I've been reading The Mighty Weakness of John Knox by Douglass Bond.
Knox has always been a favorite of mine. The more I read of him, the more I find him to be a kindred spirit.
While reading, I found this quote particularly stimulating:
"We smile and shake our heads; maybe Knox was a bit too fanatical. "Think how much more good he could have done if he had been more relational, if he had been more like us," we say. But meanwhile, what idols remain untoppled in our world today? Perhaps they remain comfortably on their pedestals because, unlike Knox, many ministers prefer delivering sophisticated and erudite lectures on the one hand and non-confrontative chats about community and culture on the other."
"The point is that good law which affirms or mirrors the law and justice of God helps men to see their need for Christ. Bad law that contravenes and spurns the law and justice of God assists men in ignoring and/ or justifying their sin. Hence, the laws of a nation go to the very salvation of men’s souls."
- from The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates
Charles H. Spurgeon, instructing a group of seminary students on sermon delivery, said, “When you speak of heaven, let your face light up with a heavenly gleam. Let your eyes shine with reflected glory. And when you speak of hell–well, then your usual face will do.”
In months past I have written on the cause of suicide. I explained that some of its prevalence in Ashland (and America at large) is due much to the naturalistic and materialistic worldview that is taught in our public schools (and pretty much everywhere else). I would like to offer one more reason why people choose to end their lives. I would not doubt either that this is the most basic cause.
"Suicide can be one of the ways that people deal with their sin. It is, at the same time, a means of escape and a kind of self atonement. The guilt one experiences for sin can be exceedingly maddening. The only remedy may appear to be the ending of the thinking process. Similarly, the shedding of one's blood for guilt parody's the true remedy for sin: The crucifixion of Christ.
"It is no wonder that you are driven to despair; when your sins come howling behind you like so many ravenous wolves. I should understand why you would seek to lay violent hands upon yourself. It is no strange thing for men to loose all hope when under a sentence of sin."
I am preparing to speak at the local ministerial association meeting this Friday. I will be using 1 Tim. 1:6 as my text because it focuses on the act of preaching. I thought Calvin's comments were exceptionally eloquent and worth recording here.
"To stir up the gift of God which is in you. This exhortation is highly necessary; for it usually happens, and may be said to be natural, that the excellence of gifts produces carelessness, which is also accompanied by sloth; and Satan continually labors to extinguish all that is of God in us. We ought, therefore, on the other hand, to strive to bring to perfection everything that is good in us, and to kindle what is languid; for the metaphor, which Paul employs, is taken from a fire which was feeble, or that was in course of being gradually extinguished, if strength and flame were not added, by blowing upon it and by supplying new fuel. Let us therefore remember that we ought to apply to use the gifts of God, lest, being unemployed and concealed, they gather rust. Let us also remember that we should diligently profit by them, lest they be extinguished by our slothfulness."
One of my favorite quotes comes from Johannus Oecolampadius who says, "The world would be better off with fewer ministers."
While we want harvesters to be thrust out into the harvest, we have to recognize that we need the Lord to first prune the ranks. For many men who go into the ministry ought to have heeded James' words, "Not many of you should become teachers."
Men who enter the ministry ought not to do it just because they think that they are called or because they want to serve the Lord. It takes more than a desire to "share" with people about God.
Men who enter the ministry must be thoroughly trained and understand Scriptural doctrine. They must be able to spot wolves and then fend them off if they prowl around within your neighborhood.
Unfortunately, we have many who are barely Christians standing in our pulpits. They cannot fight unbelief because to do so would be an act of friendly fire. They may well be evangelicals, but they are so wildly ignorant of Biblical teaching or lacking in holy zealous fire that they do a greater injustice to the kingdom than a legion of demons.
It would be better for them to demit the office and seek another profession.
"If they cannot partake worthily without being able duly to discern the sanctity of the Lord's body, why should we stretch out poison to our young children instead of vivifying food?"1
Existentialism arose in Europe after WWII, after the time of optimistic humanism. While the philosophy was being developed by various men prior to this point in time, it didn’t really catch on until after the devastation of WWII.
The calamity of two world wars and the excessive death exacted by Hitler & Stalin’s concentration camps made many rethink how humanistic thought had served mankind. Adding to the turn against optimistic humanism was the trouble caused by the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
Given all these tragedies—which overtly demonstrated the failure of humanistic thought— and the growing prevalence of the naturalistic/materialistic worldview, people entered an “intellectual pothole.” The despairing attitudes of those in Europe & America were perfect breeding grounds for “a philosophy of despair.”
A few notable existential philosophers include: Jean Paul Sarte, Camus, Martin Heideger, Rudolph Bultmon
Existentialism, as already noted, is a pessimistic philosophy. It is sometimes called “the philosophy of despair” or “the philosophy of the absurd.” This can be seen by the following quotes:
Existentialism is an offshoot of naturalism, just like secular humanism. Because this is so, it holds many things in common with humanism. Unlike humanism though, existentialism focuses on the despair, angst, and absurdity of life. To put it another way, humanism takes the high road, believing that man is great and can become greater. Existentialism takes the low road: man is a meaningless lump of dirt that has no ultimate purpose.
“Man is absurd, but he must act as if he is not.” –Sarte
As noted above, man is nothing more than ooze. You are a “cosmic accident,” an “overgrown germ,” and “a clog in the wheel.” As such, you have no purpose and you live in a world that has no purpose. Thus you must deal with the angst that this produces.
Angst can be thought of as the anxiety or anguish that accompanies the realization that you and this universe have no purpose. It is the combination of fear and dread that expresses how sick you are with life.
Existentialism also stresses the freedom of man to choose as he wills. You are defined by these choices. You are the sum of your choices.
Against the facts, and despite the meaninglessness of life, you must choose to be (existentialism is the worldview of being!). If there is meaning, it is defined by what you make of it.
Truth is not something that is revealed or gained by rational investigation. Reason cannot be successful in finding the meaning to life because everything is ultimately meaningless. Instead, truth is primarily gained through experience.
For the Existentialist, experience is everything. Your main goal is to create meaning out of your personal experience. Sometimes you will hear it said that “being is more important than knowing.”
According to this worldview, it is not so much what you know as what you do and what you make of yourself. You may hear that “life is a journey.” That is, your life is a road trip where you must make yourself into what you are.
In the end, one must “follow his heart,” even if it is illogical and means committing to something against all evidence.
When it comes to ethics Existentialism admits that there is no absolute that guides what is right and wrong (after all, everything is meaningless). Instead it stresses one’s personal freedom and free choice.
The existential worldview emphasizes the need to make a choice, and that choice must be free from all outside influences. No one can tell you what to do and you must not let anything govern you or influence you. In sum, all forms of oppression are to be tossed off, for that is the only thing that is ultimately wrong.
Again, it is choice and freedom that are predominant. Jean Paul Sarte once said regarding the “old woman crossing the road” that “It doesn’t matter if you help her cross the road or run her down, what matters is that you choose.”
Ultimately, suicide may be considered good. “The greatest question man must face is not so much if he should commit suicide, but when.”--Albert Camus
Perhaps the best way to summarize existentialism’s view on ethics would be in saying: “Be true to yourself.”
A friend once said of her son who was advancing through his teenage years, “It was a lot easier when all you had to worry about was whether or not Barney had an agenda.” Another friend of mine once said “Leave it to Beaver is perhaps the most Satanic show that ever aired.” Such may at first seem like funny comments, but they emphasize well the point of worldviews.
Does Barney have an agenda? Maybe he doesn’t intend to be a radical purple crusader, but he does send messages about life and morality to kids.
I'm not saying that parents need to ban Barney from the home. I'm simply saying, we need to be aware of worldview issues that are prevalent wherever we go or in whatever we watch.
All of this, of course, gets much more involved as you get older. Consider the following review one mother gave of the movie Gladiator:
You are probably thinking, "It's just a movie!" But remember that the powerful images in which these messages are wrapped can meet with impressionable minds. Whether or not they are conscious of it, some may walk out of the theater having absorbed the sermon in picture.
All in all, worldviews are everywhere and they shape lives! For instance, the first 150 years of America’s history children were taught from the New England Primer, which started out “A -- In Adam’s fall, sinned we all.” It continued to go through each of the letters of the alphabet in a similar manner.
B -- Heaven to find? The Bible mind!
C -- Christ crucified, For sinners died.
D -- The deluge drown'd the Earth around.
The whole of the workbook contained prayers and other items of Christian significance, such as the Westminster Shorter Catechism. When it came to the education of children the early American people were consciously centered on Christian principles.
In the 20th century the New England Primer was replaced with the McGuffey Readers. The content of which went like so:
Lesson 1: The dog ran.
Lesson 2. The cat is on the mat
The consciously Christian perspective was replaced by a more humanistic worldview. God had been erased from the picture and life was now simply about cats and dogs.
Today another seismic shift is taking place. Early elementary children are starting to read things like “Heather Has Two Mommies.”
How did we come to this? It was the evolution of ideas. Once the Christian worldview was eradicated, education could go in a new direction. It was now free to cross boundaries of morality and develop its own pedagogy.
"A holy man is not merely a man placed upon an eminence whence the vast view spreads out on every side onward to Canaan itself, but he is a man gifted with keen clear vision who can make use of that lofty position for surveying fully the kingdom of which he has been made the heir."
-Horatius Bonar, The Eternal Day
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