Lessons From the Garden of Eden About Trump’s Travel Ban


The first thing God did after He created Adam (Genesis 2:7) and placed him in the garden in Eden (Genesis 2:8), was to set boundaries by which he was to order his life in the place where God graciously ordained he should dwell (Genesis 2:15).

This boundary is clearly defined in Genesis 2:16:

The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it, you will surely die.”

The word Eden means pleasure.

It is with this definition in mind that theologian John Calvin commented that, in the garden of Eden, Adam “had been bountifully enriched by the Lord with innumerable benefits, from the enjoyment of which he might infer the paternal benevolence of God.”

God created the garden of Eden for Adam and endowed him with the freedom to rule over everything contained within it (Genesis 1:27-31; 2:18-20a).

And yet the liberty conferred to Adam was not open-ended.

The permission Adam had to freely eat from any tree of the garden was offset by the prohibition to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

This lesson from the garden of Eden is one which, in my humble opinion, has implications for us today. This is particularly true, I believe, with regard to the topic of immigration and the Executive Order recently issued by President Donald Trump (which many are referring to as a “travel ban”).

According to Section 3, the Order allows for the “suspension of issuance of visas and other immigration benefits to nationals of countries of particular concern” [as it relates to threats of terrorism], the impetus being that “The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism [Section 1].”

To suggest that the issue of immigration is a heated one would be a gross understatement. I have not witnessed this level of national acrimony over a single issue since the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) became the law of the land on March 23, 2010.

Americans of almost every conceivable ethnic, religious, and socio-economic stripe seem to have an opinion or viewpoint about what “rights” foreign nationals, or “refugees” as they are more commonly referred to, have or do not have to enter and remain in the United States.

My pointing out that there exists such wide-ranging opinions on this issue is not a criticism. After all, what ideal better defines America than that of having the freedom to openly express one’s opinion without fear of retribution or reprisal?

But having this so-called “freedom” raises the question: what is freedom?

What is most concerning to me in the discourse I’ve observed regarding President Trump’s travel ban, is there are those who have convinced themselves that merely having the ability to come to America from another country is tantamount to possessing the inherent right to do so.

This is a misnomer (to say the least).

That I happen to possess the capacity or ability to do a thing, does not necessarily translate to my having an inherent “right” to do it.

I may have the freedom to rob a bank in the sense that I am unrestrained and unobstructed in my my ability to obtain a weapon, arrange transportation to the bank, and physically enter the facility when I arrive. However, that I possess the freedom – in the aforementioned context – to rob a bank does not mean I am inherently free to do so.

The command that Adam not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a boundary established by God for Adam’s benefit and protection.

It is in this same sense that God established a two-fold purpose for government relative to its divine obligation to:

  1. act as “a minister of God for your good” (Romans 13:4a), and
  2. act as “an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (Romans 13:4b)

There are those today who hold fast to the notion that foreign nationals have no desire to “practice evil” against America, the rationale being that their status as “impoverished refugees who have nowhere else to go”, somehow renders them wholly incapable of harboring such destructive attitudes toward this nation and its citizens.

But at the heart of this credulous mindset is a denial of the reality of evil;  and the fact that all human beings are innately sinful (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23).

It is on the basis of this naivety that many who oppose President Trump’s travel ban argue there should be no restrictions or limitations whatsoever on refugees being allowed to enter this nation.

But in a nation whose citizens murder one another over a pair of sneakers, what makes us think foreign nationals would not do likewise, especially considering that the vast majority of them are motivated by a “religion” that promises eternal reward in Paradise for doing so?

“…for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” – Genesis 8:21b

If there is anything to be learned from Adam’s existence in the garden of Eden, it is that God’s benevolences are always accompanied by His boundaries and, conversely, that His provisions are never exclusive of His prohibitions.

The bottom line is that freedom is not license.

Not only is the United States government constitutionally obligated to protect its citizens, it is biblically obligated to do so.

Notwithstanding any ideological differences one might have with President Trump, to remain willfully ignorant about the intentions of some whose hearts are bent toward murdering innocent people in the name of religion is a mindset which, frankly, is devoid of common sense.

A pretty hijab does not portend a pure heart.

We are all sinners.

Yes, even refugees.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Fidel Castro and the Gospel of Grace


‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways!’ – Ezekiel 33:11 (NASB)

Fidel Castro is dead.

Depending on who you talk to, news of the Cuban dictator’s demise is either being celebrated or lamented.

The atrocities committed by Fidel Castro during his lifetime are well-documented; but if Castro is in hell – as many surmise – it may surprise you to know that it is not his atrocities that put him there.

Whatever evil this notorious despot was responsible for during the 90 years he spent in this mortal coil, it was the expected fruit of an unrepentant and unregenerate heart (Romans 2:4-5). In other words, the crimes Fidel Castro exacted against the Cuban people were the evidence of a life that was not born-again (John 3:3; Matthew 3:8).

I say this because of 1 John 3:9:

No one who is born of God practices sin, because His [God’s] seed abides in him; and he cannot [practice] sin, because he is born of God (Cf. John 1:12-13).”

Contrary to popular belief, even among many Christians, it is not a person’s sinful deeds that condemns his or her soul to hell, but unbelief in the One who came into this world to rescue us from the penalty of our sins, namely, Jesus Christ.

It is a doctrine that is clearly established in John 3:18:

“He who believes in Him [Jesus] is not judged; he who does not believe [in Jesus] has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Just as our good deeds are not salvific in themselves, likewise, our evil deeds are not in and of themselves condemning.

Though how we live our lives definitely matters to God (1 Peter 4:1-6), what ultimately condemns a person to hell is not how “bad” they were during their life on earth, but their unbelief in Jesus Christ, the result of which is separation from God in eternity.

We see this in 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 where the apostle Paul, speaking of the second coming of Jesus, writes that upon Christ’s return He will be:

“…dealing out retribution to those who do not know God [unbelief] and to those who do not obey [deeds] the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

This incredibly sobering text in the first chapter of 2 Thessalonians provides us with a clear and concise biblical theology of hell.

In short, hell is a state of perpetual and conscious hopelessness.

It is a place where unimaginable anguish is eternally and tangibly experienced, such as that which is depicted in Luke 16:24 and the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, wherein the rich man bemoans:

“Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.”

Though it is true that our good and bad deeds do have a bearing on our eternal rewards (Romans 2:6-8Revelation 22:12), those deeds are in no way effectual with regard to our salvation.

The apostle Paul underscores this truth in Romans 10:9:

“…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

To further Paul’s point, consider the two thieves who were crucified along with Jesus who were condemned to death because of the evil deeds they committed (Matthew 27:38-44; Mark 15:27; Luke 23:32, 39-43).

That one thief went to heaven and the other did not, is only because the one thief confessed belief in Christ whereas the other did not (Acts 4:12; Romans 10:13).

“So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.”Romans 14:12

Had the unrepentant thief made the same confession from his heart, then, despite his sinful deeds he, too, would have been assured of the same glorious promise of spending eternity in heaven with Jesus.

It is a reality that would have been just as true for a murderer like Fidel Castro on the day of his death, as it was to the thief on the cross more than 2,000 years ago.

Conclusion

I was complelled to write this blog post because the death of well-known individuals like Fidel Castro serve as a reminder that there are countless millions of people – Christians and non-Christians alike – who are living under the misconception that their works, for better or worse, play a role in God’s sovereign act of salvation.

This is not what the Bible teaches.

God’s Word is unambiguous that His elect are saved by faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).”

It is only belief in Jesus that saves us.

It is only unbelief in Jesus that condemns us.

“Morality may keep you out of jail, but it takes the blood of Jesus Christ to keep you out of hell.” – Charles Spurgeon

Despite his many sins, had Fidel Castro only believed on Jesus Christ he would be in heaven today (Romans 6:23).

For the same gospel of grace that applies to “whoever believes” would also have applied to him (John 3:16).

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:
What Is the Gospel? – Dr. R.C. Sproul (Ligonier Ministries)
The Final Divide: Eternal Life or Eternal Wrath – John Piper (Desiring God)
What Faith Must Believe – Ligonier Ministries
How Salvation Brings Freedom – Jen Wilkin (The Gospel Coalition)
The Five Solas – Reformed Forum

Image credit: huffingtonpost.com

How Support for Donald Trump by the Right Exposed the Racism of the Left


The question is a simple one.

Does an American citizen who is legally registered to vote have the right to cast that vote for the candidate of his or her choice?

Simple enough, right?

Apparently not, depending on who you ask.

The post-election lamenting of the Left continues to garner headlines.

More than a week after Donald Trump became this nation’s 45th President-elect, their collective petulance remains on full display for all to see.

As a conservative who is black, it has been interesting to observe liberals direct their anti-Trump vitriol exclusively at the 81 percent of white evangelical Christians who voted for him.

But in the midst of their targeted rage, they completely disregard the fact that 13 percent of black males also voted for Trump.

Are these voters not equally deserving of their derision and contempt?

As confounding as it may seem to liberals, their willingness to ignore the fact that Donald Trump garnered double-digit support from black voters is a serious commentary on the extent to which they are helping to perpetuate the decades-old stereotype that the so-called “black vote” is monolithic.

Needless to say, it is not.

I, for one, am proof of that.

In the wake of what was unarguably a devastating and, by many accounts, unfathomable political defeat, liberals are blaming everyone but themselves.

But that liberals view the election of Donald Trump as tantamount to an eschatological catastrophe of biblical proportions is not entirely the fault of white evangelical voters.

In fact, it is not the fault of any one particular ethno-religious voting bloc.

Though 81 percent support from white evangelicals is nothing to sneeze at, even more significant is the 8 percent of black voters who backed Donald Trump.

Because although it was widely expected and accepted that white evangelicals – particularly white male evangelicals – would galvanize behind Trump, being motivated in large part by Clinton’s unbiblical positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, no one gave him a snowball’s chance in you-know-where of making even the most infinitesimal strides with black voters.

After all, blacks are monolithic, you know?

We don’t think for ourselves.

We simply do as we’re told.

https://i0.wp.com/media4.s-nbcnews.com/j/newscms/2016_30/1637401/gettyimages-510875866_6b89731f747a0b429950dcfda378338a.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000.jpg

That black voters traditionally have been held to a lower standard of political autonomy than any other voting bloc in America, is clearly evidenced by a Salon.com article I recently came across entitled, The Real Reason Black Voters Didn’t Turn Out For Hillary – and How to Fix It.

The title alone is enough to give pause.

That black voter turnout turned out (no pun intended) to be less salvific than Hillary Clinton and the Democrats hoped – as opposed to blacks voting their individual consciences or, perhaps, not voting at all, which is also their right – is apparently a problem that needs to be “fixed” according to many on the Left.

It is a philosophy that warrants translating.

“Fixed” is liberal code for developing targeted strategies to ensure black voters continue to tow the line, and stick to the nearly 60-year old script of voting for only Democrat candidates for president.

“Fixed” is the plantation mentality which holds that black votes belong to Democrats in much the same way that black people once belonged to them.

“Fixed” – as far as liberals are concerned – is the perpetual political servitude of black voters to the Democrat party.

“My father joined our party because the Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote. The Republicans did.” – Condoleezza Rice

It is interesting, if not ironic, that liberals will tout the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for its prohibitions against racial discrimination in voting, particularly with regard to their seemingly incessant claims of voter suppression on the part of Republicans, while tacitly endorsing ideological discrimination in assuming that Hillary Clinton receiving “only” 92 percent of the black vote instead of the anticipated 95 percent is something that needs “fixing”.

The hypocrisy of liberals is that their acceptance of white evangelicals exercising their right to vote as individuals, albeit against their preferred candidate, is offset by their belief that blacks should cast their votes solely on the basis of the interests of the collective “black community”.

Which begs the question to what end was the Civil Rights Movement, especially with respect to black Americans being granted the right to vote as equal citizens, if not the freedom to exercise that right as individuals in voting for the political candidate of their choice?

That liberals appear to believe this ethos applies to every ethnic voting bloc except black voters is telling to say the least.

Ultimately, it is not black voter turnout that needs to be “fixed”.

What needs “fixing” is the stereotypical mindset that black voters are joined together, as if by umbilical cord, to an electoral process rooted in political tribalism rather than ideological individualism.

Which brings us full circle to the original question, doesn’t it?

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:
The Myth of Black Community
The Truth About Jim Crow (Free PDF booklet from the American Civil Rights Union)

Image Credits:
Top image: npr.org
Center image: nbcnews.com
Bottom image: commdiginews.com

 

Why a Hillary Clinton Victory ‘Might’ Have Been Better For The Evangelical Church

Image credit: thedailybeast.com


I was hoping Hillary Clinton would win.

Before you jump to conclusions, allow me to explain.

Creatures of Habit

From the standpoint of our respective socio-political worldviews, the former Secretary of State and I could not be more diametrically opposed to one another.

Hillary Clinton’s self-professed admiration for eugenicist Margaret Sanger, founder of The Negro Project – the precursor to what is today Planned Parenthood – augmented with her unabashed support of same-sex marriage, or what progressives like Clinton prefer to call “marriage equality”, are but two examples of where she and I part ideological ways.

Nevertheless, that Donald Trump is now President-elect of the United States has left me feeling somewhat disappointed.

I say this not because of what a Trump presidency might portend for America in terms of domestic and foreign policy, but because of what it might mean in terms of the spiritual mindset and mission of the evangelical church.

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” – Psalm 118:8 (NASB)

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, it has been widely reported that President-elect Trump received upwards of 81 percent support from evangelicals, whereas Hillary Clinton received only 16 percent.

That President-elect Trump can boast that 8 out of every 10 professing evangelicals voted for him may be good news for Trump, however, I would caution against Christians presuming that the same can be said for the Church.

I say this because, historically, we evangelicals have exhibited a rather unique penchant for letting our political guard down, particularly when a supposed “conservative Christian” is occupying the White House.

Taking comfort in this we tend to morph into what I call “La-Z-Boy mode”, assuming that because “our” candidate won that “our work here is done” (as the saying goes).

Accordingly, as if by rote, we assume the position.

We lean back, put our spiritual feet up, and rest in the “blessed assurance” that because the person we voted for is “one of us”, there is no real need for vigilance on our part in holding them accountable to any degree.

“Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” – Psalm 146:3 (NASB)

None of this is to infer or imply that the future of the Church in America, or Christianity in general for that matter, rests in the hands of either President-elect Trump or ours as individual evangelicals.

Nor is it to suggest that President-elect Trump is anti-Church, anti-Christian, or anti-religious freedom.

Not at all.

Waiting to Exhale? 

As followers of Christ, we serve a sovereign God who has promised to build His church despite any worldly or other-worldly forces that might endeavor to oppose it (Psalm 135:6; Daniel 4:35Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 6:12).

In other words, it is an eternally settled issue that the church of God will continue to grow and flourish, as it has for over 2,000 years, regardless who is in power whether nationally or globally.

Nonetheless, after eight years of an administration which, by any objective measure, has not been a friend of Christians, I am somewhat concerned that many evangelicals will view the election of Donald Trump as their “waiting to exhale” moment, if you will, believing we can finally relax now that Barack Obama will soon be out of office.

It is this concern that makes me wonder if it would not have been better for the evangelical Church if Hillary Clinton had won and not Donald Trump.

“Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” – Ecclesiastes 7:20 (NASB)

With all due respect, for evangelicals to assume simply by virtue that Donald Trump was elected president and not Hillary Clinton, that the political climate will automatically be more favorable for Christians is to be spiritually naive.

Because although a Clinton administration would undoubtedly have been just as adversarial to the evangelical church as has been the Obama administration, if not more so, it nonetheless might have served as impetus to keep Christians on their toes, or better, on their knees.

“Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed?” – Isaiah 2:22 (NASB)

The nature of politics is that it has a way of subtly convincing people that a promise made is tantamount to a promise kept.

A very tangible example of this is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare, and the boastful assurances made by President Obama, among other prominent Democrats, that it would save American households of dollars in healthcare costs but, in reality, has resulted in financial hardship for millions of families who find themselves unable to afford the skyrocketing premiums.

At first glance, the election of Donald Trump as our nation’s 45th president may seem a cause for rejoicing to many evangelicals; a long-awaited answer to prayer after nearly a decade of overt hostility from an administration whose view of Christianity, to say the least, has been less than favorable.

But that is no excuse for Christians to view Trump’s election as some political laurel upon which we can now rest.

“Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.” – John Adams

If nothing else, what should keep evangelicals grounded against being overly exuberant that Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton is that, biblically speaking, he is no less a sinner than she is (Romans 3:23).

Though a multi-billionaire with a track record as a deal making power-broker, as President-elect, Donald Trump now has access to more power than even he could ever have imagined.

With this in mind, President-elect Trump will need our prayers perhaps more than even he realizes (1 Timothy 2:1-3).

Conclusion

That a Trump victory might result in many evangelicals becoming passive about matters of significance to the Church is why I had hoped Hillary Clinton would win.

For perhaps then, with an ideological antagonist in the White House instead of an ally, Christians might be more attentive to how those who attain to such positions of power are susceptible to the the temptations and attractions awaiting them, not to mention the potential impacts to the Church when those allurements are yielded to in an ungodly way.

“O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain.” – Psalm 60:11 (NASB)

If you have read this far, I trust by now you realize that this blog post is not a post-election endorsement of a Hillary Clinton presidency.

Quite the contrary.

It is a loving yet cautionary admonition to my fellow evangelical brothers and sisters that now is not the time to relax simply because “our” candidate won.

Evangelicals have been in this position before, you know, with “our people” in charge at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

The next four years will prove whether we have learned from the lessons of the past, not the least of which is to never look to the one who occupies the Oval Office above the One who put him – or her – there.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Black Christian Millennials: Seeking Perfect Justice in an Imperfect World

Image credit: fusion.net


Disclaimer: The following commentary is in response to an article published on the website fusion.net entitled Black Youth Are Going Church-Hopping and Here’s Why by Tyree Boyd-Pates. It is not meant as a criticism of Mr. Boyd-Pates nor of black millennials in general. It is merely my humble attempt to respectfully engage in a dialogue about the issues raised in Mr. Boyd-Pates’ article.


Millennials often get a bad rap.

Born in the 1980s and 1990s, these young men and women are consistently portrayed as lazy, entitled, and selfish. My purpose with this commentary is not to argue the merits or demerits of such labeling. Nevertheless, I do find it interesting that a vast majority of media coverage of this segment of our society tends to omit black millennials.

It is as if black millennials do not exist.

They do exist.

And they are not happy.

Of course, this is not to suggest that literally every black millennial alive today is walking around with a raised fist or a megaphone blaring in someone’s ear. Nor is it to infer that, to whatever degree such an acrimonious attitude may or may not be a reality, that it is borne out of any unrighteous motive or ill intent.

Not at all.

I am simply trying to convey that as a component of this particular generation, black millennials, much like their grandparents during the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s and their parents in the Black Power decade of the 1970s, are finding purpose and voice in advocating for social justice, a pursuit whose efforts have historically been fueled by the ambitious, if not impertinent, protestations of young people within the Black Church.

Fast forward to 2016 and not much has changed.

Like their primogenitors before them, the black Christian youth of today want change, they want it now, and they want the Black Church to once again be on the front lines in bringing that change to fruition. It is a point made unambiguously clear by Shamell Bell, a Black Lives Matter activist who, in the Boyd-Pates piece, declares that:

“If the church is not going to get on board, then young black folks will continue to hop from church to church getting their fix of religion until they stop going altogether and imagine church in a new way. That means if we get together in our homes weekly and love each other and show the fruit of the spirit, that is where our church will be.”

The “church-hopping” of which Bell speaks paints a rather disheartening picture in that many black millennial Christians see Christ merely as a righteous renegade, an anointed antagonist, a divine dissenter.

https://static-secure.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2013/12/27/1388173452689/Darcus-Howe-014.jpgImage credit: theguardian.com

Within this paradigm, the gospel is viewed less in terms of individual spiritual transformation and more as a means toward collective social reformation.

Consequently, the itinerant “street preaching” style Jesus employed serves as a contemporary model for what I have termed a “discipleship of confrontation”, the objective being the universal application of God’s perfect and righteous justice as if through intimidation, particularly with regard to matters of race and economics.

It is a view that has given rise to a socio-ethno ecclesiology which is more militant than missional, and more combative than confessional. 

This is not to suggest, of course, that black Christian millennials are inherently pro-violence or that social disorder is their preferred method for the redress of grievances. The Bible is clear that not all confrontation must be confrontational. There is a difference. (Matthew 18:15; Luke 20:1-2; James 5:19-20). 

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” – Proverbs 31:8-9 (NASB)

To be sure, Christianity and social justice are not mutually exclusive terms, neither is the concept of Christian social activism a new one.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Clapham Sect, an evangelical group led by English philosopher John Venn, and among whose members was abolitionist William Wilberforce, worked tirelessly to outlaw slavery both in England and around the world. The Salvation Army, created by Methodist minister William Booth in the 1860s, was founded out of a concern for the social welfare of families residing in the rat-infested slums of inner-city London. There also is Thomas Barnardo, an Irish evangelical who, over the course of his life, opened and operated nearly 100 hostels that housed more than 8,000 homeless children.

There are, undoubtedly, countless other examples, but I’m sure you get the point.

No, social activism is not foreign to Christianity. In fact, it is foundational to it. Nevertheless, social activism is not all that Christianity is. In truth, it is not even what primarily defines it, which is exactly the point I fear church-hopping black millennial Christians are missing.

“In our manner of speech, our plans of living, our dealings with others, our conduct and walk in the church and out of it – all should be done as becomes the gospel Philippians 1:27a.” – Albert Barnes

Who in this world does not want a more righteous society in which justice is truly blind?

Then, again, to even contemplate such an inquiry, rhetorical though it may be, presents us with yet another question to consider: the question of why justice is necessary to begin with.

Invariably, the answer points us to the gospel and to why the church exists in the first place – to proclaim to an imperfect world that perfect justice is found only in the One upon whom the church itself is founded and sustained – Jesus Christ.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:
10 Things the Media Won’t Tell You About Black Millennials – The Root
“Black Millennials” and the Black Church – The Front Porch
Why So Many Millennials Are Socialists – The Cato Institute
Why Black Churches Are Keeping Millennials – Christianity Today