For Christians, selectively holding our political and prospective leaders to high moral standards reveals in us an unsettling lack of faith.
The past few months have been dominated by an endless parade of revelations about the sexual misconduct and predations of powerful men. From Hollywood to New York and from Minnesota to Alabama, and just about everywhere else in between, the depths to which fallen human nature can sink have been laid bare.
While these revelations are dismaying, they aren’t, or at least shouldn’t be, surprising. But what is both dismaying and surprising is the willingness of too many people to deny, excuse, overlook, and even dismiss wrongdoing when it’s committed by someone on “their team.”
Thus, one elected official, whose Christianity is well-attested, told the press that she was “troubled” by the accusation of sexual misconduct against her party’s candidate and that she “certainly had no reason to disbelieve” the candidate’s accusers. And yet she announced her intention to vote for that candidate because, in her words, “the United States Senate needs to have in my opinion, a majority of Republican votes to carry the day.”
It’s difficult to see what distinguishes this sort of reasoning from Gloria Steinem’s infamous defense of President Clinton two decades ago. Steinem urged feminists to defend Clinton because he was “vital” to “preserving reproductive freedom.”
Steinem concluded by writing “What if President Clinton lied under oath about [his sexual misconduct]? . . . There seems to be sympathy for keeping private sexual behavior private.” To do otherwise, Steinem concluded, “will disqualify energy and talent the country needs.”
Now someone who disagreed with that kind of rationalizing back then and would, I’m confident, disagree now, was Chuck Colson.
At the height of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandals, he called the sympathy Steinem alluded to “completely wrong-headed.” He went on to say that “In a democracy, character and leadership are inseparable.”
He then told the story of how George Washington defused a potential mutiny by unpaid Continental Army veterans. Meeting with his officers and urging them to give Congress more time, Washington paused to put on his glasses, and said “Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself going blind.” The soldiers began to weep. Mutiny was averted.
As Thomas Jefferson later wrote, “the moderation and virtue of a single [man] probably prevented this Revolution from being closed, as most others have been, by a subversion of that liberty it was intended to establish.”
As Chuck said, “What the Founders understood is that character is the first requirement of leadership,” because “a nation whose leaders do not lead through their own example of virtue and character cannot inspire sacrifice for the common good.”
One of the things I respect most about Chuck is that he did not apply these principles selectively. Those of us who knew him are aware of the pain that he felt when prominent Christian elected officials, some whom he regarded as sons, succumbed to temptation and saw their moral failings exposed in humiliating fashion.
Chuck stood by his friends but he never excused their actions. He told them that they needed to resign their office and get their lives in order. Character wasn’t a partisan issue for him.
Based on recent events, it’s reasonable to wonder if the same thing is true of us. Now let me be clear; due process is due to the accused. However, too many are justifying the well-documented 180-degree turn Christians have done on the importance of character in public office by appealing to some overriding, political concern.
But if it was wrong 20 years ago, it’s wrong today. And it’s a terrible witness.
In the end, where do we place our trust? We do not have to sacrifice our principles or our witness on the altar of political expedience—precisely because of the ultimate Truth we believe in and live for: that Christ is risen, that He is Lord. And that He ultimately will restore all things. No election can ever change that.
As John, and Chuck, have reiterated, the character of our elected officials matters, no matter what their political party. When our leaders demonstrate virtue and integrity in their personal as well as public lives, they provide an example for future generations.
Chuck Colson | BreakPoint.org | February 24, 1998
Albert Mohler | Bethany House Publishers | October 2014
Joseph Stowell | Zondervan Publishing | March 2017
On this program, the hosts continue their discussion which began last week on the influence of the Radical Reformation. How did the theology of the Anabaptist and Pietist movements end up influencing so many forms of Protestantism, both here in America and around the world? And more specifically, how did these views shape the founders of the Enlightenment and help create what we know today as Protestant Liberalism? Join us on this edition of White Horse Inn.
“We are continuing our discussion of the impact of the other reformation we hardly ever talk about, the Radical Reformation, on liberal Protestantism. Radicalism didn’t come from the Reformation. It’s often called the ‘leftwing reformation’ but it actually came from the late Middle Ages. A movement that came to be known as radical Anabaptism was millennial and utopian, expecting a radical age of the Spirit that would wash away all history and tradition and all external authority.
“This radical impulse has been part of Protestantism down to the present day. And if you look at Protestant Liberalism today, it looks very similar to this radical Anabaptist movement, as do many evangelical movements. And so, in a really profound way, even though evangelicals and liberals are at each other’s throats, they are more engaged in a sibling rivalry than they are successors of Luther and Calvin. In this program, we want to look at the ongoing influence of this radical element in Protestantism that is totally different from the 16th century Reformation led by Martin Luther and other reformers.” – Michael Horton
In the sphere of religion, in particular, the present time is a time of conflict; the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology. This modern non-redemptive religion is called “liberalism.”
This movement is so various in its manifestations that one may almost despair of finding any common name which will apply to all its forms. But manifold as are the forms in which the movement appears, the root of the movement is one; the many varieties of modern liberal religion are rooted in naturalism—that is, in the denial of any entrance of the creative power of God (as distinguished from the ordinary course of nature) in connection with the origin of Christianity. (Adapted from J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism)
(This podcast is by White Horse Inn. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
According to a recent Pew study, 53% of American Protestants couldn’t identify Martin Luther as the one who started the Reformation, and fewer than 30% of white Evangelicals were unable to identify Protestantism as the faith which embraces the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
On this program, the hosts will attempt to show that contemporary Christians, whether liberal or conservative, have more in common with the theology of the Anabaptist reformers than they do with the views of Luther and Calvin expressed in the great Reformation solas. Join us as we continue to think about the Reformation on this edition of White Horse Inn.
“Much of the hoopla surrounding the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year has been, well, let’s just say, blather. At a joint service in Lund, Sweden, on October 31st, 2016, Pope Francis and the president of the World Lutheran Federation exchanged warm feelings. Reverend Martin Junge, general secretary of the mainline Lutheran body said in a press release from the joint service, ‘I’m carried by the profound conviction that by working towards reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics, we’re working towards justice, peace and reconciliation in a world torn by conflict and violence.’ Clearly, the focus wasn’t on truth.
“Acknowledging Luther’s positive contributions, the Pope spoke of how important Christian unity is to bring healing and reconciliation to a world divided by violence. But he added, ‘We have no intention of correcting what took place, but to tell that history differently.’ Perhaps the most evident example of missing the point is the statement by Swiss Pastor and President of an ecumenical church convention in Berlin last year, Christina Aus der Au. She said, ‘Reformation means courageously seeking what is new and turning away from old familiar customs.’ That’s what the reformation was all about, why average lay people and archbishops gave their bodies to be burned and the western church was divided – a lot people just got really tired of the same old thing.
“The Wall Street Journal reports a Pew study showing that 53 percent of U.S. Protestants couldn’t identify Martin Luther as the one who started the Reformation. Oddly, Jews, atheists and Mormons were more familiar with Luther than Protestants. In fact, fewer than three in ten white evangelicals correctly identify Protestantism as the faith that believes in the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Three in ten. Many today who claim the Reformation as their heritage are more likely heirs of the radical Anabaptists. It might sound crazy, but here is my thesis. The Reformation isn’t over because it hasn’t begun in America. Protestantism is definitely over and the radicals won.” – Michael Horton
The “Inner Light,” also called “Inward Light,” is often thought to be a distinctive theme of the Society of Friends (Quakers). This Inner Light is understood to be a direct awareness of God that allows a person to know God’s will for him or her. This expression is often attributed to the teachings of George Fox in the 17th century, founder of the Society of Friends, who had failed to find spiritual truth in the English churches. He experienced an inner light and voice within, “that of God in every man.” The Inner Light should not simply be a mystical experience, but should also result in a person’s working for the good of others.
The practice of Inner Light is believed to be the direct path of ascension towards the divine nature within man. The theme of Inner Light appears in various spiritual traditions as well as in the main religions of the world. Buddhism believes that the one experiences the highest nature of the mind, reaches enlightenment and liberation from the Wheel of Samsara (i.e. bodily existence).
The Society of Friends was influenced by a pivotal figure, Jakob Böhme (1575-1624), a German mystic who was raised in Lutheranism. Böhme had considerable influence on Pietism and various mystical sects including Rosicrucianism and theosophy. Böhme sought a melding of various alchemical and Kabbalistic traditions that focused on the inner path to God, which finds parallels with the ancient heresy known as Gnosticism. Böhme was also an important source for German Romantic philosophy, influencing F.W. Schelling. Böhme is also an important influence on the ideas of the English Romantic poet, artist, and mystic William Blake. The German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was profoundly influenced by him as well. The tradition of the Inner Light reaches back into ancient mystical philosophies which have come to profoundly shape modern thinking. (Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. “Inner Light;” “Jakob Böhme”)
(This podcast is by White Horse Inn. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
Many Christians in our day, whether liberal or evangelical, declare that there is hope of eternal life apart from explicit faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, according to one survey by George Barna, 35% of America’s evangelical seminary students agreed with the statement, “God will save all good people when they die, regardless of whether they’ve trusted in Christ.”
On this program the hosts will discuss our need to recover the clear theology of a text such as John 14:6 in which Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” Join us on this edition of White Horse Inn, as we continue our new series on “The Solas of the Reformation.”
“Why do we need a divine savior to rescue us if our situation is only that we kind of are losing our way? A lot of people think of it as, we need good directions and there are really good plans out there. There’s Oprah. There is yoga. There’s the Bible. There’s Christian Science. You have all these kinds of things out there and whatever you find that’s helpful for you is great. That assumes — first of all, you have absolutely no problem before God. Your problem is only with yourself. Not that God has a problem with you, but that you have issues that you need to work on. So, you don’t really need God to save you, first of all, from himself, from his own justice by being just and the justifier of the wicked. All you need is kind of a life coach. You need somebody who kind of has some good ideas. And that is where we are today as the church. But what we really need is Christ’s atoning work, his substitutionary, vicarious sacrifice.” – Michael Horton
Today’s spirituality is novel in the sense that it is based upon a person’s felt needs, as opposed to an authoritative person or text. Self-expression has become the new form of worship in both traditional and innovative religious practices, rather than a practice of self-denial. This spirituality adopts preference as a means of self-actualization (i.e. a way of becoming the fullest expression of yourself as a human being). The commitments to these preferences are deeply personal and subjective, which results in the expression, “Your own personal Jesus” who neither confronts with his transcendent ‘Otherness’ nor deals in categories of sin, hell, or judgment. Therapy as a model of spirituality has replaced traditional norms due to the secularization of culture (i.e., the cultural shift that has resulted in religious beliefs becoming wholly individualized and disassociated from the social sphere). Divine Providence over mankind has been replaced by the invisible hand of economic forces. Whereas the Almighty beneficent being was previously seen as integral to daily life and well-being, today, he is seen as a cosmic bellhop who comes at our beck and call.
With the loss of life’s ‘center’ by these competing visions of reality, faith has been left only with an interior and subjective expression which allows ‘believers’ to cope with the ‘real world’ science and technology have given them. In the face of this modern nihilism (i.e., the belief that there is no true reality beyond that which is apprehended through the senses), religion has often attempted to fill the vacuum through such therapeutic modes of expression. Even in traditional, conservative contexts orthodox worship and practice may succumb to this mode of spirituality, ultimately leaving little effect upon the practice of the worshipper or in the public square at large. Concrete, external liturgical practices (such as the reading of the law, corporate confession, a declaration of pardon, and corporate supplication) are often displaced by personalized small groups that help believers in their life journey. This is deemed as more ‘relevant’ to the therapeutic man, and an improvement upon the ‘dead rituals’ that don’t speak to the hearts of worshippers. Worship thus becomes a therapy ‘session’ something akin to Alcoholics Anonymous, a place where kindred spirits can hear one another’s stories and help one another cope with their weaknesses and failures, rather than a place of divine judgment and salvation where sinful people meet with a holy God, and through faith in their Savior, by the power of the Holy Spirit, are forgiven for their rebellion, and comforted by the assurance of their salvation. (Timothy W. Massaro, “Therapeutic Spirituality,” WHI [blog], August 10, 2014)
(This podcast is by White Horse Inn. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
George Khoury was born and raised in South Orange county. He had a great family that loved him, they were always involved in their church, and he was blessed with great mentors, leaders and pastors.
When he was a junior in high school, George decided to own his faith. So that it wasn’t any longer “his parents faith”, but his own true decision to commit to following Jesus. He read “More Than A Carpenter” by Josh McDowell and it impacted him greatly. It made him consider who Jesus said He is… and who He is! This was huge, especially since he’s a guy who hates reading.
But, since his life wasn’t one in the gutter, what changed?
His faith now had purpose… it wasn’t just a checklist of things to do. He wanted to represent Jesus well and affect others according to God’s will. The next year, George graduated High School and started taking his faith to the next level. He was meeting with older guys and was challenged to do things NOW. Waiting for opportunities was over. George decided not to wait anymore to follow Jesus.
Everything was great… “What could ever go wrong?”
That’s where George’s story gets even more interesting:
This is just a portion of George’s story. You’ve really got to hear how God has increased George’s faith, and used even such a terrible thing as testicular cancer in a young man to reach people and expand God’s kingdom!
As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, today’s Protestants actually have little to be proud of as we survey the movement as a whole. The content of our messages and the shape of our worship services are largely determined by cultural preferences, marketing strategies, and crowd-pleasing techniques from the entertainment industry, rather than by Scripture.
At the end of the day, what we’re left with is a kind of narcissistic spirituality that caters to the desires and felt needs of the masses, rather than a transcendent word that confronts, challenges, and rescues fallen sinners. We’re beginning a new series on “The Solas of the Reformation on this edition of White Horse Inn.
“Before we Protestants congratulate ourselves for being on the right side of history, we need to admit right up front that there is very little today to be proud of as we look at the movement as a whole. More often than not, we’re just as likely as medieval Roman Catholics to listen to authorities other than Scripture. The content of a typical sermon or the shape of a typical worship service is often determined not by Scripture, but by cultural preferences, marketing strategies, and by crowd-pleasing techniques we’ve gotten from the entertainment industry more than the Word of God.
“At the end of the day, what we’re left with is a kind of narcissistic spirituality that caters to the desires and felt needs of the masses, rather than a transcendent Word that confronts, challenges, and rescues fallen sinners – that word, as Martin Luther said famously, is above all earthly powers.” – Michael Horton
“Protestantism” generally covers the range of Christian churches that owe their origins, directly or indirectly, to the Reformation of the sixteenth century. At the second Diet of Speyer (1529) the representatives of the Reformers “protested” in favor of the liberty of individuals to choose their own religion according to their conscience. Their opponents described them as “Protestants,” while they preferred to call themselves “evangelicals.” Despite its numerous components and its pluralism, Protestantism may be characterized by reference to certain widely shared convictions. Priority is given to salvation and to justification by faith alone. Believers are justified before God not by their works or their merit, but by grace alone. The Bible provides the exclusive standard for the Christian life and derives its meaning from its central figure, Jesus Christ, the sole mediator between God and human beings. Faith consists not in acceptance of a doctrine, but in a living and personal relationship with God. The church is a community of believers who have committed themselves to listening to the word of God and to celebrating the sacraments together. Only baptism and the Lord’s Supper are recognized as sacraments, since they were established by Jesus Christ himself. (Adapted from Encyclopedia of Christian Theology s.v. “Protestantism.”)
Romans 4:5 says:
“To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”
Justification by faith alone is the gospel, the belief that we are forgiven our sins and made innocent before God by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the grave. You can do nothing to earn this. It is by the grace of God.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:23-25)
Whoever teaches that salvation is a combination of faith and works is teaching a different gospel.
“If anyone saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification… let him be anathema.” (Council of Trent, Canon 9)
“The sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist are decisive to salvation… What is the event at which salvation truly takes hold? Baptism!” (Fr. Theodore Stylianopoulos, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)
The Catholic and Orthodox churches both deny justification by faith alone. Salvation is by faith and the Eucharist, or by faith and baptism. That’s a different gospel.
Galatians 1:8-9 says that anyone who preaches a different gospel is accursed.
Galatians 2:16 says:
We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Now, when a person has been saved, they confirm their faith by obedience. If they do not obey the commands of Christ, they’re still dead in their sins. This is what James meant when he said faith without works is a dead faith (James 2:26).
“Whoever says ‘I know Him’ but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.” (1 John 2:4-6)
Someone might say, “Well, what about faith. Isn’t that something that I do?” Nope. Because as you study the doctrine you will find that even faith itself is also a gift from God.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
As Romans 5:1-2 says:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God
…when we understand the text.
If you are not already familiar with Kristin and her turquoise table, after today, you are going to want to run out and check out her amazing new book The Turquoise Table. It’s about finding community and connecting with those in your community in your own front yard.
You are in for a treat today. Romans 12 is one of my favorite passages—especially verses 12-13, which talk about the “practicing hospitality.” This is what we are talking about today—hospitality. We all have a lot of gifts from the Lord. As I’ve mentioned on other episodes, I love helping people. A passion of mine to help people simplify—to know when to say “no” to the things that we can, so we can say “yes” to the things that God wants us focused on. When we start simplifying, we start seeing the joy that comes from that.
One of the major themes that you will see woven into each of these podcasts is guests who have said “yes” to God in one way or another. Even when we say “yes” to the most simple of things, God can show up and use that in a big way—just like He used the little boy with his loaves of bread and fishes. That’s exactly what we’re going to hear in this episode. How one person said yes to God in the area of hospitality.
We all have different gifts, but God tells us to practice hospitality! Today we’re going to break down the difference between hospitality and entertaining. Hospitality is opening the door. And as you will hear in this episode, Kristin says you can say “yes” to God and “yes” to hospitality and you don’t even have to open your door! That’s just one of the many things that I love about this episode—we simplify hospitality! When you think of the story of Mary and Martha, you have Martha trying to do it all—trying to be hospitable, and Mary who sitting at the feet of Jesus. That’s what I want to encourage you guys today. Sometimes we get caught up in the busyness of hospitality, and sometimes we just need to sit with the people that Jesus is bringing to us.
I am ultra-excited for you to listen to this episode today! I know that you are just going to love it!
This episode is full of so many great ideas for simplifying hospitality. You aren’t going to want to miss it!
It wasn’t my idea, it was an answer to a prayer. —Kristin Schell
The Lord had to teach me the difference between hospitality and entertaining. — Kristin Schell
You can’t be what you can’t see. —Jo Saxon
What is it that God’s people are longing for that this thing is happening? —Kristin Schell
All of these “I” devices are changing how we communicate. —Kristin Schell
We are losing the art of communication. —Kristi Clover
Greek for hospitality is “Love of Strangers.” — Kristin Schell
A table outside = the greatest hospitality hack ever. —Kristin Schell
We’re never fighting about what we’re really fighting about, there’s always an underlining issues. Get to the root of it. —Kristin Schell
Kristin is also working with ReWork project, a non-profit based in Austin, TX. You can find out more about this ministry here.
I love watching people going through the process of getting a table and seeing how they use it. —Kristin Schell
— Be sure to grab your FREE copy of my book, Sanity Savers for Moms, by joining our Simply Joyful community. It’s a great way to keep in touch…and get subscriber only freebies like my book. Click HERE to get the book and join!
Kristin Schell is an established speaker and blogger on the subjects of food, faith, and hospitality. Passionate about community, she has served at every level, from grassroots-level work in church and local nonprofits as well our nation’s capital. As founder of the Turquoise Table and Front Yard People movement, Kristin travels the country speaking at conferences and events with an encouraging word on how to open our lives and homes to others. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Tony, and their four children.
Kristin and the Turquoise Table have been featured in a wide variety of media outlets including the Austin-American Statesman, KEYE-TV/CBS Austin, and MOPS International.
(This podcast is by Kristi Clover. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
Many Christians in our time seem to think that church attendance is optional, particularly in an age like ours with so many online options. But is this a healthy outlook? Is it even biblical? On this program, the hosts discuss this question and offer numerous reasons why it is not only important but also crucial for Christians to be under the care and supervision of pastors, teachers, and elders at a properly-ordered church. Join us for this edition of the White Horse Inn.
“Do I have to go to church to be a Christian? We’re used to hearing the contrast between a personal relationship with Jesus versus going to church or joining a church. We are familiar with evangelistic presentations where that’s actually said. ‘I’m not inviting you to join a church, but to have personal relationship with Jesus.’
“The thing that we need to think about here is about the role of the church in God’s plan for creation, redemption, and eternity. The Father chose each of us to be part of the church. That is Christ’s bride and body. To be united to Christ is to be united to his church. First of all, the church is the heart of God’s plan from before time. Secondly, Christ gave his life for his church. Thirdly, the Spirit unites us to Christ, the head, and therefore to his body. You can’t be united to Christ without also being united to his visible church. Fourthly, Christ delivers himself to sinners now by the ministry of the church. We never leave that ministry until we die. And then finally, the church is the everlasting society of God, our forever family. The church never goes away.” – Michael Horton
“Of the Catholic (Universal) Church”
We believe and profess one catholic or universal Church, which is a holy congregation of true Christian believers, all expecting their salvation in Jesus Christ, being washed by His blood, sanctified and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
This Church has been from the beginning of the world, and will be to the end thereof; which is evident from this that Christ is an eternal King, which without subjects He cannot be. And this holy Church is preserved or supported by God against the rage of the whole world; though it sometimes for a while appears very small, and in the eyes of men to be reduced to nothing; as during the perilous reign of Ahab the Lord reserved unto Him seven thousand men who had not bowed their knees to Baal.
Furthermore, this holy Church is not confined, bound, or limited to a certain place or to certain persons, but is spread and dispersed over the whole world; and yet is joined and united with heart and will, by the power of faith, in one and the same Spirit. (The Belgic Confession, Article 27)
I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Today we’ll consider what the unpredictability of a hurricane says about human vulnerability; we’ll consider our dependence on technology revealed as millions are now in the dark; and we’re going to see the New York Times in two successive front-page stories ask big questions about God, faith, and Christian belief in the wake of the storms.
As of early this morning, Hurricane Irma continues to churn through the state of Florida; that after hitting the state twice: the first in the keys and the second landing about Marco Island or Naples. It turns out that Hurricane Irma is just as large a storm as had been predicted, but perhaps not as deadly, and for that we should be very thankful. But this is still an unfolding story, and as is almost always the case with this kind of massive storm, the stories unpredictable; it has turned out not to be what we expected. In the first case, the storm has not gone catastrophically up Florida’s East Coast, but rather up the West Coast of the state. And furthermore, in terms of shifts in the storm’s trajectory, it continued to shift west for some time, which was good news for most of the population of the state, but not for those that turn out to be in the storm’s immediate path.
When you look at the storm and you look at the danger, it is clear that Florida and federal authorities, as well as authorities in other states likely to be affected, including Georgia and South Carolina, were absolutely right in ordering the evacuations and in issuing the warnings. But we are talking about a massive storm, and this is where the Christian worldview reminds us that when we are talking about something like this in terms of the power of nature — even human wisdom and human intelligence, even our ability to put satellites in space and to see these storms and to track them and to issue predictions and to warn persons likely to be in their path — in reality, the millions, indeed the countless factors behind the existence of a storm like this, the absolute behavior of a storm like this, all of this turns out to be matters beyond any human intelligence. They are, to use a biblical term, passed our finding out, but that’s not to say that there is not a lot of human wisdom for which we should be thankful in terms of the warnings about this storm. Frankly, even as of early this morning, the fact that the death toll has not been more significant thus far has to be at least partly attributed to the fact that there was so much knowledge about the storm. But there have been several issues that have been clearly revealed even as of early this morning.
First of all we see our dependence upon technology, and the fact that one of the most important dangers coming out this storm turns out to be that as of this morning about 3 million Floridians are without power. And in an even more serious sense, we are told that they may be without power for some time, at least some authorities are warning it could be a matter of weeks. This humbles us, recognizing just how dependent we are upon these technologies, and most importantly electricity. Electricity is not just, for most Americans, a matter of mere convenience, we can find our way around without electricity for a matter of minutes or hours or perhaps even a day, but if you get far beyond that, the infrastructure of our lives turns out to be significantly affected — in some cases even talking about life and death — with persons who are dependent upon machines for oxygen and even for other kinds of necessary services, not to mention the fact that our entire food chain in terms of how food actually gets fed to people requires an enormous amount of organized energy including refrigeration, transportation — all of this very dependent upon electricity, right down to how the food is cooked.
Once the storm leaves the Tampa Bay area whatever danger comes from the tidal surge should be apparent and largely over. The storm is then going to be dangerous in many other ways; it will continue, it is expected, through the hours of the day to be a hurricane in one form and in one force or another.
Again, we’ll be tracking that, but there are some big issues that have arisen, not only in terms of Hurricane Irma, but also Hurricane Harvey. These big issues are theological issues, and, interestingly, at least two front-page articles in the New York Times over the weekend dealt directly with the theological questions raised by these two hurricanes.
Now, for instance in Sunday’s edition of the New York Times, a headline story,
“Hobbled and Humbled, Texans Assembled to Pray, Then Rebuild.”
The story’s by Kevin Sack, and the most interesting thing about it is that it appears to be written with a sense of puzzlement as to why persons in Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey would respond in such an explicitly Christian way, but that’s exactly what is reported in the story. Sack reports from Wharton County, Texas; He tells about Jeff Klimple,
“head bowed and eyes clinched, [who] had locked his meaty mechanic’s hand into the trembly, creased fingers of his 80-year-old mother, Angie. She, in turn,” we are told, “held the right hand of her 24-year-old granddaughter, Natalie.”
Natalie is holding hands with someone else, and they are engaged in prayer. Why? Because Mrs. Klimple was amongst those whose homes had suffered a great deal of damage in the floods associated with Hurricane Harvey. And those with whom she was praying are those who, in the name of Christ, had gathered together to help this woman not only because they were members of her family or members of her community, but because just in the name of Christ they cared. As Sack tells us,
“In all, there were 17 Texans linked in a ring on Angie Klimple’s front yard last Saturday afternoon, a circle of prayer broken only by the hay wagon that would soon carry away the putrid, sodden remnants of 50 years of her life.”
Her son prayed,
“Father, we come to you and thank you for all of these people you sent us.”
Kevin Sack writes about an army of Christian volunteers, not only from Texas, but from elsewhere in the United States, who’d gone to the aid of those in Texas who have suffered from Hurricane Harvey, and that same army — not necessarily the same people, but driven by the same urgency — will be soon streaming into Florida as well.
Kevin Sack writes,
“Across the flood zone, the water’s victims have endured the first two weeks of dislocation with the help of Samaritans of all cloths — family members, friends, co-workers, volunteers from near and far, and an array of faith-based groups. With homeowners racing,” he writes, “against time to limit the advance of rot and mold, the availability of free manual labor can make all the difference.”
Sack goes back to Mr. Klimple’s prayer as he prayed,
“I thank you, Lord, for the things that you’ve given us, the grace and mercy that [we’ve taken] for granted.”
Then Sack writes,
“Since the days of the Bible, all manner of natural disasters — floods and earthquakes, pestilence and famine — have tested the devotion of the faithful and provoked the most fundamental theological questions. Is God benevolent or retributive or both? Why is there so much human suffering and why does it afflict the righteous as well as the unrighteous? Does everything,” he writes, “in fact happen for a reason, and if so what divine purpose could there possibly be in leaving an old widow like Mrs. Klimple homeless?”
Speaking to those who were helping her in the wake of the disaster, Mrs. Klimple said,
“We’ll be all right with the help of the Lord.”
Mrs. Klimple’s own Christian worldview was evident when she also said,
“When I first saw it all, it upset me,”
speaking of the destruction of her home. She said
“But then I thought, you know, I needed to clean the house anyway. Too bad I just dusted everything.”
According to Sack,
“She nodded at a new set of volunteers who were prying out drywall and disinfecting the house with bleach. They were what mattered. ‘When I saw the crew that came in, all those wonderful people and friends, I was just so thankful. … ‘I feel like the Lord’s trying to bring people together. He wants us to be nicer to each other.’”
Clearly, the 80-year-old widow at the center of this story situates her own story within the Christian story, and in this Mrs. Klimple was not alone. As a matter of fact, the story in the New York Times expresses quite genuine amazement at so many people in Texas who had indicated that their faith was not only not shaken by the hurricane, but was actually deepened.
As Sack writes,
“Many of those in the prayer circle allowed themselves to wonder, but not for long. There was too much to do. And nothing that had happened, not the deaths or destruction of homes or loss of crops and livestock, had shaken their faith. In fact,” he writes to a person, they said the flood and its aftermath had strengthened it.”
In terms of some of the serious theological questions raised in this article, it never actually gets to an answer. But in terms of reporting, this is actually an excellent example of a major secular newspaper trying to understand the very people it is covering in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. And to the credit of the New York Times, they recognize this is a big story and it has big theological meaning attached to it.
Some of the questions raised by this article are the historic Christian concerns about theodicy, that is answering the ways of God. But also here is the very biggest question of all, does everything happen for a meaning? That is a question explicitly asked in the article, and one of the most helpful things is the fact that the article demonstrates not only the words of a couple of pastors, but mainly in the words of many faithful Christians who are just, in this case, praying with and helping out a neighbor, that they really do have confidence that everything does happen for a reason, even if they are not able to understand exactly what that reason may be.
The biblical worldview helps us to understand the balance in this, that everything does indeed happen for a reason, but we are to be very humble in assuming that we can identify the reason. Jesus himself made that abundantly clear, as he also made clear that indeed storms and rain come upon both the just and the unjust. Being a Christian is no protection against this kind of natural disaster, but what this story indicates, in such a helpful way, is that the response to the disaster on the part of Christians is absolutely different than those who believe that there is no meaning in such an occurrence. There is a deep sweetness and authenticity to the words of the Christians who are quoted in this article. Going back to this elderly widow’s son, whose prayer is mentioned at several points in the article, he prayed,
“Lord, I want to thank you that we’re not in worse shape than we are, because we know that others have suffered even more.”
Again, a deeply Christian sentiment deeply grounded in the biblical worldview.
But just one day previous the New York Times had yet another article also dealing with big theological issues, and this one pointed out: We’re not just talking about two deadly hurricanes in the United States. Henry Fountain writes this,
“Vicious hurricanes all in a row, one having swamped Houston and another about to buzz through Florida after ripping up the Caribbean.
Wildfires bursting out all over the West after a season of scorching hot temperatures and years of dryness.
And late Thursday night, off the coast of Mexico, a monster of an earthquake.
You could be forgiven,”
“for thinking apocalyptic thoughts …”
He cites the science fiction writer John Scalzi; we’re told that he
“[surveyed] the charred and flooded and shaken landscape [in recent days, and then] declared [on Twitter] that this ‘sure … feels like the End Times are getting in a few dress rehearsals right about now.’”
Helpfully, Fountain mentions that these disasters come over and over again: storms earthquakes, fires. In terms of earthquakes he writes,
“[The big ones] happen all the time, and the numbers of quakes, from weak to powerful, is unwavering when averaged over time.” He says, “There is roughly one ‘great’ quake, of magnitude 8 or higher, [every single year].”
This article in the New York Times points to the fact that faced with this kind of huge, ominous disaster, storm, earthquake, fire — whatever the form may be — causes human beings to ask basic questions including: Why? And this is where the story gets really interesting because at this point Fountain cites Christiana Peppard, an associate professor of theology, science and ethics at Fordham University who says,
“With unexpected cataclysmic weather events, people across time and space have always looked for explanations.”
It gets more interesting right here,
“The fact is it is attractive to certain segments of the population to look at unforeseen apocalyptic-style events as fitting into a particular kind of narrative.”
Now let’s look at that little more closely. Here she says that a certain segment of the population tends to see these kinds of events in apocalyptic form because it fits into their
“particular kind of narrative.”
That’s a very intelligent statement — I think she’s actually right; I just think she’s right about many more people than she understands. Because no doubt she’s looking here at those including some who might be defined as in a spectrum from science fiction fans to evangelical Christians, who see the world in apocalyptic terms — that is they see the world an eschatological terms, they believe there’s going to be an end of the world, and, in terms of the Christian biblical worldview, there’s going to be a day of judgment, and, of course, it is very easy to read the Scripture come to understand that there are signs of the times pointing to just that kind of apocalyptic event.
“In deeply religious communities, the recent sequence of catastrophic events and threats — [terrorism] and nuclear weapon tests, as well as natural disasters — can be understood more easily through prophecy than logic.”
Fountain cited George Loewenstein, another academic, he’s professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. He said,
“We are all much more superstitious than we recognize, and it takes a lot of logical thinking not to believe that this part of the world is not being somehow persecuted.”
Now the reason I pointed to those two quotes and those two academics is because Lowenstein is exactly right when he says,
“We are all much more superstitious than we recognize.”
Now what he means by superstitious I will simply explain in these terms: Everyone is asking these theological questions and everyone actually cannot help but to think in terms of theology and big questions when it comes to the response to this kind of tragedy or natural occurrence. But then when you look at the other academic who said there’s a part of the segment of the population that reads these issues in apocalyptic terms, well here’s the bottom line: Everyone does in his or her own way. Not only due to the fact that we are made in God’s image is every one of us a religious creature who can’t stop asking these questions, in reality, every single one of us has to fit the world and our understanding of it, well to quote that professor again at Fordham University,
“into a particular kind of narrative.”
For some people, that narrative is climate change and the apocalyptic warning that these storms are evidence of the fact that climate change is not only more real, but much further along in terms of danger than had been previously recognized. Others are pointing to a more explicitly theological issue. But the point is, every single one of us, every intelligent person has to look at these massive events and fit them into a particular kind of narrative. The question is: What kind of narratives is it?
That more secular apocalyptic perspective is actually represented in the article by Terry Tempest Williams, identified as an author and naturalist who is a writer in residence at Harvard Divinity School. He said,
“For so many years, talking about the weather was talking about nothing. … Now,” he said, “it really is our survival.”
The story also quotes Richard Hecht, a professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He said,
“that many believers could indeed see this chaotic summer as a sign of the end of times.”
In his words,
“End of times fantasies have been a central part of American religiosity since the beginning, so it shouldn’t be any surprise [that such thoughts are coming now].”
And, again, I simply have to say, that end of times fantasies are not merely a part of American religiosity; they are equally and emphatically part of American secularism as well. Every single one of us interprets these events in terms of our worldview, and one of the things to watch is how these events do indeed reveal our worldview. And isn’t it revealing that in two successive days, front-page articles in the New York Times reporting to deal with purely natural events can’t help asking questions about God.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to @albertmohler.For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.
(This podcast is by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)