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Monday, June 30, 2014

Alan Bloom's book, The Closing Of The American Mind


Unified In Relativism and Allegiance To Equality
by Tom Wacaster

It has been more than twenty years since I read Alan Bloom's book, The Closing Of The American Mind. It still occupies a place on my bookshelf, and although published in 1987 it remains a popular and profitable book for the inquiring mind who desires to know what is happening to our society and why. An oft quoted part of that book is very revealing:

There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative...The students' backgrounds are as various as America can provide. Some are religious, some atheists; some are to the Left, some to the Right; some intend to be scientists, some humanists or professionals or businessmen; some are poor, some rich. They are unified only in their relativism and in their allegiance to equality [emphasis mine, TW].

The fruits of that kind of thinking are coming to fruition, and the harvest is not encouraging in the least. This particular philosophy (if we can call it that) has literally saturated the American society, yea, the whole of the western world. Part of that fruit is the insane stress on political correctness and the inability and lack of desire to judge any behavior as wrong or sinful. Like any other philosophy "falsely so called," this one is insidious and runs contrary not only to scripture, but to plain old common sense. The most recent example of political correctness is the furor over the Washington Redskins football team. A week or so back the Federal patent office stripped that club of its exclusive rights to the name "Redskins" in an effort to appease a small handful of native Indians who find the name "Redskins" offensive. Even though 9 out of 10 native Americans do NOT find the name offensive, the small percentage who do have won the day, and political correctness has claimed yet another victim. I am not a big football fan, but the intrusion of the government into matters that ought not to concern them is just another example of modern day sophisticated silliness. What concerns me, however, is the impact that this 21st century philosophy is having on our morals as a nation and the Lord's church in particular. Let me explain.

There are two planks in this insidious philosophy. The first is the desire for unity at any cost. Bloom calls it "allegiance to equality." Redistribution of wealth, a government nanny state, entitlement programs, equal pay for everybody-the list is endless but the goal is the same. All men must be brought to an equal plane in the name of fairness, regardless of the cost.

On the moral front this battle is being waged against those who want to "impose their morality upon others." Have you ever noticed that certain words and phrases have a connotation that will actually bias the thinking of otherwise reasonable thinking men and women? "Homophobia" is a good example here. The homosexual community is presently pushing for this particular kind of equality. It is not an equality with regard to human rights, but an equality that wants acceptance, regardless of life style. The bottom line is that they desire a muzzle be placed on the mouths of all those who oppose their practice. This, my friends, is the kind of equality under consideration. If law makers can be convinced that opposition to ungodly behavior is really inequality gone to seed, then the politically correct crowd will succeed in muzzling the mouths of those who presently oppose their practice by passing laws favorable to immorality. On the religious front it is toleration and agreement to disagree. It is not so much the desire on the part of the leaders to become united in practice as it is the desire to muzzle any opposition. "You do your thing; I'll do mine; and let's not criticize one another." But in order to attain such "equality" it is necessary that there first be a removal of any absolute standard. Hence, the second plank: the modern gospel of relativism. "Nothing is absolute; nothing is certain; you can't know anything for sure." Now, one might expect the world to think this way. Wickedness and error have always sought to cast off the restraints of God's will (Psalms 2:3). But of late we are hearing some of our brethren advocate the same kind of thinking.

On the far left we find those who are nothing more than relativists. They have climbed aboard the bandwagon of relativism and proclaim without fear of God or man, "You can't know anything for sure!" (I wonder how they can be so sure about that!). But what is it that has backed them into this corner? It is, I believe, the desire for the kind of equality spoken of above - equality to do as they please, and simply agree to disagree, while muzzling the mouths of those who might criticize. Again, to accomplish their desired end, there must be a removal of any absolute standard. This is the very reason some of our once faithful brethren have abandoned a proper approach to the Scriptures and are now calling for a "new hermeneutic." There is simply no way to authorize what they desire to practice, so every attempt is being made to approach the way we view Scripture. "It is a love letter," "We must focus on the 'core gospel,'" "Doctrine is not important," et al have all become the flag around which the liberals rally, all in the name of relativism and equality.

We are presently witnessing a headlong plunge into a full acceptance of this two planked error in the Lord's church. First, there is the desire for some kind of unity. A noble desire, based of course upon the prayer of our Lord recorded in John 17, but alas not the type of unity of which Jesus spoke. Enter plank one: "Let's agree to disagree." Workshops are organized which invite men of every shade and color (doctrinally speaking) with no intention of addressing error, but rather presenting a "united front" regardless of differences in doctrine. Known false teachers are not rebuked, but revered and respected. Opposition is squelched by subjective thinking rather than objective reasoning. No longer is it the false teacher who is the enemy, but those who cry out for truth and justice. Enter plank two: remove or ignore the standard. Lip service is given to a "thus saith the Lord" while sound, Biblical arguments are ignored. The "fruit" which error bears is looked at through colored glasses, and the circle of relativism and equality is now complete.

The Lord is the epitome of truth and righteousness, and He never subscribed to the kind of nonsense plaguing the thinking of some. To the contrary, He was plain, pointed, and precise in what He taught and practiced. He rebuked error, refused to compromise in the least, and lived a life that was absolutely sinless in every respect. His message, and that of His apostles, was anything but political correctness. Hear their message: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruit ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:15-16). "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them" (Romans 16:17). "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them" (Ephesians 4:11). Does that sound like political correctness? Quite the contrary. I close with the admonition of the apostle Paul: "Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Col. 2:8).


Sunday, June 29, 2014

The churches of Christ greet you

                                 "The churches of Christ greet you"   Romans 16:16 (ESV)
Have you ever told someone, usually in response to their question, that you attend the church of Christ?  And then had them ask, "What's the church of Christ?"  I'm pretty sure that this has happened to most of us during our Christian lives.  Well, I got to thinking about those questions and thought that I'd provide a brief overview of just who and what the "church of Christ" is, what it stands for and it's purpose for being in the world.  Perhaps if you're ever asked these questions (again) this lesson might help you answer your interrogator with some simple and ready answers.
Who are these people, those who are members of the "church of Christ?"  If asked that, you might want to refer them to 1Pet. 2:9-10 where we see that the members of Christ's church are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."
You might even take another step here and refer them to Eph. 3:10 where the apostle Paul says that it is "through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known." That right there tells us the "purpose" (vs. 11) for the church.  It was God's "eternal purpose" to save the souls of man through His Son, Jesus Christ.  It is therefore the "purpose" of the church to make His Gospel known to the world. 
We are the "earthen vessels" spoken of in 2Cor. 4:7 that are tasked with making known this "treasure" (Christ's Gospel) to the world.  In other words, the church is the system developed by God from the beginning and installed by Jesus Christ.  It is His "church" and the only one called that in the New Testament.  Pretty awesome responsibility, isn't it?
Ok then, if the church's mission is to get the "message" out to the world, then just what is the "message?"   Again, this is not a complicated answer.  It's the same "message" that Paul traveled throughout his world preaching: "But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles."   (1Cor. 1:23)   I really don't see that much has changed today from Paul's day.  The Jews still stumble at accepting Christ and much of the world regards the Gospel as folly and refuses to believe.
Perhaps then a question is asked, "How do they worship?"  Here again, the answer is simple.  John 4:24 answers it this way: "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."   We recognize that God is not a human being, not the "old man in the sky," but a supreme being, a "spirit" that is all powerful and is the creator of this world and everything in it.  As such, we believe that what He says is "truth."   "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth."  (John 17:17)
You've no doubt heard it said that the "church" is of the "Restoration Movement."  It is, but that simply means that the "church" strives to restore the worship of God, in truth, back to the original New Testament church.  The one which Jesus Christ identified in Matt. 16:18 when He told Peter that "on this rock (that He is Christ, the Son of the Living God) I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Interestingly, a leading theologian by the name of Dr. Jung once wrote a book entitled "The Church."  In it he lamented that religion had lost its way because it has become "burdened" with "traditions" and has failed to be what Christ planned on it being.  His remedy: go back to the Scriptures and see what the church was in the beginning and follow that example.  This is what the "churches of Christ" seek to do constantly.
The only creed that the "church of Christ" has followed since its inception is what the Bible says.  Not what man says or what synods, religious conventions or some earthly headquarters decides is worship.  In the beginning, each congregation of Christ's church was autonomous, which simply means that it is independent or self-directing.
One congregation does not tell another congregation what or how they should do.  If we're all operating "as the Bible speaks" and on that basis alone, there is no need for a hierarchy of congregations.  Really, the only true connection we have with other congregations is that we all recognize that we are members of the same family.  We're all brothers and sisters of each other and with Jesus Christ (Mark 3:25)
The basis of that connection can be read in John 13:34-35.  Here's our connection: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
There are several other practices and things that differentiate the "churches of Christ" from all of the other religious bodies of the world.  I just don't have neither time nor space to cover all of them in this one lesson today.  What I plan on doing is to cover those differences in a future lesson and will provide scriptural proof of why we practice our religion as we do in the church.
As a wrap up to this editorial, let me just say it this way.  We, the "church of Christ" have our faith centered only in the word of God, His truth.   Everything we do in our worship and in the fulfilling of the "mission" is done on the basis of "faith."  And one thing that we must always remember when it comes to how and why we are different is simply this: "For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin."  (Rom. 14:23)
Ron Covey

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Colossians 3:1 - "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God"

About a year ago we got a newer car. It's a nice car and it comes with some
nice features, one of which lets us take our music recorded on CD's and
record it to a "memory stick", then insert the memory stick into the car and
play the music. The only problem is that I have not been able to get this to
work. I've worked on trying to get this to work properly for the past year
now and finally by accident found that I was trying to get it to work with
the wrong settings. I even broke down and read the manual and didn't find
this information. It seems that the music had to be recoded in something
called "MP3 format".

Now for all of you "Tech Savvy" folks out there this may have seemed like
the obvious answer to the question, however to me it wasn't. Honestly, I
have fairly good computer skills; however I've never "ripped" music before,
so I had no skills in this area. When I thought that the settings might be
the problem I began doing some searching and found the answer.

You know, it's no different with our relationship to God. There are lots of
folks in this world of ours who struggle to know God or at least to try and
have some kind of a relationship with him. The problem is that they just
can't seem to get it to work. Sometimes folks try for years to figure it out
and some eventually just give up.

I believe sometimes it is that the settings just are wrong. What settings
you might ask? The settings of our heart and mind!

Notice a couple of scriptures that give us some insight. In Colossians 3:1
we read: "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on
things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." And in
Colossians 3:2 it continues, "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly
things." It's really hard to focus on God when your focus is really
somewhere else. It's like trying to talk to someone when they are listening
to their MP3 player or IPod.

Jesus himself talks about the ongoing struggle to know and serve God in
Matthew 7:21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the
kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in
heaven." Why? It's all about our focus!

Perhaps it would be better to say, It's all about getting the settings
right? It's about living in such a way that we are pleasing to God by
obeying His Words, which is doing his will. So, if you want to know God or
build a relationship with him, then get into His Word and do what He says!
Get our heart set on things above. Perhaps the apostle John says it best in
1 John 2:3 with these words, "We know that we have come to know him if we
keep his commands." How are you doing?

Russ Lawson

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Life is sometiems difficult

How much do you trust God? I really mean this, how much do you trust God? Do
you believe that he cares for you? Do you believe that no matter what
happens in your life that he is right there beside you? Do you believe that
if you live faithfully he will someday take you home to heaven? As
Christians we must believe these things, because that is the hope we have in
life; that is what our faith is about!

Philip Yancey, in his book REACHING FOR THE INVISIBLE GOD, tells of his
father in law, a Bible teacher and committed Christian. The older man's
faith troubled him in his final years. A degenerative nerve disease confined
him to bed, preventing him from sharing in most of the activities he
enjoyed. In addition to his own illness, his daughter battled a debilitating
form of diabetes.

During the most severe crisis, he composed a Christmas letter and mailed it
to family members and friends. He expressed his uneasy feelings about many
things he had once taught. What could he believe with certainty? The old
Bible teacher staked his faith on three realities. Here is his list: "(1)
Life is difficult, (2) God is merciful, (3) Heaven is sure."

Is life difficult? Yes! It is rarely any other way, but God's word assures
us that we have a loving God who is merciful to his children and that the
promise of heaven is sure. We believe it, because he said.

Jesus encouraged his disciples with these words found in John 14:1-3: "Do
not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My
Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you
that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a
place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may
be where I am."

Has that promise ever changed? No, God's promise to us remains the same no
matter what difficulties come into our lives. The writer of Hebrews
encourages us with these words. "Because God wanted to make the unchanging
nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he
confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things
in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of
the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an
anchor for the soul, firm and secure." (Hebrews 6:17-19).

What is the anchor for your soul during difficult times, what is your hope?
It must be the "unchangeable" promises of God, because those are the only
ones that really last!

Russ Lawson

Saturday, June 7, 2014

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (Jn. 15:13)

We've been blessed by God to observe another Memorial Day this year of our Lord, 2014.  A day in which we pay honor to our military veterans, especially those who paid the ultimate price, who gave their "last full measure of devotion" to keeping alive those freedoms that we so much enjoy.
Before getting into the body of our lesson today, I'd like to address a circumstance that's more and more prevalently seen leading up to holidays.  A circumstance for which I personally have a particular loathing.   I'm speaking of the commercialism of our holidays. We've come to expect to see TV ads, newspaper ads and mailers from vendors trying to sell us a product somehow related to the coming holiday.
I am opposed to the commercialism of all of them, but especially that of Memorial Day.  That's a day set aside to pay honor to our military and as far as I'm (and others) are concerned, it's a dishonor to intrude on that day of remembrance by those using it for commerce.  I mentioned that "others" also feel this way and I'll cite to you something one man did in addressing this intrusion.
When he receives an ad from a vendor about a product for Memorial Day he sends them back a note telling them that it is "inappropriate" to promote Memorial Day for marketing purposes.  He concludes this note with this statement: "Memorial Day is NOT on sale — millions of patriots have already paid the full price."  I add - AMEN!
In March of this year our country honored 24 veterans, whose service spanned from WW2 to Korea and Vietnam, with the Medal Of Honor.  The highest award for bravery that can be bestowed.  I wasn't opposed to their receiving that award, it's just that it would have been nice if most of them could have been alive to receive it.
A pet peeve of mine (I have many) is to hear someone refer to them as having "won" the Medal Of Honor.  You don't "win" this medal, it's not a contest.  They are "awarded" it, thus they are "recipients" - not "winners!"  I'd like to cite to you one of those "recipients" as the inspiration for our lesson and I have to condense my citation due to space necessity.
Back in the 1970's a class of cadets were working their way through the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Co.  There was a older man named Bill Crawford there who was employed as the janitor in their dormitory.  Sort of as the general nature of things, since he was quite a bit older than the cadets, they didn't pay very much attention to him. 
However, they did notice that he was quiet and very conscientious about his job.  He kept the area spotlessly clean and the bathrooms gleaming.  But, they just thought, "Well, that's his job to clean the floors and toilets."  They did notice that he didn't move very fast and that sometimes he shuffled when he walked.  Perhaps caused by a previous injury.  Basically, he was just part of the fixtures.  He just blended in with the woodwork, so to speak.
One day one of the cadets happened to be reading a book about WW2 and came across the story of a major battle in Italy.  It talked about a soldier in that battle, a Private William Crawford from Colorado, who had been awarded the Medal Of Honor for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty."
Thinking that old Bill, the janitor, might be the William Crawford of the battle, they confronted him at the dorm and showed him the page in the book.  When they asked if that was him, he very quietly replied, "Yep, that's me."  When they asked him why he hadn't ever spoken to them about it he replied with some words I deem as very pertinent in thought to our lesson.  He simply replied, "That was one day in my life and it happened a long time ago."
Bill continued on with his job as a janitor for the academy until he was able to retire.  His quiet and humble attitude, coupled with the way in which he approached his job, had a great and positive influence on the cadets who knew him.  One of them writing that he had learned many valuable and unforgettable lessons from his association with Bill.  He died in 2000 at the age of 81 years and is the only enlisted man buried at the Air Force Academy.
Well, how do we apply this?  I see several ways and I'll give you as much as space allows.  First, Bill's humble character reminds me of several admonitions we find in the Scriptures regarding a Christian's attitude.  One of the basic characteristics of a Christian is "humbleness" (Col. 3:12) I think we can also look at some words Peter wrote about this in 1Pet. 5:5-6. "...Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He many exalt you."
Next, I noted his attitude towards doing his job to the best of his ability, even though he would have had what many would consider, a valid excuse for slaking off.  (He was wounded so badly he had been listed as killed in action.)   But, he did not let any infirmity keep him from doing his job.  To the degree that those around him were impressed by his work ethics.  In the same way that a Christian's work ethics should be noticeable.
A Christian is required by God's instruction to have that same type of attitude to their temporal life's work.  And, especially, towards their spiritual life's work.  God's Wisdom tells us how our attitude should be in regards to our jobs.  Please read that wisdom in Proverbs 22:29 and in Romans 12:11.  But read with me here the words of 1Thess. 4:11-12.  "....Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one."
Now, let me refer back to Bill's statement about the "one day" in his life.  I see this as an example of a Christian not "resting on his laurels."  You see, our spiritual life's work doesn't consist of just one day - one event.  Rather, it is all day, every day for the entirety of our earthly lives.
Like most of us also do, Bill got to retire from his job, but Christians do not retire from Christ's service.  Our duties may change as our abilities change, but our "severance package" doesn't "kick in" until we pass from the earth.  While here we may experience many of life's tribulations.  We may have sickness and pain.  We will certainly be tempted by the devil but, "be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life."  (Rev. 2:10)
Paul, in Rom. 12:11 says that we are to give "honor to whom honor is due."  I know of no one of this earth more "due" of honor than those who have "laid down their life for their friends."  But, as honorable as that is, above and beyond that is:
    "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.  Amen.      (1Tim. 1:17)
Ron Covey

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