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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Early Schooling: Why I Believe in God – Part Four

We have been reading Cornelius Van Til’s article on “Why I Believe in God.” We continue with this today:

To the argument we must now shortly come. Just another word, however, about my schooling. That will bring all the factors into the picture.

I was not quite five when somebody — fortunately I cannot recall who — took me to school. On the first day I was vaccinated and it hurt. I can still feel it. I had already been to church. I recall that definitely because I would sometimes wear my nicely polished leather shoes. A formula was read over me at my baptism which solemnly asserted that I had been conceived and born in sin, the idea being that my parents, like all men, had inherited sin from Adam, the first man and the representative of the human race. The formula further asserted that though thus conditioned by inescapable sin I was, as a child of the Covenant, redeemed in Christ. And at the ceremony my parents solemnly promised that as soon as I should be able to understand they would instruct me in all these matters by all the means at their disposal.

It was in pursuance of this vow that they sent me to a Christian grade school. In it I learned that my being saved from sin and my belonging to God made a difference for all that I knew or did. I saw the power of God in nature and His providence in the course of history. That gave the proper setting for my salvation, which I had in Christ. In short, the whole wide world that gradually opened up for me through my schooling was regarded as operating in its every aspect under the direction of the all-powerful and all-wise God whose child I was through Christ. I was to learn to think God’s thoughts after him in every field of endeavor.

Naturally there were fights on the “campus” of the school and I was engaged in some — though not in all — of them. Wooden shoes were wonderful weapons of war. Yet we were strictly forbidden to use them, even for defensive purposes. There were always lectures both by teachers and by parents on sin and evil in connection with our martial exploits. This was especially the case when a regiment of us went out to do battle with the pupils of the public school. The children of the public school did not like us. They had an extensive vocabulary of vituperation. Who did we think we were anyway? We were goody goodies — too good to go to the public school! “There! Take that and like it!” We replied in kind. Meanwhile our sense of distinction grew by leaps and wounds. We were told in the evening that we must learn to bear with patience the ridicule of the “world.” Had not the world hated the church, since Cain’s time?

How different your early schooling was! You went to a “neutral” school. As your parents had done at home, so your teachers now did at school. They taught you to be “open-minded.” God was not brought into connection with your study of nature or history. You were trained without bias all along the line.

Of course, you know better now. You realize that all that was purely imaginary. To be “without bias” is only to have a particular kind of bias. The idea of “neutrality” is simply a colorless suit that covers a negative attitude toward God. At least it ought to be plain that he who is not for the God of Christianity is against Him. You see, the world belongs to Him, and that you are His creature, and as such are to own up to that fact by honoring Him whether you eat or drink or do anything else. God says that you live, as it were, on His estate. And His estate has large ownership signs placed everywhere, so that he who goes by even at seventy miles an hour cannot but read them. Every fact in this world, the God of the Bible claims, has His stamp indelibly engraved upon it. How then could you be neutral with respect to such a God? Do you walk about leisurely on a Fourth of July in Washington wondering whether the Lincoln Memorial belongs to anyone? Do you look at “Old Glory” waving from a high flagpole and wonder whether she stands for anything? Does she require anything of you, born an American citizen as you are? You would deserve to suffer the fate of the “man without a country” if as an American you were neutral to America. Well, in a much deeper sense you deserve to live forever without God if you do not own and glorify Him as your Creator. You dare not manipulate God’s world and least of all yourself as His image-bearer, for you own final purposes. When Eve became neutral as between God and the Devil, weighing the contentions of each as though they were inherently on the face of them of equal value, she was in reality already on the side of the devil!

There you go again getting excited once more. Sit down and calm yourself. You are open-minded and neutral are you not? And you have learned to think that any hypothesis has, as a theory of life, an equal right to be heard with any other, have you not? After all I am only asking you to see what is involved in the Christian conception of God. If the God of Christianity exists, the evidence for His existence is abundant and plain so that it is both unscientific and sinful not to believe in Him. When Dr. Joad, for example says: “The evidence for God is far from plain,” on the ground that if it were plain everybody would believe in Him, he is begging the question. If the God of Christianity does exist, the evidence for Him must be plain. And the reason, therefore, why “everybody” does not believe in Him must be that “everybody” is blinded by sin. Everybody wears colored glasses. You have heard the story of the valley of the blind. A young man who was out hunting fell over a precipice into the valley of the blind. There was no escape. The blind men did not understand him when he spoke of seeing the sun and the colors of the rainbow, but a fine young lady did understand him when he spoke the language of love. The father of the girl would not consent to the marriage of his daughter to a lunatic who spoke so often of things that did not exist. But the great psychologists of the blind men’s university offered to cure him of his lunacy by sewing up his eyelids. Then, they assured him, he would be normal like “everybody” else. But the simple seer went on protesting that he did see the sun.

So, as we have our tea, I propose not only to operate on your heart so as to change your will, but also on your eyes so as to change your outlook. But wait a minute. No, I do not propose to operate at all. I myself cannot do anything of the sort. I am just mildly suggesting that you are perhaps dead, and perhaps blind, leaving you to think the matter over for yourself. If an operation is to be performed it must be performed by God Himself. (“Why I Believe in God”)

 Continue reading this article tomorrow morning. . . .

Noah Webster’s Advice to the Young

Quoting Noah Webster:

The ecclesiastical establishments of Europe, which serve to support tyrannical governments, are not the Christian religion, but abuses and corruptions of it. The religion of Christ and his apostles, in its primitive simplicity and purity, unencumbered with the trappings of power and the pomp of ceremonies, is the surest basis of a republican government. (1834)

The Hypocrite

The hypocrite is all show in the effort to hide his wickedness. Yet, we still find him sinful in deed. Pilate might have thought he could convince the world that he had a tender heart. Still, he may wash his hands as much as he wills, but he has no true claim to innocence. God sees it all. Thomas Watson (1620-1686) provides more insight into the nature of hypocrites below:

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13 ESV)

I shall give you two distinguishing characters whereby you may know a hypocrite. He is one that is partial in his goodness; zealous in lesser things, and remiss in greater: as Luther complained of some in his time, and our Savior in his time, which ‘strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.’ He is one that sweats only in some part, but is cool in all the rest, which is a sign his zeal is distempered. He is zealous against a ceremony, a relic or painted glass (not that I plead for these), but in the mean time lives in known sin, lying, cozening, extortion, &c. Just as the High Priests, ‘It is not lawful, say they, to put the money into the treasury, because it is the price of blood,’ Matt. 27.6. They speak like conscientious men. Oh do not defile the treasury! But let me ask the question, why did they shed that blood? It was innocent blood. They will not take the price of blood into the treasury, but they never scruple to take the guilt of blood into their souls. They were zealous for the temple, but in the mean time murderers of the Son of God. And we have a parallel scripture to this, Rom. 2.22. ‘Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?’ Who at the first blush would not have taken these for very holy, devout men that were zealous against idolatry? But see a root of hypocrisy! They were partially good, they hated one sin, but not another; idolatry, but not sacrilege. Though it was an abominable sin, and there was an express law of God against it; yet these seeming zealots make no conscience of robbing God of his tithes.

And here as in a scripture looking-glass, we may see our own faces; have we not many now-a-days seemingly zealous against popery? If they see a cross, (though it be in a coat of arms), they are much offended, and are in a kind of convulsion: but in the mean time make no conscience of sacrilege, starving out the ministry, they put out the fire on God’s altar, shut the doors of his temple; is not this visible hypocrisy? There are some, it may be, will not be heard to swear, it will not stand with their saintship; (this were to call the devil father aloud,) but they will defraud and defame, which is a sin they can never satisfy for; take away a man’s name, what mends can you make him? It is no better than murder; and if these be saints, there are as good saints in hell.

The second character of a hypocrite is that he makes religion a mask to cover his sin. Herod pretended to worship Christ, but his zeal was no other than malice, for it was to have destroyed him. Thus oft bad purposes lie hid under good pretenses. Jezebel, that she may dissemble her murderous intentions, proclaims a fast. Absalom, to color over his treason, pretends a religious vow. How cunning is the heart to go to hell; sometimes covetousness pretends conscience; Judas fisheth for money under a pretence of religion, ‘This ointment might have been sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor,’ John 12.5. How charitable Judas was! But his charity began at home, for he carried the bag. Many make religion a cloak for their ambition, ‘Come, see my zeal, saith Jehu, for the Lord.’ 1 Kings 10.16. No, Jehu, thy zeal was for the kingdom. It was not zeal, but state-policy. Jehu made religion hold the stirrup till he got possession of the crown; here was double-dyed hypocrisy. (“God’s Anatomy Upon Man’s Heart”)

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