Study Shows Americans’ Shocking Ignorance About Theology

Who is Jesus? Who goes to Heaven? Is Hell real? Is sin bad? Most Americans claim to believe in God, but we don’t really agree on much else–or even hold to self-consistent and coherent views about God.

A study by Lifeway Research exposes a shocking ignorance of theology by Americans.

Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, says most Americans still identify as Christians. But they seem to be confused about some of the details of their faith.

For example, he says, about two-thirds of Americans believe Jesus is God while half say Jesus is a being created by God. Those two beliefs don’t seem to match, he says.

“Contradictory and incompatible beliefs are OK for most people,” McConnell says.

Sixty-seven percent of non-evangelical Christians believe that God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Thirty percent of non-evangelicals think Hell is real.

Evangelicals fare a bit better: only 48 percent believe God accepts all religions’ worship and 84 percent believe Hell is real. When it comes to Heaven, evangelicals and non-evangelicals are about equal: 64 percent of evangelicals believe Heaven is real, and 60 percent of non-evangelicals. The ten percent of non-evangelicals who don’t believe in Hell but do believe in Heaven must think everyone goes to the good place–apparently.

Two-thirds (65 percent) agree that everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature. More than half (57 percent) say it would be fair for God to show His wrath against sin. But that wrath seems to be reserved only for the worst sinners.

Of course, nobody agrees on who the “worst sinners” are. Maybe there’s a committee?

About half of Americans (49 percent) say sex outside of traditional marriage is a sin. Forty-four percent say it’s not a sin. Seven percent are not sure.

Forty-nine percent say abortion is a sin. Forty percent say it is not. Eleven percent are not sure. Almost 4 in 10 (38 percent) say gender identity is a matter of choice. Half (51 percent) disagree. One in 10 (11 percent) is not sure.

Forty-two percent of Americans say the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior doesn’t apply today. Forty-four percent disagree. Fourteen percent are not sure.

There’s also no agreement on grace and how to be saved.

Three-quarters of Americans (77 percent) say people must contribute their own effort for personal salvation. Half of Americans (52 percent) say good deeds help them earn a spot in heaven. Sixty percent agree that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of their sin.

The New Testament is fairly clear that we are saved by grace, not works. That 52 percent are simply trying to gild a lily that needs no gilding.

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:3-5)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

And the poorer you are, the more likely you are to see God as a divine slot machine.

Those with high school degrees or less (33 percent) are more likely to believe that God blesses the faithful with material blessings than those with graduate degrees (18 percent).

The Bible says that the rain falls on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). But it also says to give, and it will be given to you (Luke 6:38). The more money people have, the less likely they think God wants to give them more (which is contrary to Jesus’ teaching on investing into the Kingdom of God in Matthew 25).

Basically, the study shows that Biblical ignorance is the rule rather than the exception among Americans. As the Bible says in Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”

Americans can’t agree on even the most basic tenets of faith, and in general don’t know enough to know what they believe. Writer G.K. Chesterton wrote about where we are headed:

When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.

The Moral Case For Breaking Your Word

Ted Cruz endorsed Donald Trump, after calling on Republicans to “vote your conscience” while Trump and his family looked on in Cleveland. Cruz gave two reasons: (1) “I promised to support the Republican nominee. And I intend to keep my word.” (2) “Hillary Clinton is wholly unacceptable.”

As Erick and others have noted, nothing has changed between mid-July and now. Trump is still Trump–a lying, amoral, sociopathic archetype. Clinton is still Clinton–wholly unacceptable, as Cruz wrote. Only Cruz’s mind has changed, and that can’t be attributed to any new facts emerging.

Cruz cited key policy differences between Trump and Clinton, as if Clinton’s policies need to be juxtaposed in this manner. Cruz wrote “If Clinton wins, we know — with 100% certainty — that she would deliver on her left-wing promises, with devastating results for our country.” But nowhere did Cruz write that Trump would deliver on any of his promises.

Based on Cruz’s prior comments, we know that he believed:

  • Trump is a pathological liar;
  • Trump is a narcissist;
  • Trump is utterly amoral;
  • Trump is a bully;
  • Trump cynically exploits anger.

Faced with two options: Breaking your word, or supporting a person with the chronic defects Cruz listed, breaking your word would be the most moral action.

The Bible, in the Ten Commandments, says not to bear false witness against your neighbor. Either Cruz made these terrible accusations against Trump and then pretended without apology he never said them, or he meant those accusations (or they are true!). Either way, Cruz has had a major ethical lapse: False accusations, or a false oath.

There is only one moral action available to Cruz, or anyone who believes what Cruz said about Trump. That’s not to vote for Trump.

Regardless of binary choices, party loyalty, career, friends, or what you think might happen to America, morality is tied to far more than the flavor of the day. As I’ve written before, there is a binary choice in this race, but it’s not between Trump and Clinton.

A vote for Trump is a vote against God. A vote for Hillary is a vote against God. Therefore the only way to vote for God is to not vote for either.

Cruz voted for himself over God–that his own political survival and whatever small amount of influence he might have bought with Trump, should he win is greater in value than God’s blessing. There is no more dangerous choice anyone could make.

The True Progressive

Reductionism is the practice of breaking everything into its component parts, until an irreducible form has been reached.

For example, a bullet fired from a gun is reduced to a chemical reaction, a velocity vector, explosive forces acting on the small mass of the bullet, against the mass of the chamber, gun frame, hand and ultimately the body of the person firing. The fact that the body is standing firm upon the earth, held by gravity, keeps the shooter from flinging off in the opposite direction from the bullet (although it does sometimes happen, to hilarious effect).

The forces in that scenario are further reduced to gravity, covalent bonds of the atoms in the combusting material, and the laws of physics governing force, mass and acceleration (F = ma, or Newton’s second law). Although there may be further reduction in the complexity of the mathematical descriptions of those forces and how they interact, no further reduction is available for the cause/effect of the laws governing those forces.

In other words, nobody can explain the forces that created or led to what we call the laws of physics which govern everything in our universe, from time/space, to matter, to energy. We can describe in ever-greater detail how those forces interact to produce expected, and explain unexpected, results, but we can’t go back before the laws existed because the laws themselves govern our ability to observe.

Progressivism is the belief that ever more and continual advancements in science, technology, economic development, and social organization are necessary to improve the human condition. That, without these advances, the human condition is doomed to regression. In its most basic terms, if human society is not moving forward in particular areas of study, endeavor and application of new principles, then it will inevitably move backwards.

Unfortunately, these two -isms, reductionism and progressivism, are in conflict and produce irreconcilable logical contradictions. More unfortunately, proponents of progressivism typically use reductionism to attempt to disprove the theories and logical world views of those who oppose them, namely Christians.

To the Christian, reductionism always ends up at God, who created the universe, everything in it, and the laws which govern it. To the progressive, that end of reductionism causes great angst and anger.

As if we could somehow disprove the laws of physics, or get around them, or take control and remake them in our own image, that’s a much better outcome than living with a lawgiver who also makes moral demands upon us. Better to make society in our own image than God’s, even if God is the first cause of those things we hold to be irreducible in themselves (e.g. the laws of physics).

The progressive holds that morals are not the cause of human society, but one of many outcomes. The Christian holds that morals are one of many causes of human society, but those causes are unbreakably linked to one lawgiver, with the outcome of poor moral agency as inevitable as worldwide fresh water pollution, hunting food species to extinction, or nuclear war.

Many who call themselves Christian are really progressives masquerading as Christians. They recognize God as the creator of all things, but they do not recognize the implications of denying his laws in moral agency. In other words, these Christians accept the forgiveness, love, and sovereignty of God, but get a bit (or a lot) loose on sin.

The Bible gives us succor, rather than reason to fear. If God were not the ultimate lawgiver, both in physical laws of the universe, and in moral laws governing our own lives, we would be in quite a pickle–a more fearful situation.

Jesus said three times in the book of Revelation, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” Jesus said he is “the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” and “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev. 1:8, 21:6, 22:13.) The “End” means that God is in control of the outcome of justice, mercy, and morality. We control only our own destinies–God made the laws. We get to roll our ball down the lane; we control the force, vector, and mass of the ball. But God made the laws of motion. There will be an accounting.

Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Forever is from before the beginning of time past the end of the same. When all the energy, mass, and ability to do “work” in the universe has passed (and the laws of physics do make this a very real thing, although irrelevant to any individual life), Jesus Christ will remain. In the heart of a black hole, where we cannot observe, and the laws of physics are meaningless, Jesus Christ is sovereign.

We cannot reduce God to a moral agent. He is, in fact, not, anymore than the weak nuclear force describes a star. A star is a physical manifestation of radiation, heat, energy, and mass; the weak nuclear force is a force of nature only visible through its manifestation. God is manifested through moral agency, but He Himself is the moral lawgiver.

God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?
(Numbers 23:19)

He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.
(1 Samuel 15:29)

God’s mind is the same mind that made everything. He is not subject to coercion. When God hears our prayers, he is hearing us in the same way the laws of physics allow light to change frequency based on the observer’s motion relative to the light source. God made a law of relativity based on our movement relative to His unchanging absolute. Prayer is simply a blue-shift (accelerating toward). Sin is a red-shift in the other direction.

It is not God who is changed by our changing morals, or our progressivism. Just like progressives can’t decide that gravity is in disuse and passé, or that radiation should be deprecated, they also cannot decide that God’s conception of marriage, sacrifice, mercy, or justice are no longer useful or fashionable. We can be sure that God will not change, only we (and society) will suffer or gain blessing by our choices.

God, who is enthroned from of old,
who does not change—
he will hear them and humble them,
because they have no fear of God.
(Psalm 55:19)

The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind:
“You are a priest forever,
in the order of Melchizedek.”
(Psalm 110:4)

A priest is one who is authorized to perform sacred rites of a religion, as a mediatory agent between humans and God. Jesus Christ is the God-Man, a priest and the one mediator between man and God. Christians (and this is the definition, not the self-identification) are all priests in Christ, those of us who have been changed by Him.

In our hearts, in this life, Christians are changed by confessing and believing in Jesus Christ as their Lord (lawgiver, judge) and Savior (mediator, advocate, friend). Romans 10:13: “for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'” Everyone means every human: Jew, Gentile, all creeds, races, colors, rich, poor, powerful and powerless. But those who are not saved will face the same judgment as those who are–for judgment is as inevitable as entropy. God made both laws inviolable.

World leaders only think they have power. Those who have wisdom realize they don’t have any more than any other person. King David, who really did live, passed his kingdom to his son Solomon (who also really did live). But Adonijah claimed the kingdom for himself; as a son of David, older than Solomon, his claim was valid. God had different plans.

“As you know,” he said, “the kingdom was mine. All Israel looked to me as their king. But things changed, and the kingdom has gone to my brother; for it has come to him from the Lord.
(1 Kings 2:15)

Five hundred years later, from exile and captivity, Daniel wrote:

He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
(Daniel 2:21)

How does one know if one is truly a Christian? Those who do not have the peace of God rail against the coming judgment. They may not fear death, but they fear what comes in this life–but most fear death. Consider this statement:

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed
(1 Corinthians 15:51)

Either it brings comfort, or it brings confusion. The Christian looks forward to the change brought by the moral lawgiver. Jesus Christ has promised us immortal, undefiled bodies that do not age, with a personal spirit and will untainted by sin, corruption, or temptation. He has promised eternal life with no pain, no suffering, no sadness, no sickness and no tears. We may not all die (although most of us will, unless Jesus returns in our lifetime), but we will all–who are saved–be changed.

Those who are not transformed and given the assurance of new life find the prospect confusing and unnatural. Those who are perishing react to what the Christian sees as assurance the same as they would if scientists suddenly announced that the sun was about to burn out, in our lifetime or some knowable time frame the future (not 3 or 4 billion years from now). Resignation, moral decay, rebellion, self-indulgence.

The true progressive is the Christian, who betters society through God’s transformation, God’s promises, and reduction of all things to God’s unchanging law and character. It is these things that improve the lot of human society upon the earth. Even Isaac Newton, who “discovered” the laws of motion, believed this.

Yet one thing secures us what ever betide, the scriptures assures us that the Lord will provide.
–Isaac Newton

What Is A Christian?

The biggest question for anyone who ever encounters Christianity in any form must be “What is a Christian?” Because if you don’t know what something is, then how do you know when you see it?

Mahatma Gandhi famously said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Gandhi was a learned man. He read the Bible, so he knew what Christ was like, what he came for, and who he claimed to be. The Christians he saw, on the other hand, represented the British Raj, under whose boot India had suffered for nearly a century.

What is a Christian? I can tell you what a Christian isn’t.

A Christian isn’t someone who is uninterested in becoming more like Jesus. So, by studying Jesus, we know what the goal of any Christian should be. Not to die on a cross–or to be the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world–those are attributes unique to the Son of God–but to care about what Jesus cared about.

My pastor spoke about what the Church should be like this morning. He used the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) as his scripture reference. A lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked him what the Law said.

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

The lawyer, knowing that he kept the Law to every jot and tittle, as interpreted by the legal experts of the day, wanted Jesus to give him assurance. He was looking for a legal answer: Do A and B and C. Jesus answered with the quintessential parable of “how to be like Jesus.”

The answer is surprisingly simple: anyone suffering, regardless of background, color, parentage, wealth, language, or beliefs is your neighbor. Nobody is born better than anyone else. Nobody is above anyone else.

The one attitude a Christian must have is humility. Humility before an all-powerful, all-knowing, sovereign God, and humility toward others. A Christian without humility is not a Christian at all. Anyone who claims to be a Christian who mocks, insults, belittles, or harms others is not what they claim to be.

Also, anyone who claims to be a Christian who denies, twists, or otherwise justifies themselves against the word of God is not what they claim to be. The first commandment is to love God with all your soul and strength and mind. Using your mind to corrupt yourself and make God agree with you exalts “you” above God. That’s not humility, and that’s not Christian.

A Christian humbly submits to God’s word, and God’s will for their life. It actually is a “super spiritual” thing. The old saw that you can be “too spiritually-minded to be of any earthly good” is false. The truth is the only way you can be of earthly good as a Christian is to be completely spiritually-minded.

Human nature is selfish and self-centered. We want to be comfortable. We want to be wealthy. we want to be accepted and loved. God’s love is too far away for most of us. Knowing some heavenly being loves us and died for us and took away all our sins is useless to people unless someone is acting on God’s behalf right here and now.

The Samaritan–roughly synonymous with today’s Palestinians–saw a naked, unconscious man bleeding on the side of the road. While the religious leaders saw an unclean person to be avoided, the man’s enemy saw a suffering human and went out of his way to render assistance. It’s easy for the rich to give pocket change to help someone poor. It’s easy for me, walking through the slums of Calcutta, to give one man a thousand rupees ($15), more than he would see in a year.

Mother Teresa gave her life to the poor of Calcutta. Her homes admitted only those who had been refused by other charities–the poor and suffering who were beneath other organizations’ minimum standards. She was a Christian.

The only way to be a Christian is to aspire to do what Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonika.

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

(1 Thessalonians 5:14-18)

It’s not hard to determine who is doing this and who is not. It generally can’t be determined by only looking at that person’s Twitter feed or Facebook posts, but when someone is not a Christian, those things can provide strong clues.

I’m not really talking politics here, but the political applications are fairly obvious. None of the presidential candidates from major parties are Christian by Biblical standards. As for their supporters, treat them with patience, kindness, and wisdom. Do not pay back wrong for wrong, and do not support those who would.

Many who read this will be suffering some paper cuts to their consciences right now. The impulse is to just deny what was read, attack the writer, or dismiss the feeling. There’s a strong impulse to justify beliefs, especially those which have been publicly declared or emotionally bonded. If there’s any advice I can give, it’s this:

Don’t do it.

Pray to God instead. God may prescribe a U-turn. Humiliation may follow. Humiliation is a result of humility. Humility is required to be a Christian. If this is you, you’ve just made progress in your walk with God. Don’t miss the opportunity.

 

The Real Binary Choice

“Not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary.” Whatever. Hillary Clinton is not hanging over our heads like the Sword of Damocles. We’ve endured nearly eight years of Beer Summit Obama, with all its attendant “organizing.” Clinton is the most beatable Democrat since Mike Dukakis or Walter Mondale.

Perhaps FBI Director Comey thought he was doing America a favor by sparing Her an indictment which would hand the election to a salivating Donald Trump. I don’t know (we’ll wait for the book). But the Party of Stupid went ahead when a binary choice was not required and forced, through actual coercion of delegate consciences, Trump onto us.

There is a real binary choice, but it’s not between Trump and Clinton.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

(Hebrews 12:1-3)

A vote for Trump is a vote against God. A vote for Hillary is a vote against God. Therefore the only way to vote for God is to not vote for either.

I understand that Biblical scholars such as Wayne Grudem advise that not voting is a sin, but failing to cast a vote for satan is still voting. The negative choice is still a choice. Choosing not to vote for either of two unGodly candidates is not sinful. My civic and Christian duty is fulfilled by the positive action of making a negative choice.

America will be subject to political leaders, because that’s the government we have made for ourselves. Our founders did so with the specific and central recognition of a natural law beyond those made by men and women. Therefore they recognized the law giver as supreme.

This is not some religious doctrine. It’s not “Christians versus Muslims.” It’s not some tribal shibboleth. It’s the core stanchions upon which American governance and rule of law are founded. Placing our hope and trust mainly in a person or a political party is not only folly, it’s also sin and departure from the American way.

Now this I know:
­  The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
with the victorious power of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.
Lord, give victory to the king!
Answer us when we call!

(Psalm 20:6-9)

The anointed gain victory through the Lord. Neither candidate in this race has acknowledged and bowed before God’s throne.

There is a binary choice in this election. There is a Sword of Damocles hanging over America, and over each of our heads. It’s not the choice between Trump and Clinton. It’s the choice between God and our own devices.

Only one person recognized that choice at the Republican National Convention, and he was booed as he spoke the words. I will vote my conscience. There’s only room for one King on the stage. Trump and Clinton both would claim that for themselves.

Joshua also offered the Hebrews a vote–a choice. We have a similar one this election.

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.

(Deuteronomy 30:11-19a)

Vote your conscience. Obey God.

The Proper Response When All Outcomes Lead to Ruin

A dozen years ago, George Lucas must have gazed into his Palantír* and seen a vision of this election while pounding out the overwrought script for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. (Six thousand lines of “George, you can type this [stuff], but you sure can’t say it.”)

They run down the hallway. Suddenly, ray shields drop around them, putting them in an electronic box in the middle of the hallway.

ANAKIN: Ray shields!

OBI-WAN takes a deep breath to express his total disappointment.

OBI-WAN: Wait a minute, how’d this happen! We’re smarter than this.

ANAKIN: Apparently not, Master. This is the oldest trap in the book . . . Well … I was distracted.

OBI-WAN: Oh, so all of a sudden it’s my fault.

ANAKIN: You’re the Master. I’m just a hero.

OBI-WAN: I’m open to suggestions here.

Hillary Clinton is an unthinkable terror as president. Donald Trump fails the minimum test for competence for the job. No acceptable options exist. We have no Jedi, and no heroes to save the day. We are in uncharted territory, as all of us freely acknowledge.

We can’t vote for Hillary, and we can’t vote for Trump. It would be hilarious if so much were not at stake. Jonah Goldberg wrote in his G-File about fellow National Review writer Victor Davis Hanson’s “detached depression,” responding to the Devil’s choice.

But the answer is staring him in the face: Because we’re supposed to tell the truth. I will say Hillary is corrupt, deceitful, and unqualified and I will say likewise about Trump — because that’s my job.

As grizzled veterans of scandal, filth and unbridled anger (read: political punditry), Hanson and Goldberg can remain faithful to calling them as they see them. But that doesn’t offer succor for the rest of us who see no good options and it’s not our job (wherein someone pays us for our opinion) to tell the truth.

There is a proper response to these situations, and, all levity aside, it’s where we need to look if we wish to navigate the narrow straits between denial and despair. Denial is to simply ignore Trump’s glaring deficiencies and support him “because he’s not Hillary.” Despair is worse, because it leads to cynicism and inaction, which leads to loss of the rights God meant for us to enjoy and employ as stewards of His world.

Meditating on impossible situations, this scripture came to mind, in Exodus 14.

And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.”

And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

(Exodus 14:10-14)

The Israelites happily and unanimously marched out of Egypt, freed from their oppressors. They marched proudly into the desert, following Moses, observing the very manifestation of God Himself as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. And God led them right into an impossible situation, trapped between the sea and Pharaoh’s pursuing army.

Facing death, many yearned for slavery. But God had a reason for leading them to the Red Sea. And the God of the Exodus is the same God today. Faced with our impossible situation, we should ask God what He seeks to teach us.

We’ve put too much faith in our own leaders and not nearly enough in God for far too long. The Republican Party is not a church, and it’s not God’s party. The political leaders we choose are not God’s anointed, as we would like to think. We are not Samuel pouring oil over Saul’s head or choosing David from among the sons of Jesse.

We are the frightened Israelites with our backs to the sea because that’s precisely where God wants us to be so He can get our attention. Our foundational problem is not that we are one Justice short in the Supreme Court, or that we have an overreaching and ever-growing federal government that’s subsuming state and citizen authority at a dangerous pace.

The problem is that we continually turn earthward and not heavenward in seeking solutions. We pray for our churches and fellowships and denominations to grow, but we willingly follow flawed, human leaders into ever-deepening crises and then blame them as the Israelites blamed Moses. It was not Moses who led them to the Red Sea, it was God.

It’s easy to pronounce God’s judgment over America–that He has abandoned us to our fate for our heresies and adulteries. It’s also easy to place God’s mantle on a man who will fix everything for us. That’s what the Israelites in Jesus’ day wanted to do–they wanted a human savior that they could influence and to whom they could apply God’s anointing. They got a suffering Son and rejected Him.

The proper response when all outcomes lead to ruin is to turn back to God, who has very likely led us here to get our attention. Might I suggest a time of prayer and fasting is appropriate. In times past, our presidents used to issue these calls as proclamations. President John Adams issued one on March 23, 1798. President Abraham Lincoln did the same on March 30, 1863.

And, insomuch as we know that by His divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

If the leaders we have selected for ourselves, setting up this impossible choice, refuse to repent and humble themselves before God’s throne of grace, it is entirely incumbent upon those of us who believe in God and His power to do so in their stead.

God is not asleep during this election, and He has the same grace today as He did at the Red Sea. We must pray for the discernment to know what He wishes us to learn, and for the courage to say “Yes” when we realize what He asks. There may be difficulty, betrayal, and even persecution in the future for believers in Christ, but we know that God is faithful to hear our prayers.

Instead of choosing between two intolerable choices, let us instead turn heavenward for an answer.


*Yes, I know I mixed a metaphor between Star Wars and LOTR. None of us know the future for certain. None of us know if we will wake up tomorrow. None of us possess that kind of foreknowledge. There is no future beyond this mortal prison of the flesh without Jesus Christ. Now that you’ve read this, if you don’t believe, go back and read Romans 1:16 and the Gospel of John.

 

Abortion Is America’s National Unhealed Wound

It’s all about the womb.

Novels on dystopian societies like Brave New World and The Giver invariably begin with the dissolution of the family. Emotional bonds forged in the womb are broken and replaced with drug-enhanced loyalty to the State and its ideals. These remain novels only because human biology makes the stories unrealizable. The only result of babies without emotional bonds is suffering and tragedy.

It’s known as “the orphanage problem.” State-run communities don’t function as families. Even mothers in prison were found to have a better outcome raising their babies than sterile institutions. In the 1940s, Austrian psychoanalyst Rene Spitz published his results.

Love won: 37% of the infants kept in the bleak hospital ward died, but there were no deaths at all amongst the infants raised in the prison. The incarcerated babies grew more quickly, were larger and did better in every way Spitz could measure. The orphans who managed to survive the hospital, in contrast, were more likely to contract all types of illnesses. They were scrawny and showed obvious psychological, cognitive and behavioral problems.

In America, between 45 and 50 percent of all pregnancies are unplanned. Among unmarried women, 20-29 years old, the number increases to over 69 percent. And 40 percent of those pregnancies end in abortion. The overwhelming reason for abortion is that it’s less unkind to kill a baby before its born than to bring it into a world without love. These mothers believe they will be incapable of loving their babies.

Maybe that’s got some truth to it, but it’s far more likely they are in denial.

The answer to our national unhealed wound is not punishing women for having abortion. That’s like saying the cure for a broken bone is amputating the limb. The answer to abortion is love. It’s the only answer, or we assume humanity is no more than animals descended from pond scum, as I heard Kirk Cameron say last night.

There’s only one truth in the universe. I don’t buy all this relativist junk where there’s “my truth” and “your truth” and “that’s not truth for me.” The sun shines or we die. A billion billion parameters are exactly, perfectly right to the smallest possible measurement or there’s no life on Earth.

Ravi Zacharias recalls a professor of his, a quantum physicist, describing what the first few microseconds of the creation of the universe would have looked like. He described in great detail the how contraction and expansion ratio had to be so precise and the margin of error so small. And he added that the exactness demanded of that moment was such that it would be the equivalent of taking aim at a one square inch object twenty billion light years away and hitting it bull’s eye.

If we are just evolved pond scum, a whole lot more than just emotions is in the wastebasket. Our “rights,” our dignity, our destiny, our morality: these are all just myths. If we’re not loved by a Creator, we are just babies abandoned to a cold, sterile, institutional universe to die a lonely and pointless death. Abortion then is the least of our worries.

I heard Christian columnist Cal Thomas characterize an argument with an abortion advocate thusly:

Pro-abort: “What about rape and incest?”

Thomas: “You can have rape and incest. Can I have the rest?”

“What about health of the mother?”

“You can have the health of the mother. Can I have the rest?”

“No. It’s my womb.”

The argument for abortion is one of fear, selfishness and rejection of love. It goes like this: if I can’t love my baby, nobody can. It denies the love God the Creator has shown us in enabling us to live at all. It denies love as a concept. It denies that a baby raised in a prison can thrive while a baby raised by a faceless institution dies.

God either loves us all, or there is no God. And there is a God because we’re here. The Bible declares that we are without excuse (Romans 1:20). Our nation’s founders declare that these truths are self-evident. They do not require further explanation or defense. We are here, therefore we are loved. We are loved, therefore God exists. God exists, therefore we have a duty to love others.

Abortion is the denial of love. There’s no healing without love–loving the mother who aborted her child; loving those who have suffered; loving those mothers facing unplanned pregnancy. Anyone who cannot grasp that God loves us too much to allow us to embrace abortion cannot grasp God’s love at all.

Abortion should be illegal because our laws should be based on God’s principles, not because we wish to control wombs. Abortion should be illegal because God loves us. Should a mother who obtains an illegal abortion be punished? Let me answer that question with a question: Should God destroy the universe because his creation, humanity, denies his love?

You answer that one.

The Path To Unity

Wisconsin exit polls have the pundits buzzing that there can be no reconciliation of the Grand Old Party. That the fear, distrust, and vitriol thrown back and forth between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz is simply too wide a gap to bridge. Seen through a purely political lens, that might appear to be so. But that’s not the only lens we have.

In 1776, support for the American Revolution was not a sure thing. In fact, historians believe that Patriots and loyalists were split with about one third supporting each, and one third on the fence. That’s about the kind of split we have (depending on the state) with Trump, #NeverTrump, and the swing vote.

At the end of August, General George Washington found himself trapped in Brooklyn Heights, with his back to the East River and the British massing for a final attack. He had used all his relief, and his 9,000 troops were outnumbered more than two to one by General Howe’s red coats and his Hessian mercenaries.

Washington was near despair, but he was also a man of faith. No one knows what prayers passed his lips during those tense two days as he faced almost certain defeat. As night fell on the evening of August 29, he peered over New York Harbor and knew he had no other hope. Escape by water was the only chance—and even that would take a miracle. Ordering a hasty retreat, Washington oversaw the efforts to ferry his army and their possessions—every man, beast, cannon, and rifle—safely across the water under the cover of darkness. To his relief, the British sentinels failed to spot the shadowy silhouettes of the escaping soldiers. But as the sky began to lighten, there were still men to move—and it was then that Washington’s prayers proved effective. A thick fog began to roll in, like the benevolent breath of God, providing cover and protection until every last soldier and piece of equipment reached safety on the other side. Washington’s boots were the last to leave the Brooklyn Heights side of the harbor, and the last to alight in Manhattan, which the Patriots still held.¹

Nathan Hale was executed 21 days later for spying–some historians believe Hale was turned in by his own cousin Samuel, a loyalist. Family didn’t account for much on opposite sites of the rebellion. Further on, General Benedict Arnold would nearly hand Washington over to the British, saved only by the early arrival of Washington’s aide, Alexander Hamilton, at his West Point headquarters.

By no means was America’s victory over the British, never mind the hearts and minds of the colonists (many in New York, which was held by the British through the end of the war, were staunch loyalists to the Crown), a certainty. Yet when Cornwallis surrendered and General Clinton evacuated New York, America became a unified country and did not evict the Tories. Some left, but many stayed and became loyal Americans.

By no means is our Republic’s victory over an increasingly strident, Godless assault from those who would remake America into a polyglot ersatz European subcontinent, a sure thing. Millions of Americans cheered when Democrats booed God (and Israel) at the DNC national convention in 2012. Millions cheer today when Bernie Sanders speaks of Denmark-on-the-Potomac ruling over us. Millions cheer when Hillary Clinton says an unborn child has no right to live an hour before birth.

But the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, abolition, capitalism, personal liberty, and small government, is different. President Lincoln called upon Americans’ faith in God. We’re the party that President Eisenhower joined and left us with a warning of creeping government/military/scientific and industrial complex growing in influence. Eisenhower prayed and trusted in our faith.

Even President George W. Bush called upon the nation to pray in the wake of 9/11. President Obama calls upon Christians to get off our high horses.

There is a qualitative difference between the GOP and the Democrats. Our grievances with the party of Obama, Clinton and Sanders cannot be bridged by faith, for they have essentially abandoned theirs to take up the reigns of power and control for themselves.

We, however, like Washington, can submit ourselves to prayer. Those within the GOP who do pray and seek God know His power and that He can conduct 9,000 troops to safety under the eyes of the red coats. He can certainly change the hearts of disaffected and estranged voters.

I have said that I have no beef with Trump supporters. Many of them “know not what they do.” Many refuse to even look into their man’s past, his dealings, his businesses and lawsuits. They chalk those things up to people trying to tear Trump down. Believe me, if there were a way to build Trump up, I’d be the first in line to do it. I’ve tried.

I may not be able to vote for Trump–I can’t in good conscience do so. But I don’t think worse of those who are in his thrall. In fact, I pray that if Cruz should be the nominee, they would see that he is not their enemy, or a “Trojan Horse” or a tool of the Establishment. I don’t think any of those things about Trump–I simply think he would be a terrible president, and potentially worse than Hillary or Bernie–who I would never, ever vote for. For the record, I would never, ever vote for Hillary or Bernie (or Joe Biden) either.

So when the time comes to unify, God can be in our midst to draw us together. There’s a more powerful force than politics (thank God He is) at work here, and the answer to our unity problem is found in Him, not in polls, or personal insults, or accusations.

¹George Washington’s secret six; the spy ring that saved the American Revolution / Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger ©2013, p.9