Friday, January 20, 2012
Tomorrow, in the South Carolina GOP Presidential Preference primary, I will be voting for Rick Santorum. Here’s why.
I need to start out by saying that I haven’t been totally thrilled with any of the four remaining candidates. All of them have obvious weaknesses of character and/or policy which will make their race against Obama less of a lock than it ought to be. The Republican Party needs a leader of the Reagan type, who, like him in 1980, would win 40+ states and carry a mandate with him to Washington. But since we have four remaining candidates from whom to choose, and since any of them will be an improvement over the current president, I must choose from among them.
Rick Santorum, on the whole, represents my views the most consistently. He has been consistently and passionately pro-life, and wrote the bill that ended partial birth abortion. On social issues, he and I are of one voice. He is also a firm believer in the Second Amendment (The NRA rates him A+). He opposed TARP, voted against McCain-Feingold and Frank-Dodd, and receives low ratings from both the ACLU and the AFL-CIO. While I am concerned about the trouncing he took in the 2006 Pennsylvania Senate race (and, for that matter, the trouncing he may get here in SC tomorrow, if the polls are valid), he is more demonstrably opposed to Obama than either Romney or Gingrich. His biggest liability in my eyes is that he does not come across as a leader.
Newt Gingrich, at the moment, would be my second choice. I agree with him on most issues—but he occasionally throws one out there that makes me scratch my head. His personal character history is a serious problem and, even if he has sincerely repented and stays on the right track, will be a detriment in the race. (Obama, for all his flaws, has no hint of marital infidelity.) I am also concerned that his ego may become a liability.
Mitt Romney seems to be a conservative now, but my gut just doesn’t like the fact that he wasn’t while he was the governor of Massachusetts. I think he can be a great executive, and if he is the GOP nominee, I will vote for him in November. But for now, I’m going with the most consistent conservative.
Ron Paul is problematic. His voting record is often meritorious and often puzzling. The ACLU rates him pretty favorably—that's a problem. His vicious and untrue attack ads concerning Santorum (being shown ad nauseam this week on SC TV stations) trouble me. His foreign policy ideas are dangerous to the future of our country.
Please educate yourself on the candidates and then take the opportunity to vote.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
What is right?
Logic demands no other conclusion than this: If we are to have a moral order and real values, there must be absolutes. To deny absolutes is, essentially, to deny moral values; or it merely makes values equivalent to individual opinion.
What is the basis of Christian ethics? In short, it is God and His Word. God's moral nature is absolute and unchanging. He always hates evil and loves good; He never makes up new values according to some providential whim. Christian ethics is grounded in the character of the triune God. Some things conform to God's character; others do not. It is our responsibility to determine what does and what does not conform! Consequently, the Christian moral order is eternal and permanent, because it reflects God's unchanging character, and flows from the nature of the Creator to the nature of His creation.
God's Word is His revelation to us. The Bible teaches us what is good and what is evil. Sin is always a violation of God's moral order. General revelation (creation) points out that a moral order exists; special revelation (the Bible) reveals its specifics. This moral order exists outside of man. It is not a creation of his mind, nor could it be.
God and His Word fully explain the Christian moral order.
What are secular ethics? It is interesting to observe that mankind has a "common moral heritage." Some sins, like murder, child abuse, and torture, are almost universally condemned, while some abstract values, like love, justice, or courage, are nearly always admired. Why? Naturalism certainly can't explain this. Could it be that God has made us capable of learning to discern right from wrong?
Secular ethical systems have two major, insurmountable problems. First, in secular ethical systems, all morals are relative. There are no absolute standards to judge right from wrong; one's own impulses and opinions become the basis for ethics. "Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction" (Matt. 7:13) is the verse that comes to mind. The second major problem is that secular ethical systems are always based on man's thinking. Whether based on naturalistic, economic, or some other philosophy, human ideas are inadequate to form an ethical or moral code. Determining right from wrong becomes nothing more than a baseless exercise of debate.
How should the Christian respond? First, we must recognize that the mind of man cannot create, invent, or discover any "new morals" or "new moral order." It simply can't be done. Christians also need to avoid thinking that there are any less-than-absolute moral values. There is no such thing. Furthermore, Christians need to recognize "new moralities" for what they are: Man's way of attempting to justify doing what he wants to do. This is a fallacy, and deviates from God's code. Morality is to be a lifestyle for glorifying God. Use your life to demonstrate what is right!
What do Christian ethics contain? Obviously, then contain moral absolutes. The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are classic examples; reading them provides a wealth of information about right and wrong. Much of the Old Testament, in fact, describes God's moral order, and how He expects His creation to operate. Jesus Christ, of course, is the living example of moral, ethical living. He was and is the perfect role model. The call to follow Christ is perhaps the simplest way to sum up Christian ethics. As He said to Peter at both the beginning (Mark 1:17) and end (John 21:22) of His earthly ministry, "Follow me."
The Christian also has responsibilities. Matthew 22:35-40 gives us what Christ called the two greatest commandments: To love God, and to love one's neighbor as one's self. This kind of love is not merely a form of compassion, but also requires us to be servantlike, meeting both the social and physical needs of others. Our love of God demands that we serve God (John 14:15), working to achieve His will for this world.
We must also realize and remember the implications of sin. To sin is to come short of God's moral order. All have sinned, and sin demands judgment (Romans 3:23, 6:23). Those of us who have accepted Christ as Savior have had our judgment paid, and should serve God lovingly and humbly for the rest of our days. Sin also brings guilt, because God has made us to realize that we "fall short" of the perfection that His holiness demands. Indeed, we are taught that the law was given, to convince us that we fail to keep it (see the book of Galatians)!
Once a person becomes a Christian, the proper response is to have a zealous desire to keep God's moral code—to do what is morally right. It is not for us only to espouse it; we must live it!
"The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of imagining a new primary colour or, indeed, of creating a new sun and a new sky for it to move in." C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, pp. 86-87.
"The Christian ethical system is both like and unlike any other system ever postulated. Every ethical system contains some grain of the truth found in the Christian code, but no other system can claim to be the whole truth, handed down as an absolute from God to man." David Noebel, Thinking Like a Christian, p. 88.
Reminder: This series of "Thinking Like a Christian" entries mirrors what I am teaching in my Sunday School class at Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Taylors, SC. This series goes on hiatus and will, God willing, be resumed later in the year, with five more lessons. The book Thinking Like a Christian is written by David Noebel and makes an excellent resource for the study of worldviews and how Christians ought to live in this present day.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
What is the basic nature of man?
Is psychology a proper area of study for a Christian? Does it have an appropriate place in a Christian worldview? Psychology is the study of the soul and the mind. Although a massive topic (you can get a college major in it), it is appropriate for a Christian to study; indeed, only Christianity is suitable to study it! No other worldview can answer questions related to the soul and mind as well as Christianity can.
Biblical Christianity contains a psychology, and it is worthy of our study. Since man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), our worldview must recognize the significance of both the spiritual and the physical dimensions of man.
Psychology does have an appropriate place as a scientific discipline, where scientific observation is employed to study and learn about the mind. Much good work has come from such study. Unfortunately, much of "modern psychology" is filled with the biases of secular worldviews, and is consequently filled with error. This does not mean that Christians should entirely abandon psychology; instead, they should bring God's truth to its study.
Our minds are not merely physical objects; we have a "non-physical" part to our being. Our bodies may change and decay, but our minds remain continuous. Furthermore, man has a free will, which is an important element to consider in psychology.
Six areas of psychology are of importance in this lesson:
What is human nature? Man has a sin nature, which is a result of the fall (Genesis 3). This nature is inherently evil. When sin entered the world, man's relationship to God and his fellow man changed from what God intended it to be. Man has a natural tendency to rebel against God and His laws. Man's sinful nature is the cause of all psychological problems.
The doctrine of sin reminds us that each of us is responsible for his own behavior and choices. Mankind, because of sin, needs a Savior to give him a new nature.
What is guilt? Because man has rebelled against God, he has real guilt feelings about his rebellion; his conscience tells him that he has done wrong. Secular psychologists must devise ways to "explain away" guilt and its source. Christians recognize that guilt exists, and that it is a real consequence of sin, not a mental problem foisted upon us by our society or our environment.
What is mental illness? I will allow Jay Adams to speak on this subject:
"Organic malfunctions affecting the brain that are caused by brain damage, tumors, gene inheritance, glandular or chemical disorders, validly may be termed mental illnesses. But at the same time a vast number of other human problems have been classified as mental illnesses for which there is no evidence that they have been engendered by disease or illness at all....The fundamental bent of fallen human nature is away from God....Apart from organically generated difficulties, the 'mentally ill' are really people with unsolved personal problems." (Jay Adams, Competent to Counsel, pp. 28-29)How should a Christian approach sin and guilt? Counseling must first recognize that man has a conscience, man is rebellious, and man therefore experiences real guilt. People must be pointed toward Christ's sacrificial death and resurrection, and they must realize their need to ask forgiveness for sin (both to God and men). Counseling must also stress personal moral responsibility for sin. Failure to recognize one's own responsibility allows a person to deny his own real guilt and avoid the main problem—alienation from a holy God.
Confession, forgiveness of sin through Christ (1 John 1:9), reconciliation with God (2 Cor. 5:17-21), and sanctification are requirements for a "healthy" walk in Christ.
How should a Christian view suffering? Secular psychology cannot alleviate all suffering in a person's life; indeed; it tries to avoid suffering at nearly any cost. Christian psychology believes that suffering can be used of God to bring about positive change in a person's life, whether it is disciplinary, to teach us valuable lessons, or even to teach us to "joyously endure" it. Suffering is inevitable due to sin, but it is not always negative.
The Christian and Society: Marxists and humanists believe that society is the source/cause of all "evil" in this world, but Christians believe that individuals are responsible for the evil in society. Consequently, no man can blame his sin on society, his environment, or anyone else.
"The choice between Christian psychology and all other psychological schools is clear-cut. As Kilpatrick says, 'Our choice...is really the same choice offered to Adam and Eve: either we trust God or we take the serpent's word that we can make ourselves into gods.'" (From Thinking Like a Christian, p. 77; the quote is from William Kilpatrick's book Psychological Seduction, p. 233)