Archive for the ‘Modern Issues’ category

Our Answer to Aristotle

June 6, 2008

I have counsel and sound wisdom;
I have insight; I have strength.
By me kings reign,
and rulers decree what is just;
by me princes rule,
and nobles, all who govern justly. (Prov 8.14-16)

In these verses, “Wisdom” speaks, and she speaks specifically about government. Note the five subjects (vv. 15, 16): “kings,” “rulers,” “princes,” “nobles,” “all who govern.”

As the election-year rhetoric heats up, we might wish it weren’t so (!), but government is necessary. It was said of the Reformers in Geneva (and of American patriots 200 years later) that they established “a government without a king.” Yes, but it was still a system of rule through rulers. Indeed, John Calvin himself (in Geneva) considered it “perfect barbarism to think of exterminating [government]” (Institutes, 2.652). “Government” of any sort will always fall short of the ideal, but the only alternative is anarchy.

Aristotle said long ago that “politics” must exist because every polis (Greek for “city”) must determine (a) the way of life best for it, and (b) how best to promote that way of life. Much earlier still, Solomon had an answer for Aristotle. The “best way of life?” Wisdom says, “By me . . . rulers decree what is just.” And again, by wisdom, those who govern, govern “justly.” Here in a word is the whole teaching of the Bible about civil government. It exists, under God, to do “justice.” Nothing less.

And nothing more. Government exists to do “justice,” not to conduct social experiments or try to create heaven on earth. The recent California Supreme Court decision striking down the state’s marriage law shows us how easily this principle can get out of whack. By a 4-3 vote, the “justices” set aside the will of the people to define “marriage” exclusively as the union of a man and a woman. One of the dissenting justices called it “legal jujitsu.” A “bare majority,” he said, has not only violated “our society’s most basic shared premise-the People’s general right . . . to decide fundamental issues of public policy for themselves,” but has claimed a right it “simply does not have . . . to erase, then recast, the age-old definition of marriage, as virtually all societies have understood it, in order to satisfy its own contemporary notions of equality and justice” (p. 134).

How best to promote the best way of life? In a word, “Wisdom”-“by me [wisdom] . . . rulers decree what is just.” In other words, the only guarantee of real justice in the world is biblical wisdom in the halls of power.

Yeah, like that’s gonna’ happen! True enough, but as God’s people, we must never lose sight of the principle, even if the whole world laughs it out of court. We must, God helping us, do all in our power to promote biblical wisdom in the public square. For the good of all persons (that’s justice), and for the glory of God. That’s our answer to Aristotle. You are loved.

Your Pastor,

Richard Wells

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If They Don’t Know How to Blush

November 20, 2007

If someone asked you to describe the biggest difference between America now and America, say, thirty five years ago, what would you say? Many of us might think first about the technological revolution, which took us in one generation from “albums” to iPods, and gave us instant access to the world. Some might call to mind the extraordinary growth of immigrant populations that has made Los Angeles, e.g., the fourth largest Spanish-speaking city in the world. Still others might point to the transformations wrought by feminism, materialism, the Civil Rights movement, or the so-called “Religious Right.”

But statistics point to another, and much more disturbing difference . According to USA Today, seventy percent (70%) of American television shows feature sexual content, and the top-rated teen shows average almost seven sexual scenes per hour. Several studies indicate that about sixty-five percent (65%) of teenagers admit to having sex before they finish high school. In an average week, eleven million adults visit pornographic websites, and fully twenty percent (20%) of all Americans view magazines, movies, or videos featuring sexual content. And an astonishing thirty percent (30%) of Americans studied say they have had sex on a first date. We often say the “sexual revolution” began in the 60’s, but American culture now has a sexual climate we could not have imagined a generation (or even a decade) ago.

Forget the statistics, just open your eyes and ears. A recent movie (“Forty Year Old Virgin”) plays on the idea that an unmarried male virgin is somehow abnormal. Meanwhile, prepubescent girls grow up emulating Britney Spears, whose shtick consists of one part music and nine parts sex, and Paris Hilton gets famous without even the one-part music! Closer to home, just look at what they’re wearing (or, rather, not wearing) at school, at the mall, or even at church. And not just young people.

A pastor-friend back east relates that in preparing for a teaching session on the Bible and sex, he asked for questions, among which was this-“Why on earth would you say pornography is wrong?” The questions, he said, reminded him of “a passage tucked away in Jeremiah.” Me too. The passage is Jeremiah 6.15 (also 8.12), where the prophet confronts our times:

Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,” says the LORD.

The Tower of Babel in a Petri Dish

September 19, 2007

Embryonic stem cell research. If you follow the news, you know that Missouri voted last year to allow more or less unrestricted research on stem cells – the raw material, as it were, for human tissue development – taken from embryos produced, then destroyed, for that purpose. The late “Superman” Christopher Reeve and former First Lady Nancy Reagan had earlier made widely-publicized appeals for such research, and the Missouri campaign featured Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. One can certainly understand the desperate hope of suffering people for some miracle cure, but what happened in Missouri is a disturbing commentary on American culture.

To put it bluntly, Missouri – the “Show Me” State – was hoodwinked, and America with it. That is no exaggeration. To date, billions of dollars and millions of man hours have been poured into embryonic stem cell research. About 2000 relevant scientific papers have been published, and in just the last five years, the National Institute of Health has funded more than fifty different research projects. But according to Dr. Maureen Condie, a researcher at the University of Utah School of Medicine, the results of all this expertise, time, and money is exactly . . . zero. Missourians were lead to believe that stem cells would soon enable doctors to regenerate damaged nerves, brain tissue, and diseased organs. The lame would walk, the blind would see, and dialysis would be a thing of the past. But it hasn’t happened – and given the research problems, it likely never will. Dr. Condie says flatly that “there is no compelling scientific argument for the public support of research on human embryos.”

So why the hype? Why the impassioned appeals? Why the debate? Why the obsession with embryonic stem cells? For some, no doubt, it’s just blind hope combined with ignorance. Said one researcher, “people need a fairy tale.” But what of the researchers themselves, who know the grim realities? For example, embryonic stem cells transplanted into adult tissue often form tumors – non-malignant, but fast-growing and often fatal (in many studies, 70%-100% of lab animals died!) There is also evidence that embryonic stem cells spontaneously convert over time to cancerous cells. And there are many other problems well-known to researchers. So why do they keep pushing?

Maybe it’s money (labs cost a lot). Or maybe it’s arrogance (if we just put our minds to it, we can solve any problem). Or both. Or could it be a cutting edge version of that ancient human ambition to play the part of God? Could it be just building the tower of Babel in a petri dish?

God will not give his glory to another (Is. 42:8). He stopped the Tower then (Gen. 11:5-9) and He will stop the mad scientist now. But while they work, babies become expendable-like slaves making mud bricks-and God’s gift of precious life is treated with contempt. Let us never forget what’s at stake when we fight for the right to life.