How can we know, and trust, that God is guiding us in our lives?

Last month I had the privilege of speaking at a pancake breakfast for the men of Mercy Presbyterian Church in Forest, Virginia. It was at the invitation of my best friend, Dick Bitzer, so they had to trust him for what they were getting. Being Presbyterians, they were anticipating a fifteen to twenty-minute little talk. Being more a reformed Baptist, it ended up being closer to forty minutes. Oh, well.

What follows is the written version of what I shared with them that morning.

As I look around this room this morning, I see a bunch of men of various ages who are in a lot of different stages of life. I am sure that all of you have things going on in your lives where you are trying to figure out exactly what God wants you to do, or you are trying to figure out exactly what God is doing in your life.

Right now I am anticipating retirement in the next couple of years, and my wife and I are trying to figure out what that’s going to look like. Where are we going to live? What are we going to be doing? What does God have in store for us in this next portion of our life?

My wife’s spoken response to all of this is that God will work it out. And I believe that… but do I really believe it? Do I really trust God with control in my life? Do I really believe that He loves me and wants the best for me and wants to use me for the furtherance of his Kingdom?

Of course we all know what the original sin was. It was Adam and Eve rejecting God’s authority and trying to supplant Him on the throne. And that is a constant battle that we all, as believers, continue to face in our lives. We want to be in control, even when we know we don’t do such a hot job of it.

Now, I don’t know what decisions you are presently facing, or what questions you are dealing with, but I want to share with you, from scripture, from a story, and from my experience, the assurance that God is actively directing your steps, whether you are aware of it or not.

First, let’s look at a passage from scripture.

Philippians 1: 1- 14 (All Biblical Quotes are from the New International Version.)

“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”[I]

Wow. Here is Paul in prison: if at any time or situation one might be prone to question whether or not God is really in control, it would certainly be when you have been thrown into prison on false charges, and have lost your freedom. But Paul looks at this and proclaims that he is thankful for his chains because they have proved to advance the gospel. He is even more sure that God is in control, as He was when he spoke to him on the Damascus Road (Acts 9), or when he called him to come to Macedonia (Acts 16), or when he saved him and all his shipmates from certain death (Acts 27). And it’s from that assuredness that he tells the Phillipians: being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

I want you to hear this plainly this morning. You can be confident of this: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”


One of my favorite authors is C.S. Lewis. I happen to be a fan of fantasy adventure and science fiction. I think sometimes, taking ourselves out of our own reality and our own world can really help us understand some spiritual truths that the everyday grind of our lives can blind us to.

I hope all of you have read The Chronicles of Narnia. It’s much better reading them, in my opinion, than watching the movies. One of the lesser known books of the Chronicles is Book 5: The Horse and His Boy.

This book tells the story of a young boy named Shasta, who has been adopted by a fisherman in the land of Calormen (which is not in Narnia). His stepfather treats him harshly and the young lad is not happy with his life. One night he overhears his father talking to a Taarkanian Warrior about selling him the boy as a slave. Upset, the boy goes out to the stable where the Warriors horse is. Wondering what type of man his new master might be, he says to horse: I wish you could talk old man. And startling enough, the horse replies. “but I can.”

You see: this was a Narnian Horse, captured as a foal a long time ago, but always longing to get home to Narnia. Together the Horse, named Bree, and his Boy make plans to run away, going to Narnia, and that they did.

It’s quite an adventure. After a few days of travel, they hear the sounds of another horse and rider off to one side of them. The other horse and rider ran when they did, and stopped when they did. Fearing being captured, they waited for the moon to go behind the clouds and then took off. But lo and behold, the story gets worse. Suddenly they were being chased by a lion, or lions. The lions end up forcing both the horses toward the same path and eventually swimming for their lives across an inlet where the lions left them. As it turned out, the other horse was a Narnian horse too, with a young girl on her back.

As the adventure continued, Shasta, gets separated from his new friends going through a big city; spends a night alone among the tombs with only the company of a small cat; gets threatened by jackals who could kill him, until a lion scares them away; gets reunited with his friends and when they are closing in on Archenland (the next Kingdom to Narnia), and the horses are just about worn out, they get chased again by a large lion and barely make it into the gates of a compound alive, but not without some injury inflicted by the lion.

Then Shasta has to leave the compound alone, to warn the King of Archenland about an impending attack and then after doing so, gets left behind in the woods riding a “dumb” horse (meaning not a Narnian horse) and is lost, and as far as he knows, alone in the night.

This is where we pick up the story: and let me tell you, I have trouble getting through this passage without getting choked up.

“I do think,” said Shasta, “that I must be the most unfortunate boy that ever lived in the whole world. Everything goes right for everyone except me. Those Narnian lords  and ladies got safe away from Tashbaan: I was left behind. Aravis and Bree and Hwin are all as snug as anything with that old Hermit: of course I was the one who was sent on. King Lune and his people must have got safely into the castle and shut the gates long before Rabadash arrived, but I get left out”

And being very tired and having nothing inside him, he felt so sorry for himself     that the tears rolled down his cheeks.

What put a stop to all of this was a sudden fright. Shasta discovered that someone or somebody was walking beside him. It was pitch dark and he could see nothing. And the Thing (or Person) was going on so quietly that he could hardly hear any footfalls.What he could hear was breathing. His invisible companion seemed to breathe on a very         large scale, and Shasta go the impression that it was a very large creature. And he had come to notice this breathing so gradually that he had really no idea how long it had been there. It was a horrible shock.

It darted into his mind that he had heard long ago that there were giants in these   Northern countries. He bit his lip in terror. But now that he really had something to cry  about, he stopped crying.

The thing (unless it was a Person) went on beside him so very quietly that Shasta   began to hope he had only imagined it. But just as he was becoming quite sure of it, there suddenly came a deep, rich sigh out of the darkness beside him. That couldn’t be imagination! Anyway, he had felt the hot breath of that sigh on his chilly left hand.

If the horse had been any good –or if he had known how to get any good out of   the horse– he would have risked everything on a break away and a wild gallop. But he    knew he couldn’t make that horse gallop. So he went on at a walking pace and the unseen companion walked and breathed beside him. At last he could bear it no longer.

“Who are you?” he asked, scarcely above a whisper.

“One who has waited long for you to speak,” said the Thing. Its voice was not  loud, but very large and deep.

“Are you–are you a giant?” asked Shasta.

“You might call me a giant,” said the Large Voice. “But I am not like the creatures you call giants.”

“I can’t see you at all,” said Shasta, after staring very hard. Then (for an even more terrible idea had come into his head) he said, almost in a scream, “You’re not–not       something dead, are you? Oh please–please do go away. What harm have I ever done you? Oh, I am the unluckiest person in the whole world.”

Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. “There,” it said “that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows.”

Shasta was a little reassured by the breath; so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives, and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the Tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis. And also how very long it was since he had had anything to eat.

“I do not call you unfortunate.” said the Large Voice.

“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.

“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.

“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night and —-“

“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”

“How do you know?”

“I was the lion,” And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you could reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”

“It was I.”

“But what for?”

“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no-one any story but his own.”

“Who are you?” asked Shasta.

“Myself,” said the Voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook; and again “Myself,” loud and clear and gay: and then the third time “Myself,” whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all around you as if the leaves rustled with it. [ii]


I. I became a Christian at a Young Life camp fifty years ago this past summer. But God had his hand on my life long before that. I have pictures of me at three years old wearing a T-shirt that says Young Life Frontier Ranch. You see, I had an uncle, who was a minister, who also owned and operated the busses that took kids from the East Coast out to the YL camps in Colorado.

When I was sixteen, he asked me if I wanted to go to Colorado. If I had been smarter, I guess I should have figured out that it was a religious group, but I was clueless. But that week changed my life forever.

There was another bus going to Colorado that summer that was taking kids called the Work Crew to work at the camps for a month. I found out years later from a friend who was on that bus, that my uncle had the whole bus praying for me.

I didn’t stand a chance.

Throughout my life, as I look back, I can see God’s hand directing me through open doors and closed doors.

For example, I had no idea where I was going to college. I was pretty sure I was going, but how to decide?

I was getting recruited to play lacrosse. I knew I didn’t want to stay in my home state of Maryland because it was just too close to home. I ended up applying to six schools, but the choice came down to two, the University of Pennsylvania and Bucknell (I cut Cornell because I thought Ithaca was too cold.) I also knew I wanted to stay involved with Young Life and I knew that they had Young Life in Philadelphia. I knew nothing of the sort about Lewisburg. But my uncle (Yes, that one.) told me that Young Life was always interested in getting started in new areas. So, for some reason, the morning I had to sign my acceptance form and mail the deposit check, I sent it off to Bucknell.

The first night I was on campus, in a situation where I knew not one other student except my roommate whom I had just met, God did some amazing work. The whole freshmen class was in the gym for mixers, all 700 or so of us.

Now I had just returned the week before from Young Life’s Star Ranch in Colorado where I had been on Work Crew for a month. One of the weeks that month there was a counselor named Bob McGinnis there from State College, Pennsylvania who was making and selling leather bracelets called “Trinity Bracelets.” They were pretty distinctive.

So, during these freshmen mixers they had us all sit down on the floor in groups of about ten. I noticed this big, blond-haired guy next to me wearing this rather distinctive leather bracelet. I looked at him and asked, “Where did you get your bracelet.” He got as far as “From a guy from State College,” when I yelled “Bob McGinnis,” and the rest was history.

Out of 700 students, God arranged for me to sit next to the one guy in that whole room who was a Young Life kid from down the road, and who actually knew that some upperclassmen had gotten Young Life started in Lewisburg that previous spring. I still choke up when I think about it. (That friend, Dick Herman, and I also ended up going to seminary together, were in each other’s weddings, and he has gone on to a successful life of ministry in the Presbyterian Church.)

Because of that, I was tied in right away to that small group of Young Life leaders and was blessed with a fellowship group who were certainly responsible for me not getting lost in college.

And there wasn’t a lot going on as far as the Christian faith at Bucknell that first year. Out of just under 3000 students or so, there were probably about a dozen or so who would really say that they belonged to Jesus. There were the handful of us in Young Life and a small group in InterVarsity. By the end of my sophomore year, because of a revival on campus that started the end of my freshman year and continued into the next fall, and an influx of Christians the next year, there were over a hundred and twenty students involved in the Bucknell Christian Fellowship. From that group, and from the years following as the fellowship continued to grow, have come ministers, teachers, missionaries, writers, church elders and laypeople who have gone throughout the world spreading the gospel. I was extremely blessed that God led me to that place to be part of it.

When I am thinking clearly, there is no doubt in my mind as I look back over my life, that God has been directing my path as Aslan directed Shasta’s.

II.   So, Jim… it sounds like things have gone pretty peachy keen for you. Well not quite.

Remember the boy in the story? “I must be the unluckiest person in the world.” I am sure that all of us in here have felt that way at one time or another. We have had unpleasant things happen to us. We live in a fallen world and things are often not going to go our way. In those situations, we have to remember that God is still in control. He won’t rid the world of all the evil…. yet. But as Romans 8:28 says. “But we know that in all things God works for the good of those that love him and who have been called according to His purpose.

Remember, it doesn’t say all things work together for good. But that God works in all things for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. It is causative use of the verb there. God is the one doing the work.

I want to give you two quick examples.In 1986, my wife was pregnant with our fourth child. Unfortunately, she started having complications and our daughter (after three sons) was born at 19 weeks. She lived for two hours while I held her in my arms, and I cried the entire time. Our daughter, Charissa, is buried at the foot of what would eventually become my mother’s burial plot. How does God bring good out of that? Because my daughter’s death, in and of itself, was certainly not a “good” thing.

A few years later I ran into a young woman who had been in one of my Young Life clubs, and in talking to her I found out that she had recently undergone a similar experience with her first child. She had been given all the platitudes. “You can have another baby.” Something must have been wrong for God to let her die…. but it’s better this way.” God just wanted her more” …. And you know what. If not for my experience, I probably would have been left with nothing but platitudes to offer too. But God had used my experience to soften my heart and give me the empathy I needed in that moment. So all I did was put my arms around Beth and cried with her. And that was what she needed. God brought good out of our loss. I was prepared and able to minister to her.

The second situation was even more painful. Shortly after the loss of our child, my wife left me. And there was nothing I could do about it. I prayed and cried out to God, but our marriage ended. Divorce is not a good thing. So how does God bring good out of that? Or am I forever doomed to God’s “second best plan?”

Had we stayed married, when I finished my doctorate at Duke, we probably would have found a job at a small college somewhere and moved. I have no idea what would have happened, but the plan was certainly not to stay in Durham.

I can tell you what would not have happened. I wouldn’t have ended up coaching high school lacrosse for almost 20 years and being able to touch the lives of a bunch of high school kids and their families. I wouldn’t have developed relationships with players and parents that I still have today in which I get blessed to officiate at a bunch of weddings, and even funerals, to be able to minister to them.

And I wouldn’t have been able to run a Young Life style lacrosse camp with my best friend, Dick Bitzer, for several years in which we again were blessed to share the gospel with a bunch of high school kids.

And of course there is now the beautiful woman whom I married after 18 years of singleness. God brought a lot of good out of something that was not good.

And I guarantee there are a lot of other things that I am not even remotely aware of.

III. But Jim, can’t we screw up and aren’t there consequences when we do??? Well, of course. Look at David and Bathsheba. But that still doesn’t separate you from God’s love. But what did David do? It wasn’t that he misinterpreted God’s guidance. He wasn’t searching for God’s will at that time. You don’t need to pray about whether or not to commit adultery, and then arrange for her husband to die. That’s not a mystery.

When you deliberately disobey the clear, revealed will of God, yes, there will be consequences. But again, that doesn’t mean that you are separated from the love of God.

IV. One of the real traps which keeps you from trusting that God is working in your life is when we start comparing what God is doing in your life and where He is leading you, with what He is doing in others’ lives and where He is leading them. One of my friends from college and seminary is a very well-known preacher and teacher. It is easy for me to look at him and get envious. But that’s when I am not trusting God’s wisdom and judgment. We start having regrets about the choices we have made and where we are in our lives and we become ungrateful. But we have to remember that God directs all us in our own paths for His glory and for our best. Remember the story of Shasta and Aslan.

“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”

“It was I.”

“But what for?”

“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story,     not hers. I tell no-one any story but his own.”[iii]

And in case you think that’s not Biblical…. Remember after the resurrection when Jesus was talking to Peter on the seashore. (John: 21: 15-23) Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him, and Peter assures him that he does, and each time Jesus tells him “Feed my sheep,” Take Care of my Sheep”, and Feed my sheep. And finally said to him “Follow me.”

Then Peter saw John following them. And he asked Jesus: “Lord, what about him?” And Jesus answered him: If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

This is a trap I fall into all too frequently. What if I had chosen A, instead of B? What if I had taken over my dad’s business instead of going into ministry? What if I had taken this job instead of that one? Do you trust God?

How can I know that I am making the right choices? How do I know that God is guiding me?

Do you want God’s will for your life? Do you want him to guide you? Then He is and He will.

You know that State Farm insurance commercial with the two young ladies shopping. One of them finds a purse and sings the State farm jingle and poof… she’s got enough to buy a purse. The other one doesn’t have State Farm, and all she gets is an old fisherman with one dollar on a hook. She tries to get it and the guy pulls it away… “oh, you almost had it.”

Some of us think that finding God’s will is sort of like that? We think that God is up there somewhere, playing games with us, and as we try to figure out what His will is, he’s saying. “Oh…you almost had it” … and then he laughs. And then you’re stuck with God’s second best, or third best or the consolation prize.

Really??? Do you believe that God loves you or not? “

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread will give him a stone? And if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?” (Matt. 7: 9-10)

God is not playing video games with us in which we have to find hidden or secret passages in order to claim the prize.

God is directing us in ways that we don’t even comprehend, and in ways that, even in retrospect, we may not be aware of.

He is like Aslan in The Horse and His Boy. Trust him and know that he loves you and wants the best for you and the kingdom.

I want you to leave here this morning this thought: Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”


[i] New International Version

[ii]  Lewis, C.S. The Horse and His Boy.  Collier Books, New York, New York, 1972; pp. 155-159

[iii] Lewis, C.S. The Horse and His Boy.  Collier Books, New York, New York, 1972; p.159

A Conservative Argument in Support of a Traditional Liberal Arts Education.

“A well-educated populace, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and read books, shall not be infringed.”

Forgive my paraphrasing of the second amendment (of which I am also a strong supporter) but I hope that it is effective in getting my point across.

There has been a lot of hand-wringing of late over the state of higher education in the United States. Most of it done for good reason. We have runaway costs spiraling ever more out of control.[i] We have graduates saddled with enormous student load debt who can’t find jobs. And we have an inbred academic culture that is so tilted left that it is out of touch both with reality and with the larger society for whom they are supposedly educating the children.

The events of the past week both at Yale and Missouri highlight the deficiencies of our institutions of higher learning.[ii] In these two situations, among the demands made by the students was for them to have “safe spaces.” They want their universities to be a “home” for them. And in the process of their protests for their “rights” they trampled on the rights of others without even acknowledging what they were doing, or the implications of their actions. You can’t stand there (or at Mizzou… push there) and demand respect for your “rights” if you don’t respect the legally protected rights of others. There actually is a constitutionally protected freedom of the press, which the bullying Assistant Professor of Media at the University of Missouri should both know about and teach. However, there is no constitutionally protected right to be free from being photographed in a public place while engaged in a public protest. There is no right to be free from insults, or offensive remarks, or tasteless jokes.[iii]

On the one hand, these students want to be coddled and protected like children, but on the other, they want us to respect their opinions, voices and choices like adults. Sorry kiddos…. but you can’t have it both ways. Or haven’t you taken logic yet?

From my perspective, as a member of academia for most of my adult life, one of the primary causes of this dysfunction is the failure of our universities and colleges to educate our children with the knowledge, skills and values[iv] that are actually necessary for the functioning of a democratic republic. The traditional liberal arts education which helped foment the seeds of the Glorious Revolution in England, the American Revolution, and the Civil Rights movement[v] has given way to academic navel-gazing and programs and “studies” that no one outside of academia gives two cents about. And most of those “studies” programs are leftist-leaning at best, Marxist at least, and certainly not compatible with, nor conducive to, the furthering and support of a flourishing democratic republic.

And of course, since our institutions of higher education are training the teachers in our primary and secondary schools, it is no wonder that most of our little gems aren’t properly prepared by the time they get to college in the first place. I am thankful that my children got through public schools when there were still enough teachers around who had received a sound, foundational, traditional, liberal arts education. I fear for my grandchildren.

Because of that, many folks on my side of the political spectrum would argue that we should do away with liberal arts education, and just focus on job-specific education. We are wasting time and money on degrees that produce neither informed nor employable graduates. And I agree that many of the degree programs in major universities are superfluous and only exist to provide jobs for faculty who themselves don’t have a marketable skill outside of academia.[vi] But let’s not be too hasty here. I would argue that instead of tossing out the whole concept of a liberal arts education, it would be better to reform higher education and return to the goals of a traditional liberal arts education.

What do I mean by a traditional liberal arts education? It is a broad-based education that encompasses the areas of knowledge that learned people should have in order to understand life, along with the skills to implement that knowledge in order to be successful in life (understanding that success will mean many different things.) As the Director of General Education at my university (Wait a minute, how did a conservative get in that position? Well, that’s a topic for another time.), who just led the Gen Ed committee through a two year process of revising our core curriculum, I think I have some insight into this.

First and foremost, we need graduates/citizens who can think. If people can’t do logical and critical thinking, how do we expect them to make rational decisions for themselves and their country?[vii] In the past, this was often accomplished with a class in philosophy or logic. At our school, we chose to use a course in a natural or physical science and a course in ethics. The goal in the science course is for students to learn the scientific method (hypothesis, experiment, results) and in ethics, the process of logical reasoning. If people don’t understand the rudimentary elements of logic and argument, they will be forever intellectually handicapped, and our republic doomed.[viii]

(It was apparent watching events unfold at both Mizzou and Yale this past week, that the majority of the students and faculty involved in the protests had little, if any, understanding of logical reasoning. As the protests developed, they were little more than emotional tantrums and bullying, not rational arguments.)

Secondly, students need a broad base of fundamental areas of knowledge that are essential to understand life, people, and the world we live in.

  1. History: How can we understand where we are if we don’t know where we came from? I teach at an HBCU[ix], and am appalled at how many of my students have no idea when the Civil War was. Of course, they also don’t know the approximate dates of WWII or the American Revolution, or the Vietnam War. We can’t learn the lessons of history if we don’t know the basics of history.
  2. Religion/Philosophy: No, that doesn’t mean that we want to indoctrinate people into a particular faith, but we do need to understand about belief systems, the differences among them, and the implications of various belief systems. One of the problems with higher education today is due to the enlightenment fallacy that posited that one can think based on pure reason, without any foundational premises. Do you think you can understand our present world situation without understanding some foundational concepts about various world religions? A major obstacle for our political leaders today is that they have no comprehension into the history and teachings of Islam.
  3. Political Science: What’s the purpose of government? How do governments function? What are the benefits and drawbacks of various forms of government? Yes, I realize that students were supposed to learn a lot of this in some high school class, but……
  4. Humanities: Art… Music…Theater… Yes, even though such things don’t fall into the realm of employable skills, don’t we want people to know about the artistic accomplishments of our cultures? And don’t we want that knowledge to broaden their experience? For one thing, such knowledge will help them to understand other people across cultures and time.

Thirdly, we need students who possess some essential skills to make use of their knowledge.

  1. Communication: Students need to be able to write (English classes) and speak (Public Speaking). Naturally, this also involves the use of logic and reasoning. To put together a          coherent argument to support a thesis in either a written paper or an oral presentation            means that one must be able to understand the process of linking premises, inferences,           and conclusions.
  2. Quantitative Reasoning: Yes.. that means math. If people understood math better, maybe they wouldn’t saddle themselves with such huge student loans for a degree in    Gender Studies, and maybe they would understand why we can’t just keep printing   money and raising the debt ceiling.
  3. Technology: This would certainly not be a part of a classic liberal arts education, but if you want to function and communicate in today’s world, you had better grasp the basics. If nothing else, you had better understand how you can search for information online, and             how much others can find out about you. [x]

And of course all of these presuppose reading. Students need to be able to read and understand what authors are saying, what their premises are, and be able to critique their premises, arguments and conclusions. Unfortunately, that is also a skill that is sadly lacking in our education at all levels in the United States.

But, you may argue, don’t most schools have such requirements in their core curriculums? Many do, but the problem is that the requirements have been so watered down and infected with leftist ideologies, that students aren’t actually receiving the foundational knowledge which we need them to have. Instead of learning world or U.S. history, students may take one course on a narrow segmented aspect of history that may be beneficial as a special elective, but does little in preparing them to be a productive, informed citizen. And then the course content is slanted so far to one side that they end up being indoctrinated, not educated.

But as a constitutional conservative, I want a more educated populace, not a more ignorant one. We need a reformation in higher education.  We need educational institutions that benefit society, not ones that benefit only themselves. And as conservatives, we need to push for exactly that type of education.

Higher education institutions are already feeling the pressure of declining enrollments, tightening finances and turbulent times. We need to exert guiding pressure on our state institutions through our legislatures (we do pay the bills) and in public forums, and on private institutions with our donations and support. And of course, for those with college age children, you exert influence with your choice of schools to which you will pay that tuition bill.

And for employers, start looking for graduates from schools which actually produce educated, informed and equipped citizens. In your job interviews with students and in discussions with placement offices, ask about their core curriculum and what students are taught. Tell them what you are looking for in employees and why.

The time is ripe. I am not sure what higher education will look like in twenty years, but I am confident that it won’t be what it is today. In one way or another, if we want our republic to survive, we as constitutional conservatives need to get control of the education of our children. [xi]


[i]  I suggest you read The Higher Education Bubble by Glenn Reynolds for more detail on this.



[iii] This does not mean that I condone racism. I think racists are illogical idiots. However, I think they have a right to be such idiots, as long as they don’t infringe upon the rights others have that are endowed by our creator.

[iv] Others caught in the web of academic assessment will recognize the Holy Trinity of competencies by which all programs are to be measured. So, if it’s good for the goose, let’s see how the gander likes it.

[v] And if you don’t believe that, go back and read the pamphlets, sermons and messages of the leaders and spokespersons of those historical events. They were all people educated in the basic, primary books and skills.

[vi] For example, we don’t need, especially in publicly supported institutions, all of these “specialty” programs that only produce graduates for other university “specialty” programs. (What do you do with a degree in Gender Studies except go on to graduate school to get a job teaching gender studies?)If private institutions want to house such programs, that is on their dime, and if alumni and students want to support those programs with their moneys, that is the free market at work. But state supported institutions are dependent on the taxpayers, and if put to the vote, I would bet my paycheck that those programs would be eliminated.

[vii] It was apparent watching events unfold at both Mizzou and Yale this past week, that the majority of the students and faculty involved in the protests had little, if any, understanding of logical reasoning. As the protests developed, they were little more than emotional tantrums and bullying, not rational arguments.

[viii] Of course, college is not necessary to acquire this skill. Experience happens to be a great teacher.

[ix] Historically Black College or University.

[x] In our university, we also added a foreign language requirement, but this was aimed more at our graduates’ employability in a global society, as well as an understanding of other cultures.

[xi] After finishing this essay, I found a friend of mine on Facebook who had posted an essay from the Washington Post on the state of education in the United States today. The author talked about taking control of the education of his children, and offered some suggestions for what we need to do. It’s worth reading.


The Leftist LGBT Agenda: Tyranny, not liberty.

Remember when the left used to accuse those on the right, especially the Religious Right, of trying to impose their ethics on others? I guess they wanted you to think that their goal was a libertarian country and they just wanted everyone to have individual freedoms to live as they saw fit. Well, think again.

As has become patently obvious over the past few years, those on the left, and especially activists from the LGBT community, are not interested in just having their rights to marry, or to do in their bedrooms what they want. Their goal is not to keep the government out of their bedrooms; their goal is to bring the government crashing down on our businesses, schools and churches. This isn’t a libertarian movement. It is actually a totalitarian, oppressive big government movement. They are telling those on the right, especially the religious right, that we do not have the right to believe what we want and to act on those beliefs, even if the LGBT community is not disenfranchised in any way.  They want to force us to change our views, using the power of the government.

If you think that this will not impact you, you had better wake up. The heat has been turned up on the pot in which this proverbial frog is cooking. If we don’t jump soon, we will be dead. To mix my metaphors, we are well on the way down the slippery slope.

The Threat to Private Businesses

Businesses that refuse to provide specific services to Gays and Lesbians are being prosecuted for their refusals. And recognize that these businesses are not discriminating against all services to Gays and Lesbians, but only certain practices, usually involving same-sex ceremonies, that they think violate their religious beliefs.

Melissa and Aaron Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Oregon lost their shop and are facing huge fines as a result of refusing to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple who were getting married.[i]  And it wasn’t as if this couple couldn’t go up the street to get another wedding cake. The couple wasn’t disenfranchised in any way. The Kleins are not the only bakery in town. If you are gay, why would you want to get a cake from them unless it’s to make a political point?

Jack Phillips who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado was told that he has to bake wedding cakes for same-sex couples and to direct his staff to attend diversity training sessions. And this was after Phillips refused to bake a wedding cake for the couple but offered to bake them anything else they wanted[ii].  He has also said that he has no problem baking a birthday cake for an LGBT person’s party, but just not a wedding cake because he feels like he would be participating in the ceremony. And just like the Kleins, this isn’t a case in which the couple didn’t have other alternatives. This isn’t about the cake. This is about forcing others to conform to your views. So now, Mr. Phillips has said he will just stop making wedding cakes. [iii]

Elaine Huguenin is a professional photographer who refused to do the photography for a same-sex wedding. She said that “she would happily photograph gay customers, but not in a context that seemed to endorse same-sex marriage.” The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that was not good enough, and that Ms. Huguenin did not have the freedom to make that decision. If she offers her services to the public, then she must serve all the public. [iv]

That decision alone is distressing. Taken to its logical conclusion, that would mean that she would be obligated to photograph people participating in any legal behavior if requested to do so. And please don’t try to argue that courts would never take it that far. They have already gone beyond where we thought they would never go ten years ago. We are sliding down a steeper and ever more slippery slope at an ever increasing speed.

Just this month, the Lexington-Fayette Human Rights Commission announced their decision that Blaine Adamson of Hands On Originals, a T-shirt company, violated the law by refusing to print shirts for the Lexington Gay Pride parade in 2012. Adamson stated that he refused to print the shirts because of the message conveyed on the shirt, not because of the sexual orientation of the customers.

And this is not the only order that Adamson has refused. Of the thirteen orders he has turned down in the past two years, one of them was for a Christian group because he thought the design, which included blood, was too racy.[v] The ruling, which includes the ever-present condition in these sorts of cases that the employees must undergo diversity training, implies that Adamson cannot refuse any business regardless of his convictions concerning the message conveyed.[vi]

So, if the Westboro Baptist Church asked them to print T-shirts saying that all gays should be executed, do you think the LGBT community in Lexington would be supportive of Mr. Adamson’s business for obeying the recent ruling? This isn’t an issue of freedom and equal access for the LGBT community; this is an attempt to impose their views and beliefs on the rest of us. They want to be free to voice their opinion, but it is clear they do not want those opposed to be able to voice their views. That is where this is heading, and as is evident in the most recent cases, it has already arrived.

Cynthia and Robert Gifford, who own Liberty Ridge Farm near Albany, NY, have been fined $10,000 and ordered to pay $1500 each to Jennifer McCarthy and Melissa Erwin after they refused to rent their farm to the couple for a same-sex wedding ceremony. They did offer to let them use the facility for their reception, but obviously that wasn’t good enough. The Giffords host several birthday parties and about a dozen weddings a year, but because of the ruling, have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their property going forward. The Giffords argued that they live on the premises and as part of the ceremony preparations open up their private residence to the wedding party. The court decided that their privacy and their religious convictions weren’t enough to allow them to choose not to host gay weddings. [vii]The ultimate result of this is a loss of one more wedding venue to couples in the Albany area. It doesn’t mean that gay couples have another place to get married.

There are a growing number of examples of bakers, florists and lodges who have refused their services for same-sex weddings because of their religious convictions. In every case so far, the courts have ruled that these businesses offer their services to the public, and are not exclusively religious, and therefore cannot discriminate based on their personal religious convictions.

I don’t quite understand the reasoning behind all of this. If a company doesn’t want your business, why would you want to force them to take it if you have other options? I can understand the dilemma if they are the only company in an area offering that particular service, but in none of these situations is that the case. If they don’t want to take your money, then go elsewhere. Vote with your pocketbook. And tell your like-minded friends. Instead, the LGBT community is using the club of government to force businesses into (conformity) submission, and in most cases, out of business altogether. And I am not sure that is not the ultimate intent. “If you don’t agree with us, then you are not allowed in this society.” Liberal and tolerant? I don’t think so.

The Threat to Academic Institutions

However, it is apparent that the movement isn’t going to stop there. Earlier this month Gordon College, an evangelical Christian college in Massachusetts, announced that they “will spend the next year studying current campus policies on same-sex behavior.” This is in response to the regional accrediting body, The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) discussion at its September meeting concerning “whether Gordon’s prohibition on “homosexual practice” conflicts with its accreditation standards.” Of course Gordon’s Life And Conduct policy also bans any sexual conduct outside of marriage. [viii]

Gordon College is one of the top evangelical academic institutions in the country. However, for any academic institution, regional accreditation determines your viability. Without it, your degrees become nice pieces of paper, but that’s all. The ability of your students to qualify for government loans and grants is taken away if you lose accreditation. In other words, the NEASC is threatening Gordon with its sledgehammer in an apparent effort to get them to remove part of their distinctive Christian heritage. And if they can do this, there is no limit to what they can force you to do if you want to maintain the coveted regional accreditation.

In the article in Christianity Today, one alum is quoted as saying that “The current policy creates a sense of fear for LGBTQ students and is psychologically harmful to those in the community.” I am sorry, but weren’t you aware of the policy before you applied to Gordon? It’s not like they were hiding it. All of those rules are available for anyone to see. Most students apply to specific colleges because of the majors they offer, the campus life available, and the heritage and perspective of the school. There are plenty of educational opportunities for LGBTQ students in which they will be fully able to do whatever they want to do. Why must folks on the left want to impose their views and lifestyles on others with whom they disagree?

Gordon is not telling you not to come if you are gay. They are just saying that you cannot participate in homosexual practice as a member of the Gordon community. And guess what, if you are straight, but not married, you can’t participate in sexual activities as a member of the Gordon community either.

Almost all Christian colleges have some sort of lifestyle guidelines. Gordon is actually a lot more open than most. Some of them are so tight that they make me cringe. But I don’t want to change them; I just don’t want to teach there. I wouldn’t apply for a position there and then complain because of their lifestyle agreement. Students shouldn’t apply to a Christian school, or any school, and once there complain about the very conditions that make that school unique.

Certainly, if a regional accrediting body can cause Gordon College to reexamine their behavioral conduct policy, then all Christian academic institutions are in peril. As I said, Gordon is one of the top evangelical academic institutions in the country. It’s not their academics that are in question here, it’s their religious beliefs. That is chilling.

The Threat to the Pulpit

Even when states were telling private businesses that they could not refuse services for same-sex weddings, the asserted caveat was that this would never impact churches or ministers because those were specifically religious, and of course the first amendment would protect them. I was never convinced that a government, drunk with the power of ever-increasing encroachments on our freedoms, would stop at that obstacle. Their touted “wall of separation” would suddenly become no more than a speed bump. When the left wants to keep religious views out of government, they want a wall (even without the evidence of history and the writings of the founders on their side). However, when they want to exert the power of government, then religion is forced into the closets of one’s personal life and mind. And yes, I did say closet.

The latest, and probably most egregious, example of this are the actions of the City of  Houston, led by openly lesbian Mayor, Annise Parker, which “has  issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity” or the mayor.[ix] This is all in response to a reaction to a new city ordinance allowing transgendered individuals to use whichever public bathroom facility they wished. Opponents of the new law, including a coalition of over four hundred churches, submitted a petition asking for a public referendum on the ordinance. When the petition was disallowed because of alleged irregularities (in spite of having 50,000 signatures, well over the 17,269 required), a lawsuit was filed pushing for the public referendum.

In response to the lawsuit, the city has now issued those subpoenas for the pastor’s sermons. And the pastors subpoenaed are not even parties to the lawsuit. And it isn’t just sermons. It is all communications with their congregants regarding the new law.

It is apparent that what the city and the Mayor are trying to do here is to intimidate the pastors. They want to portray them as homophobic and as bigots. They want to silence them. Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council commented:

This is the moment I wrote about in my book, “God Less America.” I predicted that the government would one day try to silence American pastors. I warned that under the guise of “tolerance and diversity” elected officials would attempt to deconstruct religious liberty.[x]

I don’t know who will end up winning this battle in Houston, but I am sure, whatever the outcome, it will not be the last fight. It is certain that preachers who continue to preach the biblical message that homosexual behavior is a sin will be persecuted, and eventually prosecuted. That is the road we are on.

It is certain that states will require that anyone who is authorized to perform wedding ceremonies cannot refuse to perform same-sex weddings. Recently, when the law barring same-sex weddings in North Carolina was overturned in court, a local magistrate, based on his Christian convictions, refused to perform a same-sex ceremony. Now all magistrates have been told that they must “perform civil marriages for same-sex couples or face suspension or dismissal from their state jobs.” [xi]

How far away from this is it for someone to argue that anyone, including a minister, who performs a wedding ceremony, is acting as an officer of the state?  As I argued earlier today in a Facebook post:

If the state supposedly grants the authority to anyone who performs a marriage ceremony to do so, then cannot the state dictate how you carry out that authority? That will mean that any minister refusing to perform same-sex ceremonies will then lose his/her ability to perform any wedding ceremonies, or be charged with a crime. And anyone wishing to get married legally by the state will have to go to a state approved officiant, or not be legally married in the eyes of the state. At that point, churches and ministers will have to decide whom they serve. Personally, for those who have ever been to a marriage which I have officiated, I never say “by the power vested in me by the state of …..” In my view, marriage is under the authority of God, not the state (Go watch Braveheart.); the state just deals with tax and inheritance issues.[xii]

If you think that can’t happen, then you are not paying attention. Our religious and political freedoms are under assault. Those who are attacking us will not be satisfied until they either shut us up entirely, force us to conform to their beliefs and behaviors, or just drive us underground. I don’t like any of those options.

I will not shut up. I will not change my beliefs. And I am not planning on going anywhere. However, I might start performing religious weddings if it came to that without regard to state issued marriage licenses. (Again, I refer to the movie Braveheart.). And it might be that our educational institutions have to spurn secular accreditation in order to maintain their distinctiveness. But recognize folks, that if it comes to that, we will no longer be living in a republic adhering to the United States Constitution. We will no longer be free. It will be a tyranny of the left. And from where I sit, it doesn’t seem like such a long way off.

We are the proverbial frogs in the pan of water, and the heat has been turned on high. Are we going to just swim around oblivious to our surroundings until we boil to death?

As I wrote this, I certainly had second-thoughts about publishing it. I work in academia. That’s not a community very tolerant of the views I have expressed today.  Will I be stirring up a hornet’s nest which will result in me being the one getting stung? Why not just be quiet, keep my head down, and hope to live out my life in peace. But I decided that if I sit here and say nothing, the way things are going, I will end up living in tyranny because the left is surely not interested in allowing us liberty.

Well, it didn’t take as long as I thought it would. Check out this story in which ordained ministers in Coeur d’Alene are being threatened with legal action if they refuse to perform same-sex weddings. This is being done under the pretense that the ministers operate a wedding chapel that is a for-profit business. Don’t be suckered into that line of reasoning. From the left’s point of view, it doesn’t matter if it’s a for-profit business, or a non-profit church. They will impose their way on us, or drive us out. Again, this is tyranny, not liberty. They are not interested in their freedoms; they are interested in power over us.


[i]  Accessed 10/16/14.

[ii] .  Accessed 10/16/14.

[iii]  Accessed 10/16/14.

[iv]  Accessed 10/16/14.

[v]  Accessed 10/16/14.

[vi]  Accessed 10/16/14.

[vii]  Accessed 10/16/14.

[viii]  Accessed 10/16/14.

[ix]  Accessed 10/16/14.

[x]  Accessed 10/16/14.

[xi]–Gay-Marriage-North-Carolina  Accessed 10/16/14.

[xii]!/jon.c.ham/posts/10152950112136842?notif_t=mention  Accessed 10/16/14.

Atheists, Christmas and Logical Implications

So we are past the Christmas season and the annual and ever-increasing efforts of some atheists to take religious practices out of the common square. Now, for someone coming from a fairly libertarian perspective, I support the ideals of free speech that allow atheists to make these attempts. And I certainly don’t want the government determining my religion for me. However, the great irony in all of this is that the atheists claim that their position is the more reasonable or rational one. While knocking Christians for their supposedly unscientific and childish adherence to a “myth” as a billboard in Times Square put it, and thus attempting to position themselves as the only truly reasonable people in the arguments, atheists refuse to own up to the logical implications of their own supposed assertions.

Therefore, I am not going to begin an argument here against atheism from the standpoint of the evidence for or against the existence of God, although I think believers have a strong case to be made. And others throughout history have done a great job with that including, in recent years, Tim Keller in The Reason For God. What I want to do is to lay out some of the rational consequences of the premises asserted by the position of atheism.

“Premises imply conclusions.” That axiom is a foundational truth in logic which I attempt to convey to my classes in ethics. “What you say you believe has some inescapable implications for your ethics.” Whatever you happen to assert to be true about the world and life will lead you inevitably to certain conclusions if you are logical. And if you refuse to see those logical and necessary implications, then there is no reason for further discussion because we have just entered into the realm of nonsense.

So what are some of the logical implications of atheism? What does it mean if there is no God/gods…nothing beyond the material world? (And notice I am not speaking here of just a Christian God. If you believe in a spiritual reality that is bigger than the world and has control/influence over life, then you are not really an atheist.) Here are just a few.

1. Life is without any ultimate, true purpose. It just is, and that’s it. Please don’t try to tell me that it is up to the individual to “choose their purpose.” Hogwash. That’s just campfire Kum Ba Yah touchy-feely nonsense. According to atheists, we are all products of random chance interactions and thus our existence is all there is. We aren’t here to do anything except to be. It’s not even so banal as to support a philosophy of “you only live once.” What difference does any of it make? None! Ultimately it doesn’t matter if you accomplish anything or if you don’t. In a few years we will all be dead and other organisms will be here (I almost said ‘take our place’ but then we don’t really have a place.). And it doesn’t matter if we have made their existence better or worse any more than it matters if we make our existence better or worse. We are all just animate and inanimate objects existing for a time through random events in the universe.

2. There is absolutely no reason to act in accord with conventional morality, and actually no way to assert anything is moral. One of the questions that is always raised in debates about the connection between ethics and religion is whether or not atheists can be moral. My reply is that of course they can, but I am not sure how they could possibly define morality from within their worldview, and further, why they would want to act morally (from a generally accepted definition), given their worldview. At least Nietzsche was coherent with his atheistic worldview. From his perspective, we are just more intelligent animals, survival of the fittest is the driving force in the universe, and we ought to adopt that ethic of the animal kingdom and take evolution to its logical conclusions. (Interesting here that in one sense Nietzsche did assert a guiding principle for the universe which has the position of giving the universe purpose and meaning. That diverges from the concept of pure random chance.)

That means that our modern atheists must either admit there is nothing that is either morally right or wrong, or go with something like Nietzsche’s principle of survival of the fittest. Either way, if at least they would own up to this logical necessity of their premises, I could respect their intellectual integrity, even while I disagree with them.

However, as it stands, most atheists want to assert that they are just as moral as religious people. They want to be good. They just have no rational basis to define that word. If you want to see what ethics looks like from the standpoint of atheistic evolution, go read Nietzsche. And if you take away even Nietzsche’s driving force of evolution which gives his universe some semblance of direction, then you are left with nothing but nihilism.

If you want to get this down to the nitty-gritty, from the standpoint of atheism, there is no logical reason that we can buy beef burgers at McDonald’s but we can’t buy people burgers, other than preference and taste. People have no more intrinsic value than cows, only a potentially higher extrinsic value, depending on the individual and his/her abilities. We have no reason to value the future or our children, other than irrational emotional attachment. We certainly have no reason to help the less fortunate, the mental and physically challenged, or the elderly. Put simply, we should either become the Third Reich because it makes sense, or we should all embrace the chaos as anarchists.

Does that mean that I think that all atheists are little Hitlers in waiting? No. But I think that if they were logically coherent and intellectually honest, they would be. What they cannot logically do is uphold any idea of inherent rights or morality.

3. By asserting their position of atheism, they are also destroying the foundation of their defense of their human rights.  From what basis can one argue for freedom of religion, or basic human rights of any kind with the worldview of atheism? At best you can argue that our constitution gives you some rights from a legal, governmental point of view, but there is nothing beyond that. Certainly there are no universal human rights. If the government decides to change the constitution, you have no higher law to which to appeal. In reality, atheists would be more coherent advocating only for the rights of the powerful over the weak, in essence, the law of the jungle. It is only from a worldview which includes inherent human rights given by a creator or otherwise resulting from an essential reality that a person can logically assert those irrevocable rights. This is a crucial difference in the political philosophies of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. As a Christian, I can logically claim that all people have certain inherent rights endowed by our Creator based on my premises. An atheist cannot logically maintain any such assertion based on her/his premises.

As I said at the top, I would like to see an atheist actually come out and own up to these (and other) logical implications of their beliefs. At that point, I would at least grant that he/she is being intellectually honest. Until that time, when an atheist asserts her/his “rights” or morality, she/he is just being parasitic on a belief system that she/he has supposedly rejected. That, my friends, is the epitome of nonsense.

Why, as an evangelical Christian, I will vote for Mitt Romney even though he is a Mormon.

I am an evangelical Christian. I just finished reading an article in Christianity Today that cited an evangelical pastor who would not vote for Obama because of his ethical views on gay marriage and abortion. On the other hand the pastor said he has difficulty voting for Romney because he is a Mormon. (

I am having no such anxiety because I am not voting for someone to be my pastor, but to be the president of the country. I wonder what other past presidents this pastor might have not voted for even though he might have agreed with their ethical positions because they didn’t fit his litmus test for religious orthodoxy. Certainly our early Deist fathers would have to fall into that category.

It is not the specific religious practices or beliefs that are crucial in selecting a president or senator, but her/his foundation beliefs concerning the world,  human nature and ethics which will influence his/her political policies and principles. What I want in an elected official is someone whose foundational beliefs correspond with mine as much as possible so that their policies will be configured with them too. Unless someone has plans on enforcing their particular religious practices or ideas on the rest of us, how do those things come into play?

I happen to believe in believer’s baptism. Does that mean that I wouldn’t vote for someone who supported infant baptism? Not unless they were going to try to pass laws enforcing that position. But if that were the case, there isn’t much of a chance that they would get elected anyway. Thomas Jefferson didn’t believe in the Deity of Christ, but he had strong principles regarding the role of government with which I strongly agree.

Those of my ancestors who were part of the great Puritan Migration helped found Hartford, Connecticut. In their day, a person had to stand up and make a public confession of faith in order to be a full, voting citizen of their community. Thus, anyone who would have been eligible for elected office would have had to meet the same standard. At that time, there was no separation of church and state. They were one and the same. We are not in that place, and haven’t been for a long time.

As a child, I remember when John Kennedy ran for President and the fear that having a Catholic in office would mean the Pope was really in charge. (Interestingly, this fear of loyalty to a “foreign power” was the same reason John Locke thought that Catholics should not have freedom of religion in his time. Of course I can give Locke some latitude here given the bitter and bloody disputes for the English crown of the day. ) Do we have people today that worry that Romney would be subservient to the elders of the Mormon Church in his role as President? Do we have any evidence for that? No, we don’t.

Is the Mormon belief of baptism for the dead going to have any impact on economic or social policy proposals under Romney? I can’t imagine how. Will the Mormon’s unorthodox (in my view) perspective on the person and work of Christ have any impact on Romney’s political stances? I can’t conceive of those possibilities. And frankly I could care less if Mitt Romney wears special garments.

However, his views on such foundational ideas such as human nature, the value of human life, the meaning of marriage, liberty, freedom, responsibility, the role of humans with respect to the rest of creation….. well, all of those ideas will make a huge difference in the policies that he will propose as president. And as I examine what he has said, and what his positions are, I find, that as an evangelical, that my beliefs on those fundamental principles align with his.

On the other hand, I find that President Obama and I view the world with diametrically opposed perspectives. Our views on human nature and its impact on economic policy, on the value of human life, on marriage, on the role of government itself, on liberty and freedom… on a whole host of foundational concepts… are in essential opposition.  (And yes, I accept that President Obama considers himself a Christian, but then what he means by that, and what I mean by that are two different things as an older interview with Christianity Today clearly exhibits. (

We are not a “Christian” nation in the sense that we have been inhabited or governed by only Christians. However, our governmental structure and principles are ones that came from a worldview that was coherent with and built on a foundation of a Christian worldview.  John Locke may have been a deist, but his father was a staunch Puritan and Locke saw the world through that lens.  The founding fathers built our government based on that worldview and their own Christian heritage, but they built a country, not a church. They designed a system to give us leaders that shared that worldview, and to assure us the rights given to us by the God they worshipped.

I want a President who supports that worldview and that role of government. I find in Mitt Romney a person whose own worldview on crucial foundational ethical and political positions corresponds to mine, even though I also see a person with whom I theologically vehemently disagree. I would not vote for him to be an elder in my church. However, I will vote for him for President … and do so enthusiastically. I hope and pray that many of you will do the same.

Evaluating Beliefs: The standard of coherence

So how do we go about evaluating various myths or ethical positions? How do we discern among the various belief systems in the world which ones are preferable and which ones have serious flaws? Is it no more than personal opinion and which one or ones that you like? If that’s the case, then we might as well go back to ethical relativism.  We would be left with a position of not being able to say any action was right or wrong. But ethics is not like choosing a flavor of ice cream. It’s not just a matter of personal preference. There are logical standards that we can utilize to help us in our quest.[i]


The first test that we must apply to a myth or ethical position is the question of coherence. This is going to be extremely important as we move forward examining political positions on issues. Coherence is the question of whether or not the various aspects of one’s beliefs fit together as a whole. Does what one believes about a supreme being make sense with what one believes about purpose and meaning in life? Does what one believes about human nature make sense with what one believes about an afterlife? And as one’s ethics is part of one’s myth and is based on that myth, is one’s position on abortion or euthanasia coherent with one’s beliefs about human nature for example.

The standard of coherence does not mean that we have all the answers. After all, we are dealing with beliefs. However, it does mean that the things we do believe have to somehow fit together logically. You cannot believe two logically contradictory ideas. If there is no god of any kind, and people are just chance products of evolution, then it is not coherent to assert that there is some form of afterlife. The only possible coherent position on the question of what happens when you die is to admit that people, like trees, are just fertilizer waiting to happen.

Similarly, if we are just fertilizer waiting to happen, then why do we eat animal meat and vegetables, but not humans? Now it may be that we don’t prefer it because of taste or toughness, but is there an ethical reason? Is there a difference in value between humans and other animals, or between all sentient beings and plants? If one is going to be coherent in their reasoning, then they have to provide the belief that is going to undergird their ethical position. Preference and taste will suffice for choosing ice cream flavors, but it is not sufficient for ethical arguments.

One of the things I will attempt to do in discussing particular ethical issues is to connect the dots between various beliefs and ethical positions. Sometimes this will be done by examining the logical implications of certain beliefs, and other times it will be accomplished by exploring what premises must necessarily be asserted in order to provide the foundation for a proposed ethical position. One of the things we will discover is that people often assert ethical positions that they believe are correct, but then attempt to distance themselves from the requisite beliefs that are the necessary foundations for their position. Whether it’s because they don’t want to be labeled in a certain way, or it’s because they don’t like some of the other logical implications of those beliefs, or they just haven’t thought through their position, I don’t know. However, what I do know is that such a stance is not rationally defensible. It is incoherent.

[i] Note that here we are not going to fall prey to the enlightenment trap of making reason the ultimate arbiter of truth. However, we are going to use reason in its proper role as a tool to help discern truth and falsehood.

Aren’t all beliefs just a matter of opinion?

Comparing and Evaluating Myths and Ethics

Is it possible to compare and contrast belief systems and ethical positions and somehow evaluate those ideas? The multicultural perspective that has been popular in modern times supposedly asserts a position that says that we can’t really judge people’s beliefs or their ethics because all in all it’s just their opinion and we can’t really know what’s true or not true. That is often the first argument that my students put forth. There are several reasons for that. Often students are just trying to be what they have been told is open-minded and tolerant. Sometimes it’s because they are resistant to anyone judging their ethics and therefore “telling them what to do.” It might be because they have never been given the tools to approach such a discussion. They think they know what’s right and wrong, and they know that they think others with whom they disagree are wrong, but they have no idea how to approach the discussion other than getting into passionate arguments and yelling at each other. So therefore they choose to avoid such interactions. But they soon learn that not only is it possible to evaluate various myths and ethical positions, but it is necessary in order to live in society. And we do this even when we don’t admit it.

The Bankruptcy of Ethical Relativism

Cultural relativism as a descriptive theory which says that beliefs and ethics vary depending on one’s culture and background is different from ethical relativism that asserts that there are no universals or absolutes and that right and wrong are contingent on one’s culture and society. Cultural relativism just observes our world and tells it what is and it is useful just as an anthropological tool. Ethical relativism says that what a culture says is right and wrong is right or wrong for that culture because there are no universals in morality. We cannot judge another culture either positively or negatively. Ethical relativism is a bankrupt theory that cannot be coherently supported or lived.

One of the many rational problems with ethical relativism is that the position proclaims that there are no ethical absolutes but then immediately turns around and asserts that tolerance is the ultimate virtue. Additionally it eliminates the possibility of social change. How can you criticize the present societies ethical values when “what a culture or society views as right, is right?” Ethical relativism would have to pronounce that the civil rights movement was wrong. It also promotes the tyranny of the majority. If the majority are in control of the society and culture, then do they not decide for the whole society what is right and wrong? Or if you assert that there are multiple cultures within a society that have their own ethics, then how do you determine for an individual which culture is the determinant one for her/him? Ultimately, although people may think that they are just being open-minded by supporting ethical relativism, they have put themselves in an intellectually untenable and indefensible position.

It is not only intellectually bankrupt, it is also practically impossible. Should we tolerate the racial demagoguery of white supremacists because that is their culture, or should we condemn it? Should we tolerate the anti-semitic rantings of Iran’s Ahmadinejad as a cultural product or should we condemn them? At least I would hope that most people would agree that you have to condemn some positions as being unacceptable. (I find it interesting that some of those promoting tolerance as the ultimate virtue are among the least tolerant folks when it comes to those with whom they disagree.) And if you reach that point where you have to discern among those beliefs and positions that are acceptable and those that are not, then you have decided that it’s not just a matter of opinion and there must be some rational way to examine and evaluate beliefs and ethical positions. And it’s not coherent to just assert that other beliefs are okay as long as they don’t impose in your life. At that point you have again asserted an absolute position. So how do you evaluate beliefs and ethical positions?? That’s for the next post.


Foundational Beliefs Part Two: Human nature, purpose and meaning, and what happens when you die?

Human Nature

The concepts of human nature have a second aspect that has ramifications for political issues. What are people like? What motivates people? Are people predominately selfish creatures who, as Thomas Hobbes asserted, are barbarian egoists who need to be controlled so they don’t kill each other and ultimately exterminate the human race?  Or are people selfless beings who will work for the good of the others without concern for themselves as Karl Marx asserted would be true of the proletariat when they took over the means of production after the worker’s revolution?[i] Or perhaps people predominately work from a position of self-interest. This would not mean that people cannot act altruistically or be charitable toward others, but that their basic motivation comes from concern for themselves and their loved ones. When politicians start addressing economic issues, such convictions concerning human nature must be taken into account.

When we get to economics, the ramifications of the positions on human nature will be more thoroughly developed, but as you read this, ask yourself how you look at people. What do you expect from people? How do you expect them to react? Are you surprised when people do horribly cruel things to others, or are you more surprised when people do very gracious and giving things for others? If you left your wallet on a park bench, or in a store, would you anticipate a kind person returning it to you, or would you assume it was gone forever and start cancelling your credit cards? Why are you working for a living? Do you do it in order to be able to give the money to others, or is it because you do have bills to pay? Why do businesses exist? Is it to serve the greater interest of society, or is it to make money? Now, those might seem like overly simplistic questions, but your answers to those should give you some insight in to how you view human nature. And that perspective will be explored more as we examine the impact of beliefs on economic issues.

Purpose and Meaning in Life

What about the ideas of having some purpose or meaning in life? Why are you alive? Why are people as a species alive? Does your life or my life have any significance outside the impact on our immediate environment? What is life all about? If indeed we are just a product of chance evolution, then you may be able to arbitrarily pick a purpose for your life, but in reality you are nothing more than fertilizer waiting to happen. You and I serve no greater purpose than being, and we are of no more inherent significance than a slug. On the other hand, if there is some greater being who either designed the world or which is the force behind the world, then it would follow that not only our lives, but the rest of nature could have purpose and meaning. And if that’s the case, then it would also follow that discerning that purpose or meaning would have serious ethical implications.

An Afterlife??

What about what happens after your “three-score and ten” on this planet has passed? What happens when you die? From all the books written about near-death experiences, the afterlife is certainly a topic of interest to most of us. People have been fascinated with our own mortality for all of recorded history. Perhaps it is because, as far as we know, we alone among this world’s animals can contemplate our own demise. Is there a heaven and/or hell? Is there a paradise? Do we get reincarnated?[ii] Maybe we get to become gods on another planet. Or maybe we really are just worm food. Maybe this life is all there is and when we die, we are just dead. Again, as with all aspects of one’s myth, one’s beliefs about what, if anything, follows death has great implications in ethics and related political issues.


[i] One of the major problems  with Marx’s theory is his assertion that the bourgeoisie are by nature selfish whereas the proletariat, once they are in control, would act selflessly, working for the good of the whole. Unless the bourgeoisie and the proletariat are two distinct species which operate with two different inherent natures, Marx’s theory is incoherent at this point.

[ii] Interestingly in the western world we have taken the concept of reincarnation from Hinduism and converted it into a positive escape from our mortality. The western version of reincarnation is that we “get” to come back again and again. However, in traditional Hinduism the goal is to escape the Samsara, the cycle of birth, death and rebirth, rather than to keep getting reincarnated ad infinitum.

Foundational Beliefs Part One: God and origins

Belief in God

Possibly the expected starting point is the recognition that a person’s belief would naturally include any conception of the existence of God. Do they believe in God? Do they believe in multiple gods? Is their God a loving being who answers prayer and is involved in the goings on in this world as in Christianity and Judaism? Or is their God just watching from a distance as in Deism? Is their God a more capricious taskmaster who demands submission as in Islam? Or maybe there are two gods, an evil and a good god who are doing battle as in Zoroastrianism? Maybe their God is actually in and of the world as in Hinduism. Or perhaps nature itself is the God. And there is also the belief that there is no God at all. And despite what some atheists would like to assert, their position is as much of a faith position as is belief in a God.

Whichever position one takes here, it is one of the most crucial parts of a person’s myth and it is not just from the aspect of a supreme entity being a lawgiver and thus being the foundation of morality. The existence or non-existence of an ultimate spiritual being in the universe impacts every other single aspect of a person’s beliefs and how they function in the world. Certainly, in some instances, people may view all of their ethical and political positions as directly given by their God, but generally, it is a little more complex than that. It is the logical implications of that belief that have to be discerned in order to understand the complete influence of one’s beliefs, or lack of belief, in a God. And all too often people treat their beliefs as if they are not inter-related and don’t need to be coherent. But since those beliefs are actually the foundation for how we live our lives, the premises for our ethical and political conclusions, then it is crucial that we think through what exactly are the logical results that are necessarily implied by our beliefs, beginning with a belief, or not, in God.


How we and the rest of the universe came into existence, or how we got here is a second part of an individual’s myth. The question of origins has major implications for how someone views nature and people. Are we, and the universe, merely the result of pure accidental chance, for example in the so-called Big-Bang theory, or as in other variations of the evolutionary theory?[i] Or maybe a God used the process of evolution to bring the universe and us into being as is the position of theistic evolution. Possibly God created the world from nothing in a special way as in creationist theories. As religious and philosophical ideas from the history of our world are examined, it is seen that every culture has had beliefs concerning their origins. Those stories gave, and continue to give, an understanding of who we are as people and our relation to others and nature. The stories gave to the people an identity. Those understandings continue to be an influential aspect of one’s myth.

The convictions concerning origins have implications for one’s views on human nature. What are we as people? What is our makeup and what makes us act how we do? Stories of origins served the purpose in tribal cultures of giving the people in the tribe an identity that was distinct from other tribes.  Those stories ultimately serve the same purpose today. If you believe that a God created human beings in His own image distinctly from the rest of His creation then that implies that humans are unique among all of creation. Depending on the understanding of being created in the image of God, that belief might also imply that humans are uniquely spiritual creatures, with a heritage, value, and responsibility that is theirs alone on this earth.

On the other hand, if one believes that humans are presently the apex of an evolutionary process that itself was simply an accident of purely chance events, then humans are not inherently any more valuable than any other part of nature.  They may be more intelligent at this point, but that is just a product of evolutionarily developed synapses firing in their brain. Indeed, it would be difficult to produce a rational explanation from an atheistic evolutionary position as to why we can eat beef and chicken and not humans. Certainly individual humans may be more extrinsically valuable than a particular cow, but not more intrinsically valuable. [ii] Obviously, this should have implications for a variety of political positions if a person’s myth and ethic is to be coherent. That is true with the variety of other possibilities as far as stories of origins and human identity are concerned.


[i] (Despite the evidence gathered by scientists over the past couple centuries to bolster the theory first developed by Charles Darwin, ultimately, at its foundation, it has to be admitted that evolution remains a theory, an asserted belief.  You may think that the evidence supporting evolution is overwhelming for any reasonable person, but regardless none of the beliefs about origins can be proven beyond question.)

[ii] If one wishes to support evolution as the process by which the world and humans came into being, and still believe that somehow humans are uniquely and intrinsically valuable, then one must believe that a God guided that process and at some point put his unique fingerprint on human life. If not, then humans are just a more highly developed slug.

What exactly do people “believe?”

In discussions concerning beliefs I have found much more helpful, instead of using religion or philosophy, to use the term myth to talk about people’s beliefs.  The term has a long history in academic circles. Myth, in this usage, does not connote something that is inherently untrue. It does not mean a fairy tale, nor does it necessarily mean talking about Greek or Roman legends. What myth does entail are the beliefs a person has about life, the world and all that is in it. You could call it a belief system or a worldview. Myth is multi-faceted but the central idea is that it involves premises that cannot be proven, but are assumed to be true. That does not mean that those beliefs cannot be examined, evaluated and the evidence for and against them weighed. It does not mean that all beliefs are equally valid or supportable. But it does mean that ultimately those beliefs are just that, beliefs. What I have found is that it is much more beneficial to dialogue than the traditional terms of religion and philosophy. People often mistakenly understand religion being a matter of faith while philosophy involves reason not faith. By using the more generic term of myth, it allows individuals to move beyond that faulty dichotomy.[i]

What does “Myth” entail?


When we start to discuss the idea of myth, what foundational concepts are we saying compose this realm of assertions that cannot be proven and instead can only be asserted? What exactly makes up this thing called myth? In the subsequent posts I will examine the most crucial aspects of peoples’ beliefs and then in the following sections I hope to show how those beliefs impact political and ethical positions, or at least how they should if the believers are logically coherent.

So what are the most common aspects of a belief system?

  • A belief in a God, gods, divine force or its equivalent… or not.
  • Origins: How did we get here? Where did we come from?
  • Human nature: What exactly are we as humans?
  • Purpose and meaning in life.
  • What happens when you die?
  • Ethics? How should we act and why? (This is not only part of our belief system but is also dependent on the other parts of that belief system.)

These are the most essential aspects of a person’s worldview or myth. We can examine all of these ideas, but we can’t finally prove any of them. And they all should have a significant impact on our political and ethical positions.


[i] Certainly, using myth brings its own possible negative implications because we tend to think of legends and fairy tales. However, I have still found it to be a more useful term than using religion and philosophy. People who claim to not be religious have a much easier time understanding that they have a myth, even though they are not involved in any organized religion and do not believe in any deity.