Friday, December 2

The Gift of Giving

In 2 Corinthians the Apostle Paul offers an extended exhortation on stewardship:

“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So, each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (9:6-8).

Notice, he asserts there is a principle of reciprocity at work in our giving—and not only that, but God desires for us to give without reluctance or hesitation or regret. But then, he goes on to say that our generosity will not only enrich us in faith, hope, and joy (9:10-12), but will also produce grace and thanksgiving among men and praise and worship to God (9:13-14).  

All as a result of our giving!  It is indeed, "more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35)

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (9:15)

Monday, November 7

The Magdeburg Confession of 1550

By the 16th century virtually no one disagreed on the fact that the West needed to be reformed. What they disagreed on was what that reform should entail and how it was to be effected. In frustrated tension, dozens of competing factions, sects, schisms, rifts, rebellions, and divisions roiled just beneath the surface of the West’s tenuous tranquility for decades. Finally, on October 31, 1517, those pent-up passions burst out into the open when an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. In a single stroke, not one, but two momentous renewal movements renewal movements were launched that at last were able to effect genuine reform within the church: the Protestant Reformation and the reaffirmation of covenantal principles to civil governance.

This is the essential historical and cultural framework out of which the Magdeburg Confession of 1550 was written. Against the backdrop of the centralizing totalitarianism of the Hapsburg hegemony, the newly revived Holy Roman Empire, the people of the little German town of Magdeburg, situated between Berlin and Hanover, not far from Brandenburg, determined to recover their federal, their covenantal, their Biblical culture.

Their confession of faith asserted that Biblical covenantalism was the principle by which men and nations might know the truth of the Gospel and thus afford hope for their souls, it was simultaneously the principle by which their cultural and political and social freedom might be won.

Officially titled, The Confession, Instruction, and Admonition of the Pastors and Preachers of the Christian Congregations of Magdeburg, the Confession was a more than just a statement of Protestant and Lutheran orthodoxy. Composed by the nine pastors of the city in 1550 in response to the Augsburg Interim and its legal threat imposing Roman Catholic dictates, the Confession articulates the doctrine of “the lesser magistrates” and offers a Christian defense of the ideas of principled resistance to tyranny, civil disobedience to ungodly decrees, and even the use of force when necessary. It was the first clear declaration of a Biblical posture of resistance against unjust higher authorities. Theodore Beza believed the Confession provided faithful believers with an example of how to respond to political abuse and tyranny—indeed, he used insights from the Confession in his influential notes for the Geneva Bible, the Bible used by most of the Puritans and Pilgrims for at least three generations afterward.

So it was that the font of covenantal ideas in the Confession flowed out into the reforming nations of the West: they were echoed in Calvin and Beza’s Geneva; they helped shape Knox’s Scotland, they were influential in Bucer’s Strassburg; they laid the foundations of Cranmer’s England; and they became central to the vision of the Founders of America’s great experiment in liberty.

But for the same reasons that the Magdeburg pioneers had to recover the old principles of covenantal federalism by means of reformation, we need to pay heed to these ideas today. Western Civilization is once again in very real jeopardy. Freedom is once again threatened. Life, liberty, and opportunity are once again coming under the shadow of vested centralized powers and principalities. By looking back at the essential notions upon which our freedoms were built we may yet be motivated and equipped to begin the process of reforming, restoring, and recovering. May it be so, Lord.

Wednesday, November 2

Scots Confession

Patrick Hamilton and George Wishart first proclaimed the doctrines of the Reformation in Scotland. Both men were gifted scholars, beloved disciplers, and bold preachers. Both had been influenced by Martin Luther during studies abroad, both had benefited from William Tyndale’s translation work, and both were eventually martyred—Hamilton in 1528 and Wishart in 1546.

One of Wishart’s disciples, John Knox, was emboldened by the courageous life and death of his mentor. He determined to press forward the cause of Reformation in Scotland despite the obvious dangers. Through a dramatic series of events, including the assassination of the spiteful Bishop Beaton, the capture and barricading of the St. Andrew’s castle, and a subsequent siege by French war galleons, Knox was captured and made a galley slave. Upon regaining his freedom he studied under Calvin at Geneva, served King Edward at Westminster, prepared an English study Bible with Beza at Lausanne, and helped write a Book of Common Prayer with Bucer and Cranmer at Lambeth. But, always his heart was set on returning to Scotland. His persistent prayer was, “Lord, give me Scotland or I die.”

At last in 1559, Knox returned to his homeland. And despite fierce opposition from the crown and the nobility, he found the nation ready and waiting for Gospel reforms. With the death of the Queen Regent, Mary of Guise, in 1560, the Scottish Parliament convened in Edinburgh to address a host of issues confronting the restless nation.

In his History of the Reformation in Scotland, Knox gives a record of the extraordinary drama that soon unfolded. A supplication was laid before Parliament by a number of prominent Protestants, exposing the corruptions of the Scottish church. Evidence of the scandalous doings was overwhelming and undeniable. In response, Parliament beseeched the Protestants to draw up "in plain and several heads, the sum of that doctrine which they would maintain, and would desire that present Parliament to establish as wholesome, true, and only necessary to be believed and received within that realm."

Over the next four days, the Scots Confession was hastily drafted by Knox and five of his closest disciples and friends: John Winram, John Spottiswoode, John Willock, John Douglas, John Row (known as the “Six Johns”). On August 17, 1560, the document was read twice, article by article, during an open Parliamentary. Thereafter, the Confession was ratified with a near unanimous affirmation.

Composed in very economical prose and spanning just 25 articles or chapters, the Confession was warm, direct, humble, practical, and deeply devotional. Every proposition was accompanied by abundant Scripture references. As a result, it would prove to be a worthy a model for many of the creeds, confessions, and covenants that would follow in succeeding years.

The Church of Scotland would approve the Westminster Confession and Catechisms eight decades later; but the Scots Confession would remain its first, its dearest, and its most eloquent heart-cry of the faith that changed the whole course of the nation—and because of its profound influence on the Puritans in England and in America, the whole course of the world.

Wednesday, October 26

The Canons of Dort

We didn’t get TULIP, the Five Points of Calvinism, from Calvin. Oh sure, the doctrines can be found in his magisterial Institutes of Christian Religion. But the idea that the great doctrines of the Reformation could be reduced to five essential points, T-total depravity, U-unconditional election, L-limited atonement, I-irresistible grace, and P-perseverance of the saints, comes to us from the Canons of Dort (sort of).

Actually, it is a bit of a complicated, convoluted story. In 1618 and 1619 a National Synod was held in the Dutch city of Dordrecht to sort out the theological controversies that had been raised by the teachings of the influential theologian Jakob Hermanszoon, best known by his Latinized name, Jacobus Arminius. Beginning in 1603, Arminius argued against several specific doctrines in the Belgic Confession. Though he had studied under Theodore Beza, during his years of ministry as a pastor in Amsterdam and as a professor at Leiden, he had gradually developed strong semi-Pelagian views of grace, God’s sovereignty, and free will, views that were clearly inconsistent with the Reformed tradition of Calvin and Beza.

Arminius died in 1609. Nevertheless, his followers continued to teach his views, calling themselves “Arminians.” And in 1610, they attempted to specify all their concerns with Calvinism, publishing a five point Remonstrance. They argued that man’s sinfulness is not so comprehensive that it deadens him to the convictions of faith; that divine decree of predestination is only conditional, not absolute; that the atonement is intended to be universal; that though the grace of God is a necessary catalyst to genuine faith, it does not act irresistibly in man; and that believers are always vulnerable to the danger of falling away from a state of grace. Essentially, they argued for the autonomous responsibility of man, pre-ordination through the foreknowledge of faith, and the universal sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. As you can imagine, such teachings created quite a stir in the Dutch church and beyond.

The Dordrecht National Synod was called to resolve the conflict. And the resolution came in a series of five responses, or canons. The canons were not intended to be a comprehensive explanation of Reformed dogmatics, but only an answer to those five disputed points of the Arminian Remonstrance. Nevertheless, the document that the Synod delegates drew up was so succinct, straightforward, and substantive, it quickly became a standard text for a clear exposition of the doctrines of grace. In short order, it was linked together with the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession as the Three Forms of Unity.

What was intended to be a technical judicial response to a very specific case became a cornerstone for the building of the Reformed world and life view in the Netherlands and beyond.

The Second Helvetic Confession

It was never the intention of Heinrich Bullinger that the Second Helvetic Confession be made public. The successor to Ulrich Zwingli in Zurich actually wrote it in 1562 as a private devotional exercise. Two years later, stricken during an outbreak of the plague, he revised the work in anticipation of his death. Although his wife and three daughters all succumbed to the dread epidemic, Bullinger survived.

It was a propitious moment in history. The Council of Trent had just concluded its deliberations in 1563. The definitive edition of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion was translated into German, French, Italian, and English later that same year. All Europe was abuzz with conflict, contention, and concern.

Frederick III, Elector of the Palatinate and sponsor of the Heidelberg Catechism, asked Bullinger to prepare a defense of the Reformed Faith in preparation for the upcoming Imperial Diet in Augsburg. Bullinger sent him a copy of the succinct testimony, recopied from his journal: 20,000 words arranged into 30 chapters, covering everything from systematic theology to practical piety. Frederick immediately recognized the work’s richness and had it translated from Latin into German. In short order, all the Protestant cities of Switzerland (the old Roman province of Helvetii or East Gaul) affirmed its value as well. After a few minor revisions in 1566, the testimony, now dubbed the Second Helvetic Confession, was affirmed by the churches in Zurich, Geneva, and Berne—and was received warmly by the Reformed communities in Scotland, the Netherlands, Poland, Northern Italy, and Hungary. Today, next to the Heidelberg Catechism, the Second Helvetic Confession is the most widely utilized document to come out of the magisterial Reformation.

Bullinger was a brilliant theologian, classical scholar, historian, and linguist. As the pastor of Zurich’s Grossmünster following the death of Zwingli, he was also renowned as a gifted expositor and preacher. But, because it was originally composed as private devotional exercise, the Confession is marked by a profound intimacy and a practical immediacy. Its sections on prayer, singing, Sabbath-keeping, care for the sick and poor, the role of civil government, and the character of marriage and the family, make it a compendium of everyday wisdom for the Christian life. But, it achieves this practical usefulness without ever compromising the profound depth of its theology and Biblical fidelity. Unapologetically grounded in Scripture, the Confession nevertheless makes a broad appeal to the whole of church history.

Thus, the Second Helvetic Confession reminds us that good theology need not be arcane, that deep Biblical truth is always immediately applicable to the ordinary details of life, and that the Gospel, like Christ Himself, is the same yesterday, today and forever.

The Heidelberg Catechism

The Heidelberg Catechism, first published in 1563, has been used by Christians around the world ever since and with the Belgic Confession and Canons of Dort, remains one of the essential Three Forms of Unity. The Catechism summarizes the major teachings of the Scriptures in 129 memorable questions and answers. Very simple and yet quite profound, amazingly concise and yet fully sufficient, the Catechism has been appreciated by young and old alike as one of the most clear, helpful and comforting guides into all the spiritual treasures of the Gospel.

The word catechism comes from the Greek word katecheo, which means to teach. It is a word frequently used in the Bible. In his Gospel, for example, Luke explained that he had written, “an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Lk 1:4). Wherever the word is used, it is translated as to teach or to instruct. So, a catechism is essentially a teaching tool, designed for oral instruction—thus, its question and answer format.

The 129 questions and answers are divided over 52 sections for each of the Lord’s Days in a year. Topically, the Catechism covers the themes of our sin (1-4), our deliverance (5-31), and our thankfulness for such a great salvation (32-52). At the same time, it surveys the truths of the Apostle’s Creed (8-22), the Ten Commandments (33-44), and the Lord’s Prayer (46-52). Under each Lord’s Day there are lists of Bible references to enable readers to identify which Bible passages the Catechism is summarizing in each answer.

The university town of Heidelberg had been, with Wittenberg and Strasburg, among the leading cities of the early Reformation. In April of 1518 Martin Luther travelled to Heidelberg for a debate at the annual meeting of the region’s Augustinian monks. There he presented 40 Heidelberg Theses, calling for a clear and sustained emphasis on the cross of Christ as the only means of salvation. Soon after, Wenzel Strauss, the pastor of the city church, Heiliggeistkirche, came to be known as “the evangelical trumpet.” Heinrich Stoll and Martin Bucer, likewise became champions of the doctrines of grace. The Gospel took root.

At the request of Elector Frederick III, the ruler of the Palatinate, the Catechism was composed by Zacharius Ursinus, 28 years old and professor of theology at the university, and Caspar Olevianus, who was just 26 and Frederick's court preacher. Their work was immediately influential. In The Netherlands the Catechism was popularized by Petrus Dathenus, who translated it into Dutch and Peter Gabriel who taught through all 52 sections for his congregation at Amsterdam each Lord’s Day afternoon. It quickly became a standard work of the ongoing Reformation—and remains so to this day.

The Belgic Confession

The Belgic Confession, published in 1561, was a clear, concise, and uncompromised declaration of Reformed faith. King Philip II had unleashed the full power of the Inquisition, determined to stamp out every remnant of Protestantism in Europe. Guido de Brès composed the work in French as an apology for the persecuted Reformation community suffering under his harsh rule. The Hapsburg Emperor was king of Spain, Sardinia, Sicily, Portugal, and Milan. Briefly during his marriage to Mary Tudor, he was also the titular king of England and Ireland. But even that failed to satisfy his voracious appetite.

Like his father Charles V, who confronted Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms, Philip was obsessive in his desire for unchallenged authority. Global hegemony was his aim. He rightly perceived that the Reformed faith and its adherents were obstinate obstacles in his grand pursuit.

In the Belgic Confession, de Brès carefully adhered to the Bible teaching he had learned from his mentors, John Calvin and Theodore Beza, taking a cue from their French Reformed Confession published two years earlier. Even so, de Brès pioneered the pattern for most of the confessions that would follow in the succeeding years: starting with the doctrine of God (Theology Proper), and then moving on to the doctrines of man (Anthropology), Christ (Christology), salvation (Soteriology), the church (Ecclesiology), and last things (Eschatology).

Translated into Dutch in 1562, the Belgic Confession became a rallying point for resistance to Hapsburg rule in the Lowlands. In 1567, de Brès was martyred for his faith. Yet, “he being dead, still speaks.” To this day, his confession remains one of the essential Three Forms of Unity.

Friday, August 26

Alec Motyer (1924-2016) has long been one of my favorite commentators (I discovered in 1982 at the Congress on the Bible in San Diego that his name was pronounced maw-teer having always mispronounced it mott-yur).  His commentaries on Amos, James, Philippians, and his two commentaries on Isaiah have been indispensable to me. And, I have only just begun to work through his devotional translation of the Psalms.

In one of his most recent books, Life 2, he argued for the great hope of Gospel surety in the face of death. Today, he has proven it.  He went to sleep in fair lowlands of England and awoke in the fairer uplands of Heaven. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57  

Tuesday, August 23

Saturday, July 9

In Quietness and Surrender

In his Institutes Calvin calls prayer “the chief exercise of faith…by which we daily receive God’s benefits” (III: 20). Prayer is our response to grace, receiving what God gives us, and then responding with deep gratitude, so that our petitions grow out of thanksgiving. The result, he says, is pietas, an attitude of reverence and love for God, and caritas, service to neighbor. Very practically, Calvin then outlines a plan for prayer—what he calls the "rules of prayer."

He says, we must come to God with “sincere affection of heart.” We must likewise come with humility, depending on the grace of God. We must pray with confident hope—with the “certainty that our prayer will be answered.” And, we must pray “continuously.” But it is necessary, he says, because of our weakness, for us to set hours for prayer: when we arise in the morning for instance, before we begin daily work, when we sit down to a meal, when by God’s blessing we ready to retire.” The result, is awareness of God in every moment.

But, taking precedence over all these, Calvin’s first "rule" of prayer is to be “rid of all alien and outside cares, by which the mind, itself a wanderer, is borne about hither and thither.” In other words, his first rule is what the Puritans would later call “the discipline of grave silence.” It is our need to be quiet in the presence of God. In his commentary on Philippians he wrote that our cares are unloaded by solemnly, soberly, and in silent awe casting them upon God’s fatherly care for us. He asserted, “For we are not made of iron, so as to be unshaken by temptations. But our consolation, our relief, is to deposit, or (to speak more correctly) in quietness and surrender, to unload into the bosom of God everything that harasses us.”

Tuesday, July 5

A Preacher's Humility

“When a preacher is overwhelmed by a sense of his own helplessness, the lesson s a wholesome one. It makes him feel that the sufficiency is not in him but in God; it makes him understand that another power must be brought to bear upon the mass of resistance which is before him; and let the man of confident and aspiring genius who thought he was to assail the dark seats of human corruption and to carry them by storm, let him be reduced in mortified and dependent humbleness to the expedient of the Apostle—let him crave the intercessions of his people and throw himself upon their prayers.” Thomas Chalmers

Friday, June 3

The Power of Prayer

In 1867, the American evangelist D.L. Moody visited the Metropolitan Tabernacle in city of London. He had come 4000 miles to hear Charles Spurgeon, renowned as “The Prince of Preachers.” He was not disappointed.

He would later reminisce that what impressed him most was not the worship, though he thought he had never heard such grand congregational singing; it was not Spurgeon’s sermon, though it was as powerful as he could have ever hoped; instead, it was his prayer. Moody recalled that Spurgeon seemed to have such access to God that he could bring down the power from heaven. He was convinced that was the secret of Spurgeon’s influence and success.

Spurgeon himself often admitted as much. “Prayer plumes the wings of God’s young eaglets so that they may learn to mount above the clouds,” he said, “Prayer brings inner strength to God’s warriors and sends them forth to spiritual battle with their muscles firm and their armor in place.” Indeed, he exclaimed, “All good is born in prayer, and all good springs from it.”

The whole work of the great church Spurgeon had planted in one of London’s poorest neighborhoods was rooted in and depended upon prayer. “The power of prayer can never be overrated,” he argued. “They who cannot serve God by preaching need not regret. If a man can but pray he can do anything. He who knows how to overcome with God in prayer has Heaven and earth at his disposal.” Thus, the church not only sponsored weekly prayer meetings, had a team of intercessors praying throughout the city through the week, and hosted seasons of prayer at various times through the year, it also trained intercessors to do the work of spiritual warfare during its regular Lord’s Day worship services (at one point there was a years-long waiting list just to be able to join the prayer team in the basement during Sunday services).

Oh, what would it look like to have a praying church like that today? As Spurgeon asserted so long ago, “We know not what prayer cannot do!”

Thursday, May 5

Lord, Have Mercy. Church, Have Courage

During that particularly distressing post-Nixon, pre-Reagan period in American history, Francis Schaeffer prophetically declared, "This is our moment of history and our responsibility: not to just to write and talk of far-off ideals, but to struggle for Scriptural and practical means of doing what can be done in a fallen world to see people personally converted and also to see what our salt and light can bring forth in the personal life and the political and the cultural life of this moment of history." His exhortation is as apt today as it was then—and perhaps, even more so.

Faced with the prospects of a desultory presidential electoral cycle, many Christians today have given vent to handwringing jeremiads. In truth, this election affords us a tremendous opportunity:

We have the opportunity to stand courageously for Biblical truth severed from the compromises of political partisanship. The Republican Party has long disregarded us. Now, it has altogether discarded us. We are thus morally, culturally, and politically unencumbered by their half-measures, empty promises, and feeble entreaties.

We have the opportunity to mobilize a groundswell of support for principled and purposeful reformation at a time when the two major parties have little more to offer than revolutionary fantasims.

We have the opportunity to model ardent prayerfulness. It was John Bunyan who quipped, “You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” We have acted as if the opposite were true. We no longer have the luxury of that foolhardy project.

Finally, we have the opportunity to display an unwavering confidence in the Gospel hope. When all about us are despairing, we can reaffirm that the throne room of the Most High has not been vacated, that the Ascended Christ still has His iron scepter and the earth remains His footstool. As Church Colson asserted, "Thankfully, hope doesn't ride on Air Force One." We need not set our hopes upon either Tweedledee or Tweedledum.

This is our moment. It is past time for us to roll up our sleeves and go to work. It is high time for the church to be the church.

Friday, February 26

Religion Externalized

Culture is simply a worldview made evident. It is basic beliefs worked out into habits of life. It is theology translated into sociology. Culture is a very practical expression of the common faith of a community or a people or a nation. Culture is, as Henry Van Til famously quipped, "religion externalized."

What a person thinks, what he believes, what shapes his ultimate concerns, and what he holds to be true in his heart—in short, his faith or lack of it—has a direct effect on his material well-being, behavior, and outlook; on his sense of what is good, true, and beautiful; on his priorities, values, and principles. After all, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

What is true for one person is equally true for a whole community of persons. In 1905, Max Weber, the renowned political economist and “founding father” of modern sociology, affirmed this fundamental truth for modern social scientists in his classic work, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. He argued that the remarkable prosperity of the West was directly attributable to the cultural, personal, and ethical prevalence of the Christian tradition. In contrast to so many other cultures around the globe, where freedoms and opportunities were severely limited and where poverty and suffering abounded, Weber found that faith brought men and nations both liberty and prosperity.

The Christian faith changes people. Therefore, the Christian faith changes culture. The reasons for this are multitudinous:

First, true faith reorients all of us fallen and sinful men to reality. Because of our selfish proclivities we are all too naturally blind, foolish, ignorant, and self-destructive. More often than not, we are ruled by our passions, our lusts, and our delusions. We simply have a hard time facing reality without the perspective of faith. Faith in Almighty God, however, removes the scales from our eyes and the shackles from our lives. In Him we are at last acquainted to what is right, what is real, and what is true.

Sociologist James Gleason has said, “Faith serves us all well as a kind of reality-check. It is a transcendent value that enables us to more adequately and objectively evaluate our most bewildering situations and circumstances. In other words, it gives us a perspective beyond our own purblind vantage.”

A culture shaped by what is right, what is real, and what is true will manifest significantly art, music, literature, science, and ideas just as surely as a person shaped by them will.

Second, the Christian faith counteracts the destructive effects of sinful actions and activities. Sin is not a concept that has much currency with modern social scientists, economists, politicians, community organizers, civil rights activists, and social service providers. It has become rather politically incorrect to even speak of it. Men who have rejected God and do not walk in faith are more often than not immoral, impure, and improvident. They are prone to extreme and destructive behavior, indulging in perverse vices and dissipating sensuality. And they—along with their families and loved ones—are thus driven over the brink of destruction. On the other hand, faith reforms us with new and constructive values. We are provoked to moral and upright lives of diligence, purity, sober-mindedness, thrift, trustworthiness, and responsibility.

According to psychologist Nancy Hellman, “Where poverty, violence, and destruction germinate in the rotting soil of sin, productivity, harmony, and hope flourish in the fertile field of faith. If we were to recover the concept of sin in our society—even from a moderately secularized perspective—we would go a long way toward eradicating the evils of modern life.”

In other words, a culture that understands the character and nature of the Fall is going to be tangibly, substantively, and manifestly different than a culture that does not.

Third, the Christian faith establishes a future orientation in our hearts and minds. All too often the modern men and women either flounder in a dismal fatalism or we squander our few resources in an irresponsible impulsiveness. Many of us are terribly short-sighted, unmotivated, and naive. And “where there is no vision the people perish.” On the other hand, genuine faith provokes us to live thoughtfully, to plan, to exercise restraint, and to defer gratification in order to achieve higher ends. We are induced to self-control, wisdom, and careful stewardship in order to build for the future.

Bartok Havic, the great Czech historian, has said, “History’s record is clear: a people who cannot look past the moment, past the fleeting pleasures of fleshly indulgence, will be a people whose culture vanishes from the face of the earth. Ultimately, only faith gives men a sustaining vision for that which is other than their own selfish desires.”

Fourth, the Christian faith provokes us to exercise responsibility. Outside of the bounds of faith in God we are all naturally prone to selfishness, wastefulness, and sloth. Faith on the other hand enables see past ourselves, growing into selfless maturity. We are able to become more responsible to redeem our time. We are able to become more responsible to make the most of every opportunity. We are able to become more responsible to fulfill our calling in life. We are able to become more responsible to use our money wisely, to care for our families, to serve the needs of others, and to be an example of redemptive love before all men everywhere. It is this very kind of diligent responsibility—this very fruit of faith—that we most need if they are ever to fully recover the vision of life and culture that brought the Western world to flower.

“It is faith,” says George Gilder, “in all its multifarious forms and luminosities, that can by itself move the mountains of sloth and depression that afflict the world’s stagnant economies; it brought immigrants thousands of miles with pennies in their pockets to launch the American empire of commerce; and it performs miracles daily in our present impasse.”

Senator Ted Kennedy once asserted that, "The ballot box is the place where change begins in America." Although he has been fiercely and vehemently wrong in the past, Kennedy has never been more wrong than this. As George Will has argued, “There is hardly a page of American history that does not refute that insistence, so characteristic of the political class, on the primacy of politics in the making of history.” In fact, he says, "In a good society, politics is peripheral to much of the pulsing life of the society."

This is the great lesson of history: it is ordinary people of authentic Christian faith who are ultimately the ones who best able to shape the outcome of human events--not kings and princes, not masters and tyrants. It is laborers and workmen, cousins and acquaintances that upend the expectations of the brilliant and the glamorous, the expert and the meticulous. It is plain folks, simple people, who literally change the course of history--because they are the stuff of which history is made. They are the ones who make the world go round. For, as G.K. Chesterton said, "The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children."

Ultimately, that is our greatest hope for the future. It is simply that a new grassroots majoritarian emphasis on things that really matter--on the Gospel and its fruits--will emerge as we train up the next generation of culture-shapers. It is that a love for hearth and home, community and culture, accountability and availability, service and substance, morality and magnanimity, responsibility and restoration will capture hearts and minds and lives. It is a hope that may be stymied, obstructed, and hampered--but ultimately it cannot fail.

As the famed journalist H.L. Mencken once said, “The man who invents a new imbecility is hailed gladly, and bidden to make himself at home; he is to the great masses of men, the beau ideal of mankind. His madness must necessarily give way to right, sooner or later, though usually later.”

Or as the poet F.W. Faber wrote:

“For right is right, since God is God,
And right the day must win;
To doubt would be disloyalty,
To falter would be sin.”