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Must the Moral Law Have a Lawgiver?

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on August 21, 2016

imageBy J.M. Njoroge

Atheists don’t believe we need God to understand what is right and wrong. Yet Christians point to a moral law that is written on our hearts by God, and our conscience testifies either for us or against us with regard to morality.

Before I respond directly to the question raised in the title of this article, let me say a word about what I take to be the place of arguments for God’s existence. To the person who has walked with God for any length of time and who has experienced firsthand the reality of God’s work in his or her life, offering arguments for God’s existence can feel as awkward as planning a surprise birthday party for Auntie Jenny in her presence. I suppose most people do not believe in God as the end result of logically airtight conclusions built upon indisputable premises; they are first confronted with their own sinfulness and the need to be reconciled with a Holy God as encapsulated in the gospel message and then build a rational case for their newfound faith as questions, and sometimes doubts, arise.[1] We should be careful not to overemphasize the intellect at the expense of the will. Just like any other good thing our Lord has freely given to us, we can use reason to conceal our flight from Him. When it comes to making a decision either for or against God, the defining issue is the deceptively simple question Jesus asked the disciples of John the Baptist who expressed interest in following Jesus, “What do you want?” (John 1:38). Doubt and skepticism are valid postures as long as they are motivated by the search for truth rather than a repudiation of it. What we want to be the case can keep us from accepting what is in fact the case, in spite of the amount of evidence at our disposal. Elsewhere, Jesus puts it this way, “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17, emphasis added).

Nevertheless, there is indeed a place for taking a step back to consider the nature of the rational evidence that may be marshaled in defense of our faith. The process of loving God with the entirety of one’s being, including the mind—a major part of the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:37-8)—is not only commanded in the Scriptures, but it is also integral to spiritual growth. Moreover, it is true that a rational presentation of the gospel routinely serves as the catalyst that propels many to faith in God. For some people, the way to their heart is through their mind. And when the will is right—when what we want is to submit to a reality not of our own making—we find that God has really put us in a world fraught with clues of his holy pursuit. Among other things, we are rational beings, and it stands to reason that our minds, properly chastened, should not be at war with the truth, wherever it may be found. To quote the legendary scientist Galileo,

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them.[2]

So, what do our senses, reason, and intellect tell us regarding the existence of God? There are many different strands of evidence available to us in answer to this question. We could, for example, consider the origin and complexity of the universe, the presence of information in the DNA, the origin of life and consciousness, biblical history, including the resurrection of Jesus, and our immediate experience of God. In this article, I will concentrate on the moral nature of our universe, which I take to be one of the peskiest pointers to God for anyone who is intent on turning his or her back on Him.

In what follows, I will offer some of the reasons why I believe we cannot make adequate sense of our experience of morality without God. My goal is not to focus on the moral argument as a whole but on the obligatory or normative aspect of the moral law that I will argue cries out for a moral lawgiver. As the philosopher Immanuel Kant noted several centuries ago, morality is largely constituted by categorical imperatives: nonnegotiable rules of behavior to which every human being must conform. I will argue that such a demand makes sense only if there exists a moral lawgiver who made us as moral agents capable of apprehending an objective moral standard external to us and applying it to ourselves. We exist in a world that comes packaged with a moral law that we did not invent. We discover it and once we do, we find that we are bound by it. This is, indeed, our Father’s world!

THE MORAL ARGUMENT

Like hundreds of other young men and women I have met in my travels around the globe, my first foray into systematized philosophical thinking as it applies to Christian apologetics was occasioned by a “chance” encounter with the spellbinding lectures and messages of Ravi Zacharias, especially his 1992 Veritas Forum lectures at Harvard University that eventually found their way into his provocatively titled book Can Man Live Without God. I was barely out of my teenage years, and I had traveled to the US to study medicine. But God used Ravi’s messages to lead me on a different path as I came to terms with the infinite value of God’s Word, properly communicated. The rest, as they say, is history.

One of the points Ravi emphasized in his lectures, one that I found to be quite persuasive, was the fact that there is a very compelling link between morality and God. Here is a succinct summary of his argument in response to a question:

When you say there is evil, aren’t you admitting there is good? When you accept the existence of goodness, you must affirm a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But when you admit to a moral law, you must posit a moral lawgiver.[3]

Now, anyone who may be unfamiliar with the academic literature on the source of our moral intuitions might be surprised to learn that most philosophers who teach ethics, including atheists, accept almost each one of the claims Ravi makes in the above quote. In popular culture (and in a few academic circles as well), there are various attempts to explain morality in terms of evolution, social contracts, relativism, etc. [4] Much of the interaction on moral issues tends to take place at that level in popular circles. And because there exists a gap between the academy and the so-called masses (and we are all members of the “masses” outside our professional or academic disciplines), addressing these topics in the manner in which the masses grapple with them is vitally important. But academic ethicists realize that morality is too central and binding a reality in human experience to be relegated either to individual or collective human will, desires, or beliefs. Nor can it be adequately understood on the basis of social contracts or evolution.

That morality is objective, binding, and inevitable is most evident to us when we are either the victims of injustice or when our sympathies for the helpless are awakened. Everything within us cries out against such experiences. A number of years ago, I read a story about a woman who had given birth through C-section in a certain country. In the process of the delivery, something went horribly wrong. The doctors, one would hope inadvertently, inflicted deep wounds on the baby’s face. The baby could not breathe and breastfeed at the same time. The doctors assured the mother that the baby would be fine in a couple of days and encouraged her to take the baby home.

Well, the baby got worse. When the mother took the baby back to the hospital, she discovered that, to her horror, the hospital staff had purged all the records of her ever having been to the hospital. They told her that if she ever set foot in that hospital again, they would call the police on her because of what she had done to her own baby. It is impossible for me to imagine any morally healthy person reading such a story without reacting strongly against the injustice. An unabashed craving for justice is deeply woven into the very fiber of our being, and it is strongly awakened in such moments. But as Ravi notes, such a reaction betrays the fact that we are very much aware of the existence of a moral law that applies to all of us. We can’t complain about evil without at the same time invoking the primacy of good, and to do so is to acknowledge that morality is objective.

For most people, what we have said so far is enough to establish the dependence of morality on God. All the pieces we need to build that puzzle are not only present but in their rightful places. We know that some things are really wrong. Other things are really right, and there is an objective moral standard that helps us differentiate between the two. We also sense quite strongly that this can only be true if God exists. Morality is indeed grounded in God. Once one begins to realize that morality is not relative, that it cannot be grounded in biological evolution, and that it cannot be fully explained on the basis of social conventions or individual taste, one immediately feels drawn to the conclusion that God must exist.

In my travels, I have discussed the claims I’ve made so far with a lot of people, including atheists. I find that most people accept our thinking thus far. They believe that there is something rationally duplicitous about claiming that there is an objective set of dos and don’ts imposed upon human beings while denying that God exists.

“That is simply preposterous!” one self-proclaimed atheist friend said to me. “Only a person who just wants to avoid God would grant the objectivity of morality while rejecting God. If there is an objective moral standard, then there is a moral lawgiver, which means God exists.”

We both laughed out loud when I uttered a hearty “Amen!” in response. As an aside, you may be wondering how my friend could still describe himself as an atheist if he believed morality points to God. Sadly, he chooses to deny morality. He agrees that if you accept that morality is objective, then you must believe in God. But, he reasons, if you reject morality, then you don’t need to worry about morality pointing you to God. As we will see later, my friend is not alone in this. But yes, I did let him know that denying morality—denying that some things are really evil and some things are really good, regardless of what anyone says—is just as preposterous. That conversation reminded me of the following quip by GK Chesterton,

If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can make one or two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.[5]

Our experience of morality, especially when we are the victims of injustice, is too powerful to be illusory. To deny that there are things that are right, and others wrong, is as absurd as denying the cat as in Chesterton’s example. But if the point is so obvious, and if so many have turned to God on the basis of the pressure morality puts on their unbelief, how is it possible that some of the leading ethics professors in the best of our universities around the world can affirm the objectivity of morality while rejecting God? How do they manage to have their cake and eat it too?

DENYING THE CAT: OBJECTIVE MORALITY WITHOUT GOD

If you are reading carefully, you will note that I said that most ethicists, including atheists, accept almost each one of the claims Ravi makes in the quote above. So what part of the argument do they dispute? Unfortunately, the most hotly debated part of the argument also happens to be the most important, i.e., the direct link between morality and God. The controversy is centered on the last line of Ravi’s quote: the claim that it is not possible to have a moral law without a moral lawgiver.

For reasons such as the ones we’ve already talked about, most philosophers are unwilling to deny the reality of morality. They agree that acknowledging that good and evil exist invokes an objective moral law, but they also think that the moral law stands on its own without any need for further justification. In other words, one does not need to appeal to a moral lawgiver to acknowledge that there is indeed a moral standard that is independent of human decisions, will or desires, and that helps us differentiate between good and evil. For example, atheist philosopher Louise Anthony writes,

I take it that theists and atheists will agree about what it means to say that morality is objective: first, whether something is right or wrong does not depend on any human being’s attitudes toward it, and second, moral facts are independent of human will.[6]

Similarly, Erik Wielenberg, also an atheist, writes, “[My view] is non-theistic in that it implies that objective morality does not require a theistic founda­tion; indeed, the view implies that objective morality does not require an external foundation at all.”[7] Other examples could be given.

To understand how someone can accept that morality is objective while rejecting the existence of God, we will look at two of the best arguments for the position. These arguments are (1) we can make perfect sense of objective morality without God, and (2) invoking God in discussions about morality actually creates more problems than it solves.

Before we delve into the arguments, let’s first say a word about “arguments” in logic. An argument in logic is not a quarrel. It is the juxtaposition of statements in such a way that the truth of one of those statements (called the conclusion) is entailed by the other statement(s), which are called premise(s). Logical consistency is one of the tests of the truth of a worldview, so logic is extremely important. But logic calls for clear thinking, which can be hard at times. Like Apostle Peter, I invite you to “gird up the loins of your mind” and join me on a mental adventure. It will be rough going in places, but I promise you the trip is more than worth it. As followers of Jesus Christ, logic is our friend, not our enemy.

1. Can we really make sense of objective morality without God?

The first argument for morality without God is fairly easy to grasp. It is simply the claim that morality is not different from other truths that we grasp about our universe without having to appeal to God. It is not different, for example, from our grasp of logical and mathematical truths. Consider the following argument, one that is found in many logic textbooks. Suppose you were given these two premises,

All men are mortal
Socrates is a man
You know immediately that you ought to draw the following conclusion:

Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
You know immediately and instinctively that the conclusion follows from the premises. In addition, if you pardon the pun, you know immediately that 2+2 is equal to 4. These are truths that are simply a part of reality, truths that we employ in our day-to-day lives without invoking God, or so the argument goes. According to this thinking, moral truths work the same way. They are just there as part of reality, and we apprehend them and use them in the same way we apprehend and use truths of logic and mathematics. We do not need God to apprehend and apply these truths to our lives.

However, I hope you can spot a move that has been played on us, which makes this argument seem much more compelling so far than it really is. Namely, we have switched from talking about where morality comes from (what it is grounded in) to talking about how we know about morality. To use some fancy philosophical terms, the former is an ontological task (concerning the nature of reality), the latter an epistemological one (concerning the nature of knowledge and how we acquire it).

Even if it is true that we apprehend moral truths in the same way that we apprehend logical and mathematical truths (which I believe is true), it does not follow that morality is not grounded in God. It could be the case that God made us in such a way that we are in fact able to apprehend laws of mathematics, logic, and morality immediately. As a matter of fact, the Scriptures teach that this is exactly what happened, specifically with regard to the moral law. In Romans 2:14-15, the apostle Paul writes

Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.

The requirements of the law are written on our hearts, and our conscience testifies either for us or against us with regard to morality. That is why God judged Gentile nations in the Old Testament for their evil behavior, even though they did not have the Bible. They ought to have known better. That is why God judges people who have never read the Bible and who may not care about it. They ought to know better. So, we should not let a skeptic get away with saying that since we can tell the difference between right and wrong without appealing to God, we don’t need God to ground morality. A good number of skeptics think pointing out that we can tell the difference between right and wrong all by ourselves is enough to dissociate morality from God. It is not enough. How we learn about morality and what morality is grounded in are two very different questions.

But if that were the only reason given for the claim that we can make sense of morality without God, the argument would be too weak to convince professional ethicists to accept morality while rejecting God, though it regularly works at the level of the masses. So we must now consider the second step taken in defense of the argument. Philosophers proceed to point out that logical, mathematical, and moral facts are necessary truths. When philosophers say that something exists necessarily, they mean that it has always existed and it will always exist. It is not possible for it not to exist. That, we should note, is what we believe about God. He is from everlasting to everlasting. His existence is uncaused—He simply exists.

The argument follows similar logic in maintaining that, in addition to God who is a necessary Being, there are other necessary entities, and they include the laws of mathematics and the laws of logic. Laws of mathematics and logic simply exist. Even God, who is a rational Being, must follow these laws. He cannot violate them, the argument continues, and it makes no sense to ask where they came from or what they are grounded in.

Now, if the laws of logic and mathematics can exist without any need for a logical or mathematical lawgiver, the argument continues, why can’t the laws of morality exist in the same way? Why do we need a lawgiver for the moral law but not for logical or mathematical laws? Those who insist on uncoupling morality from God obviously insist that we should understand the laws of morality in the same way that we understand the laws of logic and mathematics. The moral law also exists necessarily and it therefore doesn’t need to be grounded in anything.

I hope you can now appreciate the reason why so many philosophers find this argument in support of the claim that we can make sense of morality without God compelling. But before we offer a response, let’s review the argument briefly. We are simply aware of the laws of morality in the same way we apprehend the laws of mathematics and logic. We responded by saying the question we are answering is not how we come to know about these laws but what they are grounded in. The part of the argument we are considering now is the claim that since these laws are unalterable, non-negotiable, and they exist necessarily, we therefore don’t need to ask where they come from or what they are grounded in. They have always existed, and they will always exist. Even God cannot change them. Now we must respond to this second strand of the argument.

In response to the argument, we begin by noting a couple of things. First, we are now well beyond the boundaries atheists normally draw around the ultimate nature of reality. We are regularly told that all of reality can be fully explained by matter, energy, and the interactions that take place among or within material particles. With the argument we are now considering, the story shifts dramatically. In addition to material particles and energy, we now have an entirely different realm of reality—a reality that consists of abstract entities that exist necessarily and to which human beings are subject. That is no small shift. We now have one foot in the unseen world, where God lives. Exit materialism, to which much of the modern atheistic movement is intricately wedded.

Secondly, the claim that the laws of logic, mathematics, and morality do not need to be grounded in anything since they exist necessarily needs to be defended, not just asserted. Showing that something exists necessarily is not the same thing as showing that it needs no explanation for its existence.

To state the point differently, something can exist necessarily and still require an explanation for its existence. As far as I know, there is no good reason to think that once one shows that something exists necessarily, questions about what explains its existence become irrelevant. As a matter of fact, argues William Lane Craig, such a position can be shown to be false. He writes,

The assumption here seems to be that necessary truths cannot stand to one another in relations of explanatory priority. Not only do I see no reason to think that assumption true, but it strikes me as obviously false. For example, “States of consciousness exist” is necessarily true, since “God exists” is necessarily true. That is to say, the fact that a personal, metaphysically necessary being like God exists explains why it is necessarily true that states of consciousness exist. To give a nontheological example, the axioms of Peano arithmetic are explanatorily prior to “2+2=4”, as are the axioms of Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory to the theorems thereof.[8]

Consequently, it is not enough for one to point out that the laws of logic, mathematics, and morality exist necessarily. One must also offer valid reasons as to why we should think that they do not need to be grounded in anything and are not in need of any explanation. As Craig puts it, “…if necessary truths can stand to one another in asymmetric relations of explanatory priority, then there is no objection … to holding that moral values exist because God exists.”[9]

Thus one can argue that the laws of mathematics, logic, and morality are all grounded in God. They exist necessarily, but they are also in need of explanation, and that explanation is God. Although much more could be said about this, I would like to pursue a different line of thinking in order to show that the moral law does indeed require a moral lawgiver. I will argue that, even if we grant for the sake of the argument that we don’t need to appeal to God to explain the laws of logic and mathematics, morality is sufficiently different from logic and mathematics to demand a moral lawgiver. Specifically, my claim is that the fact that morality contains within it a normative or obligatory character does indeed presuppose the existence of a lawgiving, transcendent Personal Being. In other words, morality is agent-centered—it requires a thinking being with the authority to issue commands. But before we look at that response in more detail, let us examine briefly the second argument given for the claim that morality is not grounded in God.

2. Does invoking God in morality create more problems than it solves?

At this point, the skeptic has another weapon in his arsenal. For someone who is not philosophically inclined, the subtlety of this argument can easily make it seem quite abstract and irrelevant, not to mention bewildering. So, once again, I implore you to gird up the loins of your mind. We’ve come too far—it’s too late to turn back now!

Here is the argument: If we say that moral obligations are commands that God issues and which He requires us to obey, we must be assuming that we are already obligated to follow God’s commands even before He issues any command at all. In other words, the fact that we have the obligation to obey commands issued by God is itself an obligation that is simply true—it is not one of the commands God issues. You obey God’s commands because you already have the obligation to obey God. God cannot make it the case that you ought to obey the commands He issues if it weren’t already the case that you ought to do so

An example might be helpful here. Suppose you are made aware of the command that you must set aside Wednesday as a holy day and you are to do no work on that day. You ask who issued that command. Would you really feel obligated to do so if you found out that the order to keep the Sabbath on Wednesday came from your next-door neighbor, Bill? I suppose the answer is “No!” You are under no obligation to keep any commands issued by Bill. So, why think that we have the obligation to obey God’s commands but not Bill’s? J.L. Mackie stated the objection as follows:

The commands of a legitimate human ruler do not create obligations: if such a ruler tells you to do X, this makes it obligatory for you to do X only if it is already obligatory for you to do whatever the ruler tells you (within the sphere in which X lies). The same applies to God. He can make it obligatory for us to do Y by so commanding only because there is first a general obligation for us to obey him. His commands, therefore, cannot be the source of moral obligation in general.[10]

We could respond by saying that God has the authority to issue commands, yet a human being, like Bill, doesn’t. Given who God is, I am under his authority and I must obey his commands. The crucial point here is this: Just as Bill cannot make it the case that you ought to obey the commands he issues just by issuing that as a command, God cannot make it the case that you ought to obey Him just by commanding you to do so since, if you are not already obligated to obey Him, you would not need to worry about this command either. You obey his commands because there is an antecedent, independent obligation owed to Him simply because of who He is, whether He has issued any commands or not.

But that creates a problem for our original claim that our obligations are commands issued by God. We have said that God doesn’t need to issue any commands for it to be the case that I am obligated to obey his commands. But if I am already obligated to follow God’s commands before He issues any commands, then it follows that there is at least one obligation that is just true, namely, the obligation to follow any command God issues. Here is the linchpin of the argument: if it is possible for there to be just one moral obligation that is simply true, i.e., one that is independent of any commands issued by God, why can’t we say the same thing about all the other obligations, especially if we concede that moral truths exist necessarily?

If your head is spinning at this point, don’t worry. The argument will become crystal clear to you right before you go to bed, and then you’ll stay up all night wondering how to answer it! If that happens, just come back to the next section of this article for a brief but, I believe, effective response. The first thing to note about the claim being made here is that it can be applied to any moral theory. If we say, for example, that morality is a matter of human convention, then we must assume that we have the prior, independent obligation to obey the directives of the community. If we say that what is right is determined by the majority, then we must suppose that we are obligated to follow the dictates of the majority. Here is how Mark Schroder states this point:

So if [this] argument successfully shows that not all obligations can be explained by God’s commands, then it looks like it must also show that not all obligations can be explained by self-interest, by hypothetical contracts, by what would maximize the good, by what is in accordance with rules no one could reasonably reject, or any other source.[11]

In other words, we are left with no possible way of offering an explanation for the source of our moral obligations.

The skeptic set out to uncouple obligation from God and ended up making the idea of obligation even more mysterious. The reason this has happened is because the attempt to show that obligations do not come from God rests on an equivocation.[12]

Consider these two statements:

We are obligated to do what God commands.
There exists an antecedent obligation to obey whatever God commands.
In order to make the argument against explaining our moral obligations in terms of God’s command work, the skeptic must assume that the second statement above is true. But the theist is not at all committed to the second statement; all the theist needs is for the first statement to be true. There is no antecedent, mysterious obligation that needs to be explained.

The moral of the story thus far is that even the best of the reasons routinely given for thinking that we do not need to appeal to God to ground morality do not succeed. If there is a moral law, there must be a moral lawgiver. But we can strengthen the argument even further by showing that morality, and specifically moral obligation, is both agent-relative (it can only arise in the case of persons) and objective (it transcends human will). If moral obligation is grounded in a person (or persons) and it is not dependent on human beings, then it must be grounded in a supernatural Person, i.e., God.

MORAL OBLIGATION AS AGENT-RELATIVE

We normally take it for granted that we have obligations to do or not do certain things. When tragedy strikes, our political leaders invoke this sense of obligation to justify the actions they believe we should support. Speaking about the need for the US to take care of its veterans, President Obama stated, “The bond between our forces and our citizens has to be a sacred trust, and that for me, for my administration, upholding our trust with our veterans is not just a matter of policy, it is a moral obligation.”[13] It’s a common assumption that we have the moral obligation to act in certain ways. Morality binds us, leaving us with no choice in the matter. Shame and guilt are the result of disregarding the dictates of morality.

But as far back as 1958, Cambridge philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe argued that the concept of moral obligation in Western philosophy has its roots in Christianity, which conceives of ethics, and especially moral obligation, in terms of laws given by God.[14] With the abandonment of Christianity among many in Western philosophy, Anscombe counseled her fellow philosophers to jettison the concept of obligation as well since its metaphysical foundation was no longer plausible for them and talk of obligation has thus become incoherent.

When we consider what it means to say that we have moral obligations or duties, we quickly begin to see the validity of the point that Anscombe was making. The eminent moral theorist John Stuart Mill described the concept of moral duty as follows:

We do not call anything wrong unless we mean to imply that a person ought to be punished in some way or other for doing it—if not by law, by the opinion of his fellow creatures; if not by opinion, by the reproaches of his own conscience…. It is a part of the notion of duty in every one of its forms that a person may rightfully be compelled to fulfill it. Duty is a thing which may be exacted from a person, as one exacts a debt.[15]

JT-24.3-John-Njoroge-DesignNot only are certain things wrong to do, we are prohibited from doing them. Not only are some things good to do, we are required to do them. As Mill notes, duty is something we owe in the same way we owe debts. One is hard-pressed to make sense of owing duties (and debts) to no one in particular. The best way to make sense of talk of duties is in a social context where duties (like debts) are owed to other persons.

In support of the claim that obligation requires agency, Yale philosopher Stephen Darwall argues that neither the moral “ought” nor practical reason is sufficient to bring about obligation. One can have very good reasons to do something morally right and still not be obligated to do it. Accountability and responsibility are also needed, and we are responsible to someone. Darwall notes that such diverse philosophers as Suarez in the late 16th and early 17th century, John Stuart Mill, and Nietzsche have defended this view. He says,

I think it’s a conceptual truth that what we are morally obligated to do is what we are responsible to the moral community for doing. Exactly who is the moral community is itself contestable. Theological voluntarists might believe it is really just God. You and I might believe it is just persons—people who are capable of holding one another morally responsible.[16]

As is evident from the quote, Darwall defends a secularist approach to morality. Similarly, Susan Wolf, another secularist philosopher, points out that it is not enough to say that moral requirements are requirements of morality; that to follow moral obligations is simply to do what morality requires of us. When we demand of people that they live up to their moral duties, “…we mean to say that we require [them to do so] on moral grounds or for moral reasons.”[17] For Wolf, the “we” that stands behind these requirements is the social community. In other words, human beings are the moral community that gives obligation its normative force.

The point made thus far is that moral obligation is a social concept. Accountability makes sense only if we are accountable to other persons. In the next section, we will see that the Person we are ultimately responsible to is God. Since obligation is not only a social concept but also an objective one, the existence of God makes the most sense of our experience of morality. Human societies or communities cannot adequately account for moral obligation.

But it is important to address a common misconception about the normative character of morality in a more direct way. It is often assumed that reason by itself is adequate to give us all we want in terms of knowing and acting upon our moral obligations. What is moral to do, the claim goes, is what is reasonable to do. But although morality is indeed reasonable, the relationship between the two is not as clear cut as the foregoing claim implies. It is one thing to have good reasons to do something and quite another to be obligated to do it. Having reasons to perform an action does not necessarily imbue one with the kind of obligation morality requires.

An illustration given by C. Stephen Evans might be helpful here.[18] Suppose someone is offered, say $5,000, to deliver a lecture he has delivered several times before on an afternoon when he is free and has nothing to lose should he accept the offer. He would have a very good reason to perform that act. But he would not be considered morally blameworthy should he choose to play golf instead. The point, once again, is that having good reasons to do something is not the same thing as being obligated to do it. Alternatively, violating rationality is not the same thing as violating moral obligation. As Robert Adams puts it,

To the extent that I have done something morally wrong, I have something to feel guilty about. To the extent that I have done something irrational, I have merely something to feel silly about—and the latter is much less serious than the former.[19]

The only time when failure to heed the demands of reason bears serious consequences is when there is a moral component involved. For example, an error of calculation in designing a bridge is more serious than getting an answer wrong on an engineering examination. Moral obligation has a certain, distinct characteristic that gives it its compulsive force with blameworthiness or guilt attached to it. Moral obligation has the unique capacity to override any other reasons we may have to do or not to do something. Such a decidedly law-like character of obligation makes sense within a social context where demands or imperatives and accountability are in force. Moral obligation is a social concept: it is based on the assumption that there are persons involved.

MORAL OBLIGATION AS OBJECTIVE

So far we have seen that we have good reasons to think that moral obligation is a social concept. As already mentioned, many philosophers agree with this conclusion. Some of those who argue that obligation is a social concept claim that human societies can adequately account for it. It is the society, period, that places moral demands on its individual members. But while it is true that we have obligations that are created by the societies to which we belong, the imperatival force of morality makes it doubtful that appealing to the society can account for the entire range of the obligations we acknowledge.

To begin with, societies often err in prescribing behavior for their members. For example, those who obediently followed the laws issued by the Nazis during the Second World War were indeed carrying out their societal obligations. But their society was gravely mistaken about the obligations morality prescribed for its citizens. This suggests strongly that moral obligations are not decided by the society. They are objective—what we are obligated to do transcends individual or the collective human will, desires, or beliefs. Thus unless there is a law above human law, it is hard to see how we can justify our claim that some things commanded by certain societies are wrong.

Philosopher Joel Marks has argued that obligation does indeed require the existence of God, though he sadly rejects morality instead of seeing it as further evidence for God. He writes,

I had thought I was a secularist because I conceived of right and wrong as standing on their own two feet, without prop or crutch from God. We should do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, period. But this was a God too. It was the Godless God of secular morality, which commanded without commander—whose ways were thus even more mysterious than the God I did not believe in, who at least had the intelligible motive of rewarding us for doing what He wanted.[20]

Similarly, Yale law professor Arthur Leff concluded his powerful critique of morality without God with the following words,

All I can say is this: it looks as if we are all we have. Given what we know about ourselves and each other, this is an extraordinarily unappetizing prospect; looking around the world, it appears that if all men are brothers, the ruling model is Cain and Abel. Neither reason, nor love, nor even terror, seems to have worked to make us “good,” and worse than that, there is no reason why anything should. Only if ethics were something unspeakable by us, could law be unnatural, and therefore unchallengeable. As things now stand, everything is up for grabs.

Nevertheless:

Napalming babies is bad.

Starving the poor is wicked.

Buying and selling each other is depraved.

Those who stood up to and died resisting Hitler, Stalin, Amin, and

Pol Pot—and General Custer too—have earned salvation.

Those who acquiesced deserve to be damned.

There is in the world such a thing as evil.

[All together now:] Sez who?

God help us. 21

Secondly, the demands of morality frequently conflict with our self-interests in a way that suggests that they transcend mere individual or societal conventions. If we were solely responsible for assigning moral obligations to ourselves, why would we make them so difficult to fulfill, and why do we keep on trying to meet them when we have proven that we are incapable of doing so perfectly? Why not adjust our obligations to match our practical abilities? Our very struggle in this area shows that we recognize the transcendent, otherworldly source of our moral obligations.

The hound of heaven is ever on our trail. Consider the words of the following poem written by A. E. Housman22

And how am I to face the odds

Of man’s bedevilment and God’s!

I, a stranger and afraid

In a world I never made.

They will be master, right or wrong;

Though both are foolish, both are strong.

And since, my soul, we cannot fly

To Saturn nor to Mercury.

Keep we must, if keep we can,

These foreign laws of God and man.

The speaker acquiesces to the weight of moral obligation that he finds to be undeniable, even though it is foreign to his preferred mode of existence. Morality doesn’t ask for our permission before placing its burdensome demands on us. How is such compulsion to be justified? Why should one yield to such demands? Christine Korsgaard’s statement in this regard is worth considering:

… the question can become urgent, for the day will come, for most of us, when what morality commands, obliges, or recommends is hard: that we share decisions with people whose intelligence or integrity don’t inspire our confidence; that we assume grave responsibilities to which we feel inadequate; that we sacrifice our lives, or voluntarily relinquish what makes them sweet. And then the question—why?—will press, and rightly so. Why should I be moral? 23

In Christian terms, we should be moral because we are moral beings made by a moral God in his image. We find our proper telos or purpose when we become what we were originally intended to be. That process begins in this life and continues on to the next, where it will be fully perfected. Morality doesn’t always keep its promises in this life; not only do nice guys not always finish last—sometimes they don’t finish at all. But if this life is not all there is, then the scales will eventually be evened out, and morality and happiness will one day coincide.

THE REALITY OF MORALITY

I find it absolutely mystifying that some would choose to deny the reality of morality rather than acknowledge the fact that it indeed points us to God. That is their prerogative, though in the end they will find themselves “without excuse”: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Thankfully, there are many others who have found their way to the cross after pondering the implications of an objective morality that is simply a part of the fabric of the universe. After discussing some of the points I have raised here with a seemingly hardened, lifelong atheist university professor, he completely caught me off-guard by confessing to me that the argument makes his atheism untenable. I have seen students give their lives to Christ when they learn how to think clearly about morality and when they consider what the gospel of salvation has to offer them—not just for this life, but also for the life to come, as we will see at the conclusion of this article.

Moreover, CS Lewis’s classic book Mere Christianity has played an incalculable role in leading many to faith. One of the most compelling sections of his book is the section where he deals with the moral argument for God’s existence. In his autobiography, Chuck Colson recounts the impact the moral argument had on him in his journey to faith as he read Lewis’s book,

As a lawyer I was impressed by Lewis’s arguments about moral law, the existence of which he demonstrates is real, and which has been perceived with astonishing consistency in all times and places. It has not been man, I saw for the first time, that has perpetuated moral law; it has survived despite man’s best attempts to defeat it. Its long existence therefore presupposes some other will behind it. 24

Similarly, Francis Collins, former leader of the Human Genome Project and now director of the National Institutes of Health, recalls his reaction to the moral argument as presented by CS Lewis:

The hard part for me [as an atheist] was the idea of a personal God, who has an interest in humankind. And the argument that Lewis made there—the one that I think was most surprising, most earth-shattering, and most life-changing—is the argument about the existence of the moral law. How is it that we, and all other members of our species, unique in the animal kingdom, know what’s right and what’s wrong? In every culture one looks at, that knowledge is there. Where did that come from? 25

The Christian has a ready and compelling answer to the question: morality comes from a God who made us in his image and who makes it possible for us to apprehend and apply morality to our lives. Christianity makes an empirically verifiable diagnosis of our spiritual condition; we have broken God’s law. We are at odds with a system of morality that we did not invent, and we stand condemned. But Christianity does much more. It offers a solution to the human condition through the Cross of Christ. At the cross, God marvelously honors his justice while demonstrating his infinite love at the very same moment. And, finally, the Word of God promises that we will one day be made morally perfect. At that point, morality will no longer be a subject of debate—we will just live it out the way we breathe oxygen today, only without the threat of air pollution. Imagine that: we will one day live beyond right and wrong!

BEYOND RIGHT AND WRONG

In addition to accounting for the objectivity and agent-centeredness of moral obligation, Christianity fulfills and complements morality itself in ways naturalism can never hope to do. When we are honest with ourselves, we all know that we fail to keep the moral law that we know exists. And our failure to keep it is more than just a matter of ignorance; it bears the marks of what the Bible calls rebellion against God. As a result, we all stand in need of forgiveness. The Bible thus offers both an accurate diagnosis of the human heart as well as the solution for our primary malady.

In a chillingly profound passage, atheist philosopher Joel Marks makes the following observation:

Philosophical ethics [has become] the pursuit of grounds independent of either God’s fiat or God’s instruction for telling the difference between what we should do and what we should not do. Thus, ironically, secular ethics seeks to replicate the religious origin of sin (of wresting the knowledge of good and evil from God’s providence).26

Did you catch that? Marks says that the philosopher’s struggle to account for morality without God is reminiscent of the account of the fall of humanity in the Old Testament book of Genesis, which offers an explanation for the origin of human evil. In Genesis 3:4-5, the serpent assures Adam and Eve that they are mistaken to let God define right and wrong for them. He says to them, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

What the Tempter meant was not that Adam and Eve would know about good or evil or that some things were wrong to do. They must have known that already, or the command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would not have made any sense to them. What the Tempter meant was that Adam and Eve did not need to let God define good and evil for them; they could determine that for themselves. Marks detects the same spirit in the denial of God’s place in morality in contemporary philosophical ethics. When that happens, we become incapable of appreciating and appropriating the power of the gospel in our lives. This gospel is the forgiveness of sin and the necessity of Christ’s death on the cross—revealing also that human beings are morally at odds with God’s righteousness.

But the hope offered in the gospel message goes well beyond morality. In Christian terms, merely recognizing and even keeping the moral law is ultimately beside the point; one of the key goals of the biblical call to righteousness is to be transformed to become like God’s Son (see Romans 8:29). When we have achieved the status for which we were made, morality will cease to occupy the central place it does in our day-to-day lives. In a world where perfection reigns and where all types of sin are completely absent, talk of “right,” “wrong,” “duty,” etc., would at best be forgotten altogether or be mildly entertaining. As George Mavrodes notes, a theistic view of the world “gives morality a deeper place in the world than does a [naturalistic] world and thus permits it to ‘make sense.’” Perhaps it also “suggests that morality is not the deepest thing, that it is provisional and transitory, that it is due to serve its use and then to pass away in favor of something richer and deeper.” 27

Similarly, CS Lewis penned these profound words:

I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things, except perhaps as a joke. Every one there is filled full with what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes. 28

When we complain about evil, we do indeed presuppose the reality of the good. Good and evil invoke an objective standard of right and wrong. Such a standard in turn points us to the God who made us, not just so we can recognize and apply morality to our lives in this life, but so that we can actually enter into an intimate relationship with God and a process of discipleship in his kingdom that begins to prepare us for the noblest existence possible: being in God’s presence forever. We know that we flout not only God’s standards, but also our own. How wonderful to know that forgiveness and eventually eternal restoration are available for people like us. What an incredible promise: that one day we will be able to live beyond right and wrong!

John Njoroge is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and wrote his PhD on this subject.

[1] I am convinced the reverse is also true: most people do not reject the faith due to arguments. They develop arguments to defend a position they’ve already accepted on other grounds.

[2] Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany Galileo, 1615.

[3] Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994), 182.

[4] I should note that in this article I use the terms “morality” and “ethics” interchangeably.

[5] GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy, (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1994), 11.

[6] Louise Anthony, “The Failure of Moral Arguments,” in Debating Christian Theism, edited by JP Moreland, et. al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 110-111.

[7] Erik J. Wielenberg, “In Defense of Non-Natural, Non-Theistic Moral Realism,” Faith and Philosophy, vol. 26 no. 1 (January 2009), 24.

[8] William Lane Craig, “The Most Gruesome of Guests” in Is Goodness Without God Good Enough?, ed. Robert Garcia and Nathan L. King (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009), 170.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Quoted in Did God Really Command Genocide?: Coming to Terms with the Justice of God by Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan (Grand Rapids: Baker House, 2014), 157.

[11] Mark Schroder, “Cudworth and Normative Explanations,” in Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, vol. 1, no. 3 (October 2005), 4.

[12] For an extended discussion, please see Schroder’s article and Copan and Flannagan’s relevant section in their book.

[13] See https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/08/26/our-moral-obligation-president-obama-speaks-nations-largest-veteran-service-organiza.

[14] G.E.M. Anscombe, “Modern Moral Philosophy,” in Philosophy, 33, no. 124 (January 1958).

[15] John Stuart Mill, “Utilitarianism” (originally published in 1861), in Hackett edition, 1979, 47-48. It is important to note that duty, or obligation, holds even when no punishment is intended. All that is needed is for there to be a person with the authority to issue a command.

[16] Stephen Darwall, “The Second-Person Standpoint,” in The Harvard Review of Philosophy, vol. XVI 2009, 125.

[17] Susan Wolf, “Moral Obligations and Social Commands,” in Metaphysics and the Good: Themes From the Philosophy of Robert Merrihew Adams (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 351.

[18] C. Stephen Evans, God and Moral Obligation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 9-10.

[19] Robert Merrihew Adams, Finite and Infinite Goods: A Framework for Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 238.

[20] Joel Marks, “Confessions of an Ex-Moralist,” http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/confessions-of-an-ex-moralist/?pagemode=print.

21 Arthur Leff, “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law” Duke Law Journal, Vol. 1979, No. 6, 1249, online at http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3810&context=fss_papers.

22 A.E. Housman (1859-1936), “The Laws of God, The Laws of Man.”

23 Christine Korsgaard, The Sources of Normativity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 9.

24 Chuck Colson, Born Again (Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 2008), 134.

25 See http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/questionofgod/voices/collins.html.

26 Joel Marks, Ethics without Morals: In Defence of Amorality (Routledge Studies in Ethics and Moral Theory) (Kindle Locations 412-414). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

27 George Mavrodes, “Religion and the Queerness of Morality” in Rationality, Religious Belief and Moral Commitment: Essays in the Philosophy of Religion, edited by Robert Audi and William J. Wainwright (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986), 213-226.

28 CS Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 132.

Courtesy of http://rzim.org/just-thinking/must-the-moral-law-have-a-lawgiver/

 

 

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What Has Happened to Christianity?

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on August 30, 2015

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Times are changing around the world and Christians are being persecuted more now than at any time in history.  Christianity is losing its influence in culture, education and politics. Recently while reading a book my wife bought by Erwin Lutzer The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent made me think on the waning influence of Christianity in the modern world and why this is so. No greater illustration of this than what has happened in Turkey. Turkey (Asia Minor) was at one time the epicenter of the explosion of Christianity with the Apostle Paul and the school of Tyrannus in Acts 19 where in the space of 2 years and three months every person in Asia Minor heard the word of the Lord Jesus and the Word of God grew mightily and prevailed.

Listen to the record of the power and influence of Christianity in which is now modern day Turkey:

Acts 19:8ff: And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.10 And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.11 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:12 So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.13 Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.14 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.15 And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.17 And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.18 And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

“Prevailed” in the Greek means to exercise force, to wield power and to have the strength to overcome. The Word of God grew to the point it wielded power in the lives of the Christians, those that heard and even the culture. It had the power to overcome all the occult powers, evil spirits, religious arguments and physical ailments of the age. Look at the power of God over the forces of darkness. The Word of God first must grow and prevail in our lives before it can exercise power in our neighborhood, cities and nation. Is the Word of God prevailing today or has it been corrupted and water-downed. 2 Corinthians 2:17: For we are not, like so many, [like hucksters making a trade of] peddling God’s Word [shortchanging and adulterating the divine message]; but like [men] of sincerity and the purest motive, as [commissioned and sent] by God, we speak [His message] in Christ (the Messiah), in the [very] sight and presence of God. The word in the Greek for peddling means to be a retailer that would adulterate or water down their commodities to make a gain; to make money by selling anything and the merchandising of God’s Word for sordid gain. Have you ever turned on Christian television lately? Much of it is peddling the gospel to make a gain. Selling the Word of God to make money for luxurious mansions, cars, jewelry, jets and material gain. We have too many spiritual hucksters trying to sell the blessing of God for seed money. Doesn’t this sound like the indulgences of the Dark Ages when the Roman Catholic Church would sell salvation and other blessings for a price? This is a major reason that the Church is hurting and straying from its calling. We do not sell the Word of God like a commodity on the stock market. You cannot buy God or a blessing. Peter rebuked Simon the sorcerer for this and said “May your silver rot with you! Because you thought you obtain the gift of God by money.” Acts 8:20. The Word of God says such thinking is of those who are “depraved in mind and depraved of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” I Timothy 6:5. These “desires plunge people into ruin and destruction and cause people to wander from the faith.” I Timothy 6:9,10.  Unfortunately many that preach these modern day indulgences are pastors and spiritual leaders in the Church and it is wreaking havoc on the witness of Christianity.

Not to get sidetracked: Paul and Barnabas also taught the gospel for a whole year in Antioch and the believers were first called Christians in Antioch which is in modern Turkey:

Acts 11:19ff: 19 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. 20 But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, 24 for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. 25 So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

Yet today Christianity is almost non-existent in Turkey as it is 99.8% Muslim and .2% Christian. What happened that Christianity has little influence in this region? Much of what we call the Islamic world today was once Christian. Islam is spreading rapidly in Western Europe with churches closing and being bought and turned into mosques and a rising anti-Christian sentiment in the public square and all walks of life. This is especially surprising given the violent nature of many in Islam and their increasing brutality and terrorism around the globe. Yet Christianity is becoming the hated “religion.”

Why do we not see the church in Acts in Christianity anymore? Where is the power? Where is the deliverance? Where is the passion? We have more passion for our football or basketball teams than we have for Jesus Christ. Where are the miracles? Where are the healings? This is supposed to be a daily occurrence in Christianity as God backs up His word and confirms it with signs, miracles and wonders. Do we just go through the motions but Christ is not a living reality in our hearts?

Mark 16:15-20  And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

When the Lord works, there are signs, miracles and wonders. This type of power manifested did not go out with the Apostles of the First Century. It is available today and should be the norm in Christianity.

Look at the commission of Jesus’s own disciples:

Matthew 10:8: Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

Luke 10:17ff:  The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

As Christians we have been given the authority of the name of Jesus Christ. We have full power of attorney rights. Satan is not falling like lightening because we are not walking in that authority. We are instead still in bondage to the Prince of the Power of the Air and the course of this world. We have been given power over the entire kingdom of darkness. Nothing can hurt us when we stand in that authority. Devil spirits will flee, sickness and infirmity will vanish and the power of God will explode on the scene by our faith in our Faithful God.

Do you believe this promise?

John 14:12-14: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

We are to God in the authority and power of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him we are unstoppable, immovable, unconquerable and a force to be reckoned with in this world. God needs laborers to go forth into the harvest in the valley of human need and to be witnesses to Him in the power of the Spirit.

Matthew 28:18,19a: 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,

Immeasurable power is released when we believe. All things are under our feet and we are filled with the fullness of Christ:

Ephesians 1:18ff: Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Acts 5:12ff:  Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

This type of power is absent in the church today. Signs and wonders were the norm. Even Peter’s shadow falling on the sick would heal them. Today many churches do not even believe in healing or claim sickness is the will of God. Even though God’s name is Yahweh Rapha, the Lord who heals. All those afflicted with unclean spirits or sicknesses were healed. Why don’t we this in the church today?

There is no political solution to the problems of America or the world. There is no economic solution for the problems of America or the world. It is much deeper. It is spiritual. Jesus Christ is the solution to every problem and ill and malaise of this world. Anything else is built on sinking sand. It is not a Republic or Democrat solution, a Russian or USA solution, a liberal or conservative solution for if you think so you are being deceived. The Body of Christ is to represent Jesus Christ to the world. Yet most of us have manifested more of what Jesus is not than what he is in our lives. Why is this so?

In thinking about what has gone wrong with modern Christianity I am not an expert or claim to have all the answers. I am not pointing fingers but am humbling thinking about what can be done to reverse this disturbing trend. I am going to bring up a few points that God has laid on my heart, but ultimately it has to be a God solution, not a man solution. It has to be a Bible solution and not a human reasoning or self-focused solution. Here are some genuine things to think about to restore the majesty and impact of Christianity in our times.

  1. We have failed to shine as the lights of the world and failed to be the salt of the earth becoming bland like the world.

Matthew 5:14,15:  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

You (humeis) is emphatic meaning “you yourselves”.

Genuine faith in Christ turns a man from darkness to marvelous light, and transforms him into “light in the Lord”; his aims and objects, his desires, his speech, his actions, become full of divine light, which illuminates all the chambers of his soul, and then pours forth from the windows so as to be seen of men. 

Your light – If you are a believer you are a supernatural “light”. And you are responsible for letting your light shine forth.

Let…shine – Jesus does not make a suggestion but as discussed below issues a command “Since you are light, then shine!” Shining is not optional for believers.

Let…shine (lampo) means to radiate brilliantly or beam forth.  Jesus gives His a command to do this right now and do it effectively (aorist imperative – conveys the idea of urgency). This is a permissive imperative which means to permit your light to shine. Don’t do anything that will cover it, hide it or snuff it out. To shine is not optional! If we fail to obey our Lord’s command we will fail to fulfill His purpose for us in His glorious plan.

What Jesus intends is for believers to live out the Christ life which is in them (Col 1:27), a way and quality of life that is so different from that of the world (including the religious world) and so distinctive that it shines light into the darkness. Let the character of Jesus shine forth. The Puritan writer Thomas Brooks wrote that…A Christian’s life should be nothing but a visible representation of Christ. Has anyone mistaken you for Jesus lately? Am I truly living a life different from unbelievers? Is there anything about my life which one might recognize as supernatural? Am I giving a proper opinion of my Father by the way I live? The logic is clear and direct – just as the function of a household lamp is to give light in the house, so too believers are to provide illumination to all they encounter in this spiritually dark world.

Philippians 2:13-16: For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

The word used for lights is the same as is used in the creation record of the lights (sun and moon) which God set in the dome of the heavens to give light upon the earth. Paul is saying the saints at Philippi and by way of application believers of all ages are to shine out in stark contrast to the darkness of this godless society shining forth as “heavenly bodies of light” (lights powered from heaven) stationed upon the earth enshrouded in the darkness of sin. We are now “light in the Lord” and are to reflect the glory of the Lord in the middle of this present darkness. The darker the night, the brighter the light appears. Christians are lights or light-bearers. They cannot create any light, but they can reflect the glory of the Lord so that others may see Jesus in them.

Matthew 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

We are supposed to be the salt of the Earth, as something that gives flavor to make a meal taste good. But when we are not attracting the lost, but rather repelling them, then our salt has lost its savor. What makes it even worse is that we are even repelling the saved.

I Peter 2:9 (NIV) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God’s] own purchased, special peoplethat you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

 

Ephesians 5:8-16 (NIV):For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

 15Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

  1. We have forgotten about the gift of holy spirit received at the new birth and it lies dormant and ineffectual in our daily living.

Acts 1:8: But you will receive (lambano-into manifestation) power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Acts 2:38: And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

II Timothy 1:6: Fan into flame the gift of God which is in you.

I Corinthians 12:7:  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

A born again believer received the gift of holy spirit at the time of the new birth conversion. It is power, a comforter, a teacher, an enlightener and a fruit producer. God has given us none manifestations to operate in I Corinthians 12 and we must begin to walk by the Spirit, fanning into a flame that burns the chaff in our lives and sets our hearts on fire for God.

  1. We have failed to live sanctified from the world:

2 Timothy is Paul’s last book. All Asia had turned away from Him. Principal keys for the Christian, for leaders and for the church how not to fall into apostasy.

2 Timothy 2:20-22: But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

John 17:14-19:  I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

What do you desire for your life as a Christian? Do you long for a heart that is aflame for God or extinguished by the world? Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to the passions of this world. We love Jesus being our Savior but hold back in making Him our Lord in everything. We still want to sit on the throne of our heart and run our own life. We want to get our ticket to heaven and return to living the way we were before. We will make no impact for the gospel of Jesus Christ with this thinking.

Skip Moen in Spiritual Restoration: Sanctification is not about becoming perfect. It is about becoming perfectly His. It is about giving more and more of my life over to God for His possession. When God met Moses at the burning bush, he took off his sandals to show he had no ownership of the ground he stood on. It belonged to God. That’s what we must do-transfer ownership to Him, give up our claims and consecrate ourselves to His purposes. God is not asking for the perfect life. He is asking to set aside the life we have entirely for Him.

  1. Oh Ye of Little Faith:  We have so little faith as Christians today as there is a great need for a revival of faith in the church. Our entire culture is designed to build fear and unbelief in the promises of God and doubt as to God’s true character and His enduring faithfulness. We have more faith in the devil to afflict and oppress us than in the power of God to deliver us, change us, empower us, and demonstrate His mighty nature in and through us.

. We have made God too small; our vision of God is mundane and tiny; we do not see or understand the character of God and just who He is, and thus our faith is miniscule, weak and shipwrecked on the island of doubt, worry and fear. Faith must once again come alive with a holy vibrancy rooted in the unchangeable truth that our God cannot lie and the promises of His Word are awaiting to be ignited in our heart by our audacious faith that God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. True Faith has absolute confidence that our God is able and willing to bring about the impossible, the miraculous, the supernatural and the extraordinary in our lives. How many times did Jesus chide his disciples and followers saying “O ye of little faith!”? We must elevate our faith in Him to the mountaintop where it belongs and, if we are ever to live the audacious, vibrant, bold and world-changing Christian life, we must have faith that moves mountains.

Eric Ludy: Do we know the power and grandeur of God in our day? Does our generation comprehend that the God of the Bible is without “shadow of turning” and that He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” There is a vast shortage of believers who simply believe with childlike faith that God will do what He says He will do and is worthy of our trust and is always faithful to His Word. Romans 4:19-21 (KJV)- 19And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb:20He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;21And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 

There’s nothing our world needs more desperately today – in individuals, families, businesses, churches, and communities – than God’s saving, supernatural acts. And he’s ready to act if we will be bold enough to ask, not just for a good day or a better life, but for the impossible. Then step forward to act in audacious faith.

Each of us is called to be a Joshua—each in our own way, in our own circumstances, with our own God-given personality. As you’ll see in the pages ahead, you and I are called not just to have faith, but also to regularly activate our faith by asking God for giant outcomes, taking giant steps. If we have the audacity to ask, God has the ability to perform. That’s how God turns His amazing promises into everyday reality in every generation—for Joshua’s and for ours.You and I may not see the same miracles Joshua did, but we serve the same God. His nature never changes. The same power that stopped the sun and raised Christ from the grave lives in every believer. God still demonstrates His power and supplies His provision in direct proportion to the faith of his children.

Mark 11:22-24 (NIV):

22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

“Have the faith of God” (Young’s Literal Translation)

Do you have the faith of God? Or do you have the doubt of the world? Do you believe that God can move mountains through your faith? Or are you consumed with the avalanche of fear and anxiety and not confident that our God can and will move mountains with this God-inspired faith and child-like trust in Him and Him alone? Would you ask God for the sun to stand still? Or is that just too big and too impossible for your faith? God has not changed. He still loves and passionately desires to do the impossible. He is waiting for one person to energize His faith and move out with audacious faith that there is a God in heaven with unlimited power and ability who loves to move and rule in the affairs of men and women.

  1. We Love the World and the things of the world more than we love God.

Jesus life-changing question to Peter: “Do you love me more than these?”

I John 2:16,17: 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

2 Timothy 2:3,4:  Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

James 4:1ff: (Voice): Where do you think your fighting and endless conflict come from? Don’t you think that they originate in the constant pursuit of gratification that rages inside each of you like an uncontrolled militia? You crave something that you do not possess, so you murder to get it. You desire the things you cannot earn, so you sue others and fight for what you want. You do not have because you have chosen not to ask. And when you do ask, you still do not get what you want because your motives are all wrong—because you continually focus on self-indulgence. You are adulterers. Don’t you know that making friends with this corrupt world order is open aggression toward God? So anyone who aligns with this bogus world system is declaring war against the one true God. Do you think it is empty rhetoric when the Scriptures say, “The spirit that lives in us is addicted to envy and jealousy”? You may think that the situation is hopeless, but God gives us more grace when we turn away from our own interests. That’s why Scripture says, God opposes the proud,  but He pours out grace on the humble.So submit yourselves to the one true God and fight against the devil and his schemes. If you do, he will run away in failure. Come close to the one true God, and He will draw close to you. Wash your hands; you have dirtied them in sin. Cleanse your heart, because your mind is split down the middle, your love for God on one side and selfish pursuits on the other.

Quote from my upcoming book The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life:

The world will never love you like God loves you. He will never leave or forsake you, and He will always lead you in the path of true righteousness. Isn’t He worthy of owning ALL your heart and not just part of it? Why give away even the smallest part of your heart to the world? The world will never satisfy like God satisfies. It will only betray you in the long run like an unfaithful lover and lead you down a path of destruction.

Has your hearing become so dull, our eyes so blind, that you are giving leftovers of your heart to God? Francis Chan, in Crazy Love, says:

God wants our best, deserves our best, and demands our best. . . . [Yet] God gets a scrap or two only because we feel guilty for giving Him nothing. A mumbled three-minute prayer at the end of the day, when we are already half asleep. Two crumbled-up dollar bills thrown as an afterthought into the church’s fund for the poor. . . . We say to the Creator of all this magnitude and majesty, “Well, I’m not sure You are worth it. You see, I really like my car or my little sin habit or my money, and I am really not sure I want to give them up.” . . . How can we think for even a second that anything on this puny little earth compares to the Creator and Sustainer and Savior of it all?

This is the great deception of the kosmos, that God is not worthy of our best love, our first love, our greatest love. We give God only leftover scraps from the table of our hearts and forget His majesty and grandeur and how much how much our hearts need Him. Jesus declares to the church at Ephesus, “I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4). Does God really satisfy you? Are you consumed with God? Is God your first love? Carter Conlan, in The 180 Degree Christian; Serving Jesus in a Culture of Excess, says:

What I believe grieves God most is we have robbed Him of our hearts. It is as if He would say to us, “You have robbed Me of the full heart of surrender that I was looking for that would have allowed Me to fill you from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet. If only you would have turned to Me! I would have caused you to live such a profound life that you would have stood out as a light shining in a darkened world.”

6: We don’t want to give up our idols:

 Kyle Idleman in Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart says:

Idolatry is the number one issue in the Bible…Idolatry comes into every book…What if I told you that every sin you are struggling with, every discouragement you are dealing with, even the lack of purpose you’re living with are because of idolatry?…Idolatry isn’t just one of many sins; rather it’s the one great sin that all others come from. So if you start scratching at whatever struggle you’re dealing with, eventually you’ll find that underneath it is a false god. Until that god is dethroned, and the Lord God takes His rightful place, you will not have victory. Idolatry isn’t an issue; it is the issue. All roads lead to the dusty, overlooked concept of false gods. Deal with life on the glossy outer layers and you might never see it; scratch a little beneath the surface, and you will begin to see that it is always there, under some coat of paint. There are a hundred million different symptoms, but the issue is always  idolatry.

I John 5:21: Little children, keep yourselves from idols. I Corinthians 10:14: Flee from idolatry.

An idol is anything that is more valued, loved, sought after, desired and honored than God. An idol is worshipped in place of God and becomes the obsession, passion and craving of the heart above all else. Timothy Keller in, Counterfeit Gods, says:

What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God. It is anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought. It can be family and children, or career and making money, or achievement and critical acclaim, or saving “face” and social standing. It can be romantic relationship; peer approval, competence and skill, secure and comfortable circumstances, your beauty or your brain, a great political or social cause, your morality or virtue, or even success in the Christian ministry…An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure”…If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol.

Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2010), 5.

Do you have an idol that has captured your heart?  What are you most devoted to? What occupies almost all your time? What commands your attention? What do you think about constantly? What makes you happy above all other things? What gives your life value and meaning? What absorbs you on a daily basis and controls your life? What consumes you? What can you not live without? What drives you on a daily basis? These questions are a litmus test to determine what idols you may have in your heart. These are mountaintop questions meant to reveal what has climbed to the peak of your heart. Martin Luther said, “Whatever your heart clings to and relies upon is your God; trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and idol.”

At the root of all idolatry is a misplaced trust in some person, object, idea or image above God. We trust the idol to make us whole and give us value. We have faith in the idol to fulfill its promises. We believe the idol more than we believe God. We lean on our idol in times of trouble. The idol has captured the gaze of our eyes. The idol becomes the voice we listen to. The idol energizes us to action.

We must tear down the altars to other idols in our hearts and worship the on true God always.

7: Christians have failed miserably to walk in unity but instead criticize, judge and destroy one another with their words, attitudes and actions.

Can you imagine that there are 41,000 Christian denominations and organizations? Are we missing something? Isn’t this another reason why Christianity has lost its effectiveness? Look at church history and it is not a pretty picture. Wars, inquisitions, bitter strife and schisms, persecutions, killings and hatred. How can the Body of Christ accomplish anything on earth when all of its members are warring against each other and pointing the finger of judgment? Nothing makes a mockery of Christianity more than disunity among believers. The Devil does everything in his power to keep the church divided as disunity has become a major obstacle in reaching the world with a life-changing gospel.

Look at the example of the First Century Church:

Acts 4:32-34a: Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them…

Acts 2:42-47: The community continually committed themselves to learning what the apostles taught them, gathering for fellowship, breaking bread, and praying.43 Everyone felt a sense of awe because the apostles were doing many signs and wonders among them. 44 There was an intense sense of togetherness among all who believed; they shared all their material possessions in need. 45 They sold any possessions and goods that did not benefit the community and used the money to help everyone in need. They were unified as they worshiped at the temple day after day. In homes, they broke bread and shared meals with glad and generous hearts. 47 The new disciples praised God, and they enjoyed the goodwill of all the people of the city. Day after day the Lord added to their number everyone who was experiencing liberation.

It takes humility, gentleness, patience and love to walk in unity as Christians. Are you eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace or eager to cause division and strife in the church by your judgmental attitude and critical words?

Ephesians 4:1-7: I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

There are to be NO divisions in the church but we are supposed to be united in the same mind and judgment. But instead we say oh I follow Calvin, oh I follow Luther, oh I follow the Pope, oh I follow the prosperity gospel and on and on and on. We quarrel over everything and bring mockery to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have emptied the cross of Christ of its power in modern day Christianity by our divisive actions.

I Corinthians 1:10ff: I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

We remain infants in Christ, never growing into maturity because there is jealousy, strife and division among us as we walk according to the flesh and not the spirit.

I Corinthians 3:1ff: But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Colossians sets for the standard, the measuring rod for every Christian.

Colossians 3:12ff:  Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

There are to be no divisions by race, culture, geography, gender or denomination.

Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

I Corinthians 12:12ff:  For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

We must stop the hatred, the division, the slander and the finger pointing among different Christian groups and denominations. Everyone thinks they are right and the other group is wrong. Remember we are all members of the Body of Christ and are supposed to be one in Christ Jesus. We will never be effective in the gospel until we put aside our petty squabbles and begin to walk in unity and love among each other. Romans 12 says in honor we are to prefer one another above ourselves. It is sad commentary in my over 40 years as a Christian when I have been persecuted, put down, criticized, slander and hated, 99% of the time it is coming from other Christians. Christians trying to destroy other Christians’ lives and ministries is far too common in modern day Christianity. The Devil is called the accuser of God’s brethren (Revelation 12:10) Why should we become his evangelists and spokepersons when we slander and judge our very own Christian brothers and sisters. The Bible says in Ephesians that NO corrupt communication is to come our mouths about anyone or anything but our words are to edify and minister grace to the hearers (Ephesians 4:29. What a change that would be. The Bible says we are to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32). Where has the kindness and forgiveness gone in churches today. Why do we backbite and gossip and judge so much? Maybe we have forgotten what we were forgiven for. At every opportunity, we are to do good to everyone especially those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). Do you know much impact a kind word has, a tender touch and a helping has? Or are we like the priest and Levite who walk to the other side of the street when they see someone in need? Where is the compassion? Where is the love? Where is the empathy? We are supposed to walk and think Jesus Christ! (Philippians 2:5, I John 2:6, I Peter 2:24). How we have fallen short! We must watch out as Galatians wars that we do not bite and devour and are consumed by one another instead of spreading the gospel in word and deed (Galatians 5:15).

Let us heed Jesus’s prayer: John 17:20-23:  “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

8: Failure to Love: Waxed cold on love and waxed hot on gossiping, tearing down, criticism and judgment.

The Bible speaks eloquently to these issues. Now is the time to hear and obey it.

Matthew 24:12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will wax cold.

John 2:3-11:  And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because[a] the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him[b] there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

John 13:35: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.  

Ephesians 5:2a: And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…

Colossians 3:12ff:  Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

  1. Not Rendering Sin Unemployed:

Romans 6:4-6.11-13 (Amplified):

We were buried therefore with Him by the baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, so we too might habitually live and behave in newness of life. For if we have become one with Him by sharing a death like His, we shall also be one with Him in sharing His resurrection by a new life lived for God. We know that our old unrenewed self was nailed to the cross with Him in order that our body which is the instrument of sin might be made ineffective and inactive for evil, that we might no longer be the slaves of sin. Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God, living in unbroken fellowship with Him, in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore rule as king in your mortal, short-lived, perishable bodies, to make you yield to its cravings and be subject to its lusts and evil passions. Do not continue offering or yielding your bodily members and faculties to sin as instruments tools of wickedness. But offer and yield yourselves to God as though you have been raised from the dead to perpetual life, and your bodily members and faculties to God, presenting them as implements of righteousness. For sin shall not any longer exert dominion over you, since now you are not under Law as slaves, but under grace as subjects of God’s favor and mercy.

Colossians 3:5(a) Amplified:

So kill, deaden, deprive of power the evil desire (lust) lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin]…

Galatians 5:24, 25 (KJV):

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Phillips:

Those who belong to Christ have crucified their old nature with all that it loved and lusted for.

If our lives are centered in the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit.

We yield our hands, feet, mouth, eyes, ears and heart as tools of righteousness to our God, and never allow our body to be an instrument of sin.

  1. Silenced as to the gospel. Most Christians are ashamed to speak the gospel of Christ in the public arena. We have become passive in witnessing and sharing of the truths of God’s Word. We fear man more than we fear God. We are fearful of what people may think, fearful of being labeled a religious nut, fearful of rejection and ridicule, fearful of not being accepted and liked by our friends, neighbors and culture that we are silenced. We refuse to open our mouths and witness to the greatest message ever in the history of the world. We forget that Jesus was despised and rejected of men, hated by the religious established, mocked by the winds of culture. Romans 10:8-17: But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

You have been sent to preach this word of faith, the gospel, to every living person. No one can believe unless they hear and no one can hear without a preacher, someone holding it forth to them. We are all commissioned preachers of the gospel. We preach in two ways: By our words and by our lives. We are living epistles known and read of all people. (2 Corinthians 3:2). Our lives are preaching 24 hours a day which may turn many off from our words of sharing the truth of God’s Word. If we preach love, but judge, gossip and hate others our message has lost its power. If we preach Lordship but are sold out to the lusts of our flesh and our own selfishness than our message has little impact. If we preach compassion but refuse to give to meet the needs of others than our message becomes hypocritical. Our love must not be hypocritical or two-faced as Romans 12:9 declares. We cannot play the part when it comes to love. We do not become an actor when it comes to loving others. Putting on a show but really not caring much.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

We have the ministry of reconciling men, women and children back to God and the word of reconciliation to accomplish this as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are an ambassador of Jesus Christ! Are you a silent ambassador with the ministry of reconciliation closing its doors in your life? Are people not hearing the gospel because you have chosen to remain silent?

We should hold forth the Word of life with boldness mixed with tenderness, grace, mercy and love in the power of the Holy Spirit. We should be like Stephen that people could not resist the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking (Acts 6:10).

Colossians 3:5,6: Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

11. Lack of Devotion to Pray and Study and Meditation of the Word

 O how we have underestimated the power of prayer!!God has provided us a defense and power that will enable us to stand against the schemes and flaming arrows of our enemy-the Prayer of faith. Eric Ludy-Prayer is not some bb gun that God has given us to try to shoo away raccoons in the night. Prayer is nuclear power, world renovating in its epic strength. When used according to the pattern of Scripture, prayer alters history, alters the natural world, and alters the human soul. The Sword of the Spirit is too heavy for a mere man to carry, but prayer enables us to lift it, swing it, and transform the world around us with it. Prayer is the catalyst behind everything Godly taking place in the earth.

A. W. Tozer portrayed a praying Christian as a constant threat to the stability of Satan’s government writing that…

The Christian is a holy rebel loose in the world with access to the throne of God. Since prayer is detrimental to the evil one’s purposes, Satan and his minions do their utmost to interfere when we pray especially opposing us when we try to take time for prayer because the enemy knows better than most Christian’s the power of persistent prayer! In any posture, in any attire, at any time, in any place, and under any circumstance prayer is appropriate. Prayer is to be a total way of life, an open and constant communion with God.

Bona fide, heaven-inspired prayer-the kind that moves mountains and calms storms-is not something the modern church is use to. Prayer in our modern day has been diminished, and as a direct result, the power of the church of Jesus Christ has seemingly vanished. We are not a triumphant lot anymore, but rather a weak, sin-stained, defeated one. We lost our strength, our confidence, our absolute assurance that God is with us in battle. So many amongst our ranks are literally scared to fight because they honestly don’t know if they are going to win if they do. Lion-hearted prayer warriors are rare these days. Men and women with wild and holy abandon are so few nowadays as to be confused with being non-existent. Could it be you are the stuff of prayer legends and God is saying to you right now, “Its time my son or daughter. Rise up and live this life like you mean it!!” Will you be a part of a legendary generation of prayer heroes? Do you want a greater cause, a greater purpose, a greater destiny to fill your life? Then become a lionhearted prayer warrior for God.

EM Bounds- Our praying needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency which will not be denied and a courage that never fails.

Colossians 4:2 (NASB)-Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; I Thessalonians 5:17 (NASB)-Pray without ceasing. Phillips-Never stop praying. Romans 12:12 (NIV) Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 

AW Tozer-The man who would know God must spend time with Him. True prayer demands more of our lives than most are willing to give and therefore few ever taste of its power and delights. You need to be radical in your prayer life.

2 Timothy 2:15: Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

John 5:39a; Search the Scriptures

Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
 nor sits in the seat of scoffers;but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.In all that he does, he prospers. 

We should be spending at least an hour a day in prayer and the Scriptures. We must make time for God in our busy lives. He must be number one priority. We must train our minds to think about Scripture during the day and meditate upon God’s promises. There is nothing better to think about. One hour a day can transform you, your family and the church in amazing ways. You will begin to reflect the image of Christ more and think like Jeus instead of like the world.

These 11 points are not a comprehensive list by any means but they will help the Body of Christ get back on track as shine as a bright light in this crooked world.

Tim Rowe

Goodness of God Ministries http://www.thegoodnessofgod.net

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Intercession-Eric Ludy

Posted by faithandthelaw on May 15, 2010

This video has such a powerful message to all Christians I wanted to share it with you as we stand together as a body reaching out to others. What a great God we have. What a great Savior we have. What a great good message of truth we have. Let us never lose heart.

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Hope College Upholds Gay Policy amid Protest

Posted by faithandthelaw on May 10, 2010

A Reformed Christian college in Holland, Mich., on Friday rejected petitions by gay rights advocates and alumni to drop its policy on homosexuality.

After months of protest and criticism sparked by a decision not to allow the film “Milk” to be screened on campus, Hope College’s board of trustees reaffirmed its position that homosexual practice is contrary to Scripture.

“The college’s current position on homosexuality is based on its interpretation of scripture. It is recognized that well-intentioned Christians may disagree on scriptural interpretation. Still, humbly and respectfully, the college aligns itself in its interpretation with its founding denomination, the Reformed Church in America, the orthodox Christian Church throughout the ages, and other Christian colleges and universities,” the board said in a statement, according to The Holland Sentinel.

A petition was started earlier this year in an effort to push for the removal of the college’s policy on homosexuality, written in 1995, which also states that the college does not approve gay advocacy but encourages love and sensitivity in the care of all people.

Endorsed by some alumni, students and faculty, the petition was passed around after the school had barred a campus screening of the Academy Award-winning “Milk,” a 2008 film on the life of Harvey Milk, who became California’s first openly gay elected official.

The film’s screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black, showed the movie and hosted panels in two non-college theaters near the campus. The events were sold out with mainly students and faculty from Hope College.

Opponents of Hope College’s policy have argued that the school has not opened dialogue on the issue of homosexuality.

The issue, however, has been discussed on campus for over a decade, particularly in 1999 when gay rights groups visited the campus and when the school denied the bid of the Gay Straight Alliance to be recognized as a formal campus student organization during the 2000-01 school year.

Hope College is a more than 140-year-old institution and its mission is to educate students for lives of leadership and service in the context of the historic Christian faith. Currently, the college has 3,230 students.

Courtesy of Christian Post at http://www.christianpost.com/article/20100508/hope-college-upholds-gay-policy-amid-protest/index.html

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Tiananmen Square Leader Chai Ling Embraces Christian Faith and Freedom

Posted by faithandthelaw on April 23, 2010

BOSTON, April 22 /Christian Newswire/ — More than 20 years ago, a young woman named Chai Ling mourned the death of political and economic reformer Hu Yaobang, a symbol of freedom and hope for the forward-thinking students of China. Hu’s funeral, held on April 22, 1989 seven days after his death, was attended by 50,000 students.

Chai Ling, then a 23-year-old top-ranking national honors student at “Bei Shi Da” Beijing Normal University, became a galvanizing force in the Tiananmen Square Student Movement, rallying thousands of hopeful students, and later becoming the top leader of the protest movement. Following the bloody Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4, 1989, Chai Ling skyrocketed to a place on the “21 most-wanted” students list in China for organizing the demonstration. With the help of Chinese Buddhists and Hong-Kong organizations, she escaped from China in 1990, eventually arriving in the United States.

Following her immigration to the U.S., Chai Ling settled in Boston, MA, where she met and married her husband Robert Maginn, Jr. Together, they built the software company Jenzabar, which now employs more than 280 employees. Chai Ling earned her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1998, and has been nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize. She has used her success to give back to the marginalized in China, helping fund orphanages and humanitarian efforts in-country. Last year, she pledged to give millions to fund organizations supporting human rights in China.

“I stumbled on this idea that if only I could become a very successful entrepreneur, like Bill Gates, I could make lots money and set up a giant foundation, then I could once for all overcome and free China,” Chai Ling said. Despite her fruitful actions, she began to lose hope, feeling too weak to accomplish her goal of bringing freedom to China.

In November 2009, Chai Ling attended a hearing in the U.S. Capitol on the effects of China’s One Child Policy. On hearing the personal story of one woman’s brutal forced abortion, Chai Ling was finally convicted that only God could stop such brutality. Through the encouragement and prayers of several mentors and friends, Chai Ling became a Christian on December 4, 2009.

Chai Ling’s goal of freedom and hope for the Chinese people has not changed since her days as a student. But her perspective and focus is fresh and renewed. She now has hope for bringing God’s love and freedom to the people of China, as well as raising awareness of and fighting against the One Child Policy. At her baptism on Easter, April 4, Chai Ling presented her testimony. Her story is a rousing testament to the transformational power of the Gospel, and the hope of Christ in a broken and sinful world.

Read Chai Ling’s testimony

Read more background on Chai Ling

Chinese Premier Offers a Tribute to a Reformer

Chuck Colson on The Tiananmen Massacre

As the memorial of Tiananmen Square approaches, ChinaAid expresses gratitude for a Chai Ling’s life and testimony, and for the thousands of Chinese who have become Christians in recent years. We encourage Chai Ling and other advocates to continue raising awareness of the evils of China’s One Child Policy and to pursue religious freedom as their basic human right.

See the article at ChinaAid.org

ChinaAid grants permission to reproduce photos and/or information for non-fundraising purposes, with the provision that www.ChinaAid.org is credited. Please contact: Annee@ChinaAid.org for further information.

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Study on religion finds young adults less affiliated but not less believing

Posted by faithandthelaw on February 23, 2010

By Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times 

February 22, 2010

Is faith losing its grip on the young?

That would be one way to read a new report by the respected Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which found that more than one-quarter of Americans age 18 to 29 have no religious preference or affiliation, and fewer than one in five attend services regularly. That makes them easily the least religious generation among Americans alive today, perhaps the least religious ever.

Or does it?

The Pew study found that, although young adults — the so-called Millennial generation born after 1981 — are shunning traditional religious denominations and services in unprecedented numbers, their faith in God and the power of prayer appears nearly as strong as that of young people in earlier generations.

“If you think of religion primarily as a matter of whether people belong to a particular faith and attend the worship services of that faith . . . then millennials are less religious than other recent generations,” said Alan Cooperman, associate director of research for the Pew Forum, a Washington-based think tank run by the nonprofit Pew Research Center. “But when it comes to measures not of belonging but of believing, they aren’t so clearly less religious.”

The report, “Religion Among the Millennials,” relied on surveys that Pew and other research organizations have done since the 1970s, and compared the Millennial generation to four previous generations, which it labeled and defined as Gen Xers, born from 1965 to 1980; Baby Boomers, born from 1946 to 1964; the Silent Generation, 1928 to 1945; and the Greatest Generation, born before 1928. The report shows steady erosion in religious affiliation from generation to generation. All but 5% of the oldest group reported an affiliation with some religious tradition, whereas 20% of Gen Xers and 26% of today’s young adults said they had no such ties.

“Millennials are coming of age less affiliated than any recent U.S. generation,” Cooperman said. “And . . . I would say there’s no reason to think that they’re going to become more affiliated.”

Although participation in religious activities and belief in God tend to increase with age, affiliation with a religious faith appears to stay largely the same, he said.

The report does show sharp differences in religious belief among generations. In one 2008 survey, just 53% of young adults said they were certain that God exists, compared to 71% of the oldest group. And although faith does tend to grow with age, recent generations have not reached quite the same levels of belief as their predecessors. Interestingly, though, there is almost no difference among the generations when it comes to other markers of religious faith. Roughly three-quarters of Americans believe in an afterlife, for instance, and there is little difference among people of different ages. Even more people — 79% — believe in miracles, and again, young people are just as likely as their elders to hold that view.

The Pew study shows significant differences in belief and practice among religious denominations. It tracks a decline in younger members of mainline Protestant denominations, such as Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Methodists, while African American and evangelical Protestant groups have stronger affiliation among the young.

Alexander Astin, a professor emeritus of education at UCLA who has studied the attitudes of college students since 1966, said the conclusions of the Pew study largely mirror what he has found about the religious views of young people.

“You have very high rates of skepticism and nonbelief among unaffiliated people,” Astin said.

But evangelical Christians have very high levels of belief in God and participation in church activities, and their numbers are grow- ing.

So, he said, “The nonbelievers have increased, but so have the believers. So the net result of that is probably not a great change in the proportion of people who believe in God.”

mitchell.landsberg@latimes.com

// Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

 Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times at http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-beliefs22-2010feb22,0,7143343.story

 

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Catholic Father, Jewish Mother Battle Over Daughter’s Faith

Posted by faithandthelaw on February 19, 2010

There’s a strong possibility a Chicago man could be jailed for defying a court order that temporarily barred him from taking his daughter to church.

Joseph Reyes, 35, went to court on Tuesday facing criminal charges. He pleaded not guilty.

The charges were brought by Reyes’ estranged wife, Rebecca Reyes (formerly Shapiro), who is Jewish. Reyes, a law student, is Catholic.

When the couple married in 2004 Reyes agreed to convert to Judaism to make his in-laws – who would only accept him if he was Jewish – happy, as reported by ABC News. But he never stopped practicing Catholicism, he said.

The couple is now in divorce court and battling over what faith their now 3-year-old daughter, Ela, should be raised in.

In a petition for a temporary restraining order against Joseph taking their child to church, Rebecca claims they always agreed to raise Ela in the Jewish faith and “have done nothing other than to raise her in the Jewish faith.” Joseph has denied the claims. He has also said that they did not attend Jewish services regularly – only on High Holy Days.

The motion for a restraining order was filed after Joseph sent her photos of Ela’s baptism at Queen of Martyrs Catholic Church in Evergreen Park.

“It is not in Ela’s best interests to be baptized and thrust into a religion outside of the Jewish faith,” the motion states. It also argues that Ela and Rebecca will suffer “irreparable injury” if “inappropriate behavior such as baptizing the child outside her religion” and taking her to church continues.

In December, Judge Edward R. Jordan issued a court order, without hearing testimony, temporarily restraining the father from “exposing Ela Reyes to any other religion other than the Jewish religion” during his visitation.

In an appeal, Joseph’s attorney, Joel Brodsky, argued that the order is not a preliminary injunction because there was no evidentiary hearing. He also made the case that there was no evidence of Ela suffering harm, confusion or distress from the baptism. The appeal was denied by the First District Appellate Court.

On Jan. 17, Joseph invited a media crew to record him taking his daughter to Holy Name Cathedral.

“I have been ordered by a judge not to expose my daughter to anything non-Judaism,” Reyes told CBS2 News. “But I am taking her to hear the teachings of perhaps the most prominent Jewish Rabbi (Jesus Christ) in the history of this great planet of ours. I can’t think of anything more Jewish than that.”

He now faces up to six months in jail if found guilty of indirect criminal contempt of court.

Attorney Brodsky, who happens to be Jewish, contends, “My client should be allowed to take his daughter to church. In every way this is wrong. Freedom of religion is absolute and no judge should be able to interfere with that freedom.”

In an interview with ABC News, Joseph Reyes said he simply wants to be a father to Ela. “[T]he only thing I want to do is be the dad that I am to my daughter. And Rebecca, I would think, would want that for her daughter, as well.”

“[M]y daughter is my daughter too, and, as a result, I am entitled I think to share certain experiences with her.”

Reyes is scheduled to be back in court on March 3.

Courtesy of Christian Post at http://www.christianpost.com/article/20100217/catholic-father-jewish-mother-battle-over-daughter-s-faith/index.html

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Olympic speedskater Chad Hedrick wears faith on his skates

Posted by faithandthelaw on February 17, 2010

Posted on Feb 15, 2010 | by Tim Ellsworth
EDITOR’S NOTE: BPSports editor Tim Ellsworth is in Vancouver for Baptist Press’ coverage of the Winter Olympics, with credentialing from the U.S. Olympic Committee. Also credentialed there is Mike Ebert, communications team leader for the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board. Ellsworth will be writing about various Christian athletes and how they fare in their respective competitions, while Ebert will be covering ministry-related initiatives in conjunction with the Winter Games.

VANCOUVER (BP)–The message isn’t written for the worldwide audience to see, but solely as Chad Hedrick’s reminder to himself.

On the top of his skate’s blade, the U.S. speedskater has written the letters “CGIM,” which stands for “See God in me.” As he looks down at his skates when he’s competing at the Winter Olympics, Hedrick is intent on thinking about his demeanor and the way he conducts himself.

“It’s me going out there understanding what the whole process is and how many people are watching out there,” Hedrick said. “It’s not about going out and winning. It’s about presenting myself well, and after the last Olympics I’ve grown quite a bit as a person.”

The reason for Hedrick’s growth is his recent conversion to Christianity, and he wants others who are struggling to know that there’s hope for them as well.

“I won my gold medal [in Torino in 2006] when I felt like the world was trying to crush me,” Hedrick said. “During a high point like that in your life, people can feel that way. Now not being as successful over the past two, two and a half years, I’ve found the light.

“I just feel good about myself and I want people to know that even the best athletes in the world — even the people that look the happiest in public — go through that as well, and I hope I can inspire people.”

Hedrick finished 11th in the men’s 5000 meters Feb. 13, the first of four events in which he is competing in Vancouver. Though he won gold in the event four years ago, the 5000 meters isn’t Hedrick’s favorite race, and his goal since 2007 has been to win gold this year in the 1,500 meters scheduled for Feb. 20.

“I didn’t perform the way that I wanted to, and I didn’t place where I wanted to place, but at the end of the day, I gave it all I had,” Hedrick said after the 5,000 meters. “I’m excited about the races to come.”
–30–
Tim Ellsworth, in addition to his role as BPSports editor, is director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. For Baptist Press’ initial story on speedskater Chad Hedrick, go to http://bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=32273.

Courtesy of Baptist Press

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Parents: You Don’t Know Your Teens as Well as You Think

Posted by faithandthelaw on February 16, 2010

New Study Says Parents Selling Teens Short
Underestimating Teens’ Charitable Nature

Hundreds of Thousands of American Teens Respond To Haiti Quake and Global Food Crisis — World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine, February 27th, 28th

Contact: John Yeager, World Vision, 425-765-9845

SEATTLE, Feb. 16 /Christian Newswire/ — Maybe parents don’t know their teens as well as they think. According to a new 30 Hour Famine study, less than one in ten parents of teens (9%) describe teenagers today as “generous”. More than half of parents (58%) describe teenagers as “lazy”, and almost as many (54%) describe teens as “selfish”. And yet more than half of those teens themselves (53%) say the current economic climate has made them more aware of the needs of others. And almost nine out of ten (89%) of teens in the same online survey, conducted by Harris Interactive in January, say they wish they could do more to help those in need.

According to the study, commissioned by World Vision, an international charity, only about three in five parents (62%) say their teenagers support charitable causes or organizations, whereas almost three out of four teens (74%) report that they do. In fact, 38% of teens say they support charities actively by volunteering their time or participating in an event like a run, a walk or a fast day like 30 Hour Famine.

HOW PARENTS SEE TEENS
58% of parents say teens today are lazy – 9% of parents say teens are generous

TEACHING THE IMPORTANCE OF CHARITY
91% of parents say they try to emphasize the importance of charity to their teen
68% of teens say their parents try to emphasize the importance of charity

EFFECTS OF THE CURRENT ECONOMIC CLIMATE:
39% of parents say their teen has become more aware of the needs of others
53% of teens say they’ve become more aware of the needs of others

“These findings paint American kids in a new but accurate light — informed, global citizens who understand that solvable social problems like poverty and hunger exist everywhere around the world,” says Justin Greeves, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs & Policy Research with Harris Interactive.

Next month, hundreds of thousands of American teens will go hungry in an effort to help Haiti quake survivors and fight global hunger through World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine. This year, a portion of funds raised by 30-Hour Famine groups will go toward Haiti’s long-term recovery. More than 200 youth groups nationwide have already contacted World Vision about designating 30 Hour Famine funds to Haiti relief.

Pat Rhoads, World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine Manager says, “I’m really excited and grateful that teens here can have a direct impact on teens and children in Haiti. Many wish they could go there and help the people of Haiti. This is a way to directly help them, even if they can’t make the trip.” Rhoads has been working with youth groups through the 30-Hour Famine for the last seven years. Since 30 Hour Famine started in 1992, groups participating in Famine events have raised more than $130 million.

February 26th & 27th, (there’s also another National Date April 23rd-24th) hundreds of thousands of teens will participate in World Vision’s 19th annual 30 Hour Famine, forsaking food for 30 hours to get a taste of what the world’s poorest children face. Prior to the event, teens raise funds by explaining that $1 can help feed and care for a child a day. So $1 for each hour they’ll fast, $30, can feed and care for a child for a whole month. As they fast, teens consume only water and juice as they participate in local community service projects (at food banks, soup kitchens and homeless shelters). Part of the funds from this year’s 30 Hour Famine will go toward long-term relief in Haiti after the January 12th quake. Last year’s 30 Hour Famine raised close to $11 million with funds going to fight global hunger. This year’s fund-raising goal is $12 million.

Tonight, almost 1 billion people worldwide will go to bed hungry — that’s one out of every six people on earth. 25,000 children die each day from hunger and preventable diseases. Chronic poverty, affecting half the people on earth, is the cause. Nearly 3 billion people live on less than $2 a day.

Where does 30 Hour Famine money go? Haiti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Sudan, Mauritania, Pakistan, Zambia, Zimbabwe and other targeted spots where famine, conflict and other crises make children vulnerable. A portion of 30 Hour Famine funds are also used to address poverty here in the U.S.

World Vision works in 100 countries, helping approximately 100 million people every year.
Visit http://www.30hourfamine.org or call 800-7-FAMINE for more information.
Or visit our facebook fan page http://www.facebook.com/wv30HF

30-Hour Famine groups available for interviews weekend of Feb 26-27 in these and other cities:

North Carolina (Charlotte)
St. John’s Episcopal – one of the nation’s top 30 Hour Famine fundraisers raised almost $80,000 last year.

Southern California
Trinity United Presbyterian Church (Santa Ana) students raised more than $30,000 last year.

Massachusetts (Boston area)
United Church of Christ last year raised more than $28,000

Oregon (Portland area)
Beaverton Christian Church — at least 500 teens expected at 30 Hour Famine rally.

The poll was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of World Vision, an international Christian relief and development organization, between January 6th and January 12th 2010 via the ParentQuery online omnibus service among 526 U.S. adults ages 18 + who are parents of teens ages 13-17 and between January 13th and January 19th, 2010 via the YouthQuery online omnibus service among 641 youth ages13-17. For complete methodology, including weighing variables, please contact John Yeager.

AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS:
Pat Rhoads – 30 Hour Famine National Manager – World Vision
Media Contacts: Gardi Wilks 708-434-5006 (office) 708-205-5020 (cell)
John Yeager 253-815-2356 (office) 425-765-9845 (cell)

About World Vision — World Vision is a Christian relief and development organization dedicated to helping children and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty. World Vision serves the world’s poor regardless of a person’s religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, visit http://www.worldvision.org.

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Baptists Plan to Get Word Out

Posted by faithandthelaw on February 5, 2010

By Linda Stewart Ball ASSOCIATED PRESS

DALLAS | The largest state Baptist group in the nation wants to spread Christ’s message to homes across Texas – about 9 million of them – by Easter.

That’s a challenge in a state as big and diverse as Texas, where more than a third of households speak a language other than English. Besides Spanish, Hindi, Tagalog and Chinese are increasingly heard.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas is promoting a multilingual, multimedia CD that allows people to listen to key biblical passages in their native language.

It’s part of a three-pronged campaign dubbed Texas Hope 2010 to convey what “we really believe; that there’s hope in Christ,” said Randel Everett, the Baptist group’s executive director.

Pop one in a car CD player or load it onto an MP3 device and hear the third chapter of John explain how “God so loved the world” in English or Spanish.

Slip it into a computer and download the entire New Testament in one of more than 400 languages, complete with dramatic pauses, sound effects and background music. Organizers say they’re not snubbing the Old Testament; the audio is not yet available in all those languages.

“I really think that people need to hear the Gospel in their heart language, whether they read and understand English or not, people need to know that God speaks their language,” Mr. Everett said.

The CD includes a toll-free telephone number and six 2-minute video testimonies of black, white and Hispanic Texans sharing their personal stories, some in Spanish.

“They’re not celebrities, just ordinary people throughout Texas who have been rescued through Christ,” Mr. Everett said.

Proselytizing is nothing new, with modern examples being the 1979 Campus Crusade for Christ’s Jesus Film, which used video to tell Christ’s life story and has been seen around the world, to the door-to-door approach used by Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Elaine Heath, assistant professor of evangelism at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, sees it as the same message being sent but with a different delivery.

“CDs are just an upgrade of communication methodology instead of giving them a tract or booklet,” she said.

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