Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Should Christians expect to know God’s will by means of feelings and intuitions?

There are two views on the topic of decision making and the will of God. The view you learn in the church is called “the traditional view”. I call this view the feelings/intuition view. This view that elevates feelings / intuitions to the level of divine communications from God. The more practical view is called “the wisdom view”. I call this view the battlefield commander view. I am a proponent of the wisdom / commander view.

Let’s learn about the two different views:

[The traditional view is] that God has a plan for our lives and that we receive guidance through methods such as “open and closed doors”, “feeling led” and “the still, small, voice”.

[The wisdom view] holds that God does not have an “individual will” for our lives, but rather that all of God’s will can be summed up within two categories, God’s sovereign will and God’s moral will. Basically God’s sovereign will is all the things that god decrees will happen. It is hidden (mostly) from us, and does not play an active part in our decision, although some of it is revealed in the bible. God’s moral will is the part that we must concern ourselves with in making decisions. It is fully revealed in the bible and our decisions must be made within it. We may use wisdom in applying god’s moral will to our lives, or we may be in an area not covered by god’s moral will. We must finally submit in advance to God’s sovereign will, being prepared for him to sovereignty intervene and redirect us through whatever means he wills (see James).

Here’s a bit more from someone else:

Regarding the view that God has a personal will for us individually that we have to discern and find, J.I. Packer says, “The first thing to say is that the idea of guidance is actually a novelty among orthodox evangelicals. It does not go back farther than the last century. Second, it has led people to so much foolish action on the one hand, and so much foolish inaction on the other, as well as puzzlement and heartbreak when the ‘hotline’ to God seems to go silent, that it has to be discredited. Third, it must be said that Scripture gives us no more warrant constantly to expect personal ‘hotline,’ ‘voice-from-the-control-tower’ guidance than to expect new authoritative revelations to come our way for the guidance of the whole church.” (Hot Tub Religion, page 118).

As to the point of the question, how do I make decisions, I attempt to make decisions in light of three factors: God’s moral will, wisdom, and my personal desires. If something is opposed to God’s moral will, then I should obviously flee from it. If it’s not opposed, then I consider the wisdom of the choices. For example, would it be wise for me to marry a woman who loves Jesus, though we have nothing else in common? Probably not. If the options pass the criteria of wisdom, then I’m free to choose how I wish. If I’m offered two jobs, and both are honoring to God, and both would be wise to take, then I’m free to choose the job I would like more. I don’t need to put out a fleece or await some other confirmation from God. If it’s moral and wise, then the only question as to whether or not it will honor Him is my attitude.

Some examples of this model used in the Bible (in theological circles referred to as the Wisdom Model) are in Paul’s planning of a mission to Rome in Romans 1:9-15, 15:22-24, the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-29), and Paul’s instructions for legal disputes (1 Cor 6:3-6).

The best book on this topic is Garry Friesen’s “Decision Making and the Will of God”. In it, you’ll find a full assessment about what the Bible teaches on this topic.

When I am trying to decide what will be effective, I look at Christian scholars, at their papers, books, and public debates. That’s effectiveness because it is addressed to a non-Christian audience in public with the force of reason and evidence. It is persuasion and it is addressed to rational minds. I want to change the minds of people who have a large influence on society on the whole. I don’t think that offering Christianity as life-enhancement or self-help is really “having an influence”. I think that offering Christianity as truth, with support, is “having an influence”.

So let me be clear about what I believe:

  • I don’t think that God normally talks to people directly
  • I don’t believe that life is an Easter egg hunt, filled with clues accessible only to emotion and intuition
  • I don’t believe that God expects people to discover a specific will for their lives using non-rational means
  • I think that people make up their own life plan that is consistent with the Bible
  • The goal of the life plan is to be effective, and there are no other considerations
  • I think that there are many good things a person can do, but that some are more effective than others
  • I think that with respect to the goal of serving God effectively, my happiness is expendable
  • I don’t think that the purpose of doing something for the Lord is to feel good about ourselves
  • I don’t think that people should choose ineffective things to do just because they like them
  • I don’t think that people should choose ineffective things to do just because they are good at them
  • I think people should do hard things that they don’t like – as long as it’s more effective
  • I don’t think that any course of action is as effective as any other – some plans accomplish more
  • I don’t think that life is totally unpredictable and irrational and subjective
  • I think that we can know what is or is not effective by studying and learning about the world
  • I think life is like a battlefield that must be surveyed, understood and acted upon deliberately

I think that every person is the commanding officer of his or her own life, and each person must study everything they can, make a plan that is consistent with the Bible’s moral prescriptions, execute the plan and achieve whatever they can achieve for the Lord. And the goal is not comfort or happy feelings, but real achievements. Not for the purpose of being saved, of course, because salvation is a free gift of God because of what Jesus did on the cross. Life is more like a battle than a vacation resort or a buffet or a shopping center. God’s will for us is not have happy feelings, but that we freely choose to sacrifice ourselves out of obedience and service to him. In my case, that means studying hard things, making money, saving money, and giving money away to good scholars, sponsoring good events and being persuasive to non-Christians. None of this necessarily makes me happy, but it does work to bring glory to God. I cried when I had to learn calculus, because it was so hard. But who cares? The main thing is that I have money now to sponsor Christian speakers or to give books to Christians to read, and God is happy with that.

I think that it is very important to realize that God is not impressed by our not being smart and not being effective. If we have the ability to be smart, then we should be smart, whether it makes us happy or not. If we have the ability to make money, then we should make money, whether it makes us happy or not. If we have the ability have a great influence, then we should have a great influence, whether it makes us happy or not. There will be plenty of time for happiness after we’re dead. But this life is a time of serving, and we should try to serve effectively, whether it makes us happy or not. With respect to God’s purposes in the world, my happiness is expendable.

Whenever someone questions my goals and plans by saying that I am asserting my will over God’s will, the first question I want to ask that person is this: “how do you know what God’s will is?” and “what is your basis for thinking that my plan to serve will not be effective?”. I want to know if I have misunderstood something about the way the world is, or miscalculated in some way. I want someone to look at my calculations and show where they are going to produce a less optimal result for the Lord. That’s the only concern I have – effectiveness for the Lord. Usually what I have found is that the other person wants to make the purpose of life their own happiness, and it makes them happier to choose what to do moment by moment, without having to study anything or make plans. It’s not that they have better goals (for God) or better plans (for God). It’s that they want their goals to be above God, and they don’t want to make plans other than to do whatever makes them happy.

This article by Greg Koukl may be helpful.

And I also found this summary of the Friesen book useful:

In nine parts.

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What can Winston Churchill teach us about deterring aggression?

Winston Churchill on appeasement

Winston Churchill on appeasement

Famous economist Thomas Sowell explains.

He writes:

Despite Churchill’s legendary status today, he was not merely ignored but ridiculed at the time, when he was repeatedly warning in vain. Knowing that his warnings provoked only mocking laughter in some quarters, even among some members of his own party, he said on March 14, 1938 in the House of Commons, “Laugh but listen.”

Just two years later, with Hitler’s planes bombing London, night after night, the laughter was gone. Many at the time thought that Britain itself would soon be gone as well, like other European nations that succumbed to the Nazi blitzkrieg in weeks (like France) or days (like Holland).

How did things get to such a desperate situation, with Britain alone continuing the fight, and struggling to survive, against the massive Nazi war machine that now controlled much of the material resources on the continent of Europe?

Things got that desperate by following policies strikingly similar to the policies being followed by the Western democracies today, including some of the very same notions and catchwords being used today.

Just recently, a State Department official in the Obama administration said that Americans have remained safe in a nuclear age, not because of our own nuclear arsenal but because “we created an intricate and essential system of treaties, laws and agreements.”

If “treaties, laws and agreements” produced peace, there would never have been a Second World War. The years leading up to that monumental catastrophe were filled with international treaties and arms control agreements.

The Treaty of Versailles, which ended the First World War, imposed strong restrictions on Germany’s military forces — on paper. The Washington Naval Agreements of 1922 imposed restrictions on all the major naval powers of the world — on paper. The Kellogg-Briand pact of 1928 created an international renunciation of war — on paper.

The Munich agreement of 1938 produced a paper with Hitler’s signature on it that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain waved to the cheering crowds when he returned to England, and said that it meant “Peace for our time.” Less than a year later, World War II began.

Winston Churchill never bought any of this. He understood that military deterrence was what preserved peace. With England playing a leadership role in Europe, “England’s hour of weakness is Europe’s hour of danger,” he said in the House of Commons in 1931.

[…]While Russia and China increased the share of their national output that went to military spending in 2014, the United States reduced its share. Churchill deplored the “inexhaustible gullibility” of disarmament advocates in 1932. That gullibility is still not exhausted in 2015.

“Not one of the lessons of the past has been learned, not one of them has been applied, and the situation is incomparably more dangerous,” Churchill said in 1934. And every one of those words is more urgently true today, in a nuclear age.

Here’s another article by Thomas Sowell that explains it more.

Excerpt:

In France, after the First World War, the teachers’ unions launched a systematic purge of textbooks, in order to promote internationalism and pacifism.

Books that depicted the courage and self-sacrifice of soldiers who had defended France against the German invaders were called “bellicose” books to be banished from the schools.

Textbook publishers caved in to the power of the teachers’ unions, rather than lose a large market for their books. History books were sharply revised to conform to internationalism and pacifism.

The once epic story of the French soldiers’ heroic defense against the German invaders at Verdun, despite the massive casualties suffered by the French, was now transformed into a story of horrible suffering by all soldiers at Verdun— French and German alike.

In short, soldiers once depicted as national heroes were now depicted as victims— and just like victims in other nations’ armies.

[…]France, where pacifism and internationalism were strongest, became a classic example of how much it can matter.

During the First World War, France fought on against the German invaders for four long years, despite having more of its soldiers killed than all the American soldiers killed in all the wars in the history of the United States, put together.

But during the Second World War, France collapsed after just six weeks of fighting and surrendered to Nazi Germany.

At the bitter moment of defeat the head of the French teachers’ union was told, “You are partially responsible for the defeat.”

Charles de Gaulle, Francois Mauriac, and other Frenchmen blamed a lack of national will or general moral decay, for the sudden and humiliating collapse of France in 1940.

Is the same thing happening in our public schools? Are our children taught to think that wars can be prevented by unilaterally disarming?

The lesson we need to learn from history is that the way to stop wars is by making the people who want to start them understand that there will be a price to pay if they start a war. That means that we need a certain amount of military power, and that we should have demonstrated that we are willing to use it. That is counter-intuitive to people on the left who cannot imagine that evil tyrants really are evil tyrants. They want to believe that problems can be solved with talk, but history teaches that talk is cheap.

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Obama administration giving away the store in nuclear deal with Iran

Map of Iran Nuclear Facilities

Map of Iran Nuclear Facilities

(Source: BBC)

The Wall Street Journal reports.

Excerpt:

Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress this week that no one should pre-judge a nuclear deal with Iran because only the negotiators know what’s in it. But the truth is that the framework of an accord has been emerging thanks to Administration leaks to friendly journalists. The leaks suggest the U.S. has already given away so much that any deal on current terms will put Iran on the cusp of nuclear-power status.

The latest startling detail is Monday’s leak that the U.S. has conceded to Iran’s demand that an agreement would last as little as a decade, perhaps with an additional five-year phase-out. After that Iran would be allowed to build its uranium enrichment capabilities to whatever size it wants. In theory it would be forbidden from building nuclear weapons, but by then all sanctions would have long ago been lifted and Iran would have the capability to enrich on an industrial scale.

Is Iran our friend? Not really:

That is some gamble on a regime that continues to sponsor terrorist groups around the world, prop up the Assad regime in Syria, use proxies to overthrow the Yemen government, jail U.S. reporter Jason Rezaian on trumped-up espionage charges, and this week blew up a mock U.S. aircraft carrier in naval exercises near the Strait of Hormuz.

Charles Krauthammer comments:

News leaked Monday of the “sunset clause.” President Obama had accepted the Iranian demand that any restrictions on its program be time-limited. After which, the mullahs can crank up their nuclear program at will and produce as much enriched uranium as they want.

Sanctions lifted. Restrictions gone. Nuclear development legitimized. Iran would re-enter the international community, as Obama suggested in an interview last December, as “a very successful regional power.” A few years — probably around 10 — of good behavior and Iran would be home free.

The agreement thus would provide a predictable path to an Iranian bomb. Indeed, a flourishing path, with trade resumed, oil pumping and foreign investment pouring into a restored economy.

Meanwhile, Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program is subject to no restrictions at all. It’s not even part of these negotiations.

Why is Iran building them? You don’t build ICBMs in order to deliver sticks of dynamite. Their only purpose is to carry nuclear warheads. Nor does Iran need an ICBM to hit Riyadh or Tel Aviv. Intercontinental missiles are for reaching, well, other continents. North America, for example.

[…]The deal now on offer to the ayatollah would confer legitimacy on the nuclearization of the most rogue of rogue regimes: radically anti-American, deeply jihadist, purveyor of terrorism from Argentina to Bulgaria, puppeteer of a Syrian regime that specializes in dropping barrel bombs on civilians.

Based on past deals, we shouldn’t be surprised by this news.

This Heritage Foundation article re-caps our negotiating blunders.

What makes these deals even worse is that they are all about constraining us, not the other guy. New START didn’t require Russia to destroy a single nuclear missile: it only reduced the size of the U.S. stockpile. The Arms Trade Treaty won’t stop the lawless and incompetent nations of the world from selling arms irresponsibly, but our lawyers will guarantee that it restrains us.

The essence of the Syrian deal was that it saved the U.S. from having to carry out Secretary of State John Kerry’s “unbelievably small” retaliatory strike on the Assad regime, which gets to remain in power. The Iran carve-up removes the lingering threat of any U.S. military action and makes Israeli action all but unthinkable, while the Iranians keep on enriching uranium and can zoom up to weapons-grade levels far faster than we can reimpose sanctions.

The administration is more afraid of having to respond to an Iranian nuclear breakout than it is of a breakout itself. The deal has bought only a six-month delay in the Iranian program, at the cost of easing UN sanctions the U.S. had carefully built up since 2006.

At the core of the accords is the belief that the U.S. is the nation that needs to be restrained. That is why they involve big concessions from us in exchange for far less from the other side. Since we are the problem, we are the ones who need to give things up to get a deal.

And what about the global warming deal with China?

We got fleeced there, too:

When the United States and China announced a surprise carbon-emissions deal, the environmental Left squealed in delight. Al Gore declared it “groundbreaking progress from the world’s largest polluter” (i.e., China), while John Kerry patted himself on the back in the New York Times, gushing about how “the world’s most consequential relationship has just produced something of great consequence in the fight against climate change.” Despite the extraordinary fanfare, there’s abundant reason for skepticism.

Though the announcement is politically expedient for both Barack Obama and Xi Jinping, China almost certainly won’t take significant steps to reduce carbon emissions.

[…]Beijing hasn’t actually agreed to much: It will try to “stop increasing” carbon emissions by 2030 — which is a slanted way of saying its emissions will continue to grow for another 16 years — and derive 20 percent of its energy from renewables by then, up from about 10 percent now. Though these goals may be codified into Chinese law, the CCP does not have a reputation for respecting the rule of law. And the United States and the international community won’t have any way of enforcing these goals. No wonder Reuters called it a “largely symbolic plan.”

[…]Critics of the president’s environmental policies have noted that even the most stringent emissions reductions from the First World won’t have much of an impact unless the developing world also cuts back. The environmental Left is marketing the new U.S.–China deal as a way to eliminate that objection and plow forward with the president’s hardline proposals for carbon regulations. “Now there is no longer an excuse for Congress to block action on climate change,” Senator Barbara Boxer said in today’s New York Times. “The biggest carbon polluter on our planet, China, has agreed to cut back on dangerous emissions, and now we should make sure all countries do their part because this is a threat to the people that we all represent.”

Boxer ignores the myriad other valid objections to the Obama administration’s proposed regulations, which seek to cut carbon emissions 30 percent from their 2005 levels by 2030. In reality, it’s bad policy because, despite enormous economic cost, it would yield very few environmental benefits.

And of course we have the complete surrender to Russia in the Arctic.

We are cutting deals with every bad actor on the planet that will undermine our interests at home and abroad for years to come. And why? Well, it’s because Democrats think that United States is more of a threat to world peace than a force for good, and so they think the best way to save the planet is to strengthen countries like Russia, Iran and China. I think in one way this plan will work – Democrats will feel as if they are doing something, and they will congratulate themselves on their moral superiority. But as far as actually achieving good results? It’s not going to happen.

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Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” shows why America goes to war

Chris Kyle, Navy SEAL

Chris Kyle, Navy SEAL

John Nolte explains why so many people are going to see it.

He writes:

“American Sniper” opens during the worst days of Fallujah in Iraq. Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is the eye in the sky watching his fellow warriors through a sniper scope and protecting them when necessary with the kind of precision shooting that will quickly make him a legend (and target).

Through a door, an Iraqi woman emerges with a boy who can’t be older than 10. They walk towards a group of Marines. She hands the boy a large grenade. Kyle has been told by his superiors that what happens next is his call.

Before Kyle can make what seems like an impossible choice (“I’ve never seen such evil,” Kyle says later), Eastwood and his screenwriter Jason Hall take us back in time with one of the best flashback sequences you’ll ever see. The economy is brilliant, and in just a few minutes we see what made Chris Kyle Chris Kyle: His Christian father’s strict but loving moral code, his days as a rodeo rider, his romance with Taya (a terrific Sienna Miller) — the woman who will become his faithful wife, and why two pre-9/11 terrorist attacks on American embassies led Kyle to become a Navy SEAL at the ripe old age of 30.

The rest of the story, which is every bit as compelling (this might be the best-paced film Eastwood has ever made), centers on Kyle’s harrowing four tours of duty and his troubled home life. This is a man deeply in love with his country (“I’d die for this country. America is the greatest country in the world.”) and his young family. He can only be truly faithful to one. “God, country, family,” are the man’s priorities.

“American Sniper” is refreshingly told only from Kyle’s point of view. He reminds a doubting comrade that we’re fighting these “evil f*****g savages” (terrorists) in Iraq so we don’t have to fight them in San Diego. And Eastwood doesn’t flinch from showing these evil f*****g savages for the evil f*****g savages they are. You won’t soon forget watching terrorist mastermind Zarqawi’s chief enforcer, a monster nicknamed The Butcher, slowly torture and murder a young boy with a power drill.

War is ugly and it’s not pretty watching our guys kick in doors. But there are bad guys behind those doors, and no matter how bad those guys might be, Eastwood makes sure the audience knows Americans don’t carry power drills or take lives out of any motive other than self-defense.

There is nothing even close to moral equivalence in “America Sniper,” only the truth: that there is no equivalence between the barbarians who target the innocent and the American heroes who target those who target the innocent.

[…]The Big Emotional Question that drives much of “American Sniper” is whether or not, after it’s all over, Kyle still believes in who he is and what he’s done. The film’s best moment comes when that question is answered, when we learn just what is that is tearing Kyle up inside. “I will stand before my Creator and justify every shot,” he tells a military therapist.

You see, it’s not Iraq or Bush or the military or the mission or even those 160 confirmed kills. What’s eating Kyle alive is that he didn’t do more — didn’t save more United States Marines.

This movie made $90 million on its opening weekend. Why aren’t there more movies like this made in Hollywood?

I’m a big fan of war movies – have been since I was a kid. I like war movies that tell the stories of famous battles a lot, but my favorites are movies that show why we have to fight, and the fundamental goodness of fighting evil on the battlefield, when we are threatened by enemies who cannot be dealt with any other way. My favorite war movies are the ones where there are clear-cut villains, like the German Nazis or the Japanese Imperialists or the North Korean communists. I think Islamic extremists belong in there. Why are people so cautious about celebrating our armed forces for confronting evil as clear-cut as any we have had to face in the past?

I really don’t know what’s gone wrong with this country when we celebrate artists, musicians, actors and athletes more than people in the military, the police and the clandestine services. When I was a young man, I would spend hours making and building model jet fighters and drawing pictures of all kinds of military vehicles. Model jet fighters hung from my ceiling. I had maps of all the allied advances during World War 2 on my wall. I read books like this one, which tells the story of every man who won the medal of honor in World War 2. And when I got older, I read military history and military biographies. For me, the idea of stopping a violent evil person has always been a good thing.

You can read more about Chris Kyle on military.com.

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Friday night movie: Cloak and Dagger (1946)

Here’s tonight’s movie:

IMDB mean rating: [6.7/10]

IMDB median rating: [7/10]

Description:

Inspired by actual events, Cloak and Dagger was first major “atomic power” melodrama of the postwar era. Gary Cooper stars as bookish physics professor Alvah Jesper, a character obviously based on A-bomb codeveloper J. Robert Oppenheimer. Pressed into service by the OSS in the last months of WW2, Jasper is sent to Europe in search of Dr. Polda (Vladimir Sokoloff), an atomic scientist held captive by the Nazis.

This is directed by Fritz Lang.

Happy Friday!

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