Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Friday, May 15, 2009

    What's Needed Today in People of Leadership

    A few days ago Christopher Hitchens caught my attention when in an interview in his typical bold form stated he thought President Obama was "one of them" and pointed to Obama's quoting Thomas Paine in his inaugural address "without any reference to who he was." This especially gained my attention when listening to the president deliver his graduation address to Arizona State University and hearing him quote Thomas Paine again and reference his Confessions without reference to the man.

    Paine, though he grew up in a Quaker context, became a professing DEIST. In the second part of his Age of Reason, he wrote:

    The opinions I have advanced . . . are the effect of the most clear and long-established conviction that the Bible and the Testament are impositions upon the world, that the fall of man, the account of Jesus Christ being the Son of God, and of his dying to appease the wrath of God, and of salvation, by that strange means, are all fabulous inventions, dishonorable to the wisdom and power of the Almighty; that the only true religion is Deism, by which I then meant, and mean now, the belief of one God, and an imitation of his moral character, or the practice of what are called moral virtues – and that it was upon this only (so far as religion is concerned) that I rested all my hopes of happiness hereafter. So say I now – and so help me God.

    It's unclear whether the president follows Paine and quotes him because of his political positions, liberalism, intellectualism, recognition as a revolutionary, etc.; however, I would be interested to see the question presented to him.

    In this context, along with considering the articles addressing the administration's position of trying to avoid the major issues on abortion (and by present inaction) to fail to protect life, ... along with other issues including weaknesses evident in personal accounts of leader's religious faith, the exceeding priority given to the politics rather than righteousness, etc., I've come to believe what's needed most today in people of leadership is a renewed sense of the transcendence and especially the immananence of God pertaining not only to the fear of the Lord but the continual impression of the active presence of the Lord which not only affects one's perspective of the present and of one's responsibleness before the Lord but reminds them of their ongoing and future accountability. What a difference it would make if rather than quoting and/or practically living like deists, leaders today in all areas of life were to come to be awakened with the conviction of God's personal and reigning presence, ... the one who is the king of kings and lord of lords, who raises up and brings down, and before whom we all serve and ultimately answer.


    jazzycat said...

    Wouldn't Deism be the only coherent conclusion of pluralistic thinking? IOW, if all the many religions worship the same God, then all the many religions are wrong about the revelation they assert about God. Therefore, the only truth left would be a deistic supreme being.

    However, we live in a culture that willingly embraces nonsense in the name of being politically correct, so I guess logic and truth have been discounted.

    swordbearer said...


    A couple of nuances:
    1. Pluralism doesn't necessarily seek a coherent conclusion (but "accepts each as valid", is interested in "engagement" of one another while holding differences, etc.)
    2. In pluralism, all the many religions do not necessarily claim to worship the same God (though many if not most would probably claim they attempt to do so).

    This being said, you're right when you state we live in a culture ...where "logic and truth have been discounted." This is intentional with a worldview which seeks to avoid the results and divisiveness of battles between past truth claims but ends up "keeping the bathwater as well as the baby" and suggests what's important is not whether one is right or wrong in thinking their bath water is a baby, but whether both those with babies and those with bath water are willing to come to the table with their commitments and engage with one another.

    In regard to deism tending to become the "de facto" default or generally accepted working model, I think you are correct; though it must be pointed out that public agreement and/or embrace does not make it truth, nor does such embrace keep one (or society) from experiencing the consequences of settling upon falsehood and failing to live by truth.