A Commercial Break


PowerElementsCharacterDevelopment[1000][1]I personally hate commercials, so I won’t feel offended if anyone who stops by A Christian Worldview Of Fiction or receives these posts by email chooses to do a little channel surfing instead of reading the rest of this post.

The thing is, I don’t mind doing commercials if I think whatever I’m talking about really could be a benefit. So with this commercial.

The benefit would be for writers (and another half of the visitors charge for the exits. I understand, and still, no hard feelings!😉 Really!)

Amazon, which I chose when I decided to publish my fiction writing instruction ebooks, has a promotion program which they call the Kindle Countdown Deal. For much of this week the second book of my Power Elements Of Fiction series, Power Elements Of Character Development, is available at a discount.

Today gives anyone interested in purchasing the book the best price: $.99. Yep. You read that right—ninety-nine cents. The discount is a whopping seventy-five percent off the regular price of $3.99.

But sadly, that savings lasts only for the day. Tomorrow the price bumps up to $1.99—still a fifty percent discount.

On Thursday the price creeps up another twenty-five percent, to $2.99. Anyone buying on Thursday will only save a dollar, but I figure a dollar off is better than no discount at all. However, anyone who wants to take full advantage of this Countdown Deal has time today to purchase the book at its lowest price.

Be aware that on Friday the price will revert to its normal $3.99 cost.

One last thing—and this is more me asking for help than it is commercial—if you have purchased the book in the past and read it, or if you do so now during this promotional program, would you consider writing a review and posting it on Amazon?

Reviews are like gold to writers. They influence other people who might be considering the book, and they affect the way Amazon positions the book so that others take notice. I don’t know how the whole thing works, but I do know that reviews matter.

Here’s an excerpt from one of those that has been posted already:

I loved [Rebecca LuElla Miller’s] last [writing instruction book] and this one is, I think, even better. Love that she gets me thinking and makes me want to dive in to my own work and get to know my characters better and understand what motivates them.

OK, that’s it for the commercial. Back to our regularly scheduled programing. Thanks for your patience. And if you’re so inclined, please share this discount opportunity with all your fiction-writer friends. Thanks!😉

Power Elements jingle winner #1

The Christian, the Church, and Love for the “Brethren”


Elmhurst_CRC_1964_(3)When I was growing up, we used to reference love for “the brethren and the sisteren,” and I always thought that was such a fundamental Scriptural principle it didn’t need special attention.

That was before I started seeing the way some Christians treat others online. Eventually I ran into a group that defended unkind words directed at other Christians with whom they disagreed. I was floored.

Their central point was that false teachers need to be treated harshly, and to make their case they used several places in Scripture that talk about apostates and those spreading heresy. From there they looked to the way Jesus talked to the Pharisees, calling them snakes and white-washed tombs. Then there’s Paul telling the Galatians they are foolish and confronting Peter for his hypocrisy.

So are they right?

I don’t think so—not the way they use these verses as permission to mock or malign others. The handful of examples they give must be balanced by the preponderance of instruction telling Christians to treat each other, our enemies, all men, with love and/or consideration.

Some years ago, as I worked my way through the New Testament, I noticed over and over this theme of treating one another with love. In the gospels, the emphasis is on loving our neighbors and loving our enemies until we get to John. Jesus then makes His strong statements about Christians loving Christians so that the world will know we follow Christ.

John then drew the conclusion that love for the brethren (and sisteren😉 ) is one sign that a person does in fact truly follow Christ:

  • By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another
    – 1 John 3:10-11 (emphases mine)
  • We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.
    – 1 John 3:14
  • Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
    – 1 John 4:7-8
  • Starting in Romans Paul fleshes out what it means to have love for the brethren, and for all men:

  • Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
    – Rom 12:11-18 (emphases mine)
  • Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
    – Rom 13:10
  • He gives a more lengthy explanation to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13), then includes instruction to love other Christians in a number of his other letters:

    • to the Galatians – “but through love serve one another”
    • to the Ephesians – “and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
    • to the Philippians – “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment”
    • to the church in Colossae – “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”
    • to the church in Thessalonica – “and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you”
    • to Timothy – “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion”

    The writer to the Hebrews continues the theme:

      “Let love of the brethren continue.”

    As does James

      “If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,’ you are doing well.”

    And Peter

      “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart”

    Believe it or not, these passages are nothing more than a representative sample. How can a Christian miss the fact that love for one another is central to true discipleship? As Paul said in 1 Thessalonians “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.”

    Does Scripture tell us to stand against false teachers? From my study, I believe it does, but not to the exclusion of the clear command to love believers and all men, to be kind, to restore others with gentleness, to pursue peace with all men, to refrain from speaking against one another and many, many more similar indisputable relational instructions.

    So how did Christians bashing Christians or Christians bashing the Church or Christians bashing sinners—on the Internet or by letter or face to face—become something we believers seem to think is just fine?

    This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in August 2010.

    Revelation


    The Left Behind books by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye attracted attention to eschatology—the “part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind” (Oxford English Dictionary). They are by no means the first writers to depict the events cataloged in the book of Revelation and other passages of prophecy. Back in 1972 A Thief in the Night, the first of a series of four feature-length films, made it’s way into theaters.

    There was also a badly written novel—the title escapes me—that encapsulated the entire story of The End . . . in about 250 pages. I’m sure there were others. Certainly there have been since Left Behind. In 2010 Scars: An amazing end-time prophecy novel came out. In 2011 an author announced he was beginning work on The Revelation: a new end-times novel as part of NaNoWriMo.

    Years ago, before Revelation became a subject of fiction, churches favoring a dispensational view of Biblical history, held prophecy conferences, complete with charts and time lines.

    All this to say, there has been a fascination with Revelation and what it says about the future. But of late, perhaps in reaction to the so popular Left Behind books, there’s been a bit of a backlash against end-time fiction. Some publishers, for example, state in their guidelines they do not want end-time stories. Some bloggers make repeated references to the “bad theology” of the Left Behind books.

    I suppose the main struggle with the book of Revelation is to know what is symbolic and what is literal. In some instances, an angel tells John, and therefore us, what the visionary language means.

    As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (Rev. 1:20)

    These passages are not nearly as common as the pictorial, symbolic language filling most of the book.

    That we struggle today to know what John saw that was figurative and what, literal, should be no surprise. The disciples struggled to understand Jesus, too. Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, He told them. Oh, no, the disciples said, we forgot to bring bread. I’m going up to Jerusalem to die, Jesus said. Who gets to sit on Your right hand and left hand when You take over, the disciples asked.

    When was He talking in parables, when was He speaking plainly? If they couldn’t tell, it should be no shock that we struggle a bit with the same issues when it comes to the revelation Jesus gave to John.

    But there are some things we can know. So what is good theology when it comes to the book of Revelation? What is this book recording John’s vision of angels and trumpets and bowls of wrath and seals and beasts and the harlot Babylon, all about?

    As my former pastor said as part of his introduction to a sermon series over the book, the one clear truth is that Christ wins. That being said, I think there are some additional key themes that run through Revelation which, I believe, Christians on either side of the theological divide, agree upon.

    First, Jesus Christ is the Lamb that was slain, making Him the only one qualified to open that which God has held secret from past ages and generations.

    In addition, He will return as the Conqueror and the King, defeating Satan and assigning him eternal punishment.

    Revelation also portrays divine judgment on those who follow Satan, who do not repent and give God glory.

    Throughout, the book shows God as righteous in His acts, even those that come directly from His wrath. Here’s an example:

    And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.” And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.” (Rev 16:5-7)

    Another key theme is God’s provision of a new home—a new heaven and a new earth—for those whose names are written in the book of life.

    One more, though undoubtedly there are others: there’s a clear warning to the churches to hold fast to the truth, to love God and obey Him, to resist false teaching or the lure of riches or complacency.

    Revelation is a rich book because it shows us more about who God is than it does about what will happen someday. It shows us what He cares about and what His wrath looks like. It shows that He is worthy to be praised for His justice as well as for His redemption, for His majesty as well as for His righteousness. It shows that He is the Lamb who is Worthy.

    This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in August 2012.

    Joy And The Holy Spirit


    Most Christians have probably heard or read that joy is not the same thing as happiness. I think we’re pretty clear about the distinction.

    A quick study reveals that joy is grouped with patience, peace, love, faithfulness, and a few other traits to constitute the fruit of the Spirit.

    Why, then, I ask myself, do I think I need to manufacture joy?

    And since the Holy Spirit is the source of joy, wouldn’t it be fair to say, if I’m not experiencing joy, I must be quenching the Holy Spirit?

    I mean, Galatians 5:22-23 doesn’t make joy an optional piece of fruit. If we have the Spirit, we have the fruit. It’s a matter, then, of walking by the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). Or not.

    As I’m writing this, the little chorus “The joy of the Lord is our strength” comes to mind. The words simply repeat that line over and over — a line from Nehemiah 8:10.

    The returned exiles, struggling to make a go of it in the homeland most of them had never seen before, asked Ezra, one of their leaders, to read the book of the law. He read from dawn to midday. A group of others then explained the text and taught the people what it all meant.

    Their reaction? Nope, not joy.

    They were weeping and mourning. The Law exposed their sin, and they were undone.

    That’s when Nehemiah stepped in. Stop crying, he said. Today is a holy day, set aside for the Lord. Get up and let the feast begin. Don’t grieve. The joy of the Lord is your strength.

    And the people calmed down, got up, and celebrated “because they understood the words which had been made known to them” (Neh. 8:12).

    Except, two verses earlier, their understanding caused them to grieve. But now? Celebration. How can that be explained apart from the joy of the Lord?

    The Spirit convicts of sin. The proper response should be sorrow leading to repentance. And then comes joy, not a manufactured joy or an inauthentic emotion.

    The reality was, their circumstances hadn’t changed. They were still returned exiles struggling to get it together. In their own estimation, they were still slaves:

    Behold, we are slaves today,
    And as to the land which
    You gave to our fathers to eat of its fruit and its bounty,
    Behold, we are slaves in it.
    Its abundant produce is for the kings
    Whom You have set over us because of our sins;
    They also rule over our bodies
    And over our cattle as they please,
    So we are in great distress. (Neh 9:36-37)

    Under those circumstances, Nehemiah gave them that salient truth: The joy of the Lord is your strength. Not bitterness or complaining, certainly. But not continued grieving, either. And not what we rely on today, a can-do spirit.

    Their strength came from what only the Spirit could provide — joy from the Lord.

    Ironic, then, that quenching the Spirit leads to the opposite of what someone going through difficult circumstances needs — strength. The little recap of Jewish history in Nehemiah 9 spells it out:

    You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them,
    Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth,
    And You gave them water for their thirst. (v. 20, emphasis mine)

    Indeed, forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want;
    Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell. (v 21)

    You also gave them kingdoms and peoples … (v. 22)

    You made their sons numerous as the stars of heaven … (v. 23)

    So their sons entered and possessed the land… (v. 24)

    They captured fortified cities and a fertile land… (v. 25)

    But they became disobedient and rebelled against You (v. 26, emphasis added)

    Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their oppressors who oppressed them. (v. 27)

    Listening to God’s Spirit strengthened the people; rebelling against Him, didn’t.

    So what was it those Israelites Nehemiah addressed, understood that made it possible for them to calm down, stop grieving, and celebrate?

    Not a change in their circumstances, as I’ve noted. Not the promise of a change in their circumstances either. Rather, I believe they understood how faithful the Lord is and how He had not left them or forsaken them, and that He would not. They had the Lord, so they had His joy which gave them strength.

    This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in August 2011.

    Lessons Learned On The Football Field


    Broncos linebackerToday is the beginning of the NFL preseason. The Broncos have traveled to Chicago and take on the team under the direction of their old coach, John Fox. So it seems fitting to revisit an article from a few years ago.

    I don’t think I’ll ever forget a play that happened in the Ravens-Broncos NFL season opener a few years ago. As it turned out, it had no bearing on the result of the game, but I suspect it had great impact on the young man involved.

    Danny Trevathan, a second-year Denver Broncos linebacker [who has moved on through free agency, to Chicago, no less], made a remarkable play on a pass from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, jumping the pass route, intercepting the pass, and racing to the end zone.

    Trouble is, in his enthusiasm to begin his celebration dance, he dropped the ball before he crossed into the end zone. What should have been an easy Denver touchdown turned into a touch back, giving the Ravens the ball again on the 20 yard line.

    Fortunately for the Broncos and for Danny Trevathan, the game wasn’t close, and there wasn’t enough time left for the Ravens to mount a comeback. But that kind of play is often one of those momentum changers.

    The thing is, Danny Trevathan really had made a great play. It was a third down, with the Ravens driving and perhaps just enough time on the clock for them to at least make the game respectable if they could score and then recover an onside kick.

    But after making his terrific, timely interception, Danny didn’t wait for others to praise him. He went for the glory himself, and in the process robbed himself of the very thing he sought.

    I couldn’t help but think of a number of verses in Scripture that tell us pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Besides Solomon’s wisdom in Proverbs, David talks about God abasing “haughty eyes,” James declares God’s attitude toward pride, and Peter repeats the same thing in an extended version:

    God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time. (1 Peter 5:5b-6)

    Sadly Danny Trevathan apparently hasn’t learned the principle of letting others praise you and not your own mouth. Apparently he hasn’t learned that God abases the kind of pride he was ready to display.

    But what a fortunate guy. True, his blooper happened in front of a national television audience, but it didn’t cost the Broncos the game. And it happened in a game. I mean, football is big business, and all, but it didn’t happen in a venue where people’s lives hinged on what he did or failed to do.

    Plus, he gets to learn a valuable lesson that just might last a lifetime. In truth, this lesson could influence his entire worldview. Might it even be an opening for him to learn about God’s attitude toward pride? Now that would make Danny Trevathan a real winner . . . in spite of dropping the ball on the one foot line.

    This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in September 2013.

    Published in: on August 11, 2016 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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    God And The Moral Standard: Moral Judgments, Part 4


    I’ve said plenty about Moral Judgments in the earlier posts here, here, and here, but one more thing jumps out at me. Anyone who believes truth is relative is on thin ice when it comes to God. In fact, I’d venture to say, a relativist doesn’t really believe in God. Not a sovereign God, anyway. Not a good God. Not a God who says what He means and means what He says.

    Relativism requires each person to determine what’s right and wrong, good and bad, for his own circumstances, within his own worldview. Hence, God is not Himself an absolute standard. His ways aren’t necessarily the right ways, since any person might decide “right” is something altogether other than what God has said is right.

    In that vein, God can’t be sovereign. He isn’t ruling over others; they are the master of their own view of right and wrong, their own judge, their own determiner and interpreter of their lives.

    God also can’t be good because Person A might say God is responsible for war and violence and hatred down through the centuries, and this would be true for him. Person B might say God is an impersonal force, a prime mover, and nothing more, and this would be true for him. Person C might say God is the great whole, of which each person is a part, and this would be true for him. Consequently, God becomes the author of hate, an amoral force, and an impersonal other. But Good? Not if relativism is true. God could only be good for those whose truth is that God is good. For all the others in the world who believe something different, then God is not good.

    Finally, God would not be a keeper of His promises. His Word would not be settled in heaven, as Scripture says, nor would His word endure forever.

    For,
    “ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS,
    AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS.
    THE GRASS WITHERS,
    AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF,
    BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.”
    And this is the word which was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:24-25)

    How, then, could we say God is love? He might not be tomorrow. How could we say He forgives? Maybe five years from now, He’ll decide He wants to hold the forgiven accountable after all. How could we say He’s holy or unchanging or all powerful or merciful or true? None of those things are reliable unless God is Himself absolute — the firm and fixed, unmoving standard.

    In short, the postmoderns who claim to be Christians are either rejecting God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture and in the world He created, or they are denying their own relativistic beliefs when it comes to God. There can not be an absolute Sovereign and relative truth. The truth about the absolute Sovereign would have to be relative, too, and then how would you know He was absolute?

    To be true to relativism, you pretty much have to conclude, we know nothing for certain. And that’s precisely where much of the world is headed. It’s a nihilism that allows for a hedonistic lifestyle and a clear conscience. It doesn’t, however, remove guilt or final judgment because the relativist will one day face the absolute truth of his own death.

    I don’t think we can wait to tell people that relativism isn’t shaky ground—it’s thin ice!

    This post, part four of a short series on moral judgment, is an edited version of one that first appeared here in April 2012.

    Published in: on August 9, 2016 at 6:01 pm  Comments (2)  
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    Determining Right And Wrong: Moral Judgments, Part 3


    In this short series about moral judgments, I concluded in the first post that we all make them and in the second that there needs to be a standard by which to make them besides what do I like?

    Thankfully, such a standard already exists, so we don’t have to invent the wheel. We do have to accept it, however, and we do have to learn to use it correctly.

    If you’ve hung around A Christian Worldview of Fiction for any amount of time, you already know what I’m about to say — the standard by which we should make moral judgments is the Word of God.

    Think about it for a moment. If there is a standard of right that is more than a politically correct idea, it’s right whether or not the majority of people believe it to be so. It’s the flat earth/round earth debate. How ridiculous it would be to take a vote on that subject. No matter how many people down through the centuries may have stated emphatically that the earth was flat, it would still be round.

    There is a standard of truth, a level of fact, a moral right which is not up for grabs. Green is green and it’s not going to be orange. Two plus five is seven and it isn’t going to be nine. God is love and He never will be hate. And Man is to obey God, never ignore Him.

    In other words, there are certain unshakable absolutes in the world. God’s Word communicates just such unshakable absolutes. But of course we have to believe that the Bible is what it says it is.

    Perhaps most pertinent to this discussion, the Bible says it is inspired—breathed—by God. In other words, God chose to communicate with us in a clear and relevant way—through language. He did so before Christ came, sometimes speaking directly to people like Abraham and Gideon and Samuel and Elijah. Sometimes He spoke through dreams to people like Joseph and Daniel. Other times He spoke through a prophet like Ezekiel or Jonah or Jeremiah.

    Then He sent Jesus, the Living Word. His language was His life as well as His stories and sermons. His was the whole package. But for us who live all these years later, we have the words of God to the men and women of God which He preserved for us.

    But here’s the point. What God chose to communicate is one of those absolutes. We don’t get to pick and choose what we like and what we dislike from all He’s said, Genesis through Revelation.

    When I was growing up, I didn’t like those “rod of correction” verses that informed my parents about good discipline. When I was a young adult, I didn’t like the “to die is gain” verses that reminded me that this world is not my home. Regardless of my attitude toward these things and many others, they remain true. They remain God’s standard.

    Consequently, I don’t get to say, Love God — check; love my enemy — NO WAY!

    I am not the authority passing judgment on the rightness of God’s moral standard. That is completely backwards. Rather God’s moral standard reveals my heart and shows me how far short I fall from His Holiness.

    Which is why I need a Savior.

    This post, part three of a short series on moral judgment, is an edited version of one that first appeared here in April 2012.

    Published in: on August 8, 2016 at 6:19 pm  Comments (1)  
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    If I Like It, Then It’s Good: Moral Judgments, Part 2


    way-wrong-1245111-1599x1066

    The question, then, isn’t should we make moral judgments. We do—that’s a simple fact. The question ought to be, on what should we base our judgments? (“Moral Judgments, Part 1”

    When I taught seventh and eighth graders, I soon learned that a good number of the boys students found it amusing to look for double entendres, particularly ones with a possible sexual slant. I decided early on that I could either learn all the latest slang and work to avoid any words that might carry sexual innuendo, or I could teach my students to employ a little self discipline. I opted for the latter.

    The problem I came up against was that some bright kids astutely said, in essence, But why shouldn’t we laugh? It’s funny. They were right, of course. Suggestive interpretation can be funny. Dirty jokes can be funny too.

    So, I asked, is that the standard we use to determine what we listen to — if it makes us laugh?

    It’s the question we should all be asking today. Is the standard we use to determine what we read, watch on TV, listen to on our iPods, where we go, who we hang with, how we spend our time, what Internet sites we visit nothing more than that it entertains us? Is the highest good, our feelings of pleasure — happiness, mirth, satisfaction, gratification, amusement?

    You’d think so, judging by what we talk about and how we spend our time. But most of us realize there are more important things than what pleases us — the good of our family, for instance, or for Christians, doing what God wants us to do. In public schools here in California, the overriding principle students are to use as a guide for their behavior is, Do no one harm.

    But all those and the countless other standards used in the business world, in government, in the legal system, in the marketplace, offer no definition for “good” or for “what God wants” or “harm.”

    Is it harm to make fun of someone? If so, then why do we allow Saturday Night Live to stay on TV? Is it “good” for someone to be mocked for his lack of singing ability on national TV? Is it “what God wants” when we write a book that says there is no hell?

    How are we to make such judgments?

    We could go with what pleases us. Saturday Night Live is a funny show, so whatever they joke about is just fine.

    We could say, A person gets what he’s asking for, so the clowns who try out for talent shows when they have no talent, deserve to get hammered. But does that mean someone cheering for the Giants in Dodger Stadium is asking to get hammered?

    We could say, What we think is right, is what God wants us to do. So when people like President Obama support fetal stem cell research because they believe many, many people will be cured of diseases as a result, does their belief in their cause mean they are doing what God wants?

    Clearly, every issue has two sides. Who’s to say what’s right? Person A says pornography hurts a person and tears apart marriages. Person B says it’s an innocent way of releasing sexual tension.

    Person A says abortion kills babies. Person B says abortion saves children from lives of abuse and neglect.

    Person A says bullying is part of growing up and every kid gets teased. Person B says bullying destroys self-esteem and pushes victims toward retaliation of one kind or the other.

    On and on, round and round. Is it true that we should just go with what the majority of people believe to be right? Do we take a vote? Today it’s wrong to throw Jews into concentration camps, but tomorrow, if we have enough votes, we can decide that good means Jews will be arrested and jailed?

    Is there no fixed standard? No way to know what is right and what is wrong for all time? Or are we left to our whims or to the trends of society fashioned by the best propaganda money can buy?

    One of the telling facts that came out of President Obama’s statements about the Supreme Court’s deliberations about the Constitutionality of the health care law was that he considered the popularity of the law to be a reason it should stand and not be struck down. As if popularity outweighed the Constitution he has sworn to uphold.

    But President Obama is a man of the times. As is Donald Trump. Secretary Clinton is no less a product of our times. How do they define good? It would seem they do so by whatever they want.

    Essentially, our society has come down to this: every person does what is right in his own eyes, and if he’s doing something the law says is illegal, he moves with greater caution so he doesn’t get caught.

    There ought to be a better way to determine what is right and wrong. And there is.

    This post, part two of a short series on moral judgment, is an edited version of one that first appeared here in April 2012.

    Moral Judgments, Part 1


    Everyone makes moral judgments, even those who say, You shouldn’t make moral judgments. That statement itself is a moral judgment. As soon as someone says, You should, or even I, we, they should … or, shouldn’t … they’ve made a moral judgment.

    If the idea is that something should be better, there’s a judgment that it isn’t as good as it could be. Implied also is the existence of a standard against which the current thing is being measured.

    “You shouldn’t make moral judgments,” then, is a judgment. It is not saying that the listener isn’t capable of making moral judgments, but that life would be better for all if people didn’t make moral judgments. In extreme cases, a person might mean that it is actually wrong to make such judgments.

    But how can someone who doesn’t believe moral judgments are right, or that life is better without them, make such a moral judgment? The statement itself demonstrates that everyone, even those who don’t realize it about themselves, makes moral judgments.

    In today’s relativistic society, the going belief is that what is true for you may not be true for me. But that truth statement is a moral judgment—an absolute declaration saying that absolute truth does not exist.

    Relative thinkers want to make absolute statements to propound their beliefs, but in doing so, they disprove the relativism they say they believe.

    Relativism is similar to saying, All ideas are good. Your idea. My idea. The idea someone in China has or in India or Iraq. It’s fine to respect other people’s opinions and culture. But what if our ideas conflict? Are all ideas still good?

    What about the idea that not all ideas are good? Is that idea good? How can it be when it says the opposite of “all ideas are good”? The relativist says, All ideas are good for me and all ideas are not good for you. But he has made a moral judgment about my idea, limiting it in scope to accommodate his idea. In essence, he is saying his belief that all ideas are good is a notch truer than my belief that not all ideas are good. He has given a higher value to his statement.

    Discussion about relativism and moral judgment can quickly take on the feel of a circular argument, but in actuality, if relativists weren’t making moral judgments, there would be no debate, no discussion, and certainly no argument.

    But the fact is, everyone is making moral judgments. People who like a blog post or rate it as one star or five or anything in between are making value judgments. People commenting are making value judgments. People who stop reading part way through are making value judgments.

    The question, then, isn’t should we make moral judgments. We do—that’s a simple fact. The question ought to be, on what should we base our judgments? And that will take a bit more thought.

    This post, the first in a three part series, was originally published here in April 2012.

    Published in: on August 4, 2016 at 5:20 pm  Comments (3)  
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    God and the Presidential Elections, 2016 Version


    Young_Girls_Softball_GameWhat does God think about elections, especially elections of governmental leaders?

    The last time I checked in Scripture, God Himself is the one who puts leaders in place. In the Old Testament, He used a prophet to anoint a new king from time to time, but most often let the hereditary process (or the coup d’état) work. My guess is, He does the same in a democracy—that is, He works in and through the process. The difference, of course, is that we citizens now have responsibility in that process.

    But does that mean God has chosen the person He wants in leadership, and now it’s up to us who “have the mind of Christ” to discern who that person is, and vote accordingly? Not possible. Late in Old Testament Jewish history, some of the best kings were followed by God’s judgment. Not against that king but against the prior waywardness of the people. How can we know what God intends in our nation at this time in history?

    He may desire to lead us into revival or He may release us to the lusts of our sinful hearts. And even after we know who wins the election, we still won’t know His intentions. Perhaps one man as President will make decisions that drive Christians to our knees and revival will come because government is obviously not going to give us the moral society we know pleases God. That would be the ultimate good though initially we might think we’re headed for judgment. The point is, we just don’t know.

    It reminds me of my coaching days, when my team of kids from a Christian school played another team from a different Christian school. How do you pray for God to help you win instead of the other guys? How do you know your team needs to win more than the others? Or that winning will be more spiritually beneficial than losing?

    So does it matter whether we vote or if we pray for a desired outcome in the upcoming presidential election? It does matter. As I mentioned earlier, God seems to work through the process in place. In addition, Scripture indicates over and over that God moved because of the prayers of His people. Who’s to say He won’t bring a certain result in the election if, and only if, we ask Him?

    And if He does not bring the result we ask for, should we say He has let us down? Should we shake our fists in His face and say He’s made a mistake? How silly that would be. He is God. He knows if what we ask of Him is truly for our good or not. As a loving parent, He knows if we need hardship to drive us back to Him or revival that will cause us to repent or a climate of peace and tranquility that will allow us to do the work of evangelism or something altogether unimagined for His greater glory.

    What I do know is that one thing and one thing only will be a disaster in this election. That is, if Christians react with vitriol toward those with whom we disagree. The good Samaritan did not check the politics of the mugging victim before he gave his help. Jesus did not hang Herod in effigy because he had John the Baptist killed. Paul did not write snarky letters to the churches blasting Felix or Festus or Caesar when he was imprisoned.

    We believers in Jesus Christ need to love God and love our neighbors, even if our neighbors are throwing rocks through our windows and calling us names because of our faith in Christ. We believers in Jesus Christ need to love our fellow Christians in a way that will show the world what it truly means to be a part of the Church, even if our fellow Christians voted for the other guy.

    Does love mean to stay quiet about deeply held beliefs or decide to stay above the fray and simply not vote? Seriously, did you forget for a moment whose blog you were reading? Me stay quiet? Me advocate not expressing an opinion? That would certainly be a first, now wouldn’t it!

    This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in November 2008.

    Published in: on August 3, 2016 at 6:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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