A War of World Views

A War of World Views


  We are about to see an even stormier time in our country, and probably throughout the world. It will be an acceleration of the ongoing struggle between world views. 

   In Western culture there are two main lines of world view: man-centered (humanism) and God-centered (Christianity and Judaism). Christianity was the prevailing view of the western world and the principle driving force of western society for centuries, at least up until the Renaissance (1300’s or so), when humanistic thinking began to compete with Christianity. For the past 500 years, the conflict between these world views has progressively intensified, especially fueled by the Enlightenment, Darwinism, and Marxism. In fairness, the advance of humanistic ideology has been facilitated by missteps attributed to Christianity, especially religious wars and Church-sponsored “terrorism” (for example, the Inquisition), among other things.

   Europe has succumbed. In the USA the conflict has come to a level of division that is clearly dysfunctional; we are in a culture war. While tolerance and civility have become scarce, the threat to freedom, perhaps the principal ideal of America, has become very real. We are choosing sides and taking names. But, this conflict is not just political, it comes back to the clash between world views.

   A simple word defines why these views lead to conflict and division: the word is truth. Christianity recognizes universal/absolute truth; humanism specifically does not. The acknowledgement of truth logically leads to the acknowledgement of falsity, that is, right and wrong. Humanism cannot tolerate this, as it forbids judging right and wrong based on truth, but only by social consensus, and without individual judgement. 

   Christianity holds that God exists and is the source of truth; and true Christians hold that God essentially is truth. That truth is revealed in the Bible, in the nature of God and in his commandments, and in his creation. Christians cannot yield on essential truths because to do so is to deny God. Secularists would do well to at least understand this.

   Humanism holds that God does not exist, at least not in any tangible sense, and that there is no absolute truth. Without God there is no basis for truth, so why would they believe in absolute truth? In fact, the essence of humanism/secularism, which implies atheism, leads to chaos and despair in its ultimate conclusion, because there is no grounding and there is no meaning to life. Man is simply a machine, or an animal without a soul. Without meaning or hope, the only recourse is to synthesize meaning and hope by human effort. This is not without merit, for the betterment of man: happiness, health, and peace are universal longings. But, meaning is also a universal longing and these goals, even if they are produced to some measure, do not create meaning.

   The striving for the improvement of man, by man’s effort alone, has led to Marxism, Scientism, Progressivism and various other “isms”, which then become god, with all the religious fervor implied, and required. Since the foundation – which is man himself – is so irrational and shaky, this religion (humanism) requires universal assent. Any contrary view is the subject of derision, hate, and even violence. All of this is ostensibly to achieve a utopia of happiness, health, and peace, and even eternal life (through science). This is the trajectory of humanism, the long view, but the current battles are to overthrow: Capitalism, the Constitution, Christianity, Family, and God to achieve their ends. Furthermore, it is a globalist agenda.

   The humanist juggernaut has picked up steam and is poised to overcome Christianity in the USA. While the progressive agenda has advanced, the family, the Constitution, and freedom have been compromised. Marriage and gender have been redefined, but in an open sense (no absolutes, so anything goes, and it will go further). Christians are shamed, hated, ridiculed, and sued for failure to conform. The USA is set to become a European-style secular country (arguably, already has), but the further movement to humanism and globalism will accelerate, as the events of 2020 illustrate. To a large extent, the pandemic has fueled this progression. The panic and fear it has instilled has provided the perfect opportunity for faithful reliance on science and leaders to save us from calamity. Most will be willing to follow and obey these leaders, from socialism to the point of totalitarianism, because the consensus requires it. 

   The information media, social media, global transportation and international commerce assure this will happen. The everyday brands of our time, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Google, Apple, Wikipedia, etc, have astounding influence over our lives, information and government. Their secularist CEOs including Bezos, Zuckerberg, Pichai, Dorsey and Cook exert their will over the will of the people. They can do it because we have inadvertently empowered them.  

   Christians, we can’t go there with them. If what we believe is true, we have to hold the line, not just on our personal choices, but on what our culture accepts. There either is absolute truth, in which case it matters very much what one believes and does, or there is no absolute truth, in which case it doesn’t matter. Values based on a synthesized culture, for the progression of human flourishing have no ultimate value, as there is no true basis, only survival and pleasure. We must not expect a political fix for the decay of our culture. Rather, we must strengthen our resolve in the family and the church, under God. We must be very alert and wary of the influence of the media, entertainment, public education and even commerce on ourselves and our children.       


Copyright 11/2020 Alvin Perkins

The Coronavirus Pandemic

  The Coronavirus Pandemic

  We have a world-wide epidemic (pandemic) caused by a coronavirus. It is clearly a serious disease, though not nearly as deadly as it’s predecessors SARS and MERS, or Ebola. It can fairly be compared to severe influenza. There is no vaccine, there may never be. There is no widely useful treatment, there may never be. Testing is available, but testing and tracing will continue to be problematic. The disease will continue to spread and likely always be with us, there will be more deaths, and there will be outbreaks. Science does not have a solution for this pandemic, doctors can only advise. The economic, public health, and social effects of the prevention and mitigation measures have been immense and are likely to be much worse than even now realized. We have to resume “normal”, but with reasonable mitigation practices, pretty much the ones we started with, pretty much with the same objective, to keep “the  curve” flat.


  The COVID-19 pandemic represents not only a “novel” coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), but a novel world wide situation. The world is in chaos in many ways. The circumstances are truly unique, particularly in the response to the pandemic. The world has never had a coronavirus pandemic. There has never been a widespread shutdown of society and the economy. There are no experts for this unique situation, only experts on certain parts of the situation. Therefore, it is not surprising that there are confusion, fear, and changing assessments.

  It should be acknowledged that pandemics are clearly understood only after the fact. Compiling data from all over the world, comparing all differing circumstances, and even trying to determine the validity of the data becomes a daunting task. Assessments (and recommendations) during a pandemic are sure to evolve and bound to err. We have only two examples of previous coronavirus outbreaks (epidemics), SARS (SARS-CoV) in 2003 and MERS (MERS-CoV) in 2012. These were limited outbreaks. Though the fatality rate was high, the diseases spread less effectively than COVID-19, therefore, they were controlled. Given a rapidly evolving epidemic from this new coronavirus, it was initially very concerning whether it would be as lethal as SARS and MERS. But, that quickly became doubtful. 


  We do have accumulated experience with influenza pandemics. COVID-19 would reasonably have been assumed to be influenza without laboratory identification of the new virus. Though there was early emphasis that this epidemic was not influenza (and it is not, technically), it has become clear that it is an ILI, “influenza-like illness”. The Centers for Disease Control has begun to put it under ILIs in some publications. Therefore, experience with past influenza pandemics is useful for understanding COVID-19. There have been influenza pandemics in 1918, 1957, 1968, and 2009. Furthermore, influenza viruses are endemic (ever present in the world) and produce outbreaks periodically. Seasonal influenza is different from pandemic influenza in several respects, but influenza always carries morbidity and mortality. We do have vaccines and treatments for influenza.


From accumulated science over the past several weeks, we now know about COVID-19: 

-It is caused by a coronavirus, a class of viruses including SARS, MERS, and many common cold viruses.   

-It spreads in the same manner as influenza (and similar to the common cold), from person to person primarily by respiratory droplets. Spread from surface contact appears minimal (the CDC has just clarified this, after millions of dollars have been spent on decontamination procedures).

-The incubation period may be from 3-14 days (commonly 4-5 days).

-Symptoms are highly variable, but generally like influenza or common cold: cough and shortness of breath, fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, loss of taste/smell.

-A large number of infected people have no symptoms but presumably are contagious.

-An infected person may be contagious even before their symptoms begin.

-The vast majority recover relatively easily. Elderly and infirm people are much more prone to serious disease and death.

-The overall mortality rate is likely below 1%.

-Non Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs), the same as recommended for influenza, are effective to slow and prevent spread.

-Treatment is supportive, including mechanical ventilation for serious cases.

-There is no accepted pharmaceutical treatment, may never be a truly efficacious one.

-There is no vaccine, may never be. (There is no vaccine for any other coronavirus.)

-Testing for the virus is now available, but the predictive value of these tests will not be known for awhile.

-Antibody testing is now available (indicating past disease, not current disease). This will be useful for disease control.

-There will be future outbreaks & the virus will likely always be with us. Therefore, there will be more deaths.


The assessments and management of this pandemic began with so many unknowns, it is no surprise that predictions and decisions were sometimes wrong. The question is clearly, where do we go from here? It is now questionable if lockdowns, in most locales, were ever a good choice, and certainly doubtful that they should continue. Decisions going forward will have to be made with no vaccine, no treatment, and suboptimal testing. The reason is that it is not possible to do what medical knowledge would prefer, that is, keep everyone from contact with everyone else. That would require lab rat cages. Yes, it might be the best control of the disease, but it is not sustainable. In fact, much early reaction to the outbreak was too much, too soon, and therefore not sustainable. 


A reasonable case is made that we will have to proceed, forthwith, to reopen the economy, schools, and social functions. Various control measures can be employed as needed to protect the most vulnerable and to control outbreaks. The virus cannot be stopped; the herd immunity to be acquired is to our benefit. We have to learn to live with it as safely as possible while maintaining necessary and desirable function in society. I would say that will not be a “new normal”, we just have to return to normal as we can. Perhaps we will better manage future pandemics. There will be other pandemics.


Yes, the role of China in this, how the World Health Organization handled it and how the CDC handled it should be reviewed and critiqued, moreso some distance out from the pandemic. We could have perhaps been better prepared. The role of our government agencies should be reviewed. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is the agency under HHS (Health and Human Services) that is primarily responsible for surveillance and preparedness for infectious diseases. It should be held responsible for that role, and should have been more visible and “in charge” during the outbreak. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), is the research agency under HHS, and should not be the primary agency managing a pandemic. And then we have the Office of the Surgeon General (threatening on April 5th that we were headed for the worst week of our lives, our Pearl Harbor moment), oh my. And the FDA, prominent in this battle, and still other government agencies performing similar, redundant functions. Also, we have state health departments – and governors – sometimes with different messages and edicts. Perhaps too many cooks in the kitchen? I would propose that the CDC should be the lead agency now and in the future, with a clear focused mission and adequate funding, and accountability.

Elisbeth Rooney

MARCH 17, 2019

Elisbeth Rooney

Elisbeth Rooney died on January 21st 2019; she was 63 years old.
Liz was a unique person, quite a character. When she first moved to Somerset, at the Beecher House, it is said everyone was afraid of her. When she first came to our fellowship, I could see why. Admittedly, she sometimes rolled in with a scowl on her face, and at times seemed like she really might roll over someone. When Bill wished her Merry Christmas, she gruffly replied, “happy Hanukkah”. You know what I mean, many of you may have not thought much more about her but that tough scowl.
But, if you got to know her, as a few people did, you found she was, under that tough exterior, sweet and kind. Margie and Candice can attest to that. She, on several occasions, posted Facebook invitations to her house for coffee, for others needing encouragement. She was intelligent; a few years ago she started her own company, Prairie Dog Marketing for web advertising through “Traffic Exchange”. She was witty. Maybe sometimes her wit and humor were a little “colorful”, but at least she was real. She was a believer, and openly confessed her faith in Christ.
You may know that she had a lot of health problems in the past few years, heart failure, diabetes, and chronic debilitating pain. She had cancer and chemotherapy back in 2012. So, you can begin to see, along with being confined to a wheelchair, how she might have a bit of an attitude.
What many do not know is how she ended up in that wheelchair. When she was 28, about 1983, she had three children and an abusive husband. One day the husband murdered her three children, in front of her, then pushed Liz down the stairs*. She was left with 3 dead children and a broken neck, from which she was unable to walk, and left with life-long pain. For 35 years she lived with that pain, went through depression at times, and at times was suicidal. She was stalked by that deranged husband for a number of years. And yes, maybe she developed an attitude. But, she did carry on, kept faith, and made many friends. She’s lived in Tennessee, California, Wisconsin, and Kentucky, that I know of. I’ve been in touch with 3 of those friends from California (she lived in Sacramento for some time). They had nothing but love and respect for Liz. When I talked to her friend Meegan, I recognized a true friendship, accomplished because Meegan would not stop at the tough exterior, but persisted, invited her to her church, and from there became a dear friend, enough so that we both shared a few tears just at the beauty of such a tortured life being able to have friendship and love.
Well, Liz died alone, and left no family. But, she died in Christ, and left many good friends. I had to get to know Liz by her Facebook page, Linkedin, Twitter, and her friends – after her death. We are now friends, but later than I would have liked. I went to her gravesite on Monday. She is buried in Science Hill Cemetery, in the far back, in the indigent section. Her life deserved more, but she does have so much more, now. I said a prayer over her grave, something like this: “God, thank you for taking Elisbeth to yourself. Some of us have been quick to judgement of her, and have neglected her. Thank your for picking up the slack for us. Keep her soul in eternal peace; maybe the first complete peace her soul has known. Help us to do better.
Her name was Elisbeth Rooney -E-l-i-s-b-e-t-h- I want you to know that to say this:
Every person has a name, God knows their name; try to learn names.
And every person has a story, many of incredible pain, as Liz, but many of lesser pain and more joy. Either way every person is worth knowing, and every story is worth hearing. And never let the appearance or the attitude of a person prevent you from hearing them and loving them. God loves them, and HE knows their name.

Downtown Fellowship 3-13-19

Gender Revolution?

DECEMBER 29, 2016

Gender Revolution?


  I’ve subscribed to National Geographic for years, but cancelled my subscription today. On many occasions I have disagreed with them on some issues, scientifically and culturally, but still valued it enough to continue. A special issue “Gender Revolution” just arrived, and it covers all the different “variations” on gender (eg. a person who is “tri-gender”). A television special is to follow. Our culture has attempted to overrule our biology, and NG has been happy to advance this evolution (it is NOT a revolution). Their thesis is not science, as they purport, but is the very definition of unnatural. It is the agenda of humanism.
  There are biologic facts about humans that define two genders. Simply stated, and ignored in our culture: only females can reproduce, and they can do so only by males. Yes, we have artificial means of reproduction, but they do not change the natural requirement for a zygote derived from a female and a male. Neither can surgery change gender, though egotistical surgeons sell this lie. Do you really think the intricacies of human anatomy can be so drastically altered by surgery as to duplicate the natural? They cannot.
  If each person, and by extension, culture, is to define – or redefine – gender identity and gender roles, then there is no end in sight to our madness. If NG accomplishes anything useful with this issue, it is to demonstrate the unending variations once the door is opened. There are surely people who have psychological variance from the natural; they are important, their dilemma can be real and even painful, but they do not change biology or morality. The easy course is to redefine gender to meet our desires or world view, rather than deal with the very complicated issues. Biologists know that altering biologic systems can be disastrous, even if the effect takes years to realize. In all species, there is a pattern for reproduction and all students of biology know reproduction is part of the definition of living things. And sexuality is both biologic and learned. Children are rightly taught gender roles. But, ironically, the only option not available in these discussions is that of maintaining the biologic imperative, because there can be no absolutes in the humanistic/atheistic view.
  If you think this is only a magazine and maybe harmless, remember that our children, in our schools and media, have already been influenced by these ideas in other areas of sexuality. If we are biologic machines without meaning or purpose, the humanistic agenda is right, and literally “anything goes”. There is an alternate world view, and if we are designed with a purpose, our choices do matter.

George Harrison – a life that keeps on giving

AUGUST 01, 2015

George Harrison – a life that keeps giving

A few weeks ago I woke with George Harrison on my mind. He died in 1952, when I was 1, so we didn’t really know each other well. But, what little I do know of him, from word-of-mouth and from his family legacy, makes me proud that he was my grandfather. I knew I needed to share a little about him today; he has affected all of us. Whether you carry his DNA, or you have been grafted into the family, you can’t escape his influence. This year is the 120th anniversary of his life.
George was born in 1895; he died when only 57 years old. He was known to be intelligent and completely devoted to God. He was a hard worker, which was the only kind of work here in those days, hard work. He apparently worked all his life in the coal mines. In the late 1930’s, when work was non-existent due to the depression, he did get a soft job. The WPA built a small library at Meadow Creek and he was the librarian. My mom told of going there with him as a little girl; both she and he were fascinated with books and education. This affected her all her life; she was an avid reader and pursued further education while raising our family. In turn, her influence (and Grandpa George’s) affected some of us with a love of books, learning, and the Bible.
He was known to be very knowledgeable on the Bible. He was apparently a gifted teacher, as well. We can see this influence in Eugene, Harvey, Carl, and Jimmy, and others. Several years before he died, he suffered a stroke, and was left with paralysis on one side. You can imagine the difficulty to go on, but go on he did. He continued to work in the mines, and he was at every church service. Of course, they pretty much had to walk everywhere, but he did so, basically dragging his bad leg along with him. Even when it was raining and muddy on the dirt roads of Jacks Fork, he limped along, devoted to his family and his God. George was a Methodist, and Lillie a Baptist. He was welcomed to teach Sunday School at Jacks Fork Baptist Church, but could not be a member without their baptism. It seems this troubled him (or Lillie) little. He possibly understood better than most, what the words of Micah mean, to “walk humbly with your God.”
My dad knew George well and his love of God and his righteousness were noticed. When a young married man, my dad went to church with my mom (the daughters, especially, carried on the faith), but was not a believer. He came under conviction that he needed to come to the Lord, and struggled greatly, refusing to give in. God was pursuing him. One day that stopped. It wasn’t a good thing, though, when he stopped feeling the call of God, and felt he had no hope, having missed the opportunity. My dad then began pursuing God. It seemed hopeless; In his agony he would plead with God, and try to pray, but nothing. He was miserable. One day in 1954 when he was trying to pray, he suddenly and clearly saw the face of George Harrison (dead for 2 years), who was just smiling at him, didn’t say anything. In that moment, my dad yielded to God, and felt the wave of forgiveness and peace that many of us know. He was saved, and the vision of George brought him to the right place to receive Jesus.
I know our world’s great wisdom and progress make God seem irrelevant or non-existent. In our day, when, more and more, people find all hope and purpose in humans, what we can do, and how we can make ourselves happy, George Harrison will continue to be a witness in your heart and soul. We have become very intelligent, maybe, but he was very wise. His simple faith is still the right way, and I pray we all will find it. The simple truth is still the truth.

Two Flags

JULY 04, 2015

Two Flags

Two Flags … won’t be flying at my house today, July 4th, Independence Day in America.

  Neither the Confederate flag nor the American flag will fly at my house today. The Confederate flag has useful good meaning to some people, but it is so offensive to many Americans that it should not be used, and I never do. The American flag is a proud symbol, I display it every year, but as a small protest against our government I just feel I shouldn’t display it this year. Actually, the symbolisms of the two have come to tension recently.
  I am proud to be southern born. Southerners have values and a culture that make us proud. We drink hyper-sweet iced tea and we have found that if you add enough sugar, rhubarb (otherwise unpalatable) can be made into a tasty pie. Well sugar and butter can make many things right. But, there is that ugly chapter of slavery, and the many decades of racism that can never be made right. The persistence of the Confederate flag is emblematic of the persistence of resentment in many southerners over the war between the states (Civil War). This was not a war just to end slavery, but to abrogate states’ rights, in this case the right to secede. States joined the Union willingly; they should have been allowed to leave the union. The failure to allow this, and to pursue force, was the beginning of the loss of States’ rights, which is fundamental in the Constitution. We continue to live with the consequences today: a federal government larger and more powerful than intended or allowed by the constitution.
  In the course of the War, slaves were set free, and I am glad for that. Slavery was unjust and a tragedy, it had to go, but it was already on its way out, and it could have been defeated in other ways, true emancipation with attendant justice. England achieved this without a war. I wonder if some of where we are today might be different – disproportionately more people of African descent in poverty and incarcerated, for example – if peaceful means would have been pursued. The end does not justify the means, which was an unconstitutional exercise of power by the President and the federal government. Would that there had been a Martin Luther King, Jr to lead the country at the time.

  Many Southerners are passionate about States’ rights, and the scars of the unjust war haven’t healed as of this day. None of that makes violence or racism right. I do think it has a lot to do with why the flag has persisted, as a symbol of defiance, not against abolition, but against the infamous war and the extreme punishment of southern states after the war. However, please take down that flag. You have a right to fly it, but if you love people, you will respect the offense it has become, and how it empowers racists.
  States’ rights and constitutional government were further degraded recently when the Supreme Court struck down decisions and actions by several states over the issue of same-sex marriage. I won’t even argue their reasoning on the topic – and obviously they and the country were pretty evenly split on that – but marriage, which is a cultural institution, not a constitutional one, is rightly left to the states whether and how it should be regulated. The day before, they admittedly ignored plain language in a written law (the Affordable Care Act) and presumed the intentions of Congress to uphold the law. Many actions by the Court have been characterized as “activist”, going beyond their constitutional role. This continues to degrade democracy and the Constitution.

  Then we have the autocratic divisive Presidency, which could do so much to heal racism and political divisions, but does the opposite. Our congress is no better. The ongoing failure to cooperate in the best interest of the country is despicable. This is caused by career politicians who are more interested in re-election than in justice. None of the above would be acceptable to our founders, and shouldn’t be acceptable to us.   Unfortunately, this may be beyond recovery. Our vast entitlements, which reach almost everyone, assure that we will continue on the road to socialism. Our system is dysfunctional and we must seek the collective will to return to constitutional government and States’ rights. I am just not very proud of our federal government right now, so no flag this year. No amount of sugar or butter will help.

Marriage, Redefined

JULY 01, 2015

Marriage, Redefined

Marriage- it’s just a word, I suppose. The Supreme Court ruling that states must recognize same-sex marriage redefined the word, ostensibly to apply the Constitution. It was a stunning moment, really, centuries of history and cultural norms seemingly overturned by the stroke of a pen. Many celebrated and many grieved, but the word and the institution had already moved very far from the ideal we thought we practiced. The fifty percent failure (divorce) rate, re-marriages, cohabitation, and various sexual freedoms had already changed the meaning of the word for the culture at large. For a minority, it remained a traditional, meaningful, and even sacred institution. In the aftermath, we consider what the effects will be, beyond the obvious of gratifying half the country. Celebrations continued – even the President giddily lit up the White House – but the grief is destined to continue for a long time. I am not writing about gay rights, or homosexuality. It is none of my business what people do in private. Marriage, however, is public.

Traditional marriage was not defeated or abolished by this decision (though the Constitution suffered another defeat). The real losers are our children. They will be faced with a confusing array of relationships as never before. More and more, children will be deprived of the traditional family, where they are nurtured and normal roles are modeled. This, of course, leads to more confusion about gender roles and relationships. The adults got what they want; the children are left with the ongoing consequences. Children do better in a stable environment with both a mother and a father (look it up). And of course, there will undoubtedly be more infringement on the rights of Christians and Christian organizations, who will be compelled or forced to approve in ways not yet seen. Religious liberty will be sacrificed. It isn’t a great surprise to Christians; it is part of the ongoing slide to secularism/humanism.

Christians support traditional marriage, and do so from a different perspective. Understand, Christians are those who believe in, have a relationship with, and try to follow God, through Jesus Christ. As such, our world view and our paradigm are at odds with the rest of the world: We believe we must yield to the commands of God, even to the denial of self. Yes, this is foolishness to many; it is foolishness, unless it is true. Of course, our culture has evolved to favor self. The person is in center and first place. All choices are of equal value, with fewer and fewer exceptions. Hence I can do whatever I want (“not harming others”), and no one can “judge” me. This world view is godless, by definition unavailable to Christians. Christians would do well to recognize that we are in the minority in this country, perhaps one-third, being generous. This is not a Christian nation, maybe it was, but not so much now. We should be happy we can be Christians in this nation. But, over the marriage issue, we are fairly evenly split, so it is not just a Christian issue. When I see such an even split, I understand there is a genuine difference of opinion, and try to respect that. We are not homophobes; we do not fear you. We do fear what our collective morality can do to our society and nation.

We should acknowledge that we Christians (and the we includes me) have failed to model what we preach when it comes to marriage, and also, especially, when it comes to loving one another, which is our second-greatest command. We need to take notice. At this time, we should see the opportunity to be more Christ like in loving others and to specifically take Christian unions more seriously.

  Secular marriage has existed as long as Christian marriage.  Christian marriage should remain under the church and scripturally based. Pastors and churches should examine their wedding practices. The church needs to be involved from engagement through to the vows, and beyond. This is a choice of believers, to be faithful not just to each other, but to our God.  If the words “marriage” and “wedding” have become devalued it is no reason to abandon our practices, although we already fail in many ways. Churches and pastors must not bow to the pressure to accept all forms of marriage. 
  Secular marriage is under government purview, hence another distinct division of church and state. Secular marriage should remain with the individual states, and those states should chose how to license or register marriages, or not. There is no constitutional right to marriage, so states do not have to recognize marriages or perform weddings, as long as they treat everyone equally. In my opinion, states need to get out of the marriage business.  Under the new definition of marriage, individuals can and should be able to declare their relationships with whomever or whatever they wish in secular society. People already “marry” their pets; their marriages must be recognized in the same way. I believe the government must also recognize polygamy (and how else would “bisexuals” fulfill their compulsion?). The new marriage is the new law; we have to learn to live with it. Let them have the word; it’s just a word.

Copyright 2015, Alvin Perkins

The Bible: What we know. What we believe.

NOVEMBER 22, 2014

The Bible: What we know, what we believe

The nature of the Bible is a cause for divisions among Christians. This is especially so among those who make large assumptions about the Bible without knowledge of its source and nature. It is helpful to consider what we know about the Bible before discussing what we believe about it. Knowledge about the Bible includes its sources, authors, genres, history, and translation. Incredibly, some treat the Bible as a unit, handed down complete, formatted, and in their own language. Such is not the case, of course. In contrast, the Bible is an anthology (compilation) of Hebrew and Christian writings, by various authors, in various literary forms. If we had “the Bible” in original form, it would consist of individual scrolls, letters, and at best booklets, all handwritten, and in Hebrew and Greek. The invention of the printing press, binding (codices), translations, and canonization led to the volume we now see as a unit, the Bible. A common factor in all of these developments is the human component; that might be significant. If we ascribe to the Bible things it is not, we deceive ourselves and diminish its power. Truth will bear away the victory.

There are several problems in validating the Bible. None of the original texts exist. Instead, there are numerous copies, usually partial, which reveal variations. We cannot be certain of the author in many cases, although scholarship is able to make reasonable confirmations. For example, tradition has Moses as the author of Genesis, but there is considerable suggestion of more than one author, and the earliest parts very likely come from oral traditions, including older traditions known from outside Israel. Clearly, humans wrote the Bible, translated the books, and decided what writings would be included in the Bible. The notorious Apocryphal books, for example were at first included with the King James Version, later removed, and remain in Catholic Bibles. Translation is less than perfect, particularly Hebrew to English. There are not equivalent words or expressions in many cases. At the very least, choices are made about how a text is to be translated. The literary forms in scripture are also important, among those recognized: history (and traditions), law, prophecy, gospel accounts, and letters. Each has its own characteristics and significance. These things are knowledge, therefore can be affirmed (or challenged) by anyone, believer or not.

We transition from knowledge to belief, sometimes imperceptibly. Among Christians, there is widespread belief that the scripture is inspired and that it is authoritative. These are beliefs, not knowledge, but that does not mean they are untrue. In fact, these beliefs might be considered foundational for Christians. These concepts come from many years of scholarship, tradition, and reasoning. They are affirmed spiritually. Of course, not everyone can accept that form of affirmation; not everyone can see or experience spiritually. Furthermore, inspiration is seen by some to be all-inclusive and absolute, by others to be more general. Other beliefs proceed from and are added to these foundational beliefs. They begin to diverge, and result in a range of practices and doctrines. Some of our beliefs about the Bible are more defensible than others.

If we begin with some common ground, we may be able to improve unity without sacrificing truth. We might agree that God is revealed and Christ promised in the Old Testament. God is described as creator. His nature as all-powerful, eternal, and just is also revealed. And then, Christ is revealed in New Testament writings and he is shown to be God come down to man. Therewith, the gospel is introduced, which is God’s plan for those who accept him. Understanding the nature of scripture is not necessary to accepting the gospel. God’s grace is discoverable in very simple terms, even to the very simple.

Despite the humanity involved in scripture, we trust and treasure scripture with reason: Jesus quoted extensively from the Old Testament and he affirmed the written law. In a sense, Jesus himself canonized most of the Old Testament. The gospels of the New Testament provide a strong apologetic for his messiahship; an unbroken chain of believers testifies to this; and (most importantly) the Holy Spirit continues to confirm him. From this line of reasoning you can see that, for Christians, all centers in Jesus Christ. If the Holy Spirit did not confirm him in the present, all the other suppositions and scriptures themselves would be very interesting, but suspect. This would be so because the claims of scripture itself could not be validated by experience. Bringing people into relationship with Jesus Christ is the critical point. The follower of Christ will experience the word of God from scripture because the Holy Spirit reveals those words, in real time. The believer will find the Bible authoritative for holy living, also revealed by the Spirit.

Others will make additional claims on the Bible, including opinions about infallibility, inerrancy, whether it is the “complete” word of God, and what inspiration means. There are difficulties in all these terms. I will leave those arguments to others, because they are not productive for the kingdom of God. The Bible works.

Alvin Perkins, Somerset, KY ©2014

A Wedding in Haiti

MARCH 23, 2014

A Wedding in Haiti

Well, our most recent trip to Haiti was just amazing. Wow God! Maybe the greatest blessing was my new friend Roni. We met in the van on our way over the mountains. We sat together. He speaks only kreyol and I was studying some kreyol words, he was reading with me, trying to learn the English. We practiced for some time and bonded just from this simple attention. When we arrived I was to learn that he was living with a woman with whom he has a 4 month old baby (and she has 2 additional kids). Yet I saw he is a good man; we began to talk about this. You know, if you have read my previous posts, that I believe in Christian marriage as the proper relationship between man and woman. He does, too, but allowed circumstances to get out of control. As I counseled him on the need to make things right, it seemed his only hesitation was that he could not afford a ring, and that is expected in Haiti. He also could not afford the necessary party for the wedding. We talked about these things; they are not very important, certainly not in the eyes of God. If a couple wait to consummate their love, in marriage, they can also wait for these things. But, here the consummation had already occurred. Too late to worry about the details, just a need to honor God. We had a few conversations and quickly became good friends. With additional encouragement from the rest of the group, he decided, she agreed, and we had a wedding! Wow, indeed. Our whole group, and the whole community were so very happy. And we did party! (The group put together money for the party.) Oh, and he asked me to be his best man. There could have been no greater honor.

Christians in the World

February 26, 2014

Christians in the World 

  For some reason, a difference of opinion is no longer tolerated. Surely, it can be understood that where there is a deep divide, especially where the sides are nearly equal, there is a difference of opinion, and differences are okay. Our opinions and values come from a variety of sources. Differing opinions does not mean the other side is ignorant, though some individuals may be (we are all ignorant of something). Christians could benefit to realize where the other side differs. Others could also benefit to know why Christians believe the way they do.

   One world view involves humans being free to pursue their own interests, and even choose variant behaviors, usually assuming it is of no harm to others. This can be called humanism – humans at center. True Christians believe in God and the Son of God; they believe in a very literal sense and therefore believe in the life, commandments, and promises of Jesus Christ. These statements are laden. The result is a distinction that will surely cause strife: Christians believe foremost in surrender, putting God first. This is an unacceptable notion for most people. Our culture believes in the person first, surrender is among last options.

   For all of American history, our culture and government have been at least very accommodating to Christianity. It has been said we were a Christian nation, at least founded on Christian principles. This has been used and abused, but is no longer true. Christians are slowly but surely facing changes that are uncomfortable. It will become very uncomfortable. We were told we would be hated; it is here.

   The accusations are that the Christian way is outmoded and Christians hold to ignorant precepts. Frankly, there is some truth to these charges. The offers of Christ are extended to all, even the most simple; it doesn’t take brilliance to believe, only faith. It was made clear that most “comfortable” people will not choose this way. If you are wise and sophisticated, you will have to share faith in God with the dull and simple. But, for those who find the way to bridge the gap between knowledge and faith, a gift from God confirms and extends their faith.

   Recently, a columnist used Roy Herron’s assertion that he (Herron) “is a Democrat because he is Christian” to attack conservatives who, to him are self-righteous and uncaring. He seems especially frustrated that conservative Christians are not tolerant, especially toward sexual freedom, though he doesn’t elaborate what his personal issue is with this. Much of the vitriol leveled at Christians is somewhat deserved. It is true that Christians are often judgmental, and it is also true that Christian means various things in our culture. It might be said that Jesus was morally conservative and socially liberal. These are imperfect labels, but defensible. This is a reflection of the great commandment: love of God is our commitment to his commandments; love of neighbor is our commitment to service. Christians who determine to follow Christ must deal with both. Some will choose to emphasize one over the other, but neither should be dismissed. In fact, I believe much of our current conflict arises from an imbalance in these. As an individual, a Christian would do well to go to the extreme to help the poor and needy. This is emphasized throughout Scripture. Some Christians would say this is enough. Others believe Christians should not ignore the call to righteous living by Scripture, demonstrative of love of God. The call to fidelity and justice in relationships is well defined in Old Testament Scripture, and is reiterated in New Testament Scripture. We are not authorized to change these principles. What Jesus did change is that we are not to condemn. Concerning the woman caught in adultery, he made followers to understand that they could not condemn and stone her. But, he (not they) told her to “go and sin no more”.

  There will continue to be disagreement on the role of government. Jesus’ teachings were for individual followers, not governments. He was apolitical. The challenge for true followers of Christ is to maintain personal holiness while following the command to love our neighbor. It is a choice to pursue both love of neighbor and personal holiness (obedience to God). We are neither Republican nor Democrat, liberal nor conservative. We are simply followers of Christ.