Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Importance of Socialization in a Child's first Five Years

A recent article in Christianity Today highlights the important role of parents, especially in the first five years of a child's life. The author writes, "The family is the smallest and most powerful unit of human culture—for good or for ill—and exerts its greatest influence during the most rapid and sensitive period of brain development: the first five years. What happens, or does not happen, in the first five years shapes a child's brain physiology and molds her character. Parental nurture can either catalyze or cripple linguistic, cognitive and social development through the use (or neglect) of love and language. 

You can access the article here. It is must reading if you are a parent with children under age five. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Theology of Civil Government, Part II, The Fall

Capitol Building
This is the second in a series of blogs on a biblical view of civil government. The first blog discussed civil government as it existed at creation. You can find it here. 

However, Adam and Eve sinned, and sin changed everything. When Adam sinned the governmental utopia that God created him to enjoy unraveled. Sin placed Adam under the rule of Satan, not God. Now Satan became, in Jesus’ words, “the Prince of this World” (Jn 12:31).

In addition, God punished Adam, Eve, and all of their descendants with the principle of Sin. Because we inherit “Sin” from Adam we come out of the womb inherently proud, greedy, discontent, self-centered, insecure, anxious, rebellious, and dominated by self will. And this is the short list.

This means that most men must now be externally coerced to do good. Civil Government is the external coercion that allows some modicum of order in our social lives. In the words of D. A. Carson, “As a whole, the Scriptures recognize that civil authority restrains evil. Arguably, that is its primary purpose.”[1]

What does this coercion look like? First it is financial. Civil government contributes to the common good by taxing its citizens. That money is used to build infrastructures such as roads, bridges, schools, etc. The money is also used to hire and train judges, courts, sheriffs, policeman, fireman, and a standing army––all social structures to protect us from the expressions of sin in fallen men.

Second, Civil government enacts laws for the common good and enforces those laws.
However, there is a problem. Those engaged in Civil Government are themselves sinners. In addition, as we have seen, the whole enterprise of Civil Government is under the dominion of Satan. This means that taxes are abused. It means that Civil Government promotes sinful agendas such as homosexual marriage, abortion, etc. In the words of Bob Dylan, “lawbreakers are making the rules.” (e.g. The man who doesn’t pay his taxes , Timothy Geithner, is appointed Secretary of the Treasury). And it also means that throughout history Civil Government has often used its power to oppress the church. Therefore, Civil Government in a fallen world is a very imperfect system. It is a temporary stop-gap to make life in a Fallen World bearable.

Sin brought Civil Government into existence, and the return of Christ will abolish Civil Government as we know it.  “The state belongs to the order of preservation, not of creation…" wrote Martin Luther. "God gives [humanity] an institutional instrument [Civil Government] for the preservation of the race from violent self-destruction.”[2] In other words, Civil Government was not part of God's initial plan. God gave it to promote order in a fallen world. 

Because we live in fallen world Civil government is limited. It can provide no ultimate temporal salvation. Those who look to Civil Government for temporal salvation expect from the State what only God can give. The word for this expectation is “Statism.” It is a form of idolatry. It is the worship of the State, and it is one of the most common god-substitutes in the modern world.

In summary, God has given us Civil Government. "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is not authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God" (Rom. 13:1). It is a gift to restrain evil, but it was not part of his original plan. 

We have looked at Civil Government through the lens of Creation and Fall. Our next blog post will view Civil Government through the lens of Redemption. 

[1] D. A. Carson, How Long Oh Lord,  (Leichester, U.K.: IVP, 1990) pg. 51, the Discussion occupies the first part of chapter four
[2] Robert Culver, Towards A Biblical View of Civil Government  (Chicago: Moody, 1974) pg 38

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Biblical Theology of Civil Government, Part 1

Declaration of Independence
     The elections are coming in a few days. These are the most important elections in the last fifty years. Therefore, I thought it important to take a hard look at a biblical theology of civil government.  How should Christians think about Civil Government? How should Christians relate to it? We should see civil government through the lens of a biblical worldview.  Every worldview has three components––1st A theory of creation. 2nd An explanation for how things have gone wrong.  And 3rd a theory of redemption, i.e how to fix it.

     That is the outline for the next few posts. We will look at Civil Government through the lens of Creation, Fall, and Redemption.

     First Creation. God created Adam  to exercise dominion. (Genesis 1:26–28) "Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”"

     God created Adam and Eve and gave them dominion. That means he that God asked them to rule in God’s place, to rule as servants. They were to exercise God’s dominion in God’s way. God created Adam and Eve perfect. In their original state, they were unblemished by sin. That means they were able to exercise God’s dominion as God would do it.

     God also gave Adam a commandment and asked him to submit to it. His submission would be the basis for his dominion. 

     This side of the Fall (Genesis three) the only way we can know what that dominion would have looked like is to look at Christ. Remember, he was the Second Adam. As the Second Adam he was the only “sinless” man to live on this planet. He was also filled with the Holy Spirit. Christ’s cross shows us what exercising God’s rule looks like.  

     In other words, Christ’s life shows us what Adam’s submission to God’s rule would have looked like had he not sinned. Jesus perfectly, and joyfully, submitted to all lawful authority. That included his parents, the Synagogue leaders, the Pharisees, the Roman Civil Government, and most importantly, God the Father. On the basis of that obedience God gave him dominion.

     Had there been no sin we would all be like Christ. We would joyfully and perfectly submit to all authority. We would also exercise God’s dominon as servants. Had the Fall not occurred, there would be no greedy people, no uncontented people, no lazy people, no selfish people, no material scarcity, no self-will, no rebellion against authority, no criminal acts, no orphans, etc.

     Therefore, there would be no need for Civil Government. For example, without lawbreakers there would be no need for courts. There would be no contract breakers. There would be no divorce, or dysfunctional families. There would be no civil disagreements for the courts to adjudicate.

     Defense is another function of Civil Govt. However, since there would be no war, there would be no need for standing armies, policemen, Sheriffs, State Patrols, etc.

     There would be no sin to separate God and man. God would mediate his law directly to each soul.
In short, there would be nothing corresponding to today’s Civil Government. Civil Government exist to keep peace and order by coercing submission to Civil authority. But, if there had been no Fall everyone would joyfully submit to authority. There would be nothing for Civil Government to coerce.

   “No States would have existed, but only one organic world empire, with God as its king, exactly what is prophesied for the future which awaits us when all sin shall have disappeared”[1]––Abraham Kuyper

      In conclusion, created sinless, created in God’s image, man would have needed no for Civil Government. Rather, he would be governed directly by God. However, the Fall changed everything, and that is the subject of our next post. 

[1] Abraham Kuyper,  Luectures on Calvinism, Quoted by Robert Culver in Toward A Biblical View of Civil Government, Chicago: Moody, 1974, pg 28 

Monday, October 22, 2012

The End of Men?

Hanna Rosin wrote a provocative article for The Atlantic magazine last year titled, "The End of Men." In it she suggested that male dominance in culture is over. According to Rosin, women have ascended to their rightful place. They now hold more than 50% of America's jobs. In addition, they often out earn men for comparable work. Rosin has now replicated the same thesis in book-length treatment. It is a depressing but must read volume as it gets to the heart of much that  is wrong with America, the breakdown of gender.

Of course Christians are all for equal opportunity for women in the marketplace. But we are not for the dissolution of the traditional family as the price-tag. Sadly, that is often the cost.

Here is an excellent review of Rosin's article in Christianity Today. 

Would love your comments.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Heart and Soul of the Real Culture War

MANY THINK the culture war is a battle over social issues such as abortion and same sex marriage. And although these issues are a crucial source of conflict, there is another issue that is less obvious but just as insidious. It is the issue of fairness.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1803-59) toured the United States in the 1830s. His influential book, Democracy in America, was a breakdown of the pros and cons of our new democratic experiment. He was the first to point to the achilles heal of our system. When the citizens of a democracy discover that they can vote financial benefits back to themselves, the gig will be up. Their greed and avarice will bankrupt the governing system.

With this in mind a recent article in Time Magazine titled "Romney, Obama and the New Culture War over Fairness" by Jonathan Haidt is ground breaking. Here is a key quote. "For Obama, the government offers a helping hand, making the American Dream accessible to anyone willing to work for it. For Romney, a good government hangs back and lets people succeed or fail on their own merits." You can read the entire article here. 

The bottom line is this. In my lifetime there has been a tremendous shift. Fairness used to mean an equal opportunity for all that want to succeed. Increasingly it now means an even distribution of wealth amongst all despite effort or lack of effort. This was the very thing de Toqueville feared.

The Bible is about personal responsibility, about a personal accounting each man will give their Maker on the Day of Judgment, about sowing and reaping. Fairness as an equal distribution of wealth is an in-your-face affront to the God who made us. It eviscerates personal responsibility. If the United States continues in this direction the long term affect will be financial ruin. We will vote money back to ourselves in an attempt to promote "fairness," and in the process bankrupt the Federal Treasury.

Take a few moments to read this article. Then pray for our country.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Parents Are Failing to Pass the Baton of Faith

A new article in Christianity Today highlights how parents are failing to pass on the baton of faith.

A survey of American religious life notes that for the first time "Protestants" are a minority in American culture. This is due to the rise of people who claim to have no religious affiliation, and most of the defections come from the Protestant ranks. The defections are occurring because parents are failing to pass the baton of faith to their children.

You can read it here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

True Freedom Defined!

Roger Olson has written an excellent piece for Christianity Today defining true freedom. Here is an excerpt. "No truth is more pervasive in Scripture and Christian tradition than this one—that real freedom is found in obedience and servanthood. And yet no truth is more incongruent with modern culture. Here we stand before a stark either-or: the gospel message of true freedom versus the culture's ideal of self-creation, autonomy, and living "my way."[1]

[1] Roger Olson, “The Bonds Of Freedom,” Christianity Today, Online Edition, 10:5/2012 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

History Is in God's Hands!

Cardinal Reginald Pole

The future of nations and cultures often turn on unnoticed details quickly forgotten, but that in retrospect, prove decisive. Such was the papal election of 1550.  It was one of the great turning points of church history, and therefore, of world history.

In his book, The Reformation, [1]  Diarmaid MacCulloch tells the story of the almost election of an English pope. Thirty three years after the beginning of the Reformation, the battle over biblical authority and interpretation had sundered Medieval Europe into Protestant and Catholic camps. However, many Roman Catholic Bishops and Cardinals agreed with the Reformers about the place of the Bible and the crucial disputed doctrine, Justification by Faith Alone. In addition, they wanted to heal the schism with the Lutherans. One of these men was Cardinal Reginald Pole (1500-58).

Pole was a wealthy, aristocratic Englishman who had fled to Italy to escape persecution from his relative, King Henry VIII. Known for his piety, his desire to reform the church, and his deep sincerity, he was respected by all. In 1537 Pope Paul III elevated him to the status of Cardinal. As such, Pole attended the Council of Trent as one of only three papal delegates. However, when the Council pronounced its anathema on the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone Pole walked out never to return.

As Pope Paul III lay dying he suggested to the college of cardinals that they vote Pole his replacement. After the first vote Pole fell four votes short of the two thirds required. After the second ballot, Pole was only one vote short. But that was as close as Pole would get. With each subsequent ballot he lost ground. Finally the cardinals elected Julius III, an uninspired civil servant. Roman Catholicism never recovered from its close brush with Poles decisive leadership––leadership that probably would have changed the course of Roman Catholicism.

Why would God allow this? Was God asleep? Did he not care? Maybe he cared but he lacked authority to change things? The doctrine of the Ascension provides the answer to these questions. The doctrine of the Ascension convinces us that God cares a lot, and that he is in full control of all the details.

After his resurrection Jesus ascended into heaven. God seated him at his right hand and gave him all power and authority. From that position Jesus intercedes for his church. He is also actively subduing his enemies. When his work is done Christ will present the world to his Father (1 Cor. 15).

All of this means on thing. Nothing is outside God's control. Everything, even details like Poles failure to be elected Pope, are under God's sovereign care. History is moving forward  according to God's plan, and nothing is out of place.  

Because of the Ascension we can greatly rejoice in the 1550 failure to elect Reginald Pole Pope. 

[1] Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Reformation (New York: Viking, 2003) pg 228-30