Matthew R. Perry

Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

When Death Becomes Life: Remembering My Friend, Brian Hamrick

In death on April 25, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Brian Hamrick

Brian Hamrick both lost and won on April 24, 2009.

I met Brian soon after he became pastor of the First Baptist Church of Clewiston, Florida, via e-mail and telephone. He and I shared the same convictions theologically and pastorally, making him a fast friend in the faith. I had the privilege of serving at FBC from 1998-2001 as their Minister of Music and Youth, so I had grown very close to that wonderful church family.

When Cindy and I went to Florida on our 10th anniversary trip in August ‘08, we went to Clewiston where Brian was gracious enough to allowed me to preach. The night before, I went to Glen Pridgen’s, one of FBC’s deacon’s home, where I met Brian and his incredible family.

What struck me was their love for the people at FBC. Sure, we talked about his beloved Washington Redskins, enjoyed some good steak, and had some great fellowship—but he had a desire to see the city of Clewiston know our sovereign God.

I only spoke with him a couple more times since that Sunday. With me being 37, him being 33, I never thought that we would not have other opportunities to speak—be it a conference or convention or some other get-together.

Brian suffered due to a surgery caused by three feet of his small intestines necrotizing, causing sepsis (it had seeped into the bloodstream). Even though he was improving, a blood clot cut loose, thus giving him a Home-going sooner than anyone imagined.

But the hope that Brian had in Christ—Christ was his treasure. According to Tom Ascol’s wonderful article, Brian told him that if the Lord chose to heal him, then fine, “but if not, I’m ready for that too. It’s OK.”

Psalm 139:15-16 says:

15 My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

God has our days in a book, so this did not catch him by surprise. We are all tainted by the curse and, therefore, our physical bodies last only a short while. But Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” So true. Only the Christian could say with confidence that death is precious.

Brian lost his life on Saturday at the age of 33. Brian’s wife lost her husband. Brian’s children lost their father. Brian’s church lost their pastor. Brian’s friends have lost their friends. Death, though precious by a heavenly perspective, is devastating during such a time as this.

But we can take heart in knowing that Christ’s death and resurrection won a victory for Brian. Brian at this moment now has never been more alive than he is right now. “Absent from the body is present with the Lord” –and so he is!

Pray for Katherine, his wife, and his two children, that the memory and legacy he left behind would move to them as they carry forward with faith in the faith. Pray for First Baptist Church: their associate pastor, Josh Vincent, and their worship pastor, Todd Buck as God helps them process the loss of their pastor and friend. May God use this time for us to reflect on how fleeting this life is—but how glorious He is in that He delivers us from its inevitable clutches.

My Christian Blogs – a Marvelous Online Resource

In Church Life on April 23, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Tony Kummer has developed a great blog portal called “My Christian Blogs.”  I hope you’ll go by this one-stop site.  Very handy—and it links to some good stuff!  It will greatly help you in your Christian walk.

When Jesus Turns Us Upside Down (Luke 9:18-27)

In Gospel, History, Salvation on April 20, 2009 at 10:08 am

(You may access this sermon here.  This was preached at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY on Sunday, April 19, 2009.)

If you were to go to the library of Congress and look up the topic or person most written about to the tune of 17,000 books, that person would be the person of Jesus—more than twice the number of the next highest (William Shakespeare).[1] He is a person of great fascination to almost everyone in America. People from orthodox, Bible-believing Christians to even atheists, Buddhists, and Hindus make a claim about Jesus—and we can understand why. Since our country’s foundation, Jesus began to be removed from doctrines and creeds of orthodox Christianity with folks riding through our land saying, “No creed but the Bible.” Soon, liberal theologians came along and began to dislodge Jesus from the Bible itself, making it very easy to make Jesus very personal and flexible enough to craft him in whatever image we wish him to be.

Over the last few chapters, Luke has been setting up for the reader who exactly Jesus is! After Jesus forgave the woman in sin who interrupted his dinner with the Pharisees, they asked among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” (Luke 7:49).

After Jesus calmed the storm, the disciples said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” (Luke 8:25). In Luke 9:9, Herod asked, “Who is this about whom I hear such things?” So everyone he came across (the Pharisees, the disciples, and Herod) were perplexed at who Jesus was.

The time had come for Jesus to pull them aside and make clear not only who He was, but what was in store for him—and what is in store for us if we choose to follow him.

1. Are we turned upside down by the world’s view of Christ? (Luke 9:18-20)?

18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" 19And they answered, "John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen." 20Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered, "The Christ of God."

In these verses, Christ asks two very important questions—the most important questions for the church today. Yet, before we even get into this, what was Jesus doing? Verse 18 says, “Now it happened that as he was praying alone… .” If you read through the gospels, before every major event, Jesus steals away alone and spends time with His Father. If you remember, he prayed alone prior to his baptism, to his selection of his disciples, and we’ll see next week that he prayed alone right before what’s known as his Transfiguration, and countless other times. So why here?

Jesus prays to the Father so they would fully understand not only what they themselves should know about Christ, but also what the world says about him as well. Since everyone, especially in America, seems not only to have an opinion about Jesus, but claim to have Jesus on their side regardless of who they are, we have to be aware.

Right now, I’m reading through a book by Stephen Prothero, religion professor at Boston University in the introduction of his book, American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon, tells his readers what is not his intention with his book. In the process as he gives us an understanding of who we see Jesus as:

Here I ignore Native American and Hispanic Jesuses, and devote scant attention to liturgical traditions such as Roman Catholicism, Episcopalianism, and Lutheranism. I say nothing about the gay Jesuses … nor do I explore the claim of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, the Jesus was “the most scientific man that ever trod the globe,” nor the provocation the The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) that Jesus had sex with Mary Magdalene.[2]

You may say, “Why do I need to know what he was not intending to write about?” Simply because we see so many ways so many people see Jesus, not informed by what God reveals in the Scriptures, but simply by their own wishes, desires, and speculations. There is nothing new under the sun—everyone who has come across Jesus has inquired about him.

What is so significant about this question is obvious: Jesus wanted his disciples to process what the world thought about Him—and we need to reflect and process what the world thinks about him today.

  • With the onslaught of the Muslim faith coming on, we need to know that they consider Jesus a great prophet in a line of many great prophets, but not the great prophet which is Mohammed.
  • We need to know what the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about Jesus in that he is not fully God.
  • We need to know what even the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement believes regarding how Jesus gives us whatever we want if we believe him by faith, like a great dispenser of goodies, and how we are able to lose their salvation.
  • We need to know that so many liberal scholars, skeptics, and critics see Jesus as fantasy, a myth developed by the disciples to advance an agenda or cause. Those of the Jesus Seminar, featured much on the History Channel, hold this view that the Jesus of the Bible never existed.
  • We need to know why actors in Hollywood are wearing “Jesus is my homeboy” T-shirts, yet spending their time making movies clearly contrary to Christ and His Word.
  • We need to know why some see Jesus as a great moral teacher, even though the Scriptures that reveal Him clearly show Him to be more than this: he’s holy God!
  • We need to know why presidents from both parties continually quote Jesus from his Sermon on the Mount to support their policies, yet take issues with other things he has said.

But Jesus goes further and says, “But who do you say that I am?” Here, Jesus gets very personal. We need to know who He is. He is the Christ the Son of God—something that God himself has to reveal to us. In Matthew 16, Jesus says, “Flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Do you say, “Jesus is the Son of God—the Christ of God?” Do you say this? We must realize that if Peter could not come to this conclusion without God revealing it to us, then neither can we. Could this be why Jesus prayed—so God would move in their hearts to see him as he is?

2. Are we turned upside down by God’s plan for Christ (Luke 9:21-22)?

21 And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised."

Jesus turns their expectations upside down. The Father revealed to them that He was the “Christ of God,” even as everyone else (wise and unwise) speculated otherwise. So since it was ‘out’ among the disciples that he was the Christ, they had certain expectations about his earthly rule—which they thought would commence immediately. They would hear of this Anointed One repeatedly in the Scripture readings in the synagogues. In Psalm 2:4-12, look at this.

4He who sits in the heavens laughs;
   the Lord holds them in derision.
5Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
   and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6"As for me, I have set my King
   on Zion, my holy hill."

7I will tell of the decree:The LORD said to me, "You are my Son;
   today I have begotten you.
8Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
   and the ends of the earth your possession.
9You shall break them with a rod of iron
   and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel."

10Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
   be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear,
   and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
   lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
   for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

They were ready for his rule to begin, and judgment to take place immediately. Yet, clearly this would not be the case, for he told them to “tell this to no one.” With such a high alert and desire for a deliverer, a Messiah, an Anointed One to come along and boot out the Romans, if the disciples went about spreading this, Jesus’ ministry would have been all the more difficult.

What is not recorded in this account, but is in Matthew, is how Peter comes along, pulls Jesus aside and says, “Lord, this will never happen to you.” It is then that Jesus calls Simon Peter, “Satan” which means adversary, because he had mind the things of God rather than the things of men. The disciples had their plans as soon as Jesus’ true function was out—but those plans were the plans of men.

3. Are we turned upside down by the God’s expectations for us (Luke 9:23-27)?

23And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."

So many have an issue with authority. Many young college students leave the church because of their issue with authority. Yet, Jesus comes along and speaks with such authority that it’s almost startling even to those who are followers of Christ. Verse 23 says, “If anyone would come after me… .” In other gospels, Jesus puts it, “If anyone would be my disciple… .” Which is it? Is it one who comes after him, or is it one who is his disciple?

These two understandings are synonymous. And it’s conditional: if you would come after him, he turns our thinking upside down with these commands: deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow him. In a world where the average citizen hates being told what to do and having some authority command them to do anything, and in a country where liberty, freedom, and personal choice rule the day—Jesus comes along from the Word and turns everything on its ear.

Some of you are very skilled at what you do and are looking to try to advance to the highest level you can. Are you doing this at the expense of your soul?

Verse 25 informs us of this: what will it profit a man if he were to gain the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? Consider: is there any possible way to have the whole world? No. But we want comfort and safety in this world, and if all the restraints were off to where we could have everything our heart desired? I’m reminded of that scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where they opened up the door to the inner workings of the factory, which was filled with the most delicious chocolate, candies, even a chocolate river! The kids went crazy, even to the point of where one of the children, Augustus, endangered himself by falling in. All of them ate all they wanted with no restraint.

Another way to put this term is ‘denying yourself’ is by using the term ‘repentance.’

Can I just say this to you? This blows what is called “easy believism” out of the water. It blows what Bonhoeffer calls ‘cheap grace’ out of the water. It blows what John MacArthur calls having “casual beliefs about Jesus” out of the water. John MacArthur puts it well:

The Kingdom is not for people who want Jesus to fix their life a little.  The Kingdom is not for people who want Jesus to bump them up the social scale.  The Kingdom is not for people who want to escape hell.  The Kingdom is for people who want their life changed. . . but who have come to the point where they are willing to go through a violent time of conviction and self-hatred . . . and penitence and brokenness to the degree that they literally abandon everything for Christ.  That’s seeking with all your heart.[3]

How many times have we heard this expression, “To come to Christ, all you have to do is just accept him as your Lord and Savior.” All you have to do?! According to Jesus Himself, that is NOT all you have to do! If you wish to follow him, it’s not about accepting him (whatever that means), but denying yourself to the point of where you bear your cross daily (dying to self in a violent manner) in order to submit your very all. You may say, “Bro. Matt, that makes becoming a Christian sound hard!”

It is hard! At least the biblical way is! Denying yourself in a world that says, “Glorify yourself!” is hard. Submitting to someone else’s authority is hard! This is why so many take the edge off of Jesus’ commands—but Luke 9:23 is the essence of becoming a Christian.

[1]Stephen Prothero, American Jesus: How The Son of God Became a National Icon (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003), 11.

[2]Prothero, 14-15.

[3]John MacArthur,

Brothers, What Shall We Do? (Acts 2:14-41)–Resurrection Sunday Sermon

In Acts 1:8, Christ, church on April 14, 2009 at 12:43 pm

(Listen to the mp3 version of the sermon, delivered April 12, 2009 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY.)

While I was on vacation in Virginia, Cindy, Hannah and I had a chance to spend the day at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. If you are an American and have a chance to go through that place, I urge you to do so. It was interesting watching a video there on some of the practices and rituals that Washington started—and how many of those presidents continued. For instance,

  • Washington only served two terms, when the Constitution did not put limits on how many terms he served. The people were ready to crown him king (after all, that’s what they were used to), but Washington wisely stepped aside.
  • Washington insisted on being called “Mr. President,” rather than “His Excellency.”
  • He opened the White House for social engagements;
  • He established his cabinet to advise him on matters of policy—rather than simply running the country himself.

I could go on and on, but what’s been clear is how our country is indebted to its founder for so many items, they are almost incalculable. And most everyone who serves in the office of President sits squarely in his shadow. This glorious Easter morning, we shall be looking at the book of Acts—not looking at a fledgling country, but a fledgling church. Their founder, Jesus Christ, had just left ten days before. Forty-three days prior to that he was crucified in an effort by the authorities to silence his testimony and influence in their land.

During his three-and-a-half year ministry, He had turned Palestine upside down with his authoritative teaching and miracles. Unlike the religious authorities who only cared about themselves and their position, Jesus cared about His people—and for good reason. He made them! He calls His people “his sheep” that He lays down His life for. The dream looked over! Yet, on the first day of the week, Jesus arose. He died! And He arose! And for forty days, Jesus taught them “the kingdom of God” and gave them many proofs that he was still alive! He didn’t give them a bunch of money to start their ministries. He didn’t give them buildings nor land to move forward with. All He said was, “I will send you My Spirit, and you will be my witnesses.” Where? Everywhere! And God sent His Spirit, and God gave them the Word to preach—and they preached to the point where the crowd asked in Acts 2:37, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Why ask this question? Because they were “cut to the heart!” Why? Because to a heart prepared by the Spirit of God, Christ cuts right to the heart of who we are. And my prayer for you this morning is that you would be cut to the heart with what the Word reveals regarding Christ! And there is much to cut through to get to that heart!

1. We must listen up (Acts 2:14-21)

Notice in verse 37 that they were cut to the heart after they “heard this.” By saying this, we must realize that we are not by nature agreeable to even the most basic issues of God. From my youth, I remember how Roscoe P. Coltrane on the Dukes of Hazzard, who would get on his CB radio asking Enos if he had his “ears on.”

We by nature do not have those ears for God. So when Jesus said repeatedly in the gospels and in Revelation, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” we see that he chooses to make himself known through the Word preached. He puts it before us—will we listen? When the disciples, filled with the Spirit, begin speaking in languages that everyone at Pentecost could understand, “all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’

Some actually inquire regarding spiritual things, intrigued by the message. This is not saving faith, but could go either way: it could become a new hobby of interest, or lead to a deeper spiritual quest that leads to saving faith. But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’” We may mock and make excuses for the power or the reason why they are cut to the heart. Rather than respond, some begin to mock, “They are drunk! They are hateful in calling men sinners in need of repentance! They are just babbling superstitions!” Or it could be that some take the Word and are enraged, like the Jewish Council was when they arrested Peter and John. They were so affected that they sought to silence them like they attempted to do with Jesus!

How will you respond? Will you sit with great interest, listening to another one of many perspectives on how to live, adding it to your stockpile of other philosophies and hobbies that interest? Are you secretly mocking, wondering why sensible people hold to such superstitions? Maybe the Word will enrage you and offend you. Each of these reactions shows the power of the Word to penetrate and convict. But will it cut—to the heart!!!

2. We see how Jesus was delivered up! (Acts 2:22-23)

Look at this portion of Peter’s sermon in verses 22-23: Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Again, Peter is calling his listeners to listen up! And who does he present? Jesus of Nazareth—a man grounded in history, born of a virgin, growing up in wisdom and stature before God and man! He was a man, but more than a man—he was a man who God gave who possessed many works and wonders and signs that God did through him. Keep in mind that Jesus crucifixion was only six weeks prior. His ministry turned Palestine upside down. Jesus’ 3 ½ year ministry was still fresh in their minds, which is why Peter said, “As you yourselves know!”

Historically, who delivered up Jesus? In verse 23, Peter says, “YOU crucified and killed [Jesus] by the hands of lawless men.” Who is he talking to? “Men of Israel!” So here, Jesus says it was God’s own covenant people, the Jews, and their religious leaders who crucified Christ! Yet look at the rest of the verse—someone else delivered Jesus up. He was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.”

Christ’s death did not catch God by surprise! This was not Plan B—this was His plan the entire time. For family devotions, Martin Luther once read the account of Abraham offering Isaac on the altar in Genesis 22. His wife, Katie, said, “I do not believe it. God would not have treated his son like that!” “But, Katie,” Luther replied, “He did.”

John Polhill helps us balance this:

In the paradox of divine sovereignty and human freedom, Jesus died as the result of deliberate human decision made in the exercise of their God-given freedom of choice. The Jewish crowd at Pentecost could not avoid their responsibility in Jesus’ death. Nonetheless, in the mystery of the divine will, God was working in these events of willful human rebellion to bring about his eternal purposes, bring out of the tragedy of the cross and the triumph of the resurrection.

What the disciples and all the faithful saw as a defeat—and what the disobedient saw as victory—God in His plan turned everything on its head. The Proverbist was right, “Many are the plans of man, but it’s the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Peter wanted to show that evil had not triumphed, and God had not failed!

3. We must see how Jesus was raised up! (Acts 2:24-32)

Look at verse 24: “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” God delivered up unto death—God raised him up to life! Death had literally bound him in—literally, loosing him from the birth pangs of death. This is a perfect understanding—Jesus was rescued by the Father from the spiritual death of taking our sins which lead to death (Romans 6:23) but also from the physical death that he experienced on the cross!

But even with this, God raised Him up! Say that with me: “God raised Him up!” Look with me at Ephesians 2:4-7:

4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:4-7).

Even David prophesied about this! The “men of Israel” loved David, the epitome of a King—the one through whom their Messiah would come! Yet David was dead; in verse 29 Peter says that we even know where his tomb is! David’s body had decayed away. It was in the grave! (So typical to think greatly of a servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, but to miss Christ in the process!)

Dr. Seamands tells of a Muslim who became a Christian in Africa. “Some of his friends asked him, ‘Why have you become a Christian?’ He answered, ‘Well, its like this. Suppose you were going down the road and suddenly the road forked in two directions, and you didn’t know which way to go, and there at the fork in the road were two men, one dead and one alive–which one would you ask which way to go?'”

Peter quoted from Psalm 16 that Jesus’ body was not abandoned to Hades, nor did the “holy one’s flesh see corruption.” Meaning, Jesus body didn’t decay away! Death could not hold the Author of Life! And they were witnesses of it (v. 32). So David was a long-ago witness—will they heed David’s words? These men standing before them—they were recent witnesses. Will they heed their words? Dear soul, there are many in this room who are witnesses on how God raised Christ up! And how we have been raised with him!

4. We must see that the Father fills up (2:33-36)!

In verse 33, Peter continues by saying,

Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, Until I make your enemies your footstool. Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

Remember how this entire account began. The Spirit had come upon those 120 disciples in that upper room in Jerusalem. The result was their ability to speak in tongues so they would be understood by the numerous nationalities that had descended upon Jerusalem. This happened because, after Christ arose, the promised Spirit came, indwelt, and filled them up for the purpose of being witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. But this is not simply for a select few disciples.

Look at verses 38-39: 38And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” The promise of the Holy Spirit “is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” They saw the effects of this “promise” made in Joel coming true before them. They saw with great evidence that they were able to understand those who had no training in their language, and their message was cutting them to the heart.

This gift is a transformed heart on the inside (due to our repentance), which leads to outward obedience (in their baptism). The gift of the Spirit seals our hearts (Ephesians 1:13-14), and then guides us into all truth (John 16:13-14). God has not left His people alone in this world. Our hearts are changed from surrendering to our own desires to surrendering to the desires of the one who accomplished so much on our behalf!

5. We must continually wake up (Acts 2:40-41)

“Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” Save yourselves from this perverse corrupt time—but why? Peter kept reminding his listeners that it was Jesus whom you crucified.

They needed to wake up to their sin, wake up to their responsibility and culpability before God! They needed to be alert to their own issues. We need to wake up to the nature of this generation around us, which our flesh loves and the devil uses to weigh us down. For those of you who claim the name of Christ, this is a strict warning for you. You at one time made a decision, but there’s little to no devotion. You hold on to your position in Christ, but you find yourself having more passion for everything other than Christ. You walked an aisle at one time, but you’re not walking with him now. You are living in the world, and are of the world. For those of you who have not yet received Christ, this is a strict warning for you as well. This crooked generation mocks God—and by rejecting Him for your own rule over your own life, you do the same. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap….”

A Perspective on the Prosperity Gospel (Piper)

In Church Life on April 10, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Driscoll: "Noah Wasn’t a Righteous Man"

In Gospel on April 8, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Beautiful picture of the gospel!

Paul Washer on Jesus’ Death

In Christ, Gospel, Salvation on April 7, 2009 at 1:57 pm

D.A. Carson on the “American Experiment in Democracy”

In America, History on April 4, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Moe Bergeron publishes through Christway Media D.A. Carson’s devotional, “The Love of God” via e-mail (with Dr. Carson’s permission) that gives devotionals based on the McCheyne Bible Reading Plan.  Given my enormous love for the gospel and (at a distant second) American History, I found myself attracted to his devotional today. 

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE AMERICAN EXPERIMENT in democracy, the Founding Fathers adopted several stances, accepted by few today, that were deeply indebted to the JudeoChristian heritage.  This is not to say that the Founding Fathers were all Christians.  Many weren’t; they were vague deists.  But among these biblical assumptions was the belief that human beings are not naturally good and have potential for enormous evil.

     For that reason, when the Fathers constructed their political system, they never appealed to “the wisdom of the American people” or similar slogans common today.  Frankly, they were a little nervous about giving too much power to the masses.  That is why there was no direct election of the president:  there was an intervening “college.”  Only (white) men with a stake in the country could vote.  Even then, the branches of government were to be limited by a system of checks and balances, because for the Fathers, populist demagoguery was as frightening as absolute monarchy (as we saw in another connection on January 20).

     Certainly one of the great advantages of almost any system of genuine democracy (genuine in this context presupposes a viable opposition, freedom of the press, and largely uncorrupted voting) is that it provides the masses with the power to turf out leaders who disillusion us.  In that sense, democracy still works:  government must be by the consent of the governed.  Yet the primitive heritage has so dissipated today that politicians from all sides appeal to the wisdom of the people.  Manipulated by the media, voting their pocketbooks, supporting sectional interests or monofocal issues, voters in America and other Western democracies do not show very great signs of transcendent wisdom.  Worse, we labor under the delusion (indeed, we foster the delusion) that somehow things will be all right provided lots of people vote.  Our system of government is our new Tower of Babel:  it is supposed to make us impregnable.  The Soviet empire totters; other nations crumble into the dust, Balkanized, destroyed by civil war, tribal genocide, grinding poverty, endemic corruption, Marxist or some other ideology.  Not us.  We belong to a democracy, “rule by the people.”

     Not for a moment should we depreciate the relative good of living in a country with a relatively high level of income, a stable government, and some accountability.  But such blessings do not guarantee righteousness.  “The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment.  He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice” (Ps. 9:78).

     Hear the voice of Scripture:  “Arise, O LORD, let not man triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence.  Strike them with terror, O LORD; let the nations know they are but men” (Ps. 9:19-20).

Copyright 2008 D.A. Carson

On behalf of Dr. D.A. Carson,
Maurice "Moe" Bergeron
List Manager