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

A Biblical Theology of the Black-White “Wealth Gap”

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Much is being said today about the so-called wealth gap that purportedly exists among black households and white households in America.

I say purportedly not to deny that such a divide exists – it does – but to highlight that the very term wealth gap is inherently misleading, as it assumes that such imparity is innately unfair – if not immoral – and, as such, should be redressed under the nirvanic pursuit of “income equality”.

The publication The Economist defines income equality as:

the ratio of the share of national income going to the richest 20 percent of households in a country to the share of the poorest 20 percent.

When speaking of the wealth gap strictly in terms of numbers the data are indisputable.

But therein lies the rub.

A study on income inequality conducted by Pew Research found that:

From 2010 to 2013, the median wealth of non-Hispanic white households increased from $138,600 to $141,900, or by 2.4%. Meanwhile, the median wealth of non-Hispanic black households fell 33.7%, from $16,600 in 2010 to $11,000 in 2013. 

On the surface, these numbers appear to paint a rather disadvantageous and inequitable picture in and of themselves. Nevertheless, in today’s politically-correct, hyper-sensitive society, context is more important now than ever.

This is especially true considering that the default milieu in which matters of wealth acquisition and distribution are debated – in terms of race as opposed to socio-economic class – is that any “gaps” that do exist are solely the result of institutional and structural injustices committed by white people against black people.

Notwithstanding the above-referenced data from Pew, the truth is the black-white wealth gap should not be viewed strictly in terms of dollars and cents.

True, there are any number of quantifiable reasons for why such disparities exist, but that they exist does not suffice as a sufficient argument that they should not exist.

In other words, that there is disparity does not necessarily mean there is inequality.

“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

There is a fundamental problem with using “inequality” to describe the income disparity between black and white households.

The word inequality intrinsically conveys that the wealth “gap” is a problem to be remedied simply because there is a gap, and that the acquisition of wealth is the only solution to mitigate that disparity under the subjective premise that income inequality is patently “unfair”.

But to assert that income inequality is somehow unfair is to place oneself in the throes of a philosophical dilemma. For to argue that anything is “unfair” is, by definition, to introduce into the conversation the question of morality.

Consequently, one is forced to consider by what or whose standard of morality should income inequality be deemed unfair. Hence, what began as a circular discourse rooted in subjectivity and ambiguity has morphed into a theological exercise on the level of untying the Gordian Knot.

“When people look at questions of income and the disparity, they’re not looking for causes. They’re looking for blame. And those are not the same things.” – Thomas Sowell, from an interview with World magazine, 12/30/2014

A highly popular television sitcom The Jeffersons ran on the CBS network for 11 seasons (from 1975 to 1985).

The Jeffersons followed the lives of George and Louise Jefferson, an African-American couple who relocated from the poverty of Queens, NY to Manhattan, as a result of the success of George’s dry-cleaning business chain.

The theme song from The Jeffersons was titled Movin’ On Up, the lyrics of which celebrate the fact that the rambunctious George, and his beloved wife Louise, had finally achieved their dream.

In other words, they had conquered the wealth gap.

Well,, we’re movin’ on up (movin’ on up)
To the east side (movin’ on up)
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin’ on up (movin’ on up)
To the east side (movin’ on up)
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Fish don’t fry in the kitchen;
Beans don’t burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta’ tryin’
Just to get up that hill.
Now we’re up in the big leagues
Gettin’ our turn at bat.
As long as we live, it’s you and me baby
There ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

Well, we’re movin’ on up (movin on up)
To the east side (movin on up)
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin’ on up (movin on up)
To the east side (movin on up)
We finally got a piece of the pie.

“The rich and the poor have a common bond, the Lord is the maker of them all.” – Proverbs 22:2 (NASB)

Please understand that I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with an individual endeavoring to achieve the “American Dream” and acquiring their own “piece of the pie”.

But when those pursuits are engaged in solely under the pretense of “income inequality”, a philosophy predicated on pitting the haves of the world against the have-nots, then perhaps the time has come for a re-evaluation of motives (James 4:1-3).

“Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it.” – Proverbs 23:4 (NASB)

A major fallacy of the black-white wealth gap is it assumes a cause (e.g. systemic racism) without regard to other factors that might contribute to it.

A case in point is a report published by Demos, progressive public policy organization, which found that:

  • 42 percent of African Americans report using their credit cards for basic living expenses like rent, mortgage payments, groceries, utilities, or insurance because they do not have enough money in their checking or savings accounts.
  • African Americans carry an average credit card balance of $5,784.
  • Just 66% of African American households report having a credit score of 620 or above, compared to 85 percent of white households.  
  • 50 percent of indebted African American households who incurred expenses related to sending a child to college report that it contributed to their current credit card debt.
  • 71 percent of African American middle-income households had been called by bill collectors as a result of their debt, compared to 50 percent of white middle-income households.

What no one is talking about concerning the black-white wealth divide is the role human behavior plays in helping facilitate that gap.

It is a universal truth that when, in our self-centered efforts to “move on up” in life, we choose to violate the principles of God’s Word, we should expect certain outcomes as a result.

Scripture is clear on matters of:

This is not to suggest or infer that the black-white wealth gap is attributable solely to a collective disregard for biblical principles on the part of black Americans.

Not at all.

I am not naive to the reality that not all black Americans – nor Americans in general – are believers in Jesus Christ and submit their lives to the spiritual disciplines set forth in His Word.

To be sure, not even we who are believers in consistently abide by His precepts (Luke 6:46).

Nevertheless, the reality is personal responsibility is a major factor in the black-white wealth gap being what it is. It would be disingenuous, to say the least, to suggest that socio-economic factors alone (e.g. unemployment, racism) are at fault in creating this imbalance.

“The measure of our success cannot be defined by what we accomplish here on earth; it has already been defined by the fact that we are in Christ.” – Dr. Ian Duguid, from the January 2017 issue of TableTalk Magazine, p.13

It may not be politically correct to say this, but the truth is not everyone is destined to achieve the American Dream.

The sovereignty of God is such that, ultimately, it is He who determines to what degree we experience success in this world, whether material or otherwise (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 20:4; 118:23-25;  Deuteronomy 8:18; Romans 9:14-16). With this (God’s sovereignty) in mind, as followers of Christ, contentment should be our goal not closing the wealth gap (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

This is not to suggest that one should not aspire to improve their socio-economic station, but that they should do so with the larger picture in mind – eternity.

For, indeed, what does it profit a person to gain the whole world, and forfeit their soul (Mark 8:36)?

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Image credit:
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Related:
Thomas Sowell on the Root Causes of Income Equality – World

Why the Talladega College Band Should March in the Trump Inauguration Parade


According to a CBS News article a controversy has arisen regarding the decision by the “Great Tornado” marching band of Talladega College, a historically black college and university (HBCU) located in Talladega, Alabama, to participate in the inauguration parade of President-Elect Donald J. Trump on January 20.

At first glance it would be easy to assume the consternation being expressed is merely the fruit of an ideological rejection of Donald Trump by certain individuals close to this venerable institution.

And though I do not doubt that is the case to a great extent, I would argue there is more that lies beneath the surface. Namely, the long-held stereotype that black Americans, whether individually or institutionally (as in the case of Talladega College), should myopically support the ideals and activities of the Democrat Party and its candidates.

This mindset is not exclusive to white Democrats, as evidenced by remarks made by First Lady Michelle Obama – an African-American woman – to African-American voters just days before the presidential election in November 2016:

“That’s my message to [African-American] voters. This isn’t about Barack. It’s not about the person on the ballot — it’s about you [African-Americans]. And for most of the people that we’re talking to [African-American voters], a Democratic ticket is the clear ticket that we [African-Americans] should be voting on, regardless of who said what or did this. That shouldn’t even come into the equation.”

We need not be naive about what is actually going on here.

The reality is that had Hillary Clinton been elected and not Donald Trump, I wouldn’t be writing this article because there would be no controversy to write about.

Why?

The reason is clear enough: Hillary Clinton is a Democrat and African Americans – simply because they are African American – are obliged to do whatever the Democrat Party requires of them.

It is an ideological stereotype the genesis of which goes back more than half a century.

With all due respect to the alumni, faculty, and student body of Talladega College, the truth is the institution would not exist were it not for the aid of Republicans like Union Army General Wager Swyane, a member the Freedman’s Bureau.

In fact, the vast majority of HBCUs can attribute their origins to Republicans who, during the Reconstruction Era, advocated for the education of former slaves and their children.

Conversely, Democrats, primarily through the enacting of racist Jim Crow laws, employed every conceivable method to deny freed slaves – and their descendants – access to such opportunities.

Ultimately, this “controversy”, such as it is, is neither about Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton. Nor is it about to whom kudos are due for establishing the many HBCUs that exist across our country today.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” – Ephesians 4:31 (NASB)

To whatever extent the alumni and supporters of Talladega College are opposed to the worldview of Donald Trump – as is their solemn right – what brings about change in people’s minds and hearts is dialogue not distance.

Which begs the question: What do those who are protesting this decision by Talladega College really gain by its marching band refusing to participate in the Trump inaugural parade (as many other performers have done)?

At best they will have “made a statement” (which is fine as far as making statements go).

At worst they will have deprived this historic institution of the opportunity to build on its legacy by participating in one of the truly unique events in American history, while accomplishing nothing toward ameliorating the concerns that gave rise to this particular disputation to begin with.

When all is said and done, the debate over the participation of the Talladega College marching band in Trump’s inauguration parade is less about politics and more about the legacy of an institution that was founded on the principle of opening minds not closing them.

Admittedly, this is not always an easy goal to pursue.

It was not easy on November 20, 1865, when Talladega College was founded by two former slaves. Nor will it be easy on January 20, 2017, when Donald J. Trump is inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.

Nevertheless, I say, let the Great Tornado march.

And may the great discourse begin.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

A Theology of the Electoral College

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As I consider that today the United States Electoral College will cast its votes to certify Donald Trump as America’s 45th President-Elect, I am struck by the reality that there actually is much theology to be found within the Constitution.

Please understand that in stating the aforementioned, I am in no way inferring or implying that the United States Constitution is a theological document in and of itself.

I am not saying that at all.

What I am saying, however, is that the protections that are inherent within it are clearly and unarguably rooted and grounded in the doctrine of the sinfulness of human beings.

The Electoral College is but one example of this.

“Every soul has its nature in Adam until it is born again in Christ. The unregenerate soul is unclean and sinful both in condition and in action.” – R. Stanton Norman, from A Theology for the Church, edited by Daniel L. Akin, chapter 8, Human Sinfulness, p. 434

Regardless if the Founders were deists, theists, agnostics, or even atheists, they clearly had an appreciation (if not an affinity) for the fact that human beings are innately sinful and, as such, are susceptible to the temptations and seductions that invariably accompany positions of power and influence.

So, it is in that sense that I am most thankful to God for the wisdom bestowed upon the Founding Fathers in giving our nation both the Constitution and, conversely, the Electoral College, as safeguards that exist for the purpose of protecting us from ourselves.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23 (NASB)

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

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