How the Easiness of ‘American Christianity’ Minimizes the Atonement of Christ

https://i2.wp.com/t.wallpaperweb.org/wallpaper/nature/1920x1080/beautifulspringlandscape1920x1080wallpaper3424.jpg

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
– 1 Corinthians 1:18 (NASB)


For several months now I have been burdened by what appears, to me at least, to be an increasing apathy and indifference on the part of Christians, particularly in America, to the import and significance of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

These observations have led me to the lamentable conclusion that this spiritual lassitude is rooted primarily in a collective ignorance of and, consequently, a lack of appreciation for, Christ’s vicarious Atonement and its eternal implications to our lives, both in this world and in the world to come.

In his book, The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology, Dr. Jeremy R. Treat has defined the doctrine of the atonement as:

“…faith seeking understanding of the way in which Christ, through all of his work but primarily his death, has dealt with sin and its effects restoring the broken covenant relationship between God and humans and thereby brought about the turn of the ages. At its core, the doctrine of the atonement is the attempt to understand the meaning of Christ’s death as “for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3).”

When compared to Christians in other parts of the world, believers in America have it easy.

Perhaps too easy.

For the vast majority of professing Christians in America, living the so-called “Christian life” – a term that is becoming more ambiguous by the day – is a relatively effortless and often superficial undertaking.

We attend church if and when we feel like it. Conversely, advances in technology have made the Word of God so readily accessible that we tend to treat it no less casually than we would any other book. Consequently, personal convenience becomes the primary variable by which we determine to commit (or not) ourselves to study to actually know God to any great extent (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

It is with the aforementioned thoughts in mind that I am reminded of the words of J.I. Packer, who comments that:

“He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. The most excellent study for expanding the soul is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.”Knowing God, p. 18

Unlike our persecuted brethren in countries like China and North Korea, who must resort to obtaining bibles through clandestine and surreptitious means – often at risk of their own lives – we need not concern ourselves with the hazards of having the gospel smuggled in to us because, as the saying goes, “there’s an app for that”.

The stylistic nuances and ecumenical aesthetics to which we have become so accustomed, particularly as it relates to our personal preferences in corporate worship, have fostered a collective spirit of indifference to the fundamental reason why we gather together to worship to begin with: the death of the Son of God on the cross.

It is against the backdrop of this kind of apathy that Charles Spurgeon declared:

“Nothing provokes the devil like the cross. Modern theology has for its main object the obscuration of the doctrine of atonement. These modern cuttlefishes make the water of life black with their ink. They make our sin to be a trifle, and the punishment of it to be a temporary business; and thus they degrade the remedy by underrating the disease.”

When examined on the whole, there really is nothing about being a Christian in America that can be said to be sacrificially demanding.

Not really.

Notwithstanding certain targeted political attacks against Christians in recent years, the truth is that the Christian experience in America can largely be defined not in terms of suffering (Philippians 1:29), but of indulging in creature-comforts like coffee bar lounges in our churches that resemble the neighborhood Starbucks®.

After all, how can anyone be expected to practice good liturgy without a good latté?

“We live in an age where the one wrong thing to say is that somebody else is wrong. One of the impacts of postmodern epistemology is that we all have our own independent points of view, and we look at things from the perspective of our own small interpretive communities. What is sin to one group is not sin to another group. But not only does the Bible insist that there is such a thing as sin, it insists that the heart of its ugly offensiveness is its horrible odiousness to God – how it offends God.” – D.A. Carson, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, p. 42

Christianity in America has become so accommodating, so unexacting, so facile, that we have numbed ourselves to what it truly means to be a follower of Christ (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23). And, perhaps more importantly, what was accomplished for us as a result of God volitionally bringing about that reality in our lives (Ephesians 2:8-9).

As the late theologian John R.W. Stott writes in his masterwork, The Cross of Christ, it is vital for Christians to realize that:

“The essential background to the cross…is a balanced understanding of the gravity of sin and the majesty of God. If we diminish either, we thereby diminish the cross. If we reinterpret sin as a lapse instead of a rebellion, and God as indulgent instead of indignant, then naturally the cross appears superfluous. But to dethrone God and enthrone ourselves not only dispenses with the cross; it also degrades both God and humans. A biblical view of God and ourselves, however – that is, of our sin and of God’s wrath – honors both. It honors human beings by affirming them as responsible for their own actions. It honors God by affirming him as having moral character.”

Our nature as sinners is such that the degree of appreciation we have, even for those we say mean the most to us, can tend to wane the more comfortable with them we become. I can only imagine how many marriages today are being destroyed because one spouse is inclined to take the other for granted.

But, as Christians living in America, is our mindset any different when it comes to how lightly we treat the death of Jesus? Are we any less guilty of taking for granted the One who espoused Himself to us, His bride, through His propitiatory death on the cross (Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2, 4:10)?

Has the easiness of American Christianity reduced the cross of Christ to a mere symbol in our eyes? Or do we carry within us the incredible weight of knowing that the cross is absolutely the only means by which a just and holy God could ever be satisfied with sinners like you and me (Acts 4:12; John 3:36; 2 Peter 3:7)?

As you contemplate those questions, consider prayerfully these words from theologian James M. Hamilton, who reminds us that:

“The cross uniquely displays that both Jesus and the Father are committed to justice and mercy, even unto death. The cross displays that Jesus and the Father are unique – holy – in their devotion to righteousness, to mercy, and to one another. The cross displays the all-conquering love of Father and Son for rebels who will repent and believe in Jesus. Such a sacrifice to save sinners!”God’s Glory In Salvation Through Judgement: A Biblical Theology, p. 416

Please understand that none of what I have said is to suggest or imply that biblical Christianity either is, or should be, based upon a life of perpetual suffering.

Nor am I intimating that Christians in America should feel guilty for not suffering, either at all or as much as, their brothers and sisters who are in other countries around the world. God is sovereign over all events that occur in the universe; and it is He who ordains the outcomes of those events in our lives (Psalm 115:3).

Nevertheless, I do caution against giving in to the allure of the kind of Christianity that minimizes the death of Christ, making the cross an adornment to be worn around our necks as opposed to a way of life to be borne on our backs (as it were).

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” – Matthew 16:24 (NASB)

Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate (Colossians 2:9), died a brutal, demeaning, dehumanizing, and gruesome death for unworthy and undeserving sinners like you and me (Mark 14:65; 15:17-20). This reality should serve to remind us that it is we who, by virtue of our innate sinfulness, put Jesus on the cross thereby necessitating the shedding of His blood.

Despite the relative comforts of living as a Christian in America, as followers of Christ we must avoid at all costs the temptation not to take the death of Christ seriously. Instead, we must see ourselves as our gracious and merciful God saw us before the foundation of the world – as worthless sinners in desperate need of a Savior.

American Christianity would have us believe that we are somehow worthy of Christ’s dying on the cross for our sins, but I assure you we are not (Ephesians 2:8-9).

There is no church apart from the cross.

The cross of Christ should not only be worn; it must be borne.

May we not let a single day pass without contemplating the inexplicable wonder of which the great hymnist Charles Wesley wrote nearly 280 years ago:

“And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood! Died He for me who caused His pain? For me who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, should die for me?”

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Abortion, Evil, and the Sovereignty of God

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways”, declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
– Isaiah 55:8-9 (NASB)


https://i0.wp.com/rchurch.cc/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/god-is-totally-sovereign.jpg


For many within the evangelical church, the doctrine of the sovereignty of God is a difficult one to accept.

Fundamental to this tension is the issue of theodicy. Theodicy is that aspect of systematic theology that deals with the problem of evil in light of the existence of God.

The “Prince of Preachers”, Charles H. Spurgeon, has said that,

“No doctrine in the whole Word of God has more excited the hatred of mankind than the truth of the absolute sovereignty of God.”

Spurgeon is right.

That you and I struggle at times with the notion that a loving, kind, and merciful God would allow evil to exist, is interesting if not ironic. For rarely, if ever, do we consider our own sinfulness as contributing to the evil which God, to our bewilderment, seems to us to tolerate (Romans 3:23; 2 Peter 3:9).

It is in the context of this mindset that I concur with theologian Millard J. Erickson, who states that:

“…the problem of evil occurs when some particular aspect of one’s [personal] experience calls into question the greatness or goodness of God, and hence threatens the relationship between the believer and God.”Christian Theology, Third Edition, Evil and God’s World: A Special Problem, p. 385

Our nature is such that the sovereignty of God is usually broached only in situations in which we have personally experienced some degree of grief, disappointment, or discouragement. It is in those instances that we are quick to remind ourselves that “God is in control”.

We are less inclined, however, to give God the benefit of the doubt in situations that are somewhat removed from any personal point of reference we might assign to them. In other words, unless “it” happens to us – whatever it is – or to someone in whose well-being we have a vested interest, the sovereignty of God is a distant consideration (if it is considered at all).

Sin has so affected our earthly existence that there are any number of situations that would prompt us to question the notion of a sovereign God (Romans 8:22-23). Who of us has not experienced a circumstance in our life, that caused us to doubt whether there actually is a God “up there somewhere” who is aware of the evil that occurs in the world (Proverbs 15:3)?

It is in moments of our deepest pain and perplexity that we seek answers to the question “Where was God (Malachi 2:17)?” This inquiry is borne out of a preconceived notion that the nature of God consists primarily of one attribute: love. As such, we assume that a “God of love” would never abide evil in any form or under any circumstances (Psalm 5:4).

“In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider – God has made the one as well as the other.” – Ecclesiastes 7:14a (NASB)

One such evil that is often debated in the context of the sovereignty of God is that of abortion, particularly in cases of rape.

Many people today, including Christians, who otherwise would be opposed to abortion – save perhaps for the sake of the life of the mother – are comfortable with making an exception in instances where a child is conceived under such odious circumstances.

On the one hand, this mindset seems perfectly understandable. Practically every religion that exists today proffers a deity who is loving, merciful, and who abhors and punishes evil. On the other hand, however, one should guard against contextualizing an attribute of the biblical God solely on the basis of religious tradition or personal experience.

It is with this thought in mind that I find the words of the Puritan reformer John Calvin to be particularly noteworthy:

“There is a great difference between what is fitting for man to will and what is fitting for God…for through the bad wills of evil men God fulfills what He righteously wills.” – Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1:234 (1.18.3)

Augustine of Hippo, whom Calvin quoted more than any other theologian, expressed similar thoughts in that:

“Man sometimes with a good will wishes something which God does not will, as when a good son wishes his father to live, while God wishes him to die. Again it may happen that man with a bad will wishes what God wills righteously, as when a bad son wishes his father to die, and God also wills it …For the things which God rightly wills, He accomplishes by the evil wills of bad men.”

Both Calvin and Augustine touch on what is an unarguable yet often misunderstood aspect of God’s sovereignty, one that most people fail to consider when contemplating what the sovereignty of God actually means: that even our unrighteous deeds are ordained by God for His righteous purposes.

Consider the words of theologian Wayne Grudem, who writes that:

“All things come to pass by God’s wise providence. This means that we should adopt a more “personal” understanding of the universe and the events in it. The universe is not governed by impersonal fate or luck, but by a personal God. Nothing “just happens” – we should see God’s hand in events throughout the day, causing all things to work together for good for those who love Him.” – Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Chapter 16: God’s Providence, p. 337

In speaking on the matter of theodicy, and God’s sovereignty over evil, a key text of Scripture is Exodus 21:12-13, one of the many ordinances against personal injury that God established for the nation of Israel:

“He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint you a place to which he may flee.” (NASB)

Admittedly, the aforementioned text in Exodus is a difficult one to digest. Nevertheless, it is unambiguous in declaring that not only is God aware of the evil that occurs in the world, He also ordains that evil to occur.

If the Lord hath done it, questions are out of the question; and truly the Lord has done it. There may be a secondary agent, there probably is; the devil himself may be that secondary agent, yet the Lord hath done it.” – C.H. Spurgeon

The very word rape – let alone the act itself – engenders within us feelings of anger, outrage, and indignation – and rightly so (John 7:24).

The reason such a response is right(eous) is because there exists within each of us an innate awareness of God’s objective standard of right and wrong, particularly as it relates to how we who bear His image (Genesis 1:27) are to treat one another. We possess this awareness because God Himself placed it within us (Romans 1:18-19).

That God ordains evil should never be construed to mean He approves of it or receives some morbid sense of satisfaction from it.

God is not a masochist.

Unlike you or me, God is holy by nature (Numbers 23:19). As such, all that He sovereignly wills to happen – either to us or to the world in which we live – is inherently right and good (Psalm 145:17; James 1:13).

The words of theologian Dr. R.C. Sproul, Sr. prove helpful in that:

“To say that God “allows” or “permits” evil does not mean that He sanctions it in the sense that He approves of it. It is easy to discern that God never permits sin in the sense that He sanctions it in His creatures.”

Likewise, Wayne Grudem exhorts us that:

“In thinking about God using evil to fulfill His purposes, we should remember that there are things that are right for God to do but wrong for us to do; He requires others to worship Him, and He accepts worship from them. He seeks glory for Himself. He will execute final judgment on wrongdoers. He also uses evil to bring about good purposes, but He does not allow us to do so.” – Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Chapter 16: God’s Providence, p. 329

When a woman is raped, and conceives a child as a result, there are those who feel justified in devaluing the pregnancy on the basis of the circumstances in which it occurred. Their rationale being that because the attack was unprovoked, unwarranted, and undeserved, that it becomes not only the woman’s right but also her prerogative to abort the child.

But, as sensitive as I am to those who hold to that position, the truth is God does not value life on a curve.

To argue that a child who is conceived in rape should be aborted because of the rape, is to rob God of His sovereign authority in ordaining the rape – and the subsequent conception – to occur. Though rape is never God’s prescriptive will – neither is murder nor molestation nor any sin for that matter – such acts of evil are sometimes His permissive will for our lives.

When a woman is sinned against in such an egregious manner as to be raped, we must be mindful that, even in the midst of such heinous evil, God is sovereign and there is nothing that escapes His divine notice (Proverbs 15:3).

Consider, again, the words of C.H. Spurgeon, who encourages us that:

“God has a plan, depend upon it. It were an insult to the Supreme Intellect if we supposed that He worked at random, without a plan or method. To some of us it is a truth which we never doubt, that God has one boundless purpose which embraces all things, both things which He permits and things which He ordains. Without for a moment denying the freedom of the human will, we still believe that the Supreme Wisdom foresees also the curious twistings of human will, and overrules all for His own ends.” 

To whatever extent the devil, as Spurgeon noted above, is in fact a “secondary agent” in God bringing to pass the evil He has ordained to occur in a person’s life, he is not autonomous in that capacity (Job 1:6-12).

Satan is not sovereign.

He is not omniscient.

He is not omnipresent.

He never has been any of those things.

Only God can claim to possess those attributes (Psalm 103:19; Isaiah 45:5-6).

The sin of rape is both horrific and inexcusable. It is so egregious, in fact, that the Old Testament records that a massive civil war ensued among the tribes of Israel over the rape of one concubine (Judges 19:22-20:48).

And yet the sovereignty of God is such that we must understand that the sin is in the act of the rape, not in the conception that resulted from it.

“I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God. The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.” – Isaiah 45:6b-7 (NASB)

Sin – all sin – grieves the heart of God (Genesis 6:5-6; Psalm 78:40; Mark 3:5). And because we are made in the image of God, that which grieves the heart of God should grieve our hearts as well.

As followers of the only true God (John 17:3), we must resist the urge to construct for ourselves an emotionalized or compartmentalized theology of the sovereignty of God in that we trust that He is in control of certain events but not others (Roman 8:28).

“If a calamity occurs in a city has not the Lord done it?” – Amos 3:6b (NASB)

That the God of the Bible is a God who ordains evil is neither easy nor comfortable for our finite minds to comprehend. Nevertheless, as Christians, we are called to trust that even in situations of the most nefarious and intolerable wrongdoing, we serve a good and just God whose ways we will not always understand (Proverbs 3:5-6).

God does not value life on a curve.

He is the sovereign God of all the universe and, as such, remains the Author of all life regardless the circumstances under which that life is created.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Related:
The Problem of Evil (audio message) – Dr. John MacArthur
God’s Sovereignty (audio message) – Dr. R.C. Sproul, Sr.
Ten Aspects of God’s Sovereignty Over Suffering and Satan’s Hand In It (audio message) – Dr. John Piper
The Sovereignty of God – John Murray (as published at opc.org)

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”

https://i2.wp.com/i.huffpost.com/gen/2422136/images/o-WEALTH-GAP-facebook.jpg


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:
huffingtonpost.com

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

Brief Reflections on the Deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

https://i1.wp.com/www.vimooz.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Bright_Lights-Starring_Carrie_Fisher_and_Debbie_Reynolds-1024x576.jpg

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4 (NASB)


In reflecting this morning on the death of actress Carrie Fisher, and of her mother Debbie Reynolds, who passed away the very next day, I was thinking of their families and the inexplicable grief they must undoubtedly be experiencing during this time.

When you think about it, the degree of grief we feel over the death of those we love is directly commensurate to the degree of our love for them.

You see, the truth is that apart from love there is no such thing as grief. It is the proverbial two-edged sword.

We grieve because we love.

It is the same way with God when it comes to our sin.

God grieves over that which and whom He loves.

“He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” – Isaiah 53:3 (NASB)

The depths of grief God feels over our sin is directly connected to the unfathomable depths to which He loves each of us.

Likewise we, too, should grieve over our sin because of our love for Him. God provided tangible proof of His love for us by sacrificing His only Son (John 3:16) so that we, who are innately unlovable, might know what it is and means to be loved by the God who created us and who sent His only begotten Son to die in our place.

Conversely, tangible evidence not only of our love for God but our belonging to Him, is we are grieved in the depths of our heart when we sin against Him.

To those who are truly the redeemed of Christ, grief and love are inseparable with respect to our relationship with Him.

So, examine your own heart and consider, just between you and God, whether or not your professed love for Him also encompasses grieving over your sin.

Humbly in Christ,

Darrell

Image credit:
vimooz.com

Related:
Yes You Can Die of a Broken Heart – dailymail.com
Grief and Loss (podcast) – The Regular Reformed Guys
Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds to Have Joint Mother-Daughter Funeral – ABC News

A Theology of the Electoral College

Image result for Founding Fathers Electoral College


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