I came across an article not long ago that was authored by Luther Brown. I don’t know Mr. Brown, and only know what he says in the article about his background. But I did find several of the points he made to be interesting. Here is one of those points:
“Christians evangelicals and fundamentalists in particular – seem to believe it is their God-assigned duty to interject themselves between man and his God. They seem not to trust that God has given all of us brains and judgment and other qualities that allow us to make decisions for ourselves, using criteria that we (not they) develop and live by. So whenever one of the more inspired among them encounters a person who is having trouble of one kind or another, they immediately begin an insult-laden proselytizing: “You need to go to church,” they say, or “You need Jesus” or “You need to pray.” What is both arrogant and insulting about this is the underlying assumption that the person to whom they are speaking has never considered these possible solutions to their problem, and more importantly, the assumption is that they have never tried them either. Even further is the assumption that their particular market brand religion is the only “true” one.”
While I don’t see much of anything that Mr. Brown discusses the same way he sees it, I admire his candor, and his ability to express himself clearly. Some months ago, in a Facebook exchange with a man whose family I have known and respected for 3 generations finally asked me to please just “Leave me alone!”. This fellow, a professing Christian, has been posting things like “I’m tired tonight”, “work sucks”, and “I’ve decided I don’t like pink” on Facebook for many months. He is college graduate (history major, I believe, from a Midwestern Bible college) and seems to have done nothing with his life. I repeatedly responded to his posts with little chides that were directed at getting him to look beyond his next meal (this guy – to put it kindly – has completely lost control of his weight), and his tickets for the next Brewers game, to focus on issues and circumstances of more importance. I tried repeatedly to draw him into more meaningful discussions – anything with substance, really. No luck. When he did spew something out about some celebrity on radio or TV (also a very important thing in his life), he would refer to people he disliked in very unkind – and not terribly Christ-like ways. Finally, he became so angry with me that he “unfriended” me on Facebook (along with everyone else in my family, although they weren’t involved in the discussions at all), and told me to just “Leave me alone!” His behavior remains the same. At 50 years old, he has done little with his life, and clearly plans to continue to focus on entertainment, food, and complaining about everyone and everything else for his remaining years. His objective seems to be to squander every gift that God has given him, and that is his choice to make. It’s just a shame, and I have to believe, an affront to his Creator.
Over the years, I have seen many friends and family members make decisions that were clearly (to me and to most others who knew them) profoundly bad ones. Selected poor choices in spouses, decided to start or continue smoking, and the list goes on. Were these their decisions to make? Absolutely. But even when the people involved are your own children, at some point they are old enough to make their own decisions, and parental influence wanes. When they are not your children, chances are very good that you have limited ability to influence them at all. So what do you do? In many cases, we just give up and allow them to “crash and burn”. We just “Leave them alone!” How many times have you seen this in your lifetime? I have seen it a lot.
Colossians 3:16, Romans 15:14, and 2 Thessalonians 3:15 all tell us that if we are doing our job as Christians, we have a responsibility to admonish one another to try to help each other achieve a closer relationship with God, and become more valuable instruments in God’s hands. Still, following this advice will almost certainly cause Christians to be described as “getting on their high horse”, being “holier than thou”, and so on. It is almost always an unpleasant experience for both the admonisher and the admonishee (is admonishee a word?), and the more direct you are the more despised you are likely to be. Let’s face it, all of us hate to be admonished, corrected, and offered unsolicited advice. It feels a little like you’re not a grownup, and still need your parents to tell you what to do. And in the end, every Christian (every adult, actually) should make his or her own decisions because ultimately they bear the legal and moral responsibility for them. But it does seem clear that since God has instructed Christians to admonish and receive admonition from one another, our unwillingness to do so constitutes disobedience to God. Rarely does God direct us to do only things that are pleasant!
Every situation is different, of course. Some of the poor decisions that Christians make have no long-term consequences other than their own physical discomfort, financial security, or personal reputation. Other decisions have wider spread and more profound impacts. So there is always a kind of risk / reward analysis involved in deciding whether to “get involved”, and in most cases I believe that most of us decide to just stay out of things that “aren’t any of our business”. It’s certainly the path of least resistance, and it will result in a lot more Facebook (and real world) “friends”. But is it the biblical thing to do? No, it is not. The Bible never says: “Look at the situation. Is it important enough to even mention? If you think you really have a shot at helping this person, then speak very kindly to him, and you may be able to get him to adjust his thinking – but be careful not to offend him!” No, those are the kinds of things we say to ourselves and to one another because we uncertain in our convictions, and because it gives us a comparatively easy way out when we see something going wrong in the life of a fellow Christian. But – hey – that’s exactly what I do most of the time; How about you?
What do you think?
“Christianity is under attack!” I have heard that exclamation from the pulpit many times over my 50+ years on this earth. It certainly is. Of course Christians have been under attack for thousands of years – as many years as the name of Christ has been known so that the word “Christian” could exist. Christ himself suffered unspeakable persecution, ending with his own death on the cross about 2000 years ago.
To be fair, Christians have done some attacking as well. The Bible book of Joshua recounts some of these events, such as the account in Joshua 8:23-25: “But they took the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua. When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. 25 Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai.”
Then of course there were the Crusades. Crusades to restore Christian control of the Holy Land were fought over a period of nearly 200 years, spanning the years between 1095 and 1291. The purpose initially stated for the Crusades in this period was the recapture of Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslim rulers. Whether these acts of aggression were actually undertaken on behalf of God has been a subject of debate for almost a century now. No one knows exactly how many embarked on the Crusades, or how many were killed. We only know that the impact was so profound as to be widely known a thousand years later.
Today, Christian missionaries find themselves under attack just as they have been over the last two centuries. The attacks are widespread and brutal. If you’d like a sobering view, simply Google the words “missionaries attacked”; you’ll get more than enough evidence of this condition. Open Doors actually compiles a list annually of the Top 50 Countries in terms of persecution of Christians. But the list of contemporary attacks on missionaries is widespread and unpleasant. Ten missionaries killed in Afghanistan, a dozen Christians injured in a attack in Chhattisgarh, two missionaries attacked and one of them murdered in Mexico, eleven missionaries attacked in Haiti, four missionaries attacked and badly beaten in India, an elderly missionary couple attacked, badly beaten, and one of them raped in Kenya. All of these stories appear in the first two pages of search engine responses.
From a Christian perspective, this is absolutely to be expected. The examples of the apostles and early followers of Christ are a menu of torture and murder – everything from being stoned to death to being beheaded. And as I mentioned earlier, there is the example of Jesus Christ Himself. The Bible makes two things on this subject perfectly clear:
So that’s it in a proverbial nutshell. Those of us who identify ourselves as Christians have been ordered into missionary service by the One we profess to follow; Jesus Christ. Period. We have not been ordered to become bakers, bankers, builders, or boarding house managers. Nope. Much as we like to say things like: “I’ve been called to be a stock broker”, or “I’ve been called to be a plumber”, (from a biblical perspective) it’s nonsense.
Of course I get arguments all the time about the impracticality of this approach. If all Christians followed the example of the true disciples – people like Peter in the New Testament who dropped his fishing nets where he stood and followed Christ – who would feed and clothe us, and provide food and shelter for our children? I’m guessing here, but if God is as good as His Word, I think He might be willing to do that for believers who stepped out on faith and followed Him now just as He did 2,000 years ago. It’s a huge step, I know – I certainly have not taken it. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. When I think about what would happen if every man, woman, and child who is a professing Christian just dropped everything and went out into the mission field, doing exactly what Christ commanded all of us to do, it really does make me wonder how the world would change. It would be – well whatever the positive term for “cataclysmic” is. But we’d continue to get the stuffings beaten out of us in the process. The Bible also makes that clear as a bell.
Now here is the part of all this that is a real puzzler for me: In Mark 10:29-30, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” Here again, this is Jesus speaking directly in the book of Mark to those who follow Him. He is promising in plain English (actually plain Hebrew in those days) that those of us who follow Him as He has commanded us to do in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) are going to come out of that process even in this lifetime with ten times as many family members and material goods as we lost in that process. Not to mention eternal life in the hereafter. I know of a number of missionaries who have lost their lives, lost their spouses, lost their children, and ended their careers and their lives virtually penniless. I don’t know of any who profited 100 fold in this life (“this present age”) as Jesus promised in Mark 10:29. What am I missing here? I still believe in Jesus Christ: I want the reader to make no mistake about that. There are many things that I do not understand, and I continue to simply accept those on faith. I understand that my (very) finite understanding will never comprehend all the mysteries of God. But there are a number of places where statements and promises are made in the Bible which do not seem to me to be supported by the evidence, and this is one of them.
What do you think?
America as a nation is moving increasingly to the left politically, and clear examples of this phenomenon – and its impacts – exist in the attitudes of our people toward the two most fundamental underpinnings of our nation: The Bible, and the US Constitution.
US Church and State
No matter what modern progressives / liberals say, the United States of America was founded on the God described in the Bible – Old and New Testament. Anyone who does not admit that is deliberately ignoring the preponderance of written materials and artifacts from the 100 years that encapsulate that period of American history. While it is true that exceptions existed (Thomas Jefferson for example left behind quotes that were all over the map on this topic, and Thomas Paine was almost as bad), the weight of the evidence makes that fact clear to any truly objective student of history. While many point to articles that describe all or most of the Founding Fathers as Deist, they are also forced to admit that Thomas Paine was criticized for his Deist position by most of those who founded our nation. The period of American history just preceding the American Revolution was defined principally by the “Great Awakening”. This evangelistic movement occurred in the 1730’s and 40’s, just prior to the Revolution. “Fire and brimstone” types of preachers, such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Increase Mather, and John Witherspoon (a signatory of the Declaration of Independence), shaped the religious attitudes and perspectives of the colonists and the founders. In an insightful article on this topic may be found at. In this summary, Worthington states: “Witherspoon was a personal teacher and mentor of many of our founders, as President and head professor of Princeton College (later the University). A President, a Vice President, three Supreme Court Justices, thirty-seven judges in all, ten Cabinet officers, twelve members of the Continental Congress, twenty-eight Senators, and forty-nine United States congressmen. Even the Deists believed in the God of the Bible, but were isolating Him only as Almighty God, not agreeing that the Godhead consisted of the Trinity. Besides the three Roman Catholics among the Founding Fathers, the Protestant Convention delegates included 28 Episcopalians, 8 Presbyterians, 7 Congregationalists, 2 Lutherans, 2 Dutch reformed and 2 Methodists. These were more definitively identified as believers in the true God of the Bible, yet were Trinitarians in their belief. Most, who consider themselves Christian today, are Trinitarian.”
The evidence is so abundant that it is overwhelming, and it is a source of morbid fascination to me that liberals have filled the internet with so many articles that malign and revise this central element of American heritage. A couple of my favorite quotes include: John Adams and John Hancock: ”We Recognize No Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!” [April 18, 1775], and John Adams: “The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principals of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.” He also wrote that: “[July 4th] ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.” in a letter written to his wife Abigail on the day the Declaration was approved by Congress.
Here is a larger but still not nearly comprehensive list. Just to drive a stake through the heart of the liberal attack, though, I will list a somewhat broader set of quotes at the conclusion of the article. It is amazing how vile and vitriolic some of the attacks have been. I have seen some poor souls comparing Christianity to Islamic Sharia law, and saying that Christians are trying to get us all return to the Mosaic laws of the Old Testament, even though Christ clearly supplanted those laws and methods over 2,000 years ago. One guy even goes so far as to say that the Bible never says anything against polygamy. I have news for him; On that one point, I believe he is correct. Only in the case of church leaders does the Bible say that they need to be “the husband of one wife”. I have no idea where current law comes from in the United States prohibiting polygamy, but I dare say it didn’t come from the Bible.
But I digress. The point is that the United States of America was at it’s inception a nation founded on the principles of Christianity. Anyone who is familiar with the Ten Commandments and the writings of the Founding Fathers knows this to be true – our coins, our monuments, and our most fundamental documents don’t say “In a Deity We Trust”. Give me a break. In his book “Wall of Misconception”, Peter Lillback points out: “”Over one-third of the citations of our founders come directly from the Scriptures, more than any other book,” he continued. “They were not biblically ignorant. ” Another third of the founders’ citations came from masters of philosophy and law, who were also Christians that relied heavily on the Bible for guidance. “John Locke, Montesquieu, and Blackstone – all of them were Christian thinkers. And that’s two-thirds of our founders’ writings by explicitly Christian thinkers and the Bible.”, Lillback reminds his readers.
Moving on, since I clearly haven’t alienated enough people already, I’d like to talk about the Bible. On 2007-MAY-25, Gallup reported the results of a national poll on Biblical inerrancy. The average of polls taken during MAY of 2005, 2006 and 2007 were:
This reflects a change on the part of Americans polled. As you can see from the illustration below, over time fewer and fewer people are convinced of the literal inerrancy of the Bible. More and more people believe that the Bible is based on the God’s words, but is not a literal translation of the God’s words.
Of course, the fact the number of people who believe something to be true has never been demonstrated to be correlated with the actual truth of a matter; for example, all of his contemporaries believed Columbus would sail off the edge of the Earth, and the whole idea that the Earth rotated around the sun rather than the other way around didn’t work out very well for Galileo. That didn’t make these guys wrong – it just made them very unpopular. What it does tell us, though, is that the world – including the community of self-proclaimed Christians – is becoming increasingly liberal in their thinking. They are much more prone to “interpret” the Bible and biblical doctrine by applying it in diverse ways, making it fit better with changing societal norms and customs. A growing number – already a majority – of Christians no longer consider the Bible to be an immutable yardstick by which Christians determine what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. These Christians regard the Bible as merely a guide – as generally correct in principle, but not hard-and-fast truth table for day-to-day Christian living. In many respects, the Bible is essentially reduced from the “inspired word of God” to the level of “Chicken Soup for the Soul”.
This of course enables self-professing Christians to embrace concepts like homosexuality in spite of numerous extremely clear condemnations of homosexuality throughout the Bible, and acceptance of women in the pastorate – also in spite of the New Testament admonitions against that practice. In other words, we simply ignore those elements of biblical direction that don’t support what we want to do. It’s very like a child telling his parents that he won’t obey their rules if he doesn’t want to behave that way. It wouldn’t work for child rearing – if Christians are the children of God, why do we believe that approach is appropriate for us? In our human hubris, we appear to believe that we are better at evaluating what is appropriate and inappropriate, acceptable and unacceptable, than the God that created us.
I think that my position related to hubris as the root cause for Christians moving away from believing in the literal Bible is supported to some degree by the fact that increasing levels of formal education are correlated strongly with a lack of belief in the literal truth of the Bible. Again, looking at the Gallup pole mentioned above this is depicted graphically:
Of course we all do this to some degree. The Bible clearly says that lying is a sin, as is gluttony. Yet who among us has never told a lie, and who among us doesn’t carry a little unnecessary weight around? But some areas are more clearly divergent from the will of God, and more likely to impact a greater number of people in a way that causes them to depart from biblical truths in a meaningful way. One thing that the Gospels are pretty clear about is that God has limited patience with His children who mislead their fellow Christians. I think a pretty good explanation of when the Bible should be taken literally is laid out in an web article by Tim O’Hearn, who says: “The rule I usually try to follow is to take the Bible literally when it is presented as literal (i.e. Genesis 1, the historical books). When it is obviously symbolic (Revelation, certain parts of the prophetic works, some conversational passages) take it as symbolic rather than literal. When it is clearly a figure of speech, accept it as such. Where it is unclear whether it is to be taken literally or not, lean toward the literal interpretation.” I think that’s a pretty reasonable course. With so many translations of the original texts, it is impossible for me to believe that any one version is perfectly translated, though some people that I know and respect are adamant about the total veracity of the King James Version. So in the end, while I personally believe that the original texts are literally divinely inspired (“God breathed”), I have difficulty believing that all subsequent translation work has been flawless. (Note that many of my sentences include the words “I think” and “I believe”. You should make your own informed decisions on matters this weighty – but since this is my blog, you get my perspective.) What has happened to church attendance over time, as Christianity and specifically Christianity has adopted increasingly liberal views of the Bible and of its applicability to contemporary Christian life?
One article that offers some insight here was authored by Linda D. Stanley. In it, Stanley observes: “The Gallop Poll reports that Christian Americans are declining in number. The report shows that in the first year of tracking, 1948, 91% of Americans identified themselves as belonging to some form of Christianity. The Gallop report conducted in 2008 showed this number had declined to 77% of Americans who identify themselves as belonging to some sort of Christianity. It appears that the Catholic denominations have remained steady at about 20-23% since the late 1940’s while the Christian sector has declined from high 60% down to a steady stay at 55-57%. It would appear that it is possible that many Americans are moving to other religions that have been popular in other areas. The truth is that this same Gallop poll reports that in 1948 only 2% of Americans reported no religious affiliation while in 2008, 12% of Americans claimed no religious affiliation. It appears that Americans are in fact losing our faith.” Here is a graphic depiction of church attendance spanning an even longer time frame from the Church Of England.
Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? It might seem at first glance that the easier we are on ourselves as Christianity becomes increasingly liberal, the easier it would be to attend church without feelings of remorse requiring self-examination and repentance. Could it be that as Christianity veers further and further from its steadfast adherence to the primary source of God’s written Word, Christianity becomes LESS relevant to people? In a word: Yes.
What else might we look to in order to identify the impact of leaving biblical principles such as monogamy, fidelity, and so on behind? Well, what about divorce rates? Surely the newly relaxed approach to biblical interpretation would make it easier to stay married, right? After all, the relationships are more open among many, and much more inclusive of various types of partners and arrangements. Living together without being married, for example, has often been cited as a way to assure in advance that a marriage is going to work out. And many states are now “No-Fault Divorce” states, eschewing all accountability in failed marriage situations. Of course we all know that hasn’t quite worked out either. Divorce rates have closely mirrored the increase in liberalism and religious apathy in America. The University of Maryland produced a pretty good chart depicting what happened between the 60s and the 90s, when America took their hard left turn.
Can there any doubt in the mind of a reasonable person that more liberal views from our nation’s pulpits are not serving the families of our citizenry well?
The US Constitution
Whether the US Constitution should be taken literally or interpreted as general guidance applicable to current circumstances in the United States is an ongoing debate. Americans seem to be just about evenly split on this question, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Sounds very much like the discussion around whether the Bible should be taken literally or interpreted, doesn’t it? When it comes to the US Constitution, I am an “Originalist”. I am also a conservative, but these two are not synonymous, as is often incorrectly believed. According to Wikipedia, “It is not accurate to say that originalism rejects change, or that originalists necessarily oppose the use of “the evolving standards of decency” in determining what the Constitution ought to say; rather, originalism rejects the concept that the courts should consider what the Constitution ought to say, but instead rule solely on what it does say. Originalists argue that the business of determining what the Constitution and the law ought to say is within the purview of the Congress, that changes to the law should come through the legislature, and changes to the constitution should be made per the amendment process outlined in Article V. Sometimes this approach yields results that please conservatives (see, for example, Justice Scalia’s dissents in Roper v. Simmons or Romer), and sometimes it yields results that do not (see, for example, Justice Scalia’s dissents in BMW v. Gore or Hamdi v. Rumsfeld).” In otherwords, the Supreme Court should, in my view, interpret and apply the Constitution as originally written – what it says – rather than applying what they believe it ought to say in light of today’s circumstances, in their opinion.
Why is this important? One reason is that from an Originalist’s perspective, where the constitution is silent on a matter (such as abortion for example), judges should not “read rights into” it. Any assertion that Constitution provides a “right” related to abortion, sexual practices, or capital punishment is dead wrong. The Constitution does not speak to them, and hence these matters should not be recognized by the judiciary. The Ninth Amendment to the Constitution says that “[t]he enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” However, there is no such thing as a “right” to an abortion or a same-sex marriage. Our rights are reflected in the Declaration of Independence, in the United States Constitution, and more specifically in the Bill of Rights (See the last pages of this article for a description of each of these, and a web source where you can go to learn more about each of them.)
So, as we become increasingly liberal in our handling of the US Constitution, is there any evidence of a resulting impact on American society, behavior, or social norms that would indicate we are performing better or worse as a nation? Well, one thing we know to be true is that the rate of abortions climbed dramatically since it was legalized in the United States as a result of Roe vs. Wade in 1973. Even normalizing it for sheer population surges by simply looking at abortions per 100 pregnancies, the result is clear.
(Note that this data was compiled by Right to Life – if you don’t trust their data, you may want to look elsewhere for verification or repudiation. I think you’ll find it’s accurate by any objective measure.)
So here is one case where a liberal interpretation (not speaking to an issue where the Constitution remains silent) took America in a direction that I believe is neither consistent with the Founding Fathers’ vision of “inalienable rights” – especially for the unborn – nor with the bests interests of American citizens. The only argument that seems plausible against that position to me is that the unborn are not officially citizens, since they were never actually born in the United States. A ridiculous stretch to be sure, but no farther to go in my view than claiming there is a constitutional “right” to end the life of an unborn child. As to why the number of abortions has abated by about 25% from its peak around 1983, a number of potential explanations have been offered such as post-1973 state-level pro-life legislation, but no one really knows for sure. While the exact number can never be nailed down, what we do know is that more – almost certainly a lot more – unborn children are now being killed than prior to the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision.
What about homosexuality? Again, there is no defined “right” related to sexual orientation in the Constitution. Gay activists have won selected battles to redefine marriage in various states, and strongly advocate a homosexual life style. Yet statistics bear out that a gay lifestyle usually results in more pain and suffering in many areas than a heterosexual lifestyle. The incidence of everything from murder to communicable disease among this subpopulation is stunning. From time to time someone will read words like these and mount attacks of bigotry and prejudice against the author. However, these are simple points of fact. It’s not me who condemns homosexuality as sin – that’s the Bible. And quoting statistical facts isn’t bigotry or prejudice any more than pointing out that smoking results in high incidence rates for lung cancer, or overeating is related to high incidences of diabetes; it just is what it is.
What else has happened in terms of broad social trends that may be correlated to a liberalizing trend among our most influential lawmakers and political figures since the late 1960s and early 1970s?
US Violent Crime Rate
US Property Crime Rate
As one may observe from the incidence of violent crime and property related crime, the late 1960s and early 1970s provided an environment where both types of crime flourished. Only in the late 1990s, with the advent of four primary factors: Increased numbers of police, increased prison populations (locking more people up for longer periods), a receding crack cocaine epidemic, and legalized abortion. An excellent piece of research in this area was published by The Journal of Economic Perspectives in 2004, authored by Steven Levitt. While the first three causes are intuitive, the last one – that crime went down in the 1990s because abortion was legalized in the early 1970s, makes perfect sense to me. A large percentage of property crimes and violent crimes are committed by late teen to early 20s people. 17 years after abortion was legalized, the portions of our demographic population most frequently arrested for these crimes (the poor) had basically selected themselves for fewer children, and thereby produced fewer people in the demographic that most frequently turns to crime.
And so, broadly speaking, what we observe here is that crime grew increasingly rampant as the United States became increasingly liberal. It took more police, more incarceration, and the killing of significant numbers of unborn children among our most crime-prone population to arrest that situation and bring it back to current levels. This means that as a nation the United States decided that it preferred to throw disciplined adherence to conservative principles away, and compensate for the results by killing a substantial part of the population before they could be born, and incarcerating a higher number of the remainder. Interesting approach. The cost of taking this path, in dollars and in lives, certainly bears examination.
In summary, I believe an objective review of broad trends in American society over the last 50 years demonstrates that the United States has moved and continues to move further from its founding principles and underlying philosophy. As it does so, America becomes weaker from a moral perspective, and trades the lives and welfare of its most helpless and disadvantaged population subgroups for a “tolerance” that is unhealthy and debilitating to families and to society overall. Returning to more conservative principles and lifestyles from a place of liberalism and apathy is not an easy process, and frankly, I see no evidence that America as a whole has the stomach for it.
What do you think?
Selected Quotes of the Founding Fathers About Christianity
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.” Thomas Jefferson, 1781.
“We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.” Benjamin Franklin, a statement he made at the Constitutional Convention, on June 28, 1787.
“I have tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty; through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a sinner. I look to Him for mercy; pray for me.” Alexander Hamilton’s last dying words, July 12, 1804.
“This is all the inheritance I give to my dear family. The religion of Christ will give them one which will make them rich indeed.” Patrick Henry in Last Will and Testament, November 20, 1798.
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” James Madison The Father of the U.S. Constitution.
“It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge THE Providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and to humbly implore His protection and favor.” George Washington October 3, 1789 Proclaiming a National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving.
“Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only Law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited… What a paradise would this region be!” John Adams, 1756.
“An appeal to arms and the God of hosts is all that is left us. But we shall not fight our battle alone. There is a just God that presides over the destinies of nations. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone. Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death.” Patrick Henry, 1775.
“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great Nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religious, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason alone, people of other faiths have been afforded freedom of worship here.” Patrick Henry, 1776.
“I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus. I have little doubt that our whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our Creator and, I hope, to the pure doctrine of Jesus also.” Thomas Jefferson, Written on the cover of his personal Bible.
“It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible. Of all the dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, our religion and morality are the indispensable supporters. Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that our national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” George Washington, Farewell Speech, Sept. 19, 1796.
“Oh, eternal and everlasting God, direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the Lamb and purge my heart by thy Holy Spirit. Daily, frame me more and more in the likeness of thy son, Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time obtain the resurrection of the justified unto eternal life. Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of thee and thy son, Jesus Christ.” George Washington, written in his personal prayer book.
“We have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and true religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams, 2nd US President.
“The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” John Quincy Adams, 6th US President.
“The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools.” US Congress, 1782.
The amendments that became the Bill of Rights were the last ten of the twelve amendments proposed in 1789. The second of the twelve proposed amendments, regarding the compensation of members of Congress, remained unratified until 1992, when the legislatures of enough states finally approved it; as a result, after pending for two centuries, it became the Twenty-seventh Amendment.
The first of the twelve, which is still technically pending before the state legislatures for ratification, pertains to the apportionment of the United States House of Representatives after each decennial census. The most recent state whose lawmakers are known to have ratified this proposal is Kentucky in 1792, during that commonwealth’s first month of statehood.
Subsequent amendments (11 to 27)
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Amendments to the Constitution after the Bill of Rights cover many subjects. The majority of the seventeen later amendments stem from continued efforts to expand individual civil or political liberties, while a few are concerned with modifying the basic governmental structure drafted in Philadelphia in 1787. Although the United States Constitution has been amended 27 times, only 26 of the amendments are currently in effect because the twenty-first amendment supersedes the eighteenth.
A recent survey conducted by Ellison Research and reported by Ron Sellers at LifeWay Christian Resources says that: “A significant proportion of ministers struggled with at least some feelings that their denomination is headed the wrong way. One-third agreed with the statement “In many ways, your denomination is moving in the wrong direction,” although only 6 percent agreed strongly with this. Methodists were particularly concerned about this (54 percent agreed with the statement), while Pentecostal/charismatic pastors were among the least likely to have this worry.”
It has been my perception over these last 50 years that denominations tend to be identified by churches in their names primarily as a way to separate themselves from other groups of churches who hold differing critical doctrines. It’s a little like restaurant franchises; when you go to a McDonalds restaurant anywhere in the world, you can pretty much expect the Big Mac to be there – though it may be called something slightly different – and you can pretty much expect that it will taste the same. If you go to a Baptist Church, you can pretty much expect to be in a church that holds the doctrinal position that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that acceptance of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ is the only path to heaven after life on this Earth is over, and that baptism of the believer is done by immersion, not by sprinkling. The more subtle beliefs and practices – those that are not so clearly based on scripture (such as whether it is all right to smoke, dance, and drink alcoholic beverages) typically form the basis of intradenominational (within the broad denomination) distinctions. For example, the General Association of Baptist Churches (GARBC) generally does not believe that alcohol, dancing, and smoking are appropriate behaviors for Christians. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches, in my experience, are more accepting of these practices. Of course, as a part of the increasingly liberal perspectives taken within seminaries and Bible colleges, a growing number of candidates for the ministry are more tolerant of doctrinal positions and general conduct that was previously not accepted well among more conservative Christian churches. This makes me think that most pastors who feel their denomination is headed “the wrong way” believe that it is becoming too liberal.
But that surmise does not appear to square with another finding from this survey, which states that: “Eighty-six percent of all Protestant pastors agreed with the statement “There should be more cooperation among different Protestant denominations.” Forty percent agreed strongly with this, and another 46 percent agreed somewhat. A majority of just about every group of ministers agreed with this sentiment, but some were more vocal about it than others. The strongest agreement came from Methodists and other members of the National Council of Churches, while Baptists were among those less likely to feel strongly about this. Among Baptists, 30 percent agreed strongly, and another 49 percent agreed somewhat.”
Sellers seems to me to strike close to – but not directly on – the answer to this little puzzle later in his article, when he says: “Mainline denominations are being split apart by severe differences between liberal and conservative elements on major issues such as abortion, homosexuality, syncretism, and the primacy of Scripture. Many pastors in these denominations find they have more in common with like-minded conservatives or liberals from other denominations, rather than with pastors holding opposing viewpoints within their own denomination.”
One of the primary reasons that Christianity – and Christian churches in particular – is becoming more liberal is that many of those entering the pastorate are more liberal. They are more tolerant in areas that the Bible has condemned with abundant clarity. There is no doubt about the Bible’s positions in areas like homosexuality, abortion, and the primacy of scripture. Moving off dead center in terms of the doctrinal positions of the Bible is like throwing out the US Constitution; each effort to move us further and further away from the core doctrines of our faith takes us further away from the source of God’s blessings. It introduces human reasoning in place of divine instruction, and the results of that path have always been disastrous for the Christians who are involved. Perhaps the best illustration of that from the Bible is located in 1 Corinthians 1:10-14. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”
Clearly, the Apostle Paul had little patience for the introduction of human thinking that divided the body of believers into sects. He implored them to “join together in the same mind and in the same judgment”. Now the difficult part of this approach in modern day Christianity is that accommodating the perspectives of multiple church associations within a denomination, and even more broadly between Protestant denominations, is extremely unlikely. Even with the current trajectory of liberalizing pastors and congregations, some doctrinal positions are going to be very tough to overcome. An example that comes to mind is often referred to as “Eternal Security”, or “Once Saved, Always Saved.” Even among denominations that are otherwise very closely aligned – such as Church of Christ and Baptist churches, that issue would likely be insurmountable for many churches. There are many others as well; some as seemingly small as baptism by immersion versus sprinkling, which tends to separate Presbyterian and Baptist denominations.
The clear and present danger here, in my view, is the propensity in situations like these to compromise on central doctrine. Personally, my view is that anything not spoken to directly in the Bible is not a doctrinal matter, and therefore should not be sufficient reason for a distinctive “Association”, “Denomination”, or other fraternal grouping among churches that profess to follow Christ. I have no issue with whether churches accept dancing as a practice among their congregants, for example – even David “danced before the Lord” in celebration. But when it comes to fundamental doctrine like “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” there is no room in my view for retreat or compromise. It is what it is. Anyone introducing a priest or other interlocutor into the middle of the relationship between God and Man is violating scripture, and that is not acceptable. So those are my thoughts on this matter. I am eager to hear yours.
What do you think?