Uncompromising Theology Outside the Ivory Tower

Posts by P. Andrew Sandlin

When Law and Liturgy Won’t Work

Posted on June 5, 2014

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It’s not surprising that we live in an age of liturgical renewal, because the stripped-down minimalism of modernity as expressed in liturgy has created a vacuum into which the superficialities and inanities and, in the case of some liberal churches, downright demons (like Lutheran goddess worship), have rushed. Liturgies are good, bad, or mediocre, but they are not is optional.  Conservatives’ liturgical renewal (liberals do have their own version and reasons for it) is designed to re-sacralize life in our deeply secular age.

 

No doubt a liturgical minimalism hasn’t assuaged secularism, but if you’ll examine Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age you’ll see his profoundly argued thesis that it was the retreat from godly “enchantment” as a “lived experience” (the constant awareness of God and his Spirit, as well as demons and Satan, actively at work in the world in all parts of one’s experience) that’s at the root of Western secularization. This retreat is reflected in the move, drenched in Enlightenment prejudices, to adhering to external structural (divine) law without godly “enchantment.” Ironically, the recent Reformed program of a return to a law-based society without the accompanying “lived experience” of godly “enchantment” of (for example) both ancient Israel and the primitive church is actually a capitulation (and contribution) to secularism in the church. Liturgical renewal, while significant, will equally contribute to that secularism, if unaccompanied by the very “lived experience” I mention above. It’s the constant reality of the living God forever surrounding us and constantly at work in the world, and not merely external obedience or superior liturgy, which will combat secularism.

 

The problem of secularism — and its solution — is much deeper than we sometimes imagine.

God’s Wisdom for Contemporary Youth

Posted on May 25, 2014

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Read: Proverbs 1:1–7

Introduction

A world of fools

The reason that our world is filled with such moral pollution and such frightening evil is that we have turned our backs on God. The wisest man who ever lived (apart from our Lord) said that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Paul tells us about the wicked: “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:18). If we do not fear God, we become fools. Our world is a fool-filled world, a culture of folly, because we have abandoned our God.

The fear of the Lord

What is the fear of the Lord? It is respect and reverence and even awe at God. It includes even terrifying reverence. It’s remarkable how clear the Bible is about this, but how infrequently Christians talk about it today. I was stimulated this week by a new article in Christianity Today titled, “How We Forgot the Holiness of God.” Here’s some of it:

When God shows up in Scripture, people cower and tremble. They go mute. The ones who manage speech fall into despair. Fainters abound. Take the prophet Daniel. He could stare down lions, but when the heavens opened, he swooned. Ezekiel, too, was overwhelmed by his vision of God. After witnessing Yahweh’s throne chariot lift into the air with the sound of a jet engine, he fell face-first to the ground. When Solomon dedicated the temple, the glory of the Lord was so overpowering, “the priests could not perform their service” (1 Kings 8:11).

New Testament types fared no better. John’s revelations left him lying on the ground “as though dead” (Rev. 1:17). The disciples dropped when they saw Jesus transfigured. Even the intrepid Saul marching to Damascus collapsed before the blazing brilliance of the resurrected Christ.

I understand why such accounts are jarring for us. They stand in stark contrast from popular depictions. In movies, angels are like teddy bears with wings. God is Morgan Freeman or some other avuncular figure. In Scripture, however, divine encounters are terrifying, leaving even the most stout and spiritual vibrating with fear — or lying face-down, unconscious.

This is what it means to fear the Lord: to recognize his greatness and his holiness and his differentness from us. God isn’t a superman. I like the expression: “One cannot speak of God simply by speaking of man in a loud voice” (Barth). God isn’t a super-sized human. God is God. The fear of this Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

The book of Proverbs was written to teach wisdom to young men, and, by extension, to young women also. If you are young (or not so young) and want to escape the evil and corruption and depravity and drunkenness and drug addiction and sexual diseases and a seemingly meaningless, worthless life, listen to Solomon. God taught Solomon the truth, Solomon teaches us.

Here are seven of those truths (and in only the first three chapters!):

Learn by Advice, Not Experience

First, wise people learn by advice, and fools learn by experience (Prov. 1:5). In the book of Proverbs, Solomon is constantly telling young people to obey godly counsel. In fact, that’s what the entire book is about. This entire book is godly counsel.

That idea is not popular today. The popular idea is: how can you know if something is right or wrong, how could you know if something is good for you, until you try it (hard drugs, binge drinking, premarital sex, “alternative” sex)? “Don’t listen to anybody else. Try it out on your own.”

Now I admit that this is a perfect example of wisdom — worldly wisdom. It has nothing to do with God’s wisdom.

We know this when it comes to very small children. We tell them not to touch the hot stove so that they won’t be burned. We’d never encourage them to touch a burning oven. But somehow, some way, somewhere along the way, we lose that wisdom. “Try out dope for yourself, and then decide.” “Everybody knows you should try sex before marriage to see if everything works out.” “Abandon Christ’s church, get away from God’s house, get unbelieving friends; try it out and see what happens, and then you can always change later if it doesn’t work out.”

My friends: human history is littered with the moral remains of people who refused to listen to godly counsel and had to find out “the facts” on their own.

Would you like to know where worldly wisdom started? It started in the Garden of Eden. The serpent was the first Mr. Worldly Wiseman. God gave wise counsel, but that wise counsel wasn’t sufficient for Adam and Eve. The serpent convinced Eve to find out on her own: “Don’t trust God’s word. Find out for yourself.” Our entire human race was immersed in sin because one man and one woman wouldn’t take wise counsel but wanted to experiment for themselves.

Stay Away from Wicked People

Second, stay away from wicked people. “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent” (Prov. 1:10). David had already reminded us in Psalm 1 — you’ll be blessed if you don’t walk in the counsel of the ungodly. Paul later declared that “[b]ad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33).

Some Christians have the idea that if they spend a lot of time with wicked people, they’ll influence the wicked for righteousness. The Bible teaches just the opposite. It teaches that the wicked will poison the righteous. I’m not talking about preaching the gospel to unbelievers. Of course, we must do that. This verse is talking about making the wicked your companions. If you have wicked companions, you’ll soon become wicked. If you hang out with fornicators or drug addicts or drunkards or secularists or the proud or thieves or those who mock God and his word, that’s soon what you’ll become.

If you want to become a godly person, a wise man or woman, go out of your way to become the companion of godly, wise people.  Gravitate toward godly people.

God made humans to have a remarkable capacity to influence one another. This capacity can be a great blessing or a great curse. It’s a great blessing if you spend lots of time with God-fearing people. It becomes a curse if you spend time with God-defying people.

Treasure the Word of God

Third, you get wisdom by treasuring the word of God. In the first few verses of chapter 2, God makes a great promise. He promises that if you seek for wisdom as hidden treasure, if you cry out for it, if you want it all costs, you’ll get it. Where do you find it? Verse 5 says: in his word. Knowledge and understanding and wisdom come out of his mouth. That wisdom from God’s mouth has been inscribed in the Bible. This means that if you want wisdom, you have to pant for it. This means that if you want wisdom, you have to want it more than anything. You must seek for it like a hidden treasure.

Listen carefully: you can’t be wise apart from reading and knowing and cherishing and treasuring the Bible. This book is where God lays out his wisdom. I said a little while ago that the fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It’s just the beginning. You can’t get wisdom for your life anywhere but in the Bible. Not just by having Christian friends. Not just by praying. Not just by attending church. Not just by singing great Christian hymns. All of these are important.

But you cannot get wisdom apart from reading the word of God.

But Solomon doesn’t just say that you get wisdom by reading the Bible. He says you have to treasure it.

No time for God’s word

We have an entire generation of churchgoers today who never read their Bible. The only time they even see Bible verses is in the church bulletin on Sunday. And the irony is the Bible has never been more available than today. I don’t mean just in hardcopies and bookstores. I mean on the web. You don’t even have to buy a Bible today. You can read the Bible for free anytime you want. You can download the entire Bible for $1-$6. That’s simply amazing.

While the Bible was never more accessible, there was never more ignorance of the Bible. The world is filled with fools. Sadly, the church is filled with fools. Why? Because people don’t treasure the Bible.

People say they don’t have time. That is false. You could read most chapters of Bible in anywhere from 4 to 8 minutes. That’s simply reading one chapter of the Bible a day, which is a lot more than most Christians read. If you don’t have 4 to 8 minutes a day for God’s word, cut something out of your life.

But if you read the word of God, if you treasure the Bible, it soon starts to change the way you think. It changes the way you make decisions. Little by little, you get wisdom. You start looking at the world the way God does. You quick making stupid decisions and doing stupid things.

This only happens if you read — and treasure — the word of God.

Avoid Sexual Sin

Fourth, avoid fornication at all costs (Prov. 2:16­-19). Solomon writes that if you treasure God’s word, it will keep you from sexual sin (including lust and porn). We live in a hyper-sexualized age. Soft-core pornography is everywhere you look. All sex is permitted and encouraged today. About the only remaining taboos are pedophilia and incest. But trust me, if things don’t change, in 20 or 30 years, incest and pedophilia will be as common as premarital and extramarital sex today. Don’t say it could never happen here. That’s what people said 30 years ago about same-sex marriage.

The Bible is not a book advocating sexual oppression. The Bible teaches that sexual intercourse is a wonderful gift of God (Heb. 13:4). It should be reserved for marriage. Why? Because God created us, and he knows what is best for us and make us happy. Sex outside of marriage gives immediate pleasure but brings long-term pain and destruction.

I sympathize deeply with young single Christians today. They’re pressured into sex wherever they turn. Our culture has turned its back on God at his word and his healthy sexual standards. I want young people to know that this church and I will do anything to help you. We’ll help anybody that wants to do right. However you are tempted, however you have fallen in the sin, please talk to me about it. I won’t beat you over the head with a hammer. We will help anyone that wants to do right.

But if you think that you can throw God sexual standards out the window without paying a price, you’re dead wrong. If you throw away God’s sexual standards, you’ll live a poisoned, enslaved life.

Give Your Heart to God Alone

Fifth, trust God’s truth, not your own ideas. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6). Don’t lean on your own understanding. We might think we are so wise apart from God, but we are nothing more than a Mr. Worldly Wiseman.

Two kinds of wisdom

In James 3:13-18, we read about two kinds of wisdom. There’s wisdom from above and wisdom from below. Wisdom from above comes from God and his word. Wisdom from below is sensual and demonic. That’s what the Bible says. Not just bad, but demonic. James talks about bitter jealousy and selfish ambition — that’s wisdom from below. Wisdom from below is rooted in self-centeredness. If you want your way all the time, and you don’t care about anybody else, you’re very wise indeed. The problem is that your wisdom is demonic wisdom.

If you want to gratify your own sexual desires; if you want to control everybody else’s lives; if you don’t care how your actions hurt everyone else; if you slander or gossip to destroy the character of people you don’t like, your wisdom is demonic wisdom.

Solomon says, don’t lean on your own understanding. Some of us have decisions confronting us today. Some are family decisions. Some are business decisions. Some are financial decisions. Some are church decisions. Our approach should never be, “What’s the smart move?” but, “What does God want?”

An immediate temptation when we’re faced with a difficulty or crisis is: “What’s the smart thing to do?” Let’s work to retrain our thinking so that our first response is: “What does God want us to do?” God gets to define what’s smart.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. This means that we can put full confidence in him to do what’s best for us in every situation. Note this comforting thought. God is constantly looking out for his people. God is never trying to harm his people. Even when he allows hardships to come into our lives, he’s not trying to harm us. This is why we can trust in him at every point. God always has our best interests at heart. This is why we should acknowledge him in all of our ways. We should trust our life to the one who would never do anything to harm us.

Honor God with Your Money

Sixth, if you put God first with your money, he’ll provide for you in ways you cannot imagine. Honor the Lord with your substance and with the “first fruits” of all your increase; if you do this, your barns will overflow (Prov. 3:9­-10).

Our money is God’s gift. He has first claim on our money, just as he has first claim on everything else. That’s why Solomon uses the word “first fruits.” The first fruits are the very beginning of the harvest in an agricultural society. The first fruits are the best. They represent the entire harvest. When we give God our first fruits, we are acknowledging that he has claim on everything.

If you learn to tithe to God when you’re young, you’ll never have a problem tithing when you’re older. My first job was snipping the weeds around the church. I was probably 9 or 10 years old. I think my pay was $5 a week. The first time I got paid, my dad turned the $5 into coins, and he took out $.50 and said, “The first tenth of anything that you get always goes back to God. Put it into the offering plate.”

From that day to this, I have tithed on every single dollar I’ve ever made.

If you learn to tithe on $5, and tithe faithfully, you’ll never have a problem tithing on $50 or $500 or $5000 or $5 million. Know this: if you won’t tithe on $5, you won’t tithe on $5000.

But if you do: God promises remarkable blessings. God doesn’t promise that all tithers will be millionaires. He doesn’t promise that we will never endure hard times financially. But he does promise that he will bless us abundantly. He will provide for our needs and our wants in ways that we cannot envision or predict.

It’s interesting that in Proverbs 3:10 he says that our vats will burst with wine. In the Bible, wine is identified with joy and rejoicing (Dt. 14:26; Ps. 104:15; Prov. 31:6). I’m sure that’s why Solomon chose this metaphor. He’s not teaching that if you tithe, you’ll own a vineyard and a winery. He’s teaching that God will fill your life with joy and happiness and satisfaction. God made us as his creatures. Therefore, he alone knows what satisfies us. And when we give back to him the first, the best, that satisfies and delights our hearts.

Don’t Get Tired of God’s Discipline

Seventh, and finally, don’t become weary with God’s discipline (Prov. 3:11-12). God doesn’t bring hardships and trials of your lives because he doesn’t care about us. He doesn’t bring them because he’s punishing us. He brings them because he’s transforming us into better disciples. Those two words have the same root: discipline and disciple. You can’t be a disciple of Jesus without discipline.

Sharon was telling our children the other day about an experience from her own childhood. She was playing with a neighborhood girlfriend whose parents let her do anything she wanted. Sharon and her other friend were complaining that their parents laid down rules for life — where they could go, when they ate, when they went to bed. This other girl said, “I wish my parents did that. Your parents love you enough to care about what you’re doing.”

God loves us enough to care about what we’re doing. He’s not an absentee parent. He’s not so busy doing other things that he doesn’t care for every one of us in a profoundly personal way.

Men and women who are most used by God are those whom he has brought through great hardships to make them effective for him. There are ways that you can know God, and lessons that you can learn, only in hard times. It is in betrayal and weakness and fatigue and illness and loneliness that God makes us stronger disciples. This means that if you’re committed above all else to a life of ease, you cannot be a good Christian. Hard times make good Christians.

Don’t be angry or weary at hardships.

Conclusion

Let’s review: (1) Learn by Advice, Not Experience; (2) Stay Away from Wicked People; (3) Treasure the Word of God; (4) Avoid Sexual Sin; (5) Give Your Heart to God Alone; (6) Honor God with Your Money; (7) Don’t Get Tired of God’s Discipline

If you want to be wise; if you want to avoid great shipwreck that will destroy your life; if you want to be 85 years old and look back on your life with great joy and delight and satisfaction, these are the ways to do it.

These are the wise ways because these are God’s ways.

Making Babies in a Brave New World, by Scott Masson

Posted on May 23, 2014

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Below is an insightful article from my friend Scott Masson (Ph.D., Durham), Associate Pastor at Westminster Chapel for College & Careers, Associate Professor of English Literature at Tyndale University College, specializing in the areas of hermeneutics and literary theory, and a Fellow at the Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity. Dr. Masson is a remarkably perceptive and courageous critic of contemporary Western culture.

P. Andrew Sandlin



“Sometimes things become possible if we want them bad enough” – T.S. Eliot

“Whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord;
But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death” –

Proverbs 8:35-36

 

John F. Kennedy

November 22, 1963 was an inauspicious day.  It marked the death of not one but three of the most significant figures in the technological age.  The time of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, leader of the free world, is burnt into the memories of his contemporaries.  The deaths of two others, Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis, almost escaped notice.

Aldous Huxley

Yet while television technology brought Kennedy his fame, and keeps the flame of his memory ever bright, it is the latter two men who now speak profoundly about the power that made him famous. To this day, Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World is read in high schools. The world it depicts, where people are “hatched” and “conditioned” by a social elite, prompts reflection on the stark contrast between the unchanging immoral nature of man and the unprecedented godlike power of technology to affect the human condition. Huxley’s dystopia is, like all good science fiction, a social commentary on power and responsibility, though an oddly (and perhaps tellingly) amoral one.

Although the relation of power and responsibility is a perennial theme in literature, science fiction breaks ranks with the entire humanities tradition precisely because of its object and its understanding of the human. The ethical teaching of the sages of the ancient world had equipped us to relate to our fellow man as individuals. They were not naïve. It was a Roman proverb that warned that homo homini lupus (man is a wolf to man). There was no nobility to our savagery in their eyes. But they assumed that man, as a creature living in his own world, would continue to propagate himself, his kin and his nation naturally, not turn his power upon himself. Regardless of the blight of war, pestilence and famine, he would never consider eradicating his own existence or the natural world around him as it had been created. The sages of old never considered that we would adopt what the philosopher Thomas Nagel has called the view from nowhere, or conceive that, as Hannah Arendt has observed of our scientific contemporaries’ perspective, the human condition was a prison to be escaped. To such a radical perspective, only Divine revelation can speak persuasively.

C.S. Lewis

I believe that is why it is those who have imbibed the wisdom of the Scriptures are so profoundly needed in our day. This is where the third of the men who died on that inauspicious fall day, C.S. Lewis, comes in. Unlike Huxley, he remains unread in most schools. Yet it was he who prophetically warned where unbridled technology and an amoral science bent on reimagining the human might lead.

Conquering man

In his wartime Durham lectures, later collected under the title The Abolition of Man, Lewis observed that a ruling class of technocrats and well-meaning experts had arisen who were seeking to conquer nature and its ills, only to end up conquering man. What they were doing in the name of humanity had a decidedly ironic and inhumane end. In his memorable words, “What we call Man’s power over Nature turns out to be power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.” He continued, “Man’s conquest of Nature, if the dreams of some scientific planners are realized, means the rule of a few hundreds of men over billions upon billions of men. There neither is nor can be any simple increase of power on Man’s side. Each new power won by man is a power over man as well.”

Humanitarians abolishing man

Speaking in 1945, Lewis was doubtless reflecting on the eugenics movement of his day and the totalizing power of the state, particularly evident in Nazi Germany; yet he was explicitly ruminating upon the educational and cultural establishment of his own country (and the Western world) that had given rise to it. It is this fact, which also characterizes the third installment of his own science fiction trilogy, which makes his insights as relevant as ever. The “humanitarian” impulse of the scientific and political elite has not left us, in fact, the social “conditioners” in education who have “abolished man” have gathered strength; biotechnology has become a huge element of our economy; and the power of technology has steadily grown and expanded into our very homes.

New humans, new human nature

This brings me to a column written recently in The Atlantic on assisted reproduction. It mused aloud, and as breathlessly and unselfconsciously as a teenager looking forward to the release of the latest video game, about the reproductive innovations we might expect from recent technological advancements. Yet for all its alleged intent, this was not merely an article on potential advances in biotechnology. The “hatching” and “conditioning” of a brave new world immediately come to mind. The game changer, which the author could present without any moral judgment attached, was not simply that technology had advanced to “make babies,” but more importantly, it had done so within a social and legal climate where what constituted human nature seemed almost infinitely malleable, particularly in relation to the family. This, according to the author, has a salutary effect. Reproduction would not only become more convenient and within “our” personal power control; it could henceforth also become more collective.

State-made babies

The bait of personal emancipation and empowerment through biotechnology with the switch of a collectivist sense of “our” good almost passed unnoticed. Mrs. Hillary Clinton once said, citing an unknown African proverb, that it takes a village to raise a child. If the columnist is correct, in the future, the village will produce the child. The only thing the article does not consider is precisely that specific conclusion: the humanistic and totalitarian state, which is everywhere redefining life, will start actually producing children itself to insure that they are properly conditioned, “healthy,” and really “well-adjusted,” so that “life” serves the state and what it, whoever it is, defines as the human good. As we have already seen, it’s already in the science fiction literature as far back as Huxley’s Brave New World and Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, and operative in the notion (at least in my country of Canada) that the public educators are “co-parents” with the natural family and can apply notions of human rights, enforced by Human Rights Tribunals, over and against traditional (and natural) definitions of the human.

Perhaps it is simply out of habit that the author is holding on to the notion that the “family” remains necessary for human flourishing, even if as he points out what we mean by family is constantly undergoing redefinition. Yet these seem to me to be tokenistic at best. The social progressives (just like the Communists before them) have long disputed the legitimacy of the natural family, and have always sought to eradicate it, root-and-branch. The family contains a natural hierarchy and sexual differentiation, a unity in diversity, which stands in the way of absolute equality, and the secular humanists’ ideal family, namely the state as family.

It won’t take long for some literary theorist to observe that the word “family” is a social construct that we have already redefined to make it unrecognizable to our forebears, and that not only can we dispense with it; we already have. In fact, the concept of family is actually an obstacle to the best means of support, namely the manufacture of ideal babies, directly supported by government “experts” with equal access to all the requisite funding, etc.

Welcome to the babies of the Brave New World.

God Chooses to Forget

Posted on May 18, 2014

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Read: 1 Kin. 11:4-6, 34; Heb. 10:16-17

 

Introduction

Please forgive my feigned irreverence, but how can the writer of 1 Kings say that David was wholly true to the Lord? How can the Holy Spirit (who was the primary author) say that David kept God’s statutes and commandments? David was a blatant adulterer. David conspired to murder one of the soldiers in his own army (the husband of the woman with whom he committed adultery). Reading the account of David’s life, we could never say that David was wholly true to the Lord or that he kept God’s statutes and commandments.

We know that God does not lie. God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2). It’s Satan that is a liar, and the father of lies (Jn. 8:44). God is the truth. If there is truth anywhere, there is truth in the Triune God. When we hold onto God, we are holding onto the truth.

And his word, the Bible is truth (Jn. 17:17). God wrote the Bible. And since God cannot lie, the Bible cannot lie. However we explain these perplexing statements in first Kings 11, we cannot say that God is lying, and we cannot say that God doesn’t know what’s going on.

What is God trying to say in 1 Kings, then? Why does he make these statements that seem to contradict what we know about David’s life?

 

Resolving a Seeming Contradiction

I’d like to make a suggestion. I believe that God chooses to forget. The Bible teaches this. We read that as a result of the new covenant in Jesus’ blood, God doesn’t remember our sins and lawless deeds anymore.

This doesn’t mean that he’s not aware of them. This doesn’t mean that he cannot know them (God’s forgetfulness is not ontological). God knows all things, and he certainly knows our sins. However, because he is God, because he is sovereign, he can choose to forget.

God’s “repressed memories”

In our earthly realm, we sometimes speak of “repressed memories.” There’s been a tragic, traumatic event in our or somebody else’s lives. Maybe it was war or capture in a battle. Maybe it was a death in the family. Maybe it was a painful illness. Maybe it was a dear friend turning on us. It was so painful to us that we choose to forget. It’s not that we don’t know about it. It’s that we don’t want to think about it, so we choose to forget it. We put it out of our mind.

Sometimes this isn’t a conscious choice. Some event is so traumatic that we unconsciously put it out of her mind. We literally can’t remember.

But sometimes we actually choose to forget. We make a conscious, determined choice to put something out of our mind, and when it enters our mind, we push it to the periphery. We choose to forget.

It appears that God chooses to forget in an absolute way that we can scarcely understand. Our sins are right before our face. David said, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3). Even when we confess our sins, it’s very hard for us to forget them. They just keep coming back to mind.

Therefore, we seem to think, by analogy, that God can’t forget them either. After all, God is omniscient (all-knowing). We are not omniscient, yet we remember our sins. Obviously, God remembers our sins. How couldn’t he? He knows everything!

God Is Powerful Enough to Forget

But we seem to forget is God isn’t only all knowing. He’s also omnipotent (all-powerful). He remembers a lot better than we do, but he forgets a lot better than we do.

When we repent of our sins, when we confess our sins, we put away our sins — and God puts them out of mind. In Psalm 51, David prays that God will hide his face from David’s sin.

That’s what God does. When we confess our sin, he forgives our sin, and he chooses to forget. God isn’t a grudge-holder. God forgives, and he really does forget.

Now perhaps we can understand why God told Solomon that David followed him entirely, that David obeyed God’s statutes and commandments.

Got erased all of David’s sins, and all he had left to see was David’s faithfulness and obedience. God couldn’t see anything but David’s heart-felt worship and obedience.

 

Hebrews Chapter 11

How else can we explain Hebrews chapter 11? This chapter is filled with the names of Old Testament saints. God holds them up as examples to wavering saints in the New Testament. (By the way, this shows us that the quality of faith in the Old Testament was not one bit inferior to the quality of faith in our New Testament times. The writer of Hebrews is saying that we should imitate the faith of our Old Testament brothers and sisters.) But we find it hard to understand how some names came to be on that list.

Abraham

Abraham was a great example of faith? But he lied about Sarah his wife to one of the pagan kings. He didn’t trust that God could protect her and him. Worse yet, he had intercourse with his wife’s servant in order to get the promised seed. This is how Ishmael came along (he’s likely the father of many modern Arabs). How could Abraham be a man of great faith? He didn’t trust God to give him and his wife the promised seed. He tried to produce the promised seed in a way that God did not design. It seems to me that that’s is an example of unbelief, not faith.

But when God recounted his deeds in Hebrews 11, he chose to forget.

What about you and me? What about all of the times we doubted God? What about the times we panicked, and didn’t pray, and worried, and made bad choices, like Abraham did?

Looking back over my own life, in the last 30 years I regret to say that almost every bad choice I’ve made was because I panicked and did not trust God. This is a lack of faith. It’s a sin. I’ve confessed that sin.

Maybe you are like me. You face big health problems. You have hard issues in your family. There’s too much month left at the end of the money. And you don’t calmly and simply lay all of this out before God. You act rashly. You act in unbelief. The good news is that if you confess your sin, God won’t remember it. God will choose to forget.

Sarah

And what about Abraham’s wife Sarah? She also is mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11 as a great woman of faith. Really? A great woman of faith? One time God sent angels to Abraham (Gen. 18:15). They came to verify God’s covenant promise. God would give to Abraham and Sarah a child in their old age. Sarah heard the angels talking to Abraham in the tent, and the Bible says that she laughed to herself. She was so unbelieving that she laughed at God’s promises. Then God came to Abraham and confronted him about Sarah’s laughing. And then she had the audacity to lie to God (“God, I didn’t laugh”). And then God said: “No, but you did laugh.”

This is the same Sarah that Hebrews chapter 11 identifies as a great woman of faith. “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised” (v. 11). Considered him faithful? She laughed at God’s promises, and then she lied about her laughing. But she repented, and God chose to forget. When he came to look on Sarah, all that he could see was her faith and truthfulness, not her unbelief and her deceit. All that God can seem to remember is that when the time came, she trusted God to do what he said he would do.

And what about us? Do we mock the promises of God in our heart? Like Sarah, do we laugh within ourselves? We never outwardly laugh at or mock God. But we read in the word that the Father glorifies Jesus by answering prayer (Jn. 14:13), and yet we often don’t believe this. Like Sarah, we laugh in our hearts. We somehow believe that God can’t (or won’t) heal illnesses; that he can’t (or won’t) save sinners; that he can’t (or won’t) bring wayward children back to the Faith; that he can’t (or won’t) supply our financial need; that he can’t (or won’t) send a great revival. This is an evil heart of unbelief (Heb. 3:12). Sometimes this evil heart is our heart.

But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins (1 Jn. 1:9). And he will choose to forget.

Samson

Hebrews 11 also mentions Samson as a great example of faith. Samson? The undisciplined judge? The self-centered judge? The judge who put his own appetites above everybody and everything else? The judge who lost his massive strength and lost his eyesight because of his sin? How could he be a great example of faith?

Because at the end of his life, he turned back to God. God used him to destroy more Philistines in his death than in his life. And God chose to forget his sin.

Some of us have acted like Samson. We’ve let lust overcome us. Perhaps with alcohol and drug or pornography addictions. Our undisciplined tongue has hurt people badly. We’ve played fast and loose with God’s law. Satan tries to tell us that we can’t make it back. We might as well continue in the Slough of Despond. That’s a satanic lie.

If we repent, and confess, and put away our sins, God chooses to forget.

Nobody reading about Samson in the Old Testament historical account would consider him a great man of faith. That’s because God interprets people’s lives differently than we do.

Sometimes we are much more lenient than God. Sometimes we’re much more severe than God.

God Keeps Forgetting

And God just keeps forgetting. Paul teaches that when we trust in Jesus, we get a new Lord (Rom. 6). Sin is no longer our lord. Jesus Christ is our Lord.

But this doesn’t mean that we reach sinless perfection. I was talking this past week with a dear friend. We were discussing what Hebrews 12:1-2 says. There we’re told to put aside the sin that easily weighs us down. Remember that this letter was written to Christians. In other words, there are true Christians who are weighed down by a sin that easily keeps them from running the race. It’s like rocks in the pocket of an Olympic sprinter. Maybe it’s anger, losing your temper. Maybe it’s lust, pornography. Maybe it’s worry, unbelief. Maybe it’s deception, lying: a life of little lies. Maybe it’s laziness; you just refuse to get up and work hard. Whatever it is, it’s that one sin that constantly weighs you down.

Whatever it is, it’s a weight that you can lay aside. I find it fascinating that this verse comes right after Hebrews 11. Did you notice that? All of these great witnesses from the Old Testament, these great people of faith, are looking down on us as we run our life’s race. We must run the race of life just as they did.

But we must never get the impression that we are weighed down by sin, although they were not weighed down by sin. What makes them so exemplary is not that they were never weighed down by sin. What makes them exemplary is that, like us, they were weighed down by sin, but they laid aside their weight of sin, just as we can.

God will forget our sin, just as he forgot their sin.

The unrepentant

This does not mean that God will forgive the sin of those who refuse to repent (Jer. 14:10–12; Hos. 8:13, 9:9). Those who turn their back on God; those who turn the their back on the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ; those who long for their sin and long to get God out of their lives — yes, God will remember their sin. And he will judge their sin.

But this is not true of his true people. It isn’t true of those who live lives of repentant obedience.

He chooses to forget our sin.

Conclusion

I want to conclude with an action item. It is a vital action item. It is a transformational action item.

Our growth as a Christian should be marked by our increasing tendency to view things the way God views them. Please ponder that statement.  We’re born as sinners. Sin affects our minds. We think as sinners. When God saves us, he starts changing our minds. It causes us to start thinking the way that he thinks.

We might even say that God has a worldview. The only totally correct worldview. We start reading the Bible and relying on the Holy Spirit so we’ll think more and more like God thinks. Of course, we need to act as God wants us to act, but we cannot do that until we think what God wants us to think.

And if God chooses to forget our sin, we must learn to forget our sin also.

When we confess and forsake our sin, God chooses to forget it. We must choose to forget it too.

When you and I keep remembering our sin, we are remembering what God has forgotten. If we keep remembering, we are filled with guilt and despair. We’re overcome with anxiety. We have no hope for the future. That’s what sin does. It destroys things. It destroys our entire worldview.

But as it relates to confessed sin, God is the master of the “forgetfulness worldview.” You can’t imagine the life of freedom and hope you’ll enjoy if you start looking at confessed sin the way that God does.

God chooses to forget our sin. So should we.

Radicalism Is Killing Liberalism

Posted on May 18, 2014

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In early 20th century Russia, the Marxist revolutionaries hated the liberal democrats even more than they hated the czarist empire (which was notably hateworthy). The conservative monarchy was autocratic and corrupt, but the liberal alternative, with its Western-style emphasis on free institutions, checks and balances, and procedural democracy stood squarely in the way of Lenin’s headlong rush into an utterly left-wing version of the czarist Empire. Lenin, you see, wasn’t against czars, just against conservative czars.

Mythical liberal gains

Conservatives today wring their hands over liberal gains, but it’s not liberalism that’s making the gains. In his historically astute and occasionally disturbing new book Silent Revolution: How the Left Rose to Political Power and Cultural Dominance, Barry Rubin documents that it’s radicalism, not liberalism, that’s the ascendant sociopolitical vision of our time. Ruben is a partisan of liberalism, the older liberalism, the Democratic liberalism of FDR and JFK, and the Republican liberalism of Dwight D Eisenhower and Richard M Nixon. It’s the liberalism of free markets with social safety nets, opposition to consolidations of power (including economic power), support of universal human rights (including racial equality), and the vigorous debate of ideas.

In Ruben’s genealogy, this liberalism caught a serious infection in the 60s and died during the first Obama administration. What replaced it, though continuing to march under its well-thought-of banner, was radicalism. By “radicalism” Rubin means a post-Communist social vision that he terms the Third Left.[1] It’s the social vision of 60s revolutionaries adapted to today’s Western democracy. Its goal is nothing less than cultural transformation. And it’s been a ringing success.

Liberalism versus Radicalism

Patriotism

What it has not been is liberalism. Ruben outlines the differences. Liberalism (along with conservatism) was patriotic. JFK was as anti-Communist as Ronald Reagan. Liberals no less than conservatives wanted American ideals of liberty to pervade the world.

Radicals, by contrast, ridiculed patriotism as jingoistic. America is the world’s problem, not the solution to the problem. Exhibit #1: the president’s global apology tour.

Free markets

Liberalism (along with conservatism) advocated free markets. The only substantive difference was the extent of the social safety nets the government would provide. Liberalism opposed large corporations because it believed (correctly or incorrectly) that they became bullies.

Radicalism, on the other hand, wanted to transfer society into one vast social safety net. Radicalism didn’t want to impose checks on the free market; it essentially wants to commandeer the market for its own purposes of social engineering. Exhibit #2: Obamacare.

Religious freedom

Liberalism (along with conservatism) championed religious freedom. JFK worked hard to assure the electorate that his Roman Catholicism would not undermine America’s traditional WASP culture. A leading political goal of both liberals and conservatives was to respect the free expression and exercise of religion. Pat Robertson, Pentecostal preacher, was a Republican presidential primary candidate. Jimmy Carter, Southern Baptist layman, won the presidency for the Democrats.

Alternatively, radicalism wanted to erase religious (specifically Christian) influence anywhere in society except between people’s two ears, and preferably even from there. Exhibit #3: the Obama administration argued before the Supreme Court that the religious convictions of Hobby Lobby against the coerced supply of contraceptives to employees had to bow to secular government (i.e., Obama administration) imperatives.

Rational discourse

Liberals were strong believers in the European Enlightenment. They believed in the priority and success of rational discourse. If all people of goodwill could simply sit down and discuss matters calmly and rationally, taking into account all the available evidence, they would more often than not arrive at identical or similar conclusions.

But this was far from the approach of the radicals, who believed that rational discourse was simply a cynical tool of white, privileged, power-hungry capitalists to preserve and perpetuate their cultural hegemony. The radicals, consequently, like their progenitors Marx and Lenin, wanted to sweep away rational discourse as well as the effective operation of American institutions within which it operated (checks and balances, courts, constitutional guarantees) in favor of “direct democracy,” meaning: an ideological mob shouting down all reasoned opposition in order to get their own way. Exhibit #4: Brandeis University’s cancelation of the commencement address and honorary degree for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, strong feminist and critic of Islam’s treatment of women, under pressure from radicals.

A colorblind society

Liberals and many (though unfortunately not all) conservatives wanted a racially colorblind society. Martin Luther King, Jr. was no more quintessentially liberal than when he declared, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” The original civil rights vision was a vision of legal de-racialization.

This is not the radical racial vision. That vision is for legal re-racialization in the form of quotas, preferential policies, guilt manipulation, and racial strife. Exhibit # 5: “Microaggression.”

The Radical Revolt Against Liberalism

Rubin implies, in fact, that at a number of points, radicalism is most nearly the opposite of liberalism. This thesis in particular piqued my interest. My own biological life almost exactly parallels the life of Third Left radicalism in the United States. I shared a biological birthday with an ideological birthday: U. S. radicalism. As a conservative Christian, I have observed its fits, starts, reversals, and triumph in the last five decades. Until encountering Rubin, I was under the impression that Obama’s radicalism was simply the latest permutation of early 20th century liberalism. Obama’s was merely the most recent poisonous fruit of the same corrupt tree that included Woodrow Wilson and FDR. Rubin has forced me, if not to abandon, at least to temper, that sociopolitical genealogy. Rubin (who passed away recently) was a true-blue liberal disturbed that his liberalism had been co-opted by essentially Marxist radicals. I am now at least willing to consider that thesis. When I heard for years that 60s radicals were rebelling against their Eisenhower-era liberal parents, I shrugged my shoulders. Now I realize this assessment might be quite literally true.

The Establishment Radicals

The radicals, Rubin theorizes, people like Bill Ayers from the Weathermen, were fanatically anti-establishment in the 60s but decided to become pro-establishment in the 70s. Why overturn the system when you can become the system? In the words of radical leader Van Jones,  “I’m willing to forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose for the deep satisfaction of radical ends.” Therefore, writes, Rubin

Although they entered the system, tens of thousands of ideologically oriented professors and scientists and political journalists; environmental, feminist, African American, or Hispanic activists; foundation and think-tank officials; artists, filmmakers, and other cultural producers; government and trade-union bureaucrats; and even politicians still remained radical activists. By entering into the system, they were not “selling out” or being co-opted. They still maintained their goal of thoroughgoing [cultural] change.

My Canadian friend, Dr. Scott Masson of the Ezra Institute, posited to me that the reason Canada radicalized so quickly since the 70s was that so many 60s U. S. draft-dodgers ended up teaching in Canadian universities. It’s one U. S. export (not the only one) that has harmed our Canadian neighbors.

Rubin popularizes (though does not mention) Richard Wolin’s thesis that late 60s European Maoists saw that political revolution was a dead end and instead recognized that if they captured the levers of culture they could get politics thrown in to boot. The success of radical feminism, the homosexual agenda, criminals’ rights, ubiquitous pornography, and the perpetual victimization of what Thomas Sowell calls “moral mascots” (the poor, the homeless, the racial minorities) is the result of an intentional radical agenda. There is no hint of a conspiracy here. The radicals, like Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto, disdained to conceal their aims. They aimed. They fired. They hit their target.

But Rubin wants to remind us that while radicalism is many things, liberal isn’t one of them.

Rubin concludes optimistically. The radical era will end because it must end. It will end for the same reason that the Soviet Union ended. It is not rooted in reality. It is rooted in ideology. It champions a false view of human nature. It refuses to take the Triune God into account. It is, in fact, a Grand Illusion. Grand Illusions die hard. But they do die.

Still, before it exhausts itself, this illusion will leave carnage in its wake. It has left carnage in its wake.

There is a price to pay for believing lies.

 

[1] The First Left is old-line 20th century liberalism, which Rubin embraces. The Second Left is the Marxist revolutionary radicalism of the 60s. The Third Left is the more recent (post-60s) establishment radicalism his book is about.

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