Common Core and Epistemology

The NY Times ran a great opinion piece about a year ago here about Common Core. Check it out.

Here are a few weaknesses in Common Core’s epistemology (they may or may not have changed since 2015):

  1. Common Core confuses the relationship between proof and fact.
  2. Common Core wrongly teaches a claim is either a fact or an opinion. This makes it impossible for a claim to be a fact and an opinion.
  3. Common Core wrongly teaches that every moral claim is only an opinion. This makes it impossible for a moral claim to be an opinion and a moral fact. According to Common Core “stealing is wrong” is an opinion, when “stealing is wrong” is actually an opinion and a moral fact.
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What to do with a Guilty Conscience

What do you do when you struggle with a guilty conscience?

We all “flee to a fountain” for cleansing, if you will. We try to soothe a guilty conscience with good deeds or acts of charity. We try to drown our guilt with drugs and alcohol. We try to explain a guilty conscience away as mere psychological feelings. But sometimes psychological guilt is not merely that, but actually pointing us to real guilt. The Christian teaching in 1 John 1:5-10 is that we have true moral guilt before a pure and holy God, that God graciously and lovingly supplies the blood of Christ to cleanse us of our true guilt, and that we should apply the blood of Christ to our consciences whenever we sin through confession. Confession (homologeo, literally “same speech”) is calling sin sin. Confession does not occur whenever we downplay sin, divert conversations away from sin, distract from our sin by pointing out the sins of others, or whitewash sin with the language of spirituality and virtue. Confession is calling sin sin.

“Martin Luther, in his commentary on Galatians, shows a great understanding of the fact that our salvation includes salvation from the bondage of our own conscience. It is, of course, natural and right that as we become Christians our consciences should become ever more tender. This is a work of the Holy Spirit. However, I should not be bowed down by my conscience year after year over sins which are past. When my conscience under the Holy Spirit makes me aware of a specific sin I should at once call that sin sin and bring it consciously under the blood of Christ. Now it is covered and it is not honoring to the finished work of Jesus Christ to worry about it, as far as my relationship to God is concerned. Indeed, to worry about it is to do despite to the infinite value of the death of the Son of God. My fellowship with God is restored…

“I rather picture my conscience as a big black dog with enormous paws which leaps upon me, threatening to cover me with mud and devour me. But as this conscience of mine jumps upon me, after a specific sin has been dealt with on the basis of Christ’s finished work, then I should turn to my conscience and say, in effect, ‘Down! Be still’ I am to believe God and be quiet, in my practice and experience” (Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality, p. 104).

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Conscience can feel like this, except without the smiling and happiness.

 

In many cases, we do not just sin against God, but also against neighbor. We should seek reconciliation with God, and then seek reconciliation with those we have wronged.

“If I know that somewhere back in my life I have dealt with some Christian, or some non-Christian, on less than a really human basis, I must go back if possible, pick up the pieces, and say, ‘I am sorry'” (Schaeffer, p. 159).

“On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness” (Zechariah 13:1, ESV).

Why Love is not Lust

“…And God separated the light from the darkness.” ~Genesis 1:4

From the very beginning of the Bible, God is a God who makes distinctions and separations. The Bible presents a binary view of reality: there is truth, falsehood; good, evil; righteousness, unrighteousness; light, darkness.

This binary view of reality is not something unique to the Old Testament. God in the New Testament makes distinctions as well:

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality…” (Galatians 5:19).

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love…” (Galatians 5:22).

According to the Bible, love is not sexual immorality; love is not lust; and lust is not the deep erotic passion between a husband and wife celebrated in Song of Solomon. Love and red-hot sexual attraction in marriage are good and lovely. Lust and sexual immorality are evil.

As Western culture becomes more influenced by pagan One-ism, we will see these boundaries blurred, melded, and obscured:

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The Brave New World has an orgy-porgy.

According to pagan One-ism, lust is love. The biblical separation between love and lust has been melded and obscured.

The average person objects at this point: lust isn’t a big deal. But let me explain it this way: if adultery is the lie that God cheats on people He loves, lust is the lie that God would even think about it. Lust is something horrifying and evil that strikes at the very heart of God’s character: His love, purity, holiness, covenant faithfulness, and His commitment to keep His promises in thought and in action.

Love is not lust.

 

Using Others for Praise

For the longest time, I scared myself away from the Sermon on the Mount.

Praise God that He graciously pursues us even when, like Jonah, we are running in the opposite direction of His will.

I thought the Sermon on the Mount was bland moralism, but it is actually quite different. The Sermon on the Mount is not a mere ethical code; the Sermon on the Mount is a proclamation of grace resulting in heart and ethical transformation.

The very first statement of the Sermon on the Mount is an earth-shattering proclamation of grace:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Transformation of the heart and life in the way God desires is only possible when you start with the realization you are spiritually bankrupt. Someone who comes to the Sermon on the Mount spiritually rich, confident in his own ability to love his neighbor and do good works, has already failed and sinned. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The only way to turn the Sermon on the Mount into mere moralism is to edit the Beatitudes out. Christ’s commands come after the proclamation of grace. (To use the language of English grammar, imperatives always come after the declaratives in the Bible. This is true of the Ten Commandments. “I am the Lord your God who brought up out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (grace, declarative). Then, and only then does the Bible say, “You shall not…” (imperatives). This is true of Romans as well. The imperatives in Romans 12-16 come after the declaration of God’s grace in Romans 1-11.)

But then the imperatives do come (Matthew 5:17-7:29). Christ is covenant Lord, God in flesh, and has the authority to make demands on His creation and on His disciples.

One of the most challenging imperatives Christ gives is found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:1: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”

Christ desires genuine love for neighbor. He gives a scornful rebuke to the Pharisees doing good to neighbor to earn the praise and approval of men:

“They do all their deeds to be seen by others” (Matthew 23:5).

When we seek to do good to our neighbors, we must examine ourselves: am I doing my good works because I love God and love my neighbor, or am I doing them because I am a Pharisee desiring the praise and approval of men? When Pharisees like Paul realize their deep sinfulness, they become poor in spirit and are ready to start from the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.

The Good Samaritan would not have bragged about his good works on Facebook.
The Good Samaritan did not brag about his good works. He genuinely loved the injured man.

In general, Christians who struggle with Pharasaism should do their good works as secretly as possible to combat the desire for self-glorification (Matthew 6:2-4). May we, by God’s grace, genuinely love others rather than use them for praise. Paul, a repentant Pharisee says, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3, emphasis mine).