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Morality and Politics in America

John Adams said a long time ago, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” And the conservative Edmund Burke said, “What is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.” Here are some similar insights Alexis de Tocqueville shared in his book, Democracy in America*:

“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”

“Society is endangered not by the great profligacy of a few, but by the laxity of morals amongst all.”

 “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”

“When a nation[‘s] well of public virtue has run dry: in such a place one no longer finds citizens but only subjects.”

 “The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.”

“A nation cannot long remain strong when every man belonging to it is individually weak.”

“What one must fear, moreover, is not so much the sight of the immorality of the great as that of immorality leading to greatness.”

“So religion, which among the Americans never directly takes part in the government of society, must be considered as the first of their political institutions; for if it does not give them the taste for liberty, it singularly facilitates their use of it.”

“Religion is much more necessary in the republic.”

“In order that society should exist, and a fortiori, that a society should prosper, it is required that all the minds of the citizens should be rallied and held together by certain predominant ideas.”**

“Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot… How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie be not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? and what can be done with a people which is its own master, if it be not submissive to the Divinity?”

No matter who ultimately gets elected, if what Adams and Tocqueville said were right, and I think they were, it’s only a matter of time before a pretty significant downfall of America. Many moral dominos have fallen, and I don’t so much mean abortion and gender confusion. I mean the more common and prevalent lack of virtue, which has precipitated more visible concerns. Now the only truth that is readily accepted is that there is no truth, only what is right for the autonomous self. Those were dominos. Those have been falling. 

America needs: revival. Not of the Republican Party, but of people set on fire for the true Savior. Revival is what would make people “moral and religious,” as Adams spoke of and which our Nation rests or topples on.

Whatever happens, Christians trust the One who has the government on His shoulders. The One who is “called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The One of whom it can be said: “Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

Whatever happens, Christians can trust that God is very adept at using a remnant for His good purposes to highlight His glory and goodness. Perhaps America won’t be saved, but perhaps millions of Americans will be?!

*As an aside, I think it is interesting to note what Tocqueville said about wealth in America remembering that Scripture says, that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10). Many have “noted the American obsession with work and the restless quest for the “almighty dollar” (Tocqueville, Democracy in America). Tocqueville also said, “The love of wealth is . . . to be traced, either as a principal or an accessory motive, at the bottom of all that the Americans do” (Ibid.). As well as, “One must go to America to understand what power material well-being exerts on political actions and even on opinions themselves, which ought to be subject only to reason” (Ibid.).

**Such as the reality of objective truth actually existing.

A few helpful resources before you vote…

Here are some resources and quotes I’ve found helpful in thinking about this years election…

I highly suggest that you check out Jonathan Leeman’s article: “What Makes a Vote Moral or Immoral? The Ethics of Voting.” And I found Justin Taylor’s article “The Case Against Pro-Lifers Voting for Joe Biden” helpful too. Taylor quotes John Piper: “No endorsement of any single issue qualifies a person to hold public office. Being pro-life does not make a person a good governor, mayor, or president. But there are numerous single issues that disqualify a person from public office.”

I recently read David Platt’s helpful book, Before You Vote: Seven Questions Every Christian Should Ask. You should buy it right now on Kindle. Here are a bunch of quotes from that book:

“This world is not a democracy. This world is a monarchy, and God is the King.”

“In the end, what’s most important, and what I am definitively advocating for based on God’s Word, is the realization that how we use our vote is a matter of faithfulness before God. For our vote is a unique privilege and responsibility that God has entrusted to us by his grace, and God calls us to use every means of grace he grants us to love him above all and love our neighbors as ourselves.”

“Even if we lose every freedom and protection we have as followers of Jesus in the United States, and even if our government were to become a completely totalitarian regime, we could still live an abundant life as long as we didn’t look to political leaders, platforms, or policies for our ultimate security and satisfaction. We can still have hope, peace, joy, and confidence regardless of what happens in our government, as long as… we look to Jesus alone for these things, and all of our hope hinges on him.”

“We are not worried or panicked about elections, no matter how important they may seem… Instead, we seek the kingdom of Jesus and his sinless righteousness with true peace and total confidence in his supreme reign. After all, we know that throughout history, leaders have risen and fallen. Presidents have come and gone. Through it all, one King alone has remained constant, and he is not up for election. Regardless of what president is chosen in our country, Jesus will be in control of it all.”

“According to God,… my concern in voting should not just be for me and my children but also for others and their children.”

“A clear takeaway from the book of Jonah is that we are to work for the spread of God’s love in all nations more than we are to seek safety, security, prosperity, and comfort in our own nation.”

“By God’s grace, we have been given so much as citizens of the United States of America. For all that God has granted us, we should be deeply grateful. At the same time, we follow a King who commands us to lay down our rights and use the grace he has given to love our neighbors as ourselves. This, after all, is the essence of the gospel that has saved us.”

Read More…

Elon Musk and Ethics

I read a biography on Elon Musk awhile back. It was fascinating. He seems like a super smart, super driven, and genuinely concerned individual. Though, I clearly don’t know Musk or his motives.

I was troubled, however, recently when I watched a progress update about Neuralink. Neuralink is a company that has Elon Musk as one of its founders and is “developing implantable brain–machine interfaces.” Neuralink is working to invent “new technologies that will expand our abilities, our community, and our world.”

In the video update, Musk said he is concerned with our “species.” He speaks of “what we [humanity] would want.” He was presuming about the “sum of our collective will.” He talked about “the future of the earth” being “controlled by the combined will of the people.”

It reminded me of something perceptive C.S. Lewis said:

“Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under the omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber barons cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” 

It seems to me that Musk and his team have good intentions but an ethicist was eerily absent on the panel. And they spoke of such things as erasing fear and pain. One of the guys on the panel said he’d like to study consciousness and simultaneously dismissed all writings on consciousness in the last thousand years.[1] That was very concerning to me. To sweep away a whole history of thought on a subject, even one as confusing as consciousness, in a mere fleeting moment is concerning. It speaks to the panelist’s pride and unreasonableness. As well as to what Lewis referred to as chronological snobbery

One can have knowledge and intellect and be absent of wisdom. And history teaches us that science, even good science with good goals, can bring about terrible things. We can see this by looking at the origin of the Nobel Prize.

Briefly, Alfred Nobel was refereed to as the “merchant of death.” Among his inventions was dynamite. “Merchant of death” was not the reputation he wanted. So he funded the Nobel Prize in order to change his legacy.

Nobel’s intention was not to be a “merchant of death” but nevertheless his technology of dynamite led to the death of many. Technology itself is not wicked, but sometimes those who wield it are not wise and sometimes they are wicked and use technology in devastating ways.

Also, concerning is that Musk seems to be a naturalist and determinist.[2] He talks about what the collective will of the world is. That, to me, is concerning. Especially from someone that believes they are doing good and yet, at the same time, have no basis for believing in the concept of good.

As amazing as Elon Musk is, in a lot of ways, he and his programs need ethics, and I would argue transcultural and transtemporal ethics.

My kids in my home need reminded and held to the transcultural norm of love and truth and if they don’t follow those norms my house is in unrest. How much more Musk and Neuralink?!


[1] He said, ““There’s a lot of really silly philosophy that’s been written about [consciousness] over the last thousand years.”

[2] Musk said, “The universe started out… hydrogen and then after a long time… well, what seems like a long time to us, that hydrogen became sentient. It gradually got more complex… We’re basically, you know, hydrogen evolved. Um, and somewhere along the way that hydrogen started talking and thought it was conscious” (See the 51:46 timestamp in Neuralink Progress Update, Summer 2020). If we are merely evolved hydrogen that think we’re conscious, how can we possibly make sense of our world? Is not then everything random? How can we trust our minds? That’s akin to trusting a random paint splash to relay truth. They’re both random chance processes with no real significance.

Justice and the Just One

I was considering the word and concept of justice today so I looked up the definition of “justice.” The search returned a few definitions that stuck to me: “moral rightness,” “the quality of being just,” and “moral principle determining just conduct.” To understand or seek justice then, we need to have an idea of what it means to be “just” or “moral.” We have to have a “moral principle” whereby we can measure “just conduct.”

In America today we have calls for justice. Justice is right and good. Christians especially are called to do justice and love mercy (Micah 6:8). Do the majority of Americans, however, know what “moral principle” we are basing our measurements of “just conduct” on? Do most Americans believe that there is a “moral principle” that guides us? If so, can most Americans articulate where our “moral principle” comes from?

It seems to me if the foundation for “moral principle” has eroded then justice does not have a foundation upon which to stand. Thus, I say this not because I am not for justice, I say this because I am for justice.

Perhaps with our calls for justice in America, we should also consider the foundation of justice: moral principle. Perhaps we should consider if justice can have a steady place on which to perch.

Perhaps we should also hear calls to return to moral principle and the bedrock of truth. Without truth, calls for justice ring empty.

I believe there is a basis for justice. Because I believe there is truth.

Jesus Himself actually said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus is truth made tangible. He lived and walked justice. He is in reality what everyone should be and live.

I believe in justice and that we have a “moral principle determining just conduct” because the LORD has given it to us. Because He is righteous and “He loves righteous deeds” (Psalm 11:7) and “hates the wicked and the one who loves violence” (Psalm 11:5).

“O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; You will strengthen their heart; You will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”(Psalm 10:17-18).

Living as Canceled Christians (a response to a response)

A reader of my previous post objected to some of what I wrote. Which of course is fine. I remain grateful that we have the freedom to do that. I’m also grateful for the opportunity it provides me to interact with some of his thoughts and critiques. So, here’s my response…

First, he said he didn’t know what “canceled Christians” means. It is a reference to the “popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures… after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming” (dictionary.com). Christians are being shut down from sharing their biblically informed views (especially moral issues on sexuality) on social media and often in general conversation as well.

He said that “we are to invest much energy into this world.” I, of course, agree with that. The Bible is replete with examples calling us to do just that. One of the reasons it calls us to invest in this world is actually because of the coming of the next. Our eschatology (study of last things) is a goad to our ethics (e.g. Matt. 24:36ff; 25:13; Col. 3:1ff; 1 Thess. 5:1-2).

He also said that this world is not a “stinky tent. It’s God’s handiwork.” This world is not literally a stinky tent. The Bible doesn’t say that exactly. The Bible does, however, say that “in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling… For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdenedwe would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:2, 4, 8). It says, “the creation was subjected to futility… the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption… For we know that the whole creation has been groaning…” (Rom. 8:20, 21, 22 see also 2 Cor. 4:16-18). It thus seems to me that the world is a metaphorical “stinky tent.” It is not our final home. We should have a certain amount of longing for our “lasting city” (Heb. 13:14 cf. 2 Cor. 5:1; Jn. 14:2-3).

God’s creation does show His handiwork and it is an “expression of His creativity.” The first chapter of Genesis says six times that God’s creation is “good” and in the seventh and final announcement God says it’s “very good” (Gen. 1:31). That, however, is not the end of the story. It’s the beginning. Something sinister happens. The Fall (Gen. 3). And because of sin all manner of curse and chaos.

We live in a post-Genesis-3 world. So, while creation still attests to the goodness and creativity of God, it is also riddled with ruin because of sin. Jesus as promised in Genesis 3:15 is the one who finally remakes it. And He is the hope of the world.

I really appreciate that he says, “we are called to imperfectly participate, invest our gifts, to forgive.” That is very true. I am not sure why but it seems like he was led to believe that I would disagree with that truth. I am not sure why, however. No writing of any length can say everything, but especially a blog.[1] Yes, we are to “imperfectly participate, invest our gifts, to forgive.”

I actually believe it’s true that unless Christians live as the campers and exiles they are, they won’t participate, they won’t invest, and they won’t forgive as God would have them. It’s being focused on the Kingdom that makes us effective in whatever kingdom we find ourselves in. It’s the person who realizes the value of the treasure (i.e. all the goodness of the new creation) that will sacrifice all to gain it (Matt. 13:44); even if it means loving those who are sometimes unlovely.

That is why we must “set [our] hope fully on the grace that will be brought to [us] at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13). That, as Peter explains, will help us “love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (v. 22). It will help us “imperfectly participate, invest our gifts, to forgive.” It will help us with creation care and the Golden Rule.

As C.S. Lewis said,

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.

We can be so earthy minded that we’re no earthly good. And we won’t rightly love our neighbor if we only love ourselves. As we look to Christ and the heaven He’s purchased us we will more and more be drawn to live like Christ, to love and sacrifice ourselves for others (See e.g. 2 Cor. 3:18; 5:14-15; 2 Pet. 3:11-14).

Regarding his comment that “most [my] assertions are not contextualized or elaborated” and that what I wrote is “gobbledegook,”  I would say that the assertions in his response are also not “contextualized or elaborated.” And had they been his response would have been much longer. I would not say though that as a result what he wrote was “gobbledygook.” I looked up the definition of “gobbledygook” and apparently it means “language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of abstruse technical terms.” I’m not sure where my post earned the term “gobbledygook” but that is not a noun I want associated with anything I write. I actually wanted my post to be simple and thought provoking. Ironically, it seems to me that writings that are most contextualized and elaborated are the very writings that have the most likelihood of being gobbledygook.

I want to be clear, instructive, and helpful. And this gentleman’s comments are a spur to encourage me in that pursuit. For that I am thankful.

——

[1] Of course, I don’t expect the gentlemen’s brief response to be perfectly nuanced either. Covering every facet is not possible in a brief comment, blog post, or even a book-length treatment. We are both fallible and temporal. Scripture itself, if the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) is not rightly considered, can seem lopsided. Matthew and Luke, James and Paul, however, are not at odds even if they are emphasizing different things and coming at issues from a different perspective. 

Living as Canceled Christians 

It happened to the elect exiles to whom Peter wrote (here’s a brief overview). Our voice can vanish too. We are not immune. We can be canceled.

But are we ready? Can we stand in the storm or will our house be blown to smithereens? Will it crumble on the sand that it is laid or is it’s foundation deep and solid? Will our life vanish and wither? Where is our source of life?

Soon these questions will meet their answer. We will see the truth with our eyes. Soon we will see our faith—or lack thereof—with sight. Soon the gold, or dross, will be revealed. Soon we will see what our treasure truly is.

Yet, even the scorching brutality of heat can be a blessing of bounty and beauty when it’s sustained by the water of the Spirit. And from the sand, we can find a foundation when from the Word we mix our mortar and ever rely upon the unshifting rock of Christ. It’s when the wind blows that the flag is most clearly waved if it’s tightly tethered. Yes, we can stand and standout if we ever lean on the Savior and not the many would-be-saviors that can’t deliver.

So, will the steep decline of morality make us fall or will we cling tighter to our Master? Notice we must cling to our Messiah and not to morality itself. The law is a stone that crushes and upon which our feet slip. Christ is a sure and steady cornerstone.

If we as canceled Christians are going to make it and obtain the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:9) and the inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, unfading, and kept in heaven for us” (1 Peter 1:4) then we must set our hope fully on the grace and abundant goodness that will be brought to us at the coming of Messiah Jesus (1 Peter 1:13). We must set our hope on and think often of heaven, and not obsess over making heaven here. Here there is no home, only longing. Only a damp, humid, and stinky tent. Our home is being prepared for us. We are campers.

So, let’s live as campers and let’s long for our true home and for the true bed in which we can finally really rest. We as canceled Christians can flourish if we live like the campers we are.

A reader of this post thought it was gobbledygook. Here’s my response.

Why do Black Lives & LGBTQ+ Lives Matter?

Why do black lives and LGBTQ+ lives matter? This is an important question because some people have views that don’t support the idea of lives mattering. For example, Charles Darwin, the most famous proponent of evolution titled his book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle of Life.  And in his book, The Decent of Man, he says,

“The Western nations of Europe… now so immeasurably surpass their former savage progenitors [that they] stand at the summit of civilization…. The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races through the world.”

Does a strict Darwinian view of the world lead to all lives mattering? It does not appear so. That’s why this question is important. Why do black lives and LGTBQ+ lives matter?

If we cut off our objective moral legs, we have no way to stand. If we say morality doesn’t matter, then it doesn’t matter. We can’t pick and choose. We can’t both say people are the way they are and have the desires they have and it’s fine and say it’s not okay for people to be certain ways and do certain things. That’s the crucial thing we need to consider.

Black lives matter. LGBTQ+ lives matter. White lives matter. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. But why?

That is a super important question and one that sadly isn’t receiving a lot of sustained thought. Why do black lives matter? Why do lives matter at all? Where do we get this concept? Is it true? 

Jesus said, black lives matter.[1] Jesus said, LGBTQ+ lives matter. Jesus said, all lives matter.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-38).

But does Jesus matter? And if He doesn’t on what basis then are we saying all these lives matter? This may seem like a stupid question. We just know all types of lives matter, right? But do we?

The common view that many have is Darwinian evolution, that we came from nothing and we are going to nothing; from purposelessness to purposelessness. Where is meaning, morality, and lives mattering to be found?[2] Is there a basis for human rights?

Also, did the Roman culture, in whose hands Jesus was murdered say, all lives matter?[3] Did Joseph Stalin say all lives matter? Did Friedrich Nietzsche? Did Adolf Hitler? Did Mao Zedong? Is it even possible to say all lives matter or any lives matter when the highest maximum is have it your way and do what’s right for you? Could it be that “just as long as no one gets hurt” has been trampled upon and obliterated by “you can do whatever you want”? Objective NormsIf God is dead, and we killed him, as Nietzsche said, what follows? Perhaps Nietzsche was right, perhaps that makes all things permissible? Each person doing what is right in their own eyes, whatever that might be. Who is anyone, who or what is God, to restrain? …We are who we are and we want what we want and that’s nobodies business, right?

How or where, then, do we get the concept of lives, any lives, ultimately mattering? The concept of lives mattering would be merely imaginary (a social construct). Perhaps good for America right now but not for all people at all times and places.

We can’t deconstruct everything and still have a basis which to say lives matter or to say that we must love others. We can’t both say we can do whatever we want and you can’t do certain things (like be racist or homophobic). 

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Unrest and Our Rest

I have friends that are cops.  I have friends that are black.  I have friends that think COVID-19 is a hoax and friends that I couldn’t coax out of their house if I tried.

Friends, we are in a time of unrest; economic, social, political, and physical.  I’m not trying to be dour or dark.  I believe that is an accurate articulation of our current time.  And yet people are pining for peace and rest.

Where is this peace and rest to be found?

Jesus purchased peace with God for us and will soon bring an eternal peaceful reign to the world but Jesus didn’t purchase a sleeping pill for the masses.  And He doesn’t lull us to sleep. We are to neither be restless nor so settled that we don’t stir.  We are to be a blessing to the cities and towns and villages that we dwell in even while we are exiles and sojourners here (Jer. 29:7).  So, we are to care and be wise but thankfully our eggs are not placed in the basket of this world. 

Jesus said. “Come to Me all who are restless and tired and I will give you rest for your souls.”  Jesus doesn’t, however, call us to just rest and relax.  He doesn’t call us to be lethargic but to love. And thankfully Jesus empowers us to do this.  It is as we abide in Him that we bear much fruit.

The truth is, we are responsible to love and not just be lethargic to everything that’s going on.  The truth is, we’re powerless but Jesus empowers us by the Spirit.  The truth is, we live in a place that is very often godless and chaotic but Christ is the Lord.  The truth is, many are restless but in Christ, all can find rest.  The truth is, we need a savior, this world won’t change on its own. 

Brutality to blacks is an unacceptable evil that Messiah Jesus will judge.  Brutality to cops, looting of stores, disregard for people, and even property, is evil and will be judged.  There will come a day of rest because there will come a day when King Jesus soon returns and puts a stop to the restless tyranny of sin and Satan’s reign (2 Pet. 3).  Jesus will destroy the destroyers of the earth (Rev. 11:18).

Until then, the LORD patiently waits in love for people to repent (2 Pet. 3:9).  And so, until that Day, let’s love and share the LORD’s love and lovingly fight for the cause of all those that are oppressed and hurting.  And let’s show them that all hearts are restless until they rest in Him. 

Let’s pray for people to find peace in the One that was oppressed and afflicted for them. 

“O my God, incline Your ear and hear. Open Your eyes and see our desolations … For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of Your great mercy.” (Dan. 9:18).

C.S. Lewis on Scientism in Out of the Silent Planet

Have you ever heard of C.S. Lewis’ book series, The Chronicles of Narnia? It’s good. But, Lewis’ Ransom Trilogy is even better. And one of the reasons for that is because he confronts scientism.

Scientism exalts the natural sciences as the only fruitful means of investigation. In the words of Wikipedia: “Scientism is the promotion of science as the best or only objective means by which society should determine normative and epistemological values.” In short, scientism is the view that says science, and science alone, tells us what is right and true.

Science, of course, is different. It is the study of the natural world through systematic study (observation, measurement, testing, and adjustment of hypotheses). Scientism goes beyond science and beyond the observation of the physical world into philosophy and ethics.

How can observations about the natural world tell us how to think and live? How can science tell us how to best do science? What can be said about the problems of scientism? C.S. Lewis gives us a few things to think about, and in a very enjoyable way.

Weston, one of the main characters in C.S. Lewis’ book, Out of the Silent Planet, holds to a form of scientism and belittles other ways of acquiring knowledge. Unscientific people, Weston says, “repeat words that don’t mean anything”[1] and so Weston refers to philology as “unscientific tomfoolery.” The “classics and history” are “trash education.”[2] He also says that Ransom’s “philosophy of life” is “insufferably narrow.”[3]

Read More…

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