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from Fox News: 

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is demanding an Air Force major be “aggressively punished” for having an open Bible on his desk at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“It [the Bible] is very obviously a statement of Christian preference, Christian primacy,” MRFF founder Mikey Weinstein told me. “Had that been the Book of Satan or the Koran there would be blood in the freaking streets.”

He accused Maj. Steve Lewis, a supervisor at the Reserve National Security Space Institute, of “harboring and encouraging a truly abhorrent example of First Amendment civil rights violations.”

Mr. Weinstein is a fussy little fellow, isn’t he?

Col. Damon Feltman, the commander of the 310th Space Wing, told me they are reviewing the incident involving the Good Book.

“He has removed the Bible voluntarily because he didn’t want this to cause attention or disruption to his unit,” Col. Feltman said. “I’ve performed a walk-through of the office and everything seemed to be in compliance with Air Force regulation.”

So when will Maj. Lewis be able to return the Bible to his desk?

“I’m waiting on the unit commander’s review of the situation before making a final assessment,” the colonel said.

He stressed that Air Force personnel are free to exercise their constitutional rights to practice their own religion “as long as it is respectful of other individual’s rights to follow their own belief system in ways that support good order and discipline and don’t detract from (the) military mission.”

“As long as he’s not doing something excessive, the existence of a Bible or the Koran or the Torah or some other religious article is not prohibited,” Col. Feltman said. “It’s what you do with it when you have it.”

Weinstein, who earns a paycheck by trying to eradicate Christianity from the Armed Forces, accused Maj. Lewis of committing a “repulsive violation of USAF regulations” as well as the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s not his desk,” he told me. “That desk belongs to the American people, to the U.S. military. If that desk was in his home or his car it would not be a problem.”

Weinstein fired off a nasty, adjective-laden letter to the base commander after receiving complaints from 33 unnamed Air Force personnel.

“We have 33 very scared Air Force families,” Weinstein told me.

Just a brief aside: If those Air Force personnel are terrified of a Bible – how in the world will they be able to muster the courage to fight the enemy?

Click here to read the book that’s driving liberals nuts – “God Less America.”

Apparently one of Weinstein’s gentle snowflakes managed to conquer his fear long enough to sneak up on the open Bible and take several photographs – which were then submitted as evidence.

“Major Lewis has created an around-the-clock Christian Bible Shrine on his official USAF workstation desk that has been in prominent static display for years,” Weinstein said. “The pages in his open Bible on his USAF desk never change, ever.”

One of the airmen who reached out to Weinstein complained that the officer’s Bible is a “blatant case of Christian defiance and Christian discrimination.”

“I am intimidated by the display, and I am a practicing Christian,” the unnamed airman wrote. “This open Bible is discrimination at the highest level.”

The airman went on to say that he wasn’t just offended by the Bible – he was “outrageously offended.”

Travis Weber, the director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, said every service member has a right to the free exercise of religion.

“It should be beyond clear that they are protected by the Constitution, statutory authority and regulations,” Weber told me.

He pointed to a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces that reaffirmed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “applies in the military context.”

“Men and women signing up to defend our country do not give up this right – especially when, of all things, they are fighting to defend the very Constitution which contains this protection,” Weber said.

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin said the problem is that militant secularists see the Bible as a threat.

“Indeed it is a powerful weapon, but it is not a threat to America,” he said. “The military should be focused on the real threats to this nation.”

Perhaps the Air Force should offer complimentary counseling for those personnel suffering from PTBS (Post Traumatic Bible Syndrome)?

For the record, there is no evidence that any of Weinstein’s clients spontaneously combusted or converted after glancing at the Holy Bible.

from Got Questions:

There are several important differences between Catholics and Protestants. While there have been many attempts in recent years to find common ground between the two groups, the fact is that the differences remain, and they are just as important today as they were at the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The following is brief summary of some of the more important differences:

One of the first major differences between Catholicism and Protestantism is the issue of the sufficiency and authority of Scripture. Protestants believe that the Bible alone is the source of God’s special revelation to mankind and teaches us all that is necessary for our salvation from sin. Protestants view the Bible as the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. This belief is commonly referred to as “sola scriptura” and is one of the “five solas” (sola is Latin for “alone”) that came out of the Protestant Reformation as summaries of some of the differences between Catholics and Protestants.

While there are many verses in the Bible that establish its authority and its sufficiency for all matters of faith and practice, one of the clearest is 2 Timothy 3:16, where we see that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Catholics reject the doctrine of sola scriptura and do not believe that the Bible alone is sufficient. They believe that both the Bible and sacred Roman Catholic tradition are equally binding upon the Christian. Many Roman Catholics doctrines, such as purgatory, praying to the saints, worship or veneration of Mary, etc., have little or no basis in Scripture but are based solely on Roman Catholic traditions. Essentially, the Roman Catholic Church’s denial of sola scriptura and its insistence that both the Bible and tradition are equal in authority undermine the sufficiency, authority, and completeness of the Bible. The view of Scripture is at the root of many, if not all, of the differences between Catholics and Protestants.

Another disagreement between Catholicism and Protestantism is over the office and authority of the Pope. According to Catholicism the Pope is the “Vicar of Christ” (a vicar is a substitute) and takes the place of Jesus as the visible head of the Church. As such, the Pope has the ability to speak ex cathedra (with authority on matters of faith and practice), making his teachings infallible and binding upon all Christians. On the other hand, Protestants believe that no human being is infallible and that Christ alone is the Head of the Church. Catholics rely on apostolic succession as a way of trying to establish the Pope’s authority. Protestants believe that the church’s authority comes not from apostolic succession but from the Word of God. Spiritual power and authority do not rest in the hands of a mere man but in the very Word of God. While Catholicism teaches that only the Catholic Church can properly interpret the Bible, Protestants believe that the Bible teaches God sent the Holy Spirit to indwell all born-again believers, enabling all believers to understand the message of the Bible.

Protestants point to passages such as John 14:16–17: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (See also John 14:26 and 1 John 2:27.)

A third major difference between Catholicism and Protestantism is how one is saved. Another of the five solas of the Reformation is sola fide (“faith alone”), which affirms the biblical doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8–10). However, Catholics teach that the Christian must rely on faith plus “meritorious works” in order to be saved. Essential to the Roman Catholic doctrine of salvation are the Seven Sacraments, which are baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony. Protestants believe that, on the basis of faith in Christ alone, believers are justified by God, as all their sins are paid for by Christ on the cross and His righteousness is imputed to them. Catholics, on the other hand, believe that Christ’s righteousness is imparted to the believer by “grace through faith,” but in itself is not sufficient to justify the believer. The believer must supplement the righteousness of Christ imparted to him with meritorious works.

Catholics and Protestants also disagree on what it means to be justified before God. To the Catholic, justification involves being made righteous and holy. He believes that faith in Christ is only the beginning of salvation and that the individual must build upon that with good works because God’s grace of eternal salvation must be merited. This view of justification contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture in passages such as Romans 4:1–12, Titus 3:3–7, and many others. Protestants distinguish between the one-time act of justification (when we are declared righteous by God based on our faith in Christ’s atonement on the cross) and the process of sanctification (the development of righteousness that continues throughout our lives on earth). While Protestants recognize that works are important, they believe they are the result or fruit of salvation but never the means to it. Catholics blend justification and sanctification together into one ongoing process, which leads to confusion about how one is saved.

A fourth major difference between Catholics and Protestants has to do with what happens after death. Both believe that unbelievers will spend eternity in hell, but there are significant differences about what happens to believers. From their church traditions and their reliance on non-canonical books, the Catholics have developed the doctrine of purgatory. Purgatory, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, is a “place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.” On the other hand, Protestants believe that because we are justified by faith in Christ alone and that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us—when we die, we will go straight to heaven to be in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6–10 and Philippians 1:23).

One disturbing aspect about the Catholic doctrine of purgatory is the belief that man can and must pay for his own sins. This results in a low view of the sufficiency and efficiency of Christ’s atonement on the cross. Simply put, the Roman Catholic view of salvation implies that Christ’s atonement on the cross was insufficient payment for the sins of those who believe in Him and that even a believer must pay for his own sins, either through acts of penance or time in purgatory. Yet the Bible teaches that it is Christ’s death alone that can satisfy or propitiate God’s wrath against sinners (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10). Our works of righteousness cannot add to what Christ has already accomplished.

The differences between Catholicism and evangelical Protestants are important and significant. Paul wrote Galatians to combat the Judaizers (Jews who said that Gentile Christians had to obey the Old Testament Law to be saved). Like the Judaizers, Catholics make human works necessary for one to be justified by God, and they end up with a completely different gospel.

It is our prayer that God will open the eyes of those who are putting their faith in the teachings of the Catholic Church. It is our hope that everyone will understand that his “works of righteousness” cannot justify him or sanctify him (Isaiah 64:6). We pray that all will instead put their faith solely in the fact that we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith” (Romans 3:24–25). God saves us, “not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5–7).

from The Jewish Press:

Tuesday’s meeting in St. Petersburg between the two former feuding foes Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan “drew considerable attention,” government-run news agency TASS reported, noting that the Russian-Turkish rapprochement is coming while Russia has been expanding its relations with Iran and Ankara and Tehran have also been bridging the gaps between them, born by almost four decades of a volatile Islamic Republic on Turkey’s border. In fact, right after the failed coup last month, Erdogan announced, “We are determined to cooperate with Iran and Russia to address regional problems side by side and to step up our efforts considerably to restore peace and stability to the region.”

Should Israel be concerned? Apparently, the Russian news organ is eager to spread a message of calm regarding the new developments in the northern part of the region. And so an unsigned article this week polled experts who were skeptical regarding a developing strategic triangle of those three powers. According to the TASS experts, the most that will come out of the current statements are tactical political interaction and an upturn in economic cooperation. But even if it were true, and Russia, Turkey and Iran were to forge a strategic alliance, TASS continues its calming message, it would be for the best, because “these three countries can play a positive role, for instance, in overcoming the Syrian crisis.”

It isn’t clear who is panicking more at the moment—Jerusalem or Washington—over the possibility that Turkey, a NATO member, would switch sides and coalesce with Russia and Iran. Clearly, the US has a whole lot more to lose from such an emerging outcome. US Middle East policy traditionally relied on the “three-legged stool” comprised of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. As long as those three major local powers were in the Western camp, Soviet manipulations elsewhere could be mitigated. When Iran was lost under President Jimmy Carter in 1979, the US attempted for the longest time to substitute Iraq for the missing stool leg, but the Iraqi regime never provided the stability the US enjoyed with the Shah. This is why the US is so determined to keep Turkey in the Western camp, because without a Western-allied Turkey, the US presence in the region would be severely downgraded.

Hence the need for the TASS calming story. It interviewed senior research fellow Vladimir Sazhin, of the Oriental Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, who reassured the Western readers “there will be no trilateral union, of course. It should be ruled out for many reasons. At best one can expect some tactical alliance. This is so because Iran, Turkey and Russia have certain problems in their relations with the West and with the United States.” That’s code for Turkey would be punished severely, economically and otherwise, if it ever jumped ship.

Sazhin continued, “If one takes a look at the economic interests they share, it should be remembered that Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan … are countries that produce and export hydrocarbons. They have a great deal to discuss in view of the current strained situation on the world market. As for Turkey, its role in delivering hydrocarbons to the West may be significant. But I don’t think that this triangle will be of strategic importance.”

Sazhin sees no fundamentally new geopolitical aspects in sight. “It’s about getting back to where we had been all the time. Arabs constitute an overwhelming majority of the population in the Middle East. Non-Arab countries are few – Israel, Turkey and Iran. They had very close relations up to [the emergence of] the Islamic revolution in Iran.”

“In Iran, with its 80-million population, Turks and Azerbaijanis, who are ethnically very close to Turkey, constitute an estimated 18 to 25 million,” Sazhin said. “Bilateral relations existed not only at the Tehran-Ankara level. There were very strong people-to-people bonds. Plus the long-standing economic ties. But in politics post-revolution Iran and NATO member Turkey have drifted apart, of course.”

Research fellow Irina Zvyagelskaya, of the Arab and Islamic Research Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Oriental Studies Institute told TASS, “I don’t believe in the emergence of new political triangles. I don’t think some strategic changes will follow overnight to bring about changes to the configuration of alliances. A number of steps we’ve seen our friends and partners and those we are not on very friendly terms with us take are tactical. They stem from the current situation.”

Zvyagelskaya believes that to a large extent this is true of Turkey. “It is to be remembered that Erdogan’s wish to have closer relations is a result of certain internal political events, on the one hand, and soaring tensions in his country’s relations with the United States and the European Union, on the other. These steps by Erdogan are purely pragmatic and we should treat them accordingly. As far as I understand, nobody has any illusions on that score.”

From The Christian Post:

An academic book that suggests the moral status of pedophilia is unclear, has some prominent social conservatives saying that we are now on a familiar, troubling path toward normalization of things once considered unthinkable.

Prominent defenders of traditional marriage highlighted on their social media pages Sunday a book called Pedophilia and Adult-Child Sex: A Philosophical Analysis by Stephen Kershnar, who is a professor and chair the philosophy department at State University of New York at Fredonia. The 168-page work, which was released last year and recently came to the attention of conservatives, examines the moral status of sexual relationships between adults and children, explores whether those who engage in that kind of sex “have a disease, act wrongly, or are vicious,” and engages the surrounding legal issues.

Publisher Rowman & Littlefield describes the book on its website as thus: “This book provides a philosophical analysis of adult–child sex and pedophilia. This sex intuitively strikes many people as sick, disgusting, and wrong. The problem is that it is not clear whether these judgments are justified and whether they are aesthetic or moral. By analogy, many people find it disgusting to view images of obese people having sex, but it is hard to see what is morally undesirable about such sex: here the judgment is aesthetic.”

Social conservatives have long pointed that redefining marriage amounts to a “slippery slope” and will lead to other previously inconceivable cultural shifts, but are often told that they are being irrationally extreme.

In a Monday interview with The Christian Post, Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, said that while he does not believe that pedophilia will be mainstreamed in the next few years, since most American are still repulsed by it, books like Kershnar’s indicate yet another dark front in the Left’s strategic war on Judeo-Christian moral norms.

Particularly disturbing to LaBarbera and others was this line from Kershnar’s book: “Adult-child sex involving willing participants has an unclear moral status.”

“Kershnar is injecting nuance and situational ambiguity to chip away at the near-universal understanding that sex between adults and kids is always wrong,” LaBarbera said, adding that “Sex radicals have learned from the successful campaign by ‘gay’ militants to normalize once-taboo behaviors and concepts like same-sex ‘marriage.’ Now they are in the ‘study’ phase on pedophilia,” LaBarbera said.

Already the shift has been taking place, and central to understanding how this happens is observing how the language frames public discourse about sexuality issues. As noted by the The Independent (UK) in April, some psychologists are now referring to pedophilia as a “sexual orientation,” giving it a degree, however small, of seeming legitimacy even as laws forbidding adult-child sex and child porn remain on the books. Yet others are even proclaiming themselves to be pedophiles though they stipulate they are “virtuous” in that they never intend to act on their impulses, as Todd Nickerson did in a 2015 Salon essay.

“Social conservatives must sound the alarm on any effort to mainstream adult-child sex. For the sake of vulnerable children, we must take this seriously — and not be intimidated by charges of scare-mongering,” LaBarbera told CP.

But doing so presents a Catch-22, he continued, because even engaging Kershar’s work “legitimize[s] this as an issue worthy of debate — thus creating the notion that there are two legitimate opinions on pedophilia.”

“There are not. Sex with children is inherently exploitative and immoral; it corrupts and victimizes kids, who often grow up to have perverse desires toward children themselves. Those like Kershnar who seek to make a case for pedophilia — or certain types of pedophilia — must be exposed and rebutted,” he concluded.

Christians these days seem to have a problem with the issue of authority.

Various teachers and pastors claim authority over their listeners or congregations. Disciplers or shepherds claim authority over their “sheep.” I have heard dozens of teachings and read dozens of books about who has authority over whom, and the question is still asked, “Yes, but who has authority?” It seems to be a problem.

Authority is not power. Power, the brute ability to force another person against their will, is shared by both the cop and the robber. Yet only the cop has authority: the morally legitimate ability to compel another, backed by force if need be.

For the most part, we transfer this common notion of authority directly into discussions of authority in the church. And if a person has a dictatorial vision of how authority should operate, the same vision takes shape in the church. If a person has a managerial vision of authority, the church ends up being administered as if it were a corporation. The list could go on, but the point is clear: our tendency is to begin with the idea of authority that we feel comfortable with and transfer it into the church.

Yet none of these transfers are adequate, for authority in the church is different from every other authority we know, if what Jesus said makes any difference.

JESUS’ DISTURBING TEACHING on authority for his followers contrasts them with every other society. The kings of the Gentiles, he said, lord it over their subjects, and twist this rule to appear good by calling themselves “benefactors”. They exercise their power, and try (more or less successfully) to make people think that it is for their own good. But it should never be so in the church; rather, the one who leads is a servant and the one who rules is as the youngest (Luke 22:24-27).

Secular authority can and will exercise dominating force to ensure obedience. But leaders in the church are to be genuine servants. As such, their leadership is based solely in truth and trust. Let me expand on this a bit.

Leaders in the church are leaders precisely because they are servants, not in pious rhetoric but in deed. When someone truly lives a life of serving others, meeting their needs, and acting for their good, others begin to trust them. But if they are
doing things for selfish motives or because they love power, you distrust them, even though what they do may appear to be serving you. Leadership in the body is based precisely on the trust that comes from a life of true service.

THE NEW TESTAMENT has things to say about leadership in the church and about spiritual authority. But oddly enough, given the magnitude of our present debates about leadership and spiritual authority, it has very little to say about a link between the two. That is, though the scriptures are concerned about both leadership and spiritual authority, they are strangely silent about leaders having spiritual authority or spiritual authority flowing from leaders. This silence, it turns out, is quite significant.

The New Testament uses two words which correspond to different aspects of what we mean by “authority.” The first, dunamis, is usually (and rightly) translated as “power.” This word is less important for us because though power may be associated with some kinds of authority, it also can exist without authority. A robber with a gun has power but not authority over others.

Even though it will not exactly answer our question, it will still be worthwhile to look at who has dunamis-power-in the New Testament. If you take a walk through a concordance, you will find that the following possess power: God, Jesus, the Spirit, and also angels, demons, principalities and powers. Human beings may be energized by them. The ministry of the gospel, the miracles of the apostles, and the lives of believers are all conditioned on the power of God. Yet, strikingly, the New Testament never recognizes human beings with “power” in their own right, power always comes to people from elsewhere.

Things become even more interesting when we turn to the other Greek word relevant to spiritual authority: exousia. This word is usually translated as “power” or “authority” and is the closest equivalent (in both denotation and connotation) to our English word “authority.” The New Testament’s list of those who have exousia is basically the same as those who have dunamis: God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, angels and demons. But now, the list can also be extended to humans who are not merely energized by other’s authority but have authority themselves.

Thus, kings have authority to rule (Rom. 13:1-2) and Jesus’ disciples have authority over diseases and spirits (e.g., Matt. 10:1). Furthermore, believers are said to have authority over various aspects of their lives: their possessions (Acts 5:4), and eating, drinking, and being married (1Cor. 9:4-5).

What is interesting here is that the New Testament does not know anything about one believer having “authority” over another. We have plenty of authority over things, and even over spirits, but never over other Christians. Given the present debates about spiritual authority and leadership, that should be surprising. Kings have authority over their subjects; Paul had authority from the high priest to persecute the church (Acts 9:14, 26:10-12). But those are from outside the church. In the church, one believer is never spoken of as having exousia over another, regardless of their position or prestige.

With the exception, that is, of 2Cor. 10:8 and 13:10. In these texts Paul speaks of himself having “authority to build up, not tear down”. But this exception is really more a proof of the rule than a problem when you take two things into account.

First, by his own admission, Paul is speaking “as a fool” in this section of his letter, whereas he studiously avoids claiming authority over others when he speaks “soberly.”
Second, the context of the letter is one characterized by persuasion. The profound significance of this will become clear in due course. Paul spills a great deal of ink trying to persuade the Corinthians to listen to him. If he “had authority” over them, in the sense we usually think of it, why did he bother? Why not just give the orders and be done with it? Before we answer that, we should notice that Paul seems to lack authority-in our everyday sense of the word-even when he is “asserting” it. Now this should caution us against thinking of leaders as having authority merely on the basis of two sentences in 2 Corinthians.

NOW LOOK AT things from the other side. Rather than asking who has authority in the New Testament, we should ask its opposite, whom should one obey? The answer here is interesting, too. If you examine the usage of hupakouo, which is the Greek equivalent of “obey,” you will find that we ought to obey God, the Gospel (Rom. 10:16), and the teaching of the apostles (Phi. 2:12, 2Th. 3:14). Children are to obey their parents and servants their masters (Eph 6.1, 5). Are believers to “obey” church leaders? If they are, the New Testament doesn’t say so.

But not so fast-what about the text in Hebrews 13:17 which says “obey your leaders?” This text is interesting, because it gives us an insight into the positive side of the New Testament’s understanding of leadership. Up to now I have emphasized the negative-that they do not have spiritual authority in the usual sense, and believers are not told to obey them. In spite of all this, the New Testament insists that there are recognizable leaders in a local body and that their existence and ministry are important to the health of the body.

What is this clue in Hebrews 13:17. If you examine the verb translated “obey” in this text, you will find it to be a form of the word peitho which means “persuade.” In the form used here (the middle-passive) it means something like “let yourself be persuaded by” or “have confidence in.” Now that’s helpful. Believers are to let themselves be persuaded by their leaders.

Leaders are to be accorded a certain respect which lends their words more weight than they have in and of themselves. And the rest of the church should be biased in favor of listening to what they say. We are to allow ourselves to be persuaded by our
Leaders, not to obey them mindlessly but to enter into discussion with them while being biased toward what they are saying. So now we understand that it was significant that Paul’s statements in 2 Corinthians were in a context of persuasion. He was trying to persuade them to let themselves be persuaded by him.

The other verb used in Hebrews 13.17 reinforces this conclusion. When the text goes on to urge people to submit to leaders, it does not use the garden-variety New Testament word for “submit.” The normal word is hupotassomai, which connotes something like placing oneself in an organization under another person.

The word here, however, is different. It is hupeiko, and it occurs only this once in the New Testament. It connotes not a structure to which one submits, but a battle after which one yields. The image (to transfer it out of the military usage) is one of a serious discussion, an interchange after which one party gives way. This meshes nicely with the notion that we are to let ourselves be persuaded by leaders in the church, rather than meekly submit to them as we might to the existing powers and structures of life.

This all makes sense with the criteria for leadership in the pastoral epistles. There, character is the most important thing about leaders-they should be “respect-able”. If they are supposed to be “persuaders”, it makes sense that they ought preeminently to be respect-able, because that is the kind of person whose words we are inclined to take very seriously. The kind of respect-ability outlined there lends credibility to the words of leaders, and hence gives us confidence in opening ourselves to being persuaded by them.

WE NEED TO take our ideas of leadership in the church from the New Testament and not from the world. Thus, we should begin not with a worldly concept of authority, but from the biblical idea of “persuaders” and try to flesh that out in our particular situations.
It is true that the one by whom people are persuaded does receive a kind of respect and authority. Yet this is not the authority-to-be-obeyed kind of authority and the mindless submission which characterizes much spiritual authority today.

We have seen that spiritual authority is based on earned trust in leaders. Yet, in the body it is also based on truth. Leaders in the church ought to love the truth and hate being listened to when they don’t speak it (and since they are not God, they won’t always). Presumably if leaders are wrong in their judgment and yet are seriously concerned to serve, they wouldn’t be happy with someone following them in their error.

Furthermore, truth is essential to the persuasiveness of leaders. But persuasion presupposes dialogue; and dialogue requires that active participation of the whole body. A leader who has the personal charisma to persuade people of something untrue, and does so, is demonic. And terrible, too, is a body of believers who follow mindlessly. To be persuaded of a lie is the worst form of bondage. Leaders in the church are bound to the truth and serve it above all in their service of others. And the body of believers is bound to the responsibility of dialogue toward truth.

The necessity of truth, by the way, is the reason why the New Testament emphasizes obeying the gospel or the apostles’ teaching, rather than leaders. The trust engendered by service is dangerous if it is not coordinated with a common submission to the truth of the gospel. If truth and trust are not together the basis of leadership in the body, the trust which can be created by service is just another, more subtle form of power-the power we call manipulation.

Genuine Christian leadership, then, is based on truth and trust, not on worldly authority. Leaders in the church are called to respect-able lives of service. Such lives engender the trust of others. Yet leaders as well as the rest of the members of the body are in common subjection to the truth which is in Christ.

The Decline of a Nation

This is from a website long ago deleted:

Introduction

Doomsayers for many years have been predicting the decline and fall of this country. And while many of these short-term predictions have proved inaccurate, there is some truth to the prevailing belief that this nation will fall like every great nation before it. Apart from revival and reformation, this nation is destined to decline.

The problem with many of these doomsayers is that while their prognosis is right, their diagnosis is wrong. Yes, the future is bleak. But our problem is not ultimately political, economic, or social, as these doomsayers would have us believe. The decline of this nation (just as the decline of every other nation) is due to spiritual factors. The political, economic, and social problems we encounter are the symptoms of the spiritual deterioration of a nation.

Just as there are spiritual principles that influence the life of an individual, so there are political-spiritual principles that govern the life of a nation. And though we may feel that these are obscure and difficult to discern, in reality they are visible to anyone willing to look at the record of history.

Our problem is that we don’t really learn from history. George Santayana said that “those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.” The philosopher Hegel said, “What experience and history teach us is this: that people and government never have learned anything from history or acted on principles deduced from it.” Or as Winston Churchill said, “The one thing we have learned from history is that we don’t learn from history.”

The refrains that are often heard are: “It can’t happen here,” or “Our country is different.” But the reality is that nations are born and die just like individuals. Their longevity may exceed the average person’s lifespan. But the reality is that nations also die.

History has shown that the average age of the great civilizations is around two hundred years. Countries like Great Britain exceed the average while other countries like the United States are just now reaching the average age.

Each of the great civilizations in the world passed through a series of stages from their birth to their decline to their death. Historians have listed these in ten stages.

The first stage moves from bondage to spiritual faith.

The second from spiritual faith to great courage.

The third stage moves from great courage to liberty.

The fourth stage moves from liberty to abundance.

The fifth stage moves from abundance to selfishness.

The sixth stage moves from selfishness to complacency.

The seventh stage moves from complacency to apathy.

The eighth stage moves from apathy to moral decay.

The ninth stage moves from moral decay to dependence.

And the tenth and last stage moves from dependence to bondage.

These are the ten stages through which the great civilizations have gone. Notice the progression from bondage to liberty back to bondage. The first generation throws off the shackles of bondage only to have a later generation through apathy and indifference allow itself to once again be enslaved.

This is the direction this and every other country is headed. The book of Judges shows that the nation of Israel passed through these same stages. And this country will do the same unless revival and reformation break out and reverse the inexorable decline of this nation.

The Cycle of Nations

In his book The End of Christendom, Malcolm Muggeridge makes this powerful observation. He says:

I conclude that civilizations, like every other human creation, wax and wane. By the nature of the case there can never be a lasting civilization anymore than there can be a lasting spring or lasting happiness in an individual life or a lasting stability in a society. It’s in the nature of man and of all that he constructs to perish, and it must ever be so. The world is full of the debris of past civilizations and others are known to have existed which have not left any debris behind them but have just disappeared.

He goes on to say that

…whatever their ideology may be, from the Garden of Eden onwards such dreams of lasting felicity have cropped up and no doubt always will. But the realization is impossible for the simple reason that a fallen creature like man though capable of conceiving perfection and aspiring after it, is in himself and in his works forever imperfect. Thus he is fated to exist in the no man’s land between the perfection he can conceive and the imperfection that characterizes his own nature and everything he does.

Nations rise and nations fall. Every nation has followed this progression from bondage to bondage.

The nations of this century will be no different. But let us not accept the Marxist notion that these are fixed and intractable laws of history. Christians can point to unusual times when revival has redirected the inexorable decline of a civilization. In the Old Testament, Jonah saw revival postpone God’s judgment of Nineveh. In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther and John Calvin saw a Protestant Reformation transform Europe. And even in the history of the United States the First and Second Great Awakenings changed individuals and our society.

But apart from God’s intervention, nations will decline and eventually pass off the scene. Much of the Old Testament records the history of the nation of Israel. It passed through these same stages and so will every country in the world.

As Christians we must recognize that nations will rise and fall just as individuals will be born and die. Our civilization will not last indefinitely, but will eventually pass off the scene. Only God’s Word endures forever. We should not put our trust in the things of this world for they are destined for destruction. Instead, we should put our faith in God and His word.

The Decline of the Family

Nations most often fall from within, and this fall is usually due to a decline in the moral and spiritual values in the family. As families go, so goes a nation.

This has been the main premise of thinkers from British historian J. D. Unwin to Russian sociologist Pitirim Sorokin who have studied civilizations that have collapsed. In his book Our Dance Has Turned to Death, Carl Wilson identifies the common pattern of family decline in ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Notice how these seven stages parallel what is happening in our nation today. In the first stage, men ceased to lead their families in worship. Spiritual and moral development became secondary. Their view of God became naturalistic, mathematical, and mechanical.

In the second stage, men selfishly neglected care of their wives and children to pursue material wealth, political and military power, and cultural development. Material values began to dominate thought, and the man began to exalt his own role as an individual. The third stage involved a change in men’s sexual values. Men who were preoccupied with business or war either neglected their wives sexually or became involved with lower-class women or with homosexuality. Ultimately, a double standard of morality developed.

The fourth stage affected women. The role of women at home and with children lost value and status. Women were neglected and their roles devalued. Soon they revolted to gain access to material wealth and also freedom for sex outside marriage. Women also began to minimize having sex relations to conceive children, and the emphasis became sex for pleasure. Marriage laws were changed to make divorce easy.

In the fifth stage, husbands and wives competed against each other for money, home leadership, and the affection of their children. This resulted in hostility and frustration and possible homosexuality in the children. Many marriages ended in separation and divorce.

Many children were unwanted, aborted, abandoned, molested, and undisciplined. The more undisciplined children became, the more social pressure there was not to have children. The breakdown of the home produced anarchy.

In the sixth stage, selfish individualism grew and carried over into society, fragmenting it into smaller and smaller group loyalties. The nation was thus weakened by internal conflict. The decrease in the birthrate produced an older population that had less ability to defend itself and less will to do so, making the nation more vulnerable to its enemies.

Finally, unbelief in God became more complete, parental authority diminished, and ethical and moral principles disappeared, affecting the economy and government. Thus, by internal weakness and fragmentation the societies came apart. There was no way to save them except by a dictator who arose from within or by barbarians who invaded from without.

Although this is an ancient pattern of decline found in Greece and Rome, it is relevant today. Families are the foundation of a nation. When the family crumbles, the nation falls because nations are built upon family units. They are the true driving social force. A nation will not be strong unless the family is strong. That was true in the ancient world and it is true today.

Social commentator Michael Novak, writing on the importance of the family, said:

One unforgettable law has been learned through all the disasters and injustices of the last thousand years: If things go well with the family, life is worth living; when the family falters, life falls apart.

The Decline of Values

There are many factors in the decline of a nation. Certainly a major one is the breakdown of the family. But another potent but less perceptible force is the power of ideas.

False ideas are bringing about the decline of western culture. Carl F. H. Henry, in his book Twilight of a Great Civilization, says:

There is a new barbarism. This barbarism has embraced a new pagan mentality . . . not simply rejecting the legacy of the West, but embracing a new pagan mentality where there is no fixed truth.

Today we live in a world where biblical absolutes are ignored, and unless we return to these biblical truths, our nation will continue to decline.

To understand how we have arrived at this appalling situation, we need to go back a century and look at the influence of five intellectual leaders who still profoundly affect the modern world. The first person is Charles Darwin (1809-1882). In 1859 he published The Origin of Species and later published The Descent of Man. His writings blurred the distinction between humans and animals since he taught that we are merely part of an evolutionary progression from lower forms of life. Darwinism, as it came to be called, not only affected the field of biology, but became the foundation for the fields of anthropology, sociology, and psychology.

The second person is Karl Marx (1818-1883). He and Friedrich Engels published the Communist Manifesto around 1850, and Marx devoted his life to writing about the demise of capitalism and coming of communism. He understood the importance of ideas. Marx once wrote: “Give me twenty-six lead soldiers and I will conquer the world.” The twenty-six lead soldiers are the keys on a typewriter. The pervasive influence of communism in the world today is testimony to the truthfulness of his statement.

The third person is Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918). Although he may not be as well known as the other two men mentioned, his influence was just as profound. He was a German Bible scholar whose theory on the dating of the Pentateuch completely transformed Old Testament studies.

Wellhausen argued that the early books of the Bible were not put together by Moses but were gathered together many centuries later by several different men called redactors who wove various strands together. He and his disciples established an anti-supernatural approach to the scriptures which is influential in most denominational seminaries today.

The fourth person is Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). He merely took the logical implications of what Darwin was doing in biology and applied them to what today is known as psychology and psychiatry. Freud argued that humans are basically autonomous and therefore do not need to know God. Instead, we need to know and understand ourselves since our problems stem from those secret things that have evolved in our lives from our past.

A fifth person is John Dewey (1859-1952). He is the founder of modern education and published his first work, The School and Society, in 1899. John Dewey was also one of the co-signers of the Humanist Manifesto in 1933.

Dewey, like Darwin and Freud, believed that humans are autonomous. They don’t need to have an authority above them but can evolve their our own system of education. Thus the very foundation of modern education is anti-supernatural.

Ideas have consequences, and false ideas can bring down a nation. The theories of these five men are having devastating consequences in our nation and world. Unless we return to biblical absolutes, our nation will continue its decline.
Spiritual Decline

The decline and fall of nations is usually due to internal factors rather than external threats. Even though some may have fallen to barbarians, their demise ultimately came because of moral and spiritual weakness which manifested itself as military weakness. Historians have listed the stages in the decline of a nation. These should not be too surprising to any student of the Old Testament. The stages of decline parallel the stages through which the nation of Israel passed.

But neither should they surprise a student of the New Testament. In the opening chapter of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he traces a similar progression. In fact, Romans 1 shows the decline of a civilization from a societal perspective. Looking at the Hellenistic world of his time, he reflects on the progression of sin in a nation.

The first stage is when people turn from God to idolatry. Although God has revealed Himself in nature to all men so that they are without excuse, they nevertheless worship the creation instead of the Creator. This is idolatry. In the past, this took the form of actual idol worship. In our day, it takes the form of the worship of money or the worship of self. In either case, it is idolatry. A further example of this is a general lack of thankfulness. Although they have been prospered by God, they are ungrateful. And when they are no longer looking to God for wisdom and guidance, they become vain and futile and empty in their imaginations. They no longer honor God, so their foolish hearts become darkened. In professing to be wise, they have become fools.

The second stage is when men and women exchange their natural use of sex for unnatural uses. Here the Apostle Paul says those four sobering words, “God gave them over.” In a society where lust- driven sensuality and sexual perversion dominate, God gives them over to their degrading passions and unnatural desires.

The third stage is anarchy. Once a society has rejected God’s revelation, it is on its own. Moral and social anarchy is the natural result. At this point God has given the sinners over to a depraved mind and so they do things which are not proper. This results in a society which is without understanding,untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful.

The final stage is judgment. God’s judgment rightly falls upon those who practice idolatry and immorality. Certainly an eternal judgment awaits those who are guilty, but a social judgment occurs when God gives a nation over to its sinful practices.

Notice that this progression is not unique to the Hellenistic world the Apostle Paul was living in. The progression from idolatry to sexual perversion to anarchy to judgment is found throughout history.

In the times of Noah and Lot, there was the idolatry of greed, there was sexual perversion and promiscuity, there was anarchy and violence, and finally there was judgment. Throughout the history of the nation of Israel there was idolatry, sexual perversion, anarchy (in which each person did what was right in his own eyes), and finally judgment.

This progression happened throughout the Bible and to Greece, to Persia, to Babylon, and to Rome. And if it happened to these nations, then it can happen today. Unless we return to God’s principles, decline and destruction are inevitable.

The worst mistake that I see Christians doing is publicly endorsing Trump and encouraging other Christians to not only vote for him but to publicly support him! And the reasons that many Christians give for this is out of a sense of fear of what is coming on America, and they separate out Christian living from actively supporting Trump!

from The Resurgent:

You really have to read this to believe it. It is by a preacher’s wife who is so courageous she writes anonymously. I notice a lot of Christians who vote for Trump have such courage in their convictions that they are anonymous.

One point I see a lot of Christians make about supporting Trump that I find to be unbelievably shallow is this one:

I would first ask you to remember that we are NOT electing Trump to a sacred or ecclesiastical office. We are electing him to a political office. If this was a question of placing Trump in charge of my church or Christian organization, you would have to hogtie and hold me down in order to get me to vote for him. I am not arguing for Trump’s morality here.

We see it here too.

“Is Donald Trump able to lead anyone’s congregation? Absolutely not,” said Pastor Mark Burns, a South Carolina-based minister who delivered a prayer at last month’s Republican convention. “Is Donald Trump the Bible-totin’, scripture-quotin’ Christian? To me, that’s irrelevant. We’re not voting for the next pastor of the United States, we’re voting for the next president … [Trump] himself knows that he has not been the churchgoing choirboy, and he admits to his former lifestyle.”

Now read Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

Compare what Paul wrote to what Wayne Grudem writes about Trump.

He is egotistical, bombastic, and brash. He often lacks nuance in his statements. Sometimes he blurts out mistaken ideas (such as bombing the families of terrorists) that he later must abandon. He insults people. He can be vindictive when people attack him. He has been slow to disown and rebuke the wrongful words and actions of some angry fringe supporters. He has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages. These are certainly flaws, but I don’t think they are disqualifying flaws in this election.

Paul specifically tells us that if someone holds himself out as a Christian, but “is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler” we are to disassociate from such a person until that person repents. Trump has said repeatedly he has never had a need to repent.

So the rationalization that this pastor’s wife makes along with people like Wayne Grudem, Ralph Reed, Mark Burns and others is that we’re talking about the Presidency, not the church.

But Christians are Christians seven days a week inside and outside the church. These Christians are arguing that we should put our American citizenship ahead of our citizenship in the kingdom, or that we can bifurcate them and firewall ourselves between being American and being Christian. Frankly, we find ourselves in moral collapse as a country because a lot of well meaning Christians have behaved like a Christian on Sunday and then a non-Christian for the other six days.

For a Christian to say, “I know this guy is a really terrible person, but he’s not running for church office,” is a cop out to license immorality.

If Trump is really God’s chosen candidate, God can put Trump in office without Christians advocating for him. There is not an instance in the Bible where God, his prophets, or Christ Jesus himself encourages the faithful to support an immoral person to advance the kingdom. No one was encouraged to hold open the gates of Jerusalem for Nebuchadnezzar. No one was encouraged to cheer on Judas to accomplish God’s redemptive plan. And no one was encouraged to cheer on Herod as he slaughtered the children. In all ways, these people accomplished God’s will, but God did not ask his people to support them.

What this pastor’s wife, Wayne Grudem, Ralph Reed, Mark Burns, and others are asking us to do is be a little less holy and principled to “make America great again.” We make America great again by being better Christians, not telling Christians to get off their high horse and support someone who is “egotistical, bombastic, and brash [who] lacks nuance in his statements…sometimes blurts out mistaken ideas (such as bombing the families of terrorists) that he later must abandon [and who] insults people [and who] can be vindictive when people attack him [and who] has been slow to disown and rebuke the wrongful words and actions of some angry fringe supporters [and who] has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages.”

Just read the conclusion of this pastor’s wife:

If you do not vote for Trump and therefore vote for Hillary, don’t tell me you were being self sacrificial and that you did it “for your country.” Because you didn’t. You did it for yourself.

I am not arguing that Trump is a great man.

I am not even arguing that Trump is a good man.

I am arguing that in the words of Christ Himself, God can use an individual that is “not one of us” to further His purposes and protect His people.

So she is not arguing that Trump is great or good, but that God can use Trump. So let God do it. God never asked his people to support the evil and wicked even when God used them to accomplish his purpose.

And I’m not doing this “for [my] country.” I’m doing this because my God tells me that I should not associate with any unrepentant person who claims to be a Christian but is guilty of Trump’s sins. And God is not just talking about on Sunday, but everyday.

This pastor’s wife and the others want to be a Christian on Sunday and an American every other day. I’m a Christian first. So I cannot vote for what I think is immoral. If God wants Trump in office, God is big enough to do it without me. He does not need you or me or the church to be an instrument to prop up an immoral man.

How then can we witness in faith and truth telling others we supported an unrepentant adulterer who swindled the old and single mothers out of money because he wasn’t running for preacher, justPresident of the United States of America?

This pastor’s wife has a shallow faith and is worshiping the idol America.

Let God’s will be done. But don’t collaborate in immorality thinking you’re helping God. You aren’t.

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