[We interrupt this post on Jan. 11, 2014 to wish Alton Shea a Happy 100th Birthday. For reasons why, and for details you'll get nowhere else, check the " * " after the last endnote.]

[I pray that whatever is true and matters here be remembered, whatever is misguided or false be forgotten, and whatever is trivial will do no harm¹.]

RULES TO FOLLOW

 

Of course, “follow” can mean one of two things here: (a) things you ought to do, or (b) the “rules” that I plan to tell you about will be listed next. In this case I mean both. But you have to go through the DOOR for more.

[MORE]

Of course, if you’re a Darwinian Naturalist, this will sound like nonsense, or perhaps the preamble to something humorous. A strict Darwinian naturalist, who believes “nature” is all that is would say something like : “Eat, propagate, and try to survive.” But why say even that? Perhaps because there’s no such thing as purpose. If living feels good, do it. If you feel concern for others that have less, or some great need, that comes from somewhere else–not strict Darwinism.

The only possible justification for being “nice” to people (or animals) around you, is some kind of “faith” that you might have that they will be nice to you in return and enable you to live longer and propagate more.

But why should they?

Sounds pretty cold. And sad.

But to step into “rules” that go beyond self-preservation and propagation, you have to step beyond Darwinian science² and  into something else.

Let me step into the new year with something personal. For the past several months I began reading (on my Kindle) the Bible chapter by chapter beginning with the Gospel of John. The book of Romans, by St. Paul, seems to get the closest to spelling out, systematically, what Christianity is all about: what people are, what they should do in relation to God and people around them. At times, to many Paul’s description of Jesus Christ and what Christian faith should mean to Jews and non-Jews is complex.

But one day reading in Chapter 12, after Paul makes the point that Christian believers should be “living sacrifices,” he gives several concrete examples of what this means. Since readers know that I, the main writer, like to number, I’ll present these this way. Notice I’m skipping through the chapter, not mentioning everything.

(1)  Rom. 12: 9.  “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

This involves making some choices, not just accepting and wallowing in everything. And this does not mean hate bad people, just bad things.

(2)  Rom. 12: 10.  “Be devoted to one another.”

From the context, since Romans is addressed to all Christians, this means Christians should especially look out for and help one another. In other passages, however, such as Jesus’ parable of the “The Good Samaritan” Christians are not to be blind to the needs of nonbelievers as well.

(3)  Rom. 12:  “Never be lacking in zeal.”

Enthusiasm–which visibly displayed or not–is something God desires.

(4)  Rom. 12: 13.   “Share with God’s people who are in need.”

Sometimes small amounts of money, sometimes large (that hard for me); sometimes using big hands, sometimes little. No waiting for payback.

(5)  Rom. 12: 16  “Live in harmony with one another…be willing to associate with people of low position.”

The text goes on to say “do not repay evil for evil”…”If it is possible…live at peace with everyone.”…”Do not take revenge.”

There are many other generalities like this, but the sense of the text is that we do these things honestly trying to please God, and help others, not just to play a game of lies to preserve our own skins. The Bible supports this. Darwinian Naturalism–as a philosophic system–would consider this nonsense.

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¹ This is far from a systematic treatment of the text of Romans. It is merely a sharing devotional thoughts which occurred after reading Romans 12 silently in a restaurant one morning. And this reading went well with coffee.

² In short, Darwinian Naturalism accepts by faith, or as some might say, “lack of evidence,” that matter and energy is all that exists, and that God does not exist. Of course, some Christians claim to be Darwinists, but insist–describing this in several ways–that God is also involved.

ADDENDUM

* For decades, Alton Shea was a dedicated and beloved missionary and pastor to West Africa and western N. Y. State, mainly with the Wesleyan Methodist Church. With wife Aileen, a talented Pulitzer Prize artist (who died at 95), Alton served in pastorates, radio ministries, in and around Houghton College (where Aileen started the art dept.) and in several administrative responsibilities. Two more details:

(1) Alton had 7 siblings. Of the 8, 3 have reached 100 (or more) and 4 others reached 90 (or more). In April, 2013, we reported the death of Alton’s brother George Beverly Shea (evangelist Billy Graham’s soloist) at 104.

(2) My (your chief writer’s) connection to this family: For 2 of my grandchildren, Alton is their great-grandfather. It was a joy for my family to see Alton Shea at his son’s house in Houghton this past Thanksgiving. Alton was, and is, a beautiful, kind, and faithful servant to the God he deeply and consistently loves.