“Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.” —Psalm 119:24
An earthquake rattled the San Francisco Bay Area yesterday. The strongest quake the region has seen in eight years happened on the Calaveras Fault, one of eight major faults in the Bay Area and a branch of the San Andreas fault line. The event is thus a reminder that earthquakes do not create faults in the earth—they reveal them.
This fact applies to more than geology.
The nineteen-year-old gunman who killed two people and wounded several others at his former St. Louis high school left a handwritten note saying, “I don’t have any friends. I don’t have any family. I’ve never had a girlfriend. I’ve never had a social life. I’ve been an isolated loner my entire life.” According to St. Louis Police Commissioner Michael Sack, “This was the perfect storm for a mass shooter.”
In other news, 2022 has set a record for border crossings and migrant deaths. A man who drove an SUV into a Christmas parade in Wisconsin last November has been found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide. Authorities are investigating a woman’s claim in Iowa that her late father was a prolific serial killer who murdered dozens of people over several decades.
And the body of a little boy who was found stuffed inside a suitcase in Indiana has been identified. Local police have announced an arrest, with another suspect still at large.
The moral challenges we face reveal the foundational fissures created by our postmodern, post-Christian rejection of biblical truth and morality. This crisis was predictable and was, in fact, predicted.
Adam Smith is considered to be the “father of capitalism.” In An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, he advocated for a society in which “every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man or order of men” (my emphasis).
In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, he added: “Upon the tolerable observance of these duties [such as justice, truth, chastity, and fidelity] depends the very existence of human society, which would crumble into nothing if mankind were not generally impressed with a reverence for those important rules of conduct.” George Mason University economist Erik W. Matson comments: “It is liberty, in Smith’s view, that is at the heart of capitalism, and at the heart of liberty lies commitment to the good of humankind.”
In his magisterial work, Democracy in America, French historian Alexis de Tocqueville explained that this focus on personal morality is “how the Americans combat individualism by the principle of self-interest rightly understood.” He noted that this principle “suggests daily small acts of self-denial” and disciplines us “in habits of regularity, temperance, moderation, foresight, [and] self-command,” drawing us toward “virtue by the will.”
I often state that America’s founders believed consensual morality to be essential to self-governance. Our constitutional checks and balances can only go so far in preserving and advancing our democracy. Government “of the people, by the people, for the people” requires a people capable of self-governance. As Benjamin Franklin famously stated when asked what the Constitutional Convention of 1787 created, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
And so, once again we see that advancing biblical morality is vital to our secular culture.
Therapists remind us that we cannot change the minds of others merely through the explanation of facts. If people do not want to change, they are unlikely to change.
However, we can demonstrate the transforming personal relevance of biblical truth so fully and powerfully that others may want what we have. As we have noted this week, living boldly and courageously for our Lord is vital to our souls and to our culture.
As an example and a model, consider Psalm 119:23–24: “Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes. Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.” “Princes” in this context refers to rulers or commanders of the Jewish people. They “sit plotting” against the psalmist—the phrase means that they have gathered together, perhaps behind closed doors, to plan harm against the writer.
Nonetheless, he calls himself God’s “servant”—the word refers to a bondservant or slave, one who must do what his master requests whether he wants to or not. As God’s servant he will “meditate on your statutes”—the Hebrew means that he will focus his attention fully on God’s decrees.
Despite the opposition he faces from his nation’s leaders, the writer makes this commitment happily: “Your testimonies are my delight” (v. 24a), truth in which he finds great joy and pleasure. Furthermore, he will do what these “testimonies” teach: “They are my counselors” (v. 24b).
Such fidelity to biblical truth is no guarantee that we will not be persecuted by those who reject such truth. Nevertheless, the psalmist refused to be deterred from meditating on God’s statutes and enacting them in his life each day.
Dead fish float with the current; live fish swim upstream. God sees every act of unpopular obedience and will reward it forever. Just as he honored “the sons of Zadok, who kept my charge, who did not go astray when the people of Israel went astray, as the Levites did” (Ezekiel 48:11), so he will reward our faithfulness to his word and will.
Oswald Chambers noted, “It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to live the noble life of a disciple of Jesus in actual things. It is always necessary to make an effort to be noble.”
How noble will you be today?
Tonight, NBC will premiere the latest television movie from music icon Dolly Parton, “Dolly Parton’s Magic Mountain Christmas.” The film is a fictionalized behind-the-scenes of the making of a Dolly Parton Christmas special featuring her closest friends and special guest artists, including Willie Nelson, Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus, Zach Williams, Jimmie Allen, and Jimmy Fallon. She’s godmother to our children and such an important part of our lives.”For the new movie, Haskell recalls that Parton wanted to take her gospel songs and weave them through a dramatic story. “Everyone wanted Dolly to do a dramatic piece that could be her Emmy,” he said. “And Dolly wanted to give a gift of hope and love and security to people at a time when I think they really need it most. To please a world icon is just a compliment of all compliments.”“Dolly Parton’s Magic Mountain Christmas” premieres tonight on NBC and continues airing on the Peacock streaming network.4 days ago Patheos
Theologian Cornelius Plantinga Jr. observed, “It must be an odd feeling to be thankful to nobody in particular. Christians in public institutions often see this odd thing happening on Thanksgiving Day. On November 16, 1789, President George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the government. Second, he is “God” (v. 3b). This means that God knows us intimately and personally, as a shepherd knows his sheep.11 days ago Patheos
And yet, for millions of religious women, headscarves, veils, and others forms of conservative clothing remain a prized tradition, a fashion statement, or — as with Soraya — a means of liberation. Like Soraya, Megan also struggles with hot and humid weather in the Sunshine State. For the student of religion, it also confronts us with conundrums around Western perceptions of veiling, modest clothing, and other religious practices broadly conceived of, or condemned, as repressive or antidemocratic. And how might we consider modest fashion in light of such considerations? When it comes to whether modest clothing is inherently oppressive or explicitly liberative, we must take multiple, and divergent, factors and tendencies into consideration.1 month ago Patheos
I take particular care when writing about abortion because the issue is not black and white. According to 2022 Pew Research statistics, a majority of Americans (61%) believe abortion should be legal, with some perimeters; only about 37% support making abortion fully illegal (granted, these statistics are national stats and do not reflect state-by-state percentages). About 90% of abortions in the United States take place in the first trimester and the majority use the abortion pill.) The abortion debate has become a choice between compassion for the fetus and compassion for the fully alive mother and her fully birthed and alive-in-the-world child facing down tremendous obstacles after an undesired birth. History, and statistics in countries that bar abortion, show that banning abortion often does not stop abortions.1 month ago Patheos
It’s no secret that Christians believe that Jesus is God. Well, here’s seven reasons why Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth was God himself. 1) Jesus Claimed to be GodFirst of all, Christians believe Jesus is God because he made that claim about himself. 3) Jesus Showed God’s CharacterIn addition to claiming to be God, Jesus also identified himself with Jewish images of what God was like. Indeed, because Christians believe that Jesus is God himself, they believe that one cannot understand God without understanding his supreme self-revelation of himself in the person of Jesus.1 month ago Patheos
If we look carefully at the long history of evangelical political activism, we’ll be able to discern some widely held evangelical political tenets that give us a clue as to how evangelical theology has historically been applied to politics in the United States. In other words, there is an American evangelical political theology that can be discovered through historical investigation. In reality, traditional evangelical political theology is a lot more complicated than that. So, what major features of historic American evangelical political theology seem apparent when looking at a two-century-long sweep of American evangelical political behavior? If I am correct about these principles of evangelical political theology, we can say that traditional evangelical political theology is not theocratic, and it is supportive of American democracy.1 month ago Patheos
Jeremiah got a sense of how God’s eternity relates to our creaturely existence in the way that God, from all eternity, knew Jeremiah and his mission in the world: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer. This is not a verse, as many think, that indicates anything about the personhood of the person in the womb; rather, it reveals to us God’s eternal gaze, of God’s eternity and how God in it knows all of us “before” we are formed in the womb, indeed, before we are ever conceived. We, likewise, are known in eternity, and all the special charisms and graces God has for us, was known by God and given to us in God’s eternal activity. Frank described this as God’s eternal gaze, revealing what was true for Jeremiah is true for everyone, so that we can describe how that gaze relates to ourselves:God’s gaze is always directed at me. God’s love is effective and brings about what it desires in and with the world.1 month ago Patheos