Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More Ayn Rand videos

Offered without comment:

Conservatism's Reliance on Ayn Rand

This morning an article on caught my attention which explored the odd relationship between Ayn Rand and political & religious conservatives. For those who are unfamiliar with Ayn Rand (1905-1982), she was a Russian-American author and philosopher who advocated what she referred to as Objectivism. This philosophical system believes that reality is independent of our consciousness and that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception. More importantly, it believes that all knowledge is available through sense perception--anything outside of that perception is simply myth.

As such, Rand was a committed atheist and virulent critic of religion. She described herself as "an enemy of all religion" and "the creator of a new moral code" that was devoid of any religious undertones.

According to Rand, the greatest virtue was the "virtue of selfishness", where the individual "exists for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself" (The Voice of Reason", 1989, p 3). The proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness (what she often referred to as one's "rational self-interest"). She believed the only system consistent with this "morality" is laissez-faire capitalism, which emphasizes the protection of individual rights.  For Rand, "good" was defined as the pursuit (and accomplishment) of one's own interest, whereas "evil" is a violation of one's individual rights. Christianity, which teaches that love of God and others is to be put before one's own self-interests, is for Rand the embodiment of evil. She once quipped that John 3:16 was "monstrous".

In 1957 she published Atlas Shrugged, the book that would become her magnum opus. The work sought to demonstrate that a world in which the individual is not free to create is ultimately doomed, and that civilization cannot exist where people are controlled by the government. It further advocated that the motive of profit was the only motive capable of sustaining a healthy society.

Mainly due to her vigorous defense of capitalism, political conservatives have long hailed Rand's writings. David Nolan, one of the founders of the Liberation Party, stated that "without Ayn Rand, the libertarian movement would not exist".  During some Tea Party rallies individuals have frequently carried signs mentioning Rand and her fictional character John Galt (the hero from Atlas Shrugged). The video below shows the extent of her influence upon Conservatives.

What is shocking, however, is how very few Christians seem to see the inherent conflict of political conservativism with biblical Christianity. Not that I am advocating socialism or communism, but are so we blind to the teachings of Jesus that we cannot discern that profit-motivated capitalism is self-serving and therefore evil? Rand at least has the intellectual honesty to admit that Christianity and Capitalism are inherently incompatible. In her view, she calls "good" (e.g. selfishness) what Scripture clearly calls "bad".  The warning from Isaiah 5:20-24 is fitting, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil...for they have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel." Whereas conservatives routinely castigate Karl Marx for his animosity towards religion, they routinely let Rand off the hook.  For example, Marx wrote:
"Religion is the sign of the oppresses creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of a soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."
But consider these quotes from Rand:
"I am against those who invented the idea of God. It gives man the excuse to act and think irrationally." 
"[Religion] is the sign of a psychological weakness and a sign that a man is unwilling to stand upon his own abilities...I regard it as an evil." 
"It is not right or proper to accept anything based on faith."
John Blake, the author of the CNN article, begins his piece with this question: Can a person follow Ayn Rand and Jesus? The answer is clearly no! Whereas the political left is no closer to the Gospel, those who look to Rush Limbaugh or Rep. Paul Ryan (both self-professed followers of Rand) to "fix" our nations problems are likewise following a course that leads away from Biblical truth.

Those reading this on facebook will need to go directly to my website to view the video below. I should note that the video is put out by the "American Values Network", an organization that I know nothing about (though I am very familiar with Rand's writings, and agree at least with this video).

J.C. Ryle on The Gospel, Election, and the Offer of Salvation

I think this excerpt from J.C. Ryle, who, was thoroughly Reformed in his doctrine, is very appropriate: 

"...the doctrine of Election was never meant to prevent the fullest, freest offer of salvation to every sinner. In preaching and trying to do good we are warranted and commanded to set an open door before every man, woman, and child, and to invite every one to come in. We know not who are God’s Elect, and whom he means to call and convert. Our duty is to invite all. To every unconverted soul without exception we ought to say, “God loves you, and Christ has died for you.” To everyone we ought to say, “Awake, — repent, — believe, — come to Christ, — be converted, — turn, — call upon God, — strive to enter in, — come, for all things are ready.” To tell us that none will hear and be saved except God’s Elect, is quite needless. We know it very well. But to tell us that on that account it is useless to offer salvation to any at all, is simply absurd. Who are we that we should pretend to know who will be found God’s Elect at last? No! indeed. Those who now seem first may prove last, and those who seem last may prove first in the judgment day. We will invite all, in the firm belief that the invitation will do good to some. We will prophesy to the dry bones, if God commands us. We will offer life to all, though many reject the offer. In so doing we believe that we walk in the steps of our Master and His Apostles."
The full article, entitled "Election" is available online.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Does God beg sinners to come to Him?

Within Reformed circles it has become fashionable to recoil at any discussion of God 'begging' sinners to come to Him. After all, it is argued, God is the great King of the Universe.  A king commands, he does not beg--or so the argument goes.

There is, of course, much in that statement which is true:
     (1) God is the King.
     (2) He does issue commands.
     (3) He will bring about His will.

According to Ephesians 1:11, God ‘works all things after the counsel of his will'. This includes even the sinful actions of those who rebel against Him. Referring to those who make war against God, Revelation 17:17 says, “God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose.” God commands obedience, so why then do some Christians paint God as a beggar who pleads with sinners to come to Him.

The answer may surprise you: because that is the very language the apostle Paul uses. In 2 Corinthians 5:20 the apostles says "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (note: the KJV, NIV and other translations render this "as though God was making his appeal through us". The words "as though" are not in the Greek text, and are an unwarranted addition. Paul is not "supposing" that God is speaking through him, he is making a factual claim).

So, the God who commands is a God who is humble and loving enough to beg. Certainly there are sections of Evangelicalism that focus on this to the exclusion of the Bible's clear imagery of God as a king who commands. Both are true, it is not an either/or.  God commands sinners to repent, and He (at least through faithful believers) begs them to repent.

In reaction to this, one blogger wrote: "This isn't the God of Scripture. This is JUNK. God doesn't beg."  Interestingly, a quick survey reveals that great Calvinistic/Reformed thinkers have always believed that God does beg---it is only in the more hyper-Calvinistic quarters where this has been denied. Samuel Rutherford (preaching from Song of Songs 2:14) said,
"It is ordinary for man to beg from God, for we be but His beggars; but it is a miracle to see God beg at man. Yet here is the Potter begging from the clay; the Savior seeking from sinners!"
Speaking on 2 Cor 5:20, Spurgeon said:
"Remember, wherever we speak about the power of grace we do not mean a physical force, but only such force as may be applied to free agents, and to responsible human beings. The Lord begs you not to want to be crushed and pounded into repentance, nor whipped and spurred to holy living. But, 'My son, give me thine heart.'"
And there are many more. We could offer similar quotes from men like Augustine, Hugh Latimer, Thomas Manton, Isaac Ambrose, Stephen Charnock, John Flavel, Richard Sibbes, William Gurnall, George Swinnock, Ralph Venning, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Solomon Stoddard, Samuel Davies, Ralph Erskine, and Thomas Chalmers (among others).

Modern preachers have also recognized this truth. When preaching on this verse John MacArthur stated:
"It says that God reconciles us, God is in Christ reconciling, God is begging...This is the best offer any human being was ever made. What is the begging part? The picture here is pleading. It's actually the Greek word parakaleo. This is a word with lots of meanings...ask, urge, encourage, counsel, admonish, exhort. Its associated with the Holy Spirit who is called the parakletos, a noun form of the same word. So here we are counseling, urging, asking, pleading, admonishing, exhorting to get people to be willing to reconcile to the God who is willing to reconcile with them."
Now is the time for personal confession. In the past I've stood at the pulpit and boldly proclaimed "God is the King, he doesn't beg." Yet I wonder how may simply use that (misguided) belief as an excuse for their own lack of personal evangelism. Paul's entire point is that he and other faithful believers are God's mouthpiece. Paul begged sinners to come to Christ, and he stressed that it wasn't merely him, but rather the omnipotent King of the universe begging through him.

If God is willing to beg, urge, and plead with lost sinners, so am I.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Calvinists who love Wesley

I stumbled across an excellent post about Calvinists who love Wesley, which I heartily recommend. It is a long post, but below I've given you one of his many quotes:

Charles Spurgeon on the haters of Charles Wesley:
To ultra-Calvinists his name is as abhorrent as the name of the Pope to a Protestant: you have only to speak of Wesley, and every imaginable evil is conjured up before their eyes, and no doom is thought to be sufficiently horrible for such an arch-heretic as he was. I verily believe that there are some who would be glad to rake up his bones from the tomb and burn them, as they did the bones of Wycliffe of old—men who go so high in doctrine, and withal add so much bitterness and uncharitableness to it, that they cannot imagine that a man can fear God at all unless he believes precisely as they do.
The overall point of the post is that we must be very careful not to make Calvinism the end-all factor in deciding who is--and who is not--to be welcomed to our tables.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What will your heaven-song be?

What do you think your song will be when you come to heaven? 
Blessed be God, that he gave me free-will; and blessed be my own 
dear self, that I made a good use of it? O no, no! Such a song as that 
never was heard in heaven yet, nor ever will, while God is God, and 
heaven is heaven. Look into the Book of Revelation, and there you 
will find the employ of the blessed, and the strains which they sing. 
They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Thou art worthy, 
for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood, 
out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 
4:10). There is discriminating grace for you! “Thou has redeemed us 
out of every kindred,” that is, from the rest of mankind. Is not this 
particular election and limited redemption?  
Augustus Toplady, 18th century English theologian and  
hymn writer, author of “Rock of Ages”