Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Many of us know the phrase originated as description of where government should not tread rather than where religious beliefs should not be expressed. True separation of church and state is a good thing. The government is not the church and the church is not the government. Each has its place and purpose, ordained by our Creator to provide benefits to His image bearers. And, neither should encroach upon the boundaries of the other.
Does this mean the Christian conscience should not operate in political activity? Certainly not. Just as in other arenas of life, the Christian must carry his conscience informed by the Word of God into his political activity. This is true for the voter and the elected official. Chuck Colson, in his book God & Government states three good reasons for Christians to engage political activity. "First, as citizens of the nation-state, Christians have the same civic duties all citizens have . . . Second, as citizens of the Kingdom of God Christians are to bring God's standards of righteousness and justice to bear on the kingdom of this world. . . . Third, Christians have an obligation to bring transcendent moral values into public debate." We've seen examples of these principles throughout history - William Wilberforce and his successful fight to end slavery and rebuild the moral fabric of British society comes to mind.
Does this mean that political office becomes a pulpit for the elected? No. The church often finds itself marginalized in public debate, suffering prior decades of hiding from political activity. To swing to the other extreme and use government to accomplish the goals of the church would miss the mark by an equal margin. The elected official's duty is to facilitate government's delegated duty of preserving order and justice. According to Colson, "there is an alternative to the imposition of religious values or the passive acceptance of majority opinion, a principle that pays both pluralism and conscience their due. Christian politicians must do all in their power to make clear, public arguments on issue of moral and political importance, to persuade rather than coerce.
Separation of church and state - each operating in its own sovereign sphere without encroaching on the other - can restore much needed biblical balance to life in the public square.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Let's take the example of the three propositions, 5, 6, and 9, which address issues in our criminal justice system. First, let's take a look at what we've got now:
- 1 out of every 142 Americans is behind bars
- 1 out of every 44 is on probation or parole
- Government at all levels spends $147 billion on crime related expenses
- Each prison cell costs $100,000 to build
- Each prisoner costs $20,000 per year to house
- Prisoners are exposed to years of separation from family, violence, homosexual rape
- For the last 30 years the rate of rearrest has stayed at 67% - that’s through Democrat and Republican administrations and legislative control
Conservatives tout a tough on crime agenda and liberals hope to rehabilitate offenders through the system. Both have failed - but why? Because they fail to acknowledge the truth of the matter - what the real problems are and what will really solve them.
God is the beginning and end of true justice and because God is a personal being, justice itself is personal. From God's point of view, it's more about restoring relationships that it is about getting what you deserve. In the cross, justice and love are united. It is there that God demonstrates his overwhelming love for us, those who were dead in our trespasses and sin and united in rebellion against him. And, it is there that justice is perfectly satisfied. The result is the restoration of our relationship with God.
When offenders commit crimes, they are not against the State of California as the District Attorney's complain reads. They are against victims and communities and they breach shalom (wholeness - the way things are supposed to be). Looking through the lenses of a biblical worldview, our response to this disruption ought to include an opportunity for the victims and communities to participate in restoring shalom. Our efforts should focus on restitution which recognizes the victim and the harm done and creates an opportunity to mend the breach in the relationship between the offender and victim and community. If we move in that direction, we can hope that the offender can engage in confession, repentance, making amends, and later transformation. The victim gains an opportunity to forgive and let go of a hurt will only grow into hate if left untouched.
This gives us a yardstick to measure these three propositions. Let's use Proposition 9 as an example. According to the official summary, Prop. 9 "requires notification to victim and opportunity for input during phases of criminal justice process, including bail, pleas, sentencing and parole." Based on our discussion above, this sounds pretty good. The current system relegates victims to prosecutor props with very few rights. Even though I like it, this proposition possesses a tone that misses the mark by focusing on individual rights. Rather than pointing us towards true justice - the restoration of relationships - victims need to be involved in the system because they have rights that the system ignores.
Does that cause Proposition 9 to fail the biblical worldview measuring test? I don't think so. The proposition promotes a sound policy even if a bit off base. It does not reflect perfect justice, but it moves us that much closer to it.
Measuring propositions takes some work, but if we want expand the borders of the Kingdom of God among us - the place where what God prefers actually happens - we need to keep at it.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
To hit the God's mark, we must first participate - go to the polls and vote. Second we must apply faithfulness to our participation. This means spending a little time figuring out how we can vote to do good by God standards. Voting alone will not cut it.
To keep pounding a point, that's worldview in action. Each of us possesses a worldview - a core set a beliefs about God, man, and the world which determine how we live our lives. As Christians, God's revelation of Himself in Scripture ought to significantly form our worldview. If my worldview is Theo-centric or biblical or Christian, when I vote for propositions, I will determine my yeses and nos by the standards God reveals in Scripture.
Sounds simple enough, but the application can get a bit messy. Stay tuned for more info on how to put a biblical worldview into action at the voting booth.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
First, He spoke directly in Scripture - through history, poetry, prophecy, songs, proverbs, letters, and sermons He tells us in no uncertain terms about His attributes, character, and purposes.
Second, God reveals Himself in the person of Jesus. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:15-20.
Third, God reveals Himself in creation, our consciences, and culture. “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:20.
Most of us get the first two – we read and meditate upon Scripture and understand and are moved by the revelation of God in Christ. But how often do we see God in the stars? When you see a sunset so beautiful it causes you to gasp, do you wonder of the untold beauty of God? When look up on a moonless night and see so many stars that you imagine the sky has been stroked with a brush filled with glitter, do you think of how big God really is? When you see a bird in flight or a lizard sunning itself, do you marvel at the creativity of our God who’s only pattern for work is His own imagination?
According the Romans 1, this should be our first encounter with God – gazing upon creation ought to prompt the original thought that a being of diving nature, eternal power, and invisible qualities exists somewhere behind the curtain. For those of us who “know the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations” (Colossians 1:26) - that Christ dwells in us - gazing on creation ought to bring us eye-to-eye with the face of God.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
This is the first version of a NewsCWiPP under the new title InsideOut. Our ministry has changed its name to truthxchange. Our website, truthxchange.com, has a new look, new content, including audio and a blog. Now you can all react and interact. InsideOut seeks to examine what is happening on the inside (or underside) of events, just below the surface of the culture, and bring out their real religious and cultural significance.
Emergent leader Brian McClaren says "everything must change," not only websites and titles. Our political candidates seem to agree. I too am witness to enormous changes over my adult life.
I was raised in the heyday of European rationalistic secular humanism, and came as a student to America in 1964 to discover a culture so impregnated with Christianity that I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Well, not quite, but the "sacred canopy" over the culture was basically a biblical, Judeo-Christian worldview.
From the Sixties on, two major religious trends began to define society.
1. Simplistic Christianity
After the solid theological days of early 20th century Evangelicalism, which defined itself according to the great fundamentals of the faith, much of Christianity turned to a more sensational, experience-oriented "fundamentalism" that got caught up in the power of television (with its inevitable scandals), mega-church commercialism and cheap shot religion evidenced in such expressions as "God-hates-fags." The culture began to see Evangelicalism as a mindless, even dangerous religion. Was D. James Kennedy overly optimistic when he said in 2004 that "if the trend [the growth in the number of Evangelicals] continues, and I believe it will, American Christians will be in the majority sometime in the next decade"? Perhaps he did not count on "Evangelicalism" changing.
2. The Cultural Revolution
Appearing at first to be another generational round of student dissent, the Sixties movement actually redefined the nature of the world.
Authority: The social rebellion against university senates, the police and the Vietnam War stemmed from a principial rejection of all authority and hierarchy. In the place of authority, egalitarianism reigned, aided by postmodern deconstruction. Now, all truth is relative.
Sexuality: "Free sex" became resistance to normative heterosexual gender roles, and has morphed into a utopian vision for a pan-sexual/omni-gendered society.
Spirituality: The culture of love-not-war, of LSD trips and Eastern meditation, of diversity and tolerance has become the gateway for "can't-we-all-get-along" interfaith neo-paganism, with its techniques of yoga, mysticism and meditation.
The marginal Sixties revolution has become the dominant worldview of contemporary culture, appealing to the social and intellectual elite, in whose hands are the levers of social control (media, politics, business). These opinion-shapers, with little opposition, are now articulating a religiously pagan worldview for the life of the planetary community. These cultural progressives see no problem with mixing "church" (pagan religion) and "state" (electoral politics).
Two other important events have subsequently taken place following the social decline of Christianity, and the social rise of neo-paganism.
Good-bye Secular Humanism
Secular humanism is no longer the dominant non-Christian worldview. Philosophically, it has been radically undermined by the postmodern rejection of the objectivity of human reason. In addition, according to neo-pagans, Secular "inhumanism" has "disenchanted" the world, leaving us spiritually bankrupt.
Good-bye Simplistic Fundamentalism
Young evangelicals are rightfully in reaction against the over-simplified Christian Fundamentalism. Some have discovered a more biblically-based traditional theology and practice. Others, calling themselves Emergent or "Progressive" have refused the route of past historic Christian wisdom, and have gone in the only other possible intellectual direction, "Christian" liberalism, With Liberal apostasy, they change everything about orthodoxy, denying the the atoning death of Christ for sinners and the great solas of the Reformation, and adopting elements of pagan spirituality-global interfaith and subjective mysticism.
While having precious little to do with the Gospel, this so-called "Great Emergence" fits with looming Globalism and the re-emergence of ALL IS ONE pagan monism.
Things are indeed changing. While Christians were in the majority, all kinds of "fundie" weaknesses and superficialities could be tolerated. With Christianity now seriously marginalized, many younger Christians are seeking social acceptance and popularity with the dominant post Christian culture via an atonement-less, syncretistic social gospel. The world's rejection of Christianity is cleverly blamed on narrow old-fashioned traditions, not the scandal of the Cross.
The seduction of this pseudo-gospel, promoted by major Christian leaders and Christian publishing houses, is powerful. The sleeping Church needs to wake up-for at least two reasons: to be wise citizens and to be discerning, genuinely "missional" believers.
But one thing will never change: JESUS REIGNS. His death for sinners remains forever efficacious. He is building his truly global church, and, as Martin Luther knew, "he will win the battle." The serious question now is, as another hymn asks: "Who is on the Lord's side?"
Christos Kurios: Christ is Lord
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Your beliefs about these "ultimate" issues determines what you hold to be true in life. That in turn determines what you value as good. Finally, your values translate into behavior - how you live your life, and it all starts with your worldview. If we get the worldview story wrong our beliefs, values, and behavior will be off-kilter.
Comedian Bill Engval performed in a comedy special entitled "15 Degrees Off Cool." In the course of the performance, he shares a story about one of his birthdays. Bill had always wanted a motorcycle and his wife said she would buy him one for his birthday. Expecting the best, he purchased all the appropriate gear - a leather jacket, leather pants, a new helmet, gloves - he got it all. When the big day arrived Bill went to the garage to collect his prize and there he found a Vespa motor scooter with a big bow on it. Almost, but not quite - 15 degrees off cool.
Check out your own worldview. Have you got it right? Or are you trying to impress your friends with a motorscooter. More on how to answer that question later.
Monday, October 6, 2008
The research indicated that everyone has a worldview, but relatively few people have a biblical worldview - even among devoutly religious people. The survey discovered that only 9% of born again Christians have such a perspective on life. In his words, “Although most people own a Bible and know some of its content, our research found that most Americans have little idea how to integrate the core biblical principles to form a unified and meaningful response to the challenges and opportunities of life. We’re often more concerned with survival amidst chaos than experiencing truth and significance.”
By understanding that Christianity is a worldview – that it proclaims what is really real and reveals to us the truth about God, man, and the world we live in – our beliefs and values will begin to form the “unified and meaningful response” to life that our hearts long for and God intends for us. Transformed beliefs and values will naturally produce transformed living. this transformation will in turn make us agents of God’s continuing redemption in the world around us. We have the opportunity to bring the Kingdom of God among us everywhere we go. If we choose, we can stretch its borders to include our neighborhood, school, workplace, and beyond. In this way we expand the borders of God’s Kingdom – the domain where what God prefers is actually what happens – on earth.
The mission of CBI is to “raise up a generation of Bible thinker-appliers who will engage our culture and expand the boundaries of the Kingdom of God among us.”