Polarization Does Not Work

A basic fundamental question for all Spirit-born Christians to ponder…that relates to political and cultural issues at the deepest level…is why doesn’t Paul…after he is stoned nearly to death in Antioch Pisidia (Acts 14:19-20)…according to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…according to worldly normal expectations and aspirations as a bona-fide Christian evangelist…become offended at Jesus Christ and the harsh way this missionary trip is starting out…and give-up?

As Paul experiences being beaten along with Silas in the city of Philippi (Acts 16:16-24)…this would be an experience as contrary to our modern expectations within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking for the future writer of divinely inspired New Testament letters to the early churches…a man who today has colleges, cathedrals, and hospitals named after him.

Why didn’t Paul get offended at Jesus Christ…and this unconventionally difficult and challenging God-composed adventure of faith…and quit…at this point?

When Paul goes back to Jerusalem for the last time in his life…and is violently rejected by the populace (Acts 22:22) and then nearly “pulled to pieces” in the Sanhedrin council (Acts 23:10…Jesus once again appears to Paul (Acts 23:11) to assure him that he is still on the correct path in his adventure of faith calling as a missionary evangelist.

Paul then enters into a period of time where he is under Roman arrest and thus protection as a prisoner…to the point that he feels compelled to explain and defend his unconventional position as a Christian leader in prison to the early churches and to friends…who naturally would question such a condition according to worldly conventional normalcy and thinking (Acts 26:31; Eph. 6:20; Phil. 1:7, 12-18; Col. 4:3; 2 Tim. 1:16-17).

Paul cannot write his “prison” and “pastoral” epistles in the New Testament if he is offended…if he is mad at God for how his life is going.

The answer to the question of why Paul is not offended according to worldly conventional thinking and aspiration…and why he does not quit…is a broad answer but is two-fold for this blog post.

First, to simply say that Jesus Christ forewarned Paul ahead of time regarding difficulties and hardships that Paul would face out on the road as a missionary evangelist…is too shallow and too easy of an answer…although it is one factor.

The top-most factor that motivates the apostle Paul to push forward against all obstacles and obstructions in opposition to the gospel message…coming from worldly conventional political, social, cultural, and religious power structures (Eph. 6:12)…is that Paul saw Jesus Christ the Messiah and King in the proverbial light on the road to Damascus.

This reality resets…re-boots…how Paul from that day forward views purpose and meaning in life.  Like the disciples who physically saw the risen Jesus…a new world where Jesus Christ is risen from the dead…changes everything.

For Paul…meeting Jesus as Messiah and Lord on the road to Damascus…forever changes the paradigm and boundaries of reality.  It discards forever the normative rules of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking he was raised and educated in as a young Pharisee taught under Gamaliel in Jerusalem in the strictest Jewish tradition.

As Paul walks through his God-composed journey of faith life-script to be the missionary evangelist to the first-century Greco-Roman world…he keeps his focus on the reality of his first encounter with Jesus as Messiah and King…at Damascus…always balanced against the hardships and challenges he is experiencing.  The future promise of the reality of Jesus as Savior, Son of God, King, and Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6) far outweighs the current struggles against spiritual opposition, untruth, and our own foibles and fallibility (Rom. 8:18).

The second answer to why Paul does not give-up and quit…which forms one of the most powerful apologetic validations of the Bible…elucidating a concept so foreign to any other worldview and as fundamentally opposed to self-sovereignty and self-rulership as is imaginable…is simply that when God calls us into a challenging life-script…by definition and necessity above and outside of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking (Isa. 53:6, 55:8-9)…He is placing faith in us that we can with His help and Holy Spirit assistance step-up and come through into victory.

This same reality does not exist anywhere even remotely within worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…which is based upon self-reliance and proving oneself using our innate, in-built talents and abilities…all within our own control.

Christian Politics 4

We get things done smoothly at our jobs by cooperation, coordination, communication, and teamwork.  People working together find a common ground approach to achieving efficiency, economy, and quality outcomes.

When this is not the case…when the system is not working…when time and money are factors…then changes are made to the system and/or to the people in leadership.

A variety of viewpoints and polarization of starting opinions may be helpful in some businesses where creativity and problem-solving is inherent in the work description…but some synthesis as a working methodology that focuses towards an end-point goal…is the model for most enterprises.

The reality of human nature is that we are not cookie-cutter, think-alike replications.  This is an observed reality that argues for intelligent design in the deepest and most profound way.  A God who could only create robotic duplicates patterned after the same model…would not demonstrate much creative imagination or technical expertise.

The Bible tells us that we are created in the image of God…and the creative innovation of human imagination parallels the nearly infinite combinations of traits found in the varieties of appearances and thought processes of people.

This blog is called Christian Politics…and it must recognize God as the Creator of this world and the people who inhabit it.  It therefore must be taken as a given that differences of opinion will be part of even the best this-worldly political and cultural system.

That being said…what can we glean from the Bible?

The first thing that should hit us square in the face…is that in the cross and the resurrection of Jesus…both the very worst and the very best are interwoven within the same series of events.  The rejection and crucifixion of Jesus does not happen as a separate, side-event within history.  The Jews were celebrating Passover throughout the nation of Israel…and while they were in exile, since their deliverance from Egypt.

How can Christian politics be viewed in a world where Jesus Christ is raised from the dead…despite the incredibly evil and misguided efforts of the contemporary ruling elites in Jerusalem at that time…religious imposters posing as God’s agents…and the deadliest of enemies of the early Christian church?  How does politics fit-in within this extremely adversarial environment?

The simple answer…and an answer that may be totally unsatisfactory because of its simplicity and lack of detailed direction or agenda applicable to our modern issues…the simple answer is to exercise faith in God and follow His leading…no matter what is the composition of the ruling government.

This is the approach of the early Christian church and its first evangelists who took the gospel message bravely out into the Greco-Roman empire…starting first at the most adversarial location in the heart of the city of Jerusalem…the great spiritual city where the King of Glory was crucified and rose from the dead…changing the world forever.

To Be Continued.

Christian Politics 3

Just as Jesus cannot walk around Israel in the first-century with an exterior halo of His divinity…in His princely garb of fine clothing, a royal carriage, and a retinue of soldiers…so to speak…and then be able to meet us where we are and to hone-in on His end-point destiny to be the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin…Jesus likewise and in addition cannot also engage the current political, social, and cultural issues that do not directly relate to the narrow-gate mandate of His unique calling.

As contrary to conventional normalcy and thinking as this may seem at first glance…Jesus Christ cannot ingratiate Himself to the ruling elite in Israel by inserting Himself into the contemporary political and social dialogue…in which He would have been brilliantly helpful and insightful (Lk. 2:46-47)…and thereby compromise the gap between self-sovereignty and God-sovereignty…which is the defining issue that leads to a cross in Jerusalem (Jn. 15:22-25).

In Luke 12:13-14 a man from the audience asks Jesus to intervene in a family dispute over the division of an inheritance…and Jesus declines saying: “Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?”

After Jesus multiplies the loaves of bread and fish to feed thousands…and the people who saw this miracle remark: “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” (Jn. 6:14)…the next verse reads: “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone” (Jn. 6:15).

In the classic verbal confrontation between the Herodians and Jesus regarding the paying of tribute to the Romans…Jesus deftly raises the issue of the dual allegiances of our duty to secular authorities and to God…to a higher level above and outside of the worldly conventional zone where the Pharisees through the Herodians wanted to “entangle” Jesus in His words (Mt. 22:15-22).

The opponents of Jesus again try to trap Him in His words…by re-litigating the laws of Moses by asking Jesus what are the most important of these (Mt. 22:34-40).

But the mission of Jesus does not include what was already established for the nation of Israel…as Jesus clearly states by saying in the Sermon on the Mount: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Mt. 5:17).

What has enormous apologetic value as an argument for the divine origin of the Bible…is this narrow discipline and restraint shown by Jesus the Son of God in staying within the calling and mission to be the lowly Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for mankind’s sins…which even seems to preclude not getting involved too closely with the contemporary political and cultural issues of that time period.

At this point I would refer the reader to the Introduction and Chapter Five of one of my favorite books God: The Evidence by Patrick Glynn…in which he makes the case that the teaching of Jesus turned the philosophy of the ancient world upside-down on its head.

Atheists and agnostics might reasonably argue at this point that if Jesus was the all-knowing Son of God…why did He not introduce the technological and scientific advancements then…that would jump-start the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions that eventually produced steam engines, automobiles, airplanes, solar and wind energy, I-phones, and e-mail?

Yet we have all of these gadgets now…and is life the paradise these imagined and dreamed-of Doctrine of Progress mechanical devices potentially promised?  Have they changed the heart of man?  We appear to have just as many and arguably just as difficult of problems to solve today as ever.

The earthly life-script boundaries for Jesus Christ end at the cross, the resurrection, and His ascension…because this is precisely its brilliant scope and mission.

This should tell Christians today that the God-composed journey of faith life-scripts that God is still producing today for the people who will pick up their cross and follow Jesus…are each perfectly designed to match our created abilities and gifts…and destined through the foresight and creative imagination of God to produce outcomes that are outside of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking…that will both challenge and satisfy our deepest longing for purpose and meaning in our lives.

Christian Politics 2

A fundamental reality for all human beings is that we can only do so much in a 24-hour, 7-day week.  There are only so many hours available for life.

This reality in essence means that everyone…without exception…must make choices.  We cannot simultaneously work in three different careers, become proficient in five different sports, lead an active social life with friends and family, carve out time to read all of the books we want to read in several genres, live in the city, and at the same time enjoy country life in the great outdoors.

Time and space constraints place practical limitations on each of us.  We cannot be in two or three places at the same time.

One of the instructive biblical facts-of-life is that as Abraham first walks from the city of Haran to Canaan…leaving behind the normative life he would have lived in Haran according to all of the social and cultural opportunities that society could afford him…God is actually displacing this normative agenda with a new and innovative life-script previously unknown to mankind…a God-composed journey of faith.

Note here that both lives could not be lived simultaneously…impossible in terms of geographical distance…and too large in scope to fit within only one measure of time.  The old life in Haran had to go in order to make room for the new life to actualize in Canaan.

We see this same pattern for Joseph’s life in Potiphar’s house, Pharaoh’s prison, and as governor of Egypt.  Again, this pattern repeats itself for David’s perilous life as King Saul pursues David to take his life.

In fact, we see this pattern in every called-out person engaged in a biblical-quality adventure of faith…God displacing whatever normative life these people would have lived…with a God-composed life-script they never would or could have dreamed up in their wildest imagination.

In a blog on Christian politics…this can and should tell us something about the relative value God places on what is important in our lives…when choices must be made to include some things and cut-out others…when for practical reasons alone…space and time are limited.

God-composed journeys of faith as recorded in the Bible prioritize for us what is eternally important in life…in a way that is not discoverable within the humanism of worldly conventional normalcy and thinking (1 Cor. 2:6-12; Jn. 16:13; Gal. 2:20).

So the most basic, fundamental question is…when God has to make a choice within the limitations of time and space that He Himself alone created…do the God-composed journey of faith life-scripts as recorded in the Bible…focus on concentrating our time and energy on political, social, and cultural reform within the secular realm…or are journeys of faith following God something that transcends the horizontally applicable daily concerns of local and international business trade, economic stability, and peace among nations (Mt. 6:25-34, 7:7-11)?

To be continued in the next post.

Christian Politics 1

A few years ago, I took time off work to attend a local university for two semesters…enrolling in five classes in religious studies and a class on the history of science.

The history of science class was taught by a brilliant PhD professor who had the gift of being able to not only lecture…but to be able to draw out the students into lively discussions on the wide range of issues involving the modern Scientific Revolution and the two Industrial Revolutions, along with the political, social, and cultural change-and-effect these historical events entailed.

This particular professor was an American who studied the Russian language, had spent a few years in graduate school in Moscow studying Russian, and had even worked on a Russian fishing trawler to perfect his Russian.

Some of the thought-provoking discussion therefore centered on what is called in recent history the Doctrine of Progress which was a prevalent social/philosophical thinking as a by-product of the rapid advances in science and technology that held promise for mankind alleviating the ills of poverty, hunger, and disease.

Some of the enthusiasm for the Doctrine of Progress has been eroded in modern times as a result of the sobering reality of the two major world wars in the 20th century…where it became evident that technological advancement can also be used to kill millions of people…80 million in WWII.

But one of the intriguing discussions…which I so much enjoy as an adult being immersed in university life…was the ultimate failure of the social experiment of the Soviet Union.

As usually happens with me…I am a slow and deliberate thinker…I would make a terrible courtroom lawyer…as my client would be hanged and buried for a few weeks by the time I figured out the one thing I should have said in his defense at the one opportune time during the trial.

In a blog exploring the subject of Christian politics…this comparison between the political systems of the Soviet Union in the 20th century…and the United States…is fundamentally important.

As I sat in this history of science class listening to the professor and the students interact…I thought about what would happen in Moscow in 1950 if Stalin and a small group of Kremlin leaders decided that they had too many PhD history professors…and what they really needed more of were manual labor ditch-diggers to widen the main road into Moscow.

The political system in the Soviet Union at that time had the power to simply announce that you were no longer a history professor at Moscow University…but instead now a ditch-digger with a shovel and a wheel barrow widening the road into the city…along with a lot of other people displaced out of their chosen careers…by a few politically powerful people who decided for the good of society that a road was more important than teaching history…and if anyone resisted…you were sent off to a prison camp in Siberia.

Then I thought about the contrasting political, social, and cultural system as expressed in a modern American university…that I was observing all around me.

Many students entering as freshman do not know what they want to do or to be in life.  They try out a broad range of required general education classes…and some classes in subjects they think they might like.

The fascinating thing I observed is that once a student discovered something they liked and could excel at…religious studies, English, history, electrical engineering, physics, chemistry, mathematics, education, physical therapy, or a particular foreign language…to name only a few examples…their motivation to work their tails off in applying themselves to mastering their chosen field took on an urgency of purpose and will-power that would probably amaze their parents, family members, and friends back home.

In a political, social, and cultural system that allows the freedom to pursue this in-built, innate drive to actualize the uniqueness of who and what each of us individually are…this is the fuel that drives people to willingly choose to be part of and invest themselves in this self-same system…in total contrast to the Soviet Union system of a few powerful people interjecting themselves into the center of this individual, personal discovery and decision-making sphere.

As I sat in this history of science class watching and listening…what if we were all transported back in time to a university classroom in the city of Moscow in the 1950’s…and Stalin decided that my brilliant and talented history professor…doing what he loved and was best suited for…must leave his position as a university professor and take up a shovel for the good of the nation…simply because some other person decided that what they were born to do was no longer important.

As Christians…we believe that every human being is a special creation of God and has a unique, individual capacity to pursue the best possible life-script imagined within the mind and heart of God.

In this post I am making the argument that the best possible political, social, and cultural system…as differentiated in the contrast made above between the Soviet Union dictatorship and the open society of rules and laws in America…demonstrated by college students in free societies pursuing their talents with a motivated energy that invests itself throughout their lifetimes in perpetuating this system…that the best possible system is the system that provides the most opportunity to its people and at the same time removes as many barriers to opportunity as is possible.

As a Christian…I will close this rather lengthy post by saying that…this contrasting dichotomy between closed political systems like as occurred in the Soviet Union in the 20th century…and open societies like we have here in America that is built upon rules and laws…and not the whim of a few powerful people…leaves the atheistic philosophy of materialism and naturalism far behind in the dust.

This very sophisticated and complex discussion has nothing to do with survival of the fittest in terms of hunting wild animals for food and securing dwelling places for protection from the weather.

As a Christian…I reject the notion of Richard Dawkins that there are winners and losers merely “dancing to their DNA.”  Material particles and energy could never rise to the level of a pre-law undergraduate student working night and day…as I observed at the university…working their tails off in the history of science class to achieve a high grade to move on and to actualize the life-plan goal that is within sight.

Is it plausible for moral reasoning of this caliber to evolve unguided through gradualistic, naturalistic causation alone?  I do not think so.

This question affects our worldview…and therefore our politics.

More on this in future posts.

Politically Introducing Myself

I am a Christian…and a conservative Democrat.  In today’s polarized political climate, I know that this category of political being…a centrist…is a near extinct animal.

In this blog site, I would like to attempt to dispel the prevalent conventional wisdom in modern America…that all evangelical, born-again Christians can be stereotyped as political conservatives…that all Christians must be by definition philosophically and politically conservative.

I would like to make the case that there is a moderate political approach that accomplishes more forward progress for improving people’s lives…yet at the same time does not endorse the radically liberal social agenda of some people who think we can solve all of the world’s problems through humanism alone…that after thousands of years of trying and failing…that we can save ourselves using our own in-built, natural gifts of intellect, rational thinking, and compassion for other people…without the spiritually born-again new hearts Jesus describes to the Pharisee Nicodemus in the gospel of John chapter three.

Conservative and liberal are labels that evolve over time.  Change…in the moment…is by definition liberal…yet such things as women’s suffrage, racial equality, child labor laws, worker safety regulations, the right to form labor unions, disability insurance, unemployment insurance, social security, Medicare, and the G.I. Bill following WWII…all become politically conservative norms with time and usage…even though each of them initially began politically, socially, and culturally as liberal change agents.

Some change is good…and some change is not good.  Certainly the modern Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution have brought enormously beneficial improvements to people’s lives…in a number of ways.  The invention of modern democratic societies ruled by laws has been an enormous step forward.  But the sudden emergence of fascist and communist dictatorships…in the recent past…have been the cause of incalculable evils and suffering for mankind…and continue to be so today.

As a Christian…I would like to posit the notion that the optimum political and social environment for the dissemination of the gospel message of Jesus Christ is a political structure that is always slightly at or near right-of-center…with a free press and elements within the social culture that are always slightly left-of-center.

I think this assertion can be defended biblically.

I am not opposed to labels.  We need them to communicate clearly and accurately.

But in any discussion about politics, culture, and society…Christians must first remember and keep in mind that the Bible contains the message that is the greatest change agent in human history…a change agent that transcends above worldly conventional application and utility.

The fundamental tenet of the Bible is the mega-change…at the core of human decision-making…to move from self-sovereignty to God-sovereignty.  There is no bigger change agent in all of human reality and experience than this.

As Abraham walks away from the city of Haran towards the Promised Land of Canaan…with each step he takes God is displacing the normative life Abraham would have lived with a new life-script Abraham would never have dreamed up in his wildest imagination.  Becoming the “father of faith” according to a custom written life-script out of the brilliantly creative mind of God…that because of space and time limitations pushes out whatever standard life-plan Abraham would otherwise have pursued…is the opening God-defined vehicle for making the transition from self-sovereignty to God-sovereignty.

In my opinion, this is the lens that Christians should be using to evaluate the higher ways of God in our lives…and the more mundane practical issues and challenges that fall within the “occupy till I come” (Lk. 19:13) aspects of political discourse.

When Jesus was arrested, tried, beaten, and crucified…the disciples were not just dismayed and heartbroken…they were disappointed personally in Jesus…they felt let down by Him…they did not understand what was happening…in this seemingly disastrous turn of events for the worst.

In terms of politics, culture, and social issues there was no other choice here for God.  The first priority above all else was the sacrifice of the God/man Jesus Christ…as the Passover Lamb of God for mankind’s sins…to create a new and living way for the change from self-sovereignty to God-sovereignty.

In John 8:36 Jesus says: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

If people are liberated from a life of self-sovereignty through the blood of Christ on the cross of Calvary…into a biblical-quality journey of faith following Jesus Christ as sovereign in our lives today…this is what sets us free for all eternity because through free-will choice we will never again be susceptible to the temptation to become autonomous, self-sovereign rebels in the kingdom of God.

In this blog Christian Politics…this is my starting viewpoint.