Donald, Saul, Paul, Huckleberry, Conscience and Boneheads
by Pastor Cary Gordon
“Paul looked directly at the Sanhedrin and said, ‘Brothers, I have conducted myself before God in all good conscience to this day.’ At this, the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth.” — Acts 23:1
Conscience is a subject addressed by the Apostle Paul more than any other New Testament writer. The subject is traversed in our Bible approximately 31 times in the New Testament alone. It is no wonder that the Holy Spirit chose the man we call the Chief Apostle to address this particular subject, since he was uniquely qualified to understand both the strengths and dangers posed by the human conscience. (Yes, you read that last line correctly.)
Indeed, the human conscience can be quite dangerous if it is not properly constructed upon the rock-solid foundation of the laws of God. Remember Jesus’ warning about building your proverbial house on the sand? For instance, according to Acts 23:1, the Apostle Paul (at that time in his life was called Saul) murdered faithful Christians without any pang of guilt from his own conscience during their tragic and painful executions.
Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) once described his famed book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as “a book of mine where a sound heart and a deformed conscience came into collision and conscience suffers defeat.” The 1969 Harvard English literature graduate, Robert Shetterly, expounded upon Clemens’ remarks. “Here he emphasizes the irony of Huck’s belief that helping a runaway slave, Jim, escape was a mortal sin; yet Huck’s love of Jim’s genuine goodness and loyalty will not allow him to return his friend to slavery. The intuitive truth in Huck’s heart overcomes the learned bigotry that had deformed his conscience.”
This proclivity of the human conscience to be “deformed,” from which Samuel Clemens drew inspiration for his fictional book, is precisely why the Chief Apostle Paul was uniquely qualified to teach every Christian who would live between his time, around 50 AD, and the Judgment Seat of Christ. (Date to be announced at a future time… with trumpets sounding.)
While executing Christians, you see, Saul was merely carrying out his faithful obligations as a student of the Mosaic law. He carried out his duties to the letter of the law. The problem was that he was missing the divine revelation of the spirit of the law found in the person of Jesus Christ. The letter of the law without the spirit of the law left him to operate with a conscience similarly situated with Clemens’ fictional character Huckleberry Finn (with a notably more terrible result).
Therefore, we are to understand that in Saul’s limited knowledge and subjective estimations as a conscientious Pharisee, these troubling Christians, who, at that time in history, were called “people of the way,” appeared to be another polytheistic aberration, a mystical sounding cult group comprised of confused souls clamoring with dangerous myths about a so-called “son of God.” He killed them for the sake of obedience and preservation of the Hebrew culture already threatened by Roman political dominance, Etruscan religion, Greek culture, and every other theological and moral trap laid for his struggling remnant of the faithful who were clinging tightly to the God of the great Prophet Moses.
In Saul’s subjective state, where he carefully followed the letter of the law without yet having received revelation from God concerning the Spirit of that same law, the Christian ramblings sounded reminiscent of the common Etruscan cult demigods of his day. There was Vegoia, the nymph of lightning; Calu, the god of wolves; Hercules and Perseus, the warriors; Orpheus, the poet of hymns and prophets; Athena, the patron goddess of heroes; and the newest demigod on the scene, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God.
Saul did his job in “good conscience.” History proves that Saul was right to be concerned about these Etruscan cultists and their malevolent impact on the world. One hundred and twenty years after his letter to the Romans (written in 60 AD), the Roman emperor, Commodus (reigned from 180 to 192 AD), would declare himself to be a reincarnation of Hercules, and the Etruscan influence would extend its deception forward to one thousand six hundred years later, as the kings of the Mataram Empire would claim to be descendants of the Goddess of the South Sea, Kanjeng Ratu Kidul. But Saul’s conscience was malformed, and not necessarily because of what he did know (see Romans 7:7), but because of what He did not yet know (see Acts 26:14–15). Saul’s epiphany would reveal his true spiritual condition on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9:15). The rest is, as they say, history.
Once Saul literally saw the light and accepted his covenant name change from the Lord Jesus Christ, “Saul”-turned- “Paul” became, among other things, the Holy Spirit-sanctioned authority on the New Testament doctrine of the law of conscience. Paul knew and taught that the conscience must be built upon the letter of the law (Romans 7:7) and matured by the spirit of that same divine law before it would be properly formed (Hebrews 5:12–14). To put it as briefly as possible, the New Testament teaches three foundational things about our conscience:
1) Do not violate your God-given conscience (Romans 14:23).
2) See to it that your conscience has been properly constructed with the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, so that a maturity of conscience can be achieved, lest you behave as a proverbial “Saul,” and not as a “Paul” (Romans 14:14; Hebrews 5:12–14).
3) Ministers of the Gospel must never encourage God’s people to violate their consciences (see point 1), but rather, should help them properly construct them (1 Timothy 4:1–11; 1 Corinthians 8:9–13; 1 Peter 3:16).
With that said, any member of the clergy who tells other Christians to violate their own conscience in the voting booth is a political neophyte, on their best day, and much worse, a lawbreaker “against Christ,” according to 1 Corinthians 8:12, which says, “But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” This begs the question: if Paul wrote that we sin against Christ when harming another believer’s “weak” conscience, what must be said of those who offend fellow Christians who possess strong and reliable consciences built upon the rock of Christ — Christ, who was the Old Testament law of God personified in the flesh, according to John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
As an aside, this passage plainly proves that the Old Testament was “full of grace and truth,” if Christ was the personification of that Word from Father God, and therefore “full of grace and truth” in His personhood. I point that out to deliberately upend the modern “love” deceptions that defeat the modern church from behind “loving” false-agape pulpits in a neighborhood near you. It is the false-agape church who insists that Jesus came to replace the Old Testament with the New Testament rather than what He actually did (offer a clarified continuation of what both He and Father God had already been doing in history before His incarnation in Bethlehem). More specifically, they suggest Jesus came to replace the angry law with happy love. But since the Bible plainly states in John 1:14 that Jesus was and is the Old Testament “Word made flesh,” wouldn’t He have to have arrived on earth for the purpose of replacing Himself with Himself? This makes no sense at all. We’ll talk more on the false-agape church in a moment.
No Christian preacher has any Biblical authorization to scold God’s sheep into voting against their own consciences, but many are doing it anyway, and it’s sinful. Why on earth must I take so much time to declare this when it has already been written in the Holy Bible?
“If you instruct the brethren in these things [particularly the law of conscience], you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ.” — 1 Timothy 4:6 (Emphasis added.)
Yet here we are. I am writing and you are reading because I have been chided by far too many preachers than I ever imagined possible in the last few months as those old episodes of the Twilight Zone seem to have become reality. For the record, these antagonist preacher’s unfaithfulness to orthodoxy frighten me much more than Hillary Clinton as a temporary president. (Yes, I certainly do find her candidacy to be deeply disturbing.)
My advice to the accusers, political whips and name-dropping bandwagoners who have disobeyed the warnings of the Bible by applying pressure upon the sheep of God’s flock to disobey their consciences is stated thusly:
“Take thy pithy willingness to confront what you allege to be a ‘wrong,’ and show us how it’s done by publicly confronting Donald Trump, (as opposed to doing it against what’s left of a moral and conscientious American church).”
The writing of one minister especially caught my attention this past year after I was repeatedly approached by one of two groups: 1) confused Christians who either felt they were being pressured by his sophistry to violate their deeply held convictions, or, 2) believers who were actually bandwagoning his blog article, and using his condescension like a sledge hammer on a thumb tack — ridiculing anyone whose conscience would not allow them to support Donald Trump. Specifically, the minister’s blog title described other Christians with deep and abiding concerns about the illegitimacy of Donald Trump’s presidential crusade to be “boneheaded.” Now, there is nothing wrong with appropriately using the term “boneheaded” when it is applied upon those who are, in fact, boneheaded. God knows there are many boneheaded people on planet earth. We’ve all met them. I have at times been boneheaded myself. Clearly, I am no subscriber to the habits of the self-appointed “offense police” from the false-agape love church, who’ve never found a correction from a man of God they could not reject with a predictable style over substance critique.
We can all easily recognize the aggressive and confrontational use of appropriately stinging rebukes from the lips of the patriarchs of faith, including the Lord Jesus Christ. The Body of Christ still needs those kinds of rebukes, and probably more so today than ever before. But, if you will allow me to describe it this way: when a marksman takes aim with his pistol, he may be a very good shot, his gun may be in proper working order, and his bullet may fulfill its design once the trigger is pulled, but the marksman should take care to ensure that he is prepared for a ricochet if he fires at an inappropriate surface that must obey the laws of physics by deflecting his bullet. A bullet aimed at an inappropriate surface, not unlike the moniker “boneheaded” aimed at the wrong people, can bounce back upon the one who fired it.
I’ll say it again so it isn’t missed: no Christian preacher has any Biblical authorization to scold God’s sheep into voting against their own consciences. If they do, they should be called out for it, and marked as unsound in their mishandling of authority. According to 1 Corinthians 8:12, they “sin against Christ.” For all these reasons offered on the sacredness of the doctrine of conscience, and the duty of a good pastor, no such preacher who sins against Christ in this way (and does not repent for it) will ever be allowed to stand behind the pulpit in my local church. I sincerely hope that is true where you attend church, too.)
Really, what could be more clear in the Bible? Ministers have a sacred duty to help God’s people carefully and fearfully construct their consciences with the same materials from the “Word” who “became flesh and dwelt among us — whose glory we beheld.” It is a chilling thing to admit that by virtue of statistical evidence, reviewed here, that such instruction rarely ever happens inside the modern church prior to the terrors we now collectively face this coming election day. This is precisely why we now collectively face a terrible end on election day. The electoral college (not you alone in your voting booth) will be selecting one of two flavors of damnation for a country under God’s judgment. Nothing could be more clear to any student of the Bible. Once we accept that the Bible forbids us from badgering God’s people into violating their own consciences, but, instead, requires that we aid in the construction of a good conscience, a fair question is in order:
“How does one properly use God’s Word to teach Christians to adjust their conscience so they can vigorously support an unsavory character who has managed to embody nearly every trait concerning bad leadership warned about in the Bible?”
Answer: You do not do that because you cannot do that with any honor for properly interpreted Scripture. So other than by terrific and preposterous abuses of the otherwise genuine ministry of the Holy Spirit (sinful, public acts of false prophecy) here is what I have observed vast numbers of dangerously misguided minsters doing in publication after publication: apparently, one must resort to using humanist situational ethics founded upon lawlessness (hostility toward the immutable and harmonious laws of both Testaments). By situationism (which is defined as the willful setting aside of the absolutes of God’s law when you feel you have discovered a “more loving,” or “lesser evil” path to take) you can lead otherwise kind and noble Christians to override the authority of the Bible with relativistic and ever-changing standards built upon temporary conveniences and preferences.
Fact: Donald Trump is a disturbing man who frightens many conscientious, Bible-revering Christians for many, many, many, many reasons. For this cause, around 23% of registered Republicans in America have recently said they cannot vote for him… in… good… conscience. (A historic and shocking 37% of likely voters recently said they would consider voting for a third party option.) Here’s what many will consider an inconvenient truth: Donald Trump is 100% personally responsible for his public, calculated, and deliberate reality-TV-modeled behavior that has made him unsupportable to a politically threatening number of conscientious voters. What is a campaign to do? (Double down, apparently.)
The greatest evidence that the ministers acting as cowboys yipping and whipping and lassoing votes for Trump are properly called “neophytes” by yours truly, is in their name-calling and high-pressure tactics being employed against other Christians with solid, Biblically-based objections to Donald Trump’s legitimacy. In the article I mentioned earlier, Rev. Mario Murillo, who is a generally respected preacher of the Gospel with noble tenure, (and motives which are no doubt wonderful), published an article describing the rejection of humanist situational ethics as “boneheaded,” this past July 10th of 2016.
The particular blog was rife with nearly every logical fallacy students used to learn about in school: (ad hominem, bandwagon, begging the question, either/or reasoning, false authority, faulty causality, hasty generalizations, non sequitur and slippery slopes). For example, at one point he wrote: “…When I hear a Christian say ‘vote your conscience,’ they often really mean ‘vote for the one who has no sin’.” Really, Dr. Murillo?
Should it concern readers that I can openly say that after a few decades of deep political involvement (far beyond what most ministers are willing to endure), I have never met a single human being, much less a Christian human being, who actually believed we could only vote for someone “without sin?” I will tell you what “vote your conscience” means to virtually every one I’ve ever met in my life. It means (are you ready for this?) “Vote your conscience” really means, “Vote your conscience.”
What otherwise kind and good ministers like Mario Murillo must not yet understand is that the situationism they use and go to great lengths to publicly defend, (and rely upon as the disturbing premise of their many political and religious writings) was introduced by a 1960’s Episcopalian priest named Joseph Francis Fletcher. Fletcher eventually left the church and died at a ripe old age as accomplished Harvard theologian, turned avowed atheist. Yes, the father of American “Christian situationism” died while publicly supporting the murder of Down’s syndrome children as the “most loving” thing to do. He received the “Humanist of the Year” award in 1974. He became an infamous signer of the Humanist Manifesto (a document with the comparable theological prowess of the Satanic Bible) and openly promoted the evil of euthanasia, eugenics, abortion, and other means of extermination that Adolf Hitler otherwise applauded from his own perch in Hell.
Here’s the thing: If you study Fletcher’s dark teachings (which are now the nearly universal premise of the over-emphasized “agape love” mantras, as well as the “hyper-grace” movement whose tentacles have found entrance into nearly every American denomination known today), he was thoroughly consistent to do so, because denying God’s law in your daily decisions will and must end with the logical conclusions of denying God’s existence, and therefore, the inconvenient lives of others, if the one using situationism is perfectly consistent in the trajectory set upon the first day he unhinged himself from God’s eternal and absolute laws.
Thankfully (an ironic word to be sure), fewer and fewer church leaders in our day are thoroughly consistent with much of any of their doctrines, so most who are currently deceived by Fletcher’s demonic heresies, won’t necessarily end up like him, yet the false doctrines they ignorantly teach and demonstrate with public fanfare are certainly aiding our cultural slide away from the Bible as a nation. Apparently, if you have carefully studied this subject, (which is a verifiable demonic cancer throughout the modern church), and you refuse to allow it to keep iron grips on your mind in a voting booth, you are, in the mind of Mario Murillo, “boneheaded.” How fascinating.
If I may put on my political consultant hat for just a moment, it is a very reckless man, indeed, particularly in the political world, who thinks he or she may increase their public support by whipping and/or insulting the people who already do not support them. The fact that I have to explain this proves my point against properly labeled “neophytes” for a second time, but I digress. I opened this writing asking this question, but feel compelled to ask it again and provide the answer: “why on earth do I have to explain this to so many preachers?” I have the damnable answer in two words: situational ethics.
A closing thought for ardent Trump supporters whose consciences, not unlike Saul of Tarsus and Huckleberry Finn, are malformed by situationism and require that they willfully set aside Exodus 18:21 to vote for Donald Trump. (Recall that situational ethics, according to the Episcopal heretic-turned-atheist, Joseph Francis Fletcher, is defined as the willful setting aside of the absolutes of God’s law when one feels they have discovered a subjectively “more loving” or “lesser evil” path to take.) At this hour, by the math of the electoral college, your candidate appears to be losing an epic national election. Maybe it’s time to listen to a fresh viewpoint like what you’ve just read? God knows that history might have been different had you listened to the pearls of Exodus 18:21 during the primary season.
Surely you realize that we cannot both be right. If I am wrong, then your hypothesis and contribution to this discussion is suddenly the new standard of God for this month, in contradiction with sound reason and experience. If I am wrong, and you are right, here is the new truth of our age that will allegedly improve American life. I have simply taken Jethro’s supposed “irrelevant” and “legalistic” “Old Testament” rules, and reversed them to help you clarify your position as honestly as possible for the public. To be abundantly clear, if you are openly rejecting the authority of Exodus 18:21 in the voting booth this year, here is what you believe should be the guidepost for Christianity this November:
1) We should choose men who are incompetent.
2) We should choose men who do not reverently fear God.
3) We should choose men who are known for lying.
4) We should choose men who are motivated by dirty money.
In contrast with your position (above), which is always reliant upon the illusion that truth is relative, and any who say otherwise are branded “legalistic Pharisees” — here is God’s unambiguous command for choosing leaders at ALL levels of government (from dog catcher to president) which remains as true at this moment as it was 3,500 years ago when it was first recorded.
“Furthermore, you shall select from all the people competent men who reverently fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; you shall place these over the people as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.” -Exodus 18:21
1) We should choose men who are morally and intellectually competent.
2) We should choose men who reverently fear God.
3) We should choose men who are known for sincere honesty.
4) We should choose men who hate the manipulations of dirty money.
I will faithfully vote this year as I always have. I will support anyone on my ballot who meets this reasonable standard of Exodus 18:21. So neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump will get my support. I will vote for another alternative who honors God, and I will not allow other citizen majorities’ sins during the primary season pressure me into finally disobeying God at the END of that same primary season. It was wrong 9 months ago and its still wrong right now, to ignore Exodus 18:21.
“Remember that situational ethics is the willful setting aside of the absolutes of God’s law when one feels they have discovered a subjectively ‘more loving’ or ‘lesser evil’ path to take.”
Please stop doing that! You are injuring your own testimony and harming America by willful disobedience to the Bible. I sincerely hope you will learn to be free from the bondage of situational ethics.