“Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”
30 November 2016
26 November 2016
When we think of Martin Luther, we often picture a fat man with a grumpy,
pugnacious disposition. The second part of that picture probably comes from
being familiar with Luther's polemic writings without putting them in the
context of similar writings by other authors of that time period, and also from
not being familiar with Luther's more pastoral writings and sermons. The first
part of the picture, that Luther was a very fat man, comes from the fact that
most of the portraits we have of him come from when he was an older man and had
become portly through the good cooking and good beer of his wife, Katie.
But a witness of Luther's disputation with Eck at Leipzig paints a very different picture of Luther. Luther was 35 years old at the time, and this is how he is described:
"Martin is of middle height, emaciated from care and study, so that you can almost count his bones through his skin. he is in the vigor of manhood and has a clear, penetrating voice. He is learned and has the Scripture at his fingers' ends. He knows Greek and Hebrew sufficiently to judge of the interpretations. A perfect forest of words and ideas stands at his command. He is affable and friendly, in no sense dour or arrogant. He is equal to anything. In company he is vivacious, jocose, always cheerful and gay no matter how hard his adversaries press him."
23 November 2016
If you haven't seen Tweet Mashup yet, go check it out. It's hilarious. Just put two twitter accounts into the machine, and, voila, you get an instant idea of what would happen if two people were merged into one. I was playing around yesterday wondering what would happen if Joel Osteen and Donald Trump were the same person. Here are a couple of the results.
|God is counting on Floridians to vote the right way.|
|To be fair, I think there are some Republicans out there who probably pray this.|
22 November 2016
J. Gresham Machen, in the 1923 book Christianity and Liberalism,
makes a good point that Christians in America
need to hear today.
21 November 2016
10 November 2016
It was the fall of 2003. I had returned to college from summer break, and I had exciting news that I had to share with someone. While volunteering at our church's day school that week, I mentioned to my pastor that I now had a girlfriend. I'll never forget his response. He didn't congratulate me or slap me on the back or even really smile. He looked me right in the eye and said, "So, what are you doing with this girl, Rick?" At first, I was a bit baffled because I thought he was asking if we were, you know, having sex. "Nothing!" I responded. But it turns out, he wasn't thinking anything like that. He was asking me what my plans were for this relationship. Was I just using this girl as arm candy, someone to have fun with when I'm not doing school? Or was I considering whether we were compatible for marriage? What was the goal? At the end of the conversation he said, "I expect that in a few months, you should have decided to either marry this girl or to turn her loose. She sounds like a sharp girl, and it would be wrong to ask her to limit her future options for you just because you want to have fun." Wow. That was heavy, and unlike anything I had thought of before. And within a year of that conversation, my wife and I were married.
I recalled this conversation recently while reading the book Scary Close by Donald Miller. In one chapter, Miller recounts an exchange he had with with a friend and counselor.
"The whole thing reminded me of a conversation I'd had with my friend Al Andrews. Al is a counselor with a practice in Nashville. We were driving once when I confessed to him I'd hung out the previous week with a girl I probably shouldn't be hanging out with. She was in a bad marriage and had leaned a little too much on me and I confessed I liked it. I liked playing the wise, kind counselor and yet at the same time it felt unwise and even wrong. Al sat there and nodded and didn't have the slightest look of judgment on his face. Finally, when I finished rambling, he said, "Don, all relationships are teleological."There are many pastors who could have avoided a lot of trouble had they thought in these terms. Likewise, married people who have close friends of the opposite sex other than their spouses should take heed. Where are those playful conversations and cups of coffee together leading? In fact speaking of couples in general, it's important to remember that marriages are also relationships, not stagnant contracts. You and your spouse are either growing closer or growing more distant from one another. Realizing this fact should cause you to be more intentional about your interactions with everyone around you. All relationships are teleological. Where are yours going?
I asked him what the word teleological meant.
"It means they're going somewhere," Al said. "All relationships are living and alive and moving and becoming something. My question to you," Al said seriously, "is, where is the relationship you've started with this woman going?"
I knew the answer to that question immediately. It wasn't going anywhere good. Within months, I'd be this married woman's surrogate husband, the man she could talk to, and as a man, I'd likely turn that into something physical and then I'd be a best-selling author in an extramarital affair..."
08 November 2016
It's election day, everyone! So if you haven't already done so, listen to this song by Switchfoot and Lecrae, and then go vote your conscience!
31 October 2016
Well, folks it's Halloween time again. Time to watch the Great Pumpkin and that Garfield special with the scary old man in the chair. It's also about time for me to remind my fellow Christians that Halloween is in no way a pagan holiday. Here's a great article that I had never run into before to add to the list as well. Halloween: More Christian than Pagan.
I also wanted to take this time to make mention of how awesome my kids are. Not only did they decide to go for nerdy Halloween costumes, they also zeroed in on a particular episode from Doctor Who as their theme. They are dressing as "The Day of the Doctor," the 50th anniversary special.
|The Day of the Doctor|
|L-R: The Eleventh Doctor, Queen Elizabeth I (or the Queen Elizabeth Zygon imposter. She would never tell us for sure.), and the Tenth Doctor.|
28 October 2016
I was recently asked how I, as a Christian, could condone not voting for
Donald Trump this election cycle. After all, no third party candidate has won a
state in an election since George Wallace in 1968. Surely, as terrible as
Hillary is, it is my duty as a Christian to do anything in my power to keep her
from being elected and ruining the country. And even if Trump is not a good
guy, he’s surely better than Hillary. This is an issue that many people are wrestling with this year. For my part, I would reject this entire
line of reasoning, and I think that this way of thinking can lead people in
some dangerous directions. As a Christian, I feel completely comfortable voting
third party in this election, and I propose to show five reasons why this is
1. To begin with the main question: Why vote third party, since no third party candidate has ever won? The answer to this is that I don't think anyone voting for a third party candidate has any hope at all that their candidate will win. I know that either Trump or Hillary will win, and, the way the polls are looking now, I'm pretty confident that it will be Hillary. So if I vote third party it will be simply as a protest vote. It will not be a vote made in hopes that my candidate, whoever that might be, will win. Ideally if there is a much lower Republican turn out this year than in previous years it will send a message to other Republicans that a candidate like Trump will not be supported. People won't tow the party line for a Trump. And in my case, I haven’t voted for a Republican candidate for sixteen years. If I didn't find Bush, or McCain, or Romney good candidates, I certainly won't find Trump a good candidate. Maybe someday the Republicans will run someone who truly believes in conservative principles, and I'll happily vote for them. Until then, there is nothing particularly tying me to the Republican Party or to the idea of a Republican win.
2. Secondly, I don't buy into the doom and gloom that surrounds the idea of a Hillary presidency. Every election cycle we are told that this is the most important election in the history of ever and that if the other candidate wins, it will mean the end of America and possibly of civilization as we know it. For the most part, this just isn't true. Obama's presidency hasn't destroyed America; Obama isn't a good president, but he’s not the worst president we've ever had by a long shot. A Hillary presidency won't destroy America either. The bottom line is that presidents don't have the power people seem to think they have. They can't make laws. They can't start wars without the approval of Congress. They can't raise or lower taxes. The only thing that might really make me consider Trump in this election is the fact that this president will make at least one Supreme Court appointment. I can see that might be something that people would be concerned about, and I don't hold it against anyone if they vote for Trump for this reason. However, this leads me to my next point.
3. I don't buy the idea that Hillary will be significantly worse than Trump. Bottom line, I don't trust Trump. I think he's a power hungry man who will say whatever it takes to energize his fan base. Based on what I've seen from him, I don't think he's guided by principles, and, once in office, I think he would probably be a very different man than the one we see campaigning. His history shows that he is very unstable in his viewpoints. I don't think that he would appoint a strong conservative to the Supreme Court. Like many of his Republican predecessors, he would probably promote someone who is conservative in name but lacks the backbone to stand up to other members of the Supreme Court on important issues. Even aside from that issue, there are many things about which I strongly disagree with Trump. I don't like his immigration policy; I think immigration is good for our country and that immigration to America needs to be much easier than it currently is, not harder. I don't agree with his foreign policy or his trade policy either. I think we need free trade with all nations and no protectionist tariffs, and I think we need less military involvement overseas, not more. Trump is just a big government kind of guy, and I don't support most of his ideas.
4. Following along from that idea, I don’t like the fact that Trump seems to believe that interventionism is our duty as a nation. We don’t need a president who will lead us in righting wrongs all around the globe. Most of the problems we have in the Middle East today can be traced to our previous interventions into the area, beginning with Wilson in WWI all the way through the time the CIA gave weapons to Osama bin Ladin and the Mujahideen in the 1980s. I think the best thing that we can do is to bring home all our troops stationed in foreign countries and cease our involvement in foreign conflicts except in those areas in which a foreign country specifically asks for our help. Even in those situations I think there would have to be good, compelling reasons for thinking it was our moral duty to get involved. (For the record, as a matter of history I don't believe America should have been involved in WWI, the Korean War, the Vietnam War or the more recent war in Iraq. I definitely don't think we should involve ourselves in the current conflict with Syria in any way.)
5. Finally, and here is the thing I most object to, the line of reasoning that says Christians should vote for Trump simply because Hillary is worse encourages consequentialist thinking, the idea that the ends justify the means. When making a decision, the only question we should have in our minds is "Is it the right thing to do in and of itself?" I don't believe in the argument that we should do something that may be wrong in hopes that good will come of it. To use another related example, while William Wilberforce ending slavery through legislation in England was a good thing, Lincoln ending slavery in America by going to war with the Southern states was morally reprehensible. The end was good in both cases (slavery ended), but the means used were not uniformly good. Wilberforce was right; Lincoln was wrong. We should never buy the argument that we should choke back our conscience and do something we think we shouldn't because some good will come of it. Also, the argument that those who don't vote are responsible if Hillary wins only assumes that those people think Trump would have been any better.
I’ll make one more point by way of conclusion. My theology probably has something to do with my political stance as well. First of all, I believe that God, not the President of the United States, is in control of the movement of the world throughout history. God uses means to accomplish His goals, and the actions of the characters in God's story do have real consequences. However, those actions themselves are part of the story. God wanted Joseph's brother's to sell him into slavery, God wanted Babylon to conquer Judah and carry the people away, and God wanted Jesus to be crucified. None of these things seemed good at the time, but in retrospect we can see how each fits perfectly into God's plan for the world. If Hillary gets elected, it will not be the end of the world. It will be part of God's plan. It might not mean pleasant things for us right now, but it also won’t mean that God’s plan for the world has gone awry. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t vote or make decisions. It does mean that whatever ends up happening will be nothing other than what God has planned to happen. In addition, of course, I should also point out that I believe God is currently in the process of converting the world to Himself. I don't believe in the idea that the world is just going to get worse and worse until Jesus comes back, and that Christians are like numerous little Dutch boys sticking their fingers into the dike. I think that Jesus is winning and that events that look like setbacks to us do not hinder God's overall plan to save the world. Granted, the world in the end might not look just like it does now. The United States of America may at some point cease to exist as a political nation and something else may replace it. However, the kingdom of God in the world will not be conquered. It will continue to grow until it fills the earth. So in conclusion, voting is a privilege that Americans have in our system of government, but I don't think it can be called a duty. I don't see any commands in the Bible about voting. No Christian has a duty to vote for Donald Trump or any other political candidate. This is especially true if that political candidate seems morally compromised in some big ways. Ultimately Christians make the decision of whether to vote and which way to vote with the underlying knowledge that God is in control and that we can rest in the wisdom of His plan.