For Seekers; Four Best Books

There are four books that are at this time are my four chosen books to give to seekers for the truth.  I would like to include my book The Biblical World View, An Apologetic.  Yes, since I wrote it and gave great effort to it, I think it is a very helpful and comprehensive book, but to pierce the heart, I think the four I name here are amazing.  I will make my book #5.  

  1. N. T. Wright, “Surprised by Hope” is an amazing book.  It is the best book I have ever read both on the resurrection of Yeshua and on our resurrection and life in the Age to Come.  Anglican Bishop Wright is one of today’s top New Testament theologians, presently teaching in the renowned department at St. Andrews University in Scotland.   He powerfully presents the evidence that Yeshua rose from the dead.  Then he presents the wonderful hope that comes from the fact that our resurrection life is a real bodily life fit for a totally renewed earth.  His language attains to a C. S. Lewis level of quality. 
  1. John Burke, “Imagine Heaven” is the most balanced and theologically solid book I have yet read on what is being called “near-death experiences.”  The most miraculous of these are clearly death and resurrection experiences, not near-death experiences.  The common and different descriptions of heaven, people knowing things that could not be known in the natural, and the transformation of those who have experienced such, is amazing and stirs faith and hope.  It is a great book to give to those with terminal illnesses. My best friend from our public high school read it before he died. It gave him and his wife a more vivid hope.  The book is proof that the body is not our whole self and that we indeed survive death.  It also shows that Yeshua is Lord of heaven and earth. 
  1. Craig Keener, “Miracles Todayis a shortened version with additions of his monumental two large volumes, Miracles, the Credibility of New Testament Miracles.  The latter is about the same kind of miracles happening today as in the Gospels and Acts. Keener is one of the world’s leading New Testament theologians. He teaches at Asbury Seminary and has written some of the most foundational books in his field. Keener travels the world to document miracles, ones that cannot be naturalistically explained. They are done on the cutting edge of Kingdom expansion.  Keener shows that miracles are predominantly and overwhelmingly done in the name and power of Yeshua, confirm the Gospel, and manifest compassion for the sick.   The compendium is amazing.   Keener’s great capability as a theologian puts this all in a framework of solid biblical theology and interpretation.  Dr. Keener is a great gift.  This book is like drinking from a fire hose.  Wonderful miracle after wonderful miracle is documented, often with medical evidence. 
  1. Thomas Dubay, “The Evidential Power of Beauty.  Dubay was an amazing professor at Catholic University in Washington, D. C.  He also was a leader in spiritual retreats.  Dubay presents the evidence from creation and how beauty pervades creation, from the fauna and flora to microscopic life to the macroscopic level of the whole universe.  His presentation of intelligent design with beauty is one of the best I have read. Then he presents the beauty of Yeshua, his life, his teaching, his death, and resurrection.  And finally, he presents the evidence from the lives of the saints.  The book can take your breath away.  I try to read this book again every year. It is that good 

Today’s evidence is much greater by far than in my student days.  Taken all together, the evidence and argument for the truth of our faith is amazing.  As I said about miracles, the whole evidence as well is like drinking from a fire hose.  I wish the evidence available to me in 1968 was like the evidence I now have available.  The developments in science in the last 60s years have been very helpful, and now the evidence form the miraculous which two of the books document (#2, and #3 above) is far more than I had in those years. 

Godly Children, Emotional Maturity, and Screen Time  

Members of the Tikkun America Apostolic Team asked me to write an article on this subject after I expressed my deep concern on how children were being raised in our western societies (I include Israel in this).  

When Patty founded our full-time school for children (Ets Chayim School) in 1980, the motto was “Raising Children who are Mighty in Spirit.”  We did not mean by this that the school would raise the children instead of their parents, but that the school would be a support for the parents in this goal.  What could be a better goal of education? Watchman Nee, the great Chinese Christian soul wrote, that a spiritual person is one that is in such a degree of unity with God that he or she hears the voice of the Spirit in their inner spirit with accuracy and easily obeys.  This voice comes through when Scripture is understood, and the Spirit empowers to obey.  Fellowship with the Father and Yeshua and sensitivity to the Spirit is the center of life.  From this center, we are led into studies and maturity in understanding the content of the Bible and its teaching.  From this, a young person begins in teen years to develop a biblical worldview.  This provides a basis for a critical evaluation of literature, art, science, philosophies, politics, and the larger popular culture.  This education continues after high school and after and into college and beyond for those who go into higher education.  

There are many helpful involvements to this end.  Some of the most important is prayer times and reading the Bible with children including teaching them to hear the voice of the Spirit subsequent to their being born again and being filled with the Spirit. Yes, they can prophesy.  The goal is a deeply trusting relationship with Yeshua from the youngest ages.  One element that is key to this quest is training children to love to read good books, indeed creating a reading culture. This begins with parents reading to their children.  Laura Bush, the wife of President George W. Bush, was a great proponent of such reading.  Reading trains the brain, expands both imagination and reasoning ability.  When this is rooted in the family, it is part of bonding and growth with parents.  

There are many other activities that help greatly in developing a fuller personality. 

  1. Team sports is a wonderful experience where the members bond together in the joy of sports.  I believe this waS very important in our children’s development.
  2. Great vacations that are meaningful are very helpful.  Hiking and learning about nature is part of the program.  
  3. Family day trips are great bonding and teaching times as well. Some trips teach about history.  From the Mid Atlantic to North East, history lessons are everywhere. 
  4. Developing musical ability is a great gain. Playing in an orchestra develops team friendship and the joy of experiencing great beauty. 
  5. Teaching the appreciation of beauty, both in nature and art, is important. Doing artwork together is great fun.  

And I can go on and on and you can no doubt add to this list. 

Many parents are thwarted in their goals.  They have been blindsided by the internet and the ever-present screen that captures the attention of their children.  I had placed the theme of this article on my to-do list, but before I got to it, I read an article in the Jerusalem Post, Nov. 26, 2021.  One of my favorite JPost writers, Amotz Asa El, decried the whole phenomenon and recommended a book by a noted author, Micah Goodman, Broken Attention, How to Heal a World Fracture by Technology. Sadly, the book is now only in Hebrew, but I expect an English version.  Much of what he said is not new but is documented by leading psychologists.  It is worth quoting Goldman, but I note first that other studies by mainstream psychologists have documented a decrease in some important cognitive abilities, including the ability to give long term attention to reading and sustained presentations of content, and the ability to engage in logical debate and the weighing of evidence.  People with a new short attention span can only engage with sound bites of material.  I am not speaking of everyone, but that this is a tendency that affects many.  You can imagine how bad this is for spiritual life which requires serious and meditative Bible reading and quiet listening to the Spirit. God-focused living does not seem to fit into the limitations of the attention span of the screen-produced brain/mind. It also leads to a decrease in the ability to experience friendship intimacy which is based on face-to-face communication. 

I quote Goodman (who is confirmed by so many others including some of the social media founders), He asserts that the “Cyber era’s social media, gadgetry, and habits (are) clinically addictive, politically ruinous, and socially destructive.”   These are “fixtures of an unplanned revolution that begs moral correction.”  

Asa El continues, “To understand the addictiveness one need only look at today’s teenagers, kids, and even toddlers to understand that we face an evolutionary crisis.  People spend hours and hours gazing at plastic screens instead of interacting with each other.  Worse, even when they do face each other, people often let the smartphone interrupt the conversation.  It is but one symptom of a global plague.”  

“Mankind has unknowingly fallen prey to corporate interests that turned human attention into a commodity,” according to Goodman.  “Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Google, Amazon, and the rest of the digital era’s social media, search engines, and marketing behemoths mine our attention and sell it to business interests while exacting from us an exorbitant social and psychological price.”  He goes on to note that what at first was seen as an answer to loneliness by connecting people, that rejoined old friends, became an engine of alienation.  

There is a “sharp rise in social network users’ sense of loneliness, sadness, and fear. . . Digital interactions are for the mind what candy is for the body; it feels like food, but it isn’t nutritious, and in fact, is poisonous.”  

“Technology sterilizes communication.  Content is transmitted, but energy is not.  ‘The more people are technologically connected the more they feel psychologically lonely.”  Many will note the correlation of screen addiction with suicide rates.

Games on the screen are also included in the destruction.  Again, it contributes to decreasing a broader level of brain functioning and replaces the kind of comradery gained in in-person sports and team sports.  Thumbs replace the functioning of the whole body.  Winning and losing with thumbs brings a satisfaction but of a different kind.  Some hold that it feeds a predator instinct.  

Goodman also noted how bad it has been for politics where serious discourse has been replaced by slogans and soundbites, but this is not the concern of this article.  

I have raised the alarm before, but I frequently see parents who think it is beyond them. Breaking the addiction will elicit a response of anger even if the parents explain.  Parents want to avoid the anger.  It is like removing a drug.  Requiring activities that rebuild broader brain and soul functioning is the challenge that follows, but until the young person reaches majority age, it is crucial to have the conversation and enforce standards.  Strict limiting of screen time will be necessary and in some cases as with alcoholics, none at all can be allowed.  Maybe phone calls and replace social media.  For younger children, some counsel to avoid screen time totally except for stories that parents oversee and games played with parents.  For example, Monopoly can be played on an Ipad.  

The answer is to screen addition is to create a culture of personal interaction, prayer, Bible, reading, great books, missionary stories, miracle stories, other great books, great art, great music, great movies, personal face-to-face friendships for children, and more.  The home should be mostly a screen-free zone when there are times set for personal interaction, art, and reading.  Screen time can be good for writing, homework, and yes, research for older young people. Yes, serious research articles are available!  So there is good via the internet.  However, when we have family interaction time, all devices need to be put aside. 

It is my goal in our network to see the leaders of congregations give leadership to families on these issues and for the leader’s family to be an example.  Here is the conclusion of Asa El.  He joins this conclusion to the Feast of Chanukah. 

“Beyond that struggle lurked an even deeper confrontation one that pitted Judea’s quest for national assertion, religious freedom, and personal sovereignty against idolatry’s scorn for introspection, morality, justice, and truth.”

“There, in a nutshell, are also the elements of the digital era’s threat, whose defeat will require the same conviction, courage, and resolve that the Maccabees displayed 2,188 years ago, and our candles will salute Sunday tonight.”

Dear reader, did you note that he nails it that screen attachment is idolatry that replaces personal love attachment?  Asa El’s article is entitled, “Hanukkah and the New Idolatry.” Whenever something is valued or given attachment outside of God’s order of valuation, it is idolatry.  Screen attachment is idolatry.  People find way too much meaning in it and invest way too much time and energy in it. No wonder it leads to deadness in spiritual things and to greater depression and suicide. Human beings were not created for this false type of habit-fulfillment, no more than pornography or drugs.  I hope a movement grows up to shut off the screen. Even now some secular leaders who developed social media are ahead of us and are removing devices for their children!  Let’s develop a godly and deeper counter-culture.   

Critical Race Theory Updates

I have continued to read Critical Race Theory books.  Nothing I have read changes my basic conclusions that have been summarized in essays on my Official Facebook Page.  The book by Richard Delgado, An Introduction to Critical Race Theory, is a helpful book from a key proponent that gives a good outline of the movement.  Also, I have been reading Dr. Derek Bell whose books are a foundation for the movement.  

One of the interesting things is the variety and disagreement in the movement.  Delgado points to two different sub-schools, one the materialist and the other the idealist.  Strangely though all are relativists in the issue of truth or epistemology, they yet assert their views as true constantly.  Both sub-schools see systemic racism as pervasive but somewhat hidden from view, especially from whites who think they are not prejudiced.  The materialist-oriented CRT proponent wants to make progress in the material conditions of the black community.  To do that, he wants to deal with laws that are not flexible enough to promote blacks or are too rigid in over punishing black lawbreakers for crimes that are not that significant.  (That is changing)  He wants to see affirmative action to increase the numbers of blacks admitted to top universities and hired in various fields.   Income redistribution is a key for them.  There is a neo-Marxist orientation in some.  Capitalism itself is at fault.  It will necessarily lead to income disparities and competition that will leave out poor blacks.  Others are not as Marxist but want to foster percentages of representation in various fields.  They also reject some of the measures for qualification.  The materialists believe that it is a waste of time to try to change white people by all kinds of exercises and classroom indoctrination on white privilege, shaming whites, and focusing on microaggressions, real or perceived in white responses to blacks.  Money is power and these folks want the money.  Other marginalized groups are included, some Hispanics and Native Americans, of course.  But other minorities such as more white-looking Hispanics, Asians, and Jews don’t fit the white privilege disparities.  This is a problem for the theory.  Nigerian Americans’ success is a case in point. 

The idealists want to change the hearts of white people, to understand what white privilege has done.  They want all whites to share in the guilt of white history, to feel shame, and thus lean over backward to treat blacks with compassion and deference.  This change of mindset will be a key to change society. When children grow up under CRT as applied to them, they will become white adults who will no longer exercise such privilege.  They will become anti-racists.

Some CRT people do not think they will gain their goals but that the struggle itself gives meaning. This was the case with the later writings of Derek Bell. What pessimism compared to the Gospel. 

There are myriad problems that time and space do not permit me to deal with.  However, the legal materialist CRT folks want to adjust law and the economy to favor the disadvantaged.  They give examples as to how the law as it is now applied, as an objective standard, hurts disfavored minorities, especially blacks.  Yet they do not give us an objective one law standard that all could see is fair to all.  As in the Torah, there was one law for the native Israelite and the stranger and no favoritism.  In some CRT theories, there is an argument for favoritism and flexibility for judges to apply different subjective standards. On the other hand, CRT folks do give good examples as to how sentencing has been more severe for blacks than for whites.  I am in favor of looking at standards and adjusting them where they are shown to be deficient, but the quest for one objective standard in law that applies to all must not be forsaken, or we will find a terrible deterioration in human relationships with all sides thinking that they are being unfairly treated.  Justice will then be seen as arbitrary. CRT people seek to tell stories of people that show unfairness, but such stories cannot be the standard for making law since all believe that the law was unfair to them since it cannot fairly cover all cases.  Objective measures and statistics are important plus a good analysis of those statistics. 

One CRT example is how educational testing unfairly affects disadvantaged people.  However, this is a case for having better more objective tests that make sense.  Ultimately somewhere tests will have to be taken to qualify.  Engineers and scientists will have to prove capability.  We cannot simply fill quotas for engineers, chemists, and brain surgeons.  Can you imagine the buildings that would collapse?  The better idea is extra help for the disadvantaged populations that they may do better.  In addition, the neo-Marxist solutions in distribution will shrink the economy and lead to greater overall poverty.  This has been shown again and again. Not all CRT folks go neo-Marxist, but many do.  Others just want a more level playing field.  However, the CRT legal and educational recommendations remove objectivity (some say objectivity is a white value) and replace it with complexities whereby fairness is impossible to evaluate.  As this affects courts, the idea of clear standards is being lost.  We see it today in how justice is applied to conservatives and liberals.  I would say that with regard to hiring, that it should be the goal to favor qualified disadvantaged groups, but how can we enforce that?!  It is subtle and employers can give defenses. Sometimes criteria of achievement in tests and personal history are used that are irrelevant to performing the job well, though they may show diligence. 

The idealists are the ones primarily affecting our educational system, corporate training, government training, and even the military.  The idea is to get whites to confess to corporate white privilege which benefits them and to confess the corporate sins of the U. S.  They are then made to feel shame and guilt.  Then they are to find redemption in works righteousness. Myriad examples are brought forth on how people hire according to their favoritism for people like themselves; how little whites understand blacks and say offensive things even when they mean no harm and show such a lack of understanding.  Yes, we can learn to appreciate cultural differences better.  However, the list of microaggressions and offenses almost becomes a catalog. The legalism involved will cause whites to separate believing they are walking on eggshells.  Alas, this is now coming into our schools.  We are now seeing this affect the election in Virginia and the reaction against CRT in the Louden County public school system.  Though they deny teaching CRT, they are being dishonest.  The concern is what will teachers of low wisdom and intelligence do in applying the CRT in which they are being instructed?   One six-year-old came home and told her mother in Louden County, “Am I evil because I am white?”  Some people in corporations, government, the military, and schools will go along with this, but many after being put through the wringer will quietly be resentful and will be less anti-racist than before.  

CRT idealists who are trying to change the culture do not understand how to change hearts.  It comes from relational bonding.  Building interracial teams together in mutual understanding and love at all levels changes the hearts, but CRT teaching places a barrier to the natural sharing that would develop.  CRT’s catalog of offenses and ways to gain parity in society is complex and could be a barrier to understanding.  One example is microaggressions.  Yes, they exist.  But the examples are so numerous that a white will come away saying it is hopeless. Plus. the offended see wrong intent and heart where it does not exist. Wounded people also misinterpret with prejudice.  CRT ties people into a pretzel of legalism and a secular works righteousness as the way of redemption from white sin. It is anti-Gospel in this. 

This leads us to the contrast to a biblical solution.  First, the Bible teaches that we have to have a change of heart, “All have sinned.”  We must all have the change, black and white.   This change of heart begins by being born again and then entering discipleship where we learn to love.  Attachment love in a community of people who are committed to one another and correct one another in love is the key to growing into the likeness of Yeshua.  The problem with the churches is a discipleship deficit.  CRT seeks to see people change on the basis of a left-brain process of providing information and then calling for a decision of the will to change and be anti-racist.  This is not how heart change happens.  They also seek to see people change through shame, but this never works. Change is a heart matter.  The Bible says we are to love one another but it also says we are to love our enemies. This is a work of the Spirit. 

So, there are two principles for black/white relationships that begin with the Gospel.  First, those in Messiah must love one another and then love their enemies.  This love means seeking the best for them and desiring their destiny fulfillment.  The second is that love covers a multitude of sins (microaggressions).  If every little perceived aggression is pursued there will be no time for anything.  Significant sin is to be confronted, but not every little thing.  When believers have built interracial communities, they then become positive change agents in society.  Love does take time to listen and understand the other but does not separate into conclaves as some CRT people recommend for blacks in a kind of black power way. 

The Bible shows that God’s heart is, first of all, with the disadvantaged.  Therefore,  the believer will seek standards of merit for hiring, promotion, and schooling that are fairer to the disadvantaged but still require sufficient proof of merit.  Then they will work with minorities to see them educated and trained to qualify.  The boss who is a believer will favor the one from a disadvantaged group over one from an advantaged group if they are both really qualified.  Why?  Because God is always wanting to lift the disadvantaged.  The believer will see standards in law that are objective to all but do not unfairly treat the disadvantaged worse than others.  He will seek to see educational opportunities and school choices to lift the disadvantaged,  He will foster a large policing presence to cut down murder and crime, but one well trained to gain the trust of the minority community. 

The Gospel is understood as a call to discipleship from the beginning.  When we love we seek to understand.  I really have profound doubt in CRT making a positive difference.  It is because their secular approach cannot change the heart.  Enforced outcomes will produce resentment.  I actually think it will foster race division, not unity and reconciliation.  The Gospel is the way to heart change, and when the way of Yeshua permeates the society those who are advantaged will be committed in love to lift the disadvantaged.  The answer is in the power and love of God.  

The Moral Argument 

Famous writers from even a very long time ago, have presented the moral argument for the existence of God.  It is found in Paul (Shaul) the apostle and C. S. Lewis (Mere Christianity) and countless others.  There are several aspects to this argument. 

First, we find ourselves with a conscience which either convicts us or tells us that we are guilty or not guilty.  The guilty or not guilty judgment for our behavior is a constant part of our human experience.  We are guilty before the law as our conscience understands right and wrong.  That is an amazing fact about human beings that is not the case with animals at any level. Animals survive and do quite well by instinct and mental awareness.  They don’t’ follow moral standards.  There are two aspects to this. 

  1. Who are we guilty before?  There are many things where we believe we are guilty or not though the wrong we perceive does not violate any civil law of society.  Lying, mistreating another, unfair anger, cheating, manipulating, selfishly grabbing the bigger piece, little things, and big things, all produce guilt. Good behavior produces a sense of peace.  If we are guilty, who is it before?  If there is a Law Giver, this would explain that we are guilty before Him.  We could argue that we are guilty before parents, teachers, and society who taught us standards, but as an adult, we will not be punished by our parents or teachers.  If we are very bad, people will avoid us.  However, guilt has to do with punishment.  How do we find forgiveness from our guilt?  The nature of guilt points to One before whom we are guilty.  This is not absolute proof, but as C. S. Lewis says, a pointer. 
  2. Secondly, we believe in right and wrong.  Some people say there is really no right and wrong. It is relative and only because we think it so.  However, no one acts as if this is the case.  When a driver cuts us off in a dangerous move, we do not say, “Wow, I don’t like it when people do that.”  Rather we get angry sometimes and say that it is wrong.  When someone works harder and better but does not get promoted but the one not performing as well does get it due to favoritism, we do not say, “I feel bad and wish it were not so.”  We say, “it is unjust and wrong.”  We constantly judge others as right and wrong for their behavior as if there is a standard of right and wrong that they violate.  It is not just a matter of feeling preferences.  Romans 2 states that this sense of right and wrong is from God. We will thus be judged by the very standards we express in our judgment of others.  Though cultures vary in their view of right and wrong, there is much in common as well. So where does the law come from, the idea of just and unjust?  To really take right and wrong seriously it can not just be what parents and teachers happened to say to us. Again, the law and standards of justice can be most easily understood as from a great Lawgiver.  He is the one before whom we must give an account, the ultimate Judge before whom we will gain reward or punishment. Our forgiveness and guilt can be removed only by repenting and asking forgiveness from Him and the ones we have wronged and by making restitution or payback for the wrong. 

This understanding of right and wrong, Lawgiver and conscience, and the guilty and not guilty verdicts of conscience have been the overwhelming consensus of western culture for 1600 years.  Only in our day do we see a loss of confidence in these views.   It has produced terrible social decline. Those who make the moral argument are not saying conscience is a perfect guide but that it tells us something.  It is a pointer.  Law, conscience, guilt, etc. make sense if there is a righteous God who created us and gives the Law. However, we also argue that we need biblical revelation to really understand God’s law more accurately and his way of forgiveness and judgment for those who do not repent.  

Privilege and Disadvantage

It is wrong for a person to be disadvantaged due to the color of their skin.  This is the cry of the Critical Race people on the injustice of white privilege.  Does it exist?  Yes, in court sentencing until recently (amazingly Trump acted to right this), in how police treat black young men in comparison to whites, in educational opportunity, and more.  However, there are circumstances where blacks may be more privileged as when a black is accepted to a top-flight university instead of a higher-performing Asian, or in being raised in a sports culture, especially basketball.  The well-known player in his day, Enos Country Slaughter, was amazed that he could lead a life making a salary at a game he loved, baseball.  In Basketball the pro-players all would be rich with the right financial discipline and investment.  That is a great privilege.  However, having said all that, I do believe that black skin is generally a disadvantage and white skin an advantage.  But it is overly stressed since it is not determinative.  Dark Indian immigrants do very well.  It is not as in the days of Jim Crow a barrier that cannot be overcome.  Those some whites will hire those who “look like and act like me” others really seek diversity.  I don’t think there are clear stats to know how this is breaking down. However, I want to talk about another issue of advantages and disadvantages through the lens of my life and then speak of some applications.  

My Jewish father died before I was 9 years old.  That was a terrible disadvantage.  I watched my mother who cried and grieved daily for years.  That also was a disadvantage.  However, my father left my mother a good sum in inheritance. He was a successful Wall Street broker.  That was a great advantage.  We never lacked food or clothing and grew up living in a large lovely home without a mortgage.  We all went to very good public schools in Northern New Jersey.  That was an advantage, a great privilege.  I became amazingly fat and was greatly rejected in elementary school to high school until I was 15.  I had few friends.  It was a terrible disadvantage.  Normal-looking thin people were so much more privileged.  Yet when I was 12 ½ I was drawn to God and went to Church.  This was connected to my Norwegian roots.  My Uncle was on the board of Billy Graham’s organization and an elder in the church where I attended. I prayed to accept Jesus.  Then I went to summer camp and dedicated my life to Jesus.  I also had friends at camp that accepted me.  After this, though at times my weight, connected to thyroid issues, gave me depression, I was yet mostly optimistic.  I had this deep conviction or certainty that my life would be good, and I would succeed because God was with me.  I did lose weight when I was 15.  Acceptance was not a big issue anymore though I was not cool.  I had two strong friends in the secular school and a few in the church youth group.  The family funds were enough to pay for Wheaton College and graduate school.  What a privilege this was!  I look back on the anti-Semitism of my grandparent’s era, living in the poor area of the Lower East Side of New York, but somehow, they made it financially, and I am so privileged that they did.  After a time of depression and doubt, God provided a spiritual father, an amazing man who nurtured me back to faith.  What a privilege to be loved and mentored by Wheaton’s Chaplain Evan Welsh. 

God has a good calling intended for all, but these callings are not equal.  To prevent a good destiny is a central meaning of injustice. (Destiny prevention) However, I have other thoughts.  This is for believers.  Paul notes that in the Body we should take care of those members who are especially not as beautiful or seemingly important just as we take care of the less presentable parts of our bodies.  Do note the many issues of disadvantage, not just black skin.  Those who are beautiful in form are given preferences in hiring, marriage prospects, and social advantages.  Ever notice how the women look on Fox news?  Yet, this can come with challenges. I sometimes think the middling people, not greatly beautiful or ugly but middling, not rich but not poor but well supplied, maybe more well-adjusted.  Each of us is called by God to make the most of what God has provided, for we all have advantages and privileges and disadvantages.  Those who were raised in loving two-parent families with a father and mother who loved each other show amazing privilege.  This may be the number one predictor of success.  Lastly, I mention the disadvantages of mental and physical handicaps, autism, genetic deformities, crippling from accidents or even from birth.  

The job of the Body of Messiah is to provide communities of love where those who are disadvantaged are well-loved and from that love, and healing can go on to succeed in life as God has called them. The emphasis of the Gospel is toward the disadvantaged; those who are marginalized.  With the power of the Spirit, all can come into the most amazing privilege and success.  All have a purpose in Him.  

What is God Like

In our last article, we argued that life on earth including human life can only be explained by intelligent design or that there is a designer who brought about our world. This is the overwhelming conclusion of most cultures.  Ancient China had the concept of the will of heaven and living in accord with the order of heaven.  Other cultures describe the gods in the plural as being the source of life on earth.  Maybe gods are eternal or maybe not.  The gods usually have one at the head of their company.  India posited Brahmin as the ultimate god idea but one that is left vague with lesser gods having great sway on earth. Native Americans speak of the Great Spirit and a happy life after death for good people. Africans worship many gods but sometimes perceive an ultimate god above all but only a few tribes seek to relate to him and not only the lesser gods.  Judaism and Christianity see God as ultimately good and loving.  

The dilemma is, what can be known about God or the realm of divinity without God revealing himself in acts and speech?  We now want to look at what can be known about God or the Divine realm without the revelation that is in the Bible.  In Acts 17 in Paul’s preaching, we are told that from one original human couple all peoples were created and given boundaries that they might grope after God and perhaps find him.  Indeed, this groping after seems universal. In addition, some cultures seem to fall into worshipping dark powers, sacrifice human beings on altars, eat other human beings, and do evil that is hard to comprehend, though in our own recent past terrible evil has been done, such as by the Nazis in killing six million Jews or Stalin in Russia starving from ten to thirty million.  Part of the motive was evil religious ideas. We return to our original question.  

Human beings find themselves in a world of great beauty and wonderful experiences.  Human love between men and women, the birth of children, the joy of nature, animals both pets and wild animals, flowers, sports, art, music, friendship shout that God or the divine is good and loving and pours out good gifts on us.  On the other hand, human beings know terrible pain, disease, suffering, death, war, terrible evil done by some against others, natural disasters, floods, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, droughts, accidents, and more.  This mixture of the wonderful and the terrible has led to three main theories or responses from those who believe that our universe is designed.  The first is Deism.  Yes, there is God, and He created the universe.  It was something He was interested in doing.  But He does not care about people and is uninvolved.  He created our capacities but left them all up to us and the forces of nature.  It is as if God created a clock wound it up and then released it to run on its own.  The other theory is dualism, that there are really two gods, the good and the evil god.  The ancient religious philosopher Manni in Persia put forth this view, hence called Manichaeanism.   The good comes from the good god and the evil from the evil god.  The great science fiction series Star Wars gets close to this idea, the good side of the Force and the dark side.  When they say they can experience the empowerment of the Force, it is the good side of the Force and they say, “May the Force be with you.”  But one can go over to the dark side of the Force.  The third response is to say it is too mysterious.  Yes, we see the Divine, but we see such good and such evil, that it is an ultimate mystery.  We cannot know, but this existence is an illusion (Buddhism). Hindus believe that the good and evil experienced in this life are a matter of just deserts due to our past lives and sins. If we pursue goodness, eventually we escape the wheel of reincarnation birth and death and enter the eternal realm of bliss with no more suffering. 

So, where does this leave us? I think a few more comments are in order.  First, the idea of one ultimate God is a more credible idea than two gods or many.  This is because we experience one universe.  The universe is an integrated whole and does not look like a multiverse with many different not integrated parts running on its own.  We are not a multiverse, but a universe.  Science discovers scientific laws that apply to the whole universe, from Mars to the farthest galaxy.  The basic elements are the same on that famous chart of the elements and the discoveries of physics not only of the atom but sub-atomic realities apply to the whole universe. So the designer behind the universe would be an ultimate unity.

So, we conclude that there is one ultimate God.  However, does God love us and is He good?  There is so much astonishing beauty and joy in living that it seems He is good when we focus on that.  But there is so much evil, pain and suffering that it seems He is not. This is called the problem of evil. Those who deny God’s goodness or even his existence due to evil and suffering (a truly foolish idea to deny design) have to deal with the problem of good.  How can there be no God of goodness with all the wonderful experiences in this life, all the good things in life? 

C. S. Lewis was one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century.  Children know of him through his children’s series, The Narnia Chronicles. Lewis put forth one more argument in his book Mere Christianity.  It was that our conscience that justifies us for good actions and condemns us for evil actions.  This is an important hint concerning the nature of the universe.  This is similar to Paul’s argument in Romans 1, 2.  Conscience is not a perfect guide, but it tells us that we are condemned or affirmed by a judge that is above us.  The judge is the Creator of the Universe.  This is strong evidence that God is good and cares about good and evil behavior.  However, is there an ultimate judgment beyond this life.  Many cultures have come to that conclusion. 

However, without biblical revelation, we just do not have enough information. 

Sukkot | Tabernacles

The sabbath rest of the first day of Sukkot/Tabernacles is now coming to an end.  We now celebrate the next six days as well but not as sabbath day rest days until the 8th day of rest, Shmini Atzeret. 

Messianic Jews and Christians who are zealous for a Jewish rooted (original context) understanding of their faith are familiar with the major Feasts and Holy Days.  Most know their historical meaning to ancient Israel, fulfillment in Yeshua, and last days and Age to Come symbolism.  I will not belabor this, but no doubt many of you see site after site and blog after blog teaching on this.  Here is a very brief review and then some new comments on what is not usually taught.

The Fall Feasts come on the seventh month of the biblical calendar.  It is the month of making perfect (as symbolized in the number 7).  The month begins with the sound of the Shofar.  It is called Rosh Hoshana due to the Rabbinic teaching that the universe began on this day. It is taught in Judaism, and I think it is likely, that the blowing of the Shofar is a clarion call to get ready and fully engage and prepare for the whole month.  We do see a foreshadowing of the trumpets of the judgments in the book of Revelation.  On the 10th day Yom Kippur is observed.  Confession of sin takes place, sin is forgiven and covered (kippur).  Of course Yeshua, our High Priest, fulfilled the meanings and brought His own blood into the most Holy Place.  The day looks forward to the general repentance of Israel and the nations where repentance will take place and His Yom Kippur/Passover atonement will be applied more fully to the whole world.

Sukkot is a festival of the final harvest of the year.   It is also the largest harvest.  We are to dwell in makeshift dwellings and remember our time in the desert before entering the promised Land.  This is to remind us that God provided in the desert and that our provision comes from Him.   However, it also looks forward to the Kingdom of God being in full manifestation on Earth.  After the last wars, the nations will enter the Kingdom of God and send representatives to the Feast, including all who battled against Israel and survived.  We are therefore commanded to rejoice during the week of the Feast.  This was the Feast in which Yeshua proclaimed himself the Light of the World.   The context may have been the candle lighting ceremonies in the Temple.  Also, he proclaimed himself the Water of Life.  “If any man thirst let him come to me and drink.”

The rejoicing on Sukkot would have especially been an enhanced rejoicing every seventh year, the Sabbatical Year, and the 50th year, the Jubilee Year.  First on the Sabbatical year, all debts were canceled.  All who were indebted were given a new start. This is an amazing law.  It influenced American law so that one can declare bankruptcy and be released from debt every seventh year.  All who fell into need and debt would have a new start, a clean slate.  Also, the land was to lie fallow and be renewed.  God promised that if Israel acted in faith, the sixth year harvest and what grew naturally would be so abundant, there would be no lack.  Such a law could only be possible by supernatural provision by faith obedience.  As a principle of agriculture, we know that land renewal is so important and fields must have fallow years.  The Feast of Sukkot therefore would produce much greater rejoicing in the sabbatical year.

The Jubilee Year was much greater than the Sabbatical Year.  Not only was debt canceled.  That happened in 7th Sabbatical year in the cycle, the 49th year, but the 49th year led to the 50th where land was redistributed.  All who had to sell their land now received it back.  The land returns to the family owners, even if the leader of the family who lost it had died. Since in an agricultural society great wealth is in the Land, the restoration of the Land in this way precluded an ensconced class of the very rich and those who would live on the land as serfs.

Yeshua proclaimed his ministry as a time of Jubilee and his announcement in Luke 4, that his ministry would reverse circumstances for the poor, the sick, the demonized, the grieving, the imprisoned and the abused, was an amazing announcement. It proclaimed liberty as the announcement on Yom Kippur on the Jubilee year.  “Proclaim Liberty throughout the Land” became the cry of the patriots in the American Revolutionary War and is inscribed on the Liberty Bell.  The goal of the Torah is amazing,  to see that all had provision and a store of wealth.

Alas, we are told in Jeremiah that Israel did not have faith to keep the Jubilee year. This raises other questions about economics.  The Bible allows for rich and poor in society, and gaining wealth in trade, production and more. It is not re-distributed.  But a part of the wealth is, that is the land. In the great debate between the most libertarian, the progressive Democrat and the Socialists is a great debate with a huge gap of the divide. For Libertarians, income taxes are a type of stealing.  The Democrats say that the rich need to pay their fair share (which percent is never defined and then the higher taxes end up being charged to the consumer in higher prices).  The socialists want to level wealth and income.  What a great gulf!  There is a middle ground, that the wealthy would pay for lifting the poor by providing job training, real education, and police protection so that the young would not turn to criminals for their advance.  Rather than the government doing so, I would like to see the incentives for taxes such that the rich have to give a percent that they choose to private programs that they believe are doing the best job with real results. Corporations can do job training and then hire.  This is more productive than paying for often worthless college experiences.

At any rate, let us rejoice this Sukkot.

Image source bit.ly/2ZcL89H 

A Patriots History of the United States

I wrote an article on my official page on Howard Zinn’s two histories of the United States, one the extensive one and one for high schools.  My daughter read these and alerted me to the fact that Zinn’s text was used in many high schools.  She said it was Neo-Marxist and presented a very dark history.  She said it explains why so many young adults today, college-age and after, are anti-American and not patriotic, not even in the way of support for the kind of qualified moderate patriotism I support.  I read Zinn and did an extensive review on my official Facebook page.  Yes, Zinn shows a lot of the dark side of the United States, but also exaggerates sometimes and ignores the good.  Thankfully he is critical of Stalin and the violence of the Soviet Union as a betrayal of Marx, but no nation who has followed Marx has not been violent and super oppressive.  Sad to see young people today turn to Marxism,  they are simply uneducated. Haven’t enough been slaughtered yet? From falsely seeing U. S. wealth connected to slavery (it was not so in the North), only giving limited place to the Christian fight against slavery (see Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God), and not showing how free enterprise has lifted more people, even poor people and even poor immigrants, millions of them, he presents a very skewed history.  Yes, he was right on the deep national sin of slavery, then Jim Crow, and then the terrible history with the Native Americans.  The Pilgrims and Puritans were presented in a negative and skewed way. Having read the biographies of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln and more, I know about how conflicted some were over slavery, but sadly the Virginia presidents still practiced it.  Adams is not covered adequately by Zinn, and he was very anti-slavery.  We cannot whitewash slavery.  But the revolution was not fought to keep the elite rich and only for them.  It was not fought to maintain slavery.  The Patriot history shows how false that claim is.  Washington did acquire land like crazy, but he also cared about the whole country.  Marxism colors Zinn’s whole presentation.  He cannot see the good, except for fighting the Nazis.  

Someone recommended the book A Patriots History of the United States by Larry Schwiekart and Michael Allen.  Both are serious tenured professors at major universities.  I wondered if this book would be a whitewash of America’s sins, but I found the presentation to be brilliant, conservative, honest, and even magisterial.  Schwiekart is a noted historian of business and economics.  He shows the great gains of free enterprise in lifting the population.  He shows the good of American exceptionalism and building a nation on an idea or ideas and the reasons for its strength.  Yet, he shows the exceptionally evil aspects of American history.  He blasts the compromise that led to Jim Crow and the giving up of enforcing the 14th amendment and equality in the South. He celebrates the Civil rights laws and Martin Luther King but shows how the Great Society gave wrong incentives and destroyed progress.  Brilliant!  His coverage of Vietnam was excellent.  It is not the received narrative that I rejected 40 years ago. 

I think there was one weakness in the book.  It did not adequately present the almost slave labor conditions for immigrant workers, especially Chinese, who were so abused in the 19th and early 20th century.  The railroad building abuse, the sweatshops  (this included many Jewish immigrants), and unsafe working conditions for women.  Amazing that state power was used to bust unions.  But Zinn even over covers that.  I am a supporter of Unions, but against public-sector unions as was Franklin Roosevelt.  Also, when labor is tight and skilled, wages go up without the need for unions.  However, they are needed for low-wage services especially. 

God help the United States for fostering anti-Americanism in our schools. At the same time, as followers of Yeshua (Jesus) let us be honest about the good and the bad.  Let us seek repentance for the bad when it was rooted in the churches, either in southern churches fostering evil or in the indifference in many of the white churches. 

The Great Loss of the Young Adult Generation to the Body of the Messiah

How is it possible that statistics say that the younger generation has been lost in droves to the Body of the Messiah? I don’t think the answers are difficult to find.  

The basic answer is that this generation in the deepest level of soul was formed much more by the secular world than by a culture of radical loyal followers of the Messiah.  Most parents allowed this generation to be raised by a public school system that does not respect biblical values in contradistinction to the time period when I was raised in public schools.  Teachers impart who they are.  Sometimes this includes demonic presence.  Our children were given at least 7 hours a day year after year.  Then they mostly attended secular higher education if they continued schooling.  The whole orientation and atmosphere were anti-biblical.  In addition, the young adult generation is the first generation raised on the internet.  Many found much anti-biblical content to influence them. However, there is another more insidious and hidden aspect.  Focus on the screen hour after hour produces for many an inability to focus and concentrate.  Brain physiologists and psychologists note a change in brain function and addictive behavior.  This produces an inability to read deeply or to appreciate the depth of truth, beauty, and goodness. Thomas Dubay in his great book, The Evidential Power of Beauty, one of the most profound books I have ever read, and an amazing apologetic for biblical faith, notes that beauty reveals God.  However, a jaded generation no longer can appreciate beauty on any deep level.  Their minds are dulled.  There is a lack of interest even in the beauties of sports, both participatory and spectator.  In summary, we did not produce a counterculture, but were blindsided and inadvertently allowed the world to raise our children.  

There are other reasons.  Did our children see and experience such a reality in God that it was difficult for them to deny it?  Did they witness real miracles?  Did they see an effective congregational life that brought deliverance to people according to the Luke 4:18 model of Yeshua and his Apostles where the marginalized are healed and freed?  Were they impressed with what the Church has done for the poor and marginalized?  Were they led into their own encounter with Yeshua and found that it was an unshakable reality?

So where do we begin?  First, the generation that seems lost can be awakened in revival.  Let us first repent for missing it and giving our children over to the world.  Let us pray and believe that Yeshua will reveal himself and awake the slumbering, for such is this generation of young adults, woke to deceptive philosophies of our age, but dead or asleep to the truth and reality of Yeshua. 

Secondly, let us now begin with what remains, those who are followers of Yeshua and raising young children.  We begin with preschool children.  Let us create a true counterculture including alternative schools, both private schools (as we did some 40 years ago) and home school consortiums.  Let us turn off the internet and have no unsupervised internet for minor children, and let us limit the time on the screen from none at all (yes, it is not necessary to do internet) to limited time.  Then let us create a reading culture in our families by reading great stories to our children, having them read great books, and discussing those books.  Let us give our children access to beauty, by trips in nature, camping, learning musical instruments, listening to great music, and seeing great art.  Let us center our lives on Bible reading, together and in personal devotions.  We can also take our children to venues where they will witness miracles and can see the reality of God’s interventions in amazing ways.  Let us lead them into being born again, immersed in the Spirit, and having a passionate relationship with God. 

When we speak about creating a counterculture, we are aware that the danger in so protecting our children that they will not be able to cope with the world.  We need much wisdom here.  Sufficient and guided understanding of the world, its teachings, its influence, and more is needed if our children are to be able to face this world with courage and not fall apart when exposed to it.  As children need to play in the dirt to develop their immune system, so sufficient guided exposure is needed if the children when they grow up will be able to face this world with courage and not be overwhelmed by it.  Yes, we need to educate our children about the world so they will not be overwhelmed.  We can raise a generation that for the most part will not abandon the faith. 

 

The Anti-Racist Church and its influence on civil society and public policy

Biblical Anti-Racism, Pt. II

CRT focuses on systemic racism but due to their leftist prejudices miss the social systems that really are fostering failure.  This is indeed very counter to what is being argued, but my views are in accord with most black conservatives that write much on this.   These views are the opposite of CRT solutions if there are such since there is such vagueness other than reparations, pouring more money into failed schools and redistribution of wealth (neo-Marxist solutions), and quotas in education and hiring.  One CRT proponent argued that right answers in math show white supremacy and are racist. Another argues that Medicare for all is anti-racist but rejecting this solution in health care is racist.  Now we get the point; not supporting socialist solutions is racist.

The embrace of cultural relativism by CRT is very destructive and will foster systemic disparity.  If there is no right answer in math or no objective evaluation of what is culturally healthy or destructive, then there is no path to success.

I am not hopeful that short of a massive religious revival that the policies presented here will prevail.  Leftists are seeking to move the society toward leveling, relativism, and mediocracy as the answer to disparities.

It should not be surprising that biblical-based solutions and conservative black ideas on solutions to race disparities are sometimes polls apart from the popularized CRT solutions if they do propose them.  This is not an exhaustive list.

  1. The restoration of the black family is a number one Bible-based anti-racist concern.  An intact marriage and family are the greatest predictor of economic success.  Therefore, welfare must be reformed to incentivize the father to marry and help raise his children.  Financial incentives for vocational training are also important. We should note that violating biblical law will not lead to prosperity.  This emphasis on family is rejected by CRT proponents who see it as a white value (note this fits Marxism).  As such CRT teaching is part of the systemic disparity problem!
  2. Public education is one of the most problematic centers of systematic racial disparity.  CRT people address education by seeking an end of testing or by more funding of failed schools.  Some of the worst examples of failure are in school systems in northern cities who graduate students who are illiterate.  Black parents have more clarity.  They want vouchers and charters.  They want competition in education and a choice.  Again, CRT people are leftists and pro-teachers unions.  This is a foundational systemic problem.  Every once and a while a largely black public school gets a principal who enforces discipline and educational standards.  It is amazing the positive change.  However, we now have several examples of Christian private schools educating the poorest from the black ghettos with an amazing success rate.
  3. Some CRT people argue that meritocracy is itself a white supremacist or white privilege idea.  It can be if not rightly applied and used as an excuse to not hire and promote qualified blacks.  However, it is obvious that people have to qualify or merit positions in society and prove their qualifications.  An engineer must prove applied math ability at a high level to be trusted to build buildings, bridges, and roads.  A surgeon like Ben Carson had to prove himself to become a top brain surgeon.  We cannot just snap our fingers and have equal outcomes without disparity.  Rather, only merit rightly applied in disciplined education can bring blacks into higher numbers into valued professions.  Even in the Bible, the builders of the Temple were highly qualified.  The Chinese and Japanese are very geared to rigorous education and merit.  It is how the Japanese built great industry.  Now we see such amazing performance among Koreans.  CRT people focus on America and ignore the progress of nations and the meritocracy that has been a key to progress in nations.  Non-meritocracy societies stagnate and foster poverty.

However, qualifications have to be justly applied.  An employer can use it as an excuse to hire a white instead of a black.  He or she can also pick the overqualified over against a fully qualified minority person.  I believe that hiring blacks who are qualified should be a social priority and unnecessary irrelevant matters of qualification should not be used whereby people are kept back.  The standard for a job needs to be reasonable.  Meritocracy rightly embraced is the way forward to black advance.  Those opposing it are fostering systemic racial disparity.  Not requiring performance in black schools is a key issue part of systemic disparity.  Replace hard learning in math and science with emotional learning will be devastating to black attainment

  1. Enterprise Zones, job training and mentoring are another key. Government incentives for businesses to locate in the black underclass neighborhoods are important.  For this to happen those neighborhoods must be safe.  CRT is not against this but hardly talks about safe neighborhoods.
  2. Housing affordability and investment corruption is another issue.  Investment companies are driving up the cost of housing by buying vast tracts of houses and then making a profit by driving up prices. There must be some regulation against this.  A large supply of houses is key to keep prices low both for purchase and renting.
  3. Massive police presence and the elimination of gang violence and guns and drugs is important.  This is the opposite of Black Lives Matter and CRT who only seem concerned about a tiny fraction of police killings of innocent unarmed blacks while many are slaughtered in crime. However, it is in agreement with black residents of poor neighborhoods.  There needs to be such massive police presence that gun and drug crime in the black and Hispanic neighborhoods become largely impossible.  The police have to be trained for good relationships in those communities.  This will take a large investment.  It was done in New York under the previous administrations.  Only then can investment be made by businesses in these communities.
  4. Fighting drugs is crucial.  Generous but legal immigration is very important as part of this since gangs and drugs like fentanyl are so destructive to those who take it and is a part of the drug wars in the cities.  China is a huge offender.  Black lives are being destroyed by the drug trade.
  5. We can face the truth that is objectively proven about past discrimination, but many of the claims for our own day have been disproved.  See the work of Voddie Baucham, the black Christian scholar who gives the statistics in Faultlines.  If the black community is taught to primarily focus on victimization and grievance it will foster disparity.
  6. Prison reform is important. Society should return to the biblical norm where those who do none violent crimes are supervised to pay off their debt to society.  Prison teaches criminal behavior.

I would have all study the writings and the work of Robert Woodson who has shown effective programs that lift poor blacks into success.