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Archive for the ‘Liberty’ Category

Here is a recent scene from early voting in my small town:

When I first came to this area 27 years ago, our voting place was a one room school house no longer used for anything but voting. It gave the feel of voting from times a century and more before. All who voted there were neighbors of long standing and we were the new ones, welcomed and smiled upon for voting in the long held tradition.

This year all tradition seems gone. Many would contradict, saying the voting has prevailed, but we wonder if it will be a free and fair election. Neighbors are distanced by disease and rhetoric and the persistent electronics. Somehow, I don’t feel like I am in the same nation I grew up in, the one that taught its young the regional songs and tales of the frontiersmen and miners and canal workers and farmers. We had connections to our past and stability in our present. Now we have neither. Rather than gain these things for those who lacked them as newcomers or oppressed people, we further divide ourselves from each other in order to scrap anything good about our nation for a future of slavery to the ruling class. (1)

The voting does not look and feel different because of polemical pandemic and politics. We have had division in the past. We have had disease and drought and war and depression and social unrest. It is different because we are giving up our freedoms for slavery of mind and one day body.

John Basil Barnhill, in a meeting in 1914, said, “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.” (2) At present, the people are in fear of the government while simultaneously not respecting its institutions or personnel. This is a formula for disaster.

On the subject of the cruelty of slavery, Thomas Jefferson said, “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just and that His justice cannot sleep forever…” (3) We have long since righted the wrong of the institution of slavery, though many have not changed there attitudes about it on either side. Now we threaten the liberty of us all by giving it up to control by government, to the continuance of slaughter or the unborn, and outright denial anything moral according to God’s law.

Why are we doing this evil to ourselves? We have turned away from God. Even many in the church do not know Him and the culture as a whole does not acknowledge Him. Many have argued that we have no need of acknowledging God as a nation since ‘we are not a Christian nation’, but God warns otherwise. “Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling.” (Psalm 2:10-11) “Nations are obligated to worship the true God,” said John MacArthur in a recent sermon. (4)

You may be asking what this turning away from God has to do with voting. I can think of several ways, all of which involve God’s judgement on our forsaking Him and running to wickedness:

1. We will lose our incredible freedom to have substantive say our government.

2. God judges individuals and institutions.

3. The righteous in general are delivered over with the wicked in times of judgement.

4. Voting may no longer be neighborly and civil.

It is on this last point that I want to dwell upon for just a short moment. I have friends who have been missionaries with AIM/Air in Nairobi, Kenya, for many years. As a mechanic, the man is head of maintenance to the many planes that fly out to villages for the many ways they help people. The woman has taught in a local seminary. In their newsletters over the year by paper and then email, they would periodically ask for prayer about national elections. This is frequently a time of violence in the streets and at the polling places and upon the candidates. This nation is not the only one plagued with this problem, but one that has dealt with it more or less since their independence. With the level of division, selfishness, and God hating present in our nation, it will come here if we do not repent.

Intentionally pray for your repentance and mine and our neighbors and our nation. Pray that God will yet again be merciful and patient to give us a time of renewal and turning to Him. Vote for righteousness and the rule of law. Pray for civility throughout this election process.

  1. Read ‘anarchy, socialism, communism’.
  2. https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/when-government-fears-people-there-liberty-spurious-quotation
  3. https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/07/jefferson-1781-indeed-i-tremble-for-my-country-an-exchange-of-situation-is-possiblenoted.html
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5vAA_QpNh8 This is well worth the listen since he lays out the scriptural requirement for nations in detail.

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A colleague of mine came to me with a legitimate concern and question. He prefaced his question by saying that he had no desire to argue but had a great desire to understand the meaning of a sign he had seen several times lately. He referred to a discussion we had earlier in the week, remarking that I seemed to have strong feelings about the subject. Before I reveal the question or my answer, I would like to say that I expressed gratitude for the demeanor of my colleague and friend to want to have substantive, civil discussion. That is rare these days. We seem to not be able to agree to disagree and give calm, reasoned answers to fellow citizens and human beings on controversial subjects.

The sign said, “Stop Socialism”. I think* that this may be the slogan of someone seeking political office. He said, “Give me your three best reasons for why you don’t like Socialism. I am going to go away for an hour and come back so that you have time to think about it.”

Shortly after he left the room I quickly prayed that God would give me clarity of mind, remembrance of apropos Scriptures, and an opportunity for witness. After a few minutes thought three reasons came to mind and Scriptures by way of an online concordance. Then I thought to call my older brother, who was a preacher for many years, in order to see if he had any better Scriptures. It was kinda a “call a friend” on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” moment, but in God’s providence we could not make connection after several tries in both directions.

Though more well thought out and concise here, my answer went some like the following:

I began by saying that I suspected that many of the people who hate Socialism would agree with the points I was about to make, even if few know why or where the ideas come from. For my part, I come from a biblical worldview that judges all of life based on what the Scriptures say. (2)

Here are my three reasons for hating Socialism:

1) Role of Government

In Romans 13:1-5, Paul clearly lays out the God ordained role of government to punish evil doers. We can extend that to include internal and external enemies. The government should punish those who murder, steal, rape, and otherwise harm fellow citizens. They should raise a defense against invading enemies (3). Redistributing wealth is a gross overreach of a government’s God ordained role. As a self-governed, free people we should do all we can to stifle this overreach.

2) Ownership

This concept flows from the eighth commandment, “You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15) God has given people the privilege of owning and stewarding possessions. The government is stealing possessions to give to others when taxes go beyond maintenance of the God ordained role of government. The government is playing Robin Hood with the taxpayer’s money, but much less efficiently or altruistically. A corollary to this principle arises in a parable that Jesus tells as an analogy for the kingdom of God. The reference to ownership is not the point of the parable, but Jesus teaches us truth about ownership in the midst of teaching about His kingdom. He does not use falsehood to support a truth He teaches. I read part of the parable from Matthew 20:1-16 to my colleague and explained the rest. The owner of the vineyard hires men to work in his vineyard at various times during the day as he finds them in the marketplace. At the end of the day he pays them all the same amount even though some worked all day in the heat and some worked for one hour (4). When questioned about the unfairness of this pay scheme, the owner says, “‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’” (Matthew 20:13-15). The corollary to ownership is freedom to dispose of what belongs to you as you see fit. It is not the government’s place to decide how you spend or give your possessions.

3) Diligence

This last point is the most telling as to the disaster of Socialism. I told my colleague that the Thessalonians (5) must have had a tendency toward Socialism, because Paul felt a need to mention their work ethic in both books he wrote, being quite direct in the second instance. In I Thessalonians 4:11-12, Paul admonished his readers “to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands” for the purpose of witness to outsiders. In II Thessalonians 3:6-13, Paul is very direct about those who are idle and slack in discipline: “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” (v.10) The most extreme form of Socialism, Communism, has failed numerous times to produce hard work and altruism among those laboring on collective farms and in collective factories. On the one hand, why work hard if the government will supply what you need? On the other hand, why work hard if you don’t own the property (crop, stock, interest, benefit) of the enterprise to be able to profit from it succeeding? Socialism fails to provide because of the dual selfishness of the greedy ruler and the slack worker.

I ended the discussion by saying that it seems there is a continuum from the far right of unbridled capitalism and far left of authoritarian communism. It may look something like the following:

authoritarian – socialism –  socialist –  regulated  –  unbridled

communism                         democracy  capitalism   capitalism

I understand the draw of Socialism to curb the excesses of unbridled capitalism. I think that socialist democracy is an oxymoronic attempt either to deceive others or a self-deception on the way toward socialism. I would support a minimally regulated capitalism because it puts the government in a position to punish evil doers who are stealing from the neighbors while respecting the individual’s right to own and dispose of his wealth as he sees fit. I think that I stand in good company with our founding fathers who instituted the Patent Act of 1790, for example. (6) And I believe I am in better company with the principles God’s Word lays down for our interactions with our fellow citizens.

*I don’t follow the tit for tat details of politics because I find it disheartening. A quick Google search brought up several signs past and present of politicians and political groups touting this slogan.

(2) No, I didn’t say that sentence quite so concisely or clearly, but I wish I had. Much that calls itself Christian these days is not, because it does not obey the admonition to be “destroying every speculation” by “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5). The direction for obedience to Christ is the Scripture.

(3) Augustine’s Just War Theory would not include expansionist offensives though it could be well argued that it could include pre-emptive offensives.

(4) His actual point is that whether you come late or early, God gives the grace of salvation (“one denarius”, a day’s wage) to each so the “last shall be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:16).

(5) Thessalonica was an ancient city in Macedonia in the north of Greece from whence came Alexander the Great and where Paul planted a church.

(6) As far back as 500 B.C. right of ownership of an idea or new product is noted.

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“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. ” (Galatians 5:1)

“So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.” (James 2:12)

What is liberty? How do we obtain it? How do we live in (or by) it? Many lengthy treatises have been written on this subject but a simple, functional definition is frequently beyond our grasp. I began to think on liberty after considering a line in the hymn, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”, by Fredrick Faber: “There’s a kindness in God’s justice, which is more than liberty.” In order to understand the meaning intended by this line you must understand kindness, justice, and liberty, not from a humanist standpoint, as we frequently do with liberty, but from God’s viewpoint.

A short article on Christian liberty I found online had a succinct discussion and concise conclusion: “The ultimate goal for the Christian should be to glorify God, edify fellow believers, and have a good reputation before unbelievers.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-liberty.html) This sentence confirms what I had heard to be a simple statement of what Christian liberty (and therefore any real liberty) is: Liberty is the freedom to do what is right.

In order to stand firm in that liberty we need to stay out of two miry, hazardous ditches: legalism and license. We best keep our eyes fixed ahead on Jesus and the liberty trail He has blazed rather than fearing or obsessing over the ditches on either side of us. We must be aware of them, wary of them, and wise to them, but if we obey the voice of God as He guides us, we need not fret over them.

So how do I run the right wheel of liberty merrily along without being tracked into the icy waters of the ditch legalism? I love the hymn that says, “Free from the Law, oh, happy condition, Jesus hath bled and there is remission; Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall, Christ hath redeemed us once for all.” As the Scripture says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us…” (Galatians 3:13). That curse was death demanded by the righteousness of God proclaimed by the Law. In fact, “we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” (Romans 7:6) There it is! The Spirit gives us the power and freedom to do what is right. The statutes of the Law for the Christian were abolished in Christ, but not the moral law, the ten commandments. Instead, we are now enabled to do what is right- blessed liberty!

Many friends reading this blog will not have trouble with the aforementioned ditch. So how do I run a true course with the left wheel of liberty and avoid sliding off into the ditch license? Again I refer to this old hymn: “Children of God- oh, glorious calling, Surely His grace will keep us from falling; Passing from death to life at His call, Blessed salvation once for all.” I see three Scripture based answers to the license danger in this hymn verse: 1) His grace keeps us from falling (2 Corinthians 12:9), 2) The glory of our calling in Christ gives us purpose and worth to resist mere license (Romans 6:1-4), and 3) We are being fitted for heaven which brings great hope and focus (2 Corinthians 5:1-2). 

So the “standing firm” of the initial verse of this blog entry means walking in liberty without tracking or sliding into the ditches. When you “Consider yourself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 6:11) you guard on the one side and “So speak and so act as those judged by the law of liberty,” (James 2:12) in defense of the other. Tracking in liberty is not looking at the worrisome waves on either side, but keeping full view of the Savior out in front of us. And He even knows our frailty and extends a hand to catch us up when we call for help. (Matthew 14:28-33)

We extend this liberty to others in the natural realm through governance, community involvement, church unity, and family togetherness, so that they may come to see true liberty in the spiritual realm through the two great commandments: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40), and thus be saved to eternal joy and peace. Happy Independence Day!

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