Friday, April 17, 2015

Spineless Secularism

Modern secularism, having rejected any eternal, transcendent values and ideals, is strictly pragmatic. It is, therefore, exclusively concerned about what works, what give desirable results, at least for the secularist.

Secularism is also parasitic. It invades economically healthy societies, compromising them economically, morally, legally, and even spiritually, making them vulnerable to an assortment of pathogens – hedonism, moral relativism, and Islam.

How does this happen? Well, for one thing, Islam allows no criticism:

  • [33:57-58] Those who insult God and His Messenger will be rejected by God in this world and the next—He has prepared a humiliating punishment for them—  and those who undeservedly insult believing men and women will bear the guilt of slander and obvious sin.
  • [33:59-61] Prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and women believers to make their outer garment hang low over them, so as to be recognized and not insulted: God is most forgiving, most merciful. 60 If the hypocrites, the sick of heart, and those who spread lies in the city [Medina] do not desist, We shall arouse you [Prophet] against them, and then they will only be your neighbors in this city for a short while. 61 They will be rejected wherever they are found, and then seized and killed. (Haleem) 
  • Bukhari (59:369) - This recounts the murder of Ka'b bin al-Ashraf, a Jewish poet who wrote verses about Muslims that Muhammad found insulting.  He asked his followers, 'Who will rid me of this man?' and several volunteered.  al-Ashraf was stabbed to death while fighting for his life.
  • Bukhari (4:241) - Those who mocked Muhammad at Mecca were killed after he had retaken the city and asserted his authority.
Consequently, even in moderate Malaysia, “Cops seek duo [two people] over Facebook insults on Islam,” (Bernama, April 17, 2015).

How do secularists deal with the Islamic intolerance of free speech? Do they proclaim, as Patrick Henry did, “Give me liberty or give me death?” Or do they take the pragmatic path of least resistance, claiming that “Islam is a religion of peace” and criminalizing anyone who claims otherwise or creates a cartoon or book critical of Islam. In fact, one influential secularist goes a step further to proclaim, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

Principle is routinely sacrificed for short-term comfort. Liberty and freedoms of speech and religion are sold in exchange for pleasure. Justice is a commodity freely replaced for a fleeting measure of peace.

What will happen if Muslims attack the offices of Facebook, as they had Charlie Hebdo, because Facebook allows articles critical of Islam? Would the secularists stand against this or would they declare, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam?” I think we already know the answer.

Society cannot consistently be nourished by modern secular pragmatism and stand. It will fall to those of conviction, even malevolent conviction. Instead, society must re-embrace its eternal foundation of truth.

Darwinism and its Moral Implications

Ideas about human origins are ripe with moral implications. Historian Richard Weikart, California State University, wrote in From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany:

  • Before the advent of Darwinism in the mid-nineteenth century, there was no significant debate in Europe over the sanctity of human life, which was entrenched in European thought and law… Judeo-Christian ethics proscribed the killing of innocent human life, and the Christian churches explicitly forbade murder, infanticide, abortion, and even suicide. The sanctity of human life became enshrined in classical liberal human rights ideology as "the right to life," which according to John Locke, was one of the supreme rights of every individual. Until the second half of the nineteenth century, and to a large extent even on into the twentieth century, both the Christian churches and most anticlerical European liberals upheld the sanctity of human life. A rather uncontroversiaI part of the law code for the newly united Germany in 1871 was the prohibition against assisted suicide. Only in the late nineteenth and especially the early twentieth century did significant debate erupt over issues relating to the sanctity of human life, especially infanticide, euthanasia, abortion, and suicide.
Darwinism powerfully ushered in a new worldview with its moral implications:

  • By reducing humans to mere animals, by stressing human inequality, and by viewing the death of many "unfit" organisms as a necessary—and even progressive—natural phenomenon, Darwinism made the death of the "inferior" seem inevitable and even beneficent. Some Darwinists concluded that helping the "unfit" die—which had for millennia been called murder—was not morally reprehensible, but was rather morally good. 
  • Those skeptical about the role Darwinism played in the rise of advocacy for involuntary euthanasia, infanticide, and abortion should consider several points. First, before the rise of Darwinism, there was no debate on these issues, as there was almost universal agreement in Europe that human life is sacred and that all innocent human lives should be protected. Second, the earliest advocates of involuntary euthanasia, infanticide, and abortion in Germany were devoted to a Darwinian worldview. Third, Haeckel, the most famous Darwinist in Germany, promoted these ideas in some of his best-selling books, so these ideas reached a wide audience, especially among those receptive to Darwinism. Finally, Haeckel and other Darwinists and eugenicists grounded their views on death and killing on their naturalistic interpretation of Darwinism.
Can Darwinism and its assertion that humans are just another animal be separated from its moral implications? Darwinists are feverishly endeavoring to do this very thing by disclaiming any connection with social Darwinism. Or is there an inseparable connection between Darwin and the social/moral implications of his theory? Is it inevitable that if we view humanity as the result of a purposeless biological process that we will treat humanity accordingly?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Prophecy, Persecution, and Perseverance

The Prophet Daniel was honored with a vision about the end:

  • "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)
  • Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him. (27)
However, he was troubled by what would have to precede this everlasting kingdom:

  • As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom. (21-22) … He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time. (25)
Daniel therefore concluded:

  • "I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me… This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale… (15, 28) 
I too am troubled as I see the decimation of my brethren in Kenya, Somalia, Nigeria, Mali, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and North Korea. I knew the prophecies but couldn’t imagine the extent of the horrors. Troubled? No! I am tormented, even enraged at the West for winking at these worst horrors imaginable.

What is there to say to our “civilized” world? There is nothing I can add to the horrid photos that have escaped the Islamic world to occasionally emerge in the Western media. No logic or reason that will shame the West into action. Even our churches have fallen to political correctness and pragmatic silence.

Why, oh Lord, have you allowed the oppressor to “oppress [Your] saints?” Why have you “handed over” your saints to carnage?

I don’t completely get it, but I am convinced that this is according to plan – a gracious plan. But how do I endure this? This is something I have contemplated for a while now, and here are some of my thoughts:

I need to know that persecution is according to God’s plan:

  • In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:12-13)
  • "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also… All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. (John 15:18-20; 16:1-2)
Persecution is inevitable:

  • "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” (Matthew 24:9) 
I need not avenge; God will:

  • Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. (Romans 12:19) 
I also need to remember that our Lord is fully in control:

  • "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
There is also work for us to perform in the midst of this great persecution. We need a proactive, not a defensive, vision:

  • Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved--and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him. (Philippians 1:27-29)
He will keep His people in the midst of the greatest persecutions:

  • For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible. (Matthew 24:24)
  • My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28)
He will also provide for us in the midst of it:

  • But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:19-20)
           He can also grant us courage, as many testimonies have demonstrated.

We will endure by looking at the example set for us by Jesus:

  • Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-3)
I will go to be with the Lord:

  • Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)
I need to submit these verses to memory. Only then can I stand and preach the Gospel unafraid to them who would behead me.

How can we be Fully Forgiven if Confession of our Sins is always Required?

Clearly, Christ paid for all of our sins on the Cross:

  • “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Hebrews 8:12 quoting Jeremiah 31:34)
  • By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:14)
  • Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)
On top of this, our Savior has utterly removed our sins from us:

  • Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19) 
If this is so, why then do we still need to confess our sins?

  • If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)
  • And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:15-16)
Hasn’t our Savior completely eradicated our sins and promised to “remember” them “no more?” Why then the ongoing requirement to confess?

Not only is confession necessary for healing, it is also necessary for forgiveness! But hasn’t forgiveness already been accomplished? If so, why then do we need to continue to confess in order to receive His forgiveness? How can we reconcile these paradoxical teachings?

This seems to be the most biblical answer: God has entirely forgiven us and has irrevocably written our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life. However, He must complete the process through the entirety of our lives (Phil. 1:6; Romans 11:29).

Martin Luther affirmed the vital and ongoing role of confession and forgiveness in this process:

  • Unless God constantly forgives, we are lost. Thus this petition really means that God does not wish to regard our sins and punish us as we daily deserve but to deal graciously with us, to forgive as he has promised, and thus to grant us a joyful and cheerful conscience so that we may stand before him in prayer.
This agrees with my own experience. When I confess my sins, I know that He has forgiven them and feel unburdened and relieved. But why should this be if He has already resolved my sin problem?

He has resolved it, but He continues to apply His forgiveness as we confess! He will remember our sins “no more” because He is constantly at work applying what He has accomplished at the Cross to our stained lives.

It is also because our Lord is continually at work in our lives that we continue in faith unto salvation. In God’s mind, all of these blessings are done-deals, but they must be worked out, and this includes our participation.

Do we have to continue in faith, repentance, and confession? Yes! We have to remain faithful to the end:

·           All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22)

·           But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation-- if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (Col. 1:22-23)

·           We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (Hebrews 3:14)

Some reject this simple and direct teaching because it seems like it adds to us a work or requirement, which contradicts salvation-as-a-gift and will enable us to boast. However, continuing in faith, repentance, and confession is part of the guaranteed gift of God. The gift of faith is an ever-flowing fountain bringing us to eternal life (John 4:14; 1 Peter 1:5). However, even though salvation is a gift, we too have our role to play:

  • Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)
Paul claimed that even though salvation is God’s doing, it is also ours. However, God gets the credit for even our obedience:

  • But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
Paul credited God for even his strenuous labors. Why? Weren’t these labors a matter of Paul’s initiative and effort? Yes and no! They did represent Paul’s efforts, but Paul recognized that God was even responsible for His efforts and initiative. So He gets all the credit.

Do we understand this? I don’t! We have a fancy theological name we attach to it. We call this the doctrine of compatibilism. Somehow, our contributions are compatible with God’s plan and sovereign workings in our lives. How???

Although I don’t understand this, the compatibility of God’s sovereignty with our responsibilities is mirrored throughout Scripture. For example, we have been saved, but we are being saved as we cooperate with God (Hebrews 4:11; 6:10-11; 1 Tim. 4:16). This paradox is something we just need to accept. We make responsible, free, and weighty choices, but at the end of the day, God’s will is done.

Let’s now apply all of this to the issue at hand – confession and forgiveness. Must we confess our sins? Definitely! Nevertheless, our forgiveness is assured (Jeremiah 31:34)! How? God has assured it:

  • No one who is born of God will continue to sin [and also not confess], because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:9; 5:18)
Our Savior will not allow us to go in the wrong direction. He will lead us into confession so that He can complete His work of forgiving our sins and cleansing us.

Let’s bring this lesson back to Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness:

  • For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15) 
Here’s what is clear about this teaching:

  1. Our forgiving others is inseparable from God forgiving us.
  2. Our refusal to forgive others, God will not forgive us.
Must we forgive others to be saved? Yes! This is related to the issue of whether we must continue in faith. We must! But is our salvation uncertain? No! It is guaranteed by the God who promised to keep us. But how? Our Savior will work in our heart to produce the necessary requirements, including forgiveness (Phil. 2:12-13; Eph. 2:10).

Besides, a living faith will produce obedience. If I trust in my doctor, I will take the pills she prescribes. If I trust in God, I will do what He wants me to do.

We demonstrate our faith through obedience. This is why James could say:

  • But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. (James 2:18)
A real faith will lead to obedience and the forgiveness of others. If we refuse to forgive, it means that we refuse to trust our Lord. It also means that we have failed to grasp the Gospel and to realize how badly we need forgiveness.

Scripture informs us that God not only guarantees our salvation but also guarantees that He will keep us through the entire process:

  • Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)