LOVE: IS IT OUR CHIEF IDOL OR OUR MOST PRIZED VIRTUE? — PART 2

fatter_disasterWe live in era when the world seems to be unraveling. Is it unraveling? If it is unraveling, why?

Here we continue with part 2 of LOVE: IS IT OUR CHIEF IDOL OR OUR MOST PRIZED VIRTUE? What is the subject?

How The Idolization of Love Corrupts Church and State

What Is Idol Worship?

Word Origin and History for idoln. mid-13c.,

“image of a deity as an object of (pagan) worship,” from Old French idole “idol, graven image, pagan god,” from Late Latin idolum “image (mental or physical), form,” used in Church Latin for “false god,” from Greek eidolon “appearance, reflection in water or a mirror,” later “mental image, apparition, phantom,” also “material image, statue,” from eidos “form” (see -oid ). Figurative sense of “something idolized” is first recorded 1560s (in Middle English the figurative sense was “someone who is false or untrustworthy”). Meaning “a person so adored” is from 1590s. (from here)

When we idolize something, we put that person, place, or thing before our Creator. We foolishly put our faith in a person, place, or thing that is not worthy of such trust (Note again the origin of the word “idol”.). For the sake of what we can get from our idol, we sacrifice our self (in service) to our idol, and we risk our soul. We don’t “love” our idol, but it does consume us when we try use it to get what we want.

At gotquestions.org, here is how the author begins his post on the differences between ancient and modern idolatry.

Question: “What are some modern forms of idolatry?”

Answer: All the various forms of modern idolatry have one thing at their core: self. We no longer bow down to idols and images. Instead we worship at the altar of the god of self. This brand of modern idolatry takes various forms. (continued here)

The various forms he lists involve stuff (materialism), self (pride), state (mankind), and self-indulgence (various forms of gluttony).

How Does The Idolization of Love Corrupt The Church?

Most Christians have memorized at least one passage in the Bible. We call it The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), but it is really a model prayer. This prayer puts the focus on God and obedience to Him. When we recite it — and mean what we say — we humble ourselves and beg forgiveness for our sins. But this is not the way prideful men want to imagine God, and we have a wonderful capacity for self-delusion.  So it is that once we take our eyes off God, we focus upon what we want. In Grammar Lesson – ‘AS’ and ‘AND’, irtfyblog provides an example of how that works. Here is an excerpt.

So, knowing how a word is defined and used in a specific language, a reader can develop a better understanding of what the writer is trying to convey. Hence, the command:  “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Since we know that ‘As’ is defined as a word used to compare and refer to the extent or degree of something, we can then see that the meaning of the command is really:  “Love your neighbor in comparison to or to the degree of which you love yourself.”

If God had said, “Love your neighbor AND love yourself,” that would have changed the meaning of the command entirely.

Since we very much like to love ourselves, so it is that many of us look for excuses to change the meaning of the Bible. When the folks at gotquestions.org addressed this question, “Why is idol worship such a powerful temptation?”, they considered this matter.

There is another form of idolatry prevalent today. Its growth is fostered by cultures that continue to drift away from sound biblical teaching, just as the apostle Paul warned us, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3). In these pluralistic, liberal times, many cultures have, to a large degree, redefined God. We have forsaken the God revealed to us in Scripture and have recast Him to comply with our own inclinations and desires—a “kinder and gentler” god who is infinitely more tolerant than the One revealed in Scripture. One who is less demanding and less judgmental and who will tolerate many lifestyles without placing guilt on anyone’s shoulders. As this idolatry is propagated by churches around the world, many disillusioned congregants understandably believe they are worshipping the one, true God. However, these made-over gods are created by man, and to worship them is to worship idols. Worshipping a god of one’s own making, however, is particularly tempting for many whose habits and lifestyles and drives and desires are not in harmony with Scripture.

I call this form of idolatry the idolization of “love”.

How do our churches support the idolization of “love”? So that we can focus on the God of Love, we ignore much of scripture. We ignore Hell. We ignore the condemnation of sin. Fearing we deserve the same, we ignore the stories of Israel’s sins and suffering. We also ignore the sins and the suffering of Israel’s enemies, of Sodom and Gomorrah, of the peoples before Noah’s Flood, of Cain, and of Adam and Eve. Refusing to seriously consider the future, we set aside the coming Wrath of God in Revelation.

When was the last time your pastor warned of Hell and damnation? Does your pastor slyly step past the scary parts of the Bible? How many people do you know who read those parts? How many people do you know who have read the Bible?

Is there a Hell? Is there a punishment for sin? If not, then why did Jesus die upon that cross?

We have to study and revere the whole Word of God. Any church that refuses to do that will in time unravel.

Deuteronomy 12:29-32 New King James Version (NKJV)

Beware of False Gods

29 “When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, 30 take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.

For the sake of what they imagine they could get from a demon god called Molech, the Canaanites and their Hebrew imitators burned their children alive.  For the sake of distorted notions of love, we abort hundreds of thousands of children every year.

How Does The Idolization of Love Corrupt The State?

Churches Don’t Provide Character Education

When churches begin preaching sloppy notions about love and ignore much of the Bible, the morals of a nation must suffer. Then the nation itself must suffer. Without a moral people, we cannot make a constitutional republic work. Neither the people nor their leaders will restrain themselves and abide by the law.

There is a certain irony in that. Consider all the rules, regulations and laws we suffer under now, and ignorance of the law is no excuse. In a highly technical society with potentially lethal hand-held power tools; big and even more dangerous cars, buses, and trunks; powerful chemicals; and so forth, we have to have lots of rules, regulations and laws. We cannot just point to a song and chant “What the world needs now is love, sweet love”. We have to understand that loving your neighbor means stopping at red lights. In fact, we have to teach our children and each other what real and sincere love looks like.

Yet too many Christian churches do not teach about the effort required to love. They should. Consider how Jesus summarized the Bible.

Matthew 22:36-40 New King James Version (NKJV)

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Did Jesus say that this passage is all we need to know? Didn’t Jesus spend three years teaching His apostles. Did not even the Apostle Paul, a brilliant scholar, have to spend 2 – 3 years in the desert before he began his work as an apostle (Galatians 1:11-18). For similar reasons, each of us needs to study the whole Bible. Just as the apostles could not teach others how to be good Christians without the instruction of Jesus, we cannot properly live as good Christians without studying the Bible.

An Example Of The Problem

The Bible is a book of wisdom that tells us how we should try to live with each other. Government is an institution we created to keep us from destroying each other. Because we must empower government to control us, government is an institution we can either use properly or abuse.

Here is a very simple, straightforward example. The Bible gives us a personal responsibility to love and help each other. The Bible speaks of voluntary giving, not government-run charity. Yet we have let legions of politicians persuade us that they have the right to take money some people and give it to other people. These politicians give us excuses. “It is for the children.” “It is for the disabled.” “It is for the old.” And so forth.

What at bottom is the excuse for government-run charity — welfare? The politicians defend the welfare state as modern man’s means for loving his neighbor. In fact, what has happened is that the conniving politicians who run these schemes just create large voting constituencies dependent on government handouts.

Government cannot love us. Government welfare is not about love; it is about votes. The Bible does not make exceptions for government handouts. Even when we use the government to do it, when we take the property of another person, that is stealing.

Government Cannot Provide Character Education

Since the time we turned the education of our children over to politicians, each succeeding generation has had less and less familiarity with the Bible. What have the politicians put in its place? It is a vague thing we call Secularism.

Why would our leaders choose to do such a thing? Why would they set aside the Bible, which contains invaluable wisdom, for Secularism. Well, there is nothing new in this. In fact, when Americans chose to prevent the government from establishing a state religion, that was new. Unfortunately, we risk losing what they won.

In the 1830’s Americans started sending their children to schools run by their local governments. Those public schools, ostensibly for the sake of religious freedom, gradually begin separating the religious content out of the curriculum. When state governments and the Federal Government sought to stick their noses into the government-run education racket, Federal and state officials accelerated the process of separating out religious education content. Hence, when the Supreme Court ruled against school prayer, the judges merely finished a process that was almost complete.

Unfortunately, a secular education cannot and does not instill virtue into children.  Therefore, everyone expected parents and churches to somehow make up for this deficit, but relatively few parents and churches ever taught children what was needful. In fact, as some have observed, the way the public schools teach subjects like sex education (handing out condoms to teenagers.) and history (religion starts wars) is often at odds with what churches and parents want children to learn.

Conclusion

If we want to save our republic, we have to focus on a more serious problem. We each have to repair the damage to our souls. We must study the Bible.

2 Chronicles 34 tells the story of a revival in Judah. The priests had lost the Book of the Law in the temple.  When the priests finally began looking towards God again, they then were able to find His Word again (in the Temple where they lost it). The question for today is whether we can do the same.


Continued: A Review Of What Others Have To Say

MAKING AN IDOL OF REASON — PART 1

Fête de la Raison ("Festival of Reason"), Notre Dame, Paris (from here).
Fête de la Raison (“Festival of Reason”), Notre Dame, Paris (from here).

A Rally For Reason?

I live close to our nation’s capital, Washington D. C. So I suppose I could attend the so-called Reason Rally. In fact, I had the opportunity to go with a group that plans on preaching the Gospel to the lost. I decided not to go. Since I figured anyone attending that rally would refuse to listen, I decided it would be more profitable to blog instead.

Here are some sympathetic articles that describe the rally

For the time being, because Atheism still is not popular, the big names are staying away (see Reason Rally Speakers & Entertainers).

So why are the self-proclaimed “reasonable” people having a rally like this? Well, this sort of thing is nothing  new. The victors of the French Revolution (1789 until 1799), infamous for chopping off heads, celebrated a Cult of Reason. Unhappy with the Catholic Church, the revolutionaries wanted to replace the worship of the God of the Bible with the worship of human reason, but these worship leaders turned out to be quite unreasonable.  These people were against Christ, but they had nothing substantial to offer in His place. Human reason alone cannot and does not provide us the answers we need.

So why then are the self-proclaimed “reasonable” people having a rally like this? Why repeat such a foolish and bloody mistake? In our era, most people are not very familiar with history. Most people are also quite unfamiliar with the Bible. We have reached the point that we try to practice Biblical values without ever having read the Bible.  So it is many people have only a vague idea where the values they uphold came from.

What is funny is that those who deny Christ often do so because they don’t think Christianity measures up to their own moral values. Yet where did they get their highfalutin values? They may attribute them to their own higher reasoning, but then they would have to forget the humility of such as Isaac Newton.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. — Isaac Newton

None of us begin our lives without learning from others, others who learned from others.  We can, however, do a sorry job of teaching the next generation, and that we have been doing for several generations. So it is that “learned” ladies and gentlemen pretend to uphold Atheist “values” that often sound like those (or, supposedly, even better than those) found in the Bible. That is, they offer us their idols (stuff, sex, state, and self) and some form of salvation based upon works. If we just follow them and their formulas, we will have paradise on earth, and maybe heaven too.

Does that sound harsh? Well, consider the arrogance of holding a rally for reason. Only those attending the rally can reason? Consider also this is not just a rally for a religious view; it is a political rally, and the attendees claim “reason” as their own, their rallying point. Their opponents? Well, they don’t reason.

Nobody is stopping Atheists from believing what they want to believe. Christians may think that religious beliefs and political beliefs are related, but Christians don’t use the political system to impose their beliefs on others. However, men all too often have used “reason” as an excuse for abusing the rights of others. In fact, men have used their supposed greater capacity for reasoning as an excuse for enslaving other men.

Continued

TAKING FINGER PAINTING TO HIGHER LEVEL?

A child fingerpainting (from here)
A child fingerpainting (from here)

Am I just finger painting in my walk with the Messiah Jesus? is a wonderful post by Michael Wilson that uses a verse taken from The Message to make the point that we cannot stand still as Christians. We must strive to grow and become mature disciples of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 6:1

So come on, let’s leave the preschool finger painting exercises on the Messiah and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ.

When I read ‘s post, I enjoyed it, but my skepticism is ingrained. The Message is the Bible in the words of Pastor Eugene H. Peterson. Because Peterson’s goal was to make the Bible understandable, we cannot accurately call The Message a translation of the Bible. In fact, it is a bit of a stretch to call The Message a paraphrasing of the Bible. Hence, The Message has its critics (see here and here for examples).

The Message reminds me of those times I have heard a speech and wished the guy giving it had said something different, what I would have said.  So when I read a verse or passage from The Message, I always find myself comparing it with a literal translation (Here is an example.).

As a practical matter, I consider The Message a good Bible commentary, but I don’t consider it to be a translation of Bible. I will concede The Message generally sticks close to the original meaning in the text, but in our effort to grow as Christians, we should use The Message to help us understand a literal translation (see Hebrews 6:1-8). We should try to avoid using The Message and translations that paraphrase the Bible in the original language as crutches to avoid reading a literal translation.

Should we try to read the Bible in the original language? I wish I could, but few of us have the time to make that sort of effort. Perfect is not the enemy of good.

Anyway, on to a bit of amusement. What first struck me about Peterson’s version of Hebrews 6:1 is that I did not think the writer of Hebrews could have known anything about finger painting. After a little research, however, I am not sure. Apparently, Prehistoric Children Finger-Painted on Cave Walls.

In addition, Peterson wisely used the adjective “preschool,” that is, “preschool finger painting exercises.” What an expert can do with finger paint is really quite remarkable => This Artist Only Uses Her Fingers to Paint and the Results are Amazing.

RIGHT MAKES MIGHT: A QUESTION FOR MEMORIAL DAY

ChristianknightWhat will make America great again? What will make our nation worthy of the good men and women who have given their lives to defend us? What is the subject of this post? It is about the words of a troubled man.

“Might does not make right! Right makes right!” ― T.H. White, The Once and Future King

Whatever his faults, T. H. White wrote a popular fantasy. He made people imagine a world that never was, but was he right? Does right make right?

How would we know if right makes right? Is there some way to measure such a thing? Well, with dubious success, academics try to do such things. The video below represents such an attempt.

Where do I think the video fails? A good marriage does make a man (and a woman) stronger, but the video never defines a good marriage. Instead the video suggests that the purpose of marriage is to make a boy into a man, and the video provides evidence to substantiate that claim.

What is a good marriage? Why would a good marriage make a man (and a woman) stronger? Consider how the Bible speaks of this relationship.

Ephesians 5:22-33 New King James Version (NKJV)

Marriage—Christ and the Church

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

The Bible uses marriage as a model of Christian love. Just as Christ gave of Himself for the Church (even though we were and are still sinners), husbands should strive to love their wives, and wives should return the love of their husbands with equal fervor.

Marriage, however, is not the prime example that Jesus gave us of love. Jesus did not restrict love to marriage. Jesus never married a woman. Instead, He commanded us to love each other as He loved us.

John 15:12-14 New King James Version (NKJV)

12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.

Does such love make us stronger? Does caring about someone else make us stronger than caring only about our self? It seems counter-intuitive, but this is what God tells us to do — because He loves us.

Why would giving of our self to another make us stronger? Consider the nature of discipline. When parent disciplines a child, don’t they do so because they love their children?

Hebrews 12:3-11 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Discipline of God

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Because victory depends upon each man being where he is suppose to be and doing what he is suppose to be doing, soldiers know the value of rigorous discipline. Yet such discipline is only received well when it comes from someone who cares about us.

The Bible is full of examples of how the Lord chastens his children. King David’s life probably provides the best illustration. Here we have the story of a young shepherd boy who loved God. What God saw in David’s heart we can only guess, but God chose David and made him King of Israel. And what was David’s life like? The naive would call it adventurous, but David’s psalms tell us of a man struggling with sin and doubt.  Therefore, in the middle of a psalm praising God, David included these words.

Psalm 31:9-13 New King James Version (NKJV)

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble;
My eye wastes away with grief,
Yes, my soul and my body!
10 For my life is spent with grief,
And my years with sighing;
My strength fails because of my iniquity,
And my bones waste away.
11 I am a reproach among all my enemies,
But especially among my neighbors,
And am repulsive to my acquaintances;
Those who see me outside flee from me.
12 I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind;
I am like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the slander of many;
Fear is on every side;
While they take counsel together against me,
They scheme to take away my life.

With God’s help David rose above his troubles. Did David ever know a good marriage? Perhaps, but he married too many times, and our Lord chastised him for that too.

Yet this is a post for Memorial Day. So how does it apply? It is about the answer to a question. What made America great? The answer is that Americans care about each other in a special way.

Why do Americans care about each other? The overriding reason is that we have a Christian heritage. In spite of the fact we have not done a good job instructing our children in the Bible, Americans still believe we should love each other, that right makes might.

It is true that we are a nation made up of the descendants of peoples from around the world. Nevertheless, the descendants of Christians, many refugees seeking the freedom to practice their own version of Christianity, formed the foundations of our nation. That is the reason for this passage in the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (from here)

At the time Declaration of Independence was written, there was nothing else like it. Yet stranger things have happened since then. Look at the end of World War II. Consider the savagery of the Axis Powers. Millions dead. Many died mercilessly murdered in concentration camps. Yet Americans still insisted upon helping Japan and Germany rebuild. In previous times, the victors would have insisted upon reparations, but love demands forgiveness.

Therefore, when you raise the flag and celebrate Memorial Day, remember to thank our Lord. He taught us to love each other. He taught us right makes might, and He gives us heroes willing to lay down their own lives for those of their friends.