Saturday, September 22, 2018

"Foundation of American thought"

There is much unrest in America as well as the "Church in America" these days. People taking the Knee to protest their idea of injustice. Social concerns permitting much thought within the American Church. I understand people want to do whatever they can to draw attention to their particular cause. I also understand they just want to make things right as they understand it. However, I would suggest we may have lost our way from the original American manner of thinking.

The original intent of the American experience was not about fixing every wrong and making every injustice go away. There was an overarching idea that pervaded human thinking that produced an American society and experience of freedom that had never been known before in History. That experience did not fix every problem the world had. The human condition continued to be in it's fallen state. However, it did open the door to a way of thinking that gave us a remarkable manner of government and personal freedom linked to personal responsibility. This did not come from the minds of men, nor can the people of American claim right to its brilliance.

 "In the formative days of the Republic, the directing influence the Bible exercised upon the Fathers of the Nation is conspicuously evident. . . . This book continues to hold its unchallenged place as the most loved, the most quoted, and the most universally read and pondered of all the volumes which our libraries contain. . . . We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a Nation without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic. I suggest a nationwide reading of the Holy Scriptures. . . . For a renewed and strengthening contact with those eternal truths and majestic principles which have inspired such measure of true greatness as this Nation has achieved." ~ President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) 

These words come not from the lips of the clergy or some religious institution. They come from the highest civil office in this land in recognition of the fountain source of our great principles of life and liberty. It is suggested that our people not only read but ponder the principles within the Holy Writ.

This thinking is not isolated to one President, one political party, or some movement as we have today. It was the fountain source of our society and understanding of freedom and justice. Another of our Presidents stated, "America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of  righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture." ~ President Woodrow Wilson. (1856-1924) If we were to hear such words today coming from our government officials the cry would be foul. They would be accused of trying to form a theocracy and force everyone to be Christian. That is how far we have departed from our original understanding. This kind of speech and reasoning is not only conducive to a Republic but is the only way it can be maintained for any great length of time.

"The teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally, I do not mean figuratively, I mean literally impossible for us to figure ourselves what that life would be if these teachings were removed. We would lose almost all the standards by which we now judge both public and private morals, all the standards toward which we, with more or less resolution, strive to raise ourselves. Almost every man who has by his life-work added to the sum of human achievement of which the race is proud, of which our people are proud, almost every such man has based his life-work largely upon the teachings of the Bible." ~ President Teddy Roosevelt. (1858-1919)

President Roosevelt suggested that if we abandoned the principles we discover in the Holy Writ, we would lose our ability to judge our morality in both public and private life. Our present state of movements demonstrates that very standard has been lost. And what have we done? We have tried to remove these teachings from social and civil life, making it as President Roosevelt suggested, impossible to figure out how life should be.

"It was for the love of the truths of this great book that our Fathers abandoned their native shores for the wilderness. Animated by its lofty principles, they toiled and suffered till the desert blossomed as the rose. . . . The Bible is the Best of books and I wish it were in the hands of everyone. It is indispensable to the safety and permanence of our institutions; a free government cannot exist without religion, nor religion without the Bible. Especially should the Bible be placed in the hands of the young. It is the best school book in the world. . . . I would that all of our people were brought up under the influence of that Holy Book." ~ President Zachary Taylor. (1784-1850)

President Taylor suggested that a government such as that of the United States cannot exist without the influence of the Holy Writ. However, we have not headed President Taylors advise, we have gone directly in the opposite direction. Even so far as to attempt to keep this book out of the hands of our youth and bar it from our schools. America has not been perfect, it was never intended to be. Justice in America has been flawed as it was approached by a flawed human heart. American has not even been a Christian nation in the sense of a Theocracy. Yet the principles embedded in its foundation from the Holy Writ and its influence upon the heart of man produced what never before in history existed, an experience of freedom never before known to man.

The injustices that arose in this American experience were exposed by those principles ever before us until our consciences demanded their demise. They pierced our fallen hearts, made demands upon our character, forced us to rise to that greatness we see in the American experience. The Gospel preached changes men's lives, the principles of Holy Writ restrain social injustices. Yet we despise the Gospel preached and reject any reference to Holy Writ upon our laws of justice. So in place of this, we bow the knee and cry aloud of all our injustices within our land. Will we not see? Will we not hear? The words of our American foundation cries out to us! We are lost in ourselves, we have forgotten our past, we are as men born of yesterday. May the Grace of God shine once more upon our land!

May the Grace of God be upon each of you,

David

Saturday, September 15, 2018

"The Tale of Two Nations"

"The Bible contains more knowledge necessary to man in his present state than any other book in the world. By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their mooring upon all moral subjects. . . . It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published." ~ Benjamin Rush, Singer Of The Declaration

"The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the Word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts." ~ John Jay, President of the Continental Congress, author of the Federalist Papers. 

"No book in the world deserves to be so unceasingly studied and so profoundly meditated upon as the Bible. The first and almost the only book deserving such universal recommendation is the Bible." ~ John Quincy Adams, President of the United States.

"I believe the Bible to be the written Word of God and to contain in it the whole rule of faith and manners." ~ Robert Treat Paine, Signer of the Declaration

"Remember . . . that you are the redeemed of the Lord, that you are bought with a price, even the inestimable price of the precious blood of the Son of God. . . . Acquaint yourselves with Him in His word and holy ordinances." ~ William Samuel Johnson, Signer of the Constitution

"Our all gracious Creator, Preserver, and Ruler has been pleased to discover and enforce His laws by a revelation given to us immediately and directly from Himself. This revelation is contained in the Holy Scriptures." ~ James Wilson, Signer of the Constitution; Signer of the Declaration

"All of the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from them despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible." ~ Noah Webster, Schoolmaster to America

"The Holy Scriptures . . . can alone secure to society order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability, and usefulness. . . . Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience." ~ James McHenry, Signer of the Constitution

United States Supreme Court 1844, Vidal vs. Girard's Executors, 43 U.S. 126, 132: "The plan of education proposed is anti-christian, and therefore repugnant to the law. . . . The purest principles of morality are to be taught. Where are they found? Whoever searches for them must go to the source from which a Christian man derives his faith, the Bible. . . . There is an obligation to teach what the Bible alone can teach, viz. a pure system of morality. . . . Both in the Old and New Testaments importance is recognized. In the Old it is said, 'Thou shalt diligently teach them to thy children,' and the New, 'Suffer the little children to come to me and forbid them not. . . .' No fault can be found with Girard for wishing a marble college to bear his name forever, but it is not valuable unless it has a fragrance of Christianity about it."

______________________________________________________________________________

1963, Abington School District v. Schempp


The court found that "state-sponsored devotional Bible readings in public schools constitute an impermissible religious exercise by the government.

1985, Wallace v. Jaffree

This case addressed whether schools can set aside a time for meditation or personal reflection. In Alabama, schools had “a period of silence for meditation.” It did not endorse a specific religion or even specify that the silent time should be used for religious reasons, but instead set it as a time of reflection. But later, state legislators changed the statute to read a “period of silence for meditation or silent prayer.”

With that addition, the Supreme Court ruled that the amendment to the law violated the Establishment Clause.


1992, Lee v. Weisman


This case challenged a middle school practice of inviting a clergyman to offer an opening invocation and a closing benediction at a graduation ceremony. With a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court said such practices violate the First Amendment. 

_______________________

What you have read above reflects two different nations, two different governments, and two different peoples. The people who lived in the first nation, and governed in the first government, are at odds with the people who live in the second nation and governed by the second government. These two people groups will never agree upon government and society. They will of necessity form two different nations with two different worldviews. Their understanding of life and purpose as a people and a nation will take two different paths. Those paths are going in opposite directions and will arrive at destinations of which have nothing in common.

We hear the phase today, "Make America Great Again!" but to which America are we referring? Are we really wanting to become the Nation we once were, or just become more of what we are? The first nation you read about would not be considered great today, they were too closed minded and religious. Yet we claim we are living by the principles they established for us, but they would perceive our principles as not so great. 

These two nations really have nothing in common, we lie to ourselves when we look to the Constitutions of governments that were established in the beginning and apply them as support for our society today. We would be most honest with ourselves if we simply stated we despise what this nation stood for in its beginnings. That what we really want is to cast those bonds off and form a new government with better freedoms and greater purposes.

You might be inclined to disagree, to say I exaggerate. Consider, would any politician have a chance of being elected to office running on the platform which agrees with the statements of the men above who crafted and formed the original government of the United States of America? Anyone of those statements would be extremely damaging to their campaign. So, when you hear the statement, "Let's Make America Great Again" ask to which America are they referring. 

May the Grace of God be upon each of you,

David     





Thursday, September 6, 2018

"Heresis" (Conclusion)

So far I have managed to read 209 pages of 800 years of condensed church history. There are near 300 pages and near 1,200 years more to go. To be honest, I am fatigued, worn out, caputtered! This is the second trip through this book and it is more difficult this time than the first time. So, I'm writing the conclusion, do you blame me?

As I studied this, I realized, each and every chapter deserved a 500-page book itself to discover all the details that are connected with its history. Church history is complicated, interwoven with cultures, kingdoms, politics, economics, wars, kings, peasants, affluent, and poor. It is an intriguing study, but a subject too big and exhaustive for a blog series. It is an amazing history, one that every Christian should know at least something about. Ligonier has a video teaching series by Robert Godfrey that is an excellent overview I would recommend for everyone, especially those who don't have to time to read Harold O. J. Brown or some other 500-page book on church history.  https://www.ligonier.org/

To maintain Orthodoxy in our faith is not an easy task, history has proven it never has been. However, history has also proven its maintenance is worth every effort taken, we cannot overestimate its value. There have been major heresies that threatened the very existence of the church. There have been lesser errors introduced that weakened the church's effectiveness. Those heresies and errors have been defeated throughout history by Orthodox teaching only to see those same heresies and errors arise again later. They would arise under new names with some variations, but their essences were the same.

Even today many of the old heretical teachings of the past abide with us still, just under a new name and new management. These old teachings today simply blend into Christiandom and thrive with relatively little resistance. The word heresy carries with it very little meaning today, so in some aspects, error is even more dangerous to Orthodoxy today than in the previous history.

In the church today one is faced with a smorgasbord of distractions. For the most part, it is simply a mixture of these distractions with enough Orthodox teaching to still be considered Christian. These things exist for a number of reasons. In the past, many times error arose from some radical thinking simply taking a truth to the extreme. Other times saw error arise when Orthodox teaching seemed to be ineffective in producing a pious life, therefore, extreme measures were taken in religion to try and achieve a more holy life.

In our Christian walk today, we must be very cautious. With little theological teaching and expositional preaching, this smorgasbord of doctrines is ready to turn our minds into mush. It would be helpful to study your churches doctrine, that is if they have more than just a few statements. Many churches today do not give you enough statements of faith for you to know what they believe. A few Orthodox statements in a what we believe column does not give you an assurance of an Orthodox faith.

So pay attention to what you are being taught, study it out in the Bible for yourself. Don't just look to see if the scripture they used is in the text, but look at the context, consider to whom it was written. Do a little historical study, look at some of the creeds and confessions of the early church and see if you can find their teaching explained. The first six hundred years of church history will give you a good foundation of Orthodox understanding. If you are hearing teaching in your church that has not been addressed by the church in the previous history, that could be a red flag for you to consider.

There have been two thousand years of church history before us. All Christian doctrine has been debated and re-debated. Most of the errors you will encounter have already been addressed sometime in history. There has been no new revelation given since the Prophets and the Apostles, so you should not find any new teaching arising from the text. The confessions of the church coming out of the reformation to some extent address all the major doctrines of the Christian faith. If you are being taught something you cannot find in any of the confessions, that should be another red flag.

This will take a little effort, but it's really not that hard these days with all the access we have to information. It will give you assurance from your own study, it will cause you to be more confident in expressing your faith. And most of all it will safeguard you from falling into hurtful error.

 
In doing this you will find plenty of folks who will confront you and feel their calling is to correct you. We in the Christian community and I include myself, have a tendency to not be teachable. With great tenacity, we are determined to hold on to our pet doctrines and presuppositions of our faith. Understand, many well-meaning Christians will never be persuaded beyond what they have always been taught or come to believe. We must faithfully follow the plain teachings of the Scripture concerning the Gospel and lovingly demonstrate our understanding from those Scriptures.

2Pe 1:3  According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 

Jas 1:21  Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 

2Ti 3:15  And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
2Ti 3:16  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
2Ti 3:17  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.  


May the Grace of God be with each of you,

David