Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rom 1 reply, 5: responding to the "god is an illusion"/ "God delusion" loaded questions every "intelligent" Christian "must" answer, no. 10, on divorce

(Cf. parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

The final loaded question posed in the "god is imaginary"/ God delusion list of ten questions that every "intelligent" Christian "must" answer (Cf. parts 1, 2, 3, 4)  is:
10 – Why do Christians [evidently, in the USA] get divorced at the same rate as non-Christians?
The loading in this question, of course, is that it insinuates that being a Christian makes little difference to quality of life; and especially to moral behaviour. 

For those posing this question to suggest that, they have had to willfully ignore easily accessible and abundant evidence from the first to the twenty-first centuries and around the world, that repentant trust in God in the face of the risen Christ in light of the evident truth of the gospel, leading to committed, sound, scripturally based discipleship, reliably rescues and transforms lives, in the face of the most stubbornly addictive habitual and life dominating sins. A pattern of willful suppression of inconvenient, easily accessible corrective evidence, that is by now sadly familiar in dealing with this list of ten poisonously loaded questions. For shame!

Instead, let us reflect on what Paul summarised to the Christians of Corinth c. 55 AD; as they faced the challenge of false teachers misleading them into worldliness and the related need to renew themselves in sound gospel-anchored, scripture-based, Spirit-empowered discipleship that promotes true godliness:
 1 Cor 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous  will not inherit the kingdom of God? 

Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,  10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 

11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.[ESV]
The apostle immediately goes on to deal with one case, by way of illustrating through a key case study how genuine repentance transforms life by leading to a determination to live in a way that honours God and does not taint oneself with sin. 

To do so, he cites and rebuts a twisted slogan being used by false teachers who had crept into Corinth: “All things are lawful for me.” These misleaders were using clever, twisty talking points like this to try to pull the Corinthians into a self-indulgent sinful lifestyle similar to what they had formerly been enmeshed in as practising pagans:
1 Cor 6:12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.
13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”-and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.
15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined  to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”
17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin  a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?
You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. [ESV]
First, Paul is quite realistic: people were formerly enmeshed in the most awful sinful habits and practices, and were called out of such by the transforming grace of God in Christ. 

This is real, and it works. 

Indeed, in recent decades, the whole principle of the alcoholics anonymous twelve-step recovery programme is that some kinds of addictive, habituating, life dominating sinful bondages are beyond our unaided ability to escape. But through acknowledging the trap, turning to God and seeking the support of a responsible community of mutual recovery and progress for a lifetime, there is realistic hope for change. And of course, it is no surprise that "drunkards" are on the list of key examples presented by Paul, right next to: the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, men who practice homosexuality [NB: cf. My Genes Made Me Do It and the current discussions here, here and here in this blog], thieves, the greedy, revilers, and swindlers.

 There is in fact abundant, easily accessible, credible testimony of how repentance, renewal of life under the scriptures and in the community of the committed, and serious discipleship are life-transforming, even for murderers. So, the evidence is that sound discipleship works, that is not the proper question. The real question to be answered in addressing the current plague of divorce among Christians in the USA is what has broken down. If sincerely professed Christians are living like mere unregenerate men in some key respect, that is a sign that they are not walking in proper, responsible, well-grounded discipleship. 

So, why is this evidently happening in our day?

David Barton, of Wallbuilders, in examining the pattern of what has happened since the radical secularisation of schools, the public square and community alike, gives us a highly interesting graph:

Divorce statistics compared with the School prayer etc decisions: note, the doubling of a rate has a huge cumulative effect (Source)
 What we see, here, is evidently a cultural breakdown triggered within the court system at the point of the now notorious "no school prayers" and "no Bible reading" decisions of the US Supreme Court in the early-mid 1960's, and  then embedded in the public education, entertainment and media systems; spreading from these to and increasingly dominating the wider cultural environment. Indeed the just linked page shows a much wider, similar pattern. 

This is actually unsurprising: when a nation increasingly turns its back on God, it goes out of moral control; just as Paul, in Romans 1, warns:
Rom 1: 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,  as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 

32 Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. [ESV]
Individuals, families, communities and cultures that turn away from God in resentful ingratitude at his moral restraints, spin out of control, and are increasingly enmeshed in twisted, out-of-order passions and habits. They lose their ability to discern the truth and erect lies in the place of truth, giving their loyalties to the substitute for God and swallowing myths in place of well-grounded and patent truth about the roots of our world in God.

By sharpest contrast, when John Locke sought to ground liberty and sound democratic community order, in his famous second essay on civil government [in Ch 2 sect. 5] he cited "the judicious [Anglican Canon Richard] Hooker," in his  1594+ Ecclesiastical Polity:
. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man's hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. [--> that is, rights are here rooted in our common creation order and unalienable value as being made in God's image, leading to mutual obligations of respect] From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . .  [[Eccl. Polity, preface, Bk I, "ch." 8, p.80, cf. here. Emphasis added.]
 Long before this, the prophets warned, in no uncertain terms:
Isa 5:18 Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood,
    who draw sin as with cart ropes . . . .

20 Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
    and shrewd in their own sight! [ESV]
That is why those who willfully turn their backs on and deny the reality of the God who is evident from his designs and coherent order and complex, functionally specific organisation in the world around us . . .  
[NB: cf. here on, esp. here and here (also, here) for a 101 introduction, noting that it is especially cosmological design evidence that points to an architect and builder of a cosmos fine tuned to facilitate the sort of C-chemistry, aqueous medium, cell-based life that we experience . . . ] 

. . .  and from the image he has placed in us that gives us the ability to know and to reason, including about right and wrong, are without excuse.

 But, from the 1960's on, a faulty, misleading and sometimes abusive interpretation of the US Constitution's First Amendment, twisted the Westphalia (1648) and Augsburg (1555) principles in that amendment:
i] that (in the interests of liberty) there should be no overall established Church of the USA [as opposed to, say, the Church of England in Britain], so much so that 

ii] Congress should have no power to so establish a Church, but that 

iii] instead local communities should hold the power to decide on matters of religious institutions (nine states then having established churches: landes kirke), where also

iv] freedom of conscience, worship, association -- i.e. especially frei kirke (free, dissenter churches) -- and expression (including the right to publish and to petition for relief of grievances) should be preserved in all cases,
That misinterpretation then worked to twist the wall of protective separation metaphor used by President Jefferson in a letter to the Danbury Baptists of Connecticut, into the de facto establishment of evolutionary materialist secularist humanism as in effect the anti-church of the United States. 

{[Added, May 23:] If this understanding of Jefferson's views be doubted, let me cite here a key excerpt from his letter to Noah Webster of Dec ember 4, 1790, apparently across the sides of various controversies. After first making the comment commonly cited by the more "liberal"-inclined, "No republic is more real than that of letters, and I am the last in principles, as I am the least in pretensions to any dictatorship in it," he then went on to say:
 It had become an universal and almost uncontroverted position in the several States, that the purposes of society do not require a surrender of all our rights to our ordinary governors; that there are certain portions of right not necessary to enable them to carry on an effective government, and which experience has nevertheless proved they will be constantly encroaching on, if submitted to them; that there are also certain fences which experience has proved peculiarly efficacious against wrong, and rarely obstructive of right, which yet the governing powers have ever shown a disposition to weaken and remove. Of the first kind, for instance, is freedom of religion; of the second, trial by jury, habeas corpus laws, free presses . . . [The founding states other than Virginia -- which, in Jefferson's opinion, had made an error in the powers of its state legislature . . . ] had in consequence delineated these unceded portions of right, and these fences against wrong, which they meant to exempt from the power of their governors, in instruments called declarations of rights and constitutions: and as they did this by Conventions which they appointed for the express purpose of reserving these rights, and of delegating others to their ordinary legislative, executive and judiciary bodies, none of the reserved rights can be touched without resorting to the people to appoint another convention for the express purpose of permitting it. Where the constitutions then have been so formed by conventions named for this express purpose they are fixed & unalterable but by a convention or other body to be specially authorized . . . 

I have of course made a fairly extensive citation, so that the context can be absolutely clear, regarding the proper limits of constitutional government authorised by a free people.

In particular, it should be clear that, to Jefferson, to have Judges effectively altering the meaning, application and force of the terms of a constitution duly drafted by a convention and approved with its appended Bill of Rights by its people in referenda, would be seen as an utter abomination of desolation. But, this is just what has been done in the USA and it is what is routinely done now by higher courts all across our civilisation.

Here in the Caribbean, it has even been written into the terms setting up the emerging supreme court of the Commonwealth Caribbean, the CCJ. Given the track record of what activist judges can and do do, this does not seem wise.

For example, the current course of events, whereby the homosexualist activists, under the newly promoted phrase, "marriage equality," wish to twist the US's 14th amendment protection of equal process under law into a redefinition of marriage contrary to all history hitherto and to the naturally obvious creation order conjugal complementarity of man and woman in procreation, child nurture, family and thus the foundation of stable society, is a grim warning of the slopes down which we have begun to slide.}

(Ironically, when we properly interpret the US Constitution's First Amendment -- in which we find the protection of classic civil rights, in light of the history that a bill of rights was actually insisted on by the Christian people of the various states, especially dissenters -- we see that in fact the classic protections were set up to guard especially freedom of conscience, worship, and related association, expression, publications and petition. The commonly encountered notion and talking point that religion is inherently an enemy of liberty to be chained up in a zealously guarded ghetto given the horrors of the Inquisition, the persecution of Galileo and witch hunts etc., is false and based on a horrible, slanderous wrenching of history based on a willfully jaundiced, one-sided reading. A one-sided reading that -- especially at the level of authors of textbooks, major opinion pieces -- conveniently omits to mention that in living memory, militantly secularist regimes were associated with mass murder and tyranny on a scale without historic precedent; costing over 100 millions their lives. And, of course, the reading omits that it is specifically Christians who for a generation now have been in the forefront of the defense of the right to life of the unborn, in the teeth of a holocaust backed up by courts, media and ever so many manipulative voices, that now amounts to over fifty million and climbing at about a million a year; just in the USA.  A sounder, humbler, less jaundiced view, then, would be that human institutions -- of any sort -- that wield power and influence are inherently prone to abuse given the moral hazards of power, especially if the power is in effect unaccountable. For, we are finite, fallible, morally fallen and struggling, as well as too often hard-hearted and ill-willed. Accordingly, power should always be held in check through balances and means of accountability and correction; ultimately, there should be means of simply walking away and finding an alternative. Which, in the end, is one reason why a law of divorce as a last resort [Cf Matt 19:1 - 12], is a reasonable regulation in the face of the hardness of our hearts and the alternative posed by the truly abusive; even though the same scriptures also counsel: "I hate divorce, says the Lord." [Mal 2:16.])

So far has this distortion gone, that today, if one publicly stands up for Creation Order principles . . .
-- for instance,
(a) the evident signs that we live in a purposeful, ordered, designed creation,
(b) the equally evident signs that we are equally made in God's image, so share a common humanity . . .
-- "Am I not a man and a brother"/"Am I not a woman and a sister" [Cf Philemon 1:15 - 17, and the discussion here in answer to previous questions] --
. . . and so have mutual rights, freedoms, responsibilities and obligations leading to the vision of public morality as the foundation of just law that protects the civil peace of justice, or
(c) the obvious complementarity of man and woman towards procreation and associated requisites of sound child nurture, leading to
(d) committed, conjugal marriage of a man and his wife and the resulting family as the foundation of a sound society, such that
 (e) we say with Jesus of Nazareth,
" Matt 19:4 . . . “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”" -- 
. . .  one will predictably be smeared and targetted as an alleged irrational, hateful, bigoted, would be theocratic tyrant; morally equivalent to a racist.

So, we see a situation where the wider society -- being manipulated by factions with cleverly presented agendas and recklessly irresponsible or even willfully slanderous talking points -- is turning away from sound, godly principles that lie at the foundation of marriage, family and sound society, and are promoting the most corrupting, perverted, destructive ideas, attitudes and patterns of behaviour. For instance, we can see the promotion of that addictive form of abusive human trafficking known as pornography, which the US Divorce Lawyers themselves target as implicated in over half of all US divorces. As The Pink Cross Foundation documents:

Porn statistics, c. mid 2000's

In addition, we see where key influential sectors of the society as a whole, are promoting the notion that Bible-rooted, gospel-based godliness is suspect: irrational, anti-scientific, potentially violent, abusive and tyrannical, etc. So, it should not be surprising that -- in light of the general absence of an effective Christian counterculture of discipleship that is purposely built in resistance to the flood-tide of apostasy all around -- many Christians would fall victim to the similar forces that are affecting the community at large. 

Same forces, similar people, same effect.

No surprise.

Rampant apostasy works, to create havoc and destruction.

The answer to such destructive influences is obvious: the development of an effective Christian counter-culture that exposes and corrects the errors, sins and follies of the surrounding apostate, increasingly pagan civilisation while helping us grow in discipleship.  

Indeed, much as the Apostle Paul was helping to build in Corinth when he exposed the follies of the false teachers who were plaguing the church there. 

And, of course, given the clear indication from Barton's graph as to the key source of the corrupting contamination, that means the creation of effective Christian education alternatives from early childhood to university levels. (It further implies creation of a counter-culture media, and art forms and schools, especially for music, drama, film, video and the Internet.) 

After all, we are quite plainly counselled:
Heb 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. [ESV]
So, yes, this final question does indeed highlight a problem among Christians immersed in the apostate, post-Christian culture of the USA, and the wider culture of our decaying civilisation. But, given the abundant and easily accessible evidence of the positively transforming power of the gospel and sound discipleship, it is precisely not the problem that such discipleship fails, but that sinful rebellion against God and apostasy from our sound foundation in God create chaos wherever they go, so the answer its repentance, renewal, revival and reformation.

Not exactly what the proposers of the cynically loaded list of questions desired or anticipated.

But, that is what the real evidence points to.

And, in turn that calls for a challenge to return to sound discipleship: if not now, then, when? if not here, then where? if not us, then who? END