Chernobyl meltdown

Meltdown: A Reflection

By Paul Bright

The Worst Meltdown in History

Recently, I had the privilege of watching the dramatic miniseries Chernobyl, an interpretation of the events surrounding the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl. The series is a horrifying presentation of the arrogance of man, not in the pursuit of science, but in the self-deception of his own pride at pushing the limits of known quantifiers while placing a false faith in a failsafe that can be readily pushed at any moment if something goes wrong.

The Critical Moment of Explosion and Meltdown

As the personal ambition of men pushed a dangerous test, administered by unqualified persons with incoherent instructions, the moment began when the reactor surged out of control. The nuclear engineers, thinking that the boron control rods could instantly be lowered into the out-of-control mix of xenon gas, radioactive uranium, and superheated water, pushed the failsafe button, AZ-5. All the control rods, which should have instantly stopped the nuclear reaction, caused it to explode. The reason? The boron rods themselves, were defectively made. The result was an explosion of the nuclear core, the ejection of nuclear material and radiation, and death and destruction, which no words in a simple paragraph could describe. Obviously, this article will use “meltdown” metaphorically, not literally.

The Arrogance of Unbounded Liberty

All motives and decisions of life individually and together are driven, it seems, by what is uncritically defined as a yearning for liberty. Assuming that the yearning itself is always good, the human spirit pushes ever closer to the edge of every limiting agent to find its ultimate expression of freedom.

“It is unbounded, uncontrolled, and uncontained. It is radioactive libertinism.”

It is unbounded, uncontrolled, and uncontained. It is radioactive libertinism. Whether this occurs in an individual’s mind, the family unit, in church, or in government and culture, the pursuit of liberty for liberty’s sake is justified, celebrated, and pursued. Slogans abound as eternal testaments to liberty, in Declarations of Independence, in state mottos, on statues, in art, and by echo chamber populists. While simultaneously praising liberty, these depictions are flooded with the vilification of authority. And thus, over time, in the conscience of man, in the family, in the church, and in the government and culture, the building up of heat and friction, hatred, anger, vainglory, and self-centeredness start emitting as radioactive fuel, damaging rather than energizing. The control rods of authority are unnecessary, unneeded, unwanted, and counter the nature of the progress of liberty.

The Deception of Instantaneous Authority

And once the danger of the radioactive liberty is seen, the voice of men start calling for instantaneous solutions to halt the ever-growing, out-of-control trend. Demagogues and autocrats rush down into the mix. They present themselves as the only ones who can stop the destruction, and capitalize on every misfortune and evil deed to expand even more influence and power for themselves. Churches become dominated and ruled, not by those who understand the words of Christ that the greatest of these are the least of all and a slave, but the greatest of these are those who are like the gentiles, ruling and reigning and exalting themselves over others. Because God needs His strong leaders on earth, not an absent king in heaven. Families are no longer examples of sacrifice and voluntary submission for the nurture, admonition, and edification of all, but an extinguishing experience of excision from all relationships that exasperates everyone.

“Families are no longer examples of sacrifice and voluntary submission for the nurture, admonition, and edification of all, but an extinguishing experience of excision from all relationships that exasperates everyone.”

Man replaces general welfare for others with the false righteousness of self-love, self-care, and self-rest under the auspices of self-improvement while at the same time being overly critical about other’s selfishness and never understanding why self-inwardness never satisfies. 

The Explosion

But, just like Chernobyl, the authorities operating as independent instantaneous solutions are defective themselves. When Israel wanted a king like all the other nations after centuries of direct salvation by God through judges against the “liberty of man” for idolatry, He warned them how the king would abuse his authority and consolidate riches, power, possessions, and glory for himself at their expense. Everything God said came to pass exactly and repeatedly. The results were a divided kingdom, war, generational animosity, violence, and the final covenantal curse of the discipline of losing their nation. This explosive ejection and meltdown are the inevitable ends for the present course of our country, churches, families, and ourselves. 

The radioactive liberty in the heart of man is not squelched, but instead, the authoritarianism accelerates the whole toxic and heated and destructive mix of rebellion. The explosion, ejection, and meltdown happen once the unconstrained pursuit of liberty is pushed to its very edge as a human right. At the same time, the desire for immediate, instantaneous authority slams down into the whole reactor of men’s hearts. Boom!

“The radioactive liberty in the heart of man is not squelched, but instead, the authoritarianism accelerates the whole toxic and heated and destructive mix of rebellion. The explosion, ejection, and meltdown happen once the unconstrained pursuit of liberty is pushed to its very edge as a human right.”

How to Prevent a Meltdown

What can stop the explosion, ejection, and meltdown of all good things that one receives from the image of God in oneself, in families, in churches, and in government? The answer seems easy, but requires an impossible work that one cannot achieve for oneself.

The first answer is not to pursue liberty as the most basic of all human rights. The great lie from the enemy of all is to pursue liberty because it is good and beautiful and true, and the only One who is worthy of all authority is none of those things and should never be trusted, loved, believed, and obeyed. Changing that in the heart of man is not a human work. It cannot be achieved by a desire for self-improvement. It is not natural to humans. To liberate oneself and enslave others is human; to serve others and enslave oneself is divine. Therefore, repent from the idea that the purpose of man is liberty uncontained.

The second answer is to understand that liberty and authority are interrelational and interdependent. The cultural tenet that liberty and authority are mutually exclusive and should only be used as such is a faith in a failsafe that does not exist. Liberty drives invention, imagination, and service towards a progress of edification and unity. Authority regulates the tendency of liberty to go beyond the beneficial into self-determinationism. Liberty challenges the tendency of authority to go beyond the protection of all to willful edicts and aggrandizement. This is what checks and balances should mean.

Finally, the third answer is that the solution itself might be slow. Patience in re-establishing the balance between liberty and authority might take time and effort. Instruction in the nature of liberty and authority in all spheres of the image of God (conscience, family, church, and nation) should be intimately connected with a biblical anthropology and a robust understanding of hamartiology.

The divine work of balance between liberty and authority will happen in one heart, one family, one church, and then one nation.

Paul Bright profile headshot

Paul Bright currently works in the field of Biotechnology. He is a native of Evansville, IN, and an alumnus of Purdue University and The Master’s Seminary. Paul was a Systematic Theology and Ancient Hebrew professor in Samara, Russia. He and his wife, Jennifer, homeschooled their daughter all the way through high school and currently reside in Covington, Louisiana. You can read Paul’s other contributions here.

Good Friday - It is Finished!

Good Friday: It is Finished!

By Edward Murray

How could that Friday be good?

Let’s be honest: to call the day of Jesus’ crucifixion “good” is counterintuitive and sounds odd to the watching world. How can we call a day marked by suffering and mourning “good”? How can we say that a bloody cross is “good”?

Yet, this day most definitely is good, because it marks the most powerful and momentous weekend in history! This is the weekend that all of history points to – where the world was changed forever! 

On this day a couple millennia ago, Jesus paid for our sins and rose from the dead, showing the world that the grave has no hold on him. Moreover, for those who are marked by Christ, his resurrection serves as an eternal receipt, proving that their debt is completely paid.

Without the cross, there is no gospel

You can’t have Christianity without the cross. Sure, Jesus is a great teacher, whom we must learn from and model our lives after, but if we don’t have the cross, we don’t have the gospel. If we don’t have a real resurrection of the eternal Son of God in bodily form, occurring in real-time history, then everything is meaningless.

“You can’t have Christianity without the cross.”

Spanning the gospels, one will find various angles recorded of the cross. Yet, in one account recorded by the apostle John, we see Jesus lifting the battle cry that Good Friday points to: “It is Finished!” Not only is THIS the most relieving statement anyone has made in history, but it’s quite possibly the most powerful sermon ever preached, and only with three words.

“…So they took Jesus, 17and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written…”

28After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:16-30 (ESV)

The Christian’s rest and relief extends into eternity

One of the hardest things I’ve ever accomplished in life was when I earned my master’s degree. Of course, suffering is relative, but academics don’t come naturally to me. I had to work very hard to get to graduation. And I can still recall how I felt the day I walked across the stage to receive my degree and relish knowing it was finished! Whatever relative turmoil and trial any of us have faced in life to arrive at a proverbial finish line, Jesus’ “finishing” takes that temporal rest and relief, multiplies it by infinity, and extends it to eternity!

In our passage, one of the key things to focus on is the apostle’s recording in v. 28: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), ‘I thirst.’”

What does John mean when he says that this scene occurred to ‘fulfill the scripture’?

To answer this question, John alludes to Psalm 22 with Jesus’ reception of sour wine and his garments being divided. However, one of the most significant elements of this passage comes from John’s mention of the hyssop branch (v. 29).

Don’t miss the significance of these elements leading us towards Jesus’ final breath that Friday. With the hyssop branch, John points us to the primary aim of Christ’s mission. It reminds us of the atoning blood sprinkled during Israel’s Passover celebration: God required blood to cover his people, so that their blood wouldn’t be required as the cost for their sins.

In Exodus 12:22, we read about the first Passover. In order to escape the penalty of the final plague, God’s people were to “take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts…” Additionally, this was likely David’s allusion when he confessed, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7)

 At the Passover, the threat of judgment – a final plague – loomed over all the people, both Egyptians and Israelites. It didn’t matter which people group they belonged to. To escape wrath, the blood of an unblemished lamb was required by hyssop to paint the entrance to one’s house.

By turning to Jesus, you can look to that Friday and say, “It is Finished! It is complete! My debt has been paid, and my sin is atoned for!”

There are only two options:

(1) You pay the penalty of the plague.

or…

(2) A substitute pays the penalty of the plague.

To put this another way, when Jesus received the sour wine with hyssop, the Lord of the universe proclaimed that he finished in real time what the Passover only pictured and typified.

You and I have an eternal debt that we cannot pay. We have sinned before the Holy Eternal Triune God of the universe, but Jesus’ proclamation is that he has finished his work, and the threat of judgment can be spared and atoned for if you look to him as your substitute. By turning to Jesus, you can look to that Friday and say, “It is Finished! It is complete! My debt has been paid, and my sin is atoned for!”

And, keep in mind, Jesus doesn’t say that it is potentially finished, but that it is actually finished! Elaborating on this would take a whole other series, but for now, it can be said that this is a beautiful mystery. Jesus fully atoned for the sins of his people over two thousand years ago, and on that day, when he said, “It IS finished!” he declared this for all who ever have and ever will call on him.

“Believe this, rest in this, and proclaim this!”

The worst day in history was the best day in history

That Friday was good! And this coming Friday, when we look back to his crucifixion, we can mourn the sin of the world and the punishment it deserves, while at the same time proclaiming the goodness of that day.

Dear Christian, remember the truth this week. Believe this, rest in this, and proclaim this! At the cross, Jesus completed the task and proclaimed that it is finished!

And when you’re done remembering Friday, remember that he rose on the third day, which changes everything.

Edward Murray profile headshot

Edward Murray currently serves as Manager of Special Projects and Policy Research for Classical Conversations® and The Homeschool Freedom Action Center. He is a native of Augusta, GA, and an alumnus of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC, where he earned his M.Div. He lives in Newport News, VA, with his wife and three children.

A young man bowing his head down on a church alter at sunset

Behold, How Sinners Disagree

by Paul Bright

The following is a modified and expanded version of Isaac Watt’s Behold, How Sinners Disagreewhich was composed for the purpose of discipling our hearts into humility and grace.

Paul Bright also contributed the blog “Swamp Fire: A Reflection” which was published on January 24, 2024.

Paul Bright currently works in the field of Biotechnology. He is a native of Evansville, IN, and an alumnus of Purdue University and The Master’s Seminary. Paul was a Systematic Theology and Ancient Hebrew professor in Samara, Russia. He and his wife, Jennifer, homeschooled their daughter all the way through high school and currently reside in Covington, Louisiana.

a dark silhouette of the back of a person watching a blazing fire

Swamp Fire: A Reflection

By Paul Bright

You Know It’s Hot When the Swamp is On Fire

Driving to a vacation spot this summer for our annual sabbatical at the beach, my wife and I were on Interstate 12 near Stennis at the border between Louisiana and Mississippi. Like much of southern Louisiana and Mississippi, this area is filled with wetlands, bayous, creeks, cricks, rivers, and overgrowth that rivals any dystopian, apocalyptic movie. And it was on fire. A burn ban had been in place for quite some time, but the extended heat of the summer and the lack of rain had turned the vegetation into a tinderbox. The flames had jumped from the westbound lanes, through the median, and onto the eastbound lanes. Thick smoke filled the whole area, making visibility impossible and covering everything with soot and charred smell. In my characteristic deadpan humor, I turned to my wife and said, “You know it’s hot when the swamp is on fire.”

A Quick Laugh and Further Reflection

Only my wife can chuckle at such dry humor. However, the conditions for a fire in a swamp were clear and longstanding due to the combination of neglect, rebellion, and environment. The surprise of driving through a swamp fire was humorous and ironic, in that it illustrates the swamp fire of Western Culture. But what are some of the conditions that lead to the blazing chaos that is burning through our culture, and why are there so few Christians who seem unaware or willing to do anything?

The Putrid Soil of Idealism

Idealism, philosophically defined, is the theory of epistemology that teaches that the mind forms reality. Historically, idealism arose from pursuing rationalism during the Enlightenment in thinkers such as Hegel, Leibnitz, and, to a lesser extent, Kant. In the proponents that followed the Enlightenment, pure subjective idealism became not merely Optimism but also a teaching that the mind does not create the idea but the thing itself. Thus, pure subjective idealism results in the creation of the thing directly. Through the power of the mind, man creates the very thing imagined by thought. The subject creates through noumena (from the Greek word, nous, “mind”). “The duality of the matter and mind,” as Bavinck surmised, has been “denied, and the thing and the representation of the thing, being and thinking, are viewed essentially as one.” 1

The Voracious Weeds in the Swamp

Pure subjective idealism infected Christianity directly through the charlatans of the Word-Faith movement and continues in a more mass-appealing form in the hucksters peddling the prosperity gospel, where the conjoined sins of self-worship and greed increasingly breed ever-blasphemous pronouncements in the name of Christ. The recent history of Western Christianity is dominated by these popular teraphim (from the ancient Hebrew, “false idols”) that are adored and emulated. There is a headlong rush toward any living savior who can speak of money, fame, and celebrity as a blessing. Their numbers are only limited to how quickly followers can heap on teachers. Their influence is only limited by their opportunity to jump from a smaller idolatrous family to a whole tribe (Judges 17-18). They are weeds, all. Truly, truly, they are cursed directly by our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:24-26).

The Impenetrable Undergrowth

Growing unchecked out of this idealism is the regurgitated anthropological teaching that the affections are granted a substance and an epistemological and moral priority. Feelings are given a “soul” with an unyielding, undiminishable, and immutable authority. Feelings are an abiding revelation, a self-originating, self-authenticating, self-interpreting impetus, as base and necessary to existence as breathing air. Thus, feelings are presented as a prius (from Latin, “a prior thing”), not a posterius (from Latin, “a following thing”). Feelings internal and subjective are the ousia (from Greek, “substance”) and hyparchis (from Greek, “abiding presence”) and are, similarly, necessarily detached from phenomena (Greek from phenoo, “I observe”). The new category is aesthemena (Greek from aesthima, “feeling”).  

Swamp Undergrowth is Not a Garden

This affectional ratio ad vitam (Latin for ‘meaning for life’) corrupted historic Christian theology by a deceptively disastrous mutation in the skewed recharacterization of God’s love as eros (from Greek, “sensual love”), not agape (from Greek, “love by choice”). Popularized by multiple, respected, well-studied, philosophical, historical, and exegetical preachers and teachers, the apex of Christian virtue became “Glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” Feelings as motive, as drive, as the substance was drunk in, as living water. Passion and pleasure were put forward in man and God as the only true achievement, embodiment, and reciprocation of glory. Anything of will and duty is of works and baseless and useless. Rather than growing a well-tended garden, the result was an entangling, unstable, impenetrable overgrowth of affectional mass. Undergrowth is not beautiful, and it was part of the curse (Genesis 3:18). Man was never designed by God to be led by affections.

The Match Was Thrown

Is it any wonder that the current cultural climate is one where the mind exhibits and engages in pure subjective irrationality from the prius of the feelings? This is why debates based on phenomena and logic are rejected immediately, comprehensively, and violently based on feelings. The person who believes that the mind is an organ of feelings that stimulate the creation of reality is irrationally enslaved. These persons will go to great lengths to subjugate their thoughts and the observable world around them to conform to their feelings. These persons must create from the inside out, from the affections as the source, through the mind as means, to the outside, as the transformative object. These have made themselves as Deity in their feelings, to which any, and eventually all, must prostrate in obedience.

The Fire Consumes and Is Healthy?

However, in order to create, these persons must first destroy. They will destroy all norms, whether individual or societal, amoral or moral, religious or civil. Worse still, this destruction and recreation is repackaged as a necessary mental health crisis for these individuals when the world outside of them does not immediately conform to their idealism. This explains why their verbal and material reactions include radical outbursts of violence and, contradictorily, simultaneously and exclusively, claim themselves to be recipients of violence. You have, in their reality, assaulted their most complete and necessary substance and being.  

Where there is Fire, there is Smoke

The pursuit of this idolatry will destroy them internally as well as raze relationships, morals, institutions, and societies. The consequences of idealism are already observed and experienced in the institutions of society through education, government, employment, military, health services, the family, and religion. The planned destruction through idealism is combined with the blatant realignment of the historic political foundation of our country. Marxism, at its roots, views man as tolpa (Russian for “herd”). The target of Marxism has always been and will be the most innocent and vulnerable…children. Familial, ecclesiastical, educational, technological, governmental, and societal fumes will billow from the smoldering miasma of this Idealism and Marxism.  

Putting out the Fire Through the Promise of Repentance

The only recourse for change is direct confrontation. Exposure of the insane irrationality comes through the proclamation of the objective revelation written in the Scriptures. There is hope that the convicting work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11) will shatter the illusion of self-deification. The promises of God to work for regeneration seen in true repentance have never been revoked.

Growing Anew

Corporately, Christians should pursue the position of illuminator and preserver (light and salt) through soberness, prayerfulness, engagement, and, as is customary in the course of Christian history, a willingness to suffer. It behooves Christians to live circumspectly, pure, clean, and with holy wisdom that comes down from the Father of Lights. Also, Christians should actively prune the undergrowth of this idealism and live worshipfully with the rich communities established on the Reformed doctrines of grace, which oppose idealism. Finally, Christian parents need to understand that the current culture fire is specifically designed to disintegrate their God-given position and responsibility as moral teachers and examples in the minds, hearts, and souls of their children in all respects. So, parents must make a choice and act. What will you choose to do?

Paul Bright currently works in the field of Biotechnology. He is a native of Evansville, IN, and an alumnus of Purdue University and The Master’s Seminary. He was a Systematic Theology and Ancient Hebrew professor in Samara, Russia. He and his wife, Jennifer, homeschooled their daughter all the way through high school and currently reside in Covington, Louisiana.

  1. Herman Bavink, Reformed Dogmatics. Vol. 1. (MI: Baker Academic, 2003), p. 216. ↩︎
beautifully jeweled crowns sitting on red cushions

The Perfect Monarchy

By Lauren Gideon

As I write this blog on New Year’s Day, I can’t help but take note of the colliding spheres of meaning in our holidays and in our politics. At this moment, firmly nested in between Advent and Epiphany, the entire focus of this season revolves around celebrating the arrival of the Holy Monarchy. Even people, whose consciences are opposed to recognizing December 25 for historical reasons, still revere the significance of the incarnation of the Eternal King.

Where Did Monarchy Come From?

The word “king” first appears in Genesis 14. In this chapter, nine kings are listed in the conflict that transpires. Four kings and their kingdoms wage war on the other five. When Lot and his household are captured, Abram is forced to intervene. At the end of the chapter, we learn about the King of Salem, Melchizedek, who was also a priest of the Most High God. This conflict happened around 1866 BC.

Other historical documents teach us about Namer, the first King in Egypt, who ruled around 3150 BC, and Enmebaragesi, King of Kish, in northern Babylonia, c. 2700 BC.

We have no record of God establishing a monarchy until 1 Samuel 8 (c. 1052 BC).

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 9 Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” (1 Samuel 8:4-9 ESV)

According to this passage, the people initiated the conversation and requested a king, and their request was an act of rejection. When God calls himself the people’s king, one question was whether he was defining monarchy or leveraging a term already a part of the ancient vocabulary.

God’s granting of their request was an act of revelation and consequence. In Samuel 12:17, Samuel gives the people a sign.

17 “Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking for yourselves a king.”

And the people responded with confession,

19 And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.”

God Still Gave a King

But this did not stop God from giving the people what they requested. This would begin the parade of Hebrew kings.

What is important to conclude is that just because God established a human monarchy does not change the fact that the request was an act of rejection and a wicked act. There is a sentiment among some Christians that because a human king ruled God’s chosen people and God directed the process of establishing the monarchy, this must mean that the Hebrew monarchy was good. However, the text is very clear about how God frames the event. It is essential to distinguish what God allows from what He calls good.

This confusion has continued throughout time. Much of classical liberalism literature was drafted in the 17th century in opposition to the Divine Rights theory. King James I of England (1603–25), who commissioned and was the namesake of the 1611 English translation of the Bible, was the foremost exponent of the divine right of kings.1

Sir Robert Filmer wrote an essential piece of literature on the divine rights theory in the early 17th century (published in 1680). A key aspect of his argument was that he claimed, “God Governed Always by Monarchy.”

John Locke and his contemporaries spent their lives untangling this mess, drawing on their observations of history and human nature. Do you know what they discovered? To summarize, they unpacked what scripture had always been saying:

10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good,
not even one.”
(Romans 3:10-12 ESV)

Paul’s words in Romans directly echo both Psalm 14 and Psalm 53.

None on Earth is Worthy

What scripture teaches us is that none on Earth is worthy. We have no non-wicked option to set up as a king! Additionally, all humanity is equal in merit. Each individual is an image bearer of Christ and possesses a totally depraved nature. Thus, these two questions must always be asked, “Who among us is worthy to rule someone else?” and “Who among us deserves to be ruled by another fallen human?”

In Thomas Jefferson’s first Inaugural Address, he deals with this issue: “Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.”

These age-old questions were addressed at the inception of our nation after centuries of debate and historical case studies. In our nation’s oldest official document, the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson penned these words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”— a direct affront to the divine rights theory!

Disclaimer: Although articulated and directed towards the monarchy, the elephant in the room is that while the young nation could see the injustice of the monarchy, some did not see the obvious egregious direct parallel with the slave trade. (And let’s not join in the hypocrisy by thinking our generation is the first that neither is ruled nor subjugated. There are many mechanisms of control in place based on the false premise that one “knows better” or that we ought to protect people from themselves.)

If we are to live in civility with equals, how is that possible? How can we honor the reality that no human is worthy to rule another human?

The answer to that question and a philosophical cornerstone for our constitutional republic is that “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Our system was one in which we fundamentally confessed humanity’s wickedness and inadequacies and acknowledged the injustice that occurs when one human is subjected to another. With violence, we threw off the shackles and injustice of the British Monarchy, and the United States of America was born.

And here we sit, 247 years later, contemplating and celebrating the advent of the Holy Monarchy, the king born in a stable over 2000 years ago. Is there any chance 21st-century Americans might need to attend to their conflicting thoughts on monarchy?

How Can Christ be King, and Monarchy be Imperfect?

Human monarchies are only imperfect because humans fall short. When God was preparing Adam for Eve, God first paraded all the “not-Eves” in front of Adam.

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. (Genesis 2:18-20 ESV)

Throughout history, a similar event has been unfolding from the ancient Kings, through the Hebrew kings, to the modern kings; a parade of unworthy counterfeits march across the pages of time. Their shortcomings cultivate an awareness and a yearning for what is missing. We realize that we must suffer through chaos, which is humans’ best attempt at justice, while we eagerly await the good, worthy and just King who is to come. The stage has been set for us now, the same as God did for Adam.

How do we rectify this as thankful Americans? The beauty within the American system is wrapped up in the humility and confession that no one here on earth is worthy and that each individual has dignity and deserves justice as an image bearer of Christ. As long as we embrace, manifest, and teach these principles, we are a living confession to the truth of our human condition and our need for the True King, and we live out the mandate in Micah 6:8 (ESV).

8 He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

How Can I Embrace the Monarchy That Is?

The advent of the coming of Christ the King is problematic for our human limitations. We know that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit…

Born of the virgin Mary (First Advent)

  On the third day, he rose again from the dead.

  He ascended to heaven (Ascension)

  and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.

  From there, he will come to judge the living and the dead (Second Advent)

In all this coming and going and coming again, do we forget that the “Kingdom of Christ is at hand”? That our King stands outside of space and time? That his rule is eternal and that we are eternal souls? Consider this reminder from Colossians 3:15 (ESV).

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.”

For in all these things, there is much to celebrate, and we can sing along with this old song with a new appreciation.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

-Charles Wesley

Lauren Gideon is the Director of Public Relations for Classical Conversations. She co-leads and teaches through an organization committed to raising citizenship IQ on U.S. founding documents. She and her husband homeschool their seven children on their small acreage, where they are enjoying their new adventures in homesteading.

  1. https://www.britannica.com/topic/divine-right-of-kings ↩︎
a window view of a Christmas store, with Christmas trees, wreaths, and presents on display

Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas

By Lauren Gideon

There is something special about childhood. Overlay the beauty and simplicity of childhood with the sacred spectacular atmosphere of the holidays, and that intersection seems nothing short of magical. This wedge, where those two events overlap, is so powerful that grown adults constantly search for ways to replicate that experience and those sentiments. Our song lyrics and storylines are strong indicators of this reality. What changes as we age? Why can’t we always (only) experience that perceived magical atmosphere? Why does everything feel so complicated? 

A few years ago, I was in line at the grocery store, listening to the conversation between the cashier and a customer unfolding in front of me. As the customer prepares to depart, the cashier extends the farewell of “Happy Holidays.” In disgust, the customer replies with a harsh and sharp, “Merry Christmas!” 

Wait. What just happened?

My thoughts started taking inventory. “Did that customer just use a Christmas salutation as retaliation?” In true sports commentary fashion, let’s look at the replay. In this scenario, the cashier was perceived to have been using the “happy holidays” greeting as a way to deny the real “reason for the season.” But was she? Is there anything wrong with “happy holidays”? Was the cashier maliciously trying to cancel Christ? Was the offended customer claiming to be a Christian? The irony of the retort was amusing, to say the least. There was nothing merry about her tone or her intent. And I’m not very confident that Person, whose birth she thought she was defending, would have been pleased by her style. 

However, can we sympathize with both parties? The grown-up world is complicated. We struggle even to greet a stranger this time of year. You see, in addition to the holidays, we have learned there are conflicting worldviews. We have learned that the holders of these worldviews are frequently hostile to holders of other worldviews. As Christians, we know that in this world we will have trouble, but that Christ has overcome the world. (John 16:33) 

How many times have we met Christians who not only go looking for trouble but also for a chance to be this type of “overcomer.” This customer was clearly frustrated; hopefully, her misstep is a cautionary tale to other Christians. Still, we can understand that navigating a bold allegiance to Christ in a world full of people we are called to love is…complicated.  

A Free Society Will Bring Confusion, and That’s a Good Thing

This year, I was told another story about a workplace DEI book club. The week’s topic was how not to talk about Christmas in the workplace. Contrast this with those who insist that we must speak about Christmas all the more because it’s our “first-amendment right.”  

Highlighted here is the deep complexity of the free market, the civil sphere, limited congress, public-policy-governing employers, confusion over the origin of rights, the Constitution, natural law, and the Creator.  

We confuse spheres of governance vs. mechanisms of enforcement and fail to consider the consequences of misunderstanding and misusing these. Additional elements include mechanisms of the free market, obligations of citizens, obligations of consumers, and labor providers in a free market. Each one of these components is an inescapably complicated layer that adds to the weight of responsibility. This makes our simple childhood memories much more precious and explains why grown adults prefer discovering a path back to childhood than navigating a way forward. 

While it seems that Christians’ primary conflict is with those outside the faith, this is evidently false. Is there an answer to all this madness? 

How to Navigate With Romans 14

Romans 14:5-9 gives us a 3-part navigation process.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”

Part One: Be convinced. 

Convinced has nothing to do with opinion. Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines convinced as persuaded in mind; satisfied with evidence; convicted. Being blessed with freedom, both civilly and economically, comes with responsibility. Embrace it, steward it, protect it, and afford it to others. Gather and wrestle through the evidence, and put the evidence on trial until you reach a satisfactory verdict. And then, when new evidence presents itself, rinse and repeat.

Part Two: Be gracious with others. 

They bear the same responsibility, and they also will give an account. We know the stakes are high, and the task is heavy; therefore, we should not complicate what is already sufficiently complicated. If anything, we should model the diligence, sobriety, and reverence we have for this responsibility and the ability to stay out of our neighbor’s figurative courtroom. 

 Part Three: Chill out, be thankful, and live and die for an audience of One. 

The whole passage can be summed up with a single parallel text, Micah 6:8. 

He has told you, O man, what is good;

     and what does the Lord require of you

 but to do justice, and to love kindness,

     and to walk humbly with your God?

So, to my friends near and far who may read this: happy holiday, and Merry Christmas.  

Lauren Gideon is the Director of Public Relations for Classical Conversations. She co-leads and teaches through an organization committed to raising citizenship IQ on U.S. founding documents. She and her husband homeschool their seven children on their small acreage, where they are enjoying their new adventures in homesteading.

the shadows of figurines of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in the manger

Anticipation and Arrival: A Heartfelt Advent Reflection

By Sadie Aldaya

Hey there, fellow journeyers on the road of faith! As the air becomes crisper and the days grow shorter, our hearts collectively turn toward the season of Advent—a cherished time of preparation, anticipation, and joy. So, grab a cozy blanket, settle into your favorite chair, and let’s dive into the beauty of Advent and how we can prepare our hearts for the arrival of Christ.

Embracing the Anticipation

Advent is like the quiet hush before the grand symphony. It’s those moments of waiting in breathless anticipation, knowing that something extraordinary is about to unfold. As Christians, we’re not just marking off days on a calendar; we’re actively engaging in a sacred rhythm of expectation.

The Candle of Hope: A Beacon in the Darkness

The first candle of Advent flickers with the light of hope. It’s a reminder that, even in the darkest nights of our lives, the promise of Christ’s coming illuminates our path. This season invites us to pause, reflect, and anchor our hope in the enduring promise of a Savior who brings light to our world.

Preparing the Manger of Our Hearts

Just as Mary and Joseph prepared a humble manger for the birth of Jesus, Advent calls us to prepare the manger of our hearts. It’s a gentle nudge to clear away the clutter, the distractions, and the noise that often fills our lives. In this quiet space, we make room for the Christ-child, the ultimate gift of love.

Cultivating a Spirit of Repentance

As we prepare, let’s not forget the beauty of repentance—a turning of our hearts toward God. Advent is a season of reflection, a time to examine the corners of our souls and allow the transformative power of Christ’s love to bring renewal. In the words of John the Baptist, “Prepare the way for the Lord.”

The Gift of Waiting

In a world that rushes from one moment to the next, Advent invites us to embrace the sacred art of waiting. It’s not an idle anticipation but a purposeful, expectant waiting that stirs our souls and deepens our connection with the divine narrative unfolding in our lives.

Advent Traditions: A Tapestry of Faith

Whether lighting the Advent candles, reading Scripture, or engaging in acts of kindness, our traditions during this season weave a tapestry of faith. These simple yet profound traditions draw us closer to the heart of Christmas, creating moments of reverence and connection with the timeless narrative of Christ’s birth.

There are many Advent resources available to you. We’ve enjoyed Biola University’s Advent Devotions and Calendar over the years. Perhaps it will be useful to you in this season of heartfelt reflection.

Carrying the Light Beyond Advent

As Advent culminates in the celebration of Christ’s birth, let’s carry the light of this season into the year ahead. The hope, preparation, and waiting experienced during Advent are not confined to a few weeks in December but serve as a reminder to live with expectancy and the assurance that Christ is with us always.

A Journey of the Heart

As we journey through the days of Advent, let’s embark on a sacred pilgrimage of the heart. May the anticipation, the preparation, and the waiting be not just a seasonal observance but a transformative journey that draws us nearer to the essence of Christmas—the wondrous arrival of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Also, read the blog, Advent: Preparing Our Hearts for the Coming of Christ.

Sadie Aldaya is the Research and Quality Assurance Specialist for the Special Projects and Policy Research Department, Classical Conversations Foundation. Sadie and her husband homeschooled for over 20 years. She served as a Classical Conversations field representative for 15 years, providing community and support for other homeschooling families. Sadie’s passions are to stop government encroachment in areas where they have no authority or jurisdiction and to see Christians return to a biblical Christ-centered worldview.

four candles lit in a dim room against a blurred out backdrop of a Christmas tree

Advent: Preparing Our Hearts for the Coming of Christ

By Jennifer Bright

As the Christmas season approaches and we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, our calendar quickly fills with events, activities, gatherings with family and friends, shopping, etc., all good things. Still, we can lose sight of the most essential thing in the busyness: focusing on Christ. He quietly fades into the background of our busy schedule.

What could we do differently this year to intentionally focus on Christ, to prepare our hearts and homes to celebrate His birth?

This month is a time of “advent” to slow down, remember, prepare, and spend moments in dedicated and intentional worship of our Savior, Jesus. We remember His birth on December 25 and prepare for His Second Coming, His Return. Advent is from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming; arrival.” The early Christians were expectantly looking forward to Jesus’ Second Coming, but today, many put the focus on remembering His first coming as a baby in a manger. His first “advent” is not the end of the story.

Two sisters in the Bible, Mary and Martha, in Luke 10:38-42, who both love Jesus, remind us not to become so distracted and overwhelmed with the good things that we miss the best thing, Christ Himself. Martha is like many of us as we prepare for Christmas. We attend many wonderful Christmas events and make memories with our families. We are busy rushing around checking off our to-do list. We have many things to do but leave ourselves physically exhausted and spiritually drained. Mary shows us a more excellent way by realigning, resting, and receiving the Living Word that transforms our souls. She sat with others to listen and learn from Jesus Himself.

“Focusing on the list might give us the Christmas we want, but so often at the expense of what we need. Unless we are intentional, all the shopping, decorating, wrapping, and attending can fill up our calendar but leave our soul empty.”

-Lisa Appello, When We Want a Mary Christmas in a Martha World

Year after year, I have been like Martha. All good things to plan and do, but neglecting the best, like Mary, worshiping and adoring our Savior and King. My challenge to myself and you this Advent season is to prepare our hearts for the arrival of our long-awaited Savior, to be like Mary and worship Him.

We can prepare our hearts for Jesus’s advent through: 

Pray for God’s wisdom about the activities, events, and gatherings we will participate in this season. Will it draw us closer to the Lord? Are they activities to fill our schedule or moments to fill our hearts in the worship of Jesus?

Set aside intentional time to worship, read Scripture, pray, listen to music, and sing songs that lead us to grow deeper in our relationship with Christ. We should not focus on a checklist to complete but should set aside time for true worship, as He has created us to worship Him in spirit and truth. (John 4:23). Also, to join other believers, worshiping and adoring our Savior at church and home. (Hebrews 10:23-25).

Keep our eyes, hearts, and minds on our hope in Christ as redeemed people bought with a price. (1 Corinthians 7:23) We are His children! We should be longing and looking for His Second Coming, awaiting His arrival, and preparing our hearts for that day.

This season, I will reorient myself to the best thing: worship through His word, prayer, and music that brings me to the throne of grace. I will invite others to do so as well. What about you? What will you do this Advent season to prepare your heart and home for Christ’s coming?

Let me leave you with lyrics from Bob Kauflin’s song, “In the First Light.” 

In the first light of a new day
No one knew He had arrived
Things continued as they had been
While a newborn softly cried.
But the heavens wrapped in wonder
Knew the meaning of His birth
In the weakness of a baby
They knew God had come to Earth.

As His mother held him closely,
It was hard to understand
That her baby not yet speaking
Was the Word of God to man.
He would tell them of His kingdom,
But their hearts would not believe
They would hate Him and in anger
They would nail Him to a tree.

But the sadness would be broken
As the song of life arose
And the Firstborn of creation
Would ascend and take his throne.
He had left it to redeem us,
But before His life began
He knew He’d come back not as a baby
But as The Lord of ev’ry man.

Hear the angels as they’re singing
On the morning of His birth
But how much greater will our song be
When He comes again to Earth
When He comes again

Hear the angels as they’re singing
On the morning of His birth
But how much greater will our song be
When He comes again to Earth
When He comes to rule the Earth!
When He comes back, When He comes back
To rule the Earth!

Here are some additional resources to help prepare your heart and home for Christ’s coming:

Jennifer Bright is the Communication Manager for Research and Quality Assurance for Classical Conversations. Jennifer’s passions are classical Christian education and discipling the next generation to live for Christ. She supports homeschool families by tutoring their students with the classical tools of learning. Jennifer and her husband began their homeschool journey almost 20 years ago in Russia while serving as missionaries, and currently, they reside in Covington, Louisiana.