On political theology: nations, prosperity and moral values – Part 1

Nations and cultures in North American and western Europe have been on a moral decline since the enlightenment period, even though there have been periods of ups and downs. Nevertheless, there has been a gradual secularization of the Christian civilization, especially in the late 20th century. Today, a secularized North America and Western Europe lacks strong moral values. As a results, this has weakened the moral authority of Christian America and British Commonwealth countries like the U.K., Canada, and Australia. The western world no longer hold the respect of nations in the southern hemisphere like they once did. Western nations once recognized and classified themselves as Christian nations.

Today, liberal secular humanism is behaving as if our Christian roots had no bearing on its past, and will have no bearing on its future.
Some people will deny that moral values is interdependently related to political stability, economic prosperity, and social advancement; but to do so is like denying that fruits have grown from its own branches. They may deny the true merits of moral values and reject society’s need for religious instruction. This attitude can lead to a corrosion and decline of an entire society and a nation. Any strong culture, society, and nations that rose to prominence throughout history, had some sort of basis in strong moral values. A great example of this is the rise, and eventual, decline and fall of the Roman Empire (Edward Gibbon’s work).

In our western democracies, we have applied political and theological principles that are biblically-based; and a lot of it actually stems from John Calvin’s theology. However, we have forgotten about this because it is a neglected part of our secular public education system. Out of the Reformation’s theological reforms flowed a sense of morality and law-abiding citizenry. As a result Calvin’s political theology, much of Geneva was politically reformed. The city of Geneva became a biblically-centered state under Calvin’s spiritual leadership. Hundreds of years later, this political and theological reform provided a basis for the development of representative democracy in England, and later, a democratic republic in America, which became a model that spread throughout the world. Our free and democratic society has its roots in a biblically-centered political theologynamely Hebrew-Jewish political theology. It is not rooted in Greek or Roman culture as some would like to believe and teach in university.

When a strong sense of morality is able to permeate an entire culture, it will have the potential to effect positive changes within an entire nation. What was permeated within a culture, and even an entire nation, was actually a sense of strong moral values in its people and its leaders. Morality and religion are critical determinants of a culture’s and nation’s significant worth. If there is a lack of good strong values, a culture is weakened by them rather than helped. These values, whatever they may be, usually have roots in religious faith.

We can follow a logical path that moves from moral values to economic prosperity and social advancement. In the western world, the Christian faith and heritage, which was formed by the people’s spiritual-religious experience, has greatly shaped traditional western culture. It has led to many blessings including political stability of democracy, great economic prosperity, and countless social advancements. It is only out of this sense of morality, that people make covenantal laws with God their creator. As society decides to make covenantal laws with God as individuals and as a nation, the people will eventually establish civil laws to provide the public with instructions from which to live by (Deut. 16:18-29:1; 33:1-5). This gives protection to the people. These public laws are, and should, always be for the common good of all peoplegreat and small, rich and poor, male and female. The great benefit of civil laws is that it brings political stability to a nation. As political stability of a nation is established, a natural outflow will be economic prosperity (Deut. 30:15-20). Economic prosperity can only arise if there is political stability; this is a pre-condition. In countries where there is continuous political unrest, there can only be poverty. Without political stability, economic prosperity will never come about. This is the reason western civilizations like America and Great Britain have been able to prosper economically in the recent modern history. Economic prosperity is a fruit that results from strong moral values. Finally, when a society or nation is economically prosperous, its people will be self-empowered to advance socially. Examples of social advancement might be higher education for children, solid health care for the young and elderly, a cultivation of greater skills in the fine arts, and opportunities to greater enjoyment of recreational sports, and enjoyment of gracious living.

Without a sense of strong moral values, a society loses its moral integrity and authority to direct public policy domestically and abroad. When this happens, a nation’s immorally corrupt leaders can no longer lead; and a nation’s immorally corrupt people can no longer follow their corrupt leaders. The United States, Europe and Commonwealth nations must once again return to their Christian roots and learn to live by moral values.

On political theology: nations, prosperity and moral values–Part 2

(photo: John Calvin; Neighborhood Clinics. Health Dept. East Side Baby Health Station, New York, NY)

TNIV will gain trust and readership

As I was reading the December issue of Christianity Today, I noticed a full-page ad for the TNIV Reference Bible. But the ad said that it would be available in the new year. I was delighted to see that they were doing more marketing for the TNIV for 2008. Anyway, I don’t think the TNIV will roll over and die prematurely. I believe Zondervan does smart business but they will hold onto the die-hard NIVers for a long long time. Elshaddai Edwards alluded to the idea that maybe IBS should include the apocrypha and market the TNIV to mainliners. Well, I think it can easily capture a big portion of the evangelical mainline market on its own, as is, without the help of the apocrypha. The translation philosophy of the T/NIV is still evangelical at heart. However, I don’t think the liberal mainliners will ever go for the TNIV. Personally, I believe the TNIV is still going to be a very strong evangelical translation because it is entrenched in evangelicalism and is like family to many evangelicals. However, the TNIV is going to have to slowly earn its place in the evangelical world of bible readers. When its gender-neutral language gains wider acceptance, and people will slowly forget about what its opponents said about it, then the people will eventually come around to accepting the TNIV. Even though the TNIV may be a more accurate translation than the NIV, the NIV will still be seen as the king of evangelical translations because it has something valuable—that is—trust. Many people still trust the NIV for accuracy and will not simply let it go. As a pietistic evangelical, I read the bible because I trust my translations for their accuracy. For a new translation to gain readership, it must first gain the people’s trust. Trust is extremely important in the world of evangelical bible-readers.

It does seem that Zondervan has taken a slow and patient approach to the marketing of the TNIV. I think it is a very wise business decision. Reality tells me that demand for the NIV will not decrease any time soon. Zondervan still has a lot of mileage in the NIV and will continue to promote the NIV. They just published the Archaeological Study Bible in 2006, the Celebrate Recovery Bible in 2007, plus numerous others. Take the NLT for instance. Sure the New Living Translation has gained a large readership but it was accomplished over a long period of time. Its readership was not gained over night. It has taken 11 years for the NLT to get where it is today. I remember when the NLT first came out in 1996. I went out to buy a copy of the NLT Life Application Bible in 1996 with my name embossed in gold. I brought it to a bible study to show it off to my friends. I remember someone poked fun at it because it didn’t seem like a serious enough translation for bible study. Well, I kind of took offense at this poke because I really liked the easy-to-understand language of the NLT. It was a breath of fresh air for me because I was a NKJV reader. Personally, I think the NLTse is probably the best reading translation available. I prefer it over the GNT, CEV and God’s Word.

If the NLT took this long to gain its readership, I think the TNIV will take just as long to gain its own readership. I believe the older generation of bible-readers will eventually come around to trying the TNIV, and maybe, they will even come to like it. It will have its contingent of strong supporters out there, especially from the younger generation. Eventually, one day, it will replace the NIV as the premier translation in the evangelical world.

Advent season, Advent liturgy, and the Advent wreath

The music for this litugy is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” from A Quiet Knowing Christmas by Jeff Johnson – http://www.ArkMusic.com

The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival”. Advent season is celebrated in many churches with an Advent wreath. This first of four Sunday marks the beginning of the season of Advent. It begins with the first, ends with the fourth Sunday, and the grand finale is Christmas Day. The primary color of Advent is blue or purple, which symbolizes the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the King. Many churches will have an Advent wreath made of evergreen boughs that will hold five candles. The first candle is traditionally the candle of Hope or Expectation (or Prophecy). It symbolizes the expectation of the soon and coming messiah. The third Sunday is marked by a pink or rose candle, which symbolizes Joy of the soon advent of Christ. Four candles are lit, one for each Sunday. On Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, the center candle called the Christ Candle is lit.