Posted in By Ron Thomas, Christianity and Culture

Liberal and proud of it!

By Ron Thomas

The confusion of what is moral and what is not is illustrated in the quote by our former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich:

“The moral crisis of our age has nothing to do with gay marriage or abortion. It’s insider trading, obscene CEO pay, wage theft from ordinary workers, Wall Street’s continued gambling addiction, corporate payoffs to friendly politicians, and the billionaire takeover of our democracy.”

This was a Facebook post by one of my friends on the social media page, taken from the page for a group called Liberal And Proud Of It (for actual quote, see https://www.facebook.com/RBReich/posts/819661468046451).

If these words that are attributed to Reich are accurate, then is there any wonder there is moral chaos in our society? Is it really the case that liberal ideology equates, yea, values more the dollar bill and its distribution in society than the sacredness of life in a child or the sacredness of an institution that perpetuates societies? It must be. I replied to these words with “Really?” My friend on Facebook said she was in complete agreement with the sentiment (though she is personally opposed to abortion).

I don’t believe she is atheist or anything close to that, but this is exactly the way an atheist would argue. This is nothing but an ideology associated with hedonism. Hedonism is a philosophy that subscribes to a way of thinking like this: ethics pertains to that which gives one the greatest pleasure. Whatever it is, it is to be pursued. Thus, it is moral. This could be altruistic desires or a denigrating form of selfishness. In both cases, and even including that which is between, hedonism is a philosophy that has its origin in man.

It is apparent that preserving life does not warrant the moral level of status that the procuring power of the dollar gives. Moreover, for some, it is pleasurable (moral) to pursue the means of commerce, but not the sacred preserving of life given by God.

It is not likely that the above paragraph will find concurrence from liberals, progressives and secularists, but if there is complete agreement with the sentiment above by Robert Reich then this is exactly the force and implication of those words. The argument is: there is no inherent value in the life of a child (at least as long as it is not your own child!), but there is value in the dollar’s placement in the hands of people.

Hedonism is an evil moral ethic. “Without hedonism, there would be no point or meaning to our moral decisions” (Joe Barnhart in The Warren-Barnhart Debate on Christian Ethics versus Utilitarian Ethics, November 5, 1980, Denton, Texas).

No matter the identifying moniker of a particular moral philosophy that an atheist or secularist adopts, it all boils down to hedonism. That which a person wants (desires), and finds the greatest pleasure in, is to be pursued.

The Lord addressed this philosophy.

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:20-31, ESV)

Posted in By Ron Thomas, Doctrine

Denominationalism exists because?

By Ron Thomas

Why are there so many denominations? This is the question asked in a Bible study book called God’s Answers to Man’s Questions (p. 178). The answer given? “Each is probably like a variety of fruit and it takes many varieties to make an orchard. (Many spokes to make a wheel.) Christ’s desire is that the Church on earth should be clean, glorious and holy, Eph. 5:27. ‘That He might present it (the Church) to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it (you and I) should be holy and without blemish.’”

This is all there is to his answer. Did he answer it? Yes, I suppose you can say he did. Is his answer adequate or, better yet, biblical? It is not. The Bible passage he referenced is certainly biblical, but it does not support the contention of the “orchard” he mentioned.

In the same epistle of Paul to the Ephesians there is also a reference to the church obeying Christ in everything (5:24), and that there is only one church or body (4:4; 1:22). There is no mention of more than one, and there is no mention of anything corresponding to an orchard.

This is the problem with such an approach to the topic. In one’s desire to be charitable to others of a different persuasion or understanding of Scripture, there is an answer given that is wholly inadequate and unbiblical. It is good to be charitable, but it is better to be biblical.

Problem. Denominationalism got its start with the thinking of man. One can go as far back as 1 Corinthians 1:10, and note the seed of denominationalism being planted. Paul took note of it and “headed it off at the pass” before the seed broke ground (so to speak). Denominationalism is a plague that every man has to address at some level with regard to himself. A man constantly struggles to suppress his own thoughts and his own ways under the authority of Christ. Jeremiah proclaimed quite a number of years ago that in man there is no direction within that allows him to know where he is going – if he desires to go to God. “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23, KJV).

Denominationalism exists because man has allowed his way of thinking to rise to the top. In Galatians 2:20, Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (ESV). Thus, the Lord’s apostle made it very clear that the only thinking that was (and is) to rise to the top is that thinking that belongs to Christ. This is another way of saying that which Paul wrote to the church in Rome. The NET reads, “For I will not dare to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in order to bring about the obedience of the Gentiles, by word and deed” (Romans 15:18).

Solution. Considering further what Paul said in his remarks to Rome, he would not allow himself to speak by his authority, but only by the authority of Christ. Given the fact that Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to preach and write, one can be sure he spoke only the word of God (cf. 1 Timothy 6:3). Second, Paul would only do that which the Lord authorized. In other words, if the Lord did not “ok” it, it was not to be done!

The New Testament does not speak, not even a little bit, of denominationalism. It is a man-made concept; they are institutions of ideology that allow us to “agree to disagree.” If there is one “Church” (one body) in the heavenly realm, why is there not the same on earth? Because many want to eat from an orchard full of variety. I, on the other hand, want to eat from the singleness of the Lord’s hand.

Posted in By Ron Thomas, Reviews

Impressions from the Deaver-Vick Debate

By Ron Thomas

The remarks below are simply impressions, nothing more. I am sure that others have an entirely different impression of the debate. Below, I have three primary paragraphs: 1. Style, 2. Substance, 3. A final word. I was present for two nights (Monday and Thursday). For the Tuesday and Wednesday presentations, I watched it online (now archived here).

With regard to style, it must be said that “style” gains no points of substance in a discussion like these two men were engaged in. However, it does convey (to me anyhow) the comfort one has going in with (1) the occasion, (2) material. I thought both men carried themselves reasonably well. Of the two, Mac Deaver was more polished, but that is not to say that Ben Vick was bad. In fact, as I interpreted their mannerisms, both looked relaxed, engaged, and capable of presenting their position and countering the other’s. I was especially struck by Mac’s disposition and methodology throughout. Ben was erratic, but don’t let this word give you the sense that he did not know what he was doing, or even how. It’s just that there were more “starts and stops” with him than with Mac, who appeared much more fluid.

With regard to substance, Ben seemed to speak a bit about Mac’s insistence at his (Ben’s) lack of offering a logical argument for his position (the first two nights). Ben denied that he had failed to do so, and when he did ultimately offer one, Mac negated one of the premises of Ben’s argument by stating that Ben did not prove the premise correct, but only asserted it; thus it was an unsound argument (though valid in form). When Mac was in the affirmative, he quickly set out his arguments (Wednesday) and took time to prove each one of his premises which warranted the conclusion Mac presented to the debate audience. Ben did not address a single one, though he made an attempt on the last night of the debate (though it was not much).

One final word, I noticed throughout the debate what I thought were some unfortunate remarks by Ben. Though he complained that Mac was condescending (something I did not detect at all), it was actually Ben who made a few remarks that I thought were a bit disparaging. Those things happen, and I would have dismissed it if it would not have been for Ben’s last speech Thursday evening. There is only one word that I would use – pitiful! It was condescending, belittling, and entirely useless for the occasion. It appeared to me that Ben wanted to go out as a “dragon-slayer,” and he wanted to be in the negative for exactly this reason. Moreover, it also appeared to me, that Ben wanted his “faithful brethren” to know (with this last speech) that he stood with the “truth” and opposed a “false teacher.” Yes, it appeared that Ben wanted to “throw his chest out” and warn others about teaching something contrary to what is believed to be sacred.

Though, I have never been asked, I would recommend that if one wanted to debate brother Vick, that person think very seriously about allowing him the opportunity to speak last. If this is his manner, you might regret giving him an audience.

Posted in By Ron Thomas, Christian Living

Be Like Johanan?

By Ron Thomas

Have you ever met anyone who spoke better than they did? In fact, we might ask ourselves, are we guilty of speaking better than we actually do? I know I am. However, I sure don’t want to EVER be guilty of that which Johanan did.

In the chaos of Jerusalem’s sacking, Babylon’s king left a remnant in the city. Those who were poor and feeble were left behind to tend to a destroyed city which, in many respects, was a living coffin. Babylon left a governor in place; his name was Gedaliah. The governor was warned a plot was being raised against him, but Gedaliah was not receiving the viability of this plot. In time, the governor was murdered by a man named Ishmael. Ishmael was a force to be reckoned with, and a man named Johanan was one to do it.

In the meanwhile, Jeremiah was tending to matters of his own. Because of Jeremiah’s faithfulness to the Lord, when Babylon had captured Jerusalem (and thus Jeremiah), the Lord had shown mercy to His prophet when Babylon’s king gave Jeremiah the opportunity to stay in Jerusalem or go to Babylon and be cared for by the king. Jeremiah chose to stay.

In time, Johanan sought out Jeremiah and asked for counsel concerning whether he should stay in Jerusalem or flee to Egypt. They were frightened by the prospects of staying in Jerusalem, and the prospects of going to Egypt seemed rather peaceful to them. To Jeremiah they go seeking counsel. Ten days later word from the Lord comes to Jeremiah, and Jeremiah gives this word to Johanan and all that were with him.

The Lord called Johanan a hypocrite (cf. Jeremiah 42:5-6, 20).

So gripped by embarrassment (presumably) and arrogant pride (Jeremiah 43:2), the recipients of the Lord’s message spoke against Jeremiah by calling him a liar. They refused to hear anything of the Lord because they were determined to go to Egypt. Their earlier approach to Jeremiah was nothing more than a facade.

It is a struggle for us in life to know exactly what to do in all circumstances; in fact, so much of a struggle it is we sometimes just don’t know what to do! We appeal to the Lord for wisdom, counsel, and direction, praying earnestly and frequently. In doing so let us be sure we hear and obey the Lord. His word is our ultimate authority, and to go beyond the Lord’s revealed will is to leave the Lord Himself. It may be that our heart is really pulling us in one direction, but if that one direction is contrary to the Lord’s expressed will we can be sure the Lord is not with us and, in fact, He will be against us.

Do you want to be like Johanan? That’s what you’ll be like if you refuse to hear and heed what the Lord has said. He spoke better than he did.