Emmaus News

October 1997
 

A Friendly Word

Greetings in the Lord:

The Ambridge Saga continues. We had another meeting of the Ambridge Forum, in which our aim is to get religion, government, business, and education all talking to each other again. Present were the Chief of Police, a representative from the high school (the principal and school superintendent would have been but could not make it), Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, and three clergy.

People are ready to jump in with practical projects. We are working on getting a youth center going, local parks, and a crime watch, which will be supervised by the Chief of Police.

At the next meeting, I will be showing an 18 minute video, The Foundations of American Government, by David Barton, which describes the Biblical basis of the Constitution and of the mindset of the founding fathers.

We will be challenged somewhere down the line if we are at all successful, by persons who will remind us: "Church and state....! Church and state....!" So we need to be able to handle that issue factually and gracefully. Please pray for us. Prayer has brought down many walls here, but more remain.

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I am not running for school board this go-around because of my perception that civil government ought to get completely out of education. I had been having discussions with the school superintendent along those lines, which was largely what led to the formation of our Ambridge Forum. We both agreed that we needed a public forum where issues could be openly and fairly debated.

I am more and more convinced that if Christians would do what God does with us, namely invite us to "Come, let us reason together....," that we would find many surprised and willing persons who would participate. I fear also that we would find many who call themselves Christians who would find it very difficult to participate because they have been so schooled to believe that "being reasonable" means selling out to the secular world.

That comes from the fact that "let's be reasonable" has come to mean just the opposite of really being reasonable. It has come to mean, as the slogan says, "Doctrine divides but dialogue unites", so that dialogue now means finding ways to compromise truth in order to keep the peace. That is precisely the path down which the Church has wandered, to its shame.

Being reasonable in God's sense means being disciplined by fact and logic. God will not have it any other way. He knows that anyone who is open to the truth will find the truth, because He is leading us on the way to the truth, and to Himself who is the Truth. God is willing to put His case squarely on the evidence He can present to us. And so if He cannot do that (God cannot present His evidence....?), then we have no obligation to Him. His invitation is that radical. Read Isaiah 40-50. God calls all the pagan nations into His discussion. He says to the pagan gods, "Present your witnesses..." And then He turns to His own people and asks us to be His witnesses.

Are we ready?

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Our Reasonable God

More on "Judging"

My comments on "judging" (originating from earlier comments on the "Diana and Mother Theresa" episode), both on the internet and in Emmaus News, have generated considerable response, mostly to express the view that we are not to judge anyone's motives, only their actions. I am very happy and grateful to get responses, partly because it is reassuring that people are reading what I am writing, and also because it leads to spirited discussion.

I believe the condemnation of judging motives is in error for several reasons, some of which I expressed last month. Assuming that the Bible is to be interpreted reasonably and consistently with itself, I find myself concluding that there is no Biblical warrant for such a condemnation. We must be very careful and remain correctable, but we must judge motives.

The statement of Jesus, "Judge not that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce, you wlll be judged..." in Matthew 7, cannot be taken to mean that motives are not to be judged. It means precisely the opposite, that we are to judge, but to do so with righteousness and grace. Here are my reasons for thinking so.

1.  If it is granted that we are to judge actions, it also has to be granted that, in the final analysis, actions are defined by their intent. It is impossible to judge an action apart from the intent. Actions, to be meaningful, are not merely outward actions, but outward actions aimed at a goal. And that goal is precisely the intention of the actor.

For example, one can say, "Joe was throwing a stone." But stone-throwing is a neutral action. It is Joe's intent that makes throwing a stone an action which is either reasonable or unreasonable, good or evil. If Joe is aiming (aiming implies a motive) at someone else, that tells any observer something about his intention, namely to hit someone. The action to be judged is not merely "throwing stones" (as would be implied by the above responses), but the action of "aiming a stone to hit someone". It is Joe's throwing of the stone at that particular time that is being judge, not merely stone throwing in the abstract. And that necessarily involves Joe's intention.

One might want to inquire further into the motive. A parent would certainly do so if his child were throwing stones at someone -- "Why are you doing that?!" It may be that Joe was protecting someone else, or acting in self-defense. But those are precisely the kinds of intentions which we must discern in order to reasonably make sense of Joe's actions.
 

2.  The context of Jesus' remark makes clear that Jesus is not really forbidding the judgement of motives (which are tied to behavior). The warning that we will be judged as we judge is given in the context that we all ought to want to be judged, i.e., to have our actions and motives openly examined and tested by God against His righteous standards. It is precisely the judgement of God which leads to our salvation because it defines the very meaning of salvation. It is because we think of judgement in a negative sense that we react so painfully to the idea of judging someone's motives.

We read in Isaiah 26:9: "My soul yearns for Thee in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks Thee. For when Thy judgements are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness."

The Venite, as used in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (p. 44), is an adaptation of Psalm 95. It ends with the verse: "O worship the lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth stand in awe of Him. For He cometh, for He cometh to judge the earth, and with righteousness to judge the world, and the peoples with His truth."

The point is that He is coming, and not someone else, and that therefore we can rejoice in the judgement that will be given, even when it is judgement about us. We can rejoice because the judgement of God will be healing and restoring for all who want what God is offering. Judgement, in Scripture, is a good thing, not a bad thing. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet...."

In John 3:19, we read: "And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world. And men preferred darkness because their deeds were evil." It is only when we fear the light that we fear the judgement of God and, like Adam and Eve, run for the bushes.

If that is the case, then the warning against judgement -- on the grounds that we will get the same judgement -- is not that we should not judge, but that we should judge with the righteous and gracious judgement of God. For God will give us what we give to others. We are not told not to judge so that we will not be judged (for we cannot avoid being judged) -- but rather to judge as God does. And then righteous persons will rejoice in our judgement because they perceive the life of God in us.

The law of God defines the meaning of salvation because the law of God expresses His purpose for existence -- as summed up in the two great commandments, to love God and our neighbor. The purpose of God is a community of love. We are commanded to get into that community with all possible haste, that is, to assent to the covenant relationship which God is offering.

We can rejoice that that is the purpose for our existence, and that God not only judges us in such a manner, but that He provides the means to getting there. What other standard would we prefer? How can we not rejoice?

Christians in accountability relationships keep each other notified if one or the other seems to be getting off course. We all need a "mean friend" willing to risk our ire by telling us the truth whether we like it or not. And we need to be willing to do that for others, hard as it may be. Letting people call us to account for our motives is part of our spiritual maturity. We go to counselors and confessors partly to let them reflect on our motives.
 

3.  Jesus, of all persons alive, is the one whose actions can reliably be used to interpret His intentions and the meaning of His words. With the rest of the human race, our words and actions do not always correspond. But with Jesus, they correspond precisely. So we can use His actions to understand what His words mean.

It can hardly be said that Jesus did not judge motives. He did it constantly, vigorously, and pointedly -- one of the major reasons He was crucified. "Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father, the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires." (John 8:43)

You cannot get any more "judgemental" that than. People tell me, "Well, He is Jesus, the Son of God, and He can do that."

That does not wash. Jesus, the Son of God, also came to be our example. Jesus, the Son of God, said to His Church: "I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose in earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Mt. 16:19) That surely is related in some way to judging of the most significant sort.
 

4. Other leading persons in Biblical history routinely judged motives.

When Nathan confronts David on his adultery and murder, his point, immediately grasped by David, was that David had not merely made a mistake, he had sinned. He had chosen evil over righteousness. Only in a pseudo-sophisticated society which hides behind a secularized pseudo-psychology, would David have objected, "Stop judging me!", that Nathan had no right to confront him, or played the victim. To his everlasting credit, he repented.

Solomon's famous judgement scene with the two women who claimed the child hinges on his astute manner in ferreting out their motives. The real mother would rather lose her child than see it die because she loved her child. The false mother's ego was so involved that she would rather see the child die than not get her way.

The prophets castigated their people, the leaders in particular, for their betrayal of the covenant with the Lord. Jeremiah rued the day he was born because he was called to speak words of terribly harsh judgement to his people.

Paul berates the Corinthians for suing each other in the civil courts, not because they are not to judge, but precisely because they are to judge. "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?" (I Cor. 6:1 ff.)

What is the competency which Paul expects the Corinthians to have -- if not (among other things) the capacity to discern the motives of people's actions?

The assumption is, of course, that Christians who are in positions of judgement are spiritually mature, that is, that they have to a significant degree traveled the way of the cross, that they have given up all ego investment in the outcome of their judging, that they just want to know and judge in truth and in love, and that they are correctable because they are not infallible.
 

5. Our fear and hesitation to make moral judgements is part and parcel of the spiritual and moral demise of western civilization. The world, the flesh, and the devil have convinced us Christians (forget about the pagans) that moral judgement is evil and mean-spirited. So we are afraid to call a spade a spade, and therefore the devil is having his way with us. We are paying a terrible price for our ignorance and cowardice.

I attended a conference in Washington, DC, some months ago on the homosexual issue. There was a raft of extremely well trained, competent, and gifted speakers who spent three days piling up the mountains of evidence (psychological, biological, biblical, medical, sociological, etc.) that homosexuality is a compulsive and lethal addiction.

But most of the speakers were not able to say that the promotion of homosexuality is evil, that it has been foisted upon us by a media which is incompetent and knowingly deceitful. The speakers tended to talk around the moral issue, and could not, with just a few exceptions, bring themselves to say that the American public is being routinely lied to by evil-minded people, that is, people who have no interest in truth, only in getting their way.

How do I know that we are being lied to and that we are not just the victims of a gigantic mistake? I know that because most of the evidence presented has been available for several years. I and others have been writing and speaking about the evidence, in my case since 1988, for nearly a decade.

The evidence is clear and unassailable. It is easily available from public sources to anyone who takes the time to look. And when one tries to present the evidence in most public forums, one is ignored, sneered at, belittled, or outright shouted down. I have had all of those things happen to me in the convention halls of our noble Episcopal Church.

So I conclude that such persons do not wish to hear the truth, and that the judgement of God is upon such people, upon both "liberals" who will not liberate but rather enslave, and upon "conservatives" who will not stand up and conserve.

The matter of bringing moral language back into our public discourse is a matter of extreme urgency. Failing to bring moral language back into public discourse is failure to witness to the purposes of God in public discourse. The Lord cannot be happy with us on that issue. We are, by our failure, denying the sovereignty of God over all things, public and private.

We opted for "no-fault" divorce because we decided that sorting out the moral responsibility in our courts was more than we could handle. Well, it probably was -- because our moral sensitivities had so deteriorated that we could no longer tell right from wrong. Neither in the civil courts nor in our ecclesiastical courts. And so we thought it would be kinder and gentler to let every man do what was right in his own eyes. We decided (or the Supreme Court decided for us in the Casey decision a few years ago), that each of us has a constitutional right to make up his own meaning for life.

Dear reader, that is open rebellion against the sovereignty of God. God decides the meaning of life, not we. The decision to take that into our own hands, which is what lies behind our fear of moral judgements, is the Fall. We are putting a stamp of approval on the Fall when we inhibit moral language in public discourse.
 

6. We are to be very, very careful in making such judgements, and we must stick to the public evidence as closely as possible. We have no right to consign anyone to hell (nor to heaven). Only rarely are we in a place to give punishments on the basis of our judgements (judges and juries are often in such a place).

God decides the meaning of life, not we, but God tells us openly and clearly His intention, and He expects us to make moral judgements in all areas of our common life on the basis of what we hear from Him. It is precisely our reception of the revelation and word of God, along with our sensitivity to other persons, which enables us to be capable moral judges. We first need to be discipled, to learn the law, to learn the meaning of grace by having experienced it, that is, by walking the way of the cross. But then we need to stand publicly and speak the word from God which we hear and understand.

Are we to run out and start "judging" each other's motives right and left? Of course not. We need to be careful and tentative and correctable. "It looks to me as if...." We will make mistakes, but there are also terrible mistakes being made because we do not assess and discern motives. In any event, God will not let our mistaken judgements run anyone out of heaven who ought to be in.
 

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