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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, May 30, 2014

Either By The Bible, Or By The Bayonet


Robert C. Winthrop (1809 - 1894), a descendant of John Winthrop, served as the 22nd Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. [Photo public domain, US Congress Biographical Directory. Oil on canvas by Daniel Huntington, 1882.]

"In any society, only two forces can hold the sinful nature in check: the restraint of conscience or the restraint of the sword. The less that citizens have of the former, the more the state must employ the latter.”

This observation was made by Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey, in their 1999 bestseller, How Now Shall We Live.

In 1852, Robert Winthrop22nd Speaker of the House of Representatives, was more pointed: "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."

In the early days of our nation, "self-government under God” defined liberty among Christian leaders such as John Winthrop and Robert Winthrop. But the current American notion of "liberty" idolizes the self-government part, while the under God part is under the bus. 

The greatest deterrent to human liberty is independence itself. Independence from the God of the Bible, that is. As we move further away from personal recognition of Higher Law, and accountability to The Higher Judge, the less liberty we all have. That's because the more citizens who lack internal control under God, the more calls there will be for external control─under man. And this is not a pleasant prospect. For who will govern our controllers? What will guide their minds and hearts? The Bible?

As external controls increase in number, no amount of legislation will solve the root problem. That's because our problem is internal. Yes, we need God-honoring legislation. But authentic, sustainable liberty within the halls of power, the public square, the marketplace, and the home, must be voluntarily carried into these places by individual players who are controlled by a power within them. We need politicians, plumbers and parents who willingly (and gladly) carry their respect for God and His authority within them wherever they go. This starts with a relationship.

Ken Eldred put it this way, in God Is At Work:

"Cultural change is not something that can be imposed at the macro level from the top...Person by person, hearts and minds must be transformed...In short, it is the Holy Spirit working a cultural transformation from the pattern of this world to the pattern of God. The process starts with...a personal relationship with God.”

A Moravian-Haugian marketplace begs a Weslian-Haugian awakening.



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Friday, May 23, 2014

Titanic


Indian scholar Vishal Mangalwadi contends that the "secret" of the West's success is morality that allows people to trust one another with the kind of trust essential to business and politics. He says this kind of trust-producing morality is unique to societies having a belief in a rational God who has spoken to humanity through the Bible, clarified right and wrong, and to Whom everyone is equally accountable.

But Mangalwadi asks an important question: "If moral integrity is foundational to prosperity, why don't secular experts talk about it?"

His answer is: "Economists have lost the secret of the West's success because philosophers have lost the very idea of truth." How did this happen? "The truth was lost," he says, "because of an intellectual arrogance that rejected divine revelation and tried to discover truth with the human mind alone."

Mangalwadi traces the connections between failing economies and faulty worldviews. His book Truth and Transformation is particularly relevant because of the West's exchange of the Christian worldview for a much different view. A view that is as harmful to the economy of America as Hinduism is to the economy of India. Namely, the worldview of Secularism.

Through the philosophy of Western secularists such as David Hume (1711-1776), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) and Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), thought-leaders in the West accepted the notion that either the God of the Bible does not exist, or He is totally irrelevant. (One doesn't have to be an atheist to be a secularist. A Christian dualist is a practicing secularist.)

The effects of Secularism upon America have been titanic. Mangalwadi contends that Secularism is leading us down the same road to poverty that Hinduism led India.

Think it could never happen? The Titanic was thought to be unsinkable, too.

Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan both quoted John Winthrop, CEO of the Massachusetts Bay Company, who once declared: "...we shall be as a city upon a hillthe eyes of all people are upon us."

But they neglected to tell the American people what Winthrop said next: "So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God, and all professors for God's sake." 

John Winthrop (1588-1649) [Photo public domain; artist unknown.]




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Friday, May 16, 2014

The Two Most Critical Words Missing From American Vocabulary Today


In Truth and Transformation, Vishal Mangalwadi relates an experience he had in Amsterdam, where he wanted to buy a bus day-pass from a machine. The instructions were in Dutch. Two young women visiting from America were nearby, and Mangalwadi asked how to get tickets. The women said they had been riding around Amsterdam for a week, and no one checked for tickets. "Why do you want to get tickets?" they asked.

Mangalwadi relates: "Their shamelessness shocked me more than their immorality. They represented the new generation, liberated from 'arbitrary' and 'oppressive' religious ideas of right and wrong. University education had freed them from commandments such as 'You shall not steal.'"

He goes on: "'It is wonderful,' I said to them, 'that there are enough commuters who pay so that the system can carry some who don't. Once your schools succeed in producing enough clever commuters, your country will catch up with mine [India]. You will have to have ticket inspectors on every bus and have super-inspectors to spy on the inspectors. Everyone will then have to pay more. But corruption won't remain confined to the consumers; it is a cancer that will infect politicians, bureaucrats, managers, operators, and the maintenance staff...Soon your public transport will resemble ours: frequent breakdowns will slow down not only the transport system but also your roads, efficiency and economy.'"

Mangalwadi says morality is the "floundering secret" of the West's success. Our economic system rests upon trust that people will pay, and not misappropriate funds, bribe or extort. Without this trust, economic [and political] systems become cumbersome, expensive and fatally flawed.  

"Where did this morality come from?" asks Mangalwadi. "Why isn't my society equally trustworthy?"

The answer is: The kind of trust which allowed the West to become so extraordinarily successful, was the fruit of a Christian consensus which assumed a living, omnipotent Judge sat above all, knew all, and held all people equally accountable to His benevolent Code of Conduct. Living in accordance with that Higher Law was right, and flouting it was wrong. In fact, at one time, the Judge and His Code provided meaning itself for the two most critical words missing from American vocabulary today: right and wrong.

Now that the Judge and His Word are non-factors in Western morality, we can expect to see more citizens like the two Americans Mangalwadi encountered in the Netherlands.



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P.S. on a much lighter note: I received more comments last week about our son Rodney (including off-line comments) than I typically receive in regard to my blog posts. OK. Fine. Below are some photos from yesterday's fishing trip with Rod and his friend David, our delightful house-mate. No, I don't spend all my time fishing with these important guys, but this is what 'right' looks like in my real-time world. (Jesus spent a fair amount of time in fishing boats, too.)

You may enlarge this photo by clicking it once. It's worth the view!





Here's Rod showing off the catch of the day to his "Opa," my Dad, who lives with us. Dad turns 91 in July, and has many fishing trips under his belt. Thanks, Dad, for passing your skills on to the second and third generation! It certainly paid off at dinner last night, didn't it?





Friday, May 9, 2014

Pay The Bear


[This post first appeared on October 7, 2011.]

My wife and I got out of town to go camping with our "special needs" adult son, Rodney, and his friend David. We drove two hours out of Seattle into the Cascade mountains, and pitched our tents at Fish Lake.

Needing wood for our campfire, I noticed the campground was selling bundles for $5. But I recalled seeing a sign just off the main highway as we turned toward the lake, advertising firewood for 20% less. Passing this location on our way back from a side-trip, we stopped to purchase firewood there.

As we pulled into the orderly establishment, we noticed large, beautiful wood carvings for sale, all out in the open, with no one around. I saw a pile of wood, and drove toward it. Here we found a carved bear with a jar atop its head. The jar had “Firewood $4.00” written on it, and a sign at the bear’s feet read, Pay The Bear. No one was present to receive our payment.

I helped myself to a bundle of wood, and "paid the bear." As I did, I found the jar was full of money. Hard cash. Currency. Full! I paid for my purchase with a sense of wonderment, and a heart of thanks for economic and civil visionaries such as William Bradford, who brought something with them across the Atlantic more valuable than gold: a basis for the kind of trust, moral integrity, and self-government that allows such scenes to still occur in rural Americaand enables business to work its best.  

I couldn't help but think of a similar experience of Vishal Mangalwadi. In the opening chapter of his book, Truth and Transformation, he tells of his first trip to the Netherlands, where his host said, “Come, let’s go get some milk.” They walked to a nearby dairy farm and entered the milk room, where no one was present. Mangalwadi’s host filled his jug with milk, then took down a bowl full of cash from a windowsill, put twenty guilders into the bowl, took some change, put the bowl back, and started walking away.

“I was stunned,” Mangalwadi wrote. "Man," I said to him, “if you were an Indian, you would take the milk and the money.”

Then Mangalwadi posits: "Where did this morality come from? Why isn’t my society equally trustworthy?”

I'll share Mangalwadi's answer to his own question next week.



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Allow me to introduce my remarkable son Rodney, one of God's great gifts to the world. He is the youngest of our four adult children, turning 36 in July. All of our kids are remarkable, of course! But Rodney is very unique. Space does not permit me to expound upon this now.

Rod loves sports. Always prepared to catch a fly ball. Go Seattle Mariners! 

Rodney gave his Mother this lion puppet for her birthday, to use when she teaches his adults-with-special-needs Sunday School class at his church once a month. He also got her a lamb to go with the lion. (A very theologically astute guy!)
Success at Fish Lake! What an awesome fisherman he is. (You gotta love that look in Rod's eyes...)
Rodney with his friend David, warming up around the campfire, thanks to "the bear"and William Bradford.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Because They Believed In A Different God


"The West is like a computer from which the anti-virus program, the gospel, has been uninstalled," writes Vishal Mangalwadi in Truth and Transformation.

Mangalwadi understands first hand the significance of such an "un-installation." His country, India, experienced the benefits of what William Wilberforce called "real Christianity" for about 150 years. But when the "anti-virus program" was removed, negative consequences for India were deep and far-reaching.

When British rule in Bengal began in 1757, governmental leaders took bribes, and corruption was rampant. [Remember Merry Olde England?] The British East India Company came to India to make money, but not the Moravian-Haugian way. They had neither the mindset of a Moravian, nor the heart of Hauge, and therefore could not carry those views of business into the workplace. British corruption, Mangalwadi relates, "destroyed Bengal's economy and became a factor in the death of several million people in the famine of 1769-70."

But then something remarkable happened. The Wesleyan revival took hold in England. Converted British leaders like Wilberforce saw Christianity as something more than a private, personal religion. They saw "real Christianity" having enormous implications for the whole of society.

"Following the Wesleyan revival in England," writes Mangalwadi, "the British evangelicals transformed their government in India." Charles Grant, in the 1770s and early 80s, campaigned to give India "a philosophical basis for moral absolutes....via evangelization." 

"During the nineteenth century," writes Mangalwadi, "British evangelicals succeeded in transforming England and their government in India because they believed in a different God. Their God used his power not to oppress and extort, but to serve..."

The effect of this belief was a significant transformation of Indian government and business. So much so, Mangalwadi relates, that in 1947, "independent India and Pakistan received clean, although not perfect, administrations."

But after Independence in 1947, things changed. Why? Because the "real Christianity" of Wesley and Wilberforce, which had provided a motivation for Brits like Charles Grant and William Carey in 18th-19th Century India, was "un-installed" in the 20th. While Wilberforce's "real Christianity" had a profound effect on India for more than a century, "in the last sixty years," notes Managlwadi, "corruption has grown exponentially."

Mangalwadi understands what is really at stake with the un-installation of "real Christianity" in the United States. Things that previous generations considered unthinkable are actually happening today because subsequent generations have believed in different gods.

In 1998, Christianity Today referred to Vishal Mangalwadi as, "India's foremost Christian intellectual." He has a critically important message for the West today, as only someone from the East can say it. Read Truth and Transformation: A Manifesto for Ailing Nations. Then read his other great work, The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization. Awesome stuff. Truly awesome.




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