Friday, October 26, 2018

"Pop Christianity"

I was recently reading a book by a good friend of mine concerning changes in Country Music. He has identified a distinction between real Country Music and what we have as Pop Country. I was provoked by the principles that Gene was applying as he wrote. I began to see how those principles reached into so many areas of life. Not being a Country Music fan, my mind and thoughts began to draw similarities to something I am familiar with, Christianity. So, I am going to take some of Gene's thoughts and apply them to the Gospel. If you are a Country Music fan, I refer you to Gene's book. You can find it on his web page, the link is in the column here just to your right under link suggestions. Just click on the link titled "Gene's Page" and it will take you to his site where you can review his book and purchase it if you like.

The following statements in brackets are from Gene's book, [21st Century Country Music and The Essie Accolades].

[The 21st-century producers and executives in the country music industry are eradicating the country music genre.] As a new generation arises and the older become less attentive, promoters can introduce new elements into industry or institutions without changing the name. Over time what you will have is something by a name you are all too familiar with, but in essence, it has become something else. I think perhaps we are in a real danger of this very thing today in Christianity.

[Okay, pop music sells and real country music not as much.] Okay, pop Christianity sells and real Christianity not as much. "Mat 7:14  But the gate that opens the way to true life is narrow. And the road that leads there is hard to follow. Only a few people find it." There is a Christianity today being promoted across our nation and around the world that is very appealing to people as a whole. It has a good feel about it, great entertainment and a pleasant accepting atmosphere. However, it is not real Christianity. It doesn't produce the same effects upon a person as the real Gospel. You may enjoy the beat for a moment, but it has no real lasting effect on one's life.

[What is pop music? Pop is short for popular, and pop music is defined as music with a broad popular appeal.] Pop Christianity has this broad popular appeal, it is marketed through many media outlets and has a variety of styles which fluctuates with the changing trends. Pop Christianity looks for what is popular and adapts its styles of worships to be more acceptable with the surrounding cultural trends. You can go with this new pop Christianity without making substantial changes in lifestyle and your worldly pursuits.

[So what exactly is country music? Country music has a particular style of singing, a definitive sound of music, clarity of words with a story, and an identifiable melody.] So what exactly is the Gospel? The Gospel has a particular truth, there is a definitive sound to that truth which carries with it a clarity of words as it unveils the story of redemption. It is always identifiable by that truth.

"Co 15:1  Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
1Co 15:2  By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
1Co 15:3  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
1Co 15:4  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
1Co 15:5  And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 

1Co 15:6  After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 
1Co 15:7  After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 
1Co 15:8  And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
1Co 15:9  For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
1Co 15:10  But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
1Co 15:11  Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.  

[I believe the standard for country music, a way to judge a song to be country or not, was set by the great classic songs and country singers of the 50's and 60's.] I believe the standard for the Gospel and Christianity, a way to judge if it is the true Gospel or true Christianity is the Scripture. I've haven't consulted Gene on this, but I will assume there are elements of real Country music in Pop Country, enough so, to pass it off as Country to an unsuspecting audience. On today's scene, we have a face of Christianity that identifies itself with enough elements of real Christianity that on the surface it sounds right, but in reality, the roots are drawing their nourishment from unholy sources.

[Even though it seems real country music wannabes are strangling country music, real country music is not dead; it's unquestionably struggling to be heard and sometimes will push through the noise pollution on country music radio and raise to the top. Congratulations to Jon Pardi! You made real country music fans proud!] Even though it seems the real Gospel is being overcome with this new flashy and fresh Gospel message, the real Gospel which produces real Christianity is not dead. It can still be found in the Scriptures, "Jud 1:3  Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." This faith remains sound, its path can be clearly heard, clearly followed through Christian History. Our Scriptures are the foundation, the creeds, counsels, and confessions throughout church history help define for us what we are really about. What does real Christianity look like? The Apostle's creed dating back to about 140 AD gives us a glimpse. That understanding is still essential to a professing believer today. The Nicene Creed of 325 also continues to be sound doctrine in the Christian faith.

Some will quip that it is impossible to know what Christianity really was as it has evolved so much over the centuries. Implying men invented new ways of worship as the church grew. O, men have invented new ways of worship, but it is not because the church evolved and we don't know what it was in the beginning.  It's because it's what men do, their pride and arrogance convince them they know a better way. However, this is overcome with a careful study of the Scriptures and a fairly decent understanding of Church history. We have so many copies of the Scriptures in so many different languages, copies of the creeds and writings from the church in the second century onward, it is clearly understood what the church was and what Christianity is. What Christianity is, has not changed or evolved since it was first introduced. It has grown and increased in knowledge and understanding, but it has not changed. A Christian in the first century is the same as in the 21 century. His actions, his thoughts, his purpose, his goals, his desires, his understanding of the Scriptures and his love of truth are the same from then until now. If you are seeing something different, hearing something new, you are not seeing and hearing the Gospel, for it does not change. It is not about entertainment or popularity, about pleasure and success in this world, never has been. It's about a fallen race of people and their redemption from their fall. A humble people knowing their weaknesses, guarding against them, looking for Grace to overcome them. Don't go for Pop Christianity, search for the real stuff. If what you have allows you to live your life with the same life goals as the world around you, you do not have the real Gospel. The real Gospel will set you apart, what other can do, you cannot. That's not a cannot by law, but a cannot by conscience, you simply just cannot. You have a desire driving you another way, a way you must follow or else.

May the Grace of God be with each of you,



Saturday, October 20, 2018

"The Judges"

Article III

Section 1.

The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

Years ago for a short time, I tested my skills in the arena of sales. In training, I was told there were two things I was never to engage in. I was never to enter into a conversation concerning politics or religion with a potential customer. It was understood, everyone I knew and everyone I met was a potential customer. Over the years I have received this advise numerous times from various people. The problem with this is, two of my favorite subjects is politics and religion.

I don't like partyism in politics, and I don't like the mess we make of things in religion. Unfortunately, as a result of our human nature, you cannot have either of these without the presence of these vices. So we have to approach both of these venues with an awareness of these vices both in ourselves and others. With that being said, I want to express some views concerning Judge Kavanaugh and his appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States.

It is said by some, he is disqualified from this appointment by the accusations that have been made against him. Others see his demeanor during his defense of those allegations as being so partisan and emotional that, that in itself disqualifies him from that appointment. I am aware the passions run deep in us when it comes to our party affiliations. I understand that we (and that includes myself) have tendencies to look for support of those we favor and ignore that which does not. Just being aware of this is a great help in working through these things as we debate among ourselves.

The covering on Lady Justice eyes are to symbolize that she is blind to these prejudices but in reality, this is very difficult to achieve. President Jefferson speaking of the Supreme Court said, "Our judges are as honest as other men and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps." ~ Thomas Jefferson.

We must also conclude they suffer from the same passions that all men do. (I use the word "men" in the biblical sense to include both genders). So we must understand that every man who stands to be judged worthy of this office are at best only men. 

That being said, an office of such veneration as the Supreme Court, does require a high level of scrutiny upon the character of the individual. A person guilty of such a crime as Judge Kavanaugh was accused is not only unfit for such an office but guilty of a crime worthy of imprisonment. However, an allegation is not a crime, and one cannot assume guilt upon an uncorroborated testimony which produces no evidence, that is a place we do not want to go. If that is allowed in a political environment, the corrupt passions of men and party affiliate will be to strongly tempted to use every opportunity to introduce such allegations to their advantages. 

In the case with Judge Kavanaugh, Miss Ford should have been protected as her allegations were taken very seriously by the appropriate authorities.  We the people should never have heard about this issue unless an investigation provided justifiable cause through witness testimony or evidence to prove guilt could be provided. In that event, Miss Ford and her family would have been spared much harm as well as the Kavanaugh family. The integrity of the Supreme Court would have been maintained, but in this case, party and passion as it all too often does overruled. The result of all this brought the passions of the whole nation in to play. Our political leaders knowing this are now trying to spin the issue in the favor of their respective party. This is not right, but it is to be expected from man. We the people fall prey to this, for we have a tendency to view our party favorites as heroes and their opponents as the villains.

As to his demeanor during his defense, are we to judge as to demand perfection of the human nature before we can accept a nomination? Yes, he appeared angry, yes he showed resentment toward a particular political party. Perhaps there are some who under the circumstances could have restrained such expressions, but very few who would not have felt them.

This is not to justify them, but simply to acknowledge the frailty of the human spirit. One also has to wonder if he had not shown such emotion if that would not have been spun against him. The pundits prior to the Senate hearings were already criticizing his lack of emotion in his TV interview. They were theorizing that if he appeared so during the Senate hearings his demeanor would appear cold and uncaring. Again, do we really want to raise the scrutiny upon the human nature to this level before one can be nominated to the Supreme Court? If we do, how difficult will it be to find such appointees from either party? 

The process has already become very difficult because each party when in power is trying to stack the court in its favor. This is not right, but again to be expected from men. In practice, the judge should rule by the original intent of the law, not by conservative or liberal leanings. However, in reality, they to often render their verdicts based not upon law, but a conservative or liberal interpretation of that law.

In 2015 at former President Obama's state of the union address Justice Ginsburg was caught in photo's falling asleep during the Presidents speech. It was reported by USA Today, "Ginsburg admitted Thursday night that, yes, the photos of her appearing to nod off at President Obama's big speech last month showed her dosing. 'As I often do,' she said. But there was a good reason she added: "I wasn't 100% sober." Obviously, we are not going to through her off the bench for her poor judgment and lack of character. However, if we attempt to reach such perfection of character in our nominations we are going to create an almost impossible rule of measure. Ginsburg, as well as Kavanaugh, did not get where they are by being bad people. They as well as all the justices have already gone through much scrutiny over their careers and previous appointments. That is not to say things can't be missed, therefore, one must always be through when making appointments and nominations, yet taking into consideration the imperfections of human nature.

Things of this nature can have far-reaching consequences. At the turn of the 19th century, a disgruntled writer published several defamatory articles about Presidents Jeffersons character failures, one being that he fathered a child by one of his slaves Sally Hemings. This charge received broad circulation through selective sources. Then as now, there were media publications in favor of and against the various political parties.

No evidence was given for these charges, other than statements made in various publications concerning such things as the likeness of appearance between Hemings child and that of Jefferson. Jefferson's political opponents seized upon these public allegations for their advantage. Again this is not right but expected from the nature of man. This writer had only to make the accusation, no evidence was needed, and President Jefferson came close to impeachment. Two hundred years later Jefferson's character is still in question. Was he an effective President? Can we imagine an American without a Thomas Jefferson? Yet, this still mars his image even today. If true, he certainly did not qualify for the office of president. Yet, do we judge him upon accusation alone? It appears we may have.

In 1998 a Professor produced an article in the journal Nature stating that DNA testing had conclusively proved that Thomas Jefferson had indeed fathered a Hemings child. Strangely, that year President Clinton's impeachment proceedings were under way for his alleged activities with a young intern in the Oval Office. Certain News outlets immediately began to draw similarities. With the announcement of these conclusive DNA reports, arguments began to be made, if a man as great as Thomas Jefferson had engaged in sexual trysts, should such conduct diminish or be allowed to weaken the status of President Clinton.

Oh, the tone of partyism, how sweet the sound. It's like the screeching of a chalkboard to the ears. It was later discovered that the DNA reports were not conclusive as the article had reported. The journal Nature issued an embarrassing retraction stating "The title assigned to our study was misleading." It was discovered that no DNA sample from the Thomas Jefferson family line had been used in the testing. However, the media that had drawn the similarities between Jefferson and Clinton had no interest in reporting the inconclusive results.

So where am I going with all of this? Simply this, we have the greatest form of civil government the world has ever known. Yet, it is filled with all the imperfections that the men that fill its offices are. However, its design anticipates the passions of men, restrains their power, complicates their endeavors and makes government process slow and cumbersome. Our founders understood the nature of man and formed a government of co-equal branches to check and subdue each other. As a result, the government is constantly restrained and the people remain freer. Will mistakes be made? Absolutely, but the design will bring recovery in time. Is justice always served? No, but the design will bring us closer than any party affiliation can ever be trusted to.

Judge Kavanaugh has been appointed as a justice to the United Supreme Court. Could a better candidate have been had? Perhaps, perhaps not, but the process has been completed. It now serves our country well to let the design work and history will determine in the Providence of God the success of our efforts.

May the Grace of God be upon each of you,


Sunday, October 7, 2018

"Noah Webster and the Gospel"

Noah Webster, (1758-1843) has made a profound impact on American education. Among his most remarkable achievements, is his 1828 American Dictionary of the American language. This work compelled him to spend ten years making a Synopsis of twenty languages, namely, Chaldaic, Syriac, Hebrew, Samaritan, Arabic, Ethiopic, Persian, Hiberno Celtic or native Irish, Anglo Saxon, German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, Russian, and English, to which may be added the Armoric and Welsh. This he did to trace the roots of our American language.

He served in the Revolutionary War and was later a member of the Massachusetts State Legislature. He was known as the "School Master of our Republic".

 In 1828 in the preface of his dictionary Mr. Webster stated: "In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. . . . No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people." ~ Noah Webster. 

It is obvious we are missing something today. Such thinking today is so far from our political realm and educational values, it would not even be conceivable for one to make such a statement and be taken seriously. The irony is, we make that judgment while pointing to our Founders and what they intended for us. Is it not strange we claim to live by their principles, all the while rejecting their reasonings for those principles? We love the freedoms they gave us, but we reject the source they themselves attribute to them. We love the freedom they gave us, but reject the principles by which they themselves suggest are necessary for the maintenance of those freedoms.

I know this drives many people nuts, in their minds, it's completely irrational to even consider instructing children in the Christian religion and that be associated with their education and understanding of government.

This demonstrates we have lost the understanding of freedom and its maintenance; and the brilliance at which our Founding generation had arrived. We reject the statement by Mr. Webster because we simply do not understand what he is saying. It is something foreign to us.

This blog is not an attempt to force religion on a nation, neither was that the intent of our Founding generation as they institution government for their new nation. However, it is an attempt to look at their words and their faith, that we might understand them and the government they gave us. You read and hear much about their Deist beliefs and anti-religious thoughts. Yet, when you actually look at what they said and wrote, you discover something entirely different. That is what we want to do here, examine what they wrote and understand how they thought. I believe this will be very beneficial in preserving what they gave us.

After doing so we may determine we have a better and much more reasonable understanding of government and freedom. We may as one recent Presidential candidate proclaimed in his campaign, want to fundamentally change America. If so, we have that prerogative, but we owe our Founding generation the honor of accurately reflecting their thoughts and being honest with them.

It is clear in their writings they did not want government interfering in religious matters. They did not want the government telling them who or how to worship or to force them to worship at all.

However, they did not want the government restricting their religious matters either. They saw their religion as a support to their government and way of life. Naturally, being well educated and instructed in the Christian faith, that would directly influence their thinking when forming laws and institutions of government.

Are we are now to separate our religious faith from our public and political life? This is a farce, for that is an impossibility. If you can separate your faith from your public life, you had no faith to start with. So we may fool ourselves by saying this is what they did, but we deceive ourselves. The only way we can make such observations is to completely ignore what they directly told us in their writings. Here, we do not intend to do that, we intend to look at their writings, take them at their own words, all the while looking at American History as a whole and make our own judgments.

May the Grace of God be with each of you,


Monday, October 1, 2018

"America and Christianity"

"As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen and as the said States have never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries." ~ Article XI, Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, November 4, 1796.

"Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation – at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers." ~ President Barack Obama, speech Cairo University. 

The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing, and it admits of no conclusion. ~ The Writings of Thomas Paine, Volume 4.

"Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid or produces only atheists or fanatics. As an engine of power, it serves the purpose of despotism, and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests, but so far as respects the good of man in general it leads to nothing here or hereafter." ~ Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason.

Thomas Paine was no lightweight when it comes to American Independence, his writing, "Common Sense" prepared in 1776 was crystallizing. The wording in the Treaty of Tripoli was coined under the watchful eye of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison. The statement President Obama made in Cairo demonstrates the conflict of Christianity that has flowed throughout our history. Many were shocked when he made that statement, but in reality, the statement is factual. Factual in the sense there are American citizens who are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc, who are no less Americans than anyone who would hold the Christian faith.

Yet, there are over 300 court decisions throughout our history that affirm we are a Christian Nation. One cannot visit our Nation's Captial and avoid the religious notations etched in stone to preserve our Christian influence. Who is right? It appears to be the best of times, and the worst of times.

I would suggest the difficulty comes from the uniqueness of the American system. From this uniqueness, one can certainly say in a factual sense this is not a Christian nation. Also, from this uniqueness, one can certainly say in a factual sense this is certainly a Christian nation. No, that was not a misprint.

This nation is a system of government like nothing that has ever existed before in history. There are elements of it that can be found in previous systems, systems that over time failed. But there is a unique combination brought together in this system that was lacking in all the others. It is a unique blending of religious and civil freedoms depending upon personal responsibility and moral restraints. To the dismay of many, it is a Biblical system implementing Biblical principles of government and morality. To the dismay of others, that system does implement a separation of the Church and the State. When we try and stand upon only one leg of this system, it is then we find ourselves on opposite sides throwing conflicting quotes from our own history at each other to prove our point. Our human nature makes a perfect balance impossible, however, the closer we are to these principles the more freedom reigns.

The reason there are so many statements made by those considered our founding fathers that express their Christian faith is because they were Christians. Yet those same men could make statements like the one in the Treaty of Tripoli because of this unique system of government. It was not and is not a Christian nation in the sense of what that was understood to mean during the founding era. The issue with Tripoli was their unprovoked attacks upon the American merchant ships and taking Americans as slaves. The Muslims of Tripoli and the other nations involved understood Christian nations like those of Christian Europe of which came the crusades. The American experience was no such system. In those previous systems, the civil and religious aspects overlapped. The King was seen as the defender of the faith, and the church ruled in the government.

There is a principle in the American system found in Joshua 24:15 that adds to its uniqueness. "Jos 24:15  "But maybe you don't want to serve the LORD. You must choose for yourselves today. Today you must decide who you will serve. Will you serve the gods that your ancestors worshiped when they lived on the other side of the Euphrates River? Or will you serve the gods of the Amorites who lived in this land? You must choose for yourselves. But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD."  (ERV)

In their deliberations, though they were Christians, they did not want a theocracy. However, they wanted to assure their Christian faith was not infringed upon. They wanted to make sure the Gospel had free course and could function unhindered by government rule, thus we have the First Amendment. America is unequivocally a Christian nation in the sense of its population and moral culture, however, it is unequivocally not a Christian nation in the sense that one must adhere to, believe in, or support in any way the Christian faith. One does not gain any greater citizenship by professing Christianity but is on equal grounds in law and office.

"Truth can stand by itself. . . . If there be but one right [religion], and [Christianity] that one, we should wish to see the nine hundred and ninety-nine wandering sects gathered into the fold of truth. But against such a majority we cannot effect this by force. Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments. To make way for these, free inquiry must be indulged; and how can we wish others to indulge it while we refuse it ourselves." ~ Thomas Jefferson

"Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error. Given a loose to them, they will support the true religion, by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation. They are the natural enemies of error, and of error only. Had not the Roman government permitted free inquiry, Christianity could never have been introduced. had not free inquiry been indulged, at the era of the reformation, the corruptions of Christianity could not have been purged away. If it be restrained now, the present corruptions will be protected, and new ones encouraged. Were the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now." ~ Thomas Jefferson.

Noah Webster stated likewise: "Let us reject the spirit of making proselytes to particular creeds by any other means than persuasion." ~ Noah Webster, oration to the citizens of New Haven, 1798. 

James Madison agreed saying: "If the public homage of a people can ever be worthy of the favorable regard of the Holy and Omniscient Being to Whom it is addressed, it must be that in which those who join in it are guided only by their free choice, by the impulse of their hearts and the dictates of their consciences; and such a spectacle must be to all Christian nations." ~ James Madison

The Crafting of our system gives freedom from government coercion in our lives. We are free to practice our faith and diffuse it by the means of persuasion alone. The American conscience is to be free. The Christian coach is free to lead his team in prayer with all who would join him. The atheist coach is free to lead his team without prayer of any kind, while not forbidding any individual from praying themselves. The government does not demand of you, leave your faith at the door of your political office. However, the only tool you may possess is persuasion. America is a wonderful place for the Christian to abide as well as the atheist, as long as America remembers who and what she is.

May the Grace of God be upon each of you,