The vice presidential debate last night between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris was largely a civil affair. Predictably, partisan analysts were convinced afterward that their party’s nominee won the event. (The fly that landed on Mr. Pence’s head received widespread attention as well.)
Going into the debate, expectations were unusually high. In fact, some were saying that the stakes were higher than for any previous vice presidential debate in history.
University of Virginia scholar Barbara Perry notes that, based on US presidential history, Harris or Pence would have a one-in-five chance of ascending to the Oval Office over the next four years. This does not consider the ages of President Trump, who is seventy-four and recovering from COVID-19, and former Vice President Biden, who, at seventy-seven, is the oldest presidential candidate in American history.
The fact that Americans are so focused on potential successors to the most powerful person in the world reminds us that the most powerful person in the world is subject to forces that are more powerful still.
“We Are Not as Strong as We Think We Are”
I read and recommend a daily email devotional distributed by retired Major League Baseball manager Clint Hurdle. Yesterday’s article focuses on a song by the legendary singer and songwriter Rich Mullins titled, “We Are Not as Strong as We Think We Are.”
Though Mullins died in a car accident in 1997, he could have written his song this morning.
Hurricane Delta is over the Gulf of Mexico this morning after slamming into Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula yesterday. The National Hurricane Center warns that the storm “is expected to grow in size as it approaches the northern Gulf Coast, where life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds are likely beginning Friday.” It will be the tenth hurricane to make landfall in the US this year, breaking a record set in 1916.
Meanwhile, California is fighting the first “gigafire” in its history. This is a term used by academics to describe a wildfire that reaches a million acres in size. And global deaths from COVID-19 have passed one million, with more than thirty-six million people infected as of this morning.
On a more positive note, Mars is brighter in the night sky than it will be again for fifteen years. Sky & Telescope reports that on October 6 it was “just 38.6 million miles from Earth.” It was the word “just” that intrigued me.
According to NASA, the diameter of our planet is approximately 8,000 miles. I therefore calculate that we could fit 4,825 Earths into the distance between us and Mars. And that’s just two planets in one solar system. Scientists estimate that there may be as many as 100 billion solar systems in our galaxy. And there are about 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe.
A call to repent, renew, and resolve
We cannot fully comprehend Mother Nature, but we can do something about human nature. In fact, we must.
As I noted on Tuesday, it’s hard to read Romans 1 and not see American culture reflected in Paul’s description of the decadent, depraved Roman society of his day. As followers of Jesus, however, we are not allowed simply to condemn and dismiss those who reject our Lord and his word. Jesus called us “the” light of the world (Matthew 5:14). If the room is dark, the burden is on us to provide what it needs.
In light of this biblical mandate, a broad cross-section of Christian leaders is responding proactively and confessionally. The National Association of Evangelicals has published “For the Health of the Nation,” a call for evangelical Christians to “engage with humility, civility, intellectual rigor, and honesty in the complex and contentious social issues that face our nation.”
Appropriately, the statement first calls us to repent, acknowledging that “we have not always loved God and loved our neighbor.” Second, we are called to renew our commitment to eight biblical principles of urgent relevance to our day. Third, we are called to resolve to embody five priorities that will empower our witness and ministry to our fallen culture.
I have signed the statement, as have a wide spectrum of evangelical leaders. I urge you to read it and join me in committing yourself to its principles and priorities.
How to “choose freedom today”
The good news is that the character we need is not dependent on our character. Oswald Chambers notes: “Redemption means that Jesus Christ can put into any man the hereditary disposition that was in himself, and all the standards he gives are based on that disposition: his teaching is for the life he puts in” (his emphasis).
Chambers explains: “The moral miracle of redemption is that God can put into me a new disposition whereby I can live a totally new life.” He adds: “Redemption means that I can be delivered from the heredity of sin and through Jesus Christ can receive an unsullied heredity, viz., the Holy Spirit.” However, “God cannot put into me, a responsible moral being, the disposition that was in Jesus Christ unless I am conscious I need it.”
Craig Denison agrees: “Freedom has been bought for you by the blood of the Lamb. You are no longer a slave to this world but a slave to righteousness. In the Holy Spirit you have freedom from every past pursuit and present temptation if you will simply follow his guidance into a lifestyle of righteousness.”
Craig therefore urges us: “Choose freedom today. Choose to follow the Spirit away from that which will lead you to sin and toward that which will fill you with a longing for holiness.”
For the sake of your soul and your witness to our culture, will you choose such freedom today?