Why Charles Hodge Supported Christian Education, And Why You Should Too!

TCharlesHodge01he nineteenth century Old School Presbyterian theologian Charles Hodge wrote in his Systematic Theology, “…it is a fact that unless children are brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they, and the society which they constitute or control, will go to destruction. Consequently, when a state resolves that religious instruction shall be banished from the schools and other literary institutions, it virtually resolves on self-destruction.”

Unfortunately, the twentieth century saw the creation in the United States of precisely the system of public education that Hodge warned against, a system that was self-consciously devoid of Christian religious instruction, and eventually the architects of this new system even succeeded in actually banning the most basic of Christian devotions, namely morning prayers, from the school grounds. This represented a profound change in the way that American children were educated. Prior to the twentieth century, the Bible and the orthodox Christian theology that it contained, had not merely been subjects to be studied as part of a larger curriculum, but the central unifying factor that shaped the curriculum and made it coherent. As they studied all of their subjects children were constantly exposed to the teaching of the bible from the earliest age – for instance the children who learned their alphabet from the New England Primer of the eighteenth century learned their letters by reciting sentences such as,


In ADAM’S Fall
We sinned all.


Heaven to find;
The Bible Mind.


Christ crucify’d
For sinners dy’d.

Children thus educated, whether or not they consciously realized it, were growing up with a Reformed Christian worldview. And the worldview that those children imbibed in school shaped the America that those children eventually helped to build, making it one of the most free and productive nations in the history of the world. It is not an overstatement to say that it was precisely because parents with a self-consciously Christian faith and world and life view wished to pass on the values that had shaped and molded them that American education was such a success, producing a population that was far more literate and omnicompetent than their European counterparts.

However, by the end of the twentieth century, other worldviews, and in particular that of Marxist Socialism, were vying for a place in the American educational system, and men like John Dewey (who is widely held to be “the father of modern education”) who had embraced the European Progressive Socialist worldview, were determined to make sure that even as public education was becoming universal and state supported that the Christian worldview was eradicated from it and that public education was restructured along self-consciously Socialist lines. These modern materialistic educational methods would no longer produce thinkers who had been shaped in the crucible of the biblical worldview, but an endless stream of worker drones for the modern Socialist utopian state that Dewey and his cohorts dreamed of building. The political leaders and bureaucrats who would direct this state did not want polymaths who were able to think deeply and who were not afraid to dissent, they wanted workers trained to produce products and taxable income who would uncritically accept the “facts” they were taught in school and who would therefore also follow the herd, live an unexamined life, and be content with the bread and circuses style of fare dispensed by the state. Dewey himself wrote regarding this objective, “You can’t make socialists out of individualists. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society, which is coming, where everyone is interdependent.”

Perhaps the saddest part of these educational changes has been the way that Christian parents have for decades uncritically accepted the idea that the education of their children should be conducted in a system entirely denuded of the Christian worldview. They have sent out their children to receive precisely the kind of training (I would argue that training or indoctrination more accurately describe what goes on in public schools than education) and then have wondered why they received back children who gobble up and then recite the propaganda they are supposed to and have an unimaginative and flatly materialistic worldview. It is no surprise therefore that in the twenty first century, fully 100 years after the initial implementation of Socialist educational objectives, that we have a system of education more likely to produce Kardashians than Tolkiens.

Unfortunately, American Christians either did not realize or have forgotten that it is impossible to eliminate the Christian religion from education without also inevitably eliminating the Christian religion from our children’s worldview and creating within them a worldview that is actually opposed to Christianity. As Charles Hodge pointed out in his systematic theology:

“The banishment of religious influence from our schools is impossible. If a man is not religious, he is irreligious; if he is not a believer, he is an unbeliever. This is as true of organizations and institutions, as it is of individuals. Byron uttered a profound truth when he put into the mouth of Satan the words “He that does not bow to God, has bowed to me.” If you banish light, you are in darkness. If you banish Christianity from the schools, you thereby render them infidel. If a child is brought up in ignorance of God, he becomes an atheist. If never taught the moral law, his moral nature is as undeveloped as that of a pagan. This controversy, therefore, is a controversy between Christianity and infidelity; between light and darkness; between Christ and Belial.”

Therefore if we are ever to have any hope of building a new generation of Christian children who have a Christian worldview and who can preserve the Christian worldview in the midst of a culture that is becoming increasingly opposed to it, then we must recover what Dorothy Sayers has rightly called, The Lost Tools of Learning.We must return to the older Bibliocentric methods of teaching, and a system that teaches children to think for themselves within the context of a robustly Christian worldview. My hope therefore is that America’s Christians will heed the educational advice of Charles Hodge and seek to educate their children utilizing explicitly Christian schools and homeschooling before it is too late and we find ourselves guilty of the very self-destruction that he warned us about.

Posted in Children, Christian Education, Liberalism | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Thought for the Fourth of July

SweetCakesFinalOrder-1250x650One of the great purposes of constitutions in Republics and Democracies is to protect the rights of minorities. The U.S. Constitution has done an admirable job of doing that. For over 200 years, in a world filled with ethnic cleansing, genocide, secret police, gulags, torture, book burning, and summary executions the U.S. has remained as a sanctuary for those who would otherwise be persecuted and suffer for their differences from ethnic, religious, and political majorities.
A great example of that freedom in action is seen in the history of the Amish and the Mennonites, who because of their religious beliefs and practices, were ruthlessly persecuted in Europe and hunted down and martyred wherever they were, and yet here in the USA they found an abiding refuge. Although they maintained a strict separation from the world, did not pay taxes, did not vote or hold office, did not fight in defense of the nation, did not participate in the school system and did not change with the times, they were not persecuted or expunged. Their way of life was protected by the first amendment which protected them by not, “impeding [their] free exercise of religion.”
While Christianity remains the majority religion in the USA at around 70%, Bible-believing and practicing Christians [or what many would call fundamentalist Christians] are now a political and demographic minority in the USA, and surveys and polls tell us they are shrinking minority. Their beliefs and practices are regarded with increasing abhorrence by those outside of their circles, and they are coming to be regarded as every bit as socially undesirable as the Amish were in Europe.
The question is, will the same constitutional protections that were afforded to the Amish (and other non-majority religions, such as the Hassidim, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.) be afforded to them, or will those Constitutional protections be regarded as antiquated and perhaps “dangerous” by the majority? Will the US simply become another place where religious minorities are persecuted, expunged or expelled? Certainly recent cases, like that of the Kleins, do not bode well for the future, but I’d like to hope that the US, having looked into that abyss, will turn back from it before it is too late.
Posted in Current Events, Ethics, History, Homosexual Marriage, Homosexuality, Liberalism, Persecution, Politics and The Civil Magistate, Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

7 Reasons Christians Should STAY On Facebook

FacebookI read a lot of messages encouraging people to leave Facebook (and other social networks) these days and in partial answer to those calls, I wanted to outline 7 Reasons I believe Christians should STAY on Facebook. I hope this may also encourage you to see ways in which Facebook can be used for Kingdom purposes (and not just Candy Crush Saga) :

1) FELLOWSHIP: Christian fellowship is usually limited to specific settings and relatively small gatherings, and the ability of Christians to meet and fellowship with other Christians outside of their area can usually only occur during conferences and mission trips. But Facebook creates a setting in which fellowship can occur at any time amongst Christians from around the world. It also affords an opportunity to keep in touch with brothers and sisters in Christ who have moved away that would only otherwise occur very intermittently. While it can’t replace the actual assembling together of the saints that occurs in corporate worship (Heb. 10:25), and should never be thought of as a replacement for bible studies or prayer meetings, when rightly used Facebook can provide a healthy supplement to that fellowship and is especially important to believers who are separated from their brothers and sisters in Christ by great distances.

2) ENCOURAGEMENT: The media, and that includes Christian media, tends to focus on negative stories, but Facebook provides a setting where Christians can encourage one another with good reports, lift up the disheartened and do what they can “to stir up love and good works” in their fellow believers (Heb. 10:24). There have been many occasions when I have received words that have encouraged me to press on in difficult times or which have lifted my spirits in a time of sorrow or trial. As Proverbs 10:23 puts it, “a word spoken in due season, how good it is!”

3) REJOICING AND GRIEVING: Paul counseled the Roman Christians to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) There are so many occasions for rejoicing and grieving with fellow Christians that might be lost if you did not hear about them via Facebook. One of my great joys is being able to hear good news from friends who are far away and be able to share in their joy, or to be able to sympathize with them when they are afflicted.

4) PRAYER: James encourages the saints to “pray for one another” (James 5:16) Facebook provides a wonderful platform for both speedily sending and receiving prayer requests, especially for urgent requests. It also provides us an opportunity to pray with and for saints from other countries and congregations whom we would never know apart from Facebook. It’s been my privilege to see many of these Facebook prayer requests wonderfully blessed by the Lord over the years. 

5) ACCOUNTABILITY: Facebook is often a place where people publicly share things they probably wouldn’t share in a church setting. I know of many instances in which pastors and elders have learned of serious problems in their congregation via the medium of Facebook that might otherwise never have come to their attention, and have been enabled to deal with them pastorally because of this medium. I know of at least one marriage that was saved, and one suicide attempt that was averted in this way.

6) EDIFICATION: We are often grieved when social media becomes the setting for angry or obscene exchanges, but for Christians there are wonderful opportunities to share articles, scripture, anecdotes, stories, and videos that are intended to teach, strengthen, and build up the people who read, watch, or listen to them. When wisely used, Facebook can massively extend the reach of what would otherwise be a small and very local fellowship. When using Facebook we would all do well to heed Paul’s exhortation to, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Eph. 4:29)

7) EVANGELISM: In the parable of the wedding feast the King (God) tells his servants,  “’The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’” (Matthew 22:8-9) While it is increasingly uncommon to see people speaking or gathering on the streets, social networks have become the highways and gathering places of our age, and good places for evangelism. If we were to spend a day knocking on doors or speaking to people about the gospel we might reach a score of people at best, but one gospel-centered post on a social network can easily reach hundreds if not thousands of people. Never before in history has it been possible to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:18) from your own house or office, and it strikes me as wrongheaded to be turning away from such a wonderful opportunity just when it has been given to us.

Posted in Encouragement, Evangelism and Church Growth, Friendship, Pastoral Theology, Prayer, Social Networking | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Was Eric Liddell a Legalist?

Chariots of Fire is undoubtedly one of my favorite movies. It tells the story of two runners who competed in the 19liddell-chariots-daughter24 Paris Olympics. One of those runners was a man by the name of Eric Liddell, a man dubbed the “Flying Scotsman” because of his nationality and astounding speed. But in addition to being a superlative runner and all around athlete, Eric Liddell was a man of deep Christian convictions. The son of missionaries, born in China, Eric’s vision was always to return to the mission field to do the essential work of spreading the gospel. But Eric also felt that God had given him a great gift in his athletic abilities and he was determined to put these gifts to good use. To that end he trained hard for the Olympics in the event in which he had already set a record in Britain – the 100-meter dash. But when he arrived in Paris, he found to his dismay that the race he had been preparing to compete in, the 100-meter dash had been set for Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. Eric quietly but firmly informed his country and his teammates that he would not run on Sunday and thus break the Sabbath.

His stand brought outrage throughout Britain. His countrymen widely believed that by refusing to run he was betraying his country and eliminating their best chance to win the Gold medal in this event. Eric tenaciously weathered the condemnation of both the press and his countrymen, and stuck to his guns. Even when the Prince of Wales, his earthly sovereign, appealed to him to run for king and country he pointed out that if serving king and country meant disobeying God, he could not do so. The Sunday of the race, in keeping with his convictions Eric was not on the track, he was in Church and not surprisingly it was the Americans and not the British who took the medal in the 100-meter dash.

A few days later, Eric competed in the 400-meter dash, a race he had not prepared for, and which was 4 times the distance of his best event. Just prior to the race, an America runner by the name of Charlie Paddock handed Eric a scrap of paper. On it he had written a paraphrase of 1 Sam. 2:30, it read “The Good Book says ‘He who honors me, I will honor’.” Clutching that piece of paper, Eric Liddell went on to win the 400 meter dash, and set a new world record in the process.

So, was Eric Liddell what Christians today would call a legalist? Someone similar in convictions to the Pharisees who persecuted Christ and misused the law of God? In order to find the answer to that question, let’s take a close look at the first 8 verses of Matthew chapter 12.

1At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them.
2When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
3He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?
4He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread–which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.
5Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?
6I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.
7If you had known what these words mean, `I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.
8For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

In the first verse of Chapter 12 we see Christ and his disciples passing through the grain fields. The Season was probably the late spring just prior to the harvest when the grain was ripe. The disciples were hungry, and because they had no food as they passed through the long rows of grain they broke off a few heads and after rubbing the grain from the husk, they ate it. In doing so, they were not stealing from the owner of the field. Deuteronomy 23:25 had made provision for the poor saying “If you enter your neighbor’s grain field, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain.” Any of you who have ever seen a grain field will know that allowing the poor to break off a few heads of grain is not going to lead to any monetary loss. The disciples were poor and hungry, and although Christ could have used his miraculous powers to provide food for his disciples he did not do so. As Spurgeon points out, Christ was not going to bribe anyone to become his disciple, to serve Christ was not then, nor has it ever been an easy thing.

But it was not the fact that the disciples were taking from the standing grain that offended the Pharisees, it was the day on which they were doing it. The Pharisees considered what the disciples were doing to be unlawful on the Sabbath. This was because the Pharisees had developed a precise code of regulations that set out no less than 39 different kinds of “work” that they felt constituted a violation of the Sabbath. These restrictions were so detailed that they governed exactly how much a man might put in his pocket before he broke the Sabbath by carrying a burden. The intent of the Pharisaic restrictions was to create a “hedge” around the Sabbath so that men would be dissuaded from breaking it. These restrictions made the disciples picking of grain “reaping”, and the rubbing of the grain from the husk “threshing”. Thus in their eyes the disciples were breaking the Sabbath by working.

But the rank hypocrisy of the Pharisees should be readily apparent. How were these super-pious servants of God observing the Sabbath? By keeping a watch over Christ and His Apostles to see if they might find something to accuse Him with! And once they had observed a violation of their rules, they wasted no time in laying the crimes of the disciples at the feet of their teacher.
How then does Christ answer the accusations of the Pharisees? Does Jesus tell the Pharisees that the observance of the Sabbath day has been done away with, and thus His disciples are no longer constrained to abide by it? No. Christ does not do that here or anywhere else in the gospels. Instead our Lord proves from the Scriptures that his disciples were not violating the Sabbath by their actions, but only the false restrictions of the Pharisees regarding it.

With their accretions and additions the Pharisees had taken a day that was intended to be a blessing to men and had made it into a burden. The Disciples had picked grain because they were hungry and had nothing to eat, and Jesus immediately draws a parallel between their actions and those of David when he and his men were in similar straits. He asks the Pharisees in Matthew 12:3 if they have read what David and his men did when they too were hungry. They entered into the Temple and ate the shew bread which was not normally lawful for them to do as only the Priests could eat this bread after a new set of loaves had been set out. What Christ is emphasizing with this example is that God never intended His law to be used as excuse for not doing deeds of necessity or mercy. Had David and his men eaten the consecrated bread out of bravado, or levity, or simply to thumb their noses at God, that would have been a grave sin, but that was not their intention. David and his men had an urgent need, and the law of God was never intended to be construed as compelling men to starve. In the same way, the Sabbath should not be construed as requiring that the disciples go hungry and become faint in order to abide by the made-up rules of the Pharisees. The Pharisees did not stop to consider, and it is doubtful whether they cared, how well an extremely hungry man could concentrate on keeping the Sabbath “Holy Unto the Lord.”

But the observance of minutia and the neglect of that which is truly important has always been the emphasis of religious hypocrites. The Pharisees were constantly guilty of observing the tiniest portions of the law in great detail, while ignoring that which the Lord truly wanted. This was the point Christ was making when he quoted a verse from Malachi to them, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” No law or commandment of God is to be so twisted that it makes us neglect our clear duties of charity and necessity. We are never to interpret our duties to God expressed in the first table of the Ten Commandments in such a way that we end up breaking our duties to man expressed in the second table. The fourth commandment which tells us to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” is never to be interpreted in such a way that we are made unkind and unmerciful to our neighbors. The Pharisees and religious hypocrites were constantly guilty of perverting the law of God in this fashion, for instance, by declaring that their property was dedicated to God they found an excuse for not providing for their parents and by not wishing to expose themselves to the possibility of becoming ceremonially unclean by touching a dead man, the Levite and the Priest were able to pass by on the other side road and ignore their duty to the man who had been beaten and left for dead by robbers in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).

Now if the problems of the Pharisees were the problems of the Christian community today, then the rest of this essay would be markedly different. I would go on to emphasize the foolishness of placing man-made rules over our God-given duties, or of interpreting the law of God in such a way that by keeping the letter of the law we end up violating the spirit of it. But, by and large, our problems with the Sabbath are not those of the Pharisees, we have not forgotten that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Instead we are generally guilty of dismissing the importance of the Lord’s day altogether! Thousands of Christians have come to the conclusion that the fourth commandment has been abrogated – done away with entirely – when nothing that we read in the New Testament justifies that conclusion. Certainly Christ did not tear the fourth commandment out of the Decalogue and announce that we now only have nine commandments to abide by.

Jesus did not abolish the law of the weekly Sabbath; he purified it from man-made additions and sinful interpretations. Christ put the Sabbath where it belonged – subordinate to His Lordship.

There are some who try to eliminate the Sabbath by saying that it was specifically Jewish, and merely part of the Ceremonial law, consequently, they maintain that the Sabbath passed away when the ceremonial law was fulfilled by Christ. But the Sabbath is a CREATION ordinance; God instituted it long before the ceremonial laws came into existence. To quote John Murray: “The sequence for man of six days of labour and one day of rest is patterned after the sequence that God followed in the grand scheme of His creative work.” The fact that this scheme is part of the Moral law and not the Ceremonial law is further reinforced by the fact that it was included by God in the Ten Commandments. God is not the author of confusion, he did not include one Ceremonial law destined to pass away in the midst of a group of moral laws that never expire.

The Ceremonial and Judicial laws that passed away are those which have reached fruition. They were shadows that were fulfilled when the reality they pointed to – Jesus Christ – appeared, or when the state for whose governance they were intended – Israel – passed away. They were akin to the photographs of families and loved ones that we take with us when we are far away from them. We may contemplate or even lovingly hold these images, but when the reality of those loved ones is present we no longer retire to our rooms to contemplate the images. Calvin compared these ceremonial laws to candles – dim lights – while Christ is like the Sun. A man does not light a candle at midday.

The pattern of one day in six set apart to the Lord has not expired, however. The writer of Hebrews tells us “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” Please turn with me to (Hebrews 4:9-11.) Here and elsewhere Hebrews teaches us that the weekly Sabbath points to the final rest anticipated by God at Creation, and secured by the redemptive work of Christ. This final or eschatological rest-order will not be finally entered into by the people of God until Christ’s return.

We’ve seen in the example of the Pharisees, how the Sabbath can be abused under the pretense of sanctifying it. But how then should Christians keep the Lord’s Day holy? To begin with, we should note well that Christ proves that certain types of work are permissible on the Sabbath:

First, we have works of piety – those works that must be done in order for God to be worshipped.

Christ tells us in verse 5 of Matthew 12 that the priests who worked in the Temple on the Sabbath day were not breaking the Sabbath. In the same way those involved in the ministry are not guilty of violating the Sabbath even though they work on the Sabbath and receive payment for doing so.

Secondly, we have works of necessity – those works that cannot be delayed without harm to life or property, this would include things like rescuing a sheep from a pit, feeding livestock, putting out a fire, stopping a crime, or even defending a nation.

Thirdly, we have works of Mercy – these are acts of mercy or kindness to a person who is sick, distressed, hungry or in need. They would include ministering to someone who was injured, or feeding someone who was hungry, or even consoling those who mourn.

Christians are never to rest from doing GOOD. We should never use the fourth commandment as an excuse for neglecting our Christian duties and in this we are given the supreme example of Christ. God’s Sabbath rest began when creation was finished, but man’s sin and misery required that this Sabbath be interrupted in order to redeem man from this condition. Christ then performed that awesome work of redemption – which was the ultimate deed of necessity and mercy – during the Sabbath rest of God.

But given that the basic meaning of the word Sabbath is cessation it is clear that there are some things that Christians should cease from doing on the Sabbath. What then should we cease from doing on the Sabbath? Chapter 21 of the Westminster Confession answers this question by summarizing the teaching of scripture on the subject:

VIII. This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

On the Lord’s Day we cease from performing our work, but we do not merely cease from performing our work so that we might continue our favorite recreations unencumbered by employment. It means we rest from all the things that engross us during the other days of the week whether it is employment OR recreation. We do not set these enjoyments aside because they are not proper to the Christian life, we set them aside because the Sabbath is to be devoted to exclusively to the worship of God, the reading of God’s word, and for other works of piety, necessity, and mercy.

Please do not confuse works of necessity with works of convenience. It is a work of necessity for a Doctor to attend to a patient on Sunday, or for a fire fighter to put out a fire, or for a policeman to respond to an emergency call. It is not a work of necessity to work on Sunday because otherwise you won’t get a promotion, or receive a raise, or even if your job requires that you work on Sunday simply because all the other stores are open on Sunday. Unless the work itself is a necessity, then working on that day is not a deed of necessity. The vast majority of stores and business that stay open on Sunday are flagrantly violating the Sabbath, if Christians choose to work for them on the Lord’s day, then they join them in breaking the Sabbath, and for this there is simply no excuse.

Some people consider this to be an unfair imposition on their time, but consider well: God, your Creator, your Sustainer, and — if you have faith in Christ — your Merciful Redeemer gives you 144 hours each week to do with as you will. He only commands that 1/7th of your week be devoted exclusively to Him. What man can honestly say that 1/7th is too much to ask, especially when we are the ones who benefit so greatly from observing a Sabbath rest? It is not God who will grow in grace, truth, and peace and rest in mind and body on the Sabbath, but His worshipers! If, on the other hand, you truly consider playing sports or doing business to be of greater importance than honoring God, then consider what or who it is you really serve.

So let us now turn our attention once again to Eric Liddell, how shall we answer the question that was originally posed? Was Liddell just a legalist, some sort of modern-day Pharisee? The Bible’s answer is a resounding NO.

Even though it was the Olympics, the pinnacle of human athletic achievement, Eric Liddell understood that running that race was less important than running THE RACE (Hebrews 12:1, 1 Cor. 9:24). He understood that obeying the Lord of his nation must come second if it meant disobeying the Lord of all nations. Eric Liddell described the Christian life as, “complete surrender.” In fact, years later, as Eric Liddell lay dying in a Japanese concentration camp in China, those were his last words to his nurse, “It’s complete surrender.” Eric Liddell understood that complete surrender to Christ is total victory.

Does complete surrender describe your Christian walk? Have you surrendered your Sunday to the Lord of the Sabbath, or are you still holding on to it? If so, I beg you to let it go. You will find that in giving it up to him, you receive back a day made infinitely more precious, and of far greater value to you than it ever had when it was yours. And if you haven’t yet seen Chariots of Fire, it’s high time you did!

Posted in Old School Presbyterian Churches, Sports, The Lord's Day, The Means of Grace, The Sabbath, Worship | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Counting the Cost Poll: Would You Be Willing to Forsake All That You Have?

A question for Christian friends who are currently opposed to homosexual marriage:

If the cost of remaining opposed to homosexual marriage becomes losing your ability to work for the government* or company you work for, lose your tax exempt status, and lose your ability to adopt or foster children, will you change your views about homosexual marriage or accept the consequences?

* keep in mind that members of the military, firefighters, public school teachers, and policemen are also government employees

Posted in Homosexual Marriage, Homosexuality, Persecution, Politics and The Civil Magistate, Polls, Theological Declension | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Counting the Cost For Christians of the Nationwide Legalization of Homosexual Marriage

Dr. Al Mohler, the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written an article that all Christians who are religiously opposed to same firedsex marriage need to read.  But before I discuss some of the issues Dr. Mohler raises, I need first to address anyone reading this who might be a supporter of same sex marriage; The issue here is no longer opposition to same sex marriage. That battle against the legal imposition of the Gay Agenda and nationwide Homosexual marriage  is, without a miraculous intervention or a successful rebellion, irretrievably lost and most sensible Christians understand that. Regardless of how we feel about it, we accept that The Supreme Court of the United States of America (SCOTUS) will soon rule, by at least a 5-4 majority, to make homosexual marriage a civil right nationwide. What Christians are preparing for are the profound consequences of that ruling for our faith, life, and practice. We were initially told that allowing homosexual marriage would not affect us, that we weren’t being asked to be involved, and that we could go on believing as we always had. Now subsequent developments and even constitutional lawyers (on both sides of the issue) are saying that won’t be the case. Some of the effects will include:

1) Tax Exempt Status: Religious institutions such as schools, universities, seminaries, and even potentially churches that don’t recognize homosexual marriages or make accommodation for them in hiring, benefits, housing, etc. will likely lose their tax-exempt, non-profit status. This would bankrupt most of them.

2) Adoption and Fostering: All agencies that place children in families will be required to be willing to place children in homosexual marriages and Christian organizations that refuse to do so will have to close down. This is already the case in Europe and US states like Massachusetts. Also, it is highly likely that as is the case in the UK, families opposed to homosexuality will not be allowed to foster or adopt.

3) Employment – Public: Government employees and employees of companies and institutions that receive Federal funds simply cannot be functionally opposed to a civil right guaranteed by the Supreme Court. After the SCOTUS rules, same sex marriages will be the equivalent of interracial marriages, and no government employee can refuse to recognize them. This will have profound consequences for all employees, including government chaplains. As an example, the Fire Chief of Atlanta was fired simply on the basis of his Christian beliefs about homosexuality even though he was found never to have discriminated on that basis. Those who do actually discriminate will be gone in a heartbeat, and the courts will agree with those who fired them.

4) Employment – Private: Most private employers will be legally required to treat homosexual marriages in exactly the same way they treat heterosexual ones, this includes hiring, benefits, insurance, housing, etc. Additionally, employees who remain opposed to homosexual marriage will be subject to not being hired because of their views or being fired without much legal recourse at all. We are already seeing high profile cases of beliefs-based firings in the private sector such as the forced resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, and the lightning fast firing of Fox Sports commentator Craig James.

In other words, the legal message being sent is, “Sure, you Christians can hold on to your “bigoted” views of homosexual marriage, but you can’t also have your own schools, adopt children, or work.”

Given that situation, most Christians are going change their religious views at lightning speed, and denominations are going to be scrambling for theological excuses to change theirs about as quickly as the Mormons suddenly discovered that polygamy wasn’t an article of their faith in 1890 when the US government explained Utah couldn’t be a state and allow polygamy (ironically, the Mormons just needed to weather the storm and wait a century or so for America to catch up to them!) It’s no understatement to say that Christians who choose NOT to change their beliefs about homosexual marriage are going to find themselves quickly isolated and consigned to the same kind of cultural ghetto historically reserved for the most extreme kinds of racists. Many will also be appalled at how quickly the previously steadfast views of their Christian denominations and friends change in the wake of these legal challenges. As has already happened, many Christians who do change their views to conform to the new cultural norms will also end up attacking their former friends who refuse to change.

Given all of this, it is well past time that American Christians sat down and began seriously counting the cost of discipleship in the present age (Luke 14:28) we may well find out that it’s much more expensive than we were initially led to believe.

Posted in Homosexual Marriage, Homosexuality, Marriage, Persecution, Politics and The Civil Magistate, Theological Declension | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Why Do Pastors Get Depressed?

The faithful preacher lives a life filled with melancholy – one cannot read the writings of Jeremiah or Paul, or the biographies of men like Luther and Calvin and Edwards and not recognize that they were often struggling with Depression.

 We should not think this is odd or sinful, even Jesus had his times of sorrow and depression, for instance in the garden on the eve of his crucifixion he confessed to his disciples:

Matthew 26:38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” 

Now while no merely human preacher will have to endure anything like the struggle that Christ did in the garden, all pastors are called to take up their cross and follow CSpurgeongravehrist and endure the same kinds of sufferings. The great evangelist Charles Haddon Spurgeon confessed to his ministerial students that he knew, “by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means, being visited there-with at seasons by no means few or far between” and went on to explain to them why that must be the case:

Our work, when earnestly undertaken, lays us open to attacks in the direction of depression. Who can bear the weight of souls without sometimes sinking to the dust? Passionate longings after men’s conversion, if not fully satisfied (and when are they?), consume the soul with anxiety and disappointment. To see the hopeful turn aside, the godly grow cold, professors abusing their privileges, and sinners waxing more bold in sin—are not these sights enough to crush us to the earth? The kingdom comes not as we would, the reverend name is not hallowed as we desire, and for this we must weep. How can we be otherwise than sorrowful, while men believe not our report, and the divine arm is not revealed? All mental work tends to weary and to depress, for much study is a weariness of the flesh; but ours is more than mental work—it is heart work, the labour of our inmost soul. How often, on Lord’s-day evenings, do we feel as if life were completely washed out of us! After pouring out our souls over our congregations, we feel like empty earthen pitchers which a child might break. … It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed; we are to spend and to be spent, not to lay ourselves up in lavender, and nurse our flesh. Such soul-travail as that of a faithful minister will bring on occasional seasons of exhaustion, when heart and flesh will fail. Moses’ hands grew heavy in intercession, and Paul cried out, “Who is sufficient for these things?”” [Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Ministers Fainting Fits” in Lectures to My Students]

Posted in Pastoral Theology | Tagged , , | 3 Comments