October 4, 2013

The Modern Family

            The decline of each of the old world empires has correlated with the decline of the family. As the traditional, Biblically-based family died, the state died with it. 

Every time an empire has fallen, there have been four basic attributes: 
  1. The corruption and disregard for marriage
  2. A decreasing birthrate
  3. The denigration of the authority and role of parents
  4. A drastic rise in juvenile delinquency
America has each of these traits. This is because of the decreasing emphasis on the nuclear family. The family relationship has become an emotional bond; the home has become a place of cohabitation for individuals.

The Corruption and Disregard for Marriage

America is increasingly accepting and encouraging  non-traditional families, pushing the agenda of same-sex "marriage," and respecting cohabitation.  Pewsocialtrends.org reports in the article Decline of Marriage and Rising of New Families

 "By emphatic margins, the public does not see marriage as the only path to family formation. Fully 86% say a single parent and child constitute a family; nearly as many (80%) say an unmarried couple living together with a child is a family; and 63% say a gay or lesbian couple raising a child is a family."

 According to TIME magazine, in 1960 nearly 70% of American adults were married; now only about half are. Eight times as many children are born out of wedlock. In 1960, two-thirds of 20-somethings were married; in 2008 only 26% were married. Nearly 40% of Americans consider marriage to be on its way to be obsolete, up from 28% in 1978.
Clearly, America does not value marriage as it did in earlier times. The most common age for first marriages is nearing 30, as opposed to early 20s just a couple of decades ago. Some women are adopting children on their own, with no intention of providing a father-figure for them.

People are disregarding marriage because the culture around them has stepped away from the Biblical framework that marriage was intended to maintain.

Because of the shift away from marriage, children are affected, too. Pew Research continues:
 ...Changes in marital patterns have had a major impact on the lives of children in this country. Marriage is no longer considered a prerequisite for parenthood. Over the past 50 years, the share of children born to unmarried mothers has risen dramatically—increasing eightfold from 5% in 1960 to 41% in 2008. This trend has contributed to the decrease in the share of children under age 18 living with two married parents – to 64% in 2008 from 87% in 1960.”

America needs to return  to a Biblically-based view of marriage: one man, one woman; in a covenantal relationship for life.

A Decreasing Birthrate

Birthrates are plummeting. The U.S. has a historical low of 63 births out of one thousand women ages 15-44 (Washington Times, June 28, 2013). Couples want only one or two children, and they make snide remarks about those who refuse to use the Pill or other birth control.
 A 2008 study found that the popularity of soap operas seems to have had an effect in Brazil, where birthrates have dropped from from 6.25 to 1.81 in the past 50 years. The study suggests that television and romance novels alter certain cultural norms that, in turn, lead to women choosing to have fewer kids.
Whether it is media, more accessible abortions, birth control, or peer pressure, families need to understand that the Lord controls the womb. Children are a blessing and a heritage from the Lord, and He gives nothing more than that which he knows you can handle.

The Denigration of the Authority and Role of Parents

The government tries to take over the children through state education, compulsory attendance laws, Child Protective Services, and many other areas. The Church is to govern matters of the heart, while the government is merely to protect the freedom of citizens.  As George Gillespie wrote in Aaron's Rod Blossoming,  the Family is the Rod, the Church is the Keys, and the State is the Sword. The family is not the place to use the Sword; elders of the church are to hold fathers accountable to train, nurture, and admonish children in the principles and law of the Lord. 

Drastic Rise in Juvenile Delinquency 

There are roughly 75 million juvenile delinquents in the United States as of 2013.  Drugs and alcohol are relatively easy for troubled children to obtain, particularly in lower class communities where many authority figures are alcoholics and other people around the children are drug dealers. When these influences are combined with the breakdown of the family, unhealthy rap music, pornography, and lack of spiritual guidance, the children are easily caught up in crime. 

The solution to delinquency is for churches to actively reach out in the community - not by doing good deeds, but by proclaiming the gospel and reaching hearts. The young men and women caught in the welfare system need good mentors who will help them, and their parents need friends who will guide them to Scripture. 

The Solution

The American culture is a train headed the wrong way. Faster and faster, it follows a track that has been proven to end in cataclysmic fatality.  

There is only one way to stop a nation from ending in such disaster: God's Law.  We must return to His law, or we shall end in ruin, as did nations before us. We must set examples of God-fearing families, and raise up mighty men for God. If we train our own children to fear God and obey his commandments, if we instill in them a love for His word, and if we teach our children that being a follower is not an option -- we can change society. 

October 2, 2013

Practical Aspects of a Christian Culture

Henry van Til wrote, “Culture is religion externalized.” Every man is religious, and our culture in America reflects our religion as a whole. A nation’s laws, ethics, and public policies flow out of its collective cultural mindset -- i.e. its religion. As the United States moves closer to socialism, and Christians see examples of tyranny around them, many are asking: Could we have a Christian nation? How would it be possible? What would it look like? There have been several attempts in history to found a distinctively Christian culture: Calvin in Geneva, Knox in Scotland, and the Puritans in the New England colonies. America in its inception was a Christian nation. The founders knew that God was the Person who blessed their efforts for freedom and they publicly declared that he was the King of their nation. The characteristics and aspects of a Christian culture include: a foundation in Scripture, the public worship of God, and freedom for the individual.

The first and primary aspect of a Christian culture is a foundation in Scripture. Noah Webster said, “The moral principles and precepts found in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws.” He also said, “[T]he Christian religion… is the basis, or rather the source, of all genuine freedom in government… I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of Christianity have not a controlling influence.” If we as a nation are to follow God, we must go first to the book he has given us whereby we are told how to worship him in every area of life. We must take every law and examine it according to God’s principles laid out in Scripture. We must open up the lost book of the law, like King Josiah, and rid the country of everything unpleasing to God. James Otis (mentor of John Hancock and Samuel Adams; leader of the Sons of Liberty) said, “Has [government] any solid foundation? Any chief cornerstone?... I think it has an everlasting foundation in the unchangeable will of God… The sum of my argument is that civil government is of God.”
Secondly, we are to encourage a public worship of God. Not as the Muslims, praying in public five times a day, but we would worship God through our speeches, debates and addresses, acknowledging God as creator and ultimate decider of destiny. This is done both through our words and through our actions. Patrick Henry stated, “Righteousness alone can exalt America as a nation. Whoever thou art, remember this; and in thy sphere practice virtue thyself, and encourage it in others. He added, “The great pillars of all government and of social life are virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible.
Finally, the third practical aspect of a Christian culture is freedom and liberty for the individual. When a nation openly confesses to be a Christian nation, and makes every effort to follow the commands of God, the government will give freedom to the people, allowing them to select their officials. A Christian nation giving the people power to elect allows them to chose rulers with their best interests in mind. John Jay said, “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”
                        If we were to implement these essential principles, we would be able to say as did Robert Treat Paine, signer of the Declaration of Independence, hundreds of years ago: “I desire to bless and praise the name of God most high for appointing me my birth in a land of Gospel Light where the glorious tidings of a Savior and of pardon and salvation through Him have been continually sounding in mine ears.”

September 29, 2013

Response to Persecution

Christians today deny Christ in ways that would have stunned the early Church. They are under no real persecution, yet they are hesitant to proclaim their faith for fear of looking foolish. Furthermore, the Christians today do not have the success in influencing culture that the early Christians had in the days of persecution.

In the early days of the church under Rome, a controversy arose regarding what to do with the Christians who denied Christ under persecution and then asked to rejoin the church.
Emperor Valerian came to power in AD 253, and was away at war for all but one year of his reign. He sent a letter to the senate requiring all Christians to make sacrifices to the Roman gods on threat of execution. Roman citizens were required to carry certificates of proof of having given the pagan sacrifices.
At that time, several of the leading politicians and noblemen were Christians, and they had to make a choice to obey their Lord Emperor or obey their Lord Jesus.  As a response to this persecution, many Christians refused to make sacrifices to the Roman gods. Some of the Christians illegally acquired certificates to avoid persecution, while others, hoping to save their lives, offered the sacrifices required by Valerian's law.  Churches struggled with how to handle those who had recanted Christ but wanted to remain members of the church. The people who had purchased certificates went under discipline and were later allowed back into fellowship. But those who had recanted Christ were welcomed back into fellowship, although many were never allowed back to the Lord's Supper.

The Christians in America today that deny Christ would have horrified the early church fathers. These men and women are afraid of looking foolish and marring their good reputation, so when they are asked questions that are hard to answer, they base their answers in compromise and shamefacedly stammer what they think will be more palatable to their liberal, atheist colleagues.  The response to the Christians who are embarrassed to boldly proclaim their faith would have received a far harsher punishment than the disciplinary actions of the early church in Valerian's reign. Indeed, when a man in public office who is under no threat of death for stating his belief in an all-powerful, righteous God sheepishly admits his faith, he is disobeying Scripture and needs to repent of his actions. The early Christians had an understandable reason for compromise, though they were in sin. We do not. Christians in America are not burned at the stake, nor are they fed to lions.  The early Church most likely would have refused to let a man back into the fellowship of the brethren after such a recantation of faith as we see in America's public offices.

Christians need to be bold in stating their views on law, ethics, and public policy. The non-Christian philosopher Richard Taylor said,

"The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine lawgiver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, without noticing that in casting God aside, they have also abolished the meaningfulness of right and wrong as well."

Even a pagan sees that truth.   Christians should be ashamed to falter when asked their views on the Bible and morality. America needs to hear truth. We cannot remain silent. Perhaps the most obvious example is the controversy over homosexuality. A perversion only mentioned in whispers a couple of decades ago has become increasingly mainstream. Christian pastors and churches are accepting these individuals as members in their congregations, even ordaining them. Many of these pastors were hesitant at first to allow it, yet because of the incredible pressure, they accept this sin and refuse to denounce it.
The Bible gives us clear examples of how we should respond to these issues. We have no new dilemmas. Romans 1 says, "Though they [the Roman Christians] know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things [homosexuality] deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them."  In 1st Corinthians, we read of the perversions taking place in Corinth. Paul told them to remove the people who were in unrepentant sin from the church. The church today needs to be bold and do the same. Christians cannot be afraid to stand up for what is right, even when it is uncomfortable. 1st Peter 3:15 says, "In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect."

During Valerian's persecution, there were three Christian men: Priscus, Malchus, and Alexander. They were peasants, yet well-respected, and lived near Cesaria. They felt in their hearts that they were being cowardly and slothful by not telling of their faith, and exhorted one another to be strong, and to valiantly defend Christ under all odds. They straightway went to the city, and confronted the judge, asking him why he killed so many innocent Christians. He answered by saying, "They shall be thrown before wild beasts, to be torn by them, who do not like to see the blood of Christians shed!" And it is stated that it was done to them. There were some who thoughts Priscus, Malchus, and Alexander too impetuous. Writer A. Millinus replied to them,
"Who are you that you judge your brethren? How do you know of what spirit they were? No one has courage of himself; but it is the gift of God, not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for His name: hence, neither is of ourselves. They also did not seek their own honor, but to magnify the name of Christ by their death; to which, no doubt, they were impelled by divine zeal, since their zeal was not without knowledge, but proceeded from the power of faith: whereby they were prepared through the divine Spirit to proclaim the honor of God through their death; for this was their sole object."

This is the attitude that the early Christians possessed. Moreover, these three martyrs were not forced by anyone other than their own consciences, guided by the Holy Spirit, to approach the judge and demand an explanation for his cruelty.
Yet some Christians today do not jump at the chance for proclaiming truth and demanding justice, and even when asked, hesitate to state their position. This is a disgrace.
This is why Christians do not have as large an influence on the culture as they could, since they have such an opportunity to influence. When we read of these martyrs, we are often convicted of our own "cowardice and slothfulness," as these three men were, yet we do not do anything about it.
What will the men a thousand years from now be reading about us? Will they be reading about the Christians in the early 2000s who sacrificed comfort and reputation and professed their faith? Or will they be reading of how Christianity declined because of compromise and Western civilization went through a dark age where wickedness prevailed?

The church today must speak out against the men who are ashamed to openly profess their faith. It is a serious issue. If the early Christians were under severe Church discipline for obtaining false certification, how much more should the Christians today be made to see their error? Christians cannot be ashamed of the gospel. Romans 1:16a, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of salvation to everyone who believes."