Wednesday, November 05, 2008

1 Chron 12:32 report, 54: The Ezekiel 3 warning and the duty of courageous prophetic intellectual and cultural leadership

A current Washington Times editorial sums up an utterly revealing encounter in 2001, between Registered Nurse Mrs Jill Stanek and then state-level legislator Mr Barak Hussein Obama, in the Illinois State Legislature:

Mrs. Stanek worked at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois from 1993 to 2001. When she worked in the hospital's Labor and Delivery Department she saw that babies who survived abortion attempts were left to die alone in supply rooms. They could linger for as long as eight hours, without medical care, without even the dignity of a warm blanket or a soft touch. Their tiny bodies were then dumped in the trash. Mr. Obama's spiritual mentor served on the board of the hospital. Mrs. Stanek went on a public crusade to protect these children.

At a 2001 Illinois legislature hearing, Mr. Obama questioned Mrs. Stanek. She insisted that children needed medical care if they were born alive. Mr. Obama said: "Ms. Stanek, your initial testimony last year showed your dismay at the lack of regard for human life. I agreed with you last year and we suggested that there be a Comfort Room or something of that nature be done. The hospital acknowledged that and changes were made and you are still unimpressed. It sounds to me like you are really not interested in how these fetus [es] are treated, but rather not providing absolutely any medical care or life to them."

Mrs. Stanek replied: "What the hospital did was try to make things look better. What it really is, is that the baby is still dead". . . .

Where is our civilisation heading?

A pause to refresh our memories on the key second paragraph of the United States Declaration of Independence, July 4th 1776, gives a key part of the answer:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 - 21, 2:14 - 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . . .
"We hold these truths to be self-evident . . . "

A phrase that too often sounds strange to us today. But, the meaning of this phrase derived from Romans 1:18 - 20, is actually quite simple:
Once (a) we understand what the key words used to state a self-evident truth speak of and (b) we see how they are connected in light of our experience of reality [applying a modicum of common sense!], we will immediately also see that (c) it must be true. So, the attempted denial of a self-evident truth will only end in patent absurdities, underscoring the force of the truth.
A classic example, following Josiah Royce, is: error exists.

If we attempt to deny it, we would have to be claiming that the original claim would be an error -- confirming that the original claim was in fact true. In short, it is undeniably, self-evidently true that error exists. (So, wise men and nations will be humble before the possibility of error and will be open to well-warranted correction. Sadly, the long history of the march of folly shows that this humility is too often the exception, not the rule.)

In the case of the American Declaration of Independence of 1776, it is asserting that we have a common root in our Creator and Lord, and so we have fundamental equality.

Thus, we can make a reasonable moral demand that our lives, liberties and freedom to fulfill ourselves under God must be respected by one and all. Attempts to deny such -- even those that are propped up by the abuse of the prestigious name of "Science" -- invariably end in utter absurdity.

When implemented on the ground, such absurdities end in tyranny, and too often in mass slaughter and chaos. (Any resemblance to the picture Jesus painted as he wept over Jerusalem and the world in Matt 24 is NOT coincidental.)

So, now, let us look a little closer at the above cited exchange:
First, the now president-elect of the United States summarised Mrs Stanek's key concern: ". . . dismay at the lack of regard for human life."

He then said he agreed with it and that the state legislature then set about what he clearly thought was an appropriate and acceptable corrective measure: "we suggested that there be a Comfort Room or something of that nature be done."

Mrs Stanek's reply -- and plea for mercy to and rescue for those innocents about to die -- was devastating: "What the hospital did was try to make things look better. What it really is, is that the baby is still dead."
Thus lies revealed utter absurdity, outright moral bankruptcy and even -- sadly -- hardness of heart joined to sin-darkened closedness of mind.

A moral absurdity that has now cost 48 million children in America their lives since 1973; most of them unborn, a telling few, even after they had survived abortion and were born despite the best efforts to kill them in the womb.

A sadly portentous absurdity, on the principle that track record is an excellent predictor of onward behaviour.

[And, my native land, Jamaica, is currently contemplating the same moral outrage and absurdity! For shame! "Eternal Father, bless our land . . . Give us true respect for all. Stir response to duty's call. Strengthen us the weak to cherish. Send us vision, lest we perish . . . "]

Where, then, is our civilisation headed, and why?

What, then, should we -- as God's people in the Caribbean -- do?

Plainly, first, we must seek and have courage to heed the counsel of God to be watchmen on the wall for our region.

For instance, in Ezekiel 3, we read (in the classic KJV):
Ez 3:4 And he said unto me [Ezekiel], Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them.

5For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel;

6Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee.

7But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.

8Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads.

9As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.

10Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears.

11And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear . . . .

17Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.

18When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

19Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

20Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling-block before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

21Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.

This grim, usually unpopular, often painful -- and sometimes, frankly dangerous -- duty has not diminished one iota in our day.

So, in the face of a civilisation that -- having increasingly insisted on turning its back on and dismissing then forgetting God, our Creator, Lord and Saviour -- is now falling ever faster into the absurdities, follies and horrors that stem from such rebellion, we must have the courage to stand up and speak the truth that men do not want to hear; even as they may flock to those who will tickle itching ears with what they want to hear.

If some few listen and heed, they will at least turn back from destruction.

If many do not, we have done our duty of the corrective truth under God.

But, let that truth be spoken with a tear, from a broken heart; not from a gloat or a rage that shows ungodly hostility.

However, our duty as the people of God amidst the nations does not end there:
TIT 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
In short, we have to renew our commitment to the duty of evangelism, missions and discipleship, seeking to reshape our lives in light of the foundational principles of Hebrews 6:1 - 2:
F1 -2: “the foundation of repentance . . . and of faith in God”: Learning to trust and serve God in Christ, through (1) repentance: changing our hearts and minds in surrender to God, and (2) faith: trusting God based on his Word. [Isaiah 55:1 - 9; Rom. 1:1 - 4, 16 - 17; 4:4 - 8 & 10:17; Heb. 11:6.]

F3: “instruction about baptisms”: Celebrating death to sin, new life in Christ, transformation of life, eternal hope under God, and the indwelling and empowering Spirit, through water baptism — a symbolic burial and resurrection. [Matt 28:18 – 20, Rom. 6:3 - 7, cf. 1 - 14; Acts 1:4 - 8 & 2:32 - 39; Rom 8:9 - 17; 1 Cor 12:1 - 13 & Eph. 5:15 - 21.]

F4: “instruction about . . . the laying on of hands”: Learning the principle of service from the laying on of hands: our hands, but God's initiative, control and power. [Acts 8:14 - 23, 2 Cor 4:1 - 11.]

F5 – 6: “instruction about . . . the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment”: Living life from an eternal point of view: Jesus rose, validating the gospel and giving us an eternal hope of resurrection. But this also means that God "has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed," Christ. Accordingly, we must live as stewards who shall give an account for our lives and service, before the bar of eternal judgement. [Acts 17:30 - 31; 1 Cor 3:10 - 17, 4:1 - 5, 15:1 - 8; Matt. 6:19 - 24; 2 Cor 4:17 - 5:10.]
The need for such grounding and for such a focus is multiplied by the cumulative force of the trends our Lord outlined in Matt 24:
[1] the rise of mass deception,

[2] spreading tidal waves of chaos in nature, society and the political world,

[3] the countervailing communication of the gospel to all nations.
First, in a civilisation whose centres of power, opinion-shaping and education are plainly increasingly going to be captured by men in open and obviously absurd rebellion against God, this means that we have to create effective alternatives that teach the truth, train in living by the truth, and correct errors and deceptions.

Thus, in an age where the logistics and economics of the Internet increasingly dominate all forms of tele-communication, we see the priority of building a regional Cyber-Campus based, discipleship, missions and reformation oriented college with a network of local micro-campus centres based on churches, businesses, community centres and the like. Such a network also provides the crucial human capacity we need to carry forward the rest of what needs to be done.

Second, we not only face a world of natural disasters and resulting chaos such as the hurricanes that recently devastated our sister Caribbean islands, but we face an age of war; one in which the Islamist -- note the distinction from ordinary Muslims -- vision of invincible end-times black flag armies bringing the world under absolute subjection to the Islamic regime of the Mahdi and his lieutenant Prophet Isa [= "Jesus," as he is understood by many Muslims in light of Islamic teachings . . . ], is likely to cause a tremendous surge in terrorism, chaos and full-bore wars. (God willing, more on this "soon.")

Widespread war leads to famine and economic chaos.

So, we must prepare to handle and provide succor to those suffering from disasters and privations in our region, and in the wider world. That strongly suggests the need for creating a regional network of Christian aid and support agencies, with a mercy and missions focussed charter. For this, I strongly suggest that we take captive to the obedience of Christ the sustainability vision that is now such an international buzz word.

Third, we must realise that we the Christians of the Caribbean are a potentially critical global resource for the global mission of the church.

For, as the world's first cosmopolitan region, with a population largely descended from the peoples of the 10/40 window, and who through brought here under slavery and colonial oppression were in significant measure liberated and empowered through the gospel, we have an intrinsic credibility that is simply unique. In addition, our cosmopolitan cultural mix makes us into bridging people who are well able to help people find peace with God, and under God with one another -- if we equip ourselves with sound approaches informed by Godly insights instead of ideas deriving from sin-darkened misunderstandings shaped by our civilisation's accelerating rebellion against God.

Indeed, a reasonable calculation similar to that used by the Chinese church under its Back to Jerusalem vision, leads to the insight that our global missions potential is about 8,000. I doubt that we are even near five percent of that figure.

So, will we rise to the challenge to provide prophetic intellectual and cultural leadership in today's kairos? END

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