"THE EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS" Salutation To The Philippians (1:1-2) INTRODUCTION 1. In our previous lesson we introduced the book of Philippians as a book that is very relevant to our times 2. As we actually begin our study of this epistle, we shall examine Paul's salutation as found in the first two verses... [First, we notice...] I. THE "AUTHOR" OF THIS EPISTLE A. IDENTIFIED AS "PAUL"... 1. This is the apostle Paul, of course 2. Who was once the "persecutor" - Ac 8:1,3 3. But is now the "persecuted" a. For he is writing this while in Roman custody - Php 1:12-14 b. During the time period mention in Ac 28:30 B. HE IS JOINED IN THE SALUTATION BY "TIMOTHY"... 1. A travelling companion who joined Paul during his second journey - Ac 16:1-3 2. He was a young man, devoted to serving Paul, whom Paul loved as a son - Php 2:19-22 3. He later was the recipient of two other epistles by Paul (1 & 2 Timothy) C. TOGETHER, THEY ARE DESCRIBED AS "SERVANTS"... 1. A title of humility, it denotes dependence, obedience, and acknowledgment of ownership 2. Used in connection with Jesus Christ... a. It is a word with real dignity b. Indicates intense devotion to the Lord [Having considered those responsible for this epistle, we next take a look at those to whom it is addressed...] II. THE "RECIPIENTS" OF THIS EPISTLE A. IDENTIFIED AS "SAINTS IN CHRIST JESUS"... 1. The term "saint" was a common term by which ALL Christians were called in the New Testament a. Literally, it means "holy one" - cf. 1Pe 2:9 b. The basic idea behind the word is that of "separation", for the purpose of consecration 2. But note that they were called saints "in Christ Jesus" a. It is in Him that we are set apart b. Only by virtue by being in Him and having our sins forgiven by His blood can we be called saints - cf. Re 1:5-6; 5:9-10 3. It is interesting to notice the contrast between "servants" and "saints" a. By using such terms, Paul immediately humbles himself and exalts those to whom he is writing b. Thereby practicing what he later preaches in regards to humility - cf. Php 2:3 B. IN PARTICULAR, THEY ARE THE SAINTS "WHO ARE IN PHILIPPI"... 1. That is, the church in Philippi 2. The beginning of the church is found in Ac 16:9-15 a. Prompted by the "Macedonia Call" b. Started with the conversion of Lydia 3. Its early growth is also found in Acts 16 (verses 16-40) a. With the conversion of the Philippian jailor and his family b. With the church meeting in Lydia's home c. And with Luke staying at Philippi after Paul's departure 4. Several things may be said about the characteristics of the church a. It appears to be predominantly Gentile (lack of a synagogue in Philippi would suggest this) b. It appears to be predominantly female (implied by meeting in Lydia's home and the reference to women in Php 4:2) c. They were very supportive in the preaching of the gospel - Php 4:15-16 d. They provided for needy saints in other areas - 2Co 8:1-5 e. They cared for Paul in his distress - Php 4:10,14 C. ALSO ADDRESSED WERE THE "BISHOPS AND DEACONS"... 1. In this verse, we see the organization of a local church as God intended a. It is made up of "saints" (the members) b. It is overseen by "bishops" c. It is served with the assistance of "deacons" 2. Concerning the "bishops" (translated "overseers" in some versions)... a. These were men charged with guarding the flock and providing spiritual food b. They were also called "elders" (or "presbyters"), and "pastors" (or "shepherds") - cf. Ac 20:17,28; 1Pe 5:1-2 1) For they were older men 2) And they were to feed (or pastor) the flock under their charge c. According to the New Testament... 1) They had to meet certain qualifications before they were appointed to serve as "elders-bishops-pastors" - 1Ti 3: 1-7; Tit 1:5-9 2) There was always a plurality in the congregation, never just one - cf. Ac 14:23; Ac 20:17; Php 1:1 3. Concerning the "deacons"... a. The term means "servants" or "ministers" b. They also had to meet certain qualifications - 1Ti 3:8-13 c. They served the needs of the congregation, under the oversight of the bishops (elders-pastors) [So the recipients of this epistle was a well-established congregation, one that had demonstrated their love and support for the apostle Paul. Finally, we briefly notice the greetings given to them...] III. THE "GREETINGS" A. "GRACE"... 1. This was the common greeting of the Greeks 2. It speaks of wishing unmerited favor and kindness upon them B. "PEACE"... 1. This was common greeting of the Jews ("Shalom!") 2. It speaks of the result of receiving favor and kindness C. "FROM GOD OUR FATHER AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST"... 1. This is the source of grace and peace which Paul desires the Philippians to receive 2. For when one has received unmerited favor and kindness from God through His Son Jesus Christ, one truly receives peace: a. Peace with God - Ro 5:1 b. Peace with men - Pr 16:7 c. Peace with one's self - Php 4:6-7 CONCLUSION 1. At this point, we can see that this epistle is a personal letter between... a. A man in chains who is accompanied with a dear friend b. And a congregation of holy people whose love for this man has been demonstrated on several occasions 2. In the next lesson, we shall examine the "joyful thanksgiving" on the part of Paul for the fellowship he has enjoyed with the church at Philippi In the meantime, are you experiencing the grace and peace that comes only from "God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ"...?
Why Did God Postpone the Writing of the New Testament?
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Why did God wait approximately 20 years after the church was established to begin writing the New Testament? Why such a long span of time?
Normally when we discuss the penning of the New Testament, we do so in view of the fact that God inspired men to write about Jesus and His will for the church within only about 20-65 years of the Savior’s death and resurrection. Perhaps even more impressive is the abundant amount of evidence for the New Testament’s first-century origin. Due to the volume of ancient manuscripts, versions, and citations of the New Testament documents, even many liberal scholars have conceded that the New Testament must have been completed by the end of the first century. Whereas the extant copies of Plato, Thucydides, Herodotus, Tacitus, and many others are separated from the time these men wrote by 1,000 years, manuscript evidence for the New Testament reaches as far back as the early second century, which has led most scholars to rightly conclude that the New Testament is, indeed, a first-century production (cf. Lyons, 2007; Bruce, 1953, p. 16; Geisler and Nix, 1986, pp. 408,475; Comfort and Barrett, 2001). As Irwin H. Linton stated regarding the gospel accounts: “A fact known to all who have given any study at all to this subject is that these books were quoted, listed, catalogued, harmonized, cited as authority by different writers, Christian and Pagan, right back to the time of the apostles” (1943, p. 39).
Still, some wonder why God chose to wait approximately 20 years to begin writing the New Testament. Why didn’t the first-century apostles and prophets begin penning the New Testament as soon as the church was established?
The simple, straightforward answer is that we cannot say with certainty why God waited two decades to begin penning the New Testament. [NOTE: Conservative scholars generally agree that the earliest written New Testament documents, including Galatians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians, were likely written between A.D. 48-52.] We could ask any number of questions regarding why God did or did not do something: Why did God wait some 2,500 years after Creation and some 1,000 years after the Flood to write a perfect, inspired account of these events? Why did God only spend 11 chapters in the Bible telling us about the first approximately 2,000 years of human history and 1,178 chapters telling us about the next 2,000? Why did God discontinue special, written revelation for over 400 years (between Malachi and the New Testament)? There are many questions, even specific ones about the makeup of God’s written revelation, that remain unanswered, yet God simply has not revealed this information to us.
Having made that disclaimer, we can suggest a few logical reasons why God waited to inspire first-century apostles and prophets to pen the New Testament. First, the early church had the treasure of the Gospel “in earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7), meaning the apostles were miraculously guided by the Spirit in what they taught (Galatians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 2:10-16). The Spirit of God guided them “into all Truth” (John 16:13). Also, those on whom the apostles chose to lay their hands in the early churches received the miraculous, spiritual gifts of prophecy, knowledge, wisdom, etc. (Acts 8:14-17; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11). Even though the church lacked the inspired writings of Paul, Peter, and John for a few years, God did not leave His new Christians without direction and guidance. In a sense, they had walking, living New Testaments. When the miraculous age ended (1 Corinthians 13:8-10; see Miller, 2003), however, the church would need some type of continual guidance. Thus, during the miraculous age, God inspired the apostles and prophets to put in permanent form His perfect and complete revelation to guide the church until Jesus’ return (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Second, it was necessary for God to delay the writing of the New Testament, instead of penning it immediately following the church’s establishment, because the books and letters that make up the New Testament were originally written for specific audiences and for specific purposes (though they are applicable to all Christians). For example, the epistles that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth could not have been written until there was a church at Corinth. If the church at Corinth was not established until the apostle Paul’s second missionary journey (ca. A.D. 49-52), then Paul obviously wrote to the Christians in Corinth after this time. Furthermore, since in 1 Corinthians Paul dealt with specific problems that had arisen in the church at Corinth (e.g, division, immorality, etc.), he could not have explicitly addressed these matters in detail until after they had come to pass. Thus, there was a need for time to pass before the New Testament documents were penned.
Although some may be bothered by the fact that God waited approximately 20 years to begin penning the New Testament through His inspired writers, we can rest assured that He had good reasons for this relatively brief postponement. Admittedly, God did not explicitly indicate why He delayed putting His last will and testament in written form. Yet logical reasons exist—most notably, the fact that the documents that make up the New Testament were written to specific peoples and for specific purposes.
Bruce, F.F. (1953), The New Testament Documents—Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), fourth edition.
Comfort, Philip W. and David P. Barrett (2001), The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House).
Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix (1986), A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody), revised edition.
Linton, Irwin H. (1943), A Lawyer Examines the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), sixth edition.
Lyons, Eric (2007), “Inspired Writers and Competent Copyists,” Reason & Revelation, 27:17-23, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=587#.
Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern-Day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation—Extended Version,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1399.
Wrong Must Be Explained
|by||Brad Bromling, D.Min.|
Lyle and Erik Menendez brutally killed their mother and father. The evidence is plain; no one denies it. So, why is it so hard to find them guilty? Their defense attorneys argued persuasively that the brothers endured a nightmarish childhood of sexual and physical abuse, and that they were thus acting out of a kind of insanity that excuses them from first-degree murder charges. The arguments on both sides reduce to the same basic premise: wrong was committed.
The prosecution accused the brothers of murder and appealed to the public’s sense that murder is evil. Likewise the brothers, in claiming they had been mistreated, appealed to a society that abhors child abuse. This was not a matter of arbitrary human laws being violated, it went much deeper. It was a matter of “right and wrong”—a concept that is universal and unique to humanity.
No matter where people are found, they recognize that some things are wrong. Although human groups differ on what they prohibit, they all censor something. C.S. Lewis articulated this point well:
Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to—whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked (1952, p. 5).
This also is personal. When I look inside myself, I find this moral sense that I did not invent. I can find no explanation for it in the world—it must derive from beyond that realm. If there is nothing but matter in the Universe, and matter is the only eternal reality—then how do you explain this moral sense in humanity? Did it arise from rocks, trees, or animals? No, this moral sense is one of the clearest and most personal reminders that there is a God.
Lewis, C.S. (1952), Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan).
Wrong is Always Wrong
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
Sinful human beings are ever attempting to blur the distinction between “right” and “wrong.” This inclination reaches far back into antiquity. The book of Proverbs declares: “He that justifies the wicked, and he that condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination unto Jehovah” (17:15). Later, the prophet Isaiah affirmed: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). Amos spoke of those who “turn justice to wormwood, and cast down righteousness to the earth” (Amos 5:7).
“Right” and “wrong” do exist. They are not merely “evolved inclinations” that have been humanly contrived in order to introduce a sense of order and security into society. Nor are “right” and “wrong” subjectively determined so that, practically speaking, each person functions as his own law-maker. Rather, morality is to be measured by the laws and principles of divine revelation, as made known in the inspired writings of the Bible. Ultimately, morality is grounded in the very nature of God Himself. “[A]s he who calls you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy” (1 Peter 1:15). Though such a concept is almost wholly rejected by modern society, there is ample evidence to support it.
Let us contemplate briefly some of the principles contained in Scripture that assist us in putting “right” and “wrong” things into proper focus.
1. “Wrong” is not determined by the perpetrator’s moral sensitivity to an act. A wrong act is still wrong whether or not the violator is aware of it, or whether or not he feels comfortablewith the situation. Saul of Tarsus did not know that he was doing wrong when he persecuted Christianity (see Acts 23:1; 26:9; 1 Timothy 1:13), but he was violating the will of God nonetheless. Ignorance is no excuse (Acts 17:30). In modern society, for example, many have entangled themselves in adulterous “marital” relationships. Frequently it is argued that such liaisons may be sustained because the parties “did not know” the intricacies of God’s marriage law when the unions were made. The logic is fallacious. Will a similar argument eventually be offered to defend the concept of same-sex “marriages”?
2. “Right” is not established merely by what man is able to accomplish by means of his genius and/or ability. Pragmatism does not provide the criteria for ethics. One human being presumptively can take another’s life, but that does not make the act moral. Two unmarried youngsters are able to conceive a child apart from the sacred vows of matrimony, but the act is illegitimate nonetheless. “Might” does not make “right,” and autocratic decisions relating to moral matters are condemned in Scripture (see Habakkuk 1:11). Radical attempts at human genetic engineering, or cloning, may be accomplished eventually through the manipulation of genetic laws, but the achievement, in and of itself, does not license the practice as ethical. The issue must ever be: Is a procedure consistent with the principles of God’s inspired revelation?
3. “Right” and “wrong” are not determined by what is legal. In the Roman world of the Caesars, infanticide was legal, but it was not moral. In some ancient cultures, a woman was not a person; she was mere property to be abused, or disposed of, at the whim of her husband. There are few who would defend the ethics of this custom. Homosexuality is legal, but it is moral perversion (Romans 1:26-27). The destruction of human life by means of abortion has the sanction of civil law, but the practice is abominable before the eyes of the Creator (Proverbs 6:17).
4. “Right” and “wrong” are not grounded in what a majority of the population “feels” is ethical. Jesus Christ is a King; He has not implemented a democracy to determine, by majority vote, how human beings ought to live. In the first place, man never can be his own guide. “O Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Second, fallible opinion, multiplied a thousand times, does not change wrong into right. Moses solemnly warned: “Thou shall not follow a multitude to do evil” (Exodus 23:2). It hardly is necessary to remind ourselves that the path of the majority is the way of destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).
5. “Wrong” is wrong, whether or not one is ever caught. In the isolated environment of ancient Egypt, separated from his kinsmen, Joseph might well have rationalized an illicit relationship with Potiphar’s wife on the ground that his indiscretion never would be known by his family. His reasoning, however, was: “[H]ow then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). There will be a time when the “skeletons come out of the closet” and “the chickens come home to roost.” Many things that have been perpetrated in darkness will be revealed in light, and secret evils will be proclaimed from the rooftops (see Luke 12:3). Secrecy does not sanctify!
6. “Wrong” does not become right by virtue of passing time. It is certainly the case that the public’s conscience sometimes becomes dull with the passing of years, so that what once was horrifying eventually becomes commonplace. But wrong still is wrong, though a millennium passes. Eventually, there will be accountability (2 Corinthians 5:10).
May God help us to examine our practices by the illumination of His glorious Word (Psalm 119:105), and to determine “right” and “wrong” issued upon that reliable basis.
Why Humanity Should Serve God
|by||Wayne Jackson, M.A.|
I have no reason to doubt that her question was entirely sincere—however misguided it was. “Suppose you could prove to me that there is a God. So what! Would that necessarily mean that I would be obligated to serve him?,” the young lady asked. “Your God must be on a super ‘ego trip’ if He expects everyone in the Universe to worship Him.” What response should be made to this flippant comment from an intelligent but confused college student?
First, the issue of whether humans should yield their lives to the Creator has nothing to do with the divine ego. God, by definition, is infinite in all of His attributes. He cannot be more powerful than He is. He cannot be wiser than He is. The Lord cannot be any more glorious than He is. Consequently, His “ego” never could be enhanced by human servitude. This is implied logically in the language of Christ’s prayer shortly before His crucifixion. Jesus petitioned that He might be glorified with the glory that He shared with the Father “before the world was” (John 17:5). If it were the case that God’s glory had been inflated by virtue of human devotion across the centuries, the Lord’s prayer surely would have reflected a desire for the current glory of the Father, rather than that possessed before the world was created (cf. Fuller, 1963, p. 23). God’s requirement that we serve Him, therefore, obviously is not for His benefit; rather, it is for ours. Because God is love (1 John 4:8), He wants the best for us. Our true contentment will be found only in living for Him, and that is why He bids us thus to do.
But let us expand this thought with supplemental reasons as to why we, as rational human beings, should be obedient to the Creator of our very being.
THE NATURE OF GOD
A primary reason for bowing before Jehovah has to do with the nature or essence of this Being. God is worthy of human service simply because of Who He is! Exactly what does this suggest?
There are two sources of information regarding the Supreme Being. First, there is theabstract revelation of nature, which argues for the wisdom and power of Deity (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20). Jehovah’s power is seen in the vastness of the Universe; His wisdom is reflected in its intricate design. The evidence is so clear that those who survey these data, and yet fail to conclude that “He is,” are “without excuse” (Romans 1:20; Hebrews 11:6). In addition to the abstract revelation of divinity in the book of nature, there is the concreterevelation of Holy Scripture, which affirms the moral attributes of the Lord. These two “volumes” of testimony complement one another wonderfully.
The Bible teaches that God is the eternal Spirit Who is the Architect and Creator of the Universe. When did Jehovah Himself originate? He didn’t. God always has existed; He is the eternal “I Am” (Exodus 6:3; cf. Genesis 21:33; Psalm 90:2). Logic demands such. A venerable argument—that remains unanswered to this day—is this: If something is, then something always was. But something is; therefore, something always was. That eternal “something” must be either matter or mind. But it is not matter, for science demonstrates that matter is not eternal. Thus, the eternal “something” is mind. The Scriptures identify this Mind as God.
As to His essence, God is spirit and not flesh (John 4:24; Luke 24:39; Matthew 16:17). He is the Almighty (Genesis 17:1; Revelation 1:8), whose purposes cannot be restrained (Job 42:2). God is infinitely wise (Romans 11:33-36), and His loving, benevolent disposition is breathtaking (1 John 4:8; Ephesians 2:4; James 1:17). The gift of His Son to accommodate the redemption of rebellious humanity provides ample motive for surrendering one’s life to Him.
One of the most profound documents of the Old Testament is the book of Job. An interesting aspect of that narrative has to do with the worthiness of God as an object of human adoration. In a mysterious convocation at which Satan was present, the Lord introduced Job, the patriarch of Uz, as a trophy of human character—a spiritually mature, upright man who was unique among his contemporaries. Satan agreed, but suggested that Job’s righteous demeanor was the result of bribery! In other words, God had blessed Job so abundantly that the sage of Uz would have been foolish not to serve him. In a word, Job knew who buttered his bread!
The subtle and diabolical implication in this charge was this: “You, God, are not worthy of human devotion on the basis of your character; rather, men serve you only because you make it to their advantage to do so. Let us use Job as a test case. Take away his ‘goodies’ and he will abandon you.” And so, for our benefit (not for His own), the Lord accepted the challenge. Thus, Job was deprived of his wealth, his family, his health, his friends, and his prestige. He lost everything. And yet, the devout dignitary never forsook his faith in God. Though he lashed out in anguish at times—because he did not understand what was happening to him—he nonetheless proclaimed triumphantly: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15). The noble patriarch thus demonstrated this proposition: God is worthy of human service on the basis of His own nature—apart from the generous blessings He bestows. As the psalmist expressed it: “I will call upon Jehovah, who is worthy to be praised” (Psalm 18:3). We ought to praise God simply on account of Who He is!
THE RELATIONSHIP WE SUSTAIN TO OUR MAKER
Certain associations carry with them intrinsic responsibilities. One of those is that of the Creator/creature relationship. The “created” thing sustains a subordinate status to that which created it. Paul argued this very point in his letter to the Romans. “Or hath not a potter a right over the clay?,” he asked rhetorically (Romans 9:21). In the Greek text, the query implies an affirmative answer, as suggested by the particle ouk (cf. Matthew 13:55). The term rendered “right” in our common versions is the Greek exousia, literally “authority.” The potter, by virtue of his status, has authority over the vessel he has fashioned.
The historical facts are these. “Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7; cf. 3:19). The inspired writers of both testaments affirmed that the Lord is our “Creator” (Ecclesiastes 12:1; Isaiah 40:28; Romans 1:25), or our “Maker” (Psalm 95:6; Proverbs 14:31; Isaiah 17:7; Hosea 8:14). Hence, by virtue of this Creator/creature relationship, Jehovah has a right to commission human loyalty.
But there always has been a propensity in man to repudiate the Creator/creature relationship in order to justify human self-centeredness. More than anything else, some people want to be their own “God.” Seven centuries before the birth of Christ, Isaiah wrote regarding the rebels of his day: “Ye turn things upside down! Shall the potter be esteemed as clay; that the thing made should say of him that made it, He made me not; or the thing formed say of him that formed it, He hath no understanding?” (Isaiah 29:16). Of this arrogant claim: “He made me not,” Edward J. Young rightly observed: “Words more wrong, more foolish, more soul-destroying have never been uttered by human lips” (1969, 2:325). May we be chastened by the inspired writer: “Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:3, NASV).
This haughty and independent attitude, of course, is the motive behind the theory of evolution. Foolish man wishes to cut loose from the moral and religious ties that bind him to a sovereign Creator. Hence, he has fashioned gods of his own design—Mother Nature and Father Time—to whom he owes no responsibility. As the late George G. Simpson, the renowned paleontologist and evolutionist of Harvard University, once expressed it: “Man stands alone in the universe, a unique product of a long, unconscious, impersonal material process with unique understanding and potentialities. These he owes to no one but himself, and it is to himself that he is responsible. He is not the creature of uncontrollable and undeterminable forces, but is his own master. He can and must decide and manage his own destiny” (1953, p. 155).
Despite such infidelic protestations, the theory of naturalistic origins is void of proof that man is the “product of a long, unconscious, impersonal material process.” Rather, the evidence suggests that human beings are the result of an Intelligent Cause Who specially designed them (see Jackson, 1993; Thompson & Jackson, 1996). As creatures of divine planning, we have a responsibility to submit to God—and He has the right to require it!
THE HUMAN CONDITION
Another valid reason for serving Jehovah has to do with the “status quo” of the human family. As an old, country philosopher put it: “That’s Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.’ ” Nothing could be further from the truth than the old cliché: “Every day, in every way, we’re getting better and better.” The fact is, as Paul once wrote: “Evil men and impostors shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).
The presence of evil is apparent universally, and has been acknowledged from time immemorial. The Roman philosopher Seneca said: “We have all sinned, some more, and some less.” A Chinese proverb states: “There are two good men: one is dead and the other is not yet born.” Paul wrote: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And John bluntly noted: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
How is this deplorable condition to be remedied? Man never has been able to concoct a solution. When it was alleged that “education” could provide the answer, we discovered that education, without spiritual values, makes only more skillful criminals. Those who touted “psychology” as the panacea for human woes have lived to see one theory after another disappear into complete obscurity. Ours is now a world of escapists—alcoholics, drug-abusers, and dream-world mystics. [See related article, “I'm Not Guilty, I'm Just Sick.”] A recent news feature suggested that by the end of the next decade, the third leading cause of work disability will be clinical depression. We have more material security than any generation that has gone before us, but generally speaking we are a miserable lot. Is there no help for the human family?
Someone is bound to claim that religion surely is not the answer, for it has been around for centuries, and yet, here we are, in this sordid predicament. Yes, “religion” has been around alright, but it rarely has been tried on a massive scale in its pristine form. If the teaching of Jesus Christ were to be adopted sincerely and pursued rigorously by a significant segment of society, changes so dramatic would occur as to produce utter amazement. There is absolutely no remedy to human distress apart from the divine plan as implemented through the atoning work of Jesus of Nazareth. The Lord declared emphatically: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). This declaration carries validity because of the solid historical evidence that undergirds Christ’s authoritative claim of being the Son of God.
The truth is, there is no abiding contentment in a world without God. Out of a background of materialism and hedonism, Solomon, an inspired penman, proclaimed: “[T]he way of the transgressor is hard” (Proverbs 13:15). “Fear [reverence] God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
On the other hand, it is a lie which suggests that serving the Creator is all pain and tears. Moses was willing to forsake the temporal “pleasures of sin,” which are but for a season, to identify with the people of God. Why? He did so because he knew that the reproaches of Christ are vastly superior to the treasures of any land (Hebrews 11:24-26). For troubled souls in a world of confusion, the Scriptures offer hope: “And the peace of God which passes all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus announced: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). This passage has long perplexed multitudes. It cannot be a prophecy that finds its fulfillment in events following the return of Christ (as some allege), for there will be no Earth at that point (Matthew 24:35; 2 Peter 3:10ff.). Rather, it is a promise for those who yield to God—here and now! Barclay has shown that the “meek” person is the one who has been mastered by God (1974, pp. 240-242). The passage suggests this: As children of Him Who is the God of Heaven and Earth, those who yield to Christ will enjoy this planet’s blessings more than all others. The point is: People ought to serve the Lord for the sheer joy that it brings—not only in eternity, but right now, here on the Earth.
ALL ACCOUNTS NOT SETTLED IN THIS LIFE
Some years ago there was published an edition of Charles Darwin’s revolutionary volume, The Origin of Species. On the back dust jacket were these words: “This book has made a joke of ‘the Day of Judgment.’ ” If there is a joke in this, Jehovah will have the last laugh: “He that sitteth in the heavens will laugh: The Lord will have them in derision” (Psalm 2:4). The laughable thing is that man labors under the illusion that he can thwart the will of the Almighty. If there is no ultimate Judgment—where all wrongs are made right and where justice ultimately prevails—then life is indeed a meaningless riddle.
Consider the plight of Asaph who, according to the superscription, penned the seventy-third psalm. The poet had assumed that if one enjoyed a right relationship with God, his well-being always would be secure. Conversely, it is implied that rebellion against the Creator would bring only woe. That concept is suggested subtly in the opening verse of the narrative. However, as he considered the circumstances of his environment, Asaph was baffled by life’s inequities (73:2-9). In this state of bewilderment, his “steps had well nigh slipped,” i.e., he almost had lost his faith in Heaven’s providential government of earthly affairs. He surveyed the “prosperity of the wicked” and was confused. Though evil men wear pride like a chain around their neck, and their eyes bulge with opulence, they finally seem to die in peace. The godless live as though the Judge of the Earth has no knowledge of what is transpiring on His planet (10). Asaph wondered, therefore, whether his religious exercises had been for naught. He had attempted to serve his Maker, yet he suffered hardship consistently (13-14). What is the answer to this enigma? The writer says that he entered “into the sanctuary of God”—i.e., the place where divine truth was revealed. Delitzsch observed that he became privy to the “holy plans and ways of God” (1978, 5:318). He discovered that the “latter end” of the wicked would be destruction (17-18). He learned this truth: All accounts are not settled in this life! If there is no final Judgment, then it makes no difference at all as to how men live upon this globe. The life of Jesus Christ amounts to no more than that of Adolf Hitler. But who can live with such a senseless philosophy? No one who is rational can do so.
Orin Gifford wrote: “You may juggle human laws, you may fool with human courts, but there is a judgment to come, and from it there is no appeal” (Mead, 1965, p. 259). Men need to serve God because they possess an immortal soul that eventually will give account to the Creator.
There are multiplied thousands of people who are willing to give intellectual assent to the fact that a Supreme Being exists, but who do not see that such an idea bears any relationship to their daily personal lives. Technically, these people are designated as “deists.” They are theoretical theists, but practical atheists. Such people have made a tragic mistake. There are powerful and valid reasons for totally surrendering to the will of God, as such ultimately is made known in the revelation of the New Testament. May we urge our contemporaries to give due attention to such matters.
Barclay, William (1974), New Testament Words (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster).
Delitzsch, Franz (1978 Reprint), “Psalms,” Commentary on the Old Testament, C.F. Keil & F. Delitzsch (Grand Rapid, MI: Eerdmans).
Fuller, Daniel P. (1963), “God’s Sovereignty in Creation,” Things Most Surely Believed, ed. Clarence S. Roddy (Westwood, NJ: Revell).
Jackson, Wayne (1993), The Human Body: Accident or Design? (Stockton, CA: Courier Publications).
Mead, Frank S. (1965), The Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations (Westwood, NJ: Revell).
Simpson, George G. (1953), Life of the Past (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).
Thompson, Bert and Wayne Jackson (1996), The Case for the Existence of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Young, Edward J. (1969), The Book of Isaiah (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
America, Christianity, and the Culture War (Part III)
|by||Dave Miller, Ph.D.|
PRESIDENTIAL OATH OF OFFICE
Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States gives the precise wording of the oath of office to be taken by every individual who is elected to the presidency (“Presidential Oaths...”). Conspicuously absent from the oath are the closing words so familiar to our ears: “So help me God.” When did these final four words that affirm belief in the God of the Bible begin to be added to the presidential oath of office? The custom began on April 30, 1789 when the very first President sworn into office, George Washington, took it upon himself to add the words. Every President thereafter has followed Washington’s lead by adding the words “so help me God.” The oath mandated for the Vice President (and all other government employees), which is set out in the U.S. Code, actually mandates the phrase “so help me God” (2002, 5USC3331). What’s more, history records that after taking the oath, George Washington then leaned down and kissed the Bible (“President George...,” n.d.)! That tradition was followed by his successors until Benjamin Pierce broke the precedent in 1853, yet all have continued the traditions of placing their hand on the Bible and repeating “so help me God” at the conclusion of the oath (“Inaugurals of Presidents...”). Unconstitutional? Separation of church and state?
The public school system of today differs radically from the public education that was in effect from America’s beginning. For all practical purposes, God and the Bible have now been banned from public schools and Christian connections have been largely purged. What a far cry from early American schools where the religious and moral education of youth was paramount. It is a historical fact that the Bible was the central focus of American education from the very beginning—the first book in the classroom. The Bible was used, not only to teach content, but to teach a child how to read, memorize, recite, and even write (“The Story of...,” 2001).
New England Primer
The first textbook in the American school room was the New England Primer, extremely popular throughout the 1700s and 1800s. It was replete with Christian and Bible content (New England..., 1805). For example, page two of the 1805 edition has “A Divine Song of Praise to God, for a Child.” Page eleven gives “Agur’s Prayer,” taken directly from Proverbs 30:8-9, and “Duty of Children towards their Parents,” which simply quotes Matthew 15:4 and Ephesians 6:1. Pages 12-16 teach the alphabet using rhymed references to the Bible, including: “B—Thy life to mend, this Book attend”; “P—Peter denies, his Lord and cries”; “Q—Queen Esther comes, in Royal State, to save the Jews, from dismal Fate”; “R—Rachel doth mourn, for her First-born”; “S—Samuel anoints, whom God appoints”; “Z—Zaccheus he, did climb the tree, his Lord to see.” Page 17 offers “Moral Precepts for Children” followed by “The Lord’s Prayer.” Pages 19-21 have “A Cradle Hymn, by Dr. Watts” with numerous references to Christ. Page 21 has the familiar bedtime rhyme: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee, Lord, my soul to keep; If I should die before I wake, I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take.” This rhyme is followed by: “Good Children must: Fear God all day, parents obey, no false thing say, by no sin stray, love Christ always, in secret pray, mind little play, make no delay, in doing good.” Pages 22-29 recount the death of John Rodgers, “minister of the gospel,” who “died courageously for the gospel of Jesus Christ” at the hands of a Catholic queen. Pages 30-56 offer “The Shorter Catechism” consisting of scores of questions and answers from the Bible, concluding with “Some short and easy Questions”:
Q: Who made you? A: GodQ: Who redeemed you? A: Jesus ChristQ: Who sanctifies and preserves you? A: The Holy GhostQ: Of what are you made? A: DustQ: What doth that teach you? A: To be humble and mindful of death.Q: For what end was [sic] you made? A: To serve GodQ: How must you serve Him? A: In spirit and in truth
From pages 57-67, the student was treated to “A Dialogue Between Christ, a Youth, and the Devil” in which a child is encouraged to make the right decisions in life in preparation for death. Pages 68-70 consist of “Questions and Answers out of the Holy Scriptures.” Page 71 has “A short Prayer to be used every Morning” and “A short prayer to be used every Evening”—the very thing banned by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1960s. The final page (p. 72) closes with a poem that concludes with 1 Corinthians 15:55. This premiere American public school textbook is so thoroughly saturated with Bible teaching that it could just as easily be used in a church’s Sunday morning Bible class!
The next significant American public school textbook, Noah Webster’s The American Spelling Book published in 1787, revised in 1829 and renamed The Elementary Spelling Book(nicknamed “Blue-Back Speller”), dominated public education from the late 1700s through the Civil War, “selling some 70 million copies into the 20th century” (Monaghan, 2002, 25; cf. Monaghan, 1983). It, too, is literally laced with references to God, the Bible, Christianity, and Christian moral principles—all now deemed politically incorrect and unconstitutional. For example, the following sample sentences were designed to develop the student’s ability to read, pronounce, and build vocabulary [NOTE: Bold, bracketed material has been added to identify direct biblical citation]:
A rude girl will romp in the street (p. 24).Good boys and girls will act well (p. 24).The Holy Bible is the book of God (p. 26).To filch is to steal. We must not filch (p. 27).Strong drink will debase a man (p. 28).Teachers like to see their pupils polite to each other (p. 28).Good men obey the laws of God (p. 29).We go to church on the first day of the week (p. 30).God will bless those who do his will (p. 32).The preacher is to preach the gospel (p. 41).Felony is a crime that may be punished with death (p. 42).That idle boy is a very lazy fellow (p. 44).God made the ear, and He can hear (p. 46).The gambler wishes to get money without earning it (p. 49).Men devoted to mere amusement misemploy their time (p. 50).Washington was not a selfish man. He labored for the good of his country more than for himself (p. 50).We punish bad men to prevent crimes (p. 51).The drunkard’s face will publish his vice and his disgrace (p. 51).The devil is the great adversary of man (p. 52). [1 Peter 5:8]Labor makes us strong and healthy (p. 58).A vagrant is a wandering, lazy fellow (p. 58).We are apt to live forgetful of our continual dependence on the will of God (p. 66).The drunkard’s course is progressive; he begins by drinking a little, and shortens his life by drinking to excess (p. 67).Children should answer questions politely (p. 68).God governs the world in infinite wisdom; the Bible teaches us that it is our duty to worship Him (p. 69).It is a solemn thing to die and appear before God (p. 69).Children should respect and obey their parents (p. 70).Satan afflicted Job with sore boils (p. 72). [Job 2:7]“If sinners entice thee, consent thou not,” [Proverbs 1:10] but withdraw from their company (p. 72).The chewing of tobacco is a useless habit (p. 74).We should be attentive and helpful to strangers (p. 75). [Hebrews 13:2]Parents deserve the kind treatment of children (p. 75).Prayer is a duty... (p. 75).Confess your sins and forsake them (p. 76). [Proverbs 23:10]The wicked transgress the laws of God (p. 76).Before you rise in the morning or retire at night, give thanks to God for his mercies, and implore the continuance of his protection (p. 79).The laws of nature are sustained by the immediate presence and agency of God (p. 80).The Heavens declare an Almighty power that made them (p. 80). [Psalm 19:1]How can a young man cleanse his way? (p. 82). [Psalm 119:9]Oh, how love I Thy law! (p. 82). [Psalm 119:97]Let us lay up for ourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust can corrupt (p. 88). [Matthew 6:20]Humility is the prime ornament of the Christian (p. 91).A love of trifling amusements is derogatory to the Christian character (p. 92).God is the divine legislator... (p. 98).It is the duty of every good man to inspect the moral conduct of the man who is offered as a legislator at our yearly elections. If the people wish for good laws, they may have them, by electing good men (pp. 98-99).Noah and his family outlived all the people who lived before the flood (p. 101).God will forgive those who repent of their sins, and live a holy life (p. 101).Thy testimonies, O Lord, are very sure; holiness becometh thine house forever (p. 101). [Psalm 93:5]Do not attempt to deceive God; nor to mock him with solemn words whilst your heart is set to do evil (p. 101)A holy life will disarm death of its sting (p. 101). [1 Corinthians 15:56]God will impart grace to the humble penitent (p. 101). [1 Peter 5:5]Abusive words irritate the passions, but “a soft answer turneth away wrath” (p. 104). [Proverbs 15:1]Good manners are always becoming; ill manners are evidence of low breeding (p. 105).The heathen are those people who worship idols, or who know not the true God (p. 115).Those who enjoy the light of the gospel, and neglect to observe its precepts, are more criminal than the heathen (p. 115).It is every man’s duty to bequeath to his children a rich inheritance of pious precepts (p. 115).Bad boys sometimes know what a whip is by their feelings. This is a kind of knowledge which good boys dispense with (p. 120).“Take away your exactions from my people.” Ezek. xiv.9. (p. 121).Examine the Scriptures daily and carefully, and set an example of good works (p. 121). [Acts 17:11; Titus 2:7]The Bible, that is, the Old and the New Testament, contains the Holy Scriptures (p. 135).Whatever is wrong is a deviation from right, or from the just laws of God or man (p. 136).How happy men would be if they would always love what is right and hate what is wrong (p. 136). [Amos 5:15]
This volume also contains several fables that teach a variety of lessons. Consider Fable 1, titled “Of the Boy that Stole Apples”:
An old man found a rude boy upon one of his trees stealing apples, and desired him to come down; but the young saucebox told him plainly he would not. “Won’t you?” said the old man, “then I will fetch you down;” so he pulled up some turf or grass and threw at him; but this only made the youngster laugh, to think the old man should pretend to beat him down from the tree with grass only.“Well, well,” said the old man, “if neither words nor grass will do, I must try what virtue there is in stones;” so the old man pelted him heartily with stones, which soon made the young chap hasten down from the tree and beg the old man’s pardon (pp. 140-141).
By today’s standards, one would expect the outcome of this story to be that the police arrived on the scene, arrested and jailed the old man for injury to a child, followed by a civil suit filed by the boy’s parents for child abuse, thereby destroying the old man’s reputation and sending him into bankruptcy. In contrast, the book gives the following moral: “If good words and gentle means will not reclaim the wicked, they must be dealt with in a more severe manner” (p. 141).
Observe that a central purpose of the “Blue-Back Speller” was to instill in children proper conduct (i.e., what is courteous and polite vs. what is rude and socially unacceptable), moral integrity (evils of alcohol, lying, stealing, selfishness, etc.), and citizenship (patriotism, respect for the Founders, and love for God and country). Indeed, such truths and insights cultivate the soul, buoy the spirit, and prepare a child to lead a productive, disciplined, honorable life. In sharp contradistinction, the removal of these basic precepts from public education has had a catastrophic, deleterious effect on the moral sensibilities and social stability of the nation.
A third prominent source of public education was the McGuffey’s Reader. First printed in 1836, the series consisted of six readers corresponding to six levels of difficulty. With some 120 million copies sold between 1836 and 1890, “[p]ractically every American who attended public schools during the second half of the nineteenth century learned moral and ethical lessons from McGuffey’s Reader” (“McGuffey’s Reader,” 2005). These volumes, like those already noted, were riddled with a biblical worldview and the essentiality of Christian morality. In fact, in the Publisher’s Preface to the “Parent/Teacher Guide,” the President of Mott Media made the following insightful assessment of the views of McGuffey and the corresponding impact on American civilization:
How would McGuffey teach reading if he were here today? First, he would be concerned about the content of pupils’ reading. The content would promote moral growth and excellence of mind in habits, attitudes, and literary tastes. And morality, in McGuffey’s thinking, was closely aligned with the Christian religion; no other foundation could produce true morality (“McGuffey Readers...,” n.d., emp. added).
A quick perusal of the various tables of contents demonstrates the point. In the second reader (dated 1836), the readings include “Praise to God” (p. 77), “About Doing Good at Play” (p. 87), “The Honest Boy and the Thief” (p. 142), “The Lord’s Prayer” (p. 162), “The Disobedient Girl” (p. 166), “Story about Joseph” (p. 198), “The Ten Commandments” (p. 229), and “About Using Profane Language” (p. 233). In the third reader (dated 1837), the listing includes “The Goodness of God” (p. 157), “Touch not—Taste not—Handle not” [Colossians 2:21] (p. 208), and “Gospel Invitation” (p. 238). The fourth reader (dated 1838) includes “Divine Providence” (p. 168), “Scripture Lesson” (p. 182), “Thirsting after Righteousness” [Matthew 5:6] (p. 216), “Satan and Death at the Gate of Hell” (p. 232), “Christian Hymn of Triumph...” (p. 309), and “The Proverbs of Solomon” (p. 411). The revised edition of the fifth reader includes “The Bible the Best of Classics” (p. 350) and “My Mother’s Bible” (p. 351).
Moving to higher education, what has become of our universities? Sadly, over the last half century, many of the state universities of America have been infiltrated, subverted, and thoroughly transformed into intellectual cesspools advocating every imaginable left-wing, anti-Christian, anti-American, socialistic ideology. The universities are now controlled by political and social liberalism, and many of the professors are atheistic, agnostic, and humanistic. The universities bear a large share of the blame for the silencing of God and the jettisoning of the Bible that has taken place among the last three generations.
But it was not always so. Indeed, from the very beginning of the nation—and before—the colleges were founded by ardent advocates of Christianity who designed these institutions of higher learning for a singular purpose: to promote the Christian religion among the inhabitants of America. Such a claim sounds preposterous. Yet, the historical facts are plain and undeniable. As one example, simply visit the official Web site for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and see with one’s own eyes the wording of the original state constitution as it related to the establishment and ongoing purpose of Harvard. Part the Second, Chapter V, Section 1 pertains to “THE UNIVERSITY AT CAMBRIDGE, AND ENCOURAGEMENT OF LITERATURE, ETC.”:
Article I. Whereas our wise and pious ancestors, so early as the year one thousand six hundred and thirty-six, laid the foundation of Harvard College, in which university many persons of great eminence have, by the blessing of God, been initiated in those arts and sciences, which qualified them for public employments, both in church and state: and whereas the encouragement of arts and sciences, and all good literature, tends to the honor of God, the advantage of the Christian religion, and the great benefit of this and the other United States of America—it is declared, that the President and Fellows of Harvard College...shall have, hold, use, exercise and enjoy, all the powers, authorities, rights, liberties, privileges, immunities and franchises, which they now have or are entitled to have (Constitution..., emp. added).
What was the purpose of education? To encourage people to honor God and to demonstrate the “advantage,” i.e., superiority of, the Christian religion to the benefit of the entire country! Indeed, the 1636 rules of Harvard included the following declaration:
Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17.3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of Him (Prov. 2,3). Every one shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein (as quoted in Pierce, 1833, p. 5, emp. added).
The other universities at the beginning of America possessed the same orientation. So the facts are that from the 1700s to the middle of the twentieth century, American public schools were Bible-oriented. The textbooks immersed the children in the moral principles and religious doctrines of Christianity. What a tragic, heartbreaking, lethal transformation has come over American public education!
Many songs and hymns have come to characterize our national consciousness. “God of our Fathers” was selected as the official hymn of the Centennial observance commemorating the adoption of the Constitution (Smith, 2000). The lyrics reaffirm national sentiments regarding the role of God and the one true religion in America’s history:
God of our fathers, Whose almighty hand leads forth in beauty all the starry bandOf shining worlds in splendor through the skies Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.Thy love divine hath led us in the past, In this free land by Thee our lot is cast,Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay, Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence, Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;Thy true religion in our hearts increase, Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way, Lead us from night to never ending day;Fill all our lives with love and grace divine, And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.
Francis Scott Key, 35-year-old poet-lawyer, was aboard ship on September 13, 1814 eight miles away when he witnessed the valiant defense of Fort McHenry by American forces during the British bombardment in the war of 1812. The incident inspired him to write the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” He later stated: “Then, in that hour of deliverance, my heart spoke. Does not such a country, and such defenders of their country, deserve a song?” (“Fort McHenry...”). Though written in 1814, it was not until 1931 that the song was adopted by Congress as the official national anthem. Few Americans are aware that the fourth verse reaffirms the historic national attitude toward God:
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall standBetween their loved homes and the war’s desolation!Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued landPraise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall waveO’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
While studying at Andover Theological Seminary in 1831, Samuel Francis Smith wrote the song “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” also known simply as “America” (“Patriotic Melodies”). Observe the fourth verse:
Our fathers’ God, to thee, Author of liberty, to thee we sing;Long may our land be bright with freedom’s holy light.Protect us by thy might, Great God our King.
It was during the American Civil War in 1861, while visiting a Union Army camp on the Potomac River near Washington, D.C., that Julia Ward Howe received the inspiration to write the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (“Battle Hymn...”). The song is replete with allusions to Christianity:
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;His truth is marching on.I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps.They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;His day is marching on.I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;“As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal”;Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel [Genesis 3:15],Since God is marching on.He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;Our God is marching on.In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free;While God is marching on.He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,Our God is marching on.Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.
Few today realize that “hallelujah” is Hebrew for “praise the Lord.”
The words to “America the Beautiful” were written by Katharine Lee Bates in 1893, after an inspiring trip to the top of Pikes Peak, Colorado (“America the...”). It, too, acknowledges the historic national belief in and commitment to God:
O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!America! America! God shed His grace on thee,And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.America! America! May God thy gold refineTill all success be nobleness, and ev’ry gain divine.
What will the ACLU do about our cemeteries, in which graves are frequently marked with crosses and words from the Bible? Even our military (i.e, government) cemeteries are characterized by their connection to the Christian religion. In fact, in our military cemeteries in foreign lands (eight World War I and twelve World War II), with the occasional exception of a star of David, each constitutes a visually stunning sea of white, marble crosses(“Cemeteries”). The allusions to the Bible and the Christian religion in the cemeteries throughout America are legion.
MISCELLANEOUS INDICATORS IN PUBLIC LIFE
Other indications of the Christian religion characterizing public life in America thoroughly permeate history. For example, many Americans have some awareness of the famed Pony Express—a novel mail service that operated from April, 1860 to November, 1861, enabling letters sent from St. Joseph, Missouri to arrive in San Francisco in a phenomenal 10 days (as opposed to months later). But few know that every Pony Express rider was required to carry in his saddle bags a copy of the Bible (“The Bible,” n.d.)! Each rider was also required to take the following oath:
I, ____, do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while I am an employee of Russell, Majors and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God(“Pony Express History,” n.d., emp. added).
What about the fact that a Bible (provided by the Gideons—see “History of the Association,” n.d.) is located in virtually every hotel and motel room in the country? Not a Quran or the Buddhist Patakis. Further, consider the so-called “Blue laws” that were in force nationwide from before the beginning of the nation in which most businesses were required to close on Sunday in observance of the day of Christian worship (“Blue law,” 2006). Yet, these, too, since the 1960s, have been nearly expunged by the systematic silencing of God in recent years (Miller, 2003). What about the placement of crosses on the nation’s highways commemorating those who have died in automobile accidents? What about the myriad of names for geographical locations across the country that have come straight from the Bible? Everything from Bethlehem (in 19 states!) and Antioch (in 20 states) to Corpus Christi (Body of Christ), Texas and Las Cruces (The Crosses), New Mexico. All names that begin with San (San Francisco, San Antonio, San Diego, etc.) or Santa (Santa Fe, Santa Monica, Santa Anita, etc.) are of Christian derivation.
Such manifestations of America’s intimate affiliation with the God of the Bible and the Christian religion are legion. They could be multiplied many times over. From the very beginning of the country, and extending for some 180+ years, this country claimed that the God of the Bible was the God of the nation. But in just 50 years, subversive forces have been working overtime to expel God from culture and American civilization. They have accomplished so much that the America of the 21st century is in many respects a different country from the America of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. How so? Listen carefully to the words of Alexis de Tocqueville, French historian and politician, who visited America in 1831 and 1832, traveling the country, surveying American life. Upon his return to France, he penned his monumental Democracy in America (1835), which included the following astounding observations:
[T]here is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America; and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.... Christianity, therefore, reigns without obstacle, by universal consent; the consequence is, as I have before observed, that every principle of the moral world is fixed and determinate.... [T]he revolutionists of America are obliged to profess an ostensible respect for Christian morality and equity, which does not permit them to violate wantonly the laws that oppose their designs.... [W]hile the law permits the Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them from conceiving, and forbids them to commit, what is rash or unjust.... I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion—for who can search the human heart?—but I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole nation and to every rank of society.... The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.... How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie is not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? And what can be done with a people who are their own masters if they are not submissive to the Deity? (1835, 1:303-307, emp. added).
Haunting questions, indeed.
What can be done with Americans when they no longer acknowledge or submit to the God of the Bible, when they no longer believe that a nation is blessed only if its God is the Lord? On March 11, 1792, the father of our country made the following statement—particularly chilling in view of the specter of terrorism that hangs over the nation:
I am sure there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a Divine interposition in their affairs than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that Agency which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them (Washington, 1838, 10:222-223, emp. added).
In a speech delivered on February 23, 1852, second generation American, Daniel Webster, warned what would happen to America if she ever displaced God from His rightful position over the nation. His words were eerily prophetic in that they now describe America to a tee:
[I]f we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity (1903, 13:492-493, emp. added).
Ask yourself four questions: Are Americans—on a widespread scale—rejecting Christian instruction and authority? The polls show that fewer and fewer attend church service or follow the Bible. Are Americans violating the rules of eternal justice? Look at the unprecedented numbers of lawbreakers occupying overcrowded prisons, and the shift in the justice system that commenced in the 1960s favoring “criminal rights.” Are Americans trifling with the injunctions of morality? Unbelievably, we are actually having a national discussion on how to define marriage! Are Americans recklessly destroying the Constitution? Liberal Supreme Court justices are looking to the courts of the world for their opinions and federal judges are legislating from the bench—even overriding majority votes of the people. The haunting answer to these four questions is a resounding “Yes!” How, then, can we as a nation possibly escape catastrophe? We cannot.
Observe carefully how the words of Judges 2:10 so aptly describe the cataclysmic shift that has taken place in America between the World War II generation—“the greatest generation any society has ever produced” (“Tom Brokaw...”)—and those that have come after: “When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.” Since World War II, succeeding generations of Americans no longer acknowledge God and Christ and they are woefully ignorant of what God has done for America. A similar uncanny resemblance may be seen in the warning God issued to Solomon and the nation over which he served as king:
[I]f My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.... But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.... [E]veryone who passes by it will be astonished and say, “Why has the Lord done thus to this land and this house?” Then they will answer, “Because they forsook the Lord God of their fathers...and embraced other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this calamity on them (2 Chronicles 7:14-22, emp. added).
With the passing of the World War II generation, succeeding generations of Americans have come on the scene who have no interest in the higher, nobler aspects of human existence, cultivating moral excellence and the virtuous development of the human spirit. To show the extent to which Americans have degenerated in their sensibilities, who would have ever imagined that the day could ever come that an American Idol contestant would generate more votes than any U.S. President has received (August, et al., 2006, p. 23)? As the population of America continues its progressive entrenchment against God, the outcome is inevitable: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17, emp. added). Indeed, as Americans turn their back on the God of their fathers, so God will cease to bestow His protection and blessings. The only hope for America is to experience a nationwide spiritual awakening by returning to God and begging His forgiveness. Our only hope is for a sizeable percentage of Americans to rise up and act upon the factuality of the psalmist’s words: “Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.... Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:8,12).
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