Saturday, December 31, 2011

Are You Afraid To Die?

The Fear of Death Confounds Me

One of the more prevalent fears haunting us is the fear of disease, especially a debilitating disease like cancer.  My mother suffered from severe dementia before she died and I often catch myself dreading the possibility that I, too, may suffer the same horrible fate.  Following closely behind the fear of debilitating disease is the fear of dying. 

Of all the tormenting fears that afflict people, the fear of dying is certainly one of the most common.  Many fear losing their job but not everyone loses their job.  The fear of public speaking is a particularly common fear but most can avoid public speaking if they choose.  If you are tormented by the fear of spiders or snakes you can easily avoid places where those critters can be found.  Most of our fears are founded on things we find difficult to control such as the fear of rejection, the fear of poverty or the fear of loneliness. 

We can make accommodations for all the fears listed above accept one.  You can fill your life with people if you are lonely.  You can eat right, exercise and try to get plenty of sleep if you fear poor health.  But no one can successfully run from death.  The Grim Reaper comes to claim everyone.   We are born to live and eventually to die.  Life for many is difficult because of all of its uncertainties.  The only true certainty in life is death.  Well, actually Ben Franklin added one other certainty, “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.”

Necrophobia, or the fear of death is closely connected with xenophobia, the fear of the unknown.  There is a German proverb that says, “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he us.”  Conspiracy theorists thrive on the fear of the unknown.  We look into the vast and diamond studded velvet sky in the moonless night and we imagine Martians or aliens because we don’t know what is out there.  The fear of the future caused world panic before Y2K and it appears to be returning as we begin the year 2012. The fear of death is so prevalent because it is something new, something we’ve never experienced before.  We long for someone to die and then come back and comfort us about dying. 

The Bible seems to confirm the idea that everyone must die, it also confirms that everyone must face the judgment of God.  Perhaps the real fear of dying is grounded in the latter fact rather than the former.  “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.”  (Hebrew 9:27)  But let’s back up.  The Bible also teaches that there were two men who never died.  “And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:  And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” (Genesis 5:24-25)  The writer of Hebrews confirms this:  “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”  (Hebrews 11:5)

The other biblical figure who escaped death was Elijah.  The Lord took “Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind…there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”  (2 Kings 2:1,11)  Are these two incidents not contradicted by Hebrews 9:27…”It is appointed unto man once to die”? 
John the Revelator envisioned two witnesses which he wrote about in Revelation chapter 11.  These two will share gospel truth with the Jewish people and then they will be brutally murdered by the “beast that rises from the bottomless pit.” (Revelation 11:7)  If Elijah and Enoch are the witnesses foretold here then the requirement that all men taste of death would be satisfied.

Having established that none shall escape the Angel of Death, what can be done to reduce or eliminate the fear of death?  John Donne addresses the topic in his poem, “Death, Be Not Proud.”
“Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures bee,
                   Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow.

It may sound arrogant for Donne to claim that death cannot kill him but he has a supernatural hope that destroys his fear of death.  His faith is founded in the promise of Christ.  Christ is the one who has died and come back to comfort us regarding our fear of death.  The Apostle Paul speaks of this promise in 1 Corinthians 15.  Paul asserts the reality of a resurrection based on the fact that because Christ arose from the dead he is qualified to fulfill his promise to raise us from the dead also.

Donne reveals the impermanence of death by comparing it to rest and sleep.  Because of the hope of the resurrection death becomes nothing more than a prolonged period of sleep before we are brought again to life by the grace and power of Christ himself.  Our fear of death makes the wolf bigger than it really is. 

The poet turns the tables on death and portrays it as something powerless and inadequate:
“One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”

Paul wrote comforting words to Titus (1:2) when he declared that God cannot lie.  He has promised us eternal life from the beginning of time.  Let us rejoice in His salvation! Through him we have eternal life. We must trust him to prepare us for it and preserve us to it. It is our great privilege to draw deeply from the wells of his salvation.

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Setting The Record Straight About Newt Gingrich

I know.  I know.  You don’t want to read another article promoting Newt Gingrich.  After all, he is in his third marriage.  He was criticizing Clinton for his dallying with Monica Lewinsky while he himself was having an adulterous affair with a staff member.  And the draconian incident that pounds the final nail in the coffin of Newt’s run for the presidency:  horror of horrors, he served divorce papers to his wife while she lay in a hospital bed dying of cancer.

If the previous paragraph describes your opinion of Newt Gingrich would you please read on?  Yes, Newt is in his third marriage.  He is also a brilliant man who happens to be a slow learner when it comes to family and relationships.  He is now 68 years old, he tears up when he speaks of his daughters and he appears to be happy and secure in a very stable marriage to his wife, Callista.  When he speaks of his former wives he refuses to play the blame game like so many divorced couples are apt to do.  There appears to be no shards of bitterness piercing his soul.

Newt Gingrich does not try to defend the sins of his past.  “On my bleakest days (referring to his moral failures), I knew that my sin was sin.”  He is not sweeping anything under the rug.  There is no blatant lie coming from his lips such as, “I didn not have sex with that women…”  He is not playing mind games with the American public by contemplating just what the meaning of ‘is’ is.  He acknowledges his sin, he confesses his spiritual failures and he claims he has been forgiven by the only One who can grant cleansing to his soul. 

There are a couple of myths that haunt Gingrich.  The liberal press and his Republican opponents are making hay from some twisted notions.  Perhaps most harmful is the notion that Gingrich entered the room of his former wife while she laid in a hospital bed dying of cancer to serve her divorce papers.  This never happened.  Marianne Ginther was not dying.  In fact, she is very much alive today.  Jackie Gingrich Cushman, Newt’s daughter, has come forward to vouch for her father over this controversial issue.  Jackie states that she and her sister have a wonderfully close relationship with both of their parents.  She describes the day she was taken by her father to Emory Hospital in Atlanta to visit her mother who had had a benign tumor removed.  It was “not considered a defining event for any of us,” Jackie explained.  Her mother had already asked for a divorce and the daughters had already been informed.  It was a painful time in their lives but they have all moved on. See Jackie’s explanation here. 

At the risk of readers thinking I am defending Gingrich’s past indiscretions, I am not.  Gingrich has been smeared by his enemies for condemning Bill Clinton for having an affair with Monica Lewinsky while he was guilty of the same.  While both he and Clinton were rowing the same boat on the murky waters of immorality, Gingrich never spoke out about the affair.  Gingrich’s criticism for Clinton was restricted to his perjuring himself before a grand jury.  Perjury is a felony that can earn you five years in the penitentiary.

How long does a person have to carry the baggage of his past?  Some might argue that we endure the consequences of our sin for a lifetime.  Fortunately for those of us who don’t have a stellar past, Christ forgives and forgets our transgressions.  But humans haven’t the ability to forget.  We tend to ‘red letter’ people who have transgressed.  This may not be fair if they have truly been forgiven and restored.  The difficulty is in our perception.  Forgiveness happens in an instant and most all of us are willing to accept that.  Restoration is a long and sometimes tedious process.  We can accept that Newt Gingrich has been forgiven but has he experienced restoration?  Will he fall back into his former immorality?

Would Newt Gingrich be a good president?  That is debatable.  When it comes to conservative social issues Newt has been worthy of the conservative title by voting 98.6%, 70 or 71 votes, in favor of protecting life in the womb.  He was the leadership behind the Balanced Budget Amendment in the 1990’s and he balanced the budget for four years while he was Speaker of the House.

After watching Newt’s performance in the debates, no one in America, liberal or conservative is questioning his intellectual ability.  Some would like him to win the Republican nomination just to see him on the same stage with Barack ‘Teleprompter’ Obama in a presidential debate.

Read some of his books and articles and listen to his interviews and realize that Gingrich has a deep historical perspective for this country that the present occupant of the White House totally lacks.  He has a vast amount of experience as a congressman and he knows how to get a bill passed.  He has been thoroughly vetted, both negatively and positively.  His failures are on the table.  He didn’t pay two million dollars to hide his birth certificate nor is he hiding his participation in academia. 

Do his past moral failures deem him incapable of being president?  When England was in its moment of deepest despair and Hitler was poised to devour the nation a man emerged like a phoenix rising from the ashes.  He was a man known for his failures.  He was pegged as an unfeeling intellect, arrogant and self-absorbed.  But the British turned to the only man who could see beyond the horizon, the only man who had the proper perception of the danger that threatened them.  Winston Churchill’s ideas were affective in saving the British from Hitler’s war machine during World War II. 

As a Christian I am much troubled by Gingrich’s failures.  But I am also aware that all men are born in depravity and many very capable men may be eliminated from office by an unreasonable standard imposed by fervent Christians. Martin Luther once said, “I would rather be governed by a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian.”

If I had a heart condition that required open heart surgery and my life depended on the skill of the surgeon, I wouldn’t be asking if that surgeon smoked pot in his youth, I wouldn’t be asking if he had been faithful to his wife or if he had ever robbed a bank.  I would want him to be the best and most skilled heart surgeon available.  Our country is in a life-threatening situation.  The next five years are very crucial for the future of Americans.  All of the presidential candidates have skeletons in their closets.  We have “all sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  Should past indiscretions, forgiven by the Savior, prevent a man from serving his country? 

God chose Moses to lead his children out of Israel.  Moses was a murderer.  David was perhaps the greatest warrior-king in the history of Israel.  David was a liar, an adulterer and a murderer.  The Apostle Paul had dedicated his life to murdering Christians before he was saved and forgiven.  He then committed his life to inviting others to meet and accept the Savior he once despised.

I don’t know if Newt Gingrich would be the best candidate for president.  He has made some terrible mistakes.  A wise man learns from his past failures.  Is Newt Gingrich a wise man? 

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Memo To All Secularists: Christians Are More Than Two-Dimensional.

"Let not your heart be troubled"

Why are Christians viewed by the secular world as being only two- dimensional?   Why are we perceived as only supporting life and marriage and opposing abortion and homosexuality?  We are also very concerned about idolatry, murder, theft, lying, and many other issues that negatively affect society.  We don’t perceive ourselves as being cultural watchdogs, rather, we find ourselves being concerned about the things our Heavenly Father is concerned about.  As John Calvin once said, “"A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God's truth is attacked and yet would remain silent."

As the presidential primary season approaches and the blogs are scatter shot with political opinion, let it be known that Christians are concerned with far more than abortion and homosexuality.  We are far more complex than the average secularist gives us credit for.   As we consider which candidate to vote for we are very troubled by the fiscal state of America. We consider fiscal responsibility a moral issue.  As a husband and father in my home, I would be acting immorally if I used the money earned to feed and provide for my family to satisfy some personal desire.  Likewise, Christians believe it is immoral behavior for government officials to steal money from future generations to selfishly satisfy the desires of the present generation.  Living high off the hog at the expense of our children and grandchildren isn’t a political problem, it’s a moral problem.

Christians and secularists have differing worldviews.  The secularist divides the issues by defining the contest as “conservative vs. liberal” or “right vs. left”.  There is room for a sort of moral relativism as you might place yourself anywhere along the spectrum of the line between extreme right and extreme left.  Christians frame the issues by defining it as a contest between “right vs. wrong.”  There is no moral equivalency here.  Ripping a baby from the womb of its mother is wrong whether it be done in the 3rd month or the 6th month of pregnancy. Killing a baby is wrong whether the mother is poor or wealthy, whether she is busy going to college or holding down two jobs. 

Christians believe that destroying the sacred institution of marriage is wrong.  We believe that God sanctioned the existence of the church, the government and the family.  God clearly defined family in the Garden of Eden.  It was to be one man and one woman.  They were to commit to each other.  God wrote the law against adultery into the Ten Commandments to protect the sanctity of the marriage relationship.  Any attempt to make marriage anything other than what God intended it to be is an affront to the sole intent of God to sanctify marriage.  It isn’t about Democratic or Republican policies.  It’s about the mind of God.  Redefining marriage to satisfy some personal or societal desire is a transgression of God’s known law.

Christians believe that a government that steals from future generations is participating in a blatant immorality.  We aren’t so much looking for a candidate that is Republican or Democrat, or Independent or Libertarian.  We are looking for a candidate who will dedicate himself or herself to doing the right things.  We want a candidate who will remind us that we were founded as a Christian nation upon the concepts taught within the Holy Word of God.  We aren’t begging for a theocracy.  We simply want God-fearing men and women who are determined to do what is right for our country and for future generations.

John Adams once said, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  The word ‘religious’ in his quote refers to Christianity.  We were formed to be a Democratic Republic where people are represented by those elected to do so.  Our founding fathers had a clear perception of the true nature of man.  Man is essentially wicked.  We are born in depravity. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9)  Their knowledge of the true nature of man caused them to establish a government that would take into account the probability that some leaders would be corrupt rather than righteous. Our first governors understood that it was their fear of God, their reverence for God that would restrain them from doing evil.

Modern Psychology has attempted to replace God’s view of man (essentially evil) with man’s view of man (essentially good).  The secularists teach that men are basically good and any evil they do is learned behavior due to a poor environment.  ‘Sin’ is a religious term that secularists avoid at all costs.  Sin carries with it an association with punishment or reward.  Our youth are being taught that there is no need for salvation.  If there is no salvation there is no Savior.  We don’t need to confess and be saved from our sin, we simply need someone to come along and build up our self-esteem. 

When I worked in a hospital years ago to help pay for my college education, I was often the only orderly working the evening shift.  When hospital personnel heard the words “Code Blue” on the intercom we were spurred to action because we knew someone was being threatened by the grim reaper and time was of the essence.  I am amazed at how much damage has been inflicted on our nation in the last few years.  We must act quickly and efficiently if we are to save our country.  The time is short.  I don’t want to be one to cry “wolf, wolf” or be another Chicken Little crying, “The sky is falling.”  But I do believe we are running short on time.  You don’t have to be a Christ- follower to feel disturbed about the direction our country is taking.  I believe we are facing a real national emergency.  The coming election is crucial to the future of our country. 

Our currency is extremely unstable.  Europe rulers are terrified of an economic collapse in the European Union. The president of Iran is seeking to build a nuclear weapon and he openly rants that he will destroy Israel if ever he is successful.  George Soros recently warned that the world’s economy may be on the brink of collapse.  Russia and the United States have naval fleets feinting and sparring in the Mediterranean Sea in preparation for disruption in the Middle East.  The Arab Spring has replaced dictators who opposed Sharia Law with the Muslim Brotherhood who is determined to enforce draconian Islamic laws on Arab peoples everywhere. 

This may not be the Great Tribulation Christians often speak of but it certainly is a time of testing.  The people of the world are looking for a savior.  Someone to save them from economic woes.  Someone to bring political unity.  Someone to solve unresolved problems. 

There is a great hunger for peace.  Jesus Christ offers a peace the world cannot understand or provide.  It is a peace that passes all understanding.  In view of all these things how should we as Christians react?  Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me.”  (John 14:1)  The troubles and trials that lie ahead will have a distinguishing affect on all who are followers of Christ.  The dross will float to the top and we will be purified by the refiner’s fire.

The remedy for this dilemma is simple.  We as a nation and as individuals must confess our sins and humble ourselves before God.  We must run without becoming weary and we must endure to the end.  For those who persevere to the end will surely be rewarded.

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.

Seven Things We Will Learn To Live Without

Computers have transformed our culture.  They have made the world much smaller and enabled us to belong to a global community. China is no longer on the other side of the world.  It is as if China is in our backyard.  In some mysterious way computers have made our lives more complex when the original promise was to simplify them.  Some of us are old enough to remember the "milk man".  Some may even be old enough to remember the 'ice man'.  I'm wondering if my six year old son will remember the 'mail man'?  Here are seven things that may be eliminated by new technology:

1.  The Post Office:  Emails are killing the postal business.

2.  The Check:  Plastic cards will eventually make checks obsolete.

3.  Television:  Commercials run every 4 1/2 minutes.  No commercials on Netflix

4.  Music:  Illegal downloading is cutting profits.  New artists are playing old songs.

5.  Land line telephone:  Cell phones, satellites, laptops make landlines impractical

6.  Newspapers:  I used to be a 'paper boy'.  Real time news online is two days ahead of the local paper

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christian’s Response to the Banning of Prayer in Public Schools

President Ronald Reagan broached the issue of prayer in public schools when he addressed the nation in February of 1984. He reminded American citizens that prayer in public schools was practiced freely for the first 200 years of our history without any adverse affects. Reagan was flummoxed by the fact that the first amendment of the Constitution permits the “Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen to march on public property (and) advocate the extermination of people of the Jewish faith and the subjugation of blacks, while the same amendment forbids our children from saying a prayer in school.”

So, what dangerous prayer wasstruck down by the Supreme Court? I’m sure you might be shocked to know that kindergarten children in this country used to recite this prayer before the Supremes rushed in to protect them:

“We thank you for the flowers so sweet,

We thank you for the food we eat.

We thank you for the birds that sing.

We thank you, God, For everything.”

Reagan went on to say, “The first amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people from religion; that amendment was written to protect religion form government tyranny.” He referenced God in the Mayflower Compact, in the Declaration of Independence, in the Pledge of Allegiance and The National Anthem. The dollar bills we carry in our wallets have the words “In God We Trust” inscribed on them. If God is so freely symbolized in all of these, why is he considered so dangerous in public schools?

No one in their right mind could possibly believe that this prayer is detrimental to the minds and lives of our youth. It is disturbing to know that the highest court of the land can take the Constitution and twist it to mean whatever they desire for it to mean. It is obvious that the decision to take Bible reading and prayer out of public schools is not an attempt to guarantee freedom of religion. It is an attempt to promote one religion over another. Arguing as the only dissenter in Abington v. Schempp, (the court decided 8-1 to eliminate Bible reading from public schools) Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said, “a refusal to permit” religious exercises in the schools “is seen not as the realization of state neutrality, but rather as the establishment of a religion of secularism.” (1)

The fact is that the majority of Americans, perhaps as high as 65%, support the idea of allowing prayer in public schools. Democracies are founded on the idea that the greater good of the body of citizens must be protected. Americans are very alarmed that activist judges have twisted the constitution in ways to favor minority opinions over those of the majority. The majority of Americans oppose legalized abortion. The majority of Americans oppose redefining marriage to mean anything other than the union of one man and one woman. It seems the majority no longer have a voice in their own government.

What can proponents of prayer in public schools do? They can withdraw their children from public schools and home school them or send them to private schools. Homeschooling in America has increasedover 75% in the last decade. Most Christian parents who advocate homeschooling take to heart the verses in Deuteronomy 6:6-7. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” They embrace the teaching that it is the primary responsibility of parents to teach religious values to their children and to educate them.

Those in favor of prayer in public schools could support a law that allows all teachers to begin the day with prayer but not all teachers are Christians but many teachers would pray to whatever god they choose. They might pray to Allah or Buddha or even Oprah Winfrey. Though there are many loyal Christian educators laboring away in the public school systems, they are hampered by what they can and cannot say about God. Modern education in the United States is going to assume a denial of God or they are going to take the polytheistic (belief in many gods), politically correct approach which says that there are many gods and they all deserve equal respect in our society. Modern education reveals a type of schizophrenia, a tension between atheism and polytheism, but never a promotion of monotheism, (the belief in one God).

In many areas of the country students are given a moment of silence. It is assumed that during this time they may pray silently. The fact is, government can never take away a privilege that God grants to his children. For many, this is all a non-issue. Our children can pray anytime, anywhere they choose. God doesn’t designate a certain place or a certain method but he does command that we “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thes.5:17)

When our children are being taught knowledge their education is limited and inadequate if they are not being taught the truth about Christ. The Apostle Paul warned the Colossians, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” Education is an expression of what we believe and it is incomplete and inadequate if it doesn’t include the truth of Christ. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The beginning of wisdom and knowledge is the fear of God.” If we don’t expose our children to the teaching of the truth of Christ then we are cheating them because Christ cannot be separated from true education. We are disobedient if we replace the truth of God with an impotent belief in secularism.

Instead of focusing so much on what the government and the courts are not doing, perhaps we should focus more on what we should be doing. It is not the government’s responsibility to teach our children about God and to educate them in the truth of God’s word. That is very clearly the responsibility of Christian parents. We should teach our children to “pray without ceasing”. The prophet Daniel prayed in many places he wasn’t supposed to. He prayed several times a day with the windows wide open. He was rewarded by being thrown into the Lion’s Den. But there, God miraculously revealed himself to Daniel and delivered him from evil. As Christians, we need to pray often in places we are not supposed to with the windows open. Some of us will lose our jobs, some will be ridiculed and cast into the Lion’s Den but God, “who sees what is done in secret, will reward you openly”.(Matthew 6:4)

1. William T. Cavanaugh, “ The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict”, p. 189

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Prayer In Public Schools: Who May And Who May Not Pray

There is a poem history teachers use to help students remember what happened to the wives of Henry VIII:

            "Divorced, Beheaded, Died;

            Divorced, Beheaded, Survived."

            Henry obviously had issues when it came to marriage and family life.  In the 1500's there was a great struggle for power between the King and the Pope.  Catherine of Aragon was married to Henry's brother, Arthur.  When Arthur died, Henry wanted to marry Catherine but Catholic law forbade a man to marry his dead brother's wife.  Pope Clement VII refused the annulment and the rest is history.  Henry removed the authority of the Pope from England which paved the way for the establishment of the Church of England.

            Roger Williams fled to America to escape religious persecution in England.  He established the colony of Rhode Island as a haven for religious minorities.  Many of the early American settlers came to America to escape the abusiveness of a church that had become more about government and power than the actual kingdom of God. Our founding fathers had this history fresh in their minds when they wrote our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

            The very first amendment was constructed to prevent a repeat of what had happened in Europe.  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."  In the context of the times, this meant that our founding fathers did not want the government meddling in the affairs of the church.  They didn't want a state-sanctioned church.  This portion of the first amendment is referred to as the 'establishment clause'.

            But the original authors of our Constitution did not stop there.  They added what has become known as the 'free exercise' clause.  Not only was the government not to make any laws about establishing a state religion but they were "not to deny the free exercise thereof". Government was not to interfere with the right of its citizens to practice their religion so long as these practices were not disruptive to society or in violation of the moral laws of the nation.

            Men who are politically persuaded are often driven to absurdity in order to prove a point or defend a political doctrine.  In Engel v. Vitale, 1962, the Supreme Court decided that it was irreparably harmful for our children to recite a non-denominational prayer composed by the New York State Board of Regents, "Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence on Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our Country."  The board was plugging the prayer because they were much concerned about the recent decline in morality and ethical behavior of students within the system. 

            The Supreme Court voted the prayer down by a vote of 5-2.  Justice Hugo Black represented the majority opinion when he wrote:  "In this country, it is no part of the business of the government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by government."  Black also made reference to Thomas Jefferson's opinion on the matter and many assume the constitution is the source of his opinion.

            In October of 1801 a group of Baptists from Danbury, Connecticut wrote a letter of concern to President Jefferson.  These Danbury Baptists found themselves a minority group in Connecticut and they were fearful that the Congregational Church would be made a state church and their right to worship freely would be violated.  Jefferson answered their concerns in a letter by declaring that as long as he were president there would be no state sponsored church at the federal level.  The phrase "separation of church and state" was lifted from his letter, not from the Constitution. 

            The minority opinion of Engel v. Vitale was expressed by Justice Potter Stewart: "I think the Court has misapplied a great constitutional principle. I cannot see how an "official religion" is established by letting those who want to say a prayer say it. On the contrary, I think that to deny the wish of these school children to join in reciting this prayer is to deny them the opportunity of sharing in the spiritual heritage of our Nation."  

            Proponents would argue that prayer in public schools does not amount to government establishing a religion.  If so, some blatant inconsistencies must be addressed.  Is the U.S. government trying to establish religion when scripture verses are chiseled on thousands of public buildings?  Is the government trying to establish religion when chaplains are employed in the armed services and in the U.S. Congress?  Is the government trying to establish religion when it promotes the celebration of religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter? 

            There is a great difference between "freedom of religion" (worship as you choose) and "freedom from religion" (government imposed religion).  Proponents of prayer in public schools want a government that respects the religious nature and heritage of our Christian youth.  The U.S. government has never sponsored any one denomination or specific belief system.  But the founding fathers were unashamedly and unabashedly Christian in their beliefs.  Of the first 108 universities founded in America, 106 were distinctly Christian, including the first university in America, Harvard.  The original Harvard Student Handbook of 1636 addressed the study of scriptures by Harvard students:  "Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, and therefore to lay Jesus Christ as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning."  The foundation for this idea was found in John 17:3 "And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."

            There is a more recent inconsistency that must be addressed.  Ten parents joined the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) in the lawsuit against the New Hyde Park Board of Education to eliminate prayer from public schools.  The ACLU fought well and was successful in limiting prayerful expression in public schools. 

            Carver Elementary school in San Diego is possibly going to allow Muslim students to pray in school.  Can you hear the theme song of "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" in your  mind as the ACLU rides their black steeds into town to put down the praying Muslims?  Not so.  Kevin Keenan, a spokesperson for the ACLU defends the practice of Muslims praying in public schools:  "Performing these prayers is widely -- if not universally -- recognized as one of the five essential 'pillar' of Islam.  One of these prayer times will always fall during the school day at Carver when students are required by law to be in school."

            Is prayer for Christians not also recognized as essential to Christianity?  The same ACLU that has been fighting freedom of religion in public schools is 'fine and dandy' when it comes to Muslims praying in public schools.  So, let's be honest.  The real fight here is not about prayer in public schools, the real fight is about suppressing Christianity in America.

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Difference Between a Liberal and a Conservative

I have taught Government for many years now.  Every year my seniors want a clear explanation of the difference between a liberal (usually Democrat) and conservative (usually Republican).  One of my more thoughtful students sent me this today.  An excellent analogy discribing the difference between liberal and conservative thought.  Thank you, Sally Key:

Found this in an email and thought you might find it intersting!!

A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be very liberal, and among other liberal ideals, was very much in favor of higher taxes to support more government programs, in other words, redistribution of wealth.

She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch conservative, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes and the need for more government programs.

The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing in school.

Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn't even have time for a boyfriend, and didn't really have many college friends because she spent all her time studying.

Her father listened and then asked, "How is your friend Audrey doing?"
She replied, "Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies and she barely has a 2.0 GPA. She is so popular on campus; college for her is a blast. She's always invited to all the parties and lots of times she doesn't even show up for classes because she's too hung over."

Her wise father asked his daughter, "Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend who only has a 2.0. That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA."

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father's suggestion, angrily
fired back, "That's a crazy idea, how would that be fair! I've worked really hard
for my grades! I've invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!"

The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, "Welcome to the conservative side of the fence."

If you ever wondered what side of the fence you sit on, this is a great test!

If a conservative doesn't like guns, he doesn't buy one.
If a liberal doesn't like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.

If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn't eat meat.
If a liberal is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.

If a conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation. A liberal wonders who is going to take care of him.

If a conservative doesn't like a talk show host, he switches channels.
Liberals demand that those they don't like be shut down.

If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn't go to church.
A liberal non-believer wants any mention of God and Jesus silenced.

If a conservative decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it.
A liberal demands that the rest of us pay for his.

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tim Tebow: The Most Interesting Man In The World

Jonathon Goldsmith plays The Most Interesting Man in the World in a very popular television commercial. He possesses fascinating traits that capture the attention of the world.. This article is about a man who may not be the most interesting man in the world but he is certainly one of the most polarizing figures in American Culture.

Tim Tebow was the miracle baby of his mother, Pam. In 2010, the Tebows coordinated with Focus On The Family to sponsor a Super Bowl commercial to tell their story. When Pam was pregnant with Tim the doctors told her she should abort her baby to avoid life-threatening complications. She refused and now, like him or not, the world has Tim Tebow.

George Weigel asks why Tim Tebow is so controversial in his article for First Things. Tim Tebow is "more polarizing than trash-talking NBA behemoths; more polarizing than foul-mouthed Serena Williams; more polarizing than NFL all-stars who father numerous children by numerous women, all out of wedlock. Why does Tebow, and Tebow alone, arouse such passions? Why is Tebow the one whom “comedians” say they would like to shoot?"

ESPN ran a Sunday morning special in September of 2011 exploring the divisiveness of Tim Tebow, who started the season as the 3rd string quarterback of the Denver Broncos. Urban Meyer, coach of the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, said he felt cautious when Tebow arrived at the University of Florida. Here is a sensitive, sincere, good looking kid who has exposed his heart to America. Would he set himself up for failure? Would his image come crashing down due to sex or drugs or steroids? Meyer was on a mission to find hypocrisy in Tim Tebow. He came up empty. Tebow was the real deal.

Tim Tebow has become the poster boy of evangelical Christianity. Some love and admire him because he has shown that he has the intestinal fortitude necessary to take a stand for Christ and endure the ridicule that is sure to follow. Others hate him because they interpret his evangelical message as being exclusionary and offensive. No one wants to be told they are wrong or that their names are not written in the Book of Life. Tim Tebow finds himself in the eye of the hurricane because of his biblical beliefs regarding sin. Society is hypersensitive regarding issues such as homosexuality and choosing abortion. Tebow is standing in the crossfire between those people who categorize those issues as sin, deserving of God's judgment, and those who believe such people to be arrogant and judgmental.

The haters are many and varied. Just google 'I hate Tim Tebow' and browse through the nearly 4,000,000 hits to discover just how vehement this hatred is. One commentator mocked Tebow's Christian testimony and the Bible verses inscribed on his black eye patches. "Hey, look at me! I'm a Christian! I read the Bible! God doesn't care who wins the game, I know, she told me so" he wrote.

Comedian John Oliver spouted "I hate Tim Tebow" in one of his performances. He explained that if he had Bin Laden and Tim Tebow in the same room and he had a gun with two bullets, he would shoot Tebow first. Bill Maher refers to Tebow as a douche bag. Facebook and Twitter are overloaded with Tebow haters. It doesn't take a trained psychologist to understand why they are hating on Tebow.

In January of 2005 the Vikings were playing the Packers at Lambeau Field. Randy Moss caught a touchdown pass and then proceeded to entertain millions of fans by simulating the act of mooning in the end zone. The commentators seemed to react differently. Chris Collinsworth tried to muffle a giggle while Joe Buck expressed his outrage, "That's a disgusting act by Randy Moss and its unfortunate we had it on our air live." In contrast, Tim Tebow takes one knee and prays to his God. Guess which act stirs outrage around the water cooler on Monday morning?

Tebow's habit of taking a knee and placing his fist to his forehead has birthed a cultural phenomena called 'Tebowing'. Visit this website to discover how 'Tebowing' has become the recent rage. They are Tebowing in Haiti, in China and at the Vatican. They are doing it in Afghanistan and in Kuwait. Grooms as well as brides are Tebowing before they tie the knot. Small children are Tebowing. Soldiers and airline pilots are Tebowing. A miner in New Zealand Tebows deep under the earth and a mountain climber in Austria Tebows on top of the world.

Some are not so enthused about Tebowing. The administration at Riverhead High School in Long Island suspended four boys for Tebowing in the hallways of the school. One of the suspended was Conner Carroll. When asked on ESPN's Sports Center if his suspension was worth it he replied, "I did this to show tribute to Tim Tebow. He is a winner, he is a leader, he has great faith, you know, he's a perfect guy to follow after…he is not a guy doing steroids or drugs or anything like that. He's an ideal role model. People should look up to him."

The list of athletes with a criminal record is too long to add to this discussion. Recently, a Chicago Bears player was arrested for setting up a drug distribution ring in the city of Chicago. College coaches (from Penn State and Syracuse) have been accused of sexually molesting minors. Why are so many expending so much energy hating on a man who is one of the few remaining, decent role models for American youth?

Doug Giles expressed this conundrum well in an article he wrote for Townhall: "Let me see if I get this straight: A sex worshipping, multi-tattooed thug with three illegit kids from three different women scores a touchdown and then proceeds to simulate a sex act in the end zone -- in front of our children and the millions watching by television -- and that's okay? Why sure it is. Who are we to judge? Matter of fact, let's give that future inmate a Nike ad and bump his contract up a few mil because he brings spice (and crabs) to the game. Ah ... sweet progress.”

Why do they hate on Tebow? It's not because he is obnoxious, it's not because he is rude or depraved. It's not because of his football skills or lack thereof. They hate on him because he is not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ and because he truly believes it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16)

Jeffrey Kuhner, in an article for the Washington Times writes: "Christianity is gradually being purged from the public square. Christmas celebrations have become offensive. “Merry Christmas” is now considered to be politically incorrect; the proper greeting is “happy holidays.” The Ten Commandments cannot be displayed in courtrooms or classes. Prayer has been banished from public schools. Christians are regularly mocked in movies and TV." Kuhner describes this cultural deconstruction of Christianity in our society as Christophobia. He continues, "Christophobia forms the basis of modern liberalism. Leftist progressives are determined to destroy traditional America and its seminal institutions - the Constitution, capitalism, national sovereignty and the family. This is why they have declared war on Christianity.”

If Tim Tebow would leave out the name of Christ he would not be criticized so harshly. There is great power in the name of Christ. True salvation comes to the heart through the name of Jesus Christ. (John 3:18) Christians are baptized in his name, (Acts 8:16-17), they pray in his name (John 14:13-14) and they are granted eternal life in his name. (1 John 5:13) Why do people use the name of Christ in vain but they don't use the name of Buddha or Mohammed or Allah? It's because no man is threatened by any other name than that of Jesus Christ. His name has a mysterious power associated with it and they fear that power. Fear spawns hatred.

Why is Tim Tebow hated? He is hated for the same reason Christ was hated. People run from the truth because it is too painful to face it. They hate what they fear. They don't fear Tim Tebow, they fear the message he bears. His message clearly states that all will be accountable to God for their decisions and their behavior. It was the message of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2) and they chopped off his head for propagating it. It was the message of Jesus (Matthew 4:17) and they crucified him on the cross for preaching it. It is the message of Tim Tebow and that is why he is being hated on. Jesus Christ predicted it: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." (John 15:18) But Christ also promised eternal life for those who stood firm to the end: "All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Mark 13:13)

Stand firm, Tim Tebow. Please don't disappoint us. Christians will take courage from your witness and our youth are in desperate need a godly role model.

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The 'Living Dead' Among Us

George A. Romero’s film, The Night of the Living Dead, tells the story of a set of siblings, Johnny and Barbra, who drive to rural Pennsylvania to visit the grave of their father.  There they are encountered by a zombie and they retreat to a farmhouse where they attempt to ward off the living dead who are hungry for their flesh.  There fear intensifies when they hear on the radio that the living dead are spreading murder and terror throughout the eastern U.S. 

Zombies are the fictional ‘unliving’ among us.  They are empty shells who move about and react as if they did have souls, but they don’t.  Romero may have constructed his concept of soulless creatures from the superstitious religions of Haiti. But the concept can be traced all the way back to one of the earliest literary works known to man, the Epic of Gilgamesh of the early Mesopotamians.  In this epic the goddess Ishtar promises:
“I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,

 I will smash the door posts, and leave the doors flat down,

 and will let the dead go up to eat the living!

 And the dead will outnumber the living!”

  The concept of the zombie is man’s attempt to ask the question, “Where does the soul come from?  What is the source of our consciousness?”  This is an easy question for a Christian to answer.  Our consciousness comes from God.  But for those who don’t believe in God they must ask, “Why are we not all Zombies, simply empty shells without a soul?”

Our Christian theology teaches that God exists in three persons.  We refer to this as the Holy Trinity.  He is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  He is one entity consisting of three persons.  Because man is created in God’s image, he too was created a trinity.  Man has a body, a soul and a spirit.  Man’s body is that part which we can all see.  It is the physical part of man and he shares this trait with animals.  Man also has a soul.  The soul is that part of man that reveals to him his identity.  He knows who he is and therefore he fulfills the role of man.   One might argue that animals also have souls for they have a sense of identity.  Jesus said, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests.”  They know who they are and they function as animals in the realm of God’s creation.

The similarities between men and animals end there.  Man has something no animal will ever have.  He has a spirit or at least he possesses the potential for one.  The spirit is that part of man that gives him a consciousness of God.  It is why man worships God and animals do not. 

Unfortunately, when man was living in the garden that was created for him by God, he was told that he could eat from any tree  accept the one tree that was located in the center of the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  The tree represented man’s dependence on God.  Adam and Eve resented the tree and declared their resistance to and independence from God by deliberately disobeying him.  At this point death was introduced to man.  Death revealed itself first in man’s spirit, his consciousness.  Man’s desire to have fellowship with God evaporated and he hid from God among the foliage of the garden.

Man’s soul died.  He was depraved in his intellect.  He was still able to reason but he could not reason his way to God.  His “thinking became futile” and “their foolish hearts were darkened” and “although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Romans 1:21-23)

Finally, under the strain of years and years of sin and depravity, man’s body died.  Were it not for God the Son all men would experience an eternal death of the body, soul and spirit. 

There was no other solution for man’s rebellion except to offer a sinless sacrifice to satisfy the perfect justice of God the Father.  The only one ever qualified to do that was God the Son.  Therefore, he was incarnated as a human over 2,000 years ago to fulfill his mission to save mankind.  He saves none against their own will.  But for those who are willing to “confess their sins,  he is faithful and just to forgive them their sins and purify them from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)  Until we make this confession and ask the Spirit of God to replace our rebellious spirit with a spirit of obedience we remain spiritual zombies.  We are empty shells, dead men walking.

When Christ saves us he restores us in reverse order.  First, the spiritual zombie experiences a restoration of his spirit.  He is justified through the precious blood of Christ.  He is made aware not only of the existence of God but of the fact that as a child of the living God he might have relationship with him.  God then restores our souls.  He changes the very essence of who we are through sanctification.  The old soul won’t do.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  (2 Corinthians 5:17) 

Finally, the body is restored through resurrection.  The old body will decay and turn to dust but those living in Christ will receive a new body.  “While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it's not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.” (2 Corinthians 5:4)
Our world is filled with spiritual zombies.  Take a walk through your local mall and look at the expressionless faces of the multitudes.  Notice the emptiness in their eyes.  These are outward expressions of an inward emptiness, people without spirits, without souls.  The enemy of their souls has brought them death.  They are the walking dead.  But they need not despair for there is great hope because Jesus, the Savior, said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.