Too certain by half: standing firm doesn’t mean dismissing all debate
As a young man I spent some years trying to decipher the stony response I got when people found out that I am Canadian Reformed. Often times the response wasn't stony but simply confused – they didn't know what that was, or, back then, thought I must belong to the Reform Party of Canada. But when people were acquainted with my denomination the response was almost always the same: a half questioning, half accusatory, “Canadian Reformed, eh?”
Hardly an encouraging response!
After some intense investigation, I discovered there’s an unfavorable impression circulating, a stereotype making the rounds, that paints my denomination as Christians who are "too certain by half." While others can see shades of gray, Canadian Reformers are thought to see only in black and white. Others enter into debate and dialogue; Canadian Reformers simply make pronouncements.
I can take some comfort in knowing that mine is not the only church to be caricatured in such a two-dimensional fashion. Some of the things said about us are the very same accusations thrown at “fundamentalist” churches of all types. The world doesn’t like the fact that while they devolve ever further into lawlessness, we have definitive stands opposing abortion, adultery, euthanasia, homosexuality, premarital sex, pornography, and more.
But this negative stereotype, while not entirely fair, isn't baseless either. While we do, and should, speak out clearly on issues on which God's Word speaks clearly, there are occasions where we express certainty about issues that aren't certain.
Good Christians, some declare, must wear a suit or a dress on Sunday. Pronouncements are made about the place of the organ in churches. The ongoing Christian schooling vs. homeschooling debate can be treated almost as if there was an 11th commandment which settled the matter. And it wasn't so long ago that when it came to biking or playing basketball on the Lord's Day, the answer was always a very definitive no.
The point here is not to dispute that the Bible gives direction on these issues – it does. But when we act as if an issue is clear-cut, when in truth the biblical position on an issue is only discernible after extended study, then we will be seen as unreasonable and even arrogant. Our attitude will ensure that people who might learn from us, won’t want to talk to us.
It’s important, then, to remember that while the Bible addresses many issues, it does not speak directly to all issues.
Different degrees of clarity
In his book Telling the Truth, Marvin Olasky provides a helpful analogy, comparing the Bible’s various degrees of direction to the six classes of whitewater rapids. Class One rapids can be navigated by anyone, while Class Six rapids are all but impossible.
Class One: Specific biblical embrace or condemnation
Examples of Class One issues are homosexuality and euthanasia. While these are hot topics in today's Church, the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality and murder are so clear that they can only be misconstrued by those trying to twist Scripture. To pretend that these issues are anything other than black and white issues is to act as if the Bible as a whole is either obscure or meaningless.
Class Two: Clear, though implicit, biblical position
As Olasky notes, “even though there is no explicit command to place our children in Christian or home schools, the emphasis on providing a godly education under parental supervision is clear.” So while not explicit, there is a clear implicit biblical directive to follow – parents cannot hand off the responsibility for their children's education.
Class Three: Both sides quote Scripture, but careful study does allow biblical conclusions
Some Christians, citing examples like the Good Samaritan, and quoting texts like “love your neighbor as yourself,” think that helping the poor means guaranteeing everyone a certain standard of living. But as Olasky notes, if in the Bible, “even widows are not automatically entitled to aid then broad entitlement programs are suspect…the poor should be given the opportunity to glean, but challenged to work.”
With issues like these, looking deeper into Scripture allows us to find a more certain direction.
Class Four: Biblical understanding backed by historical experience allow us to draw some conclusions
Olasky gives as an example here the many large government initiatives. While a national daycare program, or socialized medicine, or public education may in many ways seem like wonderful ideas, we can look back through history and see what happens when governments exert more and more influence over daily life. There is no clear biblical directive for limited, smaller government, but Samuel’s warning in 1 Sam. 8 and Lord Acton’s historically verified adage, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” show us we should be suspicious of any government that seeks to constantly expand its sphere of influence.
Class Five: A biblical sense of human nature provides minimal, but real direction
Class Five issues don't have clear biblical or historical direction, but "a biblical sense of human nature" can help us here. So, for example, many parents are wondering what age their children should be given smartphones. There is no historical precedent and no particular verse we can look to for guidance.
But knowing what we do about our sinful nature, we can understand that giving teens – just as they are going through puberty – a portal through which they can access unlimited sexual imagery (whether on purpose or by accident) could be a less than wise decision. But, knowing human nature as we do, we also understand that it would be best if they learned how to properly use this tool while still under our guidance; we shouldn't just ban them from ever having a smartphone for as long as they live under our roof.
Even if we don't know exactly what to do, we have at least some guidance.
Class Six: These issues are navigable only by experts, who themselves might be overturned
Some issues have no clear biblical position. These issues can range from the local (Should we install a stoplight or a traffic circle at this intersection?) to the national (Should we jail people for marijuana possession or fine them?) to the international (How should we deal with a nuclear North Korea?).
It’s all too easy, in a world embracing lawlessness, to overreact and embrace the opposite: legalism.
To be a true light to the world Christians must speak out clearly where God’s intent is clear. No matter how intimidating, no matter how unpopular it might be, in these circumstances we need to speak God's Word with power and conviction. Here we need to embrace all that's right and good in that "fundamentalist" caricature – we need to be immovable, be firm, be stubborn even. We must not compromise on God's Truth.
However, where God's direction is less clear, or even unclear, we act arrogantly if we present our opinion as unquestionable. When God's direction is less than clear, we need to be ready to listen and to debate with those who think differently – particularly when we are talking with other Christians who are just as eager to think God's thoughts after Him. Only when we own up to the shakiness of our position, do we have the opportunity for "iron to sharpen iron" (Proverbs 27:17); only then can others help test and refine our thinking.
Now, few of us enjoy the refining process – it can be uncomfortable to have our ideas tested. But it's for us that God gives this warning:
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid (Prov. 12:1).
In other words, if you are beyond correction – if you don't welcome it and don't want it – God says you are stupid.
That doesn't make you unusual.
But it does mean you need to repent.
Is that a sour note to end on?
Only if you don't like correction :)
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Choice words - a queen's folly
"The gossip's words are like choice food that goes down to one's innermost being." – Prov. 18:8 ***** There is an old adage which says, “Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.” Another saying rightly puts forth the idea that the phrase “They say” is often a great liar. The Bible advises us to live quietly and to mind our own affairs and the Bible also underlines that “Where there is no talebearer, strife ceases” (Prov. 26:20). When you dislike someone, however, it is quite easy to believe gossip about that person; and when you have a disagreement with an acquaintance, how tempting it is to listen to a wagging tongue to discredit that acquaintance? Before she was queen We all know many factual historical news items about Queen Victoria, the long-reigning English monarch (1837-1901). When she was born on May 24, 1819 at Kensington Palace, Victoria was only one of several heirs to the throne of England. But after the death of her father, her grandfather and an uncle, she became the sole heir to that throne. She was eleven years old at the time. Victoria's childhood was secluded. Much of it was spent isolated from other children her age. Her mother, the Duchess of Kent and a Fraulein Lehzen, the governess, were virtually the only people with whom she had contact. She played with 132 dolls and a pet spaniel dog, but these did not make up for the devastating loneliness she sometimes felt. The Kensington system Sir John Conroy had been equerry – a personal assistant – to the Duke of Kent, Victoria's father. After his death, Conroy offered his services to the Duchess as comptroller of her household. These services were accepted and the Duchess and Sir John Conroy grew very close. Together they set up a system called the “Kensington System” which regulated and oversaw every aspect of the crown princess' life. The idea of this system was to make the young girl so utterly dependent on both her mother and Sir John Conroy, that she would be totally unable to do without the pair of them once she became queen. The little girl had rarely been out of her mother's sight. She slept in the same bedroom, and possessed virtually no privacy. Conroy was not especially kind to the child, bullying her with disparaging words when he could, and she disliked him exceedingly. As well, she detested the power the man appeared to have over her mother, not to speak of the fact that he often inferred that she was ill-equipped to become queen. In May of 1837 the princess celebrated her eighteenth birthday. The celebration brought with it a coveted amount of independence, for it gave Victoria her own income. Less than four weeks after this milestone birthday, King William IV, her uncle, died. Not even five feet tall, Princess Alexandrina Victoria was immediately proclaimed Queen. Sermons were preached throughout England simultaneously mourning the death of William IV and celebrating the accession of the new queen. The young queen immediately made appointments to form her own household. She very deliberately excluded Sir John Conroy. As a matter of fact, she referred to him as “a monster and demon incarnate whose name I forbear to mention.” There was a move to Buckingham Palace and one of the first things the young monarch did was to secure her own bedroom. Her mother henceforth would not share her sleeping quarters any longer. Lady Flora Hastings Three years before this, a Lady Flora Hastings, the unmarried daughter of the first Marquis of Hastings, had been appointed lady-in-waiting to Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent. However, Lady Hastings inadvertently became part of the Kensington System. In addition to the duties of lady-in-waiting to the Duchess, she had been told to serve as companion for the young princess. Both the Duchess of Kent and Sir John Conroy believed this would deter confidences between the princess and her beloved governess, Fraulein Lehzen. Victoria sensed this and believing Lady Flora to be a spy doing Sir John Conroy's bidding, Victoria distrusted and disliked her. Given the whole history of the girl's repression and isolation, this can readily be understood. Lady Flora Hastings was a beautiful woman. She had an oval face, big eyes, an aristocratic nose, thick dark hair and a flawless complexion. She was also a Christian and a firm believer in her Lord and Savior. In 1839, after Victoria's accession to the throne, she made a trip to Scotland to visit her family. Afterwards she returned in a carriage with Sir John Conroy without the presence of a chaperone. A few weeks later, Lady Flora openly complained about a pain in her abdomen. As well, she developed a noticeable swelling in her stomach as she continued to have this pain. She wrote later: “...having been suffering from bilious illness since the beginning of December, I consulted Sir James Clark, her royal highness' physician, and placed myself under his treatment...” The noticeable swelling of the stomach caused tongues to wag. Gossip was rife. And Queen Victoria, that very new and young monarch, participated in many a demeaning conversation about Lady Flora Hastings. This woman, it was whispered, is unmarried, a prude, and probably pregnant. Unkind mouths went on that, very likely, the father was Sir John Conroy. The Queen's extreme dislike for Sir John Conroy and his cronies, probably added fuel to the fire. A shunned Lady Hastings later wrote: “On the 16th of February, Sir James Clark came to me, and asked me whether I were privately married, giving, as his reason, that my figure had excited the remarks of the 'ladies of the Palace.' On my emphatic denial he became excited, urged me to confess as the only thing to save me.... it occurred to him at the first that no one could look at me and doubt it, and remarks even more coarse. I observed to him that the swelling from which I had been suffering was very much reduced and offered him the proof of my dresses. He replied, 'Well, I don't think so. You seem to me to grow larger every day and so the ladies think.' He proceeded to say that it was the only supposition which could explain my appearance and state of health 'or else you must have some very bad illness.' I said that was possible. I had thought badly of my own state of health, but that his supposition was untrue and quite groundless. He ended by assuring me 'that nothing but a medical examination could satisfy the ladies of the Palace, so deeply were their suspicions rooted.... and the rumor has reached the ear of her Majesty. I said, feeling perfectly innocent, I should not shrink from any examination, however rigorous, but that I considered it a most indelicate and disagreeable procedure, and that I would not be hurried into it. It seems strange and hurtful that such wicked gossip should come to Lady Flora Hastings, not by the mouth of a female, but by a man. It would have been proper for a woman to convey these malicious rumors and for a woman to comfort her. The gossip about Lady Flora persisted after Sir James Clark's visit and the Queen continued to believe that she was pregnant. Both saddened and shamed, Lady Flora wrote: “It having been notified to me that it was her Majesty's pleasure that I should not appear (at court) until my character was cleared by the means suggested, and having obtained the permission of her Royal Highness to submit to it, as the most instantaneous mode of refuting the calumny, I sent....for Sir Charles Mansfield Clarke and for Sir James Clark, and the examination took place in the presence of my accuser, Lady Portman, and my own maid. In the evening Lady Portman came to me to express her regret for having been the most violent against me. She acknowledged that she had several times spoken a great deal to the Queen on the subject, especially when she found it was the Queen's own idea. She said she was very sorry but she would have done the same respecting any one of whom she had the same suspicion. I said my surprise is, that knowing my family as she did, she could have entertained those suspicions.” Even when it came to light that the doctors could find no evidence of pregnancy giving her a certificate to verify this, the ill rumor persisted. At some point, Lady Hastings, who was also a poet, penned these words: In every place, in every hour, Whate'er my wayward lot may be; In joy or grief, in sun or shower, Father and Lord! I turn to Thee. Thee, when the incense-breathing flowers Pour forth the worship of the spring, With the glad tenants of the bowers My trembling accents strive to sing. Alike in joy and in distress, Oh! Let me trace Thy hand divine; Righteous in chast'ning, prompt to bless, Still, Father! may Thy will be mine. Scarred still Although Lady Flora was re-included in all the festive and formal arrangements of the court after this most painful incident, it did not take away the shame and misery to which the young woman had been subjected. Her good name had been sullied. A few months later, she was unable to participate any longer in court functions. The illness which affected her kept her in bed. The queen, to her credit, did visit the bedchamber once before Lady Flora died. A post-mortem revealed that she had suffered from a cancerous tumor on the liver. It is recorded that no word of reproach or enmity escaped from her lips and that she died peacefully. When Queen Victoria was informed of Lady Flora's death, she wept and ordered that every mark of respect suitable for such a melancholy occasion be observed. Words can be swallowed, but once spoken, they can never be erased. The slander against Lady Flora Hastings is, consequently, a blot on Queen Victoria's reign, a blot she, no doubt, often regretted. Proverbs 10:18 clearly says that whoever spreads slander is a fool. Lady Hasting's sad story serves as a sharp reminder that we must be careful with our words. Christine Farenhorst is the author of many books, including a short story collection/devotional available at Joshua Press here. She has a new novel – historical fiction – coming out Spring 2017 called “Katharina, Katharina” (1497-1562) covering the childhood and youth of Katharina Schutz Zell, the wife of the earliest Strasbourg priest turned Reformer, Matthis Zell. Picture credit: Queen Victoria, painted by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1859; Lady Flora, unknown....
Overpopulation is a myth, and we should have known
While overpopulation fears aren't causing the same panic they once did, this bogeyman hasn't disappeared entirely. The United Nations still has their Population Fund, advising nations on how to handle, as their mandate puts it, "population problems." While China has moved away from a One-Child-Policy – couples were fined, or even forced to have abortion if they had a second child – the government still has a Two-Child Policy. And while India's Supreme Court shut down that country's mass sterilization camps just this past year, the country is still committed to population control. So why does the myth persist? Two reasons: Most aren't familiar with the current state of the world. We don't hear about how things are improving, and how poverty is decreasing even as population is growing. Many still trust these doom and gloom prophets because they aren't familiar with the predictions that were made back in the 60's and 70s. The younger generation, especially, doesn't understand just how outrageously and how disastrously wrong these experts were. The world today Last year Japan’s birthrate fell below 1 million for the first time, while 1.3 million deaths were recorded. Since 2010 Japan’s population has shrunk by approximately 1.2 million (or roughly 1%). And they aren’t the only country shrinking; Russia has roughly 4 million less citizens than it had in 1995. We can see in Europe that population has leveled off, with deaths exceeding births for the first time in 2015, so growth is due only to immigration, not procreation. In Canada, too, we are not having children at replacement levels – whereas we would need 2.1 children born per woman to maintain a stable population (this number is slightly over 2, to account for children who don’t survive childhood), our birthrate is only 1.6. The United States, Australia, and the Western world in general are all under 2. There are problems that come with this, as an aging population doesn't have enough young people to care for it. The overall world population does continue to grow, with the growth focussed primarily in the developing world. For example, Africa's population has just passed 1.2 billion, up from roughly half that in 1990. But even as world’s population increases, we’ve seen not a shortage of food, but an increase in our ability to feed the planet. And poverty continues to decline worldwide – by one measure, extreme poverty has been more than halved over the last 30 years, even as the population has grown from 5 billion to more than 7 billion. Starvation does still occur, but that is due more to government corruption and war than to an inability to produce enough. The predictions of the past But how can things be getting better even as the world population increases? As one of the best known population alarmists, Dr. Paul Ehrlich, noted, a finite planet cannot sustain infinite growth – at some point the Earth is going to run out of food, room, and resources. That seems to be a matter of basic math. And it's this basic math that had Ehrlich make this prediction in his 1968 book, The Population Bomb: "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate..." People under 40 may not understand the scope of the disaster population alarmists were predicting. Ehrlich said England wouldn't exist by the year 2,000 – this was end-of-the-world-type rhetoric, and people were taking it seriously. This New York Times video does a good job of capturing just how scared people were. https://youtu.be/W8XOF3SOu8I Clearly Ehrlrich was wrong. But to many it is less than clear as to why. One reason is a revolution in agriculture that was deemed "the Green Revolution." Even as Ehrlich was making his doom and gloom predictions, an American innovator, Dr. Norman Borlaug, was developing new strains of wheat and new farming techniques that dramatically increased crop yield. As Henry Miller wrote in Forbes: "How successful were Borlaug’s efforts? From 1950 to 1992, the world’s grain output rose from 692 million tons produced on 1.70 billion acres of cropland to 1.9 billion tons on 1.73 billion acres of cropland." Ehrlich was about as wrong as wrong can be. The world has not ended; things have dramatically improved. And lest we attribute it simply to luck – Norman Borlaug just happening to come around just when we needed him to save us from disaster – we need to view this from a Christian perspective. Ehrlich, and population alarmists viewed each new baby as being a drain on the planet. They didn't see them as human beings given a task to develop the planet. They didn't recognize that while each human being does come with a mouth that needs to be fed, we are also gifted by our Creator with a brain, and with two hands, with which we can produce. We not only consume, we create (and in doing so reflect our Creator God). That's how more people can mean more, not less, resources - that's why food production has gone up, and poverty down, even as population continues to rise. Not just wrong but dangerous Overpopulation alarmism isn't just wrong, it's dangerous. This end-of-the-world rhetoric had a role in the Roe vs. Wade decision which legalized abortion in America. It has been used to justify government-funded abortion, forced sterilizations, and actions like China’s One-Child Policy, and now Two-Child Policy, under which tens of millions of Chinese babies have been aborted, many against their parents' wishes. Meanwhile, in Africa, where the population is growing, the first annual Africa-China Conference on Population and Development was just held in Kenya and hosted by the Chinese government and the United Nations Population Fund. Mercatornet.com’s Shannon Roberts shared how some of the speakers pointed to China’s coercive population controls as worthy of imitation. And at least one Kenyan media outlet thought that wasn’t such a bad idea. The Daily Nation commented: “With a controlled population, the Chinese economy boomed, benefiting from cheap labour from its many people and rising to be the second largest after the United States. Should Kenyans do the same?” Population controls are not just a problem of the past – they exist and are still being advocated for today. That's why we need to bury the overpopulation bogeyman once and for all, before it kills millions more. Christians falling short The Bible doesn't speak to all issues with the same degree of clarity. But when it comes to the population alarmism, God couldn’t be clearer: children are not a curse to be avoided but a blessing to be received (Gen. 1:28; 9:1, 9:7, Prov. 17:6, Ps. 127:3-5, Ps. 113:9, etc.). Back already in the 1960s Christians could have spoken out against overpopulation alarmism, based on the clarity of these texts. And some did. But the Church is so often impacted by what we hear from the world around us. We let ourselves be muted, we let ourselves become uncertain. We start to ask, "Did God really say?" And then, like the watchman on the wall who failed to give warning (Ez. 33:6) we become responsible for the deaths we might have been able to prevent, if we'd only spoken out. It's back? While the overpopulation hysteria has died down in recent years, this bogeyman is primed for a resurrection. Global warming and concerns about CO2 emissions have some questioning "Should we be having kids in the age of climate change?" The argument, so it goes, is that people can't help but have some sort of carbon footprint, so the only sure way of reducing carbon emissions is to have less people on the planet. Once again we are being urged to have "one and be done." Once again children are being portrayed as a problem rather than as a blessing. The Bible doesn't address climate change as clearly as it does overpopulation alarmism, but what we can be certain of is this: obedience to God is not going to destroy our planet. While obeying God doesn't always lead to a smooth life for Christians here on Earth – following God can lead to a loss of friends, or business opportunities, or result in persecution – when we as a society turn to God then prosperity follows. Then we end slavery, open hospitals, develop Science, create industry. This obedience doesn't even need to be of the heart-felt sort to still reap benefits – even unbelievers, when they follow God's commands for marriage, sex, and parenting will have better results (for a book-length treatment of this thought, see Vishal Mangalwadi's The Book That Made Your World). Our disobedience can be destructive – our self-centeredness, greed, jealousy, and hatred can cause real harm. But not our obedience. That's why the begetting of many children is not something we need feel guilty about, or refrain from, out of concern for the climate. We can be certain that the world’s doom will not be caused by us, in obedience, listening to God and having children. God has spoken out against overpopulation alarmism, so we need to. The next time you hear someone talking about overpopulation, point them to the Bible and share how spectacularly incorrect all the doom and gloom predictions have been. We need to bury this bogeyman....
Am I a fanatic?
In 1957 Billy Graham came to a crowd of 3,000, in Urbana, Illinois with a rebuke. These young people had come from all over to attend an InterVarsity conference so these were engaged, interested young Christians. But it was precisely their interest and engagement that Graham was questioning. They served the one true God. Their Savior had triumphed over death, and secured for them eternal life. They had every reason to be zealous, to be fanatics. But were they? In 2 Samuel 12 the prophet Nathan tells a story to King David about a heartless rich man, and reveals to David at the end, “You are that man!” At the conference Billy Graham read an excerpt from a letter – a letter by a true fanatic – to reveal to his listeners that, “You are not this man.” It was by a young convert to communism, who was explaining to his fiancée why he was breaking off their engagement. We Communists don’t have the time or the money for many movies, or concerts, or T-bone steaks, or decent homes and new cars. We’ve been described as fanatics. We are fanatics. Our lives are dominated by one great overshadowing factor, the struggle for world communism. We Communists have a philosophy of life which no amount of money could buy. We have a cause to fight for, a definite purpose in life. We subordinate our petty, personal selves into a great movement of humanity, and if our personal lives seem hard, or our egos appear to suffer through subordination to the party, then we are adequately compensated by the thought that each of us in his small way is contributing to something new and true and better for mankind. There is one thing in which I am in dead earnest and that is the Communist cause. It is my life, my business, my religion, my hobby, my sweetheart, my wife and mistress, my bread and meat. I work at it in the daytime and dream of it at night. Its hold on me grows, not lessens as time goes on. Therefore, I cannot carry on a friendship, a love affair, or even a conversation without relating it to this force which both drives and guides my life. I evaluate people, books, ideas, and actions according to how they affect the Communist cause and by their attitude toward it. I’ve already been in jail because of my ideas and if necessary, I’m ready to go before a firing squad. This zealot worshipped a false god. In comparison, our God in infinitely greater – the one true God who made all of reality: the Earth, the stars, the animals, everything. And He sent his very own Son to die for us. This, then, is a God worthy of all honor! Yet, are we willing to make everything – our ego, our ambitions, our business, and our relationships – secondary to Him? Do we love Him like that? How do we compare to this young zealot? In Revelation 2, God congratulates the Church at Ephesus for their toil, their perseverance, and their discernment. But there was a problem: "I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first..." The Christians in Ephesus had a lot going for them but they had stopped being fanatical. After what God has done for us – He made us, and He saved us – He deserves so much better than a lukewarm love. So here's a question for us all: am I a fanatic? Would anyone say that about me? Or do I need to repent?...
Assorted, Science - Creation/Evolution
Not all humility is humble
John Marks Templeton wanted Christians to be “humble” about the Bible and look to Science for direction. And his Foundation is handing out millions to groups trying to mesh Science with Religion. ***** Sir John Marks Templeton (1912-2008) is best known as the creator of the Templeton Growth Fund, an investment fund established in 1954, which made him a very wealthy man. Two years before his death in 2008, Templeton found himself in 129th place on the Sunday Times' "Rich List" of the wealthiest Brits. But Templeton was not only an investor and moneymaker; he was also well-known as a philanthropist, through the work of his charitable organization, the Templeton Foundation. Established in 1987, the $3 billion Templeton Foundation offers over $70 million worth of research grants each year. The Foundation is currently headed by Templeton's daughter, Heather Templeton Dill, and it is an important source of funding for organizations that include the BioLogos Foundation and the Canadian Scientific and Christian Affiliation. One of the Templeton Foundation's purposes is to advance what Templeton called "humility-in-theology." This was the subject of his book, published in 2000, Possibilities For Over One Hundredfold More Spiritual Information: The Humble Approach in Theology and Science. Templeton’s humility How would this 100-fold increase in spiritual knowledge happen? He thought we would get it: “…every two centuries…by encouraging people of all religions to become enthusiastic (rather than resistant) to new additional spiritual information, especially through science research, to supplement the wonderful ancient scriptures" (p. 180). "Humility" was an important word for Sir John Templeton, as can be seen from the title of this book, as well as throughout its pages. Templeton's philosophy of humility, and the way it shaped his thinking and his philanthropically efforts, is exemplified in the following extended quotations. In order to present these quotations in context, and in an effort to avoid misrepresentation of Templeton's message, I present this (rather lengthy) representative sample of his thoughts (I must note that throughout his writings, Templeton writes the word "god" without capitalizing the G, so this is not an error in transcription, and likely reflects Templeton's philosophy): 1. Man isn’t that special "Although we seem to be the most sophisticated species at present on our planet, perhaps we should not think of our place as the end of cosmogenesis. Should we resist the pride that might tempt us to think that we are the final goal of creation? Possibly, we can become servants of creation or even helpers in divine creativity. Possibly, we are a new beginning, the first creatures in the history of life on earth to participate consciously in the ongoing creative process" (p. 41). 2. Creeds restrict progress "Do theologians need to be humble and open-minded? Leaders may be tempted to think that conformity and control are required for the orderliness of religion and for faithfulness. Most religions have developed creeds, doctrines, dogmas, liturgy and hierarchies of laypeople and clergy. Order and tradition of course do help groups to live as an organization of people whose ideals are compatible and link together the generations in mutual ideals. However, because of a lack of humility, have we observed throughout the history of most religions a tendency for dogma or hierarchy to stifle progress? If the members and clergy become more humble, could they re-form dogma in a more open-minded and inquiring way as a beginning point for continual improvements?" (p. 41). 3. We should humor theologians and rely on the sciences "Let none of us have any quarrel with any theologian. Let us happily admit that his or her concepts and doctrines may be right. But let us listen most carefully to any theologian who is humble enough to admit also that he may be wrong - or at least that the door to great insights by others is not closed. Let us seek to learn from each other. Let us try to use sciences to help verify or falsify new concepts. Let us always keep trying many methods to discover over 100 fold more about divinity" (p.50). 4. We can be wrong, so we should be humble about everything "Egotism has been a major cause of many mistaken notions in the past. Egotism caused men to think that the stars and the sun revolved around them... that mankind was as old as the universe. Egotism is still our worst enemy. In fact, things are still not what they seem. Only by becoming humble can we learn more... Are those who believe only what they see pitifully self-centred and lacking in humility?" (p. 59). Humble to the point of heresy So where did this understanding of "humility" lead Sir John Templeton? To ideas such as these: "Many religious concepts come directly or indirectly from ancient scriptures. An unavoidable limitation of utilizing such texts as a total basis for contemporary faith is that they were written within a context which may no longer be appropriate for ours today. Recent sciences reveal a universe billions of times larger and older and more complex than the one conceived by the ancients. The creative challenge is to enrich understanding and appreciation for the old with a welcoming of concepts and perspectives which may represent truly new insights and creative improvements, which can leverage the power of the past into a forward-looking adventure of learning more and more about the wonders of god and his purposes through ongoing creativity. Can it be an inspiring challenge to read the Bible in this way, which can help each generation of god’s people to search for far more of divine realities than can ever be contained in the language and thought patterns of any age? Should we not be able to give a fuller and wider interpretation of divine revelation today, now that the range of our understanding of the universe has been so vastly enlarged? Why should we often try to express spiritual truths using obsolete words, limited concepts and ancient thought patterns? If some scholars think that Jesus himself wrote nothing, could this suggest that what he had to teach should not be frozen into words, even in his own age? Thus, he did not limit for future generations their range of spiritual concepts and research" (p. 47-48). Ideas have consequences. While Templeton was an elder in a Presbyterian congregation (Presbyterian Church - USA), and even sat on the Board of Princeton Theological Seminary, he did not "limit" himself to the doctrines of orthodox Christianity. His "humble approach" led him to declare, "I have no quarrel with what I learned in the Presbyterian Church. I am still an enthusiastic Christian," and then to ask, "But why shouldn't I try to learn more? Why shouldn't I go to Hindu services? Why shouldn't I go to Muslim services? If you are not egotistical, you will welcome the opportunity to learn more." The sad fact is, however much one claims to be "an enthusiastic Christian," believing that the teachings of religions that deny Christ can be positively appropriated by a Christian makes one, for all intents and purposes, anything but. And this unfortunate truth is also clearly revealed in Templeton's book. While Templeton denied being a pantheist (one who believes that the universe is God, and God is the universe), his understanding of the nature of God can only be described as a form of panentheism, which declares that God and the universe are distinct, but that the world is "in" God. Or as Templeton wrote: "Traditional pantheism can serve a useful purpose in suggesting the co-terminacy of spirit and matter and a personal relationship between the creator and creation. But it may not be compatible with the Christian concept of a personal god vastly greater than material things and who loves all of us and numbers the hairs of our heads. Profound mutual indwelling between man and divinity may be better stated by the Unity School of Christianity, 'God is all of me: and I am a little part of him.' Such a notion implies an inseparable relationship between god and us. As even 'a little part of him,' we may realize the mutual unity of god and his creation. We may conceive that our own divinity may arise from something more profound that merely being 'god's children' or being 'made in his image'" (p. 86). True humility is submitting to God’s Word At this point, it must be said that, for all his self-proclaimed "humility," Templeton's foundational beliefs are, in Christian perspective, anything but humble. True humility is expressed in Psalm 8: "O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens... When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" (Ps. 8:1,3, ESV). True humility is expressed in humble submission to the LORD, the Creator, who has revealed himself clearly and completely in his Word - those "ancient Scriptures" which we humans have not outgrown, or surpassed, with all of our scientific understanding. True humility is acknowledging our origins as the direct creation of God, acknowledging the reality of the Fall into sin, and its enduring impact on humanity and all of creation, God's provision of a Way of salvation, and the fact that we can do nothing in ourselves to merit that salvation. We are created in God's image. That image has been badly marred by sin. But in Christ, that image is being restored among God's people. True humility is submitting ourselves to Jesus Christ, who declared that he, and only he, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Templeton's "humility" is, at bottom, and however unwittingly, the height of human arrogance and pride in disguise. In refusing to submit to God's perfect Word, Templeton set a man on the throne in God's place. And now, through the work of his Foundation, Templeton's utopian vision for human society, based in anything but the Word of God, is continuing to be spread. Templeton’s vision looks to science to show the way Templeton foresaw a "glorious" future, and thanks to his great financial savvy, his legacy lives on. His Foundation has three billion dollars in its reserve fund, and that money is being spent to promote that legacy, with a very definite, and very long-term, goal in mind. Templeton's vision of the future is summed up in two citations in his book. He first cites Marceline Bradford: "...Millions of intellectuals the world over have become disenchanted with backward-looking religious institutions... In order to recapture the great thinking minds of the world, the clergy must turn their heads 180 degrees from past to future. With feet planted squarely in the present and eyes directed to the future, leaders can find factual bases in science for viable, solid, dynamic doctrines. For science and rationality are enemies not of religion - only of dogmatism" (p. 47). Next, he cites Ralph Wendell Burhoe, who was awarded the Templeton Prize in 1980: "It is still my bet that at several points in the next few years and decades the traditional theological and religious communities will find the scientific revelations a gold mine, and that by early in the third millennium A.D. a fantastic revitalization and universalization of religion will sweep the world. The ecumenical power will come from a universalized and credible theology and related religious practices, not from the politics of dying institutions seeking strength in pooling their weaknesses. I cannot imagine a more important bonanza for theologians and the future of religion than the information lode revealed by the scientific community... It provides us with a clear connection between human values, including our highest religious values, and the cosmic scheme of things. My prophecy, then, is that God talk, talk about the supreme determiner of human destiny, will in the next century increasingly be fostered by the scientific community" (p. 103). His favorite charities In the conclusion of his book, Templeton lists a number of the "founder's favorite charities," which also provides real insight into Templeton's agenda. Some we might find agreeable. He is interested in the promotion of entrepreneurship, and the enhancement of individual freedom and free markets. Others included supporting research and publications in genetics; supporting education and other help in voluntary family planning; supporting character development research, and also: "Supporting the publication and dissemination throughout the world of the religious teachings of the Unity School of Christianity of Unity Village, the Association of Unity Churches and of closely similar organizations, provided that major support for such organizations shall continue only so long as the Trustees of the Foundation... determine that such organizations adhere to the concepts of: usually pioneering in religion and theology with little restrictive creed, usually teaching that god may be all of reality and man only a tiny part of god and generally accentuating the positive ideas and attitudes and avoiding the negative" (p. 183). With friends like these Such were the goals of Sir John Marks Templeton, and such are the goals of his foundation. A serious examination of Templeton's guiding philosophy, and the philosophy of the Templeton Foundation, in the light of Scriptural principles, should lead us to a sense of genuine concern about any organization that the Foundation chooses to support financially. And it should lead us to question the ultimate motivation behind this support, and the fruits that this foundation is bearing in the numerous organizations that receive its funding. "The Humble Approach" of Sir John Marks Templeton has absolutely nothing in common with the genuinely humble approach of the Lord Jesus Christ. Templeton’s utopian vision has nothing in common with the eschatological vision of God's Word. Follow the money Now, those who receive large amounts of financial support from the Templeton Foundation may do so "with no strings attached," and perhaps some recipients may be unaware of the totality of the Foundation's founder's spiritual vision. But could it be that they are unwitting victims of a larger, and more nefarious, agenda, which has at its base a desire to proclaim a different gospel, by denying the explicit teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and his exclusive claims? We are warned against keeping company with the wicked (1 Cor. 15:33, Psalm 1:1, Prov. 13:20) and it doesn’t seem that much of an extension to think how this applies to accepting funding from a group with a wicked agenda. Science, science, and more science A little research shows the incredible reach that the Foundation's money has. And an examination of the nature of the grants that the Foundation provides, as well as the purpose behind these grants, is telling indeed. One of the Foundation's main funding areas is "public engagement," and a representative sample of grants (ranging from tens of thousands to millions of dollars) clearly shows the Foundation's goals. Here is a small sample of grants that have been made over the past three years: Vatican Observatory Foundation - "Building a bridge between faith and astronomy" John Carroll University - "Integrating science into college and pre-theology programs in U.S. Roman Catholic seminaries" Union Theological Seminary - "Project to develop a spiritual worldview compatible with and informed by science" Cambridge Muslim College - "Developing religious leaders with scientific awareness" American Association for the Advancement of Science - "Engaging scientists in the science and religion dialogue" Luther Seminary - "Science for youth ministry: The plausibility of transcendence" Christianity Today - "Building an audience for science and faith" Other grants have been made to train Roman Catholic teachers and preachers to engage the dialogue between science and religion, to promote science engagement in rabbinic training, and to measure science engagement in Roman Catholic high schools and seminaries. Further investigation in the nature and purpose of these grants reveals a common thread. For example, La Jolla Presbyterian Church received a grant from the Templeton Foundation for a program that "seeks to engage young adults (college and post-graduate) in a discussion of science and faith with leading scientists who are Christians." The McGrath Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame University received a $1.675 million grant for their Science and Religion Initiative, which "seeks to frame science education within the broader context of Catholic theology." According to the Institute's director, "The perceived conflict between science and religion is one of the main reasons young people say they leave the Catholic church... this grant allows us to address this misperceptions and help high school teachers create pedagogues that show that science and religion - far from being incompatible - are partners in the search for truth." Multnomah Biblical Seminary has received a Templeton grant (as well as a grant from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, itself supported by the Templeton Foundation), to "equip pastoral studies majors to become more effective in engaging our scientific age." Among a number of other Christian theologians, Niels Henrik Gregersen, professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Copenhagen, received a Templeton research grant for his work on the constructive interface between science and religion. Another recent recipient of the Templeton Foundation's largesse is Regent College in Vancouver, which this year received a grant funding a program called "Re-faithing Science at Regent College." The program will seek, over the next two years, to address this question: "How can the relationship between Christian faith and scientific endeavour be conceptualized and communicated in a way that effectively engages diverse audiences?" The detailed description of this particular grant on the Templeton Foundation website is insightful: "Sir John Templeton recognized that science and spirituality should be neither sealed in separate boxes nor positioned at opposite ends of a battlefield, yet even a cursory glance at contemporary culture reveals that the supposed incompatibility and even hostility between faith and science is something of a truism in much of Western society. Regent College believes that this widespread perception is a significant threat to the development of theology and science alike, as well as to the spiritual and intellectual flourishing of countless individuals." So, utilizing Templeton's funds, Regent College's project team will "propose an alternative model for the relationship between faith and science: mutual coinherence, or existence within one another." Their goal is to communicate this proposal "in an accessible form" that will encourage and enable further exploration of science, theology, and their interaction, using academic publications, public lectures, graduate-level courses, and an online presence, to "target different audiences with the same basic narrative, a story of one world, created by one God, who can be known and worshipped through both theology and science - and who is best known and best worshipped when theology and science work together." Science in the driver’s seat What can we learn from all of this? If we were unaware of the foundational principles behind the Templeton Foundation, perhaps all of this would appear to be somewhat innocuous. After all, who could argue against Christians being involved in the sciences? Why oppose efforts aimed at developing "scientific awareness"? Certainly we shouldn't want to bury our heads in the sand, and ignore what the sciences have to offer, as if science were somehow "off-limits" to the faithful Christian, should we? But remember this important fact: the Templeton Foundation has a very clear agenda – a utopian, panentheistic philosophy that has an ecumenical goal of uniting the religions of the world around a synthesis of "science" and religion, with "science" seated firmly in the driver's seat in this relationship. This agenda is being promoted by the lavish dispersal of funds to Islamic, Roman Catholic, Jewish, and other religious organizations, including, sadly, many evangelical Christian groups, many of which are making their influence felt in Reformed churches as well. Standing in Templeton’s way Two popular sayings come to mind: "Follow the money," and "He who pays the piper calls the tune." The money trail leads us to Sir John Marks Templeton. And clearly, Templeton's agenda is making headway in many places, although it is also clear that this agenda faces many obstacles. 1. Reluctance among religious leaders First of all, there is reluctance to accept the premises of this movement among religious organizations, as can be seen from the numerous grants being made to support efforts to decrease the resistance of religious leaders and members of religious groups, including evangelical Christians, to this religious/scientific paradigm. But that reluctance is being overcome, as the Templeton agenda makes inroads through a judicious use of funding. Efforts to reach youth, and those who teach the young, are effective means of dissemination for any propaganda effort, whether political, cultural, or religious in nature. Young people are more easily influenced, and they are most definitely being targeted, in a well-funded, concerted effort. 2. Reluctance among unbelieving scientists But there is also resistance from the other side - from unbelieving scientists who reject all religion, any idea of transcendence, and the idea that anything exists beyond the physical. This group is also being addressed by the outreach efforts of the Templeton Foundation, as it works toward fulfilling its long-term goals. Conclusion A spiritual war is being waged against God's people, using that ancient question, "Has God really said?" This is not novel; every generation of Christians faces this reality, in different ways at different times in history. The battle is being played out in a world in which money talks, and a lot of money talks loudly. We cannot afford to be naive on this issue. That’s why we need to be on our guard against the influence of the Templeton Foundation's money, even if it's being spent by organizations that may have been respected among us. That money is being spent to promote an agenda that is radically different from the agenda of God's kingdom. Our allegiance to the One True God must lead us to reject alliances with organizations like the Templeton Foundation, whose agenda is completely incompatible with that of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Rev. Jim Witteveen also blogs at CreationWithoutCompromise.com where this article first appeared in two parts....
Simply and truly
There once was a man whose parents had given him the highly unusual name of “Amazing” when he was born. They gave him the name hoping th...
A hill to die on
A couple of weeks ago, I attended a public lecture by Dr. Jordan Peterson at the University of Western Ontario. For those of you who don’t know, D...
Sliver Mustard's journey
Perhaps as many as a million people lived in Noah's Grove. A thriving community, it had begun small but had grown over decades and centuries. Children...
A crowd can make you crazy
Crowds are scary. Many of the stupid, foolish and sinful things we do involve a crowd, even if the crowd is just one or two other people. Examples: Anytime I was in a car going way too fast, there were “other people” in the car too. The old college streaking phenomena – don’t ask. Hazing, the cruel things that inductees are subjected to, would never be done apart from a group. Angry youths throw rocks at police, which none of them would do if they were by themselves. All early use of drugs or alcohol is crowd-induced. Soldiers desecrate the dead body of an enemy combatant. Alone, it would have never happened, but together it did – and it was caught on film and they will be court-marshaled. “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent” (Pro.1:10). It is as if sin and foolishness need only the slightest encouragement to break loose. Psychology 101 calls it the “risky shift,” in which individual opinions move in a more polarized and risky direction when in a group. It’s probably what lies at the heart of the housing market collapse. Somebody said, “The housing market is sure thing. Let’s make even more money by offering home loans to people who can’t really afford it. What could happen?...” And soon others followed… “Hey, they are doing it, it must be okay.” We are not very good at imagining consequences to begin with. Now add another voice that accents the present thrill or gain and ignores what could happen next, and all of a sudden you are like a football team, hooting and hollering with excitement before the big game, totally in the moment and only in the moment. So, when the behavior is exposed, and the question is asked, “What were you thinking?!” The answer is rightly, “I don’t know.” If there is more going on in the mind, it might be a simple formula: the larger the crowd, the less the blame. If I make a foolish decision and get caught, I am to blame. But if I am with four friends, I only share in 20% of the blame, if 99, then only 1% of the blame. This is the kind of formula that can lead to crucifixions. Yes, this is familiar ground. Peer-pressure revisited. Every wise person should be alert to it. Three questions: Are we alert to this human tendency, and can we find illustrations of it in our own lives? When we can’t see it, we are more vulnerable. Do we consider consequences to our actions? And do we ask others to help us gauge consequences? Take a look at Proverbs. So many of the sayings invite us to look into the future and anticipate deleterious results. Do we know that we appear before the Lord individually, not as part of a group? Share-the-blame is a myth. We live as if the spotlight were on us. We live as if everything we do were public. This blog post is a publication of the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). All content is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced in any manner without written permission from CCEF. For more information on classes, materials, speaking events, distance education and other services, please visit www.ccef.org....
What to do when you don't know what to do
On the Institute for Nouthetic Studies blog, Dr. Jay Adams offered up some sound biblical advice on what to do when you don't know what to do. The gist of it? If we think some course of action we are considering might be against God's will, or we aren't really sure whether it is or isn't, then we must not do it. He points readers back to Romans 14:23, and notes that the problem here isn't the act itself – we don't know if it is sinful or not so it might turn out to be perfectly fine – but rather our attitude. "...you would be willing to do something that you thought might be sin — that is a sinful attitude. So even if the act — whatever it is — isn’t sin; your attitude in doing it is sin." JUST DON'T DO IT... So, the principal here is, if in doubt, just don't do it. That is the way to honor God - inaction until we are sure that what we are about to do isn't sinful. Or as Jay Adams puts it, "whatever isn't done in faith is sin." This is a vital principal for Christians to keep in mind in our increasingly complex world. Today we face ethical dilemmas our grandparents never imagined. Should our floral shop make wedding bouquets for a same-sex "marriage"? How should we weigh the many end-of-life decisions we're being asked to make? Should we consider "snowflake" (embryo) adoptions? What should we think of transplant organs grown in pigs? Is it right or wrong to take advantage of this government program/rebate/tax credit? And then there are questions our grandparents probably were familiar with, and had to wrestle with too. Would God want me to date this girl or guy? Can I take a job if it isn't near any good churches? Should we buy this house or are the payments too high for our income? Lots of questions. And there are answers to many of them. But if we don't know the answer and we are worried that what we are about to do might be sinful then we should not proceed until we clear things up. ...UNTIL YOU CAN PROCEED WITH A CLEAR CONSCIENCE In the meantime, we can look into the problem – often times a dilemma can be resolved with study. We know, for example, that abortion is immoral. But what about those rare situations in which the mother will die if the pregnancy continues? We might not know what to think at first. But when we look deeper we will realize that in these circumstances abortion will be allowed. Why? Because, even as we acknowledge the baby is fully human, when two lives are at risk and we can only save one, then we should act to save that one. But what of the ethical dilemmas in which the line is blurry? What about, for example, a situation in which the mother's life is in danger, but only to a degree? Just how deadly a risk does it need to be before abortion is a moral option? No sharp line can be drawn here. BUT WHAT ABOUT WHEN WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING? Here is where we have to expand on the principal Jay Adams has presented. Adams is right, God doesn't want us to proceed when we are worried our actions might be sinful. But like much of what God teaches in the Bible, this rule can be taken too far – this rule could lead to incapacitating introspection, where a Christian does nothing because they are so worried that whatever they do might be sinful. Then it is important to remember that in some cases (like considering abortion to save the life of the mother) not acting is also a decision. Sometimes inaction is not an option; our dilemma is between two different actions, and we are uncertain about either. In these circumstances it may be impossible and immoral to defer our decision. All we can do then is manage what biblical study we can in the time we have, pray to God for wisdom, and make the best decision we can. But in situations where inaction is safe/moral, and we are worried that our contemplated action might not be, we shouldn't proceed until we are sure this action is indeed pleasing to God....
The "Force" behind bad statistics
Statistics don’t always mean what they seem to mean. For example, according to figures released by Statistics Canada some years back, there are 20,000 Jedi in Canada. In addition, there are 53,000 in New Zealand, 70,000 in Australia, and a startling 390,000 in the United Kingdom! If you’re not a fan of Star Wars, you might not have heard of the Jedi. In this series of science fiction films – eight so far – Jedi “knights” wield the good power of the “Force” to fight against those who would seek to destroy the universe and enslave it to evil. It’s a weird sort of Eastern mystical “Force” where both good and evil originate in the same source. By now you’ve probably spotted the problem with the Statistics Canada census. 20,000 Canadians claim to believe in a religion – “Jediism” – that exists only in movies. How can that make any sense? Earnest idiots If you’re Derek Evans, director of the United Church-affiliated Naramatha Centre in B.C., you see calling yourself a Jedi as “part of a journey…discovering the powers that rest within,” and how to use those powers to take care of the ones you love.1 Derek Evans is probably a bit too serious. Chris Brennan had a different take on the whole thing. As president of the Australian Star Wars Appreciation Society, he didn’t think the census details were quite accurate. He estimated that of the 70,000 Aussies who claimed to be Jedi, no more than 5,000 or so were “true hard-core people that would believe the Jedi religion carte blanche.”2 Chris Brennan didn’t quite get it either. Messing with the survey But for most of the thousands of "Jedis" there was a much simpler explanation – these people didn’t take the census seriously. Prior to the Canadian census, a Denis Dion posted a message on the Canadian Ski Patrol message board urging people to list their religion on the upcoming census as Jedi. He claimed that if 10,000 Canadians were to do this, then Jedi would become a “fully recognized and legal religion.” This message, circulated by Dion and others, obviously made the rounds, and 20,000 people joined in on the stunt. What was the motivation? If you can believe the folks at Wikipedia, somebody in New Zealand thought that asking someone’s religion was a nosy question that didn’t deserve an honest answer. As well, some people just don’t really have a religion that they believe in strongly so they don’t know what religion to check off on their census forms. Lightsaber sales still down So what’s the moral of the story? With more than 500,000 people worldwide claiming to be Jedi, what can we learn from this bizarre tale? Simply this: sometimes if a statistic seems unbelievable, it probably is. We need to be skeptical when we’re told the results of surveys. For a survey to be accurate, it needs to be taken seriously, and it needs to be something that people are willing to answer. When answering surveys, people don’t like to appear foolish so they may offer opinions even when they don't know anything about what's being asked. And they are often unwilling to give up personal information yet unwilling to say this. In four different countries people were either unwilling to tell the statistics offices their real religion because it was too personal, or just weren’t taking the question seriously. When we’re outnumbered, and surveys tell us that very few people believe a fetus is “human,” or that most people support euthanasia, we should take it with a grain of salt. Those who oppose abortion are unlikely to tell pollsters their true opinions because their answers are politically incorrect and seen as foolish, and those answering the surveys don’t want to seem foolish. They’re often unwilling to give an honest answer. So when you’re faced with impossible statistics, with insurmountable odds, maybe the best thing to do is to simply laugh. That's what the BBC did when it reported on the 390,000 Jedi supposedly living in the United Kingdom. You see, if there really are that many Jedi in the U.K. it’s only a matter of time until sales of lightsabers start to sky rocket3. And when we’re faced with impossible odds and improbable statistics, we can laugh boldly, because we have a power greater than statistics and far stronger than the Force to lend us aid. Endnotes 1 Globe and Mail, May 14, 2003 2 The New Zealand Herald “Jedi order lures 53,000 disciples” www.nzherald.co.nz, August 8, 2002 3 “Census returns of the Jedi,” 13 February 2003, news.bbc.co.uk...
The definition of patience
Patience. It’s a word we would never bother looking up in the dictionary because we already understand its meaning. But sometimes a well-known word can leap to life with new meaning and application when we read its formal definition. So consider what Dictionary.com has to say about patience. Patience: putting up with annoyance, misfortune, delay, or hardship, with fortitude and calm and without complaint, loss of temper, irritation or the like. It is an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay. Wow. Simply put, patience means not showing annoyance or anger with people or things that aren’t acting as we desire! From this definition we can deduce that we are very often…. not patient! This definition leads me to believe that the practice of “patience” or “impatience” relies almost completely on the words that come out of our mouths and the body language that we exhibit (heavy sighs, eye-rolling, stomping, slamming doors) when we do not like what is being said or done. Is patience an attitude then, or an action? Love is patient It definitely starts with an attitude – we have to decide how we are going to react, and we do that by recognizing what is right and wrong and then making our choice. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul tells us that, “Love is patient.” That means that love puts up with "annoyance, misfortune, delay, and hardship with fortitude and calm and without complaint, loss of temper, or irritation." It means love is the "ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance." In Romans 12:9-21 Paul tells us how to behave like Christians. Part of that includes verse 12, which states, “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulations, be steadfast in prayer.” That means that when we have tribulation (which means trials, troubles, problems, aggravations) we are supposed to put up with them with fortitude and calm and without complaint, loss of temper, or irritation; we are to suppress restlessness and annoyance. Excusing ourselves But patience is not easy, and it has become difficult to recognize right from wrong because our culture not only excuses impatience, it exalts it as a right and a virtue. It is “only understandable” to be impatient in traffic or standing in line, when confronted with confused or ignorant people, or in obtaining whatever it is that we need or want. Television commercials suggest that we grab each other’s breakfast food, race to beat our spouse to the better car, and complain loudly whenever things displease us. Life is all about indulgence and not letting anyone or anything get in our way. It is also very easy to excuse our behavior by blaming our impatience on our workload, our temperament, our upbringing, our heritage, our gender, or our age (whether young or old!). Recognizing the sin of impatience So let’s get the definition of patience correct first – let’s know right from wrong, because God tells us in several places that we are to be patient, including with family and church members. How do we talk to and about our church family? 1 Thessalonians 5:14 tells us that as we “warn the unruly, comfort the faint-hearted, and uphold the weak,” we are to “be patient with all” of them. This is different than “tsk-tsking” as we look down our noses. Paul tells us to express all the fruit of the Spirit spoken of in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. This involves not demanding our own perceived “rights” or our own way. It involves loving others more than ourselves for “love overlooks a multitude of sins” as well as mistakes and small differences (1 Peter 4:8). And it involves trusting God to take care of the details when there are delays and difficulties. We must drop the hurry and the worry about what others might think of us. Either we are acting patiently, or we are not. God’s written and preached Word can give us strength that helps us choose patient behavior. We exhibit this fruit of the Holy Spirit best when we are walking closest to Him. The Apostle Paul said in Romans: “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me” (7:21). So true. But having a better definition of this sin will at least help us to identify our inclination towards it, and make it less excusable. God tells us to be patient: to put up with daily trials without complaint or irritation. The best news is that He promises strength through the Holy Spirit, and forgives our confessed sins daily as well. “Faithful is He who calls us, who also will do it” (1 Thess. 5:24)....