IDEAS HAVE CONSEQUENCES
Sir Francis Bacon was an English philosopher, scientist, statesman and jurist. He was one of the greatest essayists who ever lived. His essay entitled, "Of Studies," makes some very wise observations on books. "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few are to be read wholly, and with diligence, and attention.... Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man, and writing an exact man."
Harriet Beecher Stowe's book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, had an enormous impact on the thinking of many Americans. When Mrs. Stowe was introduced to President Lincoln, he is reputed to have said: "So you are the little lady that started this big war?" William Shakespeare's plays have survived 500 years and are still taught in every college and university in the United States. I do not claim to have any greater insight into the future than other people, but it is my considered judgment that books such as the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins are merely a flash in the pan. They will not survive as literary masterpieces and will be shown to have made predictions that are utterly false and misleading. Hal Lindsey's book, The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), has sold multiplied millions of copies but will eventually be cast into the trash-bin of history.
In 1948 Dr. Richard Weaver, an English professor at the University of Chicago, wrote a book that has been quoted by dozens and dozens of later writers, including your speaker. Dr. Weaver's book has the title, Ideas Have Consequences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press). My first acquaintance with Dr. Weaver's book was in reading Dr. Francis Shaeffer's books and articles. In his outstanding book, The Great Evangelical Disaster (Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1984), Dr. Shaeffer does not mention Dr. Weaver or his book, but he does say: "Ideas have consequences in the way we live and act, both in our personal lives and in the culture as a whole." Dr. Shaeffer mentions several ideas that have changed our nation in negative and destructive ways. For example, "I must be free to desert my husband or wife, and abandon my children" (p. 30). Ethan Bronner's book, Battle for Justice: How the Bork Nomination Shook America (New York: Norton, 1989), points out that Judge Bork attended the University of Chicago while Robert Maynard Hutchins was chancellor and Dr. Weaver was a professor of English. According to Bronner, Robert Bork often referred to Weaver's book. "Weaver admonished that the failure of intellectuals to take the force of ideas was a symptom of the dissolution of the west. To him, modern liberal culture was corrosive" (p. 59). Robert Bork, one of America's great legal minds and a man of great integrity, apparently agreed with Weaver's thesis that "ideas have consequences" (p.73).
Gloria Steinem, a radical feminist, stresses the importance of ideas. In her book, Revolution from Within: a Book of Self-Esteem (Boston: Little, Brown, 1992), Steinem quotes Mona Caird as saying, "We are governed not by armies and police but by ideas" (p. 107). She also quotes Stephen Jay Gould, the famous evolutionist from Harvard: "The paths of destruction are indirect, but ideas can be agents as sure as guns and bombs" (p. 141). Most of us probably agree with Baird and Gould, but we know the Bible teaches the same truth more effectively and with greater authority. Solomon urged his readers: "Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23). Christ told the Pharisees: "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things" (Mt. 12:34-35). Paul admonished the Philippians: "Let this mind (or thinking or attitude) be in you which is also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). There is no way to become like Christ without thinking like him.
The publishers of Dr. Weaver's book call it "a classic work." They maintain that the book "unsparingly diagnoses the ills of our age and offers a realistic remedy." According to the publishers, the cure "lies in the right use of man's reason, in the renewed acceptance of an absolute reality, and in the recognition that ideas - like actions - have consequences." The publishers, however, are not the only ones who sing praises of Dr. Weaver's book. Reinhold Niebuhr calls it a "profound diagnosis of the sickness of our culture." These and other commendations appear on the back cover of Dr. Weaver's book.
Dr. Weaver does not pull any punches in describing the moral spiritual condition of our nation. He says: "there is ground for declaring that modern man has become a moral idiot" (p. 1). Because men have measured themselves by themselves and compared themselves among themselves, "anarchy threatens even that minimum consensus of value necessary to the political state" (p. 2). Dr. Weaver quotes what Matthew says about the "great tribulation" (Mt. 24:21) and then adds: "We have for many years moved with brash confidence that man had achieved a position of independence which rendered the ancient restraints needless" (p. 2). Dr. Weaver was troubled about the denial of universal standards and values. "With the denial of objective truth there is no escape from the relativism of 'man as the measure of all things’", (p. 4).
Every intelligent person on earth knows that what a person believes makes all the difference in his behavior. Dr. Weaver affirms: "Every man participating in a culture has three levels of conscious reflection: his specific ideas about things, his general beliefs or convictions, and his metaphysical dream of the world" (p. 18). David Barton's book, The Myth of Separation (Aledo, TX: Wallbuilder, 1992), quotes George Washington as saying: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness.... And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion" (pp. 115-116). Was the father of our country arguing that "ideas have consequences?"
Dr. Weaver discusses the popular misconception that it does not matter what one believes so long as one is honest. He says this "statement really means that it does not matter what one believes so long as one does not take his beliefs seriously." The sad fact is: Men's contentions that beliefs do not matter has led us to "look with derision upon the prohibitions of the 1890s" and "suppose that violation of them has been without penalty." One example of losing the sense of discrimination is "the failure of the modern mind to recognize obscenity" (pp. 26-28). Dr. Weaver has great insights into the new media, into art, into child psychology and into private property, but I shall have to save those ideas for a later date.
Do I have to remind the older people in my audience about the destructiveness of Nazism? Hitler believed that the Aryan race was superior to all other races and should rule the world. He thought Jews and blacks and others were sub-human. He believed they should be eradicated from the face of the earth. His stupid ideas led to the deaths of 6,000,000 Jews and more than 14,000,000 others. How could the people of Germany - many of whom were highly educated and culturally sophisticated - allow Hitler's ideas to cause so much harm to the human family? How can people in modern times with a grain of sense call themselves Neo-Nazis or Skinheads or members of the Aryan Nation?
Do you have any idea how many human beings Communism has destroyed? If you have not investigated the enormous number of people Communism has eliminated, you must buy and read The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Cambridge: Harvard, 1999). Oddly enough, the book was published by Harvard University Press. Harvard has Communists on its faculty. The six scholars who wrote the book are all specialists in the international Communist movement. The book has over 850 pages and is filled with the most disturbing information you can imagine. If you are concerned about the Communists in Hollywood, in some of our colleges and universities and in Washington, you would do yourself a favor by reading the book. I know you will not remember the enormous numbers the Communists destroyed, but I believe giving the information should be helpful. The Soviet Union was responsible for the deaths of 20 million people; China 65 million; Vietnam 1 million; North Korea 2 million, Cambodia 2 million; Eastern Europe 1 million; Latin America 150,000; Africa 1.7 million; and Afghanistan 1.5 million" (p. 4). Altogether the Communists have killed 100,000,000 people. That figure does not take into consideration the millions of people who were denied their God-given rights to live peacefully, to own their own businesses, to worship as they believed God demanded and to choose their own leaders. Communism is an unmitigated evil. Anyone who embraces any phase of Communism has some serious moral and spiritual problems. God willing, I plan to do a series of lessons on Communism.
Hedonism is an idea that has influenced millions of people worldwide. The word "hedonism" means devoted to pleasure. The New Testament uses the Greek hedone five times. The word is translated "pleasure" and "lusts." Paul describes the condition of unbelievers. "For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving different lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another" (Tit. 3:3). James asks: "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Do they not come hence, even of your lusts, that war in your members? .... you ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts" (Jas. 4:1, 3).
Even activities that are not wrong within themselves may become wrong if they prevent our taking care of our families, helping those who are in need and worshipping God regularly. For example, fishing is a great pastime. Millions of people spend billions of dollars buying fishing equipment and going fishing. But fishing can become sinful if we allow it to interfere with our duties to our families and to our God. Even legitimate pleasures are temporal. Robert Bums' poem, "Tam O'Shanter," tells us how temporary earthly pleasures are. "But pleasures are like poppies spread; you seize the flower the bloom is shed. Or like the snow falls in the river, a moment white then melts forever. Or like the rainbow's lovely form evanishing amid the storm. Or like the Borealis Race that flit ere you can point their place." The Bible does not condemn legitimate pleasure, but it does condemn making pleasure our God.
Secular humanism is one of the most influential ideas of our generation. It denies the existence of God, the inspiration of the scriptures, the deity of Christ, the existence of life after death and a solid basis for moral values. Many of the people in the media, in government, and in our universities are secular humanists. Even though they may not have officially subscribed to Humanist Manifestos I & II (Buffalo: Prometheus, 1973), they have swallowed hook, line and sinker the ethical views of the humanists. For example, humanists deny that there are any absolutes. So was it alright for Hitler to murder 6,000,000 Jews, for the Communists to kill 100,000,000 people, for pedophiles to abuse sexually little boys and girls and for political leaders to commit adultery and then lie about it? If there are no absolute standards, there is no way we can condemn any activity except to say, "I do not like that."
If you think that militias and survival groups are not dangerous, you are not keeping up with their behavior or you have the moral values of vicious and dangerous animals. These evil groups are committed to taking the government into their own hands and revolutionizing it along Nazi lines. In fact, many within the militias are committed Nazis or Klansmen or skinheads. Their plans for America are antichristian, anti-American and irrational. They actually hate our country, although many of them pretend to love America.
The greatest idea in the history of the world is New Testament Christianity. It is the only philosophy or religion that provides for a Savior who can forgive our sins and give us life eternal. Jesus Christ came into the world to show us the Father (John 1:18), to give his life a ransom for many (Mt. 20:28) and to be an example for every human being on earth (John 13:15). Jesus explains his mission. "The thief comes not, but to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
But is not Christianity too restrictive, too exclusive? Any philosophy or religion that does not involve some restrictions cannot contribute to man's welfare. For example, Jesus quoted with approval: "You shall not commit adultery" (Mt. 19:18). Did Jesus endorse this Old Testament commandment to take the joy out of living? He knew how utterly foolish and destructive adultery is. Adultery destroys relationships, in many cases leads to divorce, puts children at a terrible disadvantage, weakens the very foundation of society and endangers the souls of the participants. God gave the commandments to make us stronger and to keep us from destroying ourselves.
Every serious student of the scriptures knows that Christianity is exclusive. No, it does not discriminate on the basis of race or color or national origin. But it does require every one who would be saved to love God and to obey the gospel (2 Thess. 1:8-9). The Apostle Peter told some of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem: "This (meaning Christ) is the stone which was set at nought by your builders, which is become the head of the comer. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:11-12). The Apostle Peter asked Christ: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6:68-69).
What does God demand of us that we may enjoy the wonderful benefits of this great idea - New Testament Christianity? The book of Acts records a number of conversions that give us insight into what alien sinners must do to have the forgiveness of sins and to be added to the Lord's church. God commissioned Philip the evangelist to preach to the Samaritans. "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.... And when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Christ, they were baptized, both men and women" (Acts 8:5, 12). God's plan for saving man could hardly be plainer. Every person who wants to become a Christian must believe and obey the Lord in baptism (Mk. 16:15-16).
But those who would be saved must go beyond their initial obedience to the gospel. Please listen to these verses which are addressed to Christians. "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things that we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast (that is, the Law of Moses)... how shall we escape if we neglect the great salvation" (Heb. 2:1-3)? "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God" (Heb. 3:12). "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man can see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). "Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them who are in bonds, as bound with them; and them who suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body" (Heb. 13:1-3). Jesus said to all men - saint and sinner alike: "But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things (food, drink and clothing) shall be added unto you" (Mt. 6:33).
The world is full of philosophies, world religions, cultic groups and worldviews. But there is only one way to serve the living God and have the promise of life eternal - New Testament Christianity. If you are not a Christian, will you this very day surrender your will to the will of God by obeying the gospel? If you are a Christian, I urge you walk in the light as Christ is in the light that you may continue to have the forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:7).
The International Gospel Hour
P.O. Box 118
Fayetteville, TN 37334