Saturday, October 24, 2009

How Christians Really Change the World

I just came upon an excellent and articulate essay titled, RELIGIOUS RIGHT R.I.P. by Cal Thomas that was posted November 5, 2008, just as President Barack Obama had been elected.

Mr. Thomas argues that Christians wanting to make a deep, long-lasting impact upon our culture must not make their primary focus and effort the attainment of political power, but should instead live out truly Christian lives before all, as in the revivals of yesteryear which history proves did bring radical change to our nation. This is a much needed reminder, for though in these days of Obama we rightly are alarmed over the direction this country seems to be headed, it is a mistake to focus all of our energies on political solutions if we neglect the most effective agent of changing the human heart-- the transforming power of the gospel in the life of individuals, which in turn impacts culture at large.

I am not saying Christians should completely extricate themselves from politics; in fact living as faithful Christians means that we as a community must continue to speak out on the moral issues facing this country by defending and applying biblical values and principles. Yet in his essay Mr. Thomas makes the excellent point that even when evangelicals attain the positions of power, this does not and has not of itself transformed the heart of the culture. Only God can do that. He does it by transforming individuals into His likeness, that they might become an example that shines its powerful light in the midst of the prevailing darkness.

I urge you to read his thoughtful essay, which appears below, or click the link to be taken to Mr. Thomas' website.


When Barack Obama takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2009, he will do so in the 30th anniversary year of the founding of the so-called Religious Right. Born in 1979 and midwifed by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, the Religious Right was a reincarnation of previous religious-social movements that sought moral improvement through legislation and court rulings. Those earlier movements — from abolition (successful) to Prohibition (unsuccessful) — had mixed results.

Social movements that relied mainly on political power to enforce a conservative moral code weren’t anywhere near as successful as those that focused on changing hearts. The four religious revivals, from the First Great Awakening in the 1730s and 1740s to the Fourth Great Awakening in the late 1960s and early ’70s, which touched America and instantly transformed millions of Americans (and American culture as a result), are testimony to that.

Thirty years of trying to use government to stop abortion, preserve opposite-sex marriage, improve television and movie content and transform culture into the conservative Evangelical image has failed. The question now becomes: should conservative Christians redouble their efforts, contributing more millions to radio and TV preachers and activists, or would they be wise to try something else?

I opt for trying something else.

Too many conservative Evangelicals have put too much faith in the power of government to transform culture. The futility inherent in such misplaced faith can be demonstrated by asking these activists a simple question: Does the secular left, when it holds power, persuade conservatives to live by their standards? Of course they do not. Why, then, would conservative Evangelicals expect people who do not share their worldview and view of God to accept their beliefs when they control government?

Too many conservative Evangelicals mistake political power for influence. Politicians who struggle with imposing a moral code on themselves are unlikely to succeed in their attempts to impose it on others. What is the answer, then, for conservative Evangelicals who are rightly concerned about the corrosion of culture, the indifference to the value of human life and the living arrangements of same- and opposite-sex couples?

The answer depends on the response to another question: do conservative Evangelicals want to feel good, or do they want to adopt a strategy that actually produces results? Clearly partisan politics have not achieved their objectives. Do they think they can succeed by committing themselves to 30 more years of the same?

If results are what conservative Evangelicals want, they already have a model. It is contained in the life and commands of Jesus of Nazareth. Suppose millions of conservative Evangelicals engaged in an old and proven type of radical behavior. Suppose they followed the admonition of Jesus to “love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison and care for widows and orphans,” not as ends, as so many liberals do by using government, but as a means of demonstrating God’s love for the whole person in order that people might seek Him?

Such a strategy could be more “transformational” than electing a new president, even the first president of color. But in order to succeed, such a strategy would not be led by charismatic figures, who would raise lots of money, be interviewed on Sunday talk shows, author books and make gobs of money.

Scripture teaches that God’s power (if that is what conservative Evangelicals want and not their puny attempts at grabbing earthly power) is made perfect in weakness. He speaks of the tiny mustard seed, the seemingly worthless widow’s mite, of taking the last place at the table and the humbling of one’s self, the washing of feet and similar acts and attitudes; the still, small voice. How did conservative Evangelicals miss this and instead settle for a lesser power, which in reality is no power at all? When did they settle for an inferior “kingdom”?

Evangelicals are at a junction. They can take the path that will lead them to more futility and ineffective attempts to reform culture through government, or they can embrace the far more powerful methods outlined by the One they claim to follow. By following His example, they will decrease, but He will increase. They will get no credit, but they will see results. If conservative Evangelicals choose obscurity and seek to glorify God, they will get much of what they hope for, but can never achieve, in and through politics.

(Direct all MAIL for Cal Thomas to: Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, N.Y. 14207. Readers may also e-mail Cal Thomas at


Friday, October 23, 2009

"Get to Work" - The Impact of Goverment Health Care on the Next Generation

A humorous video from FRC (Family Research Council) on the burden the current health reform package (in terms of debt) will pass on to future generations. "There's no free ride with a government-run health care system."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Blog A Day...OK so I'm Not Tim Challies

Well I didn't blog yesterday so I've already messed up a nice 4 day streak of consecutive blogging. I was going along so well... I was like, this is easy, this daily blogging thing. OK, so I guess I just was trying too hard to be... Tim Challies (you know, the Reformed Christian guy who never ever misses a day of blogging).

But maybe Tim Challies wasn't always "Tim Challies" either, you know? I mean maybe he worked his way up to becoming such a power blogger. Maybe he started out blogging consecutively for a few days straight, then missed a day (like other mortals), then made a longer streak the next time round, and so on, until finally he started blogging like a machine and became "Tim Challies, Überblogger"... I know, who am I kidding, right? Tim Challies has been probably blogging daily since he popped out of the womb with a laptop.

Anyway, so I missed a day but I'm making up for it now by posting this silly little trifle of a blog article. I'll try again tomorrow.

Actually I'm working on something thoughtful, about whether attending seminary is really worthwhile. So y'all come back now, ya hear?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blips on the Blogosphere 21

Now that I am back to blogging, by God's grace, I would like to try to post something "new" every day.

Here on Jordan's View my preference has been to offer fresh, original content, but I need to be realistic-- given my current situation and schedule I know I won't be able to post something original every single day.

But there's much of spiritual benefit out there in the Christian blogosphere, and if I can point you to some of these outstanding reformed resources, there's no need for me to be the one providing the content.

So without further adieu, I offer you my latest edition of Blips on the Blogosphere.

Book Review: Counterfeit Gods, by Tim Keller, Reviewed by Nathan Pitchford
Nathan Pitchford has written a insightful review of what seems to be a wonderful new book by Tim Keller (By the way, I am quite impressed with Mr. Pitchford-- I don't know where he comes up with the time to write all the books and reviews and poems and articles that he does, and on top of that, his writing is writing is so mature for such a young dude. Seeing the example of guys like that is partly why I am pushing myself to be more disciplined in my output... Anyway, getting back to the book review).

I remember Tim Keller from his early days in New York City, since I live in New York and attended church in Manhattan for many years (right now we attend a church in Bayside, Queens). I used to visit Redeemer Presbyterian in its fledgling early days. Mr. Keller's intellectual, yet friendly style soon became a big draw. He had an uncanny way of making the gospel relevant to New Yorkers. In this city of dreams Mr. Keller often visited the theme of false "idols in the heart". So it's one he's been expertly preaching on for years, and one reason I'm eager to pick up this new book.

I Guess That's My Answer by James White
OK, so I admit I like to watch James White and Ergun Caner go at it. White is a reformed apologist and Caner president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. Caner is rabidly against Calvinism, while White is a reformed, Calvinist apologist who seems to relish a good debate. They were supposed to debate a few years ago but it never took place and both sides blamed the other for the debate never materializing. Anyhow their latest skirmish is that James White asked that Ergun Caner back up his claim to have debated over 60 Muslims. Personally I think it's a reasonable request.

The Treasure of Biblical Contentment- active rest in the sovereignty of God by Steve Camp
Steve Camp is one of the bloggers who helped me "reform". I stumbled ("accidentally") upon his blog a few years ago and his writings made a lot of sense to me but I was trying to figure out where he was coming from and found out that he was reformed. So that was one of the things that led me into investigating reformed theology and the rest, as they say, is history. Today I would call myself reformed since I am one who strongly believes in the "doctrines of grace". Of course, some have a more stringent definition of what it means to be "truly reformed". But I digress. Anyway, I really appreciate the seriousness with which Steve approaches blogging. He is dedicated to preaching a reformed gospel, to defending sound doctrine and being totally biblical n the process. His latest post is typical Steve: biblical exhortation with a pastoral heart.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Knowing Revelation: Return to Your First Love

At my church today, pastor Ed Moore preached the first message in what will be a series of messages he plans to teach from the book of Revelation. Our pastor humbly admitted that his knowledge of eschatology (the study of last things) has been a weak area in his preaching ministry. Yet he also said he has been doing his homework in order to remedy this gap in his knowledge, and that he might preach more wisely and effectively in this area. He recognizes that such study is biblically important and will be profitable to the congregation.

Ed began his sermon by pointing out that many who have taught on this book in recent years use the book as a launching pad for their wildly speculative prophetic interpretations. Such persons have read Revelation as pertaining to today's current events and feel free to interpret the figurative language used in much of the book as being about events happening right now or about imminent future events. Some have gone as far as to make exact predictions concerning the date of Christ's return. Ed pointed out that the only consistent thing about such predictions has been one thing --they have all been wrong-- Christ did not return as predicted.

So while fear of getting it wrong and looking foolish before others have been reasons for some of the hesitancy to preach sermons in this area, our pastor seemed to say that this was not a good excuse and that he would no longer neglect this important subject.

I resonate with my pastor as he speaks about eschatology. I too have felt very ignorant in my knowledge in this area, perhaps intimidated by those I've read and heard that seemed to speak so authoritatively on the topic. When I became a Christian in the early 1980's one of the books the Lord happened to use to help me consider the Christian message was the late 1970's bestseller "The Late Great Planet Earth" by Hal Lindsay. Lindsay captured my imagination because he wrote that all of what is happening today was predicted in the Bible and is currently being fulfilled. He painted a picture of a God intimately involved in the outworking of current events, One who might return at any moment to rapture His followers. God used this imperfect book to prompt me to consider the Bible more closely and to recognize that the Bible has relevance to life today. Now having been a Christian for more than 25 years, I still believe God is intimately involved in the unfolding of all events, and that He could return at any time (for surely this is what the Bible teaches). But I am today skeptical of the kind of prophetic writing presented in books such as Late Great Planet Earth, which seem more an exercise in human speculation than an accurate interpretation of Scripture.

So here's the thing: God can use what truth is found in books such as Late Great Planet Earth, flawed as they may be, to help a person to come to know Him. Yet as we continue in our Christian lives, God expects our knowledge of Him to mature, our theology to become more accurate, and most of all, our love for Him to deepen.

Ed's message on Revelation reminded me of a wonderful yet fearful truth: God knows my works. He knows whether I am growing in the accuracy of my understanding of Him. He knows the kind of job I am doing at work, whether I represent Him well and with integrity there. He knows whether or not I am a good husband and all of my strengths and weaknesses as head of my household. Yet when He judges me, there's one question of highest priority in His evaluation: is He still my first love? Do I still love God more than I love all other things in this life? Do I have a daily affection and a passion for Him? Do I really know Him in a personal way, or do I just know things about Him?

How easy it is to lose sight of this all-important priority-- that Jesus remains one's first love, and that one continues to rely on Him alone as one's daily Bread, sustenance, and only source of true Life.

So I still think studying eschatology is important-- for we ought to know what the Bible says is happening and is going to happen, that we may live correctly now. And improving my theology is also critical-- God's greatest commandment to the believer, after all, includes loving Him with all of the mind. Which means that the knowledge of God that comes through the mind must be accurate-- lest I be in danger of not serving and worshiping God as He truly is, but rather, a god of my imagination. Yet how easy it is, even as one pursues such good things as proper knowledge of eschatology or theology, to lose one's first love.

It happened to the Ephesian church, in Revelation 2, whom Christ had commended both for being hard-workers and for being theologically astute. Nevertheless, He said, they had lost their "first love" and He told them they must repent, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first (Rev 2:5)."

As my pastor points out, this exhortation is dealing with something very serious-- the very salvation of one's soul is at stake. For Jesus promises, "To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God (Rev 2:7)"

So we see this is serious business. Allegiance to Christ means to love and obey Him, (John 14:15,23) and to love Him means to value Him more than all other things (John 21:15, Matt 10:37), and what we treasure is (and will be) revealed by our actions (Matt 6:21). And the Lord sees all, and knows our hearts better than we do (John 2:25, Gen 16:13).

All of this makes me fearful, I must admit, for I know that there is much sin that remains in me. But it makes me all the more cry out to the Lord for help and mercy and grace, that I may become and be what He has chosen me to be.

I also happened today upon a very helpful article, "Notes on Our Ongoing Need of Redemption as Christians" by my friend John Hendryx of I consider John a friend, though we haven't ever met face-to-face. But we have interacted and chatted occasionally via our mutual involvement in web ministry. In the past, John was also kind enough to link from to some articles here on knowing God's will. He also linked to this blog and to my Netvibes website. For this I consider him a friend.

His article points out that as one progresses in the Christian life, one's consciousness of the deep sinfulness that remains in the heart becomes ever more acute, and this might cause someone to feel great guilt, to the point of even doubting their salvation. But John points out that such conviction is actually a normal part of Christian growth. He writes,

In light of God’s holy law I saw myself as, not getting better, but increasingly aware of my own sinfulness. But as it turns out, while this “classroom” revealed my own corrupt heart yet it was for my own benefit so the Lord could shine a light on once dark recesses of my being which were not previously exposed. I learned from this that inwardly, as we grow in grace, the greatness of God (and what Christ has done for us) increases in our hearts, while we become less. In fact it is normal that as we grow in the Lord our sense of our own sinfulness and ill-deserving lives may often even become more apparent. However, at the same time, this is in the Lord's plan and He uses it to make us simultaneously more dependent on Christ. And thanks be to God, that in Christ, God does not treat us as our sins justly deserve … and that is something we need to remind ourselves, and praise Him for, daily.

May each of us know our hearts in the light of God's word, and cast ourselves in humility upon the only One who can redeem the corruption we find within, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gary Gilley reviews "The Shack" by William P. Young

Gary Gilley has provided a valuable service to all with his review of the bestselling novel "The Shack" by William P. Young. Analyzing the book's theological message, he demonstrates that while the tale occasionally gets some Christian theology correct, it mostly distorts the biblical message and inaccurately presents the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Some would argue that "The Shack" is just a story and as such does not aim to be a theological presentation. It should therefore not be judged on the accuracy of its theology. Gilley acknowledges that "good Christian fiction has the ability to get across a message in an indirect, non-threatening yet powerful, way." Yet he also believes that "what determines the value of fiction is how closely it adheres to Scripture" and sets out to measure "The Shack" by these criteria.

In a sense, every individual has a working "theology". Even if one's theology is not a theistic (or even conscious) theology, human beings are always trying to understand the meaning of their existence. One's "theology" then, describes the beliefs one develops and holds in order to explain and give meaning to reality.

Gilley writes,

The Shack, like many books today, decries theology on the one hand while offering its own brand on the other. A story has the advantage of putting forth doctrine in a livelier manner than a systematic work can do—which is why we find most of Scripture in narrative form. The question is, does Young’s theology agree with God’s as revealed in Scripture? The short answer is “sometimes” but often Young totally misses the mark.

Gilley is quite kind in the tone of his critique, acknowledging that Young portrays some biblical truths accurately. But in my mind this is precisely what makes Young's book all the more deceptive-- it lures one in by getting a few things right, but its overall message is New Age pantheism (and or panentheism) and not Christianity at all.

Friends, if theology describes what one believes about God and the way the world works, let us not make the mistake of saying that all such views and beliefs are equally valid and helpful. The Bible certainly does not present theology that way, but depicts God in a definite way and says: this is God, and this is how you must have a relationship with Him. One can either accept or reject the Bible's presentation, but we must at least acknowledge that the Bible's message is specific. It says Jesus Christ "is the way, the truth and the life" and no one comes to the Father except through Him, rather than "all paths lead to God in the end" (so it doesn't matter what one believes). The Bible contradicts such universalism, as well as the God-is-in-everything message presented in novels such as "The Shack". As for me, I believe the Bible's eternal revelation is true and will stand long after books like "The Shack" are utterly forgotten.

You can read Gilley's full review here:

The Shack by William P. Young

Friday, October 16, 2009

How to Defeat Calvinism

A funny video, very tongue-in-cheek. Calvinists Arminians beware!