Franklin was not known as orthodox in his religious beliefs, but there is no doubt that he understood what made nations great. It wasn’t geography, natural resources, or monetary prosperity. The self-taught candlemaker’s son, author of Poor Richard’s Almanac, world traveler, inventor of the lightning rod and bifocals, knew that the key to national success was the acknowledgment that God establishes empires, and He requires that they be built in a certain way.
As you apprehensively await their response to your depressing analysis, the granddads suddenly (thankfully?) begin to fade away. But rather than disappearing altogether, they morph, instead, into you. As this transformation is completed, you have suddenly become a living representative of your grandparents and a respected lay member of a typical evangelical church in your town.
You agree with your grandfathers’ findings while awaiting, with no small degree of dread, their obvious next question which is, “What happened? What caused all this? Were we invaded and occupied by some evil enemy force?” [Yes, we were!] “Or, did we elders leave things in such bad shape for you young people that this madness was inevitable?”
Suddenly, one day in 2004, as you continue to experience the prevailing discouraging psychological factors around you, both of your now deceased Christian grandfathers – and their fathers, too – magically appear before you, live and in the flesh. Yes, there’s much rejoicing, but since their return a couple of days ago and subsequent nationwide inspection tour, it has been the catastrophic cultural decay and moral chaos engulfing the nation that has truly shocked them.
Even the most Bible-resistant are well aware, deep down, that they ought to spend at least some time contemplating life’s “Big Questions.” Who am I…where did I come from…why am I here…how do I know what I know…where am I going…how do I get there…what’s my purpose? Sadly, the deeply penetrating nature of these challenges often leads to their being shunted aside because they require more soul searching than the average preoccupied American wants to spend, including even many preoccupied pastors
For decades, Christians have been reluctant to get involved in politics. These Christians either don’t vote or when they do vote they do so in terms of what government can do for them. Government is seen as their earthly savior. They are more concerned about where their next flu shot is coming from rather than the appointment of judges who with one vote can turn the Constitution on its head.
As with most theological positions, there are a variety of interpretations of this passage: (1) The salvation of every racial/ethnic Jew. This is an impossible interpretation.
God established civil government to be an avenger who brings wrath upon those who practice evil. The civil government’s power to use the sword is legitimate in certain limited cases. The Bible has mandated that the power of the sword is to keep the peace, to protect those who do what is right.
The Bible is opposed to centralism, whether it’s political (United Nations) or religious (World Council of Churches). The tower of Babel and God’s scattering of those who were involved in its design were judged because of the potential corruption that is inherent in religious and political centralism.
Many Christian organizations and churches exist exclusively as spiritual fire houses. When they see a fire, they send a fire engine to douse it. They then return to the fire house to polish the fire engine awaiting another call.
Can a biblically-based government (including the civil sphere) operate within the conceptual framework of pluralism? While it depends on the definition of pluralism, let me say that the modern concept of pluralism is one of the most pernicious inventions of the twentieth century designed to eliminate the Christian religion.
The debate in Columbus’ day was not over whether the Earth was flat or round. Rather, the width of the ocean was the crucial factor; the distance between continents determined the cost and feasibility of an expedition. "The issue was the width of the ocean; and therein the opposition was right." Columbus had underestimated the circumference of the Earth and the width of the ocean by a significant number of miles.
The modern mind cannot bear the thought that people who lived far before the twentieth century could have gotten anything right about science. Even the Encyclopedia Britannica perpetuated the myth of a flat-earth cosmology: "Before Columbus proved the world was round, people thought the horizon marked its edge. Today we know better" (1961). The people of Columbus’ day knew better.
How and why did the flat-earth myth get started? The legend was popularized by Washington Irving in his three-volume History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1828). Irving, best known for "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle," used his fiction-writing skills to fabricate a supposed confrontation that Columbus had with churchmen who maintained that the Bible taught that the Earth was flat. No such encounter ever took place.
The Bible does not engage in speculative scientific descriptions about the earth’s external foundations. It simply states that God "stretches out the north over empty space, and hangs the earth on nothing" (Job 26:7). Those who accuse the Bible of teaching a flat Earth point to how the Bible speaks of having "four corners" (Isa. 11:2 and Rev. 7:1) and "four winds" (Jer. 49:36 and Matt. 24:31).
Medieval science as practiced by Christians went astray when "the Bible was . . . read through `Greek’ spectacles." Certainly the Greeks were right in many of their observations, but it was an almost religious attachment to Greek cosmology that was the West’s greatest impediment to further discovery and scientific advance.
Daniel J. Boorstin, an accomplished historian, writes that "The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the ocean was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge."1 Early observers of earth’s landscape and the heavens that were beyond their grasp put forth theories of design that were picturesque but woefully inaccurate if taken literally.
Each and every Columbus Day, we are reminded by some misinformed historians who should know better, that the great navigator proved by his daring bravado that the Earth was more like a blue marble than a dinner plate.