June 2009

Dear brethren,

Epeolatry, have you ever heard of this word? It is not in my Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. It literally means “the worship of words” and was coined by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. in 1860. It is an obscure word and Wikipedia in its information on the word refers to it as an “orphaned article” because of the lack of links. The Internet points out that the word can be used in the denigration of religions, including Christianity, which hinges its teachings on the words of the Bible.

I admit to being an epolatrist in a sense because I am intrigued by words and love to read, but I don’t admit to blind devotion or idolatry as the word connotes when used in a denigrating or satirical way. Anyway, this letter is more words from me relating some comments on various topics.

1.) Moral Absolutes

We are living in an age that often condones more than a reasonable deviation or variation when it comes to toleration of what you and I would consider blatant immoral activities. This distorted tolerance or failure to hold people accountable and responsible for reprehensible behavior stems from the philosophy that pervaded our society and world in the decades after the 1960s. That philosophy is people saying and spreading thoughts like: “I don’t believe in Christianity because I don’t believe in moral absolutes. Each person has to determine moral truth for herself or himself.”

How do they know this? Is their saying that not an absolute? How do they know there is not a God out there who will hold us accountable for our behavior relative to some standards? Talk about a leap of faith! These people are betting their lives that is the case. It irks me at times that these doubters will chide us for our beliefs as Christians, yet we have as much or more proof for our beliefs than the subjectivity of their assertions.

Next time one of these persons tells you there are no absolutes or standards, ask him, “Is there anything anybody could do that you personally believe they shouldn’t do even if they think it is correct or permissible to do?” Only a fool would say there is nothing. If the answer is yes, then that person believes there is some moral standard by which we should abide.

2.) History

I love history. Recently I came across this quote by William Faulkner: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” As I contemplated this quote my mind was flooded with thought. One thought was what the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11 relative to Jewish history: “Now these things became our example, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.” And “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come.”

The history of Israel is of a people who enjoyed the greatest privileges of their time. They were blessed by God as no other nations, yet when they were tempted they failed frequently. Christians are blessed by God as no others and we are to learn from the failures of Israel, but have we?

Who will deny that we have been tempted by the idols of the lust for authority and control as exemplified by our legalism and sectarianism personified in our numerous divisions? Who will deny our selfishness as manifested in our desire for the accumulation of mammon and earthy treasures rather than putting a greater emphasis upon preaching the gospel and serving our brethren and fellowman? Who will deny our fornication with the pleasure of the world to the detriment of growing spiritually and influencing the world for good? We try God and then we grumble and complain about what is happening to us as Christians and the world as a whole.

What are our children and grandchildren going to believe and say and wonder about us in decades to come? Are they going to say and wish that we had done more to advance the cause of Christ because they no longer enjoy the freedoms and privileges we have enjoyed as free persons in Christ and in the USA? If they do believe in Jesus Christ will they be a minority curtailed (possibly legally) and demeaned by a prevailing religion or secular-progressives? Will they have the freedom to speak out about their beliefs and openly worship God commensurate with those beliefs?

In conjunction with this line of thought I was reminded of what Martin Niemaller said about the abdication of responsibility following World War II.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

It is not my intention to be a mere alarmist, but we are making history and leaving a legacy. We have reveled, so to speak, in the good times, but the good times can end much quicker than it took them to arrive. Certainly we can see some powerful negative signs around us. Are we going to go forward with a Gilded Age mentality, or are we going to make it known in a forceful, humble way that we are faithfully committed to the will of God and united in serving His purposes?

3.) Galatians

At Armona where my wife and I assembly, we have been studying Galatians. In this letter Paul frequently refers to circumcision as representative of seeking salvation through works of the law. I understand that within two decades after this letter was written circumcision per se was a dead issue among Christians. Not so of legalism. Repeatedly down through history believers have “set aside” the grace of God to glory in their own self-righteous lawkeeping rather than in the cross. Desperately and passionately many brethren today think they are saved wholly, or at least in part, by keeping specific rules or traditions, maybe enduring mental pain for so doing, and keeping in right standing with the political correctness of their party which they assume to be the truly faithful in toto. Galatians says that message is a perverted gospel and those who embrace such are under a curse and suffering in vain. Oh to be free in Christ and glory in the cross!

In Him,

J. James Albert


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