Reflections From 2 CHRONICLES: 1 “GOD GRANTS WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE”

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I have often ruminated in the proverbs over the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom, qualities for the soul to attain and develop or so I think.  But when texts like the following appear something foundational to these qualities seem to elude me:

 Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of Yours?” 11 God said to Solomon, “Because you had this in mind, and did not ask for riches, wealth or honor, or the life of those who hate you, nor have you even asked for long life, but you have asked for yourself wisdom and knowledge that you may rule My people over whom I have made you king, 12 wisdom and knowledge have been granted to you. And I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings who were before you has possessed nor those who will come after you.” (2 Chron.1:10-12)

This text accounts Solomon’s prayer to God for aid in ruling Israel.  The proverbs often speak of wisdom and knowledge being superior to anything else one may desire or possess.  Why?  Because it comes from fearing the LORD (Prov.1:7); it is true treasure (Prov.8:11) not riches, wealth, honor, revenge nor a long life.

That which is so dear to our society is shown to be vain by this text for it is fleeting and in the end incapable of satisfying our deepest longings and desires.  To rule the people of God Solomon understood that he needed nothing less than the all-knowing God’s wisdom—the proper application of knowledge for the flourishing of a thing or person according to its divine design.

When I prepared to do a seminar on “Darwin, Design & Origins” I was both nervous and perplexed at the amount of study and preparation I needed to execute.  But Solomon’s prayer is an insightful model of asking God for these qualities and rigorously applying oneself to the task of said acquisition.  Consider the following texts:

“Wise men store up knowledge, But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.”   (Prov.10:14)

 “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
But he who hates reproof is stupid” (Prov.12:1)

 “My son, if you will receive my words
And treasure my commandments within you,
Make your ear attentive to wisdom,
Incline your heart to understanding;
For if you cry for discernment,
Lift your voice for understanding;
If you seek her as silver
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will discern the fear of the Lord
And discover the knowledge of God.
”   (Prov.2:1-5)

 We see here that hard work is indispensable and nevertheless through it knowledge and wisdom are granted.  That is, God is the source of that which is given even if we (and we must) labor rigorously.

We’re so desperate for you LORD God in our lives, our hearts may fail but nevertheless you remain faithful and true.  Often we are derailed from fixing our eyes upon you yet this is not hidden from your sight.  Our passions, sloth and the resulting misery have brought us low.  Yet, for your Names sake lift us up so that we might enjoy the delights purchased for your children by your son.  For the sake of your renown give us wisdom and knowledge to rule well in the lot apportioned for us.

(SDG)

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Reflections From 1 CHRONICLES 16-21 “OF KING’S & WAR: DAVID’S EXPLOITS RETOLD”

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When Israel worshipped the LORD under David’s command, the song of the LORD God of Israel was skillfully sung with instruments, cymbals, trumpets, harps and lyres 16:1-7:

“And they brought in the ark of God and placed it inside the tent which David had pitched for it, and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord. He distributed to everyone of Israel, both man and woman, to everyone a loaf of bread and a portion of meat and a raisin cake.  He appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the Lord, even to celebrate and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel:Asaph the chief, and second to him Zechariah, then Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom and Jeiel, with musical instruments, harps, lyres; also Asaph played loud-sounding cymbals, and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests blew trumpets continually before the ark of the covenant of God.  Then on that day David first assigned Asaph and his relatives to give thanks to the Lord

The ark of the presence reminded Israel of their God who acts in space time history and reveals His covenant to the chosen ones.  These revelations are to be in song (16:8-36) so that a telling and remembering of Him could be passed down to the generations.  This is why God raised David up as leader, and it’s also obvious to David that his successes are based on the God who is there (17:16-27) not through the arm of man.

Moreover, this warrior-king David, was God’s chosen to administer justice and righteousness for all His people 18:14-17:

“So David reigned over all Israel; and he administered justice and righteousness for all his people. 15 Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the army, and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; 16 and Zadok the son of Ahitub and Abimelech the son of Abiathar were priests, and Shavsha was secretary; 17 and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and the sons of David were chiefs at the king’s side.

Why do rulers rule?  They should do it so that justice and righteousness reign, not for self-aggrandizement.  Rulers should recognize that they serve those who they rule, but too often, the converse is true.  David as warrior-king was also ruthless when it came to dealing with his enemies and a bloody scene transpired 20:2-8:

David took the crown of their king from his head, and he found it to weigh a talent of gold, and there was a precious stone in it; and it was placed on David’s head. And he brought out the spoil of the city, a very great amount. He brought out the people who were in it, and cut them with saws and with sharp instruments and with axes. And thus David did to all the cities of the sons of Ammon. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.  Now it came about after this, that war broke out at Gezer with the Philistines; then Sibbecai the Hushathite killed Sippai, one of the descendants of the giants, and they were subdued. And there was war with the Philistines again, and Elhanan the son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. Again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature who had twenty-four fingers and toes, six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot; and he also was descended from the giants. When he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him. These were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.”  

Perhaps the puzzling to me was the numbering of Israel and the severe punishment meted out by God (21:1-17) toward David.  Why did God allow Satan to move David to number Israel?  (See: Gleason Archer: Bible Difficulties).  According to Archer:

“God’s anger was unleashed on Israel because of their pride thinking their numbers are what gave them victory and prominence as a nation, rather than God’s sovereign grace.”

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the LORD our God.  Whenever we as a people move away from the bedrock of the Savior as our protector, deliverer and our Good Shepherd, we inevitably fall into self-reliance and pride swells up the soul.  This ends in judgement always depicted in the Angel of the LORD’s destruction through pestilence.

After the judgment was met out, David was terrified of the Angel’s sword before the altar of God.  It’s as if his pride melted away before the God of creation, the God who redeems Israel (21:18-30).  We must thus tell and remember with thankful hearts the deeds of the LORD God so that we don’t forget the Creator/creature distinction and His good acts toward His people and opposite wrath toward His enemies.  Today this is very instructive.

(SDG)

Summaries Now Available!

310D727a2fL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Now available in summary form is Politics for Christians.  This is an election year and the candidates for both the Democrats and the Republican parties are less than stellar according to many.  Moreover many people while having opinions on their preferred candidates have no grid from which they clearly decide on a particular person for office.  As Christians, we divide on many things and our preferred political party is certainly one of them.  Whatever party lines believers find themselves coming under, a fundamental question needs to be answered: “what policies come closest to our worldview as ambassadors for Christ?”

Answering that question takes careful thought and humility.  It’s my hope that the summaries of this book will help the Christian in particular be salt and light as they engage to the glory of God, the political process.  Moreover, it’s my desire to see the citizens of heaven consider their temporary earthly citizenship as a means to rule and reign that honors Christ and their fellow man, rather than shaming his name.  Take up and read friends.

Chapter Summary #3: THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH & STATE (Pgs.91-117)

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In this chapter Beckwith tackles what the Bill of Rights says as to how state and religion are to relate, what their boundaries are and specifically the interpretation of the “establishment clause” and the “free-exercise clause”.  It’s here where the battle rages for all advocates.

The establishment clause from the First Amendment states that: “Congress may not employ legislative power to establish an official national religion”.  Thus, for example, Congress (not any other branch of government) can’t legally put into law that citizens become a Muslim and financially support its local place of worship.  The free-exercise clause asserts that the Constitution protects the religious liberty of citizens from any legislative act of Congress.  Thus, laws should be set-up to protect a citizen’s right to worship as they deem fit, without the interference of the State (or so it seems to me).

As a form of legal shorthand, Beckwith notes that the phrase “separation of church and state” is now employed to describe the religious clauses of the First Amendment.  However, ambiguity is an infamous problem with the phrases, “free-exercise”, “establishment”, and “religion”.  It’s this lack of clarity that causes so many interpretations, nevertheless, as the author notes:

The notion of “separation of church and state” exists as a largely unquestioned dogma in American political and legal discourse, even though the phrase does not appear in the text of the Constitution and a plain reading of the religion clauses is just as consistent with some forms of moderate separationism as it is with strong separationism. [pg.93]

 Beckwith goes on to explain the similarities and differences between moderate and strong separationists.  Both affirm that government religious liberty should be maximized for the public good and that neither government nor ecclesiastical powers should attempt to control the other’s sphere of duties.  Yet there are disagreements.

On the one hand, moderates don’t attempt to exclude religion from public life, thus supporting public funding programs of similarly situated religious and secular entities.  On the other hand, strong separationists forbid any aid to religion even when similarly situated secular entities are given aid.  These also exclude any political input from a religiously based worldview from its citizens (i.e., if the view is informed from a sacred book, it is de-facto unacceptable).

Beckwith asks if there’s any place where government and religious institutions can cooperate together (e.g., school vouchers for private religious schools).  Important to point out is that there’s no definition of religious or religion that can be pointed towards which both exposes the ambiguity that obtains in people’s minds and also hides the myth the state comes from a neutral, non-religious position.

Beckwith further reflects on the interaction between the Danbury Baptists and Jefferson in order to clue in on the “slogan’s” original intent [pgs.95-98] and explains that the letter, far from being in the US Constitution, was routine presidential correspondence that strong separationists hi-jacked (my view) and gave it the status of “holy writ”.  Unfortunately, the strong separationist movement of the time won the day on a false epistemological  view that religious principles are not based on reason or logic and thus have no place in the making of public policy [pgs.98-107].

Beckwith then contemplates the limits of religious freedom and the exercise thereof which at the end of the day anyone can relativize according to what I’ve seen.  According to Beckwith, the application of the establishment clause has not only been misapplied, it has also muddied the understanding of what the Separation between the Church and State mean.

Reflections From 1 KINGS 13-15 “CAN BEING A MAN AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART EQUAL SINLESSNESS?”

crown-8-persian-persepFor years I’ve considered the refrain, “David, a man after God’s own heart”, as somewhat troubling.  He indeed showed tremendous courage in battle, unflinching loyalty in friendship and great skill in leading a nation.  However, Scripture also records a David who used deception to save his own skin at another’s expense.  He’s infamously known for his adultery, murder and betrayal against Uriah, his loyal soldier, for having blurred judgment because of past sins, and tragedy that seemed to transpire often in his family.

So while David’s life was far from exemplary, he nevertheless is known as the man after God’s own heart.  What could that mean?  Far from being a sinless man, David nonetheless treasured God’s word and mercy understanding that ultimately all sin was against God.  We see this when he repented after being confronted by the prophet Nathan even though God assured him that trouble would not leave his home…and his family life was horrible after this betrayal of Uriah.

King Asa is said to have been wholly devoted to the LORD all his days (15:14) even though he did not remove the high places (i.e. where sexual acts were performed as part of pagan worship of other gods) form Israel.  That is, where idolatry and despicable acts of false worship occurred, Asa did nothing to eradicate it, or so it would seem.

Its grievous reading about the kings’ of Israel, for most of them did not emulate David or Asa.  Instead, they worshipped and served the gods of the Nations Israel once conquered.  Thus, when it comes to being one who pleases the LORD, sinless perfection (i.e., the present eradication of all sin now) is not in view.  Instead, it’s the life whose trajectory is Godward and God-centered even when some of our actions are evil, are sinful.

LORD Jesus, have mercy on me, on us and help us this day honor your great name in word, deed and thought.

(SDG)

Reflections From ROMANS 16: “THE GOSPEL OF GOD BEARS THE FRUIT OF OBEDIENCE FOR HIS NAMES SAKE”

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            Paul in this chapter rounds off his Gospel opus by first acknowledging the Gentile and Jewish fruit borne by the power of the holy resurrected Lord (vv.1-16, 21-24), secondly by warning converts to turn away from those preaching a contrary Gospel to his (vv.17-20), and lastly by offering an amazing benediction (vv.25-27).

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.  Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles; also greet the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys my beloved. 10 Greet Apelles, the approvedin Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my kinsman. Greet those of the household of Narcissus, who are in the Lord. 12 Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 GreetRufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them. 15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.”

21 Timothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.  22 I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.  23 Gaius, host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer greets you, and Quartus, the brother. 24 [The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.]

Paul begins by acknowledging the fruit the Gospel bore through mentioning the names of both Jewish and Gentile men and women, some prominent others common, but all participants in one way or another with their gifts and talents in the Gospel work (i.e., the obedience of faith).  These were committed to Paul through being committed to Christ.

What is apparent to me is that real, named people in space time history demonstrated in differing capacities the genuineness of their profession by how they lived.  This life was fueled by a love for God which sometimes led to peril and other times brought about pleasure.  But regardless, this was a faith demonstrated through words and deeds and was worthy to be praised and mentioned.

This Gospel touches real people who Paul called, “fellow workers”, “fellow prisoners”, “who risked their own necks”, “in the Lord”, “my first convert in Asia”, “a choice man in the Lord”, etc.  What an honor to be named in this list, to be mentioned in this letter.  Often in Scripture when people’s names are mentioned we see accentuated their dark side, their shameful acts.  But here what’s being accentuated is Gospel fruit…please don’t miss this friend.  In a day with twisted, anemic, impotent views of what it means to be a Christian, this text accentuates that to be a real believer Gospel fruit must be evident or one is not real, period!

Moreover, this Gospel which produces fruit in space time history issues from the God who is there, the God of the Gospel who while justly wrathful is nevertheless benevolently merciful to those who through the preached Gospel are called, chosen and elect (Rom.9-11).

17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. 19 For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.  The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Secondly, Paul urges believers to guard the truth of the Gospel and the church through guarding the Gospel they received.  This requires knowing it, loving it, being convinced of its veracity, being vigilant for false gospels which would try to subvert the real Gospel delivered to them through the prophets and the apostles.  They are to do this command by turning away from false teachings.

In other places Paul is seen arguing forcefully against those who teach a contrary Gospel (e.g., Acts, Galatians) but here he commands the Roman church to turn away, not even engage them in debate.  Is he contradicting himself?  In order for a contradiction to be in order, there would have to be a text that commands to always turn away and never debate concerning the message but there isn’t.  Instead, there’s a time and place for everything as evidenced in the life of Christ, Peter, Paul, etc.  There’s a time to engage false teaching (Acts 17, 1 Pet.3:15, Jude 3) and there’s a time to refrain (Mt.10:14; Mk.6:11; Lk.9:5).  Paul is not just confident that the Roman church will obey him, but he wants to assure them that “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet”.  That is, this present struggle has a definite end which God in his wise timing will bring about.

25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.

             Lastly, Paul offers a benediction which in my estimation is up there with texts like (Num.6; Heb.13; 1 Tim.1, etc,) and offers a prayer on behalf of the Roman believers that God establish them evidenced by their being led to live an obedient faith.  Paul’s Gospel delivered through preaching Christ Jesus which is the revelation of the mystery previously hidden but now revealed through the prophetic Scriptures which are sourced in the eternal self-existent God, has now been made known to all the nations (not just to Israel) for the purpose of bringing eternal glory to the only wise God, revealed to us through the incarnation of Jesus Christ the Son, the 2nd person of the Triune God.

What Paul is accentuating is that God has spoken through this gospel whose authenticity is sourced in God, reveals God, and thus produces the life of God in those who claim to know God.  To Him, Be the glory forever.  Amen!

(SDG)

Reflections From ROMANS 13:3-14 “BEFORE RULERS, WHAT ARE BELIEVERS CALLED TO DEMONSTRATE?”

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In verses 1-2 Paul commands believers to submit to the governing authorities, not because they are ultimate but because God who is ultimate has placed them in said positions according to His all-wise counsel and purposes.

In the following verses Paul further explains this command of why we are to submit, who these in authority actually are, and as a result the way we are to live our lives in light of the consummation.  Paul starts by explaining the reason believers are to submit to rulers tying it to verse 1:

For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”    

Paul here implores believers to do the good (C.f., Rom.12:1-2) so that they need not fear rulers.  A great remedy for not fearing man, and especially those who are in authority, is to walk in God’s precepts.  Paul calls rulers, “a minister of God for your good” and they are “a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath” on evil doers.  Thus rulers bring a “”double-edged sword” ordained by God to keep order and peace through fear of lethal force.  He continues and says:

Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.

Paul here appeals to wrath (we should fear) and to conscience (I take to mean: we should care about our witness) for why we are to be law-abiding citizens.  But is there ever a time when rebellion is warranted?  What do we do if a ruler calls what is good, evil, or conversely calls what is evil, good?  Throughout Christian history believers have differed on this issue.  We have Old Testament examples lauded by the Hebrews writer who actually disobeyed those in authority:

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict… 31 By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.”    

             The king’s edict was disobeyed; Rahab lied to save these spies (she turned on her leaders).  How about Daniel’s three friends who defied the kings command to bow before the golden statue?  How about the apostles in the book of Acts who disobeyed the rulers command to stop preaching in the name of Jesus?  What of Corrie Ten Boom who hid Jews and lied about it, in order to save Jews from Nazi sure destruction?  How about the “Machine Gun Preacher” fighting off ruthless murderers in Africa in order to rescue and save orphans?

Some things are clearer than others granted, but all of us will give an account to God of how we lived in our time with the light given to us.  Nevertheless, what makes Paul’s command so weighty is that he will be eventually executed by the Roman Emperor of his day.  He continues in verses 6-10 calling believers to walk in love and thus fulfill the law:

For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

                        To love God and neighbor is what stirs the heart to obey Christ’s great commission to disciple the nations—nations which along with their rulers are even hostile to the message.  We are being commanded to do what Christ did—go to those who hate you and love them through sacrifice.  That’s powerful!  Paul not only considers this present time, but also appeals to the consummation as a motivator, or carrot of how we are to live and why:

11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.  

Here the apostle calls all believers to vigilance during their journey on earth.  He calls for strategies to be put in place so that our sinful inclinations don’t get the opportunity to manifest.  Opportunities to sin that numb the senses so that we don’t have to think about life’s perils under rulers like: carousing and drunkenness, sexual promiscuity and sensuality, strife and jealousy.

It’s because of God’s mercies that Paul is calling believers to show this sin-riddled, broken and confused world the way of real love which comes from the Master alone.  It’s a call to be and do exactly the opposite of what the world commands.  It’s a call to love which will often require our lives in the process.  God, may Your people submit to the grace and power of the gospel that alone can propel us to action of this sort.

(SDG)

Summary of Chapter 2: LIBERAL DEMOCRACY AND THE CHRISTIAN CITIZEN (Pgs.59-89)

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Beckwith begins the chapter by explaining that Liberal Democracy (LD) has been absent from most of history and thus our Christian heritage.  Yet, Christians have largely embraced (LD) because it accentuates the liberty to worship, holds governments accountable, empowers people to form the mores of society, and because it seems consistent with the Christian worldview concerning its views of  persons and natural rights which are grounded on natural law (NL).

The term Liberal concerns the freedoms government is to guarantee and Democracy refers to the principle of self-governance and equality each citizen possess before the law.  Beckwith notes that self-governance deals with having a representative government which is ultimately accountable to the people.  Thus, for (LD) to work well a nation must be under the rule of law and have a developed civil society.  These laws are to be equally applied to every citizen and under all of this must obtain 1st principles that are unassailable by government or the masses thus guaranteeing the proper use of power to move a nation.

Accordingly, the duty of government is to protect certain freedoms while simultaneously having limited power by the law and individuals they protect.  For this to work and society to flourish, individuals must be civil.  This is where the problem with a relativistic society comes in.  Such a society kills objective truth, the result is that might makes right and the mob mentality wins the day because no “1st principles” exist above the people.  Sadly, we’re there today.

Beckwith continues and explains that by separation of powers each branch of government has jurisdictional authority to perform their duties unique to themselves.  This often affords a compromise of views held between differing parties and ultimately reduces the occasion for despotism or tyranny to arise.  Historically the Parties in the USA have been the Democratic-Republican Party and the Federalist Party.  Today, it’s the Democrats and Republicans holding opposing views on many issues precious to Christians (e.g., the state of the unborn, gay rights, public education policies, religion/state relations, etc.)

The Christian citizen is the subject of two cities (e.g., one of earth and one of heaven).  As resident aliens, Beckwith accentuates the fact that justice and doing good to others is based on people being created in the image of God and both Church and State can work together to achieve such ends.  Yet, the Church must beware of backing government programs which would halt evangelism.  Doing justice is part of God’s rebuke of the nations in the Old Testament and the Good Samaritan as a swift reprimand to the Church in the New Testament (Pgs.68-69).

Inevitably, to love neighbor will require that God’s truth interrupt the cultural moral climate and when this obtains, true tolerance is carried out and thus true civility will obtain.  For this to happen, it’s critical for Christians to know the laws of the land in order to use them for the advancement of the common good as Paul often did in the book of Acts with his Roman citizenship.

Beckwith accentuates how Paul understood that all authority comes from God (Rom.13) but it’s also limited.  Significant also is to fight the split view of knowledge within Western Society that says Science gives us objective facts binding on everyone and religion provides only private subjective values binding only on the community holding said values.  For when people have this view of knowledge it prevents the Christian worldview from even being considered for making public policy.

Beckwith holds that supporting non-Christian candidates can be done and sometimes it should be done, the grounds of which is competence to rule rather than religious persuasion.  A major mistake to avoid is to think that only a “religious” view (whatever that means) is not neutral.  The fact is that neutrality is impossible specifically because everyone has a worldview from which they try to make sense out of reality.  Thus, worldviews play a vital role in deciding the desirability of a candidate.  Moreover, one can champion democracy and natural law and be informed by their theological position for the good.

Reflections From ROMANS 13:1-2 “RULERS, SUBJECTS, & GOD’S PROVIDENCE”

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In this chapter Paul seems to be continuing his message to believers of their need to walk in love with believers and toward outsiders.  Now he addresses the issue of government rulers and how believers are to relate to them for loves sake.  Paul begins:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

 Paul grounds the duty of believers specifically in how they relate to authorities on God’s existence and seemingly on His wise decree.  The fact that any ruler exists is not a Darwinian phenomenon, but a reality grounded in the God who is there and who is not silent—the governing authorities being proof positive of that.

Since God exists, and all authority ultimately is grounded in Him, Paul seems to be saying that God gives authority to rule to whomever He wishes, according to the wise counsel of His will and according to His good pleasure which fuels all His deeds.  One might rightly object “not all rulers are created equal or worthy to be morally followed”.  The polytheistic Roman rulers were not particularly empathetic to believers, but often ruthlessly mistreated Christians for their faith.  Paul knew this well when penning this letter and I can’t see him being any clearer.  Let’s wind back the clock of history for a moment.

In redemptive history, we observe God implicitly or explicitly raising-up rulers and monarchs in order to accomplish His purposes.  These purposes are often hidden to us until after the fact.  Pharaoh, Saul, David, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Cesar, and more were never ultimate, God always was and is and ever will be (See The Book of Daniel).  That is, in the hidden wisdom of God He exalts a ruler for a time and purpose known only to God, so that His over-arching redemptive plan for humanity and the entire created order may come to fruition.

In this mix are a whole lot of human tragedy, pain and suffering (i.e., Problem of Evil) which call into question both God’s existence, power, wisdom and goodness.  And yet none of these realities mute God’s voice through Paul.

Since this letter is written to believers, I take “every person” to mean that specifically believers are to heed the command and because of God’s mercy and grace that has been poured out on them through Christ, this submission to authorities is a means to demonstrate the love previously mentioned.  Moreover, it’s a way to placard that the Creator is alive and well in the affairs of men.  Paul continues with:

Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

He understands very well that many rulers are evil and the inclination to revolt against them is real and understandable…if God did not exist and He was not ultimately in charge.  But what is meant by “resist”?  The word that follows it is probably a good definition of it: “opposed”.  That is, to resist is to oppose, to be against the ruler and hate Gods ordinance.

Somehow Paul is saying that even if a ruler is evil, God is ultimate, not chance, luck, or human desire.  And thus, instead of revolting or being against the ruler, the believer is to submit understanding that God is ultimately ruling through the ruler. Some may object, but this is what seems logical to me according to the text.  The command given to “not resist” comes with a warning of God’s condemnation on the transgressor.

What is this condemnation?  We already know that believers are no longer under God’s condemnation because they have been justified by faith once for all according to chapter 8.  Could it be that those who resist are walking according to the flesh (for all sin is that) and not according to the Spirit?  Perhaps, and if that’s the case does it show that the one in rebellion is actually not regenerate, maybe?

The core of what I see being taught is not to have unquestioned loyalty and submission to a monarch by a believer (the following verses seem to argue against such a view) rather we are to understand that all authority comes from God who will hold to account every ruler for their actions whether good or evil and knowing this is what stays the believer from revolt.

(SDG)

Reflections From PROVERBS 24:30-34 “THE SLUGGARD AND I”

 

Proverbs-Series

“I passed by the field of the sluggard And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense, 31 And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles; Its surface was covered with nettles, And its stone wall was broken down.  32 When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked, and received instruction.  33 “A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest,” 34 Then your poverty will come as a robber And your want like an armed man.

The sluggard and I have much in common; let up a little bit in life’s affairs and the results will be seen in the pocket book, the yard, and in physical health.  Why is it that it takes so much effort to live well and such little effort to come to ruin?  Maintenance!  It’s been said, “Give the Devil an inch and he’ll take a mile”.  Frankly, it doesn’t take much for my life to go awry if I’m not paying attention to the simple daily details.

God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden to tend it not neglect it.  It’s from here the lesson must be applied: neglect God’s good gifts and they will perish.  As I see it, chaos is ever lingering at the threshold of our lives and it’s only a diligent soul that can stay it’s destructive force.

The will choosing maintenance rather than sloth is the soul embracing peace by keeping chaos at bay.  And it’s the “little things” that are the “big deals”.  I have too often missed it here in my life, and yet today is a new day that brings another opportunity to be diligent.  So soul, onward!

(SDG)