Thoughts on July 4th’s Past and Present

Jun 30, 2021 by David Fowler

Thoughts on July 4th’s Past and Present
I remember well when, on a July 4th weekend in 1994, during my first campaign for the Tennessee Senate, I sat in the balcony of the church now known as Abba’s House for its patriotic service and quietly wept for the condition of my country. Twenty-seven years later, I look at the situation far differently.
The difference is not found in any improved perception on my part of our nation’s condition or its prospects. From my perspective, conditions have deteriorated dramatically (people punching and biting each other on an airplane? Come on!). The prospects for our nation do not seem any brighter, but worse. But what do I know about the future? I’m not God. 
Not being God—me or you or those to whom our society looks for salvation: the President, Congress, Supreme Court Justices and their state counterparts—is precisely what has caused me to see things differently. 

The real condition of our Country

Abraham Kuyper, in the Stone Lectures he presented to the Princeton Seminary in 1898, expressed well what I now sense deep within my bones is true in our nation:
The most alarming feature . . . of the present situation is the lamentable absence of that receptivity in our diseased organism, which is indispensable to the effecting of a cure. 

What was absent, he went on to say, was that,
with the masses the receptivity for the Gospel is on the decrease, whilst with the scientists the positive aversion to it is on the increase. The invitation to bow the knee before Christ, as God, is met so often with a shrug of the shoulders, if not with the sarcastic rejoinder: Fit for children and old women, not for us men!

In sum, “The modern philosophy, which gains the day, considers itself in ever-increasing measure as having outgrown Christianity.” 

Indeed, a Gallup poll released last week began with this headline, “Perceptions of Religious Influence Near Record Low.”

What this condition says about the “condition” of “Christianity”

What makes me look at the situation today differently from how I did in 1994 is not the condition of the country, but the condition of what we would call the church, evangelicalism, even Christianity. “Truth stumbles in the streets” (Isaiah 59:14, NASB) when it disappears from “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15, NKJV).

Whether “pillar and ground of the truth” is intended to reference “the church” or “the living God,” is probably of no real moment if we understand that those who constitute “the church” are constituted one, joined to its head, Jesus, by the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God (Romans 8:9, 15:19). 

Why provide all these descriptions of the Spirit? Because in this tri-fold description of the Spirit lies the doctrine of the Trinity—a union of essence and a diversity of persons in God—which today is so little regarded, appreciated, or preached on in church services. Yet, it is the very heart and soul of the “Gospel of God” (Romans 1:1).

A Godless “Christianity”?

In other words, Christianity is not first about repentance and faith toward God, regeneration, justification, sanctification, Heaven or Hell, moral reform, or “spiritual gifts.” Christianity is first about God, the revelation of who God is, and the proclamation of that revelation. It is “after you have known God, or rather [become] known by God” (Galatians 4:9, NKJV) that the importance, meaning, and reality of all the other things we have reduced Christianity down to begin to come into focus. 

The “mystery” of the gospel is the revelation of the Triune Being of God and all that entails (Ephesians 3:3-4, 9, Colossians 1:26-28, 1 Timothy 3:16). The gospel’s “good news” is the offer by God the Father for a person to be in a real and substantial union with Him, warranted by the reconciling mediatorial work of God the Son and applied to a person by the work of God the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 1:30, Ephesians 3:3-10, Colossians 1:26-27).

To the best of my knowledge and recollection, that gospel was never preached with any clarifying unity and cohesion in any church I attended during the first 50+ years of my life.

And without that gospel, the church offers “treatments” that can be only partial in effect, not the “antidote” we need. 

My thoughts about the future

I have this brooding sense, born of my own experience over five decades, that “sound doctrine” about the true nature, character, and work of God drawn from consideration of the whole of God’s revealed Word is not being regularly and faithfully proclaimed from very many pulpits. 

This is what now causes me to weep for my country (Jeremiah 9:1, 13:15-19, 14:7), not a sense of patriotism or the efforts of liberals, leftists, Democrats, RINO’s and the like and their effect on culture.

But the good news and my only comfort in pressing on in what I do is this: the present state of things is not the final state of things, even in this world. The Christian can count on His Heavenly Father’s Word that His Son will “sit at [His] right hand until He makes His Son’s enemies a footstool for His feet (Psalm 2:8-9 and 110:1, 1 Corinthians 15:23-28). For, even “if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself" (2 Timothy 2:11). I’m counting on that.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. 

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