King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (3)

Michaelangelo-DavidSeeking to Know an Unsafe Savior

If we dare to seek to know Christ in His unsafe completeness, then an essential resource is the life of David, as provided in (but not limited to) 1 and 2 Samuel.  For, it is with David that God entered into an eternal covenant, promising that it would be through his lineage that the Messiah (Jesus Christ) would establish a kingdom that would endure forever.

The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.  He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (2 Samuel 7:11b-13)

In David we will not find a man who conforms to the 21st century ideals (i.e., pacifistic, narcissistic and perfectionistic) introduced in an earlier post.

As I recently pointed out,  it would be a gross interpretative error to simply conclude that any verse describing the life of David can be directly and thoughtlessly applied to problems facing us today.  However, this important principle does not free us to simply ignore anything that challenges our conceptions about the human condition or God’s relationship with us or His expectations of us.

It is a purpose of Holy Scripture’s testimony to provide that information, and it is to this testimony that we must submit as Christians.  And, by seriously studying the life of David in 1 and 2 Samuel, we are rightly submitting to Scripture’s teaching as we face together the terrible challenges of the 21st century.

King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (2)

Michaelangelo-DavidIntroducing an Unsafe Savior

When the postmodern mind encounters the closed circle between King David, a warrior and poet after God’s own heart, and Jesus Christ (see the previous post), the natural reaction is to ignore rather than to engage.  For, to engage creates the danger of discovering Jesus Christ to be other than the domesticated avatar that our cultural (and some religious) elites have so carefully constructed.

Although I don’t claim to be a reliable Aslaninterpreter of C.S. Lewis, this quote from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe captures, for me, this crucial insight.  When one of the main characters, Lucy, is first introduced to an entity called Aslan, she assumes a man.  However, upon being told that he is actually a lion she asks the obvious question.

“’Then he isn’t safe?’ said Lucy. ‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you’”

Of course, it is Jesus Christ Himself, in Matthew 10:28, who authoritatively defines the nature of our good but unsafe God.

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

The truth is that Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity, God Almighty.  Although He chose in sovereign purpose to submit to the humiliation of human incarnation and crucifixion, He is still Almighty God.  Thus, in Him, the forces of Godly justice and judgement are nonetheless sometimes dispensed with overt power, even violence.  A few counter-examples should be sufficient to make the point.  Please understand that my intent is not to counter-simplify our Savior to be wrathful rather than meek and mild.  No, the point is that we must take seriously all aspects of His character and teaching because He is Almighty God.

Is Jesus Kindly?

By “kindly” I mean the characteristic of responding in a gentle, warmhearted manner to all people, regardless of their behavior or beliefs.  The following passage from the Gospel of Matthew is one of numerous instances that clearly shows this was not always the case.

“You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?  Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechari’ah the son of Barachi’ah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.”  (Matthew 23:33-35, RSV)

Is Jesus Passive?

1024px-Valentin_de_Boulogne,_Christ_Driving_the_Money_Changers_out_of_the_Temple

“Christ Driving the Money Changers out of the Temple” – Valentin de Boulogne

By “passive” I mean the acceptance of events or attitudes without active response or resistance.  This characteristic cannot be reasonably applied to our Savior, for example, when He was confronted with the desecration of His Father’s house.

In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business.  And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.  And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”  (John 2:14-16, RSV)

Is Jesus Always Meek and Mild?

Finally, to remove any remaining doubt, here is a fierce passage from the Gospel of Luke.

“I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!  I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!  Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53, RSV)

Clearly the “meek and mild” characterization of Jesus Christ is  incomplete.  Secular interests (supported by their religious fellow travelers) in our culture like the “meek and mild” idea because it simultaneously renders Jesus impotent and un-differentiable  from the crowd of human “wise teachers.”  Christians must face up to the truth that Jesus Christ is far more than a “meek and mild” enabler of the comfortable life.  To truly follow Him we must know Him in completeness.

King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart (1)

Michaelangelo-David

Michelangelo’s David

Opening Thoughts

In the first verse of the first Book of the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew, the name of David occurs at the twelfth word[1].

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: (Matthew 1:1, NIV)

Thus, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is tied in the most intimate manner with King David, a warrior and poet after God’s own heart.  And yet, when 21st century Christians seek to interpret the person and purpose of Jesus Christ, this unmistakable bond with an ancient king from the Old Testament is all too often ignored.

David-W&P

We live in an age dominated by pacifistic, narcissistic and perfectionistic modes of thought.  Thus the most natural interpretation of our Savior’s character is “gentle Jesus, meek and mild.”  While I will not here contend that this sweet Wesleyan phrase is an inaccurate description of Christ’s nature, I will strenuously argue that it is a dangerous falsehood to consider it to be anything even approaching a complete one.  For, if we follow the thread from Matthew 1:1 back to the story of David in 1 and 2 Samuel, we are confronted by a person who somehow combined the brutality of a warrior with the sensitivity of a poet, and thus is described in Scripture (Acts 13:22, 23, NIV):

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’  “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.[2]

And, this Covenant made by God with David is said in the Gospel of Luke to have been completed in Jesus Christ.

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32,33, NIV)

And thus the circle is closed between King David, a warrior and poet after God’s own heart and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


[1] I have previously considered the second patriarch in this verse, Abraham, in God’s Acts of Providence.

[2] Here in Acts the Apostle Paul, in Pisidian Antioch, is summarizing 2 Samuel 7:12-16.

What does the Bible Teach on Immigration and Refugee Policy? (4)

bible-bordersClosing Thoughts

While this assessment cannot be claimed to have been comprehensive I believe it has been sufficient.  That is, the following aspects of the current consensus on immigration and refugee policy have been carefully scrutinized

  1. a high profile statement by an officer of the PC(USA) on their policy positions
  2. review of one of the most commonly used Bible passages in support of the current consensus.

In both areas I have found the results to be seriously deficient.

There is, however, a general consideration that may be of use to explore as we exit this particular topic.  Although it has been indirectly referred to, it has not yet been specifically addressed.  That being Progressive Christianity’s all too common presumption of a moral, intellectual and theological superiority that excuses them from engaging as peers with those holding opposing perspectives.  I certainly am not claiming that this problem is uniformly the case as I personally know numerous members of this group who engage on the merits.

However, I believe the argument can be credibly made that, due to their undeniable success in occupying most key positions of social and organizational power, the Progressive movement has become far too dependent on intimidation at the expense of persuasion.

intimidation-doesnt-last-very-long-quote-1This strategy is pursued by never acknowledging opposition as being legitimate and by insisting that opposing points of view are motivated by moral defects.  Thus they are not seeking to persuade peers to see their point of view, but rather using social and/or organizational force to obtain submission.  Those who have been following this blog will have no trouble recalling cases where senior leaders in the PC(USA) have aggressively utilized these tactics.

John Calvin himself rebukes this leadership strategy in his commentary on Psalm 45:2.

You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever.

… How manifestly does this rebuke the mean-spiritedness of kings in our day, by whom it is regarded as derogatory to their dignity to converse with their subjects, and to employ remonstrance in order to secure their submission; nay, who display a spirit of barbarous tyranny in seeking rather to compel than to persuade them …

The really bad news for Progressives is that, although victory by intimidation has always been a morally destructive strategy, it no longer is likely to be effective for a large segment of the population.  And, doubling, then tripling down, to the point of rioting and physical violence, on the same strategy is likely to diminish your credibility and influence even more.

bible-verses-about-welcoming-othersI suppose that this blog could be viewed as one long attempt to persuade Progressives to rejoin the rest of us flawed, confused humans who are attempting to find our way through the challenges of the 21st century.  Sometimes persuasion has the prerequisite of confrontation, such as when an entrenched group abuses their position and privilege to the detriment of substantive debate.

I believe that most of us would welcome you with open arms.  I certainly would. For, we need more ideas being more freely debated in good faith to meet the difficult choices and challenges that face us all.

 

 

What does the Bible Teach on Immigration and Refugee Policy? (3)

bible-bordersKey Scripture Passage

The passage to be assessed will be Leviticus 19:33-34 (ESV) as it may well be one of the most frequently cited.

Leviticus 1When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

I have already confirmed both the relevance and authority of this passage as a guide for Christian understanding of immigration and refugee issues.  And yet, I intend to show that the application is not as perfectly tailored to support of the Progressive Leftist political current day positions as is assumed by far too many.

A first issue is use of unwarranted selectivity.  Sometimes pastors and laity are more than happy to cite Leviticus 19:33-34 to those with a differing perspective.  However, I can’t help but notice how verse 15 from the same chapter is not so commonly used.

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

I’m well aware of the Bible’s overall teaching about the poor.  However, I wonder how some of our fellow Christians would react were someone to pluck verse 15 out of Leviticus and quote it every time the poor are considered?

The second issue that must be examined is what is meant by the word “sojourner.”  The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible explains this word as follows.

A person living in mutually responsible association with a community, or in a place, not inherently his own. …  In the basic meaning of the term, a sojourner is a person who occupies a position between that of the native-born and the foreigner.  He has come among a people distinct from him and thus lacks the protection and benefits ordinarily provided by kin and birthplace.  His status and privileges derive from the bond of hospitality, in which the guest is inviolable.  … Placing himself under the protection of a particular clan or chieftain, or a person, the sojourner in turn assumes responsibilities.

Based on this information I conclude that a “sojourner” is something very different from the formulation of the Rev. Parsons, that being someone “who find themselves within our borders.”   That is, a sojourner is someone who has entered into an explicit and bi-directional relationship with a community “not inherently his own.”  Thus, someone who illegally sneaked into a community and attempted to reside without any mutual agreement on the nature of their relationship would not be considered to be a “sojourner,” but rather an interloper.

So too, the leader of a clan or community would have to agree to the creation and continuation of this relationship.  Were a sojourner to violate the terms of agreement, the community would no longer be bound by them either.  And, that community/clan leader would be expected to use their best judgment prior to entering into such an arrangement with foreigners.  For example, if a dozen military aged Philistines showed up on the border claiming to be “sojourners,” who but the most biblically/historically illiterate would imagine that an ancient Israeli leader would be predisposed to enter into such a relationship?

Finally let’s consider the issues associated with historic and social context.  The NIV Study Bible (© 1985) estimates that the Book of Leviticus was written by Moses between c. 1446 and c. 1406 B.C.  Taking the midpoint of this period, that is 3,443 years ago from 2017.  I point this out not to attenuate the Book’s authority as Holy Scripture, but rather to suggest that it may be quite a stretch to simply conclude that any verse can be directly and thoughtlessly applied to problems facing us today.  Yes, it most definitely does speak to us and our problems today, but a responsible interpreter will carefully identify differences between c. 1426 B.C. and 2017 A.D. that could result in misapplication of God’s Word.

Nathaniel Micklem in The Interpreter’s Bible makes this point with great wisdom in his exposition on Leviticus 19:9,10 (NIV).

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.

Are we to say in the light of vss. 9-10 that the storekeeper must always throw in a little extra when he is serving a poor customer, that the market gardener must be quite unconcerned if a poor man helps himself to a little pickings from his fields?  It is obviously impossible to apply the rules of a simple agricultural society to the complicated conditions of modern economic society.

Such rules as these must be translated into another idiom.  But the principle remains, I am the Lord your God.  Therefore, you shall not be grasping, you shall not make every cent you can for yourself and your family; you shall share with the needy that measure of prosperity which God in his mercy may have granted you.

We must therefore ask just what are the primary societal parameters that have changed since c. 1426 B.C.?  Is it that human beings are no longer capable of ill will and/or deceit?  Is it that leaders no longer have responsibility to provide protection to their communities?  Is it that human beings no longer bleed and die?  No, no and no.

The primary thing that has changed is that the immigration/refugee issue is today debated in the United States within context of a nation of 320 million people spread over almost four-million square miles.  Thus, whereas a community/clan member in ancient Israel would have to look into the eyes (living or dead) of the victims of their poor decisions, citizens of the United States who demand no vetting of immigrants/refugees and open borders can do so safe in the knowledge that the likelihood of this outcome is vanishingly small.

Many, many people who follow the Progressive Leftist line on immigration and refugee policy do so without having carefully thought through all of the issues and implications.  However, there are the most serious of moral issues at play.  Were some of these well intentioned people to stop and really focus on these issues they might modify their words and actions.

What does the Bible Teach on Immigration and Refugee Policy (2)

bible-bordersThe Reverend Gradye Parsons’ Letter

I’ll begin the careful scrutiny of this issue by discussing the PC(USA) “Stated Clerk issues letter to Trump on refugees, immigrants” (dated October 2, 2015) that was introduced in my previous post.  The value is that a high officer is here explaining the denomination’s policy positions in an official capacity.  Thus, what is said, implied and unsaid is of great significance.  The Biblical interpretative, philosophical and communication strategies utilized are also important aspects of the analysis.  All text from the letter is included in order as quotes, with my commentary inserted as regular text.

Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.
725 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10022

Mr. Trump,

I am the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the denomination of the congregation in Queens, New York, where you were baptized. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) develops its policies through councils of teaching elders and ruling elders. At the national level it does that through the General Assembly. I would like to share with you the Presbyterian policies on refugees and immigrants.

There was a time in my living memory when such a preamble would have elicited an expectation of Christian profundity.  I detect a sense of chastisement here, as Rev. Parsons deigns to educate Mr. Trump on the refugee and immigration positions of his own denomination.  I must say that on this point we are in agreement.  However, whereas the issue at hand elicited this response, for me it began when Mr. Trump said “I’m Presbyterian.  Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness.”

Presbyterians profess a faith in Christ, whose parents were forced to flee with him to Egypt when he was an infant to save him from King Herod. Knowing our Lord was once a refugee, faithful Presbyterians have been writing church policy urging the welcome of refugees and demanding higher annual admissions into the United States since the refugee crisis of World War II.

Here we find the one and only Biblical reference, summarizing Matthew 2:13-20.  What startles is the unexplained logical leap from our Lord’s specific experience to an apparently general application.  Does the fact that Jesus Christ was once a refugee mean that any and all who claim that status have been automatically bestowed with His sinlessness?  Is it possible in Rev. Parsons’ ideology for someone who claims refugee status to yet harbor evil intent?  And, if this is a realistic possibility, would a sovereign nation be obliged to welcome that person into their population?  Note that these real and pressing issues don’t even warrant acknowledgment let alone serious consideration in this authoritative statement of the PC(USA)’s positions.

Presbyterians have a mission presence in many refugee-sending countries, including Syria and Lebanon, where we have been present since 1823. Our relationship with people of faith and communities in these countries gives us knowledge of the root causes of the flight of refugees and further cements a commitment to welcome.

1983-beirut-bombing-by-hezbollah-iran-e1404967583363

1983 Hezbollah Bombing of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut Lebanon

These two sentences manage to encompass the decadence and irresponsibility that defines our national denominational leadership.  Here we have mentioned two countries, one having experienced and the other currently embroiled in bloody, brutal civil war, held up as places from which blameless refugees are guaranteed to originate.  Who, I wonder, has been doing all of the killing in Syria resulting in almost 500,000 dead?  Weren’t upwards of 150,000 killed in the Lebanese Civil War (1975-90) by someone?  Isn’t Syria the home of ISIS and Lebanon of Hezbollah, both vicious, genocidal Islamic terrorist groups who target the United States?  Is it not possible that someone complicit in or directly responsible for this mass murder might seek to enter the United States as a refugee?

isis-san-bernardino-terrorists

2015 San Bernardino ISIS Terrorist Murderers

And yet, in the face of this absolutely obvious set of circumstances, the Rev. Parsons bestows blanket innocence upon all refugees from these troubled countries because of the PC(USA)’s supposed “knowledge.”  What can possibly account for the existence of this level of moral blindness?  The Rev. Parsons, speaking for the PC(USA) General Assembly, is more than happy to signal their supposed superior virtue while ignoring the real and present danger to their fellow citizens from uncontrolled entry of refugees.  That is, they will happily claim all of the virtue points for their “compassionate” stance on refugees but deny any culpability for associated crime and terrorism because “their intentions were good.”  This is not virtue, it is its opposite, and, it’s long past time that we ceased allowing our national leaders to have it both ways.

Presbyterians through decades of policy have demanded humane treatment of people of all nationalities and faiths who find themselves within our borders.

This sentence is a masterpiece of obfuscation.  On the surface it appears to be undeniable.  Yes, absolutely, we in the United States should treat all within our borders humanely.  And yet, what if someone finds “themselves within our borders” because they have entered illegally?  Is it inhumane to deny them social services, welfare, work?  Is it inhumane to deport them?  If they commit a felonious crime, is it still inhumane to deport them?  All of this is left unaddressed.  One has to dig a little to uncover the true position of the PC(USA).

We have challenged our government when it neglects to acknowledge the refugee status of those fleeing persecution.

Has the PC(USA) ever supported laws or policies that ensure careful vetting of refugees?  Unless information to the contrary can be presented, their position on vetting refugees from lawless, violent nations appears to be that it shouldn’t be done at all.

We have pushed for due process at the border and we continue to petition for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented persons.

I believe that “due process” likely means that a non-citizen of the United States should be given all of the Constitutional rights as has a citizen even when outside of the country.  Were this position to be accepted then the ability of the United States to control entry of non-citizens would be at the very least severely damaged.

As a Presbyterian I acknowledge my immigrant ancestors and my new immigrant sisters and brothers. I also respect that we came uninvited to a land already occupied by people. This creates a sense of humility about my citizenship that shapes my views on those who seek a place here.

This is an excellent example of the Jonathan Gruber school of political discourse: “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.”  For, obscured behind all of the virtue signaling is effectively the demand for “open borders.”  Yes, the Rev. Parsons doesn’t explicitly say this.  However, since he admits guilt for his ancestors coming “uninvited to a land already occupied by people,” the most reasonable conclusion is that anyone who seeks “a place here” should be allowed in.  Of course to say so outright would create yet another reason for members to exit the denomination.  So, the position is only tacitly communicated.  However, I have little doubt that “open borders” is both what is meant and what is being pursued by the PC(USA) leadership.

I hope you will find this helpful. I especially hope it will inform you on your policies going forward.

In Christ,

The Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

It certainly was helpful, but not necessarily in the way intended.  This letter helps by exposing the unsupported logical leaps, lack of theological seriousness, irresponsible virtue signaling, disdain for the safety of our citizens, obfuscation and purposeful ambiguity of the PC(USA)’s national leadership.  Only a leadership clique hermetically sealed inside an alternative-reality ideology could be capable of generating, approving and releasing such a defective statement.

What does the Bible Teach on Immigration and Refugee Policy? (1)

bible-borders

Leviticus 19:33,34 and Immigration Policy Implications?

Opening Thoughts

Background

We who live in Christian community have leaders determined by various methods to whose authority we generally submit.  This hierarchical structure varies from extremely formal and rigid (e.g., the Catholic Church) to informal and fluid (e.g., some Pentecostal churches).  The existence of a leadership structure is both Biblically ordained (for example see Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4; 2 Cor. 1:24) and practically necessary for effective corporate functioning.

I think that most Protestant Christians are in agreement that there is nothing absolute about a given church leader’s (or church organization’s) authority.  That is, we believe that the only head of the church is Jesus Christ and that the Bible’s testimony is the unique source of authority for the living out of our lives in Christ.  Therefore, we in the laity are empowered to test the teaching of our leadership by its fidelity to God’s Word.

Further complicating this relationship is the undeniable fact that our leaders are merely flesh and blood, with all of the possibility for frailty and folly which this implies.  Thus, our leaders live in social and organizational groups that have their own set of expectations, politics and rules.  Although there can be much that is good in these social groupings, there is also the possibility of group-think and blind adherence dominant opinion.

So, when our Christian leaders deliver teaching our default position should be respect and serious consideration.  However, due to the above discussed issues, there are cases in which we must conduct our own review of Scripture and exercise our own judgment.

The Current Issue

The current issue of most extreme political disagreement in the United States may well be that of immigration and refugee policy.  This issue divides political parties, families, churches and many other organizations.  With regard to the church, as pointed out in The Atlantic:

From religious leaders’ perspectives, backlash against Trump’s immigration policy may be the most ecumenical issue in America right now. Hundreds of prominent clergy signed onto a letter condemning the “derogatory language that has been used about Middle Eastern refugees and our Muslim friends and neighbors,” calling on Trump to reinstate the refugee program.

Such wide agreement is often supported by a correspondingly wide set of motivating considerations, from a general political rejection to concern about practical consequences to distrust of a particular politician’s character and/or judgement, among others.

Thus, if the issue becomes more focused, an apparent consensus can quickly evaporate.  For example, if the issue is narrowed to the Christian perspective on “open borders,”  then the above agreement will likely splinter.

Although there may be general agreement among most clergy members, the laity is more evenly divided.  After all, enough people voted for Mr. Trump to elect him President. And candidate Trump was crystal clear that the current status of immigration / refugee policy was unacceptable.  It is also the case that there are prominent Christian organizations and leaders who either have chosen to remain silent or supported the proposed policy changes.

So, if most of our clergy appears to be in agreement that President Trump’s policies are undesirable and the previous administration’s policies are more so, then should we automatically accept this teaching or submit it to our own careful scrutiny?

I’m concerned by the lack of specificity, ill defined logic and superficial Biblical justification for many of the statements made by some of our clergy.  For example, when Grady Parsons, Stated Clerk of the Office of the General Assembly chose to educate candidate Trump on PC(USA) on refugees, immigrants, the policy described clearly pointed towards a Progressive Leftist political perspective.  I will deal with my numerous serious issues regarding this letter in the next post.

Likewise, we are exposed to repetitive recitations of Bible passages such as Leviticus 19:33-34 (ESV)

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

without the benefit of comprehensive exegesis and exposition on the context, word definitions and other Biblical passages that may well illuminate and/or modify the meaning.

So, is this a case where our leaders have already done the theological heavy lifting and generated a conclusion that, though communicated in shorthand, is beyond reproach?  Or, is this, like the same-gender marriage argumentation, a human political position covered by a veneer of faux religiosity?  Obviously there is much room for variation between these two extremes.

Given the stakes for our nation, I conclude that careful scrutiny is necessity.

The Progressive Pyramid of “Moral Authority” (9)

pyramid-notClosing Thoughts

As is likely too often the case for this blog, these past two months of posts haven’t been particularly pleasant.  However, I do hope that they have been at least thought provoking and informative.  My personal motivation is rooted in a growing concern that we are living through the precipitous decline of a troubled but wondrous civilization that was built upon a Christian worldview.

clash_of_civilizations_map

Western Civilization’s Place in the World.  Note that Christianity is by no means limited to the Western World, but has blossomed and grown throughout the entire world.  The number of Christ followers throughout the world was estimated to be 2.2 billion in 2010 (or nearly one-third of the world’s population).  Thanks be to God!

Note that I am not here claiming that Western Civilization is synonymous with Christian Civilization (particularly since Europe is for all intents and purposes a post-Christian culture).  No, Western Civilization predates Christianity, and, its pagan roots have continued to powerfully influence its development.  However, a little over two-thousand years ago God Himself entered the world in an insignificant backwater of the Roman Empire.  The ensuing collision between one of the most powerful human empires of all time and God’s Word Incarnate shook the pagan world to its core.

The ensuing events that built Western Civilization were filled with violence, cruelty and injustice, which is not surprising to a Reformed Christian.  But, somehow, by a Divine Providence that transcends human understanding, out of this chaos of sin there yet emerged a culture that began to affirm the value of each human being as an individual, unique creation of a Sovereign God.  And, from that affirmation grew a civil tradition that, incompletely and imperfectly, sought to advance those humane values.

fandwc_banner2

Selected Pillars of Western Civilization

These humane values have ultimately enabled, for better and for worse, human flourishing in an environment of individual liberty, religious tolerance, technological innovation, economic abundance and cultural diversity.  It is these values that had enabled gays to safely assemble at a place called the Pulse Nightclub in spite of the fact that many Christians in the United States don’t believe that homosexuality is aligned with God’s intent for humanity’s best good.  It is these values that finally enabled the successful eradication of slavery, even though it had been a constant in human history, including in the West from time immemorial.  It is these values under which women were able to take their place in society as equals to men.  And, it is these values that enabled the West to defeat at terrible cost the two most evil, godless ideologies of modern times, National (i.e., Nazism) and International (i.e., Communism) Socialism.  I could go on and on, not because Western Civilization is all good, but rather because much that is good has occurred in spite of its faults and failures.

Over the last century or so, perhaps because of the cataclysmic consequences of two World Wars and the Cold War, the West appears to have lost its civilizationaend-of-western-civ-1l confidence.  In its place has grown a decadent, lazy, ignorant posture of self-hatred and irresponsibility.  We have progressively taught ourselves to focus only on Western Civilizations’s failures and crimes.  We have even been talked into accepting that Western Civilization’s humane victories are so tainted by evil that they are also to be despised.  In this poisoned environment we have concluded that our civilization is uniquely evil and thus undeserving of respect, from either ourselves or others.  And so, you find many in our polities who advance policies that can only be described as civilizationally suicidal.  And, the elite Progressive Left (ePL) is the primary source and power behind this philosophy.

As I have said numerous times, I don’t believe that the vast majority of those who follow the ePL’s lead intend the chaos, violence and suffering that civilizational collapse would cause.  However, I do believe that the ePL, that true “1%”, hates Western Civilization and works tirelessly to advance towards its demise.  By one means or another, they have arguably convinced a plurality of the West’s citizens to follow.

Thus this series has been my plea to the ePL’s followers to stop and consider who they have shown themselves to be, what they actually believe and where they intend to take our civilization.  If you dare to look beyond the propaganda, social pressure and virtue signalling you might discover that they are unworthy of your allegiance.

I am also speaking to those many in the West who are not following the ePL, but feel isolated, demoralized and confused.  You need not ignore Western Civilization’s many failures to yet embrace and defend its best values.

michelangelos_pieta

“The Pieta” by Michelangelo

The ePL has said that, simply by being a citizen of the West you bear all of the sins of that civilization, and therefore have no right to oppose anything, including ideologies of monstrous evil.  This is a monstrous lie in the service of a monstrous evil.  Yes, we must continue to use our freedoms to think, speak, criticize, debate and, ultimately, improve and reform that which is wrong with Western Civilization.  However, were we to succumb to the ePL’s ultimate vision, there may be no speech, thought or action that falls outside the control of whatever inhumane, totalitarian ideology occupies the place once held by Western Civilization.

doubting-thomas-by-caravaggio

“Doubting Thomas” by Caravaggio

Amen.