Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

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Sins of omission?

James 4:17: “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

The last clause of this verse is written in the passive voice which leads some presumptuous readers of the Bible to take it to mean that there are sins of omission which are much less serious than sins of commission.

“There’s nothing happening here folks, nothing to be alarmed about.”

But there is something happening and we should be alarmed. When we neglect to do what we know we should do, we have made a choice. That choice is rebellion against God, and it is a sin. It is just as serious a sin as any other choice we make that we know to be contrary to the will of God.

French Bibles cast this verse in the active voice: “He then sins, who knows what is good and does not do it.”

Adam Clarke says: “As if he had said: After this warning none of you can plead ignorance; if, therefore, any of you shall be found to act their ungodly part, not acknowledging the Divine providence, the uncertainty of life, and the necessity of standing every moment prepared to meet God – as you will have the greater sin, you will infallibly get the greater punishment. This may be applied to all who know better than they act. He who does not the Master’s will because he does not know it, will be beaten with few stripes; but he who knows it and does not do it, shall be beaten with many; Luke 12:47-48.”

May we not take false comfort from a mistaken reading of one verse. Remember that God is keeping account of every decision we make. May we live accordingly.

Adam Clarke says it well: “That man walks most safely who has the least confidence in himself. True magnanimity keeps God continually in view. He appoints it its work, and furnishes discretion and power; and its chief excellence consists in being a resolute worker together with him. Pride ever sinks where humility swims; for that man who abases himself God will exalt. To know that we are dependent creatures is well; to feel it, and to act suitably, is still better.”


  1. This is my Father’s world. I did not ask to be here. I cannot choose to be in another world. This is it and I may as well make the best of it.
  2.  I am made in my Father’s image. Even though I am earthly, like the animals, with all the capacity for savagery that entails, I am also a spiritual being, able to know and communicate with my Father, with all the wonderful possibilities that provides.
  3.  This world, this life, is not all there is. Voices are coming to me from beyond this world, alluring me to discontent, envy, anger, rebellion. Other voices, softer voices, urge me to love and be loved. My destination after this life depends on which voices I choose to listen to and obey.

This is reality. I may wish it wasn’t like that; I may choose to believe that it is not like that. But in the end, I cannot escape reality. Denying reality will not make me happy, now or ever. Happiness is only to be found in living in this world as it really is, not as it may appear to be or as I would wish it to be. Happiness is to be found in living to make others happy, not just in looking out for myself.

There are people around me who do not accept reality – many people, probably most of the people I meet. They show it by their attitudes, the way they choose to live their lives. Yet underneath the mask there is still a person made in the image of the Father. A person who is sometimes capable of great acts of kindness, a person who might be touched by the kindness of others.

It is not up to me to unmask them, or tear off their anti-God armour, only the Father Himself can do that. Words and acts of love and kindness will do more good than cutting words of criticism. They are receiving altogether enough criticism already. And underneath that hard shell there is still the image of the Father and the realization that their rebellion against Him is not working out as they thought it would.

To show love and kindness is not to accept their rebellion against the Father. It is to show them that genuine happiness is found when we are ready to live the life that the Father made us for.

Why do young people today look so weird?

I remember when duck tail haircuts were all the rage among teenage boys.  I even  remember wearing a duck tail.  For readers younger than 65, a duck tail required hair long enough to be combed straight back and then parted vertically down the back of the head.  It required a lot of Brylcreem to keep it in place, which led to that generation being labelled “greasers.”

It’s not clear to me if the brush cut came before or after the duck tail.  The brush cut has been around a long time, but there was a time in the fifties when all teenage boys seemed to need a brush cut.  That allowed us to dispense with the “greasy kid stuff.”

The most outlandish thing I can remember about the girls is that one of them smoked.  But of course there were never any cigarettes seen on the school grounds.

But what’s with young people nowadays?  The piercings, the tattoos, the clothes?  Hey, does anyone remember when charcoal and pink were the “in” colours?  That was in 1956 and everyone needed to occasionally show up wearing that colour combination.  Ford even had a model available in two-tone pink and charcoal that year.  One of my cousins had one, now that was a really cool car.  A couple years later, one of the boys in my class refurbished a Model T, painted it pink and used it to drive to school.  That was even more cool.

Chris and I were telling the youth Sunday School class yesterday that the weird young people they see, the ones with the most piercings, tattoos and the weirdest clothes and hair styles, are really the most insecure.  That appeared to be a new thought to them, being as they are fine Christian young people without a trace of rebellion in them.  (Yeah, I know that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but really they are a fine group.)

It seems to me that peer pressure does two things to us when we are young.  We want to set ourselves apart from the older generation, because they are old, they just don’t understand.  However, we need to rebel in the way that our peer group approves.  The more insecure and anxious we feel about acceptance by our peer group, the more extreme we will be in embracing everything we believe will gain us acceptance.  Today is an era of extremes.

It is not only young people who feel anxious and insecure.  Parents are so bombarded by pop psychology about their own lives and the lives of their children, that they have become altogether disoriented.  There are no solid values anymore, only the latest babbling of the latest pop psychology guru.  Children are growing up today with parents who are afraid to restrain them in any way lest they cause irreparable psychological damage.

Yes, I know this may be a bit of an exaggeration too, not all parents are like that.  But when troops of young teenagers roam city parks in the middle of the night, where are the parents?  When a young man smashes a couple dozen side mirrors on cars in the middle of the night, then appears in court several days later with his thoroughly respectable, yet bewildered, parents, something just isn’t working anymore.

There is a French word that describes parents and teens in our day: they are déboussolé.  Literally that means “uncompassed,” although no such word exists in English.  People are disoriented and have lost the compass that would help them find their way.

Surely we don’t just want to teach our young people to avoid the type of appearance and behaviour we consider weird.  That really doesn’t give them the compass they need to guide them through all the pressures and temptations they will face in life.  They need to understand that the answer to anxiety and insecurity is to be rooted and grounded in the faith and love of Jesus Christ.  They should also understand that this is what all the other “weird” young people are lacking and that perhaps some of them will be open to hearing of a genuine remedy for their anxiety and insecurity.

A man who is now an older minister has told me of his younger years.  He was raised by a Christian mother, got converted in his youth, then strayed off into the hippie culture.  One day he was sitting with his friends, smoking pot and discussing the meaning of life.  Suddenly it came to him that he knew what it was they were all searching for.  A whole lot of young people are searching for that answer today, even though it may be hard for them to recognize it as the answer.

Who is the victim here?

A young mother comes into the coffee shop with her three-year-old daughter.

– Do you want a doughnut?

– No.  I want to go home.

– Mommy can buy you a chocolate milk.

– No.  I want to go home.

Mommy sees some friends at one of the tables and goes to talk to them.  Then she returns to the counter to order a coffee for herself.

– Can Mommy sit down and have a coffee with her friends?

– No.  I want to go home.

Mommy gives up and leaves the coffee shop.

Who was the victim in this episode?  Did you say it was the mother?  I think the child is every bit as much a victim as the mother.  Authority in North American homes has shifted from the parents to the children and the results have not been pretty.

Years ago, North American parents were told that babies needed to learn to sleep and eat on a fixed schedule.  They were told that showing much affection to their babies would leave them ill-prepared to face the harshness of the real world.  They should not be hugged and kissed or picked up and held whenever they cried.

In 1946 the first edition of Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care appeared.  Dr. Spock was a pediatrician who had studied psychoanalysis in order to understand children’s needs.  He recommended that mothers be more flexible and affectionate.  Treat each child as a unique individual, feed her when she is hungry, tell her how special she is.

The first approach to child nurture was too rigid and uncaring.  Dr. Spock’s advice sounded like a great improvement, but it has resulted in numerous scenes like the one above (witnessed by my wife a few years ago).

Parents in France never signed on with either North American extreme.  Mothers in France are loving and affectionate, yet expect their babies to quickly adapt to sleeping through the night.  As soon as possible, they are put on a regular feeding schedule.  The child learns very early, with very little fuss, that he is not the boss, Maman is.  Baby will be loved and cared for, but the other people in the house need to sleep, too.

Maman is the boss in the kitchen, too.  She decides what the family will eat and Junior will eat what everyone else eats.  The diet is much more varied than a typical North American diet and Junior is expected to eat what is on his plate.  Yet Maman understands that Junior needs time to learn to enjoy a new food, so she only insists that he taste a little bit of everything on his plate.  She knows that it might take up to a dozen tastes before Junior decides that this new food is really OK.  So Junior finds this new food on his plate from time to time and knows that he needs to at least taste it.  There is no whining: “I don’t like this,” nor loud commands: “You have to eat it anyway!”

In many such little ways, a child is constantly, yet gently, reminded that Maman and Papa are the ones in charge.  It works.  The child knows the rules, feels secure, and actually has more freedom than many young North American children.  It doesn’t sound like there are many “helicopter mothers” in France, hovering over their little darling for fear that he might come to some harm.

Parental authority is undisputed in France.  North American parents don’t believe that they have such authority, or are afraid that they might somehow ruin their children’s lives if they attempt to exercise such authority.  In this way the children become victims and the results show up as the child grows older, develops learning difficulties, becomes more anxious, more rebellious.  The typical North American solution to these problems?  A pill.  But that’s not a solution, just another problem, another victimization of our children.

Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.  Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged (Colossians 3:20-21).

Rebels without a clue

I am struck at how clueless protest movements have become.

The “Occupy” folks seem to think it is the fault of government and business that they don’t have a job.  You worked hard and got your BA.  You apply for a job that seems to offer the pay and perks that you feel you deserve.  They ask about your work experience and you have to admit that you’ve never had a paying job in your life.

All the entry level jobs seem to have been taken by immigrants.  Who wants a job like that anyway?  Other immigrants are coming in who are trained welders and plumbers.  They are earning more money than you will ever make with your BA.  There must be someone you can blame for this mess you’re in.  So you and your friends set up tents in a park to complain about how unjust the system is.

Meanwhile, the immigrants who started out at the bottom are moving up to management level and even buying the business.  Moral?  Those who rebel against the supposed inequities of the system are getting nowhere, while others are going where the jobs are, working hard and succeeding.

Many of the Indian bands of Western Canada were making a good start at adapting to a settled society, until the government decided that they needed help.  That really botched things up.  It seems that in every generation the government realizes that their attempts to help the Indians are not working and they come up with a fresh idea on how to help them.  The “Idle No More” movement seems to think this is a good thing, but the government isn’t doing enough.

Meanwhile, some Indian bands are accountable and open for business.  There is a reserve not far from us that has a casino, a world class golf course, a tourist hotel and more jobs than can be filled by the band members alone.  There are at least four Indian owned gas bars in our nearest city, all are busy.  Other bands are in the forestry and construction businesses.  Moral?  You will get ahead faster by creating your own jobs.

The “Christian” scene is too confusing and depressing for a quick analysis.  The Christian book store that I frequently wander into is in the process of moving their displays of Christian music CD’s from a back corner to a more visible location closer to the front of the store.  One of the employees told me it is because too many CD’s have been walking out of the store without being paid for.  The rates of divorce, of cohabitation before marriage and of pornography addiction are not much different among those who call themselves Christian than among the population in general.  The most common form of rebellion is to just abandon organized Christianity.  The ranks of unattached, restless Christians are growing.  Are they finding life any more fulfilling outside an organized church?

“Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.”  Rebellion doesn’t fix anything, because we are rebelling against the wrong thing.  Rebels see the faults in everything around them, go about to set things to right and in the end things are worse than they were before.

The thing that is most in need of fixing is inside of us – our heart.  The first step to fixing it is to admit that I am solely responsible for the mess that I am in; nobody else made me do the things I have done or make the choices I have made.  The second step is to admit that only God can help me now.  This is called repentance and will lead to a release from the burden of guilt, a new heart, a new vision of the meaning and purpose of life, and genuine freedom.

It doesn’t work to admit that I have done wrong and try to reform my life so that God will be pleased with me.  Neither does it work to try to claim God’s salvation without admitting any guilt on my part.  Salvation is a complete package, only available on God’s terms.

Two thousand years ago the world was in worse shape than it is today.  It was said of the disciples that they “turned the world upside down.”  Who says it can’t happen today?

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