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Scriptures to Vote by: Voting Christian in a Secular World

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Compiled by Paul A. Hughes, M.Div

Note: This collection of scriptures was first published during the 1992 presidential election.  A few additions have been made.  If only these warnings from Scripture had been more heeded back then, and since, by Christians of all types who decided to vote their own preference instead of God’s!  Think, in particular, what better appointments would have been made to the Supreme Court, had truly Christian presidents and other leaders been elected.

As another crucial election approaches, it is important to emphasize the need for Christians to vote according to their Christian convictions.

Some Christians think it is somehow “unspiritual” to participate in molding and influencing our nation through politics.  Others have bought the secular line that Christians should keep their religion separate from their politics.

However, it is not only the right but the solemn responsibility of all Christians to exploit every means to influence the world, including electing men of truth, justice, and character to their government, calling all their leaders to accountability, and punishing those who violate the public trust.

Now I cannot tell anyone else for whom to vote [though perhaps I ought to have done so, in retrospect], but I would like to offer a selection of scriptures we should all ponder before we vote.  These scriptures speak for themselves [or so I had hoped].

Seek the Nation’s Welfare

“Seek the peace of the city to which I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it; for in its peace shall ye have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7).

“Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way” (1 Samuel 12:23).

“I exhort, therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Seek Freedom of Worship

“Moses said, Behold, I go out from thee, and I will entreat the LORD. . . but let not Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD” (Exodus 8:29).

“For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem” (Ezra 9:9).

“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you; and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:1).

“Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds” (Colossians 4:3).

The World is Ignorant of God’s Truth

“The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them who believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

“We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

“Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).

Choose God, Not Self-Interest

“No man can serve two masters . . . . Ye cannot serve God and mammon (i.e., money)” (Matthew 6:24).

“If it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served . . . or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

“See I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil. . . . I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deuteronomy 30:15, 19).

“Seek not what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Luke 12:29-31).

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11).

Declare a Public Testimony

“Ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles” (Matthew 10:18).

“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).

“For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ” (Acts 18:28).

“For a long time, then, they abode there, speaking boldly in the Lord, who gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands” (Acts 14:3).

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).

“And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word . . . And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:29, 31).

“And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region” (Acts 13:49).

Do Not Aid Sinners in Their Cause

“Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them who hate the Lord? Therefore, there is wrath upon thee from before the Lord” (2 Chronicles 19:2).

“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 1:10-11).

“Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).

“He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth” (Luke 11:23).

Stand Against Evil

“Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).

“Them that sin, rebuke before all, that others also may fear” (1 Timothy 5:20).

“This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13).

“These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Titus 2:15).

Beware of Deceivers

“Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6, see also 4:14).

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15).

“For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect” (Mark 13:22).

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Distrust Human Counsel

“For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly toward you” (2 Corinthians 1:12).

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness” (1 Corinthians 3:19).

“My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).

“Woe to the rebellious children, saith the lord, who take counsel, but not of me; and who cover with a covering, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin” (Isaiah 30:1).

“We looked for peace, but no good came; and for a time of health, and behold, trouble!” (Jeremiah 8:15).

“They say still unto those who despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you” (Jeremiah 23:17, see also Ezekiel 13:10, 16).

Seek God for Guidance

“Thus saith the Lord, Stand in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk in it, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk in it” (Jeremiah 6:16).

“Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

“If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

©2015 Paul A. Hughes

Written by biblequestion

June 27, 2015 at 6:14 PM

Panentheism: Nexus of One World (Heretical) Religion

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Einstein Panentheism

Panentheism is not new, stemming as it does from Neoplatonism; and not rare, being widespread, in various forms and to various extents amongst the intelligentsia; yet is an unfamiliar term, even to most people who have encountered it in some form.  It is a man-made, philosophical religion which denies the authority of Scripture and brings together many threads of philosophy and speculation, including Neoplatonic Mysticism, speculative philosophy and theology, select elements of Christianity and other religions, speculative science (purporting legitimacy), in particular Evolution, and Environmentalism, with special appeal to Liberal Christians, New Age believers, semi-atheistic intellectuals, Social Gospel practitioners, Social Justice agitators, self-opinionated armchair theologians, “tree-huggers,” narcissistic “do-gooders,” and political Progressives of various other types.

In reality, Panentheism is Humanism in theistic garb, patently not Christianity, appealing to the selfish desire for apotheosis or self-deification, i.e., not to God but to self.  Observing the worldwide apostasy of this Age, and the “signs of the times,” there is good reason to associate Panentheism with the One-World Religion, the Religion of Man, which Bible-believers  anticipate will evolve into the religion of the Beast of John’s Revelation, otherwise known as the Antichrist.

Whether one believes this assertion or not, I encourage the reader to “save” the following basic description, in either text or the graphic form below, and from this time forward examine the theological claims and content of religionists, even one’s own church pastor, in its light, to see how he or she stacks up.

Panentheism

A Linchpin of Liberal One-World Religion

  • Increasingly a favored interpretation of Christianity amongst intellectuals.
  • Not to be confused with Pantheism (“all is God”).
  • Means “all is in God,” which includes evil.  Incorporates evil and redefines Redemption through its principle of Dialectic.
  • Influenced by Neoplatonist Metaphysics and Hegelian philosophy.
  • Related to the Process Theology of Whitehead and the New Theology of Karl Rahner.
  • Emphasizes unity of the Trinity (Perichoresis) in love and relationship.  Sees love, unity, Pacifism, science, and Environmentalism as the evolutionary path to unity with the Trinity and the universe by reflecting attributes of the Trinity (suggesting apotheosis).
  • Portrays God as continuously created and creating, not complete, evolving along with the universe, and influenced by Man.
  • Presumes truth about God discoverable in (theoretical) Quantum Physics.
  • Bypasses the Biblical Gospel and salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, who becomes at best ancillary.  Does not require Bible-based Christianity.
  • Influences Liberation Theology such as that of Jurgen Moltmann and Gustavo Gutiérrez.
  • Expressed by John A. T. Robinson in his concept of the Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God evolving through love and unity, but foresees no literal Second Coming (Parousia) of Christ.

Copyright © 2015 Paul A. Hughes

Social Gospel 101 - Panentheism

Panentheism

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Written by biblequestion

May 31, 2015 at 9:06 PM

Jerome’s Bad Dream

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Saint Jerome in Penitence by Hieronymous Bosch

Saint Jerome in Penitence by Hieronymous Bosch

“Ciceronianus es non Christianus”

In A.D. 375, around the middle of the Lenten season, Jerome had a dream.

The translator of Scripture into Latin had been baptized a Christian at age 19, but like many of his era, Jerome still loved to read “the judicious precepts of Quintilian, the rich and fluent eloquence of Cicero, the graver style of Fronto, and the smoothness of Pliny.”

After suffering a fever, Jerome experienced a realistic dream in which he was brought before a heavenly tribunal.  A voice demanded him to identify himself.  “I am a Christian,” Jerome replied.

“You lie,” insisted the voice.  “Ciceronianus es non Christianus (you are a Ciceronian, not a Christian), for ‘where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'”

Jerome, imagining himself scourged, vowed never again to read “worldly” books (a vow he kept for ten years before relenting).

Later, relating this experience in a letter to Eustochium, he advised, “So long as we are held down by this frail body, so long as we have our treasure in earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7); so long as the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh (Galatians 5:17), there can be no sure victory.  ‘Our adversary the devil goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour’ (1 Peter 5:8).”

“What communion has light with darkness?” he continued.  “‘And what concord has Christ with Belial?’ (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).  How can Horace go with the psalter, Virgil with the gospels, Cicero with the apostle?  Is not a brother made to stumble if he sees you sitting at meat in an idol’s temple? (1 Corinthians 8:10).  Although ‘unto the pure all things are pure’ (Titus 1:15), and ‘nothing is to be refused if it be received with thanksgiving’ (1 Timothy 4:4), still we ought not to drink the cup of Christ, and, at the same time, the cup of devils (1 Corinthians 10:21).”

A millennium and a half later, F. F. Bosworth, a well-respected Pentecostal preacher with an outstanding healing ministry, tendered a letter of resignation to the Assemblies of God.  “It is with regret,” he wrote, “that I return my credentials, but I believe that is the consistent thing to do, since I do not believe, nor can I ever teach, that all will speak in tongues when baptized in the Spirit.”  Bosworth had succumbed to doubting Scripture and his own Pentecostal experience on the basis that Charles Finney and other historic preachers he admired had not spoken in tongues.

Afterward, T. K. Leonard remarked, “I would spend more time in getting an experience that fits the Bible than I would in endeavoring to get the Bible to fit an experience” (in Carl Brumback, Like a River: the Early Years of the Assemblies of God [Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1977], pp. 66, 72).

It is perfectly true that with maturity and wisdom, a Christian may often handle ideas and activities that are external to Christianity, and even contrary to it, responsibly, incurring neither harm nor offense.  Yet Jerome is correct in regard to the risk, and inconsistency, of significant involvement in the contrary thought system of the world, and indeed any and all higher loyalties, or preconceived notions, apart from the clear teaching of Scripture and of the Holy Spirit.

Be careful what you read, what you spend your time on, what you put into your mind, and which personages you admire.  Even great Christians of the past had imperfections, and imperfect theology.  As Isaiah prophesied of Messiah, “Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good,” since a “child” must learn “to refuse the evil, and choose the good” (Isaiah 7:15 f.).

Copyright © 2013 Paul A. Hughes

Written by biblequestion

December 9, 2013 at 11:46 PM

Christianity Can Only Be Conservative

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Crowd Culture by Bernard Iddings Bell

by Paul A. Hughes, M.Div

In a retrospect on Crowd Culture: An Examination of the American Way of Life by Bernard Iddings Bell, W. Winston Elliott III (“Tyranny of the Herd”) concludes that

Bell believed that America’s obsession with egalitarianism had impoverished education, the arts, politics, and religion.  He did not write against the Common Man’s advancement, but against a society that seemed interested in advancing only on narrowly economic, materialist grounds.

Elliott further summarizes,

Schools had abandoned a foundational curriculum, failed to impart proper manners and civility, and left high achievers, the leaders of tomorrow, to fend for themselves in favor of an all-encompassing focus on equality.  Churches, too, increasingly instructed their congregations not in the timeless articles of the faith but watered-down, feckless accommodations to the latest trends.

Bell’s answer was Conservative nonconformity:

     … Bell urged rebels to challenge the cultural rot, but he warned these conservative iconoclasts that they should be prepared to suffer—whether in financial deprivation or personal scorn.  “We need such nonconformists,” he wrote, “if democracy is not to become absurd”….

A dated but still relevant video, “The Culture of Critique,” exposes the conspiracy begun by the Marxist “Frankfurt School” to undermine the roots and values of Western society.  Its method was to be so-called Critical Theory, which “criticizes basically every pillar of Western Civilization, promoting the leftist, liberal, multicultural, feminist viewpoint.”  Today, no one can credibly dispute its success.

Those of us who are Conservative and preach revealed truth, Biblical authority, and absolute values find that an increasing number of people question everything we say, not out of curiosity or to find answers, but to undermine the entire basis for truth.  The video reveals that such is the plan behind Political Correctness in universities and elsewhere.  Moreover, no proof, no explanation, no documentation ever satisfies them; they ignore proof and keep probing for weaknesses, or to wear down their opposition.

Such people have been likened to “playing chess with a pigeon“:  no matter how well you play, they just knock over the pieces, poop all over the board, and strut around like they think they are winning.

Conservatives are accused of being polarizing in their absolutes and intractability.  The polarization, on the contrary, comes from the Left.  It comes down to the basis of truth and the definition of good.  The world is moving away from the church and Christian revelation, and not in a way that can be countenanced by any believer.  For example, when a million healthy babies are aborted every year as birth-control-after-the-fact, a believer not only cannot in good conscience support the perpetrators of this crime, but is compelled to speak out against it.  When mood- and mind-altering drugs are legalized and mainstreamed, the Christian cannot be silent, and must not be moved.

Even many Christians try to make the principle of “love,” by some amorphous and facile definition, the overriding rule for Christian ideology.  But read your New Testament:  love is to be the Christian’s motivation for actions toward brethren, but never, ever, does love trump principle; else the Apostles, Paul in particular (who wrote the “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13), would not expend so much time and ink chastening those who stray, rebuking those who sin, and denouncing false doctrine wherever it is found.

Make no mistake, challenging sin that is increasingly acceptable to a callous world, and worldview, will not be taken as love:  it will be called crazy, “looney-tunes,” mean-spirited, oppressive, and all the other catchwords Lefties use.  However far Left the world shifts, the Christian must stand firm.  As the true Christian refuses to move, he/she will be increasingly marginalized by the Left.  Hence the divergence will not be academic, a matter of perspective, but ever more clearly becomes a choice between good and evil.

One term often used to nuke Conservative Christians is the Fundamentalist label.  This came about largely due to criticism of conservative Evangelicals, notably by James Barr in his book, Fundamentalism (1977); and was further applied by Western intelligentsia in order to link Conservatives to the Muslim perpetrators of the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979-80 (as a phenomenon or even pathology).  Those who lean Left go around pointing out people as Fundamentalist, stereotypically and pejoratively, in order to marginalize them.  Typically, the term does not strictly apply, certainly not to all Conservatives.

Earlier, I posted what I described as the Apostle Paul’s “Carnality Index.”  The chart is based upon exegesis from the New Testament, and is not overtly political:  thus is draws not from worldly categories, but the Apostle Paul’s categories of carnal versus spiritual, and licentious/Libertine (Left) compared to Near-Right spiritual and Ultra-Right Legalist.  Those categories just happen to correspond rather closely, relationally, to common socio-political conceptions of today’s Western society.

The Pauline Carnality Index

The Pauline Carnality Index

In the linked chart, those who are stereotyped as Fundamentalist would generally fall in the Legalistic Religionist category, though many Left-leaning pundits would throw anyone to the right of themselves into the same stereotypical, marginalizing ashcan.

Conversely, the Legalistic Religionists would tend to “label[…] those who disagree as liberal unbelieving people who think the Bible isn’t true” (to quote a commentator) — the other side of the same coin.  The Legalistic Religionists are just as carnal as Carnal Christians, maybe even the Carnal Unsaved, and fall just as much into the “question mark” area in terms of their salvation.  Paul’s writings make it clear that both are “at risk,” being motivated by the “flesh” (SARX, PSUCHE), not the Spirit of God.

Those who are Spiritual Christians are, of course, those who “walk in the Spirit,” not “in the flesh”; and I do believe that truly spiritual Christians fall to the right of Center (Conservative-leaning), especially since “perceived” Center gets shifted ever more Left as society and many professing Christians continue to apostasize.

As intimated above, true Christians believe an eternal, absolute message which does not shift Left any more than to the Far Right, and cannot be compromised, for neither our Lord nor his intent changes.

And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.  For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. ~Malachi 3:5 f., KJV

But from now on, in the eyes of the world, the rebellious, Nonconformist underclass is Conservatives who stand for traditional values and propositional truth.  Even within the Church, Conservatives will be excoriated as evildoers and “troublemakers”:

When Godly troublemakers act, we can expect many in the Church to denounce them as such.  If they bring hardship and persecution upon us, many will ask, as they questioned Moses, “Who put you in charge of us?  You have made us look bad in the eyes of the world!  It is your fault that we suffer!”  It will require great courage and self-sacrifice to stand in the face of bitter criticism, even that of our own brethren.  But if in obedience to God, how can we withhold? ~Paul A. Hughes, “God’s Troublemakers”

Meanwhile, America and the West are sinking precipitously into Barbarism in our frenzy to gratify and glorify self, and surrendering to Totalitarianism in our myopic quest for solutions and meaning.

© 2013 Paul A. Hughes

Written by biblequestion

February 20, 2013 at 6:46 PM

Be Not Discouraged

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Discouraged?

Discouraged?

It seems so many Christians today are either disgruntled or discouraged, sometimes both. Our church just had a wonderful time of ministry with guest speaker Vivian Boyles. If you missed it, you missed a blessing. Rev. Boyles has a special interest in healing and miracles, and is often used in those gifts. She prayed with each and every one who came forward for prayer, and provided many specific words of comfort and insight. But before she even came, I was struck by a message on miracles that she posted online, and in particular one statement: “People want to believe for a miracle, but fear the disappointment of unanswered prayer.”

I think that is true. Many Christians have been praying for healing and answers for a long time. They have heard a lot of big promises and “pat” answers from faith preachers, and perhaps have been encouraged to “believe for” things that the Lord might not have promised to them. They might in some cases been “sold a bill of goods” by their own wishful thinking. Or they might have taken a sure promise from God and added their own expectations to it, painted it with their own assumptions as to its meaning, its character, and its timing. Or having received a promise, they might simply lack patience to wait upon God.

Many Christians become disappointed in other Christians, or find that they do not feel as happy, excited, or fulfilled as they once were. The circumstances of life and relationships might not have lived up to their expectations. The fact that life is hard, and living a Christian life challenging, is often a disappointment to those with false expectations, especially if needful support systems, like the fellowship of the saints, are lacking.

Discouragement is hardly a new problem. Moses cried out desperately that God show him his glory, or he could not go on. Elijah ran from Jezebel and thought he was alone; but God replied, “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal.” Jeremiah said, “I cannot speak: for I am a child,” but God said, “Do not say, I am a child: for you shall go to all whom I shall send you.” Isaiah said, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips,” but God sent an angel with a coal from the altar to cleanse his lips. Again and again, God’s people are told to “fear not,” “be strong and of good courage,” “men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Lk 18:1), and “in due season we shall reap, if we do not faint ” (Gal 6:9).

A story going around the Internet, one of those anonymous “forwards,” portrays the devil having a yard sale, at which he is selling many of his used tools. These include hatred, jealously, deceit, lying, and pride. He is asked about a particular tool which is priced very high, and is labeled, “Discouragement.” The devil then explains that it is his most useful tool, because it works on Christians when all the others have failed.

Too true. What do Christians do when they become discouraged? Typically, their work for the Lord slacks off, they no longer read the Bible as they did, their devotional life suffers, prayer and fasting go by the boards, and their church attendance becomes less and less regular, as they isolate themselves from their Christian brethren. In short, they do exactly the opposite of those activities the Lord has provided in order to be instructed, built up, encouraged, comforted, strengthened, empowered, and mutually supported. Like a sheep that wanders from the flock, they become vulnerable to predators. A coal stays red hot only as long as it stays in the fire, but soon cools off when set apart.

Left unchecked, discouragement due to disappointment leads to 1) confusion, wondering if God still cares, and his promises are still true; 2) desperation, feeling compelled by unfulfilled needs and desires to do something drastic; then 3) compromise, as the discouraged person takes action and makes choices based on that desperation, in an attempt to satisfy those needs and desires; and ultimately 4) failure, if not moral, then certainly deviance from the call of God on one’s life, the path to being used by God and blessed. That failure is the path to destruction, which the devil wants, or at least to fruitlessness, for which the devil will gladly settle.

Make no mistake:  choosing to leave God’s path to follow your own is idolatry, as sure as Adam and Eve chose to be like God, “knowing good from evil,” that is, making their own choices.

But there is a path to recovery. Like the Prodigal Son, one must “come to his senses” as soon as possible, and return to the Father. One must begin again to know and believe the Word of God, to “be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph 5:17). One must get involved in a supportive fellowship of believers and begin to work for the Lord again. And one must become prayerful once again, seeking the Lord diligently, to receive his power and guidance by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to overcome sin and discouragement. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph 6:13).

© 2012 Paul A. Hughes

Written by biblequestion

March 15, 2012 at 2:32 AM

“I Didn’t Speak Up” – Updated 2011

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Martin Niemöller

Martin Niemöller

by Paul A. Hughes

Inspired by the famous warning by Martin Niemöller.*

In America, they first created the Welfare State and “Entitlements” — including Social Security, which they promised would be “temporary” — which have created generations of dependent masses.  But I didn’t speak up, because I wanted government benefits and security, too.

Then they created special government programs and rendered court decisions favoring select minorities, setting quotas and giving them advantages in education and jobs.  Then they added de facto amnesty for illegal aliens, who do not pay income tax and who use public services and unpaid medical care disproportionately.  But I didn’t speak up, because I didn’t want to be called a racist.

Then they declared that women were discriminated against because of childbearing, that a baby was “part of the mother” until delivery, and that a woman had the “choice” to abort her baby for any reason whatsoever.  But I didn’t speak up, because I didn’t want to be called a sexist.

Niemöller the U-Boat Captain in WWI

Niemöller as a U-Boat Captain in World War I

Then they made trade agreements that increased our trade deficit and exported American manufacturing jobs overseas, increasing unemployment, hopelessness, and poverty.  But I didn’t speak up, because I didn’t want to be associated with Protectionism, and I like cheap foreign goods, too.

Then they created special rights for certain deviant behaviors and lifestyles, enacting “hate crimes” laws that punish violence against certain persons more harshly — despite the fact that those laws violate the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment — and even punish speech.  But I didn’t speak up, because I didn’t want to be called a “hater” or a homophobe.

Then it became clear that our government had been infiltrated by Socialists, Communists, Statists, and radicals.  They went so far as to say that any opposition to a black president’s policies is inherently racist.  So I didn’t speak up, because I didn’t want to be associated with McCarthyism or the KKK.

Then they decided that the U.S. Constitution was outdated, and no longer applied to modern, “Progressive” America.  But there were too few people left to speak for my Constitutional rights, because they had all “sold out” to self-interest or surrendered to Political Correctness — all because people like me were too afraid that someone might call them a bad name.

* Niemöller was a Protestant pastor imprisoned by the Nazis from 1938 to 1945.  In a speech in Frankfurt in 1946 he said, “In Germany, the Nazis first came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.  Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.  Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.  Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak for me.”

Copyright 2011 Paul A. Hughes

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November 16, 2011 at 4:44 AM

The Molding of Jonathan Edwards

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Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards

A period of exceptional religious zeal, popularly called the Great Awakening, took place in the American colonies, spontaneously, in the decades preceding the American Revolutionary War.  One of the heralds of this new period was Jonathan Edwards.  Such was his effect upon the history of the North American continent that even the secular history books find that they, too, must give account of this man.  He conceived his purpose to show the public the Father; to urge them, through his writing in his preaching, to a greater understanding of God; and to maintain a deep personal relationship with him.

If there is one single factor that makes a biographical study of Jonathan Edwards difficult, it is the veritable plethora of information to be drawn from.  That numerous biographies of him are in circulation is evident upon first perusing the library catalog.  Then there are the many writings of the late minister himself to be pored over for meaty tidbits of insight into his personality and mental processes, not to mention the studies and critiques written on his works.  Once the chaff has been shaken from the wheat, there is still quite a lot of wheat left to deal with.  Therefore, a brief study must be severely limited in scope, targeting fixed objectives—and, in this case, encompassing his early life only.  The concentration of this paper, then, will be up on Edwards’ developing years:  his development, primarily spiritual and personal, and secondarily intellectual, into a man so obviously a cut above the ordinary, molded into an instrument of the revelation of the Almighty to his fellow men, lifted up and exalted by the sovereign will of God, and leaving an indelible mark upon both American and church history.

How does God choose a man, and use that mere earthen vessel to pour out his Word in the Spirit upon others?  Who, in fact, does He choose, and is there any rhyme or reason to it that mere mortals can hope to grasp?

Consider David, who became the great king of God’s chosen people.  He was an unknown shepherd, the youngest of eight sons of Jesse.  Scripture records that while he kept the sheep, the flock had been attacked by a lion and a bear, and he had killed each of them in hand-to-hand combat.1  Before David had ever come before King Saul, he had gained some notoriety as “a mighty, valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters. . . .”2  But did God choose him for his mettle—for what he had become in the natural—or had He chosen him long before, and molded him into what He would have him to be?  Did David, indeed, have an outstanding character, or was that character instilled in him by the power and presence of God?  It is a great mystery.

There was much discussion in earlier times about the importance of breeding in the molding of great men.  Whether high character, with all its associated attributes—culture, intellect, innovation, foresight, honesty, forthrightness, diligence, discernment, etc. —are actually transmitted by heredity or simply passed along by the less noble means of education and exposure during the growth process, is subject to some question.  Either way, there is much evidence that Jonathan Edwards was, to a large extent, influenced by his forebears.

The Edwards family back in England had been of ministerial stock.  Clerics, even Puritans, were given a high place on the social scale among their peers.  This ecclesiastical Edwards dynasty was cut short when great-great-grandfather Richard, having already sired son William, died of the plague in 1625.  Young William Edwards’ mother was remarried to James Coles, a cooper (a barrelmaker, an unglamorous trade).  William, not by choice, was raised to carry on his stepfather’s business, the only trade Mr. Coles was able to teach him.

William was eventually to emigrate to new England, evidently disposed to improve his lot in the more free and open economic climate, as well as to escape the entrenched disdain of Puritans by the Anglican majority in his native land.  In those early days, the new England frontier began not so very far from the ship’ s dock.  The life of frontier Puritans was one of hard work and hardship, and future Edwardses were to develop a sturdy constitution.

The trek to better economic fortunes paid off, for William’s son Richard Edwards was to improve his station from that of mere tradesman to that of merchantman.  Richard was able to send his son Timothy to Harvard to obtain a formal education.

Timothy Edwards studied six years at Harvard, intent upon entering the ministry.  He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees in two separate ceremonies held on the same day, July 4, 1694.  The reason for both undergraduate and graduate degrees being granted simultaneously is unclear.  After graduation he moved to the frontier village of East Windsor, Connecticut, where he pioneered a pastorate.  Though never achieving for himself any fame, he served his congregation respectably and faithfully for sixty-four years.3

Timothy married Esther Stoddard, one of the daughters of the influential Reverend Solomon Stoddard.  He was of great renown in the Connecticut River Valley, referred to by the Indians as “The White Man’s God.”4  Stoddard had waged a doctrinal war with the famous Cotton and Increase Mather for over a decade, and had emerged victorious.5  Esther Stoddard, who was to become the mother of Jonathan Edwards, inherited his forceful character.

Jonathan was born on October 5, 1703, in East Windsor, the only boy among ten sisters.  All the Edwards children were tall.  Timothy Edwards was known to refer as his “sixty feet of daughters.”6  Jonathan, as the only male sibling, was in line for special treatment.  From an early age, he was tutored at home.  His diligent parents made sure he was well grounded in the “basics”:  arithmetic, algebra, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, rhetoric, and logic.7  He became an avid reader—books in that day were rare and considered precious, but he managed to read widely in the important contemporary works.  Edwards’ own writings show that he was greatly influenced by the philosophy of John Locke, the science of Isaac Newton, the theology of Richard Baxter, and even the fiction of Daniel Defoe.

From childhood, Edwards expressed a great love for the outdoors—the countryside, the seashore, and all of nature.  He said to himself, “sometimes on fair days I find myself more particularly disposed to regard the glories of the world than to betake myself to the study of serious religion.”8

He and an immensely inquisitive mind:  “When I was yet a child, no children’s play to me was pleasing; all my mind was set serious to learn and know. . . .”9  While others his age were given to frivolous activities, young Jonathan was reading, writing, and—with eyes wide and mind open—observing.  It was his observation of those tiny creatures that live and move all about us, and the relentless drive to understand, that led him to write his earliest known literary work, “Of Insects,” at the tender age of eleven.

“Of Insects,” like other of his early works such as “Of the Rainbow” and “Notes on Natural Science,” was the product of a mind that would not—could not—stop thinking.  Here was a natural student, a boy who could not be content to know the facts, but who must always know why things are the way they are.  “Of Insects” was in no way a literary masterpiece.  In fact, the text is fraught with run-on sentences.  However, eleven-year-old Edwards shows himself to have developed an extensive vocabulary, and to wield a depth of philosophical thought far beyond his years.  This depth of thought was presently to astound the men of his generation, as it still does today.

As in the case with all the sons of men, though they be raised in a religious atmosphere and instilled with the most stringent Christian ethics, each must necessarily make his own personal commitment with the Almighty.  Such was the case with Jonathan Edwards.  In his own words:

I had a variety of concerns and exercises about my soul from my childhood; but had two more remarkable seasons of awakening before I met with that change by which I was brought to those new dispositions, and that new sense of things that I have since had.  The first time was when I was a boy, some years before I went to college, at a time of remarkable awakening in my father’s congregation.  I was then very much affected for many months, and concerned about the things of religion, and my soul’s salvation; and was abundant in duties.10

And again,

The first time that I remember that ever I found anything of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things, that has lived in me since, was on reading those words of I Timothy 1:17, “Now unto the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory forever and ever.  Amen.”11

The Puritan society in which Edwards lived was staunchly Calvinistic.  Their doctrine included that of Unconditional Predestination, the belief that God had chosen which souls would be saved and which would be damned at the beginning, and the individual was powerless to change or resist the divine plan.  The logical mind of Edwards, intent upon knowing the reasons why, rather than blindly accepting established views as fact, did not easily accept this:

From my childhood up, my mind has been wont to be full of objections against the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, in choosing whom He would to eternal life, and rejecting whom He pleased, leaving them eternally to perish, and be everlastingly in Hell.  It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me.  But I remember the time very well, when I seemed to be convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this sovereignty of God, and His justice in thus eternally disposing of  men, according to His sovereign pleasure.  But never could I give account, how, or by what means, I was thus convinced; not in the least imagining, in the time of it, nor a long time after, that there was any extraordinary influence of God’s Spirit in it; but only that now I saw further, and my reason apprehended the justice and reasonableness of it.12

Edwards had had doubts about this doctrine, but could not easily cast aside what had been drilled into him all his life.  Though unable to totally justify it in his mind, he finally came to the point where he was able to accept it in faith.  He was evidently resolved not to worry about it any longer.

At the tender age of thirteen he entered Yale College, in New Haven, Connecticut.  Yale, like Harvard and other New England colleges, had been founded by the Puritan Fathers with the training of future ministers in mine.  It was not entirely unusual for students to enter college so young in those days, but Jonathan was nevertheless younger than most of his peers.

In 1722, Edwards completed a stint of four years of undergraduate study and two years as a theology student.  He had distinguished himself in his studies, giving the valedictory address.  Then he traveled to New York City to begin serving as a minister in a Presbyterian Church, a time of solid, practical training for him.

In April of 1723, he returned to East Windsor for the summer, intending to serve at Yale as a tutor the next term.  He was subsequently to enter into what was probably the most trying period of his life, and a time of great emotional and spiritual growth.  It is fortunate for the historian that he kept a private journal during this period.  Many of the entries speak of his deep soul-searching attitude.  For example:

The reason why I, in the least, question my interest in God’s love and favor, is, —1.  Because I cannot speak so fully to my experience of that preparatory work, of which divines speak.  —2.  I do not remember that I experienced regeneration, in those steps, in which divines say that it is generally wrought, —3.  I do not feel the Christian graces sensibly enough, particularly faith.  I fear they are only such hypocritical outside affections, which wicked men may feel, as well as others.  They do not seem to be sufficiently inward, full, sincere, entire, and hearty.  They do not seem so substantial, and so wrought into my very nature, as I could wish.  —4.  Because I am sometimes guilty of sins of omission and commission.  Lately I have doubted, whether I do not transgress in evil speaking.13

The rector (president) of Yale, Timothy Cutler, had been a mentor to Jonathan when he first entered the school, and the young student had great respect for him.  Cutler had been trained in the Church of England, not unusual since Puritan institutions were a recent development, but when he began displaying strongly Episcopal leanings he was dismissed, along with three like-minded tutors.  This left only Jonathan and two other tutors to bear the bulk of the burden of discipline and organization.  These tutors were overworked in preparing and conducting lessons, the students had become unruly and disrespectful in the uproar, and Edwards was shaken by the downfall of his friend.

It must be kept in mind that, although he was a college graduate with an advanced degree, possessing eight months of solid ministerial experience, and entrusted with manly responsibilities, he was yet only twenty years old.  It is not surprising, therefore, that yet another source of pressure should rest upon the mind and shoulders of young Edwards:  he met a girl.

Sarah Pierrepont was a pretty brunette from an influential family.  Her father, James Pierrepont, was a Harvard graduate, and the established pastor of the New Haven church.  He had been instrumental in the founding of Yale.  Also among her progenitors was a mayor of New York City, and many other impressive characters.14  As the proper daughter of a leading family, Sarah had been well trained in the social graces of the day.  She had even been taught to play the lute.

Edwards was thoroughly smitten.  This young man who had dedicated his life to intense study and prayer, who wrote profusely along philosophical/theological lines, who maintained a strictly disciplined lifestyle in a society where the good pleasures of life were imbibed heartily, now spent much time dwelling upon romance.  Inside the cover of the Greek grammar book was found this description:

They say there is a young lady in [New Haven] who his beloved of that Great Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this Great Being, in some way or another invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything except to meditate on him…

Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it and cares not for it, and is unmindful of any pain or affliction.  She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and singular purity in her affections; is most just and conscientious in all her conduct; and you could not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful if you would give her all the world . . . .  She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness, and universal benevolence of mind . . . .

She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly, and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what.  She loves to be alone, walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her.15

Edwards was in no way prepared to undertake the task of winning such a prize as Sarah.  He was known to chide himself, during this period, for never having given attention to the social graces, as is recorded in his journal.16  he was a scholar, not a beau.  Tall and gangly, socially awkward and of a dismal, inanimate countenance, he stood little chance of making a favorable impression upon her.

Indeed, she was not impressed.  A mere teenager, Sarah did not find his immense loyalty or his already obvious attributes of achievement the least bit adventuresome.  It was too soon, in her mind, to settle on Jonathan as a husband.

At the Yale commencement exercises of 1725, the tutors, including Jonathan, received a raise:  “the tutors for their extraordinary Services of the year past and their trouble and pains in sorting the books and fixing Catalogues to ye Boxes have five pounds each added to their salary.”17  Riding home afterward to the East Windsor, Edwards was stricken down with pleurisy.  Ill for months, and unable to return to his duties at Yale, he resigned in 1726.  No doubt the enforced rest and separation from Sarah gave him plenty of time to consider his future.

Sarah led him on a merry chase for three years.  Lovesick Jonathan, faced with a distinct possibility of failure, had hit upon a plan:  to improve his social skills, so as to appear less awkward, more companionable, and more acceptable to Miss Sarah.  In time, whether as a result of “the plan” or not, Jonathan wed Sarah in a gala ceremony on July 28, 1727.

Edwards had accepted appointment as a pastoral assistant in Northampton, Massachusetts.  This was the church of his own grandfather, Solomon Stoddard.  Rev. Stoddard, at eighty-five years old, had decided to lighten his load.  His assistant was to preach every other Sunday in his place.  It was taken for granted that Edwards, when Stoddard died, would inherit his pulpit.

And so he did.  Stoddard died in February of 1729.  Edwards had already distinguished himself as an outstanding theologian.  Though in no way an orator—he wrote out his sermons beforehand and read them in the pulpit—his abilities in expounding doctrinal philosophy were soon recognized.  He was invited to address the Boston clergy in 1731, a significant honor.  His sermon was entitled, “God Glorified in the Work of Redemption, by the Greatness of Man’s Dependence upon Him, in the Whole of It.”18  In it he blamed the moral problems of the time on an attitude of self-satisfaction in religious circles.  The work became his first published sermon.

Edwards soon settled into his role as a pastor.  He was not known to make social visits upon his congregation, not considering himself socially oriented, but would promptly visit the sick and needy.  He did, at times, invite the young people of the church to his home for prayer and discussion.  He would spend most of his energies in prayer and meditation, and thirteen hours a day in concentrated study, with a time set aside each day for outdoor exercise.  He was well-known for his extensive library.

Sarah, his wife, was to bear him eleven children.  She became known as a model wife and mother, and the perfect help-mate for one such is he.  A family friend, Samuel Hopkins, wrote of her:

It was a happy circumstance that he could trust everything . . . to the care of Mrs. Edwards, with entire safety and with undoubting confidence.  She was a most judicious and faithful mistress of a family, habitually industrious, a sound economist, managing her household affairs with diligence and discretion.

While she uniformly paid a becoming deference to her husband and treated him with an entire respect, she spared no pains in conforming to his inclination and rendering everything in the family agreeable and pleasant; accounting it her greatest glory and there wherein she could best serve God and her generation, to be the means in this way of promoting his usefulness and happiness.19

Again, he recalled:

She had an excellent way of governing her children: she knew how to make them regard and obey her cheerfully, without loud angry words, much less heavy blows.  She seldom punished them; and in speaking to them, used gentle and pleasant words.  If any correction was necessary, she did not administer it in a passion; and when she had an occasion to reprove and rebuke she would do it in few words, without warmth and noise . . . .  She had need to speak but once; she was cheerfully obeyed; murmuring and answering again were not known among them…

The kind and gentle treatment they receive from their mother, while she strictly and punctiliously maintained her parental authority, seemed naturally to . . . promote a filial respect and affection, and to lead them to a mild tender treatment of each other.  Quarreling and contention, which too frequently take place among children, were in her family unknown.20

Thus we see the groundwork of the ministry of Jonathan Edwards.  His was a public ministry touched and blessed by the hand of God.  In addition, his sterling character and his very lifestyle were examples to his community and to the world of what a man of God should be.  He and his wife together built a household that was the envy of all.

The ministry of Jonathan Edwards has often been characterized as “fire and brimstone” because of his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  However, this harsh, stark message was in no way exemplary of his ministry.  His desire was to preach the gospel, not condemnation.  Consider some of his other works:  “A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Works of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls” (1737); “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God” (1741); “Some Thoughts concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England” (1742); “An Account of the Life of the Late Reverend Mr. David Brainerd” (1749, a biography of the self-sacrificing missionary to the American Indians, engaged to Edwards’ daughter Jerusha, but who died at the age of 29); “The Freedom of the Will” (1754); “The Nature of True Virtue” (1755); and “Concerning the End for Which God Created the World” (1755).

Edwards pastored the Northampton church until 1750, when he left in a time of controversy.  He served for a time as a minister and missionary to the Indians in Stockbridge, then was chosen as the new president of Princeton College.  After only a week in office, he was inoculated for smallpox, and died of complications on March 22, 1758.

Near death, Edwards had spoken of Sarah, who was not present:

Give my kindest love to my dear wife, and tell her that the uncommon union which has so long subsisted between us has been of such a nature as I trust is spiritual and therefore will continue forever.21

Two years later, Sarah, too, had passed away.

It was discussed earlier that one’s ancestry seems to have some bearing upon the character of the individual, whether by heredity or by the cumulative effect of family traditions, attitudes, and lifestyles.  As an interesting footnote, let us examine a study made of more than 1,400 descendents of the Jonathan Edwards/Sarah Pierrepont union by A. E. Winship in the year 1900.  He found that their marriage had produced: 13 college presidents; 65 professors; 100 lawyers, and the dean of an outstanding law school; 30 judges; 66 physicians, and a dean of a medical school; 80 holders of public office including three United States senators, mayors of three large cities, governors of three states, a vice president of the United States, and the comptroller of the United States Treasury, plus scores of college graduates, ministers, missionaries, prominent businessmen, authors, editors, and voluminous readers.  Even the “black sheep” of the family were outstanding, including the infamous revolutionary Aaron Burr.22

Scripture tells us repeatedly that the blessings of God or upon the generation (offspring) of the righteous.  It is said that the ultimate proof of a prophecy is to see it fulfilled.

Notes

  1. I Samuel xvii. 34-37.
  2. I Samuel xvi. 18.
  3. Ola Elizabeth Winslow, Jonathan Edwards (New York: The McMillan Co., 1940), pp. 5-7.
  4. Elizabeth D. Dodds, Marriage to a Difficult Man (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1971), p. 19.
  5. Perry Miller, Jonathan Edwards (Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1949), pp. 9-13.
  6. Dodds, p. 18.
  7. Edward H. Davidson, Jonathan Edwards: the Narrative of the Puritan Mind (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1966), p. 9.
  8. Dodds, p. 22.
  9. Ralph G. Turnbull, Jonathan Edwards, the Preacher (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1958), p. 13.
  10. Turnbull, p. 15.
  11. Turnbull, p. 16.
  12. Turnbull, p. 15.
  13. Vergilus Ferm, Puritan Sage: Collected Writings of Jonathan Edwards (New York, Library Publishers, 1953), p. 117.
  14. Dodds, p. 13.
  15. Dodds, p. 17.
  16. Dodds, p. 22.
  17. Dodds, p. 21.
  18. “Jonathan Edwards,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 1981 ed.
  19. Dodds, pp. 34, 35.
  20. Dodds, pp. 42, 43.
  21. Dodds, p. 201.
  22. Dodds, p. 38.

Also refer to Alfred Owen Aldridge, Jonathan Edwards (New York: Washington Square Press, 1964).

© 2011 Paul A. Hughes. Originally presented to Gaylan Claunch, in partial fulfillment of the course requirements for PME 112, Introduction to PME, Southwestern Assemblies of God University, April 7, 1983.

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June 10, 2011 at 3:03 PM