Thursday, November 30, 2006
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Since we as Americans tend strongly to conform our faith to our social norms, we are usually asleep at the wheel when it comes to assessing how much we have imbibed our cultures' mores concerning the roles and relationships of men and women, and of family life in general. Sometimes a peek at a different time period can provoke us to open our drowsy eyes to what the Scripture actually says about these things. With that in mind, I offer this intriguing assessment of the relationships of American men and women in the 1830's by Alexis de Tocqueville.
"There are people in Europe who, confusing the diverse attributes of the sexes, intend to make man and woman into beings not only equal, but alike. They give them both the same functions, impose the same duties on them, and accord them the same rights; they mix them in all things - labors, pleasures, affairs. One can easily conceive that in thus striving to equalize one sex with the other, one degrades them both; and that from this coarse mixture of nature's works, only weak men and disreputable women can ever emerge.
"This is not the way Americans have understood the kind of democratic equality that can be established between woman and man. They have thought that since nature had established such great variation between the physical and moral constitution of man and that of woman, its clearly indicated goal was to give a diverse employment to their different faculties; and they have judged that progress did not consist in making two unlike beings do nearly the same things, but in getting each of them to acquit its task as well as possible. Americans have applied to the two sexes the great principle of political economy that dominates industry in our day. They have carefully divided the functions of man and woman in order that the great social work be better done.
"America, among the world's countries, is the one where where they have tatken the most continual care to draw cleanly separated lines of action for the two sexes, and where they have wanted them both to march at an equal pace but on ever different paths. You do not see American women directing the external affairs of the family, conducting a business, or indeed entering the political sphere; but neither do you encounter any of them who are obliged to engage in the rough work of plowing or in any painful exertions that require the development of physical force There are no families so poor as to make an exception to this rule.
"If the American woman cannot escape from the peaceful circle of domestic occupations, she is, on the other hand, never constrained to leave it.
"Hence it is that American women, who often display a manly reason and a whole virile energy, generally preserve a very delicate appearance and always remain women in their manners, although they sometimes show themselves to be men in mind and heart.
"Neither have Americans ever imagined that democratic principles should have the consequence of overturning marital power and introducing confusion of authorities in the family. They have thought that every association, to be efficacious, must have a head, and that the natural head of the conjugal association is the man. They therefore do not deny him the right to direct his mate; and they believe that in the little society of husband and wife, as well as in the great political society, the object of democracy is to regulate and legitimate necessary powers, not to destroy all power.
"This is not an opinion particular to one sex and fought by the other.
"I did not remark that American women considered conjugal authority as a happy usurpation of their rights, or that they believed they were debasing themselves in submitting to it. On the contrary, it seemed evident to me that they made a sort of glory for themselves out of the voluntary abandonmnet of thir wills, and that they found their greatness in submitting on their own to the yoke and not in escaping from it. That is at least the sentiment that the most virtuous women express: the others are silent, and one does not hear in the United States of an adulterous wife noisily claiming the rights of woman while riding roughshod over her most hallowed duties.
"It has often been remarked that in Europe a certain scorn is disclosed in the very midst of the flatteries that men lavish on women: although the European often makes himself the slave of woman one sees that he never sincerely believer her his equal.
"In the United States women are scarcely praised, but it is shown daily that they are esteemed....
"Thus Americans do not believe that man and woman have the duty or the right to do the same things, but they show the same esteem for the role of each of them, and they consider them as beings whose value is equal although their destiny differs. They do not give the same form or the same employment to the courage of woman as to that of man, but they never doubt her courage; and if they deem that man and his mate should not always employ their intelligence and reason in the same manner, they at least judge that the reason of one is as sure as that of the other, and her intelligence as clear.
"...If one asked me to what do I think one must principally attribute the singular prosperity and growing force of this people, I would answer that it is to the superiority of its women" (Democracy in America, Vol 2, Part 3, Chapter 12).
So, what think you? Assuming Tocqueville's assessment is reasonably accurate, were Americans in those days operating according to a fairly biblical model in their views of men and women? Be sure to use Scripture to support your answer.
(Note: Clicking on the title above will take you to a concise overview of the biblical doctrine about Jesus Christ. I hope this is helpful.)
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
It is not new news to declare that the Western world is in a demographic crisis, not to mention other developed countries like Japan. This demographic debacle is not at all surprising, given the selfish sinfulness that drives our societies. Children are considered an impediment to our happiness and fulfillment (at least if you have more that two of them). Of course, it is not hard to figure out where this wilfull sterilization will lead for any society that embraces it - extinction.
However, I am distressed when I see Christians falling into the same mindset as the self-destructing societies around us. This thinking finds no support from the Scriptures and should be utterly alien to a transformed mind.
At our church and in my home, we revel in children as an unmitigated good from God (Psalm 127:3). I am not a naive utopian, as I have five children and am well acquainted with the challenges that children bring. Nevertheless, even these challenges are a means of God's grace in our lives. Rearing children for the Lord is one of the best things we can do for ourselves and for the glory of God.
In light of that, I want to give a special welcome to Sophia Tossell, the youngest attender at High Country Baptist Church. May God make her into a virtuous woman who is far more precious than jewels.
Here are some more "arrows" that God has blessed us with. We trust that by God's grace they will love the Lord their God with all their hearts and be mighty men for God.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
If you have questions or comments about the sermon, feel free to comment here. Clicking on the title above will take you to a page where you can download the sermon.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Today we had the privilege of giving thanks to our great and good God with family, friends, and neighbors. I do long for more of a spirit of thanksgiving in my life, and such times as today encourage my heart toward that end. In our naturalistic society we have so lost touch with the reality that God's providence is over all. It is this conviction that lies behind the earliest Thanksgiving proclamations given in our country, and this conviction must be ours today if we wish to bow the knee and give thanks to God.
Here are some pictures from today.
Chad and I enjoyed good fellowship discussing the Christ-centered life called for in the letter to the Philippians.
Sophia was the youngest of the many blessings (children) present today. I hope her young ears and young mind will be filled with the sounds of people giving thanks to God.
Our neighbors John and Shauna with their new blessing, Mackensie.
What good is a tree if you can't climb it? Katie enjoying God's creation.
The Parker brothers partaking of pie. Now that's something to be thankful for!
I trust your Thanksgiving was as joyful as ours.
I close with something I read this morning in God's Word. "We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth" (Revelation 11:17-18). What a day of thanksgiving that will be!
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
All praise to thee, for thou, O King divine,
Didst yield the glory that of right was thine,
That in our darkened hearts thy grace might shine:
Thou cam’st to us in lowliness of thought;
By thee the outcast and the poor were sought,
And by thy death was God’s salvation wrought:
Let this mind be in us which was in thee,
Who was a servant that we might be free,
Humbling thyself to death on Calvary:
Wherefore, by God’s eternal purpose, thou
Art high exalted o’er all creatures now,
And given the name to which all knees shall bow:
Let every tongue confess with one accord
In heaven and earth that Jesus Christ is Lord;
And God the Father be by all adored:
He, of course, does not claim that he is religious. He recently said, "I am utterly fed up with the respect that we - all of us, including the secular among us - are brainwashed into bestowing on religion." He seems to have bought into the very common but very wrong conception that religion entails belief in a Supreme Being. While this seems plausible on the surface, it runs into insuperable difficulties when we try to use this definition in practice.
A much better definition of religious belief has been given by Roy Clouser. He writes that "a belief is a religious belief provided that:
(1) It is a belief in something as divine per se no matter how that is further described, or
(2) it is a belief about how the non-divine depends upon the divine per se, or
(3) it is a belief about how humans come to stand in proper relation to the divine per se,
(4) where the essential core of divinity per se is to have the status of unconditionally non-dependent reality" (The Myth of Religious Neutrality, p. 24).
Given this more accurate definition of religious belief, it is clear that Dawkins' naturalism is indeed a religion. Naturalism says that the cosmos is all that is, that ever was, and that ever will be (a rough quote from Carl Sagan, an evangelist for naturalism of the past generation). In other words, the cosmos has the status of unconditionally non-dependent reality. It is "god," and in naturalistic thinking, we are all extensions of this "god." Thus we are the universe trying to figure itself out. This is just another variety of paganism, a religious belief that has been around long before it illegitimately cloaked itself in the respectable garb of "science."
This all fits precisely with what the Bible teaches. The Bible says that, as creatures made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27), all men are inescapably religious (Romans 1:18-23). They will either worship the one true and living God, or they will come up with some kind of substitute. Anything that replaces God is an idol, even if it does not have formal rites of worship (e.g. covetousness is idolatry). This stark antithesis is fundamental to biblical religion. Either you worship God as revealed in the face of Jesus Christ, or you worship an idol. Either you embrace the true religion, or you have a false religion. There is no possibility of being "non-religious."
The reason I like Richard Dawkins is that he recognizes the antithesis, despite the fact that he is confused about the nature of religion. There are far too many atheists and Christians alike who try to work out some kind of middle ground between their competing religions. But, as Dawkins correctly recognizes, it simply can't be done.
Some links to recent comments about Richard Dawkins:
Friday, November 17, 2006
I thought about practicing a little apologetic work by responding to Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation. However, I discovered that Doug Wilson is doing quite a good job of that over on his blog, and in a much more entertaining fashion than I. So I will just content myself with practicing links and direct you over there. http://www.dougwils.com/index.asp?Action=Anchor&CategoryID=1&BlogID=3132
Saturday, November 11, 2006
By the way, he's a great uncle, too.