Friday, January 25, 2013

Savage Equality

It may very well be that outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's last act will prove to be his most impactful. Secretary Panetta has ordered to remove the ban on women serving in combat. The responses vary from zealous approval to pragmatic reservation. But I submit that stronger statements are needed. Let me be as clear as I know how to be. This is not a political mistep or strategically ill-advised. This is utterly barbaric. This is a savage equality.

Let me clarify what I mean by that. Not all equality is savage. In fact, the right kind of equality will save us from savage equality. It is a true and faithful saying that all men (and women) are created equal. Likewise, manhood and womanhood are equally valuable. However, they are not equal in the sense of indentical or interchangeable. But they are equally important and indespensable. Failure to grasp this truth will lead to barbarism.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that feminism and chauvinism are not opposites but two sides of the same horrific coin. They both deny the complementary of sexes and their roles and replace it with the Darwinist doctrine of survival of the fittest.

The chauvinist says that the roles of men and women aren't equally valuable and so he just slams those women folk into subjection. The feminist says that the roles of men and women aren't equally valuable and so the woman must act like a man. But the result is not harmony and fidelity. It's violence and savagery.

Engaging in combat is not a right or even a privilege. It's a horrific duty and I applaud all those who have served in our nation's armed forces. However, it's not a duty that should be trust upon just anyone. Likewise, it's not a statement about the value of a person.

David established a principle in I Samuel 30:24. The ancestor of our Lord divided the spoils of war equally among those who had fought in the front lines and those who had guarded the supply lines. Thus, differences in role (including in warfare) does not necessarily suggest a difference in value.

Thus, women should not be in combat. Not because they are incompetent, but because of the weight of responsibility God has placed upon men. Combat is a horrific thing and in all civilized nations (certainly all Christian nations) men have shielded women and children from its devastating effects. Only a barbaric society would tell women to protect us, rather than protecting them.

Increasingly, we are becoming a culture of violence. Guns are the scapegoat, used to trickour senses to believe that these string of mass shootings is just an external problem and not a systemic, heart-level catastrophe. We've become a culture of rape, violence and abuse. The aggression of masculinity is no longer tempered and channeled by the virtues of responsibility and self-sacrifice. Thus, women are left to fend for themselves.

We shake our fingers at the Roman coliseum and Aztec temples without realizing that we've become a culture of barbarians. I'm not trying to be melodramatic or over the top. I simply know no other terms that due the issue justice.

So, what are the people of God to do? Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. (Colossians 3:19). Men, take responsibility and do the hard jobs so that others won't have to. We are in a battle between "women and children first" and "survival of the fittest". Which does your life best portray?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Gospel, Tolerance and Religious Freedom

It's generally agreed upon in our culture that religious freedom is a good thing. I don't know of many people walking around waving signs saying, "Down With Religious Freedom! Repeal the First Amendment!" Right or Left, we all recognize (at least in theory) that religious freedom is a noble principle that ought to be a part of our society

But it's not quite as simple as that. We all have a functional religion that governs our lives, whether we like to admit it or not. Some might prefer to call this a "worldview" or a "philosophy of life" but now we're just splitting hairs. We all have a set of values by which we operate. Likewise, as cultures were have a set of values that governs our nation. In short, there's no such thing as a value-neutral government. Religious freedom does not mean a religionless nation. They don't exist. All governments must operate from a certain value set - a certain religion, if you'll pardon my language.

So, if all governments are, at least in that sense, religious how then can we have religious freedom? Well, it depends on whether the religion governing the land is one that professes salvation through faith or salvation through works. Because works are external actions they can forced up the citizenry. But faith is, by it's very nature, a free, voluntary, internal act. If faith is forced is ceases to be faith.

So, when a works-based religion gains hold over a government, religious freedom dies. Islam, for example, is a works-based religion. You can force people to utter the words, "There is one God and Mohammad is his prophet". Men can be made through coercion to practice the five pillars. If works can be forced than salvation by works can be forced as well. Thus, it's only logical for Islamist governments to bring people into salvation, by the sword if necessary. The Arab Spring is proving that the Islamist mindset cannot produce freedom of religion.

But Biblical Christianity is a faith-based religion. Men cannot be forced into having their hearts changed. They cannot be made by the sword to put their faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, a truly Christian government will not force people to become Christians, for that would ruin the whole point. A biblical State will protect the rights of non-Christians to freely and publicly worship; not because all religions are equally valid but because the State is simply not qualified to make disciples. That is to be done by churches and individual Christians, not by men in dark suits. Thus, a society can only have religious freedom if it understands the Christian Gospel of salvation by grace through faith.

Now, this is the part where someone raises their hand and says, "Um, Josh, I think you need to take world history again. Many Christian governments persecuted unbelievers."

That's only too true. I've been to Lima, Peru, and seen the old Inquisition there, complete with grotesque wax statues of tortured "heretics". It's tragically true that elements of Christendom have opposed religious freedom. But just because a nation has a crucifix on their flag doesn't mean they understand the Gospel. Just like pilgrimages to Mecca can be imposed by the State, so can baptism and saying "hail Mary". Every "Christian" government that has opposed religious freedom was operating from a gospel that had been, in some way, perverted. But if a culture does understand the Gospel it will secure religious rights for all. Therefore, it is not in opposition to religious freedom, but in defense of it, that we must be bold to spread the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Right now, the United States is governed by the Cult of Tolerance. It's is a functional religion with a functional gospel. "Tolerate and be saved." Does this religion allow for religious freedom? Increasingly, we are discovering that the answer is "no". Pastor Louie Giglio was originally supposed to give the benediction at President Obama's inauguration yesterday. However, he was dismissed after a sermon he preached against homosexuality came to light. On the one hand, I don't have a problem with this. It's Obama's gig and he can have whoever he wants give the benediction.

But it does demonstrate that the New Tolerance doesn't really give tolerance to everyone, but only to those who agree with its postmodern presuppositions. How ironic it is when the president talks of equality for his gay brothers while excluding those who disagree with him. The tolerance gospel cannot tolerate anything that disagrees with it because tolerance, unlike faith in Christ, is a work. And works can be enforced by legislation and men with guns. The State can force people to be tolerant. Thus, a tolerance-obsessed culture cannot allow for religious freedom. In contrast, a Christian nation must allow for the freedom of disagreeing religions or it is in some way sub-Christian. That's the paradox. If you say all religions are valid, any religions that disagree with that assertion will be treated as invalid. But if you say that Jesus is the only Way, than all religions will be tolerated.

Thus, may we protect religious freedom for all by insisting on the exclusiveness of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

7 Tenets of a Principled Optimist

In the past, I've described myself as a "principled optimist". Likewise, I made a comment a while back on Facebook that pessimism is the result of bad theology. All that needs a little clarification and I'm just now getting around to defining my terms.

1. A principled Christian optimist is not surprised when hardship comes. In fact, he expects it as the natural consequence of living in sin-cursed world. His optimism is not based on circumstances but perspective.

2. However, the perspective of a principled optimist is not a subjective, relativistic mind-binding. It's not so much about looking on the bright side as it is looking at reality - that is true Reality, the Person of God. A Christian optimist sounds more like Paul than Pollyanna.

3. The Christian optimist rests in the character of God as his source his optimism. He places himself in the stream of Christian thought that adheres, at least on some level, to the theory of  Gottfried Leibniz which states the world that exists is the best of all possible worlds. He also agrees with G.K. Chesterton that the real world is far more magical than any fairy tale.

4. Leibnizian theory: Because God is omniscient (all knowing) He knew all possible worlds and events that He could have brought into being. Because He is omnipotent and sovereign (all powerful) He was perfectly capable of bringing any of those worlds and events into being. But because He is omni-benevolent (all good) He chose to bring into existence the best possible world and events. This is the Christian's basis for optimism.

5. However, the principled optimist also recognizes that God's original world has been corrupted by humanity's fall. But he also recognizes that even the most horrible events ultimately conspire toward the glory of God and the good of humanity. Take for example the most horrific event in human history - the crucifixion of our Lord. It is also in another sense the best event in human history for it brought God glory and humanity redemption.

6. The principled optimists trusts God to work all things together for good, believing that even the most horrid of trials will be used by God to accomplish His ends. Therefore, the Christian can be optimistic even as he faces tribulation.

7. The principled optimist reads Romans 8 a lot.