Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Modernist Philosophy in a Post Modern Society

Introduction to Modernism

In the 19th century all across Europe a new philosophy crept into the halls of learning which has beforehand been dominated by Bible trained scholars.  This new philosophy was unabashed in its challenge to the Bible.  Indeed, the Bible seemed to be its principal target.  Critics became the new intellectual elite.  And as industrialization combined with the age of steel and the age of the locomotive and steam, scholars across Europe and even America adopted a new optimism that science and man could solve all the problems of man.

The war that swept across Europe in the first decades of the 20th century seemingly killed this optimism and even the philosophy resulting in a new take on mankind and its potential.  This new philosophy would become known in part as post-modernism.  The shift was perceptible in more areas than the classrooms of the university.  Professors could no longer say with a straight face that mankind can solve all its own problems by rejecting the old out-dated and out-moded fears created in religion and nurtured by superstition and instead embracing pure logic and science.  The horrors of the world war were memorialized in film and could not as easily be forgotten as wars past.  Further, the atrocities of war were only amplified by science and logic and the rejection of religion.

Science had contributed to the unheard of death toll by the development of mustard gas, the tank, death from above in airplanes, phosphorus rounds and encased munitions capable of lobbying rounds 30 or 40 miles away.  Logic had contributed by the use of Ford’s assembly line to mass produce munitions and the machines of war.  Rejecting religion had produced a war that had no regard for the unique reflection of God in man - human life was completely disregarded.  War always produced mass casualties, but without religion war took on an even more beastly tone.  There was no refuge in the church, no honor among combatants, no regard for historic monuments and ancient buildings.  There was no solace in defeating evil for evil was only a perspective.

Enter Post Modernism

Post modernism was at least honest in its recognition that modernism had failed to produce a solution to the problem of man.  But post-modernism, like modernism failed to produce a better solution because it failed in a singular point.  Once you reject Scripture, you have to redefine the problem of man.  Scripture defined the problem as sin.  Modernism defined the problem as oppression by religion and ignorance.  Post-modernism would redefine the problem as well.  Unlike modernism there was less clarity in the definition.  It would include inequality, racism  sexism, nationalism, and a few other -isms.  But the core concept was that the problem was a lot of things other than sin.

Post-moderism produced another world war, nuclear war, a cold war, and more economic disparity than had ever existed anywhere.  There were no solutions because all the efforts and energies were being focused to the wrong problem.

Enter a Billion Hungry People and the Solution

Today I received an email from a friend with the following statement:
Today 1 Billion people are hungry. 1.1 Billion don't have clean drinking water. 300 million don't have shoes. Jesus sent the answer ... Us!
It occurs to me that this is a return to modernism.  The problem in the statement above is hunger, thirst and clothing.  The solution is people.  This is an extraordinary statement.  Consider if we just change a couple words:
Today 1 Billion people are hungry. 1.1 Billion don't have clean drinking water. 300 million don't have shoes. We have the answer ... Us!
It would not surprise me if the vast majority of atheists in the world would agree with the second statement.  And nothing has changed in the presentment of the problem or the answer.  The only thing that changed was an innocuous statement placed in the middle which is almost unnecessary.  

I changed the two words “Jesus sent” to “We have” to illustrate what the statement above states.  The solution in both cases is human effort.  The problem in both cases is human experience.

Consider this message as opposed to Scripture:
Genesis 2:15 The Lord God took the man and placed him in the orchard in Eden to care for it and to maintain it. 2:16 Then the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat fruit from every tree of the orchard, 2:17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.”
Romans 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. 1:25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.  1:26 For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, 1:27 and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. 1:28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. 1:29 They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness,wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, 1:30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, 1:31 senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless. 1: 32 Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.
 Here we note that the problem is not defined in Scripture as homelessness, hunger, thirst or economic disparity.  You could easily make the argument that hunger, thirst and economic disparity are results of the problem - but they are not the problem.  Human depravity in heart and mind and psyche is the problem.

So the statement forwarded to me by my friend is deficient in stating the problem.  How well does the statement present the solution?  Again, as someone who believes in the authority of Scripture, let’s go to Scripture for the solution:
1 John 2:1 (My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. 2 ) But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One, 2:2 and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world.
From the Scripture above, the solution to sin is not us.  The solution is Jesus.

Let’s revisit the seemingly “Christian” statement my friend forwarded me:
Today 1 Billion people are hungry. 1.1 Billion don't have clean drinking water. 300 million don't have shoes. Jesus sent the answer ... Us!
After consulting Scripture we can see that not only is this statement not “Christian” but it is not even true.  The problem is misstated and the solution is directed from the savior to us.  It brings to mind Romans 1:25 “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”  Who is the solution to the “Christian” statement?  US!  The creation!  The creation is being worshipped for it’s power.  Who sends the solution in the statement?  Jesus!  But who sends the solution in Scripture?  John 3:16 reveals that God the Father sends the Son.  So, let’s revise completely the statement to make it comport with truth - with Scripture:
Today Billions of people are given over in the desires of their hearts to impurity.  They dishonor their bodies among themselves. They continually exchange the truth of God for a modernist and/or post-modernist lie!  Remarkably, they worship and serve the creation - man and his power through government and program and charitable organizations rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!  These billions are given over to dishonorable passions which they don't even know are dishonorable!  Billions and billions are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless.   God has sent the solution - Jesus!  For more information on how Jesus is the solution, see Scripture!
Compare again to the original statement the contrast is apparent:
Today 1 Billion people are hungry. 1.1 Billion don't have clean drinking water. 300 million don't have shoes. Jesus sent the answer ... Us!
Consider this, the shorter statement may easily be made by the following people:
  1. Atheist
  2. Hindu
  3. Secularist
How can that be you ask?  The first person doesn’t believe Christ is deity, but believes in the power of mankind to solve problems.  However, hunger, thirst, etc.. are problems.  If Jesus teaches that mankind can overcome his own problems - and hunger and thirst are the extent of those problems, then Jesus has taught the solution and thus given/sent the answer.  

The second person doesn't believe Christ is deity either, but like the atheist, the Hindu believes in the power of positive thinking and good karma.  If Jesus teaches positive teaching - which according to Gandhi is the sum of Jesus’ message - then Jesus sent us the answer - US!

The third person doesn't care whether Christ is deity or not, but as a secularist, they believe that the ultimate solution for man’s problems is man.  If Jesus teaches us to do good things, if Jesus is limited to a good teacher teaching positive things, then that person will agree with the statement as well.


The conclusion is that the statement is a modernist view of the world crouched in a poor attempt to be a Christian statement.  It fails as a Christian statement because it presents neither the problem nor the solution.  This indeed is using the name of Christ in a vain attempt.  It’s a modernist statement in that the problem ignores any spiritual element and denies the solution originating from any source other than mankind.

7 Requisites for Freedom

It has been said that men have the freedom to choose, the freedom of the will. Particularly, this has been applied to the matter of salvation within the context of Protestant Christianity. In examining the action of man's free will, it occurs to me that the following 7 precursor requirements must be met, and be met by someone OTHER than the decision maker, before their will can be exercised freely and effectually:


The decision maker must be alive. Dead people don't make decisions for God, they don't choose anything relative to this life.


The decision maker must be conscious. Unconscious people are alive, and therefore better off than a dead person, but they still cannot make a decision or effect their "free" will, as they are unconscious. We don't decide on ice cream flavors, or when we'll leave for work, or who we'll marry while we're in a comma. Decision making - exercising "free" will requires us to be conscious - and like being alive - it is substantially beyond our own powers to make ourselves conscious. We don't decide one day to be alive (although we can decide to continue in that state) and we don't decide one day to be conscious (and we have less power over that continued state than we do living)


The decision maker must be conscious of the decision to be made - they must be aware. One can be alive, conscious and living in Iran and be completely unaware that a court in the US is awaiting their decision on whether to exercise their rights pursuant to a codicil in their great aunt's last will and testament. They have a few elements necessary to exercise their "free" will, but not enough - they lack awareness that a decision is required. Like life and consciousness, awareness is also something which the decision maker is completely powerless to generate. The decision maker cannot get awareness on their own - some one else must of necessity intervene to provide the awareness.


The decision maker must have information concerning the decision - its particulars, its parameters, its nature, what the decision requires, what the decision allows, what the entirety of the decision is. Receiving a letter from the Estate's Executor noting that the court is awaiting the decision of the beneficiary is insufficient for the decision maker. Indeed, the decision maker is now frustrated and the bubbling up of emotions contrary to the decision maker's will is evidence that the decision maker is now cognizant of his or her inability to fulfill the decision and possibly to miss out on the inheritance. He - the decision maker - needs more, and he - the decision maker - is incapable of meeting his own need. He must of necessity seek out the assistance of another - someone from whom the necessary information may be obtained. He is entirely dependent upon this other person. His "free" will is a slave to the whims of the information giver - to the life giver - to the consciousness giver - to the awareness giver.


The decision maker must have appropriate comprehension of the decision - it is insufficient that one receive the information if one doesn't comprehend and understand the information. If the explanation is in Swahili and I don't speak Swahili, I have the information but it is incomprehensible. Again, the decision maker is entirely dependent upon another for the necessary comprehension of the details of the decision and what the decision requires. Without sufficient comprehension, the decision maker's success in making the correct decision is entirely a matter of chance.


The decision maker must have an appetite for decision - a desire to decide - an inward favor towards making the decision. Assuming the decision maker is alive, conscious, aware of the decision, has obtained the requisite information and comprehends the nature of the decision - he or she must still have an innate desire to decide. This is no small matter. Psychologist have for centuries noted the inability to decide in certain circumstances among certain people. Put them in the seat of a bus driver with 10 seriously disabled children who will never recover on board the bus driving down a road in the Amazon jungle and coming around the corner where precisely in the middle of the road is a parade of 40 young nuns dedicated to feeding the starving villagers around the area - they cannot swerve to the right - an embankment will throw them back into the middle of the road - the brakes are useless on this incline, to the left is a 1000 foot precipice. They must decide - 10 innocent but permanently and lifelong disabled youth who will never contribute to society or 40 active, young nuns particularly useful to society... etc. etc. you get the idea - some people freeze and they cannot decide because they lack the desire to decide. Their "free" will is held captive to an emotional need to avoid the pain and consequences their decision will invariably produce. This is not hypothetical either. Many people live decades with a close family member in bondage to sin - never saying anything that will produce conflict because their emotional need for peace prevents them from either approving or disapproving of the family member's life choices. To decide, one must have sufficient desire to enter into the decision process, and that is not something that can be taken for granted, nor something that can be produced sufficiently by the decision maker. You either have the appetite for the decision or you don't. Sure, something may happen along the line to cure your refrain, but the decision maker is in bondage to their own appetites - their "free" will is a slave to their desires.


The decision maker must have the capacity to decide. It is insufficient to pretend to decide something when one does not have the capacity to actually decide. One may, for example, be alive, conscious, aware with sufficient information and comprehension that they are being asked to fly or not fly - and they deeply desire to decide. But their capacity has already answered the decision. No matter what their "free" will might suggest, their nature and capacity prevents them from flapping their arms and taking flight (unless the decision maker is a bird, in which case, that bird has more "FREE" will than a human). The decision maker is entirely dependent upon another - the one who provides capacity. This is so often taken for granted. We're asked to decide whom to marry - but if we're 6 our decision is ineffectual as the law prevents us from marrying here in the US. If we are 26 and we decide to marry, we may deceive ourselves that the decision was all ours, but marriage takes the consent of another.

Marriage Example Consider for a moment the 26 year old who marries. They believe in their mind that they have exercised their free will, but in reality here's the credit for the decision:
  1. God for giving the 26 year old life - after all, dead people don't get married
  2. God for giving the 26 year old consciousness - after all, unconscious people may not enter into marriage
  3. God for giving the 26 year old awareness - after all, you may not marry someone if you're unaware that marriage is an option
  4. God for giving the 26 year old the information - after all, you may not marry someone if you don't know how to marry, the process, the institution, what it requires, the ceremony, etc...
  5. God for giving the 26 year old the comprehension - after all, in most states, you may not marry someone if you don't understand and comprehend marriage. If you're of so simple mind that the idea of marriage escapes your comprehension, you may not marry - in order to give your informed and meaningful consent, you must comprehend the implications of the decision - the nature of the institution - the identity of the other partner, etc. etc.
  6. God for giving the 26 year old the desire - after all, not everyone desires to be married. This desire is hidden within their heart and while external factors give rise to the desire and appetite for marriage, nothing intrinsic to the decision maker can give life to that appetite in and of itself
  7. God for giving the 26 year old the capacity and the power to be married. If one attempts to marry a dog - they will lack the power to do so. If (in Texas or Missouri or a few other sane states) one attempts to marry another of their same gender, they will lack the power to do so. This power comes from without - from their maker. They cannot obtain unto the power themselves.
So lastly, the decision maker arrives at the alter, looks across at his bride (in the case of a Christian - across at the bridegroom - the very one who initiated everything - from life, to consciousness, to awareness, to information, to comprehension, to desire, to power, to the proposal itself) and pretends that the decision is one of their "free" will. Remarkably, this person looking across the aisle at God and gives himself credit instead of God.

Review and Conclusion Let's review - here's what I did:

  1. decide
Here's what God did:
  1. give me life (Psalm 139) before new life in Christ I am dead in my trespasses
  2. give me consciousness - more than alive, I am now no longer a sleeper, but awakened by the Spirit
  3. give me awareness - more than alive and awake, I now hear - and have become aware of a Savior, and a desperate death in my own life - I am the Pilgrim who has read the book and learned I am unwilling to die and go to judgment, unable to face the judgment and wrath to come - unable to face my maker
  4. give me information - the Gospel has now been shared with me - unlike 90+% of humanity that never and will never hear the Gospel, I have heard and that by the Gospel - information as to the requisite for repentance has come to my attention
  5. give me comprehension - but more than information, I now have comprehension - the dead in the world do not understand the things of the spirit - for they are of the flesh - but I have been become born again, and received the spirit and now I understand and comprehend the things of the Spirit
  6. give me desire - where before I loved sin and my master the devil, now my desires have been changed - suddenly I want to do something I cannot do, I hate doing the things I'm doing - my desires have changed, have become new - I am a new creation
  7. give me power - and according to Romans 8:1 I now have the power to choose, I am no longer condemned - if God has chosen me - I can exercise a choice, I can choose God - I now have that power that alludes all of creation in slavery to sin and the devil.. and according to 1 John 3:9 - that is the ONLY thing I have the power to do - I don't even retain the power to decide against choosing God, for I am become a son of God
  8. propose to me in the first place (John 6:37,44) No one comes to Jesus except that the Father call him first.
And I take the credit... funny in a sick sorta way.

Abigail and David, an Exemplary Romance or a Cautionary Tale?

Recently I’ve heard a few sermons on the exemplary romance between David and Abigail the widow of Nabal.  The sermon usually exhorts Abigail’s beauty and wisdom and David’s chivalry and justice.  Sometimes wives in abusive relationships or who find themselves married to foolish men are encouraged to “pray for their David.”  However, I'm not sure the story demonstrates anything good about Abigail or David.  And I’m pretty sure that “praying for your David” will only lead to ruin.

The principal scripture we're dealing with is 1 Samuel 25.  As a background I remind myself who the players are and what sort of people they are.

  1. David, not yet king.  He had surrounded himself with men of ill repute - 1 Samuel 22:2 - debtors, malcontents and such.  David wasn't the Messiah and he was far from perfect, even at this very young age. David was running from Saul, continually bouncing from fear of Saul and others on the one hand (1 Samuel 21:10, 12 - even pretending to be crazy) to trusting in the Lord on the other and all the while knowing that innocent people would die because he kept running 1 Samuel 22:22.  While David was certainly much better than Saul, he was hardly the poster child of faith and Godliness.
  2. Nabal, a man of wealth who behaved badly and was harsh (1 Samuel 25:3)  While he was harsh and behaved badly, he is not the Anti-Christ.  He took care of his family and his workers (verse 11).  
  3. Abigail, the wife of Nabal commended for her discernment and her beauty but never for her Godliness or virtue.  

Herein is the story - David asks Nabal for protection money.  It was a shakedown.  David and his 600 men, mentioned before as malcontents and debtors who couldn't pay their debts, were continually running in fear for their lives from the lawful king of Israel.  God had never yet displaced King Saul - God had not yet installed David as king.  While living in the hills running away from the law - which act David was never explicitly told by God to do, and which acts cost the lives of many innocents including priests - David apparently made sure none of his men or any other men stole sheep from Nabal, and now he wanted payment.  It is important that Nabal never asked for this protection.  While it is undoubted that Nabal received benefit from David’s actions, the basis for David then demanding payment for that protection is dubious.  

When Nabal rebuffed David's demand for protection money, David immediately and quite rashly told 400 of his men to get the guns out (swords actually - verse 13).  What was he going to do?  What had David put into his heart to do to Nabal, a man whose sheep did NOT belong to David and which the law provided nothing that David should have a claim on those sheep?  David was acting horribly here!  He was getting ready to massacre Nabal and Nabal's servants and family.  If David is named "Don Corleon" and this is NYC in the 1950's we call this a mob hit.  But because David was so often a man after God's own heart Christians are constantly mixing this up with righteous behavior.

One of the principles of Scripture interpretation is reading Scripture for the purpose it was written.  History is to be read as history; poetry as poetry; didactic writings as teaching.  1 Samuel is history.  Just as it would be foolish to say "well, Saul did it so I can too" it is just as foolish to say "well, David did it, so it must have been good."  Nowhere in this whole passage is David commended by the writer (likely the prophet Samuel) for what he does - and there is clear evidence that David was not acting properly.

So, what about Abigail?  She's discerning.  Discerning people get things - they see the consequences, they see the ramifications - they understand politics.  Nabal has spurned the local mob boss's demand for protection money and now his hit squad is headed for town.  Abigail gets it.  She also knows that David's not been pillaging the area like others might.  She discerns that a beautiful woman going out humbling might just keep everyone from doing something stupid - David included.  And she does.  Abigail exercises a great deal of worldly wisdom here.  But Abigail also sins.  

We don't know her sin from this Scripture - just as we don't know David's shake down for protection money is sin from this Scripture.  But Scripture has to be read as a whole.  It is sin to murder in Genesis and it is sin to murder in 1 Samuel.  It is sin to dishonor your spouse in Ephesians 5 and it is sin to dishonor your spouse in 1 Samuel 25.  

Now, remember - David is acting cowardly at this chapter of his life.  He's feigning mental illness to avoid harm.  He's hiding in caves.  And now poor little Nabal has rebuffed his demand for protection money and he's all "I'm going to kill every male" - verse 22 and then he invokes the name of God and special privilege.  David is out of control.  If you doubt me, I'll demonstrate more of this in a couple paragraphs.

Abigail knows he's out of control - just like she knows that Nabal is out of control.  Nabal won't listen to anyone and David is acting rashly and with a hot head.  So, she wisely interrupts David's plan to commit murder (remember, David is not above murder, see Uriah), and suggests that her husband is a fool (a sin per Ephesians 5 as it was unnecessary to her plan) and that God has prevented David from murder (verse 26) and that all David's enemies should perish.  She feeds David's ego and wisely reminds him that God is in control here.  

David has several weaknesses, women, his pride and his love for God.  Abigail hits on all of them.  But I don't believe Abigail does this because she's a particularly Godly woman - that is omitted and we have no evidence that she was.  She could have simply reminded David that God was in control - as Nathan did - and trusted in the Lord.  But instead she also went to feeding David's ego by rebuking her husband and dishonoring him and the institution of marriage.  Even though Nabal was a fool, it was wrong of her to so rebuke him.  We know this because Paul refused to rebuke an ungodly High Priest.  
Abigail does save the day.  And for her worldly wisdom I think everyone may commend her.  But there is a very sad ending to this story.

First, Abigail is deprived of her family - her husband dies.  And if that weren't enough, all of Abigail's wisdom is thrown away when David asks her to marry him.  Wisdom would have said "David, aren't you already married?  Doesn't Hebrew law prohibit polygamy?"  But she falls prey to her own worldly wisdom and accepts.  Ironically David doesn't even marry her alone - he offends her dignity by marrying another the very same day.  David is collecting a harem and Abigail falls victim to her own sin.  

Abigail sinned against God when she dishonored Nabal.  And her punishment was spending another marriage with a man who would dishonor her by 1) marrying another the very same day, 2) breaking God's law and keeping multiple wives and 3) need we mention Bathsheba?  Abigail bears David children but she also has to deal with David the home-wrecker, David the murderer (God would not prevent David from murdering forever), David the exhibitionist, David the adulterer, David the rager, David the fool.  Abigail would have the indignity of seeing David do all of the things that Nabal did.  In the end, Abigail was hardly better excepting that she exchanged one rich fool for another.

I recognize that David did have a heart for God.  However, that heart for God did not characterize David's whole life.  The verse is 1 Samuel 13:14.  That was a statement concerning David before he disobeyed God concerning the transportation of the Ark of the Covenant which cost Uzzah his life and then railed against God for being Holy.  Before he disobeyed God and numbered the people.  Before he disobeyed God and accumulated horses and gold.  Before he disobeyed God and took multiple wives.  Before he disobeyed God and committed murder.  Before he disobeyed God and committed adultery.  

Please don't get me wrong - David is one of my heroes.  But not because he was perfect and certainly not because he was such a great sinner.  The marked difference between Saul - another king who sinned greatly, and David was not their sin - for they both sinned egregiously.  But David was sorrowful over his sin.  It broke his heart.  He really did love God.  He lived Romans 7.

So in the end, the tale of Abigail and David is more a cautionary tale than an exemplary tale of Godly romance.  It is not OK to dishonor your spouse even if they really are a fool.  And I caution those women stuck in back relationships to be careful what you wish for.  God may indeed reward you with a David, and who wants to be married to a David?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Hello. My name is Kevin Ritchey and these are my random and oft inadequate attempts to cull out the dross of worldliness and reflect on deep draughts from the fountain of truth in Scripture. Herein I hope to meditate on God without reference to cultural shifts, popular thinking, humanistic philosophies or other extra-biblical distractions. Accordingly, as these are primarily my own reflections and meditations, you the reader should exercise caution, caveat emptor, examining and holding every assertion to the light of God’s word, accepting only those thoughts that can withstand the scrutiny of Scripture. Psalms 138:2 informs us that God’s word is exalted above even His own name. My prayer is that God will keep me from asserting error, quickly bring to me friends and counsel who will correct my error, and allow this space to the glory of God. Sola Scriptura, Sola fide, Sola gratia, Solus Christus, Soli Deo gloria.