Being Protestant, Protesting Injustice, and Learning from John Bunyan

Teacher and author Douglas Bond had a significant post this week, pulling together thoughts about the ongoing protests against injustices in America, being a committed Protestant Christian, and his latest book project on John Bunyan. He has some powerful thoughts that help us evaluate the present crisis and keep proper perspective as believers.

Here are his opening paragraphs before he goes into some detail about his book on Bunyan. To finish reading his thoughts, visit the link at the end.

We’ve seen sustained protests in the streets of cities all across American, protests that have erupted into mayhem and violence, more evil, more injustice, and more death, including the death of a Black retired police officer, and a Black female on-duty police officer, both shot and killed by participants in the protests, ironically, protesting police violence against Black people.

I am unapologetically a Protestant Christian, finding my spiritual and theological roots in the Protestant Reformation. Did you notice the word protest in the word Protestant? In a fallen world filled with sin, falsehood, and injustice, there will be times when we must stand and protest. But when and how do Christians go about taking their stand, protesting against falsehood, injustice, and evil? I’ve been thinking a great deal about this in the last two months as I have been writing about the life of John Bunyan, a man who protested, took his stand against unjust laws and corrupt magistrates. What did he get for his protest? Threatened with deportation to the colonies or being stretched by the neck until dead. Determined to stop his unlicensed gospel preaching, his enemies unjustly threw him in jail for twelve long years.

Immersed in Bunyan’s history and life, as a writer the last seven weeks have been an absolute delight. I thought I loved John Bunyan before writing The Hobgoblins of John Bunyan, but now I love him to an incalculable degree. His entire life is an enactment of God’s way in the gospel: God chooses the foolish to confound the wise (I Cor 1), the younger brother over the elder, the things that are of no account and are mocked and scorned by the world–these are precious in the sight of our God and Savior.

That was Bunyan, a poor, peasant tinker, with little formal education, surrounded by the Puritan age, an age of great piety, of great learning and erudition, and of great literary accomplishment. And along comes humble Bunyan, his life transformed by the power of the gospel, and, undaunted, he preaches, and suffers, and writes, including penning the best-selling book of all time (next to the English Bible), never out of print since 1678 (ignore JK Rowling’s claim to have exceeded Bunyan; it took her seven books to his one; that’s not how it works).

Source: Being Protestant and Protesting Injustice

In John Roberts’ America, Words Mean Nothing

In John Roberts’ America, Words Mean Nothing.

words-2For our word feature today, we are going to post something that could be taken as rather negative. But truth is truth, and the truth is always positive, also when it exposes the lie in negative terms.

I found this online article by Kim Holmes in the July 5, 2015 “Daily Signal” (Heritage Foundation’s daily commentary) about Supreme Court Justice John Robert’s distorted use of language in the recent Obamacare decision to be quite revealing. And I think my readers will agree. It touches on something vitally important in our postmodern – and, I might add, post-Christian – world.

Can we agree, therefore, to maintain (and practice!) that words must mean what they are intended to convey? There is, after all, objective reality in words too. And we cannot function properly without such objectivity. Just consider the collection of words in the image I chose. Can “Michigan” – to take one example – mean whatever I want it to mean? Can the meaning of that word change from decade to decade? You get the point.

And shall we not then be a people who “speak the truth in love” no matter what the issue is and to whom we are speaking it? Our Lord had something to say to this too when He said in his great sermon, “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil” (Matt.5:37).

Here’s the beginning of Holmes’ article. Find all of it at the link above.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s lament last week that “words no longer have meaning” got me to thinking. I don’t claim to know Chief Justice John Roberts’ motivations in deciding in favor of Obamacare, but I do know that his deconstruction of the meaning of language is increasingly commonplace in our culture. Could his willingness to bend the meaning of the word “states” indicate something larger than what’s happening to the law? Could it actually be a sign of a major cultural shift in the country?

Welcome to postmodern America. For decades now, we have been living in a culture where the meaning of words is stretched almost beyond recognition. “Metanarratives” ring truer than actual facts. Self-prescribed identities trump everything, including nature. A white woman can blithely claim she is black, but when challenged, the only thing she can muster in her defense is irritable confusion and a declaration of how she “identifies.” A man announces he’s a woman and is celebrated as a hero.

Chief Justice Roberts may have had legal and political reasons for ignoring the common usage of words, but it is hard to escape the conclusion that, like so many others in our culture, he felt that being a stickler for a word’s actual meaning was just pedantic, a trivial matter when compared to the importance of some larger cause—in his case, delivering what he thought Congress really intended.

And why should we blame him? After all, if the prevailing wisdom says that a person’s gender or race is what he or she says it is, then why fuss over the meaning of the word “states”? Words mean what we say they mean, right?

Supreme Court rules ObamaCare provision can’t force some employers to cover contraception | Fox News

Supreme Court rules ObamaCare provision can’t force some employers to cover contraception | Fox News.

hobby_lobby_300x225Since we have been following the case of Hobby Lobby (owned by the Green family who are Christians) against the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”), I thought it good to report that yesterday the Supreme Court of our land ruled in favor of the company by a 5-4 vote. This vote also affects other Christian-owned companies who were fighting this mandate, including AutoCam here in Grand Rapids.

In this news report, Fox News reports on the meaning and significance of this decision. For the full story, follow the link above.

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that certain “closely held” for-profit businesses can cite religious objections in order to opt out of a requirement in ObamaCare to provide free contraceptive coverage for their employees.

The 5-4 decision, in favor of arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby and one other company, marks the first time the court has ruled that for-profit businesses can cite religious views under federal law. It also is a blow to a provision of the Affordable Care Act which President Obama’s supporters touted heavily during the 2012 presidential campaign.

“Today is a great day for religious liberty,” Adele Keim, counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which represented Hobby Lobby, told Fox News.

Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court: landmark case for religious liberty to be heard Tues. – Baptist Press

Baptist Press -Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court: landmark case for religious liberty to be heard Tues. – News with a Christian Perspective.

Today, as the Supreme Court returns to its work, our justices will begin treating the cases of two companies owned by Christian families who are opposed to the unbiblical and unethical demands of the Affordable Healthcare Act (unaffectionately known as “Obamacare”). Baptist Press carried this report about the significance of these cases, and indeed, as Christians we ought to be informed and concerned about the outcome of these cases (Read the full report at the link above.).

Which means that we ought also be in prayer today for our SC and those defending these Christian businesses. The AFA (American Family Association) offered a sample prayer in its mailing yesterday, which I thought was appropriate to use as a guide (see below).

hobby_lobby_300x225WASHINGTON (BP) — The fate of religious freedom for Americans, especially business owners, could hang in the balance when the U.S. Supreme Court convenes March 25.

The justices will hear oral arguments that day in challenges by two family owned corporations to the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate, which requires employers to provide abortion-causing drugs for their workers. Hobby Lobby, a nationwide retail chain based in Oklahoma City, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania business, contend the federal regulation violates their owners’ consciences and a 1993 law protecting religious liberty.

Religious freedom advocates predict the Supreme Court’s decision will be far-reaching.

The high court’s opinion “will determine the next 100 years of church/state jurisprudence,” said Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Joshua Hawley, a lawyer assisting Hobby Lobby, described it as “a landmark case.”

“It has major significance for religious liberty” and “for what constitutional rights business owners can claim,” said Hawley, a member of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s legal team and an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Law.

Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, explained to Baptist Press the consequences for not only the Green family, the evangelicals who own Hobby Lobby, and the Hahns, the pro-life Mennonite family that owns Conestoga Wood, but other people who seek to exercise their religious beliefs.

“If the Hahn and Green families lose, the door would be open to allow the government to force people of faith to pay massive fines threatening jobs and health coverage just simply because they are choosing not to violate their faith and conscience,” Bowman told BP in an email interview.

“If the Hahn and Green families win, it will protect religious liberty as promised in the Constitution and American law, and people of faith will not be subject to massive fines just because they don’t want to help destroy human life.”

P.S. You may also be interested in this infographic on the Hobby Lobby case.

The AFA offered this prayer as a guide for Christians today (You will want to adapt some of the wording to match your own convictions, but I hope you can appreciate its emphasis on the sovereignty of God.):

Lord God, Our Father, you are the Righteous Judge over all the earth. We pray that you will have mercy on the United States as the Supreme Court hears a case that will shape the balance between government power and freedom of religion.

Give words to the attorneys for Hobby Lobby as they argue that our free exercise of religion includes how Christians live and work, not just what we do when we gather for worship, so that whatever we do in word or deed, we may do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

God, enlighten the Justices of the Supreme Court to acknowledge that you alone are Lord of our consciences. Give the Court humility to recognize that you are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and that you have instituted human government so that your people may serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before you, all the days of our life.

And Lord, give us grace and boldness to use the religious liberty that we still have to make your truth and mercy known. Amen.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 129

Psalm129-2Our psalm for consideration today as we prepare to worship at our sovereign God’s footstool is Psalm 129. This is the tenth of the “song of degrees” or “ascent”, sung by the Israelite pilgrims as they journeyed to Jerusalem for the solemn seasons of worship according to the law of the Lord. As they made their way to the city of God, they were conscious of many things, including their enemies, as we have seen previously (see especially Psalms 120, 124).

According to Psalm 129 the people of God were conscious of these foes of the Lord and themselves again and sang this song along the way:

Psalm 129

Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth, may Israel now say:

2 Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: yet they have not prevailed against me.

3 The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows.

4 The Lord is righteous: he hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked.

5 Let them all be confounded and turned back that hate Zion.

6 Let them be as the grass upon the housetops, which withereth afore it groweth up:

7 Wherewith the mower filleth not his hand; nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom.

8 Neither do they which go by say, The blessing of the Lord be upon you: we bless you in the name of the Lord.

 

Why sing of such haters of Zion? Why sing/pray for the ruin of these enemies of the church? Because Israel realized how important her cause and calling was. The worship of the one, true and living God was the highest activity in which Israel could be engaged. It is the chief purpose of the church to praise and glorify the God of the whole earth, the God Who is her Lord by creation and redemption in Jesus Christ. God must be exalted – in the church and among the nations. He must be shown to be God alone and all idols shown to be nothing.

And therefore, the worship of this one, true God was Israel’s holiest activity and her highest witness to the wicked world around her. And as the NT church, we must know that our worship of the Lord still is this.

Which is why this worship is so hated, so despised, and so opposed. This is why Zion, God’s true, worshiping church in the world is so afflicted, even from his youth (vss.1-2). Because the wicked and unbelieving cannot stand to see the one, true God exalted and praised and their own idols and worship condemned and put down. Their carnal enmity against God is roused when they see Zion marching to worship Him, and so they attack God’s people and try to prevent them from worshiping (v.3). They would never give their blessing and encouragement to the church in her journey to Jerusalem (v.8).No, they hate Zion and curse her (Remember Balak?!).

And again, as God’s NT church, we must know it is still the same. We may not experience that hatred and opposition so directly in this country (Though it is increasing all the time!), but in many parts of the world believers in the true God and Father of Jesus Christ do. The persecution of God’s true worshipers continues to this day.

And so the church then and now may and must sing the words of Psalm 129. Such words may be viewed as “intolerant” in our day; they may be viewed as “hate speech” on the part of the church. But these inspired words of God are also put into her mouth: “Let them be confounded and turned back that hate Zion.” For, yes, our God is righteous (v.4)! He is the just Judge of all men, including the wicked Who hate Zion.

In praying for the overthrow of her enemeies the church is not acting out of personal spite or revenge. She is commiting her way to the Judge of heaven and earth. She is seeking the revelation of the perfect justice of the righteous God, Who blesses and rewards good-doers and Who curses and punishes evil-doers. This God is the great Savior and Defender of His church (v.4). He protects His true worshipers so that the wicked do not prevail against them (v.2b). And therefore to this God Zion prays.

And so, as Israel sang this as she went up to Jerusalem, so do we who go up to the spiritual city of God. Conscious of our foes, as the OT church was, we sing with her, “Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth….” May our sovereign Savior and faithful Father hear our prayer and answer us in mercy. For Christ’s sake, because as sinners, we too are by nature the enemies of God. But now, for Jesus’ sake, we are covenant friends. Let us draw near and worship!

Psalter1912If you should desire to reflect on Psalm 129 through the music of the Psalter, I point you to this special versification of it found in the songbook the PRC uses in public worship. Below are the lyrics; at the link provided here you will also find piano accompaniment.

1. Through all the years, may Israel say,
My bitter foes have oft assailed,
Have sought my hurt in fierce array,
Yet over me have not prevailed.

2. Though scars of conflict and distress
Remain to tell of trials past,
Jehovah in His righteousness
Has safely brought us through at last.

3. The foes of Zion shall be brought
To hopeless flight and put to shame;
Their wicked plans shall come to nought
And all mankind forget their name.

4. To them no kindly friend shall say,
God bless you now and speed you well;
No grateful heart for them shall pray,
May God’s rich blessing on you dwell.

 

Roe v. Wade’s Days Are Numbered | Christianity Today

Roe v. Wade’s Days Are Numbered | Christianity Today.

AbuseofDiscretion-CForsytheThis coming Sunday, January 19, 2014, is designated by various pro-life organizations as “Sanctity of Human Life” Sunday here in the United States. In connection with that Christianity Today highlights a new book (Sept., 2013) which calls into question some serious legal issues with the infamous Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision (1973) and points to the fact that it could actually be overturned someday.

Part of this article is an interview with the author, Clark Forsythe. Below is the opening part of this article. It is worth reading from many points of view, not the least of which is that we may know what developments there are in undoing this tragic law in our land. To read the entire article, visit the CT link above.

Forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade decision, a leading pro-life legal expert believes the decision has never been more vulnerable to being overturned.

In his new book, Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade, Clark Forsythe, senior legal counsel at Americans United for Life, details what he uncovered in examining the private papers of the justices, their case files, and oral arguments. After 20 years of research, Forsythe found that:

  • The justices decided to hear Roe under a misunderstanding that it concerned state criminal prosecutions, not a constitutional right to abortion.
  • They arbitrarily expanded fetal viability from 12 weeks to 28 weeks with little discussion or medical knowledge.
  • The Court’s majority relied heavily on popular, but unproved, ’70s-era evidence that there was an urgent need for population control in the United States.

Since Roe, there have been 50 million abortions in the United States. Currently, there are about 1 million per year. But public opinion has slowly been shifting toward ending abortion on demand. The 2013 Gallup poll showed that since 1995, more Americans than ever consider themselves pro-life. Overall the nation remains very evenly divided on abortion. Gallup reports that there is a difference of only 3 percentage points between pro-life and pro-choice (48 percent vs. 45 percent).

Timothy C. Morgan, CT senior editor of global journalism, recently interviewed Forsythe about his book, which The Wall Street Journal said “provides a cautionary tale about the political and constitutional hazards of unnecessarily broad Supreme Court decisions.”

Word Wednesday: “Ordeal”

UnfortunateEnglishFor our word feature this Wednesday we return to the great little word book Unfortunate English: The Gloomy Truth Behind the Words You Use by Bill Brohaugh (Writer’s Digest Books, 2006). Taking our final selection from the second main part of the book – “It Pains Me to Say: Words of Assault, Torture, Bloodletting, and Death” – we choose the word “ordeal” today. This word too has an interesting history, including a tie to the justice of God, as you will see. Here’s the entry under this word:

No one wants to suffer through an ordeal. The taxing experiences we call ordeals try your patience, your durability, your ability to cope.

They once tried, in a legal sense, your criminal guilt or innocence.

And guilty or innocent, you would literally suffer through a literal ordeal.

If your wounds didn’t fester after carrying a red-hot bar nine paces, you were innocent. Lucky you.

If you could retrieve a stone immersed in boiling water and didn’t develop blisters, you were innocent. Lucky you.

If you managed to walk an obstacle course of nine red-hot plowshares without incurring injury, you were innocent. And, small detail: You had to do it blindfolded.

If you didn’t drown after being thrown into a pool of water with a millstone tied around your neck, you were innocent.

These and other variations of ordeal (as in the phrase ‘trial by ordeal’) lasted until the 1200s and were based on a concept called judicia Dei. If God protected you, allowing you to survive or remain scathed only to a certain degree, God was issuing His judgment of innocence. The weakened and nonlegal sense of ordeal had arrived by the mid-1600s.

Makes your daily ordeals a little less trying, doesn’t it? (pp.60-61)