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Archive for the month “January, 2012”

Overthrowing the government: Is it justified?

When governments go wrong, what should the Christian response be? This question is very important, especially in countries where the common person has little or no power. Some people think that you should lead a revolution. I belive that bloodshed should always be avoided. Others would say that you should be silent and wait for circumstances to change, but that doesn’t help us now. I think Christians should always have one eye on heaven, and the other on today, so solutions like this do not help much. I think that we should attempt to reform whatever has gone wrong. One way I have heard it put is this way: if you had to change a painting, you could just rip it apart and start over. But there is another way. You could scrape a bit here, add a bit there, and change the painting while still keeping the good parts. I think that is the best way, so long as we are doing it according to the Scriptures.

Overthrowing the government is not something that Christians should worry about. We should always stand up for what we believe, but we should not do so with malice. When we stand up against the government for what we believe, it should be civil disobedience, not angry disobedience. Assassinations are never a good thing. Look at when Saul was chasing David. David had several chances to kill Saul, and yet he never did. Why? Because Saul was the Lord’s anointed. All governments are placed by God, and so we should never violently attempt to change them. For this reason, I feel that the Biblical standing of the American Revolution is debatable.

Overall, I hope that I have shown that we are to see the government as it is, but at the same time, we should never forget that it is anointed by God. He is the One who raises up the nations, and He will be the One who casts them down. He does not need our help.

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American idols: The government

This is the first post in a possible series dealing with what I feel are popular idols in America. I took the title from an extremely popular show called by the predictable name of American Idol. I think this should be a series, because there are far too many idols to effectively cover in one or two posts. This one is a trial run, so tell me if you like the idea, and if you do, please give me some ideas. I am going to attempt to look at this from a Christian point of view, so please also tell me if I missed something.

I think I should start with a definition of what I am calling an idol, and also what I mean by government. What I think the Biblical definition of an idol is very simple; An idol is any man-made thing that draws or worship away from God. The ones usually cited are money, celebrities, and cars, although these are by no means the complete and final list of idols. This essay is going to be confined to the government. What I mean by the term government is anything that is seen as a symbol of the nation.

The first thing to realize is that the Constitution and the other founding documents are considered to be the Holy Scriptures by some. We should realize that there is no such thing as an authoritative document apart from the Word of God. One of the biggest problems with the constitution is that it can be changed, or amended. I think that this just means that the Constitution of America has no real authority, because it can be changed by a few hands raising. Interestingly, the process of determining what the constitution actually says is entirely up to a judge’s opinions. While some would consider this a strength, because it means that we can change with the times, this is actually one of the worst weaknesses of the government as a god. What god can’t speak for himself without a priest deciding what he wants to say?

The American flag is another idol, and one that we go through all the motions of a pagan worshipping it. Just listen. First, everyone must assume the proper form of submission, by saluting it as if it were in command. Next, we are expected to pledge allegiance to the flag, and then, almost as an afterthought, to the government. Nowhere is there a mention of God, except as the protector of our country, which is what most of the pagans thought of their gods as. I realize that there are many patriots who won’t like this. Please don’t understand this as an attack on them, as I just wanted to show the way it appears to me.

Finally, we are to make sure that we follow all the laws of the nation, even at the expense of our relationship with Christ. Just look at what you are not allowed to do in public schools. A teacher can’t read their Bible in class, can’t pray in class, can’t do anything openly Christian in class. The only time a teacher is allowed to be Christian in the school building is if they are asked about it, but even then, they can only answer the question, and are not allowed to go anywhere beyond that point, at the cost of their job. Don’t you agree that the government is an idol?

 

How should we respond to manipulative “friends”?

This post is going to be about the question at the top. I am going to confine the answer to this to those “friends” of ours who are always taking advantage of us, manipulating us to suit their own needs. I hope that none of us have that sort of friend, but whether you do or not, please tell me what you think is the best way to deal with this. I am going to attempt to answer this question by presenting a scenario and us ing that as a launch pad. I am also going to attempt to answer the question of whether or not we should have non-Christian friends, as these are much more likely to be manipulative than biblical Christians.

To start this let’s consider the following: One day at lunchtime, a friend of yours tells you that they forgot their lunch, and were hoping that you would share some of yours. You are happy to share. A few days later, the same thing happens, and a few days after that, it happens again. A pattern has started, and you are considering packing more food on a permanent basis. What would make you keep sharing, and what would make you stop sharing?

The first question to ask is: are they having a real need? In other words, are they really either forgetting their lunch or don’t have enough food? If the answer to this is yes, then we as Christians should continue to share, at the same time letting someone who can help them more permanently know.

If they don’t have a real need, the next question is: why are they asking you to share? The answer to this is probably that they have decided that your lunch tastes better or something of that sort.

The last thing to consider is: what are we going to do? The first thing is to gently let them know that you will not let them manipulate you any more, and then stand by your decision. Being nice to people doesn’t mean that we should let them walk all over us. We are to give to those who need it. Jesus himself said that he came to heal the sick, not the healthy.

Whether or not we can have non-Christian friends is a question that is asked because people are dragged down much easier than they are pulled up. This means that it is easier for someone to pull you away from Christ than for you to pull them to him. I think that the answer to this is simple. You can have non-Christian friends, but you should not make them your best friends that you do everything with.

Myths, legends, and the Bible: how do they fit together?

When myths and legends come our way, what should our response be? Some would say to reject all of them as products of an ignorant imagination, but I think that is a bit extreme. Others would say that they should be studied as clues to the archaic man’s thinking, but that doesn’t help us much today. I think that the answer is to study them to help us learn what is good, and what to avoid. Myths and legends can also help us gain a greater appreciation for the Bible’s message by looking at what it would have meant in that day.

We should first look at what a myth or legend is, and the difference between them. A myth is defined as a traditional story, usually concerning the early history of a certain people. It can also mean a widely held, but false idea. A legend is also a traditional story, but it is usually much closer to the here and now. We should also remember that defining something as a myth or legend is a purely subjective decision that depends on the judge’s beliefs. For instance, an atheist will call the Bible a collection of myths, legends, and fables, while a Christian will look at the Bible as the inerrant book to follow for life.

When trying to determine whether there is anything of value in a myth or legend, we should always remember to view it through the lens of the Scriptures. If we follow the guidelines of the Bible, we may discover either virtues that we are missing, or fallacies in what most people believe were the beliefs of ancient men. We should also remember that all of mankind has a measure of grace from God, and so no man is entirely without a set of Biblically sound morals somewhere in his life. When I say this, I mean that all men have a built-in moral compass. This means that man’s myths and legends will always have something done correctly, even though not everything will be the same way.

I now want to give a few examples of modern-day myths and legends. One of these is the theory of evolution and the Big Bang, whose followers are forced to believe that ths incredibly fine-tuned universe is the product of random chance. Both of these are more outrageous and require more faith than any other account of creation I have yet heard. Another is today’s New Age philosophy. The idea of a “force” that binds the universe together and exists within everyone is great, and even partly true, but I think Star Wars is cooler. These are the two that came to mind right off the bat.

All together, I hope that I have shown that our attitude towards myths and legends should be that of a gentle student of God. We should remember to worship God, and learn from him in all that we do. We should also remember that people’s beliefs can always be places to evangelize from, as eventually, something can always be found that relates back to the Bible, and from there to Jesus. Please comment on this, and tell me what you think about it. Type to you later!

A comparison of Socrates and Solomon: what is the good life?

This is another comparison of Socrates and a Biblical figure. This one is going to compare the wise men of two different cultures. One thing I find interesting is that Socrates is Greek, making him a Gentile. In the Bible, Greek seems to be a synonym for all Gentiles. Not very important, but still interesting. Also, this seems to be funny because Solomon knows that he has nothing, even with everything in the world, while Socrates is the ugly, poor man who has decided he is the wisest man on earth. I am taking Socrates’ ideas from his dialogues, and Solomon’s ideas from Ecclesiastes. I am going to show that Solomon is the wiser. Once again, I am doing this in the Greek writing exercise form, so please bear with the boring form. This way makes it a lot easier for me to figure out what to write. As always, feel free to comment on my post. This one being a battle between worldviews, I would love to know what everyone thinks.

First, I will state how they got their wisdom. Solomon’s wisdom came as a gift from God, so that immediately gives it a head start over Socrates’ wisdom. Socrates claimed that the only wisdom he had was that he knew that he was not wise, but he assumed a lot of things for such a man. Being a philosopher, it would be kind of hard for him to claim that.

Their birth and upbringing gave Solomon another boost. He was born into the house of the king of Israel, God’s chosen people. Not only that, but his father was a man after God’s own heart. Socrates was born into a family of middle class Greeks, so he would not have a chance at the true wisdom that comes from knowing God. I think that it is obvious that Solomon had a better childhood.

What their wisdom actually taught is the main part of this post. Socrates taught such things as reincarnation, every man being his own God, and a host of other things that todays New Age philosophers would shout with joy over. If you are surprised at this, let me steal some of Solomon’s wisdom: “there is nothing new under the sun.” Socrates’ idea of the good life was to find “the truth.” However, there are a few differences between Socrates and todays popular thinking: Socrates believed in absolutes, and he believed in right and wrong.

Solomon could be called a pessimistic preacher after reading the first part of Ecclesiastes. But if you read it all the way through, you find that Solomon taught that the only true happiness came in following God. While he does reference the idea of “eat, drink, and be merry,” he quite clearly states that you are to follow God. That is his idea of the good life. Interestingly, in Ecclesiastes, Solomon says ” do not be overly wise; why should you destroy yourself?” Socrates met his death from holding fast to what he called “wisdom.”

I hope that I have shown that Solomon was the wiser of the two. If I haven’t then please tell me why. See you later!

A comparison of Socrates and Christ

This is exactly what the title states. I am going to attempt to show that while Socrates was a good man, Christ outshone him in all aspects. I am going to do this in the same way as an ancient Greek writing exercise, so please bear with me. As always, please feel free to tell me things that you think I have missed.

I am going to first show their family histories. Socrates was born into a middle class Greek family in Athens. Christ, however, was born to poor parents in a feeding trough for the oxen and donkeys. At first glance, it appears that Socrates got the better end of the deal. But we must remember that Christ was born into God’s chosen nation, and was descended from a king on both sides of his lineage. This is the way it can often be, one person seeming to be better, while slipping behind the whole way.

Their educations were certainly very different. Socrates received what would now be considered a good education in all respects. Jesus, though, received the only education he could afford: that of a carpenter and of the Scriptures. This last part is much better than Socrates’, as all your worldly knowledge does not help you one iota in the afterlife. Besides, Jesus was God in a man’s flesh. He had more knowledge than Socrates ever did or will have.

Their deeds were the most important of all. Socrates was a wise man, but unlike Solomon, he just sat around and talked about it, hoping his innate wisdom would carry him through this life and the next. Jesus was much wiser than Socrates, even if it is possible to ignore the fact that he was God in the flesh. Jesus used what he had to help his fellow men, instead of arguing with them. Jesus was so good at this that he went to the cross so that he could save all of mankind with one action.

I hope that I have shown that Jesus was, and is, better than Socrates had the ability to be. Before I go, I want to leave you with this thought from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore be perfect, just as your father in heaven is perfect.”(Matthew 5:48)

Is the material world good or evil?

This world is God’s original gift to us. When He created it, it was good. However, since that time we have corrupted it, polluted it, and have just been bad managers in general. But is God’s world still good? I believe that it depends on where you look. When you see the effects of human influence on the earth, it doesn’t look very pretty. But if you look at God’s raw world, you see the true beauty and power of our God. As always, feel free to comment on  what I write.

In order to understand what makes this planet good, I think it is time for a history lesson. About 6,000 years ago, a very special thing happened. The entire universe, and particularly Earth, came into existence. We were given the opportunity to use the resources from this world to build and do as we wished. Unfortunately, the Fall occurred, and we lost all we had to the Devil. Ever since that time, man has been trying to recover what was lost, but has simply made himself a source of entertainment to Satan and his legions. Mankind as a whole has not often cared for the earth, beyond what he could get from it.

In that respect, the earth is no longer good. It is spiritually dead, and being physically destroyed as you read this. Man has lost all sense of direction, and is hoping to build his Tower of Babel to the sky. Just look at the skyscrapers of our day. Any one of these would dwarf the Babylonian tower. Not only that, but man also seems to have an innate need to destroy, pervert, and pollute all purity that comes his way. The wilds are rapidly diminishing, and animals are being driven extinct all over the world.

But when you look at those places that man has not yet made his way to, you find animals and natural wonders of the rarest beauty. When God speaks to Job, we find that He takes pride in his work. He speaks of feeding the baby lions and eagles, the crooked lightning, the serrated clouds, and the rest of His creation. We should also remember that while the world as a whole may be spiritually dead, there is a very small minority of Christians who are doing their best to spread the Gospel of Christ to all the nations. All is not lost. At the end of time, God will come back and make an end of the corruption that he finds in the world. However, the only ones who will be able to enjoy this are those who are his children.

Art as I see it: Know thy drink!

This is another one of my analyses of paintings that are either well-known or from my schoolwork. This one is titled The Death of Socrates, and as you can see, it can be interpreted a number of different ways. I will attempt to draw your attention to different parts of this painting, and answer questions from school at the same time. Please feel free to comment on things you may find in the painting.

This painting was by Jacques-Louis David, a supporter of the French Revolution. During this time there was a large shift towards Greek, particularly Socratic, thinking. I think that David chose this as his subject due to the large amount of his comrades who were killed for much the same reasons as Socrates.

Something that I see in the painting is that everyone, including the red-robed executioner, is weeping at the death of Socrates. How much more would they weep if they knew what would come next! However, that would simply be what he and all men deserve. He is drinking what could be considered as the physical embodiment of what he has taught throughout his life. That poison is the same as his teaching. He believed in many “forms” above the gods. Believing this is deadly even for a Christian, because it means that there is something beyond the control of the divine, something that will not happen in this life or the next.

The trial of Socrates

This essay is, as the title states, on the trial of Socrates. I will be putting forth the accusations Socrates’ detractors arrayed against him, and weigh the evidence in the style of the legal courts of that day. This being a trial, I want everybody’s full opinions on this. I really would like this to be a trial in the style of the Athenian courts of that day, so if you have any evidence for either side that I have overlooked, please let me know. Much of my evidence comes from Plato, who was presenting the case for his teacher as favorably as he could.

For those who do not have much knowledge of Socrates, or for those who just want a review, I will now present a bit of background on him and his detractors. Socrates has gained the title of a wise man, although the only wisdom he claimed to have was that he knew that he was not wise. He was known as the gadfly of Athens, due to a comparison he himself made, saying that he was like a gadfly that kept biting at the great horse of Athens in order to wake it from its slumber. Unfortunately for him, this made many enemies for him in Athens, who eventually managed to get him into court, hoping to silence him once and for all. The charges against him were atheism, or not believing in the city’s gods; and corrupting the youth, which should need no explanation.

First, I will  deal with the charge of atheism. Socrates was first charged with not believing in the same gods that the city worshipped, although the charge later became absolute atheism. Socrates’ defense was that the charge could not stand, because the prosecutor was forced to admit that Socrates believed in things of the gods, and even children of the gods, so therefore, he must believe in gods. I believe Socrates is innocent of atheism, although he may be guilty of believing in other gods than the city’s. I believe this because he states that he believes that humans Can become equal to the gods, along with much of everything else, an interesting parallel to today’s New Age beliefs. I also believe he is innocent due to the arguments listed above.

Now comes the charge of corruption of the youth. This one can be a little harder to deal with, as what is defined as corruption can vary. However, this charge seems to be one of making the youth more prone to do evil. Socrates’ defense against this was that, first, there are three options. Either he was not corrupting the youth, or he was doing it unintentionally, or he was doing it intentionally. If he wasn’t corrupting them, of course this trial was pointless. If he was corrupting them unintentionally, than by Athenian law, he could not go to court for it. He could not be doing it intentionally, because, as he said, if he was, then he would knowingly be putting himself in danger, because as people get more evil, they are more likely to do harm to those around them. I agree with this, because of the arguments listed above, along with the fact that Socrates taught denial of the physical self, in order that you can be as close to pure as possible.

Now, I will give a better view of my judgement of Socrates. While he had his faults, he could be recognized as a prophet to Athens. No, he could never equal any Biblical prophet, but God’s common grace could be seen in him more than other men of Athens in that tine. His being sent by what he called “the god” could be closer to the truth than he realized. I honestly think that he could have been sent by God to be exactly what he claimed to be: a gadfly intended to wake Athens from its stupor and do the same to people reading his dialogues throughout history.

The other side of this is that we must realize that Socrates would not, and did not, realize the awesome God who directed him. He believed that he had found the ultimate source of wisdom within himself, while nothing could be farther from the truth. Nowhere is farther away from God than a prideful man’s heart. Fortunately for us, God can reach even farther than that. Unfortunately for Socrates, he was born a few centuries too early to be on the receiving end of that grace.

All in all, my current belief is that Socrates was innocent of the charges made against him, although from a Christian point of view, he was lost just as bad as the worst of sinners. Socrates committed the original sin: he had the pride to imagine that he had the ability to be as wise as God, just like the devil.

Again, remember to tell me what you think the verdict and sentence should be for Socrates. Oh, and, incidentally, Socrates was condemned to death by poison. I will possibly be doing a post on the painting The Death of Socrates, so stay tuned for that.

Pasta lasagna! I got my eyes on ya!

When should we seek to escape punishment?

This essay is on the question in the title. When, if ever, should we seek to escape punishment? I will attempt to answer this question by asking a series of questions, intended to determine the circumstances in which we could seek to escape punishment. I will do this in the light of scripture, making sure that the answer aligns with God’s word. As always, feel free to comment and give me your honest opinion. I would like to know if I missed anything.

First, are we receiving too much punishment? If we are, we should peacefully attempt to lessen the amount of punishment we are receiving. We should never attempt anything by force.

Next, we should consider whether anybody will be harmed by our escaping our punishment. Take, for example, the case of Paul and Silas (Acts 16). We usually pay attention to the fact that they were still worshipping God in prison, and while that is a good thing, we also should look at the fact that they remained in prison even after the earthquake which made a way out for them. They did this because the jailer would have been killed had they been found missing.

Last, and most important, we should remember that when God or one of his angels explicitly tell us to go, we should go. Take the example of Peter in Jerusalem (Acts 6). The angel came to him and freed him, so of course he took it as a sign from God that he should leave. We should remember to follow God’s desire in all circumstances. If the circumstance arises that you have the oppurtunity to be freed, you should consider the effect on your witness.

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