Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Religion in America is the Christian Faith and Practice

"[R]eligion, or the duty which we owe to our creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and this is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other."
--Virginia Bill of Rights, Article 16

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

We Live in a Republic, Not a Democracy?

"Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics. There must be a positive passion for the public good, the public interest, honour, power and glory, established in the minds of the people, or there can be no republican government, nor any real liberty: and this public passion must be superiour to all private passions."
--John Adams, letter to Mercy Warren, 16 April 1776

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What Others Think of the Bailout

"The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Shelton Gilliam, 19 June 1808

Monday, December 8, 2008

Baptism to Relationship

1For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3and all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. I Corinthians 10.

While I appreciate and even enjoy the debate on the “efficacy” of baptism, commonly referred to as Federal Vision, I have said before that I don’t think that this is the best way to cast the issue. It casts the issue in the same terms as we would discuss the efficacy of an aspirin to relieve a headache. Baptism is a sign of a relationship, much as a wedding ring would be. Shouldn’t we talk in terms of relationship?

Baptism establishes a new relationship, which begs the question a relationship unto what? This passage clearly ties the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to the sacrament of baptism. We have a relationship unto communion with Jesus Christ. The two cannot be separated. They should be considered together. Participation in the former flows out of the event of the latter. Meredith Kline points out in his short book By Oath Consigned that the Red Sea crossing had the characteristics of an ancient trial by water, much as what we would think of as a “trial by fire.” In such an event, the innocent are rescued and the guilty are destroyed. And this is exactly what happened in the Red Sea crossing. We, like they, show our relationship established in baptism in our communion with Christ. We show the lack of our relationship established in baptism in our lack of communion with Christ.

Yahweh takes his signs of covenantal relationship very seriously. In Exodus 3, Yahweh threatened to kill Moses for Moses’ failure to circumcise his son. I Corinthians 10 refers to Israel’s failure to observe the sacrament of the Sabbath in the Exodus. Ezekiel 20 refers to Yahweh’s use of the Sabbath as a covenant curse against the nation of Israel for their rebellion against Him. We should take those signs of covenantal relationship seriously too. God has given us a pattern of life of six days work and one day rest. He has called us to “remember” one day in seven as a memorial to him. He has also called us to commemorate his Supper in “remembrance” of him. If we look at the efficacy of our baptism through our communion with Christ, we see the efficacy in a living relationship not a mere sign. Our understanding of our baptism depends on a promise made by our covenant God that he will bless us through baptism. This is not an automatic thing; its better because it is based on relationship.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Why a Christian Culture is the Only Foundation for a Free Society

"No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffusd and virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauchd in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders." --Samuel Adams

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More Wisdom from Lewis

Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o'clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why—the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed at some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity ("mere Christianity" as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.

Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, "But how could they have thought that?"—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction. To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.


"You will not find the warrior, the poet, the philosopher or the Christian by staring in his eyes as if he were your mistress: better fight beside him, read with him, argue with him, pray with him." C.S. Lewis