where religion and politics meet

Everyone has a worldview. A worldview is what one believes about life: what is true, what is false, what is right, what is wrong, what are the rules, are there any rules, what is the meaning of life, what is important, what is not.

If a worldview includes a god/God, it is called a religion. If a bunch of people have the same religion, they give it a name.

Countries also have a worldview, a way of looking at life that directs government policies and laws and that contributes significantly to the culture. Ours used to be Christianity. Now it is secularism, which is practical atheism.

Some of us are trying to engage the government, the culture, and the people who live here to see life again from a Christian perspective and to show how secularism is both inadequate and just plain wrong.

A religion is not a culture, though it creates one. It is not what you prefer, like your taste in music or your favorite movie. It is what you believe to be true. Because it deals with things like God, much of its contents is not subject to the scientific method, but the reasons why one chooses to believe in God or a particular religion certainly demand serious investigation and critical thinking.

Every human being has the duty to search for and learn the truth about life. Education and science used to be valuable tools in this search, but science has chosen to answer the foundational questions without accepting the possibility of any supernatural causes, and education no longer considers the search to be necessary or worthwhile.

poligion: 1) the proper synthesis of religion and politics 2) the realization, belief, or position that politics and religion cannot be separated or compartmentalized, that a person’s religion invariably affects one’s political decisions and that political decisions invariably stem from one’s worldview, which is what a religion is.

If you are new to this site, I would encourage you to browse through the older articles. They deal with a lot of the more basic issues,

For now I want to focus my writing now articles specifically addressed to Christians. So most of my new posts will be on my other website listed below. I will continue to write and post short responses to newspaper columns and letters and even other articles as the inspiration hits me.

Visit my other websites theimportanceofhealing blogspot.com where I talk about healing and my book of the same name and LarrysBibleStudies.blogspot.com where I am posting all my other Bible studies. Follow this link to my videos on youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb-RztuRKdCEQzgbhp52dCw

If you want to contact me, email is best: lacraig1@sbcglobal.net

Thank you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Another Look at the Parable of the Sower

They call this the parable of the sower, but it isn’t really about the sower.  It isn’t even about the seed that he sows.  It’s about the kinds of soil that the seed is sown upon; or, as Jesus explains, it’s actually about the people who hear about God and the 4 basic ways that they might respond to God’s Word when they hear it. 

The parable is one of the better-known parables, and Jesus even gives us the explanation of the parable, telling us what everything means.  But He also leaves a lot of questions unanswered, questions that nobody is asking.  Maybe Jesus didn’t answer the questions, because every society in every generation has to answer those questions in their own way.  But if we are serious about reaching the world for Christ, and particularly our neighbors and the country we live in, then we need to answer these questions.

But first we should look at the parable itself.

The parable is found 3 times in the Bible, in the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  These are called the synoptic gospels, because they all present the life and teaching of Jesus in a similar fashion.  But they each have a different emphasis and their own unique perspectives.  So, while much of the gospels cover the same stories, they are not redundant but complement each other.  And when included in each gospel, they present a more fully formed and well-rounded picture of Jesus and His teaching.

I find it interesting, for example, that when the parable mentions the work of the devil in keeping people from responding positively toward God, each gospel refers to him by a different term.  In Matthew’s Gospel, he refers to the devil as “the evil one.” Mark calls him Satan, which means ‘adversary, and Luke uses the word devil.  The Greek word there is dia/boloj, diabolos, from which we get the word ‘diabolical.  The basic meaning of the word is ‘slanderer.’  Slander is “the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation.”  I don’t think we should consider the slander here to what the devil says about the person necessarily, but what he says about the Word or message.

So Matthew emphasized the devil’s nature, Mark his work, and Luke his methods.

But let’s look at the parable itself.  We’ll use Matthew’s account as a base line:

Matthew 13:1–23 (NASB95)  1 That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2 And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. 3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 “Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6 “But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 “Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8 “And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9 “He who has ears, let him hear.”  . . . 18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. 20 “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23 “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

But then Jesus explains what this all means:

In the first case, the seed fell along the road.  This is where people walk, so the ground is firm, and the seed is unable to go below the surface.  It can’t take root, and it is soon eaten by the birds. 

Matthew notes that these people don’t understand the Word.  Luke adds that the seed was trampled on by those on the road.  The Word is sown on people’s hearts, but the ground is hard and it doesn’t really penetrate.  The devil then comes and takes it away.  It’s gone, leaving no permanent impact.  Mark says that this happens immediately.  People hear the Word of God. and it’s like you’re speaking a foreign language.  Jesus says that this is the work of the devil. 

Jesus didn’t merely say that some people won’t accept the message, but that there are spiritual forces that immediately are at work and who remove the Word so that it has no effect on their lives.
The ground is firm, so the seed can’t penetrate, and the devil comes and takes away the Word.  He takes away the Word, but that doesn’t explain why the ground was hard and impenetrable in the first place.

The second group of people actually accept the Word.  These are those where the Word is sown on rocky soil. 

The three accounts all note that this person receives the Word with joy, Matthew and Mark add that this response is immediate.  But the Word has no root in this person.  They believe for a time (Luke), but then they stop.  Matthew and Mark say the person was offended, or stumbled, or got angry.  Luke says they fell away.

The reasons for this short-lived spiritual life are tribulation (lit. pressure) and persecution (lit. being pursued).  Luke calls it ‘a time of trial (or, test, temptation).

In the third case, the seed is sown on thorny soil.  The Word is choked out.  In Matthew and Mark, it’s cares (anxiety) of the age and the deceitfulness of wealth.  Mark adds the desires for the rest of the things.  Luke describes it as worries, riches, and pleasures of life.

The last group receives the Word and bears fruit.  Matthew adds that they understand the Word.  Remember he was the only one who noted that in the first group, the people didn’t understand the Word before the devil was able to snatch it away.  Matthew and Mark describe this fruit bearing as 30, 60, hundred-fold.  Luke just notes that they hold fast to the Word and bear fruit with endurance, or perseverance.

The question needs to be asked why the people responded the way that they did.  Why are some people like well-worn paths where the ground is hard and impenetrable to the seed of the Word of God?  Why are some people’s lives full of rocks, and what are these rocks?  Why are some people’s lives full of thorns and thistles, and what does that represent?  And why are other people’s lives like well-watered, fertile, broken-up soil where seed can easily take root and grow?

I believe that human beings are basically the same across all cultures and across all generations, yet a complete answer will be unique to every culture and generation.  A culture establishes a basic norm for thinking, a common worldview that underlies all the discussions and decisions that people make.

And what makes a culture?

We can offer a list of things from family to music to media, but there is one creator of culture that has become so dominant today that any attempts to try to counteract it might well be met with the full force of the law.  Most influences of culture have been voluntary and unorganized.  Nobody said you had to listen to the Beatles or Bob Dylan, but they are nothing compared to the real shaper of culture in our time.

And that is government.

There are three strains of thinking today that dominate in our culture that are not only encouraged by government, they are driven by it and compel your compliance.
These strains of thinking I would call secularism, entitle-ism, and hedonism.

Secularism is the thinking that religion can and should be separated from public life.  A religion purports to describe reality, what is true and false, what is right and wrong, and how life is to be lived.  Secularism declares that religion is personal, like your taste in music or food, and that society must be run, or governed, by a system devoid of anything that has anything to do with God, or religion.

After a few generations of this kind of thinking, now when God is introduced into public discourse, you might as well be talking about aliens from outer space, because not only is it considered unknowable (unprovable), it is irrelevant.  It has no bearing on real life.  Everything is and can be explained without it, and everything that is said about it is just your opinion. 

If our society is and was meant to be secular, as we are often told, then religion is not only unnecessary to life but unrelated, unconnected, and finally inappropriate.

In our society, secularism has risen through a complete misunderstanding, intentional and unintentional, of our First Amendment.  You can’t understand the First Amendment if you don’t know the early history of our country.  If you don’t know what practices were considered consistent with the First Amendment back then. you are not going to be able to understand what our Founders meant by it.

The First Amendment cannot guarantee free exercise of religion unless religion and its values are consistent with the highest values of our country.  If we were meant to be a secular nation, then secular values would be higher than religious ones, and freedom of religion could not be promised.

For example, prayer and Bible use were a part of public education from the time of the Pilgrims in the early 1600s and continued continuously until 1962, almost 350 years after the first public schools were formed in our land.  And now they are found to be unconstitutional??????
The First Congress had Bibles printed to be used in the public schools, and the First Congress declared a national Day of Prayer as one of its first acts.  The Ten Commandments were prominently displayed in schools, courts, government buildings, and on government property for most of our nation’s history, but only in the last few decades has this practice been found unconstitutional. 
Some may say that the culture changed the laws, but these were court decisions made by a majority of nine people who were not elected to represent us and who we are essentially powerless to resist or remove from office.  And what a court changes today becomes the new normal tomorrow. 
Four years ago, almost nobody openly endorsed gay marriage.  President Obama came out in support of it, and within a year or two, the Supreme Court made it the law of the land.  That didn’t change too many people’s minds, but children from the earliest ages in public schools today will be taught that homosexuality is normal, healthy, and just as good as heterosexuality. 
And the Church will be seen as bigots, haters, and stuck in the ancient past of superstition, the flat earth, and the myth of Adam and Eve.
But back to the parable.
Secularism produces a people steeped in naturalism.  There is no God behind the curtain that governs in our lives.  We have a government instead to protect us.  And things happen because, well, they just happen.  Any talk of a God or religion is just superstition, or a carryover from an unenlightened, primitive past.  We know better now.
People with a secular worldview see no need for God or even a reason for God.  We’re born, we live, and we die.  There’s nothing more to see here.  When you talk to people about God, it is as if you were trying to sell them insurance coverage for an outer space invasion.  They are like a well-worn path where the ground is hard, and seed is not able to penetrate it.
The second strain of thought promoted by government is entitle-ism, or entitlement.  We may laugh when schools have multiple valedictorians, and when every athlete gets a participation trophy, but they are not kidding. 
If God has no place in our public life, then neither does the Ten Commandments. The Commandments didn’t address school grades or sports directly, but it does teach responsibility for one’s actions and accountability.   So when religion teaches that people are responsible for their actions, this means then that some people make good choices while other people make bad choices.
So to set religion aside, we must also set aside any idea of judgment or accountability.  Those are inherently religious ideas, and we can’t promote religion. 
Secularism then had to develop its own moral code, and we call it political correctness, which basically teaches tolerance, equality, fairness, and diversity, which includes multiculturalism, the equality of all cultures and societies.  To say that one culture or society is better than another assumes some outside point of reference, a higher authority, and then we are back to God.
Since religion involves accountability and standards of behavior, all this must be rejected as well.  So the worst offense now is to offend somebody, as it would show one’s attempt to assert some form of moral superiority over someone else.  Discrimination would be another form of this, and one must aim for the most diverse outcomes in order to prove that it has not taken place. 
In a politically correct society, there should be no winners, because that would mean that somebody lost.  We are all winners.  We are all equal.  Believing that people are equal in this current sense means that any differences in people’s status must be the fault of the society and not the individual.  So society is divided into oppressors and the oppressed, and society must focus on elevating the oppressed peoples, who just happen to be everyone of color or female in gender.
There is no One who judges people.  And there is no One up in the sky who takes care of people.  That function is now that of the government.  So where the first Bill of Rights listed some of the things that people could do without government interference, rights now become things that people are entitled to by the government.  Or, in other words, things that people are to be given at the expense of other people. 
Back to the parable. 
The second kind of soil describes people who believe in this God talk for a while.  After all, God has a wonderful plan for your life.  But these people are easily offended.  The Christian life is hard, if you are really serious about it. 
But a secular life is meant to be a smooth safe life.  The government is responsible to see that everything is taken care of including your emotional and mental wellbeing.  People are to be protected from inconvenience and intolerance, and certainly they have the right not to be offended.  
Christians are the last people in a secular society to be defended from abuse, and people today have a right not to be hurt.  Unless, of course, you are a Christian, because then you actually deserve it.  It’s your religion that teaches intolerance and judgment. 
The parable talks about tribulation and persecution that causes these people to be offended.  The basic ideas of these two words are pressure and pursuit.  Tribulations can be any kinds of pressure, and persecution can apply to any kinds of challenge to your faith by a disagreeing society. 
So we have a society that is emotionally pampered, sensitive to any criticism, and unwilling to challenge the accepted thinking of the age.  These traits don’t contribute to longevity in a person’s new Christian walk. So people who are like rocky soil expect things to go easier than they usually are, and they are not ones to stick things out when things get rough.
The third strain of thinking I called hedonism.  Essentially hedonism is the thinking that life is meant to be enjoyed.  What feels good and tastes good are pleasures that should not be denied.  How can something that brings pleasure be wrong or be restricted in ways that seem arbitrary at best? 
The moral code of secularism doesn’t address moral issues beyond those basic principles of tolerance, etc.; and since all cultures are equal and God and religion are just relics of an unenlightened past, we as a society will not and cannot judge you on your lifestyle.  We have no grounds to reject it or question it. 
But take it a step further.  This is a view of life that puts all value on what can be seen, felt, experienced with the senses.  There is nothing more beyond this.  Life is to be lived in the here and now, because there is nothing else. 
Luke summarized the thorny ground as cares, wealth, and pleasures of life.   The same people that will pursue pleasure, or comfort and security, as their priority are the same people prone to cares and the pursuit of wealth.  The same God who is not there to judge them is also not there to be trusted to take care of them. 
This third type of person is entirely engaged in a life that finds its highest meaning and value in the things of this life.  That chokes the word, because the things they can feel and see are more real to them than things they cannot see or directly feel. 
All three of these soils, these kinds of people, these ways of viewing life are promoted, even codified, by a secular government.  They are part of our public educational system from the earliest ages, and government is seeking to get your kids at an even earlier age through pre-K education and child care. 
Almost all new laws and court decisions are based on these kinds of thinking, and the government will encourage and force these ways of life through the courts and law enforcement. 
Think of government as a huge dump truck that covers the land of our country with rocks that make any growth of life from the Word of God more difficult than it need be.
Christians today often talk about persecution and how it is good for the Church.  It wakes believers up, and the Church gets serious and starts growing.  They look at China, but they don’t look at the Middle East.  The Church is growing rapidly in China under persecution., but the Church is being pushed to extinction in the Middle East through persecution. 
The Church is growing in China in spite of persecution and not because of it.  Chinese Christians believe in miracles and see them regularly in their evangelistic efforts, and Christians here don’t.  But that’s another article. 
The fact is that we had a Christian country for hundreds of years before and after we officially became a nation.  But gradually government, through our courts and our laws, slowly changed the rules by which our nation ran, and every generation started out with a new normal, a new baseline on who we are and were as a nation. 
A lot of Christians don’t value or even accept the idea today of a Christian nation, because they see that as only the outward trappings of religion but not the true commitment of born again individuals. 
But they forget the parable.
Those outward trappings, like prayer and Bible in school, public manger scenes, the Ten Commandments posted prominently, even just being able to say Merry Christmas, all work to normalize the idea that there is a God to whom we are accountable, that God is real, and that Christianity and the Bible are true.   
Christians pray for and give to help small tribes in remote jungles, but they live in a nation of over 300 million people who are becoming increasingly impervious to the gospel, because they live in a country that marginalizes it, and Christians think it is wrong to challenge that.
Christians keep thinking they are living in Bible days when they had kings and rulers and Caesars.  We have representatives.  If we think they aren’t doing a good job of promoting and protecting our values, then we have the right and responsibility to remove and replace them.  And we may have to be the ones taking their jobs, because we can’t wait for someone else to come along to do this better job.
But we need to see that winning the world is not just presenting the gospel one on one to individuals.  The entire political and cultural system affects how the people will respond to it.  We may talk about the power of the Holy Spirit as making that irrelevant, but don’t forget, it was Jesus who told us this parable.  It was Jesus who told us about these different kinds of people, and we won’t be successful in our attempts to reach the people of our country if we don’t know and understand the dynamics affecting how they think. 
Challenging this whole concept of a secular society may sound like we are trusting in politics to save us when we are praying for a revival, but challenging a society at its very root might be the very way necessary to start this revival.







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