Monday, February 4, 2013
Of course darkness has no speed, since it has no atomic existence. It simply eviscerates in the presence of light. At the prior and theological level, we see the proactive power of light in the first words of God in Scripture, "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3). And in John 1:5, we read, "The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood (or overcome) it."
The apostle John is speaking of Jesus as the Light of the world, and in his first epistle, John also says, "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work" (3:8).
Since light is proactive, and darkness is reactive, the way Jesus as the Light destroys the work of the prince of darkness is by letting the light shine. Darkness, by definition, always flees.
The apostle Paul reflect this understanding of light versus darkness, in the ethical realm, in Ephesians 5:11-13: "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible.
We do not need to focus on evil in order to overcome it. Live in the light, love God, love our neighbors, and realize that our only warfare is against the devil and his minions in the heavenlies. Then the devil's work will be destroyed in our midst.
This biblical centrality is at the core of the mission of the TEI. To embrace the power to love hard questions in the presence of skeptics is to also embrace the power to live in the light.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Today I had opportunity to listen to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He was speaking to the Federalist Society in New York City, on a tour for his new book: "Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts." Questions were submitted to him on index cards. My question referred to James Madison's concern that if laws becomes too “voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood,” then our republic is in danger.
I asked how soon we might reach such a point. Justice Scalia, in his answer, mused in diagnosis of the situation that "we cannot afford to devote our best minds" to work "that produces nothing." He then added, "We're probably at that point now" and we "need to simplify the law ... but how, I do not know." We do need to devote our best minds, in the name of the Gospel, to such a task. And that is exactly the purpose of the Pre-Partisan Caucus (www.prepartisan.us).
Monday, July 2, 2012
In May, 1982, I was taking a shower -- which is not to say I have not done so in the meantime. I was having a shadow-box debate with then Massachusetts Governor Edward J. King, and the once and twice future Governor Michael S. Dukakis. They were competing in the Democratic Party primary.
Though not politically wired, the issues mattered, and while a student in seminary, I was paying attention. After a lull in this debate, I said to them: "Gentlemen. Don't you realize that for everything you say you care about, the answers are in the Gospel of Jesus Christ." Silence.
So I prayed: "Lord, don't these gentlemen realize that everything they say they care about is found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?" As if the Lord had any other opinion -- I was just ratifying it in classic rabbinic dialogic prayer.
So I continued, in a life changing surprise turn: "Lord, you need some theologically educated people in politics." His answer came to the depth of my soul at one of those moments of utter clarity: "John -- good idea. Any suggestions?"
I threw my hands in the air and said, "Lord, you know I would never go anywhere where I would have to compromise my faith." I had some deep assumptions that politics continually swallow up the integrity of people who join its world. But the Lord answered with the same clarity: "Maybe your faith is not big enough."
So, in the 30 years since, I have sought to grow my faith enough to make it "first the Gospel, then politics ..." And the word "politics," from the Greek polis, refers to the walled city in which culture and social order is maintained against external disorder. Far more than just government, but fully inclusive of it.
What is the ratio of order versus disorder in the United States and the rest of the world today? And where is the Gospel being lived and taught in such a way to make a difference? "For lack of guidance a nation fails, but many advisers make victory sure" (Proverbs 11:14). What biblically literate advisers are in the loop in today's political world?
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Ellie Victoria Rankin lived for about 1 hour and 45 minutes, Saturday, March 24, 2012. My eldest son Chad, and his wife, Christiane (pronounced with a long e), have now lost their first two children. Ellie was healthy and strong, but an infection invaded the cervix, it opened prematurely and could not be healed. With weeping and prayers, we committed little Ellie into the hands of her Savior.
I am so proud of Chad, a godly man, a strong, loving and gentle husband, a grieving father able to see how Ellie's impact will be great and good. I am forever changed, in ways only initially sensed.
I held her in my arms, or I should say, in both hands -- as did all of us in the family able to be there. So beautiful, so finely crafted, family traits easy to discern. Psalm 139:13-16 resonates as never before. I could see in her person what she would have been like as a young woman -- strength and character in her beauty, a profile of godliness.
In 1987 I wrote a journal article on "Nephesh and the Status of the Unborn." In Genesis 2:7, as the first man is formed from the dust, Yahweh Elohim breathes into him the breath of life and he becomes a nephesh hayyeh." That can be translated as a "person alive," a "soul alive."
In the Hebrew, nephesh refers to the breathing functions of the neck and throat, and in the Bible, this is always in conjunction with the goodness of the human body as given in the order of creation. Nephesh also indicates our hunger, our thirst, our eagerness for life. Or another way to define nephesh is needfulness, of dependency on the original creative breath of Yahweh Elohim and the ecosphere upon which we depend every day. This is where true and original strength is found. We need our Creator, we need each other as fellow image-bearers of God, in giving we receive.
The unborn are fully embodied, biologically from the moment of conception. They are quintessentially needful, and we all started out likewise. I am forever changed by sweet Ellie, our sweet Ellie. Tenderness and mercy toward all, yet too, no more hesitancy to name deliberate evil. I have always grasped the willful evil of the human abortion industry, where overwhelmingly it is due to men who get women pregnant and refuse the responsibility and dignity of marriage and fatherhood.
But now too, raw emotions. We have a sitting president who dares to state, jokingly, that the humanity of the unborn is above his "pay grade." Even as he advances the human abortion industry with every fiber of his political muscle, with every coercive agency at his disposal, and pushing the extreme of the partial birth abortions of healthy newborns -- I say "No more!" Is not all he does above his pay grade?
The apostle Paul said: "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish arguments. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
Paul is writing this to the church, and there are many depths to the context of his concerns. The battle is with the demonic powers that manipulate human beings for evil purposes. Such people need to be delivered. But even as they may yet refuse, we labor for their well-being. We are empowered by the Spirit of the risen Lord Jesus Christ to demolish every pretentious argument.
Trotz dem alten Drachen.
trotz des Todes Rachen.
trotz der Furcht darzu.
"I defy the old serpent,
I defy the jaws of death,
I defy fear, too!"
I defy the president, any politician, any academic, any judge or lawyer, any media pundit, any scientist or medical doctor, any activist, any person alive, to justify the tortured thinking of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing human abortion. Show your temerity. Sit with me in front of the camera, or stand with me before any audience of your choice at the Ivy Leagues and well beyond. I will tear down every pretentious argument that tears apart the flesh of the most vulnerable in our midst, that tears at the nephesh of any and all human beings.
As I took my morning walk Sunday, March 25, slowly with a heavy heart, by the end I was not focusing on the suffering and evil of any death. Rather I know that whether we are granted 2 hours as was little Ellie, or 92 years as was my father, we all come from God and will return to God. Thus, in the face of a sin-stained world, suddenly I see the Lord's loving sovereignty in a new and richer way.
Ellie was his ordained gift to us, she returned to God so quickly, and we are humbled so much more, clothed with tenderness toward all, and equally angry with the ancient serpent and his agenda to kill and destroy.
As my daughter and I drove to the hospital, my wife already there, another son on his way, my brother too -- we passed through the ripped up forests from last year's tornado, and some verse came to me. The first four words of the poem that emerged were already in place before I learned that my daughter-in-law named her Ellie because of its derivative from "light" ("Helen" in the Greek).
And there was light
nephesh was given --
eagerness, hunger and thirst for the breath of life.
Yet by crafty design
the prince of darkness stepped in
and all forms of suffering followed.
Ellie, sweet Ellie
born 19 weeks too soon, unable to draw breath
you were still eager for all 105 minutes.
Now -- greater than now -- you run in heavenly fields
delicious air in your face and charcoal hair
yes -- we will dance and sing with you one day.
You blessed us with your so brief earthly life
we barely had time to say hello
and praise God, all eternity awaits proper introduction.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
As we consider the onward push for nation-wide same-sex marriage, and open homosexuality in the military, here is a question: Is our culture being shaped by the rule of law, or is it being molded to conform to some deep pain that can never be satisfied by law?
In 1895, Oscar Wilde spoke of "the love that dares not speak its name" in his public trial for homosexual conduct.
I once spoke of "the pain that dares not speak its name" to a crowded and astounded legislative assembly.
But the content was not original; rather I was speaking the words of others.
In 1988, while working on my Th.M. in Ethics and Public Policy at Harvard, I was in a class on feminist ethics. One day at lunch, three female classmates sat down with me.
One woman spoke, saying, "You know John, for an evangelical, you're a nice guy." As if encountering an oxymoron. She continued, "The three of us are lesbian, and every lesbian we know has been physically, sexually and/or emotionally abused by some man in her early years." I was stunned, as this was new to me.
I immediately prayed in my spirit, "Dear God above, has the church heard this, or do we just pass judgment?" This was an anecdote, not a statistical claim, but I have since learned how pervasive it is, and for male homosexuals as well.
In 2002, I was testifying before the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut State Legislature, with 600 people crowded into the main room and two overflow rooms, and it was being broadcast live on CT-N.
I shared this story from my Harvard classmates. When I came to the line about the abuse, I could hardly hear myself speak due to the groans that then filled the room. Afterward, a friend told me that all the groans came from women wearing same-sex marriage stickers. They then literally held their breaths until I was done with that thought.
Despite the highly anguished response to my testimony, the media had no interest in follow through, and never even attempted to criticize it. Silence.
This is reality. This is the forbidden question in politics and media, for such abuse is far broader than just that experienced by people driven into homosexual identities. Unless those of us who are servants of the Gospel can speak to the pain that dares not name itself, to an undeserved shame imposed on so many children and teenagers -- giving love and hope for deliverance instead -- then our national politics will continue to get sucked into the cesspool.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
In the fall of 1989, I was interviewed on WGAN radio in Portland, Maine, a 50,000 watt super-station. The topic of rape and incest was raised, and I sought to give answer.
Then a woman called and stated on the air that she had once been raped. Though this was radio, the stillness of the air permeated as her authority and emotions were evident. The talk show host looked at me as thought I were trapped.
But, instead, she then said that I was the first man she ever heard who understood her pain. And in listening to me, the hatred she had held against all men for years, drained out of her heart.
She also stated that it is incredible for a woman who has been raped and impregnated by a man, to then allow another man to scrape out her uterus.
And this hits reality on the head. How often is the topic of rape & incest used by "feminists" to justify abortion-on-demand? On the backs of raped women.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
In the mid-1980s, I was addressing an ad hoc forum in front of the Student Union at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Toward the end of a two-hour event that saw many people come and go, with about 100 people still there, a woman student asked me about rape and incest.
As I began to give answer, she interjected and stated, in the presence of everyone there, that she herself was conceived though an act of rape. I was amazed.
So I asked why she of all people would argue for abortion in the case of rape. “Would you rather have been aborted?” She was astonished, for she had never thought of it this way. Her concerns had been for the raped woman, her very mother. We brought the forum to a close shortly thereafter, and I walked over to her. We then went to the Student Union and sat down at a cafeteria table, and she shared her story.
She was a freshman or sophomore, thus about nineteen-years old. Her mother was raised in a West Virginian coal mining town, where everyone knows everyone, and where abortion was opposed except in such cases as this. Her mother was eleven years old when raped, and the rapist was known. Perhaps, as I read between the lines, by a member of the extended family.
When her mother was known to be pregnant, her family exerted severe pressure on her to get an abortion. The shame factor was huge, and a child born of rape would serve as a constant reminder of the evil act committed. This courageous girl resisted, carried the child and gave birth.
This twelve-year old mother was thus treated as “dirt” by the town, and her daughter was thus treated as “double dirt.” Because she saw her mother’s pain and wanted to stand up for her, the daughter uncritically accepted the abortion rationale in college – until she happened upon the forum.
I looked straight at her and said something like, “It doesn’t matter that you were conceived in rape – you are just as loved by God as anyone else, including those conceived in a loving marriage, or where there is great wealth.”
I saw these words touch her soul in a fashion she had never experienced, affirming her as an equal image-bearer of God. These words were received like water through the parched lips of a severely dehydrated person. So dehydrated that I ended the conversation there, realizing that such Good News was so radical that she needed time to process it.