Keller’s Signs of Political Idolatry

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You can find idols in the most peculiar places — even in your politics!

I found this quote by Tim Keller, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC. I think he articulates the thoughts I’ve been having about the way Christians approach their politics — the wrongfully place hope that a president, specifically the president of your choice, will calm your worries and make things all well. Enjoy reading this and make sure to leave a comment!

“One of the signs that an object is functioning as an idol is that fear becomes one of the chief characteristics of life. When we center our lives on the idol, we become dependent on it. If our counterfeit god is threatened in any way, our response is complete panic. We do not say, ‘What a shame, how difficult,’ but rather ‘This is the end! There’s no hope!’

This may be a reason why so many people now respond to U.S. political trends in such an extreme way. When either party wins an election, a certain percentage of the losing side talks openly about leaving the country. They become agitated and fearful for the future. They have put the kind of hope in their political leaders and policies that once was reserved for God and the work of the gospel. When their political leaders are out of power, they experience a death. They believe that if their policies and people are not in power, everything will fall apart. They refuse to admit how much agreement they actually have with the other party, and instead focus on the points of disagreement. The points of contention overshadow everything else, and a poisonous environment is created.

Another sign of idolatry in our politics is that opponents are not considered to be simply mistaken but to be evil. After the last presidential election, my eighty-four-year-old mother observed, ‘It used to be that whoever was elected as your president, even if he wasn’t the one you voted for, he was still your president. That doesn’t seem to be the case any longer.’ After each election, there is now a significant number of people who see the incoming president lacking moral legitimacy. The increasing political polarization and bitterness we see in U.S. politics today is a sign that we have made political activism into a form of religion. How does idolatry produce fear and demonization?

Dutch-Canadian philosopher Al Wolters taught that in the biblical view of things, the main problem in life is sin, and the only solution is God and his grace. The alternative to this view is to identify something besides sin as the main problem with the world and something besides God as the main remedy. That demonizes something that is not completely bad, and makes an idol out of something that cannot be the ultimate good.

…In political idolatry, we make a god out of having power.”

Interested in reading more by Keller? Check out Keller Quotes — The Words of Dr. Timothy Keller


Footsteps to Follow In: Amy Carmichael’s Trust in God

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Both of our boys participate in our church’s missionary reading program called M&M Kids. Most recently we’ve been reading to Owen the biography of Amy Carmichael. Early in her life, at the age of 20, she learned the lesson of trusting God . . .

“She would no longer confine herself to doing what she thought she could do; instead she’d trust God and see what He would do through her.”

Amy Carmichael served in India until she died in 1951 at the age of 83. Her ministry eventually housed and cared for nearly 1000 at-risk children, many of whom where young girls rescued from temple prostitution. She has influence untold thousands I’m sure, included among those are Jim and Elizabeth Elliot.

That statement captures my imagination and I wonder what God might do in my life if I learned to trust Him and not confine myself to my weak abilities!

Wisdom from our Past

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May this be found true of our nation once again!

 “The people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities. If the next centennial does not find us a great nation, it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.”

~~ the 20th President of the United States, James Garfield, who was also a preacher!

Modern Objections to God based on Sense of Fair Play & Justice

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Just found this from Tim Keller, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC. Though it’s long, it’s worth the read given the tragedy in Aurora, CO.
Horrendous, inexplicable suffering, though it cannot disprove God, is nonetheless a problem for the believer in the Bible. However, it is perhaps an even greater problem for nonbelievers. C. S. Lewis described how he had originally rejected the idea of God because of the cruelty of life. Then he came to realize that evil was even more problematic for his new atheism. In the end, he realized that suffering provided a better argument for God’s existence than one against it.

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of ‘just’ and ‘unjust’?…What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?…Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too–for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies…Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple.”

Lewis recognized that modern objections to God are based on a sense of fair play and justice. People, we believe, ought not to suffer, be excluded, die of hunger or oppression. But the evolutionary mechanism of natural selection depends on death, destruction, and violence of the strong against the weak–these things are all perfectly natural. On what basis, then, does the atheist judge the natural world to be horribly wrong, unfair, and unjust? The nonbeliever in God doesn’t have a good basis for being outraged at injustice, which, as Lewis points out, was the reason for objecting to God in the first place. If you are sure that this natural world is unjust and filled with evil, you are assuming the reality of some extra-natural (or supernatural) standard by which to make your judgment. The philosopher Alvin Plantiga said it like this:

“Could there really be any such thing as horrifying wickedness [if there were no God and we just evolved]? I don’t see how. There can be such a thing only if there is a way that rational creatures are supposed to live, obliged to live…A [secular]way of looking at the world has no place for genuine moral obligation of any sort…and thus no way to say there is such a thing as genuine and wickedness. Accordingly, if you think there really is such a thing as horrifying wickedness (…and not just an illusion of some sort), then you have a powerful…argument [for the reality of God].”

In short, the problem of tragedy, suffering, and injustice is a problem for everyone. It is at least as big a problem for nonbelief in God as for belief. It is therefore a mistake, though an understandable one, to think that if you abandon belief in God it somehow makes the problem of evil easier to handle.

—Tim Keller from The Reason for God

God’s New Normal

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Been thinking about what it means to be successful as a church. When people ask, “Is your church growing?” what do I measure to answer that question? My pride and flesh wants to point to an astounding numbers of baptisms, more small groups, greater attendance on Sundays, excess of funds, blah, blah, blah.

But inside I know that God looks on the heart. That is how He ‘measured’ David and found him qualified to be King. Mmmm, so it’s the heart that needs measuring. Ok, so that’s how I measure my personal growth. But how do we know if our church is growing?

Any way, in all my reading and surfing I came across this post by Reggie McNeal on the Leadership Network site:

“Go ahead. Stare at the nativity set this Christmas. Remember a leader who was content with the scorecard of obedience to mission. Quit hushing that quiet voice in you that calls to question the scorecard that enslaves rather than fulfills. Have the courage to agree with God for a new normal. Trust that his “well done” will be the only assessment that every completely satisfies. Allow this reality to relax your anxious and ambitious spirit. Maybe then the “peace on earth” that every soul craves can come home to you.”

Read his complete post here.

Trusting our Success

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I have a pastor friend that posted this Tim Keller quote. (Thanks Michael!) I really respect Keller. I’ve been to his church many times when my sister-in-law attended there. I’ll never be as smart as he is so I just have to keep reading his work!

This particular quote is really important for our church here in the ‘burbs. I think Keller has hit the nail on the head for many people in our area. What is especially troubling is that when the job is gone and the afluence dries up these folks look at God like He failed them. But in reality, they were never looking to God to sustain them. They were looking to their job, their success — really they were looking to themselves!

One sign that you have made success an idol is the false sense of security it brings. The poor and the marginalized expect suffering, they know that life on this earth is nasty, brutish, and short. Successful people are much more shocked and overwhelmed by troubles. As a pastor, I’ve often heard people from the upper echelons say, ‘Life isn’t supposed to be this way,’ when they face tragedy. I have never heard such language in my years as a pastor among the working class and the poor. The false sense of security comes from deifying our achievement and expecting it to keep us safe from the troubles of life in a way that only God can.”

-Tim Keller, “Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power and the Only Hope That Matters”

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