Will Christianity be Driven Back into the Catacombs?

By Devin Foley, The Charlemagne Institute – Intellectual Takeout

Despite popular opinion, it must be acknowledged that America and the West were once culturally Christian. That doesn’t mean that the government was absolutely Christian, but rather that cultural values were most often shaped by Christian ethics and metaphysics, and that they even shaped the laws of the land. 

Our national holidays have always been around Christian holidays or, in the case of Thanksgiving, a new holiday designated as a time to thank God for our blessings and to pray for the country. Many of our streets, towns, and cities, such as St. Paul, MN or Providence, RI, recall Christian ideas or people. The United States Supreme Court still has the Ten Commandments on its facade. The Washington Monument? It has “Laus Deo” or “Praise be to God” inscribed at its very pinnacle. And that doesn’t begin to touch the number of court cases or government documents that reference or even rely upon Christian ethics for decisions, let alone the number of towns across America that still have Bible verses inscribed in the marble or granite of government buildings and public places.

Only recently have we as a culture and a society turned firmly against Christianity. The Great Apostasy had already begun before the 1960s, but it was that decade that really brought about the rapid decline of Christianity as not only an inspiration, but also as an ethos that shaped our culture and government. Today, of course, Christianity has largely been banished from the Public Square.

Those who still count themselves as devout Christians have shrunk dramatically. They also find that as the dominant secular culture makes its mark on government and civil law, that Christians are often losing the fight. It’s probably safe to say that many devout Christians feel themselves pushed to the fringes of society by a cultural elite who often want nothing to do with Christians or their religion.

Many decades ago, Christopher Dawson, a noted historian, wrote about the changes he foresaw in Christianity and European Culture and his expectation that Christians will find themselves retreating further and further away from today’s secular culture.

…the general study of Christian culture is ignored both in university curricula and by educated opinion at large. Until this has been changed, the secularization of modern civilization will go on unchecked.

Some Christians recognize what’s happening and have raised the idea of “The Benedict Option”, which they model off of St. Benedict’s retreat from society in 529 A.D. and his establishment of a network of monasteries as well as what would become the Order of St. Benedict for monks. These modern, Benedictines believe the best course of action is to retreat from secular society and develop small, Christian communities that would be self-reliant for the most part.

Fascinatingly, Dawson recognized the desire to retreat as a pattern of potential thought when he was writing seventy or eighty years ago:

…there is a kind of Catholic Puritanism which separates itself as far as possible from secular culture and adopts an attitude of withdrawal and intransigency. Now this attitude of withdrawal is perfectly justified on Catholic principles. It is the spirit of the Fathers of the Desert and of the martyrs and confessors of the primitive church. But it means that Christianity must become an underground movement and that the only place for Christian life and for Christian culture is in the desert and the catacombs.

Unfortunately, while Dawson saw the retreat to the catacombs as likely, he questions whether or not Christianity can survive even there. Why? Because of the power, reach, and expectations of the modern, secular state.

Under modern conditions, however, it may be questioned if such a withdrawal is possible. Today the desert no longer exists and the modern state exerts no less authority underground in the subway and the air raid shelter than it does on the earth and in the air. The totalitarian state — and perhaps the modern state in general — is not satisfied with passive obedience; it demands full co-operation from the cradle to the grave.

Consequently the challenge of secularism must be met on the cultural level, if it is to be met at all; and if Christians cannot assert their right to exist in the sphere of higher education, they will eventually be pushed not only out of modern culture but out of physical existence.

When we think about the power of the modern state to coerce individuals to submit, we must recognize that it is very real. Whatever set of values the state wants you to follow, the state is increasingly forcing people to do so. 

Now, a variety of individuals from all political stripes will likely argue that secular activists are freeing people from the thumb of religious and patriarchal laws. In a way, that is true. But it is also true that in doing so, the thumb of power is now coming down on Christians. And that is a result of the fact that all government action is a representation of cultural values. There is no such thing as a “values-neutral” government. Even a secular government is upholding and enforcing a set of values.

If cultural values are inherently Christian during a certain period of time, then the government of that time will reflect those beliefs. During such an era Christians will find themselves quite content and largely at peace with the government. Non-Christians, though, may see the way of life that they would like to lead quite impeded. They would then likely press for a cultural revolution that leads to a revolution in government and laws. 

Again though, it’s important to remember that such a secular state as many Americans are building today is not values-neutral. It has values, beliefs, and an ethos. Those values can be seen in the arts, entertainment, education, leisure, celebrations, customs, and, especially, government and laws. Those who share the values of the secular society will likely consider themselves quite free while now it is Christians who will find themselves very much oppressed.

Put simply, government action represents a set of values. If you agree with those values, you will likely not be troubled by government action because it follows your line of thinking. On the other hand, if you do not share the values that drive government action, then you will likely find a lot of government action to be quite oppressive.

At this time in our history, it is probably safe to say that the secular culture is still gaining momentum. It is only just starting to change significant laws and to act in ways that are threatening to many devout Christians. Soon we will probably see battles over the non-profit status of churches that refuse to allow gay marriages. We will also see battles over the non-profit status and licensure of private schools that refuse to comply with various transgender or curriculum requirements developed by the state. Churches will be taxed and Christians likely will find their economic opportunities shrinking if the trends continue. And it probably will be hard for secularized Americans to understand why Christians feel oppressed and why they aren’t happy with the changes in culture and government.   

In light of Christopher Dawson’s foresight and the speed at which our culture is moving from one heavily influenced by Christianity to one that is often hostile to Christianity and organized religion, it is a safe bet that Christianity figuratively will be driven back into the catacombs. It also may happen faster than anyone would expect — much like the speed at which our culture is changing. What happens after that, though, is anyone’s guess.

Devin Foley

Devin is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Charlemagne Institute, which operates Intellectual Takeout, Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and the Alcuin Internship. He is a graduate of Hillsdale College where he studied history and political science. Prior to co-founding Charlemagne Institute, he served as the Director of Development at the Center of the American Experiment, a state-based think tank in Minnesota.

How’s YOUR Hearing?

“The Parable of the Sower; why did the Lord Jesus give us that parable? Why, but to stir me up to serious inquiry and diligent examination so as to discover which kind of a “hearer” I am. In that parable, Christ likened those who hear the Word unto various sorts of ground upon which seeds fall. He divided them into four different classes. Three out of the four brought no fruit to perfection. That is exceedingly solemn and searching. In one case the Devil catches away the good seed out of the heart (Luke 8:12). In another case, they “for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13). In another case, they are “choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). Are you, my reader, described in one of these? Do not ignore this question. We beg you: face it honestly, and make sure which of the various soils represent your heart.

But there are some “good ground” hearers. And how are they to be identified? What did the infallible Son of God say of them? How did He describe them? Did He say, “that on the good ground are they who rest on the Word of God and doubt not His promises: are thoroughly persuaded they are saved, and yet go on living the same kind of life as previously”? No. He did not. Instead, He declared, “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).

Ah, dear readers, the test is fruit: not knowledge, not boasting, not orthodoxy, not joy, but FRUIT: and such “fruit” as mere nature cannot produce. It is the fruit of the Vine, namely, likeness to Christ, being conformed to His Image. May the Holy Spirit search each one of us.”

~ Arthur Pink, “The Doctrine of Assurance”

So, How’s YOUR hearing? How’s MINE?

The Good News About God’s Wrath

by Cameron Buettel, Friday, September 18, 2020

Ray Comfort once told me that sinners seek after God in the same way a thief seeks after a policeman. That’s a colorful way of describing the fallen human condition, but it’s also biblically accurate. The apostle Paul put it succinctly: “There is none who seeks for God” (Romans 3:11). John MacArthur expands on this biblical truth in his Romans commentary:    

Men are not naturally inclined to seek God. That truth was proved conclusively in the earthly ministry of Christ. Even when face-to-face with God incarnate, the Light of the world, “men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:19–20). As David had proclaimed hundreds of years earlier, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; there is no one who does good” (Psalm 14:1). Sinful men oppose the idea of a holy God because they innately realize that such a God would hold them accountable for the sins they love and do not want to relinquish.

Every person, no matter how isolated from God’s written Word or the clear proclamation of His gospel, has enough divine truth evident both within and around him (Romans 1:19–20) to enable him to know and be reconciled to God if his desire is genuine. It is because men refuse to respond to that evidence that they are under God’s wrath and condemnation. “This is the judgment,” Jesus said, “that . . . men loved the darkness rather than the Light” (John 3:19). Thus “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11, KJV). [1]

Due to our dire sinful predicament, we actually need God to seek us—and He begins that work by alerting us to impending danger. We should heed the words of John the Baptist, who warned his hearers to “flee from the wrath to come” (Luke 3:7). God’s wrath is integral in awakening us to our greatest problem—but it also points us to God’s solution to that problem.

Satisfying God’s Wrath

Paul’s great gospel discourse begins with the revelation of God’s wrath in Romans 1:18. And it climaxes two chapters later with the propitiation of God’s wrath.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21–26, emphasis added)

For the sake of our current theme, I want to zero in on three crucial theological points from this passage concerning God’s wrath. First, that we are all guilty “for all have sinned” (Romans 3:23), and therefore deserve God’s wrath. Second, we can be “justified”—gain a righteous legal standing before God and no longer be under His wrath—by grace through Christ’s redemptive work (Romans 3:24). And third, God can justify sinners (without compromising His justice) because Christ has now satisfied God’s wrath—being “displayed publically as a propitiation”—as a substitute for His people. As John MacArthur explains, reconciliation between God and man hinges on Christ propitiating—or satisfying—God’s righteous wrath against sinners:

Romans 3:25, 1 John 4:10 and 1 John 2:2 all say that Christ made propitiation for our sins, meaning that His sacrifice on the cross satisfied God. The offering of Christ was sufficient to placate God’s wrath against sin and fulfill all the holy demands of His perfect justice. God could not be satisfied with us until His own Son’s sacrifice fully paid the price of our sin. He could not take us into His family until His bought our forgiveness.

How do we know God was satisfied? Because He raised Christ from the dead, took Him into glory, and seated Him at His own right hand (Hebrews 1:3).

When we talk about being saved, when we talk about being delivered, it’s important to know what we are being saved from. We are delivered from our own sin, of course. We are saved from an eternity in hell. But those things are possible only because God Himself safeguards us from His judgment, through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son. [2]

Ultimately, God saves sinners from Himself—from the judgment that His justice demands. That’s why the gospel of Christ is robbed of its true meaning without the essential component of God’s wrath. It affirms God’s justice. It necessitates a Savior. And it explains the cross. We provoked God’s wrath by our sin, and Christ satisfied it by His substitutionary atonement. That’s what makes the good news actually good news.

When preachers ignore—or even deny—the doctrine of God’s wrath, the repercussions are devastating. Their god becomes a vain idol who is indifferent to evil. The perpetrators become the victims. Their savior doesn’t really save us from anything. And their cross becomes a tragic death—not a triumphant victory.

We cannot afford to live in ignorance of this glorious doctrine. It must be affirmed. It must be proclaimed. And it must be embraced as the truth that necessitated our glorious Savior. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (Romans 5:8–9).

___________

[1] John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Paul (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books 2017) 162

[2] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary : Romans 1-8 (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1991), 67-68

The Cry for Revival – Robert Murray M’Cheyne

The Battle Cry

“Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee?” Psalm 85:6.

It is interesting to notice the time when this prayer was offered. It was a time of mercy. “Lord, thou hast been favorable unto thy land.” It was a time when God had led many to the knowledge of Christ, and covered many sins. “Thou has forgotten the iniquity of thy people.” It was now they began to feel their need of another visit of mercy — “Wilt thou not revive us again?”

The thing prayed for. “Revive us again,” or literally, return and make us live anew. It is the prayer of those who have received some life, but feel their need of more. They had been made alive by the Holy Spirit. They felt the sweetness and excellence of this new, hidden, divine life. They pant for more — “Wilt thou not revive…

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“O Sacred “Neck” Now Wounded” ?????????

The above is not just another messed up classic hymn. stripped of it’s rich theology. It’s far worse, in my opinion. I’ll let you be the judge:

“O Sacred Neck Now Wounded”

Featuring Jon Guerra & Matt Maher

[Verse 1]
O, Sacred Neck, now wounded
Pressed down by blows and knees
This son of God surrounded
By silent enemies
Will no one stop and listen?
Will no one rise and speak
Of violence and oppression
Which hanged You from that tree?

O, Sacred Head, discounted
Lies crowned in locks and sweat
See thorns and curls now found
In Your weeping mother’s hands
O, sun-kissed King of glory
What honor once was yours
Yet now despised and gory
Our still and lifeless Lord

[Chorus]
O, man of sorrows, beaten down
Our brother’s blood cries from the ground
You bore our sin, we turned our eyes
From You, the Lamb of God

[Verse 3]
O, Sacred Body, wounded
Now breathless in the street
Your people here press onward
To be Your hands and feet
Your mouth to speak your justice
Your heartbeat for the poor
Your life, it flows within us
To break down prison doors

[Chorus]
O, man of sorrows, beaten down
Our brother’s blood cries from the ground
You bore our sin, we turn our eyes
To You, the Lamb of God

I cannot, for the life of me, understand how a professing ‘Christian’ musician could be a part of this.

The Source of God’s Wrath

by John MacArthur,  (Adapted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Romans 1–8)

The wrath of God isn’t some mystical phenomenon. Nor is it limited to judgment events at the end of time. The Bible speaks of God’s wrath as a present and tangible reality coming down from heaven. That’s what the apostle Paul meant when he said that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven” (Romans 1:18, emphasis added).

God’s wrath is rendered from “heaven.” Despite Satan’s present power as prince of the air and of this world, the earth is ultimately dominated by heaven, the throne of God, from which His wrath is constantly and dynamically manifested in the world of men.

Paul frequently speaks about the wrath, indicating a specific time or type of wrath. Although the NASB rendering does not indicate it, there is a definite article before “wrath” in Romans 3:5, which should read, “who inflicts the wrath.” It is a subject Paul continually makes reference to throughout his epistle to Rome. In chapter 5 he speaks of our being “saved from the wrath of God through” Christ (Romans 5:9). In chapter 12 he instructs those who are vengeful to “leave room for the wrath of God” (Romans 12:19). And in chapter 13 he reminds his readership to be in subjection to God “not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake” (Romans 13:5). Around five years earlier he assured the fearful Christians in Thessalonica that Jesus delivers them “from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Heaven reveals God’s wrath in two ways: through His moral order and through His personal intervention. When God made the world, He built in certain moral as well as physical laws that have since governed its operation. Just as a person falls to the ground when he jumps from a high building, so does he fall into God’s judgment when he deviates from God’s moral law. That is built-in wrath. When a person sins, there is a built-in consequence that inexorably works. In this sense God is not specifically intervening, but is letting the law of moral cause and effect work.

The second way in which God reveals His wrath from heaven is through His direct and personal intervention. He is not an impersonal cosmic force that set the universe in motion to run its own course. God’s wrath is executed exactly according to His divine will.

Several Hebrew words which convey a highly personal character are used in the Old Testament to describe God’s anger. Charah is used ninety-one times. It refers to becoming heated, to burning with fury, and is frequently used of God (see, e.g., Genesis 18:30). Charon is used forty-one times. It refers exclusively to divine anger and means “a burning, fierce wrath” (see, e.g., Exodus 15:7). Qatsaph, which means bitter, is used thirty-four times, most of which refer to God (see, e.g., Deuteronomy 1:34). The fourth term for wrath is chemah, which also refers to a venom or poison, is frequently associated with jealousy and is used most often of God (see, e.g., 2 Kings 22:13). David declared that “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day” (Psalm 7:11). “Indignation” translates zaam, which means to foam at the mouth, and is used over twenty times in the Old Testament, often of God’s wrath.

Some people try to downplay God’s role in the wrath we see in Scripture by blaming the devil. But this is not a form of wrath that is satanic in origin. Whether it is cause and effect wrath or the personal fury of God being meted out, that wrath originates in heaven.

And we can find comfort—as well as fear—in that fact. We should flee God’s wrath in fear, but we can take comfort in the knowledge that our sovereign has provided a us with a certain means of escape—the Savior whom He also sent from heaven.

Jellyfish Christianity

by J. C. Ryle

evanjellyfish One plague of our age is this widespread dislike to distinct biblical doctrine. In the place of it, the idol of the day is a kind of jellyfish Christianity – a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or sinew, without any distinct teaching about the atonement or the work of the Spirit, or justification, or the way of peace with God – a vague, foggy, misty Christianity, of which the only watchwords seem to be, “You must be liberal and kind. You must condemn no man’s doctrinal views. You must consider everybody is right and nobody is wrong.”

And this creedless kind of religion, we are told, is to give us peace of conscience! And not to be satisfied with it in a sorrowful, dying world, is a proof that you are very narrow-minded! Satisfied, indeed! Such a religion might possibly do for unfallen angels! But to tell sinful, dying men and women, with the blood of our father Adam in our veins, to be satisfied with it, is an insult to common sense and a mockery of our distress. We need something far better than this. We need the blood of Christ.

Jellyfish Christianity epidemic

Dislike of dogma is an epidemic which is just now doing great harm, and specially among young people. It produces what I must venture to call a jellyfish Christianity in the land: that is, a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or power.

A jellyfish is a pretty and graceful object when it floats in the sea, contracting and expanding like a little, delicate, transparent umbrella. Yet the same jellyfish, when cast on the shore, is a mere helpless lump, without capacity for movement, self-defense, or self-preservation. Alas! It is a vivid type of much of the religion of this day, of which the leading principle is, “No dogma, no distinct tenets, no positive doctrine.”

We have hundreds of jellyfish clergymen, who seem not to have a single bone in their body of divinity. They have not definite opinions; they belong to no school or party; they are so afraid of “extreme views” that they have no views at all.

We have thousands of jellyfish sermons preached every year, sermons without an edge, or a point, or a corner, smooth as billiard balls, awakening no sinner, and edifying no saint.

We have Legions of jellyfish young men annually turned out from our Universities, armed with a few scraps of second-hand philosophy, who think it a mark of cleverness and intellect to have no decided opinions about anything in religion, and to be utterly unable to make up their minds as to what is Christian truth. They live apparently in a state of suspense, like Mohamet’s fabled coffin, hanging between heaven and earth and last.

Worst of all, we have myriads of jellyfish worshippers — respectable church-going people, who have no distinct and definite views about any point in theology. They cannot discern things that differ, any more than color-blind people can distinguish colors.

They think everybody is right and nobody wrong, everything is true and nothing is false, all sermons are good and none are bad, every clergyman is sound and no clergyman is unsound. They are “tossed to and fro, like children, by every wind of doctrine”; often carried away by any new excitement and sensational movement; ever ready for new things, because they have no firm grasp on the old; and utterly unable to “render a reason of the hope that is in them.”

Never was it so important for laymen to hold systematic views of truth, and for ordained ministers to enunciate dogma very clearly and distinctly in their teaching.

—–

Excerpt from JC Ryle, Principles for Churchmen

Charles Ryle (10 May 1816 – 10 June 1900) was an English evangelical Anglican bishop. He was the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool

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Peace in Our Time?

Peace in Our Time?

Yes, it’s possible, but maybe not the way you might be thinking.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You”.    (Isa 26:3, NKJV)

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7, NKJV)

Here we have two familiar passages talking about peace, taken from two different contexts, yet pointing to the identical source of genuine and lasting peace for our hearts and minds, regardless of our circumstances.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You”.    (Isa 26:3, NKJV)

We are prompted to ask two questions;

  • What is ‘perfect peace’?
  • ·What is meant by a mind ‘stayed’ on God?

One Commentary offers this explanation:

“‘Peace, peace;’ the repetition of the word denoting, as is usual in Hebrew, emphasis, and here evidently meaning undisturbed, perfect peace. That is, the mind that has confidence in God shall not be agitated by the trials to which it shall be subject; by persecution, poverty, sickness, want, or bereavement. The inhabitants of Judea had been borne to a far distant land. They had been subjected to reproaches and to scorn (Psa 137:1-9); had been stripped of their property and honor; and had been reduced to the condition of prisoners and captives. Yet their confidence in God had not been shaken. They still trusted in him; still believed that he could and would deliver them. Their mind was, therefore, kept in entire peace.”[i]

Our second passage comes from the Apostle Paul’s final exhortation and encouragement to the church in Philippi. Paul tells believers in Philippi not to be anxious about things in this life, but instead present their concerns to God, who promises a peace that is beyond human understanding.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7, NKJV)

It is a peace beyond human understanding because it’s a peace that God presents to human minds and hearts. Again, one commentary offers us the following:

“The peace imparted is of the highest possible kind. The language here is that which one would use who designed to speak of that which was of the highest order. The Christian, committing his way to God, and feeling that he will order all things aright, has a peace which is nowhere else known. No confidence that a man can have in his own powers; no reliance which he can repose on his own plans or on the promises or fidelity of his fellow-men, and no calculations which he can make on the course of events, can impart such peace to the soul as simple confidence in God.”[ii]

So What? How does that apply to us? Those passages were from other times and in other places. We are here and now.

The title of this article asked if there can be peace in our time and was immediately answered with a resounding “Yes”, and here’s why.

The peace promised in both our Old Testament and New Testament passages is God’s peace, not something we can somehow develop in and of ourselves. God’s peace transcends time and space. God’s children can know ‘perfect peace’ no matter what their earthly circumstances. It’s a peace far beyond human comprehension; complete calm in the storms of life.

It’s not a temporal peace, but peace in our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Do you remember the story of Jesus taking a nap while the sea was raging? (See Mark 4:35-40). It’s that kind of peace!

How do we obtain such peace? Our passages tell us:

First, we can keep our minds ‘stayed’ on God. While there are different translations of that term, we can think of it in terms of ‘worldview’. That’s a term we do understand. We can maintain a biblical worldview, which is another way of saying that we allow God, through His book and by His Spirit living in us, inform and support how we view everything in our lives.

Secondly, instead of worrying and being anxious about the things of this world (and there is plenty to be anxious about) we can present all of our problems, cares and concerns to God, through his Son and our savior Jesus Christ.

During his last meal with his disciples, after promising the coming of the Holy Spirit and shortly before the walk to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus spoke these words to his closest followers:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Can there be peace in our time?

YES!!


[i] Albert Barnes

[ii] ibid