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A God Forgotten,

Radio, August 25, 2009

What do you do when you cut loose from God? How do you live, what guides your decisions?


          How can you tell right from wrong?


          And when you think about it, who consciously cuts loose from God.


                      Does anyone say, I don’t care about God, I’m going to dump him?


                      Maybe, but those are generally out on the fringe somewhere.

Let me show you a more pertinent example of how it might happen:


[Moses last sermon to Israel]

(Deuteronomy 4:5-9 NIV) See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. {6} Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." {7} What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? {8} And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? {9} Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.


          Do you have any idea of how this very idea played out in the founding of this country?


                      We were to be a nation of laws, under the rule of law, not of a king.


          And don’t kid yourself. The law of Moses underlay everything we built in this country, we just didn’t say so.


                      We have forgotten, and we have not instilled this love of law into our children.


          Now what is the alternative to the rule of law?

Clean back in the 17th century, a gentleman name Samuel Rutherford wrote a book titled “Lex Rex.” I.e. “The Law the King.”


          His argument against "Rex Lex" was based on Deuteronomy 17, and it supported the rule by law rather than rule by men,


                      And his philosophy laid the foundation for Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. And thus for the American system of a social contract based on separation of powers.

Now here is the burning question. If you don’t have Lex Rex, i.e. “The Law is King” what is the alternative?


          Simple. You have the opposite: Rex Lex, “the King is the law.”

After the English Restoration, the authorities burned Rutherford’s Lex, Rex and cited the Rutherford for high treason, he died in his own good time before they could carry out sentence.


          Do you think it is possible, if our nation is no longer ruled bylaw, that we might be ruled by a dictator? Or a king, an Emperor?


          Naw, that couldn’t happen here, surely.


          But why not? It happened to Israel. It even happened to Italy and Germany in the last century.


          What makes us so special? If we grow weary, and want a government that will just take care of us, we just might be happy to have a dictator.


                      Bad idea? Yes, but we wouldn’t be the first country in history to roll over before a tyrant.


          I will tell you in no uncertain terms that I am terrified at the possibility of any kind of dictatorship.


                      But we may have, as a country, grown old and tired, and are simply unwilling to pay the price of liberty.

I did another program not long ago titled, “How Freedom is Lost.” In a moment, we’ll tell you how to get a free CD of the program.

But before I do, I want to underline something we just read:


          Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.


          Sometimes it is worth looking more carefully at the words people use to try to understand what they are telling us.


          The Hebrew verb rendered “to forget” is a case in point. Not that “forget” is a bad rendering. But any translation is at risk of losing meaning.


          The Hebrew verb, which I won’t try to pronounce, is a primary root which means, “to mislay.”


                      I mislaid my car keys. I have forgotten where I put them.


          We forget things that are merely unimportant to remember.


          We mislay things out of carelessness or inattentiveness.


          “Watch yourselves closely so you do not forget these things or let them slip from your heart. Teach them to your kids and grandkids.”

What has God offered to help us with this?


          quite a lot, actually. Take for example:


                      (Exodus 20:8-11 KJV) Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. {9} Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: {10} But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: {11} For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.


          Forgetting is passive, careless, inattentive.


          Remembering is active, careful, attentive.

For some reason, Christians tend to dismiss the religious rites, and then wonder where their morality went. They mislaid it.

But in addition to the Sabbath, God handed down a set of holidays. The purpose of the holidays is that we might remember the important things.


          For the Jews, the holidays kept them in remembrance of important interventions of God in their history.


          But a funny thing happened along the way.


          It turns out that what we thought were Jewish holidays were, in fact, all about Christ and his work, and therefore as Christian as they were Jewish.


          I won’t walk through all the holidays here and now, but they are covered in detail along with their Christian significance in a book: The Thread, God’s Appointments with History.”


                      Available from our offices or from Amazon.

Suffice it for now to say that these days are for remembering, lest we forget.


For if you are not careful, attentive and Active, you will forget.

A natural result of forgetting God is what intellectuals call, “relativism.”


          Relativism: An intellectual’s word for a people who no longer know right from wrong. Each of us has his own narrative, his own story, and in that narrative, we each are the sole arbiters of right and wrong.


          How do you get there? You forget God.

Ann Coulter had a word for it in the title of a recent book: Godless.


          And in truth, we have left the door open for the creation of a godless society.


                      I didn’t read Ann’s book because I hardly felt I needed to. I could see the truth about an increasingly godless society all around me.

But I just happened to pick up a back issue of "First Things," and happened upon an article titled, "A Campaign of Narratives," by George Weigel. Footnote Starting out with the 2008 election campaigns, he widens out for a much broader view of society, where we are, and where we may be going. It was this paragraph that stopped me in my tracks and made me post this here:


“In Europe, this epistemological skepticism has brought several countries and the European Union itself perilously close to what a distinguished European intellectual once described as the “dictatorship of relativism”: the imposition of relativism by coercive state power. Perhaps the most notable example is contemporary Spain, where, in this year of grace 2009, Juan can walk into his local civil-registry office, declare himself “Juanita,” and have his national identity card changed accordingly, without any surgical folderol. Human nature is what my narrative declares it to be.”

What made my blood run cold was the realization that we may be closer today to a “dictatorship of relativism” than when this was written, in March of 2009.


          By the way, that “distinguished European intellectual” Weigel was talking about was then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

Weigel went on to say,


          Yet it is also true that the 2008 campaign, which actually began in the late fall of 2006, was a disturbing one—not because it coincided with what is usually described . . . . as “the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression” but because of how it revealed some serious flaws in our political culture. Prominent among those flaws is our seeming inability to discuss, publicly, the transformation of American liberalism into an amalgam of lifestyle libertinism, moral relativism, and soft multilateralism, all flavored by the identity politics of race and gender. Why can't we talk sensibly about these things?

Why indeed, because there doesn’t seem to be very much sensible talk these days. Nobody explains anything. All we get are sound bites and talking points. This is not debate. It is mere wrangling, and that is where we are at.

While I was following the bread crumbs of this line of thought, I came across a startling piece by Jonathan Rosenblum, writing for the Jewish World Review.


          (By the way, if you want the sources and links to things I mention in my programs, they should be posted at rondart.com under program notes. It isn’t convenient to spell out websites on the radio. Also, a disclaimer. I am not Jewish, not a catholic. I am a generic Christian. One minister called me a maverick. I looked it up. A maverick is an unbranded range animal. So I decided I would wear the label without embarrassment, as I am indeed unbranded.)


          Anyway, back to Rosenbaum:


That the cult of the expert — itself an outgrowth of the Enlightenment's enthroning of human reason above all — should appeal to intellectual elites is unsurprising: It is a form of the revenge of the nerds whose superior qualities were unnoted by the pretty girls in high school. The assumption that "rationality" is a matter easily ascertained, at least by the brainy folks, underlies the preference for centrally planned economies by many intellectuals. Free markets are deemed too unruly, too irrational, as they give equal weight to the decisions of millions of consumers, those with high IQs and low IQs alike.

Of course, Freedom itself is awfully unruly. It is a burden to bear. But in the mind of God, Freedom makes it possible for a man to relate to God without an intermediary.

Rosenbaum was writing about the work of Isaiah Berlin and said:


An important strand in Berlin's work was the demonstration of how the Enlightenment project of making human reason the measure of all things could end in the Gulag. The anti-clericalism of the leading Enlightenment thinkers contained within it the potential for a new clericalism more authoritarian and murderous than that which it superseded, with intellectuals as its priests.


          “Anti-clericalism is a historical movement that opposes religious institutional power and influence, real or alleged, in all aspects of public and political life, and the involvement of religion in the everyday life of the citizen. It suggests a more active and partisan role ... and has at times been violent, leading to attacks and seizure of church property” [Wiki] Footnote


          [Have we a press that is influenced by this philosophy? We have come to this place because we have, simply, forgotten God. We, the ordinary man, have mislaid him.]


          You may want to watch for remnants of the old anti-clericalism in today’s political administration, as efforts are made to reduce the influence of religion in the everyday life of the citizen.


          If you would like to have a CD of this program, grab a pencil and pad and we’ll tell you how you can get it, free of charge, and then I will be right back to tell you where this is all going.

In that last speech of Moses, he spoke a little about the danger of years to come.

(Deuteronomy 8:11-14 KJV) Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: {12} Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; {13} And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; {14} Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;

All this has consequences.

(Psalms 50:16-23 KJV) But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? {17} Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee. {18} When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers. {19} Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. {20} Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son. {21} These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. {22} Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. {23} Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God.


          I think God is speaking metaphorically here. For he doesn’t have to lift a finger. We will tear ourselves to pieces soon enough.


          There are signs that we are getting there about now.

(Jeremiah 2:31-32 NIV) "You of this generation, consider the word of the LORD: "Have I been a desert to Israel or a land of great darkness? Why do my people say, 'We are free to roam; we will come to you no more'? {32} Does a maiden forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten me, days without number.


          Forgotten is a good word for it, but the Hebrew suggests “mislaid,” to lose something.


          In a very real sense, we have simply lost God. Mislaid him. For some, it has been an outright rejection. But for others, we have just lost him.


          And we lost him because we were inattentive, careless, and passive.

(Jeremiah 3:21 NIV) A cry is heard on the barren heights, the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel, because they have perverted their ways and have forgotten the LORD their God.


          Perverted our ways? Relativism. We have created a narrative, a story that we live that we write for ourselves.


          The word for perverted is “to crook.” or to bend.

(Jeremiah 13:23-27 NIV) Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil. {24} "I will scatter you like chaff driven by the desert wind. {25} This is your lot, the portion I have decreed for you," declares the LORD,


 "because you have forgotten me and trusted in falsehood. Footnote {26} I will pull up your skirts over your face that your shame may be seen-- {27} your adulteries and lustful neighings, your shameless prostitution! I have seen your detestable acts on the hills and in the fields. Woe to you, O Jerusalem! How long will you be unclean?"

(Jeremiah 18:13-15 NIV) Therefore this is what the LORD says: "Inquire among the nations: Who has ever heard anything like this? A most horrible thing has been done by Virgin Israel. {14} Does the snow of Lebanon ever vanish from its rocky slopes? Do its cool waters from distant sources ever cease to flow? {15} Yet my people have forgotten me; they burn incense to worthless idols, which made them stumble in their ways and in the ancient paths. They made them walk in bypaths and on roads not built up.

(Hosea 4:6-8 KJV) My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. {7} As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame. {8} They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity.

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