Immigration


President Donald Trump is getting a lot of flack and coming back with his own defense over his comments in a meeting several days ago. The media conclusion is that “Donald Trump is a racist.” Meanwhile, the “gotcha” form of reporting that goes on these days missed the real story.

The real issue is not what particular vile word the President used. Rather, the real issue is his belief in and support of merit-based immigration. Essentially he has said more than once that America should open our boarders to the best and brightest of other countries so that we can use their knowledge and skill for our own advancement. In other words, we should take the people who could best be an asset in their own country.

In all fairness, this is the kind of thinking of an entrepreneur—take what benefits you no matter who it hurts—and that’s exactly who Donald Trump is.

But that’s not what America is, and that’s not what made America great, as Mr. Trump so often likes to say.

Instead, our country became a desirable landing place for immigrants because of the attitude expressed on the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

These words come from a poem by Emma Lazarus (1849–1887) entitled “The New Colossus.” She donated the sonnet in 1883 as part of a fund-raiser for the construction of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. In 1903, the whole poem was engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the pedestal’s lower level.

These lines are also part of the poem:

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome

None of this attitude is remotely similar to merit-based immigration.

Simply put, America has been a land of opportunity in which a poor person, with nothing but his good name and a will to work, could make something of himself. So why now should we become something else? Something resembling a robber baron or a corporate raider?

Is that what America wants to become?

Yes, President Trump uses vulgar language. He’s done so on the campaign trail and he’s done so in private moments that made their way to the public airwaves. Once again he’s said something vulgar. Big deal. This is not the story. No one has to read into his comments something about his attitude toward countries made up predominantly of people of color.

What President Trump wants is rich people or smart people or talented people who can bring their assets to America. He doesn’t want people who are trying to escape poverty or tyranny or ignorance.

But those are the people who make up America: Irish people escaping famine, Jewish people escaping pogroms, English people escaping religious persecution, Mexican people escaping poverty, Vietnamese people escaping Communist oppression, and even African-Americans escaping slavery. I’m not sure there’s ever been a wave of immigration that has involved people who weren’t looking for something better, who didn’t see America as a land of opportunity, instead of a land in desperate need of what they have to offer.

Why change now?

We shouldn’t.

The only thing we need to do is enforce the rule of law.

And therein lies the problem—both sides of the immigration question are right and wrong at the same time.

Mr. Trump is right to want immigration to be safe (vetting those who wish to live here in such a way that we aren’t bringing in terrorists, drug dealers, and other criminals; doing away with “sanctuary cities” and states; clamping down on illegal immigration; stopping serial immigration). He’s wrong to believe that stealing the best and brightest from other countries is the right way to proceed.

The Dems are right to want a solution for the children of illegal immigrants and to make people from all nations welcome. They’re wrong to do so without putting safeguards in place.

We need real immigration reform, but now there’s talk of the Dems dragging their feet so that they can win more seats during midterm elections. And there is the giant problem in our government—politics. Too many elected officials care more about retaining their position and carving out their own little power pedestals than they do serving the American people, as statesmen did once-upon-a-time.

What we’re seeing is human nature at work. We can have the best form of government on earth, but sadly, it’s still dependent upon sinners to execute their responsibilities faithfully. It’s not going to happen.

Too many people are holding out for the perfect government to solve all the problems, to answer all the questions. Not going to happen.

Our faith is misplaced if we expect a President to be better than we are.

Our greatest need is to look at ourselves and deal with the sin in our own hearts.

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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


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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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Morality In Fiction


Reading_Jane_EyreIn response to “Fiction Isn’t Lying”, a number of people, here and at Facebook, said they had experience with people who thought of fiction as a form of lying. Once again I was shocked. The thrust of the article, however, dealt with the Christian’s responsibility to speak truthfully about God in our fiction.

I’ll say again, Christians do not have to speak about God, directly or indirectly, but should we choose to do so, we have an imperative to be truthful. But “truthful” doesn’t mean we must tell all about God. First, it’s not possible to do so, and second, so much theology would overwhelm the story so that it would cease being a story.

I’m convinced that many readers and writers alike stumble over theology in stories because they confuse it with moral teaching. Two years ago I wrote a short series about that issue, and I’m re-posting the concluding article which sums up more completely than the final paragraph in yesterday’s article, what I believe about morality versus theology in fiction. Here is that article:

– – – – –

In my recent brief series, Theology Versus Morality, (Parts 1, 2, and 3), I essentially took a stand for theology in Christian fiction while calling into question the validity of judging a novel by its morality. For example, in part 2 I said,

I tend to think too many Christians put the cart of morality before the horse of theology. In fact we advocate certain behavior without the foundational belief system that can rightly shape a person’s actions.

Later I added

When it comes to fiction, I think there’s a segment of Christian readers who want their brand of morality mirrored in the stories they read. In fact, for some, the morality might be more important than the theology.

I think that position is bad for fiction and bad for Christianity.

Does that mean that morality has no place in fiction? Should we write the story of adultery with nothing but a suggestion that a way of escape exists? That would be truthful to the way the world is and truthful to theology.

But is it sufficient for the needs of society?

I look at western society, and I see a growing cesspool of immorality. We have TV programs with titles like Scandal and Revenge and Betrayal. Others focus on the criminal mind and blood splatters and entries wound, with the intent to show the process of catching those who perpetrate psychotic and cruel behavior.

We have TV news magazines discussing yet another school shooting, one many people forget because “only” three children died.

Last night’s news carried stories of an old man struck down with intent by a hit-and-run driver in a gas station as he walked toward the office to pay for his gas and of a twelve-year-old and his mother living next door to a state senator (i.e., not your usual violent-crime neighbor) who were bound and gagged while a crew of four robbed their home on a Sunday afternoon.

Further, an NBA athlete was celebrated this week as the first openly gay player in any of the four major sports in the US.

Then on Facebook today, one topic of discussion revolves around an article about the growing advocacy for “polyamory” especially by the media. Clearly, if marriage is no longer allowed to be defined as a relationship between a man and a woman, why should it be limited to a single person with another single person, instead of multiples?

There’s more, from the LGBT community successfully advocating here in SoCal for children to pick the bathroom, locker room, gender sports team, based on how they feel, not on their biology, to the new idea for losing weight based on Yoga meditation and fasting during certain phases of the moon.

The muck and mire of the world is thick and growing thicker.

So do Christian novelists simply tag along, showing society as it is, without addressing morality in our stories? Do we write to the edge, and when the edge shifts further from us, scurry along behind in an effort to catch up? Quite honestly, I think that description fits too much Christian fiction.

Many of the strictures that writers complained about are gone. Christian fiction has characters that are divorced, have affairs, drink, see ghosts, see demons—all things that once were considered taboo. But as general market fiction played at the edges, Christian writers begged to be allowed the same latitude.

The problem, as I see it, is that this move toward a reversal of moral constriction is built on the same error as that which established the legalistic mores in the first place—theology does not undergird the view of morality.

Prager-ZachariasInterestingly, apologist Ravi Zacharias, in a discussion Saturday with radio personality Dennis Prager, identified three levels in which philosophy is passed on: (1) argumentation—reason; (2) art—the imagination; (3) “kitchen table conversation”—the daily statements of belief. To influence society, then, Zacharias says we must argue from reason, illustrate in our art, and live out our beliefs. The problem he says, is that we try to do number three without number one and number two.

Exacerbating the problem, I believe is something G. K. Chesterton identified:

Nothing sublimely artistic has ever arisen out of mere art … There must always be a rich moral soil for any artistic growth.

So if society has lost its “rich moral soil,” how is art to illustrate the theology (philosophy) that underpins our beliefs?

In other words, we are in a downward spiral—a morally vacuous society that cannot produce art which will show us how to live morally.

There but for the grace of God are we all.

But God does give a greater grace. He is “opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble,” Scripture says.

So, what if Christian novelists determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified? What if we painted theology into every corner of our art—and won awards doing so? What if we stopped fighting to get cuss words into our stories or stopped counting the number of times the characters say golly or disobey their parents, and started writing to show what God is like, to show His Son, to the best of our ability? What if we gave stories that illustrated the power of forgiveness or love for an enemy, neighbor, or stranger, or for God? What if our stories show what we say we believe?

Wouldn’t that be a step in the process of influencing our society to get out of the morass we are making?

Cleaning The Cup


1194095_wine_glass_dark_fieldIn recent years a fairly popular criticism of Christians in Western society is that those in traditional churches are playing the part today of the “religious leaders,” also called the Pharisees, who clashed with Jesus in the first century.

I maintain that this position compares avocados and watermelons. The Pharisees were trying to work their way into God’s good graces, even as they rejected Jesus. Christians—if they are actual followers of Christ—have understood that our best efforts fall short of God’s glory and have instead accepted the work of Jesus at the cross.

Does the fact that Christians follow Jesus mean we can then live as we please and do as we wish? Certainly not.

The instruction in the New Testament is for Christians, which I think we American believers sometimes lose sight of. Rather than concerning ourselves with all that the Bible says to Christians, we work to bring all of society into a godly lifestyle.

To an extent, this is not a bad thing. Christ’s teaching is life-changing and all of society would be better off doing what He says, but the truth is, it’s possible to clean up the outside of the cup and leave the inside disgustingly dirty.

Jesus didn’t advocate scouring the outside and leaving the inside filthy. Just the opposite. He said, essentially, clean the inside and the outside will take care of itself: “You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also” (Matt. 23:26).

Here’s what Jesus was really getting to:

“So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matt. 24:28)

In other words, He was talking to pretend Christians, or to religious people in other faiths who think doing a bunch of good deeds will put them in right standing with god or the universe or whatever it is they worship.

To be honest, a lot of those people clean up well. Their outside can look all spiffy and clean. One reason Christians team up with Mormons in political matters, I believe, is that Mormons are so very moral. They are pro-life and pro-marriage, don’t drink or smoke or gamble, go to church, give to charities, and generally present a face of kindness.

Clean cups, at least on the outside.

Honestly, moderate Muslims are right there beside them. The women dress modestly, all are law-abiding, they worship regularly, they oppose homosexuality, drinking, and abortion.

I could say the same about any number of people of religion—they do many, many right things because in their belief system, they have to. The doing is their ticket to “God’s” good graces—whether that means enlightenment, nirvana, heaven, or another planet where they will rule.

Shockingly, atheists can fall into this category, too. Their list of “right things” will differ from Mormons, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and pretend Christians, but they still have their list. Be tolerant of people who hold a different belief system than traditional Western culture, take care of the environment, avoid even the appearance of prejudice, speak only in a politically correct way, support gender equality, gay marriage, and labor unions.

The gods that the atheists are trying to please, of course, are themselves. They talk much about doing something meaningful for society and leaving a legacy. This is their nirvana, but to get there, they must clean the outside until it shines.

Jesus said he didn’t come for the people who have these spiffed up outsides. Those folk see no need for Him because they believe it’s up to them.

For the religionists God expects them to measure up, and for the humanists, they have to measure up to the standard they’ve set for themselves. So both groups busy themselves cleaning the outside of the cup, and when drink splatters, which it always does, they hurriedly wipe it away. When greasy fingers leave a smear, they wash and polish, until the outside shines again.

All the while, germs roam free on the inside. They can hate and lust and covet to their heart’s content. They can doubt God and rail at Him, they can be disappointed and think He’s let them down or doesn’t really care or isn’t really there. Just so long as on the outside, no one knows.

Jesus said He came to heal, but only sick people need healing. The well send physicians away. Services not needed here—only healthy people on site.

But that attitude is indicative of the spiritually blind. All people have fallen short of God’s glory—His righteous standard, and the only standard that matters.

Children run races and win trophies, but how silly if they strutted around claiming to be the fastest runner in the world. They have measured themselves against themselves and decided they are the best. But if they were to measure themselves against the world record holder, they would clearly, consistently, and always fall short.

So too with Man’s efforts, as soon as we measure ourselves against God’s holiness.

We might shine the outside of our cup in an effort to fool ourselves and others that it is clean, but to kill the germs crawling around inside takes the touch of the Master, the work of Jesus, the healing of the One who came to save.

This post first appeared here in June 2013.

Published in: on April 13, 2016 at 6:24 pm  Comments Off on Cleaning The Cup  
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What Would Daniel And His Three Friends Do Today?


Daniel003I’ve always loved the story of Daniel and the lions’ den, in which Daniel gets set up by a bunch of nefarious government officials, sticks to his religious principles, is found guilty of breaking Babylonian law, and thrown into the den of lions, only to have the angel of God shut the mouths of the beasts.

Perhaps the only other story I love as well is that of Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. They weren’t so much set up but ratted out because they also stuck to their religious principles, refusing to worship the statue of the Babylonian king. His Highness was so enraged he doubled the penalty—they were thrown into a furnace of fire, heated twice as hot as normal. But as the king looked on, he saw four men walking about, none tied up as the three offenders had been, and none burnt up. Eventually he had Daniel’s friends released, and their clothes weren’t even singed and there was no smell of smoke on them.

I love these stories of godly people who held to their beliefs without wavering. But then, I know the end of the story. I know they escaped.

Stephen’s story of martyrdom isn’t quite as much of a favorite. I know the way that one ended too. While I admire his fervor and his unwillingness to deny Jesus Christ or to stop preaching the truth, I don’t like the fact that it cost him his life or that his death ushered in a period of persecution the young Church had to endure.

So you could say I favor the victorious endings, the ones that have the king declare,

“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” (Dan. 3:28b-29)

Well, OK, maybe the tearing from limb to limb and houses reduced to rubbish is a bit over the top. I’d rather see some sort of rehabilitation or sensitivity training, perhaps, but I suppose that’s just me being a part of the culture in which I find myself.

But there’s the issue. I’m struggling to figure out how I fit into this culture that allows for and approves the killing of infants in their mother’s womb, that redefines the Biblical understanding of marriage, that uses the protection clause of the First Amendment against religion instead of for it, that supports the suppression of free speech on college campuses.

As to the latter, perhaps this video will show you where I’m coming from:

On one hand, I’d like to be Daniel. I admire Kim Davis, County Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, who is in prison for contempt of court because she wouldn’t go back on the religious principles of her new-found faith. (For those who think she should just have quit, perhaps this Washington Post article, “When does your religion legally excuse you from doing part of your job?” will show that our Constitution provides protection from forcing people out of their jobs because of their religious views.)

At the same time, I’m afraid of being Stephen. I don’t know if I have the passion for Christ that he had or the love for his persecutors that enabled him to ask for their forgiveness as he was dying. (See Acts 7:58-60)

Of course, I’m sure others will think I’m jumping to dire conclusions from the case of one County Clerk, and making a mountain out of a series of Planned Parenthood videos. We’re not living in Nazi Germany, many will say. How dare anyone compare Kim Davis to Rosa Parks, others will say.

But I wonder about this. Who knew that Rosa Parks would become Rosa Parks that day in 1955 when she was arrested for disobeying the law that required her to go to the back of the bus. Of course, her situation offered a rallying point for those who were already being oppressed by an unjust law.

Jews in Hitler’s Germany were oppressed by a change in the culture—an out-of-the-closet prejudice against them that first made it harder for them to get jobs or do business. Who was the Jew that was first arrested for being a Jew or for complaining against his unfair treatment? There had to be a first.

Was there a County Clerk who refused to register Jews and consequently went to prison? It wouldn’t be surprising if there were.

But we don’t think of Germany in its transformation from the Wiemar Republic to Hitler’s Nazi rule. We see the extremes of the Third Reich and say, Horrific, never considering how they got there. What rights were first trampled upon? What compromises did good citizens first make? What injustice did people not speak against?

Of course, we have no record of Daniel speaking against the Babylonian law that sent him to the lions den. We have no record of his friends trying to persuade others not to bow to the kings idol. On the other hand, those governments were not democracies, either.

When we the people are the power behind the government, are we not responsible for what that government does? I’d love to know what Daniel would do in Kim Davis’s place. I’d love to know what Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego would do if they saw those Planned Parenthood videos.

I’m pretty sure none of them would be concerned for their image or for negative press. Would they simply go about their business until the day the authorities came to arrest them? I wonder.

A Godless Universe


big-bang-theory-rainbow-gravityOne of the latest scientific theories, or more accurately, an idea some scientists have postulated, suggests the universe did not have an origin, that there was no Big Bang. This concept, known coincidentally as Rainbow Gravity, is an attempt to resolve incompatibilities between quantum mechanics and general relativity.

In short, this idea that’s been around for about a decade, and which isn’t widely accepted by physicists, is based on gravity’s affect on different wavelengths of light, which can be seen in the colors of the rainbow (and thus the name).

Now scientists at Cern in Switzerland believe they might find miniature black holes which would reveal the existence of a parallel universe.

And if the holes are found at a certain energy, it could prove the controversial theory of ‘rainbow gravity’ which suggests that the universe stretches back into time infinitely with no singular point where it started, and no Big Bang.

The theory was postulated to reconcile Einstein’s theory of general relativity – which deals with very large objects, and quantum mechanics – which looks at the tiniest building blocks of the universe. (“Big bang could be debunked”)

I gather from my reading that the String Theory came into being to answer the same paradoxes.

We need a new theory allowing general relativity and quantum mechanics to coexist peacefully. This theory could attempt to solve the problems of each to bring them together. Or it might start afresh and establish completely new ideas of reality.

String theory is an example of such a theory. (“Why String Theory”)

At issue is our understanding of such things as black holes, parallel existence in multiverses, nonexistence, and the Big Bang. And God.

Of course none of the articles I read mentioned God. Because clearly He isn’t being considered as a possible answer to the paradoxes. Rather, these scientists are looking for the Theory of Everything (ToE).

In fact, as one commenter noted, they aren’t following the observe-describe pattern of actual science. Instead, they have reversed the order to be describe-observe. They see a conundrum and have developed an idea to resolve it. Now they’re looking to see if they can find evidence for their ideas. But the scientists don’t agree on what this unifying theory actually looks like.

I’m certain each of these intelligent, scholarly people has reason behind their ideas. What they don’t have is any particular evidence to believe Rainbow Gravity over String Theory or the ToE. And they also have no evidence to discount God as the Creator and Sustainer of all.

They see problems—this truth not meshing with that truth, or these paradoxes impossibly existing together—and they can’t find a unifying principle.

And there stands God, declaring that what He created shows us who He is:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Rom. 1:20)

The net result of humankind turning our back on God is what we have been witnessing more and more with each passing year: the rise of terrorism, the redefinition of marriage, corruption in high places, racial and ethnic divides, gender confusion, and more. Scripture says it plainly:

they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Rom. 1:25-32, emphases mine)

I suggest every time we say it’s the woman’s right to choose, and we mean she can therefore kill her unborn baby, we are worshiping the creature instead of the Creator. I would also say that every time we say a person can choose the gender they feel they are instead of the one “assigned to them at birth,” we are worshiping the creature instead of the Creator. And I suggest when we say two people of the same gender can marry, we are worshiping the creature instead of the Creator.

As scientists struggle to understand the universe without God, so all of us struggle to understand morality without God. What is right and what is wrong?

It can’t be whatever I feel to be right, or the hateful man who shot nine Christians in their church would be morally right—it’s what he felt was right. So too with the radical Muslim terrorists who killed over sixty people last week in their suicide bombings.

There must be a different standard, a universal code of conduct that governs life beyond our feelings, because our feelings don’t always mesh with other people’s feelings. There is as much paradox between one person’s view of the world and another’s, as there is between quantum mechanics and general relativity.

We need a Theory of Everything.

Of course, some suggest tolerance is that something. Others have more recently put forth empathy. But neither of those work unless everyone agrees.

Again, God stands above us declaring that His grace is sufficient, that His love—His empathy—is the solution to our moral struggles. That which we can’t fix, He’s already put together and made available. And it’s a gift.

But in a godless universe, what God has revealed falls on deaf ears.

Guns And Plastic Bags


HandgunsConservatives, a group many evangelical Christians find themselves tied to, have been criticized for having pet topics—most notably, abortion and gay marriage. I’ve heard these topics are growing tiresome and Christians ought to accept that we’re in the minority on these issues and get over it!

Surprise, surprise. Liberals have their pet issues too—notably gun control and global warming/climate change. I find these issues as tedious as I’m sure liberals find topics I’m concerned about.

Gun control in the US has a major barrier: the Second Amendment to the US Constitution which states citizens have the right to bear arms. Of course our world is a very different place than when the founders of our government put that right in place.

All of us decry the misuse of guns—from gang drive-bys to school shootings and political assassinations or the attempts. But the debate rages whether or not passing new restrictions on gun ownership or purchase will change the climate of violence.

In other words, we all acknowledge the problem, but we don’t agree that gun control is the solution or even a solution.

So we seem to be at a sort of stalemate . . . until the state of Georgia comes along and passes a law which allows their citizens to wear sidearms in public, possibly even in churches or schools, and in parts of the airport. These are people without a police record and without reported mental illness for the last five years.

OK, that last point disturbs me. When was the last time someone was “cured” of mental illness? Isn’t it more likely that various mental disorders are being treated or medicated, not cured? And haven’t a number of those perpetrating mass murders been discovered to have a history of mental illness?

But apparently this wasn’t a concern in Georgia. Oh, well. What I’m wondering is this—will the Georgia gun law have the same effect as the marijuana laws have had? In other words, will they catch on? Will other states think passing state laws is a good way to get around the Federal government, no matter what they have on the books or how they might try to restrict long held freedoms?

I find all these attempts at regulation or deregulation quite interesting. The gay rights efforts are an attempt to deregulate the long held beliefs about marriage. Ever since the US became a country, marriage has meant a union between one man and one woman. The deregulation efforts could turn marriage into a free-for-all.

Abortion is also a law that deregulates. Once there was a moral understanding that life is sacred, but now that view has been deregulated and life is not sacred if a woman doesn’t choose to permit life to grow in her womb.

On the other hand, new regulations are being added beyond the gun control. For example, the city council for Huntington Beach, CA, has joined San Francisco in banning plastic bags. While all plastic is frowned upon, it is bags that have received the environmentalists’ ire.

I forget all the evils that plastic bags are responsible for—all related to sea life, I believe. I just find it . . . incredible that we are so concerned for the health and well-being of fish and dolphins and seals and whales and crabs, but so unconcerned for the health and well-being of pre-born humans.

But I misspoke. There is great concern for the health and well-being of the pre-born as long as the mother decides to keep the baby. In that instance, a violent crime against a pregnant woman that results in her baby dying, can bring charges of murder against the perpetrator. And a woman who smokes when she is pregnant? She’s marked with the scarlet N for negligent.

Ocean_wavesIt’s a crazy world anymore. But it’s not really a surprise. Once we detached from our religious moral underpinnings which had been influenced by Scripture, we’ve been adrift. Now we’re moving so far from shore, we’re losing sight of solid ground. We’re following the peaks or dips of each wave, depending on who’s at the rudder and how hard we’re rowing.

I recently read this in an article posted at The Federalist:

“The censorial climate of academia extends beyond tenured professors and touches the students, both in undergraduate and graduate school. They are being taught what is and is not an ‘acceptable’ way of thinking rather than being encouraged to think through difficult questions on their own.” (“The Closing of the Academic Mind,” emphasis mine)

No wonder we have so many inconsistencies. No wonder we have key talking points and favorite liberal or conservative issues. What we actually need is a return to that moral compass that can help us find solid ground again. Maybe then we could reason out what to do about immigration and energy resources and crime and yes, the big favorites of both sides of the divide.

There really are Biblical principles that could apply to these issues, if we would accept the authority of Scripture. But the only way that will happen is one person at a time, each person reading the Bible, believing it, and choosing to live according to its dictates.