Monday, April 21, 2014

Earth Day 2014

Tuesday of this week is "Earth Day," and as certain elements of the world's population concentrate on environmental issues, it seems appropriate, as a renegade Christian, to reflect for a moment on what the Bible says about the earth (since the Bible doesn't capitalize the planet's name, neither will we).  Pardon the blood-red typeface, please: I'm a bit tired of the color green in this context, and red is its opposite among the primary colors.
First, the most basic and obvious facts.  On this, Bible believers and skeptics alike have some basic agreements.  In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth .... and God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:1, 10).  The skeptics won't admit the "creation" part, but they'll certainly agree that the earth was "good:" that's what "Earth Day" is all about.  Hooray for earth!  Go, Blue! ...

But then Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God, and what Christians call "the Fall" took place: and the earth was utterly shattered. We can't begin to imagine how beautiful this planet was before the Fall; but, even afterwards, it remained magnificent.  But so much of its current beauty is the result of catastrophe: think of the Grand Canyon, or mighty mountains pushed up by volcanic activity.  Some of the most breathtaking sights on earth are the result of violence .... and the violence came as a result of Adam and Eve's rebellion.  In other words, earth started out perfect, and man almost immediately set about ruining it - - - and he's been ruining it ever since.  Fundamentalist Christians and radical environmentalists can agree on this part; the latter just leave out the "God" stuff, which they find inconvenient, many of them also being radical theophobes. 

The Bible describes earth's current condition, and does so without the help of Al Gore or "Friends of the Earth:" For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now (Romans 8:22). Earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, hurricanes: the planet is suffering.  And it's suffering because of man's rebellion.  The reason that the lion and the lamb aren't lying down together, yet, is because man destroyed God's perfect environment through sin.  And man will not restore that perfect environment through pantheistic orgies like "Earth Day," or even by the most dedicated "science."  It will be restored by God, at a time of His choosing, and not until.  
(Actually, as Francis Schaeffer pointed out, it's not quite accurate to call today's radical environmentalists "pantheists."  Pantheism is the belief that nature is the manifestation of God, or is, quite literally, God: that God consists of the rocks and trees and star clusters.  But the "Earth Day" types don't, as a rule, believe that God exists at all.  They don't believe that everything [pan-] is God, because they don't believe God is there in any form.  So, as Schaeffer said, they should be called "pan-everythingists."  They don't believe that everything is God; they believe that everything is everything. They just haven't worked out the absurdity of their presuppositions.  And I'm not picking on the "Earth Day" people: Al Gore didn't invent pantheism.  Hindus and Buddhists and Native Americans have pantheistic elements in their ideologies; but at least they connect the visible with some sort of Deity, which the modern, educated Westerners simply don't.)
There are, to be sure, professing Christians who are terribly concerned about the state of the planet .... infinitely more concerned, I might add, than they are about the state of other men's souls.  These liberal "Christians," who predominate in the mainline denominations (Roman Catholic and most Protestant groups), will weep, and weep sincerely, over the destruction of a species or the clear-cutting of a forest; but they won't shed a tear over millions of people going to Hell every week because they haven't heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They will yammer about "stewardship," and say that Adam and Eve (in whom they really don't believe) were put here to be "stewards" of the Garden.  Which is true; but they don't talk about the Fall, and how sin changed everything.  When the Bible refers to "stewardship" in the New Testament, it is not talking about "preventing global warming." That's a political position; and clergymen who present it as the Gospel are traitors to their calling, if they've been called at all.  They're infidels, and they literally don't give a damn about the souls of men and women.  If that offends you, go ahead and let your blood pressure shoot up: it won't affect your "carbon footprint."
little girl struggling

So, what about "global warming?" (That term isn't used so much any more; as it's gradually being discredited, the pan-everythingists are talking about "climate change.") Not being a scientist, I'm not going to enter that discussion, but as a middling student of the Bible, I can tell you God's plans for the earth.  At some point in the future (I believe the very near future), Jesus Christ is going to return to this planet, in the Flesh, with the scars showing, and sit down on David's Throne in Jerusalem, to rule the world with a rod of iron.  The planet will be restored for a thousand years; that's when the lion and lamb will lie down together, and the toddler will play, safely, with the rattlesnake and the anaconda. 
The planet will be ruled, politically, by the Jews: not the "Messianic Jews" or the "former Jews," but the Jews. And at the end of that time, there will be a final Judgment, the Great White Throne judgment of God, where every man and woman who hasn't received Jesus Christ will finally get his or her "day in court."  (I won't be there; my sins were judged at Calvary.)  Then, Satan will be bound and cast into Hell ..... and the human race will finally see what "global warming" is all about: 
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up (2 Peter 3:10).   
God burning earth
And eternity will continue, and Heaven and Hell will continue ... and you and I will continue, in one of those places.  The earth will be, for some, a memory; others will have more wonderful things to think about.
What is the current significance of the planet earth?  It's a place of great beauty, but also great ugliness; great joy, but also unending heartache.  But, as someone said, many many years ago:  "This earth is all of Heaven that an unbeliever in Jesus Christ will ever see - - - and all of Hell that a believer will ever see." 
Enjoy "Earth Day," if you like.  Make yourself feel good by "caring for the planet."  But if you care about the things that are really important, like your relationship with the Creator, why not make this the day to actually meet Him, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ? But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12).  Forget the politics and the fads and the fashions, and learn what life is all about!  You won't be disappointed!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Beware the Easter Bunny"

At the risk of being labeled a grinch, I must say it: The time has come to dispose of the Easter bunny. Even if it means braving the outrage of the chocolate lobby and the egg pickers, we must drive the bunny back into his hole, where he can no longer desecrate the most sacred of Christian celebrations. I didn't always feel this way. My earliest recollections of Easter involved scurrying around the house in search of the colored eggs my parents had dutifully hidden. Then, dressed in their Sunday best, they would haul me off to church, explaining that this was one day I had to go. I didn't know why. Thus, in my pagan youth, I fit perfectly with the pagan roots of Easter. Though we Christians today moan about its "secularization," we've got it backward. Easter's origins can be traced to a host of pre-Christian cultures. Its name is attributed to Eastre (the Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility), Astarte and Ishtar (the Babylonian goddesses), and Oster (the German equivalent). The Eastre festival was celebrated on the day of the spring equinox, with honors given to rabbits, symbols of fertility, and brightly colored eggs representing the sunlight of spring and new life. (The ancient Druids, Hindus, Japanese, Chinese, and Babylonians also celebrated spring with sacred eggs.) In the early centuries of the Christian church, the resurrection celebration (based on the timing of Passover) coincided with Eastre's festival. As pagan peoples were Christianized, their rituals cross-fertilized with the Christian celebration, which in turn took on the pagan name. This merger of sacred celebration with pagan tradition survived through the centuries. But never has it flourished more than in America today, where it feeds on our contemporary view of pluralism. That term has come to mean not respect for diversity, but rather a reduction of differences to the lowest common denominator. The insipid result has even become the law of the land; as the Supreme Court ruled in the Pawtucket creche case, sacred events may be publicly celebrated only if they satisfy a secular purpose. So holy days such as Christ's birth and resurrection survive only if adorned with commercial trinkets. Little wonder that millions of Americans grow up, as I did, associating Easter with egg hunts rather than the fact that split history: God raised his Son from the dead! So, though the Easter bunny may seem a harmless bit of springtime fluff, in truth it diverts our attention from the centrality of the Resurrection. And that's not harmless. Consider the consequences when the gospel is presented without this central truth: Several years ago, a newly appointed Anglican bishop in England, David Jenkins, announced to an amused secular press that the Resurrection was merely a "conjuring trick with bones." Most evangelicals cringed and hoped the coverage would die down soon. It did. But when I was recently in Sri Lanka, half a world away from Jenkins's diocese, I saw the long-term results of his words. As I asked an insightful Anglican rector about the growth of Christianity in his nation, he shook his head. "We are losing badly to the Moslems. It all began with the Jenkins business." He went on to explain that aggressive Moslems are visiting Christians, quoting Jenkins as authority that they no longer need believe in the Resurrection. Since Moslems and Christians now both see Jesus as merely a prophet, they argue, why not worship together in the mosque? "They are killings us with our bishop's own words," he concluded. Tragic. Without the Resurrection, Jesus is just another great moral teacher. People may as well turn to Islam--or anything else. As I reflected on Jenkins's statement, I wondered if we evangelicals are not - - - unconsciously, to be sure - - - guilty of the same heresy. In our eagerness to win the unsaved multitudes, we so often concentrate our message on "what God can do for you." I don't mean just the blatant health and wealth gospel that dominates Christian airwaves, but the more subtle emphasis on personal peace, contentment, and the good life. The message focusing only on "why nice things happen to God's people" concerns not the historic Christ of the Scriptures, but rather a giant Easter bunny in the sky who benevolently dispenses colored eggs for his eager flock to find. And sometimes, again unconsciously, we obscure the central truth of the Resurrection when we make personal testimony our primary form of evangelism. When I was in India last fall I had many opportunities to tell what Christ has done in my life. The thousands of faces in those predominantly Hindu crowds would nod and smile as I shared my experience. Hindus believe all roads lead to God - - - if Jesus was my guru, that's fine. They all had their gurus, too. But when I spoke of the reason for my faith, the resurrection of Christ, the nods would stop. People's expressions changed and they listened intently. The fact of the Resurrection demands a choice, one that reduces all other religions to mere philosophies. So that's my beef with the Easter bunny. He may be cute, entertaining millions of children; but he's deadly. He obscures the historic truth of the Resurrection no less than Bishop Jenkins, and we Christians should stop playing along. Maybe we should leave the springtime ritual to our pagan friends, and boldly proclaim Resurrection Day, We'd no doubt offend a few folk, but the cross is supposed to do that. At least people might hear the truth about the day we call Easter. And while we're at it, we need to be sure they hear it all year long. Without the Resurrection at the center of the Christian message, we all may as well put our hope in the Easter bunny.

- - - Charles Colson 

Copyright © The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Council of Europe Planning Crackdown on Christians

Now comes the word that the Council of Europe (CEU) is engaged in planning a sweeping new set of standards and proposed laws that would re-define and severely curtail religious freedom throughout Europe.  These new rules, if adopted, would apply to any religious group or denomination not "approved" by the Council, by defining them as "sects" and stripping them of many of their rights.  Although some branches of Islam, and some cults such as Scientology, could conceivably be affected, the real target is evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants.  The proposed changes could have very practical effects, such as forbidding Christians to educate their children at home, a right protected under Article 9 and Protocol 1, Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

For the benefit of Americans and others, be it noted that the Council of Europe is an entirely separate organization from the European Union.  The Council, formed in 1949, contains 47 member states, and cannot make laws; the European Union, the actual political alliance governing Europe, currently has 28 member states, and has the power to legislate and enforce laws.  However, the Council of Europe is regarded as a vibrant and historically important part of European history and culture, and works closely with the EU, especially in areas of education and culture.  In those areas, the recommendations of the Council are taken very seriously by the leaders of the EU.

A Report “on the protection of minors against excesses of sects” and a draft Resolution have been adopted by the Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights, and presented to the Parliamentary Assembly this month.  This report contains extreme and draconian definitions of what constitutes an acceptable "religion," as opposed to a "sect."  Although Vatican City is not a member of the Council, Roman Catholicism and mainstream Protestantism will be protected, but such "sects" as evangelical and fundamentalist Christians will not.  If passed by the EU, this legislation would instantly remove, among other things, the right of evangelical parents to educate their children at home; other consequences would undoubtedly follow.  As is happening all over the world, genuine Biblical Christianity is being marginalized and demonized by those who cry out for "human rights."

This is a long and sordid story, and the details can be found here. They should be read by anyone who is concerned with true religious liberty.  A petition against the Council's actions has received over 12,000 signatures, but has now been closed.  Regardless, anyone living in Europe should be aware of the situation, and oppose it with any means possible.

Europe, alas, has a long and scandalous history of religious oppression, from the Roman Empire to the  Russian pogroms to the Third Reich and beyond.  This is merely the latest example, and is a genuine outrage.  If this post sounds alarmist, one would do well to remember the words of T. S. Eliot:
"It is hard for those who have never known persecution,
And who have never known a Christian,
To believe these tales of Christian persecution."