Hymnus Deo

Name:
Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Preaching

I first left the church of my youth, a Plymouth Brethren assembly, in 1999. I had come to Reformed convictions through a few years of thought and study, and, after trying for awhile to be Reformed and remain in the Brethren church at the same time, I picked up my hungry soul, pulled up several years of roots (ecclesiastically speaking), and went in search of a church where I could plant myself and be nourished for some time to come.

I have been in my current church for over two years now and, while it isn’t really Reformed, I believe for the moment it is where I should be. I still visit other churches on occasion, though, where friends of mine attend. Between leaving the Brethren and the present day, I’ve been in a number of churches of a variety of theological traditions: Presbyterian, Lutheran, Evangelical Covenant, Christian & Missionary Alliance, Baptist, and Anglican. And through this experience, I’ve learned that one problem exists across the denominational perspective: there is a serious lack of good preaching and teaching.

I’m no pastor. And I’ve only taught on a handful of occasions. In spite of this, I recognize that preaching is a difficult job. In order to do either right, one has to spend hours of time preparing by reading Scripture, commentaries, and other theological literature. A properly trained pastor, I believe, should know Greek and Hebrew, and therefore be able to look at the relevant passages in the original languages. And then there’s simply the matter of time praying and meditating in conjunction with the sermon or lesson one is preparing. When one thinks of doing this in the midst of other pastoral duties and the other responsibilities of life, it is enough to make one want to pass the job on to someone else.

I’ve also never studied the theology and practice of preaching, so I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject. And if I ever have the opportunity to preach, I might end up resembling my own criticisms here. Nonetheless, I think the lack I’ve noticed is real. The problems vary from church to church, and the confessional stance can play no small part in the problems. If a church is Dispensational, for instance, the pastor in that church will almost inevitably misunderstand any passage directly related to eschatological matters. During the time I was in a Presbyterian church, I heard enough sermons about election that I didn’t care if I heard another one in my life. Also, no pastor knows everything. It’s easy for a theology wonk like myself to throw tomatoes, thinking he’s so much smarter than the pastor. We often aren’t as good at seeing our own faults as we are the faults of others. Through the years I’ve learned, I hope, a small measure of humility in approaching questions like this.

All this considered, I’ve come up with a couple of questions that I look for to be answered in each sermon I hear. For me, this isn’t the type of thing where I’m holding up cue cards and rating each sermon I hear. This is far more personal than that for me. It’s about whether or not I leave the church satisfied that I’ve been fed on Sunday morning. Because I consider it so important, these questions are ones that I believe each pastor should ask himself as he prepares his sermons.

1. “Am I saying what the text says?” or “What does the text say?”

This probably will seem on the face of it to be so obvious as to make you wonder why I would even mention it. And the reason is that so often the minister in question doesn’t do it. I’ve noticed this in churches I’ve been to, and in most of the preachers I hear on Christian radio. I was speaking with a friend about this this afternoon. He named a particular local preacher that has a radio show and who broadcasts his sermons on public access television. The fellow, like so many others, claims to teach the Bible “verse by verse”. But it is a false claim. I’m sure he thinks he is doing it – I wouldn’t try to impugn the man’s character. But he skips over verses as he is teaching, only seeking to bring out the points that serve his purpose, whatever that may be. The other mistake connected with this is the tendency to use the text simply as a launching point from which the pastor jumps into talking about whatever topic he wants to teach on. I’m not a big fan of so-called “topical sermons” for that reason. This is common in the Evangelical preachers I hear on the radio. Rather than talking their way through a passage of Scripture, difficult passages and all, they start in one text and move on to several after it in succession, using Scripture as a series of disconnected wise sayings. It is a result of American Pragmatism and the fragmented way of thinking we’re all guilty of. This is also a problem in Reformed circles, where we have a tendency to think of Scripture merely as a justification (pardon the pun) for our abstract theological systems. One of the most important things for us to learn in our day is that if God had wanted to give us either a systematic theology, or a book of moral instruction, He would have done it. But he didn’t. While the Bible has theology, and moral instructions, the book God gave us is bigger and more complex than that. If we don’t begin by preaching the way it speaks, then we’ve already begun on the wrong foot.

2. “Where is Jesus in this passage?”

There is a school of biblical interpretation called the Redemptive-Historical School that is known for placing this question at the center of its emphasis. For any who might be wondering, I’m not attempting to side especially with this school in bringing up this question since, as I mentioned before, I haven’t really studied preaching formally. Yet I think the Redemptive-Historicists are at least right in saying that this is a question that every sermon should answer. If Jesus could show his disciples on the road to Emmaus how Moses and all the prophets spoke of him (Luke 24:27), then that means he’s in there, wherever we look. This, in fact, is the point of the New Testament. Jesus fulfilled all of the Old Testament, and the New Testament writers spend all their time explaining that and showing how that shapes all of life. But pastors often seem scared of Jesus. This happens with those who preach in Fundamentalist form, where the emphasis is on my sin and my need to “make a decision for Jesus”. But Jesus’ attributes and work are almost incidental in sermons like this, because the sermon is really all about me. Then there is the tendency of pastors to gravitate toward the latter portion of each epistle, where the “practical” teaching is, and skipping over the first halves, which are more difficult to explain and understand, and which deal particularly with Christ’s person and work. But this is a case of our fragmented thinking again. When the NT writers wrote, they intended the first portions of their epistles to create the framework in which the latter portions should be interpreted. If we don’t read them that way, then we fail to understand fully what they were trying to teach.

I keep hoping one day to hear a sermon that’s just about how great Jesus is, but maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part. In lieu of that, I can still hope that preachers will begin talking more about Jesus. For my part, I get practicality all day long, because the world around me is full of it. Pagans love anything that will improve their lives, because all they really care about is themselves anyway. But it’s Jesus Christ and him crucified that I need to hear and see, if he really is to be the object of my faith. The fact that it’s him the world hates should probably tip us off to the fact that it’s him we should be obsessed with.

In closing, let me say that this is a fairly unread blog. I don’t know who reads it. And maybe out of those who do, not a one is a pastor. But whoever you are, let me ask you: do you think that I’m right in what I’ve written here? If so, I’d like to know. But if you don’t feel comfortable commenting, consider passing these questions on to your pastors or your elders. Unless someone starts the conversation about this, nothing will be done to improve things.

Pants Wars

I ran across the following bit of Star Wars humor as I was sorting out some old emails. I originally found it a couple of years ago over here.


Lines from Star Wars that can be improved if you substitute the word "Pants" for key words:

We've got to be able to get some reading on those pants, up or down.

The pants may not look like much, kid, but they've got it where it counts.

I find your lack of pants disturbing.

These pants contain the ultimate power in the Universe. I suggest we use it.

Han will have those pants down. We've got to give him more time!

General Veers, prepare your pants for a ground assault.

I used to bulls-eye womp-rats in my pants back home.

TK-421. . . Why aren't you in your pants?

Lock the door. And hope they don't have pants.

You are unwise to lower your pants.

She must have hidden the plans in her pants. Send a detachment down to retrieve them. See to it personally Commander.

Governor Tarkin. I recognized your foul pants when I was brought on board.

You look strong enough to pull the pants of a Gundark.

Luke. . . Help me remove these pants.

Great, Chewie, great. Always thinking with your pants.

That blast came from those pants. That thing's operational!

A tremor in the pants. The last time I felt this was in the presence of my old master.

Don't worry. Chewie and I have gotten into pants a lot more heavily guarded than this.

Maybe you'd like it back in your pants, your highness.

Your pants betray you. Your feelings for them are strong. Especially one. . . Your sister!

Jabba doesn't have time for smugglers who drop their pants at the first sign of an Imperial Cruiser.

Short pants is better than no pants at all.

Occasional Riddle #7

Why is it that, in preparing to have company over, the goal is to make one’s house appear as if nobody lives there?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The state of theology in the Atlantic Coast Conference

From a sign in the audience at tonight’s Duke – Wake basketball game:

A DEVIL’S GOT NOTHING ON A DEMON!

This is what happens when a Baptist college goes liberal.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Lenten Freedom

I wrote this piece last year about this time, at the beginning of Lent, and since we are in the Lenten season again, I thought it might be appropriate to write a few more thoughts. My feelings and thoughts about the practice have not significantly changed since last year. I am still inconsistent in my Lenten observance, I still have a concern about legalism, and I still have a concern about the tendency to focus on one’s own piety rather than on Christ. This came up again for me as I was glancing back over Calvin’s comments on fasting in his Institutes, in book 4, chapter 12, sections 19 and 20. Calvin speaks of three errors in fasting: the error of fasting as a mere outward observance as divorced from inward repentance; the error of regarding “fasting as a work of merit or a form of divine worship”; and a third error, which Calvin explains as follows:

…to require it to be kept too strictly and rigidly as if it were one of the chief duties, and to extol it with such immoderate praises that men think they have done something noble when they have fasted. In this respect, I dare not wholly absolve the ancient writers from having sown certain seeds of superstition and having furnished the occasion of the tyranny which afterward arose. In them one sometimes comes across sane and wise statements about fasting, but later one repeatedly meets immoderate praises of fasting, which set it up among the chief virtues.

At that time the superstitious observance of Lent had prevailed everywhere, because the common people thought that in it they were doing some exceptional service to God, and the pastors commended it as a holy imitation of Christ. On the contrary, it is plain that Christ did not fast to set an example for others, but to prove, in so beginning to proclaim the gospel, that it was no human doctrine but actually one sent from heaven [Matt. 4:2]. And the marvel is that such sheer hallucination (which is refuted so often and with such clear arguments) could creep upon men of keen judgment. For Christ does not fast often – as he would have to do if he had willed to lay down a law of yearly fasting – but only once, when he girded himself for the proclamation of the gospel. Nor does he fast in human fashion, as would have been fitting if he willed to arouse men to imitate him; but he shows an example rather to transport all men to admiration of him than to arouse them with zeal to imitate him.


Calvin proceeds from here on in discussing the history of fasting in the church, but this section contains the part that really struck me. Let me say first that I think Calvin overstates his case when he sets Christ as Saviour as over against Christ as example. He is to be both for us. In fact, one of the purposes of the church calendar is that we might order our lives after Christ in a symbolic yet real way, and I think this is a good thing. Yet the problem in the church prior to Calvin had been exactly the opposite, that of neglecting Christ as Saviour in favour of Christ as example. This rang especially true for me, having observed Catholic and Anglo-Catholic practices over the past few years. It is understandable for one (whether clergy or laity) to look at the immorality of our society and think that the pressing need is to emphasize self-discipline and personal piety, or, as traditional Reformed and Lutheran dogmatics has called it, the Law. But as Calvin here points out, the real answer for lawlessness is the work of Jesus Christ, that is, the Gospel. That isn’t to say that the Law shouldn’t be preached. But the Law can save no one, not even Christians. Certainly, I can’t just ignore my sin. I have to flee sin. But the power to flee sin comes from the Gospel. We access this power by worshipping Christ. Christ’s first concern is that we, as Calvin put it, admire Him. Without adoring Christ first, and keeping Him ever before us in our thoughts and our hearts, our pursuit of holiness will be in vain.

In light of this matter of the centrality of the work of Jesus Christ, I was thinking of the following song the other day, entitled "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree". This is a song I return to often, especially when I find myself struggling with some sin or despairing over a sinful habit I can’t seem to kick. Notice the emphasis on resting in Christ. The songwriter, who is unknown, does not say, “I’m done with my former licentiousness, I will now get busy for Jesus.” He says, “I’m weary with my former toil, I will now rest in Jesus.” The point here is that Christ, and Christ alone, saves. This is not to say we don’t have to strive for holiness. But even my holiness isn’t my work; it is the work of a sovereign God. And when all is said and done, I will be saved, and it will be Christ who saves me. The words have been set to different tunes, but the tune I prefer is featured on the cd Faire is the Heaven: Music of the English Church, by the Cambridge Singers. In process of locating the words on the web, I found this video of the Choir of King’s College in Cambridge singing the song to the same tune as the Cambridge Singers. Those of you who are of a more scholarly bent might find it interesting that the tune is structured in a sort of chiastic fashion, with the first and fifth verses having only the melody and therefore being the simplest, and the middle verse being the most complex harmonically.


The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest a while:
I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest a while:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive:
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive:
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Potty Humor of a Different Sort

Today after meeting a friend for lunch I wandered over to one of our local Barnes & Noble stores for a stroll among the books and magazines. My first stop as I entered the store, however, was the men’s facilities. As I stepped into one of the stalls and latched the door shut, I turned and was met with the sort of scribbled writing usually conjured by the less clever individuals of our society, often of the jilted lover set. It read “Call Alexis for…”, and the rest of the sentence, no doubt profane beyond what I would be willing to repeat, had been marked through to the point of illegibility. Above it and in its place another person had written “bad grammar and spelling errors.” That’s right. The entire sentence now read, “Call Alexis for bad grammar and spelling errors.” No doubt this was better than what Alexis had formerly been accused of. I was at that moment very glad to be the only one in the restroom, as I was barely able to keep my laughter at a sputtered giggle, having in mind the patrons sitting in armchairs amidst the religion section less than twenty feet away where they were, I’m sure, reading and meditating in deep spiritual ecstasy. What I really wanted to do was howl uproariously, but that would have made leaving the restroom embarrassing to say the least and would have called several of the employees to my presence in order to discover the cause of the commotion. Thankfully I had a good minute or so of muffled chortling before I heard the bathroom door open, at which point I stifled my sniggling with no small amount of concentrated discipline.

Only in Barnes & Noble would you find graffiti like that.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

More on Obama

Barack Obama wins in Maine, and is closing in on Hillary very quickly in the delegate counts. I’m not particularly surprised. Hillary has always struck me as too fake and too, shall we say, tense a person to convince enough of America that she’s worthy of the office of president.

One thing that concerns me about the number of people voting for Obama, however, is the reasons that I often hear (both in one on one conversations and from individuals speaking on tv) people giving when asked why they think he’s a good candidate. The most common reason I hear is that they think he is a good speaker. They find him to be convincing and encouraging. Adolf Hitler was convincing and encouraging too, lest we forget. A person’s ability in oratory means nothing other than that he’s a convincing speaker. It says nothing about the value of the ideas he’s trying to convince you of. The saddest thing in my saying this, however, is that most people who would read this would think I was comparing Adolf Hitler and Barack Obama in a one to one correspondence, therefore implying that Obama is somehow a racist. It seems to me very obvious that he is not, and unless I were to say it that clearly, the aforementioned person who thought I was calling him a racist would miss it completely. So let me make it even clearer: Obama isn’t a racist. How’s that for clarity?

There is one other area in which Obama is very close to Hitler, however, and that is that they are/were both Socialists. But you can also list other Socialists with them, such as Joseph Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, George Bush Sr., George Bush Jr., John McCain, and Mike Huckabee. So the title of “Socialist” is actually of little distinction.

The other reason I hear people give for voting for Obama is that he’s black. That America has finally come to a place beyond its racially segregated days that a black man can run for president and have a very good chance of winning is a good thing. But to think that a person qualifies for president just because of their race shows the lack of wisdom that pervades our nation. It seems to me that it was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself who said he longed for the day when a man would be judged for his character and not for the color of his skin. It doesn’t matter if you’re judging a person to be evil simply because of the color of their skin, or if you’re judging them to be good because of the color of their skin. The color of one’s skin still has nothing to do with whether or not they’ll be a good president. Therefore, those who vote for Obama because he is black are not only betraying the legacy of Dr. King and dishonoring him, they are in effect seeking to lead America back to the racist era that Dr. King fought so hard to bring America out of.

The wisest thing for one to do then is to find out what the candidates believe, to the best of your ability, and vote for the one you think will best follow the requirements of the office of the president. Inasmuch as that means upholding the Constitution, there is only one candidate qualified for the job, and that is Ron Paul.

But if that isn’t good for you, check out this page that features the positions of the five major remaining candidates side by side. Take note especially of the bracket labeled “Proposed Government Spending Changes”. While Paul wants to cut spending by $150 billion, Obama wants to raise spending by $287 billion. And that isn’t money that the government has stored somewhere in Washington. That means Obama intends to raise taxes. Here is the page the information was derived from. You will find the various spending analyses of each candidate broken down in detail on that website.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Northwest didn't get the memo

Okay, let’s see if I’m understanding this right. Global warming is so serious that we’ll all be dead within the next hundred years, and yet there are record snows happening right now in the Northwestern states. Am I missing something here?

Obama, the Antichrist?

The mother of a friend of mine has determined that Barack Obama is the Antichrist. She comes from the sort of Fundamentalist background where they are sure that all the other books of the Bible are just there as precursors to the Book of the Revelation, which is where the real stuff happens. Considering the teaching on the subject of the End Times, it's understandable that someone could come to this conclusion. You just take a vague idea that the Antichrist will come from “somewhere over there” (you know, over there somewheres) and will be in a position of international influence, and match it up with Obama, who was born “somewhere over there” (non-Anglo name and all) and is aspiring for a position of international influence, and you get “Obama is the Antichrist”. God bless the poor woman. She means well. Nonetheless, mark reason number 666 as to why it was good for me to leave Dispensationalism.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Gimme yer stuff

“Thou shalt not covet” means that it is sinful even to contemplate the seizure of another man’s goods – which is something which Socialists, whether Christian or otherwise, have never managed to explain away.

-- John Chamberlain, The Roots of Capitalism

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Emerging Silliness

I’ve had a few occasions over the past couple of years to dialogue with individuals that consider themselves to be in the “Emerging Church” category of people, dialogue which was both sad and humorous at the same time. In relation to the humorous aspect, this page is an incredibly accurate commentary on the Emerging church, not to mention hilarious. Here are a couple of my favourite posters from the page (but you really should check them all out):





Idolatry takes many forms, #9: Super Bowl Sunday, Or the Sabbath?

It is approximately 12:30 am on February 3, 2008, and that means according to standard time keeping, it is Super Bowl Sunday. This is one of the High Holy Days of the secular American religious calendar. Many of those in our country who would call themselves Christian and who would normally at least consider going to church a few hours from now will instead be preparing for the big party they will be participating in tomorrow. As the regular reader of this blog will suspect, it’s not something I’m particularly thrilled about. I don’t have anything against football. But I do have a problem with anything that tries to usurp the authority of Jesus Christ. Not only does the Super Bowl do that, but any sport played on the Sabbath Day does that. Having said that, though, the Super Bowl won’t actually be played on the Sabbath. It will be played on Monday Evening. I personally hold the view that, as Scripture says in numerous places, evening followed by day make one day (see, for instance, Genesis 1). And so I myself will probably be watching the game with a clear conscience. I don’t even see anything wrong with churches that will be having Super Bowl parties tomorrow night. Despite what some people think, Scripture nowhere requires a Sunday night worship service. And so I might even find myself at the local megachurch with my friends watching the game.

So how, if it isn’t being played on the Sabbath, does the Super Bowl interfere with it? In many ways. Coverage of the game will begin on TV in few hours, if it hasn’t already, and this will be a cause for many to not use the day as it is intended, as a day of rest and worship. The game will be a temptation, as I mentioned before, for many to skip worship to prepare for the parties they will be involved in. Many will no doubt go to the game or be involved otherwise (maybe even playing) who will forego observing the Sabbath for travel, work, etc. And sadly, rare will be the minister tomorrow morning who will be able to preach a whole sermon without making at least one reference to the game, therefore leading his own congregation into temptation and revealing where his own heart is. I don’t find these things reasons to not enjoy a game that, according to my own belief, will actually be played on Monday. Nonetheless, they are in themselves serious matters, and they are all brought about by a game that will be played, according to our society’s reckoning, Sunday night.

And there is the whole commercial aspect to this that irks me more than anything (yes, I said “irks”. I’m not exactly a dispassioned observer on this subject.). It used to be, less than thirty years ago, that almost nothing was open on Sundays (at least, here in the South). Almost everybody in our country observed the Sabbath at least to the degree of refraining from commerce, even if they didn’t go to church. Nowadays, it is even rare to find a Presbyterian or Reformed person, who have Confessions that require Sabbath observance, who actually believe what their Confessions teach or at least observe their teachings on the Sabbath.

But commerce rules our lives now, and it does so because we’ve let it. And one of the ways we’ve let it come to rule our lives is that we’ve let the market dictate how we spend our time, including letting it turn the “Market Day of the Soul” in to the “Market Day of Everything But the Soul”. It is, quite frankly, selling one’s birthright for a bowl of porridge. I long for the day when we return to the blessing of observing the Sabbath, assuming our culture will ever return to it. The blessings are immense for those who would honor God in this, but we will never experience them if we don’t trust God and obey Him.

As I was thinking about this, I was reminded of the following section from the book The Market Day of the Soul by James Dennison (whence I got the phrase, though Dennison actually took it from the Puritans). In his book, Dennison discusses the history of the debates on the Sabbath during the era of the Puritans. This portion shows how, when it comes to making excuses for things we want to do, whether they are wrong or right, there is nothing new under the sun.

The Puritans were not opposed to recreations per se. Lawful (“honest”) recreations were encouraged on the other six days of the week. Bownd’s remark was typical: “I am not of that minde…to thinke that men should never take their delight, and that all recreation were sinfull….” However, even honest recreations were to be suspended on the Lord’s day because they interfered with the proper sanctification of the Sabbath. The Puritans also cited Isaiah 58:13-14 in defense of their position; God had clearly revealed His opposition to taking one’s own “pleasure” on the Sabbath.

Some would counter the Puritan arguments with the observation that recreation was not possible on any day other than Sundays. The Puritan reply is significant: “If men will allow seruants recreations, let them allow part of their owne time, and be liberall in that which is their owne, and not in that which God hath giuen them no such warrant to bestow on their seruants.”

Labor was not to be exploited. Men were to be allowed honest recreations Monday through Saturday. Though the general rule was that Sunday was playday, people did find time for sport on week-days; witness Bridenbaugh’s remark: “…young men who would ‘endure long and hard labour in so much that after twelve hours hard work they will go in the evening to football, stoole ball, cricket, prison-base, wrestling, cugel throwing, or some such like vehement exercise.’”

Richard Baxter maintained that the argument from a lack of spare time on week-days was a “sad argument to be used by them that by racking of rents do keep them (labouring people) in poverty.” The Puritan protest against Sabbath profanation was also a protest against overwork on the other six days of the week.

[Quoting Baxter] “But the truth is, it is not the minds of poor laboring men, that are overworked and tired on week-days, but it is their bodies; and therefore there is no recreation so suitable to them as the ease of the body, and the holy and joyful exercise of the mind, upon their Creator, and their Redeemer, and their everlasting rest.”


Friday, February 01, 2008

Idolatry takes many forms, #8: God Is The God Of Politics

Immediately following the recent Republican debate in Florida, Mitt Romney received much attention for his expressed fear of having Bill Clinton back in the White House again. He went on to separate his approach to the various concerns of the day from Hillary’s, stating that he wanted to respond to her on the basis of her platform, not on the basis of her husband. Nonetheless, the statement for many couldn’t help but bring to mind Bill’s infidelities during his time in office. While Bill did admit he was wrong, it was only after he outright lied about it and was caught. And while I believe we must accept Bill’s statement of repentance as sincere, it doesn’t mean that he should be trusted in influencing matters of national policy again, which he would be undoubtedly doing were Hillary to win the election. Hillary’s policies are enough to keep me from voting for her, aside from the fact that I don’t believe, based on Scripture, that a woman should be in a position of authority like that. Combine this with Bill’s wickedness and the shaky family life manifested in all of this, and the Clinton’s are the last couple I want to see in the White House.

Since the debate, another well-known adulterer, Rudy Giuliani, has dropped out of the race. I rarely sit through even a few minutes of the 700 Club, so I don’t know who, if anybody, Pat Robertson has taken to endorsing since Rudy’s withdrawal. When Robertson first endorsed Giuliani, the Christian conservatives of the country were vocal in their disbelief that Robertson could endorse someone who is “pro-choice”. Robertson responded by pushing the abortion issue to the side and expressing his great concern over the “war against terrorism”. How the one issue could trump the other is beyond me, aside from my disagreements with Robertson over the war. More important to me, though, is Giuliani’s marital infidelity. How could a man who couldn’t keep his vows to his wife be trusted to keep his vow to uphold the Constitution? And how could this not concern someone like Robertson? This will continue to be an issue with Giuliani if, as may be the case, McCain wins the Republican nomination and chooses Giuliani as his Vice-President.

One thing that the Clinton – Lewinsky scandal proved, as does the case of Rudy Giuliani, is that for most people in our time, the character of a person is irrelevant. It is irrelevant in daily life, and it is equally irrelevant for those in positions of authority. Sure, there are things that a person can do that will destroy his chance of running for office – murder, for instance (that is, murder not sanctioned by the Government). But sexual immorality is largely considered a private matter and unrelated to one’s qualifications with regard to public office. I would disagree strongly with such a belief, and, more importantly, so does Holy Scripture and the God of Holy Scripture.

There are also other character issues involved that go relatively unaddressed, such as the fact that excessive taxation is theft, irresponsible fiscal policy is bad stewardship, and the Nanny State is forced slavery and an attack on the image of God in one’s fellow man. These are ignored even more than the issue of sexual immorality, but are equally worthy of consideration. But other than mentioning these in passing, I will have to reserve the discussion of them for another occasion.

On the basis of this, I offer the following quotes from the 19th century Southern Presbyterian minister Robert Lewis Dabney on a Christian approach to electing government officials. The third paragraph is especially of interest in the current debates, as it addresses the need for officials who are careful in the speed at which they send troops to war. Note also Dabney’s warnings of the judgment of God. For him, God was not to be reserved to some sort of religious realm, as distinct from politics or other social matters. God is the God of everything, and those Christians who would seek to put aside their faith when entering the “political arena” are, in effect, betraying the God to whom they belong.

Here, then, is a prominent duty, if we would save our country, that we shall carry our citizenship in the kingdom of heaven everywhere, and make it dominate over every public act. We must obey the law of God rather than the unrighteous behests of party, to “choose out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness, and place such over them to be rulers,” of God will assuredly avenge Himself for our violated allegiance to him. The Christians of this country must sternly claim that wicked or reckless men shall no longer hold the helm of state; that political orthodoxy shall no longer atone for the worst offense against citizenship, a wicked life.

…When you elevate a bad man, you give to him a hundred-fold more power of example to corrupt your sons, and your neighbor’s sons by his evil acts. Those acts are a hundred-fold more conspicuous and more weighty to attract notice and imitation than if you had left him in his deserved obscurity. When you delegate your money, influence or civic power to a bad man, you make his wicked official acts and influences your own; he is your chosen agent, and acts for you, and be assured a jealous God will not forget to visit the people for the guilt thus contracted.

…And when the rash representatives in our halls of legislation and our newspapers shall have sown the wind, who will reap the whirlwind? When they have scattered the dragon’s teeth, who must meet that horrent crop which they will produce? Not they alone, but you, your sons, your friends and their sons. So that these misleaders of the people, while you so weakly connive at their indiscretions, may indirectly be preparing the weapon which is to pierce the bosom of your fair-haired boy, and summoning the birds of prey, which are to pick out those eyes whose joy is now the light of your happy homes. For your own sakes, for your children’s sake, arise, declare that from this day no money, no vote, no influence of yours shall go to the maintenance of any other counsels than those of moderation, righteousness and manly forbearance.