Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Tag

Billy Graham Got An Upgrade   Leave a comment

Image result for billy grahamThis morning as I drove to work, the news was filled with the “tragedy” that Billy Graham, the evangelist, had died at 99 years of age. “Oh, so sad,” one commentator said.

No! Billy Graham got an upgrade. He’s no longer living in this messy world with pain and lies and evil. He’s with God — a relationship he worked to sustain partially for 85 years is now his fully.

Enjoy the next eternity of life, Billy. My husband and got to hear you preach once, in Anchorage, in 1984. The thing I remember about that crusade was a story you told about a man who said he was “just a pastor” and how you responded that there was “no such thing as just a pastor”. You went on to say that while you accepted your calling as an evangelist, one of the things you regretted was that it meant you couldn’t be a pastor, which you actually considered a higher calling. Since I hadn’t grown up listening to you and really didn’t know you all that well, I was amazed by your humility.

If there is a tragedy in you passing, it is that future generations will not get to hear you preach in person … this side of the veil anyway. We face a world that could use your wisdom. But you’re beyond that now, and I’m sure well-shed of this life.

 

Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.
My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.
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Darkness & Light Are Incompatible   Leave a comment

Paul had just finished pleading for the affection of the Corinthian believers. Now he issued a command

Do not become partners with those who do not believe. (2 Corinthians 6:14)

A lot of people concentrate on the first part “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” (quoting from the KJV), but you miss a lot of what is said when you do that. For example, the Greek nuance here is very strong “STOP yoking yourselves to unbelievers.” The use of the present imperative shows that Paul wasn’t merely warning the Corinthians of some hypothetical potential danger, but instructing them to stop an action already in progress.

Image result for image of not being unequally yokedSome scholars feel this section is out of place, that maybe it came from another section and was just inserted here by a later scribe because nobody knew where it belonged. Paul was lobbying strenuously for the Corinthians’ affect and then he resumes his lobbying efforts in 7:2. So what’s with the segue?

The misplaced fragment theory is an easy solution to a complex problem that creates more complex problems. It’s easy to shift the “blame” to someone other than Paul, but it doesn’t really address the question. Why did Paul suddenly insert this phrase into the middle of another narrative. Some scholars think he may have been quoting a familiar sermons, a piece of traditional writing or even an Essene text that had been reworked to reflect a Christian point of view. I think that’s extrapolating an awful lot.

I’m going to suggest that the most obvious answer is the most obvious answer. Paul was perhaps responding to news just received from Titus about a continuing problem with pagan associations. Another possibility is that, having asked the Corinthians to “open wide” Paul was now cautioning them about what not to be open to. 1 Corinthians 10:1-22 shows they were clearly in need of such guidance. Perhaps Paul was engaging in a little structural diplomacy. Modern writers call it “gem setting.” By starting and ending with statements of affection, he attempted to cushion the force of his command. The likeliest explanation is that Paul was specifying the cause for the Corinthians’ constraint toward him: their ongoing partnerships with unbelievers. And, ultimately there need not be just one explanation. A number of things could have led Paul to tackle the problem at this point and in this fashion.

We need to remember that he didn’t have a word processor and paper and ink were precious in his day and time. Perhaps he would have rearranged the letter to put points together had he had the modern conveniences that we do today, but he didn’t. And so, there’s a segue in this section, but ultimately, it fits with Paul’s overall message.

What exactly was Paul prohibiting with his command? The range among translations shows that there is no easy answer to this question.

  • Do not try to work together as equals with unbelievers. (TEV)
  • Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. (NRSV)
  • Do not unite yourselves with unbelievers. (NEB)
  • Do not become partners with those who do not believe (NET)

I think we first have to decide who is “the unbeliever” and what does it mean to be “yoked together”. Fourteen out of sixteen Pauline uses of the term “unbeliever” (apistos) occur in 1st and 2nd Corinthians. The majority appear in 1 Corinthians 7 and distinguish those who have made a commitment to Christ from those who have not (7:12, 13, 14, 15). The only other occurrence in 2 Corinthians is used of those whose minds have been blinded by Satan to the light of the gospel (4:4). Here, in 2 Corinthians 6:14, it refers to those with whom there is a conflict of interest stemming from incompatible loyalties.

Paul certainly doesn’t mean to exclude all contact with unbelievers. He wront in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, that the church couldn’t avoid immoral people because that would necessitate removing themselves from the world entirely. So, the command here is concerning a particular kind of contact with unbelievers. Paul’s quotation of Isaiah 52:11, where Israel is commanded to come out from them and be separate suggests contact of a compromising nature (v. 17). But what would constitute a compromising liaison? Would working with an unbeliever be forbidden?

Marriage between a believer and unbeliever would certainly be a legitimate application of the command, which accounts for it being the most common connection made in sermons, but is it the only one? It may not even be the primary application, since the focus throughout is on the church, not the individual believer. This is especially clear from the Old Testament passages Paul invoked to support his prohibition. In each case they deal with God’s covenantal relationship with Israel, which Paul reapplied to the church as the temple of the living God (vv. 16-18).

Image result for image of not being unequally yokedHere in my hometown, the local Food Bank is largely funded by a consortium of churches, but it also receives wide support from civil organizations and individuals. Would this command prohibit such collaborations?

The command is literally Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. The verb heterozygew is an agricultural term that refers to the practice of yoking two unequal kinds of animals (such as an ox and a donkey) to a plow. This would suggest that unequal associations between Christians and non-Christians are what Paul specifically had in mind. Paul was clearly thinking of associations that involve a partnership rather than a casual or occasional working relationship.

The specific kinds of partnerships are left unnamed. This may be because Paul dealt with specific instances in 1 Corinthians, so that the Corinthians understood what kinds of partnerships he meant.

  • He had reprimanded them for allowing their legal disputes with one another to be arbitrated by the secular courts (“in front of unbelievers,” 6:1-6).
  • He had admonished them for participating with pagans in their cultic meals (10:6-22).
  • He had rebuked them for approving of sexual unions with prostitutes (6:12-20) and for taking pride in the sexual liaison between a Christian and his stepmother (5:1-13).

Paul was concerned with the unequal partnerships believers form with secular society( unbelievers). Does this mean that it is not legitimate for the church to be active in society and its structures? Paul addressed this question by means of a series of five rhetorical questions that highlight recognized spheres of incompatibility between Christianity and the secular world. Each is introduced with the relative pronoun tis(what), each considers the partnership of acknowledged opposites (such as light and dark), and each expects the answer “No way.”

For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what  fellowship does light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14b)

Image result for image of no fellowship between light and darknessThe believer and the unbeliever are driven by a different set of values, the one characterized by righteousness (dikaiosyne), the other by lawlessness (anomia). There are no shared values because the one follows God’s will and the other does not. So there can be no real partnership between them.

Light and darkness are common imagery to describe the way of the righteous and the wicked, found throughout the wisdom literature of the Old Testament (for example, “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble,” Proverbs 4:18-19). In Paul’s writings, light is Christ-centered. Darkness was over the whole universe until God created light. Darkness resided in the hearts and minds of humankind God shone the light of the glorious gospel about Christ in our hearts (4:4, 6). This light makes ethical demands on its recipients in the form of fruit that is “good and right and true” (Ephesians 5:9).

And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:15)

The second set of questions considered the partnership of personal opposites. It is widely thought that Belial (Greek Beliar) comes from the Hebrew term beliyya`al, meaning “worthless, good-for-nothing”. Belial as a name for the devil is found only here in the New Testament. Paul usually referred to the Christian’s archenemy as “Satan” (Romans 16:20; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 7:5; 2 Cor 2:11; 11:14; 12:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; 2 Thess 2:9; 1 Timothy 1:20; 5:15). In the Old Testament beliyya`al also designates the realm of the powers of chaos and so comes to mean destruction, wickedness and ruin (as in Deuteronomy 13:13[14]; Judges 19:22; 20:13; 1 Samuel 1:16; Psalms 18:4[5]; 41:8[9]; 101:3; Proverbs 16:27; 19:28; Nahum 1:11[2:1]. In the Qumran Scrolls beliyya`al is the name of the highest angel of darkness and the enemy of the prince of light, while in other Jewish materials Belial is the absolute enemy of God and chief of demons (Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs; Jubilees 1:20; The Lives of the Prophets 4:6, 20; 17:2; Sibylline Oracles 2.167; 3.64-74; Ascension of Isaiah 3-4). It is because the unbeliever’s mind has been blinded by the devil to the truths of the gospel (4:4) that the believer and unbeliever hold nothing in common.

And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living Godjust as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, andthey will be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16)

Paul’s final rhetorical question considered the partnership of religious opposites, which goes to the heart of the problem at Corinth. Turning from idols to serve the living God was a regular part of the message Paul preached to Gentiles (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; compare Acts 17:22-31). Corinth was home to many renowned temples — the temple of Aphrodite (the goddess of love, fertility and beauty) situated on the Acrocorinth, an 1,886-foot-high fortified mountain, and the sanctuary of Asclepius (god of healing). The pagan temples, which were under the patronage of a particular god or goddess, were a focal point of social activity. Invitations along the lines of “So and so invites you to dine at the temple of Serapis” were a regular social possibility for those living in a city like Corinth.

To a Christian, an idol is nothing in the world because there is no God but one (1 Corinthians 8:4). On the other hand, to continue to be involved in the pagan cults would suggest that an idol has value. Participation in cultic meals and temple worship would seriously call into question one’s loyalty to God. While the meat that has been sacrificed to an idol is itself indifferent, participation in the cultic meal is not. Such participation not only gives credibility to the idol but also forges a union with the patron god or goddess. Christian involvement leads others to think that there must be something to this after all. Moreover, while the idol itself may be nothing, there is a power behind the idol that is not to be overlooked. This is why Paul equated participation in cultic meals with becoming partners with demons (1 Corinthians 10:14-22).

Therefore “come out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing, 26  and I will welcome youand I will be a father to youand you will be my sons and daughters,” says the All-Powerful Lord. (2 Corinthians 6:17-18)

It’s becoming increasingly common for Christian ministers, once great supporters of public schools, to now advocate for home schooling and private schools because they have come to recognize that public school curricular materials are increasingly in direct opposition to Christian values, calling into question whether Christians should be involved with the system.

Paul described the church (and the individual Christian) as the temple of the living God, or, better, the “sanctuary” (naos)–the most sacred part of the temple structure (v. 16). Paul’s choice of words is significant. The temple of the living God does not refer to a building. From the days of Solomon to the time of Christ, the temple was a physical structure where God made His presence known to Israel, but with Christ’s coming, God’s temple became the people gathered in Christ’s name. The first-person pronoun is placed at the head of the clause for emphasis–We are the temple of the living God (v. 16). I think most Christians today don’t sufficiently grasp this theological point. The evidence for that is that we talk about “going to church,” “the church building” and “entering the house of God”, which leads insider and outsider alike to think of the church as a physical structure rather than the people who gather there.

To be the temple of the living God is to belong exclusively to God and to forsake all associations that would be incompatible with God’s ownership. To drive home this point, Paul cited six Old Testament passages that spell out what it means to be God’s possession. In each case a text that deals with God’s covenantal relationship with Israel was reapplied to the church (vv. 16-18). Phrases from each passage are woven together in an almost unprecedented way, recalling the testimonial collections of the early church.

I will live with them most likely comes from Leviticus 26:11 (“I will put my dwelling place among you”), but Ezekiel 37:27 is also a possibility (“my dwelling place will be with them”). The verb translated live with (enoikeo) means to “inhabit” or “be at home.” The notion is active rather than passive. To be at home is to exercise one’s rights as the proprietor of the house. So for God to inhabit his church is for him to establish his rule there. Walk among them is taken from Leviticus 26:12, with the minor modification of changing the pronoun from second to third person. To walk among is actually to “walk in and around”. God does not merely exercise His rights as proprietor but moves with familiarity from one room to the next.

I will be their God and they will be my people is a recurring promise of Yahweh to Israel in the Old Testament. The first occurrence is in Leviticus 26:12, the most probable source of Paul’s quote–although it also appears in the familiar texts of Jeremiah 31:33, 32:38 and Ezekiel 37:27. The imagery shifts at this point from dwellings to treaties. The language is that of a sovereign to a vassal. Under the terms of the treaty that bound king and vassal together, the king agreed to protect the vassal, and the vassal promised sole allegiance and obedience. This is why worship of God and worship of idols are fundamentally incompatible. While we no longer relate to God as vassals to a sovereign, the essential principle of exclusive possession underlying the Mosaic covenant still holds true (3:14).

Therefore (v 17) introduces the practical implications of verses 14-16. The pledge of the sovereign’s presence and protection also carried with it certain moral mandates for the vassal. The mandate for Israel was that they were to come out from them and be separate. . . . Touch no unclean thing. Paul quoted from Isaiah 52:11, changing the order of the commands and adding the phrase says the Lord. In Isaiah 52:8-12 the Israelites were warned as they leave Babylon that they are not to take any material goods acquired in exile back with them; and those who carry the sacred temple vessels, which had been carefully preserved in exile, are first to purify themselves. Israel was to sever all ties with the idolatries, practices and impurities of their pagan captors. The same is true for the church. God always demands holy living from His people. Since He takes up lodging among us, we in turn are called to separate ourselves from everything incompatible with his holiness (Bruce 1971:215). The verbs are aorist imperatives (exelthate, aphoristhete), making immediate and decisive separation the appropriate course of action.

If the Corinthians do this, the pledge is that God will receive them and be a father to them. They, in turn, will be sons and daughters (vv. 17-18). I will receive you is probably drawn from Ezekiel 20:34. The second part of the pledge is taken from 2 Samuel 7:14 (2 Kingdoms 7:14): “I will be his father, and he will be my son.” Paul saw God’s promise to David that he will be a father to Solomon and Solomon will be a son to him fulfilled yet again in God’s relationship to the church. The singular son is changed to the plural sons, and the phrase and daughters is added, probably under the influence of Isaiah 43:6. There are to be a family likeness and family affection between God and his people.

The entire string of Old Testament quotations concludes with the phrase says the Lord Almighty. The phrase is a familiar one in the Bible. The term pantokrator, which translates the Hebrew seba’wt, is commonly rendered “almighty” but actually means “master” or “ruler of all”. With this phrase Paul emphasized the awesome truth that it is the One Who rules over all Who chooses to dwell among us and be our Father.

Paul concluded this block of verses with an exhortation to be pure and holy: Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God (7:1). The language and phraseology are not typically Pauline. He might have been quoting a familiar phrase or a well-known ethical injunction. In the sphere of agriculture, katharizo (“purify”) means to “prune away” or “clear” the ground of weeds–which may not be far off the mark here. The more usual way to construe the verb is to “wash” or “cleanse” of dirt or other filth. Paul’s use of the reflexive heautous would support this sense (“to cleanse yourselves“). The aorist tense suggests a decisive action of cleansing (katharisomen).Cleanliness as next to godliness fits well the religious mentality of Paul’s day. Both Greek religion and Judaism placed an emphasis on physical and ritual purity. Within Judaism this mentality was grounded on the presupposition that uncleanness and Yahweh were irreconcilable opposites. The Essenes, in particular, were well known for their rites of purification and daily immersion practices (Link and Schattenmann 1978:104-5).

From what were the Corinthians to cleanse themselves? According to Paul, it was from everything that contaminates body and spirit. Contaminates is actually a noun denoting that which stains, defiles or soils (molysmos). The noun is found only here in the New Testament, although the verb is used twice in Revelation (3:4; 14:4) and once in 1 Corinthians (8:7) of defiling the conscience through the indiscriminate eating of meat sacrificed to idols (compare Jerermiah 23:15). This brings us back full circle to Paul’s opening injunction to stop entering into unequal partnerships with unbelievers (6:14). The close association of molysmos with idolatry suggests that Paul was thinking especially of defilement that comes from dining in the local temples, membership in the pagan cults, ritual prostitution, active engagement in pagan worship and the like.

The defilement mentioned affected body and spirit. The Greek text is literally “flesh and spirit.” Paul could be using popular language to designate the material and immaterial elements of a person, but he used “flesh” and “spirit” interchangeably at 2:13 and 7:5, suggesting he was looking at the human being from two differing perspectives. This fits with Hebraic thinking, which did not compartmentalize the human being but viewed the whole person from different vantage points (such as physical, spiritual, mental).

The positive side of the exhortation is perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. Holiness becomes a reality as we purify ourselves from physical and spiritual pollutants. Purifying ourselves must be done out of reverence for God–that is, in deference and devotion toward Him to whom we owe everything.

That Christians would strive to live a holy life is a wholly appropriate response to the promises of God’s presence (v. 16), His welcome (v. 17) and His fatherhood (v. 18).

Stop Being Victims   Leave a comment

There are a lot of amazing jobs out there. I can imagine being a reporter for a media outlet that was well-respected for providing fair, full and truthful reporting. Brad’s dream job is to be able to invent stuff all day and just give it away to people who need it. Ah, if we only didn’t have to eat ….

Paul had an amazing job. He was an ambassador for Christ. As such, he saw himself  as Jesus’ coworker. They were partners. Jesus had given Paul (and all Christians) the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Now because we are fellow workerswe also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “I heard you at the acceptable time, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” Looknow is the acceptable time; looknow is the day of salvation! 2 Corinthians 6:1-2

Image result for image christian reconciliationIt’s not like God needed Paul’s help. He’s God. He doesn’t need our help either. But God wants us to work with Him because it’s good for us. Brad was often torn between letting the kids help him with home construction projects or asking them to go away so he could get the work done quickly. Our daughter loved to “help” in the kitchen, but her help frequently meant wasted food and dinner being slow to get on the table. But we both put up with this because we wanted to work with our kids so that they would learn how to do things for themselves. In a similar way, God allowed Paul and continues to allow us to work with Him so that we might benefit from the interaction. If you go back into Genesis 1, you realize that God’s plan for our lives never involved ease and indulgent inactivity. We were meant to be workers with God and now pet potatoes.

What does it mean to “receive the grace of God in vain”? It means to receive the goodness and favor of God, yet to hinder the work of grace in your life (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul explained that even if he hadn’t worked as hard as he had, the grace of God would still have been given to him, but in some measure, it would have been given in vain. Grace is, by definition, given freely, but how we receive grace will help to determine how effective it will be in our lives. It’s not given because of any works (past, present or promised) and yet it encourages work. We are not meant to receive grace and grow passive. Paul knew that God gives His grace so that we might work hard and His work might be done.

Verse 2 is a little confusing. We had to turn to Bible commentaries to understand it. It’s a quotation from Isaiah 49:8 and it was meant to give the Corinthian Christians a sense of urgency. God has an acceptable time for us to work with His grace. The day of salvation will not last forever. Sitting down on the job and taking your ease is not in His plan.

We do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry. 2 Corinthians 6:3

Paul was willing to do almost anything to make sure he gave no offense in anything. He was willing to forego payment as a minister of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:3-15). He was willing to allow others to be more prominent. He was willing to work hard and endure hardship. He wasn’t afraid to offend anyone over the gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18-25), but he would not allow his style of ministry to offend anyone.

That didn’t prevent people from blaming and discrediting Paul’s ministry among the Corinthian church. What Paul meant was that his ministry could not be rightly blamed. Paul had no control over false accusations, except to live in such a way that fair-minded people would see accusations as false.

But as God’s servantswe have commended ourselves in every way, with great endurancein persecutions, in difficultiesin distresses, in beatingsin imprisonmentsin riotsin troublesin sleepless nights, in hunger, by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by benevolenceby the Holy Spirit, by genuine love, by truthful teaching, by the power of Godwith weapons of righteousness both for the right hand and for the left, through  glory and dishonorthrough slander and praise; regarded as  impostorsand yet true; as unknownand yet well-knownas dying and yet – see! – we continue to live; as those who are scourged and yet not executed; as sorrowful, but always rejoicing, as  poorbut making many richas having nothingand yet possessing everything.

2 Corinthians 6:4-10

Image result for image christian reconciliationPaul had an impressive resume, things with which he could commend himself. He’d been patient beyond ordinary example. The word in the New Testament “hupomone” carries a connotation of endurance rather than simply waiting. Patience is often perceived as a passive thing – just waiting around for stuff to happen. That’s not how Paul was using the word. He was writing about an active endurance, of bearing hardships in such a triumphant way that it transforms the enduring one.

Why did Paul need endurance? He was often stressed and under pressure, assailed by tribulations, needy and distressed. He’d been flogged, imprisoned, and assaulted by angry mobs. He’d worked hard, slept little and fasted a bunch. Paul had willingly chosen to be a coworker of Jesus, uncomplaining and enduring.

He was not without resources to bulwark against the troubles that came his way. God was with him, supporting him on all sides. The world might lie about him, but God gave him an excellent review.

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthiansour heart has been opened wide to youOur affection for you is not restricted, but you are restricted in your affections for us. Now as a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts to us also. 2 Corinthians 6:11-13

Paul had spent enough time laying down the principles before making a pointed appeal to the Corinthian Christians. He spoke truth in love. The Corinthians were playing “the victim”. Out of godly necessity, he had been firm with them on prior occasions. Now they were claiming they were restricted by Paul’s judgement. I can just imagine what they were saying — “Well, Paul, we’d love to reconcile with you, but we just can’t get over the hurt of what you said before.”

The real problem was that the Corinthian Christians were affecting a victim attitude. It wasn’t that Paul didn’t love them enough, but they loved themselves and the world too much and resented Paul calling them on their selfish attitudes. Paul wanted to see the same honest self-evaluation from them that he had just displayed to them. That was what was needed to bring about reconciliation.

Choices   Leave a comment

Life is full of choices. This morning, I chose to get out of bed and go to work. I could have called in sick, but I chose not to lie. My husband truly enjoys the many choices of coffee we have today – hazelnut, mocha and Sumatran are favorites of his. When I see my neighbor do I ask him about the yelling I heard from his house last night or do I avert my eyes and comment about the weather?

Thereforebecause we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade people, but we are well known to Godand I hope we are well known to your consciences too. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you againbut are giving you an opportunity to be proud of usso that you may be able to answer those who take pride in  outward appearance and not in what is in the heart. For if we are out of our mindsit is for Godif we are of sound mindit is for you. 2 Corinthians 5:11-13

Image result for image of ambassadors for christOur priorities shape how we make such choices. What is truly important to us comes through in what we do and don’t do, what we say and don’t say. Motivations and heart desires drive and define our priorities and, in turn, our decision-making.

In 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, Paul discusses a fundamental, overriding priority for every Christian: being an ambassador for Christ. An ambassador is one who represents another — an emissary. US ambassadors to foreign nations go with a commission from the US President. They will speak in his place and represent his beliefs. What they say will come with his stamp of approval.

Every believer in Christ serves as an ambassador for Christ, for good or for ill. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says that God makes His appeal through believers. Thus, what we say should align with what Christ would say. What we do should align with what He would do.

In this passage, Paul provides three motivations that shaped his prioritization of the role of being an ambassador for Christ.

First, Paul said that he knew the fear of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:11). Paul was aware that he once walked in darkness. The knowledge of God’s light in his innermost heart caused Paul to proclaim Christ as Lord and himself as a servant for Christ’s sake (2 Corinthian 4:5-6). Paul knew fearing the Lord centers on submission to Christ and he persuaded others to do just that.

What did Paul seek to persuade the Corinthians to? We don’t know exactky, but in light of his preceding reference to the judgment of the Christian worker, it is not too improbable to suppose he was talking about the judgment of the non-Christian. Although it really wasn’t that long ago since “hellfire and brimstone” preaching was an evangelical staple, judgment is an uncomfortable subject in most Christian circles today. Nowadays we tend to shy away from the topic, but a substantial part of Jesus’ preaching had to do with warning his audience of impending judgment. Peter pleaded with his audience to save themselves from “this corrupt generation” (Acts 2:40). And mention of “the coming wrath” was a regular component of Paul’s evangelistic preaching (see Acts 17:31; 1 Thess 1:9-10).

Image result for image of ambassadors for christPaul held a healthy respect for Christ as judge and that  motivated Paul to discharge his ministry with integrity, a fact that is plain to God and would have been apparent to the Corinthians if they’d stopped and thought about it. While a person’s motives and intentions can be hidden from others, they cannot be hidden from God. Paul, however, made his ministry available to the scrutiny of all who would care to inspect it, including the Corinthians.

For the love of Christ controls ussince we have concluded this, that Christ died for alltherefore all have diedAnd he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Second, Paul said the love of Christ controlled or compelled him. Paul noted that since one man, Christ, died for all men, all men have thus died. Christ died for all those who live, that they might then live for Him and not for themselves (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). The logic is simple: one righteous man dies for men dead in sin. All who respond to this news with repentance of sin and belief in this one man receive their lives back. How could we not then live for Christ’s sake and not our own?

 

Finally, Paul was motivated to be a faithful ambassador for Christ because this ministry came from God (2 Corinthians 5:18). The message that every believer is Christ’s ambassador did not originate with your college mentor. It did not originate with John Piper or Ravi Zacharius or whoever your favorite Bible teacher is.  The role of ambassador for Christ originates with the same God Who spoke the world into existence and sustains it by the power of His Word. There is no authority that can override this Authority.

The fear of the Lord, the love of Christ and the authority of God drove Paul to prioritize his role as an ambassador of Christ. Such a prioritization should characterize the life of every believer, for we are all ambassadors of Christ.

 

So then from now on we acknowledge no one from an outward human point of view. Even though we have known Christ from such a human point of view, now we do not know him in that way any longer.  2 Corinthians 5:16

Although Jesus walked on this earth as a man and felt what we felt, we should never forget that He is God. This is what the Jesus-as-a-man-and-great-teacher crowd fail to understand. Jesus is God and He can work amazing works in mankind because He is our Creator.

So then, if anyone is in Christhe is a new creationwhat is old has passed away – lookwhat is new has comeAnd all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christand who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. In other wordsin Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s  trespasses against themand he has given us the message of reconciliation.  2 Corinthians 5:17-19

This touches on the area of Christian freedom. Paul said rightly employed Christian freedom prioritizes the glory of God and exaltation of Christ as opposed to selfish gain. Too often Christian freedom is equated with being able to watch certain movies and drink certain beverages. The central purpose of Christ setting people free is that they might enter His kingdom, be conformed to His image and glorify God. In shorthand: He died that we die to sin and live for God (Romans 6:10-11).

Therefore we are ambassadors for Christas though God were making His plea through usWe plead with you on Christ’s behalf“Be reconciled to God! God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for usso that in him we would become the righteousness of God 2 Corinthians 5:20-21

This reality did not simply make logical sense to Paul: it moved him. In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul recounted the ways the love of Christ and how being an ambassador of Christ shaped his actions toward the church at Corinth. Through imprisonments, beatings and other afflictions, Paul was insistent in faithfully representing Christ. Paul concluded that the Corinthians believers are not restricted by him, but in their own affections.

The church at Corinth knew about the sacrifice of Christ, but it did not shape their lives. They were aware of His death on their behalf, but were not rightly moved to live on His behalf. We, God’s people, today are prone to respond to Christ’s sacrifice more like the Corinthians than like Paul.

 

Life is full of choices. But God does not leave us without direction for such choices. Instead, He gives us priorities that make the way clear. Every believer is Christ’s ambassador. Thus, everything we do and say reflects positively or negatively on Him.

In 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, Paul showed how the fear of the Lord, the love of Christ and the authority of God compelled him to prioritize his role as Christ’s ambassador. Let us pray that the Lord will give us the grace to respond in a like manner. Then perhaps we can faithfully represent Christ in the words we say, the things we do and the choices we make each day.

 

Christians Who Don’t Care   Leave a comment

Image result for image of so what christiansSome Christians really annoy me. I am a Christian, but I am also a critic of my fellows. There are all kinds of us and some of us really aren’t true Christians – as defined at Antioch where the name “Christian” was first used as a negative label to describe Jesus’ followers. Those Antioch Christians believed:

  1. Jesus died for their sins.
  2. They were saved by that and not anything owing to their own behavior.
  3. They radically identified with Jesus so that there was no question of their allegiance.
  4. Because of that salvation experience, they were ethically required to obey God’s laws and evangelize non-Christians.
  5. They were a multi-racial church that allowed believers to live within their own culture while seeking unity on theological issues, while also allowing a plurality of voices within the congregation.
  6. They believed strongly in the local church community.
  7. They were caring and generous.
  8. They gathered often for teaching and discipleship training, for the equipping of leadership and disciples.
  9. They worshiped the God Jesus with all their hearts, minds, souls and strength.

There are other attributes I could describe, but this is the heart of what being a Biblical Christian is.

So there are a lot of other kinds of Christians and some of them give lip service to that label of “Christianity” without truly subscribing to the essence of Christianity. But rather than critique the whole Church, I’m just going to focus on one kind today. Let’s call them the “so-what” Christians. These folks, when presented with some negative assertion about the U.S. government, the military, wars, or U.S. foreign policy don’t bother with inquiring as to its validity, doing some research, or spending more than three seconds thinking about it. They simply dismiss it with “So what?,” usually followed by some ridiculous statement.

Here are some examples:

The U.S. military has bombed Afghan wedding parties:

So what? The bride and groom were going to produce potential terrorists.

The U.S. military has killed thousands of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan:

So what? They are just collateral damage.

The United States gives billions of dollars a year in foreign aid to Israel:

So what? The Jews are God’s chosen people.

The U.S. military has a thousand overseas military bases:

So what? America is the exceptional nation.

U.S. drone strikes regularly miss their targets and kills non-combatants:

So what? America makes no apologies.

The United States has been fighting in Afghanistan longer than against Nazi Germany:

So what? It is better to fight “over there” instead of “over here.” (I actually used to believe this one!)

The real defense budget is around a trillion dollars:

So what? The military keeps us safe.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a socialist minister:

So what? America is still one nation under God.

The U.S. military kills innocent Muslims that were no threat to the United States:

So what? All Muslims are terrorists.

Inmates at Guantanamo are being held indefinitely with neither charge nor trial:

So what? Terrorists don’t need trials.

U.S. soldiers have committed war crimes:

So what? There’s always a few bad apples in every bushel.

U.S. soldiers recite filthy cadences in basic training:

So what? I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.

The U.S. military pays sports teams for patriotic displays and troop tributes:

So what? God bless America.

The United States is increasing military actions in Africa:

So what? America is the greatest country in the world.

The U.S. military keeps brothels open overseas:

So what? The troops are defending our freedoms.

A preemptive war against Iraq was wrong because Iraq was no threat to the United States:

So what? There is “a time of war” (Ecclesiastes 3:8).

Thousands of U.S. soldiers died unnecessarily in Iraq and Afghanistan:

So what? There is no greater honor than to die for your country.

Military recruiters lie to impressionable young people:

So what? There is nothing more noble than military service.

Veterans are committing suicide at an alarming rate:

So what? They should not feel guilty for anything they did while in service to their country. (But they do, folks, so let’s have that conversation).

 

The U.S. military and intelligence services have tortured people:

So what? As long as it saves the life of one American.

The U.S. military has created tens of thousands of widows and orphans in Iraq and Afghanistan:

So what? The terrorists who kill Jews are Muslims.

The U.S. military killed millions of Vietnamese in the Vietnam War:

So what? The only good communist is a dead communist.

The U.S. military has bombed seven Muslim countries over the past few years:

So what? Islam is a false religion. (It is! But Muslims believe Christianity is a false religion. Would that justify them bombing us?).

The United States hasn’t constitutionally declared war on any country since World War II:

So what? Romans 13.

War is the greatest destroyer of civil liberties:

So what? Civil liberties are the concern of leftists. (Say the people who claim to be Constitutionalists)

The U.S. military is a bombing, maiming, and killing machine:

So what? The LORD is a man of war (Exodus 15:3).

It is shameful that some conservative Christians have this “So what?” attitude. It is even worse when this mindset is followed by ridiculous statements that display their willful ignorance. What to do about them? Educate them, instruct them, enlighten them and admonish them. They give all Christians a bad name and they harm the ministry of Christ.

Posted January 30, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Pleasing the Right One   Leave a comment

The Apostle Paul’s aim was to be a faithful witness of the gospel among the Gentiles. Yet, he was not what the Greeks would consider an astounding speaker. One could even say that he was the opposite of a good Greek speaker. Yet, he was faithful in spreading the gospel amongst Gentile cities, including Corinth. After some time, false teachers had crept in and were trying to turn the Corinthians’ hearts away from Paul by claiming that he was not a true apostle.

Image result for image of an eternal dwelling placeThe appeal which Paul makes in theses verses is that his ministry, as an apostle, is not discredited because of his weak appearance. Paul had a hope that even though his ministry had taken such a toll on his body, he had a future resurrection that he was going to partake of. And such a hope gave him courage to press on in faithful ministry.

For we know that if our earthly housethe tent we live in, is dismantled, we have a building from Goda house not built by human handsthat is eternal in the heavensFor in this earthly house we groanbecause we desire to put on our heavenly dwellingif indeedafter we have put on our heavenly house, we will not be found naked. For we groan while we are in this tent, since we are weighed down, because we do not want to be unclothedbut clothedso that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is Godwho gave us the Spirit as a down payment. 2 Corinthians 5:1-5

In chapter 4 verse 7 Paul began contrasting the treasure of the message found in verses 4-6 of the same chapter to the frailty of the minister, “We have this treasure (the ministry) in jars of clay (the minister, i.e. himself)” (4:7). What follows in verses 8-15 are the afflictions which Paul experienced in his ministry. While the message that he carried was glorious, the trials that the ministry put him through were harsh. He got through these trials by looking back to meeting the resurrected Jesus and forward to his own coming resurrection.

Even though Paul suffered through tribulations, the ministry was being accomplished. The Corinthians came to accept the gospel.  Paul had completed this ministry of unveiling eyes to the glory of the Lord (3:1-18) among the Corinthians. He had seen the gospel do its work in their lives. He sold himself out for them. All the afflictions listed through this section was all for their sakes (15a). He poured himself out so that they could be recipients and benefactors of this veil removing ministry and He knows that they will be present with him at the resurrection of Christ.

Now Paul shifted from speaking about his ministry to his weakness of appearance. He had made this sacrifice of ministry even though it had taken a toll on His body. The key to understanding what is going on in this context is found in 5:12. His deteriorating physical condition and shameful plight caused some in Corinth to wonder out loud about his power as an apostle. The false teachers were attacking Paul on the grounds that He was weak in appearance and a minister of a covenant more glorious than Moses’ covenant could be expected to be a glorious figure. Some in the ancient world interpreted affliction as a sign of a god’s judgment and as something dishonorable. Whatever the specific reason was, the false apostles were attacking Paul about his appearance. Apparently the Corinthians were beginning to accept these charges. Could they really trust a person that had such a weak appearance?

Paul knew the truth about this world. Physical decay and abuse are not reasons to doubt one’s ministry. On the contrary”, the abuse of his body in the present was no comparison to the glory which he would receive. The afflictions of this age were preparing him for a coming glory which cannot be compared to anything on this earth (4:17). Paul kept his vision located on the future where eternal things reside (18).

 

Verses 1-5 are about a future dwelling with the Lord when one dies. The gaze of the Christian should be on what is eternal. Paul looked ahead to the resurrection which he had talked about in his first letter to the Corinthians. (1 Corinthians 15:35-57). There Paul discusses the resurrection from the dead. Regarding the body Paul refers to it as dying in “weakness”, “natural”, and “from earth” from verse 42-47.Both talk about being clothed when the believer dies. Both speak about the body as perishing. And both end the section alluding to the same passage in Isaiah 25:8.

Following the context of the pervious verse Paul is obviously talking about the eternal things which He looked to. There is a clear contrast going on through these passages.  Looking at the terms Paul used we can see the resurrection being describe. The first term that he employs is a “tent” (οἰκία τοῦ σκήνους).  Our present bodies are like a tent. A tent “is a common picture of the earthly life and its setting in the body.” Using the tent imagery, “describes only the instability, and thus the vulnerability, of one’s mortal existence.”

Then, opposed to this weak tent, the believer will receive an eternal dwelling. There have been many proposals to what the term οἰκοδομὴν means here. Thrall lists nine different understandings of this term:

  1. An individual resurrection body.
  2. A heavenly habitation in the sense of the dwelling mentioned in John 14:2.
  3. An interim heavenly body, received immediately after death.
  4. A kind of spiritual garment, received in baptism, worn beneath the ‘garment’ of the material body and preserved beyond the grave.
  5. The body of Christ.
  6. The heavenly temple.
  7. The resurrection body of Christ.
  8. An image of the glory of the eschatological age.
  9. The heavenly dimension of present existence.

Yet, the most agreed-upon immediate meaning would be the spiritual body one would receive at the resurrection.Thus, while the body that Paul possessed would be destroyed, an eternal body was waiting for Him in the future.

The final question we have to ask concerns the meaning of the word “γυμνοὶ” in verse 3. The verse begins be stating that by putting on[29] this heavenly dwelling we may not be found “naked”. So the meaning of “naked” has direct influence on the understanding of the previous terms.

There are three main understandings of this term. It is either understood as “homeless,” “garmentless,” or “bodiless.” The understanding of “homeless” is to use architectural language which matches the terms “tent” and “building” in verses 1-2. But this understanding can be dismissed due to the fact that the word does not carry such a meaning.

The term “garment” would be used to covey a moral view. Meaning, Paul does not want to be found being guilty of sin before God.Two problems become apparent with this suggestion,  however. The first is that moral judgment is not in the immediate context. We do not see judgment until verse 10. So, where it could be a possibility, it isn’t our first choice since the theme of mortal judgment is not found in the immediate context. The second problem is that the correlating word used in verse 4, ἐκδύσασθαι, is unquestionably referring to resurrection. Because when one is clothed, the mortal (τὸ θνητὸν) is swallowed up by life (τῆς ζωῆς). And such language conveys a resurrection, not a moral standing.

Thus, the “bodiless” understanding is the best.[34] It fits with the over all context of resurrection. It, also, fits with the specific terms Paul uses in this section. Thus Paul is saying that by putting on this heavenly dwelling he will not be found in a bodiless state. [35] So, Paul is looking forward to the day when he will receive his resurrection body.

Paul used the metaphor of buildings and clothing to describe the future resurrection that awaited him. When Paul wrote that he was currently living in a ἡ ἐπίγειος οἰκία τοῦ σκήνους we understand him saying that he lived in a fragile body. Yet he knew that when the tent was destroyed he would posses a οἰκοδομὴν ἐκ θεοῦ which is a future resurrected body. And because he knew he would posses it, there was no fear that he would be γυμνοὶ, or bodiless.

Therefore, while some may consider a battered and bruised body something to be ashamed of, Paul saw it as only temporary, because he looked forward to a heavenly dwelling that would clothe him for eternity.

Therefore we are always full of courageand we know that as long as we are alive here on earth we are absent from the Lord  for we  live by faithnot by sight. Thus we are full of courage and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So then whether we are alive or awaywe make it our ambition to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christso that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the bodywhether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:6-10

Because of the future hope that was before him Paul could make it his aim to be pleasing to God. In verses 6-10 Paul expressed the courage which he had because of this promise and what he was working toward before he reached that hope. He could give himself to gospel ministry because of this future hope, which was a base for the courage to do his ministry.

Paul had a courage to accomplish the ministry which streams from the faith on the guarantee of the Spirit. Paul was still in this temporary body and not with the Lord, but the promise was enough for him to keep going forward. Paul expressed having faith in the promises of God and not on what he saw. He could face the afflictions upon his body by the ministry because he was confident that God would supply a superior replacement for his body. Thus, courage fills Paul as he performs his calling as an apostle.

Paul’s courage was directed at the single aim to be well pleasing to Jesus so that he could stand confidently before the judgment seat of Christ. Whatever his condition, Paul sought to be pleasing in his actions. This is completely contrary to the critics who would try to discount him based on weak appearance. For Paul, what ultimately mattered was God’s view of his ministry, not man’s, because it would be before Christ’s judgment seat where the deeds done in the body would be judged as to whether they were good or bad.

 

 

Safety, security, and peacefulness are words that can describe too much of American evangelicalism. We think of preachers, we see them nicely dressed in the attire we deem appropriate — whether it be a two-piece suit or shorts with a T-shirt. We want them to look the way we want them to look. Given those reasons Paul would probably be an outcast in our churches. He was not safe, and he did not look the part.

Image result for image of the bema seat judgmentYet, that is how true gospel ministry is suppose to look. We’re supposed to give ourselves to the glory of God and love people by telling them the gospel message, even when it hurts. Paul understood that. His eyes were centered on being well-pleasing to God and his heart was poured out for the Corinthians. He did this no matter if it took him to places where he abounded in material things or to places where death seemed imminent.

The encouragement that was set before him in all of this was the hope of the resurrection. He knew that the suffering, caused by being faithful to God, would be compensated in full by his Lord. Thus, he pressed on no matter how much it cost.

Posted January 28, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Whatever Happened to American Culture?   1 comment

Back when my daughter was in high school, she averred that the United States did not have a culture of its own and never had had.

My brother, who is almost 13 years older than me, remembers the 1950s when America was a great place to live — safe, decent, children went to good public schools, even blue-collar fathers brought home middle-class incomes, so moms could stay home with the kids. We all know the television shows. While those are fiction, Jeff tells me that they’re not wholly made-up. Those shows are a good reflection of the traditional values that largely permeated the times.

Where did it all go? How did that America become the sleazy, decadent place we live in today – so different that those who grew up prior to the ’60s feel like it’s a foreign country? Did the degradation just “happen”?

Of course not! In fact, a deliberate agenda was followed to steal our culture and leave a new and very different one in its place. The story of how and why is one of the most important parts of our nation’s history – and it is a story almost no one knows. The people behind it wanted it that way.

It a complicated history, but the short version is that America’s traditional culture, which had grown up over generations from our Western, Judeo-Christian roots, was swept aside by an ideology. We know that ideology best as “political correctness” or “multi-culturalism.” Some observers say it’s really is cultural Marxism, Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms in an effort that goes back not to the 1960s, but to World War I.

That’s sort of stunning, right? Just as the old economic Marxism of the Soviet Union has faded away, a new cultural Marxism has become the ruling ideology of America’s elites. The No. 1 goal of that cultural Marxism, since its creation, has been the destruction of Western culture and the Christian religion.

To understand anything, we have to know its history. To understand who stole our culture, we need to take a look at the history of “political correctness.”

 

Before World War I, Marxist theory said that if Europe ever erupted in war, the working classes in every European country would rise in revolt, overthrow their governments and create a new Communist Europe. But war did break out in the summer of 1914 and the working classes didn’t revolt or create a new Communist Europe.  Instead, the workers in every European country lined up by the millions to fight their country’s enemies. A Communist revolution did occur in Russia in 1917, but attempts to spread that revolution to other countries failed because the workers did not support it.

After World War I ended in 1918, Marxist theorists had to ask themselves the question: What went wrong? Marxists seem incapable of admitting their theory sucks, so two leading Marxist intellectuals, Antonio Gramsci in Italy and Georg Lukacs in Hungary (Lukacs was considered the most brilliant Marxist thinker since Marx himself) independently came up with the same answer. They said that Western culture and the Christian religion had so blinded the working class to its true, Marxist class interests, that a Communist revolution was impossible in the West, until both could be destroyed. That objective, established as cultural Marxism’s goal right at the beginning, has never changed.

Image result for image of home schoolingGramsci famously laid out a as-yet fairly successful strategy for destroying Christianity and Western culture. Instead of calling for a Communist revolution up front, as in Russia, he said Marxists in the West should take political power last, after a “long march through the institutions” – the schools, the media, even the churches, every institution that could influence the culture. Interestingly, Mussolini recognized the danger Gramsci posed and jailed him. His influence remained small until the 1960s, when his works, especially the “Prison Notebooks,” were rediscovered. At which time, America, no stranger to the long march through the institutions, began to see substantive changes in our culture.

Georg Lukacs proved more influential. In 1918, he became deputy commissar for culture in the short-lived Bela Kun Bolshevik regime in Hungary, where he asked “Who will save us from Western civilization?” He instituted what he called “cultural terrorism.” One of its main components was introducing sex education into Hungarian schools. Lukacs realized that if he could destroy the country’s traditional sexual morals, he would have taken a giant step toward destroying its traditional culture and Christian faith.

Far from rallying to Lukacs’ “cultural terrorism,” the Hungarian working class was so outraged by it that when Romania invaded Hungary, the workers would not fight for the Bela Kun government, and it fell. Lukacs disappeared, but not for long. In 1923, he turned up at a “Marxist Study Week” in Germany sponsored by a young Marxist named Felix Weil who had inherited a fortune. Weil and the others who attended that study week were fascinated by Lukacs’ cultural perspective on Marxism.

Weil responded by using some of his money to set up a new think tank at Frankfurt University in Germany. Originally it was to be called the “Institute for Marxism,” but cultural Marxists understood they could be far more effective if they concealed their real nature and objectives. They convinced Weil to give the new institute a neutral-sounding name, the “Institute for Social Research.” Soon known simply as the “Frankfurt School,” the Institute for Social Research would become the place where political correctness, as we now know it, was developed. The basic answer to the question “Who stole our culture?” is the cultural Marxists of the Frankfurt School.

At first, the Institute worked mainly on conventional Marxist issues such as the labor movement. But in 1930, that changed dramatically, when the Institute was taken over by a new director, a brilliant young Marxist intellectual named Max Horkheimer, who had been strongly influenced by Georg Lukacs. He immediately set to work to turn the Frankfurt School into the place where Lukacs’ pioneering work on cultural Marxism could be developed further into a full-blown ideology.

Image result for image of degradation of american cultureHorkheimer brought some new members into the Frankfurt School. Perhaps the most important was Theodor Adorno, who would become Horkheimer’s most creative collaborator. Other new members included two psychologists, Eric Fromm and Wilhelm Reich, who were noted promoters of feminism and matriarchy, and a young graduate student named Herbert Marcuse.

With the help of this new blood, Horkheimer made three major advances in the development of cultural Marxism. First, he broke with Marx’s view that culture was merely part of society’s “superstructure” determined by economic factors. He said culture was an independent and very important factor in shaping a society.

Second, again contrary to Marx, he announced that in the future, the working class would not be the agent of revolution. He left open the question of who would play that role (that would be answered by Marcuse in the 1950s.

Third, Horkheimer and the other Frankfurt School members decided that the key to destroying Western culture was to cross Marx with Freud. They argued that just as workers were oppressed under capitalism, so under Western culture, everyone lived in a constant state of psychological repression. “Liberating” everyone from that repression became one of cultural Marxism’s main goals. Even more important, they realized that psychology offered them a far more powerful tool than philosophy for destroying Western culture: psychological conditioning.

Today, when Hollywood’s cultural Marxists want to “normalize” something like homosexuality (thus “liberating” us from “repression”), they broadcast television show after television show where the only normal-seeming white male is a homosexual. People absorb the lessons the cultural Marxists want them to learn without even knowing they are being taught. That is how psychological conditioning works.

The Frankfurt School was well on the way to creating political correctness. Then suddenly, fate intervened. In 1933, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in Germany, where the Frankfurt School was located. Since the Frankfurt School was Marxist, and the Nazis hated Marxism, and since almost all its members were Jewish, it decided to leave Germany. In 1934, the Frankfurt School, including its leading members from Germany, was re-established in New York City with help from Columbia University. Soon, its focus shifted from destroying traditional Western culture in Germany to doing so in the United States.

Taking advantage of American hospitality, the Frankfurt School soon resumed its intellectual work to create cultural Marxism. To its earlier achievements in Germany, it added these new developments.

Critical Theory

To serve its purpose of “negating” Western culture, the Frankfurt School developed a powerful tool it called “Critical Theory.” By subjecting every traditional institution, starting with family, to endless, unremitting criticism (the Frankfurt School was careful never to define what it was for, only what it was against), it hoped to bring them down. Critical Theory is the basis for the “studies” departments that now inhabit American colleges and universities. Not surprisingly, those departments are the home turf of academic political correctness.

Studies in prejudice

The Frankfurt School sought to define traditional attitudes on every issue as “prejudice” in a series of academic studies that culminated in Adorno’s immensely influential book, “The Authoritarian Personality,” published in 1950. They invented a bogus “F-scale” that purported to tie traditional beliefs on sexual morals, relations between men and women and questions touching on the family to support for fascism. Today, the favorite term the politically correct use for anyone who disagrees with them is “fascist.”

Domination

Orthodox Marxism argued that all of history is determined by who owned the means of production. The Frankfurt School again departed from orthodox Marxism, saying history was determined by which groups, defined as men, women, races, religions, etc., had power or “dominance” over other groups. Certain groups, especially white males, were labeled “oppressors,” while other groups were defined as “victims.” Victims were automatically good, oppressors bad, just by what group they came from, regardless of individual behavior.

Though Marxists, the members of the Frankfurt School also drew from Nietzsche, whom they admired, along with the Marquis de Sade, for his defiance against traditional morals. They incorporated into their cultural Marxism what Nietzsche called the “transvaluation of all values.” What that means, in plain English, is that all the old sins become virtues, and all the old virtues become sins. Homosexuality is a fine and good thing, but anyone who thinks men and women should have different social roles is an evil “fascist.” That is what political correctness now teaches children in public schools all across America. The Frankfurt School wrote about American public education. It said it did not matter if school children learned any skills or any facts. All that mattered was that they graduate from the schools with the right “attitudes” on certain questions.

Media and entertainment

Led by Adorno, the Frankfurt School initially opposed entertainment media, which they thought “commodified” culture. Then, they started to listen to Walter Benjamin, a close friend of Horkheimer and Adorno, who argued that cultural Marxism could make powerful use of tools like radio, film and later television to psychologically condition the public. Benjamin’s view prevailed, and Horkheimer and Adorno spent the World War II years in Hollywood. It is no accident that the entertainment industry is now cultural Marxism’s most powerful weapon.

The growth of Marxism in the United States

After World War II and the defeat of the Nazis, Horkheimer, Adorno and most of the other members of the Frankfurt School returned to Germany, where the Institute re-established itself in Frankfurt with the help of the American occupation authorities. Cultural Marxism in time became the unofficial but all-pervasive ideology of the Federal Republic of Germany, but they didn’t abandon their project in the United States.

Herbert Marcuse remained here, and he set about translating the very difficult academic writings of other members of the Frankfurt School into Americanized terms. His book “Eros and Civilization” used the Frankfurt School’s crossing of Marx with Freud to argue that if we would only “liberate non-procreative eros” through “polymorphous perversity,” we could create a new paradise where there would be only play and no work. “Eros and Civilization” became one of the main texts of the New Left in the 1960s: “Make Love Not War”, “God is Love”, and “Let’s Give the World A Coke” being the most familiar 1960s phrases to us in the 21st century.

Marcuse also widened the Frankfurt School’s intellectual work. In the early 1930s, Horkheimer had left open the question of who would replace the working class as the agent of Marxist revolution. In the 1950s, Marcuse answered the question, saying it would be a coalition of students, blacks, feminist women and homosexuals – the core of the student rebellion of the 1960s, and the sacred “victims groups” of political correctness today. Marcuse further took one of political correctness’s favorite words, “tolerance,” and gave it a new meaning. He defined “liberating tolerance” as tolerance for all ideas and movements coming from the left, and intolerance for all ideas and movements coming from the right. When you hear the cultural Marxists today call for “tolerance,” they mean Marcuse’s “liberating tolerance” (just as when they call for “diversity,” they mean uniformity of belief in their ideology).

The student rebellion of the 1960s, driven largely by opposition to the draft for the Vietnam War, gave Marcuse a historic opportunity. As perhaps its most famous “guru,” he injected the Frankfurt School’s cultural Marxism into the baby boom generation. Of course, they did not understand what it really was. As was true from the Institute’s beginning, Marcuse and the few other people “in the know” did not advertise that political correctness and multi-culturalism as a form of Marxism. That would have defeated their purpose. By keeping their true nature in the shadows, the effects of their teachings was devastating to a whole generation of Americans, especially the university-educated elite, who absorbed cultural Marxism as their own, accepting a poisonous ideology that sought to destroy America’s traditional culture and Christian faith. That generation, which now runs every elite institution in America, wages a ceaseless war on all traditional beliefs and institutions. They have largely won that war as most of America’s traditional culture lies in ruins.

A counter-strategy

Now you know who stole our culture. The question is, what are we, as Christians and as cultural conservatives, going to do about it?

We can choose between two strategies. The first is to try to retake the existing institutions – the public schools, the universities, the media, the entertainment industry and most of the mainline churches – from the cultural Marxists. They expect us to try to do that, they are ready for it, and we would find ourselves, with but small voice and few resources compared to theirs, making a frontal assault against prepared defensive positions. Any soldier can tell you that’s a recipe for defeat.

There is another, more promising strategy. We can separate ourselves and our families from the institutions the cultural Marxists control and build new institutions for ourselves, institutions that reflect and will help us recover our traditional Western culture.

Several years ago, Paul Weyrich wrote an open letter to the conservative movement suggesting this strategy. While Republican leaders demurred, his letter resonated powerfully with grass-roots conservatives. Many of them are already part of the homeschooling movement to secede from the corrupt, dominant culture and create parallel institutions. Similar movements are beginning to offer sound alternatives in other aspects of life, including movements to promote small, often organic family farms and to develop community markets for those farms’ products. If Brave New World’s motto is “Think globally, act locally,” ours should be “Think locally, act locally.”

Thus, our strategy for undoing what cultural Marxism has done to America has a certain parallel to its own strategy, as Gramsci laid it out so long ago. Gramsci called for Marxists to undertake a “long march through the institutions.” Our counter-strategy would be a long march to create our own institutions. It will not happen quickly, or easily. It will be the work of generations – as was theirs. They were patient, because they knew the “inevitable forces of history” were on their side. As the Creator of the Universe is on our side, can we not be equally patient, and persevering?

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