Monday, April 22, 2013

BIBLICAL, REASONABLE AND PRACTICAL


It is important to recognize that our worldview must be Biblical, Reasonable and Practical. On a certain level, such a perspective is straightforward and easy to understand. However, on another level, certain factors are often introduced that complicate such a perspective.

Biblical
When stating that our worldview is to be Biblical, there are two issues to consider. First, the inerrancy, infallibility and reliability of Scripture issue. It is not the purpose of this article to settle or even address this issue in any depth. However, this issue will influence one’s approach toward formulating a Biblical worldview. If one denies the legitimacy of Scripture, the formulation of a Biblical worldview will never take place. On the other hand, some might state that the Bible is infallible in matters of faith. This approach conceivably influences conclusions about such things as the creation account. If so, one might say the Bible is not infallible in matters of science. If this is so, a “scientific” theory such as evolution might redefine or replace the Biblical account of creation. This would likely jeopardize one’s view of the Biblical account of man’s creation, in the image of God. If this transpires, many important practical aspects of moral issues and the value of human life that are tied to human beings having been created in the image of God are affected.

The second issue relates to using proper procedures for arriving at the meaning of the Biblical text. The truths and principles that comprise a Biblical worldview are taken from the text, according to the intended meaning of the text. Therefore, efforts to arrive at the correct meaning of the text are of great importance.

Some individuals use a text to prove or defend ideas they desire to believe. This is known as “proof-texting” or eisegesis.  Others use passages like Leviticus 20 in an attempt to prove the idea that we have outgrown all Biblical standards since we no longer enforce commands made in such a passage. It is then claimed that Biblical statements about other sins are meaningless or should be reconsidered.

Honoring the text with proper hermeneutics within the total context of the complete document is very important in the effort to arrive at a well-rounded, helpful, Biblical worldview.

Reasonable
Many believe there is a distinct division between faith and reason. This has had an unfortunate affect on both faith and reason. Reason, in the minds of such proponents, is substantial and meaningful while faith is simply a form of wishful thinking or believing things that one has no reason to believe, grasping for and believing the unbelievable. This is where the concept from which we get a “leap of faith.” This approach toward human reasoning places too much trust (faith) in human reasoning. This view has led many to assume we, therefore, have no need for faith (as thought of in the aforementioned perspective). Some people, on the other hand, embracing faith, resist intellectual activity (reasoning) because they believe it to be contrary to faith. Both of these approaches are detrimental.

We must realize that the faith Scripture calls for involves having trust and confidence in that of which there is evidence for such trust. Identifying the evidence involves an intellectual process that includes, rather than ignores and excludes, reasoning.

Confidence in the Word of God and the God of the Word is reasonable. As well, the process of understanding the truth and principles revealed in God’s Word includes the use of human reasoning. Proper use of our reasoning capabilities honors man’s God-given design as those created in His image.

Practical
The Word of God and the Biblical worldview established thereby are not merely intellectual information; they are to lead to a very practical approach toward life, personally and culturally. Once understood, the truth and principles revealed in the text becomes the standard upon which we are to structure our lives as individuals and society. There are three considerations I’d like to address in this regard.

            Tell Me What to Do
In years of pastoral ministry, I have encountered many who want sermons that present practical instruction yet do not want to understand the truth upon which such practical instruction is founded. In other words, they do not want to think, they simply want to be told what they should and shouldn’t do. First, this does not necessarily mean they will do what they are told and, second, without conviction generated by understanding, it’s not likely to result in the type of stability needed to produce fruit that remains. Such an approach tends to set the stage for people being tossed back and forth by various teachings and will not produce the Biblical worldview that is capable of discipling nations.

            I Know That
We must guard against the approach that simply sees Christianity, Biblical truth, theology and doctrine as intellectual gymnastics on par with other philosophical systems. Though there is always a tendency for one’s philosophy to influence the way we live, we must be cautious of seeing the intellectual process as an end in and of itself. This is a caution that applies to both academia and “the street.” Academia can easily foster an intellectual pride that falls prey to this error. As well, my work in the local prison has taught me that many people have a head full of information that never seems to alter the practical approach taken in their lives. They want God’s blessing but fail to realize that blessing does not flow out of knowing but out of doing.

            Faith is Personal
Finally, there are those who assume that the practical application of their Christian faith (Biblical worldview) only applies to their “personal” life but they must keep it out of their “public” affairs. On one level, this should be impossible. If we truly apply our moral convictions personally, it will affect our public conduct and activities. Most people would likely concede this fact. Where this concept is most often applied in a detrimental fashion is in the realm of cultural practices. It is often assumed that our “personal convictions” should remain separate from “public policy.” There are two thoughts worth engaging in this regard.

First, the idea that a Biblical worldview is simply your “personal conviction” fails to fully realize and emphasize Scripture as revelation from the Creator, truth that is true whether anyone believes it or not.

Second, public policy is always set by some worldview or ideology. By keeping our “faith” (Biblical worldview) to ourselves, we relinquish our nation to any one of the ideologies that vie for control. The truths and principles communicated in Scripture are for our good always.

In love, we must speak the truth and destroy speculations being raised up against God, His truth and His kingdom.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A SEED GROWS


It is easy to feel utterly discouraged as a Christian giving witness to a depraved generation of people such as our nation is filled with today.  People no longer accept responsibility for their choices, neither on an individual basis nor on a national level.  The theme of the day is “mental health” or “victim of circumstance”.  Every evil is categorized as some sort of syndrome.  The prisons are filled with victims who refuse to accept blame for their wrong.  We debate issues such as gun control and mental health, while completely ignoring the discussion about moral agency.  It seems the foundation has shifted so drastically that it's not possible to have a reasonable, intelligent discussion over such things as moral responsibility, even within the Christian community.
Enter…HOPE, in the form of Jesus Christ and in the work of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus used many parables relating to sowing seed and producing fruit.  In John 4:35-38, Jesus told His disciples to “…lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.  Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.  For in this case the saying is true, 'One sows and another reaps.'  I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor."
You see…Christians are called to sow the good seed of God’s word and His righteousness, in the heart of man.  Christ has made the way open to reconciliation with God by way of the cross.  Jesus Christ, God incarnate, is drawing (Barnes uses the words “will incline”) ALL of mankind to Himself.  So there is the work of the Holy Spirit prompting us and using the moral law written on the heart of each human.  God calls us to accurately teach truth and give witness to others of our relationship with God.  In doing so, we are sowing seeds for the Kingdom of God and His gospel! 
Charles Finney referred to this work as the outer and the inward witness of the law.  Finney spoke of it as an upper and lower millstone.  Perhaps you can visualize the old millstone - a huge piece of granite or other hard rock, which was chipped and shaped round, with a hole for the axle at the center.  And then ridges would be cut, so that the grain could be ground.  Now, the function of the millstone was to crush the grain. And so, the ridges on the lower millstone corresponded almost exactly to the ones on the upper millstone, the grain would be poured in the center and gradually worked its way to the outside, while being crushed.  And so Finney said: When God made man; he put within him a lower millstone. This lower millstone we call “conscience”, or that knowledge with which we were endowed by the creative act of God.  As Paris Reidhead put it…”God, in other words, wrote the Law upon the fleshly tables of the heart.”  When we accurately handle truth and present it to others, the upper and lower millstones are working to bring about awakening and conviction in the heart of the sinner.
So, Christian…be a good farmer and continue sowing seeds for the Kingdom.  Be encouraged that the work is not all yours, but together with God…work together to promote His Gospel and His Kingdom.  Written by Keith A. Dunlap


Mark 4:26-28: And He (Jesus) was saying, "The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows — how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.”


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE

In a roundabout way, I will address four questions.
 
1. Does human life have unique value?

2. Why does human life have unique value?

3. Does it make any difference whether there is or isn’t a basis for such value?
 
The answer to such questions is largely ideological. I think it’s safe to say that most people, if they actually know what they believe, do not know why they believe what they believe. We are bombarded, more than ever, in our highly media active society, with fragments of thoughts associated with a much larger worldview. Darwinian (also secular and cosmic forms of humanism) thinking has risen tremendously in its subtle, if not overt, influence. Along with Marxist thinking, this ideology is blatantly “pushed” in many institutions of higher learning (if not lower learning). In its “trickledown effect,” it has saturated the minds of most people. I would suggest that such thinking lies behind the willingness of a society to embrace the legalized practice of abortion and grow to accept and defend it as reasonable behavior.
 
I want to show the logical connection between the presuppositions of a Darwinian ideology (more properly, pre-biological, macroevolution) and the presuppositions of a Biblical ideology. A system of thought is to be analyzed by the consistent adherence to its belief, not its inconsistent departures. Though consistency with one’s ideology is preferred, both ideologies can and will have people who offer inconsistent, illogical representations of their view and its application to practical life. This is true regarding the issue of the Sanctity of Human Life. In both views referred to above, inconsistency might exist at the level of the belief system itself or in the practical application of one’s stated position. In other words, you will have those who claim to be Christians who violate Biblical principle on the practical level and proponents of a Darwinian view who encourage a Biblical morality. Both are inconsistent.
 
The Biblical Worldview

The Biblical Worldview states that human beings have been created in the image of God (Ge.1:26-27). The threefold presupposition here is 1) there is an Intelligent, Personal, Creator, 2) man is created by the Intelligent, Personal Creator and 3) man is created in the image of the Intelligent, Personal Creator. This threefold presupposition lays the foundation for understanding the Sanctity of Human Life. Human beings and all the basic processes and elements of human existence are the product of thoughtful, purposeful creation. Someone created us for a reason.
 
Further, the God who created us has communicated valuable information about right and wrong, good and bad. Stated in the 10 Commandments is, “You shall not murder” (Ex.20:13 and Dt.5:17). As with any large, complex document, quoting one verse or sentence cannot provide all the insight needed to form a well-rounded view. Consequently, when we read, “Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” from Gen 9:6, two more important ideas surface. To say the least, this 1) distinguishes “murder” from other possible forms of killing[1] and 2) clarifies the reason murder is wrong and why we should respect human life; namely, man is created in the image of God. This further verifies that the Sanctity of Human Life is founded in the fact that God created us and He created us in His image. This then becomes the basis to revere, honor and respect all human life. One who professes to be a Biblically based Christian will seek to make consistent application of these basic Biblical presuppositions.
 
What happens, when we ignore or reject these presuppositions and / or eliminate God from the equation, altogether?
 
Darwinian Worldview

According to any view that deals with the origin of man as a random, chance happening (such a Darwinism and pre-biological, macroevolution) there is no foundation for the Sanctity of Human Life. Without God creating man in His image, man is the product of the same impersonal, meaningless, random, chance processes that produced everything else that exists. This being the case, the only thing that gives man any more value than anything else in existence is a purely arbitrary assignment of value with no intrinsic basis. If such value is arbitrary, the removal of such value is, as well, arbitrary. One holding to such a view might say they believe in the Sanctity of Human Life, but it’s not because of or consistent with this view – it is contrary to and inconsistent with this view.
 
Our Society

Instead of being a nation guided by principle (of any sort), we have established pragmatism and utilitarianism as our foundational philosophy. According to pragmatism and utilitarianism, if it works or serves a purpose, it’s “good” or “right.” Moral principle has been abandoned, ignored or, at best, relegated to a subordinate role in guiding one’s decisions. If you look closely (and you don’t really have to look too closely if you’re even partially awake) you will see the effects of this on all levels of life. In this approach, whatever serves my purposes or gets me what I want is “good.” If truth works, fine – but if lying works, that’s fine too. It is upon this philosophy we justify the legalization of such brutal and inhuman practices as abortion. Situational ethics (relativism) dominate absolute truth and the downward spiral begins. The end justifies the means.
 
“It is not that these two world views (Biblical Theism and humanism) are different only in how they understand the nature of reality and existence. They also inevitably produce totally different results. The operative word here is inevitably. It is not just that they happen to bring forth different results, but it is absolutely inevitable that they will bring forth different results.”
 
“The basic problem of the Christians in this country in the last eighty years or so, in regard to society and in regard to government, is that they have seen things in bits and pieces instead of totals. (Christians have very gradually) become concerned over permissiveness, pornography, the public schools, the breakdown of the family and finally abortion.”
 
“But they have not seen this as a totality – each thing being a part, a symptom of a much larger problem. They have failed to see that all of this has come about due to a shift in worldview – that is, through a fundamental change in the overall way people think and view the world and life as a whole.” – Francis Schaeffer
 
So, what is the worldview of our culture? What ideology are we building upon? What are the actual presuppositions we embrace as a nation?
 
There’s work to be done and a significant portion of it is representing Biblical Christianity correctly so we understand the presuppositions and work them into our lives and the fabric of our culture and our nation. It is absolutely inevitable that one’s worldview, when consistently adhered to, will produce corresponding results.

[1] Social justice is the context in which we must deal with the complex challenge associated with taking human life.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

A PROPER SOCIETY

God has revealed His design for three primary social institutions within His creation.  God ordained social institutions to teach love, respect, discipline, work, and community.  Family, church, and state are the three most important of these.  Christians value the worth of each individual that comprises society over the social order; however, society plays a key role in history and in the individual’s relationship with God.  We recognize that man was created in the image of God, as a social and relational being (Genesis 2:20).  Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated “It is God’s will that there shall be labour, marriage, government, and church in the world; and it is His will that all these, each in its own way, shall be through Christ, directed toward Christ, and in Christ….This means that there can be no retreating from a ‘secular’ into a ‘spiritual’ sphere.”  All of society and all of life is inextricably bound with God and His plan for mankind, a plan with which we either cooperate or resist and oppose…and for which the consequences are enormous.
In Genesis 2:23-25, we see that God ordained marriage (one man to one woman) and family, which together are the foundation of society.  God intended for the family to nurture each individual and to provide an environment for mental and spiritual growth.  To a large extent, society is influenced by the condition of marriage and family within that society.  If the family is in despair, so is society.  Unfortunately, in our society, we see the tearing down of marriage and families…with divorce rates at 50% or greater, homosexual relations, unwanted children, abortion, and constant attacks in the media on Christian family principles.  Our society has been influenced by the Secular Humanist perspective of relativism, materialism, immorality, and anti-Christian philosophy.  This is in utter opposition to God’s design for the family as the fundamental social institution that promotes the advancement of His Kingdom.
God ordained the Church to serve specific functions.  The mission of the Church is to promote the Kingdom of God both locally and globally by leading people to repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and teaching them to live according to the principles of his Kingdom in every area of individual and social life.  By making society aware of God’s character and our sin and rebellion, the Church can effect great positive changes within society.  God will judge individuals and nations, but the Church can fulfill its role by turning a society toward God by calling sinners to repentance and teaching moral responsibility before a holy and righteous God.
Christians also recognize the state (civil government) as a God-ordained institution within society (Romans 13:1-7).  It’s important to note that God ordained the institution of the state, not necessarily the persons in positions of authority.  Government has God-ordained limits, not totalitarian powers.  The Bible calls for limited government, in order to uphold justice and the God-given unalienable rights of mankind.  Our founding fathers understood this with great wisdom, and implemented a sound system of government with three branches (legislative, executive, judicial) that provide checks and balances in order to avoid totalitarian power.  Jesus told us that we are to render to the state, what belongs to the state…and to God, what belongs to God.  Therefore, when any law of a government opposes the laws of God, we are obligated to God’s laws rather than man’s (Acts 4:19).
Each of these three social institutions has its role within society, as designed by God.  If each fulfills this role, without overstepping its God-given boundaries as revealed to us in the Bible…we would experience a proper society, free from corruption and despair.  Written by Keith A. Dunlap