May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance. - 2 Thessalonians 3:5

The Genuine Christian Witness

Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)

It is not difficult to sound spiritual these days. Our coinage bears the words, "In God We Trust." Our secular leaders often conclude passionate speeches with the words, "...and God bless you."

We wish God's blessings upon those who sneeze. Our important historical and governmental documents often contain a reference to God. Congress begins its work with the a prayer from the Congressional chaplain. Bracelets and tshirts abound with the new "WWJD" acronym (that is, "What Would Jesus Do?" for those of you who somehow missed the significance). Chubby cherubs adorn china cabinets, and "Veggie Tales" has become the new hit animation video series for even non-Christian children.

Yes, it would seem it is easy to appear very spiritual. But not everyone who says, "Lord, Lord," is speaking God's truth. We, who are entrusted with God's Word, must never underestimate this more subtle watering down of the truth in favor of things that make people feel better. Consider these examples:

A few years ago a Texas public school was asked to remove a large picture of Jesus hanging outside the principal's office. Upon appeal a lower court ruled that he could keep the picture there provided he also post pictures of other great moral leaders like Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, etc. The reasoning was that Jesus could be viewed merely as a good moral person and nothing more.

That same reasoning has been applied to permitting some communities to set up nativity scenes in their public squares over the Christmas season. The nativity scene is just one of many "symbols" of Christmas so it can be viewed without any religious significance.

Both of these examples represent the secular government's view of important religious things. But what is alarming, is that even within the Christian community we are observing such secularization of God and His Word. In my seminary days we learned about something called "theistic evolution." This was a new breed of evolution for the religious world. You can believe in God and credit him with starting the process of evolution. This thinking represents a new and bizarre interpretation of Scripture, but is an approach a growing number of church bodies are comfortable with.

In a recent editorial George Will talked about a dispute taking place over having the Ten Commandments in a public courthouse. It was sadly shocking to read how a theological expert justified its place on that wall. Walter Harrelson is a former dean of the divinity schools at the University of Chicago and Vanderbilt. He observed that because the Commandments were not written identically to any of the common translations of the Bible (NIV, RSV, KJV, etc.) it is only a "popular rendition" of the Commandments that is "inherently secular."

Harrelson correctly observed that the substance of the Commandments can be found in the historical writings in many non-Christian cultures. The understanding of many is most likely in light of what the Apostle Paul said about the law being written on man's heart (Romans 2:14,15). Yet, Harrelson goes further to virtually rewrite the Commandments.

Consider just two examples of how Harrelson interprets the following Commandments:

You shall have no other gods.
Interpreted as: Do not have more than a single ultimate allegiance.

Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.
Interpreted as: Do not treat with contempt the times set aside for rest.

I personally have been struck by how those in the religious community have argued so vigorously for the separation of church and state to the degree that hat they practice the religion of society and not the religion of God. The religion of God notes that there is a distinction between the church and state but not a separation. While God's children are not to be of the world they are, nevertheless, in the world. As such their testimony should be clear. If people like Harrelson win their argument and the Commandments are allowed to stay in the courthouse, many in the religious community will rejoice in what is seen as a victory. Yet, to win with such distortions of Scripture is not a victory but further secularization of God's Word and watering down of its meaning for us. We who argue for the protection of human life are touched by these things. Sometimes it comes to us as the client seeking an abortion because she knows God would not want her to be unhappy. At other times it is the argument in the local paper's "Letter to the Editor" section from a local clergy who defends the suicide of an elderly couple that they might die together as they so lived because God is a God of marriage, unity, love, and patience.

Just because those arguing in the lifeissues arena use the name of God, they are not necessarily doing or advocating the will of God. A growing number of people such as Mr. Harrelson believe that God is less the Supreme Being and Creator and more of a "philosophy" to be accepted or rejected without judgment or significance.

We who have the truth must always remain vigilant and courageous in defending the truth. It may not make us popular or politically correct. It will mean, however, that we are right!

National Lifelines, Sept. 1998

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