Thursday, July 2, 2015

Accountability of Government

One key thing about good government is it should be accountable. The idea that any individual or group of individuals should have absolute and unquestioned power is very dangerous. Human beings are, with One notable exception, imperfect and need to be held accountable for their decisions. Also there is truth to the old saying of Lord Acton that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Where should this accountability come from. One place is from the other branches of government, hence the idea of separation of powers. But more importantly from the people.

But even this can be a problem. The will of the people can become a tyranny of the majority. But the majority is not always right. It is my clear impression that the majority of the people in this country once believed it was perfectly okay for people with a different color of skin to be expected to ride in the back of the bus. There needs to be some kind of check even on the will of the majority. The basic answer is there needs to be a rule of law. But where does this law come from? Is it merely the will of the majority. Is it whatever the society (which means who ultimately?) finds convenient?

There needs to be something beyond mere personal opinion to base this on. There needs to be an absolute morality. From the Christian viewpoint this must ultimately come for God. But wherever it comes from it must be above human whims and desires. C. S. Lewis wrote of what he called the tau. And he saw it as a common possession of all mankind. I am convinced it was a deposit originally given by God which was passed down and to a certain degree distorted by all people. There has been a tendency in modern times to emphasize the variations, which of course there are. And ignore that general similarities which are more obvious. Does this mean I deny Christianity has the correct moral position. No, but I while I believe Christianity has the correct moral position because it comes from God, but I do not believe it is a radically different moral position. What is radically different is God becoming a man to save us from our sin (Romans 5:6-8; Philippians 2:5-11; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Also there is God coming to dwell inside us to change us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29). Now there does need to be a correction of the distorted parts of the moral standard that was passed down. Also there is still need for a number of people involved in the accountability to avoid actions based of a distorted conscience. But without the standard there is nothing for the conscience to based on.  And we need a standard to genuinely hold government accountable.      

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Benefit of Variety

The Scriptural picture of the body of Christ is one of unit in diversity (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11-16). Now there are basic principles that Christians should agree on (Jude 3; Galatians 1:8,9; 1 John 4:1-3). But within those broad principles there is the idea that God wants different people with different gifts and different perspectives, to build each other up. But in the modern Evangelical church we have worked very hard to avoid this. In fact we seem to have divided into factions based on spiritual gifts and personality traits. We have teaching congregations, evangelistic congregations. fellowship -minded  congregations, serving congregations. We have emotional congregations, stoical congregations and intellectual congregations. And where these people should be all in one congregation tempering  one another, broadening each other's perspective, they separate from each other and carry their particular emphasis to extremes. I do not see an easy cure for this problem, but I think it helps to realize it is a problem. And we need to reach out to Christian of different characters and ask if there are serious differences or we have simply taken one aspect of the body and made it to be the standard, And maybe if we do we can learn from each other. And that is a good thing.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

God on a Leash

There is a danger of seeing God as our servant who comes when we call Him and does what we want Him to. We can have this on a theological level, a God who we occasionally tip our hat to and helps us when we get into trouble. We can even believe He will make us rich with this world's goods if we just have enough faith. We can hold this on the philosophical level and believe in some form of unmoved mover, you starts the universe going and then leaves us to manage our own affairs. Or we can see God as a political God who supports our country or our political position. God is seen as (with apologize to C. S. Lewis) as a tame God, who serves our personal selfish ends.

I am convinced this is one of the reasons for the deplorable deeds done in the name of Christianity. People use God as simply a way to justify the things, even the nefarious things they already want to do. Evil generally justifies itself by doing things in the name of something people respect whether it is Christianity or liberty or helping the working man. That does not make any of these things bad. Now it needs to noted that the other main source of such deeds is the use of governmental power to force others to accept our beliefs. This is not limited to Christianity or "religion". The Communists applied it with atheism and proved themselves as bad or worse than any exponent of "religion". The solution to this is for all not to use violence to enforce  what they believe, whatever that belief is.And in the ultimate analysis the Christian must remember that a forced faith is not a genuine faith.

But could this limited concept of God is the real God? To ask this question is to answer it. Can we really believe that God, if there is a God and I am convinced there is, would conform to our whims. Can we expect Him to respect our limits and only do as much as we want Him to do. Is not such a God obviously a product of our own fantasy. And may we not be forced to accept God as He is rather then who we want Him to be. For that is the only God that can be real.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Touch of Humor - A Word from Our Sponsor

How far should we go toward commercializing an event? How do we avoid going overboard?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Old Erich Proverb - Extremes

Extremes are dangerous places, except extreme love for God and for our neighbor.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Voice from the Past - Benedict of Nursa

(This was originally written about an abbot, but it could apply to any leader of God's people.)

The Abbot ought always to remember what he is and what he is called, and to know that to whom much hath been entrusted, from him much will be required; and let him understand what a difficult and arduous task he assumeth in governing souls and accommodating himself to a variety of characters. Let him so adjust and adapt himself to everyone—to one gentleness of speech, to another by reproofs, and to still another by entreaties, to each one according to his bent and understanding—that he not only suffer no loss in his flock, but may rejoice in the increase of a worthy fold.

Benedict of Nursa, 480-547 AD, The Holy Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter II, What Kind of Man the Abbot Ought to Be (translated by Rev. Boniface Verheyen, OSB of St. Benedict's Abbey, Atchison, Kansas, 1946 Edition, from Calvin College, Christian Classics Ethereal Library)

Should a Christian leader be concerned about the character of the flock and how best to minister to each of them? How can this be accomplished?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Benedict - Organizer of Monks

Benedict of Nursa was a key figure in the history of western monasticism. And the key question that must be asked is was this a good thing? Monasticism had been around for some time before Benedict's days. And it had gone to various extremes, people sitting on poles and living in caves in the desert. It represented too extreme an idea of Christians escaping from the world. But it also stood in contrast to the generality of professed Christianity of the day which was conformed to the world. Therefore while monasticism attracted its share of narrow, trenchant legalists, it also attracted those who seriously wanted to serve God. As a result, though it often degenerated into self-righteousness, it also did a large degree of good. It helped those in need, preserved learning and offered some (though not always the correct) view of what serious Christianity looks like. And while I would advocate a church structure that lays somewhere between the reclusive monk and the conformed cultural church, the existence of monks in that context may have been on the balance a good thing, even if a a qualified one.

In this context Benedict was a good influence in working for balance and moderation among the monks. He tried to balance the spiritual and the intellectual and the practical. He required prayer and singing and reading of Scripture and meditation, but he also required manual labor and work to help others. He changed the emphasis from that of hermits living in total solitude avoiding all contact with others, to that of brothers living in community helping each other and others. Monasticism was never a perfect institution and many times when down the wrong path. But Benedict by pursuing a more balanced path helped to preserve what was good in it and helped it to maintain a more helpful and even-handed approach to life.