Don’t try to make it spiritual. A good expresso is a joy forever – or at least a good long-lasting buzz. Just list stuff that gave you a moment of joy, of slack, of peace, of hope, whatever.

The reason we want to wait until the next morning to make our entries is because sleep allows the meaningfulness and significance of an event to soak into the subconscious and be processed. If we continue this practice and are diligent, I think we will see that God really does work all things together for good to those who love Him.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Science and the Suppression of Really Inconvenient Truth

Some stories about the hacking of the East Anglia CRU are now circulating. Fox, I understand, has picked up on the story, and Drudge has it up. I think the Telegraph was one of the first to carry much information. The BBC acknowledged the hack but did not carry any of the information from the leaked documents. This story from the Daily Mail seems to be a bit of a Molotov cocktail since it carries the accusation of “massaged temperature data” right up front. This is the first thing that set me off when I saw some of the emails yesterday as the writer talked about using “Mike’s trick” (apparently Michael Mann of the hockey stick graph) of adding “real temperatures” to the data to “hide the decline”.

Scientists, unless they work in the corporate world, have a great deal of their research funded by governments and related entities. When one deals with the government, one has to speak the language of government and trade in some degree of politicking to be successful. All scientists are human – at least the ones of which I am aware, and they necessarily bring to their work a viewpoint and a belief system. The people I know at work – engineers, technicians, and managers – are mostly honest people, I would say, representative of the general population. As a whole, scientists are probably representative of the general population and mostly honest as well.

The current global warming scandal is one that illustrates something I had considered often. Though I tend to believe scientists are mostly honest, I think they, just like the rest of us, ignore those bits of information that make them uncomfortable. Having a PhD in molecular biology does not automatically make one a better person than, say, having a JD from Harvard, or a BS (how appropriate) in journalism from MU, an MBA from Yale, or a DD from Southwestern Theological Seminary. There’s no real reason to think that a smarter man is a better man. No one really advances that argument. Rather the scientific community insists that the integrity of science stems from its methodology. Investigators are required to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals in ways that permit replication of the results and critiquing of techniques by the larger population of experts in a given field.

The emails from the CRU strike at the root of this methodology. There is nothing in the documents I have seen that gives any indication that Anthropogenic Global Warming was “made up” out of thin air. The globe did get warmer for a few years after the very cool period in the 1940’s. Nothing indicates the investigators do not believe that AGW is real. That’s part of the problem. What the emails do show is that there is a certain amount of collusion among investigators. They are willing to play fast and loose with the data -- doctor it a little when necessary to better reinforce their beliefs – both in terms of making it look more like warming correlates to human activity and with regard to the overall validity of the analysis. They show a petty and unscientific desire to silence dissenters. There is evidence of a reluctance to have the data thoroughly examined by those skeptical of AGW. The researchers do not want to do anything that will enable critical reviews. They were willing to sacrifice scientific integrity on behalf of activism. One email specifically shows the investigators colluding to control debate on their climate research website.

Back when I was a kid, in the dark ages, one of the tropes of pulp-ish science fiction was the scientist who discovered some dangerous truth or invented some potentially devastating device. The clich├ęd question would be, “What if it fell into the wrong hands?” The reason for that question is people used to understand that simply being able to do something does not mean that it is a good idea to do it. Science should have some external ethical control.

It’s the same thing as civilian oversight of the military. Politicians have screwed up a number of wars by not allowing the military more freedom in doing what needed to be done. I would argue that is exactly why Vietnam turned out the way it did. The military won on the ground. The politicians and the journalists threw away victory. We are very close to doing the same thing in Afghanistan, having narrowly avoided it in Iraq. Generals know the definition of military victory. Political victory, however, may be something very different. Despite the drawbacks and frequent stupidity involved, I know that it is necessary to have the civilian President as the Commander-in-Chief and not allow the military to operate independently.

The same is true of science. Science is a method of acquiring knowledge. It has no means of determining, scientifically, if that knowledge is good or bad. Good or bad means nothing to science as a method. Science knows only if something works or doesn’t work. That is a very limited understanding of truth. Something can be small ‘t’ true and still be very bad.

To be sure, the leaked documents from the CRU show that within the scientific community, and among these climate researchers in particular, there is an internal, guiding ethic. They really do want to “save the planet”, which is, of course, all well and good as far as it goes. The problem is that they see individualism, along with the capitalist-fueled excesses of Western Civilization in the developed nations, and the United States especially as being the main culprit of environmental destruction. In a way that might be true. One is tempted, though, to say, “Them’s the evolutionary breaks, bud.” It’s kind of like the bumpersticker that says, “I didn’t fight my way to the top of the food chain to eat tofu.”

These scientists see human population growth and increasing life spans as a sort of cancer on the planet. Humanity is consuming more and more of the available resources at an ever-faster rate. The whole ecology of Earth is threatened and humanity itself along with it. When someone in climate studies found that the planet had increased in temperature over a few years, and that the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere has increased slightly, the scientific community concluded they had found the way to halt the proliferation of humanity and the destruction of the planetary ecology. The burning of energy-rich fossil fuels increased CO2. If CO2 were a “greenhouse gas”, then energy production would be a factor in increasing the temperature of the Earth by trapping the sun’s heat under the carbon dioxide. Suddenly, environmental activism was wed to climate science. If fossil fuel use could be curtailed through various means, including putative taxation, the effect would be to slow, or possibly even reverse population growth and resource depletion by those notorious unwashed masses of humanity.

Science is claiming that we need more control on our activity, more limitations on our individual freedoms and our ability to live as we like. Scientists appear to believe that for the greater good of both the human population and the planet they should be involved in governing.

I’m willing to give these scientists the benefit of the doubt regarding their intentions. They may genuinely believe that what they are doing is necessary to save the planet. What I’m not willing to give them is control over my life. I’m sorry, but the “greater good” argument doesn’t cut it with me, especially when I see supposedly objective researchers touching up their data to advance their agenda. Science seems to think that it should be the arbiter of humanity’s future. Rule by elite scientistic oligarchs appeals to me no more than rule by any other flavor of elite oligarchs.

But thanks for playing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Checking the Barcode on the Revelation Wristband

… who are being protected by God's power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. … You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. … Therefore, get your minds ready for action, being self-disciplined, and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance but, as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy. -- 1 Peter 1:5,8-9,13-16 (HCSB, emphasis added)


I was reading through First Peter chapter 1 recently. It’s not that I haven’t read it before, but we all know that insight from any holy book, and especially from the Bible, is inexhaustible. As I’ve highlighted above, Peter seems to be talking about something future, not yet revealed. That something is contrasted with the fact that the recipients of his letter are not now seeing Jesus Christ, though they believe in Him. It is easy to pass this off as being about the Second Coming or even about our dying and going to heaven – “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” and all that realm of thought. Undoubtedly that is applicable, but what if Peter is not limiting us to death or Rapture?

If we go back to John 14:19, we read that Jesus said, “… the world will see Me no longer, but you will see Me.” All right, then, He is certainly talking about His post-resurrection appearances to the disciples, but He doesn’t stop at that statement. In verse 21, the Lord continues, “… And the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father. I also will love him and will reveal Myself to him.” Revealing is more than a sighting. Revealing connotes intimacy and relationship. Jesus is not merely back in town. He’s getting Himself a cup of coffee and sitting down face to face with the one who loves Him.

Many there are today wandering the world, thinking if only they could have lived when Jesus lived, met Him, walked and talked with Him, seen Him after He rose from the dead, then they would believe big-time. They would live and walk in the Spirit with power daily. Yet one who walked with Him betrayed Him. Another denied Him. A third refused to believe the words of his friends that He had risen. Even after the Resurrection, Peter was so uncertain about the future and his calling that he thought the inner circle of disciples needed to go back to fishing for a living (see John 21).

If seeing Jesus in person is not a revelation of Him, what would be?

Reading on through John 14-16, we can find frequent references to the Holy Spirit. He is called by Jesus, at one point, “another Comforter”, and what Jesus is telling us is that the Comforter is another one – not different but just like Himself. He also said that it is Holy Spirit’s business to guide us into all truth.

The men who followed Christ during His Incarnation were, clearly, believers. They believed, as Peter stated so boldly, that He was the Messiah. No one can see Jesus in the revelatory sense who does not already believe in Him. Believing is the first step to revelation, but faith, which must, by its nature, involve a degree of revelation, is not all that is necessary. Once we begin to believe, we are on the right path but we are not at the end. We’re like the Slinky that gets pushed off the landing at the top of the stairs onto that first step – except we’re a Slinky that can go uphill (what’s the plural for Slinky? Slinkies? Slinkys? Slinks? Slinkii?).

Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness – without it no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). As Peter has told us already, there is a grace for which we should hope, a grace brought to us through revelation. Now, the writer of Hebrews tells us that revelation is a function of holiness. The call to holiness is a call to receive the grace of revelation that comes only when we set ourselves apart to the Lord. And He is called the Holy Spirit, as well as the Spirit of Truth.

Faith should move us to holiness leading to revelation which in turn leads to faith. There are challenges at every point – challenges to our belief, our surrender, our holiness, and even to our personal revelation.

I used to think it was a bad thing that, if God shows us something, others should question the validity of it or even mock us for it. I no longer think that way for I have come to understand that sentimentality has no real place in Christianity. It’s not that a Christian has to stop being sentimental. He just has to stop thinking that sentimentally is an element of religion or necessarily a religious feeling given by the Spirit. My thinking that something is “touching” does not make it true – not even if it makes me weep. I think it’s good that I can be touched by pathos – the heart should be kept soft, not the head. Revelation may cause an overwhelming emotional response. An emotional response is not a guarantee of revelation.

Some Christians say that we should live holy lives out of concern for our brothers and sisters and the unbelievers around us. I agree. Holy, consistent, self-disciplined living is a powerful testimony to the non-believer. Many find fault with Christ in the behavior of His followers. That we should be careful how we live out of concern for others is confirmed by numerous statements in Scripture. Love for our brothers is vital and is expressed in part through holiness.

If that is our only motivation for holiness, however, it can lead to a degree of superficiality. I know a good church deacon and Sunday School teacher. Looking at his life, most of us would say he is a devout man trying to follow Christ. I know two things about him that most people don’t. He was an exacting father with his two sons, especially the elder. He didn’t abuse the boys except in the fact that he thought they did not need toys and such. He begrudged them their childhood in a sense. The second thing I know from a reliable source is that when his wife is out of town, he rents videos rated X. I can’t really find it in my heart to condemn him for that, as I know his wife quite well, and if I were married to her, I’d probably rent them when she was home. I’m not saying the deacon isn’t a believer, that he’s a hypocrite, or even that he isn’t a holy man. I am merely pointing out that holiness is about other people secondarily and God primarily.

If we are seeking Jesus, we are seeking revelation – direct spiritual knowledge -- gnosis in the coon-0-sphere. Without holiness, no one will see God. Holiness is being set apart to the Lord. Each of us in seeking Him will realize some things have to be put aside: attitudes, thought patterns, and habits, things that absorb too much of our time, counterproductive relationships, anything that holds us back, darkens or distracts. It’s the Pearl -- this grace that comes through revelation, I cannot haggle over the Great Price.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Material Management

Why should I fear in times of trouble? The iniquity of my foes surrounds me. They trust in their wealth and boast of their abundant riches. Yet these cannot redeem a person or pay his ransom to God – since the price of redeeming him is too costly, one should forever stop trying – so that he may live forever and not see the Pit. – Psalm 49:5-9

Whoever tries to make his life secure will lose it … -- Luke 17:33 (HCSB)


Some years ago my father had a neighbor who was a Pentecostal preacher. Dad liked the man and his family. Both the preacher and his youngest daughter often went coyote hunting with Dad. The preacher wasn’t particularly successful or prosperous in a material sense. His church was small, and his attempts at farming ended in losses rather than gains for the most part. The family kept afloat by the preacher driving a school bus and his wife working as a cook at a local restaurant. They did manage to eat well or at least in large amounts.

One day the transmission went out on their van, which was their only means of transportation. They had enough money to cover putting in a new one except for the fact that the pump on their well went out at nearly the same time. Dad loaned them a thousand dollars and told them to pay it back when they could with no interest. It took the folks a few months but they did repay his loan. When the wife gave him the check, Dad commented that it would be a good idea to keep a little in reserve. The lady replied that they just always trusted God.

When Dad told me the story, he said, “That’s all right, I guess, but it don’t hurt to plan ahead a little.” He thought we ought not to presume too much upon the Lord when it was in our power to put up a little for a rainy day. Dad never feared rainy days. It was drought that bothered him. He had lived through the droughts of the 1930’s and what he considered a worse drought in our area in the mid-1950’s. Once he had a crop planted on one of the ridge fields, a crop he really needed in order to get by that year. He went to look at it one Sunday morning and saw that it was in bad shape. He came back to the house and commented, somewhat bitterly, “If it don’t rain in the next fifteen minutes that ain’t gonna make nothin’.” The family loaded up and went on to church. Before the service was over, it began to rain.

There must be some balance in our views. Lack of dependence upon the Lord is wrong but so is presumption that leads to complacency or even laziness. The same Paul who told us that God will supply all our needs also told us that anyone who refuses to work should not expect eat. The right idea is to do what we can and not worry. I’m not very good at that. I like security. I like having a nice house to live in, having my gadgets, tools, and toys. I like knowing that I have money to cover everything that might ever possibly come up, or that I will always have a job if I need one. But if I have all that, am I depending on God or my bank account? Am I laying up treasures in the wrong place? How do I deal with the fears of economic uncertainty, of potential inflation that could make my savings virtually worthless in a matter of months? What if I get sick and can no longer work? What happens if the government decides I have too much and confiscates my money or property? What if … What if … What if I lost everything? How would I take care of my wife? How would it feel to be, as my nephew says, financially embarrassed?

How much of anxiety is commonsense, and how much of commonsense is lack of faith? Once we begin to walk the road of “prudence” and “commonsense”, where do we stop? Once we begin to accumulate possessions, how do we keep from making idols of them? I need to take care of my truck as a good steward, but I don’t want to obsess about it. The secret is in the word “steward”. Most of us – unless we’re state-raised – will not drive someone else’s car as we drive our own. We’ll take it a little easier. In college, I was always more protective of my roommate’s stereo equipment than I was of mine – his was better anyway.

Nothing I have, not even life, is mine. I’m just the manager. I’ve been left in charge. I’ll be held accountable for what I do with it, but it is not mine. The reason I can’t redeem myself is that I have nothing with which to pay. I can’t give my life to God in exchange for anything because it has been His life all along. He just wants to see how I handle it.

That’s a scary thought.

On the other hand, it is kind of freeing, as the Psalmist says, to just quit trying to ransom myself. I don’t have anything and never will have anything except that which is the Lord’s. Give it up forever. Not being the owner frees me from the delusions and bondages of wealth and possessions. Being the responsible manager keeps me from being complacent. It almost sounds like God has this figured out.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Deer Season and Disarmament

The "feminization" of America and especially of American foreign policy continues, and it will lead, without question, to conflict and unpleasant consequences.

Firearms deer season is underway in my area. The rut began probably around two weeks ago, that is when the bucks started moving and stripping the bark off some of my trees. Why they can’t limit themselves to the hundreds of saplings in the woods, I do not understand, but that’s another topic. A rutting buck is a masculine creature, no doubt about it. The bucks are looking for does and willing to fight for them. What’s interesting is that these animals very rarely kill one another. Occasionally, two well-matched males will literally lock horns and be unable to break apart, but that is a most unusual occurrence. Even serious injuries are relatively uncommon despite the many encounters that take place among the estimated 1.4 million deer in Missouri’s herd.

Over thousands and thousands of years, evolution has enabled bucks to come to the conclusion that it is better to avoid a fight with an obviously more powerful opponent. Where the contenders are more evenly matched, there is a well-developed instinct to break off the encounter before any serious damage is done and look for some lone does or perhaps for some sweet chicks pursued by a weaker adversary.

There are two types of fights that take place in nature: fights for dominance among males, and fights for survival against predators. In the latter case, there is no option. Every struggle is a matter of life and death. The intended victim – male, female, young, or old – flees if possible, but if cornered it must fight or die. In the former situation, males may fight among themselves for dominance, but every fight is optional. Males are inclined to size up the situation, run bluffs, challenge, back off quickly, and work things out, where possible, without getting beaten up or drawing blood.

To some extent, this behavior is paralleled in humans. Imagine an old schoolyard in the 1920’s or even the 1950’s and ‘60’s. Boys seem more aggressive. They challenge one another. There may be an occasional shoving match. Lines may be drawn in the dirt. Dares are made. There’s lots of action and apparent conflicts. There may even be fist fights – usually more like awkward wrestling matches. A bloody nose, a split lip, or a black eye is no big deal in the overall scheme of things. The dust settles. The fighters may be pals both before and after a fight.

Those were what you might call masculine fights. Contrast that with modern schoolyard conflicts where teenagers kill one another, as happened recently in Chicago. Those killings have all the marks of the other kind of natural fight – the struggle for survival that also involves females – often females fighting for their helpless offspring. For want of a better term, we'll call them feminine fights.

It is understandable from an evolutionary perspective that women would be inclined to approach conflict differently than men. Obviously, we are talking in generalities. Many of the country girls I knew growing up were, using my terms, more masculine in their thinking. I had a cousin a few years older than me who learned to fight from her older brothers, and she, in turn, used to fight with me just for fun. Humans are not bound and controlled solely by instinct. Learning and individual differences are much more powerful in humans.

For generations now, in large segments of society, the men have been removed from their traditional place in the family. Boys are raised in the absence of fathers. Government education and popular culture do their best to portray male aggressiveness in a negative light. The natural aggressiveness that comes with testosterone never gets properly identified with a mature male role model. Instead of conflicts being somewhat noble, instead of fights as displays of competence, courage, and the willingness to endure, every fight is seen by these mamas' boys from the perspective of the feminine. Every fight is life or death. Is it any wonder that there is such a rash of killing in the inner cities?

Our problem is that society is becoming increasingly feminized. We are equating the feminine with peace, progress, harmony, civilization and sophistication. The masculine is seen as threatening, uncouth, savage, and primal. We think that the idea of “peace through strength” is outdated. In fact, peace through strength is more than a good idea; it is the law. Weakness invites aggression, and there is no way around it. To voluntarily weaken ourselves by disarming – either as individuals or nations – means that we become more of a target for those who would take advantage of us, rob us or attempt to destroy us.

If you have any doubt that Barack Obama is the perfect example of a feminized male – feminized in his thought processes not hormonally or sexually, of course – consider how he is dealing with his political opponents. The struggle to push government health care on an unwilling population may be politically disastrous, but Obama sees it as a fight to the death. He refuses to engage in legitimate political dialog. He dismisses the idea of compromise. As he said early on, “We won.” At the moment he is dismissing critics of his delay in making a decision on Afghanistan as not being engaged or not understanding. He falls back on the phrase “it is important to get it right,” meaning, it is important that he is perceived as being right.

While seeing his American political foes as predators, he sees foreign policy as if it were a schoolyard fight -- exactly the opposite of most prior administrations. The truth is that both predators and bullies are always on the lookout for weakness. They will inevitably go after those who seem to be vulnerable, easy targets. They retreat only when faced with a determined defense.

Obama’s willingness to disarm the United States unilaterally, the dismantling of missile defense systems, the disregard for military expertise all are symptoms of his feminine, life-or-death thinking. The leftist academics now in control believe that if America is weaker, then we will invite less conflict. They hope a less threatening stance will lead to peace. Unfortunately for us, Obama and his feminized advisers are wrong. Whether our opponents are predatory or simply opportunistic, a weaker America emboldens them to attack us and our interests. Attempts at appeasement are blood in the water for our enemies.

Here’s a simple diplomatic principle: never take the advice or give in to the demands of those who would benefit from your failure.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Bad Case of the Too Much Caffeine Not Enough Snoozin' Blues

I have slept through one night – last night – since, I think, Thursday. I’m too old for this. Really it didn’t used to bother me but does it ever now. I recall my father once saying, “I really noticed myself going downhill after sixty.” We are not better than our fathers – I noticed it after fifty. I am too worn out and short on time to finish the third part of my myth series right now, so I think I’ll post something that doesn’t require much thought, i.e., politics.

If my one-time guest blogger, Joe, were available, I’d let him share his thoughts. He has some wisdom to impart with regard to parlor-ticks, but, alas, he is busy getting in his winter wood, between shooting – I mean, scouting for deer. Since construction is down, the logging business is not doing that well, and Joe has a lot of mouths to feed – mostly hounds. The kids can always be put to work and boarded out to the neighbors and kinfolk.

As I was working last night, I kept checking the election news. I would say that the only race the people lost last night was in New York’s 23rd Congressional District. The loss would have been as bad, if not worse, had the establishment Republican candidate won. The contest was really been the establishment and the people.

For my part, I am getting a little jaded when it comes to someone like Newt Gingrich – whom I have always respected for his intellect – his character, not so much. I’m also a little weary of Mr. Steele and the rest of the beltway Republican crowd. They have misunderstood what we mean by conservative. It does not mean getting Republicans elected, and it does not mean a defense of the status quo.

The reason people like me adopted the conservative label was as a reaction to the socialists’ adoption and subsequent tainting of the word “liberal”. I don’t want things to stay the way they are. I want freedom. I want the statists to go back in the closet. I want the government to SHRINK. If I succeed or if I fail, I want it to be in a clean game. I don’t want life to be a variation of professional wrestling. I don’t want to be protected from myself. I don’t want to have to hire a damn lawyer every time somebody is in need of an ass-whoppin’. And if I’m the one who gets my ass kicked, then I want to be able to be man enough to get up, shake the better man’s hand, and buy him the beverage of his choice.

I don’t want to have to worry about being arrested for a hate crime or sexual harassment for opening a door for a female, calling her a girl, or telling her she looks good. I want to be able to get on an airplane with my Swiss Army Knife again and not be stripped searched so nobody will think the government is profiling. We all know how many planes have been hijacked, flown into buildings, or blown up by old, blue-eyed hillbillies – especially as a percentage of the population.

I want the border closed. How hard is that? I can’t get a job without giving my resume, college transcripts, and SSN, having a criminal background check, getting fingerprinted and giving a stool sample. Don’t tell me employers can’t figure out that a guy who understands no English word except “Cheby” but somehow has Ralph Kramden’s Social Security card might just be here illegally. The government can’t find and deport them? Really? The government wants to register all the cows in the country for fear some farmer will make a buck they don’t get fifty cents of. How about they register all the illegals who are in this country stealing, murdering, and raping before they worry about Bessie the Heifer?

You want to know what really pisses me off? I’m going to tell you anyway: government schools. I am sick of being economically raped every year to support the schools then having them send the urchins out like a chorus of “Oliver” to sell me Christmas wrapping paper as a fund-raiser. What the hell do I need with wrapping paper? The only Christmas present I’m buying is the local high school’s giant new gee-whiz electronic billboard. Maybe if the high school drama class used the gym instead of having a dedicated “performing arts” building, they could afford to buy their crepe-paper decorations and inkjet cartridges without sticking me up again.

When I went to school, we had around thirty kids in each classroom for eight years. That was all the kids there were in the district. If we had had more kids, we’d have had more in class. My parents and older siblings attended one-room schools. Amazingly we can all read, write, balance a checkbook, make change without a calculator, and manage our finances. I know it wasn’t the Germans who bombed Pearl Harbor. How in the world did we manage to make it without two teachers for every ten students, a building full of administrators drawing six-figure salaries, tennis courts, a pool, counselors, and sensitivity training?

I know I’m an old fogey now, because I officially long for the days when there weren’t too many problems that couldn’t be fixed with seven hundred dollars and a thirty-ought-six.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Myth in History

Israel survives as a nation today because Old Testament mythology of the Chosen People in the stories of David and Goliath, of Moses, Joshua, Daniel, et al, forms the Jewish psyche. Somewhere underlying and underpinning their conscious thoughts, they know they are the People of God, the apple of His eye. They know they can endure great tribulations, trials and persecutions. They know -- despite what their own intellectuals, academics, and politicians may say -- that they are able to persevere, to prosper and to possess the land God promised to them. Jerusalem belongs to the Jews. The Temple Mount is their holy ground.

History, for the children of Israel, has vindicated mythology.

But Israel is hardly the only nation or people with unifying and empowering myths. During the Greek “Dark Ages”, after the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization, Sparta, or Lacedaemon, was a simple Doric village. It took the (possibly) historical lawgiver Lycurgus and a Cretan poet named Thales, along with the epics of Homer to lay the foundation of Spartan culture, including the concepts of simplicity, the separation of the warrior class – specifically the placing of boys in military regiments at age seven, as well as the communal messhalls. They did not strive, as we do, to make life easier. They embraced hardship and shunned ease. This attitude, along with the idea that the royal house of Sparta was related to the legendary Hercules, contributed to the ingrained Spartan belief that one of the citizens of Laconia was worth several warriors from anywhere else. By rigid discipline, a few thousand of these citizens held control of many times their number of helots. They were, for a prolonged period of their history, all but invincible on the field of battle. Spartans did not retreat; they held ranks and did not flee the field of battle. It just did not happen. When Leonidas led his 300 to Thermopylae, they were already steeped in the legends and myths of Spartan culture. The battle there became itself an integral part of the Spartan mythos.

Another aspect of Spartan culture was the cultivation of wit in brevity to the extent that a short, clever answer is referred to as laconic. The American General Anthony McAuliffe was certainly an heir of the Laconians when he replied, “Nuts!” to the German request for his surrender of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. It reminds us of a similar note sent by the Spartans to Alexander the Great’s father, Philip, after his message to them that if he entered Laconia, he would level Sparta. Their reply? “If.” Even in their decline after the disastrous battle of Leuctra, the Spartans remained formidable. Their mythology influenced even their enemies. The Macedonians decided to let them be.

Events of mythological significance are not confined to ancient history. There can be little doubt that the English victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588 became part Britain’s mythic mind-set. Not only is the victory entwined with centuries of British domination of the high seas but to an idea of the island nation’s sovereign and God-ordained separation from the rest of Europe. Nelson’s victories, both at the Battle of the Nile and Trafalgar cemented the British Navy mythos. Nelson himself became a mythological hero. On land, historical figures like Henry V, Wolfe, and Wellington at Agincourt, the Plains of Abraham, and Waterloo were of mythological proportions. As illustrated by both Nelson and Wolfe, the commander’s death as part of his greatest triumph appeals to the myth-maker in all of us.

A more modern American variation of the dying commander is seen in General Patton. Though his exploits on the field of battle had already given Patton legendary standing, his anti-climatic death by accident after the war can leave no doubt about his mythological significance. Patton seems very much like a man on a mission, sent in the hour of the free world’s greatest need, only to pass on – awaiting, as he seemed to believe, like Arthur, a return when he would be needed again.

Myths do not have to arise from military exploits. The Pilgrims voyage on the Mayflower, their story of survival, and their miraculous preservation are worthy of inclusion. Generations of Americans have drawn hope and inspiration from the endurance and deliverance of the Plymouth Colony.

The essence of myth is its relevance to our own situation. Myth tells us that we are not alone, not the first or only ones to face a challenge or to be tried by hardship and suffering. The mythical in history reminds me that each of us has a destiny and a purpose, even in the face of death. This transcends traditional piety and religious sentiment – the pagan and the non-theistic can be as motivated by mythology as the devout believer in God. The others may have to find some different words, perhaps fate or evolution or history, but life must have significance and our mythologies are the heart of that significance.

In the post-modern world, “de-mythologizing” is just another word for deconstruction. Those who would remake society know that they must destroy myths, especially the historical ones. Hence, we have those who say that the English forces were only about 25-50% percent smaller than the opposing French army at Agincourt. They would diminish the scale and import of mythical battles while portraying the leaders as flawed men driven by lust and greed rather than noble ideals. Of course, they have myths of their own, mostly not rooted in reality, but the narrative of myth is so powerful that even ones built on error – e.g., FDR ended the Great Depression and saved America – can be galvanizing and transformative. That this attack on our national mythology has been effective is evidenced by the millions who long for a welfare state to take care of them and support laughable concepts like “gay marriage” while rejecting traditional values, both moral and economic.

We cannot surrender our history to those who would corrupt and de-mythologize it. Our myths are far too vital. Without the Alamo – that is, that story of courage, nobility, and sacrifice that puts the raw historical facts into our hearts rather than our heads, how could there be a Texas? Could there be an America in anything but name without Plymouth or Rogers’ Rangers, without Washington crossing the Delaware, the winter in Valley Forge, without Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, without the Battle of New Orleans, Gettysburg, the Little Big Horn, San Juan Hill, the Argonne or the Bulge? We have been accused of clinging to our guns and our religion. Our anthem, so detested by the left, says we are the land of the free and the home of the brave (whereas Jeremiah Wright says we are the land of the greedy and the home of the slave -- don't let the door hit you in the ass, Rev). We will also cling to those historical American myths that verify that. If we remain true, history will vindicate our mythology just as it has done for Israel.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Myth and Truth

In case you’ve stumbled across this post from a query for obscure song lyrics, I will explain that I am not an English major (you might figure that out by the end of the paragraph). I have never been a Professor of Black History, Wymyns’ Issues, or Queer Studies. I am a mostly white male, heterosexual, Christian, software engineer. Therefore, as should be obvious, I have nothing valid to say on any subject except possibly NASCAR or shotgun loads or how to Texas rig a plastic worm.

When someone says, in response to a story or statement, “That’s a myth,” what they mean is that it isn’t true. It is not “a fact”. I think that’s a misuse of the word “myth”. Nothing can be a myth that isn’t true. The myth may be fiction, but it’s true. The greatest literary works of the 20th Century were mythologies. A fictional example is, of course, The Lord of the Rings. A non-fiction mythology is T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom. True myths abound in history. I mentioned some battles a couple of posts back – Agincourt, Trafalgar, Rorke’s Drift, and the Alamo – as these really happened but they are mythical in their significance. There are many others from Thermopylae to Valley Forge to Little Round Top to Iwo Jima. The story of El Cid is a true myth, as is the story of Sergeant York and Audie Murphy, Too Tall and Old Snake in the Ia Drang Valley, and the firefighters who ran up the stairs of the twin towers.

Myth tells us something powerful about ourselves in a way that transcends the mere words and images used to convey them. The difference, perhaps, between myth and Scripture is that Scripture is revelation in the sense of an unveiling. Myth reveals as well, but it is not logos -- the truth it conveys remains veiled in some ways, yet is the more enlightening for it. I would classify much of the Old Testament as myth by this definition. In that way myth is somewhat similar to allegory, except that allegory is more intentional. Bunyan knew what each of his characters stood for in Pilgrim’s Progess or The Holy War, and I benefit from his work to the extent that I understand how he viewed them. Tolkien cannot be approached in the same way. Sometimes, indeed, Frodo seems a Christ-like figure, but so do Aragorn and Gandalf. No one exactly fits the mold because they are true and the story is a myth. You can find Christ in The Lord of the Rings but not in a single character.

There are negative elements to myths as well. I cannot stand Jane Fonda. I hated the Braves when she was married to Ted Turner – not that I was that crazy about Ted before anyway. I hate On Golden Pond because Jane Fonda is in it. It’s really nothing personal. I mean, I might even like the woman if I ever met her. Maybe Obama could arrange a beer summit for Jane and me – I’ll need at least a case. The trouble is Ms. Fonda created a myth that completely transcends her personality when she sat on the damn commie anti-aircraft gun. A few years ago she kinda-sorta apologized for some of the things she did. If she had renounced that picture, perhaps gone on some talk show and ripped up a copy of it publicly while proclaiming that what she did was treasonous and evil, we would have been willing to forgive her. But Jane Fonda is a leftist and is simply not bright enough to understand that. As it is, she will go to her grave hated by every true American who was alive at the time and old enough to understand the implications of her act.

I may continue this for a couple of days, and I want to start with a Biblical event before considering some historical events, and perhaps talk about some fictional works of literature or film that contain mythical elements.

The Bible contains much that is consistent with what we know of history; some have been more or less confirmed by archeology. I think it is quite likely that the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17) is a reasonably reliable treatment of an episode of single champion combat between the military forces of the Philistines and those of Israel. A bold young man, not particularly well-schooled regarding the military equipment and tactics of the day, volunteered to face a much larger, better trained and equipped champion. He used the weapon with which he had become an expert during lonely, boring days following his family’s herd of sheep. There’s nothing outlandishly improbable about a lucky shot bringing down a much more experienced and accomplished fighter.

What is mythical about this encounter is that David’s courage comes from his understanding of God’s covenant and plan for Israel. The young man saw himself as an instrument of the Divine will in liberating the Lord’s chosen people from oppression. We see what I’ll call mythic principles in play here – ideas like the “the just cause”, “right makes might”, “God is on our side”, “the underdog”, “against the odds”, “amateurs versus professionals”. It is concepts such as these that we think of whenever we speak of a “David versus Goliath” situation. Mythical stories require big ideas and relevant ideas.

Another mark of the myth is that something great has to be at stake. In this case, it was not merely David’s life on the line. There was an understanding between the two sides that the whole nation of Israel would agree to serve the Philistines. Conversely, if the nearly unthinkable happened and their champion lost, the Philistines had agreed to serve the Israelites. This need for something important to be at issue, by the way, is the basis for Orson Scott Card’s argument (can’t find the link) that The Lord of the Rings is the greatest novel of the 1900’s rather than Joyce’s Ulysses. Obviously, Joyce is a genius and the better writer, but nothing in Ulysses is really that big a deal. The world will go on as usual – for everyone else – no matter what happens to Dedalus or the Blooms. I’m not sure I agree with that view, but Mr. Card is the one with degrees in literature.

This story of David’s defeat of the giant has been recapitulated in the history of Israel, particularly since 1948. In that year, as again in 1967 and 1973, Israel was an underdog in wars that should have wiped it out, yet the nation emerged victorious. I think that may be another mark of myth – that it somehow shapes the soul, in this case, of a nation. The cultural myths of a people define what they are capable of overcoming and accomplishing.

We have national myths and personal myths. The myths we embrace and incorporate define who we are. Man is not the tool-maker or the laughing animal nearly as much as he is the myth-maker.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

You Are Here ╬

…For they will see what has not been told them, and they will understand what they have not heard. – Isaiah 52:15


The old joke is that some folks from the city were driving through our part of the country. They became lost and stopped at a farmhouse to ask directions. The travelers explained that they are trying to reach a particular destination. The farmer scratched his head and replied, “You can’t get there from here. You’ll have to go some place else and start over.”

Reason is a lot like that. Where you can get to depends on where you start. Reason cannot validate itself. It can only be used to validate based on some assumptions. Both Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries are based on axioms – certain assumptions that form the foundations on which proofs can be built. That there is more than one geometry is the evidence that proofs are dependent upon the initial axioms.

I have a point of view, a starting place. I believe that God is and is good. I believe that God does not merely exist in the sense that the material world exists, but that He is Real, and, that He is real Good.

Because I start from that point my destination will not be the same as the atheist or the pantheist or the animist. I really have some empathy for those groups because there is a certain appeal to a god who is not real. It is quite convenient to float up science or dryads or fairies when one is in a certain frame of mind – especially when one wants someone else to “play by the rules”. It is equally convenient to be able to ignore the unreal god when one finds it to be a hindrance to one’s own desires. Notice I’m not claiming science doesn’t exist. I’m not even claiming nymphs, fauns, and satyrs don’t exist. I am saying that none of those things are real in the way God is real.

The last few verses in Isaiah 52 begin to speak of the Messiah as the Suffering Servant. Here it is, in verse 14, that we read of Christ’s disfigurement. It is said that He does not even look like a human. If you watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion, you can see this depicted in that painful scourging scene. However, I don’t believe it is sufficient to interpret Isaiah’s statements in terms of the Lord’s physical appearance. When Jesus hung on the cross, the Father hid His face from His Son. He did so, not because the flesh of Jesus was torn, but because Christ was spiritually disfigured by bearing all of our sin. As horribly as the Lord’s body was ripped and battered by Roman whips, it is only a metaphor for the maiming of His spirit by the relentless tooth and claw of sin.

Yet from this rending came redemption -- so He will sprinkle many nations. Kings will shut their mouths because of Him, for they will see what had not been told them, and they will understand what they had not heard.

If we want to get where we need to be, we have to start at the right place. Go to the Cross. We can get home from there.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Stumbling in a Peaceful Land

The righteous one perishes, and no one takes it to heart; faithful men are swept away, with no one realizing that the righteous one is swept away from the presence of evil.

He will enter into peace – they will rest upon their beds – everyone who lives uprightly. – Isaiah 57:1-2


Last Wednesday, in a small community west of Jefferson City, Missouri, a nine-year old girl left a friend’s house to walk a quarter mile back to her own home. She had made the trip before. The area is rural and quiet and safe. She never made it home. When I heard the story, I started making assumptions. I assumed the nine-year-old had been abducted. I assumed she had been snatched by a child molester, or possibly a non-custodial parent – I certainly hoped the latter.

Then we heard that this little child whose picture we had seen on the newscasts was dead. The police were said to have in custody a “person of interest” – a juvenile, older than the victim. I assumed it was a boy. The police said they had been led to the person of interest by notes. I assumed they probably meant text messages on the little girl’s cell phone. I assumed sex was involved.

It turns out all my assumptions were wrong – except possibly the last one – I’m not sure. There seems to be no official statement about the identity of the murderer, but a reliable law enforcement source said that the perpetrator was a fifteen-year-old girl. The notes were actually notes written on paper that the victim had received from her killer. When the fifteen-year-old was confronted with the evidence, she confessed to the crime and led authorities to the body of the nine-year-old. The source claimed that the killer stated her motive as wanting to know what it felt like to kill someone. In other words, it was a thrill killing.

This didn’t happen in downtown Chicago, the South Bronx, Detroit, or South Central LA. The roads are two-lane blacktops or dirt. The name of the town is St. Martins. It’s named, like many of the villages that dot the map as one backtracks the Missouri River west from St. Louis, for the Catholic Church that centers the community. The people have predominately Rhineland surnames that still strike the ear of a Scotch-Irish hillbilly like an out-of-time flathead Ford.

I never thought of myself as having lived a sheltered life. As I’ve said before, at least in childhood, it was somewhat idyllic -- but not sheltered. I’ve never lived in a bubble. Perhaps, though, I’ve lived too long. I understand the statistics of it – that every so often something goes wrong in somebody’s head, and they become psychopaths. It is more likely to happen where there are higher concentrations of people if for no other reason than more people mean more bad people – even if the rate of the failure to be human is the same.

I have known wicked people. Some would say I was pretty wicked myself at one time, maybe still at times. I’ve been around the insane, the criminally insane, and the worst kinds of criminals, and that’s just at the family reunion. Still, this baffles me. All I could think of was the line from “Folsom Prison Blues”: I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. But instead of the bass voice of Johnny Cash channeling that awful sentiment, it is the voice of a girl -- barely more than a child herself -- a girl who should be giggling about school and boys and her plans for life. And she’s not talking about gunning down a stranger and something of an equal, but a helpless child whom she knew, with whom she must have cultivated some kind of relationship, built some trust, an innocent child who might have looked up to and admired the older girl, been flattered by her attention.

We have, like the ancient kingdom of Israel, not merely ignored the sin in our midst, not just tolerated it, but celebrated it. We have come to the place where we call right wrong and wrong right. God does not send judgment on a nation like ours – He doesn’t have to. We draw it to us, pull it down on our own heads, all the while thinking it will never happen to us. But in His mercy, God places His hands on those few righteous among us – there are always a few who do not need the fire’s purging. There are always a few who are not called to the battle, whose eyes are fixed always and only on the King. Those He gathers quickly to His side, to rest and peace and glory. They will not be with us in the fight, but their passing on in peace to their place is a sign that we are under siege and the battle is at hand.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Maybe They Should Try Sippy Cups

I read tragic news of my ancient brethren on the Isle of Kipling, of Cromwell and the Cavaliers. Having a common Scottish last name, I would gloat if the people of my fathers were any better. The flag of once great Britain was the standard of courage around the world – from Quebec to Cape Town to Calcutta, the Battle of Trafalgar to the Battle of Britain, from Henry V with longbows at Agincourt to Churchill with the RAF on the bombed out streets of London. Those were not only Americans who ran into the mouths of German guns on D-Day, a bare sixty-five years ago.

From page 99 of the November 2009 American Rifleman magazine comes a brief article entitled “Now Will Britain Draw the Line?”. It seems that back in 2005, the British Medical Journal called for a ban on pointed kitchen knives throughout the nation lest while carving the Winter Festival tofu goose or, perhaps, cutting the cheese, a poor, repressed bloke would be overcome by the urge to perforate a family member in a Freudian way. This led some to ask if cricket bats, axes, and butter knives might be added to the list at some point. Alas, satire now hangs as a historical relic in the British Museum. The British Home Office has a new campaign called, “Safe. Sensible. Social.” It has commissioned a new, safer design to replace the traditional pint glass in pubs. The classic glass pint can be used (gasp) as a weapon.

Americans should not laugh too hard at the Super Nanny state’s requirement for shatterproof plastic pints. If the do-gooders can subdue the land that produced the defenders of Rorke’s Drift, can the land of Crockett, Bowie, and Travis be far behind?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This is the Way the World Ends

The world was constituted first in Adam, well pleasing to God and obedient to Him. It was man’s world, and in man it was summed up. In man the world fell into the darkness of selfish pursuits. Man became materialized in spirit and dragged down so as to become worldly and sensual. The world is man’s world in his fall from God. – from Alford’s Commentary as quoted by E. M. Bounds in Winning the Invisible War, emphasis added.

The master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted astutely. For the sons of this age are more astute than the sons of light in dealing with their own people. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of the unrighteous money so that when it fails, they may welcome you into eternal dwellings. Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much. So if you have not been faithful with the unrighteous money, who will trust you with what is genuine? And if you have been unfaithful with what belongs to someone else, who will give you what is your own? No household slave can be the slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves to both God and money. – Luke 16:8-13


The world exists in and through man. The planet and its nonhuman inhabitants preceded man physically, but, as Gagdad Bob might say, man preceded the world. As stated in his sidebar, Robin’s CREDO is a quote from St. Francis, “Don’t change the world; change worlds” – which also wraps it up without using tape.

Man was meant to serve as a steward under the Lord and rule over His cosmos. The parable Jesus relates in the first seven verses of Luke 16 tells of an unrighteous manager who had not been doing right by his employer. The manager learns that he is about to be dismissed from the master’s service. Not being that enamored of begging or physical labor, the conniving steward decides to use the employer’s resources to create a golden parachute. He calls those together who owe the master a portion of their production – either because they were tenant farmers or because they borrowed to put in their crops. Whatever the debtors owe, the manager significantly reduces the amount. The debtors are naturally grateful, and the deceptive manager can probably now depend on getting some help from at least a few of them once he is turned out. The gratitude of the debtors is understandable, but what seems odd is that the unrighteous man’s employer actually congratulates him on his astute maneuverings, though the employer has suffered a considerable reduction in his potential income. I wondered if maybe the boss didn’t figure it was worth it just to be rid of him.

Adam ruled his world until his fall. At that point, the world of man came under the dominion of Satan. Man became, not a king, but a slave. When Christ came into the world, He did what neither the devil nor the prophets could have guessed. He didn’t take the Adamic world out of Satan’s control. He created a new one in Himself. And, actually, this new world existed prior to the Cross. As soon as Jesus began to gather disciples, the new world – which He called the kingdom – was open for business.

The problem remained that man was enslaved to the old world and to Satan. Try as they might, the followers of Jesus in His earthly ministry could not really enter the kingdom. They could see it in Christ. They could believe it, just as the Old Testament saints had by faith. But they remained in chains, married, in effect, to the devil in Adam. In fact, if you go a little further in Luke 16, you will read that the Pharisees were listening as Jesus said, “You can’t serve God and money”. Luke says that hearing this, the Pharisees scoffed because they thought wealth was not just good to have but a sign of God’s blessing for their supposed righteousness. The Lord responds to them in verses 15-18:
And He told them: “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight.

“The Law and the Prophets were until John [the Baptist]; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is strongly urged to enter it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter in the law to drop out.

“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and everyone who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”


Okay, so Jesus slaps down the mocking religious elites by telling them that the things they value make God sick. Then He talks about the change that has come and how people are trying to enter the kingdom, though they are hindered by the unyielding requirements of righteousness under the law. At the end, we get what looks like a non sequitur. Does Jesus just gratuitously throw in a bit of teaching about divorce and adultery? Where did that come from?

Paul helps us out in Romans 7:1-3: Since I am speaking to those who understand the law, brothers, are you unaware that the law has authority over someone as long as he lives? For example, a married woman is legally bound to her husband while he lives. But if her husband dies, she is released from the law regarding the husband. So then, if she gives herself to another man while her husband is living, she will be called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is free from the law. Then, if she gives herself to another man, she is not an adulteress. The Lord is no adulterer.

Again, man is meant, or was meant to rule his cosmos as a steward under God. It was never intended that man should rule apart from God or be ruled by the world. To release the world is one thing. Man has tried that. All the great religions have striven to renounce the world to some degree and live in peace. Yet as long as man is in Adam, united in a covenant with the devil, the world can legally maintain its hold.

So, what to do? Should the devil be killed? Should the world be destroyed? That would break the hold, right? I suppose, but, first, the Lord is no more a murderer than an adulterer. Second, to destroy the world and/or Satan, God would have to destroy man. Remember, the world with Satan as its necessary antipode (lest it be merely a plane), is derived through man. Adam is tied to Satan. If Satan goes down, we all go down with him, in Adam. We’re stuck – but for Christ.

This is the unique and exclusive power of Jesus. Jesus is Man, the Second Man to be exact. He’s in the world, sinless, not under the curse, untainted by Adam’s fall. If He is willing to go to the Cross and die, though death has no legal power over Him, then the world ends. By identifying Himself with Adam’s race, the Incarnate Christ can take all into the grave. When He is raised, He can bring all with Him as well. Death has severed the marriage bond to the world and its prince. The Law no longer stands in the gate keeping the new man from the kingdom.

Man is transformed. His world is thus transformed. The kingdom has indeed come and is accessible to all in Christ, the Last Adam. The remnants of the old world remain, still deceiving, still enthralling, still empty and unsatisfying. At some point the last of worldly will be gone – the world will pass away and the kingdom will be all.

Not with a bang,
But a whispered,
“It is finished.”

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Best Offense

He said to His disciples, “Offences will certainly come, but woe to the one they come through! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to stumble.” – Luke 17:1-2

He went away from there and came to His hometown, and His disciples followed Him. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astonished. “Where did this man get these things?” they said. “What is this wisdom given to him, and how are these miracles performed by his hands? Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren’t his sisters here with us?”

So they were offended by Him. – Mark 6:1-3


Have you ever been offended by something? I was talking the other day about how I took offense at the way people treated me and subsequently made my own life more difficult by becoming bitter and doing my best to further alienate people. We will often do things that are detrimental to ourselves just to hurt or get back at those who have offended us. We say sometimes that a person will do something just for spite. A spiteful person is one who has been offended, and not necessarily by the one suffering their spite.

There are things that ought to offend us. I remember as I was crossing a parking lot one day, minding my own business, I saw a man slapping his girlfriend. This offended me. We should be offended by bullying and intimidation, by injustice and ingratitude, not when we suffer – in which case our first response should be forgiveness -- but when someone else suffers under it. The weaker and more helpless need us to become offended enough to step in on their behalf.

The world is full of people who have a grievance against God. Scratch a militant atheist and you’ll likely find a little Catholic or fundamentalist kid who got offended by an over-simplified, childish depiction of God in His Nature and Person. The arguments presented by these great intellects are generally unsophisticated. The best of them is probably something along the lines of how the universe would be different if there really was a God – as if anyone could know that – and even that one mostly comes down to “there would not be any suffering”. Essentially the atheist is reduced to arguing that God, as He can be understood, is no different than no god at all – hardly a convincing proof for the non-non-believer.

People get offended toward God for many reasons, but the source is too often found in their relationships to other humans. Jesus warns us that as believers we need to be careful how we live and what we say. I am aware of a situation where some people who call themselves Christians are not representing the Lord at all well to those on the fringe of belief. Based on the behavior and attitude of these church-goers, a non-believer might deduce that Christians are vengeful, vindictive, envious, greedy, and deceitful. The church-goers excuse their behavior on the grounds that the unbelievers should suffer because of their unrighteousness and that the “sinners” need to learn whose side God is on.

Sick.

But there is another kind of offense that is unavoidable. One Sunday afternoon, I ran across a group of young men sitting on tailgates drinking whiskey and telling bawdy stories. They were parked beside a cemetery not far from a church. I pulled in beside them, since I was well-acquainted with them, and we began to talk about one thing and another, but mostly about the nature of God and the work of Christ. You might say we were having a Bible study. Some religious folk passed by on their way to the church’s Sunday evening service. Several months later, I happened to be in a conversation with one of those passers-by, and she said, somewhat nastily, that she had seen me out there. “You should have been in church,” she pronounced triumphantly.

“With you?” I replied, and I confess to saying it with more than a hint of sarcasm. I had offended this good church-lady by doing exactly what Jesus would do, and does. I had been a friend to sinners. Now if I confirm a sinner in his sin, ease his mind about his actions and attitudes, and work to quiet his uneasy conscience (which is the voice of God), I do him no favors. On the other hand, if I can genuinely befriend him and encourage him to good then I am fulfilling my purpose as an ambassador of Christ and an agent of the Holy Spirit. There is a time to speak of holiness and judgment, but there is also a time to speak of the Holy One as the Good Shepherd who lovingly searches for His lost sheep.

Let us be careful never to offend the little ones. Let us never hesitate to turn on the light for fear of offending self-righteous cockroaches.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mor-on American Idols

This is what the LORD says: Do not learn the way of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, although the nations are terrified by them, for the customs of the people are worthless. Someone cuts down a tree from the forest; it is worked by the hands of a craftsman with a chisel. He decorates it with silver and gold. It is fastened with hammer and nails, so it won’t totter. Like scarecrows in a cucumber patch, their idols cannot speak. They must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them for they can do no harm – and they cannot do any good. – Jeremiah 10:2-5


As I was saying yesterday, everything man builds is systemically top heavy. Man’s creations, if done apart from a recognition of the Absolute, lack a solid foundation. For example, at the moment, I think the stock market P&E ratio is somewhere around 140:1. If you take the smoothed out PE10, it’s still about 19:1 or 20:1. The average on the PE10 is 16.3:1, I think. This means that the market is somewhere between 20% to 700% overvalued. It is out of balance. One reason earnings are holding up as well as they are is because companies have been cutting costs – largely by laying off employees. The massive infusions of government funny money may be helping, too. At some point either real earnings will pick up or the market will collapse, possibly into a PE10 in the single digits – as has happened historically.

With unemployment approaching 10%, I just don’t see how a boost in earnings is possible any time soon. Of course, I am no economist, and I don’t have an MBA, so what do I know. Do not do any investing based on my view of things.

I look back at those idolaters in Jeremiah’s day, and I think how silly they were. Surely no one could take a god seriously that somebody built themselves. Then I look around today at people trying to derive meaning from inanimate objects, from man-made institutions, opinions, substances, people, sports, status symbols, etc. I see it in myself, especially when I look at the things that scare me, the things that I find myself worrying over. It’s really easy to get caught up in the zeitgeist, in the fads and fears that run like a contagion throughout society.

When I see those who appear to be intelligent people talking nonsense, it makes me wonder if I’m the one who doesn’t get it. If I see people clinging to things, how do I know I should not? If lots of people value something, how do I know if they are wrong? How do I know if something is an idol? They must be carried because they cannot walk. An idol is a burden. The real God, of course, is the One who not only is not a burden, He carries us. In True Grit, Rooster speaks of the cat, General Sterling Price, and says that cats really don’t belong to anybody. “’Course,” he adds, “I depend on him.” So, too, with God – He’s my Father, but He can’t belong to me, and thus burden me, in the sense that an idol can. Rather, I belong to Him. And I do depend on Him.

We must be crazy. Why would we fill our lives with dumb things that cannot speak, cannot love us, cannot help us? Why do we allow ourselves to be loaded down like mules with things that a mule, if he were free to choose, would leave behind as worthless? Now, I’m not going to go out and sell everything I’ve got down to my boots and a couple of pairs of jeans, but I am going to work on not letting the empty, the meaningless, and the impotent weary me, intimidate me, or dominate me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Shattered

"My king, as you were watching, a colossal statue appeared. That statue, tall and dazzling, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was terrifying. The head of the statue was pure gold, its chest and arms were silver, its stomach and thighs were bronze, its legs were iron, and its feet were partly iron and partly fired clay. As you were watching, a stone broke off without a hand touching it, struck the statue on its feet of iron and fired clay, and crushed them. Then the iron, the fired clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were shattered and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors. The wind carried them away, and not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. – Daniel 2:31-35


The king has a dream which he could not remember. He called for his counselors to come and tell him both the dream and the interpretation. Only one man, Daniel, was found who could do this. Daniel begins by describing the image and the events of the dream. He goes on to explain that Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom is the golden head of the dream statue. Other kingdoms will follow Babylon in history, not evolving, but becoming weaker and baser over time. In the end, a relatively worthless empire represented by clay will dominate.

The kingdoms of this world are not getting better but worse. There may be temporary spikes – as America was for the first 150 years or so – but the trend is downward. The statue, for one thing, is upside down. The heaviest element, gold, should be the foundation. As it is, it is top-heavy and inherently unstable. I noticed this while watching The Dark Knight. At one point, as the Joker is giving his speech to Dent in the hospital, my wife turned to me and said, “You know, a lot of the stuff he says is right.” The world is full of the false, of things that make no real sense, of the upside down. We’ve gotten used to looking at it this way. We have come, to a great extent, to accept that this is way things are. Thus we sometimes cannot figure God out. We don’t understand what He is doing or why because it runs so counter to the ways and means we have come to accept as reality.

In the dream a stone is cut from a mountain without hands. A stone? Not only is it nondescript, it is worthless even compared to the fired clay. It is not, by the world’s estimation a precious stone – just a piece of rock. Yet it comes rolling toward the statue, strikes the image in its feet of clay. The whole structure falls and is completely shattered to pieces small enough to be blown away on the wind.

That rock is Christ and the wind is the Holy Spirit. The rock began to grow, to fill and overwhelm the vision. That’s the Church, the Bride of Christ.

God reminds us that what the world disregards and counts as inconsequential are the real and the true and the eternal. It will outlast gold; it is worth more than silver. It is more resilient than brass and stronger than iron. Unlike clay, it is a firm foundation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Devil's Heaven

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life? – Matthew 16:24-26


Far be it from me to judge anyone else’s soul or relationship to God, because, after all, Jesus said, “Judge not.” So if a person says they believe in “God and all that” and wants to kill babies, molest children, commit adultery, marry someone of the same sex – as long as they also believe that they should be able to take my property from me at the point of the government’s guns and give it to some ACORN-registered crack whore – I really am not allowed to question their Christianity. Or their patriotism. Or any corrupt unconstitutional plan they come up with if it’s accompanied by the words "for the greater good", "it’s for the children", "to fight global warming", or "to provide healthcare for the disadvantaged".

I probably also can’t remind them that the same Man who said, “Judge not,” said, “By their fruits shall ye know them.”

Apparently the Lord has been to San Francisco.

A sign of the times is that I am beginning to look back fondly upon the ‘90’s. As I was reminiscing about pagers and Windows 3.11, I recalled someone talking about the good ol’ Groper-in-Chief, Bill Clinton. After admitting that Clinton’s personal morals were somewhat lacking, the defender stated that Clinton was probably the most “publically moral” president in history. This is a valid point to the leftists who believe that “doing good” trumps being good. They can make Edward Kennedy one of their saints if they like, but I’m not riding with anybody who has a statue of him dangling from the rearview mirror.

Collectivists – including Christian collectivists – are always concerned about “the world”. They want to save the world. The Christian variety wants to make the church compatible and accepting of the world. They all want reform, education, and material prosperity. Their answer is to dress up the old man in new clothes.

Jesus says the answer is a new man. The goal of Christianity is not a better world but better people. The only righteousness that counts is personal righteousness. The group is never holy, only the individual. Weighed against a single human soul, the world is as nothing.

Yes, I used to want to change the world, too. I wanted abortion outlawed. I wanted abstinence taught in schools. I wanted kids to be able to pray at football games and graduations. Then one day it dawned on me that abortion didn’t need to be outlawed, it needed to be unnecessary – not because we were teaching kindergarteners about condom use, but because children were growing up in godly homes with their own two biological parents. Abstinence wouldn’t need to be taught in schools if the right understanding of God’s principles were instilled in children by their parents and their church. And one thing anyone can always do anywhere is pray.

We don’t need Christians to take over the government, necessarily. I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t vote, participate in the public square, or serve in public office. But government is never going to be the vehicle for fixing the world’s problems. The function of government is solely to allow us to peaceably pursue the will of God for our own individual lives – to both practice and preach the Gospel without interference.

The state is the god of the left. Obedience to man’s law or even to the rule of the despot is more appealing to the flesh than obedience to the Divine law. The great fear of the left is the establishment of a theocracy. Admittedly, there are probably a few people on the right like the late Jerry Falwell who would not be altogether opposed to doing some legislating of morals. Most of us, though, would be quite content with simply a truly neutral government and also a minimal government. We know that a utopia of the unregenerate is just another name for hell.