Posted in religion

Religious Recommendation: For those who believe they have an exemption

Now while Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he observed that the city was full of idols…So Paul stood in the midst of the Aeropagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I see that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this transcription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you’” (Acts 17.16, 21-23; NASB).1

Their idols [unbelieving peoples] are silver and gold, the work of human hands…Those who make them are like them” (Psa 115.4, 8).

For they exchanged the truth of God for falsehood, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” (Rom 1.25a).

_________________________________________________________________

INTRODUCTION:

What is religion? What is a religious person? Are you one? Do you know such an individual? I ask because I’m convinced that many people do not know the true answer.

Over the past few months I have spent a significant amount of time attempting to provide individuals from a variety of businesses with information on religious exemptions pertaining to the medical treatment being rammed down American throats (actually jabbed in the arm) without their informed consent. I say “without informed consent” because of the strong arm tactics being used in order to force compliance. Very little information is given about this medical treatment. There is no 3-5 year safety data provided. Any data provided that is counter to the current narrative is silenced, mocked or ignored. A medical crisis is claimed but evidently not one so serious that we cannot fire a large portion of our health professionals.

The hysteria regarding this illness is disturbing. Arguments of irrationality are provided by those that pretend to be completely rational. For example, if face diapers work then why bother those who refrain from wearing them? If they cannot prevent smoke particles from getting into your lungs, then why say that they can stop viruses which are measurably smaller? If the medical treatment is safe and effective, then why not provide an ingredient list? Why suppress adverse reactions including death? If it is out of love for neighbor, then where is your love the neighbor that has legitimate concerns for not getting it? If the information provided by the “experts” is accurate and truthful, then why refuse to have an open debate in the public sphere where other “experts” in the same fields of study disagree in their interpretation of the data? Why censor rather than critically analyze? If you’ve received the medical treatment and you believe it works as intended, then why are your fearful of those who have not? If protection is truly offered, then how can you be harmed? Why are the numbers still rising in cases and deaths when more people have taken the prescribed treatment? How can the numbers be higher when the majority of the population has participated in this medical experiment?

To use a simple analogy for those uncomfortable with answering probing questions:

Automobiles travel at high speeds and people, due to human error, tend to have accidents. In the past people did not wear seat belts and as a result the death count was too high. So actions were taken to educate and enforce the use of seat belts in all automobiles. The seat belts were deemed safe and effective and the best tool available to curb the high fatality rate. Nearly 70% of the driving population was convinced that wearing seat belts was the best preventive measure they could take. The took the experts advice and did what they recommended (i.e., they followed the guidelines). But when the data came in and the numbers were crunched the fatality rate had not really dropped. The cases of seat belt fatalities was as high if not higher than the previous year. What was the problem? Why were the number still too high? Ah the reason is simple. The 30% (or less) who refused to wear seat belts were the source of the higher case load of deaths. Driving would not truly be safe for anyone, not even those who wore seat belts and were protected, until the radical 30% learned their place and submitted to the tool provided by the experts. Until they were brought in line with the rest of the safety conscious public driving would too dangerous of an activity to pursue. (Hypothetical scenario for illustrative purposes only).

Back to Religion…

Now I started off this post with questions pertaining to religion. And I made the bold statement that many people in our day don’t know the answer as to what a religion is and who is actually a religious person. I also shared that I have made myself available as a pastor to aid individuals seeking a religious exemption from their employer regarding a particular mandate coming down the pike. And I am glad to say that some of my efforts have been successful. However, I have noticed a bit of confusion on the part of many both inside and outside the Christian fellowship.

There have been those that have assumed that to be a religious person you must be associated with a particular sect or denomination or faith. Others have argued that science, medicine or politics are not religious in nature, thus, you cannot make an argument against what the “experts” are saying on the grounds of religious faith. Sadly, some notable pastors have offered this idea from one degree to another.

  • Popular pastor and author John Piper argues that in light of the evidence presented in the media by the approved experts, Christians have little reason to avoid taking the prescribed medical treatment. An act of godly love should drive their decision not peer pressure from apparently joining the ranks of those they normally oppose. After discussing the freedom we experience in Jesus Christ, Piper argues we dare not use that freedom to violate others: “But woe to us Christians if this radical freedom makes us cocky.”2
  • Robert Jeffress a pastor in Dallas, TX is dismissive of those that try to appeal to religion as a way to avoid getting the government’s medicine. He confidently asserts that you might as well avoid other medications if you’re going to be consistent, and then explains that neither he nor his staff will be providing recommendations for anyone seeking a religious exemption.3

Both men are entitled to their opinion. All people are. But the freedom to express one’s opinion is not the same thing as being right. I’m sure that both men have strong feelings about their position and would argue adamantly in defense of it. The freedom to have feelings, even very strong ones, is another right that people have, but neither do feelings, even strong ones, make the position held a correct one.

They are not alone. A large number of Christian ministers promote a similar line of thought as seen in an Associated Press article by David Crary on the Christianity Today website.4 And so, we are back to the questions of religion, who’s religious, and is this a religious issue.

Defining Religion…

According to the American Heritage Dictionary the term means, “A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.”5 The Encyclopedia Britannica (2008) offers a similar meaning, “Relation of human beings to God or the gods or to whatever they consider sacred or, in some cases, merely supernatural.”6 We could peruse other resources but the answer will be the same. Religion may be something more classically understood as a worship of some deity with various ritualistic expressions of devotion; or religion may be understood in its most basic sense as a certain set of beliefs about reality as a whole that are strenuously held to (i.e., deep-seated convictions).

Paul in Athens…

This is precisely what Paul bears witness to while waiting for his ministry team in the ancient Grecian city of Athens (cf. Acts 17.16). As he observes the edifices of their cultural commitments; seen in their architecture and argumentation (i.e., idols, buildings, and thoughts) his spirit is continually being provoked within him. And since Athenians loved nothing more than to discuss this issue or that, to pontificate on this issue or that, we find the apostle entering into the marketplace (of ideas) reasoning with all who would give him audience (Acts 17.21, v. 17 respectively). His behavior earns him further investigation into his own beliefs as he is ushered into the court of ideas, the Aeropagus, where all important matters were weighed and judged (Acts 17.18-20). Paul a highly educated man in both Hebrew and Roman worldviews understood the nature of the case better than his contemporaries. He starts his defense of the Christian faith with a pointed observation of their own:

Men of Athens, I see that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this transcription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you’” (Acts 17.22b-23).

Paul understood his audience better than they understood themselves. They were very religious people. People so cautious that they made an altar to an unknown god lest they offend that which they did not know. Paul’s point was that they worshiped the imaginations of their own mind, even though they knew at least to some extent that in God all people “live and move and exist” (Acts 17.28).

Who is religious?

All people. That’s what Paul said. It’s what the Psalmist explains in Psalm 115. People who deny the God of creation mock His children (cf. Psa 115.2) for believing that He exists because He is immaterial; a spiritual Being that has no beginning and no end, and who is in fact the Author of all beginnings and ends. But it is the unbelieving world that worships the imaginations of their own hearts (Psa 115.4-8). Having denied the God above them they turn inward and worship “the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom 1.25a).

Greg L. Bahnsen makes two pivotal points in his book By This Standard. The first is repeated several times throughout, “All of life is ethical.”7 The second speaks on the ethical mindset of mankind as a whole, “Men will either choose to be governed by God or to be ruled by tyrants.”8

Meaning what? The statement regarding ethics pertains to right and wrong behavior. A system of truth, a standard that determines what people should and should not do. Ethics pertains to the law, and the question that springs from it is, “Whose law?” This leads to Bahnsen’s second point. Either people will submit (individually and corporately) to God’s Law or they will submit to the law of some other. To be governed means to be led. Either people will be led to live their life in accordance with God’s law, or they will follow the lead of one who upholds their own law.

That this is in fact a religious issue may be seen in the words of Jesus the Christ:

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt 6.24; KJV).

Jesus loved the Father and abided in His love (John 15.10). How did He do this? By keeping His commandments. This is the same requirement of any who would call Jesus their master, for if they loved Him they would keep His commandments (John 14.15). Anyone who claims that Jesus is His Master (i.e., Lord) but refuses to keep His commandments (i.e., word) is a liar (cf. Luke 6.46).

Since all of life is ethical, all of life is religious. Either we live to serve the God who created us and gives us life in Jesus, or we live under the law of the creature; ultimately, our own autonomous hearts (cf. Rom 8.7-8).

An issue of religion?

Is the prescribed medical treatment pushed by the civil government and their experts a religious issue? How does the argument go for receiving it? Is it an “ought to do” or an “if you want to?” It seems to me that a wide variety of individuals are arguing that it is something that we “ought to do.” Meaning that various religious leaders, medical professional, scientific experts, and elected politicians are saying that we should and we are wrong if we refuse. So serious are they on the matter that they are willing to use coercion and bullying techniques to get their way. Come January anyone who refuses an attempt will be made to rob them of their way of life. People are trying to couch the issue in terms of public health policy, but in so doing they are attempting to bind your hands and feet in the process.

Something that Piper said in his article that was spot on was that in Jesus Christ the sons/daughters of the kingdom have been set free. Free not only from sin, but free from the traditions of men. Which means at times free from the laws of men. Ultimately we live under the governance of God and not of men. Those who have received authority from on high have done so in a limited (delegated) fashion. They are charged with enforcing good and punishing evil. They are not charged with invoking their own version of good and punishing what they detest as evil.

Killing babies in the womb that is a version of the current civil government’s good. So too is mutilating young boys and girls, and allowing grown adults to play dress up and “let’s pretend.” Let us not forget about promoting envy and covetousness and calling it paying your fair share in order to rob people of their wealth and their children of their inheritance. Are those scientific issues? Are they medical issues? Are they merely political issues? Or are they at base religious issues?

No one has unlimited authority except God alone. Those in authority have limitations where they are permitted to exercise that authority, called jurisdictions. That others in power are attempting to force those underneath them to submit to their every whim is an expression of overreach (i.e., tyranny). They have gone beyond the boundaries prescribed to them by God (cf. Rom 13.1-10). Thus, attempting to force someone to make a medical decision that they are not comfortable with, or have strong convictions against, is in fact the very definition of a religious issue contrary to men like pastor Jeffress. The method or form of which is no different than what the apostles of Jesus Christ rejected in Acts 4:19, 5:29,

Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, make your own judgment… We must obey God rather than men”

Closing Remarks…

I understand full well that the nature of the case regarding this illness is driven by the religious zeal of others. All people are religious, but not all religions are equal. All people follow the law, but not all laws are worthy of consideration. Freedom comes from God who gave life, not from those who wish to call themselves gods and goddesses. The State is a servant not our Master. And if they fail to offer godly (i.e., goodly) service, then they are not worth listening to. Will their be consequences? Oh sure, you can bet on it. But their will be consequences either way you look at it. It’s really just a matter of what sort of consequences are you willing to live with?

Anyone who desires a religious exemption recommendation against what’s coming send me your sincerely held religious beliefs. Tell me in writing your circumstance, regardless of your religious affiliation and I will do my best to give you the best recommendation letter that I can.

I have been asked, “What if I’m not religious?” Which often times means, “What if I do not prescribe to any particular religion?” All people are religious there is no way of getting around that. All people have a worldview that is upheld by a certain set of presuppositions that guide their understanding of the world. Some of the founders of our nation were not Christians but were governed by and large by the biblical worldview. In our nations key documents (Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, and our own State Constitutions) certain rights and privileges are recognized as coming from the Creator. The government does not give us those rights, they are established to protect them. Though Thomas Jefferson was no Christian I would have had no problem, based on the criteria I just mentioned, writing him a recommendation for a religious exemption. That is not the same thing as me baptizing him or offering him communion and in turn ushering him into membership in my church. Those things I would not do without a profession of faith, after having time to sit down with him in a ministerial fashion.

We need to keep our categories of thought separate. The government does not have the authority to inject anything they want into your body. They do not have a right to rob you of your livelihood. You can be a conscientious objector, fall under the protections of our rights as citizens, and not share my faith. I’m not vouching for you as a Christian, but as a citizen in the United States that has your religious freedoms being stomped on! If God allows unbelievers to dwell in the land (as He did in ancient Israel), then who am I to say “Nope. Sorry. You don’t believe like I do, I can’t help you.” We are called to love our neighbors, even our enemies (cf. Deut 22.1-4; Prov 24.17-18), and if I am able to help aid you in such a fashion that does not violate my Lord’s commandments… then I will. I’ve already done it for some, I’m more than willing to offer what aid I can.

ENDNOTES:

1All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the New American Standard Bible, 2020 Update (NASB).

2John Piper, “A Reason to Be Vaccinated: Freedom,” Desiring God blog, October 19, 2021, accessed October 29, 2021, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-reason-to-be-vaccinated-freedom.

I appreciate the stated concern of Piper in this article, but I disagree with his premise. I believe that he has failed to consider the religious lens that guides the interpretation of data in any field of study; including, science and medicine. Worldviews guide interpretations of all data. A persons network of presuppositions are intricate and offer a bias as to how they will reach conclusions on a variety of subjects. Suppose we took Piper’s argument and applied it to the popular environmentalism of our day. There are “experts” that the civil government and popular media use to push forward their agenda of going green. Are we to take their interpretations at face-value? Are we to assume that they have the “fact of the matter” set, and then conclude that no other interpretations are available regarding the same data? Are we to believe that their own convictions about how one should care for the world in which we live is the only possible one? We know that we have freedom in Christ, but we shouldn’t allow that freedom in Christ to make us cocky. We’ve been commanded to be faithful stewards of the earth. Evidence by the “experts” shows that we are destroying our planet, that fossil fuels are dangerous, and the CO2 levels present a dangerous hazard to life on earth; therefore, we should stop cows from farting, only drive electric cars, and each have an Asherah pole in our backyards. Okay, so that last one was a little tongue-in-cheek, but the hysteria that drives that movement (environmentalism) is similar in form to the current one regarding the illness that has been front page news for over 20 months now. You could apply Piper’s argument in the same way because stating the “facts” alone does not in fact prove anything; other than espouse the worldview of those driving the narrative. Piper fails to consider or does not care to discern the religious motivations of those guiding the current agenda regarding the espoused medical treatment he says partaking in would be an act of love.

3Joshua Zitser, “Texas megachurch preacher and Trump devotee says there is no ‘credible religious argument’ against COVID-19 vaccines,” Insider, September 19, 2021, accessed October 29, 2021, https://www.businessinsider.com/no-credible-religious-argument-against-covid-19-vaccines-megachurch-pastor-2021-9?op=1. Obviously, Jeffress does not see the current medical dilemma as a religious issue, but is he right?

4https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/april/white-evangelicals-pastors-covid-vaccine-skepticism.html.

5American Heritage Dictionary, 5th edition, s.v., “religion.” https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=religion.

6“Religion,” Britannica Desktop Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008).

7Greg L. Bahnsen, By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1985), 13, 19, 21, 27. PDF e-book.

8Ibid, 265.

Posted in Beliefs

On Humming “A Mighty Fortress” Through Your Masks

Introduction Allow me, if you will, to address the issues of true liberty, liberty of conscience, and the vaccine mandates. As more COVID mandates …

On Humming “A Mighty Fortress” Through Your Masks

An excellent post by an excellent Christian pastor. At least that’s my opinion of the venerable Doug Wilson.

Posted in history

Day of Remembrance: Being Mindful of Past Memories in Order to have Hope for the Present-Future.

There is no remembrance of the earlier things, and the later things as well, which will occur, There will be no remembrance of them among those who will come later still” (Eccl 1.11; NASB).

Fading memories rekindled…

How much do you remember of your past? What are the events of your past that stick in your mind? Are they good memories or bad? If you’re like most people then it is probably a little of both. You remember good times, but there are also times that were bad (might even have been horrible) that stick out like a sore thumb. Those memories of the past that have crept into your thoughts in the present that you’d very much like to forget. The sort of thing that gets you to shake your head, close your eyes, and say “No, no…not that!”

When you think about it our memories are quite amazing things. Different types of stimuli bring them to the forefront of our minds; sometimes at the most inconvenient moment possible. Smells, lights, sounds, the sensation of touch all of which are used to remind us of our past as our memories come simmering to the surface. For example, the smell of freshly cut grass on a hot humid summer morning brings to mind two-a-day practices for the upcoming football season from my youth. The song by the Four Seasons entitled December, 1963 playing on the radio brings back memories of me riding in the back of a pickup truck traveling through Clearfield, PA in the winter of 1994, with snow steadily falling on the well lit streets. I can still feel my hair blowing in the chilly wind at about 35 mph.

Dark days of history…

And then there was September 11th, 2001. The day that the Twin Towers fell. The day when the United States of America was attacked by terrorists under the leadership of a man later found out to be Osama Bin Laden. Commercial airliners were overtaken by Islamic terrorists in the air and were then diverted to crash into what many recognized as a marvel of America ingenuity.

I was in Ontario, Canada on that historic day. The air was cool and crisp. A bunch of family and friends (all outdoorsy dudes) had decided to go on a two week fishing trip in one of the most serene places in North America. We were having a blast slaying fish, until a couple Canadians from the RV park where we were staying hollered at us USA boys. The scene was gut wrenching. Bile could be felt in the back of my throat. Along with a slow boiling anger in the center of my chest.

I had grown up in an era where you were raised daily to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and the republic for which its stands. “Under God” was a phrase that had real meaning, at least in a traditional sense. Like many young men from that time (I was 22 years old then) I seriously thought about signing up for military service. It was the revelation that I was to be a dad in 8 months that put that notion to rest.

Two days before the twenty year anniversary of that day, September 9th, 2021, another terrorist event occurred. This time it was terrorism of a domestic source. This time it was not buildings that were attacked, and lives immediately lost. Oh no, not that. This time it was the ability to build lives, to provide for loved ones, which has been attacked.

A few weeks back I was reading on the Department of Homeland Security’s web-page of domestic terrorism. They cited possible resistance to certain medical restrictions (you know of what I speak) by extremists of an evangelical nature, as the source of trouble. I now know why. The federal government knew what was coming down the pike. I assumed it was coming since I’ve been paying attention to other sectors of our world. Nations that are being crippled by bureaucratic terrorists under the guise of medical health and public safety, were the signal fires to us here in the United States, but just like on September 11th, 2001 we ignored the warnings around us.

Why? How? Because we were then and are now consumed with our own lives. Selfishly driven, selfishly motivated, giving little care for anything other than our own creaturely comforts.

Historic day that shone…

But rather than beat on that drum, I wanted to speak on another September 11th from history. One that shows the concerns and convictions of the many who fought for the freedoms that we are currently allowing to be stripped from piece-by-piece. So different were the thoughts of those that have gone before us. So different were their priorities than the many that now share this soil.

Benjamin F. Morris writes,

“The breaking out of the Revolution cut off the supply of ‘books printed in London.’ The scarcity of Bibles also came soon to be felt. DR. PATRICK ALLISON, one of the chaplains to Congress, and other gentlemen, brought the subject before that body in memorial, in which they urged the printing of an edition of the Scriptures.

“On the 11th of September, 1777, the committee to whom the memorial was referred reported as follows—

“Thursday, September 11, 1777—The committee to whom the memorial of Dr. Allison and others was referred, report, That they have conferred fully with the printers, &c., in this city, and are of opinion that the proper types for printing the Bible are not to be had in this country, and that the paper cannot be procured, but with such difficulties, and subject to such casualties, as render any dependence on it altogether improper; that to import types for the purpose of setting up an entire edition of the Bible, and to strike off 30,000 copies, with paper, binding, &c., will cost £10,272, 10, which must be advanced by Congress, to be reimbursed by the sale of the books; that, in the opinion of the committee, considerable difficulties will attend the procuring the types and paper; that, afterwards, the risk of importing them will considerably enhance the cost, and that the calculations are subject to such uncertainty in the present state of affairs, that Congress cannot much rely on them; that the use of the Bible is so universal, and its importance so great, that your committee refer the above to the consideration of Congress, and if Congress shall not think it expedient to order the importation of types and paper, the committee recommend that Congress will order the Committee of Commerce to import 20,000 Bibles from Holland, Scotland, or elsewhere, into the different ports of the States of the Union.

Whereupon it was moved, That the Committee of Commerce be directed to import 20,000 copies of the Bible.

On this motion New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, voted in the affirmative; New York, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, voted in the negative.

So it was resolved in the affirmative.”1

Meaning what? That during a time of war, when people were fighting to protect their homes and livelihood from tyranny, from despots that were trying to force submission on the citizens in this land from across the pond, their leaders primary concern was the spiritual well-being of the people here. It was understood that God’s Word provided not only the foundation of all of life, but gave beautiful meaning to concepts such as freedom for which they were fighting for. It is the Christian faith birthed from the precious Word of Christ—what we call our Holy Bibles—that sparked the ideals that formed this nation. The fact that we are now under threat from terrorists from within and without as seen in our past (twenty years ago: Sept. 11th, 2001; and just yesterday: Sept. 9th, 2021) ought to serve as a warning to remember our roots.

We were victorious at our nation’s founding not because we were the greatest in number or strength or military prowess, but because we had entrusted ourselves unto the Lord of Hosts. Tyrants who supposed that they were god-in-the-flesh failed because of this basic principle:

Unless the Lord builds a house, they who build it labor in vain; unless the Lord guards a city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psa 127.1).

The Shining is not over…

In time, history will show that the present day that we face birthed tyrants destined to fail (Rom 19.17). For it was for this purpose that they entered this world…that the glory of Almighty God might shine through all the earth (Exod 19.15-16; 15.11-16). Do not grow weary in hope, for it is in the Lord Jesus Christ that all shall bow and through Him peace shall come; in history, not outside of it (Phil 2.9-11):

For [Christ] must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, ‘All things are put in subjection,’ it is clear that this excludes the Father who put all things in subjection to Him [the Son]. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all” (1Cor 15.25-28; cf. vv. 20-24).

If we remember what happened in the past because of God’s sovereign providence, then we have no need whatsoever to ever fear what tomorrow may hold. For all tomorrows are in our Father’s hand. Oh, that we would remember these truths and believe them!

ENDNOTE:

1Benjamin F. Morris, The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Reprint 1864 (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press, 2021), 252-253. Emphasis Added, All Caps in original.

Posted in history

Cancel Culture’s Long History and Its Workarounds – The American Vision

Cancel culture has a long history. The false prophets of Israel wanted the true prophets silenced. Jezebel murdered hundreds of them. Obadiah hid those who had escaped her wrath. There were many attempts to silence Jesus. It was fear of the people that kept the antagonists away. The religious leaders used political accusations as false testimony to bring the Roman government into canceling Jesus permanently.
Paul and his religious cohorts murdered Stephen after he recounted Israel’s redemptive history and called them to account (Acts 7:54–8:1–3).
— Read on americanvision.org/posts/cancel-culture-s-long-history-and-its-workarounds/

Nothing new under the sun (cf. Ecclesiastes 1)

Article written by Gary DeMar