Even if Christ does not return for another millennia, each of us will surely see His face, in either grace or judgment, within the next century. But we certainly do long for the day when the very path to destruction itself will be destroyed.
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of wicked will perish.
Psalm 1:6 ESV
After all has been said in the first five verses of Psalm 1, this sixth and final verse gives us the fitting concluding contrast between the blessed and the wicked. The blessed, here synonymously called the righteous just as the wicked and sinners are used interchangeably, are known by the LORD, while the wicked are doomed to perish. Of course, when the psalmist states that the LORD knows the way of the righteous, he does not simply mean an intellectual knowledge, for we know that the LORD knows all things. He has numbered each hair, each heartbeat, each breath, of both the righteous and the sinner. No, an experiential knowledge is being described here; He has a personal knowledge of the righteous, whereas the wicked perish by being cast out of His sight.
Yet notice that the psalmist is not really speaking of the righteous nor the wicked directly. Instead, ‘the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.’ The path of the righteous is always in the LORD’s blessed sight, as David rightly said: “The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24). That is the reality being conveyed here. Even when the righteous fall, they do not come to ruin, for the LORD continues to uphold them.
You Might also like
By Samuel Lindsay — 3 months ago
The Church and its Christians are not respected on the public stage any longer. Both are being muscled out through mockery, furore, indignation and false humility, all at the behest of the new pagan ideals. The pagan adherents hate Jesus and they act on it by shaming and punishing his followers (Jn 15:18–25).
Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. (1 John 3:13).
God told us not to be surprised. But I’ll admit it, sometimes I’m still surprised!
We Australians have failed to teach our children in the nurture and admonition of the LORD, so subsequent generations have spurned Him. Like the Israelites, we have grown lazy in our wealth and not given proper honour to the Giver of all good gifts. What used to be a Christianity-infused nation is fast driving out anything Christian-related.
What will fill its place? We are creating a new national religion that is broadly a copy of the same religion being formed in other western nations. We are made to be worshippers, so if not the LORD God, we will find idols to worship.
Wherever you look around the world, people live in groups that often become nations. These groups are usually tied together by shared cultural, geographical and religious identities. Australia is part of the multi-cultural globalisation experiment, where we have tried to create a nation that has no shared cultural or religious identity, and, many of us are removed from our geographical roots. We have little that ties us all together except a citizenship.
The cliché says “nature abhors a vacuum,” and more pointedly, Satan will leverage any opportunity to oppose God. With the decline of Christianity and its cultural effects comes something else to fill its place.
We Christians were deceived. We thought that with the rise of more religions and more “alternative” points of view in Australia that Christianity would simply be a voice among the many, and a loud voice at that. After all, we can just be tolerant and respectful of differing views, right?
We thought that in the public sphere that it would be a true contest of ideas, where the best ideals for humanity would be vigorously tested and enshrined in law for the good of us all. Surely God knows best, so His ethics and ideals would always win, right? If it were a fair debate, with unbiased participants, that would be the case.
Alas, when the masses are left to their own devices, their carnal desire drives the agenda. It is only by the grace and design of God that anything but godless chaos can come out of us.
The fool says in their heart “there is no God, and I hate Him.” And so it is no surprise that when given the option, most people will trend away from the LORD and His Word. Fools despise wisdom and instruction (Pro 1:7).
What is this new religion being formed in our society? It is a new paganism. It is disguised as being no religion at all, it is portrayed as the progressive movement toward a utopian society (just like communism before Christians are oppressed, murdered or exiled).
The new paganism is much like the old versions, seen in animism, Hinduism or Greek/Roman religions. There is a proliferation of gods and associated idols. There are respected priests and temples. There are rituals to be observed. The state will endorse certain elements of the religion, and rejection of this religion is seen as being incompatible with one’s cultural identity. In fact, refusal to pay homage invites the wrath of the spirits or gods, and so people who won’t bow the knee must be excised from society for the safety of everyone else. Perhaps this paganism can tolerate our subversive faith, but only if we keep quiet and hidden.
It’s worth exploring the shape of this religious development further, but there is not the space here. Instead, let’s look at the fruit, or evidence of this shift that is quite visible to Christians right now.
The Church and its Christians are not respected on the public stage any longer.
By Bradford Littlejohn — 10 months ago
There are many “mild and suitable means” to privilege right worship without coercing it, and to discourage false worship without trying to do away with all difference. The early statesmen of America, informed by guides such as Vattel, sought to pursue just such a prudent and Protestant middle way. Although changed circumstances may require different methods today, the same principles—and the same commitment to the ideal of national faithfulness—should continue to guide us.
Public Religion and Freedom of Conscience
“If all men are bound to honor God,” mused one of the greatest of Protestant political theorists, “the entire nation, in her national capacity, is doubtless obliged to serve and honour him.”
Thus expressed, the sentiment appears almost incontestable; and until a couple of centuries ago, it was. Today, it is liable to seem laughable. In its place another principle has taken pride of place: “liberty of conscience is a natural and inviolable right.” Both quotations, however, come from the same source: Emer de Vattel and his magisterial The Law of Nations (1757). By meditating on this paradox, with Vattel as our guide, perhaps we can recover anew a synthesis that used to be central to Protestant political thought: the shared commitment to public religion and private conscience.
Although little known today, Vattel was a giant of eighteenth-century thought. Often classed among Enlightenment thinkers, Vattel was in fact still deeply embedded in the long tradition of magisterial Protestantism, indulging in a delightful screed against papal supremacy in the midst of his great treatise. Born in Neuchatel, Switzerland, a stone’s throw from Geneva, Vattel was nurtured in the Swiss Reformed faith before training in law and working as a scholar and a diplomat on behalf of the elector of Saxony and the King of Prussia (technically the sovereign of Neuchatel). The Law of Nations would exert a remarkable influence on the thought-world of western Europe and the Atlantic world over the next few decades. George Washington studied it closely, and one of the greatest early debates of early American foreign policy—between Jefferson and Hamilton, of course—was waged by way of rival quotations from Vattel’s masterpiece.
Emer de Vattel’s Defense of Public Religion
The basic thesis of his book was straightforward. The natural law, of which classical and Christian thinkers had written for two millenia, applied in its moral demands not merely to individuals, but to nations as corporate entities. Each nation, like each individual, must chart its course in relation to three overarching sets of duties: duties to self, duties to God, and duties to others. Indeed, God had so arranged the moral universe that a nation, like an individual, flourished best (and thus fulfilled its duties to self) when it honored God and honored its obligations to others. Unlike an individual, however, a nation had no higher authority on earth to tell it how to balance its various obligations; it must in the final analysis make its own decisions and bear the consequences before God.
Within this framework, Vattel constructed his argument for public religion on firm and ancient foundations. The first was the Aristotelian idea that the telos or goal for all human beings is happiness, conceived in the fullest and richest possible terms; everything we do strives toward this end. The second was the idea that humans live in and through communities or collectives larger than themselves—above all, to Vattel’s mind, the nation. Therefore, it followed that the task of the good ruler was to promote national happiness. And just as individual happiness depended upon the cultivation of virtue, so national happiness depended upon national virtue: “in order to conduct it [the nation] to happiness, it is still more necessary to inspire the people with the love of virtue, and the abhorrence of vice” (§115). Finally, since “Nothing is so proper as piety to strengthen virtue, and give it its due extent,” it followed that to be happy, “a nation ought then to be pious” (§125).
Thus far, the argument seems impeccable. And yet it has reached an impasse: what are we to do about freedom of conscience?
As a Protestant, Vattel can hardly be oblivious to this concern. If true piety depends on faith, and faith is an act of understanding and will, you cannot simply compel people into piety; that would defeat the very purpose. And yet is not compulsion central to the practice of politics and the exercise of sovereignty?
At the same time, the ruler must worry not merely about the demands of public piety and private conscience, but also, above all, about civil peace. “To live well, it is necessary first to live,” Richard Hooker remarks in this context, so any public policy regarding religion has to consider the chances of provoking violence and disorder—whether from legislating too little or too much.
Vattel, equally attentive to all three concerns, seeks to balance them delicately over the course of his lengthy chapter “Of Piety and Religion.” A close look at this remarkable text affords us a window into the forgotten world of Protestant political prudence.
Distinguishing Internal and External Religion
Vattel begins by making a fundamental distinction, one which goes all the way back to Martin Luther and his “two kingdoms.” Religion has both an internal and an external dimension. “So far as it is seated in the heart, it is an affair of conscience, in which every one ought to be directed by his own understanding: but so far as it is external, and publicly established, it is an affair of state” (§127). We might balk at the last phrase, but if the nation has duties toward God—and if religion can generate conflict—how can religion not be an affair of state?
Internally, the conscience is free for two reasons: first as a simple matter of fact (no one can compel me to believe something, however much they try), and second because the honor God desires is that which proceeds from true love and conviction. And since the conscience feels bound to honor God through worship, “there can then be no worship proper for any man, which he does not believe suitable to that end” (§128). If you force me to sacrifice animals to honor God, and I am convinced he desires no such thing, you are compelling me to sin against my conscience.
But worship is an external action, and hasn’t Vattel just said that external religion is an affair of state? Ah, yes, but another distinction is in order. Vattel notes that there is a great difference between being forced to do something and being forcibly prevented from doing something: “In religious affairs a citizen has only a right to be free from compulsion, but can by no means claim that of openly doing what he pleases, without regard to the consequences it may produce on society” (§129).
By William Boekestein — 1 year ago
Certainty “is grounded in the promises of God, not in changing experiences or imperfect good works.” We never overcome doubt by looking at ourselves, but only by looking away from ourselves to Christ, who is the sole pledge of God’s love to us.
Apologetics requires certainty and confidence. Its basic purpose is conquering doubts cast on the Christian faith. But what about the doubts of Christians? How do we defend a faith that we are not always certain of?
Doubt is not a virtue; it is a serious problem. Doubt is dishonorable. God wants us to trust him, to have faith in everything he has revealed. “Faith, by its very nature, is opposed to all doubt.” In a fallen world we should expect unbelief. But it doesn’t glorify God. Doubt is also uncomfortable. Doubt makes us unstable “like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). If left untreated doubt can keep us from trusting in Jesus who is the only lifeline for lost sinners. And doubt is paralyzing. It can prevent disciples from doing great things for God (Matt. 21:21). Doubt can be like a blindfold on our soul. If we can’t see God’s integrity, we won’t dare follow the hard path Jesus blazed.
Doubt is a problem. But it need not be disastrous if we understand it and face it according to the rule of Scripture.
We Need to Understand Doubt
“Doubt is a form of wavering; it’s to be of ‘two minds’ about something” (1 Kings 18:21). Doubt is ambivalence about who God is or what he has said. It is like the first sin, and a sign that we are not yet completely remade in the knowledge of God. Doubt is so troublesome that God could use it as a threat to warn covenant breakers: “Your life shall hang in doubt before you. Night and day you shall be in dread and have no assurance of your life” (Deut. 28:66). In the restored cosmos doubt will be no more.
But for now, doubt will always be a counterpart of faith. Living by faith simply means that we trust what we cannot see. It is a reasonable hope for what we do not yet fully have. The very nature of faith leaves room for uncertainty. God’s thoughts are too lofty for us to comprehend (Ps. 139:6). “God is infinite, beyond our understanding, and He chose to reveal Himself to us in a way that sparks questions rather than settles all of them.” God does us a favor by not telling us everything he knows; we couldn’t handle it! Imperfect knowledge is not the enemy of faith.
And doubt can be a healthy challenge to thoughtless acceptance of revealed truth. Doubt humbled Peter’s arrogant claims that he would always follow Jesus. And as we grow older it is natural and good to scrutinize the way we had believed certain truths. If you were taught that unbelievers are monsters, that every church member can be trusted, or that Christianity is easy, doubt can be a helpful corrective. In fact, sometimes our faith falters because we have been expecting easy answers our whole lives. “It is more dangerous to live in a safe little world refusing to acknowledge the wild, scary world of unbelief than it is to prepare well and engage it.” Doubt forces us to venture “outside the fabricated safety of an untested faith.”
But doubt can also be a result of excessive self-reliance. We might seek confidence in the quality of our faith and panic when we realize that it is small. If we make our understanding the standard for our security we will worry about how little we know. If we equate our value with our obedience to the works of the law we will doubt the gift of justifying grace. Doubt, even for Christians, is the result of believing that God is too small to be 100% what we need.