Human Rights? Only If God Exists…

Just came across a discussion of human rights and belief in god. Nietzsche and others have said that if God is dead, any and all morality of love and human rights is baseless. Other philosophers have said that, if a moral argument is to be valid, it must be based on something outside the utility of the argument itself.

Who’s to say the weak should not be gobbled up by the strong? That’s the way it is in nature; that’s the reality of life…except in the minds of human beings. In fact, not all cultures even hold to the same beliefs concerning human rights.

What grounds do you have to argue that each individual has inherent rights? It can only come from a belief in a God of peace, justice, and love and that the world is fallen, broken, and needs to be redeemed.

SufferingAnimals

To Vote or Not To Vote

I sometimes get angry at people, but usually I can control myself and not let it show. However, last week I displayed it for all to see. We had our caucuses in Colorado. When the head of our party in our precinct said he would not vote for a candidate he didn’t like, I lost it. In a two party system, EVERYONE should vote, and it should be a party vote not a person vote! AT LEAST THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT.

On the way home, my wife reminded me that God is sovereign and in control. Nothing happens outside of His will. Then, at 2 a.m., that bit of wisdom woke me up. What does scripture say about voting? This missive will focus on two scriptures that struck me in the middle of the night.

In his dedication to Parliament at the front of “Ill Newes From New England,” John Clarke states the Lord Jesus has been given all power in Earth and has chosen to wield that power by a “two fold administration of power suitable to the two fold state or being of man.” Baptists at that time used Matthew 22:21 (Render unto Caesar…) to support this position. We live in a world that has both a “Caesar” side and a “spiritual” side. In a Republic like ours, voting is in the former. So, a Christian should be able to vote using good sense. In fact, God puts in place governments and our participation is a responsibility. Ah-ha! Support for my contention.

BUT, not so fast. Romans 14 came to mind. So, turned a few pages further on and read verses 2-14: One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him….One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God….13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. 14 I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

I submit that eating or observance of days can be extrapolated to voting.

  1. In a party-based system, every vote counts. A Republican or Democrat that refuses to vote because they don’t like the candidate has cast a vote FOR the opposing party.
  2. Someone who has made his/her vote a test of their faith should stand firm if they choose not to vote.
  3. However, such a person should not participate in the leadership of the political process and refuse to vote. (In my next post I will address the question, “Is he/she a Daniel or a Pharisee”?

As always, feedback is welcomed.

Trials of Lottie Moon

This month, as we focus on our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, we often overlook the trials Lottie faced in her life. From loss of wealth to giving up the man she loved, her life was full of heartache. Yet she changed our view of missions and impacted northern China in a way that is still felt today. I remember reading somewhere: Life is not about avoiding the storms but learning to dance in the rain.

lottine.jpg  (NT Photo-oconee-1299)

In our Sunday morning Bible Study yesterday, we were discussing Peter’s venture of walking on water outside the boat in the midst of a storm. Usually, we think of this in terms of our Lord’s chiding him for his lack of faith. However, as one lady observed, everyone goes through storms in his/her life. The question is, will we have the faith to get out of the boat at our savior’s call; or will we stay put and avoid what might be learned?

Lottie Moon said, “[No] trouble comes upon us unless it is needed…we ought to be just as thankful for sorrows as for joys.” We should listen to her words and not be afraid to get out of the boat.

See more at “The Courage of Your Faith.” The Courage of Your Faith consists of 12 short stories from our history and 12 Bible Studies on issues as relevant today as they were in the past. Each study includes supplemental information and a Power Point slide presentation.

Dead Ends

The roads of life–where do they take us? In 1793, slavery was becoming a pillar of southern economic success; many southern farmers chose this road. Gowan Pamphlet, the pastor of the black church of Williamsburg requested admission of his church into the all-white Dover Association of Baptist Churches; he picked a road that looked difficult to travel. Two roads–one of slavery and the other based on the equality of man before God. Neither ultimate destination was clearly seen at the time.

Sandy and I just returned from a trip along the Oregon/Mormon Trail researching the third book in my Fury series. I wanted to travel to stops mentioned in the story. One of these was Red Rock, Iowa. Our GPS took us about nine miles off the main road over narrower and narrower gravel and dirt roads on the way to Red Rock. All the time, I looked forward to arriving at the historic town. Finally, the GPS said we were almost there. Excitement rising, we made a turn…and stopped. Just ahead was a  sign that read DEAD END.

The road to Red Rock. WayToRedRock_Extract_Sm

How much like life! I thought. As with many of the southern cotton farmers who thought they were on the right path, all indications were that I was as well…until I saw that the end was really a dead one.

Where were we to go? How would we find Red Rock? A cloud of dust arising from the road back, gave me hope. I flagged down a truck that looked official, like its driver would be able to help. I spent a good 15 minutes talking with a new friend, Cleo. He cleared up the matter. Red Rock dam was built in the 1960’s and covered the town of Red Rock. Contemporary pictures of Red Rock, Iowa, would be the peaceful surface of Red Rock Reservoir.

Again, I thought, How much like life! There IS someone who knows the paths we travel—which ones lead to death and which to life.

See more at “The Courage of Your Faith,” this month featuring “The Slaves.” “The Courage of Your Faith” consists of 12 short stories from our history and 12 Bible Studies on issues as relevant today as they were in the past. Each study includes supplemental information and a Power Point slide presentation

Why must pastors sign government-issued marriage licenses?

Baptists like John Leland influenced the creation of our Constitution. Last week, I met a fellow author in Windsor. As we walked out of the library, I mentioned what our early Baptist forefather John Leland said, that the idea of Christian Nation “should be exploded forever.” “Oh, yes,” my friend answered. “My Christian history classes talked about him.”

Image_Leland_j

John Leland

Many of my friends disagree with Leland’s POV and they’re in good company. In 2011, Focus on the Family posted an article on their website. It discussed the spiritual aspect of civil marriages. This year they again affirmed this position that the civil marriage license should have spiritual significance.

Yet, in the reality of today’s culture, civil authorities and conservative religious institutions use the word “marriage” with two different definitions and applications. Until the church and the state decouple the use of this word, situations like we now have with Kim Davis, will occur more frequently. IMHO John Leland would want to see this unlinking. Some nations (e.g. Belgium, the Netherlands, and Turkey) require a civil ceremony separate from a religious one. So, in those countries, a couple that wants to be married before God, must have a separate ceremony.

Holy Emotions or Just My Feelings?

In the Carolinas, with General Baptists on the frontier and Regular Baptists on the coast, different styles of worship evolved, especially concerning emotion. This difference in Baptist worship is seen even today. Some congregations love formality. 1 Corinthians 14 says that all things should be done for edification; worship should have an order to it. Too much emotion may lead seekers to think we are mad. On the other hand, other congregations see that the same passage talks about exercising our gifts in songs, teaching, and exhortation. Even in our music, we can see this divide. Some of us love lifting hands to praise songs. Others of us crave the teachings found in the formality of our hymns. So how do we know if our emotions, in either setting, are truly “Holy Affections” or if they are just our own feelings?

If we are satisfied merely with our feelings, we risk making our Self the object of our emotions. We “feel” good. But did the experience point us to our Lord and Savior, to the God of our creation? Feelings by themselves are not evidence of holy emotions. But, if the object of those emotions is God, then we are, at least in one aspect, in the realm of holy emotions. Edwards says that holy emotions are based in the “transcendentally excellent and amiable nature of divine things as they are in themselves and not any conceived relation they bear to self or self-interest.” [p 165]

One Labor Day, at an outside Baptist worship service, someone recited Isaiah 53, personalizing the phrases. As she read the passage, I heard inside me, “…surely Tom’s griefs He Himself bore, and Tom’s sorrows He carried….” In a new way, I saw God and what He did on the cross for me. With my eyes and heart focused on God, I let go a loud “Amen!” An older friend sitting next to me looked my way, raised his eyebrows, and said, “Did I just hear an amen from you!?” Holy emotion…? I like to think so.

A Radical Rebirth

What happens when someone experiences a radical rebirth while attending a church that considers that rebirth too extreme? The month of June features “The Evangelists.” During the great awakening, this was a common situation. But it is also experienced in churches of most any denomination even today.

Most of us over thirty were raised believing in the American Dream, that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed and prosper through hard work, determination, and initiative. Where is God in that equation? Is material success really what should drive us? What happens when someone decides to sacrifice it all to serve the Lord? (See Radical by David Platt.)

A friend’s daughter is a case in point. She and her husband both had six figure incomes and were moving up in their respective professions. But when God convinced them he had something else planned for them, they sold everything, gave up their jobs, and moved to South America to start a school and reach people for Jesus. How do you think the world saw that decision? What would people in your church think if someone, sitting next to them in the pew, took that path? Seeking our own American Dream, how many of us would even consider the possibility that God may be calling us to something similar?

#greatawakening #Baptists #baptisthistory #ThomasMacy

Is SIN a “soft” word?

Have you ever noticed how the extensive use of a word will minimize the significance of the underlying principle? Could “SIN” be such a word?

SinOrEvil

A couple Sundays ago, we had an interesting Bible Study discussing the nature of evil and God’s sovereignty. As the discussion progressed, one of the members sat bolt upright, leaned forward, and said, “I never thought of it like this before…When I say I daily must deal with sin in my life, what I am really saying is that I must deal with evil in my life. That makes it a whole lot more significant. We all have sin in our lives; we say it in church, at home, and in our Bible studies. But, what it really means is that there is evil in my life; and I have a tendency toward EVIL!”

Has our use of the word “SIN” softened its meaning? “SIN” is something we should hate as much as God does. Do we?

“Render unto Caesar…” What do you think?

Early Baptists believed Matthew 22:21 was our Lord’s indication that there is a two-fold form of government, civil and spiritual, and that these should be separate. How we define separation impacts how we view our society today. What do you think is meant by separation of church and state?

Most folks today will say the term “separation of church and state” comes from the phrase wall of separation appearing in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. However, the idea was not new. Our Baptist heritage is replete with proponents of both a “civil and spiritual state.”

In 1644, Roger Williams used the term wall of separation. [“Mr. Cotton’s Letter Lately Printed, Examined and Answered,” The Complete Writings of Roger Williams (New York: Russell & Russell Inc. 1963), Vol. 1, 108]

Thomas Helwys believed government exists for the benefit of all citizens be they “heretics, Jews, Turks, or what-so-ever.” [A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity, Classics of Religious Liberty 1 (by Richard Groves), Copyright, 1998, Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, USA.] This could not be true if one religious belief became THE established faith of the land.

John Leland, leader of Virginia Baptists following the Revolutionary War, discusses the idea of a “national church” in a sub-section titled “The Reasons of Their [Baptists] Dissent.” In that book, he writes, “The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever…Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.” [“The Virginia Chronicle,” The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland, G. W. Wood, 29 Gold Street, New York, 1845, p 117-118]

In his dedication to Parliament, John Clarke states the Lord Jesus has been given all power in Earth and has chosen to wield that power by a “two fold administration of power suitable to the two fold state or being of man.” [Ill Newes From New England, H. Hills, 1652, p 4-5]

What do you think is meant by separation of church and state? I’d be interested in your thoughts.