Friday, August 5, 2022

Climate Change in Context – 2. Rightly Weighing Our Risks

Most of us would think nothing of standing beneath a huge cliff overhang.
  Some of us have even camped overnight in the “shelter” of an overhang.  However, we might be wary of standing or camping there if a huge fallen tree had precariously angled itself against the cliff edge.  Would you take that risk?

Our assessment of the level of danger might change when we factor in both the cliff and the fallen tree.  It’s a matter of perceived risk.  We judge that the biological processes decaying the tree will soften and dislodge the tree more rapidly than the geological processes of weathering will loosen the rocks.  Therefore, we conclude that we are at greater risk of being crushed beneath the decaying tree than being crushed by fallen rocks.

We make many of our choices based on the apparent level of risk, imminence of danger, and our personal threshold of fear.  I remember dressing in a protective honeybee hat and long sleeves with “bee smoker” ready to help my grandpa capture a bee swarm high up in a tree.  As I climbed the ladder, I immediately performed a risk assessment as to which would be the greater threat to my life—getting stung, or falling from the ladder while trying to avoid bee stings.  I decided to hold onto the ladder no matter what.

Divided Over Our Risk
Today, we are confronted by multiple threats to our lives.  Some seem remote; others may appear imminent.  For example, studies reveal that passengers of large-size cars are more likely to survive a crash than those riding in small cars.  However, those concerned about carbon footprint and the threat of climate change encourage us to drive smaller cars, even hybrid or electric cars.  Once again however, we must prioritize among the three risks to decide which is most urgent:  risk of dying in a car crash, risk of going broke from buying the more expensive car, or risk of a global climate crisis.

Speaking of the “global climate crisis,” Americans have been divided for several decades among “climate deniers,” “non-deniers,” and “disavowers” (i.e. those who accept the climate data but don’t take action).  Such a deeply divided culture needs an atmosphere of civility in which open dialog and sound reasoning can occur among climate scientists, ecologists, politicians, social scientists, and the general public.  We emphasized this point in a 2020 Oikonomia article, “
Climate Change in Context – 1. Getting the ‘Atmosphere’ Right.”  

Now, in Part 2 of our series on climate change, we focus on “Rightly Weighing Our Risks.”  Our purpose is to assess the relative influence of three spheres of influence on popular opinion and behavior related to the “climate crisis;” namely, (a) science, (b) politics, and (c) religion.  We understand that any of these three can influence the others, but we will try to address them separately.

Can Science Persuade?
In 2017, our Oikonomia article entitled “
Paris Accord: Wrong Climate for Creation Care” reviewed climate science data and various interpretations in considerable detail.  We raised important considerations related to the following:
(a) reliability of climate data,
(b) validity of scientific interpretations,
(c) predicted benefits of climate policies toward planetary and human health; and,
(c) influence on behavior of world leaders and their followers. 
Please click HERE to revisit our earlier analysis.


According to recent polling, voters are not convinced that climate change is the most urgent threat.  For example, polling by a progressive think tank, Data for Progress [Click HERE.], revealed that nearly half of Americans (48%) rank the faltering economy as their greatest concern compared to only 6% for climate change.  That the majority of Americans rank the economy and other issues at higher risk than climate change suggests that, in spite of dire predictions, they have adopted a utilitarian ethic.  Utilitarians pursue what they believe is the greatest good for themselves, and secondarily, the greatest good for the greatest number of other people.

Michael S. Northcott, Professor Emeritus of Ethics at the University of Edinburgh, concluded, “Scientific prophecies of environmental crisis do not have the motive power to change the direction of a form of civilization which has become accustomed to courting risk and hazard as a way of life (The Environment & Christian Ethics. Cambridge U. Press, 1996).”  As we noted earlier, we all assess risk of danger in our decision-making.  But sometimes we are tempted to ignore warnings and plunge ahead in spite of danger.  At other times we are distracted by “shiny objects” that distract us or distort our judgment from realizing a great and looming danger. 

The chart below highlights a few of the potentially disturbing changes in American culture.  Some have much larger and immediate implications than climate warming.  We recognize that these data are but a small subset of much more data on each subject.  However, based on these data which would you rank in the top five needing most immediate attention? [Click on chart to enlarge.]


Maybe we should be asking ourselves whether we’ve been too distracted by the “shiny objects” of climate change and the Green Revolution at the expense of other more imminent and dangerous trends.  On the other hand, maybe the distraction has kept us from marveling at the amazing near-constancy of many of the life-sustaining conditions of planet Earth (See blue portion of chart.).  Certainly, politics and the media have a persuasive influence on how we judge risks among the various threats we face.  We go there next.

Political Persuaders
Many politicians and policy makers emphasize the “imminent threat” of climate change.  To them, the climate threat justifies drastic reductions in fossil fuel usage. The resulting limits have hiked energy costs and triggered economic inflation.  Together, these changes cause additional emotional and spiritual challenges to the health of our culture.  Nevertheless, in efforts to convince climate-deniers and disavowers of the imminence of the “climate crisis,” some call for more aggressive re-education.

In the Journal of Environmental Thought and Education (Japan) [See
HERE.], John P. Clark writes (emphasis added) “we need to work harder on creating good environmental education so that the public can engage in more effective environmental thinking.”  But Clark’s view of “good environmental education” calls for aggressive indoctrination.  He recommends “reorganizing our social world into networks of awakened and caring transformational communities that are dedicated to undertaking whatever actions are necessary to put an end to the Necrocene (“era of death”) and initiate a new era characterized by the flourishing of life on Earth.”

Clark’s approach to environmental education, and that of many others who support “Green Energy” policies, involves integrating ecological principles with the social and political sciences.  Education ought to include integration across disciplines.  But education can quickly become forced indoctrination when it includes, in Clark’s words, “undertaking whatever actions are necessary” to bring about their envisioned transformation.  Not to be alarmist, but history has shown that individuals and followers who vow to “undertake whatever actions are necessary” have given rise to much suffering, destruction, and death.  Already, we can see signs of trouble on the horizon.

For example,
the agenda for 2030 of the World Economic Forum (WEF) [Click HERE] calls for a one-world government.  As we wrote in Oikonomia during the pandemic in 2020, “power-seeking individuals of the WEF believed the COVID lockdown provided the model for the next global lockdown—one justified by the threat of climate change!  [See “Climate Lockdowns Coming Soon,” click HERE.]  A 2020 statement by WEF proposes that the responses by “political institutions” to the COVID pandemic could serve as a “crucial dress-rehearsal for a transition to a different economic model…”  Already, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) has urged the initiation of a climate lockdown as follows:

The climate crisis is one of the biggest emergencies that our country has ever faced, and our time is running out. Americans are counting on Biden to lead accordingly. Let’s act boldly, and treat this crisis like the emergency it is.  [Click 
HERE to read more.]

Senator Merkley’s proposal to avert the predicted “climate crisis” is typical of many
bold revolutionary proposals offered by scientists and politicians today.  Again, we must call for objective and civil discussion to assess the certainty and imminence of the climate threat and the likelihood that a given policy will bring about the intended result.  Building civility and community consensus at the national and global level is a tall order.

Lack of “Community” among Authorities
Authorities in both the scientific and political “community” would certainly be more convincing if they could reach a consensus that we are indeed facing a “climate crisis.”  However, in spite of the “Paris Accord,” there remains much “discord” among world leaders [See HERE.].  Many do not all take the climate data equally seriously.  Nor are they all equally committed to making good on commitments to reduce fossil fuel usage and resultant carbon emissions in the spirit of the Paris Accord.

The website “Our World in Data” [Click
HERE.] has an interactive collection of data charts on CO2 emissions by region and by nation.  The data reveal that Communist China lacks a genuine commitment to lowering atmospheric carbon emissions.  Note that China’s annual carbon emissions are over twice that of the United States.  Furthermore, China’s carbon emissions continue to trend upward while the US and other western nations have achieved drastic reductions in emissions. 

In spite of this great disparity, the
WEF and other authorities are pushing the notion of a global climate crisis.  Simultaneously, they are pressuring the US and western nations for drastic reductions in fossil fuel usage in favor of renewable energy, particularly wind and solar energy.  Efforts to restrict fossil fuel extraction in the US in order to force the switch from gasoline- and diesel-powered to electric-powered cars and trucks is well intended but experts believe, too fast for technology and the markets to adjust.  Already, restriction of synthetic fertilizer use by farmers disrupts agricultural production, resulting in food shortages and political unrest in nations like Sri Lanka and the Netherlands [Click HERE.]


Clearly, the so-called “global community” of nations is not behaving as a true community in addressing current ecological and economic concerns.  From a utilitarian ethical perspective, we can see that China’s “greater good” appears to be aimed at economic and political domination.  The governing Communist Party uses every weapon in its arsenal to achieve this goal with little apparent concern about the “climate crisis.”  Considering China’s effort to promote its prominence in the world through the Green Revolution, and before approving Sen. Merkley’s proposed “climate emergency” measures, we should remember the devastating effect of lockdowns during the COVID-19 (Wuhan Virus) pandemic on education, economy, education, exercise of faith, and overall well-being.

In view of China’s lack of cooperation in a “global community” approach to reduce carbon emissions, the recommendation of John P. Clark  to establish “awakened and caring transformational communities“ worldwide seems shallow and unrealistic.  Already, efforts like the Paris Accord and WEF are playing into the hands of Communist China, giving it the upper hand in its effort toward world domination, leaving the US in an increasingly weakened position.

Religious Faith Persuasion
Admittedly, the notion of a “global community” is not inherently wrong.  Each of our three spheres of influence-- science, politics, and religion attract people into community based on common goals, interests, or beliefs.  Like science and politics, our third system of influence, world religions, are systems of beliefs and practices believed to justify adherents in the eyes of some higher being or standard.

In recent years, many environmentally conscious people have integrated their love for nature into their preferred sacred, religious belief(s).  Many environmentally conscious people who have chosen to follow secular liberalism have rejected traditional the Judeo-Christian teachings of faith in God and the importance of marriage, family, and community.  Yet, as Sumantra Maitra writes,1 their human instincts for faith — to believe, worship, submit, and fear — didn’t just go away but manifested in various other pre-civilized tribal ways.  For example, a liberal seminary encouraged its students to skip classes to pray and confess sins in front of potted plants.  In Switzerland, 250 people in full funereal garb mourned the apparent approaching death of a glacier.

Major religions include the monotheistic (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), polytheistic (e.g. Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism), and atheistic and pantheistic (e.g. Buddhism).  Historically, the creation or natural world has served as an inspiration within many religions, each claiming they represent “the Way” to follow.  What follows is a sketch of how some have drawn upon Buddhism as a basis for right living and caring for the Earth.

Buddhism and Christianity
John P. Clark’s call for an “era of a liberated humanity and a liberated nature,” described earlier, is rooted in Buddhism [See
HERE.].  As Clark elaborates, “In this endeavor, we can find inspiration in the ancient Buddhist concept of Appamāda. “Appamāda” is a Pali word (“Apramada” in Sanskrit) that conveys the ideas of both ‘mindfulness’ and ‘care.’ The practice of Appamāda implies that we must be awakened to the world and all the beings around us, and that in such an awakened state we become capable of responding to and caring for them effectively.”

Buddhism denies the existence of God and His salvation by grace through Jesus Christ.  Instead, “salvation” rests in human effort.  The Buddhist practice of Appamāda, in conjunction with extensive periods of meditation, can lead us to find within ourselves our own moral justification through enlightenment resulting in a greater mindfulness and a caring attitude.  Clark blames the “capitalist society of mass consumption” for generating “a certain form of selfhood that is inclined to obsessive desires, powerful addictions, and sick attachments.”  Clark goes on to suggest that capitalism generates “…an entire culture of consumption that socializes us into believing that a world of obsessive craving is the only one possible.”  On the other hand, as we are enlightened, we overcome the inclination to satisfy our compulsions and destructive behavior toward ourselves and the Earth.

In contrast to the subjectivity of Buddhism, Christianity is based on the objective revelation and authenticity of God’s Word (2 Peter 1: 20-21).  The inspired Scriptures reveal everything we need to know about our moral state, our responsibility before God, our justification, and our future.  God’s objective revelation culminates in the revelation of His Son, Jesus Christ, the Living Word, and His incarnate birth, sinless life, death, and resurrection.

Whereas, the Buddhist targets the material world and capitalist society as sources of our cravings, addictions, and unhealthy attachments, Christianity locates the source of our destructive thoughts and behavior within the sin-corrupted mind and heart of each person.  We are rebels in the image of Adam and Eve who yielded to Satan’s lies.  Romans 1: 21-24 reveals the pathetic path our ancestors chose (emphasis added to highlight progression): 

For although
(a) they knew God,
(b) they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him,
(c) but they became futile in their thinking and darkened in their foolish hearts.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images of mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 
(d) Therefore, God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity for the dishonoring of their bodies with one another.

Unlike Buddhism which offers unending cycles of reincarnation, Christianity offers the free gift of eternal life beginning at the moment of salvation by faith.  Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life (John 6: 47).”  Christian theology teaches that each individual is bound for eternal suffering in Hell unless justified by faith in the suffering, death, and resurrection of God the Son who paid the price for our justification (Romans 6: 23).  The Apostle Peter wrote, Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.  He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit (1 Peter 3: 18).

The Christian is born again to new life and now has the power of the Spirit of Christ to enable him or her to produce “the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience… self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5: 22-23).  This fruit is contrasted with works of our flesh which are “…sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry,” and other compulsions (v. 19-21) which John P. Clark named as the cause of environmental degradation. 

New Profession: “Steward’
The Christ-follower does not have to seek personal identity in materialism and excessive consumption.  Instead, he or she finds love, joy, peace, and self-control in his or her intimate walk with God.  Spirit-led Christ-followers reject the path of the first man, Adam, who was given dominion and stewardship of the Earth but rebelled, leading to the Fall of mankind (Genesis 1: 28; 2: 15).   

The Christ-follower is reborn and renewed in the Spirit of the “second Adam (Christ)” to serve as steward of God’s grace and God’s creation.  This stewardship is central to his or her keeping of the two great commandments—loving God whole-heartedly and loving neighbor as much as love for self (Matthew 22: 36-40).  The steward who focuses on loving God and neighbor is wonderfully positioned to balance his or her vibrant hope of eternal Heaven with a commitment to stewardship of the Earth which he or she serves for the glory of God and the good of neighbor.  In contrast to the ambiguity and subjectivism of Buddhism and all other man-derived religions, the Christian faith provides a clear, complete, and objective revelation through the Scriptures.  Environmental ethicist, J.B. Callicott, has written, The Judeo-Christian Stewardship Environmental Ethic is especially elegant and powerful.  It also exquisitely matches the requirements of conservation biology [by conferring] objective intrinsic value on nature in the clearest and most unambiguous of ways:  by divine decree2.  

What Are Your Greatest Risks?
Would you ever choose to stand beneath or locate your camp under a cliff overhang with a decaying log teetering above you?  We hope not; at least before you assess the risk of danger.  We also hope this article has helped you consider how you are prioritizing among the various social and global risks that pose a threat to you and your loved ones, community, and nation.  Shouldn't we all try to become more knowledgeable of how science, politics, and religious faith are influencing our leaders?   Then, we can be better prepared to exercise our voices and our votes in support of leaders who will make wise decisions.   

From our Christian faith, we conclude by saying, God offers Christ-followers the promise of life forever in the New Heaven and the New Earth in which righteousness dwells (Revelation 21-22).  Some of us may die from underestimating risk.  Others of us may be called by Christ our Savior to risk our lives for a person or for the cause of His Gospel.  Regardless, both the Scriptures and experience tell us our death rate is 100%.   After this comes judgment that determines where we will spend eternity (Hebrews 9: 27).  Risk of calamity from climate warming is worthy of consideration, but the risk of eternal damnation and separation from God is 100% if we reject God’s provision through the Cross of Christ.  About what risks are you most concerned?

Comments and Questions:
As always, we welcome your responses using the “Comments” link below to express your thoughts and questions about this article, or what you believe and why.  You may also write privately to silviusj@gmail.com
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Footnote:
1 Maitra, Sumantra. "Climate Worship Is Nothing More than Rebranded Paganism.  The Federalist, September 26, 2019.
2 Van Dyke, Fred. 2006. Cultural Transformation and Conservation: Growth, Influence, and Challenges for the Judeo-Christian Stewardship Environmental Ethic Perspective on Science and Christian Faith 58(1):48

Related Readings:
Creation Care and Christian CharacterCreation Care, Summer, 2007
Calling for Stewardship Without a Master” July 2, 2013
Fundamentals of Conservation, Part 3 "Serving with Our Neighbor” November 23, 2014

Paris Accord: Wrong Climate for Creation Care   Oikonomia, June 9, 2017
Climate Change in Context – 1. Getting the ‘Atmosphere’ Right.”  September 21, 2019
Earthkeeping and Character: Book Review” December 5, 2020

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Many Moving Parts and an “Invisible Hand”

Sometimes it is healthy to pause and consider some of the many moving parts and the hands that maintain those parts in order to sustain our lives from day to day.  Think for a moment how many parts, processes, interactions, and hands are at work near and far, seen and unseen, to help us perform even the most mundane of tasks—transportation, groceries, paying bills, fueling our cars, phoning, texting, sending and receiving packages, health care, and automobile maintenance and repair.  All of these are interconnected in a unity or union which is hard for us to comprehend, easy for us to take for granted; and more recently, the target of much criticism and efforts to reform.

Moving Parts and Skilled People
It was time for an oil change in our Toyota.  While sitting in the waiting area, we noticed stacks of auto parts newly delivered by drivers from local parts stores.  As we waited, one driver after another came and went, each bringing a part necessary for the mechanics to skillfully service the vehicles entrusted to their care.  Then, as each mechanic received the next work order on their iPad, they grabbed the appropriate auto part(s) from the stack and disappeared into the servicing area. 

As time passed, we realized that entrusting our car to a mechanic is an exercise of faith.
  Our safety, and the safety of tens of millions of drivers on our nation’s highways, depends on thousands of dedicated mechanics who identify worn parts and replace them with precise torqueing of screws and bolts and precision electronic adjustment.  And all of this they do without audience and fanfare each workday.  Without them, our lives would drastically change and our economy would grind to a halt.

We can only imagine the story behind each of the hundreds of auto parts that compose the engine, chassis, and body of every vehicle.
  Each part is manufactured from raw materials by injection, molding, and stamping machines, often controlled by a computer program.  Then, each finished part is packed and shipped to a distribution center in readiness for orders from auto parts stores or auto assembly plants.  The machines responsible for producing auto parts are themselves composed of many mechanical parts that must each fit together and function under microscale tolerances.

Besides the complex mechanical side of manufacture and distribution of machine parts there is also the human side.
  Although the former is highly mechanical and automated, the human element is the most crucial in producing the final outcome.  Just as we depend upon the integrity and work ethic of mechanics for our personal safety and the function of our nation, so we must also depend upon the men and women who transport them on trucks, barges, trains, ships, and airplanes.  When we consider the vast number of people and mechanical processes that are necessary for the smooth operation of the so-called “supply chain,” we ought to be humbled with awe and thankfulness.  Of course, we also ought to pray for our leaders in government whose policies will either support this vast system or preside over its demise.

Our thoughts about auto parts and the supply chain were interrupted when a mechanic appeared to inform us that
our oil filter cover was worn out and needed replacement.  Amazingly, within 20 minutes, a delivery driver appeared with packaged oil filter cover in hand.  Service on our Toyota was completed, and in another 20 minutes, we were on the road, with hundreds of other cars and trucks that depend on a regular supply of energy, auto parts, engine fluids, and proper maintenance to stay on the road.


The “Invisible Hand”

Back home, we placed our auto service receipt in our “maintenance folder” and the credit card receipt in its place.  As we considered all the “moving parts” both mechanical and human, that are necessary to maintain just one automobile, we realized an even more amazing dimension.  It is what Adam Smith, author of Wealth of Nations, referred to as “the invisible hand” of the market system.  Adam Smith believed in an “invisible hand” of God’s providence over human affairs which enabled the market system to accomplish “an orderly and efficient distribution of goods and services….”  This “distribution,” Smith believed, was manifested through “…the generally self-interested acts of people producing, buying, and selling in a market without fixed prices, even though no one intends such an order.”

Jay Richards, whose words we have just quoted, has written the book, Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem (HarperOne, New  York:  2009).  In it, Richards refers to an amusing essay, entitled “I, Pencil,” by Leonard E. Read (Click HERE to read).  The essay personifies a common wooden pencil explaining how it came into being.  Richards summarizes “I, Pencil” as follows:

“We think a pencil is simple. And yet a single pencil requires what Read calls "innumerable antecedents," involving millions of people, from Albania to Zimbabwe, performing all sorts of different tasks.  First, there's the Cedar tree harvested from northern California.  Then there are the saws and trucks and ropes and other equipment, all built in different places; the mill in San Leandro, California; the trains to transport the wood; the processing plant with kiln and tinting; the electricity from the dam to power the plant; the millions of dollars in equipment used to build the pencils; the graphite from Sri Lanka, mixed with clay from Mississippi and chemicals from who knows where; the wax from Mexico and beyond; the yellow lacquer with castor oil; the brass to hold the eraser, forged with metals from mines from around the world; the eraser made with factice from Indonesia and pumice from Italy. Finally, there are the trucks that deliver the pencils and the stores that sell pencils to the public for about ten cents each.  All of this and more is needed to make one yellow pencil.”

Jay Richards points out three "marvels" of a free-market system that produces the simple yellow pencil.  First, few among all the people who contributed to the pencil actually knew that their particular raw material would go to making a part of the pencil.

Second, in the words of "I, Pencil, "not a single person on the face of this Earth knows how to make me."   The knowledge of all the steps and materials necessary to make a pencil “is dispersed among millions of different people.”

And third, instead of one or a few masterminds overseeing the process, it is "all coordinated by people working freely in specialized jobs following the price of countless goods and services."   The same is true of every product on the market, whether it is food, home appliances, automobiles, electronic devices; you name it.  Amazingly, there are "millions of people working in seeming unrelated jobs, speaking dozens of languages, all blissfully unaware that they are, in a small way, making…" familiar products possible.

”Free Market” and Faith
Most people know that a truly “free market” is an ideal that does not exist.  In fact, the current market which we are discussing is becoming less and less free as federal and state governments impose regulations, price fixing, corporate taxes, and tariffs that affect availability and prices of energy, food, health care, education, etc.  So, when we say, “free market,” we mean “partially free market.”

What makes a free-market system work?   Consider the following “drivers of an economy:” individual initiative, work ethic, love for one's job, desire to improve one's place in society, professional advancement, a sense of purpose and hope in the future, trust in the justice system, law and order, fair trade, and confidence of fair payment for work well done.   All of these and more influence the health and function of a free-market economy.  No doubt you can think of other factors that may contribute to the workings of Adam Smith’s "the invisible hand."  But there may be something behind all of these “drivers.”

We believe that the foundation of all economic “drivers” is a specific gift of God’s providence—a gift we call “faith?”  In other words, when we "dissect" the "invisible hand," we find God's providence operating through faith to varying degrees in the hearts of people.  The Bible describes faith as "an assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11: 1)?"  Perhaps it is this “faith,” whether in God or in “the system” (think Wall Street, Federal Reserve, etc.), that propels each of the millions of people to work even though each is only a tiny cog within a gigantic economy.  And why is the word, “economy” a fitting choice of terms?

“Economy” is derived from the Greek word, οἰκονομία, translated “oikonomia” (oy-kon-om-ee'-ah), meaning stewardship.  A steward is a person entrusted by his or her master or owner of property to manage it as a “caretaker” of the property.   A “good steward” performs his or her responsibilities with the motivation to honor the best interests of the master-owner.  The concept of stewardship originates in the first and second chapters of the Old Testament of the Bible (Genesis 1: 26-31; 2: 15).

When it comes to servicing our vehicles, a mechanic who does his or her work well is a good steward.  The steward-mechanic doesn’t own the auto service but realizes that being a good steward while “servicing” vehicles pleases his or her employer, makes for a good hourly wage, and ensures job security and long-term success for the owner of the auto service.  It is because of this “stewardship mentality” that millions of cars, each with thousands of working parts humming together under their hoods, can move on our streets and highways without frequent mechanical failures.  The same principle applies to employees at stores, restaurants, schools, clinics, hospitals, etc.  But there are laws that work against the functioning unity within both our economy and our personal lives.  What are these laws?

Market in a “Groaning World”
In the material realm, the Second Law of Thermodynamics describes the tendency of both machines and the human body to “wear out.”  Our cars need new parts and sometimes a total mechanical overhaul.  Eventually, they will be hauled to the scrap pile along with many of our smaller machines and appliances.

Our bodies also eventually “wear out.”  Within our bodies and souls is the operation of the “law of sin and death” (Romans 8: 2) which came as a consequence of mankind’s rebellion (sin) against God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3).  Romans 8: 20-21 tells us that …the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him (God) who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  Romans 8: 22-23 speaks of the groaning of every person and the whole creation under the curse of sin and death.  This principle is made evident to us through the Scriptures and from our own personal experiences.

All cars and other machines need the attention of mechanics.  But mechanics sometimes make mistakes and some are negligent.  None of us are perfect on our best days; nor are we perfect as stewards.  Therefore, a “bad mechanic” doesn’t justify protests against all auto mechanics.  Nor does the relatively few instances of police injustice out of thousands of successful interdictions at crime scenes justify defunding the police.  Likewise, there are thousands of honest, dedicated teachers, pastors, doctors, business owners, and lawyers; but always there are unintended mistakes and some “bad apples” in each profession. 

In a groaning world where so many things can upset us, we are prone to criticize and protest.  Yet even in lawful protests there are “bad actors” who use unfortunate incidents to further their political aims or destroy and loot property.  Bad actors even exist among our governing leaders.  Some intentionally or unintentionally influence policy without understanding the tremendous complexity of the amazing market system; nor do they understand or respect the "invisible hand" of Providence.  Corruption in government can go unpunished because of a double standard, causing the diminishing of trust and a disrespect for leaders and law enforcers.  What should the seemingly forgotten and discouraged citizen do?

Stewards of a “More Perfect Union”
Although we may be tempted to groan, complain, and protest, people who profess faith in God must use restraint based on stewardship of the manifold grace that God provides.  The Bible reveals two important points to help us understand God’s grace and how to apply it in our world.

The Apostle Peter, writing to first-century Christians living in the midst of much suffering by persecution, warned that “the end of all things is near” and that they should be alert, prayerful, fervent in love, and hospitable without complaint (1 Peter 4: 7-9).   No one can predict the date of Christ’s return, but we are nearer every day.  Peter summarizes his urgent challenge with these words in verse 10 (emphasis added):  As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God

The Prophet Jeremiah wrote, Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not (Lamentations 3: 22).  For those who have professed faith in Jesus Christ, it is by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God… (Ephesians 2: 8-9).  By grace through faith, the Life of Christ is born within anyone who sincerely claims God’s gift of salvation.  Then, His Spirit will abide in us and empower us to love and obey God, and to love our neighbor.  It is this tradition of the Christian faith that empowered the Framers to write the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution something like this:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a perfect Union…”

But notice there is one word missing?  The correctly stated Preamble clearly reveals the humility and wisdom of its Framers.  Their stated purpose was “to form a more perfect Union.”  They knew from history that no government prior to the 18th century was “perfect.”  And their Judeo-Christian faith tradition gave them the reason why.

The Fall of mankind in the Garden had placed creation and all mankind under the curse of sin, producing imperfect men and women; and, imperfect leaders and followers.  Hence, we find imperfect mechanics, teachers, doctors, pastors, etc.  Yet, the Founders, like many others enlightened by Scripture, believed in a Creator who alone is the source of “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Therefore, the Framers aimed to form a government later described by Lincoln as being “of the people, by the people, and for the people;” namely, a government designed not to guarantee equal outcomes (equity), but one that is limited and nimble enough to assure each person the freedoms to “pursue happiness.” 

Through much shedding of blood and tears, through much prayer and reliance on the hand of Divine Providence, and through amendments to our Constitution, “the government by the people” has made significant progress toward “a more perfect union.”  Dr. Martin Luther King famously emphasized that we ought to judge our fellow man not by their outward appearance (ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, political party, etc.) but “by the content of their character.”

Eroding the “More Perfect Union”
Unfortunately, the past century in America has witnessed an erosion of the Judeo-Christian faith foundation that was responsible for the founding and preservation of America during its first century.  Biblical moral absolutes are being replaced by moral relativism based on subjective human reason and experience. 

Romans 1: 21-23 explains what happens when we “no longer honor God or give thanks” to Him.  Professing wisdom, we become fools with darkened hearts; and we can easily exchange our identity in God’s image for the image of animals and animal-like behavior.  Today, we are seeing the tragic result of exchanging the biblical revelation of our moral and biological identity for the deception of Satan the great Deceiver.  He is a liar and a murderer from the beginning (John 8: 44) and he aims to destroy the image of God through deception.  Many are falling for satanic deception which affects our individual identity, our marriages and families, and our churches.

Giving in to Satan’s deception has caused many people to become confused as they pursue their purpose in life, their personal values and identity, and even their gender.  Likewise, the nuclear family is increasingly under attack.  According to a Pew Research Center study, 23% of children in America under age 18 live in single-parent homes.  Witness the trend of church leaders, churches, and Christian educational institutions compromising their stand for biblical truth.  Yet, according to the Bible, God’s only plan for the redemption of mankind is through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, and the witnessing and discipleship by Christ-following believers in Christ’s Name.  Jesus said, “If I be lifted up from the earth (crucified), I will draw all men unto me (John 12:32)."

Greatest Unity—Last Best Hope
What is “the last best hope of Earth?”  Lincoln believed it was America’s experiment in self-government.  According to the Bible, God’s answer seems to be the church.  He placed His “best hope” for His creation and for mankind in the hands and hearts of Christ’s raggedy band of followers who remained behind when the risen Christ ascended to Heaven.  Following Pentecost and their receiving of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2), the powerful unity of witness and purpose of these few followers literally “turned the world upside down” spiritually.  How was this possible?   

In this article, we have marveled at how innumerable moving parts and millions of people can produce and operate millions of machines, each with billions of moving parts within them, all in some kind of unity that allows our culture to function.  However, more precious and awesome than the humming of a well-oiled machine or our complex market economy is the supernatural unity of mind, body, and spirit within one human being.  Or the unconditional love that binds a man and a woman together in marriage, or the unity of Christians serving together in a local church.  Of course, the unity of the local church depends upon the Spirit-filled lives of individual Christ-followers and the love spilled into the world from a Christian marriage.

According to Francis Schaeffer, the unity among Christians within our churches is the greatest testimony and apologetic for the authenticity of the Christian faith (Curtis Heffelfinger, The Peace Making Church, Baker Books (2018), p. 107).  Schaeffer bases his claim on Jesus’s prayer with the disciples recorded in John 17 in which He prays for His disciples and those who would believe because of their witness of love and unity.  In verse 21, Jesus prays (emphasis added), That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

We are surrounded by the wonders of God’s creation from far distant stars to the subatomic particles in matter; and we are impressed by the workings of engines and economies, and even the human body.  But these are not the most powerful evidence that “God sent His Son the be the Savior of the world.”  The most convincing evidence is display of Christ’s love and unity among Christians who are called to be salt and light.

Comments & Questions Welcomed:
Thank you for reading.  We welcome your responses.  Who knows, one of you may even be able to identify from the first photo in this article the auto service here in Wooster, Ohio that we referenced. To respond with  insights, comments, and questions, just use “Comments” below, or email to silviusj@gmail.com.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Feeling, Knowing, and Believing

Our world is changing.  At an ever-increasing pace, these changes are impacting family and societal relationships, value of our currency, health care, education, employment, and constitutional rights.  All of these can impact our emotional, rational, and spiritual sense of well-being and our outlook on the future.  On any given day or even hour of the day, if we are asked how we are doing, we might choose a different emoji to describe our feelings.

Complexity of issues, sheer volume of information, and politically biased reporting make it more and more challenging to stay accurately informed.
  Rational thinking skills and wise decision-making based on objective reporting of information are becoming more and more critical—and harder to find.  In this article, we consider some challenges we face and some factors to consider in order to navigate them wisely. 

To begin, let’s say that someone asks us a question.  There are several ways we might respond:

(1)   “I feel ….”

(2)   “I think ….”

(3) “I believe ….”

When someone asks us how we are feeling, we typically reply with #1, “I feel….”  Responses #2 and #3 are how we might begin to share our opinion or a faith-based answer, respectively.  Let’s consider Response #1 first.

Emotional Responses
Our “feelings” are an important part of our self-awareness and our physical and emotional health.  Our physical and emotional health require that we maintain a relationship with at least one person; or if necessary, with pet animal.  We are strengthened and encouraged through face-to-face communication with others or through letters, phone calls, and social media.  

Many of us have pressed “smiley face” stickers on our letters to convey a wordless message of encouragement.  Now that we have cell phone apps, we can digitally insert our choice of emojis along with our text messages and e-mails to communicate briefly how we are “feeling” about something in a wordless fashion.

Health professionals routinely ask their patients how they feel before or after a medical procedure.  Recognizing the difficulty that some patients have in expressing how much pain they actually “feel,” medical facilities often post a “pain scale” consisting of cartoon faces ranging from very distraught (“worst pain imaginable”) to a smiling face (“no pain”).  Health care professionals and all of us need to be aware that a person’s “feelings” have roots that go deeper than physical pain and reach into our emotional and spiritual state.

For many of us, it is easier to describe “how we feel” when someone asks us about our physical pain than when they ask “how we feel about our pain.”  How we feel about joint-replacement surgery during recovery is affected by both the severity of our physical pain and by the degree of our concern about whether we will ever recover.  Some people recover very quickly and have a positive outlook all the way through their pain and physical therapy.  Others struggle with both the physical pain and the related fear it causes.  Why is this?  The truth is, how we see our condition at a given time depends on our physical condition (1, “how we feel”) and our frame of mind (2, “how we think about” our situation.  The differences in how different people respond to similar situations also depends on how they “choose to think” about their situation.

Rational, Faith-Grounded Responses
Dr. Caroline Leaf, a communication pathologist and audiologist has conducted research for years in the field of cognitive neuroscience.  She believes that God created our minds in His image and has given us the free will to choose “how we will think” and react to our circumstances.  Therefore, Dr. Leaf has based her research on God’s revelation in Scriptures.  In Romans 12: 2, God commands us to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, and in Deuteronomy 30: 19, God lovingly invites us to choose life in order that you may live….
Dr. Leaf integrates this Scriptural principle with neuroscience in her book entitled Switch on Your Brain (Baker Books, 2013).  She writes,

Free will and choice are real, spiritual, and scientific facts. Your mind (soul) has one foot in the door of the spirit and one foot in the door of the body; you can change your brain with your mind and essentially renew your mind.

The author cites scientific research pointing to a cause-and-effect relationship between “what we believe” (Response #3 above) about God and our capacity to overcome challenges to physical health. 

As we have cited in a March 22, 2020 Oikonomia article, Dr. Leaf describes a University of Miami study of patients being treated for (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).  The researchers concluded that the most significant factor affecting healing in HIV-infected patients “was their choice to believe in a benevolent and loving God.”  These kinds of scientific findings emphasize the important link between “how we think” (2), how we “choose to think,” and “what we believe” (3).  [Note:  We also recognize that in the eternal span of time before each of us came into being as creatures in God’s image, capable of making choices, He chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.  In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will…(Ephesians 1: 4-5). The "Doctrine of Election" is a subject for another time, but those who wish to study the subject can begin HERE with a resource by Dr. John MacArthur.]

Although feeling, thinking, and believing are interconnected, “feeling” is heavily based on our physical senses; whereas, “thinking and believing” are heavily based on our rational ability, our faith, and our worldview that forms through our experience and learning.

How would you respond if someone were to ask you, “Do you believe there is a God?”   Which of the following would your choose to begin your response:
(1) “I feel ….”
(2) “I think ….”
(3) “I believe ….”

Clearly, our response to “the God question” cannot be based solely upon “what we feel” or “what we think.”  Unless we claim to be God, we have no capacity to claim whether or not God exists.  However, it appears that more and more people are presuming to take the place of God when they deny the existence of objective truth.  The term objective truth applies to a proposition that is considered true no matter what we believe to be the case.

Worldview by "Cut-and-Paste"
We have amassed great knowledge, yet increasing numbers of people question whether objective truth even exists.  This trend is supported by a recent study.

Based on a survey of 2,000 adult Americans (1,000 by phone; 1,000 online) taken in February, 2021 by George Barna, over half (54%) embrace the postmodern idea that all truth is subjective and there are no moral absolutes.  Barna concludes (emphasis added), “We’re just at a place in our country’s history now where that’s the default view.  Most people would say all truth is subjective and there’s no kind of objective truth based on an external standard.  They would say they’re the standard that determines what truth is.

Barna’s survey, conducted through the Cultural Research Center at
Arizona Christian University, offered a series of questions designed to determine the personal worldview of each respondent.  The results, reported in the American Worldview Inventory 2021, are very disturbing, not because of the views expressed but because the views were not based on well informed and coherent thinking.

Based on the respondents’ answers to the questions, only 6% were identified as truly holding to a “biblical worldview.”  Given this low percentage, it is at first puzzling that the biblical worldview was “the most prolific of the seven worldviews tested.”  Another approximately 6% of respondents were scattered among six other worldviews with no more than 2% qualifying to be assigned to any one of the six particular worldviews (see table).   What about the remaining 88% of respondents?

Instead of “developing an internally consistent and philosophically coherent perspective on life,” 88% of Americans are adopting points of view or actions that feel comfortable or seem most convenient” – i.e. using a cut-and-paste approach to making sense of, and responding to life.”   As a result, most Americans who claim adherence to a given belief system are insufficiently developed in both their intellectual understanding and in their behavior and lifestyle to qualify them as being true representatives” of that particular worldview.  For example, 9% of respondents “have a moderately strong set of beliefs and behaviors related to Marxism, Eastern Mysticism, or Nihilism, but “an insufficient breadth of such beliefs and behaviors to qualify as being a true representative of any of those worldviews.”

Feelings Rationally Grounded

Returning to our range of responses, feeling, thinking, and believing, we can explain at least one cause of the troubling trend detected by George Barna’s 2021 worldview inventory; namely, emotion-driven reactions and decisions are replacing those based on careful exercise of critical reasoning.  At the very time when our culture faces both great societal challenges and great tools for addressing these challenges, we seem least prepared to respond emotionally, rationally, and spiritually.

The table below lists seven major societal issues followed by a brief statement we might commonly hear in the media or in conversation.  Notice the prominence of an emotional component in the responses.  However, even though compassion and empathy are important qualities we ought to express toward those who are struggling, these qualities must be guided by rational and moral policies if we are going to solve these problems.


Each of these societal concerns have grown out of a history of what many believe are deviations from God’s commands revealed in the Bible.  The Old Testament, in Exodus 20, reveals how God gave His chosen people, the Israelites, the Ten Commandments, or the ten “Thou shalt not’s.”  God’s purpose was not to “steal their joy” but to give them a moral foundation for a society that would protect them from evil and help them become a “shining city on a hill” for the rest of the world to see and want to copy.   To the extent that Israel followed these commands, they prospered.  But deviations from these spiritual laws gradually caused the Jewish nation to lose their godly distinctions and eventually to be exiled by pagan nations.

Out of His mercy in order to redeem His people Israel, God came in the incarnate form of His Son, Jesus Christ.   Jesus came not to replace the Law but to fulfill the Law through His sinless life, atoning death on the Cross, and resurrection in victory over death that whoever believes in Him as their Savior from sin “should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3: 16).”  Jesus added,

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil
(John 3: 17-19). 

God has already come to us with objective truth claims in the Bible that He is the Creator, His creation reveals His power and nature, and that it is so obvious that we are without excuse if we deny it (Romans 1: 20).  The Apostle Paul elaborates about how the tendency of mankind has been to reject and suppress God’s truth (Romans 1: 18).  Those who reject God’s truth, will fall prey to accepting nonsense and be morally and spiritually corrupted to the core of their lives.  Paul described this awful result in Romans 1: 21-23:

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

The rest of Romans 1 reveals the tragic downward path of those who reject God’s authority and absolute truth.  They are left to live in the darkness of moral relativism in which “truth” is what each individual deems it to be.  Returning to the seven (7) commonly heard statements above we can see how each cultural problem results from a deviation from the moral standards given in Scripture.  Each statement is also rooted in one or more misconceptions expressed by a person who has rejected or is ignorant of God’s moral and ethical principles.  In each of the seven, we briefly point out how the problem can be corrected by addressing the deviation from God’s ideal.  However, in no way do we want to imply that the solutions are simple.


Summary: Feeling, Thinking, Believing
In summary, each of us have physical, emotional, rational, and spiritual dimension to our lives.  All of these are interrelated components of our personality; but by itself, each is limited as a way of knowing and judging truth and reality.  We may answer a question about “how we feel” in words, or by our facial expression, or by pointing to a cartoon face or an emoji.   However, to answer questions related to “how we feel about” or “how we choose to react” to our situation, we must draw more heavily upon our rational and spiritual components.  We must be aware of our worldview and what we are basing our reasoning upon.   Recall Barna’s statistics on poorly grounded worldviews?

Thinking carelessly and communicating with tweets and emojis will not be adequate.  And problems in family, church, community, and government resulting from rejection of God’s revealed wisdom in the Bible will certainly not be solved by atheistic, humanistic approaches.  First Corinthians 2: 14 states, the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The proper function of family, church, school, private corporations, and government depends upon documents such as the U.S. Constitution as well as various bylaws, legal codes, and covenants, all written in words in a rational manner.  Most of these in turn, rest upon the objective revelation of the Bible concerning the nature of man.  Due to our tendency to lust for power, there is a need to avoid the concentration of power and its corrupting influence, and to incorporate ways to hold individuals morally and spiritually accountable. 

God’s Word makes clear that ultimate reality is not this physical, temporary universe which we can see, hear, touch, taste and smell.  We can only discern spiritual reality when we submit to the Word of God and His Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2: 13) to renew our minds (Romans 12: 2) and teach us to discern spiritual truth (John 14: 26).  Then, the Peace of God will replace our anxious feelings, and His love and care will uphold us for the challenges we face.

We hope this article will help you toward better discernment of issues in our world through proper exercise of your capacities for feeling, knowing, and believing.  As always, we welcome your “Comments” using the link below; or, please write privately to silviusj@gmail.com.  You may want to express how you feel, or what you think about this article, and share what you believe and why.