July 7, 2014
America is cleaning-up from Friday’s fireworks; despite the horror of the daily headlines, people around the world still long to join us in “the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave…”
Conflict continues over the price paid to bring Bowe Bergdahl home from Taliban captivity (five of their top-guys for one guy who might not have wanted to be one of us), but there is – currently – no indication that high-level talks are underway for the repatriation of Jeffrey Fowle from North Korea.
Fowle is an Ohioan – a municipal employee of Moraine, population 6,400 – who entered North Korea on April 29th in an organized tour group. During his stay, he left a Bible in his hotel room (in most American hotels, they’re already there). That was declared a hostile act against the government, and he awaits trial. If found guilty, a sentence of 15 years hard labor is possible…
Kim Il-Sung, the first president of North Korea, grew up in a Christian home. As a result of his exposure to the Christian faith, he became convinced that the facets of Christianity – meeting together, complete and total devotion to a divinity, and singing hymns – could be adapted to a state religion. Juche is the worship of the Kim family. This means that Christianity is a direct challenge to state ideology, and practicing that faith is illegal. Christians are enemies of the state of North Korea, refusing to deify the Kim dynasty. In North Korea, the religious faith is sola Kim…
The Christian faith practiced by the Reformers – whose contribution to clarity still serves us today – was captured in five powerful statements of truth; they are:
- Sola Scriptura: by Scripture alone. This primary claim recognizes the Bible as the ultimate, final authority, because it is the Word of God. No church, no government, no cultural trend, no intellectual argument is elevated above the Bible in the establishment of overarching truth.
- Sola Fide: by faith alone. Salvation cannot be earned or deserved; it is obtained on God’s terms, and His terms demand faith in His plan. It was always so, and will always be so.
- Sola Gratia: by grace alone. God is beholden to no one, and He dispenses His favor on the basis of His grace, in keeping with His character. No demand can be made of Him; He does what He wills, on His terms, by His grace.
- Sola Christo: by Christ alone. Dependence on human intermediaries – an earthly priestly class – is no longer required: Jesus Christ alone stands between earth and heaven to represent people to God the Father. The priesthood of all believers elevates them to a life that is ministry.
- Soli Deo Gloria: glory to God alone. All legitimate applause ends in heaven; the conduct of Creation is – ultimately – a commendation of the Creator. The works intended by God give honor to God, by Whom they were imagined and in Whom they are sourced.
Kim Jung-Un may have Dennis Rodman as a buddy, but Jeffrey Fowle has Friends in higher places. His best contacts are in Heaven, and they represent a Higher Power Who can orchestrate human events at will, even in countries under the control of self-deceived despots (capitals used for clarity).
Almost 2,600 years ago, Nebuchadnezzar thought his Empire – Babylon – made him the greatest. A voice came from heaven: “Your royal authority has been taken from you… until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone He wishes…” (Daniel 4:31-32).
It’s been three millennia, but that declaration is a somber reminder for any leader, whether in Pyongyang, Moscow, Havana… or, Washington. You may be powerful now, but…