Babel and Big Government

Genesis 11 tells us about the Tower of Babel. People gathered together to build a tower to heaven. God confused their languages to defeat their purposes. The end.

Most applications of the story are about not trying to save yourself by good works–building a stairway to heaven (without being alarmed with bustles in your hedgerow). Or it’s about pride and how God wants to crush you.

The obvious application of the story, which I’ve never heard anyone say, is that God is against unity. He’s against people gathering together.

When I was a kid, I always did worse things in a group of other kids than I did alone. Collective stupidity is greater than individual stupidity.

Humanism was invented to gather humans to achieve greatness. The Olympic spirit. Can’t we all just get along? People are all for unity and bumper stickers tell you all the time to “Coexist.”

Everyone is for unity, which is how you know it’s wrong.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: The New Testament tells us there should be unity in the Body of Christ.

Indeed it does. Unity, however, is not the goal. Unity is a result of each individual growing into Christ. If each individual is determined to grow into Christ, there will be unity.

But, if unity is the goal, expect God to get left out.

Ecumenical movements spring up throughout Church History. Attempts to unify result in watered down doctrine. We end up with such rigorous statements of belief as “We believe in a god.” Any more depth than that, unity is gone.

When unity is the goal, God will be left out.

When people gather to celebrate how awesome they are and “look what we can achieve,” God gets left out. We’re not interested in Him; we’re interested in us.

This happened at Babel. It also shows up in Revelation. The Great City Babylon (notice anything similar about that name?) represents the one world government and one world religion. Unity. There will be temporal peace and celebrating of the awesome. Until it comes unhinged and eventually toppled.

Humans gathering to be awesome can be a dangerous thing. The Tower of Babel clearly tells us this.

Look at the places people gather to celebrate humanity: places like universities, Hollywood, Washington DC, I shall even suggest large cities in general. Notice anything about the reputations of those places? Anyone? Anyone? Those places predominantly vote for big government and have, as the news shows us every day, disgustingly, horrible morals.

Think Babel has some points to make there? I think so. What the application is, I shall leave with you.

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The Bible and Big Government

Although the Bible avoids politics, your beliefs about the Bible’s message will shape your political beliefs.

In a humble effort to make a very complex and muddled idea simple(r), and to more than likely offend everyone, let me step in some hot water!

The Bible says human nature is messed up. The heart is wicked and deceptive. The Bible’s solution to this problem is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The wicked heart of humanity cannot be controlled. We must be given a new heart.

Although most Christians would agree in theory with this message (it is the Gospel after all), in practice most Christians don’t believe this one bit.

If the Bible’s message is true and our only hope is to receive a new heart, then we must conclude that other efforts to control the heart will fall short. Thus, we can not put our trust in laws, rulers, governments, or human authorities.

One of the large points of the Bible is the massive section before the New Testament called The Law. The Law was a failure. An external law written on a rock cannot control or change the heart. It doesn’t work.

Therefore, if any time something bad happens you think: They should pass a law! That should be outlawed! You are denying one of the Bible’s main points.

You are probably now thinking, “That’s insane. There should be no laws? People should just do whatever? Isn’t that what lead to the Genesis Flood?”

This is where the issue gets muddled.

The government has been given the authority, according to Romans 13, to bear the sword, to punish evildoers. Law and order are part of society and are based on God’s law.

Yes, we need laws. Yes we need government. We need them because we are all evil and left to our own devices we’d do nasty things.

However, Galatians tells us when the Spirit is at work in us we produce fruit of the Spirit, “Against such there is no law.” Laws are made not for righteous people, but for unrighteous people.

A believer and follower of Christ is not going to be breaking any laws (unless unrighteous people pass laws that make the good evil, and the evil good–which is exactly what happened to Israel when they were under The Law, because Law doesn’t work).

Perhaps you are confused. So, is law good or bad?

Law is fine, unbelievers need a check on their human nature. But law will never solve the problem.

Everyone today wants more laws. We want more behaviors to be controlled by the law. Any time there’s a disaster, we immediately look to government. Gun control will not stop murder. Outlawing abortion will not stop abortion. We’ve already outlawed pretty much everything, and yet people are still doing pretty much everything.

The problem comes, not whether there are laws, but whether you think laws will actually control human nature!

Government is fine and necessary, but it’s not the savior. People don’t need more government and more laws, they need the transforming power of the Gospel. Government and laws can keep sin in check a little bit; the Gospel destroys the desire to sin.

Neither party is following the Bible’s instructions and both are driving for bigger government. Politicians want you to think of them as your savior.

The Book of Revelation says all the government leaders will line themselves up against Jesus Christ in the great showdown at Armageddon. They will be there lined up with all their minions who sold their soul to temporal powers.

The human tendency throughout our history is to make more laws. This is our effort to defeat sin through human ingenuity. It doesn’t work. We should stop thinking it does.

The Overstated Doctrine of Sola Gratia

After critiquing Sola Scriptura and a little bit of Sola Fide last week, one of my faithful readers asked if I would talk about Sola Gratia.

I am always up for critiquing Reformed Theology, so sure! Let’s do it.

Sola Gratia, yet another Sola of the Reformation, also sounds wonderful. But any time you hear an absolute statement, think on it for a bit. Sola Gratia is an absolute statement. Let’s look at some definitions.

The Reformers maintained that the sinner is saved by the grace of God, His unmerited favor, alone. This doctrine means that nothing the sinner does commends him to the grace of God, and that the sinner does not cooperate with God in order to merit his salvation.

This is what Sola Gratia means, quoting Reformed Theology types themselves. These are not my words. Here’s another definition just to let you know I’m not making anything up.

Sola gratia is a Latin phrase that means “grace alone.” Sola gratia means that salvation from sin and death is provided by God’s unmerited favor alone, and we can do nothing to earn it.

As I’ve said before, Reformed Theology is a response to Catholic Theology. As much as Catholic Theology was wrong, combating it with an equally wrong theology does little good. Often, when combating a doctrine, we drive ourselves into the opposite ridiculous corner.

The Reformers wanted to eliminate penance, indulgences, and various other churchy things Catholics said to do to get forgiveness of sins. The Reformers moved as far away from this as possible (in theory anyway). Instead of correcting Catholic error, they eliminated works of any kind from the discussion by saying that salvation has absolutely nothing to do with you.

Certainly this will keep you from the dangers of works!

But it’s overstated, as most reactionary stances are.

Every time Sola Gratia is brought up, Ephesians 2 is brought up, with emphasis on verses 8-9, “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.”

A simple reading lets you know salvation is not by grace alone because he just said, “for by grace are you saved through faith.” Grace and faith are both there. Which, of course, they admit: that’s why they also have Sola Fide.

And again, this is where I wonder if words mean anything to people anymore. If it’s by faith alone, how is it also by grace alone?

Calvinists even understand this tension and some eliminate faith from the equation (I saw RC Sproul recently say Reformed Theology is founded on the idea that regeneration comes before faith, which is contrary to many verses). If Reformed Theology folks were honest, they would believe in Sola Electio, by election alone. They think salvation is entirely up to God, you have no say, you’re either one of the lucky ones whom He picked, or you’re not. This doctrine is officially called “Monergism.”

Irresistible Grace is what Sola Gratia means. I think Irresistible Grace is a human invention, thus I think Sola Gratia is also a human invention. If you are not a Calvinist, you do not hold Sola Gratia. Sola Gratia is Calvinism.

Sola Gratia says we can’t earn salvation. I agree. Sola Gratia goes on to say we have no part in our salvation, because if we did, then we would have earned it. I disagree.

This is a false conclusion. Me exercising Faith is not a work that earns/merits salvation. It’s fulfilling a condition that God placed on us that we are equipped to respond to or deny.

“God gives grace to the humble” is said a couple of times in the Bible. God does not arbitrarily give some people grace and not others. He tells us who He gives grace to: the humble.

If God says we can humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, then we can. If He says He gives grace to people who do that, then He does.

We should then act accordingly.

Beware any theology that eliminates human responsibility. It is of the devil.

In our desires to celebrate Grace, which indeed deserves our celebration, let’s not deny Scripture to push it out of reasonableness.

7 Thoughts on the Numerous Recent Moral Failings of Public Figures

When Bill Clinton was elected president, I was cleaning floors in the Northwestern College cafeteria. My roommate’s girlfriend came in and told me, with tears in her eyes, that Clinton won.

“Oh,” I said, and went back mopping.

The Clinton years were a fascinating time to be a Christian. I will admit I got caught up in the hysteria. Monica Lewinski, rape allegations, “at least Nixon resigned” t-shirts, etc.

The moral outrage amongst Christians was astounding. Clinton was the devil incarnate.

Oh how far we’ve come, dear church.

“a new PRRI/Brookings poll says. In 2011, 30 percent of white evangelicals said that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” Now, 72 percent say so — a far bigger swing than other religious groups the poll studied.

Evangelicals no longer think moral failings are that big of a deal in our politicians. The “other side” apparently has no monopoly on moral failing, so our morals have adjusted accordingly.

The recent election is one possible reason white evangelicals don’t think moral failings are that big of a deal.

Hillary Clinton potentially has played into it, as well. Many Republicans find her unacceptable, and it may be that some dislike her so much that they have stretched their conceptions of who it’s OK to vote for.

Hillary Clinton carries with her all the baggage of her husband. Christians, as I recall, absolutely hated Bill Clinton. His wife is lumped in with him. We’ll vote for any louse as long as it’s not a Clinton louse.

Here are a few points to consider:

  1. Christians think they vote for the lesser of two evils. If we have to vote for someone who degrades women, so be it, at least he’s not for abortion. Although I understand the desire to protect the unborn, tying our boat to the dock of immoral, immature leadership seems tenuous.
  2. Voting typically makes Christians look stupid. Vote if you think it matters, but perhaps consider keeping it private, along with all your political views. A vote is putting a stamp of approval on a person. When the Church is seen doing that, the Church gets lumped in with the politician. This has never worked out well for the Church.
  3. Our government in America is by the people. We get what we deserve. Politicians are not going to morally reform America. They are not going to get rid of abortion. They will, in fact, continue to flush our morals down the toilet, because that’s what human nature wants to have happen. America needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If America came alive to the Gospel, politics would follow. It doesn’t work the other way. Never has; never will.
  4. Moral lapses in our leaders should be expected occasionally. Leaders are people. People are sinners. But that’s why the Bible says the people we follow should be tested and proved to have character. People make mistakes and grace should be shown to both sides of the political spectrum. Currently, however, we appear to be in a time where the majority of leaders are failing regularly. I’m not sure this is a new thing, or if it’s a result of invasive, incessant media coverage. I don’t know, but none of this makes it right.
  5. The typical way to deal with the moral failings of a person on “our side” is to bring up moral failings of a person on the “other side.” We’re in a battle now of ignoring moral failures while also comparing and contrasting them indefinitely. Moral failings are moral failings. Apologies don’t cut it in leadership. If a leader fails they’re supposed to step down. The fact that our leaders fail and don’t step down, but instead point out how other leaders do it too so leave me alone, is not a good sign.
  6. Men are disgusting. If there’s no other point to take out of the recent headlines, it’s that men are out of control animals. Good grief, men. Get a grip. It’s time to personally fight against pornography, sexual perversion in all forms, and dealing with dignity toward women. Women should also wear more clothing. But still, even if women walked around buck naked, grow up men! Get control.
  7. We are more loyal to our party than we are to our God. We’d, apparently, degrade moral standards for the sake of staying loyal to our guys. When we are in a spot like this, it’s time for an examination: Do we have our trust in God who established morals, or rulers who wield temporal power? The obvious answer here is troubling.

However, this is just a poll and polls are easily manipulated. Polls also show what the majority wants, and a majority of human nature is always going to side with sin.

Actual believers in Jesus Christ are not selling out godliness for the sake of political power. Followers of Jesus Christ are not entangling themselves with the affairs of this life. Jesus paid next to no attention to politics. What He did say is that we seek first the Kingdom of God, He’ll take care of the rest of what we need. He tells His people to let the heathen fight for power; the meek will inherit the earth in the end.

I do wish the Church were more interested in the better country to come than we are in this tottering republic. America has been good to me. I mean no disrespect. But this is not my home. I will not let go of godliness for a bowl of pottage, even if the bowl has the Stars and Stripes on it.

The Myth of Sola Scriptura

One of the primary rallying cries of the Protestant Reformation was/is “Sola Scriptura!” Latin for, “the scripture alone.”

The idea of Sola Scriptura is summed up in The Westminster Confession of Faith thusly:

“The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”

A more modern take on it, and perhaps better said, is this quote by John MacArthur:

Scripture is therefore the perfect and only standard of spiritual truth, revealing infallibly all that we must believe in order to be saved and all that we must do in order to glorify God.

This all sounds very lovely and doctrinal and good. I even agree. But I think it’s time we wake up to the fact that not a single human being in the history of human beings has ever actually and practically been a Sola Scriptura-ist.

Not one.

For instance, many who most firmly affirm Sola Scriptura, along with the other Five Solas of the Reformation, also hold to infant baptism.

You can read the Bible for the rest of your life and never, ever come anywhere near any verse that tells us to baptize infants.

In fact, one of the Five Solas is Sola Fide, “by faith alone.”

Funny thing happened in the Book of James. Our pal James says quite clearly, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (ESV, ironically enough)

So, again, if you hold to Sola Fide, you cannot at the same time hold to Sola Scriptura, cuz that aint what Sola Scriptura says!

However, everyone and their mother does hold these two things, because everyone and their mother stopped thinking about their doctrine shortly after leaving Sunday School when their brains weren’t even fully developed.

Now, lest you think I only enjoy picking on Reformed Theology (which I do), I can also level the same attack against you and me.

I held to many doctrines for many years simply because that’s what my guys said to believe. I didn’t think about my doctrine in relationship to whether the Bible actually said that or not.

We’re all swayed theologically by our geographical location, our friends and family, our church brainwashing, and various other factors, not nearly as intimidating as the ever scary Church Tradition. Often our doctrine is arrived at by reacting against these same groups.

Many of my doctrines are shaped by experience, either what I’ve done or what I’ve observed others do. One of the factors that lead me to think about my doctrine was watching the lives of those who agreed with me. It wasn’t all pretty. Seeing a consistent pattern among them, I decided that there was a chance their doctrine might be wrong. You will know them by their fruit.

Doctrine is also shaped by our intellectual abilities. Our brains develop and then decline. Our thinking isn’t always as intellectual as we might hope. Our emotions play a massive part in our decision making.

The prevalence of sin in our lives will cause us to emphasize some verses out of place and skip entire passages elsewhere. Justifying our sin, living with our sin, will warp our doctrine.

I think Sola Scriptura is a fine idea–everything we believe should be founded on Scripture. I think it’s such a fine idea that we should actually do it, even if it means breaking with past tradition and theological camps, it might even ruin your reputation and ministry. But alas, isn’t it better to agree with God than a group of people?

No one actually does Sola Scriptura. Examine your faith to see if Scripture actually says what you believe, or if you’re reading what you already believe into Scripture. Change your doctrine if it aint in the Bible; don’t change the Bible to fit your doctrine.

God Has a Problem With Much of What We Don’t Have a Problem With

So much accepted behavior in our day is actually wrong. Not wrong because I or someone else has a problem with it, but because the Bible says it’s wrong.

I’m not talking about the latest efforts of the Liberal Church in making some deviant behavior more acceptable either.

I’m talking about stuff that everyone does. Stuff that no one has a problem with. Stuff that everyone around you is doing.

Saving for retirement, for instance.

Bet you didn’t think I was going there did ya? Who in their right mind would?

Well, Jesus Christ would.

There was a man who had a bumper crop and built bigger barns to store it all in. He said to his soul, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.

He had his money. He had his plan. He was going to enjoy life. He earned it after all. He deserves a break, a nice retirement.

Then he dies that night.

I’ve known many people who are now dead. Many of them had great plans and left behind great stores of goods they can’t use anymore. While saving it for their own consumption, they were not rich toward God.

Saving money for your future enjoyment is a problem with God.

I know, I know, everyone is doing it and only a moron wouldn’t plan ahead for the future.

I’m aware of that.

I’m just telling you what God thinks.

That’s all.

That’s what He thinks about saving for future enjoyment and ease.

That’s what God thinks. The very God you’ll stand in front of some day.

Carry on.

Identity Politics and Unity in Christ

Our divided and angry populace is obsessed with identifying with a group based on an external criterion.

People identify by race, political party, gender, sexual orientation, handicap, income level, and who knows what else.

The more we eliminate higher things, spiritual things that call us to live for something better, we are left to identify with ourselves. No God? Fine, I’ll make it all about me. No focus on God leaves to focus on self.

We focus on our unique identifying trait and gang up with those like us, resulting in an Us vs. Them mentality. Eventually your group wants money and power, which must be taken from another group.

Being a legally blind person, I know blind people that want handouts from the government, so they petition for funding and recognition. Who cares what your needs are, we’re blind, we need stuff cuz we’re blind.

Every group lobbies for their rights. Thus we fight, cuz when others get their rights, they take money we otherwise could have had!

So blacks hate whites. Straights hate gays. Women hate men. And vice versa. They threaten our group identification and are seen as the enemy because they aren’t US.

Christianity, which speaks of unity all the time, is the only alternative. It’s vital for us to know the meaning of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:16:

Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

Because of the death and resurrection of Christ, because He’s not just a flesh guy we’re identifying with but a possessor of a resurrected, spiritual body, He gives us a new identity. We’re born again. We’re born of the Spirit.

Since we’re new spiritual creations, as Christ is, fleshly identifications are done away with. There is neither male nor female, bond nor free, Jew nor Gentile.

Our main identity is with Christ. That’s it! And Christ is now risen and has an incorruptible, spiritual body. We’re viewing ourselves in Him as spiritual creations.

Therefore, no Christian should fight over identity politics. We shouldn’t belong to groups that divide over externals.

This would be easier if everyone else weren’t so stuck on their identities! Identities are constantly being shoved down our throats, people don’t drop them easily.

But Paul doesn’t tell us to make other people stop doing that. Paul says to see people in Christ. Whether you are black or white, Republican or Democrat, rich or poor, gay or straight, I primarily see you in, or potentially in, Christ, and will refuse to fight you.

My primary concern for you is not for you to leave your group, or to defeat your group, or defund you; my primary goal is to see you come to Christ. To get you to a place, by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, where you no longer identify yourself with some external criterion, but instead see yourself and all others in the Spirit.

If you’re in Christ, you won’t fight over externals because there are no externals worth fighting for. We wrestle not against flesh and blood.

This is the only hope for human unity. As long as we view ourselves after the flesh we will be fighting. So, stop it! See yourself in Christ, as alive from the dead, and as new spiritual creations in Christ.