"Proclaiming Christ's Return,"

An Excerpt of the Billy Graham Message (Appearing in DECISION magazine, February 2009, Pages 4-5:

"I have felt for a long time that the church has long neglected prophetic truth and, as a result, has failed to carry out God's revealed program not only for the church itself but has failed to tell the world of God's plan for the future.

"The church has failed to keep divine objectives in view because she has neglected the prophetic message of the Word of God. This neglect has caused Christians bewilderment, confusion and ignorance in a world that seems to be disintegrating around them. Many Christians needlessly wring their hands and ask, 'What is going to happen to us? What does the future hold?' Many of them are filled with fear, even though our Lord said, 'Fear not.'

"I believe there is a worldwide tragedy as a result of a neglect of the prophetic Scriptures. Through the centuries men and women have been experimenting with their own social, national and international programs. They have been trying to bring about a righteousness that is not of God and, therefore, it is not obtainable. Instead, it results in a recurring national collapse and sometimes in worldwide calamity. We are heading for one of those collapses at the present hour.

"Today, when the church should be leading the world out of the darkness that covers the Earth, it is all too obvious that we are unable to do so because of our spiritual impotence and lack of knowledge. The church today stands sadly in the midst of the ever-increasing ruins of a civilization the church itself helped to create but seemingly has little power or even desire to save.

"Acts 15:14-18 is the record of the first all-church conference. It was held in Jerusalem and concerned the work of the church in the first century. The chairman of the conference was the Apostle James. He said: "Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: "After this I will return and will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things." Known to God from eternity are all His works.

"Thus the program of the church is outlined. It begins with the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, His resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It continues with the Great Commission to go into all the world and proclaim the message of the Gospel.

"The church is not a political organization or a social reform society. Individual Christians may work for political reforms and for social betterment, and in many cases we should do so. As the salt of the earth, we have a responsibility for being the preservative of society. As the light of the world, we must let our light so shine that people seeing our good works may glorify our Father in heaven.

But the church must keep on the main highway outlined in the Word of God and witness to the nations not only concerning the truth of salvation but also the truth of the program of God for the whole world, especially witnessing to the glorious consummation of the age when Jesus Christ is going to return..."

Note: It is true that the church is not, as Billy Graham, a social reform society, and "should keep to the main highway" of the Gospel. Yet the Gospel preached faithfully in public forums WILL produce social reform and constructive changes of all kinds reaching everyone in society where they are being oppressed in one way or another. Christ's Gospel will liberate and elevate people in every respect, spiritually and physically. Christ's Gospel, brought by missionaries, caused "suttee" (the immemorial self-immolation of widows in Hindu India, married women who were approved as good wives, no matter as young as twelve or thirteen, throwing themselves on the funeral pyres of their deceased husbands. The commercial East India Company, which was the British authority in India years before the British monarch was established, subsidized this hideous practice along with other Indian religious practices in order to show it favored Indian religions! It took a single valiant missionary to make a public outcry against this cruel and unnecessary custom, even though it was considered highly religious at the time in that society and time. The outcry of this missionary finally caused a scandal back in Britain about the East India Company's complicity with the bonfire killing of young married girls and women, and the British authorities finally abolished the horrible custom. Hundreds, even thousands, of young married girls were saved from a cruel, early death on their husband's funeral pyres.

Another example of Christian activism is slavery, which was accepted in 18th century Britain as a profitable business. The Parliament had a Christian, however, William Wilberforce, one Briton who hated slavery with a passion and with some ardent Christian supporters such as John Newton, the former slavetrader and later a pastor and composer of the words for the hymn, "Amazing Grace," continued a vigorous, never ending campaign in a hostile Parliament, speaking out against slavery, and though it took until the end of his life, the conscience of the British people was awakened, and slavery was finally abolished by the British Parliament within all of Britain and all its colonies. Thus, Britain abolished the hideous practice and curse of slavery decades before America did--all because Christians were brave enough to speak out against these social injustices and inhumane customs. It is now for Islam to abolish slavery, which it denies it is harboring--and yet the world is complicit, its conscience sleeping, while the hideous practice continues across the whole of Africa and also in Muslim parts of Asia, and extends even into America, with slaves brought in to serve as unpaid nannies and other domestic "help."--an evil that the liberal U.S. media is ignoring to this date.

John Wesley preached the Gospel, from the whole Bible, as everyone would agree. He did not leave out the parts that dealt with righteousness and injustice in society. Right alongside of the Gospel he also promoted a strong policy of social reform and charity. He knew the Book of James and that it said that pure religion was to visit the widow and orphan in their distress. Anyone who held to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the truth of salvation and yet turned a blind eye to the distress of the needy was, in Jame's view and also in John Wesley's, no Christian at all but a self-deceived man.--Ed.

Some Reasons Why Christians are Being Shut-Out of Public Life and Political Debate in America

The following article, by the theologian Robin Lovin, has ideas that can help us Christians understand why and how we are being marginalized, our letters to the editor ignored, our messages and letters to Congressmen ignored, our articles and books turned down by newspapers and publishers and failing to find their way into textbooks and magazines, and can also explain why we are being increasingly shut out of the marketplace of ideas and the arena of public life in America. The language is theological, and contains some philosophical terms, but the ideas are plain enough--Ed.

These facts suggest a logic for religious engagement in the civic realm that clashes with a dominant strand of argument in academic philosophy that, although prominent in scholarly debates, has very little to do with how people actually talk and act. The academic philosophers insist that the convictions of the religious need to be translated into a purely secular idiom if the faithful are to join in political deliberation. If the religiously minded are not comfortable translating their convictions into such a secular idiom, they had best remain silent. Some versions of this argument--for example, that associated with the late John Rawls--are subtle and complex. Others are much simpler. They assume that there is a single vocabulary for political discussion; if your speech lies outside the purview of a secular language of 'public deliberation,' it isn't legitimately public speech at all. The draconian requirement that a purely secular mode of speech supplant all other ways of making public argument cuts against the grain of American political history and civic culture. In the real world of religion and politics as they actually coexist in America, citizens resort to 'god talk' at least as much as they use 'rights talk.' Faith informs the way America speaks and has always spoken. The U.S. Constitution never required that people give up the communal dimensions of their faith as the price for civic admission. Catholics, Lutherans, Jews--all built networks of schools and charitable institutions. Jews, in particular, distinguished themselves publicly through visible markers of their identity in dress and=20 in dietary regulations. Even a cursory glance at our history shows the=20 manner in which confessional pluralism and social pluralism have been=20 linked in the American polity as religious differences were marked publicly through a variety of modes of communal identification. One reason that America's religious institutions are such an indispensable part of American civil society is that religion in America has never been compelled to privatize itself along the lines suggested by Rawls.

For the first 150 years of the American republic, primary responsibility for religious rights and liberties was lodged in the states. No federal law governing religious institutions in their relation to the government was ever passed. The federal government got into the act where religion is concerned--at least in a big way--only during the last half century. In recent years, a constitutional position has emerged that might be called strong separationism. This position seeks to do on the level of law what a strict version of Rawlsian philosophy aims to do in the realm of discourse-namely, to strip public life of religious markers, emblems, and ceremony. I have called this position liberal monism, for its origins lie in certain strands of classical liberal political philosophy. This position holds that all institutions within a democratic society must conform to a single authority principle; a single standard of what counts as reason and deliberation; a single vocabulary of political discussion. Within this position, religion is routinely discounted-as the secularization hypothesis would have it--as irrationalism, or as a search for epistemological privilege. According to liberals like Rawls, citizens who are believers are=20 obliged to translate every view supported by their beliefs into a purportedly 'neutral' secular language. Only in this way, so the argument goes, can Americans achieve some kind of workable civic consensus. From the standpoint of religious belief, however, 'the problem' looks quite different: for what Rawls proposes would dramatically narrow the purview of religion as it actually exists within American civil society. Rather than asking how much religion can, or should, the polity tolerate, we might pose a different question instead: What sort of political arrangements 'enable religion to play the constructive public role that religious commitments themselves demand?'

One enters political life as a citizen. But if one also has religious convictions, these convictions naturally will inform one's judgments as a citizen. My religious views help to determine who I am, how I think, and what I care about. This is as it should be. In America it makes no sense to ask people to bracket what they care about most deeply when they debate issues that are properly political."

This is the provocative article of the theologian Robin Lovin. Copyright 2003 American Academy of Arts and Sciences

End Note: "Totalitarianism of relativism" has been phrased to describe the dominance of a single, absolutist viewpoint masquerading as the philosophy of relativism, whatever that is. That totalitarianism seeks to exercise mind and speech control by outlawing all other forms of absolutist thought and religious expression as "hate speech". Bills in state legislatures and even in Congress are being introduced or are pending in committees that would declare religious expressions about homosexuality being an immoral sin and even Bible verses definining it as an abomination to God as "hate speech", and if preached, the pastor who preaches such in his congregation would be gulty of a "hate crime." It then is comparable to "liberal monism," which is allowing only one kind of speech in his Nation's political Life, by defining what is and what is not 'Politically Correct' according to the Liberal Monist Elites?--Ed.]

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