Archives For Clint Archer

March 23, 2015

Financing the Lie

by Clint Archer

financeI have come to suspect that there is a disconcerting mercantile imbalance in the spiritual war between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. Our side sometimes seems to be underfunded.

If an economic discrepancy is observed, surely it would be in our favor? Our army of missionaries and evangelists and church planters is fighting for the fame and sovereignty and dominion of the One who owns all the cattle on a thousand hills and to whom all the silver and gold in existence belongs. And yet, the inexplicable reality  apparent to any casual observer is that too many of the skirmishes seem to be more lavishly supported on the enemy’s side.

I’m convinced the reason for this economic discrepancy is due to a subtle sabotage of our supply lines. The problem is not the paucity of recourses to which our people have access. It can’t possibly be that Satan has deeper pockets than God. The issue must be that our supply line is starved by our own tight-fistedness.

To put it bluntly: Satan always finances the lie; but God’s funding of his cause gets mismanaged by his stewards.

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storm trooper grievingIf you were to line up all 15 billion or so people who have ever lived in order of most godly to most vile, whereabouts would you place Jonathan Edwards? I’m not asking for exactitude, just a rough estimate, rounded off to the nearest billion.

Factors you might want to consider include: Edwards (1703-58) repented and embraced the grace of Christ as a young man, worked as a faithful and exemplary pastor for decades, preached arguably the most influential English sermon ever (one credited with starting the Great Awakening), raised a dozen godly children, was a devoted husband, wrote countless helpful theological works, volunteered to be a frontier missionary to a tribe of Native Americans, and all the while recognized his utter dependence on God and modeled humility and purity.

My guess as to where Edwards features in the godliness line-up would be somewhere in the top—I don’t know— two billion, to be safe? I’m certain we would all agree that he should be at least in the upper half of the virtue queue. (The list includes all the Amalakites, Nazis, serial killers, bohemian hippies, and all the lukewarm Christians in history).

The reason I ask is because I was quite taken aback when I read where Edwards ranked himself…

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contortedI once tried to visit Canada without lying. As a South African citizen I needed a visitor’s visa to set foot on their delightful tundra. I was vacationing in Michigan with a friend who suggested it would be very jet-set of me to add Canada to my menagerie of passport stamps since the border was only a few clicks away.

The plan was to pop into the nearest coffee shop that wasn’t a Starbucks, and pose for a picture with a moose or maple leaf or a live Canuck or something equally exotic.

The visa conundrum only occurred to us en route, but my friend assured me that they seldom ask for passports, and if I sat quietly they probably wouldn’t ask me anything at all.

I rehearsed looking unsuspicious and American. As we pulled up to the border the guard cheerfully asked “Are you both Americans?” We paused as we considered any way to answer this truthfully without letting on that we were not both Americans. The pause became the answer.

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“Knock, knock.”knocking

-“Who’s there?”

“The Nazis.”

-“The Nazis wh—” [SLAP]

“Vee vill ask de questions!”

Many a debate about ethical systems gets illustrated by the Corrie Ten Boom conundrum posed as Nazis knocking on your door to enquire whether you are hiding innocent Jews in your home. You can either tell the truth and sacrifice the lives of your refugees, or you can lie and, assuming you have the world’s most gullible Nazi at your door, spare the lives of those you have committed to protect.

This scenario captures a classic question of which sin is the greater, and it presumes that there is no other option.

There are three main ethical systems by which people try to attack the problem…

1. Graded Ethics – Shades of grey

This is the most common layman’s ethic. It holds that life is not black and white, but includes shades of grey between right and wrong. You can identify graded ethics easily from catchphrases like “lesser of two evils” or “necessary evil” and “greater good” or “white lie.”

Employing graded ethics, you don’t ask yourself “Is telling the truth right or wrong?”— but rather “Is telling the truth better or worse than selling out innocent lives?”

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As a kid I wore around my neck a small, sterling silver disc with an engraving of St Christopher piggy-backing a youthful Jesus. It brought me comfort to know that the patron saint of journeys was vigilant for my mobile safety needs. After my conversion to Evangelicalism I dutifully replaced reformed my reliance on the amulet, and instead invoke the sacred Protestant privilege of praying directly to God for “journey mercies.”lost luggage

As legend has it, the presciently named Christopher (as in Christ-bearer) was an unusually tall and muscular guy who worked as a human ferry carrying people across a fast-flowing river. One day, in I’m guessing 6 or 7AD, he bore a small boy on his back whose weight became heavier and heavier with each laborious step. As the current swelled to dangerous levels the two exchanged some clever repartee about the weight of the world while Christopher resolved to keep the child safe or die trying. You guessed it, the kid was Jesus. And Christopher was rewarded for his service with a halo and a line of jewellery that has remained in fashion to this day.

The popular practice of wearing St Christopher charms is still clung to by many Coptics, Catholics, and Greek Orthodox commuters, fuelling the haughty derision of iconoclastic Evangelicals who tut-tut at the superstitious silliness of trusting a talisman for protection. And yet, I fear many of us ride our prayers into a parallel groove of error with our prayers for travellers to enjoy journey mercies.

Am I saying it is wrong to pray for travellers? May it never be. As a motorcyclist and frequent flier on budget airlines I am grateful for God’s physical protection in any situation where asphalt, human judgment, and combustible fuel are involved. But I wonder if my prayers aren’t sometimes less concerned with survival and tend more toward the vein of convenience.st christopher

For people who have not experienced real danger, travel is not as frequently life-threatening as it is stressful. Lost luggage, delayed flights, flat tires, and speeding tickets are these days more common that plane crashes and masked highwaymen.

So how, exactly, are we to pray when we boldly go where our itinerary takes us?

Here are three guidelines when praying for journey mercies…

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In honor of the US Presidents Day weekend I wanted to share this highly personal post I wrote as a tribute to a hero of mine the week President Nelson Mandela died. It was originally titled Nelson Mandela Changed me: How to Love a Terrorist.

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) died on Thursday, at 95 years old. Today the world will talk of how his politics molded history. There will be documentaries about his presidential legacy and movies telling his remarkable story. But I doubt any of that will capture the impact he had on people like me. I was a racist and a detractor. I was ignorant and brainwashed. I was a pessimist and a cynic. But Mandela changed my mind.B&W Nelson Mandela

I grew up in the dystopia of Apartheid. As an English speaking White child in the 1980’s I had no idea that the country I lived in was not a democracy—my parents voted, and one day I would too.

I was vaguely aware of banned books, censorship, and protest poetry, but none of that affected my life. I hadn’t an inkling that Whites were a minority, and that Blacks outnumbered us nine-to-one. I lived in a city, which meant that Blacks were only allowed there temporarily and if they had permission papers. They were there to do the dirty jobs. At night they slunk back to their distant and disgusting shanty towns. It never occurred to me that those hodgepodge shacks, built from our rubbish, housed 30 million real people.

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Let me start by saying that it’s not wrong for a new believer to be immature any more than it’s wrong for a child to be childish.

Puerility is only annoying in an adult. When a four year old dons a cape and wears his underwear over his pants, claiming x-ray vision it’s cute. When his dad does that it’s concerning (or certifiable).

When you’ve been a believer for many years though, lack of these indicators should be concerning.

Mature believers possess these 5 indicators…

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Claims of sight-seeing return trips to Heaven and Hell are still in vogue among publishers today. However, I swear A Visitor’s Guide to Hell (Sterling Ethos, NY, 2014) is not a book vying to join that growing club. Launching from Jesus’ teaching about the rich man in Hell and Lazarus in Heaven the book explores the biblical descriptions of the afterlife.VGTH

Frankly, I’m surprised that the claimants of these apparent short-term visits to Hell don’t bother conforming their descriptions to what we have revealed in the Bible. It would make their stories more credible. If you were going to lie about a trip to Paris surely you’d at least peruse a guidebook to check your details line up with reality? Anyway, here is a brief excerpt from the chapter on Heaven titled “Alternate destination.”

(The ellipses represent large chunks missing for the sake of brevity; and so you’ll buy the book!)

Been there done that

Unlike Hell, the road to Heaven is not strictly a one-way street. There have been three credible people in history who have seen glimpses of Heaven, and been allowed to talk about some of what they saw. In this chapter we will draw from what these eye-witnesses saw.

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Voltaire on free speechMy American friends who were born into a bastion of free speech sometimes take their First Amendment privilege for granted. But I was raised in South Africa under the Apartheid regime. We were taught brainwashed that freedom of speech was a destabilizing ideology held by Liberals, Communists (ironic!), and terrorists (more ironic in the shadow of the attacks on a French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo). Banned books, censorship, and a regulated media were commonplace and seemed normal and necessary in order to provide order in our society.

“Yikes,” you say, “Orwell much?” But this was all we knew. We lived in the nescient pre-Internet world where information came from regulated news stations and government libraries.

Thankfully, under our new and improved constitution (est. 1996) freedom of expression and a free press are rights that have been granted and protected in perpetuity. But this newfound freedom ushered in a fresh set of ethical conundrums.

Should I, as a Christian, be politically in favor of the right Muslims have to denounce my faith? Am I to joyfully accept that public schools present teaching on various world religions to my children? May I justifiably be upset when a satirical cartoonist or movie maker ridicules Jesus?

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I didn’t realize my new book on Hell had hit the shelves until Tim Challies mentioned it on his blog.VGTH

Why a book on Hell? Interesting story:

Apparently some market research found that a trending topic is non-fiction “afterlife tourism” or first person narratives of people who claimed to have been to Heaven or Hell. This egregious genre is one of my pet publishing peeves (for evidence, see my review Heaven is for Real…Well Duh!) When my agent was approached by a secular publisher (Sterling Ethos, New York) looking for a book compatible with that genre, we instead pitched the idea of a non-fiction, biblical explanation of Hell framed in the first person of the Rich Man in Hades whom Jesus mentioned in his parable in Luke 16. Sterling loved the idea and the journey began. In keeping with the after-life tourism theme it is titled A Visitor’s Guide to Hell.

I should warn those who intend to read the book: though this sobering topic must never be treated flippantly, anyone who knows me understands that I can’t even preach a funeral sermon without using levity. This bugs some people, and I understand that. But I think in this book I avoid being glib while still being myself.

Also readers should bear in mind that this is not written only to an Evangelical market but is intended to be evangelistic. My intention was that the book could be given to an unbeliever, who would find it engaging enough to complete and be exposed to a clear explanation of the gospel.

Here is a snippet from the introduction, followed by the table of contents…

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