Sunday, September 27, 2009

Book Review: Heroes by Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson challenges historical and contemporary assumptions regarding those hailed heroes in his scholarly work entitled "Heroes." Heroes is the third in a series that commenced with the book Intellectuals. Next Johnson published Creators and presently Heroes.

Paul Johnson is a renowned British historian who writes on a vast array of subjects and historical periods with full eloquence of style. In Heroes, he examines the lives of many people from both genders and from a variety of cultures and walks of life.

His book commences with exploration of Biblical Heroes such as Samson, and King David. He writes of the royals, namely Henry V and Elizabeth I. He also writes of the great conquerors Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. Moreover he writes of the great American heroes such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee.

Click Here to Read More at Helium.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hope of Eternal Life

Hope is a tangible reality rather than an intangible desire. Many see hope as something one musters up akin to positive thinking towards the desired goal. However, when Scripture speaks of hope, it speaks of something that is tangibly within the nature of Jesus. Likewise, when the Scriptures speak of having the hope of eternal life, this is not in the context of hoping we attain it, but in resting in its attained reality. We are to live in that reality versus wishing we might one day attain it.

Eternal life needs to be understood as existing within Someone rather than being a state of existence a far off. I John 5:11 tells us that “this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” Notice carefully that 1 John 1:2 states clearly that “the life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.” John says they proclaim that “the eternal life . . . has appeared to us.” This is not speaking of a day in the future when we go to heaven, but it is speaking of the person of Christ Jesus. Jesus is eternal life.

Click here to read more at Helium.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


This post is to clarify the last post and to answer comment responses given to that post.

God does not wish anyone to do wrong/bad/sinful things. Doing these things harms the person and other people.

We all do these wrong/bad/sinful things. We have all sinned. God takes this seriously, He even equates thinking murderous thoughts as being as bad as doing the deed. Naturally, it’s not as bad for the victim if it wasn’t carried out, but to the person doing the thinking it is harmful to them to have such malice in them.

However, we sin because our nature is sinful and we are bound to that nature by birth since the first sinners sinned because something changed in the very core of humanity and the world when evil was actualized.

Now the way to doing righteous things is to have a righteous nature. But we don’t have a righteous nature in our fallen state, we have a sinful nature. God makes possible for each and every person to have a new nature given as a gift and that gift is Jesus. That new nature is the eternal life of Jesus. This isn’t something bestowed to us from Jesus, this is something Jesus is in His being and when we are in Him we have this new nature too. So from this new nature, righteousness is our being, and when we act according to our new nature righteous good acts are the result.

When a person with this new nature does something sinful they are acting according to a false reality – their old self. It is not who they are anymore, but learning about our new selves is a process that is worked out in time and as we grow in that new reality we grow in external expression of that goodness which is within us.

So it isn’t that God isn’t concerned about our actions. The truth is our actions are a result of our living life from the fallen nature. Our only resource in that situation is to adhere to moral laws of goodness – laws we gain from society, from our conscious, from religion, from culture, etc. But this moral knowledge can point us to the real Answer and are not the Answer in and of themselves. They are a tool to point to Him who can provide a real change in our nature, which will fulfill the law better than any human effort can before redemption.

Paul wrote in Romans that our newfound righteousness does not give us licensee to go on sinning as we please. Quite the contrary, our job as new creations is to make manifest the true reality of our new identity in Christ. We are called to live from that place of righteousness and bear the fruit of such living. This means that others, by watching our lives, ought to see this righteousness that is on the inside flowing forth on the outside.

Thus, what I am speaking of here is very contrary to the idea that God does not care about us not harming ourselves and sinning as we please because He cares very much. So much so that He provided us the ultimate solution to this problem of sin, His own Son.

Also, the reality of heaven isn’t just some place we go to when we die. It is a current reality from which we live as we gain access to the fullness of heaven when we come into God’s Kingdom. Again while it is a reality we have such full access, we are all learning to what that means and how to walk that out in this world.

There is far more available in the Kingdom than finding forgiveness of sins and freedom from our sinful nature. There is a whole new world available that only starts with redemption and salvation. Salvation is not the end of the Christian life, but the beginning.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Good Being v. Good Actions

The word “good” seems to be an ambiguous term at times especially when it is used without reference to a constant anchor. When we speak of the “good” or “right” with regard to morality there are multiple levels of discussion that can ensue. I will not be covering them all in this post. We could discuss how we can know the good, or how we can’t, or how we decide that in each society, or how it is artificially created versus being discovered and uncreated by humans. . . Even then we could discuss the reality of some of what we consider moral as being artificial and some as being discovered and how to unravel what are cultural mores and what are timeless truths.

Most debate for any of these discussions will have some truth. One can’t say that all rules of living were discovered, because we have obviously as humans invented prudish or practical rules of living that have been abandoned by other generations. However, we also have true good principals for living that have been abandoned at times and rediscovered. Thus, abandoning them doesn’t equate with their artificiality.

It is human to be moral beings concerned with right and wrong in some form or fashion whether in extreme or in balance. Thus, we transfer our desire to “be a good person” to a God who we extrapolate to think like we do who equates goodness with moral actions. In reality, God does not equate goodness with good actions. He equates goodness with His life and He gives us that goodness so that we can live a new life from righteousness instead of as slaves to unrighteousness. So we no longer have to pattern our lives trying to figure out whose rules to follow to be good, but we begin a life learning how to live from the goodness of the life within us. We learn to live from His life rather then by rules. That doesn’t exempt a person from the goodness of the rules; it just means the person goes about it by a different method. Good actions become a by product of knowing the Lord rather than the moral goal of life.

Now this is why there is not much use in morally condemning people because of their sinful actions. A person is not morally “bad” or “good” based on their actions. Goodness doesn’t come from “good actions” it comes from a good God. Bear with me for a minute, I know this has not been proven to you and that many of you do not believe it is possible, but I am trying to help you understand the Christian position before you argue against it, or for the sake of argument, my Christian position. We need not divert on debating whether or not every Christian sees it this way.

Now, like I indicated above, the discussion of the good is multifaceted. There is a difference between not condemning and not helping a person doing something that is not good for them or others. For example, a friend of yours is cheating on all of his college exams. If you condemn him you may say something like, “Frank you are a despicable person cheating like that you should be ashamed of yourself—you are so stupid.” Then think to yourself how much better you are because you don’t participate in such sinful things. Of course, most who think this way are doing a plethora of their own “bad” things they fail to see. However, the non-condemning, but helpful option might be to talk to him about how he is hurting himself by not learning the material legitimately and offer to help him study. The second option is out of love and concern for your friend where the first would be an indignant tongue lashing that only leaves him feeling terrible and worthless. The first response might cause him to continue his behavior, where the second might set him on a new course of life that validates his learning ability and keeps him from a life of cheating.

So while cheating or not cheating doesn’t make people more “good” in their being, there are life problems that are caused by making bad choices and doing bad things. So it wouldn’t be love to ignore a loved ones bad choices or to keep them from consequences of them by enabling them. This is to say that there are times where consequences for actions that harm others or oneself is necessary especially in a society where laws are established to protect the society and enforce obedience to those laws. However, laws are not always matters of right and wrong, but matters of legality as we have agreed. Sometimes they correspond to something really wrong, but most of the time they are a matter of safety of the individual or group rather than ethics. Love isn’t blind to a person’s faults, but loves despite of them.

God isn’t after us to earn moral goodness

We become righteous when His life merges with ours

God gave external laws and wrote them into our consciousness so that those who did not know Him could keep from doing things that harmed them – not as a rule book for gaining goodness. This was for our well-being.

We don’t have to live by laws when we know Him for He promises to show us how to live from our new identity as righteous beings which will manifest externally as we grow

It’s not necessary to condemn someone who lives in sin (at any level of sin). This does not mean a person who harms another should be brought to justice according the laws of the land. But it means our heart attitude is forgiving despite the necessity of the person enduring consequences for the sake of justice, for the good of the society, and for their own good.

Many of these things I am talking about may be foreign concepts and some may seem preposterous. I am not asking for you to believe this is true, but to understand this in the way you would seek to understand a view point on a topic for a college essay. It doesn’t mean you agree with the view, but you would be seeking to explain it fairly. Once I see there is understanding, then it is much easier for you to give a counter argument. Please ask questions so I can clarify anything that needs to be explained more fully.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Responding To Sin

Sin literally means, “to miss the mark.” Sometimes it is referred to as “falling short of the glory of God.” Sin is a corrupted or distorted reality; it runs amuck of goodness and righteousness. Sin is thus anything that does not align with God’s goodness by any degree. The problem is that today, many see application of the term “sin” as a pious religious condemnation of the one doing the sinning. This happens precisely because this is often true. Christians have thrown around the word “sin” with disgusting venom of condemnation that people feel slighted, jilted, rejected, and ridiculed by the use of the term. The recipients of such terminology rightly feel like defending themselves and others join in to support their cause.

The truth is that Christians have done the world an injustice in producing such negative connotation of this word. The truth is everyone misses the mark. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God and those who believe they have found forgiveness so quickly have forgotten that they are no different in worth to the Father than those who have not. In fact, Jesus said he would leave the 99 to go after the 1 that is lost.

The reality of sin is that it is a cancer to our physical, emotional, and spiritual selves. Love does not rejoice in wrong doing, but in the truth. Love keeps no records of wrongs. A person who loves doesn’t relish pointing out another’s faults, but always hopes and preservers along side a person struggling in sin no matter the sin and no matter how long that road last even if they never change. Love always forgives. If someone is stuck in a muck of sin, love helps pull them out rather than point fingers at their dirt. However, if that person is content in their muck, maybe because they can’t see it, or does not have hope for freedom, love sits with them and shows them grace and compassion.

The only time Jesus rebuked someone was when he was talking to religious leaders who acted piously like they had it all together. When he came across a woman caught in adultery, he protected her from being stoned and said that he who was without sin was the only one who could cast stones at her, and He being that One extended mercy and grace to her.

This does not mean that God is complacent about our sin, for it concerns Him greatly, not because it hurts Him, but because it hurts us. That cancerous sin distorts our being and it weighs us down unnecessarily with baggage and bondage. Have you ever been really angry at someone who did something wrong to you and that anger just grew and caused a huge rift in the friendship and weighed you down? Have you ever experienced that freedom that comes when you forgive and release that anger? It’s a freeing lightness that most describe upon forgiving someone. It is like this with other sins, when they pile up and are continually happening in our lives they bind us and often times we don’t even realize how bound we are until we find release and then we feel like we can fly.

The good response to sin is compassion. It’s realizing that sin entangles and binds a person. It’s realizing that sin isn’t something to be scoffed at or offended by, but something to be saddened by and angry for the person not at the person. I sometimes get angry when I see someone trapped in sin, and it’s not anger at the person, but at the entanglement. It’s like finding a person tied to a tree with a gag in their mouth and being angry that they were hurt that way. We can’t turn things that are sin into non-sin because the person is more hurt by calling bad good and good bad then they are by correctly identifying the source of their pain and helping them free of it without any condemnation.

I think Christians have a lot to apologize to people for due to our unjust handling of sin. And I apologize as a Christian to anyone who has been hurt by Christians not showing them love. I have been such a Christian who has not responded with love where I should have. God has broken my heart for people trapped in sin. He has shown me through a very personal encounter with someone struggling in sin that broke me forever to be for people and not against them. He gave me compassion and love for those entrapped in vices that so easily entangle. Sure I don’t do this perfectly, none of us can, but I aim for this. As a Christian, I choose to stand along side those so ensnared and to never be against them.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

John Locke's Theistic Foundation

Before I leave the subject of John Locke’s political philosophy I must address the foundation for his philosophy. Many consider him a man of the Enlightenment who was fully secular in thinking. These same people and writers of history text books claim him to be a Deist; one who believes God created the world and left it to its own devices having no interest in it or its inhabitant’s current existence. Most do not want to entertain another view on this as he was highly influential in the forming of the American Republic. Still many are simply not knowledgeable concerning the actual underpinnings of his philosophy and have accepted popular thought on the subject.

Locke’s Second Treatise of Government was instrumental and encapsulated into the formation of the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution. In fact, a signer of the Declaration of the Independence, Richard Henry Lee is quoted as saying that that the Declaration itself was “copied from Locke's Treatise on Government.”
Joseph Carrig, Ph.D. who specializes in American political theory and government and is well versed in John Locke wrote in the introduction to the Barnes and Nobel Library edition. He writes emphatically, “The Second Treatise should be read by the citizens of any liberal democracy as a reminder of the principles upon which their government is based and the reason for which they believe it is preferable to any other.” John Locke refers to Scripture 157 times in this work. In his previous work the First Treatise he cites Scripture over a thousand times! He also frequently cites theologian Richard Hooker in his Second Treatise. To quote Locke from the Second Treatise:
  • “[T]he Law of Nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men's actions must . . . be conformable to the Law of Nature, i.e., to the will of God.”
  • “[L]aws human must be made according to the general laws of Nature, and without contradiction to any positive law of Scripture, otherwise they are ill made.”
  • “[B]ut this I am sure, they [the governing authorities] owe subjection to the laws of God and Nature. Nobody, no power can exempt them from the obligations of the eternal law.”
  • “Men being the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise Maker.”
To summarize the Second Treatise, Locke’s political philosophy is simply that God with His moral/natural law, known by reason, is sovereign over government and over man. And that man sets up a government to protect his freedom to life and liberty which is jointly termed property. The government’s job is to protect this property by means in which the people under that government give their consent. Moreover, consent can only be given for those things that a person can rightfully give up to the government by their power of personal choice. Because God is sovereign over man, man cannot consent to a tyrant or dictatorship. For no man can rule man absolutely. Thus all tyranny and dictatorships are usurpations of the inalienable rights of man.

Locke addresses what it means for those who forfeit their rights by breaking the laws of nature and entering into what he terms a state of war with a person or people. He opines that those who enter this state of war are subject then to the enforcement of the law put in place by consent of the governed which could lead to their imprisonment and loss of freedom. Even still, he argues that they must be treated fairly and justly and that their punishment cannot carry over to their family and future generations. He also elaborates on what constitutes a just war between nations and what the parameters ought to be for the conquered nation that adheres to their value as fellow humans with respect to their rights and liberties.

Locke eloquently illustrates the ideals of a government by the people and for the people under the sovereignty of an infinitely wise God who made us as free people with respect to our fallen nature and need for limited government.