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“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

7 Types of Christians God Can’t Use

God can't use armchair Christians.
God can’t use armchair Christians. (iStock photo )

About 17 years ago I prayed a very dangerous prayer while lying on the floor of my church near Orlando. I repeated these words from Isaiah 6:8 (MEV): “Here am I. Send me.” Then I cringed. I knew God would mess me up good in order to use me to touch others for Christ.

I wanted God to use me, but I was painfully aware that we don’t just go out and start a ministry on our own terms. God bends and breaks those who speak for Him. He requires full surrender. I had to let go of fears, adjust attitudes and change priorities.

It has become popular today to suggest that God can use anybody. It’s true that He does not show favoritism based on race, age, gender, marital history, past failures or income status. Yet His standards have never been lowered; He only uses humble, obedient, consecrated followers.

Many Christians will never be useful in the kingdom because of mindsets or behaviors that limit the flow of the Holy Spirit or, as the apostle Paul said in Galatians 2:21 (KJV), “frustrate the grace of God.” I don’t ever want to frustrate His grace! If you want God to use you, make sure you don’t fall into any of these categories:

1. Driver’s seat Christians. Jesus is not just our Savior; He is our Lord, and He wants to guide our decisions, direct our steps and overrule our selfish choices. There are many believers who enjoy the benefits of salvation yet they never yield control to God. If you want Him to use you, then you must slide over into the passenger seat and let Jesus drive. If you have a problem with willfulness, learn to pray: “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42, MEV).

2. Armchair critics. There are some people who roll up their sleeves and serve the Lord; there are others who make it their business to analyze and pick apart everyone who is doing God’s work. The devil is the Accuser, so if you are accusing others you are operating in the spirit of Lucifer. The Holy Spirit does not work through people who are bitter, angry or judgmental.

3. Glass-half-empty pessimists. Many Christians today are worried about what sinners are doing, and some spend hours trying to predict when the Antichrist will arise or when the world will end. Meanwhile there are other Christians who focus on winning lost people to Jesus and showing His compassion to a broken world. Who do you think will bear more spiritual fruit—the doomsday pessimist or the hopeful evangelist?

4. Carnally-minded Christians. It has become fashionable today for believers to lower the standard of moral behavior to the point that anything goes. Unmarried Christians are living together, some pastors are experimenting with adultery and some denominations have voted to sanction homosexual relationships. Don’t be fooled. Just because more and more people are jumping on this trendy bandwagon does not mean God has rewritten His eternal Word.

People who live in blatant sin cannot be instruments of the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 2:21 says clearly: “One who cleanses himself from these things will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, fit for the Master’s use, and prepared for every good work.” Our usefulness to God is based on whether we have submitted to the process of sanctification. Holiness is not an option.

5. Church dropouts. I won’t win a popularity contest by saying this, but it’s true: God does not use people who have turned away from the church. Today it is fashionable to bash the church; some people have even established “ministries” to lure Christians away from church and into an isolated spiritual wilderness. Most of these church-bashers are bitter because they had a bad experience with a pastor.

I have only compassion for any victim of spiritual abuse. But no one has the right to tear down the work of God just because a spiritual leader hurt him. The church is God’s Plan A, and He does not have an alternative. If we are going to be used by God, we must get connected to the church and learn to flow with its God-ordained leadership.

6. Timid cowards. When Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus to pioneer the church there, he exhorted him to break free from fear. He wrote: “Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (2 Tim. 1:8). Fear has the power to paralyze. All those who surrender to the call of God must bravely open their mouths, defend the faith, risk their reputation and suffer rejection—and possible persecution. If you are afraid to share the gospel, repent of your fear and ask God for holy boldness.

7. Lazy spectators. Many Christians today think following God means clocking in for a 90-minute service before driving to the lake. We read quick devotions on our smart phones and breathe short prayers during our morning commutes. But somewhere in all this 21st century stress we lost the meaning of discipleship.

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A lot of debate has swirled around the similarity (or dissimilarity) of Christianity and Islam lately. What do people think? |

Christianity and Islam: Evangelicals and Americans Are Not on the Same Page About the "Same God"

Just a few months ago, in October, LifeWay Research published a good amount of data on how Americans, pastors, self-identified evangelicals, and religious service attendees see Christianity and Islam. Today, I wanted to share just a bit of data with you regarding how similar or dissimilar these groups of people see the two most popular monotheistic faiths in the world.

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the “Same God?”

In the last week or so, the debate about whether or not Christians and Muslims worship the “same god” has been stirred up due to a controversial situation at Wheaton College, about which I wrote last week. (Full disclosure, I’ve written on several occasions that Muslims and Christians do not pray to the same god and saying so is not helpful.)

Perhaps the reason for the controversy around such “same god” issues is that the country is split, though you would think that country overwhelmingly believes they do worship the same god based on the responses.

But, the nation is actually split down the middle.

Forty-six percent of Americans agree Christians and Muslims pray to the same God, 47% disagree, 8% are not sure.

Of course, we look for statistically different sub-groups of people who believe differently about this issue. Interestingly, they include:

  • Northeasterners (56%) are more likely to Agree than Southerners (40%) and Westerners (44%)
  • Those age 25-34 (56%) are more likely to Agree than those 35-44 (42%), 45-54 (40%), 55-64 (44%), and 65+ (41%)
  • Those age 18-24 (52%) are more likely to Agree than those 45-54 (40%).
  • Nonreligious (56%) are more likely to Agree than Christians (41%).
  • Catholics (52%) are more likely to Agree than Protestants (38%).
  • Self-identified evangelical Protestants are less likely to Agree (35% v 50%).
  • Those attending a religious service at least about once a week (34%) are the least likely to Agree.

By Shane Pruitt

8.26.UNBIBLICAL

There are many things that Jesus-following, church-going, Bible-believing Christians believe that are completely unbiblical.

One of the greatest gifts that God gave mankind was the Holy Bible because the Bible is literally God revealing Himself, and communicating Himself to mankind in written word. Anything and everything that we know about God comes from these Holy Scriptures, and they contain the totality of what we need to know about becoming a Christian, and everything that we need to know about living the Christian life.

Orthodox Christianity teaches that the Bible was inspired and authored by the Holy Spirit of God using human instruments. It also believes that in its original languages of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic; it is without error and fault.

However, there are many things that Jesus-following, church-going, Bible-believing Christians believe that are completely unbiblical. How does this happen? Often, we’ll hear someone quote a statement that sounds nice to us, and we’ll begin repeating it as though it’s biblical truth without ever researching it in the Scriptures. Several of these unbiblical statements have gained enough traction that many people believe they’re actually Bible verses. Not only are the statements unbiblical; most of them teach the opposite of what the Bible teaches.

Here is a list of nine popular unbiblical statements that Bible-loving Christians tend to believe:

1. God helps those who help themselves.

This statement is actually anti-Gospel. Self-reliance and self-righteousness, or the attitude of trying harder and doing better, actually gets in the way of the work of God. Jesus saves those who die to themselves: “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

2. God wants me to be happy.

It’s a common belief that God exists to be our “personal genie,” waiting to give us our every wish. It’s amazing how we will justify our sinful actions by saying, “God just wants me to be happy.” Happiness is tied to feelings and emotions that are often based on circumstances, and those change all the time. God wants us to be obedient to Him, trust Him and know that everything He does is for our good, even if it doesn’t make me feel “happy” in that moment. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

3. We’re all God’s children.

Although God has created everyone … not everyone relationally belongs to Him. Only those who have repented of sin, placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and possess the Holy Spirit of God inside of them can claim Him as their Father: “But you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:15b–16).

However, those who don’t have Jesus as their Savior, nor have the Holy Spirit of God inside of them, actually belong to Satan: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1 – 2). “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10).

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Fewer Christians?

Thoughts on the Pew Report

What do we make of news reports on the recent Pew report on religion in the United States? Well, to paraphrase Mark Twain, “Lies, darned lies, and statistics.”

John Stonestreet

The headline of the New York Times was “Big Drop in Share of Americans Calling Themselves Christian.” It was a story reporting on a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.

According to the survey, “The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with an organized religion is growing.” More specifically, seventy-one percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians, down from 79 percent in 2007.

The biggest increase and the subject of much of the media coverage was the religiously-unaffiliated, or the “nones” as they are sometimes called. They went from 16 percent of those surveyed in 2007 to 23 percent today. And among 18-to-25-year olds, the percentage of the unaffiliated rose to 34 percent.daily_commentary_05_27_15

While Pew declined to speculate on what is behind the statistical decline of self-identifying Christians, the New York Times didn’t hesitate. Clearly, they claimed, part of the reason is the “politicalization of religion by American conservatives.” The one outside expert quoted in the piece reinforced the notion of a “backlash against the association of Christianity with conservative political values.”

This so-called explanation ignores the inconvenient fact that the biggest decline noted, again, is in the liberal mainline denominations.

So what ought we to make of this report? Well, the first thing, as with all such reports, is to acknowledge its critics who call some of its findings into question. For instance, over at the Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter pointed out that the “Christianity in decline” meme ignores the fact that, according to the survey, the number of Evangelicals is growing, and the percentage of Americans who describe themselves as such remains stable.

Mark Gray of Georgetown University offered similar criticisms regarding the conclusions drawn about Catholicism.

Still, the fact remains that fewer Americans self-identify as Christians. And Russell Moore is correct to note that what the statistical decline most reflects is the demise of what he calls “Bible Belt near-Christianity.”

As Moore writes, “For much of the twentieth century, one had to at least claim to be a Christian to be ‘normal.’” But this is no longer the case. “Those who don’t believe can say so—and still find spouses, get jobs, volunteer with the PTA, and even run for office.”

And jettisoning controversial teachings, especially on what he calls “pelvic autonomy,” won’t help, Moore says, because “people who don’t want Christianity, don’t want almost-Christianity” either.

“We do not have more atheists in America,” Moore stated. “We have more honest atheists in America.” And that’s exactly right.

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Should Christians Care about Earth Day?

 

Since 1970, April 22 has been dubbed Earth Day, a day of global emphasis and celebration of environmental stewardship. Many Christians participate in Earth Day festivities, but many others aren’t sure how to think Christianly about this issue and whether or not environmental concern is, as it is often portrayed, a “liberal” or “progressive” concern.

Despite how the topic is usually used by the Right and Left sides of our American political spectrum, there is much that confessional, Christian theology speaks to the issue of creation care. In fact, it is only the Christian account of the world and human history that makes a desire to preserve the physical order a rational one.

The New Testament affirms that the meaning of all reality is encoded in something the apostle Paul called “the mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:4). This mystery is that in Christ there is a “summing up” of everything—not simply the aggregate of all individual souls but “things in the heavens and things on earth” (Eph 1:10) in the Person of the incarnate, crucified, and resurrected Jesus of Nazareth. The order and harmony of the universe are described in the Genesis account of, for instance, the regularity of times and seasons. The order of the physical creation is attributed to and a reflection of the manifold wisdom and goodness of God.

In other words, the physical creation is important because it is part of God’s communication of his attributes and his redemptive plan for the cosmos. Just as our physical bodies serve as temples of the Holy Spirit and are therefore worthy of our care and preservation, so the earth is the permanent dwelling place for the reigning Christ Jesus, and is likewise deserving of care and preservation.

This care and preservation for the creation is not, as some believe, incompatible with the biblical doctrine of dominion. Some Christians and non-Christian environmentalists unfortunately end up agreeing with one another that it’s one or the other; either mankind is in the image of God and therefore in dominion over the earth, or mankind has a responsibility to take care of the planet.

This is a false dilemma. Christian dominion is not, in Carl Henry’s words, “pharaoh-like,” but instead is Christlike. We see a picture of true dominion in the True Man, Jesus Christ, who did not come to serve his own appetites but to serve others. Christ’s example of pouring Himself out for others is a graphic illustration of how true biblical dominion is done for the sake of others. This principle is also made clear in God’s command to cultivate the earth and “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28), communicating that creation care is done for the sake of future generations.

Because human dominion is grounded in the image of God, this dominion reflects God’s dominion, which is not predatory. God, in the biblical narrative, creates the raw materials of the universe, he shapes these materials, and he cultivates and conserves them. God’s dominion is seen not only in his dynamic creative activity, but also in his Sabbath rest, withdrawing from such activity. God commands human cultivation of agriculture, but also specifies rest for the land. Exercising dominion over the created order is not contrary to exercising care over it; on the contrary, only a dominion-capable humanity is capable of caring for the environment at all.

Misguided teaching about “population control” misses this crucial point as well. The rearing of children is, at the most primal level, the same impulse that drives humanity to check a reckless, selfish form of dominion in order to cultivate an other-directed, limited, future-oriented dominion, one that preserves and protects ecosystems and cultures for generations to come. If human beings are God’s appointed means of caring for His earth as the Bible teaches, then what is needed is humanity’s redemption, not elimination. Procreation is pro-creation.

Christian theology is consonant with protection of the earth precisely because Christianity maintains the uniqueness of humanity as image-bearer. Thus, while human beings have dominion over the creation, we have no dominion over one another, or indeed over our createdness itself. What is often called environmental protection is simply the outworking of neighbor-love.

So should Christians care about Earth Day? Yes.

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The President at the Prayer Breakfast

Tuesday • February 10, 2015

Vienna_Battle_1683

Presidents of the United States are usually awful as theologians. In far too many cases, the closer they get to anything theological, the bigger the mess they make. President Obama seems rather adept at making such messes, but he is hardly the first. The only President of the United States to be baptized while in office was Dwight D. Eisenhower. In remarks made at the Freedoms Forum at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in 1952, the recently-elected Eisenhower said: In other words, our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.”

Of recent presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were probably the most theologically literate, and both claimed deep roots as Southern Baptists. In his infamous Playboy interview of 1976, Carter cited Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich as influences and Clinton seemed cut from the same theological cloth. Both men have, in their own way, distanced themselves rather clearly from the theological and moral convictions held by Southern Baptists. Ronald Reagan’s evangelical faith seemed to be vague and he rarely attended church services during his eight years in office. George H. W. Bush seemed to be a very conventional mainline Protestant of the old establishment but his son, George W. Bush, may well have been the most clearly evangelical president of the modern age.

President Obama identifies openly with a very liberal version of Christian thinking and reasoning. He cites religious concerns from time to time, but he seems to operate more as a secular cosmopolitan. When he does address religious thoughts openly, as at the National Prayer Breakfast last week, he made a considerable mess.

That he holds to a universalistic understanding of religion is not in doubt. President Obama spoke of faith, of his own “faith journey,” and “professions of faith.” The common denominator in his thinking seems to be faith as an act without any concern for the content or object of that faith. Thus, “part of what I want to touch on today is the degree to which we’ve seen professions of faith used both as an instrument of great good, but also twisted and misused in the name of evil.”

When people do evil in the name of faith, the President asserted, it is because the faith has been perverted or distorted. Any faith can be perverted in this way, Mr. Obama said, and no religion is inherently violent. In his words: “Our job is not to ask that God respond to our notion of truth — our job is to be true to Him, His word, and His commandments.  And we should assume humbly that we’re confused and don’t always know what we’re doing and we’re staggering and stumbling towards Him, and have some humility in that process.  And that means we have to speak up against those who would misuse His name to justify oppression, or violence, or hatred with that fierce certainty.  No God condones terror.  No grievance justifies the taking of innocent lives, or the oppression of those who are weaker or fewer in number.”

The fact remains that Western civilization — and much of the world beyond — is directly threatened by a militant form of Islam that has the allegiance of millions of Muslims. While the vast majority of Muslims in the world are not fighters in a jihad against the West, and for that we must be thankful, the fact remains that the President’s own national security authorities directly disagree with the President when he recently said that “99.9 percent” of Muslims do not back Islamic terrorism.

On Islam, President Obama is not the first to sow confusion on the issue. In the aftermath of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush argued over and over again that America is not at war with Islam. We can understand why a president would say this, and we also need to admit that there is an important element of truth in the statement.

The West is not at war with Islam if that means a war against all Muslims and against all forms of Islam. But, true as that statement may be, we must also be clear that we are facing a great and grave civilizational challenge from millions of Muslims who believe, quite plausibly, that their version of Islam is more faithful to the essence of Islam and the Quran. This understanding of Islam is growing, not receding. It is now drawing thousands of young Muslims from both Europe and North America to join the jihad. We have seen the hopes of a moderating Arab Spring dashed and we have seen the rise of even more brutal and deadly forms of jihad in groups such as the Islamic State. Clearly, there are millions of Muslims who do believe that God condones terror. They celebrate the fact that Muhammad was a warrior, and they understand that it is their responsibility as faithful Muslims to bring the entire world under the rule of Sharia law. Their actions are driven by a theological logic that has roots in the Quran, in the founding of Islam, and in the history of Islamic conquest.

And yet, at virtually every turn, President Obama and his administration remain determined not to mention Islam in any negative light, and even to redefine some acts of terror committed in the name of Islam as “workplace violence.” His refusal to acknowledge the worldview of those who declare themselves to be our enemies is neither intellectually honest nor safe. It is a theological disaster, but it is a foreign policy disaster as well.

In the most controversial portion of his address, President Obama said:

“And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.  In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

President Obama would not mention Islam by name, but he did bring judgment on the Christian past, with specific reference to the Crusades. At that point a good measure of Christian humility and honesty are called for. The centuries of the Crusades were a brutal epoch in which horrible things were done, often in the name of Christ. The union of medieval Catholicism and the power of kings was disastrous, and there are lasting stains on the Christian conscience from this era. The same is true of the era of slavery and Jim Crow laws in the United States.

But honesty is hard to come by when it comes to distant history, and that is why we should be rigorously critical when it comes to the very real and horrifying reality that terrible acts have been perpetrated in the name of Christianity. At the same time, historical honesty and humility demands that we acknowledge that in the age of armed conflict between Christian kingdoms (as they claimed to be) and Muslim armies, even the stoutest secular critics of Christianity must recognize that our current age would be very different if Muslim armies had won, for example, when the forces of the Ottoman Empire were stopped at the gates of Vienna in 1683. All those professors of gender studies and post-colonial literature in European universities might well be professors of the Quran, instead.

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by Roger Hines The Marietta Daily Journal
KKTR_Hines__Roger_2010_b.jpg

Citizens who know any of the following men should count themselves fortunate: Scotty Davis, Ernest Easley, Perry Fowler, Gerald Harris, Johnny Hunt, Terry Nelson, Nelson Price and Mike Stephens.

These men are Christian ministers from either Cobb or Cherokee County. They are by no means the only good and Godly preachers or pastors around, but they are the ones I know best. Whenever I read what Christianity’s critics have to say, my first thought is they don’t know these men.

I often find myself testing Christianity’s critics by placing their criticisms beside these men, some of whom have been my pastor. I do so because I know these preachers’ lives have consistently borne good fruit. Without a doubt, each of them will finish well. Dare I say that all of them are also quite … hip? OK, I’ll change that to fun-loving and well aware of what’s going on in the world.

Although these men have probably made decisions or statements with which some citizens or even their own church members have disagreed, their lives and work refute the harsh misrepresentation that Christians generally, and Christian ministers particularly, must so often bear.

These ministers could be labeled orthodox, traditionalist or conservative because they believe in certain established, unchanging truths. But they are absolutely liberal and selfless in the expenditure of their time, talents, energy and resources. They don’t hate women. They do hate racism. They love America deeply, but they preach that the Christian gospel is for all tongues and nations. They are the best friends Jews could have, possibly because it’s rumored that their Savior was a Jew.

Incidentally, I don’t speak for these ministers. I’m merely describing what I’ve seen in them and in the good people who have sat under their preaching.

If they are God-fearing, people-loving men of faith, why are they, like Christians generally, increasingly cast as throwbacks and intellectual pygmies?

One reason is they are stereotyped. To those who are not Christians and who have little or no knowledge of the Bible, even local respected ministers are often clumped with the infamous Westboro Baptist Church and the KKK. Christianity and Christians are often judged by the misrepresentation placed on them.

In a way, some of those who so judge know not what they do. Given the media attention that’s granted to groups like Westboro and the cross-carrying Klan, the mis-judgers in their Biblical ignorance and religious disinclination, know only of the ugly people, not people like the men I have named. It also doesn’t help when America’s fourth largest city mayor subpoenas ministers and characterizes them as haters.

Here is one incontrovertible fact about the Christianity these men espouse: wherever it has gone, schools and hospitals have followed. This can’t be said of atheism. Enlightenment and healing have never been atheism’s goal. Its goal is America’s religious lobotomy.

Despite the denial of atheists who are becoming more evangelistic each year with best-selling books and well attended symposia, Christianity has made an incredibly positive mark on America and the world. Examples abound. It was New England preachers who broke the back of slavery. (Yes, Southern preachers erred and erred bad here, but they are not erring today.)

Methodist greats John and Charles Wesley, though Englishmen, influenced America and Georgia immeasurably. Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, motivated entirely by his Christian faith, was imprisoned and hanged by the Nazis for opposing Hitler.

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – In defense of Christians Christianity

 Nov 03, 2014

Should Christians living in a democratic society vote? To answer in the positive presumes another positive answer to a prior question: Should Christians, as citizens, engage in politics at all? This latter question is loaded, as “politics” carries with it an understandably negative connotation. I’m reminded of the jokester who defined politics as the venue of “poly-ticks”: many blood-sucking insects. 
Yet politics need not be so understood. Aristotle defined the root word for politics, the polis, as a community defined by its common understanding of and commitment to the good life. Augustine tells us that we can identify the character of a people by determining what they love. Surely Christians have a conception of the good life (Micah 6:8), and Scripture tells us our vision of the good life should be characterized by love for God and neighbor (Matt. 5:16, Matt. 22: 37-38, John 13:35).

Jesus himself seems to indicate a legitimate role for government insofar as we should give to Caesar his due and pay taxes (Mark 12:17). And the apostle Paul was the first Christian political thinker and activist, advising believers to get along with everyone as much as possible (Rom. 12:18), while also using his Roman citizenship to procure a better platform from which to declare the gospel (Acts 22-26).

Yet it is Paul’s exhortation in Romans 13:1-7 that serves as the lynchpin for the Christian duty to love our neighbors even in our temporary roles as citizens of an earthly polis. In this famous passage Paul first teaches that we must submit to political authority, then defines the proper role of government as promoting good and punishing evil, and finally calls Christians to give to everyone what is owed, including taxes, respect, and honor.

Who Is Our Political Authority?

For 2,000 years Christians have wrestled with what it means to submit to political authority, keeping in mind Peter and the other apostles’ claim that when faced with a choice, we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). For most of Christian history believers faced this question from the bottom of a political hierarchy, subjects to kings and rulers who operated from the top down. With this understanding luminaries such as Calvin and Luther taught their followers that resistance to even a wicked ruler violates biblical teaching.

The advent of constitutional democracy, then, complicates things for the contemporary believer. For when we apply Romans 13 to our own political situation, it’s not simply a matter of submitting to an external political authority. As citizens in a constitutional democracy, “we the people” are the authority, even if the practice has never quite lived up to the theory. Thus we’re in a curious position relative to most of Christian history. We are called to yield to authority, yet we also wield authority. To complicate matters even further, we share that authority with nonbelievers whose conception of the earthly good life will overlap with ours in some ways, and sharply diverge in others.

What does this mean for the practice of voting? It means that Christians in a democracy live under an authority that formally solicits our view of the good life. Granted, this view of the good life as expressed through voting is varied, and the connection is often tenuous. Yet the civic practice of voting can be described simply as judging what good(s) should be promoted or preserved, and which public servants would most faithfully carry out that mandate. Notice this basic obligation holds true regardless of the level or topic. From local school board elections to presidential campaigns, and from municipal concerns to statewide referenda on social issues, by voting we perform the minimum of our civic duty by electing, respecting, and empowering those public servants who give their full attention to governing.

Does My Vote Even Matter?

“Ahh, but isn’t this naïve?” the skeptic may ask. No one vote, after all, will be the difference in any election or political decision. Why bother casting a vote that has no meaning?

The first thing to say about such an objection is that it’s a odd way to think about doing anything with a communal element. I may as well decide not to recycle because my individual effort alone will not clean the environment. Nor will my modest charitable gift solve poverty in my community, let alone my country or the world. Yet the combined efforts of Christians can have a staggering effect when taken together, when individuals do not think of their actions entirely through an individualistic lens.

My country­­­, my state, and my town ask for a relatively minor effort on my part to contribute to the common good by expressing my views in the voting booth. Surely the test of whether I submit to this request cannot turn on whether my decision will by itself determine the entire issue.

And there are other reasons for voting. Voting is one measure whereby we learn what it would mean to promote the common good in our particular community. It’s a small but tangible exercise that can lead to even greater involvement in cultivating a just and merciful society. Moreover, we are in good company when we carry our witness about the good into the public square.

John Witte Jr., in his book From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion and Law in the Western Tradition, describes how the early church fathers publicly spoke out in favor of marriage and against evils like child abuse, polygamy, and abortion. These early leaders, who knew a thing or two about persecution and preaching the gospel, loved their neighbors enough to speak to political issues in a system that afforded them no formal power. How much more should we speak out given our political tradition is predicated on the active commitment of an informed citizenry?

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By Dick Andersen
For the Herald/Review

With the last Christian being driven out of Mosul, Afghanistan, by the vengeful ISISsect this week, and innumerable other incidents of discrimination against Christians in Africa, Asia and even the Americas plaguing the planet, one wonders if being a Christian is worthwhile?

Wouldn’t it be better to be nothing than to be tracked down and slaughtered as has happened to Christians recently in Egypt, Nigeria, Sudan, India and Pakistan?

The answer is a decided, NO!

While respect for Christianity has diminished in large measure due to pedofile clergy, immoral televangelists and other scoundrels occupying some prominent pulpits, the Gospel is still needed for this century and all the others following it. It has declined because families find other pleasures more attractive than teaching their children Christian values. TVand movie comedians may mock us, atheists may seek to dull our witness by banning crosses and creches, and novelists may fling every indescribable insult in our direction they wish, but Christianity is God’s empowered force for good — therefore cannot be so casually dismissed as inconsequential.

The Jews have suffered for their faith for centuries, yet their strength remains in those who remained faithful to it despite pogroms and the Holocaust … often at the hands of Christians regrettably.

Where would institutions of mercy … hospitals, children’s homes, homes for the aging and many similar caring facilities have originated … if it had not been for the Church centuries ago? Schools, from kindergartens to universities, were made available to the poor as well as the rich under the sponsorship of the Church. Many agencies that provide assistance to the disadvantaged got their start led by Christian men and women who originated such ministries.  And the Jews, too, have provided similar care for their people and others, while often cooperating with Christians and financially supporting their institutions to alleviate human suffering.

Many of America’s refugees came to these shores due to the ministry of Christians and Jews.  After World War II, the United States gained an exceptional benefit from those fleeing what was left in battle-worn Europe.  After Vietnam’s war, the same thing happened. So, yes, it is still a worthy goal to be a follower of Jesus no matter what naysayers tell us.

But then being a modern day disciple of the Lord Christ is not simply for assisting others in their dilemmas. That’s a prime target in the attempt to love others. There is, however, a very important personal element that comes first. There needs to be a living relationship with God, a common walk with Him in order to love one another and to sense the love that is returned. Besides, our earthly life is not the end of the journey. It is merely the prelude. Eternity is worthy of our devotion and faith now. It’s not “pie in the sky bye and bye,” but a promise made by Him to those who believe. Here and now we take the first steps to accepting the life without end.

On Aug. 4, some people will observe the 102nd birthday of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swede renowned for his rescue of up to 120,000 Hungarian Jews from the Final Solution being promulgated by Adolf Eichmann. Raoul was a Christian. He went to Budapest in the last months of World War II to rescue as many Jews remaining in the last corner of European Judaism. He served the Swedish king as a special ambassador, and was financed generously by President Franklin D. Roosevelt … two Christian leaders who cared enough to send the very best to facilitate the rescue.

Wallenberg died at the hands of the Russians in one of Moscow’s notorious prisons, but before that he fooled the Nazis by inventing, printing and distributing false passports identifying the Jewish recipients as being under the protection of King Gustav V of neutral Sweden.

His girlfriend: while Raoul studied architecture at the University of Michigan, Berniece Ringman, was a friend of mine, who toured Scandinavia and Russia with me during one of my Christian heritage tours.  While in Stockholm, she met with Raoul’s sister. In Moscow, she visited with the American ambassador about getting Raoul released from the Gulag where he was thought to be imprisoned.  It was not known until later that he had died in Moscow near the war’s end.

At any rate, Wallenberg put his life on the line for people he didn’t know. He knew, however, they were children created by God. His obligation was to God, as well as to his king, to save as many as he could. He provided safe houses for them who lived under his patronage, even a hospital, and collected very scarce provisions to feed them in a very difficult time. Why?  Because he believed it was not just his duty, but his privilege.

He was an ambassador for Christ. He did not preach. It was not his intention to convert, but it was his prerogative to serve his Lord by saving lives.

There were many Christians who lived out their faith in the face of Nazism’s threats.  Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his brother-in-law, Hans von Dohnanyi, a businessman, were among them. They stood up against the Nazis for their inhumanity toward Jews and others, and lost their lives by order of Hitler just a week or two before the war’s end. A new book, “No Ordinary Men,” was recently published by the New York Review of Books to underscore their mission.

For the rest of the post…

May 2017
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