What Christians Can Learn From The 2016 Election

What are the lessons we can learn from last night? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s not a secret to many of you that I do vote Republican and conservative consistently. This past election was no exception. Like many of you, I was skeptical. I was thinking it looked like Hillary would win. So was most everyone else. The reality is that we were in fact, wrong.

As I watched the results rolling in last night and thinking there could be a chance that Trump could pull this off, I wondered what I could learn from this. Eventually, we got to the point where it was no longer asking “What does Trump have to do to win?” and instead had switched to “What does Hillary have to do to win?” No doubt, for the Democrats, this was an upset.

I went to bed shortly before the announcement came since I had heard Pennsylvania might not be called until the morning. I got up to go to the restroom during the night and checked my emails to see if there was anything new. One of my friends emailed me and said that Hillary had indeed conceded.

Some of you are pleased. Some of you are disappointed. Some of you don’t know. Still, I hope that the lessons I give here will be ones that you can use whether you agree with President-Elect Trump or not. I think there are several things he did right that we Christians can learn from.

First, if you believe something is true, be willing to say it. Something that I think people found refreshing in Trump is that he blew apart political correctness and yes, I think that does need to die. It got us to be more individualistic and centered on ourselves and our feelings and make those dominant. This is also one reason I think a TV show like House was so popular. A TV Guide cover I saw once about it said “People say they want House to change but they don’t. You watch it because he’s a jerk.” House’s being straight-forward was refreshing to a lot of people.

Second, along with those lines, don’t be afraid of offending people. There’s no need to offend needlessly, but at the same time, we’ve reached a point where we’re afraid to say anyone to anything that will offend them. If we give the Gospel, we will offend people. It will be offensive to people to tell them they’re sinners. It will be offensive to them to tell them Jesus is King and they are not. If you are afraid of offending people, you will not be able to do evangelism well.

Third, be able to accept criticism. Remember the basket of deplorables remark? Many people were described with slurs of racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and Islamophobic. If you speak out against Islam, well you won’t make it anywhere. You had better get in line with the culture also on homosexuality as well.

The slurs didn’t stop the President-Elect at all. Too many Christians when they get told that they’re a homophobe or Islamophobe or something similar (And I am not saying that Trump is right in line with us on the issue of homosexuality) shut down immediately. They think the label might be true. All it takes then is to have your opponents put a label on you and you stop.

Fourth, we can win in the face of opposition. Trump did it. Naturally, the Republican candidate had the Democrats against him, but also many in his own party and the media. We Christians in the face of opposition often fall back and don’t do anything. What could happen if we push forward?

Finally, what led to his win? Because there were plenty of people who were staying silent, but were supporting him. Most every poll was wrong. There were a lot of people who were shy about their support of Trump and didn’t want to tell a pollster, but they were willing to show up and vote. So now we have to wonder. How many people out there could be silent but do agree with us on issues like abortion, homosexuality, etc.?

Ideological battles can be won. The problem isn’t that the church can’t win battles. The problem is that the church rarely shows up to fight the battle. We assume often that we are a lone voice like Elijah, but there could still be 7,000 that have not bowed their knees to Baal we don’t know about.

Maybe you’re disappointed after last night. Maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re not sure. Either way, wherever you are, this should be a learning time regardless. I often like to listen to Herman Cain and he ends each show with saying “I hope you learned something.”

I hope we all did.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Our Marching Orders

What do we do depending on how today goes? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Our country right now is in political turmoil. Assuming the election does end tonight, one side is going to go to bed tonight very very unhappy. As for me, I’m a conservative who has voted Republican all my life and I have kept that up and frankly, today terrifies me. Many of you might not agree, but I do think a Hillary election would be the worst thing to happen to America. Instead of being NeverTrump, I was and am definitely NeverHillary.

Maybe you don’t share my sentiments, but either way, I hope you can understand my own fears. They are fears that have made it difficult for me to sleep at night and left me worrying about the future. We already struggle here economically as it is. Will our situation get worse? This is especially important for those of us, like myself, who are in the non-profit industry. We rely on donations. What happens if those do not come in because people do not have it anymore?

Never mind also that there is a lot of political unrest that I see. Many people, whether they are NeverTrump or not, are angry about the FBI probe and think that we can’t count on the government to look out for us anymore. Add in other concerns like putting justices who will defend abortion on the Supreme Court and the second amendment and our fear of ISIS and there is even greater fear.

What happens if things go negatively? I am fearful that we have reached a boiling point here in America. There is so much unrest that if that one spark comes to light the fuse, I don’t know what will happen to the powder keg that is our country. This election has sadly brought out the worst in us and people on all sides have called into question each other’s Christianity and conservatism.

Yet as I ponder this fear, I try to think back. The early church faced a far worse scene. They had the Roman Empire to deal with and there was no internet they could use to connect to each other, no special advocates for Christianity, and no generations of study on Christianity. They were day-wage earners who for the most part would not have any savings stored up and could often find themselves the target of prison, death, and just outright shaming simply for their religious stance, which was also a direct challenge to Caesar.

Now here’s the sad part.

They probably trusted God far more than you and I do today.

Let’s consider Paul. Paul is in a prison cell and he’s writing letters and what is he writing? He’s writing on how to have joy. Yep. I find it hard enough to do outside of the prison cell. I find it hard to do in a society where I can have pretty much everything that I want. Paul honestly shames me in this regard.

Why is it that Paul could have this attitude? He knew what a difference Jesus made to everything. He saw the world was no longer the same place and the Roman Empire was just a bump on the road to the glory of Jesus. Does that mean he foresaw a day where Constantine, the ruler of the empire, would become a Christian? We cannot know, but we can be sure he was convinced the church of Jesus Christ could never be stomped out. God would not be thwarted.

Why do I not have faith like Paul’s? If I must be honest, and of course that is a requirement for a Christian, I believe it is because I do not really see the difference that Jesus makes. Jesus brought a radical transformation into this world.

Consider what the new atheists often say about morality. If we ask if it’s right for one man to own another as a slave, the new atheists answer the question is obvious. Everyone knows that. The people at the time of Jesus would agree. It’s a simple answer. Certainly, slavery is okay. Our world is built on it. They would be shocked at the new atheists today. Don’t we all know that we have to have this institution?

Why do we accept the idea as obvious today that slavery is wrong? Because we grew up with that Christian background. Many of our moral stances are what we have inherited so long from so many past generations that now we don’t even think about it. Unfortunately, we are seeing this start to come undone. This is especially so in the area of sexual morality with the whole redefining of marriage and the allowance of abortion.

Christianity grew up in a world where slavery, abortion, and homosexual practice were all accepted. Christianity changed it all. If you want to talk about a situation that was hopeless, look at Christianity. If an alien from another planet was watching the world in the first century and was wondering who would be in charge in 300 years, either this ragtag group called Christians or the Roman Empire, they would put their money on the Roman Empire.

They would be wrong.

What did it take for this to happen? The church was the church. Several months ago I was talking with someone who was asking me about where our country was going. What will it take to stop a continual downfall? I gave the answer I always give. The church has to be the church.

What does that mean? We have to literally be Jesus to the world. Now some of you are probably thinking “That means we walk with love and kindness and be good people.” Of course, we should do that, but it is much more than that. We must say Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not and it does not matter who the Caesar is.

The early church worked together in unison and sought to take care of their own and build one another up. We have far more resources to do this today. We have far greater means to do this today. We just don’t have the willpower to do so unfortunately. Too many of us have seen Christianity as an all-about-me scenario.

Despite this, if we are to be the church, we cannot say we will be the church in order to change our country. Christianity is not a means to an end. If we are being Christian and truly living it, the country will change on its own. Why is it that in our country Christianity can be shut down? Because they know that Christians will take it. They won’t dare say the same thing about Radical Islam.

That doesn’t mean we take the Muslim route of using physical violence. Absolutely not. It does mean that we do learn to stand up for ourselves where we can. We don’t be scared to step on toes if we have to. The early church wasn’t. Jesus Himself wasn’t.

Just yesterday, I was dialoguing with someone who I would say is a seeker with questions about Christianity. We talked about the crucifixion of Jesus and the emphasis given was on his teachings, which I think would be his moral teachings. The problem I said is this. Jesus was crucified. If Jesus was just a good moral teacher teaching these feel-good sayings, he would have been at worst a nuisance. He would not be someone that would be worth crucifying.

Yet he was crucified.

Jesus was crucified because He did rock the boat. He was seen as a threat to those in power and He must have done something to earn that attention. He not only was a threat, He went to the direct center of Judaism at the time, Jerusalem, and did it right at the time where He would know He was walking into a death trap. He did it anyway.

If you want to talk about a revolutionary position, Jesus was indeed a revolutionary. He didn’t do it with weapons like a zealot would. He did it by the offering of Himself to fulfill the role of Israel.

Jesus wasn’t afraid to rock a boat. Today, we hesitate to say anything because we are afraid we might “offend someone” or “hurt their feelings.” I do not picture Jesus having this fear at all. I am not at all saying to needlessly offend people, but if you tell the Gospel and tell people they are not in line with Jesus who is the king of this world, then you will offend them.

If we want to see our truly transformed society, it really wouldn’t depend on who got into the White House. It might make it easier for us. It might not. Our marching orders will be the same. We have to be the church.

If Trump wins, what our marching orders? The church has to be the church.

If Clinton wins, what are our marching orders? The church has to be the church.

No matter what happens, the church has to be the church. The Gospel does not need America to flourish, but America needs the Gospel to flourish. Again, we don’t do this because we want our country to flourish if we are Americans, although we certainly should much as the Israelites were even to pray for the well-being of Babylon while in captivity, but we do it because we are Christians. If you are not in America, these are your marching orders wherever you are.

So what will I do tonight? I will strive to be the church. I won’t deny it’s hard. I struggle with my own worry and anxiety and fear, but I have to look at the reality of who God is. He is on the throne. I have to trust and of course, it isn’t easy, but the early church did it with Rome. Why can I not do it here? The problem isn’t with God and it isn’t with Christianity and it isn’t with the government. It is with me.

Today and tomorrow and from now on, be the church. Those are your marching orders.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Some Thoughts For The Election Year

What should we remember when we go to the polls? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve made it a point to not really comment on the election this year. I have an interest in politics, but not enough to be an authority in that area and frankly, I’m not really motivated strongly enough to fully support a candidate. For all wanting my position overall, I am decidedly conservative. That is in on fiscal issues as well as on social issues.

I have heard some commentators who are wanting us to vote Republican saying that this could be our last chance in this country. Now truly, I think we should be concerned for the well-being of our country. I also do think we should try to vote wisely and get in elected officials that we think are more likely to do what it is that is good for this country. We should not hold back on our political duty to vote.

The problem today is we live in a country where we have many issues with the morality that we see all around us, such as the redefinition of marriage by the Supreme Court last year. We live in a country where we are hearing about school shootings and violence on a regular basis. We live in a country where we are facing economic problems and our national debt rises consistently.

My fear in all of this is that the more we say we have to vote to change all of this, is that maybe we’re going to the wrong place. Again, I’m not saying don’t vote. By all means do so. You should. I am asking what will it take to turn this country around?

If we compare ourselves with the Roman Empire, the early church did not have the freedom to vote for the new Caesar. Whatever government came into power, they had to live under that government anyway, and while we can think our government is getting tougher on Christians, they haven’t done anything like regularly slaughtering us yet.

And this is the government that the early Christians not only survived, but eventually overcame. This was done without a sword. It was done without a mass election. It was done one way.

The church was being the church.

The leaders at the time were standing up to the government and letting them know what the Christians believed and why. When heretics rose up in the church, they were being dealt with. Note this also means the church was just as much facing opposition from within and from without. That we have so many copies of the NT shows how seriously the church was taking the text. After all, copying did not come cheap.

It amazes me that so many of my fellow conservatives who want to keep saying government is not the answer think that if the wrong person gets elected, then it’s game over for America. If you want to see your country be better off, be the church. The government is not called to be salt and light. You are.

After all, for we Christians, our ultimate Caesar is Jesus. Live in a way that you show people why He’s not just your savior, but also the rightful king of this world. Have the intellectual backing for what you believe, the emotional passion to care about it, and the practical living out of it in a world that denies Christ.

This is your responsibility after all. Otherwise, you’re just blaming it all on the government. As Christians, we should not be surprised when those without God live like they are without God. What we should be scandalized by is that those who say they have God live the exact same way.

Do your duty and vote, but do your Christian duty and be the church.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Chosen People

What do I think of Chadwick Thornhill’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As an IVP reviewer who has a passion for the NT and thinks that our modern individualism so often misreads the text, I took notice when I saw a book come out about election in Second Temple Judaism. I try to avoid the Calvinism/Arminianism debate with everything I have and have surprised a lot of friends by not jumping onto the middle ground of molinism. Thornhill’s book then sounded like something right up my alley.

Thornhill writes to help us see what election would mean for Paul and what would it mean to be a Jew and how would you be included within the spectrum of Judaism. It’s often been said that it was not Judaism that existed at the time of Paul but rather Judaisms. We could compare it to many Christian denominations today. There are some who will have an incredibly wide umbrella and accept most anyone in. There are some who will make incredibly small. I’ve heard the joke many times about Saint Peter welcoming someone to heaven and having them go by a room where they’re told to be quiet and when asked why is told “Those are the (Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc.) and they’re somber because they think they’re the only ones here.

This is why Thornhill goes to the Jewish writings of the time to look and see how the Jews identified themselves. What were negotiables? What were non-negotiables? What did it mean to be elect and how did one maintain one’s role in the covenant with YHWH? Many times we have in the past thought that the law was this system put on Jews that they slaved under and struggled to follow and were just hoping that they were in the grace of God, but this really isn’t the case. Jews had quite different views and while no one would really say being born a Jew was a free pass, most were not trying to find a new way of salvation. Paul himself definitely wasn’t. After all, in Philippians, he writes that with regards to the Law, he was blameless.

Thornhill’s main thesis in all of this is that election is not about individuals but about rather a group and whether one is in the group or not. Today, we could say that there is only one who is truly elect in Christianity and that is Jesus and those who are elect are those who are in Jesus. For the Jews, it would have been recognizing who is truly in Israel and who isn’t. Our debates on free will and soteriology might in fact be a surprise to Jews if they were here today. Could it be that many of them would say “God is sovereign and man has free will and we just don’t know how that works out but that’s for God to do.”?

Thornhill does not speak on the Calvinism/Arminianism issue directly, but he does give food for thought. Could it be that perhaps we will move past this debate by realizing that our focus on individualism is something that we are reading into the text itself and try to approach it more the way the ancient reader would have read it, or dare I say it, more the way the apostle Paul would have been thinking when he wrote it?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

How To Save A Country

What can we do at this point in time? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’ve been mulling things over a lot after the election. Actually, my wife would tell you it was extremely depressing for me. The way I see things, our country is heading into financial ruin and immorality is on the rise. To make matters worse, we have enemies in the Middle East who are closer to getting a nuclear weapon and who knows what havoc they can wreck on us or another country if they happen to develop one? Personally, we’re not in good financial straits as jobs cannot be found and I currently still lack health insurance. It’s not a good position to be in.

But sometimes, the darkest moment is just before the dawn. It is when things are their darkest that the light can shine the most.

I am conservative in my politics, morality, and economics. I do believe that good capitalist principles are the way to economically grow our society and provide the best way that we can all care for the poor. I do believe Romney would have installed such principles, but I also do not believe that would have been enough. It would have been a good buffer, but the change needed would not come through just that.

When we review the election, we realize that one state legalized marijuana. Also, there were states that for the first time decided to redefine marriage. There was celebration elsewhere that the country had elected an openly gay senator. We have spent much time in our country looking at the financial situation that we are in, and there is no fault in that, but what connection could all of these have?

The connection is all of them are about people seeking to make the government give them what they want.

The root problem is hedonism.

Hedonism is the belief that pleasure is the highest good. Of course, there is no doubt that pleasure is a good. To say something brings pleasure is not to say that that something is bad. On the other hand, if something is good, we can expect it to have a connection to pleasure. It does not work the other way around. There are many things that we consider pleasurable that we do not consider good, hence our term of guilty pleasures.

In fact, this is what Harold O.J. Brown wrote of when he talked about sensate cultures. These are cultures that no longer pursue the great ideas. There is no concern of truth or goodness or beauty itself. There is only the satisfaction of our own desires because we have nothing higher to look for. There are no ideals. We want what pleases us. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.

Gone from this is any notion of work. It is wanting to reap the fruit of success without having paid the price for it. The reason I am where I am in apologetics is for the price of buying books, going to conferences, seeking an education, etc. It cannt be done secondhand. The reason many people in this country are wealthy is not because of inheritance or lottery winnings, though those do apply, but because of hard work. Many resent that, and they seek to bring the rich down to their level.

Consider this passage in Amos 2:12

“But you made the Nazirites drink wine
and commanded the prophets not to prophesy.”

Nazirites were forbidden to drink wine in showing a holy lifestyle for a vow. Prophets were supposed to, well, prophesy. The people wanted to silence these beacons of holiness and bring them down to their level rather than raise them up. For a contemporary example, consider the debate on redefining marriage. Are we getting a rational debate in the public square when we present our view? No. We are told that we are bigoted discriminating homophobic haters, and that’s just including terms that I can use in this blog!

No debate. It’s just an attempt to shut you down, and the sad reality is that it usually works. An insult is not an argument. It should not be taken as one.

What is the answer to this hedonism?

The last time I wrote on this, I said that Jesus did not show up. The church did not do its part. For those worried about the future of our country, we have only one answer. We must be Christians. Only Christianity can save our country. Only Christianity can save us from our hedonistic lifestyle. Only Christianity can stop us from seeking entitlements more and more and going into financial ruin. Only Christianity can build up our defense enough that we are more than ready to handle any threat from a nuclear Iran, or even better, make sure that that never happens.

Great preaching has changed societies. John Wesley’s work was instrumental in changing England. Many places in the world have seen change when they have heard the gospel for the first time. Most of all, there is the Roman Empire. It was there that Christianity first showed up, and in the end, Christ defeated Caesar. Now when I say this, I do not mean a theocracy. This should still be a country where everyone is free to worship how they see fit, but it should be one permeated with Christian values.

Some might think God has judged us and there is no stopping it. Sometimes that happens. We cannot know that. We must go on and do the work of an evangelist. Last night in fact, my wife and I were doing nightly Bible-reading with the verse-a-day app and the first verse we had in a short passage was this one:

“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

Paul’s advice to Timothy still applies to us today. This is a dark hour, but it is also the finest hour for apologists. Too long have we let the world bully us into submission and silence us. Now it must be the time where we rise up and say “No more!” We all seek to make a difference in the kingdom and that starts with our own backyards. Those of us living in America can see the way we’re going. If we love our neighbor and see them making a foolish decision, we will warn them. How much more should we do so if we love our country?

I challenge you, let the Christian revolution in this country start today! Let it be that the church of Christ will refuse to be beat down any more but will stand up for the precious truths that Christians have died for since the time of Christ. If we die in the battle, then we die, but let us have what happens with Tertullian happen to us. Our blood will be the seed of the church.

We can do this. It will take work, but we can fight this, and we can win.

In Christ,
Nick Peters