Can Christians Be Faithful AND Work With Integrity On ‘The Hill?’

Christians everywhere face the question of whether their faith has anything to do with their jobs, but it’s an especially acute issue for those on a congressional payroll.

Here’s why: The law in America is made through the competitive political process, but culture is upstream from politics and faith in turn is upstream from culture. Your faith shapes your work ethos.

Continue reading “Can Christians Be Faithful AND Work With Integrity On ‘The Hill?’”

Which Are More Reliable, Aristotle and Plato, or Matthew, Mark, Luke And John?

One of the most frequently mentioned myths about the Gospels (the first four books of the New Testament, written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) is the claim they cannot be historically accurate because they were written decades after the events they purport to report.

Several of the commenters to yesterday’s post here — “Are Christians The Biggest Fools Of All Time?” — repeated variations of the claim the Gospels are unreliable because so much time elapsed between the events and the writing of the individual books. The actual facts, the critics argue, were lost to the myths and legends that grew up around the events related in the Gospels.

The German higher critics of the 19th Century made this claim a standard argument in the conventional wisdom scholarship of the 20th century among those who reject the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ and His claim to be the incarnate creator of the universe and everything in it. And the argument continues in popular culture and debate to this day, as seen in the comments to yesterday’s post.

There has been a tremendous amount of scholarship on the accuracy and reliability of the Gospels in recent decades. Below is a link to a recent podcast of Frank Turek’s interview with Dr. Craig Blomberg, who is one of the most respected scholars in the world on this issue. I highly commend it to anybody on any side of the debate.

But more immediately, let’s address the question posed in the headline above. Nobody today doubts when they read Plato’s “Republic” or Aristotle’s “Nicomachean Ethics” that they are reading what the Greek philosophers actually wrote, even though what they hold in their hands are copies of copies of copies … stretching back centuries.

Even so, when was the last time you heard anybody say Plato’s discussion of the shadows on the wall of the cave cannot be trusted as what Plato actually wrote or believed because so much time elapsed between his original manuscript and the earliest copies used by copyists in the millennia before Mr. Gutenberg invented the printing press? Or that Aristotle’s Golden Mean as the key to human virtue was a creation of a later copyist and thus was not the philosopher’s original view?

Nevertheless, that’s a commonly expressed argument whenever the Gospels are under discussion.

But guess what? There are far more copies of the Gospels, written much closer to the original authors, than there are for any other of the ancient classics, including Plato and Aristotle.

Aristotle’s works were written between 386 B.C. and 322 B.C. The first copies came along in about 1,100 A.D., or roughly 1,400 years after Aristotle did his thing. As for Plato, he wrote between 427 B.C. and 347 B.C, and the first copies date to 900 A.D., for an interval of roughly 1,200 years.

Compare that to the New Testament, which, regarding the Gospels, the critics claim were written, at the earliest, around 70 A.D., with copies first appearing around 130 A.D.

In other words, if the same standards of reliability and accuracy are applied to the New Testament that have long been accepted without question for other ancient authors, then the Gospels must be viewed as among the most reliable of the ancient classics. You can check out this post by Matt Slick of Christian Apologetics and Research for more specifics on this angle.

And as I always say, a great place to start in assessing these issues is “More Than A Carpenter” by Josh and Sean McDowell. Just tell me your address and I’ll get a copy of MTAC for free.

Now, here’s Frank Turek’s extended audio conversation with Dr. Craig Blomberg:

https://crossexamined.org/?powerpress_embed=72550-podcast&powerpress_player=mediaelement-audio

Do You Really Believe What You Say You Believe?

That headline above poses one of the most important questions anyone can ever ask themselves. Unfortunately, it’s too often one of the last questions all of us ask of ourselves.

The question has a particular relevance for people working on the Hill. At the surface level, everybody in Congress, working for Congress, reporting on Congress, seeking to influence Congress and trying to get to Congress has beliefs, or at least claims to believe certain things.

But whatever you profess to believe, can you have absolute certainty that what you say you believe is what you actually believe? And how do you know the difference between the one and the other?

Believe it or not (did you catch the pun?), I’m not referring to the professed political, religious or ideological beliefs that shape appearances, what you seem to be or what you want the world to think you are. What I am talking about are the beliefs at the core of your being that actually define who you are and determine what you do.

Why is this such an important question for congressional aides? It’s not simply that aides by definition work for somebody else and thus are routinely called on to defend, explain, conceal, justify or rationalize away what “the boss” says or does. It’s important because such a fixation can make it even more difficult than it normally is to ask ourselves the headlined question.

Allow me to illustrate with an example from my own life and years on the Hill. Alcoholism runs in my family, a fact I was grimly aware of from a very early age. I saw what it can do, physically and emotionally, to people and families, the misery, pain, and emptiness. And I vowed early in my life to “never be that way.”

But then I came to Washington, D.C. and to the Hill. Booze was and is today quite prevalent. It’s not for nothing that Washington, D.C. routinely ranks among the top cities in America for per-capita alcohol consumption. A lot of people working on the Hill are only a few years past boozy campus cultures, which makes this a peculiarly relevant example.

If you’d asked me the first day on my first Hill job about drinking, I would have quickly said I would never let that become a problem, I grew up in an alcoholic home, saw what it did to people, etc. etc.

But then over the months and years that followed, it became easier and easier to declare those things but then do quite the opposite. Places like the Tune Inn, Hawk N Dove (remember that one!?) and Bullfeathers became regular haunts.

“Pub grub” (self-explanatory) and “draft beer” (or bourbon, or whatever)  and “networking” (jobs, allies) and “targets of opportunity” (come on, you know what this one means) became life fixtures. It became the major rhythm of my life — work during the day, keep working in the night, plus partying.

It took a long time but eventually I learned that sooner or later decisions do indeed have consequences in life and not just for me. Today, I thank my Lord Jesus Christ for the blessings of sobriety and a generous measure of the courage required for the honest self-awareness that requires regularly asking myself the headlined question above. Would that I had asked it sooner.

The point I’m getting at is this: The way to know if you really do believe what you tell yourself and the world you believe is to look at your actions and ask yourself: Are these the actions of somebody who believes X?

Jesus had no patience for hypocrisy, especially among those in high places. The 23d chapter of the book of Matthew in the New Testament is the “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees” scene in which He directly addressed the issue of personal authenticity:

“They do all their deeds to be seen by others. ***For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called ‘rabbi’ by others …

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside may be clean …

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also appear outwardly righteous to others , but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

But this isn’t simply a question of saying one thing and doing another. It’s why we all do that so often. It’s that “within you” (and me, and everybody else) that is the problem. Too often, we know what we should do, but we go right on doing the wrong thing. The Apostle Paul put it this way at Romans 7: 15 — “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

And why is that? It’s that thing none of us these days wants to acknowledge exists but which is nevertheless an ever-present reality And the solution is something many folks working on the Hill scoff at, choose to ignore or have never heard about.

Want to know more? Let me buy you a cup of coffee or a sparkling water or whatever at one of the Hill office complexes’ cafes or restaurants, and we’ll continue what could prove to be the most important discussion of your life. It changed mine in more ways than I can count, all of them for the good.

*** Go here for an explanation of phylacteries and fringes in Jewish culture, ancient and modern.