Category Archives: Philosophy

Foundational Criteria

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The very birth of our country was spawned by this belief. This conviction led our founding fathers to risk their life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in order to form a Union that would provide these rights for successive generations.

Our nation is also based upon the principles of democracy. While our government is a form of republic, it operates under the premise that the voice of every citizen carries weight.

This places upon the shoulders of government the immense and priceless burden of protecting these rights for every citizen. A government that fails to pursue the protection of these rights with the same zeal for all citizens is lacking in meeting the criteria of a true democracy.

This also provides to the citizen a yardstick by which each candidate for public office may be measured. As we evaluate the two tickets that are legitimate candidates for the presidency we should apply this yardstick to each.

Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin have both stated unequivocally that they believe that life begins at conception. Sen. McCain has a consistent record in Congress of voting pro-life and has stated his intention of appointing judges who share his view. Sarah Palin’s views on the matter are well-documented as well. Both have shouldered the responsibility of protecting the right to life of even the youngest of citizens, even those who are deemed to have special needs.

Sen. Obama has publicly confessed his ignorance on exactly when life begins. This raises questions about his ability or inclination to protect the right to life of all Americans. Sen. Biden has stated that he believes that life begins at conception but does not feel obligated to protect that life. Both of these men have a congressional record that indicates their deficient value of the life of the unborn.

Additionally, Obama’s website states his position that the most fundamental right is the right to vote. While voting is undeniably an important privilege, it is not to be mistaken as being as weighty as the right to life. Again, confusion and ignorance seems to characterize Obama’s position on the matter.

For those who read this, I would pose this question, “If we cannot trust the Democratic ticket to protect the first and most basic of all rights for our weakest citizens, how can we trust them to protect any of our rights?”

If the right to life is denied, the other rights are meaningless.

The value of life is determined by the fact that man was created in the image of God as a living soul. It is not based upon the circumstances of their conception, the abilities of their parent(s) to provide for them, the environment of their birth or their mental and physical abilities.

When presidents, judges and lawmakers start determining whose life is valuable enough to protect, we are treading on a slope that is nothing more than oil-coated glass. When we surrender the right to life to the judgment of others, we place them in the role of God and we risk forfeiting our own right at some point.

Let us elect leaders who recognize the sanctity of life so that the blessings of liberty and the pursuit of happiness may continue.


Weekend Survey

The Weekend Survey has presented a broad spectrum of questions to Heavenly Heartburn readers. We have discussed food, travel, books, music, sports and weather preferences just to name a few topics. Occasionally, we branch into the realm of philosophy. Some may recall the spirited debate over the accurate description of a glass that is filled to exactly half its maximum capacity.

This week, I would like to present to you a moral dilemna for your discussion and entertainment.

I recently heard two individuals arguing over the following incident: one of them was behind a partially closed door, engaged in talking to himself. The other, unbeknownst to the “talker”, was on the other side of said door, quietly absorbing the “conversation”. At some point, the door was opened and the listener was discovered.

Here is the dilemna. The “talker” got upset with the “listener” and accused that person of “eavesdropping”. The “listener” rebutted with the argument that since there was only one person involved in the “conversation” that it did not truly qualify as “eavesdropping” but was only “listening”.

 What say ye, noble jurors of the burning hearts?

The Art of Christian Statesmanship–Part 2

   In the previous post in this series, I listed some negative aspects of debates that I have observed in theological debates that have taken place around the blogosphere. In the discussion that followed, some excellent points were made concerning right motives in debating and in the methods we employ while engaging in debate.

   I want to share with you some principles that I am trying to keep in mind when I engage in debates. As the Apostle Paul stated in Philippians, “I count not myself to have apprehended.” I am still learning to apply these, and at times my fleshly nature still rises up and works against these principles, but they are the goal to which I strive.

1.  I will assume that my opponent is a brother or sister in Christ. Unless I am debating and atheist or someone from a different religion, I am not going to assume that differences in interpretation of scripture arbitrarily mean they are not saved. Thus, I am going to give them the respect that the Bible says is due between children of God.

2.  I will remember that my goal should be edification.If I am only trying to prove that I am right and my opponent is wrong, then I will never achieve this goal. I cannot presumptiously excuse ungracious language or behavior simply because I think I am right. I must define a “win” as being the edification of the one whom I am debating. I do not have to compromise to achieve this, but I must be kind, gentle, meek, patient, temperate and above all, loving as I express what I believe to be the truth.

3.  I will remember the likelihood that my remarks are being read by unbelievers. I do not want my comments to be so vitriolic that they would harm the testimony of Christ and hinder someone from coming to Him.

4.  I will remember that I am not perfect and still have much to learn. Just because I have believed something all my life does not mean that it is true. Truth is defined by God’s Word alone, and even the brightest of theologians can be mistaken. If they can be wrong, who am I to think I have a monopoly on truth? Along those same lines, I will try to remember that just because my opponent may be wrong on one point does not mean that he is wrong all the time.

5.  I will remember that my ultimate goal will be the glory of God. Before I fire off that fiery response, I should ask myself, “Will God be glorified in this?” If I am trying to make myself appear intelligent, wise or superior to my opponent, I will be operating from the wrong motive and will be prone to use methods and language that do not glorify the Savior.

   As I said, I am learning these principles. I am ashamed to say that I have learned their importance because of my own shortcomings as much as those I have observed in others. By God’s grace, I intend, however, to adhere to them as closely as possible from now on.

   May Christ be glorified in all I say and do.

The Art of Christian Statesmanship–Part 1

   From time to time, I have posted on this blog about gracious speech. Christians are called upon by God to use speech that is filled with grace and ministers edification to the hearer. I would like to take that thought a little further and apply the principles of grace to methods that we sometimes see employed in theological debates, particularly on the internet.

    Let me say up front that I am exploring these ideas as a learner, not a master. I have been tempted, at times, to use every underhanded tactic that I am about to describe. I am ashamed to say that there have been times when I have stooped to using some of them in one form or another. I have been doing a lot of praying and thinking about this topic, though, and am trying to set a higher standard for myself. I want to share it with you. In this post, I want to point out some of the unsavory methods that I have seen used in theological debates. In the next in this series, I will propose some positive methods to which I am going to try to hold myself to following.

   I titled this post, “The Art of Christian Statesmanship,” because of the implications of the phrase, “Christian statesmanship”. Statesmanship is the art of diplomacy. I would like for us, for the sake of this conversation, to view debate as a diplomatic endeavor.

   Debate can be a very healthy thing. Debate can cause us to re-examine our theology, thus giving us opportunity to see where we may be wrong, or further solidifying our grasp on truth. Debate can broaden our understanding of the way others think. We can be exposed to ideas, concepts, and tenets that we previously were not aware of. Debate can clear up misconceptions that one may have about another’s position.

   Debate can be a healthy thing, it can also turn ugly. 

   What I am about to share is hardly earth-shattering news. If you have been involved with, or simply observed many theological debates in bloggyland, you have more than likely seen some of the things I am about to describe.

   In its simplest and purest form, debate should be a dialogue between opposing points of view. It should consist of one side presenting its own perspective, allowing the other side to present their perspective, and then perhaps each side responding with further information about their own position or questioning the validity of the opponent’s position (not the opponent’s intelligence, etc.). I call this “statesmanship” because it should be an exercise in diplomacy. I call it “Christian statesmanship” because above all it should be carried out in a manner that reflects the grace of Christ.

   Here are some tactics that I feel have no place in Christian debate:

  1. Allowing debates to devolve into a series of personal attacks. Name-calling and character assassination do not minister grace to the hearer.
  2. The use of “straw men.” This is a deliberate attempt to misrepresent an opponents position for the purpose of making their position look ridiculous.
  3. Attempting to align an opponent’s view with another view that is heretical without a clear line of connection. It is not unusual for various theological camps to share some common ground and even common terminology. The fact that they do so does not mean that they are in line with each other. Those who resort to this tactic should be careful, it is likely that their own position could be connected in this manner to a doctrine that they find revolting.
  4. Ridicule, sarcasm and generally rude behavior. Making fun of someone who holds a differing point of view does not minister grace. I have heard it argued that men of God (including Jesus) used sarcasm at times to make their point. I would say that there is a significant difference between Elijah using sarcasm against the prophets of Baal, Jesus using sarcasm against the Pharisees, and us using it against a brother or sister in Christ who has an opinion (or even a conviction) that differs from our own. I have yet to see any of these tactics used in a positive way in contemporary debates.
  5. Using a difference of opinion as a basis for judging.This is perhaps the most reprehensible of all tactics. When we allow our distaste for someone’s pet doctrine to cause us to question their love for God or their salvation, we should immediately step back and examine our own heart. I am not speaking about differences in religions, I am speaking about brothers and sisters in Christ who may interpret a particular Scripture text differently than we do.

   This list is not exhaustive, but it certainly covers many areas which Christians should avoid in our debates. Hopefully, in the next post we will take a look at some positive methods of discussion.

   Until then, be filled with the grace and peace of God.


Weekend Survey

After an extended vacation, Weekend Survey has returned.

This week’s question is related to the previous post concerning the evident realities of life and the ideals of our faith.

Question: How has your perception of God changed since you first became a believer?

Since I was saved as a child, I think both my natural maturation process and my spiritual development have played a part in helping me to realize that God is more than an impersonal, “grandfather” type being. I have learned that He is a very personal, heavenly Father who, just about the time I think I have Him figured out, shows me a totally different aspect of His nature.

What Do You Think About God?

In my recent book review of Confessions Of an Amateur Believer, by Patty Kirk, I mentioned that the author dealt with some poignant questions concerning her ideals about God. Blogging friend, Danny Kaye, suggested that perhaps we could discuss some of them. Rather than spoil the book for you by revealing all of them here, I am going to present a “composite question” to you for discussion.

Mrs. Kirk expressed that she abandoned her early belief in God because the reality of her life did not match the ideals of God that she learned in her religious upbringing. The Roman Catholic church had painted a mental picture of God that she simply could not reconcile with the events of her life.

Now, I am in no way saying that God can be limited to the scope of our experience or understanding, please do not infer that I am. God is who He is, and His ways are far beyond our ways. My understanding of God has no power to shape God, but it does have the power to shape me.

Now with that in mind, here is my question for discussion.

What should we do when the evident realities of life do not reconcile with the ideals of our faith?

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Be sure to give thanks and don’t eat too much turkey. Those tryptophan comas can sure lay you out!

 In honor of the holiday, let me share with you this recitation that George Younce of the Cathedral Quartet used to quote.

Today upon a bus, I saw a lovely girl

with golden hair.

I envied her, she seemed so happy

and I wished that I were as fair.

When suddenly she rose to leave

and I saw her hobble down the aisle.

She had one leg and wore a crutch,

but as she passed, she smiled.

Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.

I have two legs, and the world is mine.

Later on the way to work I stopped to buy some sweets.

The lad who sold them had such charm,

I stayed and talked with him a while.

If I were late, ‘twould do no harm.

As I left, he said, “Thank sir, you’ve been so kind.

It’s nice to talk to folks like you.”

“You see,” he said, “I’m blind”.

Oh God, forgive me when I whine.

I have two eyes, and the world is mine.

Later in the street I saw a child with eyes of blue.

He stood and watched the others play,

it seemed he didn’t know what to do.

So I said, “Why don’t you join the others dear?”

But he just looked straight ahead without a word,

and then I knew, he couldn’t hear.

Oh God, forgive me when I whine.

I have two ears, and the world is mine.

With legs to take me where I’d go,

With eyes to see the sunsets glow,

With ears to hear what I would know,

I’m blessed indeed, and the world is mine.

Thank you, Lord!

Weekend Survey

Perhaps we can generate a little discussion with this one.

Is the glass half-empty or half-full?

I think it depends on if you are giving the glass or receiving it.

See you in church this Sunday.

One Thing

In the movie, City Slickers, Jack Palance plays a gritty trail boss on a cattle drive for dudes. Billy Crystal is a greenhorn from the city who is having a mid-life crisis. As they discuss the meaning of life, Palance tells Crystal that he has learned that the meaning of life is “one thing”. Crystal, of course wants to know what that “one thing” is, to which Palance replies, “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”

What is your “one thing”? Is it family? Your job? Ambition? What drives you from day to day to do the things you do?

God wants us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. He does not want to be one among many loves, He wants us to love Him completely. All of our affection, devotion, and adoration is to be focused upon Him.

When we love Him with all of our heart, we will find that we are able to love others to a degree that we never before knew was possible. God’s love is dispensed through us by the Holy Spirit helping us to love others with the same kind of love with which God loves us. (Perhaps this is one of the keys to forgiveness).

God has made us so that we are incomplete without Him. Those who try to fill God’s place in their life with love for anything other than God will be frustrated and unfulfilled, never experiencing the joy of the Lord. Those who do make Him their “one thing” find a completeness and passion for life that nothing else can produce.

What is your “one thing”?

Further Thoughts on Christian Americanism

A comment from yesterday’s post made me think that perhaps I had not clearly articulated the answer to the question posed by the title of the post.

I am not advocating in any way, shape or form that we abandon patriotism. Bro. Tony rightfully drew our attention to the beginnings of our nation. America was indeed founded upon strong Christian principles by devoted patriots. The problem that I see is that we have deviated from both the Christian and patriotic principles of these founding fathers.

Christianity has largely become Laodiceaic in its fervor. Patriotism is often reduced to political infighting and advancement of agendas within the culture. (A most noticeable exception to this would be our military–those guys and gals really are patriots in the most real sense.)

Now before you aim the cannons at me, I am not questioning anyone’s patriotism. Neither am I questioning your love for God. I am trying to draw attention to the fact, however, that some things are out of balance in the Christian culture. There are times when being a Christian will create conflict with being an American. As I promised yesterday, let me elaborate. (This may take a couple of posts).

There Is a Conflict of Personal Liberty
There can be no doubt that America has been blessed with an abundance of liberty. I strongly suspect that it is our great freedom that has caused terrorist fanatics around the world to hate us so strongly. And yet, as wonderful as these freedoms are, we will find that they conflict with Christianity.

Why is this? It is because we have more rights as Americans than we do as Christians. As Americans we enjoy the rights of freedom of speech, ownership of property, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These are wonderful personal rights that allow every American the chance to better their life, making America the “land of opportunity”.

The conflict arises when we unconsciously try to transfer those same liberties to our relationship with God. God calls us to yield up our rights to Him. He seeks to govern our speech. He tells us that we are not our own but we are bought with a price. He tells us that we have the responsibility to pursue His glory.

I have personally dealt with Christians who are struggling with various aspects of surrendering their life to God. Their conflict was often exacerbated by a failure to distinguish between their rights of citizenship and their responsibilities of serving God.

We have the right to determine our own government. We can vote, lobby, politic, sue, discuss, debate, constitute, and legislate. Democracy is without a doubt (at least in my mind) the strongest form of government. I am thankful to God for the opportunity to live in such a system.

Have you ever seen someone try to turn a church into a democracy? It happens all the time. How about a denomination? Instead of seeking the leadership of the head of the church, we start lobbying, politicking, suing, etc. Is it any wonder that so many churches have become so ingrown that they can barely function? As the church, we can never afford to forget who we are, and whose we are. The church is God’s possession, He has purchased us with a great price.

These are just some thoughts upon which to ruminate. Having said all that, I am eternally grateful to live in a nation where I still have the liberty to pursue God with all my heart. I just pray that I will do that.