Our friends Gail and Herman Hackett dropped a Christmas gift by the office last week for Rachelle and me. Included in the gift was a small 200 page book entitled Evidence Not Seen: A Woman's Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of WWII. It is the autobiography of Darlene Deibler Rose, a missionary wife working in the jungles of New Guinea prior to the outbreak of hostilities in World War II. Darlene is from Iowa, and was a young, newly married bride when she arrived with her husband on the missionary fields of Far East, just a couple of years prior to Pearl Harbor. Her well-written and gripping account of being captured by the Japanese, enduring four years of brutal hardship and torture at an American POW camp, and the incredible intervention of God--time after time--to sustain and carry Darlene through her ordeal, is a must read for every Christian. I read it in one sitting, using Google Maps to trace her missionary work, imprisonment, and incredible rescue. I am privileged to be friends with Louis Zamperini, the subject of Laura Hildenbrand's #1 best-selling book Unbroken, and have recommended Unbroken to every person I know. Evidence Not Seen is different from Unbroken in that Darlene assumes the reader knows Christ, understands God's Word and is willing to rest in His promises. For those of you who know Christ and want to be incredibly encouraged that no matter the obstacles you face, God's mercy and grace will sustain you, then Evidence Not Seen is a must read. We live in a soft, comfortable age and think nothing can (or should) go wrong. Suffering sometimes suprises us, and one of the ways to be prepared for whatever comes is to read the biographies of those saints who have gone before you. If there is just one biographical book you read in 2012 it should be Evidence Not Seen.
I spent Monday, December 26 with my folks, Paul and Mary Burleson, writing down some material for a history that I am working on for our family. Both my mom and dad have some pretty remarkable personal stories and the day was quite enjoyable learning some things about my parents I had not previously known. At the conclusion of the day they presented to me a gift they had purchased for my 50th birthday (December 27th). My mom took a picture of my dad and me holding the gift. Those who know me understand my love for history and my parents' gift 'knocked it out of the park.' It is an original, handcrafted art piece by a Cherokee artesian depicting the consequences of a broken 1817 treaty between the United States and the Cherokees. The government had promised the Cherokees they could live on their lands in Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas. The United States would later break the 1817 treaty and forcibly remove the Cherokees from their native lands and forcibly march them to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) in what is now called the Trail of Tears. Thousands of Cherokee people lost their lives. In the case is a replica of that Cherokee Treaty of 1817 signed by Andrew Jackson, on behalf of the government, and made with the Cherokees in Tennessee, Georgia and portions of the Carolinas. Cherokee signers include McIntosh, Adair, Rogers, and others whose names live on in the county names of the state of Oklahoma. The treaty, broken by the government, is represented by the authentic broken Cherokee spear that is impaled in the treaty. The blood represents the Cherokee lives lost in the Trail of Tears. The Indian on horseback shadow in the background is the national Cherokee symbol and represents "The End of the Trail." It's a really great gift from even greater parents.
Our church auditorium is decorated for Christmas and it looks absolute stunning. The inside holiday decor of our church could have been lifted from a Norman Rockwell painting. Our maintenance workers keep the buildings spotlessly clean, the woodwork polished, the lights illuminated, and the atmosphere festive yet relaxing. People who come to worship this weekend for any of our Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services will feel as if they are walking into the comfort of someone's living room. Plush chairs, moderate temperatures, and pleasing aesthetics will give the worshipper a sense and feel of the beauty of the holiday season. I don't believe Emmanuel is unique. Church buildings and church worship services throughout the nation will be just as beautiful, just as comfortable, just as pleasing. There is nothing wrong with the emphasis churches put on beautiful church grounds or holiday decorating. I think people who only come to church at Christmas time will enjoy what they see. What I'm not sure about is whether or not they will enjoy what they hear. At Emmanuel this Christmas morning, just like we have done each Sunday morning throughout the past year, we will study a portion of the book of Hebrews. As I walked through our beautiful auditorium to my office to print off the outline which will be passed out to worshippers on Christmas, I couldn't help but reflect on the text from Hebrews 9:13-14 and wonder if the gospel of Jesus Christ might be offensive to some this coming Sunday.
In a message entitled "The Ashes of the Red Heifer: The Greatest Gift You Will Ever Be Given," I will show how the Hebrew people sacrificed, burned, and then used the ashes of a red heifer in the Old Testament. The slaying of this young red heifer--a female cow with red skin which had never given birth or been yoked--is initially prescribed by God in Numbers 19. I will illustrate how the Hebrew priest killed the red heifer outside the gates of the city, drained the blood of the heifer into a basin, dipped his fingers into the blood and then sprinkled the blood toward the Temple. I will then explain how the heifer's carcass would be placed on a special altar and burned, with the ashes of the heifer picked up and kept for use by the entire Hebrew nation. If a Hebrew worshipper became ceremonially unclean by touching a dead body, the ashes of the heifer would be mixed with water and sprinkled on the defiled person. After the sprinkling of the ashes, the unclean person would be deemed "cleansed" by God and allowed back into the Temple courtyard to continue the worship of Yahweh through the regular sacrifices of lambs and goats, pigeons and doves, and in some cases bulls. Hebrew worship was not neat or clean. Hebrew worship involved death and blood. Not just a little blood, a lot of blood. Listen to how Charles Haddon Spurgeon described Hebrew worship:
Everywhere blood was sure to greet your eyes. Blood was the one most prominent thing under the Jewish economy, scarcely a ceremony was observed without it. You could not enter into any part of worship but that you saw traces of the blood-sprinkling. Sometimes there were bowls of blood cast at the foot of the altar. The slaughter of animals was the manner of worship; the effusion of blood was the appointed rite, and the diffusion of that blood on the floor, on the curtains, and on the vestments of the priests was the constant memorial. The place of worship looked so like a meat market, that to visit it must have been far from attractive to the natural taste, and to delight in it, a man had need of a spiritual understanding and a lively faith."
The Apostle Paul wrote, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). There is something in the gospel that causes people to shrink back in embarrassment and shame. What is it? It's definitely not the beauty and aesthetics of our modern worship buildings. Our church buildings often look like 5th Avenue stores. Offense doesn't come from the method of our worship via our video and audio technologies,. We often look more Hollywood than Hollywood. Shame can't come from the church furnishings and decor because our churches are often more stylish and vogue than many of the homes from which the people come. What is it about the gospel that causes people shame?
I propose it is blood sacrifice that causes offense. Specifically, it is the belief that Jesus came to shed His blood. To believe that God planned from the beginning for Jesus to die, shedding His own blood for the remission of our sins, invites ridicule from others. Peter ignored the offense and shame that Christ's death brings and declared at Pentecost that "this Jesus, delivered by the determined plan and foreknowledge of God ... is raised up again, putting an end to the agony of death" (Acts 2:23-24). The Spirit used Peter's message to bring deliverance to 3,000 people from their bondage to sin and death. But when Stephen later took this same gospel message to the religious leaders they stoned him (Acts 7). People in their natural state, even refined religious people, do not wish to hear about the blood-shedding of Jesus Christ. We like our religions clean and neat. But the gospel teaches us that Jesus Christ died as our Red Heifer. God commanded the Hebrews in the Old Covenant to kill the red heifer in order to cleanse them of their defilement, but that ordinance was only a picture and foreshadowing of the Son of God whom the Father was sending to be killed for our cleansing (Matthew 1:21). The death Jesus died should have been the death we died--forsaken by God. But Jesus died as our Substitute. "He (Jesus) who knew no sin, became sin for us" (II Corinthians 5:21) says the gospel, that "we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." He died as my Goat, my Lamb, my sacrificial Subtitute. But whereas the blood of bulls and goats in the Old Covenant could not cleanse the sinner's conscience or put an end to death, the blood of Jesus Christ shed at Calvary does this and so much more. That's the theme for this coming Christmas message. "For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:13-14).
The book of Hebrews shows both the symmetry and the differences between the age of Law (prior to the cross) and the gospel age (this side of the cross). The worship of the Hebrews in the Old Testament looks nothing like the worship of Christians in the New Testament. Even though some pastors erroneously try to present themselves as the new priesthood and many of our non-profit church institutions portray themselves as new Temples, the manner in which God's people worship Him has radically changed since the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The message of the early apostles and disciples of Christ was clear "No one is justified by the Law before God, for 'THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.' The Law is not of faith; on the contrary, 'HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.' Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, 'CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE'--in order that in Christ Jesus the blessings of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:12-14). The early Hebrew Christians had been steeped in their 'ancestral traditions' of animal sacrifice (Galatians 1:14). After the resurrection of Christ, God's people were no longer required to offer the sacrifices. Animal sacrifice is over. The Righteous Judge had fulfilled the Law for us in His Son. God did not lay aside the Law of sin and death, but rather He fufilled it in Jesus Christ that "He might be just and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus" (Romans 3:26).
The message of blood sacrifice is the message of Christmas. Jesus came to die. His resurrection from the dead means sinners who trust Him will never experience separation from the goodness and love of God. Sin separates. Christ's sacrifice brings an at-one-moment (atonement) between sinners and God. The Creator is good to sinners, but it is only because of Jesus' death and the sinners' faith in Christ. Jesus is the fulfillment of the red heifer sacrifice, and it is His blood that cleanses us. It is this message of blood sacrifice which offends so many, but it is the only message that gives hope to the defiled. When you join your family in worship this Christmas weekend, you will not be bringing a lamb to be sacrificed, because God has provided the Lamb. You will not be bringing a red heifer to the altar, for God has given the Red Heifer. You will not be shedding blood with your own hands, for God has shed His blood for us. Turn your eye of faith toward the shed blood of Jesus Christ and believe what He has accomplished for sinners. Our conscience is cleansed because we rest in Christ. The promise of God's goodness for eternity is ours because we approach God through the merits and sacrifice of His Son. We rejoice in the Father's love because He gave us His Son. Jesus Christ has come, Jesus Christ has died, and Jesus Christ has risen from the grave. This is the message of Christmas. It may offend some, but the truth of this message draws from us our worship of God. It may be ridiculed by some, but it is adored by us. It may cause some shame, but we echo the words of the Apostle Paul, "We are not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes."
Recently I wrote about the economic theory behind the Wizard of Oz and was a tad surprised at a few of the responses from liberal economists. It seems that some believe that there is nothing wrong with governement budget deficits or national debt as a whole. That belief springs from an assumption that government debt results in real goods and services provided for the people, and with a justifiable increase in taxes on the wealthy and a proper understanding and utilization of the money supply (i.e. the printing of paper money by the Federal Reserve), the country will be in good shape economically. However, I believe the liberal view of economics is built on a corrupt premise. When the medium of exchange (money) is not tied to a precious metal, then the supply of money increases in proportion to the whims, appetites, and desires of the people who control the money supply. If liberals run the government, then the Federal Reserve will spend billions, if not trillions, on social or economic programs with no comprehension of the boomerang effect of inflation caused by the increase in the money supply. I realize that economic theory is something that the average American has little or no understanding of, mainly because most of us live on the premise that if a bank keeps our money on deposit (banks) then our money is actually in that bank. That's not the way it works. Fractional reserve banking is what runs western governments and the fractions having been getting smaller over the years and the reserves held have turned from gold and silver deposits to paper dollars. The Federal Reserve oversees fractional banking and it is through their actions that the money supply increases to allow government expenditures, deficit spending, and gigantic national debt.
Something else that is not understood very well by the average American is the number which measures our national debt--the number trillion. Our national debt is $15,000,000,000,000 (trillion) dollars and growing (watch it grow 5 billion dollars a day on this debt clock). Remember, our country's debt is not the same thing as our annual deficit. A deficit is what the government spends compared to what the government takes in through revenue (taxes) each year. President Obama recently stated that our annual deficits will be over $1,000,000,000,000 (trillion) dollars per year well into the future. That means our annual debt will increase exponentially in the years to come because not only are we NOT paying off past debt, we are rapidly adding to our cumulative debt through deficit spending. If interest rates increase, and they will when too much money is printed, then the amount of our debt will skyrocket through the added interest. Most Americans yawn and say, "Ho hum. So what?" I think the reason for such apathy is because Americans do not understand the number trillion; that number is beyond the comprehension of most. Allow me to help you understand how much a trillion really is.
In Measurements of Time
If a trillion is measured in units of seconds, then one million seconds is eleven and a half days from now. One billion seconds is thirty-two years from now. How big is a trillion? One trillion seconds is 32,000 years from now. Ask me where I will be in eleven days and I can give you a rational answer (in Arizona at the OU Bowl Game). Ask me where I will be 32 years from now and I will have little clue, but I know I'll be turning 82 years old if I'm still alive. Ask me what I will be doing 32,000 years from now and I will think you are either a theologian wishing to discuss heaven or a village idiot.
In Measurements of Space and Travel
Suppose you had a stack of dollar bills and placed them end to end. One million dollars would stretch just under one hundred miles. If you got in your car and traveled that distance averaging 60 miles an hour, it would take you an hour and a half to finish the million dollar stretch. One billion dollars stretched out end-to-end would reach ninety-seven thousand miles. If you got in your car and traveled an average of 60 miles an hour without stopping, it would take you about six months to reach the end of that billion dollar stretch. One trillion dollars stretched end-to-end reaches ninety-seven million miles high which is four million more miles than the distance from the earth to the sun. If you got in your car and traveled 60 miles an hour without stopping it would take you 185 years to travel the distance required to reach the end of the trillion dollar stretch.
In Measurements of Christmas
Suppose you were at Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus and God celebrated by giving you a supply of money and telling you to spend a million dollars a day, but that when your supply ran out you would die. How long would you live if you had a million, a billion, or a trillion dollars in your supply of money? Well, if the supply of money was one million dollars, you would be dead before Jesus was a day old. If your money supply was one billion dollars, at the rate of spending of one million dollars a day, you would die when Jesus was three years old. But if your money supply was a trillion dollars, and you spent a million dollars a day, you would still be living in 2011 and have about another seven hundred years to live.
Now, multiply all the above illustrations by 15 and you will begin to grasp the incomprehensible size of our national debt. Within three years the national debt will be above 20 trillion dollars and climbing rapidly. Some day we Americans will wake up to the fact that the house of cards being built by our government will dramatically collapse. Our nation's fiscal irresponsibility is probably the best reason for why no human being should ever put their trust in governments, countries, political leaders, or earthly things. At some point, they all are destined to fail.
Christian blogs keep me informed. Enid, Oklahoma is the geographical center of the United States, but it is definitely not the geopolitical, cultural, or religious center of the world. Enid's isolation from major metropolitan areas does not mean that Christians in Enid cannot be kept informed on what is happening in the world at large. The Burlesons have access to Enid's free city WiFi Network and can connect at home to high speed cable Internet. The world and information about God's people and His church are brought to us via the computer. The 21st century has become the 15th century all over again in terms of reformation and revolution. In AD 1440 the German Johaness Gutenberg (1398 - 1468) invented the printing press. Prior to his invention, information spread by word of mouth, a very slow process in a foot and horse age, and by handwritten books. Prior to the 15th century scrolls or books were either written or copied by hand. Only the very wealthy or wise possessed these precious manuscripts. When Johaness Gutenberg invented the printing press the modern information age began. Men like Martin Luther and Erasmus became famous because Gutenberg's press turned their handwritten theological treatises into thousands of books available to the comman man. Luther's handwritten 95 Theses Against the Sale of Indulgences, pinned on the door of Wittenberg Castle, was printed and distributed throughout Europe. The Reformation of the church had begun. The Age of Enlightenment was possible because of the Gutenberg Press. By 1620 English author and philosopher Francis Bacon would write that the press "has changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world." The spread of information became so critical to a fast changing world that the machine gave its name to the very people who informed others of what was taking place--the press.
The Internet is the modern Gutenberg press. Bloggers are the modern press. Powerful information is being spread quickly, seamlessly, and effectively. Religious leaders are being caught in their lies. Sexual predators are being caught in their crimes. False teachers are being exposed for their greed. Powerful religious leaders are being challenged about their desire to control. Religious denominations are being confronted with their hypocrisy. Information is power, and the power has shifted from leaders who control the flow of what they want the people to know, to the people who are capable of bringing down leaders. Christian leaders are trying to adapt, but many are caught off guard by the public criticisms. For men who have cacooned themselves in a protective environment, surrounded by sycophants who fawn over their leaders, the only way to handle criticism is to denounce those who deliver it. Matt Chandler has said bloggers should be dismissed as legitimate critics because "they live with their moms," a surprisingly short-sighted slam by a pastor who should know better. Perry Noble, Mark Driscoll, Stephen Furtick and a host of modern mega-star preachers have said similar things about bloggers. Interestingly, these men and a handful of other Christian leaders are getting together to discuss the modern church in meetings they have come to call The Elephant Room. These meetings are designed for "Any pastor or student or motivated disciple who is serious about theological ideas and how they shape methodology. Not purely pragmatic or theoretical, the conversations hope to stir changes of mind and retrench long held beliefs. A great event for teams and groups, the conversations are a starting point for important conversations." Elephant Room II is being held January 25, 2012 and will be able to viewed in locations all across the United States. What I find interesting is that most of those who are either participating in hosting or leading the Elephant Room discussions have been critical of the modern-day Guttenberg press--blogs. So, with just six weeks left until Elephant Room II, and in the spirit of the Elephant Room's purpose statement, the following questions are designed to point out the Elephants in the Elephant Room.------------------------------
(1). Why are you charging $99 for those who view this session?
(2). If 10,000 people from across the United States view Elephant Room II, where does the one million dollars collected go?
(3). How much money do the leaders and speakers of the Elephant Room make for doing the program?
(4). If your purpose is "to stir changes of mind and retrench long held beliefs," why is it that you criticize those who seek to "stir changes of mind and retrench long held beliefs" of your own ministries?
(5). Have you ever considered the fact that your charges against "the establishment" in Christianity are now ringing hollow because you have become the establishment in the minds and hearts of a younger generation, and you have taken up the same practices of former establishments by denigrating your critics?
(6). Would each of you disclose how much salary and benefits you take in from your church and how much money you make in the sale of your books, tied to the messages that you preach at your church?
(7). Do you double-dip your salaries by earning a income from contributions of church members and then keep the royalties of your books that you sale, books that are products of the hours you work for your church?
(8). Why do you consider it God-honoring and biblical when you curse from the pulpit or use sexually vulgar or crass idioms to get a point across?
(9). Does your congregation grow in size because people feel they have been entertained when they leave your church, or are people truly growing in their understanding of the truth of God's Word through your teaching?
(10). Why do the speakers in your Elephant Room all look the same, dress the same, talk the same, and view Christian ministry the same as if there is only one correct way to do Christian ministry in our culture?
(11). Where are the women in the Elephant Room?
(12). Do you consider the message of God's grace through Jesus Christ and His blood redemption of sinners at Calvary an optional message on Sundays?
(13). If you have 30,000 people who come to an Easter egg hunt on Easter Sunday morning, what difference does that egg hunt make in the lives of those 30,000 on Monday morning?
(14). Why do the men in the Elephant Room seem so thin-skinned when it comes to people who question them?
(15). Is it possible that the questions being asked in the Elephant Room are softball questions designed by the people who have created the Elephant Room, and that the actual questions that need to be asked are those designed to reveal the elephants in the Elephant Room?
(Update: Luke McDonald has answered each of my fifteen questions in the comment section. I wish to express my appreciation for his responses and encourage everyone to read what he has to say and note the tone and manner in which he has responded. All of us, including other participants in the Elephant Room, could learn from his example.)
I can guarantee that the attention of more than a few bloggers are now on Elephant Room II.
Theology has been my passion since seventeen years of age when I memorized the book of Romans. I began collecting theological books in high school and later worked diligently on learning Greek and Hebrew while studying business and finance at Baylor. In 1982, when I was a poor twenty-year-old kid, I entered a pawn shop in Waco for the first time to get some much needed cash. I brought my prized collection of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones books to sell to the shop--fifty books in all. It was a sad day for me. I needed money and my hard cover Jones' books were worth over $500 even back then. It made me sick to have to sell them because of my love for Jones' writings. My favorite Christian authors are John Calvin (16th century), John Owen (17th century), John Gill (18th century), Charles Spurgeon (19th century), and D. Martyn Lloyd Jones (20th century). I now own everything these men have ever written, but back in 1982 my largest collection, by far, was Lloyd-Jones. The pawn shop owner told me he would give me $2.00. Disappointment rose within me and I asked, "Just $2.00 per book?" He looked at me with a quizzical expression and said, "No, $2.00 for the whole lot!" I left that pawn shop and kept my Jones' books, which now form a portion of my library of over 10,000 antiquarian, historical and theological works. Everytime my eyes fall on the colorful dust jackets of the D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones books, I remember my pawn shop experience and I have reinforced within me the biblical truth that "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14).
the biography of Steve Jobs and author Walter Isaacson writes that Steve firmly believed you can know a person by looking at the songs kept on that person's I-Pod. That's the modern application for the old axiom "you can know a man by his books." I am a conservative inerrantist who values and treasures the Word of God. In 2010 I publicly described my theological views as "Calvinistic in soteroiology, partial-preterist in eschatology, open communion in ecclesiology, and continuationist in pneumatology." To some that sounds like a medical diagnosis, but to those in the theological know, it describes a very conservative biblical framework. Using easier to understand words, I believe that "God saves sinners through Christ, the prophecies of the Bible are fulfilled precisely and completely, the church of Jesus Christ is universal and extends far beyond the walls of any one local assembly, and the Spirit of God continues to work in God's people today as He did in New Testament days." Theological liberals would not agree with my views on the nature of Scripture or the interpretations of the Bible that I hold which flow from my high esteem of the Word of God. Because I belief in the authority of Scripture, I must accept the truth of the Bible. Because I accept the truth of the Bible, I must accept that the invisible, immortal and omnipotent God has female characteristics, and that females were created in the image of God to be co-regents, co-equals, and co-leaders with men over creation,
A Conservative, Bible-Believing Christian Should View God as the Bible Portrays God
This leads me to the reason why I chose the particular title for my post today. Read the title again. "God Has Chosen to Liken Himself to a Female and We are the Fruit of His Womb." I found this quote in my theological library, in a book that was originally written nearly 500 years ago by a conservative, Bible-believing Protestant evangelical named John Calvin. That's right, THAT John Calvin.
In Isaiah 46:3 God says, "Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, you who have been borne by Me from birth and have been carried from My womb." John Calvin comments on this verse by writing "God has manifested himself to be both Father and Mother so that we might be more aware of God’s constant presence and willingness to assist us" (Volume VIII, Isaiah 33-66, page 436). Later in Isaiah, God says to His people: "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" (Isaiah 49:15). In Calvin's commentary on this verse, the great orthodox theologian writes, "God did not satisfy himself with proposing the example of a father, but in order to express his very strong affection, he chose to liken himself to a mother, and calls His people not merely children, but the fruit of the womb, towards which there is usually a warmer affection.” John Owen and John Gill are just as graphic in their expositions. These men, all of whom lived centuries ago in England and Europe and were considered the greatest Hebrew and Greek linguists in their day, felt no qualms and gave no caveats when presenting the feminine qualities of our ominipotent and sovereign God. Why should they? They believed the Bible.
In Genesis 1:27 it is said, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." The male and the female were created by God. The male and the female both bear the image of God. The male and the female are both included in the Hebrew word adam (man) - "So God created adam ... He created them." Notice what God says about them ... "and let them rule.…” The male and the female were both designed to rule. Men and women are created by God in His image as co-regents of the world He created. Any system, any society, any organization that places one gender as an authority over the other, whether it be patriarchal or matriarchal in nature, is a direct violation of the command and design of the Creator God. Why can women rule in God's creation? Why can women lead in God's creation? Why can women be equal to men in God's creation? Women are created in the image of God, just like men, and when the omnipotent, sovereign and invisible Creator God determined to create man in His image, He created a male and a female, reflecting the very nature of God Himself. This is why there is nothing wrong with considering God as both Father and Mother, as the invisible and all-powerful Ruler of the universe who reflects Himself in both males and females--God is Spirit and the perfections of each gender are seen in God.
George Kwami Kumi, Ph.D. is an Akan Ghanaian Christian and the vicar general of the Diocese of Sunyani, Africa. Dr. Kumi says that the affectionate term Father-Mother God is used among his native people to denote the invisible God of the Bible. Dr. Kumi is himself accustomed to referring to God as Father-Mother God, and he found it surprising to discover a resistance among conservative evangelicals in the United States to acknowledge God in the way the sacred Scriptures present Yawheh. Dr. Kumi has wondered if western conservative evangelicals in the United States have succombed to creating a god in the image of western civilization culture. Dr. Kumi has even called "strange" the practice of some Christians to only view God in male terms. He explains that Akan African Christians have a fuller and more biblical understanding of God as both Father and Mother, precisely because both male and female characteristics are found in the nature of the invisible spirit God. Dr. Kumi also learned the Catholic catechism as a child which states "God is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit in which there is no place for the differences between the sexes. But the respective "perfections" of man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God: those of a mother (Isaiah 49:14-15; 66:13; Psalm 131:2-3) and those of a father (Job 31:18; Jer. 3:4-20) and husband (Jer. 3:6-19)." [CCC 370]. Dr. Kumi is a modern day theologian and conservatives automatically call him a liberal because he dares acknowledge the feminine in God. Were Dr. Kumi to deny salvation by grace through faith, or were Dr. Kumi to deny the authority and infallibility of Scripture, or were Dr. Kumi to deny the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, you could rightly call him a liberal. However, if a bible-believing scholar holds to the equality of women based upon the belief that the Bible explicitly teaches the image of God in both the man and the woman, then that scholar is not a liberal.
The True Liberals Are Those Who Deny the Clear Teaching of God's Word Regarding Gender
The liberal scholar is the one who denies that both men and women are created in the image of God. Some liberal scholars are self-proclaimed conservative scholars who twist the Scriptures to purport that only man is created in God's image and the woman is the glory of man, not God. Sound strange? To me it sure does. Let me give you an example of this kind of teaching. Dr. Bruce Ware, in a long and bizarre article entitled Male and Female Complementarity and the Image of God writes, "I propose that it may be best to understand the original creation of male and female as one in which the male was made image of God first, in an unmediated fashion, as God formed him from the dust of the ground, while the female was made image of God second, in a mediated fashion, as God chose, not more earth, but the very rib of Adam ... The theology of this is clear ... Genesis 2 intends for us to understand the formation of the woman as both fully like the man in his humanity, while attributing the derivation of her very nature to God's formation of her, not from common dust of the ground, but specifically from the rib of Adam, and so from the man. Just as the man, created directly by God is the image and glory of God, so the woman, created out of the man, has her glory through the man. This much is clear: as God chose to create her, the woman was not formed to be the human that she is apart from the man but only through the man. Does it not stand to reason, then, that her humanity, including her being the image of God, occurs as God forms her from the man as "the glory of the man"? (emphasis mine).
I think this kind of teaching, promoted as the norm at the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, should be called out for what it is. It is liberal theology. It is a denial of the nature of God and the authority of Scripture. From this strange doctrine arise toxic problems within Christian churches and homes. For example, if the male (not the female) is created in the image of God in an unmediated fashion, and the female bears God's image only through the male, then females will be taught that their identity will only be found in a man, not God, and thus ...
(1). Females should always be under a 'protective covering' of a man, either a father or a husband just as men need God's protective covering.
(2). Females should never lead, rule or govern anything but only serve and support the males who were designed to rule as God rules.
(3). Females should be subordinate to the authority of men in the same manner Jesus is eternally subordinate to the authority of God the Father, and even if that authority is abusive at times, the woman should always remain compliant and submissive.
(4). Females should always find their identity and self-worth in the men that God has given to them (fathers and husbands), with home-making and child-rearing being their focus and never working toward any career or identity outside the man's home.
(5). Females were designed by God to be recipients of the leadership, service, and authority of males, and for females to view oneself as equals to males in the home or in the church is rebellion toward God.
I could continue with the toxic effects ad infinitum, but my oatmeal is getting cold and I'm getting a tad nauseated as I think about the damage being done to new church plants, Christian homes, and the kingdom of Christ at large over a very toxic and unbiblical view of men and women. The image of God is in both, and God intends for both males and females to work, serve and lead as His Spirit gifts. Our identity, whether single males or females, married males or females, widowed males or females, or even small male and female children, should be found in who we are as human beings made in the image of God, independent of our relation to the opposite sex. One of these days people will awake to the revelation that when cultures--whether they be religious or secular cultures--promote one gender over another in terms of authority, then the truth of God's Word is being denied. Scripture reveals that both genders reflect the nature of our sovereign, Ruling God. I use the pronouns Him, He, when speaking of God without apology, and I never hesitate to pray as Jesus taught, "Our Father who are in heaven." But when I consider my Father in heaven Who is the invisible, eternal, ruling God of the Universe, I see Him--like the prophet Isaiah, John Calvin, and all my theological heroes--as the God who chooses to reveal Himself as Father and Mother and reflect His image equally in the men and the women He creates. Therefore, I praise God when a gifted woman leads, teaches, prays or takes a position of authority in the presence of men. It's a reflection of God. So, men and women, let's get back to serving one another in the Spirit of Christ with all humility, knowing that our identity is found in our relationship to God.
Charles Spurgeon began his message on the text "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (Hebrews 9:22) with an illustration of three fools. The first fool, Spurgeon said, is the ship's captain who goes below deck during a ferocious storm to read an encyopledia on the nature of Atlantic winds rather than fighting to keep his ship afloat. The second fool is the wounded soldier on the battlefield who asks the arriving medic all kinds of questions about the size, shape and model of the gun that fired the bullet which wounded the soldier rather than asking the physican if his is able to heal him. The third fool is the religious person who is constantly arguing the subtle philosophical questions about the origin and nature of evil while ignoring the clear and certain truth that Christ's blood is able to cleanse his sins (Hebrews 9:14). Spurgeon said all three fools have one thing in common: They trifle with subtleties while they ignore certainties.
I would add a fourth person to Spurgeon's list. It is that Christian leader who turns the gospel of Jesus Christ into a gender gospel. Last week Tim Challies, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church, wrote a blog entitled Men, Women and the Public Reading of Scripture where he defended his view that only men, and never women, can read Scripture in front of men. Challies' view on this matter is based on what he calls the simple reading of I Timothy 2:11-12. Challies writes:
"It is my conviction that these words (i.e. "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man" I Tim. 2:11) are meant to be read and understood in the simplest sense. Speaking with God’s authority, Paul is saying that women are not to exercise teaching authority over men. In other words, it is men who are charged with authority in the church and the most important component of this authority is to declare the words of God. Men have been called to exercise headship in the home and in the church while women are called to different and complementary functions."
I am accustomed to reading such nonsensical and isolated interpretations of I Timothy 2:11-12 from fellow Bible-believing pastors and theologians and I disagree sharply with them. However, I have not written much on the gender issue in recent months, believing as I do that the ungodly emphasis on gender distinctions within the church is destined to fail by virtue of the fact it is so anti-biblical and ultimately anti-Christian. But there was a comment in Challies' blog that caused me to flinch and placed in me a desire to write this post. A man in Challies' comment section wrote: God's design is for men to serve and women to receive. The commentor has summed up quite nicely the teaching of the false gospel that has infected some Bible-believing churches and seminaries. A reader of Dee Parson's and Wanda Martin's Wartburg Watch blog has begun calling it "the gender gospel."
Even though I may be dangerously close to violating the biblical precept 'answer not a fool in his folly," I feel a rebuttal to Challies' position is needed because there may be few naive and biblically unknowledgeable Christians who believe the teaching that "men are to serve, teach, lead, and women are to receive, listen and follow" is really from God. Nothing could be further from God's eternal truth.
The Absurdity of Promoting a Gender Gospel
Those who follow Challies' interpretation of I Timothy 2:11-12 are, in Spurgeon's term, "trifling with subtleties while ignoring certainties." The overwhelming New Testament teaching of the Bible regarding men and women in the church is clear and certain--"gender differences are irrelevant in the church of Jesus Christ." Class 101 in proper hermanuetics teaches that you always intepret difficult or isolated texts based on the certain and plain teachings of the rest of the Bible. God's people in the New Covenant are called to serve based upon the giftings given them by the Holy Spirit. "I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy" (Acts 2:17). The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:27-28 that "All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Paul is emphatic that there is no room in the body of Jesus Christ for racial distinctions, no room for class distinctions, no room for gender distinctions. To forbid a woman to serve, read, lead, or teach (when men are present) is twisting the gospel of freedom in Christ into a gospel of bondage by gender. To restrict a Holy Spirit gifted and empowered woman from edifying other believers through the free exercise of her Spirit given gifts is to resist the Holy Spirit Himself--and qualifies as a very foolish act indeed. What is even more foolish and absurd, at least for Southern Baptists, is the fact that Condoleezza Rice, our 66th United States Secretary of State, spoke to the annual Southern Baptist Convention in 2006. The audience, predominately Southern Baptist men, stood and applauded when Condoleezza explained how we had bombed the Taliban terrorists in Bora Bora to hell. Thank the Lord she didn't actually read a Scripture text about hell. No telling what the SBC pastors might have done had such a blasphemy occurred in their presence.
An ancient Jewish prayer from the Hebrew Siddur (prayer book) went like this: "Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a Gentile. Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a slave. Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a woman." "Hashem" was a Jewish name for the one true God, a name used by Jews in the days of Christ. The same spirit ancient Jews possessed that caused them to believe that only men were created to lead, rule and serve and that women were born to receive, follow and and be there for men, is the same spirit now at work in more than a few evangelical leaders. Interestingly, the rise of the Siddur coincides with the glory of God departing the Temple of Jerusalem in the days of Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 10). Jewish Temple worship continued, but it was during this Spirit-less intertestamentable time period that you have the rise of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other male only Jewish orders that were constantly focusing on male "authority," male "leadership," and male "power." A preoccupation and fixation on authority (whether it be conservative patriarchalism or liberal feminism), is a sign that the Spirit of God has departed. Jesus Christ explicitly forbids any one individual assuming authority over other adults in the Christian community (Matthew 20:20-28). In fact, after describing the imperialism of political rulers and the authority fixation of religious rulers, Jesus said to his disciples ... "It shall not be so among you" (Matthew 20:28). I would propose that any portion of the body of Christ that is placing emphasis on male leadership to the exclusion of female leadership (or vice-versa) is void of the Spirit of God.
The New Testament covenant of God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ totally turns the world's concept of authority on its ear. The world is concerned about position, power, authority, prestige, control, and ruling over others. Jesus Christ teaches His followers to serve, to love, to express their spiritual gifts to their fullest for the good of others, and to never fear what any person in so-called "authority" can do to them because "All authority ... has been given to Me" (Matthew 28:20). There is to be a mutual equality, respect, and submission within the home between husband and wife (Ephesians 5:21-33). There is to be a mutual equality, respect and submission of men and women toward one another in the body of Christ based upon the gifts that the Spirit gives to each male and female believer who has been baptized into Christ (Acts 2:15-21; Galatians 3:28). References to the churches' teaching ministry and other gifts are found in Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 and not one of those passages excludes females from being recepients of any one of those gifts. Let me say that again in a different way. The gifts of the Spirit are never differentiated on the basis of gender in the New Testament -- ever.
But What About Paul's Teaching in I Timothy 2:11-12?
Any student of the Word who reads Paul's Timothy text and draws a conclusion that is contrary to the clear and certain teaching of the rest of the Bible, including Paul's other writings, is playing the fool by trifling with subtleties while ignoring certainties. "But," you shout, "These two verses tell all women everywhere to be SILENT in the presence of men, and to LEARN in SUBMISSION under them." No, kind sir, they don't. Not even close. Were that the case, these two verses would contradict everything the Apostle Paul has written in Galatians, Romans, I Corinthians, Ephesians and every other book he contributed to the New Testament, not to mention all the other books written by Peter, John, Luke, Matthew, and other early disciples of Christ. I have written a foreword to a book entitled What's With Paul and Women and would encourage you to take an afternoon to read Jon Zen's book, a detailed exposition and exegesis of these two Timothy verses. You will never again resist speaking out when you hear gender gospel preachers resist the Holy Spirit and restrict women in the home or the church by claiming for themselves ungodly positions of power and authority.
One of the advantages of being the pastor of a New Testament church where the Word of God is respected, believed, and practiced is that both men and women lead, serve, teach, and shepherd based upon their gifts. The concept of some raw position of power in "elders" is foreign to the New Testament. The word elder means "older." Look to your elders for wisdom. The notion of some raw authority in any office of pastor or elder is foreign to the New Testament. Every believer in Christ is a priest. There is no need for any other mediator other than Christ. Our church has a Leadership Team composed of both men and women. I am called the Lead Pastor. There is, however, no inherent authority in me. I serve people. I love people. I lead people only if they are willing to follow--and frankly, if I do a poor job of serving and loving, they ought not follow. One of these days the church of Jesus Christ is going to wake up to the fact that we have so twisted and corrupted the concept of authority and leadership that what we have abandoned the clear and certain teachings of the New Testament.
The ancient Jews kept women in the courtyard and placed a fence around the Temple grounds lest a woman feel compelled to enter the Holy Place. The sacred rituals were performed by male priests. The sacred services were led by male priests. Modern day conservative evangelicals and liberal feminists have absolutely violated the clear and certain teachings of Jesus Christ and seem to wish to resurrect the Old economy of Temple buildings, gender priesthoods, and religious rituals. Jesus abolished all that Old economy stuff in the New agreement. The Temple of God is no longer a building, it is the soul of a believer (see I Corinthians 6:19). The priests of God are no longer just male, they are both male and female (see Galatians 3:28). The rituals of God are no longer holy days, sacrifices, and feasts, but faith in Christ and love for God and our fellow man (see Colossians 2:16; John 13:3). The body of Jesus Christ is to make no distinctions in race, class and gender. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel that sets the captives free to serve as the Holy Spirit gifts. To revoke the privilege of a gifted, believing woman from reading Scripture to men is to violate the clear and certain teaching of the New Testament and risk having the legalism and religious ritualism of Spirit-less religion that marked Temple worship after the days of Ezekiel and before the launch of the New Covenant. If conservative, Bible-believing, Christ-loving, Spirit-filled, graced people do not speak out when our conservative brothers move into error on this issue, then we become enablers of God's people as they turn the powerful gospel of grace into an impotent gospel of gender. God forbid that we continue to trifle with subtleties while we ignore certainties.
Grace and Truth,
P.S. It was my wife's and my privilege to meet these past few days with a couple of remarkable Christian women. Dee and Wanda of Wartburg Watch are from North Carolina. Wanda is graduated from Duke University with an English degree and Dee is a registered nurse. Both women also have an M.B.A. They are both married and have delightful adult children. Rachelle and I were thrilled to be able to spend some time with them. More than a few pastors and Christian leaders ought to listen to what they are saying.
One of my earliest memories as a child is being sick in bed and having my mother read to me The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum, a book most people know by its shortened title The Wizard of Oz. This September Rachelle and I had the privilege of attending the award winning West End theatre presentation of Wicked in London, England, a musical that serves as the prequel to The Wizard of Oz. Fellow Oklahoman and Broken Arrow friend Kristen Chenowith played Glinda the Good Witch of the South when Broadway brought Wicked to the stage in New York City in 2003. Most people are familiar with The Wizard of Oz through broadway or Hollywood's classic 1939 film version starring Judy Garland and not Baum's book. The differences between the the book, written in 1900, and the later film and broadway versions may at first seem minor, but as is the case in many attempts to bring written material to life through the visual arts, small changes impact the book's overall theme. For example, in order to showcase new improvements in Technicolor, movie producers changed Dorothy's silver shoes in the book version into ruby slippers for the 1939 film version. Unfortunately this small change caused the public to miss the economic allegories in Baum's book. Many today view the The Wizard of Oz as a cute morality play for children. Frank Baum, however, wrote The Wizard of Oz in the late 1890's as a powerful allegory of the economic problems faced by the United States. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz is to economics what John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress is to Christianity. If you understand Baum's allegory, you will know why America and European countries are in their current economic crises and why we are headed toward a financial panic in America the likes of which our country has rarely seen. To understand the allegorical parts of The Wizard of Oz, you must have some historical background regarding the economic crisis in America during the 1880's and 1890's. You will not regret reading carefully this post, even if you don't like history or economics. Your retirement savings and your economic future are at risk.
In what is now called The Crime of 1873, the United States government took silver out of monetary circulation and went to gold as the standard for the American dollar. From the formation of the United States in 1776 until the year of the 'crime' of 1873, the United States had been on a bimetallic standard. In other words, for approximately one hundred years after America's founding as a country, an American citizen could go into a reserve bank, hand over any amount of paper currency (i.e. $10, $20, $100, $1,000, etc...) and be given either gold or silver in return. You would be given about 15 times more silver than gold in terms of weight (for silver traded to gold at a ratio of about 15 to 1), but you could choose the metal you wished to exchange for your dollars. But in the "Crime of 1873" the U.S. government decided to take silver out of monetary circulation. That meant you could no longer get silver for your dollars. The money supply shrank. Beginning in 1873 the only metal that could be exchanged for dollars in America was gold. Beginning in 1873 the government could only issue dollars and increase the money supply in proportion to the amount of gold it held in reserve. Silver was no longer a reserve metal for dollars, and for this reason, the money supply shrank, meaning the collective pool of money available for the exchange of goods in the American economy decreased. A decrease in the available money supply will always lead to deflation. Less money in circulation means lower prices.
Let me illustrate how a decreased money supply lowers prices. Let's say you are on the game Survivor and you and your fellow contestants have not eaten food for 20 days. On the 21st day you and the other 10 contestants are each are given just $20 to bid on 11 different dishes of sumptious food that have been prepared and brought to the camp. You are also allowed to bid on new bedding materials which will make your night's sleep more comfortable. You see what is available for purchase because it is all laid out in front of you. There's a steak and baked potato, there's a cheeseburger, a chicken salad sandwich as well as blankets, pillows, air mattresses, etc... You are limited as to what you can buy since you have a limited supply of money. Due to the small amount of money in circulation the price of everything goes down! However, if you and each of your fellow contestants had actually been given $100 each instead of $20 each, then the price of everything goes up! Why? Because the money supply has gone up, and when more money is in circulation, the price of goods for cheeseburgers and other commodities soars. Prices always eventually go up (i.e. inflation) in proportion to an increase in the money supply, and prices always eventually go down (i.e. deflation) in proportion to the decrease in the money supply.
This Survivor illustration helps you understand The Crime of 1873. The government declared that silver could no longer be used as government money. Silver was taken out of circulation. It's like contestants on Survivor having a large portion of their money taken away before they can bid on goods. The government decreased the money supply and prices for goods across the nation fell as did the demand for those goods by the American public. For the next 25 years, from 1873 to 1898, the United States experienced an average yearly deflation of 1.5%. The people who were hurt the most by the government's decision were farmers from Kansas and the midwest. The prices people were willing to pay for the farmers' crops decreased. Even worse, because farmers were already in debt (as most farmers are), they were having to use the dollars from the shrinking money supply to pay off their old debts. Think back to Survivor illustration and imagine trying to buy food and bedding materials when you have to pay a past debt with the limited $20 you have in hand. It would be much easier to pay off your old debts if your supply of money is greater. Many farmers in the late 1800's were facing bankruptcy because their debts was high, prices were too low, and there was not enough money in circulation for them to survive economically.
There is an important economic principle that can be derived from the 1873 government decision to remove silver from circulation, a principle that will shed light on today's economic problems and the allegory behind The Wizard of Oz. The economic principle simply stated: When people or nations (governments) are in debt, the more money pumped into circulation (i.e. "inflation"), the easier it is to pay off those debts. The more massive the debt, the more critical the need for a massive increase in money supply. If deflation is occuring when there is indebtedness, then the debtor will struggle to pay old debts with scarcer, more valuable dollars. Debtors always need an ever increasing money supply.
Enter Frank Baum and The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy and her cast of characters represent farmers (the Scarecrow), industrial workers (the Tin Man), and fearful politicans (the Cowardly Lion), and they all need help. They follow the Yellow Brick Road (the gold standard) to the Emerald City (Washington D.C.). Oz is the abbreviation for the measurement of gold (i.e. "ounces" or oz.), and the Wizard behind the curtain represents the politicians pulling the strings to decrease the money supply by using only gold as a monetary standard and not silver, harming all the weary travelers. What Dorothy and her friends need is the addition of silver back into the money supply. The entire Oz narrative is the struggle between the common man and the powerful Washington elites over the supply of money. In the Emerald Palace Dorothy and her friends enter 7 passages and climb 3 flights of stairs ( 73 representing The Crime of 73). Silver is found throughout the Wizard of Oz as the answer to the problems at hand, including the Tin Man receiving "a new ax with a handle made of gold and a blade polished so that it glistens like burnished silver and a silver oilcan to oil himself," a statement by Baum which describes his belief that the industrial worker will be helped with the addition of silver to the monetary supply. And of course, Dorothy's passage back to her farm in Kansas is to click her "silver shoes" three times together, representing that the power to solve the farm girl's problems was there all the time (adding silver to the currency). There are so many more economic principles in The Wizard of Oz, and for further study I would recommend that you read The Fable of the Allegory: The Wizard of Oz in Economics.
Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz, was an economic activist. He was considered a progressive, someone we might call 'liberal,' today. One of his political friends, William Jennings Bryan, was the Democratic nominee for President in the 1896 and 1900 Presidential elections. Bryan rocketed to fame at the 1896 Chicago Democratic National Convention where he delivered his famous Cross of Gold Speech. Bryan, who was a devout Christian and went on to infamy in the Scopes Trial, was also a liberal economist, and he closed his famous speech by declaring, "Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world, supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for a gold standard by saying to them: You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold." Bryan and Baum eventually got their wish of a bimetal standard for the American dollar, for the U.S. government reversed course early in the 1900's and added silver back as part of the American currency. You probably remember paper bills with the words "Silver Certificate" etched on the top.
When the government increased the money supply in the early 1900's, the motive was to help the western farmers, just as Frank Baum and William Jennings Bryan requested. But for the last 100 years the government has continued to RADICALLY and RECKLESSLY increase the money supply in America. Why? Because the U.S. government began taking on massive debt of its own. With World War I and then World War II the U.S. government became a debtor nation. However, with the addition of massive social programs in the mid-to-late 20th century, U.S. government became swamped in debt. The U.S. government has become the Kansas farmer of the late 1800's. Our national debt has crossed the fifteen trillion dollars mark. How do you ever get enough cheap dollars to pay off that kind of debt while continuing to spend for an annual operating budget? Is it even possible? Do you add another precious metal as a standard to the American dollar? No. The United States government did something mind-boggling.
The United States government decided in the 1970's to move the American dollar OFF BOTH THE GOLD AND SILVER STANDARD. What was once an argument in Frank Baum's day over a bimetal standard (silver and gold reserve for the dollar) versus a monometal standard (a gold reserve only), became an argument and an ultimate decision by our government to remove the dollar completely from any gold, silver or precious metal reserve standard. Frank Baum, William Jennings Bryan and every other 19th century economists--both liberal and conservative--would have never dreamed the U.S. government could or would do such a thing. But it is exactly what our government has done. Try to go into any bank with a $100 bill today and ask to get paid in silver and/or gold for that $100 bill. It won't happen. It can't happen. There's not enough silver and gold in the world to back the number of U.S. dollars in circulation today. The government's decision to move the dollar off any precious metal standard had its genesis in a highly secretive meeting of bankers and politicans in 1910 as they met on an island off the coast of Georgia called Jekyll Island. You may read about the extraordinary results of the government's decision in a highly readable book entitled The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Look at the Creation of the Federal Reserve. What we now have in America is a system where the supply of money is controlled by the United States Federal Reserve and not by the amount of silver and gold we have in reserve to back those dollars. European countries also have this same kind of currency system. The supply of euros is dictated by European Central Banks, all controlled by European governments. There is no precious metal backing. If governments need an increase in the money supply, then governments simply create paper money. Remember that the people who benefit most with the high inflation caused by an increase in the money supply are those people (or governments) who are in debt. Those harmed by an increase in the money supply are the frugal and the savers. In other words, what Frank Baum wanted in 1900 for western farmers in debt, we now have in spades for western governments drowning in debt. Baum wished to add silver to gold as a metal reserve to increase the amount of dollars in circulation, but he never dreamed of a government currency WITHOUT A STANDARD. Now we have NO precious metal standard. The government cannot have the money supply bound by the amount of gold and silver we have in Fort Knox (if in fact any is still there), because the government needs MASSIVE AMOUNTS of dollars in circulation for the government to pay its massive debts.
The American dollar today is what is called a fiat currency. The government prints it. People trust it and use it. If the government wishes to increase the money supply, they do so by simply allowing the creation of more paper dollars, in a process called fractional reserve banking, where the 'reserves' are paper money deposits, not metals! The only thing that guarantees the fiat money has value is the trust of the people in the currency. What happens when people begin losing trust in government currency? It becomes worthless. This is beginning to take place in Europe as people flee the Euro. One day people will lose trust in the U.S. government and turn away from the government's fiat currency if our debt continues. When that happens, the U.S. will face bankruptcy like Italy, Greec and other European countries face it today. The worst possible case scenario is for a government to be forced to pay back their debts in another government's currency. When this happens the money supply of the debtor government shrinks because the debtor country's currency is considered worthless by the lender country. The indebted government is then forced to pay its debts using another country's stronger currency (think China). This is why people find protection in precious metals or a stronger government's currency when governments are swamped by debt. The massive expansion of the supply of money which has no metal standard behind it is recklessly endangering a country's freedom and future. To say what is happening in Europe and America today is ultimately highly inflationary is a gross understatement. Unless massive and painful spending cuts occur, there is coming a collapse of bankrupt governments and national economies. One day soon people will lose complete confidence in their indebted governments. There will either be riots because governments try to get their fiscal house in order and shut down social programs, or in the worst case, governments will collapse. As the Bible says, "The borrower is a servant to the lender" (Proverbs 22:7).
Our problem today is the very opposite of the one Dorothy faced in The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy needed an increase in the money supply. Deflation was ruining the economics of the Kansas farmer. The farmer couldn't get a good price for his crop, and he couldn't pay off his past debts with a shrinking money supply. But over the last forty years we have received as a nation far more than Dorothy (Frank Baum) ever wished. We have had a grotesque growth in the money supply because silver and gold have both been REMOVED as a reserve for the American dollar. With the Feds doing everything in their power to fight off DEFLATION in order to keep money cheap to pay off government debt, there is coming very soon a rate of inflation the likes of which America has never seen. Where are the economic John Bunyan's of our day? Where are the Frank Baum's of our day? Where are the people with enough sense to know that America is in need of being taught lessons that are much more profound than cute children's fables suitable for Broadway and the big screen?
I have enjoyed the recent articles by Cal Thomas and Al Mohler regarding Herman Cain's suspension of his Presidential campaign. Both men make excellent points. In my readings yesterday, however, I was most moved by the words of a dead preacher named Charles Spurgeon. In a message he preached in 1857 from the book of Hebrews, he described three fools. The first is the wounded soldier on the battlefield who queries the medic about the weapon that wounded him rather than the physician's ability to save him. The second fool is the ship's captain in the midst of a horrible storm who goes below deck to read the encyoclopedia about the source and nature of Atlantic winds rather than working feverishly on deck to save his ship. The third fool is the immoral man who spends his time blaming others for his predicament rather than looking to God for his healing. Spurgeon, in his beautiful and eloquent way, points out that people who think themselves sophisticated will argue about the origins of the universe, the sources of evil, and other intricate questions, while neglecting the certain truth that we are all sinners in need of healing. Jesus Christ shed His blood to heal us. The Bible says emphatically and certainly that "without the shedding of (Christ's) blood, there is no forgiveness of sins" (Hebrews 9:22), which stated positively means "through the shedding of (Christ's) blood there is forgiveness of sins." We all have the nature of Herman Cain. We all have the nature of Jerry Sandusky. We all have a natural tendency toward sin. We all have suffered and caused wounds as the result of our words, our actions, our lifestyles, our decisions, our lusts--our sins. The problem is we "trifle with subtleties while we neglect certainties." We argue with others over why we are the way we are, why we have done what we have done, why we find ourselves in the position we are in. We argue about the source of the winds rather fight to their dissipation. We analyze the weapons that have shot us rather than look for the cure for our wounds. The promise of God is profound: "The blood of Christ shall cleanse your consience from dead works to serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:14). One of these days I would love to hear someone humiliated by public exposure of their sin say something like the following:
"I am guilty. I have been inappropriate with women. I have broken the vows of my marriage. I have sinned against God and my wife. The only healing I can find is in the shed blood of Jesus Christ who died for me. This much is certain: My conscience can only be cleansed by Christ's shed blood. By faith I have turned to Him, and I am now beginning to experience that cleansing within my conscience. That does not mean I will not bear the consequences of my sin in this life or that I (or others) will not bear scars brought by my sins. What my faith in Christ means is that He alone can cleanse my conscience. I must not live my life trying to atone for my mistakes by making you promises. I have no claim on God's future goodness and forgiveness (or yours) by my commitment to reform. I am only cleansed and guaranteed God's forgiveness by the sacrifice of Christ who died for sinners like me. The humiliation brought me by the public exposure of my sin is healthy, for it has reminded me why Christ died. Now, in an ever increasing gratefulness for His cleansing, I am growing in my desire to serve Him. I am a man being changed by the grace of God from the inside out, and if you will be patient with me, I think you will see in the future I will not be the same man tomorrow that I was yesterday. If you find you cannot place your trust in a man whose conduct has been like mine, I will understand, and simply remind you, that one's faith is always misplaced when found in men and not in God."