The first presidential debate and four Supreme Court rulings

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A presidential debate and four Supreme Court rulings

Why trust in our leaders is crucial to our future

June 28, 2024 -

President Joe Biden, right, speaks as Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump listens during a presidential debate hosted by CNN, Thursday, June 27, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

President Joe Biden, right, speaks as Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump listens during a presidential debate hosted by CNN, Thursday, June 27, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

President Joe Biden, right, speaks as Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump listens during a presidential debate hosted by CNN, Thursday, June 27, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

President Biden and former President Trump held a ninety-minute debate last night at CNN’s Atlanta studios. This was the first presidential debate in history where Americans witnessed a sitting president debating his predecessor.

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court issued four significant rulings:

  • Idaho must provide abortions in medical emergencies.
  • The family that owns Purdue Pharma cannot use the company’s bankruptcy case to settle opioid lawsuits without the plaintiffs’ consent.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission cannot rely on in-house courts to resolve certain enforcement disputes.
  • The EPA must suspend its plan to curtail air pollution that drifts across state lines.

It will be interesting to see how last night’s debate and the Court’s rulings shift public opinion. Approval of the Court has sunk to historic lows, as has public opinion regarding the presidency. Approval of Congress is the lowest of the three branches: only 8 percent of us trust them “a great deal” or “quite a lot.”

In 1958, about three-quarters of Americans trusted the federal government to do the right thing almost always or most of the time; today only one-third agree.

Why is this issue so critical to our future?

If you wanted to undermine America

Our democratic republic depends on our voluntary participation in elections and trust in the leaders we elect. It would be impossible to force compliance with our laws through the police and military without massive reprisals. Our democratic experiment can thrive only to the degree that we wish it to do so.

Our enemies are aware of this fact. This is why officials are warning that an increasing number of foreign actors are seeking to influence our elections—Russia, China, and Iran chief among them. Advances in AI make it easy and cheap to create lifelike images, video, and audio that can fool voters. And media networks can quickly amplify false and misleading content as well.

If you wanted to undermine America, I cannot think of a more direct way than to undermine Americans’ confidence in the democracy upon which it depends.

If you wanted to undermine the church in America, you would adopt a similar strategy. This brings us to the perplexing question we’ve been asking this week: Why would an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God allow innocent suffering, especially at the hands of those who purportedly represent him?

The clergy abuse scandal is first and foremost a tragedy for its victims. On a secondary level, however, it is also a tragedy in that it causes so many to question whether they can trust America’s churches, ministries, and ministry leaders.

The best way for Satan to keep people from hearing the gospel is to keep them from listening to those who share it.

“Then shall your light rise in the darkness”

How should believers respond?

As a philosopher, I have often noted the three “channels” of epistemology, the three ways we know all that we know: the rational, the practical, and the intuitive. You do math rationally; you operate your computer practically (unless you’re a computer engineer, in which case you do so rationally); you like people intuitively.

This week we’ve explored rational responses to our question. Now let’s consider the pragmatic: we demonstrate the reality and relevance of God’s love by our practical compassion.

The Lord promises his people: “If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday” (Isaiah 58:10). We were “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). Loving our neighbor as ourselves is central to God’s purpose for each of us (Matthew 22:39).

C. S. Lewis observed:

I have received no assurance that anything we can do will eradicate suffering. I think the best results are obtained by people who work quietly away at limited objectives, such as the abolition of the slave trade, or prison reform, or factory acts, or tuberculosis, not by those who think they can achieve universal justice, or health, or peace. I think the art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as well as we can.

“He has chosen not to heal me, but to hold me”

We’ll close with the intuitive: we demonstrate the relevance of God’s power and love most persuasively by experiencing them personally and then living in a way that attracts others to him. When “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), our walk encourages others to join us. As the great Christian educator Howard G. Hendricks noted:

“You teach what you know, but you reproduce what you are.”

Joni Eareckson Tada, who has been a quadriplegic since a diving accident at the age of seventeen, says of God:

He has chosen not to heal me, but to hold me. The more intense the pain, the closer his embrace. The greatest good suffering can do for me is to increase my capacity for God. Real satisfaction comes not in understanding God’s motives, but in understanding his character, in trusting in his promises, and in leaning on him and resting in him as the Sovereign who knows what he is doing and does all things well.

Her faith in her Father has inspired multitudes to trust him with their suffering as well.

Why do you need him to “hold” you today?

Friday news to know:

*Denison Forum does not necessarily endorse the views expressed in these stories.

Quote for the day:

“Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.” —Oswald Chambers

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