On Saying “Thank You” and Meaning It
When I’m ungrateful and unloving and angry at my wife and impatient with my kids and bitter about some inconvenient providence, that I’ve lost sight of who God is and who I am? If I truly grasped who he is, and what’s he’s done for me, and what he’s promised to do for me, would I be wallowing in self-pity, or would I feel a bit more, say, gratitude? Maybe the first thing to do is to remind myself to say “Thank you.”
Why do we teach our kids to say “Thank you”?
Is it simply that saying “Thank you” is part of the politeness that’s expected in our culture, and we want our kids to function well with other people when they grow up? Is the point just to recite the expected formula at the expected time? I don’t think so.
I believe we teach our kids to say “Thank you” because we want them to learn to be thankful. By requiring them to say that they’re thankful, we’re impressing upon them the ideal of actually feeling gratitude for the things that we receive. Gratitude like this is not natural to us as fallen creatures ; it has to be learned, and it’s something we want to impart to our children.
That is to say, we not only want our children to do the right thing, but we want them to feel the right thing. When I give my daughter a cookie she ought to feel thankful – she just got a cookie! If she doesn’t feel thankful, that’s something we’ll have to work on together, not only so that she can be a better person, but so that she can be a happier person.
It seems to me that for the most part we function on the assumption that we can be required to do the right thing, but not to feel the right thing. We understand that we’re responsible for our actions, and that it’s incumbent on us to make them conform to God’s standard of right and wrong. Emotions, on the other hand, don’t seem like something we choose as much as something that happens to us. How could I even respond to a command to feel a certain way?
And yet the Bible doesn’t share this assumption that feelings can’t be commanded. “Rejoice always” (1 Thess 5:16) doesn’t mean “act joyful.” It means “be joyful 1.” “Weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15) doesn’t mean “act sorry,” but that we should actually feel sorrow.
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Problem GamblingBy Kit Swartz — 11 months ago
Gambling is thus idolatrous and immoral, but it is also simply foolish. The essence of gambling is its unpredictability and to invest resources in totally unpredictable events is irrational. Averages can be predicted but individual events cannot. One gambling win does not affect the probability of the next wager. The “gamblers fallacy” is that, if they are winning, they will continue to win and, if they are losing, their luck is about to turn. This is utter delusion.
Problem Gambling Awareness Month was observed in March with several items in our local media. This is an opportunity to consider what problem gambling is and how to prevent and recover from it.
A working definition of gambling is essential: gambling is putting resources at risk of loss for gain with no significant knowledge of or control over the outcome. Some consider gambling essentially immoral, others consider it only immoral if it is abused in some way and still others consider it simply foolish due to the sometimes catastrophic outcomes.
For the Christian, all questions of morality are answered by applying the moral law to an issue. The moral law is rooted in creation and valid as long as the creation endures. These creation ordinances are classically summarized in the ten commandments.
First, there are aspects of idolatry that are inherent in gambling. Lady Luck is another god, greed is an idol, and throwing the dice while calling on God for His blessing is taking His Name in vain. We take His Name in vain when we expect Him to bless us when we are not obeying a command and therefore have no promise of His blessing. “Throw the dice, God will make you win!” is eerily similar to the Devil’s command to Jesus, “Throw yourself from the Temple, God will preserve your life.”
Second, there are aspects of immorality inherent in gambling. God’s command is to earn wages not make wagers. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work.” “If you will not work, you will not eat.” God also commands prudent investment where you do have significant knowledge and control over the outcome. See the parable of the talents. Work to earn a wage and then make your money work for you. God also commands us to make money “the old-fashioned way”; that is, inherit it. Parents are commanded to save and invest for themselves and their children, to build wealth across the generations so that they can be a blessing to many in many ways. Finally, tithes and alms are to be given from wages, not wagers. Offerings and gifts are to be given from accumulated wealth, not accumulated winnings.
The Missing PieceBy Matthew Lee — 10 months ago
God has already taught our family much. Our daughter’s rare condition does not make her enigmatic, but precious (Genesis 41:38; Proverbs 31:10). Her missing segments don’t make her incomplete, but our family would be incomplete without her. She is and ever will be, as her middle name Dorothy suggests, a gift from God.
A few days after she was born, our daughter was transported by medical helicopter to the children’s hospital in Little Rock. Two weeks later in the NICU, she was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder caused by missing segments of her 15th chromosome. She is, medically speaking, “missing a piece.”
The combination of advancements in prenatal genetic screening and the ubiquity of abortion has led nations to celebrate the disappearance (read: eradication) of certain congenital conditions. As long as the tragedy of legalized and normalized eugenics continues, it is possible that children with genetic disorders will become more common among Christians—who view all children as made in the image of God and gifts from Him—than in the general population. Since the Roman Empire, it has been the practice of faithful Christians to rescue the “weak” and “frail” children discarded by the pagan world (Craven 2010).
Congenital conditions are not the only reason for special education. But if the prevalence of children with disabilities among Christians rises relative to the general population, special education will increasingly become the exclusive concern of the Christian community.
What kind of education do I hope my daughter can receive? And why is my hope rooted in my faith?
Bearing the Image of God
Christians should deeply care about special education because all people bear the image of God. As Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck once wrote, “But among all creatures, only man is the image of God, the highest and richest revelation of God, and therefore head and crown of the entire creation” (qtd. in Hoekema 1986, 12; cf. Genesis 1:26-31). God continues to be intimately involved in the creation of each person who is formed, knitted together, and fearfully and wonderfully made by God, as Psalm 139:13-14 makes clear.
My wife and I take comfort in the knowledge that our daughter’s condition is not the product of a random transcription error, but that she is known by God, precisely and purposefully created “that the works of God might be displayed” in her (John 9:3). We believe that her condition can only be explained as coming from God’s hand, and since it comes from His hand, it can only be for our good (Psalm 119:71; Jeremiah 29:11) and for his glory (Psalm 118:23).
Christians who affirm the Imago Dei cannot but be deeply concerned for special education, for what reason could we justify the training up of some image bearers but not others? We learn from Genesis 1 that each image bearer is endowed with authority over all creation, created in fellowship with God and each other, and commanded to be responsible for filling the earth with God’s glory. What do our special education practices teach our children and profess to an unbelieving world about our reliance on the sovereignty of God and the belief in the dignity of all people?
Westminster Civil Ethics vs R2K Natural Law on KidnappingBy Ron DiGiacomo — 7 months ago
Plain and simple, the Confession does not teach that the civil law “can not be made applicable to any nation today…” Rather, it teaches the very opposite! It teaches that nations are obliged to implement the civil law as the general equity may require. R2K types misread Westminster Confession 19.4 by saying that the preservation of the general equity of the OT civil code now applies solely to church discipline.
Christians and non-Christians alike have grieved this past week while also trying to process ethical questions regarding longtime convicted kidnapper Cleotha Abston who is being charged with abducting and murdering Eliza Fletcher.
Many ethical questions are at hand and convictions run passionately deep regarding how those questions might best be answered through a Reformed Christian world and life view. As strange as this might sound to many, some Reformed Christians have little regard for “worldview type” answers to ethical questions that intrude upon the sphere of civil government. Among the leading critics of a confessionally Reformed view of civil government are those who subscribe to what is called “Reformed 2 Kingdom” (R2K).
R2K is a position that posits that Christians are citizens of the spiritual kingdom of God along with inhabiting the earthly kingdom of this world, which includes as fellow members all people without distinction. R2K has been opposed by those who would define it not as a species of a distinctly Reformed 2 Kingdom model but instead an offspring of a Radical 2 Kingdom paradigm because of a non-Reformed balance between Scripture and Natural Law. Although R2K rightly appreciates that there is a law of nature that is revealed to all humans in conscience without distinction, the R2K movement is increasingly radicalized by denying Scripture its rightful place of influence in the civil kingdom, which too falls under the governing domain of God. Consider one leading proponent of R2K:
“Scripture is the sacred text given to God’s covenant people whom he has redeemed from sin. . . . Given its character, therefore, Scripture is not given as a common moral standard that provides ethical imperatives to all people regardless of their religious standing.” Professor at a Reformed Seminary
R2K proponents, with their Natural Law paradigm, deny that Abston ought to have been executed according to Exodus 21:16 for his first kidnapping. In theory, R2Kers could advocate for capital punishment for kidnapping, just as long as they don’t justify the penalty on the authoritative word of God.
The task at hand:
Questions before all nations include…
Which sins ought to be considered crimes?
What should be the punishment for criminal acts?
How might we best justify our answers?
Civil magistrates are governing authorities established by God for the punishing of wrongdoers. In light of this awesome God ordained responsibility, Natural Law proponents tell us that the Scriptures are neither necessary nor permitted to inform civil magistrates on the details of how to govern society in a manner pleasing to God. (Noodle that one around in your head for a moment.)
For the R2K crowd, God requires civil magistrates to govern society according to the “Book of Nature” alone. It would be displeasing to God for Christians to desire and pray that the general equity of OT civil law be implemented today because capital punishment finds its NT fulfillment in excommunication. (More on that later.)
Because there are no theocracies today, we’re told that civil magistrates may not glean from Old Testament law which sins should be deemed crimes. Nor may civil magistrates seek to determine suitable punishment for criminal acts by searching the Scriptures. Natural Law is exclusively sufficient for the task.
Natural Law and fallen autonomous reasoning:
Natural Law informs us that the least of all sins deserves God’s wrath. Yet R2K proponents also maintain that civil magistrates should not punish some sins at all and all sins should not be punished equally severely. Accordingly, God’s preceptive will is for civil magistrates to determine by the light of fallen nature alone whether bestiality, homosexual acts and abortion (just to name a few sins) are to be considered purely sins, criminal acts too, or simply amoral. (Even if nature were to inform us that these sins should also be illegal, how successful and unified have the nations been over time on deriving a “Natural Theology” of sin, crime and penology to that effect?)
Natural Law began with creation and was operative during the time of Moses through today. Natural Law could not have contradicted Israel’s civil sanctions lest God could deny himself. Furthermore, neighboring nations would not have violated the “Book of Nature” by executing kidnappers according to the God of Israel’s wisdom during the Mosaic era. Accordingly, there’s no reason to believe that Natural Law in any way forbids putting a kidnapper to death today, (lest the cross of Christ has altered Natural Law). Therefore, why think that non-theocratic nations today ought not govern in a way that would have been more exemplary for non-theocratic nations during the Mosaic era? Should we believe that God would be angrier with non-theocratic nations today if they turned to Scripture to try to determine which sins should be considered crimes? Would God be angrier with non-theocratic nations if they were to execute kidnappers according to Special Revelation rather than justifying the loosing of kidnappers after limited incarceration based upon Natural Law inference?
At the very least, if Natural Law has not changed over time and God’s two forms of revelation are complementary and never antithetical, then why should we accept the claim that God would not have the nations adhere to the general equity of Old Testament civil law, which is fundamentally the moral law applied to orderly government in the civil realm?
Various reasons have been given why we are not to govern society according to OT equity.
“In other words, the Old Covenant, Mosaic death sanctions typify and anticipate the eschatological manifestation of God’s righteous judgment against his enemies.” Reformed Theologian and Author
Much can be said. First off, the death penalty preceded Moses. Did the death penalty that preceded Moses typify and anticipate the same eschatological manifestation? Secondly, what about the non-capital offenses that were not sanctioned by death? For instance, I can possibly see how OT restitution might typify eschatological judgment in a Roman Catholic sense, but how in a Reformed sense in which there’s no doctrine of purgatory that would be typified by a defined path to pay back in full after death?
Finally, since the death penalty preceded Moses and was instituted for violations against God’s image bearers, why should we suppose there is no lasting and intrinsic temporal value for such civil sanctions? Why, in other words, should laws that were so useful for governing OT societies be considered secondary to typology, or so devalued by the cross of Christ that they lose all their societal value? After all, if every transgression or disobedience received just retribution, then mustn’t civil sanctions still serve a functional social purpose simply by virtue of all nations requiring governance before and under God? In a word, is biblical typology all that antithetical to biblical penology?
“The civil codes have lost their context now that salvation is in Christ, in a spiritual kingdom, and not in Israel, a temporal nation.” Reformed Pastor and Professor
Aside from a false disjunction that would implicitly presuppose that Israel’s civil code and spiritual kingdom are somehow mutually exclusive concepts – the Reformed tradition has always maintained that salvation was always spiritual; hence not all Israel was Israel. Secondly, why should we believe that God’s wisdom and righteous judgment loses practical applicability upon King Jesus’ commissioning of the church to disciple the nations under the whole counsel of God? How does the cross make foolish and passé the wisdom and general equity of civil laws that were intrinsic to a nation that would seek God’s wisdom in civil justice? Is the Son of God no less King over the nations than Lord over the church?
“I’ll say it again, since Paul spent so much time addressing the differences between Jews and Gentiles, and also said that Gentile were not bound by Israelite norms, then his instruction in Rom 13 is hardly a reaffirmation of OT civil laws.” Professor and Historian
We cannot logically deduce that which is not deducible. Nor is it wise to require God to provide answers in the exact places we might hope to find them. That is to come dangerously close to putting God to the test.
Scripture is replete with examples of Jesus not providing answers in the context in which people often sought them. Accordingly, citing Romans 13 in an effort to refute Westminster civil ethics through the employment of a fallacious argument from silence is on par with concluding that (a) Jesus was not a teacher sent from God; (b) Jesus was not good and, therefore, not God; (c) Jesus intended to establish Israel as a political power but failed with the passing of John. (Mark 10:17-18; Acts 1:6,7; John 21:20-22)*
“The Westminster Confession describes them as “sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require” (XIX. 4).” In other words, these laws were for regulating the nation of Israel, which was then but no longer is the particular people of God. While there is an undisputed wisdom contained in this civil law it can not be made applicable to any nation today, since there are no biblically sanctioned theocracies now.” Reformed Pastor and Professor
How can “undisputed wisdom… not be made applicable…”? Wisdom not relevant? Something seems intuitively doubtful about such claims. Are the Proverbs no longer applicable because there are no theocracies today? What about the Ten Commandments? Aren’t civil laws the application of moral laws in the civil sphere, after all?
Plain and simple, the Confession does not teach that the civil law “can not be made applicable to any nation today…” Rather, it teaches the very opposite! It teaches that nations are obliged to implement the civil law as the general equity may require.
R2K types misread Westminster Confession 19.4 by saying that the preservation of the general equity of the OT civil code now applies solely to church discipline.
“They are transformed into the judicious application of church discipline.” Reformed Pastor and Professor
By this miscalculation, when the Divines advocated for the preservation of the general equity of Israel’s civil law, they weren’t allowing for anything like maintaining an equity of civil justice. Nor were they establishing biblical principles of accommodation by affording freedom to rearrange and substitute non-essential aspects of the law such as stoning for hangings (or today lethal injection, and DNA for the principle of two or three witnesses.). Rather, we’re asked to believe that the Divines were actually teaching the preserving of the general equity of capital punishment by applying the death penalty to ecclesiastical excommunication!