Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Where Was God? Why Mike Huckabee is Wrong


Everyone wants an easy answer to explain the mass murder in Connecticut. How do we rationalize the brutal murder of more than 25 people? In response, some Christians are giving a truly harmful and dangerous answer in the form of this video from Mike Huckabee on Fox News.

Huckabee says in the video that Neil Cavuto asked him this question: Where was God in this calamity? In response Huckabee says, “For 50 years we’ve systematically attempted to have God removed from our schools, our public activities, but then in the moment of calamity we wonder where he was… It’s the fact that people sue a city so we aren’t confronted with a manger scene… We carefully and intentionally stop saying things are sinful… We’ve escorted him right out of our culture…and then we express our surprise that a culture without him, actually reflects what it’s become.”

In 1927, a man bombed an elementary school which killed 38 elementary school children. It is known as the “Bath School Disaster”. Now I’m no math whiz, but I know that 1927 has not been in the past fifty years.

Beyond that, however, Huckabee’s reasoning is dangerous because it insinuates that if American culture simply "brought God back" (like he was ever really gone?), if we emphasized Judeo Christian values and morals, if we went back to the 1950s, this thing wouldn't have happened. If we obey God’s commands on the basic whole, of course blessing will follow!

There’s a reason the prosperity "gospel" so easily masquerades itself as the true gospel in this country and abroad. Because nothing truly terrible comes upon the righteous, right? Because our lives are just peachy when we obey his commands, right? Just let go and let God. “When we walk with the Lord, in the light of his Word, what a glory he sheds on our way” right? Because that worked so well for Paul!

A culture which emphasizes God and morals doesn't stop people from acting in an immoral way. The problem is the evil human heart.

Huckabee’s comments grow out of the pernicious idea that America is God’s nation, that our forefathers were all Christians, or at least godly men, and throughout the past half century, out of the blue, people just decided that God's values and Christianity really just weren’t their forte anymore.

The law is written on the heart of all mankind (Romans 2:15), making it bountifully obvious that people know it's wrong to murder. And get this, they know it's wrong to kill, even without the express commands of the Decalogue in courthouses! People don't need faith in Christ to be moral people. 

Even so, we easily forget the story of Job. Job was a really, really great guy by human standards. Just read Job 29. And guess what? Though he was righteous in God’s sight, and lived his life in a godly manner, everything but his life was taken from him. His children were killed, his riches lost, boils covered his body, and his own wife told him to curse God and die.

Is this really what we signed up for? Scraping boils off our bodies? Is this really what the Christian life is? Our children dying? Woe upon woe, suffering upon suffering? The servant is not greater than his master!

America is not God’s nation. No earthly country can be. The  true Church is God’s nation. As Peter says, the Church is “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…” (1 Peter 2:9). I'll say it again: America is not the Church! America is an earthly nation!

Until Christians make it to heaven, calamities will befall us. Our spouses and children may die (they may even be murdered) by evil actions, and we will be tempted to curse God. But we were not there when God created the world. We don’t know all the ins and outs of his plan.

The baby boys under the age of two were killed in Bethlehem after Jesus was born. Herod gave the order. The soldiers carried it out. God permitted it. 

Here’s what I do know. Those families do not need to hear that the reason their children are now dead is because our country as a whole has given the proverbial finger to God. They were murdered because humans are evil, and this one human being was completely given over to his deeply entrenched sin. God took away his restraining grace, and we saw the fruits of it last week. We got a taste of human nature at its worst. There but for the grace of God go I!

Why would God allow it?

I don’t know. I’m not God. I don’t know the intricacies of his divine plan. I know that he did allow it. And I do know this: “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). He worked through Jospeh to provide food to a whole world ravaged by famine. He worked through the death of his own son to give us forgiveness of sins and life!

I know this: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:35-27).

The families in Connecticut need to hear the gospel. They need to hear that Jesus came to save sinners, that he came to defeat death, and he is bringing us to the new heavens and the new earth where there will be no sorrow, weeping, or gnashing of teeth. God understands what it is like to have a child brutally murdered. We killed his Son, who lived a perfect life. But in the death of Christ, we have forgiveness of sins and everlasting joy, an inheritance “which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith…” (1 Peter 1:4). 

9 comments:

  1. Hi Mark, appreciated your Biblical thoughts of the shooting in Conn. However, I wouldn't throw Mr. Huckabee under the bus. From how I understood his editorial, he addressed our nation with the question of whether or not we need God (the sub-title of the editorial)I felt he addressed the problem of sin in this world, encouraged the evidence of small doses of grace that God showed in the midst of the evil actions, and entreat our country to follow God's laws above all. The more we use God's word for our faith and practice, the more we see our need of Him.
    You are right when you say America is not God's nation, and the gospel is what people need to hear. This event should not be the only reason people question where was God, or even is there God. We should be considering the presence of God every day from the mere act of being able to wake from our sleep.
    One more observation, could you finish your thoughts at the end of your 8th paragraph when you state, 'people don't need faith in Christ to be moral people.' I think I know what you mean, but it seems to need further explanation.
    Thanks Mark.

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    1. Hello Garry!

      What I mean by, "people don't need faith in Christ to be moral people" is this: there are very moral (or good) people in this world who do not have faith in Christ. They believe that doing good to neighbor is a proper and right thing, and they may outwardly do even more good works of service than the Christian. Without faith, however, it's impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). So I simply mean that our neighbors who aren't Christians can be really sterling people.

      As far as throwing Huckabee under the bus, I think we should. I disagree with the presumption that America needs to "bring God back." First of all, by Huckabee's line of argumentation he seems to insinuate that God was around 50 years ago. People loved him, and nothing like this ever happened in America, because we followed his commands. But there were murders in the 1950s. There was never a time in American history (after 1776), when America has ever been sold on the idea of God (at least in the Christian sense), or that everyone lived a life that was pleasing to him. I think Huckabee is confusing spheres. Huckabee certainly was not putting forth the Christian gospel to be believed, and he certainly wasn't coming from a Christian standpoint. Perhaps a deistic standpoint, but then he also wants to say that God was present in the good actions of people amidst evil. So God wasn't around when the shooter was murdering children, but he popped back in when people were doing good?

      His reasoning, to me, makes no sense. If America has systematically tried to get rid of God, why would he pop back in when rational normal people are doing what any rational normal people would do in that situation: try to save the children in their classrooms.

      God was present in the whole situation. He knew the murderers heart, and he knew what the plans were, and he allowed the plans to be carried out. America will never be (nor has been) a Christian nation.

      There will always be evil people in our midst (though I cringe saying that, knowing I am evil as well!). Coming back to God, especially in the way Huckabee propounds will not stop the violent crimes which happen here, because no earthly nation can be a Christian nation. It's a confusion of spheres, or kingdoms, whichever you prefer.

      Finally, does anyone really believe that murder is A-ok? No, obviously, from natural law. Huckabee was almost trying to say that as we've exited God out of our country (which sounds eerily similar to Nietzsche's "God is dead, and we have killed him"), people just start thinking murder is okay?

      It was interesting that he said we'll never be able to rationalize what happened last week, but then he says this obviously happens in a country that says "adios" to God. Contradiction?

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    2. Hello, just passing by.
      Here are my two cents: I got the impression that Huckabee was saying, "Godless people will do godless things." That is, Naturalistic nihilism materialistic relativism, and other similar world views are worldviews that (when followed to their logical conclusion) develop a certain kind of people--a people of a certain character. Now, people can be higher than their principles (e.g., a moral relativist can be genuinely irate about human trafficking and think that it is wrong for people to condone, use, or ignore it), but it does not mean that their theories furnish them with the sort of robust theological and philosophical basis that they would need in order to justify "good" behavior and "just" sentiments.

      In his statement, it seems as though he did not want to say a whole lot about this particular act of evil--instead, it seems as though he wanted to particularly address an inconsistency that he has observed in secular discourse about evil actions within society. What he has to say is similar to what C.S. Lewis says about the modern educator at the end of his first chapter in the Abolition of man. He states,
      “And all the time—such is the tragic comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more 'drive', or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or 'creativity'. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
      Huckabee seems to be adding to the list: “We try to destroy the idea of God, and we are angry to find godless people in our culture that live as though there is no God—what exactly do we want? It is as though we are (intentionally) walking towards a cliff, all the while complaining that we are getting closer toward the edge. We conceive evil, and we blame God for it birth--we intentionally choose to form characters that rebel against the will of God, and then demand to see the kingdom of the Lord before will believe in Him. Why do evil things happen? Do you really want the answer to that question? We cut down the trees and curse God for them not bearing fruit—Men have chosen to do evil. The popular philosophies of godless universities, of pornographic pulpits, and of the pews of proud individualism have not moved us towards a society that wants to live under the reign of God. Do you want to see the kingdom? Then start with yourself and your community—be reconciled to God, repent, and know God.”

      In short, it seems like Huckabee is not specifically trying to explain the shooting. It seems more like he is saying saying: "It is inconsistent for naturalists/nihilists/etc. to demand Christians to justify their belief in God (particularly his omnibenevolence and omnipotence) in the face of evil, while they are themselves trying to create an increasingly evil culture." It seems to be more of a rhetorical move to put his opponents on their heels.

      This seems to be the most charitable and plain interpretation of what Huckabee is saying—not that God is somehow metaphysically displaced from secular culture, or that we can make this world into the perfect City of God before the 2nd coming of Christ, or that everything was good in America 50 years ago, etc.. I do not know Huckabee’s other views, but I did not hear anything in this address that warranted this response.

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  2. Hello Renee,

    You say, "I got the impression that Huckabee was saying..." Well I didn't get this impression. And the funny thing is, you yourself have presented a different summary of what you believe Huckabee was saying, while not recognizing what he did say. Huckabee made reference to American culture, to America's desire to take him out of the secular sphere, and be relieved of his presence in our lives. Then he says that there is a correlation with this and what happened last week and, and you can't deny that. He talked about being surprised that this type of thing would happen. So there's the correlation.

    You missed my point: A culture which emphasizes God and morals doesn't stop people from acting in an immoral way. The problem is the evil human heart.

    Our culture won't fix the problem. We can't stop these things from happening, because we can't stop the evil flowing from the heart. Jeremiah 17:9 says that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick. Who can know it?

    Huckabee also said that God suddenly showed up when good things were happening. This DOES insinuate that he somehow wasn't there when the murder was taking place! This isn't a biblical view of a sovereign God who is always there, always present, orchestrating all events for the good of those who love God. It's not America that needs to wake up! It's individual sinners who need the call of the gospel. An earthly nation cannot be a "Christian" nation, agreed? Only the Church is the Christian nation.

    Unfotunately, your "impression" is not the plain interpretation of what Huckabee ACTUALLY said, though I agree, you are charitable to him.

    Here's what he said:
    1)For the past 50 years this country has told God we don't want him.

    This insinuates that before 50 years ago, America did NOT tell God we didn't need him. America had morals back then, we knew that we needed God, and we sought to live by his standards.

    Therefore, this tragedy would not have happened if we went back to that time. To a time when American culture had prayer in schools, made provisions for Christian businesses, and were free to put up nativity scenes, and to sing Christmas Carols. When we would call things sin, instead of saying they were normal. He DID insinuate that God in the broader culture, would prevent things like this from occuring. And if that wasn't the insinuation, then he made himself terribly unclear.

    Again, you're applying one line of thinking to one sphere that simply belongs in another.

    You say, "The popular philosophies of godless universities, of pornographic pulpits, and of the pews of proud individualism have not moved us towards a society that wants to live under the reign of God. Do you want to see the kingdom? Then start with yourself and your community—be reconciled to God, repent, and know God.”

    Of course these don't move us towards a society which wants to live under the reign of God. What nation, save for the Church, desires to live under the reign of God? No earthly nation can be classified as Christian. This is because the only society that can be told to live under the reign of God is the Church, through the gospel of Christ. Buddhists are great people, and peaceful, and they don't need faith in Christ to be that way! So are Hindus, and they don't need a faith in God either. Because of natural law implanted on the hearts of all men and women.


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    1. It's time to put the idea of Christian America to rest. "America" can't be godly or godless. America is a country, not a person. individuals can be godless or godly within a culture. Where religious pluralism and freedom of religion exist, we can't force God down people's throats and tell them, "See! Look what happens when we forget God! Our children get murdered!" Would you tell a parent that, who had a child die from this heinous crime?

      It's funny. Job didn't forget God. His wife told him to curse him and die. He was righteous before God. And despite that, boom. Everything was taken from him.

      A Christian nation is united by the gospel of Jesus Christ. And, of course, this is the Church.

      Peter called us exiles, strangers, and aliens in a land not our own. We belong to the heavenly Kingdom. America is not the Christian's home.

      As Christians we go about being salt and light, so that we can bring others to the gospel. NOT AS AMERICANS.

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  3. Hey Mark,
    I would agree with a lot of what you are saying, but I would come to a different conclusion. It's true: America is not God's chosen nation. We will never be a "Christian" nation in the manner that you're hinting at simply because we can never kick out all the un-believers, or even look at a mans heart and see if he is a "true" believer or not. However, as you also pointed out, we are called to be salt and light. We are called to go out and make disciples of the nations. Now I would like to point out that our nation WAS founded on a Biblical basis, almost all of our founding fathers were believers, even if they were fallen and sinned, which everyone likes to point out. (However, it's never the sinless people that are pointing out "wicked" the founding fathers were. "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone"?) I would like to say that I agree with Mr. Huckabee. Our nation has fallen away drastically more lately, and it is in steady decline. But that is by no means a sign that we are to forget about it and move to our little bubble called the church. That just shows me that the church has been asleep for far too long, and it's time to wake up! We ARE called to be salt and light, and we aren't doing that right now! America is not our "kingdom", but were better to start than your own home? True, it's more of a hotel that we're staying at as we pass through, but why not try our absolute best to make as Christian a hotel as possible?! We are not all called to be disconnected travelers who wander about homeless and lost, living off the pity and "good deeds" of others to try and survive until we finally die and can go to heaven. Who is going to listen to someone like that, and how are they going to make a difference in the world? Not very practical, if the entire country becomes "Christian and suddenly start wandering around until they die out a year later since no one worked or maintained a lifestyle anymore." We are called to move into our communities, mesh with them, and spread the Word through our actions and speech. I firmly believe that we should strive to have a Christian nation, unless you can point me to a better goal for converting people than 300 million.
    Sorry for that long winded entry. My point in the end is this: no, we are not a Christian nation in the essence that the Israel was in the Old Testament. However, we are called to change the world, and where better to start than with the 300 million sitting at your doorstep? You have the most in common with them out of anyone, and they need it. So why not have the church wake up, repent of our many sins, and turn this nation to Christ?

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    1. Hey Isaac,

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. As I've said to a couple others, I think you're putting one line of thinking into one sphere that belongs in another. "Christian" does not equal Judeo-Christian values, as you seem to imply from your use of the word. A Christian is someone who believes the gospel of Christ, and seeks to live their life in a way that is honoring to him, based on the indicative pronouncement that he has been made righteous through Christ. It is the Churches job to EVANGELIZE, not get involved in the silly debates over "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" etc. Christians should figure out where the true battle lies. It does not lie in getting our country to be more "Christian" (though I despise using the word "Christian" in the sense of more moral), but rather against the principalities and powers, as Ephesians says. When you say that America can never kick out all the unbelievers, does that imply that this is something you wish we could do?? I don't think you are implying this, but I will say that the job of discipline for sin belongs squarely with the Church, and not with the State, and we can't get the two confused, which in the use of your language you seem to do.

      I'm not advocating not being salt and light! I think we should be. Nor do I advocate, as you seem to insinuate, that Christians should be lazy! We are called to live our lives in this world, and live lives which are pleasing to God, which of course is our Spiritual worship. This does not happen by making America more moral. This happens through calling sinners to repentance. Notice I said sinners, as individuals, rather than our nation.

      I don't advocate living in a Christian bubble, but getting out there and letting others know the reason for the hope that lies within us, not bickering about public Nativity Scenes (which, in my opinion, are woefully inaccurate).

      In a country where religious pluralism and freedom of religion exist in the public forum, we cannot shove our beliefs of God down other’s throats. We can have an opinion. But it seems mainstream evangelicals don't just want to have an opinion. They want all the power as well; they want Christianity to be the most favored.

      I have such a hard time with this discussion because the categories many Christians work with is that we should make America as "Christian" as possible. But "Christian" is not a word that can be applied to an earthly nation. It can be applied to individual Christians, and to the Church alone. Again, morals do not equal Christianity.

      We don't turn a nation to Christ. We turn individuals to Christ. We don't turn individuals to Christ through saying "Merry Christmas", through nativity scenes, by "God Bless America" being on our money, and certainly not by prayer in public schools (which is allowed by the way, but perhaps not in the way many Christians would like).

      We turn individuals to Christ through the message of the gospel, which happens most specifically in Church. Not to say that we shouldn't talk about Christ to others in our daily lives.

      I find no passage in the Bible where we are called to "change the world". Nor do I know what that means.

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  4. Mark,
    I never insinuated that Christians should be lazy. In fact the very opposite! I feel that the church has been lazy and disconnected with the world for a long time! I never advocated that we should kick out all the unbelievers, I simply pointed out that it is an impossible fact that we can never really know who is truly saved and who isn't. We can't see the heart, only God can, so for us to want a "Christian" nation in that manner is impossible.

    I never implied that the state should punish sin. And to be honest with you, most churches aren't punishing sin either. Are you able to think of the last time you saw someone ex-communicated for unrepentant sins?

    And if you bring up Ephesians, who are the principality's and powers? Is it some vague idea of evil that is "somewhere out there that I need to fight"? Or can we look around us and say "There is evil all about me, and it is my job to fight that evil by spreading the Gospel"? I never once said we should live in a bubble. I said we have been, and we need to stop.

    But if we have the Great Commission, shouldn't we WANT the entire world to bend the knee to Jesus? Anything less is taking an easy way out. We should WANT everyone to have this joy that is in us. In fact, the love of Christ should so fill us that we want to go running through the town proclaiming Christ to everyone (as happened after almost every single one of Jesus miracles). We shouldn't sit by stoically, watching the world around us with snobbish upright noses, and giving the Good News to only those few that warrant our concern, as you seem to imply. We should be free with the Gospel, for since it saved us from an evil and decedent lifestyle, why shouldn't we wish for it to save others?

    You're right, most of what we live for is the church. But that's one day of the week. The other six we are called to go out and spread the Word. So how do we do that? Are we confined to one approach? Is there somewhere in the Bible that says that "can only spread the Gospel through forums that people can, and we should never force anything upon them by actually talking to people or showing our beliefs in the way we act"? Nativity scenes, having "God Bless America" on our money, etc. are not the same way of spreading the Gospel, as you say. However, they are little things, that make people think, that can open that door to conversation.

    Believe me, after being in Navy, it's the little things that people pay attention to. In all my time and the thousands that I've met, none of them want to have a deep conversation with a Christian. They have other things on their mind. However, they see the little things, and it makes them question, makes them wonder. "Why didn't you get drunk with the guys last night?" "What a stupid billboard." "Why didn't she just get an abortion?" Those are the things that make them wonder, and we are called to have an answer for them when they come to us. God can use any way He wants to turn people to Him, and we are called to be ready when He does.

    But does He even need us? No. Hate to break it to you, but God doesn't need us at all. He has the power to turn a nation to Him if He wanted, but He doesn't. Where would we be if He did that? How would we grow? He chooses to use the things that we come across in our life to transform us into the children He needs us to be, and He expects us to spread those things to other people.

    You mentioned prayer. Prayer is a valuable tool, and is a great gift that God has given us! Because He has promised to answer our prayers. Not always yes or no, but He listens. So maybe before we start doing anything else, we need to pray.

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    1. Neither of us are insinuating Christians should be lazy.

      I AM able to think of the last time someone was excommunicated, yes. Actually, it's been more than one. However, I do agree that most churches do not punish sin by using the means of discipline.

      You say, "We shouldn't sit by stoically, watching the world around us with snobbish upright noses, and giving the Good News to only those few that warrant our concern, as you seem to imply." Where exactly have I implied this?

      Of course God does not need us. But the point isn't what God needs, it's what he chooses to use. And he uses means, and that means is the proclamation of the gospel.

      We both agree that we should be salt and light. But not going and getting drunk (which is something explicitly condemned in Scripture) is not the same thing as a nativity scene (which is unbiblical).

      You say, "He chooses to use the things that we come across in our life to transform us into the children He needs us to be..." The sanctification process is lived out in all of life, but we still need to highlight the importance of our spiritual food being preached and given to us every Sunday. It seems odd that you wrote "Does He even need us?" and then you say that he doesn't, and then you write "transform us into the children He NEEDS us to be..."

      The principalities and powers are the devil and his angels, not some vague idea as you charge me with saying. No doubt, however, that the devil uses the "Merry Christmas" debate as a real distraction from the truth that we should be fighting for. How about in the disruption of the gospel itself?

      It's odd, again, that you say we should be free with the gospel, as if I said in the post or previous responses that we shouldn't. I went STRAIGHT to the gospel at the end of my post, saying that the families needed to hear the gospel. So please, I'm not saying we shouldn't be free with the gospel. The Bible's very clear that we should always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us.

      I'm glad that in your vast life experience you've found that the small things matter. No doubt they do. But I think we can both agree that having the ten commandments in courthouses is not half as important (nor necessary)as, say, going to Church, not canceling evening worship, not getting drunk, not sleeping around etc.

      This argument is perhaps over how to be salt and light. I don't need the Decalogue in courthouses, nativity scenes, or prayer in public schools to be salt and light. In fact, those things would be a very poor, silly witness. America is a place that has freedom of religion. Nativity scenes do not belong in public places. Corporate prayer does not belong in public schools. The fact that Christians think they do belong is because they want to be the most favored religion in the public forum.


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