Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

The Student Statesmanship Institute

Last week I suggested we equip Christ-loving lawyers, legislators, senators, council members, and mayors to bring biblically-informed minds to work with them on a daily basis, where they can winsomely “connect the dots” with the real-life issues related to their everyday professional lives. Sounds good, but who is equipping people to actually do this?

In the days of Jonathan Edwards, it was standard fare for churches and schools to equip people to “connect the dots” between the biblical worldview and the totality of life. The Puritans had an extensive curriculum to this end, called “Technologia,” which followed young people from the earliest ages up through undergraduate level. The Church has no comparable curriculum today.  

Dr. David Scott, Assistant Professor of Historical Theology at Southern Evangelical Seminary, did eight years of doctoral research on Jonathan Edwards. He examined the Technologia and wrote about it in his excellent paper, “A Church Without A View: Jonathan Edwards And Our Current Lifeview Discipleship Crisis.” To read it, click here.

“The Puritan worldview curriculum of technologia was comprehensive and systematic,” writes Dr. Scott. “It taught how all knowledge and human endeavor was a unified God-glorifying circle called ‘encyclopedia’ with Christ at its center as the sum of all things.” This “philosophy-of-all-things” was so critical to the formation of the mind, notes Dr. Scott, that Jonathan Edwards and his classmates at Yale were required to defend it publicly in order to graduate.

One of the greatest challenges we face today, is that our culture has lost its “Christian mind.” This sober reality was addressed by Harry Blamires years ago in The Christian MindBut thankfully, efforts are being taken to restore the Christian mind, and a "philosophy-of-all-things." Although we have a long way to go, some excellent programs are available to help the People of the Vine to make connections between biblically-informed minds and the “real world” around us, including the world of politics, law, business and media.    

One such program is the Student Statesmanship Institute, in Lansing, Michigan, which is geared for high school students. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a four-minute video must be worth 400,000. With this in mind, I urge you to take a look at a short video clip about the Student Statesmanship Institute. Click here.

Does that video blow anyone's mind besides mine? For more about SSI week-long Summer Programs starting in June, click here.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

A Practical Absurdity

If the People of the Vine are going to have an influence in politics and law, I suggest we work harder at encouraging and equipping Christ-loving lawyers, legislators, senators, council members, and mayors to bring biblically-informed minds to work with them on a daily basis, where they can winsomely “connect the dots” with real-life issues related to their everyday professional lives.

I believe the best chance we have of bringing biblically-informed thought and practice into the public square is from the inside out. This is how “salt” functions. It flavors and preserves via permeation.

This is what the integration of faith and work is about. It is the personal outworking of Truth in the business world, the artistic world, the educational world, the entertainment world, and the political-legal world, by those who work in these fields, with no sacred-secular divide, serving the Highest Lord in their professions, and loving the Highest Law. Like Daniel in Babylon. [On this superb model, I recommend Larry Peabody's great book, Job-Shadowing Daniel.]

Can you imagine millions of lawyers, legislators, council members and political executives at all levels bringing biblically-informed minds to work with them on a daily basis, operating with no SSD (Sacred-Secular Divide)?   

It this legal? Of course! As one U.S. Senator said in 2006, it is wrong to ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square. He went on to say that not injecting ‘personal morality’ into public policy debates is a practical absurdity:

 “…secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square. Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King—indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history—were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their ‘personal morality’ into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Juedo-Christian tradition.”

Notice the observation about our law being a “codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.” He was a former law professor at the University of Chicago. He knows. 

This Senator went on to become President of the United States. His name is Barack Obama. [For the full speech, click here.]

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Democracy Is No Brass Ring In Itself

Today we still have the form of a free nation, but we are losing what is necessary to maintain it. Our civil freedoms can only survive as long as a good number of citizens govern themselves in a morally responsible way, under God. This is possible when the Holy Spirit moves through people like divine sap between Vine and branches. [John 15:5]

While no freedom-consenting government can cause people to be morally responsible, only morally-responsible people can enable government to be freedom-consenting. The more Americans we have who do not practice self-governance under God, the greater risk we have of losing what freedoms we enjoy. Either we will practice government under God internally, by His grace, or the strong arm of Government will control us externally. 

As Benjamin Franklin said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” Robert Winthrop put it this way, in 1852: “Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the Word of God, or by the strong arm of man, either by the Bible, or by the bayonet.”

At one time, it was reasonable to think America could be a place where enough self-governing people (under God) would sustain the Constitutional Republic. Early Americans valued self-government under God. Because of this, it was believed a government “by the people” might just work.

Democracy is no brass ring in itself. Hitler came to power through democracy. And Mussolini. If the majority is on a certain side, democracy can produce outcomes worse than any potentate with absolute power. We may be in the process of discovering this for ourselves, as more and more Americans operate under the new modus operandi: disregard for the Higher Lord and Higher Law. 

I believe in the separation of the institutional church and state, in terms of function and jurisdictional authority. But this is a far cry from the separation of civil government and the Higher Lord. Actually, He can't be separated from it. He is Lord of all!  

Nor is it possible to separate Church [capital C] from state. That's because the Church [People of the Vine] is inextricably entwined throughout the state, like salt dissolved in soup.

But how's the savor?
[See comments for references.]

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Our Constitution Is Wholly Inadequate

In a recent post, I quoted John Adams, our 2nd President, as saying, “…we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Why would Adams say our Constitution is wholly inadequate to the government of any other than a “moral and religious” people? Because this kind of people know how to govern themselves under God, and people who can govern themselves under God generally practice the kind of internal regulation necessary for a constitutional republic to work: voluntarily adherence to Higher Rule of Law. 

Strong, external control was something the founders were trying to get away from, and what they did not want repeated on the west side of the Pond. But with a “moral and religious” populace, maybe a government “by the people” could work. Maybe individuals practicing internal self-governance under God could bring peace, order, and, as George Washington put it, “political prosperity” to the new nation.

The Protestant Reformation in Europe forged the idea that everyday people were capable of knowing God's thoughts about human behavior via the Bible. The extention of this idea vis-รก-vis civil government was only logical. As Calvin Coolidge said, “It was the principle of personal judgment in matters of religion for which the English and Dutch were contending, and which set the common people to reading the Bible. There came to them a new vision of the importance of the individual which brought him into direct contact with the Creator. It was this conception applied to affairs of government that made the people sovereign.”

Daniel Webster, Secretary of State under three presidents during the 19th Century, summed it up this way: “Our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits. Living under the heavenly light of revelation, they hoped to find all the social dispositions, all the duties which men owe to each other and to society, enforced and performed. Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens.”

But what happens when citizens elevate “self-government” and cast the “under God” part aside?

Enter the 1960s. 

[See comments for references.]

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Raised Eyebrows For 300 Years

Early Americans expected the state to not interfere with church governance, and the authority of the church did not extend to civil policy-making. But mixing biblically-informed standards with civil affairs was normative. In fact, such standards were mixed with the public square from the start of the colonies until 1947, when the Supreme Court first suggested otherwise. The idea of not mixing biblically-informed standards with the public square would have been met with raised eyebrows for 300 years.  

As late as 1911, Woodrow Wilson, our 28th President, said:

“We know that there is a standard set for us in the heavens, a standard revealed to us in this book [the Bible] which is the fixed and eternal standard by which we judge ourselves… We do not judge progress by material standards. America is not ahead of other nations of the world because she is rich. Nothing makes America great except her thoughts, except her ideals, except her acceptance of those standards of judgment which are written large upon these pages of revelation… Let no man suppose that progress can be divorced from religion, or that there is any other platform for the ministers of reform than the platform written in the utterances of our Lord and Savior. America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture.

Not all Americans at the time of the nation's birth were followers of Christ, and those who claimed to be had their faults. But the early American ethos was bent toward a biblially-informed view of the world, as evidenced by the following statement issued by the House Judiciary Committee of Congress on March 27, 1854: “At the time of the adoption of the Constitution and the amendments, the universal sentiment was that Christianity should be encouraged, but not any one sect....In this age there is no substitute for Christianity....That was the religion of the founders of the republic, and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants.”

Expected? Encouraged? Why?

Because, as George Washington put it, “reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Did he mean biblically-informed principle?

Seems so, according to the House Judiciary Committee of 1854, and Woodrow Wilson.  

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