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Thursday, May 13, 2010

No Abortion Campaign... Faith Finds Oil... Coincidence?

Two years ago, Pastor Steve Hickey suggested that God would bless South Dakota with a fortune in oil if we would just pass the abortion ban on that year's ballot.

That ban failed, as had its carbon-almost-copy in 2006, and our country sank into godless socialism.

Uh oh—what's that ominous sound rising from the fiery depths?

Last year the town of Faith decided it was time for a new well to supply their water. They had no idea what they were about to stumble on.

"We didn't find water, but we did find traces of oil," Faith Mayor Glen Haines said.

Haines said he didn't know the magnitude of what they hit until a local geologist contacted Nakota Energy, an oil company from Colorado.

"In the last year we've been working more on this with this company, and they're the ones getting more excited about it, kinda exciting the whole community," Haines said [Austin Hoffman, "Faith Hits Oil," KELOLand.com, 2010.05.12].

Just so we're clear: we get news of an oil strike in Faith in the year when there is no abortion ban on our ballot. How can this be? Folks in Faith must be tossing local virgins down the well to appease the petro-gods.

We don't need to win God's favor to find oil. We just need Faith to dig a water well.


  1. Unlike during our Founding era, it’s not PC today to suggest Providence favors a nation whose God is the Lord. (That’s a phrase from the Bible BTW). My bad for not being PC. I’ve told Cory before he needs to be careful to not mock people of faith as the vast majority of us in South Dakota believe that God will bless you if you live right. In fact, typically those who chose to get married in a church did so because they understand the connection between being right with God and being happy and prosperous in life. Cory has progressived himself down a very different road. Can it still be called “progressive” if you are progressing down the wrong road?

  2. Matt Hildreth5/13/2010 9:00 AM

    Pastor Hickey,

    I can't find "Providence favors a nation whose God is the Lord" in the Bible.

    Are referring David's poetic writings in the book of Psalms where he says:

    Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.

    From heaven the LORD looks down
    and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth-

    he who forms the hearts of all,
    who considers everything they do.

    No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength.



  3. You found it Matt.

    That theme is found in a couple hundred places in the Bible and many more times in the writings of our Founders. And a few of these Founders who wrote (about the hand and blessings of Providence) were even Diests! Obviously Diesm meant something different back then than it does today otherwise these guys wouldn't have written so often about God's direct hand in the affairs of a nation. Diesm as we know it today says at Creation God wound up the world like a clock and stepped back and remains hands off. Even the most Diest of our Founders rejected that notion. Ever wonder how have we gotten to the point that everything these guys said and believed is now unconstitutional?

  4. Cool. Thanks for the info!

    I never really understood Diesm...

    One other question - How do you think we (people of faith) should respond to the verse that says:

    "No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength."

    Is David saying that we can either have faith in God OR faith in our military - but not both?

  5. Steve, one who would have agreed with the unconstitutionality of most church/state commingling was Thomas Jefferson. He didn't believe Jesus was the Son of God or Messiah; he believed Jesus was a great moral teacher. He absolutely believed in the separation of church and state, and in fact was the leading mover in the disestablishment of the state church of Virginia. He thought Revelations were "the ravings of a maniac", and put together his own New Testament which left out all miracles and the Virgin Birth. He did not believe that there was direct action or intervention by a Deity in the world's affairs, and didn't want it, either. The only way to make Thomas Jefferson a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian - perhaps even a Christian, by most people's standards - is to lie about him.

  6. I don't know about Deism; I'm still hung up on that business about the rain falling on the righteous and the wicked alike. If piety won petro-blessings, wouldn't Israel or Colorado Springs have the oil and not Saudi Arabia and Iran?

    Seriously, I see too much evidence of bad stuff happening to good people to buy the idea that "living right" buys you happiness and prosperity. (Note: I'm not rejecting the existence of God with this argument; I'm rejecting the existence of a God who plays kindergarten teacher and gives treats for behaving.)

  7. Eve

    People today love to go to the two most irreligious Founders (Franklin and Jefferson) to project their current disbelief back onto the Foundering Era. They don't like to hear that 27 of the 56 signers of the Declaration had seminary degrees or were ordained ministers. They were all far more fundimentalist Christians than many of us today.

    However, you are correct, they weren't evangelicals, most of them were 17th century Anglicans, Congregationalists and Baptists. I just finished reading 1000 pages on Washington that puts to rest this nonsense of the last 40 years that these guys weren't fervant Christians. http://www.amazon.com/George-Washingtons-Sacred-Peter-Lillback/dp/0978605268

    I do love this Jefferson quote when he precided over the schools in DC - commenting on how central the Bible is to education... "I have always said, always will say, that the studious perusal of the sacred volume will make us better citizens." These signers of the Declaration started things like the American Bible Society.

    Mostly I love to tell folks that prior to and throughout his presidency, Jefferson attended a weekly church service IN the US Capital and how he personally enlisted the Marine Band to lead hymns each week before a minister he personally invited to speak preached the sermon. The rostrum of the Speaker of the House was used as the preacher's pulpit and Congress purchased the hymnals used in the service just as they commissioned a Bible for the expressed purpose of evangelizing the indians. For 50 years up to 1-2000 people attended these Sunday services in the US Capital - it was a mega-church! Curious that Jefferson didn't see any of this as a violation of the separation of church and state. Ha!

    Revisionists have to do violence to the historical record to project their own disbelief back into the Founding era.

  8. Cory,

    Can you fix my typo in the first paragraph of my last comment - meant to say Founding Era, not Foundering Era. Thanks.

    You are right that it's an age-old dilemma for the righteous that wicked do prosper and folks like me need to be very careful before we get dogmatic about what we say are obvious blessings and cursings of God on nations today.

    For example, it'd be too easy to connect the dots between our President's recent shunning of Israel and our oil spill in the Gulf - but since we can't be sure it's best to be silent - these are days as Jesus said, to just watch and pray.

    However, every single day I deal with people who did the prodigal thing and ran from God for years and ended up unhappy and eating the pods of pigs. We are talking about God ordering the world according to basic reap-what-you-sow principles. It's not that he's a kindergarden teacher who hands out treats. He has been very clear the path that leads to life and those who pick the other route only have themselves to blame.

    I believe God's grace rains on the righteous and the unrighteous just as the Bible says and as is empirically evident in the world around us. However, there is a discernable and historically documentable special grace Covenant nations have enjoyed, America and Israel are prime examples. My sense is that in each case, historically and at present, when these two nations reject God, his special grace and favor lifts. I do believe it is lifting off America and that this lifting preceeds Obama, but now it's rapid as he is in open defiance. Sadly as I pray for our nation, I have this foreboding sense we are about to get slammed - not sure if that is terrorism, financial or environmental. In any case, God is more than justified to leave us to ourselves.

  9. [Sorry, Steve, no comment edit capability on Blogger! But now that you mention, we did rather Founder with those Articles of Confederation, did we not?]

    I just can't roll with prosperity gospel on either a personal or national level. The data are just too self-selecting. It's too easy to see bad stuff happen and say, "Well, so-and-so must not have been sufficiently right with God." The null hypothesis on the personal level here is that good Christians (hard enough for mere mortals to define "good") will strike it rich and go bankrupt, die early from cancer and recover from cancer, get hit by drunk drivers, etc., at about the same rates as Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Wiccans, and heathens like me. Show me the evidence that "being right with God" tilts the stats in your favor, not the broader networks of business contacts and personal support formed by church attendance (I can replicate that advantage through other activities) or not staying out late during dangerous driving hours (I already replicate that) or any other earthly factor that the impious can effectively mimic.

    On the national level, the null hypothesis is that "good Christian" nations reap tangible, quantifiable, historical prosperity ("special grace and favor") in not greater or lesser degree than less Christian nations. Ecuador is 99.9% Christian. Finland—84.7%. Canada—74.1%. Australia—64.0%. Netherlands—51.0% (more data here). Which of those countries shows more objective signs of blessing and prosperity? Or is the proper metric not the piety of the population but that of its rulers? Can one evil President negate the blessing God would otherwise bestow on vast masses of good Christians? Or is it still the masses' fault for rejecting God by electing a leader unacceptable to God?

    Obama won 78% of Jewish voters, 67% of us non-churchgoing voters, 54% of the Catholic vote, and 45% of Protestants... though only 26% of evangelical Christians. Does God punish the entire nation? Does he drop a meteor on Church at the Gate to punish you, Pastor Hickey for not blog-evangelizing hard enough? Or does He just raise the flood waters to inundate everyone below 6000 feet, sparing Colorado Springs and others closer to Heaven?

    I know we can't know the mind of God. But if we can't, then your claim that "being right with God" is the golden ticket makes no sense. So what are the criteria a rational God uses to punish nations and individuals?

    I'm still not going to church on Sunday. But if I had to, I'd find the logic of "rain for righteous and wicked alike—stuff happens" much simpler, more defensible, and more coherent with empirical data than the individual or national prosperity gospel.

  10. Well, of course people are going to bring up Thomas Jefferson: between writing the Declaration of Independence and the Jefferson New Testament, he's an obvious character. And of course so many of the founding fathers were trained seminarians and ministers: in the 1700's, Yale and Harvard were primarily divinity schools, and most men who went there trained as ministers. It's sort of like back in the first part of the 1900's, when most educated black men were ministers (for one thing, they could get in seminaries), which is why most of the civil rights activists and black politicians were ministers.
    As far as holding prayer and church services in the Capitol, no problem. Separation of church and state revolved around (1) money - no tax money would go to churches, so that no state church would be instituted; (2) nondenominationalism - you had to believe (or say you believed) in God (as Napoleon said, "one shoots men who do not believe in God"), but no official denomination was to be allowed to become the sect of the nation.
    And, there's the fact that the founding fathers were human beings, complete with all the complications and contradictions that apply. Fierce belief in individual freedom and equality; protection of slavery. You have someone like Hamilton, who really didn't believe in democracy ("the people are a great beast") and someone like Adams, who did, but signed the Alien and Sedition Acts specifically to prevent the opposition from having free speech.
    Finally, with regard to "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD", the flat contradiction to that is (1) Job; (2) the Holocaust; (3) Domitian; (4) "The rain falls on the just and unjust".
    The gospel of prosperity leaves out the simple fact that Paul tells us over and over that we have to suffer, not to mention the fact that what it's really saying is that while we want to be like Jesus, we don't want to be treated like Jesus - to live in total poverty, giving away everything we have, and ending up abandoned, stripped, beaten, humiliated, and killed. Instead, we want, in the immortal words of someone or other, Jesus as Santa Claus as a young man. That He was not.

  11. Let's assume that god does in fact provide individuals with advantages if they are believers. This means that god would be intervening in our daily lives. Assuming god is intervening in our daily lives, how is the concept of free will maintained?

    To me, if god did intervene, that would be an usurpation of free will. That only way that I can even conceive of god is as an external observer that doesn't interact with us. If god isn't an external observer, then god would be responsible for everything that happens (not acting is an action if you don't have a bright line).

  12. Eve makes a good point: Jesus certainly didn't prosper. Sure, he was a special case, sent to pay the debt mankind couldn't, changing history... but I don't hear much from him about how following him means we get a bunch of treasure to store up here on earth.

    Tony, I'm not convinced that divine intervention constitutes a usurpation of free will. Suppose God says, "If you meatheads pass an unconstitutional abortion ban, I'll dry up that oil field under Faith." We're still perfectly free to pass that ban. We'll lose our oil... but do consequences negate free will?

    The original question remains: where'd that oil come from? How did this impious state get that blessing?

  13. Jesus' answer to the questions of Providence (or lack thereof) are summed up in Luke 4:24-26, John 9:2-4 (the disciples ask whose sin caused the man's blindness, Jesus said nobody's), Luke 13:1-5 ("do you think they [who died] were the worst sinners? No, they weren't"). Basically, if you keep asking who sinned to cause some terrible event, you're asking the wrong question (not to mention violating "Judge not lest ye be judged"). Your only concern should be your own behavior.

    Again, I've always thought that the gospel of prosperity turns religion back into magic. Do the proper incantation, say the proper prayer, live the proper life, and all will be well. You've made a bargain with God: in other words, you now control God's behavior towards you. So much for faith or grace, or trust.

  14. Prosperity gospel? Who's talking about that? These are laws built into all of creation - you reap what you sow.

    Eve - you talk about faith, grace and trust. That's fine. However, reading the last few comments these words come to mind... then God is not just.

    That he rewards good and punishes wrong isn't prosperity teaching. It's Bible 101. I'm pretty sure you all admire Jesus as a good teacher. Why then do you pick and choose what he taught? He is either what he said he is, or he's a deceiver and a liar. Sure he taught to turn the other cheek and he embodied grace but he also said he's the only way and he talked about casting people out to where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. You think I'm radical, you ought to read what he had to say.

    One of our teachers here a CATG, Todd Epp can vouch for him, wrote four books that span a variety of the academic disciplines in scope and he makes a watertight case that evidences in the world - archeology, history, science, sociology, migrations, geo-political dynmaics, etc, etc. prove that the Bible is true and that God has Providentially guided nations over the centuries. Every single promise that God has prophetically made in the Bible has come to pass. It's fascinating and it does put to rest any lingering doubts that God is hands off today or throughout history.

    So, there are documentable historical evidences that God is active in the world, rewarding and punishing, leading and guiding, but here's the thing....

    Millions of people worldwide have a testimony to tell of God's goodness and that he rewards those who diligently seek him. Can't argue with that.

  15. Hold on, let's back the truck up. You're being pretty vague about "rewards." Pastor Hickey, you originally posited a political prosperity gospel when you said God might bless South Dakota with oil if we passed an abortion ban. We didn't pass the abortion ban. Faith found oil. If we had passed this abortion ban, I daresay you'd have been ape-all over this story as proof of "Providence." And if the tests in Faith come up dry, you'll be all over it again, saying, "See? God took away that blessing, you cursed pagans" (o.k., you probably won't use that language).

    In all this "rewards" talk, are you still claiming that righteous lawmaking will reap material economic rewards for a state? That's the prosperity gospel I'm talking about, a gospel for which there is little reliable evidence in Scripture or in history. The null hypotheses stand.

  16. Yes, rewards come in the form of economic blessings on nations, including oil - my original post was written having recently returned from Ghana after they found oil - read that story there again and you'll have a broader context for my comments. And none of this is a prosperity gospel. You have no idea what you are talking about when you say there is no precidence in Scripture or history for any of this. Geesh.

    God blessed Abraham because he was righteous and he promised through Abraham's seed, through the end of the age, he'd raise up a nation AND A COMPANY OF NATIONS through which he'd bless the world. He blesses people so they can be a blessing. I guess it is prosperity with a purpose. The notion that God only wants us to have enough for ourselves is selfish. We can't even be a good Samaritan to the one trodden on the roadside if we only have enough for ourselves.

    The Bible and all of history since is one long story of the blood descendants of Abraham falling in and out of God's good graces. Often, during seasons of rebellion, God used the Babylonian nations to judge his people. He still does this. They became slaves, often economic. Then they returned the Lord and cried out... and economic deliverance occured.

    ALL HISTORY is a testimony to God being a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.

  17. Seek the Lord, get rich. That's what I'm hearing.

    Plenty of Pharaohs enjoyed wealth and power without seeking the Lord.

    Alexander, Caesar, Chinese dynasties -- no God, all rich.

    Contemporary China has the fastest growing GDP in the world while it oppresses a Christian minority. Let me guess, though: China is just the modern Babylon that God will use to punish us for electing Obama, allowing abortions, and drifting from the faith?

    The Christian world wallowed in the Dark Ages while Muslims rocked out with algebra, science, trade, etc. The Renaissance, colonialism, and the steam engine seemed to have a lot more to do with Western ascendancy than seeking the Lord.

    The heathen Mongols beat the crap out of Orthodox Christian Russia for 200 years. Then Napoleon, then Hitler... the good Christians (more Christian, arguably, than any of their invaders) in Russia never get a chance to catch up with Western prosperity.

    Ghana has oil. Yay. So does Saudi Arabia (world's top producer). Russia 2nd, US 3rd, then China, India, Iran, Canada, UAE, Venezuela, Mexico. I'm not seeing the pattern of piety among those petro-leaders. And Ghana apparently has all sorts of other natural resource wealth that has yet to translate into real prosperity for its people.

    Seeking the Lord seems to be neither necessary nor sufficient to win economic gain for one's nation (or oneself). I am looking around the world, and I am not seeing the evidence that I can use "seeking the Lord" (a term I defy anyone in the room to effectively operationalize for scientific study) as a reliable predictor for economic prosperity.

    None of this denies the existence of God; it only denies the existence of Santa Claus. The Christian God does not promise (and need not promise) any earthly protection or reward.

  18. "The Christian God does not promise (and need not promise) any earthly protection or reward."

    Cory - Baloney. Makes me wonder if you've ever opened a Bible. Hundreds of verses in the Bible, Old and New Testmant, testify that your statement is patently false. The Christian hope is not just for heaven, it's heaven coming to earth - God rewarding the just, and doing what is just.

  19. Eve - Have you ever bothered to read the end of Job?

    God responded to Job's righteous life and "made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before... the Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first..." It goes out to talk about God giving him 14,000 sheep, 6000 camels... This isn't to say God will do the same for everyone, it's to say he rewards the rigtheous again and again and again and again throughout the Bible.

    When Cory states emphaticially things like the "Christian God does not promise any earthly protection or reward" - I cringe because I know people will read it assuming he knows what he's talking about. LOL.

    Even so, I doubt he believes what he writes enough to declare publicly that he does not need God's protection or favor on his life or over the lives of his wife and children.

  20. Steve, I think it's very intellectually risky to maintain that the Bible "proves" anything. It's about faith beyond proof. To offer it as "fact" is to miss the whole point.

  21. Bill - Really, I find that people who take the time to run the Bible through all the intellectual rigors come away stunned that it is a book of fact. Are you aware archeologists use the Bible to find lost sites and it's never proven inaccurate (unlike the Book of Mormon which has not one real city, river, historically verifiable people group etc.)

    My point is, with regard to facts, it's without error. And yes, I have been through volumes of liberal scholarship that say otherwise but in each case I assure you there is a mountain of conservative scholarship the critics can't climb.

    Saying that, I will say it's offensive to be told I'm missing the point of the Bible - which is what I read in your comment. People tell me you are a wonderful guy and I believe them and with that in mind I believe you mean well toward me. But I can assure you, I'm not missing the point. We place our faith in these facts. We don't have to check our brains at the door and compromise our intellectual integrity. I have multiple degrees in this stuff and can say today I haven't outsmarted that book- God's thoughts are higher than ours. What's in the Bible shows the foolishness and arrogance of man. In 1990 I wrote a workbook on the Sermon on the Mount which I titled - A Flashlight on the Sun. I titled it that because my attempts in the book to shed light on those words amounted to not much more than a flashlight shining on the sun - so deep is the revelation there. It has meaning at levels far beyond things like Plato. The Bible is all about faith, but it's no blind leap. Those words (in the Bible) are a solid foundation that has survived and sustained people through the greatest shakings known to man.

    I'm going to dust off my feet at this point in this dialog and move on to the next thing. Before I do that I'll say that I woke up yesterday to read this post which amounts to nothing more than a public attack on my faith. It's intent is to make sport of what I believe. Cory shows NO tolerance for what I and the millions like me believe. This is open ridicule, scoffing and mocking - a total lack of tolerance. I'm not whining, I'm used to it. I'm merely pointing out how this conversation started. If I was a Muslim Imam in our state spelling out what I believe on a blog (as I have) Cory would do what liberals do to every faith but Christianity. I would be revered.

  22. Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

    Steve, the above are red herrings, as you try to avoid the issue and make my arguments out to be something they aren't. I do not "make sport". I find an interpretation of Christianity that tells followers they get earthly treats for being good, individually or as a nation, to be Biblically and empirically incorrect and spiritually unhealthy. Trot out a local imam blogger who tells me we get rewards of grapes and virgins for passing certain laws that please Allah, and I'll say the same thing. You've resorted to lots of vague generalizations that don't answer the specific counterexamples to the idea that everything works out fine for the faithful. Sure, ultimately, by judgment day, it does, but from birth to death on this earthly plane, you can't bank on just behavior boosting your personal or national wealth.

    "Even so, I doubt he believes what he writes enough to declare publicly that he does not need God's protection or favor on his life or over the lives of his wife and children."

    Was that a dare, Steve? Another distraction from the main point? I'll still bite. You know I don't believe in God in the first place, so the challenge makes no sense. I believe every word I say (satirical hyperbole excepted, please!). I'm not saying I or my family couldn't use the protection of a Supreme Being. I am saying that the Christian Supreme Being makes no promise of earthly protection. You can do everything right (actually, you can't; you're human, you're fallible, you will screw up), pray every day, hit the pews every Sunday, speak up for the powerless, feed the poor, cure the sick, love your wife and kids, whatever actions and thoughts constitute "being right with God", and you can still get cancer, go bankrupt, or get arrested and executed by the Nazis.

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

  23. Steve, the Bible isn't unique in that regard. Oral mythological traditions are frequently built around instances of historical fact. Take Troy for example. It was once assumed to be a fictional place, but later "discovered" in modern day Turkey. Even so, the "fact" of Troy doesn't prove the story of Achilles's heel, or his mother dipping him into the river Styx to make him invulnerable, or Zeus or Athena, etc, etc.

    If you've studied as you claim, you know this, of course. And you're right, I mean you no harm. I'm just affirming, (factoids aside) as you do in your final overarching analysis that the Bible is a book of faith, not fact.

    That said, I suppose you could say it is a book about the "fact of faith," if that helps.

  24. Cory's right? Go figure..

    I suppose a lot of this argument comes down to our interpretation of what is meant for a nation to be blessed. If the love of money is the roof of all evil than I cannot believe that making a nation rich is much of a blessing. A nation of people following the teachings of the bible would be a wonderful thing in spite of poverty or disaster.
    In context of the original post: I do not believe the passing of an abortion ban would matter one whit either to our prosperity or our salvation. God judges the individual soul, not a community based on the majority will at election time.

  25. One last comment. Yes, Steve, I have read the Book of Job, many times: and one of the main points of the end is that while his three "friends" had spent a great deal of time explaining to Job that he MUST have sinned, because otherwise God would never have punished him so greatly (to remind everyone, God allowed Satan to kill ALL of Job's children, wipe out ALL of his worldly goods, and, finally to strike Job with painful boils from head to foot), and that it was up to him to confess and seek God's pardon, Job maintained his integrity and said he hadn't. And, in the end, God said Job was right, and that his "friends" were not only wrong, but had displeased Him greatly, and they needed to ask Job to make a sacrifice on their behalf so that God would forgive them their judgmentalism.


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