The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
Psalm 145:18, NIV
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Romans 12:12, NIV
Psalm 145:18, NIV
Romans 12:12, NIV
Psalm 100 (RSV)
Let me share an experience from the floor of the Presbytery of Chicago. A large committee had created a draft statement on evangelism that was under review. At one point we were asked to split into small groups to discuss the draft. A colleague from my local church and I asked two Commissioners, one younger and the other older, to join us. They were more than happy to do so, and we started the discussion.
We pointed out that the draft as written seemed to be less about Christian evangelism than it was about multiculturalism. For, as far as we could tell there were minimal claims to any truth or value for Christianity. Rather, it appeared to be just about getting along with all other religions and cultures.
This observation elicited an immediate angry reaction from the older Commissioner. Rather than engaging in debate on this point they walked away while audibly speaking into the air about haters and racists.
The younger Commissioner remained engaged. However, their response was that dozens of PCUSA elders and clergy of all races, sexual orientations, genders and cultures had come together to generate this text, so, it had to be correct because the creating group was so diverse. We pointed out that there was also the dimension of philosophical / theological diversity, which we didn’t see represented in the document. They responded with the blank stare of one who is hearing something incomprehensible.
Thinking back on this incident years later I realize that the responses of these two Commissioners are representative of the two types of bubbles within which our leadership live. These bubbles need not be separate, but can be, in effect, two layers that create hermetic isolation.
The younger Commissioner was more than happy to continue our discussion to the end of the allowed time. They showed not the slightest anger about or disapproval of our position. Rather, they seemed amazed to be speaking with two such strange humans. We elicited not anger, but rather curiosity.
Surely, even living in Progressive Chicago they must have been aware of people who hold strange, inexplicable beliefs. However, here were two actual people, on the floor of the Presbytery of Chicago (!?), who were stating these beliefs. What an unexpected and unique cultural experience!
Thus, we find here the bubble of social isolation, in which a person simply doesn’t interact with anyone who challenges their beliefs. Everyone, of all races, cultures, sexual orientations and genders, in their wondrous diversity, agrees on the same thing! It’s not that they aren’t aware that there are strange people who somehow have tragically not been brought into the Progressive fold, it’s that they simply don’t engage with any actual people like that.
The older Commissioner knew full well that people like us exist. And, within the hearing of only a few of our words they walked away in utter disgust. For, in their world, people who were stupid enough to say such things out loud could only be motivated by vile evil motives. There existed zero intention to engage with such moral and ideological deviants. So, away they walked, speaking our condemnation into the air as the haters and racists that we surely had to be.
There may have been a time in our country’s history in which the social Progressive bubble predominated. I think of that, by current standards, innocent statement by Pauline Kael after the 1972 Presidential election.
“I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.”
But, after eight years of being accused of voting for someone who was likely the new Hitler (George W. Bush) into the Presidency and then eight more years of being called a racist, homophobe, Islamophobe, totalitarian, etc. for opposing Progressive policies, be they political or theological, the ideological bubble clearly now dominates.
There are so many examples from which to choose, but one that I consider telling fell from the lips of no other than Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader of the House of Representatives (emphasis added).
“And I say, this will be a little not in keeping with the spirit of the day of unity, but I say they pray in church on Sunday and prey on people the rest of the week, and while we’re doing the Lord’s work by ministering to the needs of God’s creation they are ignoring those needs which is to dishonor the God who made them.”
You see, it takes the rhetorical skills of the highest ranking elected Democratic politican to so seamlessly combine their political and religious bigotry into a single steaming statement of contemptuous hatred.
Of course, former Democratic senator from Wisconsin Russ Feingold (a Progressive favorite!) has made perhaps the most disgusting and definitive statement in this regard (emphasis added).
“The lesson from Charlottesville is not how dangerous the neo-Nazis are, … It is the unmasking of the Republican party leadership. In the wake of last weekend’s horror and tragedy, let us finally, finally rip off the veneer that Trump’s affinity for white supremacy is distinct from the Republican agenda of voter suppression, renewed mass incarceration and the expulsion of immigrants.”
Yes, indeed, “finally, finally” the vile evil motives of all Republicans, hidden for generations, have been revealed for all to see!
Finally, lest you imagine that our PCUSA leadership is not within this same ideological bubble, consider the actions and statements of our current Co-moderators and the Senior Pastor from one of our largest churches. I should also point out that most of the cruel name calling referred to above was done in person by members of the PCUSA (see here for one written example).
The consequences of this ideological dominance in Progressive thought have been a major factor that has led to our current sorry state.
I’d like to focus on the following question:
What is the likelihood that two organizations, the first driven by the passions and practicalities of contemporary human ideology / politics, and, the second built on Scriptures written by dozens of authors from approximately 1500 B.C. to 100 A.D. concerning the eternal, loving and just God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — would uniformly arrive at virtually identical moral conclusions and policy prescriptions?
The natural answer for most people would likely be “pretty much zero.” That is, the differences in both the sources and deliberative processes are so vast that it would be absurdly unlikely. And yet, this is the very absurdity upon which most mainline Protestant denominations are built.
That is, we are supposed to accept that the uniform agreement between a human political movement (i.e., Progressive Leftism) and mainline Christian denominations is a natural and credible outcome. But, it is actually an incredible outcome, and one that any committed Christian, regardless of their personal political beliefs should find troubling. Note well that it would be equally incredible and troubling if a Christian denomination uniformly agreed with Conservatism, Libertarianism, or any other secular human movement.
So, if this result didn’t happen by chance, then why did it? Could it be because the Democratic Party, the practical vehicle of Progressive Leftist politics, is under control of the mainline Protestant denominations? Given the consistently shrinking membership of mainline denominations and clearly increasing secularism in the Democratic Party, this reason is exceedingly unlikely.
The most likely answer is that, having lost faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and rejected Biblical authority, the mainline leadership grasped the straws of “social justice” and secular political activism as the only means of maintaining any plausible reason for existing as an organization. That is, having rejected God’s power and purposes they had no choice but to replace these with secular political power and purposes.
I’m certainly not alone in this position. For example, here’s an excerpt from Edward R. Norman’a Christianity and the World Order.
Christianity today is, in this sense, bing reinterpreted as a scheme of social and political action, dependent, it is true, upon supernatural authority for its ultimate claims to attention, but rendered in categories that are derived from the political theories and practices of contemporary society. . .
Also, my research into and analysis of the recent PCUSA decision to allow same-gender marriage confirms: hijacking of Jesus Christ and His Gospel for political purposes, rejection of Biblical authority, and embrace of Progressive secular sociopolitical causes. More recently, I have documented (and refuted) the complete alignment between the PCUSA’s and Progressive Democrat position on immigration policy.
I suppose that a committed Christian who is also a committed Progressive Leftist might be able to square this circle. However, even for them, doesn’t the subjugation of Jesus Christ and His Gospel under the authority of a secular, partisan political movement seem theologically and morally untenable? For the rest of us, are we willing to ceed our faith in Jesus Christ and the interpretation of His purposes in the world to the Democrat Party?
I certainly do not ceed these things to the Republican Party. Yes, I am a registered Republican and usually (but not always) vote Republican. But this isn’t because I believe that this party has a monopoly on morality, let alone Christian truth. Nor do I find anything close to uniform alignment between the Republican Party Platform and my Christian beliefs. No, in a two-party Republic I usually vote (often holding my nose) for the candidate that I believe will do the least damage.
Every citizen is entitled to their own political beliefs. However, no-one is entitled to avoid criticism if they are so absurd so as to claim that their secular political party and Christian derived policy prescriptions are always and forever in near perfect alignment. That is precisely the implicit claim of our mainline denominational leadership. And, it is long past time that we confronted the absurdity of this situation.
When your standard of morality is who hates democratic, liberal civilization the most then you are compelled to depraved extremism if you desire to rise on the Progressive Pyramid of Moral Authority.
The causes, nature and consequences of this “prison of guilt” were brilliantly summarized in an essay titled “The Strange Persistence of Guilt,” by Dr. Wilfred M. McClay in The Hedgehog Review.
What makes the situation dangerous for us, as Fredriksen observes, is not only the fact that we have lost the ability to make conscious use of the concept of sin but that we have also lost any semblance of a “coherent idea of redemption,” the idea that has always been required to accompany the concept of sin in the past and tame its harsh and punitive potential. The presence of vast amounts of unacknowledged sin in a culture, a culture full to the brim with its own hubristic sense of world-conquering power and agency but lacking any effectual means of achieving redemption for all the unacknowledged sin that accompanies such power: This is surely a moral crisis in the making—a kind of moral-transactional analogue to the debt crisis that threatens the world’s fiscal and monetary health. The rituals of scapegoating, of public humiliation and shaming, of multiplying morally impermissible utterances and sentiments and punishing them with disproportionate severity, are visibly on the increase in our public life. They are not merely signs of intolerance or incivility, but of a deeper moral disorder, an Unbehagen that cannot be willed away by the psychoanalytic trick of pretending that it does not exist.
This is the description of a culture in which the affected members feel guilt-ridden about every possible ill that exists in this fallen world because they have been convinced that it all can somehow be traced back to them as the prime cause.
Dr. McClay also discusses the means by which the post-Christian world has employed to deal with this overwhelming sense of guilt.
But victimhood at its most potent promises not only release from responsibility, but an ability to displace that responsibility onto others. As a victim, one can project onto another person, the victimizer or oppressor, any feelings of guilt he might harbor, and in projecting that guilt lift it from his own shoulders. The result is an astonishing reversal, in which the designated victimizer plays the role of the scapegoat, upon whose head the sin comes to rest, and who pays the price for it. By contrast, in appropriating the status of victim, or identifying oneself with victims, the victimized can experience a profound sense of moral release, of recovered innocence. It is no wonder that this has become so common a gambit in our time, so effectively does it deal with the problem of guilt—at least individually, and in the short run, though at the price of social pathologies in the larger society that will likely prove unsustainable.
Here we recognize that class of people who, by identification with the world’s certified victims, claim a moral purity (and thus moral authority) that places them above other mere mortals. And, it is clear that in order to maintain this status they cannot support war, since it by definition is the act of a victimizer. It is by these bizarre moral gymnastics that millions of people in the West have convinced themselves that support of civilizational suicide is the only moral path available by which their guilt can be assuaged.
The obvious issues are that:
I am not here denying or diminishing the fact that there are victims in this world who are to be affirmed and assisted. What I am opposing is the creation of a post-Christian (in and outside of the Christian church) moral economy in which the currency of moral authority is fraudulently credited only to those who most loudly claim victimhood or identification with the same. Everyone else is thus arbitrarily condemned to the outer darkness of moral poverty, including any member of a certified victim group who won’t play by the established rules.
This post-Christian moral economy is irreconcilable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For, whereas this fraudulent economy separates humanity into saints and sinners via victim status (by gender, race, civilization, orientation, class, etc.), the Gospel unequivocally unites all of humanity in our common fallenness, our uniform need for a Savior.
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. …
27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. (Romans 3:21-25a, 27, 28)
Here we finally see the ultimate consequence of having succumbed to pacifistic, narcissistic and perfectionistic modes of thought. For, we have turned our backs on the Gospel in order to obtain counterfeit moral currency. The fact that this ideology exists in general society is understandable. The fact that it exists in any church calling itself Christian is inexcusable. It is long past time for those of us who reject this moral con game to speak up, particularly those of us who claim allegiance to Christ’s Gospel.
Thus, I return to King David: Warrior and Poet After God’s Own Heart. In this series I have attempted to reestablish the connection between King David and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I have also attempted to show how this flesh and blood man who lived within the challenges and joys of his era became, through God’s grace alone, the greatest king in all history.
David obtained this position not because he was a great man, but rather because God filled him with a great faith that no evil in this world could overcome. By that faith he fought for his life and that of his civilization. By that faith he was inspired to compose Psalms and prayers of wonderous beauty. By that faith his reign served as a foreshadow of Christ’s eternal kingdom.
And, by this same faith our civilization can be renewed and defended.
In the previous passage David describes God’s wrath and its consequence on his enemies. David now describes God’s purpose.
17 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
20 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
Thus, God’s acts were in support of His sovereign choice to make David king. However, by the combination of David’s (God-given) character and David’s (God-ordained) experience, the resulting nature of this king was unlike any other. That is, God has seen to it that David’s kingship would be the seed from which would grow the church of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. John Calvin brilliantly describes this act of God thus.
Here there is briefly shown the drift of the sublime and magnificent narrative which has now passed under our review, namely, to teach us that David at length emerged from the profound abyss of his troubles, neither by his own skill, nor by the aid of men, but that he was drawn out of them by the hand of God. When God defends and preserves us wonderfully and by extraordinary means, he is said in Scripture language to send down succor from above; and this sending is set in opposition to human and earthly aids, on which we usually place a mistaken and an undue confidence.
John Calvin’s Commentary on Psalm 18
Thus, David’s experience of God’s grace was so clear, so profound that he could not possibly conclude that it originated from “human and earthly aids.”
Finally, when David says that God “delighted in me” he is speaking from the position of divine election. We in this life cannot claim a shred of justification for why God should have “delighted in me.” However, how can one so redeemed, protected and justified discuss such an ultimate salvation without reference to the personal nature of this mysterious, blessed gift from God?
Communism/Socialism must be counted as one of the most tragic, persistent and deadly lies of all time. Stalinism was just one particularly monstrous phase of the lie that has reaped tens of millions of murdered humans and ruination for hundreds of millions more. And yet, the elite Progressive Leftists choose to contribute mightily to the keeping of this lie alive. Here’s what the lie looked like in the 1950s.
It is in the nature of Stalinism for its adherents to make a certain kind of lying – and not only to others, but first of all to themselves – a fundamental part of their lives. It is always a mistake to assume that Stalinists do not know the truth about the political reality they espouse. If they don’t know the truth (or all of it) one day, they know it the next, and it makes absolutely no difference to them politically. For their loyalty is to something other than the truth. And no historical enormity is so great, no personal humiliation or betrayal so extreme, no crime so heinous that it cannot be assimilated into the ‘ideals’ that govern the true Stalinist mind, which is impervious alike to documentary evidence and moral discrimination.
from a Hilton Kramer essay.
New York Times Oped:
We can get to this Finland Station only with the support of a majority; that’s one reason that socialists are such energetic advocates of democracy and pluralism. But we can’t ignore socialism’s loss of innocence over the past century. We may reject the version of Lenin and the Bolsheviks as crazed demons and choose to see them as well-intentioned people trying to build a better world out of a crisis, but we must work out how to avoid their failures…
But for the so-called elite that seeks to rule us, it’s all lies, all day, every day, about everything, since they can’t be honest because we normals reject what they want whenever we are exposed to the truth and are allowed a say. So their go-to move to impose their sick will is to obscure or hide the truth, and try to suppress our voices.…When it comes to terror, they prioritize their cocktail party clichés over our lives. They are willing to accept the risk of dangerous Muslim radicals infiltrating our country rather than admitting the truth and taking action.…Then there are the informal ways the left seeks to protect the lies – the attempts at public shaming, plus the intimidation by political correctness that tells the truth-speaker that his reputation, his job and maybe his physical safety will be in danger if he dares point out that the lies are lies.…No, they would rather you lie and die than tell the truth and live. But unless we choose not to stand up for ourselves, our families and our Constitution, we still get a say.
Such idolatrous lies falsify a person, obscuring and distorting who the person is. The lie destroys true relationship as humans stop relating to God as he knows himself to be, instead treating him as they have fashioned him. Idolatry strongly expresses human sovereignty, but sovereignty at the expense of true relationship.
We here turn from David the warrior to David the poet. However, note well that in the following passage, in which God’s purposes for David and his house are made clear, it is God’s support of David the warrior that has opened the opportunity for David the poet to prosper.
After terrible struggle, terrors and heartache, David is now the King.
After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”
3 Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”
King David feels a sense of guilt because his home is far more impressive than that provided for the ark of God. Nathan’s reply is based on a general principle which appears to be certainly established by events.
4 But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:
5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. 7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’
The Lord God corrects Nathan’s error. Note that His point is that David’s intention is based upon his own thoughts rather than on God’s Word to him.
8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you.
God is not here speaking in ephemeral metaphors. The “cutting off” of David’s enemies including King Saul, opposing Israelites and foreign foes has occurred by bloody, deadly conflict. David and his followers dealt out death and destruction by their own hands. At some points God intervened to cause death.
Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.
Far from finding fault in David, God begins to explain His purposes for David’s life and reign. God intends to make David’s name “great, like the names of the greatest men on earth.” That is, David and his reign as king over Israel will be known far into the future as a sign and symbol of God’s purposes through the Israelis.
Through the decisive victories in open warfare here on this fallen earth, God has created the space for Israel and its king to be planted with deep roots of religious, and cultural tradition. For a time they will be free from oppression by the external forces of wickedness.
This is a precious gift. In these ancient times peoples generally lived deep in the shadow of imminent death and destruction. Thus, their time and energy was almost completely consumed by the requirements for physical survival. Here God is allowing the nation of Israel rest from those terrible challenges. Thus, space has been made for King David the poet to, by the Spirit’s leading, to create the Psalms that will guide and encourage God’s people throughout all succeeding history.