Luther’s Protests Go Viral

The date was October 31, 1517. Reformation Day. Martin Luther chose that day to make public the disagreements he had with his church.

The major issue dealt with the practice the church had begun regarding indulgences–“a grant by the pope of remission of the temporal punishment in purgatory still due for sins after absolution” (Oxford English Dictionary). The latest iteration of the practice included selling them, something that contradicts what Scripture says about grace being “the gift of God” and salvation “not of works.”

Luther also protested against doctrinal policies regarding purgatory, particular judgment (judgment given by God that a departed person undergoes immediately after death), Catholic devotion to Mary, the intercession of and devotion to the saints, most of the sacraments, the mandatory clerical celibacy, and the authority of the Pope.

In all, his disputation contained ninety-five points and has become known as the Ninety-five Theses.

What’s particularly interesting is that this document, written in Latin, was translated into German by January 1518. Two weeks later, it was printed and passed around throughout Germany. Within two months, it had circulated throughout Europe.

I can only imagine the despair men like Luther and John Wycliffe and Jan Hus felt at the state of the church. Corruption abounded. For example, one Pope, Alexander VI, the head of the church and according to church doctrine, God’s representative on earth, fathered seven children by at least two mistresses. Beyond that one man’s immorality was the systemic corruption which allowed the church to get rich at the expense of the common man and the increasing departure from what Scripture said.

Yet God was at work. Who knew that a little thing called the printing press would be such a powerful tool in God’s hands to bring about sweeping change. People read Luther’s Ninety-five Theses pamphlet and flocked to hear him speak.

His study, lectures, and writing in the years leading up to and shortly after he made the document public, focused on the doctrine of justification.

From 1510 to 1520, Luther lectured on the Psalms, the books of Hebrews, Romans, and Galatians. As he studied these portions of the Bible, he came to view the use of terms such as penance and righteousness by the Catholic Church in new ways. He became convinced that the church was corrupt in its ways and had lost sight of what he saw as several of the central truths of Christianity. The most important for Luther was the doctrine of justification – God’s act of declaring a sinner righteous – by faith alone through God’s grace. He began to teach that salvation or redemption is a gift of God’s grace, attainable only through faith in Jesus as the Messiah. “This one and firm rock, which we call the doctrine of justification,” he wrote, “is the chief article of the whole Christian doctrine, which comprehends the understanding of all godliness.” (Martin Luther)

Why did the Reformation take off? The time was ripe. People were ready for an end to the corrupt practices of the church, more so once the Bible was translated into vernacular languages. In addition, the means was available to disseminate information widely. This was something new. Because of the printing press, people in England or Italy could read Luther’s thoughts about salvation.

It was the Medieval equivalent of going viral.

I find the story of the Reformation encouraging on many levels. No, the men involved in initiating change were not perfect–not by a long shot. But God used them. That’s one of the encouraging things. He also brought change when it looked like the church couldn’t get much worse.

From time to time, I’ve decried the abundance of false teaching that seems to flood Christianity today. Sometimes it seems like revival is the only thing that could stop the tide, and yet revival seems remote and unlikely. As it undoubtedly seemed October 30, 1517. A day later, the tide turned.

Is Evil Winning?

Yesterday I wrote a post at Spec Faith about evil as I believe J. R. R. Tolkien understood it. One point stood out as I wrote the article–the world of Middle Earth which Tolkien created was faced with defeat. If the protagonist of the story didn’t succeed in his task, no matter what the other characters did, evil would win.

In other words, their efforts were largely meaningless. They continued to fight evil, though they understood it to be hopeless, because it was the right thing to do, because they believed they should stay the course, because it was all they could do unless they gave in to despair.

Also yesterday Mike Duran wrote a post about whether or not Christians should bother with changing the world. As he probed the question, he received answers that can best be described as fatalistic.

There seemed to be two threads–one that said God would do what God would do no matter how we voted or prayed, and the other that evil was on a downward spiral, as prophesied in Scripture, and there was nothing we could do to stop it or change it.

I’m not happy with these fatalistic approaches. Yes, I believe God is sovereign and in control. Yes, I believe that God will turn Mankind over to the depravity of his heart and there will be a day of reckoning.

However, I also know the story about a boy king reigning in the last century of Judah’s existence as a nation. He came to the throne when he was eight. When he was sixteen, he began to seek “the God of his father David.” When he was twenty he began to get rid of the idols all over the country. At twenty-six, with the idols all torn down, he decided to repair the temple.

During that process, the high priest found a copy of the book of the Law. Josiah read it and realized how great God’s wrath must be because of all the years and years Judah had wandered from Him. As a result, he led the nation in a revival. He made a covenant with God to follow Him and to keep His commandments. Consequently, during his lifetime “they did not turn from following the Lord God of their fathers) (2 Chron. 34:33b).

Nevertheless, twenty-two years, six months later, Judah fell to Babylon.

Was all that Josiah did for naught?

I don’t think his contemporaries would say so. They were free of idols and enjoyed the blessing God bestowed on their king because of his humble heart and his repentance.

What I learn from Josiah is that it’s never too late to repent. It’s never too late to turn from evil and do good. Will it change the course of the world? Maybe.

Martin Luther might be considered a priest who changed the course of the world because he, like Josiah, sought God and believed His written revelation.

Elizabeth Elliot might be considered a missionary who changed the course of a culture when she went back into the rain forest of Ecuador to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the people who murdered her husband.

But maybe not. God determined to bring the long-delayed judgment on Judah after Josiah’s death despite his godly rule. His faithfulness couldn’t reverse the fortunes of his nation, only delay them.

Isn’t that the point, though? Isn’t each person responsible for how we are to live our lives, how we are to affect those around us, not what happens after we’re gone?

The way we are to influence future generations is by teaching and training the next generation–those younger than we who stand right in front of us. They in turn are to teach and train the next generation, and that generation, the one after them.

Is evil winning? Ultimately, of course not. Christ already defeated the enemy at the cross.

And evil will not win on the temporal level as long as Christians are living what we say we believe, then turning around and teaching the next generation to go and do likewise.

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. (Deut. 6:4-7)

Which Is Better, Old Testament Or New?

If I were a betting woman and ran an official poll as the fine folks at Gallup do, I would put my money on the New Testament as the choice of most people in answer to the question, which is better, Old Testament or New? Of course, that would simply be people’s opinions, but I think they’d have solid evidence to back up their support for the New Testament.

After all, which testament, if any, has red font, indicating Jesus’s exact words? New, of course. From which testament do pastors most often draw their sermon text? I suspect that would be New also. Which testament has the most quoted verses? Being that John 3:16 is in the New, that one’s not even close.

The problem with all this evidence, however, is that it isn’t consistent with the only source that really matters–the Bible itself.

Jesus made a pretty clear statement about the importance of the Old Testament, but even more so, the inter-working of both Old and New Testaments:

“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46-47)

How much plainer could Jesus be–what God said through Moses revealed the Messiah, but if someone doesn’t believe that revelation, how can he believe in the things the Messiah says?

It’s such a relevant question for today in light of the professing Christians who want to divorce Jesus from that “wrathful, vengeful God of the Old Testament.” But how can they? The Old Testament speaks of Jesus, and Jesus reveals the Father–that would be the same “wrathful, vengeful God of the Old Testament.”

Yes, indeed, Jesus spoke of God’s wrath:

“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)

He also spoke of God’s vengeance, or act of meting out just punishment:

“Now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly.” (Luke 18:7-8a)

I don’t think I need to belabor the point. Jesus isn’t the kinder, gentler version of God. In fact, He doesn’t in any way contradict God’s character or purpose or work. Rather, “In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” (Col. 2:9)

2 Thessalonians makes it clear that God the Father and Jesus are working in concert when it comes to vengeance:

For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (1:6-8, emphasis mine)

So what’s the answer–New Testament or Old? It was a trick question. Neither is more important or better in any sense. The Old shows Jesus promised, the New shows Him as the promise fulfilled. In tandem they tell of God’s work, person, and plan. Without the Old, the New would be like one hand clapping, and without the New, the Old would be the other hand clapping. Together they create the complete picture of God and His redemptive work on behalf of sinful man.

So which testament is better? Both together.

Published in: on October 29, 2012 at 5:55 pm  Comments (2)  
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CSFF Tour Wrap – The Spirit Well

This week thirty-five members of the CSFF Blog Tour spent time discussing The Spirit Well, book three of the Bright Empires series by Stephen Lawhead. We had a creative interview of one of the antagonists by Robert Treskillard, a discussion about why some people refer to speculative literature as “weird” by Shannon McDermott, a look at how The Spirit Well stacks up and fits in with the other books in the series by Janeen Ippolito, and much more.

In all, we were treated to fifty-eight articles, with two yet pending. What’s more, there was near universal acclaim for this book. Though some participants found the pace slower than is common today, most agreed that this book moved the story forward and was a great addition to the series.

The only way, of course, to know if what we said is true would be to read the books for yourselves. πŸ˜€

Here are the participants, having posted all three days of the tour, who are eligible for this month’s Top Tour Blogger Award. The check marks provide direct links to each article.

You’ll have until midnight (Pacific time) Monday, November 5 to scan the articles and vote for the blogger you think was creative, thought-provoking, interesting, or made you laugh the most. You get to decide what criteria to use and who meets them.

You might also wish to vote in a poll about genre choice.

Published in: on October 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm  Comments (1)  
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Stumbling Around In The Dark

A month or so ago I cut open my toe, which bled a lot, all because I was stumbling around in the dark. Granted, I was trying to get to a light to turn it on, but that doesn’t fit the metaphor I want to use. πŸ˜‰

I thought about stumbling around in the dark when I read the story of Israel setting out to conquer the Promised Land. After Moses charged Joshua to lead the people, he died.

So there they were, on the wrong side of the Jordan, and lo and behold, as God had those past forty years, He came to their rescue First He gave them specific direction and then He worked a miracle so they could cross. More than that, He told them how to go about taking Jericho, and a week later He brought down the walls of that fortified city.

All this time God had appeared among them as a cloud in the day and a pillar of fire at night. This Presence either filled the tabernacle–the tent where they were to offer sacrifices and where the High Priest was to meet with God–or moved away, which meant they were to break camp and follow.

I haven’t found anywhere in Scripture that says when God no longer moved with them in this way. I wonder if He would have continued to do so until they finished conquering the land (a process that took at least five years). But apparently the people decided they no longer needed Him to tell them were to go.

Hence, Joshua sent spies to the little town of Ai, decided they could take it with a mere 3000 men, and sent them off. God, however, was not with them. Those Israelites were routed. Then and only then did Joshua and the elders of the tribes fall on their faces before God. Graciously He told them what the problem was: disobedience.

He even helped them determine who the disobedient person was and then passed judgment on him. Once again He was prepared to lead His people. This time he gave Joshua a battle plan. He was to put men in ambush, then draw the opposition away from the city.

The plan worked perfectly and Ai fell.

So why didn’t Israel continue to let God lead them?

After Ai, a group of people nearby decided they didn’t want to die and they didn’t want to leave their homes and they didn’t want to forsake their gods, so they came up with a plan to fool Israel into making a treaty with them.

Israel fell for it.

So all this time they’d lived in the light, guided by God’s pillar of cloud or fire, and now they couldn’t even seem to ask Him if making a treaty with these people was a good idea.

They abandoned the light in favor of stumbling in the dark.

Before we think too harshly of them, perhaps we should first think about our own prayer life and see exactly what we are asking God. Already I can hear a handful of people saying, Oh, but God doesn’t work in that way any more.

Really? You mean having the Holy Spirit living in my life is less advantageous than having God’s presence fill the tabernacle? I don’t think so. Rather, I think, just as the people of Israel did before Ai and before making that treaty, we ignore the light and stumble along in the dark. Scripture calls this quenching the Holy Spirit.

I can’t help but wonder how many Ai’s we would successfully conquer or how many treaties we would avoid if we walked in the light instead.

Published in: on October 25, 2012 at 5:35 pm  Comments (2)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead, Day 3

After discussing several aspects of The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead these past two days as part of the CSFF Blog Tour, I can, at last, give my review.

Unlike many books, the hardest part of this review is summarizing the story. For one thing, it’s nearly impossible to talk about this one without referring to the previous two of the five-book Bright Empires series.

And secondly, the story is … not linear. I may as well give a SPOILER ALERT now. I don’t know how to do this review without referring to plot details, some critical.

The Story. Kit Livingston, having transported inadvertently along a ley line to the Stone Age at the end of The Bone House, is adapting and learning, not just about survival, but about community.

Mina, his former significant other who has found herself as a small business owner in medieval Prague, realizes she is in danger from Lord Archibald Burleigh who wants the Skin Map–a coded mapping of the ley lines that shows where the Spirit Well is located–and will stop at nothing to find all its segmented parts. Consequently, Mina decides to go into hiding, setting off a lengthy flashback recalling how she became a student of the ley lines which allow travelers to move from one dimension to the other.

Cassandra, a PhD candidate working on an archaeological dig in Arizona, inadvertently stumbles upon a powerful ley line. In an effort to replicate and document the experience, she becomes lost in twentieth century Syria. When she discovers a society of fellow or former travelers, she becomes a member and accepts their first assignment: to find Kit and his great-grandfather.

The story ends with Kit and Mina, still the character in her flashback, reunited but back in the Stone Age all because Kit stumbled upon what everyone is actually looking for: the Spirit Well. He believes he can return there, but there’s a problem. His access point that opened to the Spirit Well dimension is blocked.

Strengths. I may have lost some of you with that last paragraph. Mina, on her way to hide, thinks back over her years of learning how to travel the ley lines and the help she received and the events that occurred. One of those events was connecting with Kit of story-time present.

I almost missed this, thinking I’d read carelessly and overlooked where the flashback ended. But at one point Kit speaks of Mina rescuing him in Egypt, an event that occurred in The Skin Map, but Mina informed him that for her, in her current dimension, that event hadn’t happened yet.

How is this a strength? It illustrates to me how brilliantly Stephen Lawhead is handling the multiple strands of this plot–past and present and their intersection.

The thing that impressed me the most was that I never felt lost. Once or twice I had to remind myself who some of the minor characters were, but whenever a chapter (frequently) began with a different point of view character, I quite easily fell right into their plight and setting, just as eager to learn more as when Mr. Lawhead took us away from them.

This is a major accomplishment, I think, because I generally complain about books with shifting point of view characters and back-and-forth story threads. The thing that was different in The Spirit Well, as I saw it, was that the story itself called for this format. This was not a whimsical approach, an author showing off his cleverness for the sake of impressing his readership. No. This story is better, or perhaps, requires, this interweaving of characters and places and times. Mr. Lawhead does it brilliantly.

In addition, in The Spirit Well the characters come alive, largely because they grow and change.

Thirdly, the spiritual ramifications of all that’s happening come closer to the surface. There’s much here to explore in the next two books, but God is not hiding, and the characters are more aware of Him than they have been in the previous two books.

One more. The settings are rich. Mr. Lawhead did a remarkable job bringing these various places, and times, alive. All his talents as a historical novelist are on display.

Weaknesses. I don’t have anything. Some people on the tour mentioned the slow pace. I never found it so. Kit is thrust from the Stone Age and is in immediate danger, Mina must flee her home in Prague or be captured, Cass follows her scholarly curiosity and becomes lost in another dimension with no way of knowing how to get home. Meanwhile, Arthur, the man who tattooed the ley line locations to his body, is killed, the map created, and divided. There’s betrayal and manipulation, suspicion and death. There’s also hope and help and healing. It’s an incredible story, masterfully told.

Recommendation. I’ve liked the previous Stephen Lawhead books CSFF has toured. This one is a cut above the others. In addition, this feels important–like Mr. Lawhead is showing in his story great spiritual truths. Some worry that these “truths” may turn out to be falsehoods. I have no reason to believe that to be so. I could be wrong, but at this point, I think the direction of the Bright Empires series is up.

It’s a mystery inside a science fantasy, with characters who are developing into people I care about. This is a must read for Stephen Lawhead fans and for those interested in time travel stories or multidimensional stories. I highly recommend it to people who enjoy historical fiction or fantasy. It’s the kind of book anyone who considers themselves a reader would enjoy. But my recommendation is to start with The Skin Map and read them all. This is a series you won’t want to miss. Also be sure to tell your friends. (They might be ticked off if they find out you were sitting on this one without telling them. πŸ˜‰ )

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher which in no way colored my review.

CSFF Blog Tour – The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead, Day 2

Is it Christian enough?

Inevitably when a group of bloggers begin to discuss a book by a Christian author, labeled Christian fiction–such as those participating in the current blog tour for The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead–some form of this question surfaces.

As a matter of fact, the spiritual themes have indeed begun to surface, but I can’t help wondering if we aren’t asking the wrong question, especially of a book that is the middle of a five-book series.

First, the story is ongoing. It’s pretty hard to determine what exactly the entire weaving will reveal about the world when we’re at the half way point.

Second, to a large extent the idea of “Christian enough” is suspect. Does every Christian novel need to lay out the plan of salvation if it is to be Christian enough? Or take a character from new birth to a mature life in Christ? Must it be overt rather than symbolic or subtle?

Most Christians don’t apply the “lay out the plan of salvation” standard to their pastor’s sermons, so why should we find a need to include this pivotal event in every Christian novel? Yes, pivotal. A person coming to belief in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ is pivotal. But must we continue to show the pivot over and over rather than showing the result of the pivot or the need for the pivot?

I’d rather ask a different question about a novel: is this true? I don’t mean is the story factual. It’s a story and hence, largely the facts are made up. Nevertheless, stories should be true.

For example, according to God’s Word, mankind is to love his neighbor as himself. So a story that portrays friendship as dangerous, self-reliance as preferable to community, and sacrificing for others as weak, would be a story that is not true.

It can be interesting, even entertaining, but as Christians, our standard should not be determined by whether or not a story made us laugh or cry. It should also be based on more than whether or not the way of salvation is clear.

Honestly, in real life, I love to hear how people came to Christ. I think the power of God is evident when we share how God works in each life.

But coming to Christ is birth. Stories about birth are fine, but I have to think there are also good stories about life after birth. What does a community of believers living in a culture of unbelievers look like?

As I see it, Stephen Lawhead has given us a glimpse of just such a situation in The Spirit Well. Is a “glimpse” enough to make this book Christian?

I go back to the question I prefer to ask–is it true?

As I see it, the further we journey along Mr. Lawhead’s ley lines, the truer the story becomes. Perhaps the greatest truth that shines out of The Spirit Well is that there are no coincidences. Or accidents, hence no big bang as some evolutionists would have us believe.

In Mr. Lawhead’s multiverse, clearly, no coincidences suggests design and order, created by a Designer who must be omniscient and powerful. The author doesn’t have to spell it out for that truth to be evident. Even in a “what-if” make-believe.

– – – – –

For a lighthearted, creative “interview” with the Bright Empires antagonist, see Robert Treskillard’s Day Two post. For a thorough and thoughtful review, check out Julie Bihn’s Day Two article.

CSFF Blog Tour – The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead, Day 1

The Bright Empires series

This morning I posted my regular Monday article over at Spec Faith, and I couldn’t help but think of The Spirit Well, third in the Bright Empires series by Stephen Lawhead, the CSFF Blog Tour’s October feature. In “The Success Of Fantasy By The Masters” I take a look at why Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth became popular, even with people who would not identify as “fantasy readers.”

Ultimately, I have to agree with Dr. Michael D.C. Drout, author of EXPLORING FANTASY LITERATURE, in saying that these books mediate between contemporary readers and the authors’ fantasy creations–often built on the backs of earlier myth and legend.

As I looked at the divergent methods Lewis and Tolkien used to forge the bridge that would give readers access to the fantastic, Stephen Lawhead came to mind. In his current series, The Bright Empires, he also mediates between the reader and the world of what-if which he created.

What’s interesting to me as a writer is that he employed a “reluctant hero,” much as Stephen Donaldson did in his Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever series.

Tolkien’s first hero, Bilbo, wasn’t so very different. He, too, was reluctant–until he wasn’t. At the bottom of Bilbo’s heart was an untapped desire for adventure.

In Stephen Lawhead’s primary protagonist Kit, there is perhaps curiosity and a desire for validation, but I don’t see a desire for adventure.

Another difference is that Bilbo had a happy life. He lived securely and was content for the most part, especially if he could avoid those certain relatives that annoyed him.

Kit, on the other hand, came across in The Skin Map, the opening book of Mr. Lawhead’s series, as a discontented, contrary young man, unwilling to move beyond his comfort zone, even to help a long lost relative.

My point is that Bilbo induced a certain amount of sympathy. I felt put out for him, having unwanted and unexpected dwarfs show up at his door and intrude upon his quiet. I also felt a little annoyed that Biblo wouldn’t be more forceful with them and send them packing. But once they left without him and he went running after them without his hat and all, I realized, at his core he wasn’t really reluctant.

Kit is much more truly reluctant. What he doesn’t want is to be duped. He wants to know that his venture into another realm was real, so he looks for validation. In this regard, he’s more like Lucy Pevensie in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. She also ventured into another realm, only to return to the scorn of those who didn’t think she was telling the truth.

In some ways, Lawhead utilizes a combination of Lewis’s and Tolkien’s methods of bridging the gap between contemporary readers and his speculative world. He employs a type of portal but also characters with whom the reader can identify–flawed characters, not fitting into their contemporary world, or rather, into our contemporary world. Their problems are our problems, and their accidental escape into past dimensions that end up strengthening them and refining them might resonate with readers who have longed for a simpler time.

But how simple can it be when opponents are tracking you from one ley line to another, intent on killing you to take what you both prize? Clearly, Lawhead’s appeal is not solely due to an attractive, slower lifestyle. Rather, he builds a solid and convincing bridge that gives twenty-first century readers access to his speculative multiverse.

I’ll give my review of The Spirit Well later in the tour, but for now, take time to visit the other participants who have also posted articles about this book and see what they think.

Lies And Corruption

It’s not a happy fact that people lie and even less so that those who purport to be leaders do so. In SoCal we are suffering through yet one more scandal involving government officials. This one concerns someone in the L.A. County assessor’s office who took bribes to lower the value of high-end property, costing the government more than a million dollars in lost property tax revenue.

Various cities have indicted their manager or mayor or council members recently because a close look at the financials shows shady doings. Even the Mayor of Los Angeles was caught taking perks such as tickets to high-profile events which he supposedly was attending in an official capacity. As I recall, he ended up paying for the tickets, and all charges were dropped. This is the mayor who had an affair with a news anchor that cost him his marriage.

Ah, yes, lies and corruption.

But here’s the thing. On our ballot are two propositions to raise our taxes. Governor Jerry Brown has said that if we don’t raise taxes–Prop 30 which he favors would raise state income tax for those making more than $250,000 AND sales tax for all of us–then there will be big cuts in education. No cuts, apparently, to the boondoggle bullet train that is supposed to run from LA to San Francisco and is already over budget.

The thing is, we’ve been down this road before. Years ago, the ballot initiative passed ushering in a state lottery which would solve all the funding problems for our public schools. We’ve passed school bond measures and increased our gas tax so that our schools will be guaranteed the money they need. And yet, somehow, we still are spending less per child than most of the 50 states, and our governor is threatening education cuts unless we agree to tax ourselves. Again.

Where will it end, I wonder. Government that proves to be top heavy, tangled in red tap, ineffective, and at a growing rate, corrupt, wants more of its citizens’ money to keep doing what it’s doing–or it will make the children pay.

Sadly we can’t say we’re being taxed without representation. After all, this is our choice. But we’re being talked into buying swamp land by politicians who want to keep their pensions, keep their high pay checks, and keep their positions of influence.

Did I mention that the tax assessor who is in jail is still collecting his salary, and will continue to do so even if he is found guilty–unless he resigns or is recalled. Well, at least that law will change at the end of this year. But we have a ways to go to get rid of the lies and corruption that seem on the rise in our various governments.

I’m hoping California starts by voting No to these tax increase propositions.

Published in: on October 19, 2012 at 5:46 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Divide Between State And Church

A couple days ago when I wrote “Render To God The Things That Are God’s,” I wasn’t thinking about how some people might look at that title–as a statement supporting the separation of church and state. To me, the issue was personal–how am I to interpret what Jesus was saying about giving to Him what belongs to Him.

But in looking back, I can see how someone might assume the article is about dividing the world into the secular and the sacred. There’s a bit of a faddish (Christians are not immune to following fads in our faith!) view these days that says there is no such divide. I can’t follow the line of reasoning carefully because I’ve only seen it repeated in its briefest forms, but the idea seems to be that “general revelation” shows God, therefore God can be seen in everything we do. He cannot and ought not be shut out of things we deem not sacred.

Perhaps I haven’t paid close attention to this discussion because it seems like a no-brainer to me, but I tend to forget that I benefited from years working at a Christian school that believed in integrating every discipline with Scripture. It’s nothing more than developing a Christian worldview.

How ironic, though, that such integration comes from an institution that is specifically separate from the general culture. And yet, to teach the harmony of the Bible with history or science, math, or English, that’s what has to happen in a society that has tacitly added “separation of church and state” to the Bill of Rights.

But what is it we mean by the phrase? The Constitution clearly states that government is not to establish a religion. In other words, Baptist is not to become the religion required by law, with all others declared illegal. Neither is there to be an unequal playing field created by law which favors one religion over another.

In short, government was to get out of the way of religious development. In fact, government is prohibited by the Constitution from interfering with a person’s religious expression.

How then have we arrived at today’s secular/sacred divide?

Recently a news item pointed to court action prohibiting cheerleaders at an East Texas high school from making a sign for their football team that contained a Bible verse (set aside for a moment that they yanked it out of context). Just today they won an injunction which allows them to continue making the signs until an appeal can be heard.

But why are we saying these cheerleaders can’t express their beliefs? I understand they shouldn’t be mandated by a school authority to put Scripture on their signs, but this was something they wanted to do. So teachers are prohibited from saying a good many things about their faith, and now students are too?

The divide is growing, and it’s squeezing people of faith into a corner. Out of the Chick-fil-A controversy, more than one person claimed that the owner had no right to give money to the faith-based charities he chose, and that franchises should be prohibited from opening in various places because of his actions. What’s worse, some arguing against Chick-fil-A claimed that Christians ought not allow their religious beliefs to influence their advocacy for public policy.

The tenor of this debate seems to be marginalizing religious beliefs. A person can say that abortion is wrong because it will end up hurting society by reducing the population, but ought not say abortion is wrong because God values life, so we also should value life and protect the weakest and most vulnerable.

In other words, keep God out. Put religion on the other side of the dividing wall between church and state . . . the one that isn’t in our Constitution.

Published in: on October 18, 2012 at 6:36 pm  Comments (2)  
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