Sunday, July 30, 2006

Context 3: World War III ... or IV?

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich recently penned an article titled A Third World War. He writes that we are in "a war that pits civilization and the rule of law against the dictatorships of Iran and Syria and the terrorist groups of Hezbollah and Hamas that they support. It is also a war that pits civilized nations against Islamic terrorist groups around the world, including, most significantly (but not exclusively), the al Qaeda network." Gingrich posits that we have entered World War III.

But some say that we are actually in World War IV. World War III, they claim, was the Cold War, our struggle with the Soviet Union and their satellite nations. Like those who make this claim, I too think we are actually in World War IV.

The Cold War can best be defined as the 45-year struggle between capitalism and communism which occurred in the latter half of the 20th century. Focusing primarily upon ideological, geopolitical, and economic issues, the Cold War emerged shortly after World War II and involved the global superpowers of the Soviet Union and the United States. Each nation also had their military alliance partners. Direct hostilities between the two nations never actually occured, thus the term, Cold War. Both sides in this war developed a policy of deterrence by building arsenals of nuclear weapons.

If the Cold War can be considered WWIII, then the Korean and Vietnam conflicts were not really separate wars, but smaller wars within the larger one. It could be said that WWIII (the Cold War) both began and ended in Berlin. In 1948, after the Soviets blockaded West Berlin, the allies began a massive airlift to supply the residents of West Berlin with food and other supplies. In 1989, after the East Germans eased up their entry and exit restrictions at the Berlin Wall, Berliners began chipping away chunks of the wall, and before long, the wall came down entirely.

The Berlin Wall was symbolic of the divide between the East and the West, between the free world and the communist world. When the wall came down, it symbolized the beginning of the end for the dominance of communism in the world. Two years later, the Soviet Union collapsed, and the Soviet's satellite nations within the Warsaw Pact once again became free and independent countries.

Like WWII, WWIII also spanned the globe, with conflicts in the far east, Europe, and even in the Caribbean. In 1961, shortly after John F. Kennedy became president, Cuban exiles planned an invasion of Cuba and the overthrow of communist dictator, Fidel Castro. Kennedy promised to back them. But he pulled out at the last minute and the coup failed. A year later, Kennedy faced down the Soviets who were attempting to bring missiles in to Cuba. After a ten day standoff in 1962, the Soviets backed down and the crisis ended.

When pondering our current struggle (WWIII as Gingrich calls it, I call it WWIV), it is good to step back and remember the history that has gone before. Wars are not won overnight. The Cold War lasted for forty-five years.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Reading: Saddam's Secrets

I just recently finished reading a book that provides a first-hand account of what it was like to live in Iraq under Saddam, and to be, at times, in his inner circle.

Iraqi General Georges Sada, a truth-speaking, unflinching Christian, served in Saddam's Air Force, off and on, from the 1960's until the 2003 invasion by American and coalition forces. In Saddam's Secrets, Sada explains his tenuous relationship as an advisor to Saddam Hussein, the brutal dictator of Iraq.

Sada explains that Saddam's advisors were so terrified of him that if Saddam declared that two plus two equalled nine, all would nod their head in agreement. All that is except Sada, who, though continually in fear for his life, somehow managed to give Saddam the straight answers, even if they contradicted what everyone else was saying.

This unique ability to speak the truth in the face of so much fear and deception, gradually won Sada the difficult role of becoming one of Saddam's top advisors. Forced into early retirement twice because he refused to join the Baath party, Sada was recalled into service twice when Saddam was facing his most difficult challenges.

Sada also exposes the fraud of the U.N.'s "Oil for Food" program in which billions of dollars meant to supply food to the Iraqi people instead ended up lining Saddam's pockets, enabling him to build over 60 personal palaces throughout the country. And he explains how Saddam spirited many of his Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) out of the country and into Syria via hollowed out commercial jet liners retrofitted to handle his precious cargo. Saddam's Secrets also delves into the brutality of Saddam's regime—the torture rooms and the mass executions of hundreds of thousands of his enemies.

Those who have banked their political and professional careers on the idea that that Bush lied about the WMDs to get us into this war, and that the Iraqi invasion was planned before 9/11, will not like this book. Sada's friendly, conversational writing style makes his book an easy read, and every American should take the time to read it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Context 2: No Special Dispensation

In my previous post, Context 1, I offered the following statement:

"Context. The more we have of it, the more clearly we understand."

As our nation makes war on terror, it is imperative that we strive to understand the context of the struggle. The U.S. and the nation of Israel, along with the British and a few smaller allies, are engaged in a struggle that some call the fight for western civilization.

I too believe that we are in a fight to preserve the civilization so many of us have come to take for granted. Having known no other way of life, it is easy to neglect the rich history which underlies our wonderful American experience.

History is context. Without it we drift, untethered from reality.

Our public schools and universities no longer seem interested in imparting the knowledge of our nation's inspiring heritage. Our primary source of information these days—the television—provides little in the way of nourishment in this arena, unless we go searching for it. And even if we do, we need to lace our viewing with a degree of skepticism, uncertain of the motive or political bent of the program's producers.

It really is no wonder that our nation is so deeply divided over this so-called "War on Terror."

I suppose every generation believes themselves to be special, unique, somehow better than those who went before. I know as a young Christian, so impassioned with a vision of Christ and His kingdom, I, for a while, considered that my generation lived under a special anointing, an exceptional dispensation.

But then life kicked in. I had children to feed, bills to pay, responsibilities to meet. I could no longer afford the luxury of drifting in the clouds. I had to keep my feet planted on terra firma and learn how to really walk with God.

Sometimes God did not answer my prayers the way I had hoped. But I could not stop living. The bills kept coming. The challenges remained. The responsibilities continued. People depended on me.

In time I grew up, became a man, and learned that I was but flesh and blood. And I saw that in the vast course of history, I was not, in the end, that much different than the millions upon millions of men who had come and gone before me.

Jesus told us that there would be "wars and rumors of wars." It should come as no surprise then that men still collide on bloody battlefields. Nor should we be so quick to rush down the path toward peace. Sometimes the best path to peace is victory over our enemy.

And that takes time and usually comes at great cost.

Perhaps we just don't want to face the reality that we are in the struggle of our lives. Nearly five years removed from 9/11, and thousands of miles from the fields of conflict, it is easy to tune out the reality of our desperate situation.

It does not seem desperate, does it? Life goes on with minimal disturbance.

Yet our war, though not as full blown, is not that different from the war of our parents' and grandparents' generations. Sure, our enemy comes from another part of the world and looks quite distinctive from the enemies of previous wars, but in the end, they're basically the same.

They want us dead, or under their feet.

We have no special dispensation. We are just as vulnerable as men have always been.

We can pray of course, and seek the mercies of our Lord. But in the end, without His guiding hand of Providence, our future is uncertain.

The more we understand our small place in history—in other words, the more realistically we view our circumstances in their proper context—the better chance we will have of overcoming the challenges before us.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Context 1: The Whole Story

A man told the story of how he once walked into his family room and found his wife crying. In front of them, credits rolled on the television screen.

"What's the matter, honey?" the man inquired.

"The story." she blubbered, "I can't explain it. You would have to watch the whole film to understand."

Our Christian experience can be much the same way. As a new believer, we have not yet come to know the depth and the richness of the story of God's covenant; of His calling on Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; of Moses, the Passover, the Tabernacle, and the wilderness wanderings; of Joshua and the Judges; of David, the shepherd king; of Zion, the city of God; of the prophets, the captivity, and the return. And yet each of these components, and many more, add layer upon layer of understanding to the advent of the Christ, His sacrificial death, His resurrection, commission, and ascension.

Relating to current events, too, can be like this. If we come onto the scene without knowing the whole story, it is impossible to have a true grasp of the meaning of the events unfolding before us.

Context. The more we have of it, the more clearly we understand.

I am both amazed and saddened by the dearth of understanding among so many in my country. I am discouraged by how many can be so easily swayed with just a few, partial facts or half truths—information tendered with no context, no background. Call it propaganda—stories told to sway and influence hearers to think and act a certain way. I see much of it in the world around me, right here in America, the land of the free.

What has become of critical thinking?

I have titled this post Context 1. It will be, I hope, the first of many short posts where I will attempt to place things in context, to try and lend a bit of background and understanding to some of the things that are going on in our world.

I will write more soon.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Kinder, Gentler America

Our 41st president, George H.W. Bush ran his presidential campaign on the slogan, "a kinder, gentler, nation." Many made fun of his idea, but I think it was a good one.

Last evening, Sally and I joined some friends at the Riverside Dinner Theater in Fredricksburg, VA. We saw The Music Man. We truly enjoyed a wonderful time of fellowship with friends and found the production very uplifting. The story takes place in the early part of the twentieth century in the fictional town of River City, Iowa. The musical brings classic Americana to life, revisting an era of our history when things were slower, simpler, and less taxing on the soul.

A couple of years back, we saw the musical Showboat at this same theater. That presentation, too, reminded us of an America that seems so distant from us now.

I have three wonderful daughters. They are all grown up now and on their own. As I consider their future, and that of my granddaughter, my heart feels sad.

I want my kids to know that America was once a very special place—even more special than it is today.

French traveler and writer Alexis de Toqueville coined the term, "American Exceptionalism" during his visit to America in the 1830's. Somewhere in me, and I suspect in many Americans, there is a belief that our nation differs from the other developed nations of this world. Our unique Christian origins, our national creed, our history, our distinctive religious institutions, and our constitutional system of government, set us apart from all other nations.

The by-product of these and other cultural influences was (and still is to a lesser degree) a nation in which the individual was respected and general civility and neighborliness were the norm and not the exception. There were of course pockets in this country where these virtues were not practiced as they should have been, but in my view the anomalies do not outweigh the good that was America.

Today's American culture is crass by comparison. Civility has, in the culture at large, been replaced with impropriety, immodesty, and impudence.

Pop culture is ugly. It lacks beauty. It is devoid of the honorable. It is cheap, inelegant, and clearly low-class. It is second-rate to what it once was.

Pop culture is ugly because pleasing the self rather than pleasing God has become the norm. In the last fifty years, we have have learned to prize personality more than character. We have exchanged a common virtue for individualized, self-determined values. Pop culture does not esteem probity, prudence or purity. But America used to treasure those things.

I sometimes watch old movies on the Turner Classic Movies channel. I wish my kids enjoyed those old films like I do. Filmakers used to promote the kinds of principles and practices that made America a great nation. Few films today buttress the qualities of virtue, morality, temperance, and righteousness.

I am sad when I hear from people I love that they have enjoyed a film which promotes crassness and bad behavior. I ponder, with a measure of melancholy, whether my generation will be the last generation of Americans to have truly known and seen just a little bit of that kinder, gentler, America.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Invitation to Disaster?

A Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem has been called off due to Israel's war with Hezbollah. The parade was scheduled to take place on August 10th, but was called off by its organizers, the Jerusalem Open House. The parade was but one component of a multi-day conference called Love without Borders: Jerusalem WorldPride 2006, which is slated to go on as scheduled, minus the parade.

Earlier in the month a community of Orthodox Rabbis stood up declaring the parade an "abomination." Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky suggested holding the parade in Sodom. Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, head of the ultra-Orthodox community's religious court, said “this parade poses a real threat to the citizens of Israel."

As a part of WorldPride 2006, Keshet Ga’avah, The World Congress of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and transgender Jews (WCGLBTJ) is planning to hold a mini conference in Jerusaelm on August 10th. Information from their website indicates their planned topics of discussion:
  • What did the Rabbis of the Mishnah think about genderqueers?
  • Can the Rabbis’ solutions help us to define the role of transgender and intersex persons in Jewish ritual and social spaces today?
  • Investigate rabbinic attitudes toward gender variance in this hour long interactive session.

Meanwhile, Israel's military is not doing as well as expected in their fight against Hezbollah. Ralph Peters, a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant and NY Post columnist, claims that Israel is losing this war. Finding their Hezbollah foes more difficult than expected, Israeli reservists have been called up.

In light of this news, consider these passages from Scripture:

“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22)

“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13).

Israel needs our prayers.

Update 7/24/06:

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Goddess of Tolerance

Charles Colson has penned an insightful article on the dilemma faced by liberal Christians. In his commentary titled The Tragedy of the Religious Left, Colson writes that the crux of their problem is their inability to agree on the authority of Holy Scripture.

He quotes Dorothy Sayers, who penned these words: “In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.”

Charlotte Allen, the Catholicism editor for Beliefnet and the author of The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus, in her article titled, Liberal Christianity is paying for its sins, says the following about the decline of liberal Christianity:

"When your religion says "whatever" on doctrinal matters, regards Jesus as just another wise teacher, refuses on principle to evangelize and lets you do pretty much what you want, it's a short step to deciding that one of the things you don't want to do is get up on Sunday morning and go to church."

The idea of tolerance is being proclaimed by some today as if it were a part of America's founding documents—maybe even found somewhere in the Bill of Rights. It goes hand-in-hand with that same silly idea that everyone has a right to not be offended. Tolerance is not a part of our nation's original DNA. It is merely an idea born out of our national, collective guilt for some things our nation did wrong in the past. But ultimately, the idea of tolerance—at first glance a seemingly noble idea—is merely rooted in our sinful desire to define good and evil for ourselves, just like Adam and Eve.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Why I Write

In May of this year, I wrote a review of The DaVinci Code movie. After receiving feedback from some Christians about how I should not have seen the movie because of its heretical nature, I wrote a followup piece titled Watching The DaVinci Code: Good Stewardship? One commentor wrote asking,

"Did you ask God in prayer if he wanted you to see the movie and then share it on the web?"

I responded to the first half of that question, and promised to respond to the second half soon. This posting is offered as my second-half response.

In other words ... this is why I write.

When God made and called me, He built into me a strong sense of right and wrong. In the late 1980's, I began to sense a call from the Lord which became best defined by God's charge to the prophet Jeremiah:

"See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant." (Jeremiah 1:10 NIV)

Note how the words in this passage allude to things that emerge out of the ground. Nations and kingdoms are grown or constructed from seeds or foundation stones. Seeds and stones are ideas. Specifically, they are ideas about God and man.

Around 1988 or '89, I began to contemplate upon the power of ideas to shape and form nations and kingdoms. I began to realize just how powerful our ideas about God and man truly are, and how they determine the world in which we live.

A very clear picture of the power of ideas can be seen in what we now call Islamofacism. Radical Muslims believe that their god, Allah, rewards them for taking their own lives in the act of murdering those who they believe to be "infidels."

These bloody, radical actions are driven by, what at the core is, an idea.

Sadly, this idea has taken hold of many in the Muslim world and is bringing a harvest of death and destruction all across the globe. I use this example because it is the clearest and most immediate illustration of the power of an idea to shape and form the behavior of a group or a culture.

Let's return to Jeremiah. God instructed the prophet to do two things: The first was to dislodge and remove those things which were in place—things which God did not want to be there. The second was to establish or lay in something that which God deemed critical and essential.

This is why I write.

My mission is twofold. First, I write to examine the ideas that are currently shaping our nation and culture in light of what the Scriptures teach. Second, I write to sow seeds and lay foundation stones from Scripture.

A New Testament approach to this call is found in 2 Corinthians 10:5: "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ ..." (KJV)

If this explanation seems overly simple ... well, it is. I will have more to say in the days to come, but practically, throwing out the bad ideas and planting new ones is a vital work of God.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

What Parking Tickets Reveal

The Washington Times published an editorial today comparing the parking ticket record of foreign diplomats with the level of corrpution in their respective home countries. The data was collected by two American economists who were seeking a pattern in the parking ticket records for New York City, home of the United Nations. Foreign diplomats of course, are immune from prosecution for breaking our laws. The article, Corruption is a state of mind, reveals their findings. Here's an excerpt.

" ... Kuwaitis were by far the worst, with an average of 246 tickets per diplomat over five years. Egyptians and Chadians were second- and third-worst with 140 and 124, respectively ... "

Western-cultured countries were, interestingly, the most respectful of our laws.

"... the most rule-observant diplomats tended to hail from democratic countries in other parts of the world. Twenty-two countries, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Colombia, Israel, Japan and Sweden, did not incur a single recorded ticket in New York during the period of study ..."

I see this finding as a revelation of the power of self-government. As Americans, we enjoy self-government at the national level. And the reason our system generally works is because most of our citizenry are personally self-governed when it comes to things like handling parking fines, or just generally keeping the rules.

Our culture has traditionally reinforced good behavior, teaching it in our homes, our schools, and our churches. To me, in a land where multiculturalism is now being forced down our throats, here is one indicator that some cultures ARE superior to others.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Mercy and Truth in the Third World

Actor Stephen Baldwin has criticized the U2 musician Bono, claiming that Bono needs to be preaching the gospel instead of trying to get the nations of this world to help with Third World debt relief.

In ministering to the poor, we need to take care of both practical and spiritual needs. While debt relief is important, it certainly is not as critical as the eternal destination of human souls.

Nor will the reduction of debt through gifts of mercy alone set a nation aright. God has called us to stewardship, and faithful stewardship can only be obtained by following the principles set forth in Scripture.

The trouble that Third World nations find themselves in is, of course, caused by the state of depravity of its citizenry, and thus its government. We in the Western World are beneficiaries of the Christian Reformation and the principles of Scripture set in place generations ago. The West has simply been reaping the harvest of those seeds.

And while many of us in the west are, like those in Third World nations, morally depraved, our system still produces wealth because of the foundation our forefathers laid. The freedoms we enjoy, and our national practices of hard work and personal stewardship, are still reinforced by the remnants of our once-thriving Judeo-Christian culture.

Third World nations, like all nations and all souls, need both Mercy and Truth.

HT: Thinklings Blog

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Cornerstones of our American Republic

Happy 4th of July. In celebration of our nation's 230th birthday, I have posted an article on my blog which I originally penned in July of 2005, Cornerstones of our American Republic. In it, I am offering nine key Biblical principles undergirding our American system of government. I hope you find it worth your while. If you would like to read this article in PDF form, or print it out, click here.

1) Transcendence (authority):
God is above and independent of the material universe. He alone is uncreated. All else is created. Ultimate power rests with Him and Him alone. No Pope or priest (save Christ the High Priest) stands between men and God. Such clear, Biblical thinking supplied the faith and courage for so many Reformers to stand up to the ecclesiastical authorities of their day. Likewise, kings too began to find their "divine right" of governance challenged by common folk. Individuals began to believe that they could appeal directly to God to remedy their grievances. If we believe that governments and rulers exist at the pleasure of God (Romans 13:1), then we have only to fear offending God, and not men. And God is so much more patient and merciful.

Likewise, with the belief that the Holy Scriptures are the inspired and revealed Word of God (sola scriptura), and thus the only reliable guide for life, we have His source for wisdom and understanding, and need not rely upon the fancies of men for solutions to our problems. The attempts by many to remove God and His Word as the centerpiece of our culture is far more than symbolic. When God is gone from our American community, from our marketplaces, and from our halls of government, tyranny can only be just around the corner. Without the knowledge that God is looking over their shoulder, men will never wield power justly.

2) Self-Government:
Self-government is a complex idea that contains several components. Man was designed to function under God's headship, or authority, and manage His creation (Genesis 1:26, 28). As a vice-regent, man must learn how to internally govern himself under the rules established by God. God did not make man to be a puppet, but rather gave him the ability to make choices. Thus God fashioned the opportunity for failure.

Self-government begins internally within each of us. Several generations after Israel took up residence in the promised-land, the Israelites grew restless, not wanting the self-governmental approach that God had designed for them. They demanded that He give them a king "like the other nations."

During the Reformation, people began to yearn for self-government. This yearning manifested itself through changes in church life. Self-governing, autonomous groups began to form. New leaders emerged, unattached to the old structures. Over time, freedom in church life gave rise to a desire for freedom in civil life. The clearest example is found in the Pilgrim/Puritan church communities that came to the New World and soon formed self-governing towns.

Government comes in a fixed quantity. There is only so much of it to go around. The less successful we are at personal, internal self-government, the greater external government is needed. The explosion of government is proportional to the gradual breakdown of personal, internal self-government amongst our own citizenry. Every time we fail to manage our own lives properly, we lose a little bit of freedom. To keep our freedom, we must practice personal, internal self-government, and strive to safeguard the idea of self-government in our culture.

3) Liberty of Conscience:
Martin Luther, after creating enormous upheaval in the church by proclaiming "the just shall live by faith," was called by church and civil leaders in 1521 to recant his position. Standing before dignitaries of both state and church, Luther proclaimed,

"Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."

Countless Christian brothers and sisters, numbering in the thousands, perished for their faith. Many were burned at the stake, drowned in rivers, tortured on the rack and by other means, and otherwise suffered greatly. They all died premature, painful deaths for failing to recant their faith. Each of these brave martyrs meeting their early demise contributed to the rising swell of the idea of liberty of conscience.

The first amendment protects our freedom of worship, our freedom to speak our mind without fear of reprisal, our freedom to publish news, information, and even ideas, and the freedom to assemble and discuss politics or any other subject. The first amendment is a direct result of lessons learned from the Reformation, and was created, not to keep God out of the public arena, but to keep the government from dictating to our citizenry what to believe, and what church to attend.

4) Individuality:
God's creation sings with the theme of individuality. No two snowflakes are identical. No two trees, no two forests, no two creatures, no two nations, no two geographies, no two people share identical lives. Even identical twins lead different existences. This wonderful principle carries into church life as well. When the church gathers, each individual has something unique to bring (I Corinthians 14:26).

The scriptures teach that we are "... fearfully and wonderfully made ..." (Psalm 139) in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). The principle of individuality emerged as one of the key ideas springing from the Reformation of the Church. As history pressed forward through time, toward America's unique brand of liberty, God's grace permitted leaders and founders to understand that self-government can only succeed where the individual takes priority over the group. Thus in our nation, historically, civil government has existed to serve the individual, and not the other way around. In our land, the One takes precedent over the Many.

The principle of individuality interconnects seamlessly with the principle of liberty of conscience. Rights must be seen as a gift from God, not as a grant of the state. For if the state grants rights, the state can also take them away. But if God is the grantor, then He is always our ultimate court of appeal.

5) Moral Law:
God's creation functions in an orderly fashion. Planets do not go flying off into the cosmos but rather stay in their assigned orbits around the sun. Seasons change at the appropriate time of year. The ocean's tides are predictable as is the sun's rising and setting each day. All things function according to a divine order—a perfect, governmentally maintained dance through time and space.

Likewise, the family of man has been designed by God to function in an orderly fashion. God made us male and female and gave us specific instructions and "equipment" for reproduction. He also crafted the family within a certain, identifiable framework. Children can be brought successfully into functional adulthood far more effectively when His patterns are followed. He also gave us clear commands for living and relating together. If we follow His design standards—His rules—we have a much better opportunity to live the peaceable, productive lives which He intended for us to live.

Unlike the planets and orbs in the universe, twirling about with clockwork precision, humankind has been granted the freedom to choose. Free will eliminates precise, perfect living. Government is not forced upon us from the external, but rather expected from us through the internal. The expectation of our Maker is for us to follow His prescription for living. The rules, guidelines, commandments, whatever we elect to call them, are out there. They can be located in His holy Word, the Scriptures. We can learn them and seek God to help us heed their wisdom, or we can reject them if we choose.

Our nation's founders understood the utter necessity of moral law functioning within our young, fledgling society. With the possible exception of ancient Israel, our nation, formed out of the crucible of the Protestant Reformation, has had the most blessed beginning, and a greater opportunity for long-term success, than any other nation in history. At the outset, our families, our voluntary associations, our governments at all levels, were moral institutions.

6) Covenantalism:
Before departing the Mayflower, the Pilgrims drafted a mutual agreement for themselves, a covenant representing their individual commitments for self-government under the laws of God. They called their agreement the Mayflower Compact. Thus began the rich history of covenantalism in America.

The story of covenant-making can be traced to the first narrative of human experience found in the Holy Scriptures. We learn (in Genesis 3) of Adam and Eve's disobedience toward God. We also learn that God did not abandon our first two ancestors to be eternally lost through separation from Him. Instead, He made Covenant to provide them with a Savior (Genesis 3).

Covenants are binding instruments. And because of sin's damage to the human race, God alone is the covenant keeper. God's covenant with fallen man is seen repeatedly throughout the Holy Scriptures. In fact, the Holy Scriptures are divided into the Old Covenant (Testament) and the New Covenant (Testament). The entire essence of God's revelation to humanity through the Holy Scriptures is wrapped in His covenantal promises. In The Old Covenant, God repeatedly binds Himself through promises to His chosen people, the Israelites. In the New Covenant, God binds Himself personally to all those (Jew and Gentile alike) who trust in His provision through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Some consider The Declaration of Independence to be our nation's charter. It is the essential historical document creating, founding, and forming our nation. And our Constitution is a contract, a compact, an agreement defining and detailing how we have collectively bound ourselves together in self-government. Some, including thirty-sixth President Lyndon Baines Johnson, considered our Constitution to be a covenant.

The term "covenant" is a word fraught with great potential for misunderstanding. What is important to understand is that our early Christian forbears were people who possessed a rich awareness and appreciation of Biblical covenant, and endeavored to live and govern themselves under the covenant umbrella as they understood it.

Present-day Americans—even many Christians—fail to grasp the meaning of covenant and its importance in our lives and heritage. An in-depth study of Biblical covenant is not the purpose of this brief primer. But understanding the concept of covenant is absolutely essential for every Christian. Consider how you might invest some of your time to explore this important theme of Scripture.

7) Separation of Powers:
While the Israelites were mired in their wilderness experience, Moses took godly counsel from his father-in-law Jethro (Exodus 18:13-26), and divided his responsibilities for government among other leaders. He said,

"... Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you." Deuteronomy 1:13

No one individual possesses the moral character or strength of soul and body to bear alone the responsibility for governing a nation. Moses understood this weakness in man, because he struggled with it himself.

Our founding fathers likewise understood the pitfalls and hazards of concentrating power in one man, or one small group of individuals. They too determined that power had to be spread around, and even set at odds with itself, creating a tension between governing spheres. God alone can balance and wield power without compromise or selfish ambition. Consider this Scripture:

For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us. Isaiah 33:22

Look at it this way:

  • For the LORD is our judge,
  • the LORD is our lawgiver,
  • the LORD is our king;

Friends, here we have the three branches of our own nation's system of government:

  • The Judicial Branch
  • The Legislative Branch
  • The Executive Branch

God alone can handle all of this power within Himself. Mortal men cannot. Our founders understood the necessity to separate the powers of government into opposing, tension producing spheres. They did this to keep the powers of government in check.

Ancient Israel also experienced the separation of powers.

  • Priests tended to the law.
  • Kings ruled.
  • And prophets exercised judgment.

The powers of civil government in our nation are spread widely, not only at the national level, but at state and local levels as well. The United States is a collection of individual, self-governing, state units. When our nation was formed, the states freely bound themselves together to form a single unit which came to be known as the United States.

8) Republicanism:
Republic is a powerful word, one we probably don't ponder enough.

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

When we stand at public events, face the flag, put our hand over our heart, and pronounce—taking scarce time to consider their meaning—those famous words, we do not pledge allegiance to a monarchy, a plutocracy, a democracy, or a socialist system. We pledge our allegiance to a republic.

What exactly is a republic anyway, and what differentiates it from other types of government? Briefly, I will attempt to explain it to you the best that I can.

There are three essential components to our American republic.

  • First, the people hold the power. This is the democratic component—the "we the people" element.
  • Second, the law is supreme over all, even over those exercising civil authority. Just as we vote people into power, we can also vote them out. If an official breaks the law, we can prosecute them just like any other citizen. We are all subject to the Constitution and other laws of the land—national, state, and local.
  • Third, we elect individuals to represent us in government, to make decisions for us. So another principle—the principle of representation (or federalism)—is also in effect.

Here's what James Madison wrote about the idea of a republic in The Federalist # 39.

"... we may define a republic to be ... a government which derives all its powers from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior."

Consider what could potentially happen if we existed as a true democracy. Anytime the majority of the people wanted to change the rules, they could. Momentary, seasonal, misguided whims could quickly turn the direction of an entire nation. But sometimes the majority is dead wrong. Sometimes the minority of the people are the ones who possess the wisdom. The term for this potentiality is called "the tyranny of the majority." Our founders understood the danger, and this is why our nation is a republic and not a democracy.

Israel at the time of the Judges, before they demanded a king, was a Republic. The idea of a republic is deeply profound. How sad that its rich meaning is so infrequently considered.

9) Federalism:
The concept of federalism is too complex of a topic to examine in a short few paragraphs. You may need to do some "dot-connecting," so read and ponder carefully.

Federalism is, at its core, a Biblical principle. When Adam chose to disobey God's command, he bound the entire human race to himself, and to his decision. Although he most likely did not understand the full implications of his actions, he was acting not only on his own behalf, but ours as well. Likewise, when Christ came and died for our sins, He too bound Himself to all who would receive Him, representing us to God through His righteousness. Both Adam—the first man—and Christ—the second man—(I Corinthians 15:45-47) represented the human race, and God counted their singular actions and decisions as applying to us. In the words of the Puritan Primer: "In Adam's fall, we sinned all."

Thus, Biblical federalism, at its core, is the principle of representation—the principle of many being bound by the decision(s) of one. When considered carefully, we see this concept spilling over into almost every area of our lives. We can see it in our families, in our employment, in our church lives, as well as in the civil sphere.