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

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

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 political 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.

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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

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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

Elections Are Ultimately About Voting the Right Sinner Into Office

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Do me a favor.

Stop whatever it is you’re doing and take a few moments to think back to the very first promise someone made to you.

What thoughts immediately come to your mind? Who made the promise? Was it fulfilled as-promised or is it yet to be realized? If the latter, how does it make you feel today? Disappointed? Unimportant? Perhaps even unloved?

Now, think ahead to November 8, 2016.

What thoughts come to your mind now? What expectations do you have of the person for whom you’re planning to cast your vote for president (assuming you are planning to vote)? Are you more hopeful in their promises than in the ones made to you at other times in your life?

Why or why not?

“Everyone has commitments to a certain way of seeing life. Some people call this a worldview. Whatever the label, it is a vision about life, what it is, and how it works. This vision of life may be wise or foolish. People may or may not be self-conscious about their vision of life. But everyone possesses such a vision.” – Heath Lambert, A Theology of Biblical Counseling: The Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry, p. 16

At the risk of making you feel as if you’re being interrogated under a heat lamp from a fast-food restaurant, the reason I posed the aforementioned questions is because, if nothing else, elections are about promises…

…and hopes…

…and expectations.

And why do we hope?

Why do we believe?

We hope because something inside of us longs for righteousness in our political leaders. We know it is right that those who are in authority over us should exercise the power granted them with integrity, humility, and equity.

We believe because, as Christians, we trust in the veracity of a God who has so purposed that worldly governments operate and function “as a minister of God for our good” (Romans 13:4a).

Nevertheless, we must not be naive to the fact that underneath all the pomp and circumstance of presidential politics is the universal truth that, like each of us, politicians are sinners by nature (Romans 3:23). That any man or woman should, by God’s sovereign will (Romans 13:1b), attain to the highest office in the land – or any office for that matter – won’t change that.

The Lord is my portion,” says my soul. Therefore I have hope in Him. – Lamentations 7:24 (NASB)

My pointing out the fallen nature of politicians is not to suggest that Christians should hold such a thing against those who seek political office. Such logic would be both misguided and hypocritical, as no human being could then even run for any office let alone be elected to one.

Which is why spiritual discernment is so critical.

Consider the counsel given to Moses by his father-in-law, Jethro, concerning the governance of the people of Israel during the Exodus from Egypt:

Now listen to me: I will give you counsel and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do. Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.” – Exodus 18:19-21 (NASB)

Then there is David, whom God ordained to be king over the nation of Israel while he was but a shepherd boy, looking not at his external attributes as qualification for the office, but at something far more important:

When they entered, he [Samuel] looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinidab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Next Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either. Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are these all the children?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him here; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” – 1 Samuel 16:6-12 (NASB)

Whether we realize it or not, the reason so many people – Christians and non-Christians alike – are so concerned about this presidential election is because it is fundamentally a matter of biblical theology not political ideology.

Regardless of one’s political persuasion or party affiliation, each of us has an innate awareness of our capacity as human beings to commit evil.

It is this shared but unacknowledged awareness of our penchant to sin against one another that is causing such an unprecedented level of angst among voters across the nation. Our problem is we simply refuse to treat it as the spiritual issue it is.

It has been said that the elections of 2016 are the most crucial in our nation’s 240-year history.

I can’t say that I disagree.

Given what is at stake in this election, particularly as it relates to potential implications to the church and our ability as Christians to continue to freely practice our beliefs, as followers of Christ we must ask ourselves:

  • Have I attempted to see these presidential candidates as God sees them; looking past the external to fruit of who he or she is on the inside?
  • What biblical evidence is there that either of these candidates is endeavoring to live a righteous life before the God who created them in His image?
  • Am I viewing this election as a spiritual matter with spiritual implications to our nation or do I see it merely as my civic duty to perform?
  • To what degree, if any, does my professed Christian worldview shape my political ideology?
  • Do I compartmentalize my Christianity so that it applies only to certain areas of my life and not to others?
  • Have I spent time alone with God, seeking His divine wisdom as to how I should cast my vote?

Righteousness exalts a nation. But sin is a disgrace to any people.” – Proverbs 14:34 (NASB)

Needless to say, there is no “perfect” political candidate.

There has never been nor will there ever be.

Whether president or dog catcher – all are sinners alike.

But, you see, perfection is not the standard.

God’s standard of perfection was met in His Son Jesus Christ. It is in Him alone that perfect righteousness can be found (2 Corinthians 5:21).

But though God does not require perfection of us, He does require holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16). And if God requires holiness in the lives of we who profess to believe in Him, how then can we discount or disregard it in the lives of those we choose to govern us (Proverbs 29:2; 2 Corinthians 6:14)?

“Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing with God’s judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. He who most entirely agrees with God, he is the most holy man.” – J.C. Ryle, Holiness

When we consider that the very concept of government was established by God (Romans 13:1), then, to the Christian at least, voting is seen as not just a civic duty but a spiritual discipline.

Yes, all politicians are sinners.

That much is true.

And yet, we can still pray that God will have mercy on our nation so that the right sinner is elected to office in November.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

“November Nirvana” or The Misguidedness of Viewing Politics as a Means to National Salvation

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The 2016 presidential election is less than six months away and, as with previous election cycles, curiosity abounds concerning the question of what role Christians will play in determining who will occupy the White House for the next four years.

Now, having read that opening statement, please note what I did not say.

I did not say that the question Christians are facing is for which candidate we should vote. I did not say that because that is not the question.

The reason it is not the question is because to engage in a discourse about which presidential candidate Christians should support, is to be guilty of putting the proverbial cart before the horse.

Such “political bandwagoning” –  a term I use to describe the habit many Christians have of latching themselves onto a particular candidate based primarily on the attractiveness of the message being proffered, rather than allowing themselves to be guided by the counsel provided in the word of God – is to a large extent why America today finds itself experiencing the effects of such a rapid cultural and, yes, spiritual demise.

The truth is there are any number of fundamental predecessor questions and considerations that Christians should, or better yet, must, undertake prior to entertaining any notion about what presidential candidate is most deserving of their support.

A Pre-Decision Decision

The word Christians (Χριστιανός) first appears in the Bible in Acts 11:26.

Since the earliest days of the New Testament church, the term Christian has been used to describe not only those who profess by mere verbal ascent to believe in Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9) but who, on the basis of an objective assessment of their lifestyle (Ephesians 2:10), were deemed to be committed followers (ἀκολουθέω) of Christ.

In fact, the early church viewed a person’s lifestyle as being so inexorably connected to his or her identification with Christ that:

“If a slave wished to become a Christian, his or her master would be consulted. Once the background checks were passed, the candidate’s job performance was assessed. A number of professions were considered incompatible with Christianity. These included anything to do with prostitution, anything to do with magic or divination, and anything to do with the theater or with games (because of the association with pagan religions). Military commanders and magistrates were not eligible to join, because their jobs involved ordering executions, something to which the Christians were opposed. A soldier could join provided he vowed never to execute anyone, even if ordered, and painters and sculptors could join, provided they vowed never to make an idol.” – Jonathan Hill, Zondervan Handbook to the History of Christianity, p. 46, Becoming a Christian

To make merely an oral declaration to be a Christian has never sufficed in and of itself as definitive proof to validate such a claim.

Scripture clearly teaches that such an attestation must be augmented by an observable pattern of life that is modeled after the One in whom we profess to believe (Luke 6:46; 1 John 2:6).

It is the evidentiary Christian life – a life that is distinctly observable to others – that distinguishes the professing believer (one who merely claims to be a follower of Jesus) from the confessing believer (one whose lifestyle demonstrably mirrors that of Jesus Christ).

“The growth of ignorance in the Church is the logical and inevitable result of the false notion that Christianity is a life and not also a doctrine; if Christianity is not a doctrine then of course teaching is not necessary to Christianity. But whatever be the causes for the growth of ignorance in the Church, the evil must be remedied. It must be remedied primarily by the renewal of Christian education in the family, but also by the use of whatever other educational agencies the Church can find. Christian education is the chief business of the hour for every Christian person. Christianity cannot subsist unless men know what Christianity is; and the fair and logical thing is to learn what Christianity is, not from its opponents, but from those who themselves are Christians.” – J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism, p. 149

Understanding the distinction between what is a professing Christian and what is a confessing Christian is absolutely crucial, particularly as it relates to developing a biblical theology of politics.

Before Christians can endeavor to undertake the question of which presidential candidate we should support, we must first and foremost deal with the matter of what kind of Christian we aspire to be (James 1:22-25).

Until that question is answered definitively and truthfully, everything else is secondary.

Everything.

A Dangerous Disconnect

When it comes to voting, and elections in general for that matter, Christians who do vote (because there are many do not) are no different than anyone else.

They tend to view being engaged in the electoral process strictly in the sense that such involvement is merely their civic duty; a right they are obliged to exercise as an uninspired and rote expression of appreciation for a perceived benevolence imparted to them by an increasingly secular and ungodly State (Deuteronomy 16:18-20).

Rarely, if ever, it seems, do followers of Christ view their participation in the electoral process as an obligation owed to a sovereign God to whom they will one day give an account for how they exercise that right (if in fact they do so at all).

Such a myopic and worldly mindset is puzzling, particularly given the fact that the very concept of government, in all its various and sundry forms, originated with God (Romans 13:1).

“Politics are a part of religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to the country as a part of their duty to God … Christians seem to act as if they thought God did not see what they do in politics. But I tell you, He does see it, and He will bless or curse this nation, according to the course they [Christians] take.” – Charles G. Finney, Lectures on Revivals of Religion (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1868), Lecture XV, pp. 281-282

Notwithstanding the ongoing debate over the (un)constitutionality of “separation of church and state” as a binding legal precept, many Christians have likewise chosen to separate, partition, and otherwise disconnect their biblical worldview (to whatever degree it exists) from their political ideology, when the exact opposite should be the case (Romans 12:2).

The enduring consequence of such willful political dissonance is that collectively, as a nation, we will continue to pay an exorbitantly high price, particularly spiritually. The devastating, and disheartening, effects are already quite evident.

I need not delineate them.

Just look around you.

The Heart of the Matter

When you take the time to peel back all the layers, what you will find is that what lies at the heart of all political systems, regardless of ideological persuasion, is an innate desire on our part to experience the purity and perfection that existed prior to the fall of Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-8).

Notwithstanding one’s individual stance on issues such as immigration reform, taxes, abortion, or school choice, at a fundamental level what we all want is a government that provides us the same sense of personal satisfaction and security we get whenever we buy a new car, a new a pair of shoes, or a new smartphone.

That is really what we want.

For it is in those momentary situations that we feel all is right with the world.

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

Of course, we dare not admit that our personal political dispositions are framed in such vainglorious terms as the aforementioned, but it is true nonetheless.

Something within us longs to know what this imperfect and unjust world of ours would be like, if only the effects brought upon it by the failure of our first parents could somehow be reversed (Romans 8:22-23). This longing runs so deep that we convince ourselves every few years that there exist men and women who inherently possess the requisite attributes and abilities to bring such a just and righteous world to fruition.

There’s a word for that kind of world, you know?

It’s called heaven.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I hear a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and he will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death, there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:1-4 (NASB)

Please understand that none of what I have said is to suggest that Christians should not be actively involved in the political process.

Quite the contrary.

In fact, I would even argue that a primary reason why America is in the spiritual abyss it is in today, is the propensity of many Christians to compartmentalize their stated beliefs – especially with regard to politics – as if the Word of God is somehow not to be appropriated to certain areas of our earthly existence.

Needless to say, nothing could be further from the truth.

Examine Yourself

For the Christian – the confessing Christian, that is – there is no aspect of life to which the authority of God’s Word does not apply. You can search the Scriptures until you’re blue in the face, but you will find no:

  • asterisks
  • fine print
  • exception clauses

As Christians, that we are to be “in the world but not of it” (John 17:15-16) does not mean – and never has meant – that we should not be involved the political machinations of the world.

It is nonsensical, on the one hand, to think that Christ would pray to His heavenly Father that His elect would not be taken out of the world and yet, on the other hand, think that by doing so Christ intended for His people to not be actively engaged with a world in which He prayed for us to remain.

Nevertheless, as we participate in the electoral process we must remind ourselves that when we cast our vote we are not electing a savior.

Why?

Because saviors aren’t elected.

That job is already taken.

“We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” – 1 John 4:14 (NASB)

Soli Deo Gloria!

Darrell