Thursday, August 16, 2012

462 Years Ago Today - "Play the Man Master Ridley"

The Martyrs' Memorial stands partway down St. Giles street in the city of Oxford, England. It was built in the mid-19th century to commemorate the lives of Oxford Bishops Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. I walked right past this memorial one Saturday morning while exploring this historic and incredible city about 13 years ago with my good friend Jim Dewitt.

I have to admit, I had not heard of these three men prior to that morning. These three men, sometimes referred to as “Prelates of the Church” were bishops in the Anglican Church of England. All three men were involved in the Protestant Reformation. Latimer began to preach publicly on the need for the translation of the Bible into English. This was a dangerous move because the first translation of the New Testament by William Tyndale, had recently been banned. When the Church of England moved from Anglicanism back toward the Roman Catholic Church under Queen Mary in 1553, these three men came under intense persecution.

Eventually these three men were burned at the stake right near the spot of this memorial. Ridley and Latimer first in October of 1555 and then Cranmer in March of 1556. It is interesting to note that Cranmer was executed a little over five months later because the Queen ordered these men to “recant” or take back their statements and renounce their beliefs. Ridley and Latimer refused…Cranmer on the other hand, recanted, but could not live with himself afterwards…and then recanted his recant. While preparations were being made to burn Cranmer at the stake, he asked if his right hand could be untied so that he could put that hand first into the fire. That was the hand that he had used to sign his original recant that spared him the fate of his friends five months earlier at the very same spot in Oxford.

Ok, so why the church history lesson Bob? Well, it occurs to me that we take an awful lot for granted today in the times in which we live. How many of us believers have multiple copies of the Bible around our homes? How many of you now have the Bible on an App, either for your Iphone, your Ipad, or your laptop? We have incredible access to the Word of God that these men and many others like them gave their lives for us to have. They gave their very lives for us to be able have the Bible in our own language. These men believed that God’s word was meant for you and I to have in order that we might come directly to God. They believed that, because they understood that the Bible contained the powerful, living, Word of God! Do we really understand what we have on those pages? If we do, we will make it part of our everyday lives, both in the practice of reading and in the practice of telling others what it says.

I think about the mindset of men like this…and I ask myself if I can measure up to them. We are called to take Christ to a world around us that is entirely hostile to the Christ of the Bible…I say the “Christ of the Bible” because many today are offering a “christ” that is foreign to the Christ of the Bible. But make no mistake about it; the world around us is hostile towards Him. Even so, we are reminded that in this world, God is always at work…He is about the work of drawing His people to Himself all the time. Our job is to be faithful to point others to Him, not knowing upon who’s hearts He is working. In a time of increasing hostility towards Christ, we must not shrink back from proclaiming the truth.

Hugh Latimer is quoted as having said to Nicholas Ridley as the fires were being lit: “Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” Take the time to read about men like this…let God use these fallen but great men from history to put “steel” in our spine to engage the world around us with the truths of the scriptures.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Bear Bible

A few years ago while on a business trip to New England I had some time to visit the historical society in the small town of Windsor, CT.  I had discovered this place on a previous trip and was back to take a few pictures. Taking the pictures was something I had worked see most museums prohibit the taking of photos of very old artifacts due to the deterioration caused by the momentary, but intense light produced by a camera flash.  But I just had to have a photo of one particular item. I had written the society curator a few weeks before and of course had laid it on pretty thick about how much I loved history and had really enjoyed visiting their museum on my previous visit and that I really wanted a photo of one particular item. I must have hit a heartstring, or maybe she sensed I was was a "historical" kindred spirit, or maybe she was just thrilled that someone from out of town was so excited about their small historical society. Anyway, she agreed to let me bring my camera and take a photo.

The item, shown in the photo above...was the object of my photo quest that day, an almost 400 year old Geneva Bible (circa 1625). This was the family bible of the Jonathan Gillete family who came over to America on the ship "Mary and John" in 1630 as part of the Puritan congregation that settled Windsor in 1634. It is known as the "Bear Bible" from the scratches on its ends, which, according to family history, was made by a bear clawing at a window propped open by the bible.

So, why the fascination with an old bible you ask? Well, I'd be lying if I didnt admit that I am fascinated by objects and artifacts from early colonial America, and having a nearly 400 year old bible just inches from my fingertips was really cool...but what really made an impact on me was the realization that this bible represents much more. The Geneva Bible was the bible produced by the Reformers in the late 16th century and indeed if one was privileged enough to own a copy of an english translation in early colonial New England, it would have been the Geneva edition. This Bible had a huge influence upon the founding of America as did the Reformers that translated it. Long before America declared its independence, many of the Reformers defended principles that birthed liberty in the modern world.

Recently while studying Calvins "Institutes on the Christian Religion", I was struck by the fact that Calvin had so much to say about civil government. John Eidsmoe, a noted scholar on the impact of Christianity on the United States Constitution writes that scholars on both sides of the Calvin "theological" divide agree that he might be the father of modern liberty as well as the intellectual founding father of America. John Adams, agreed with this sentiment and issued this pointed charge: “Let not Geneva be forgotten or despised. Religious liberty owes it much respect”. The Reformers wrote about and modeled many of the principles of liberty later embraced by our own Founders: Anti-Statism, the transcendent principles of law as the foundation of an ethical legal system, the principle that man must be ruled by a system of law higher than himself, free market economics, decentralized authority, and an educated citizenry as a safeguard against tyranny. You see, the cause of American self government did not begin in 1776, but rather it began with the Protestant Reformation, indeed one could argue it began with the scriptures themselves!

So, in essence this bible that I was priveleged to photograph is a mark of time gone by, but that mark bears the indelible fingerprint of the Providential hand of Alimighty God as he orchestrated events in the founding of our country.  Give Him glory today!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Efficiency or Abdication of Responsibility?

Little known to most of us, last Tuesday evening the United States House of Representatives voted on and passed legislation known as the “Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011” (S. 679). Members of the United States Congress have figured out that most of us are paying no attention whatsoever to what they do, but for the few that are, they like to use words in the titles of legislation that fool us into thinking they are doing good things. After all, who could be against our government doing something to make itself more “efficient” and “streamlined”? It almost seems un-American to oppose something named like that. This legislation originated in the United States Senate back in June of last year and was sent to the House where it sat in legislative limbo...until Tuesday that is. The bill eliminates close to 200 positions that normally require Senate approval under the Constitutional process of Senate "advise and consent" normally referred to as "Confirmation". What this means is that the President (any President) will be able to simply appoint people to these particular positions without any congressional review.

Now to be clear, obviously all federal employees are not required to be confirmed by the United States Senate. The United States Constitution gives authority to the President of the United States to appoint "Officers of the United States" in his administration to various positions.  Article II, Section 2, directs that these appointments be confirmed or "checked" by the Senate. The same section also prescribes that the congress can "vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone".  In other words, all officers must be confirmed unless the congress provides exception by statutory law. Congressional review or Executive branch appointees is a crucial "check" in the framers intent for Separation of Powers and Constitutional "Checks and Balances".

Back to the law I mentioned above that was passed this past Tuesday evening (S. 679). This bill which began in the Democrat controlled Senate, was sponsored by one of the biggest liberals in the Senate, Chuck Schumer.  Indeed the list of cosponsors is a veritable who's who of leftist Senators. Why a Republican controlled House of Representatives would vote on this piece of legislation ever, much less right now is so incomprehensible it boggles the mind. At a time when our Constitution is being eviscerated, the Republicans not only undercut themselves...more importantly they have weakened Separation of Powers and weakened the "Appointments" clause in Article II, Section 2.

The Republican line on this is that these are "minor" positions. Really? Again, they assume most of us out here have left them on autopilot...and sadly...they are right. I, however, have NOT left them on autopilot...I watch them like a hawk...becuase I dont trust them. I know that the vast majority in the Republican Party are not Conservative, oh...they like to call themselves Conservative...but they are not. So I took the time to pull up the bill and see who these people (positions) are. There are powerful positions on this list....and of course, why would they have been on the list to start with if they were deemed important enough before?

Upon further investigation into what the Senate had to say last year when they introduced this bill you find that their reason for introducing the bill is not because they think the positions are so minor as to not merit Senate confirmation, but rather their stated reason is that they say they don’t have "enough" time to perform their duty in this area. Right, this from the legislative body that torments us (the people) with strangling legislation about what kind of light bulbs we can use and cannot use, what kind of toilets we must use, and other nonsensical proclamations and resolutions. Yep, they don’t have time for the important stuff of PROTECTING our Constitution! This bill is very, very bad no matter who is the President...the issue isn’t who's in power...but the issue is the SEPARATION of powers.  But there is no way to ignore the bad timing of this bill, this President has gobbled up power left and right since being in office, he has appointed Czar after Czar, he has appointed radical self described Communists, Homosexual activists, and radical environmentalists to strategic posts and for these Republicans to increase his authority is extremely negligent.

What I don’t understand as a Conservative is this...why do the Republicans continually stab us in the back? Why a vote on this bill now after it sat in limbo for more than a year?  Why did the House leadership buckle on this?  There is no getting around it, a look at the Roll Call on this bill is very revealing, it shows us who understands the gravity of this law and who does not understand "checks and balances", it shows us who is serious about checking the unbridled power of a radical Marxist President, and who is not.  Once again, we see that it is we the people that have to be vigilant, Thomas Jefferson said "Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories."

The so called “Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act" now sits awaiting signature into law on the President’s desk.  A Christmas Present for the President in August, all wrapped up in a bow from a Republican controlled House of Representatives!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Making The Connection

As Christian citizens living in a land that God has bestowed liberty unlike no other in history, there is a crucial need for us to get a clear understanding of the United States Constitution and American Government. The times in which we live make it imperative that we understand how our government is supposed to function under the Federal Constitution. The Bible commands us to take “every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor 10:5).

Unfortunately, for far too many Christians today, the last thing they think about when it comes to spiritual things is their government and the United States Constitution. A proper understanding of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses is something every American Christian should seek to have in order to protect these special God given liberties. In order for us to develop our Christian Worldview, it is imperative for us to understand the truth about history and make the Biblical connection to the truths about limited government under the Rule of Law (United States Constitution).

Lets strive to understand this subject from a Biblical Worldview in order to bring Glory to God with our thoughts and actions concerning our government. To that end, I hope to begin posting short essays and blogs pertaining to thinking biblically not only about government and the Constitution but also about a wide range of issues.