Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pro-Marriage

In the realm of the abortion debate, there are two sides to the question. Depending on who is explaining those two sides, you will get two versions. In the current culture you have the "pro-choice" side and the "anti-abortion" side. The same explanation from the other side is that you have the "pro-abortion" side and the "pro-life" side. The problem, you see, is that the current culture fails to understand what the opposition is opposing. It is not abortion. It is murder. It is the killing of innocent children without just cause.

In the realm of the "gay marriage" debate, there are two sides to the question. On the "pro" side they'll tell you there is the "marriage equality" side and the "anti-gay side". From the "con" side they will say there is the "anti-marriage" side and the "pro-marriage" side. Because, you see, the "pro" side is, again, not understanding what the opposing side is opposing. It isn't "gay" or even "gay marriage". It is opposing the end of marriage.

In the abortion debate, at least part of the problem is that some who are opposed to abortion are opposed to abortion. It is not that they are in favor of life, but opposed to abortion as contraception. That is "anti-abortion". But for me, at least, as well as for a large number of others, on this topic it is that life is valuable, that the life in the womb is valuable, and that terminating that life for things such as birth control (the number one reason given), "I can't afford it", or terminating a child with birth defects are not acceptable reasons to kill a baby. Yet, in these debates, this opposition is rarely addressed. The rhetoric is "You're anti-woman" or "You're anti-choice" and nothing about why they favor killing children.

In the marriage debate we find the same problem. Many who oppose the current trend to force homosexual mirage[1] onto society by vote if possible or court fiat if nothing else actually oppose it on the grounds that homosexuality is immoral. It would, on those grounds, be closer to "anti-gay" (although that, too, is another of these issues of mistaken rhetoric[2]) than "pro-marriage". But for me, at least, as well as for many others, the question is not the morality of the act, but the definition of the term "marriage", the theft of that term for something else, and the value of marriage that is worth defending. When I point to the undeniable fact that marriage throughout human history has always been the union of a man and a woman (and consistently for a primary purpose that included procreation up until the end of the 20th century) and that this new version is not the same thing, the best answer that I get from those who favor the redefinition of the term (the self-styled "marriage equity" side) is "Uh-uh." That's about it. Oh, maybe it's "We're not redefining it", but they can't offer a definition. Or it's "It was never defined that way" except that they cannot, in the final analysis, demonstrate this claim in any meaningful sense[3]. On this it is not a matter of religious conviction. It is a matter of what the courts recognize as "the longstanding, traditional definition" of marriage. And they routinely ignore this fact of redefinition and slander the opposition with the "anti-gay" rhetoric. Or, for a very few, it's "Sure we're redefining it, and that's a good thing," but they can't give any sensible reasons why except for those who admit to an actual intent of redefining it to eliminate it.

For me, then, I am not "anti-gay marriage" (let alone "anti-gay"). I am pro-marriage. I am not "anti-marriage equity". I strongly favor marriage equity. And I'm not opposed to gay mirage[1] because, as one poor pastor put it on television, "I'm totally against it. I think that homosexuality is disgusting." I see the two subjects--sexual sin and marriage--as distinct subjects. So on this topic my aim is the defense of marriage, not the opposition of homosexual behavior. My efforts are toward retaining marriage, not being a "moral policeman". And it isn't "gay marriage" that is the issue. It is marriage in general. It took its hits from the sexual revolution of the 60's, tearing at the exclusiveness and sanctity of marriage. Procreation in marriage became a moot point when contraception became the norm. Marriage took a broadside from no-fault divorce, eliminating the permanence of the relationship. It is still reeling from feminism, tearing apart the mutual support concept. So this dismantling by those who call themselves "gay" but are not to seize "marriage" which is not is just the latest shot in a long war against the lifelong commitment between a male and a female for the purpose of mutual support and procreation. This long-term relationship has always been at the core of society as well as the core of Christianity. Its loss will not be quiet nor harmless. Redefinition does not improve it. And its recent redefinition to "two people who feel warmly toward each other" won't be the last. We won't recognize marriage when they're done, and that is something I find inconceivable.

If you characterize me as "anti-gay", you do so without truth. If you argue I'm "opposed to marriage equity", you do so without reason. If you suggest I'm just a religious zealot trying to oppose my version of sin, it is a false claim. Perhaps your labels work for others; they don't apply to me. Until you who disagree with me figure that out, you won't be able to engage me with my positions. You'll be opposing that which I am not. On the topic of abortion I am pro-life, and on the topic of marriage I am pro-marriage.
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[1] This will be my new term from now on. Since "marriage" means something and "gay marriage" doesn't mean either "happy" or "marriage", I'm forced to use different terms to get this across.

[2] "Anti-gay" indicates an opposition to people who have same-sex attraction. I don't oppose people who have that attraction any more than I oppose married people attracted to people of the opposite sex to whom they are not married. I oppose the actions that follow ... both cases. The heterosexual husband that is attracted to another woman and acts on that attraction is an adulterer, and I oppose adultery. I have no complaint about people with heterosexual or homosexual attractions who do not act on them. Thus, in today's vernacular, I am not anti-gay; I am anti-sexual sin. I applaud the heterosexual man who denies his desires in favor of fidelity to his wife, and I applaud the man with same-sex attraction who chooses to set it aside for a higher purpose.

[3] Another critical factor in this discussion of the redefinition of marriage is the distinction between the definition and the practice. Many will suggest that marriage has been constantly redefined. "It once meant male and multiple females. It once meant that women were treated like chattel. It once meant ..." And I would argue that this is not true. It included these practices, perhaps, but was not defined by these practices. That is, a marriage that did not include polygamy or did not treat women like chattel was still a marriage, right? So practices change, but not definition.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Rise Up and Bless

In Paul's first epistle to the church at Corinth he has some pretty harsh things to say. The most obvious, I'd think, is that stuff in chapter 5 where he takes them to task for the sin in their midst that they failed to address. I mean, it doesn't get much more pointed than to turn someone over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh. Ouch!

Paul indicates later that he regretted that.
For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it--though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. (2 Cor 7:8-9)
Get that? "I made you grieve with my letter," he says, and "I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you." But Paul did not ultimately regret it. He said right there, "I do not regret it." Why? "You were grieved into repenting." And that's the ultimate "good grief" (apologies to Charlie Brown).

I think many (most?) of us today don't get this idea. Paul said some pretty harsh things. He said them boldly and straightforward. He even felt bad about saying them, but it didn't stop him from saying them. Why did he say them? Because he cared. Many (most?) today would recommend the opposite. "Don't say things that will upset them," they'll urge you. "Go along to get along." Maybe they're not so wishy-washy. Maybe they're just practical. "What you want to say may be true, but they won't listen, so don't bother." So we are supposed to be more tolerant, less judgmental, certainly keep this stuff to yourself. The one side will even recommend you change your thinking, but as a minimum you should keep quiet. Do you think it's wise to irritate your kids by telling them when they're wrong? Do you think you'll be able to influence your loved ones when you've alienated them with your views of sin? No, no ... better to just be quiet.

Paul would say otherwise. Paul would say that it may be painful for you to speak harsh truths, but we must always be "speaking the truth in love" (Eph 4:15). That's not "in a warm feeling kind of way", but "motivated by a deep concern for the best of others." The aim is not to get people to like you, but to urge them to repentance. It is not loving to remain silent while they walk into a pit.

In Proverbs we read the famous "excellent wife" passage (Prov 31:10-31). In it we read, "Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her." (Prov 31:28). Will they do that if she has lied to them? Will our children thank us for turning a blind eye to the dangers they endure because of their sin? Will our spouses praise us because we keep silent when they choose to violate God's Word? Paul says, "Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret" (2 Cor 7:10). Can we expect repentance when we've offered no godly grief? Now, I don't believe that calling sin sin will necessarily result in repentance, nor do I believe that your children will immediately rise up and call you blessed when you tell them the truth about their sin. Maybe not even in this life. But so many parents aim to get along with their children over the pain and difficulty of standing for the truth for the benefit of their children. In the end, doing this will not result in a blessing, but a curse.

I don't believe that our children will rise up and bless us if we fail to speak the hard truths. I don't believe our husbands or wives will praise us for keeping silent when we could have warned them. I understand that it is difficult, even painful--painful for us--to express what appears to be harsh realities, but if we care--if we love--can we do otherwise? I don't think so.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Equipped

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)
You know that, right? It is the starting place for all good doctrine, all orthodoxy, for Christianity itself (Rom 10:17). But have you ever given any thought to how it works to make you "equipped for every good work"?

The text is interesting, and our modern ears might miss the completeness it offers. In fact, the constant debate over whether or not God can breathe errancy can make us fail to see this point. There are four "profits" listed: teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. I believe the sequence is important.

"Teaching" refers to the instruction--doctrine. It's the idea of formal instruction. "Here is what's right." So, the text tells us that the Word gives us a clear presentation of doctrine.

"Reproof" refers to being tested, especially tested and found to be wrong. It is a conviction, not in our misguided modern sense. "I felt so convicted that I should do this." No, in the legal sense. "I have been judged and declared guilty." It is an admonition to change course. "You're in the wrong; move!"

The Greek used for "correction" is most literally translated "the straightening up again". Very picturesque. You're crooked; this is how you get straight.

It's interesting that the fourth term, "training in righteousness", appears to be the same as the first, "teaching". Aren't "training" and "teaching" the same? Nearly. Not quite. This "training" is from the concept of a tutor. In the language, it is rooted in the concept of training up a child, a tutor for your kid. A tutor teaches, obviously, but does so by constant contact. A teacher you can hear once, but tutoring is an ongoing process. It includes instruction and nurture ... and chastisement.

Do you see the path, then? First, "Here is the way; walk in it." Teaching. We, of course, don't always succeed at that. So, next, it's "You've deviated from the path. Here's where you've gone wrong." Reproof. The natural next question is "Now what? How do I get back on the path?" And that's correction. Having returned to the right path, it is wise and necessary to walk alongside in a continuous way to teach and demonstrate the right path to take.

The text is a complete story. "Here's the right path," and when you've departed from it, it will point it out and give you the direction to return to the right path. Always it will walk alongside to hold you to the right way. That produces a thoroughly equipped man.

I would urge caution, then, about attempting to proceed in the Christian life without this ultimately profitable, God-breathed Word that equips you by all necessary means for every good work. A Christian without his Sword (Eph 6:17) is a pitiful thing at best, and at worst a dangerous thing. A Christian making a daily walk with God and His Word is a well-equipped person.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Houston Still has a Problem

How bad is it when the ACLU comes out against government infringement on Freedom of Religion in that whole Houston issue? Even Slate, an almost exclusively leftist liberal publication, considers it "a terrible idea".

So, the subpoena requires several pastors to turn over all "speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO[1], the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession." Wow! Not merely speeches and presentations. Sermons as well. Not simply about the topic (HERO) or the mayor, but the concepts of homosexuality and gender identity. Not only sermons prepared by the pastor, but those in his possession. Very, very broad.

So, I'd want to be sure to include Jonathan Edwards's Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. I'd be sure to put copies of Bible texts like Leviticus 18:22, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and Romans 1 ... oh, probably everything from verse 18 through the end of the chapter. Now that should all be included in "speeches, presentations, or sermons" on the topic of "homosexuality" and "gender identification" that the pastor has delivered, approved, or has in his possession. You know, Charles Spurgeon has some good stuff about Sodom and Gomorrah that most decent pastors should have in their possession as well.

The good news, of course, is that the city attorneys are no longer seeking sermons. There, all fixed, right? Just "presentations and speeches" now. Because that's much better. Although trying to define the difference between "speeches and presentations" and "sermons" seems fairly impossible when Dictionary.com defines "sermon" as "any serious speech, discourse, or exhortation, especially on a moral issue." So I'm still going to recommend that they be sure to pass on all those "speeches and presentations" from Scripture and from historic preachers. Maybe include the Romans Road? I don't know ... if you look at it right, this could be more of an opportunity than a problem. It certainly is for God.
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[1] HERO: Houston Equal Rights Ordinance

Friday, October 17, 2014

Another One Bites the Dust

In 1996 Arizona passed a law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. In 2008, the voters pushed it further, by a large margin, to make that definition a part of the State constitution. And in early October U.S. District Judge John Sedwick decided to outlaw marriage. When the Supreme Court decided not to hear any of the cases from states defending their constitutional definitions of marriage, the court effectively redefined marriage for 11 states. Not rationally, of course. It didn't matter that the states had spoken. It didn't matter that the laws were passed, the constitutions were made, the definition was set. All that mattered was the new, false definition had to be allowed to replace the definition that has been in place for all recorded human history and made law in those states.

Will you notice? Not likely. The media is reporting that they've struck down a "gay marriage ban". This is what is known as "a lie".. The news outlets are celebrating freedom. This isn't entirely honest either, since those who will find themselves forced by law and by arms if necessary to support such ceremonies as florists, photographers, bakers, and the like will have no recourse. A matter of principle? No, not really. Your principles are legally irrelevant. They say that it's a big step forward. Not so. Sticking the knife into the neck of the suffering institution of marriage can't be a step forward.

Marriage in Arizona, along with Alaska and Wyoming, went down today. It won't go quietly. The rationale one man on the street offered was, "It's America. People should be allowed to do whatever they want ... you know, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone." Oh, it's gonna hurt. But the damage will be slow and deep ... like the proverbial frog in the pot. Unfortunately it's likely the next generation who will be stewed in the process. But since marriage was God's idea, I suspect that the final response from Him toward those who have stolen it and murdered it will be more unpleasant the what we will see in our lifetime.

Update:
This just in. "The city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is taking a step many opponents of same-sex marriage feared would come – forcing those with religious objections to perform same-sex marriages or risk facing prosecution for violating non-discrimination laws." Now, the line is somewhat misleading--the ruling is for a wedding chapel, not a church--but it doesn't matter. When they tell you "It won't make any difference to you!" don't believe it.

Freedom from Religion

24/7 Wall St reported that in 2014 the average American spent $137.46 on Easter. It was down, they said, from 2013. So Easter infused the American economy with "only" $15.9 billion. In 2013 Americans injected almost $7 billion (with a "b") into the economy for Halloween celebrations. Candy, costumes, decorations, parties ... it all adds up. Last year the U.S. News & World Report said that "Americans will spend the GDP of Sri Lanka on Thanksgiving weekend." That, in case you were wondering, was around $579 billion. And then there's Christmas. All by itself Christmas creates jobs, boosts the economy, puts businesses that were unprofitable for 10 months finally in the black, and ripples through nearly every nook and cranny to make our economy a cheerier place at the most wonderful time of the year. From manufacturing to transportation to sales, from sales taxes and charity increases and nearly every single product type available, the impact is huge. Statista.com reports that in 2013 the U.S. retail industry sales were $3.12 trillion (yes, that's a "t") for Christmas. There were over 720,000 people employed to handle the Christmas rush. Christmas trees alone accounted for more than $1 billion. Oh, yeah, if Halloween is large and Thanksgiving is larger, Christmas is the mother of all economic boons to the American economy.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if America got what so many loud mouths are calling for and suing for? "Freedom from religion" is the aim, the hue and cry. "Get religion out of the public square!" From the courtrooms to the media, from the sitcoms to the celebrities, from the "thinkers" to the stinkers, we are hearing loud and clear, "We don't want Christianity in our faces." (Odd. There is an almost equally loud defense of Islam.) So, what would happen if they got what they wanted?

Well, on a purely economic basis, we would likely see the collapse of the national economy. Oh, perhaps that's too dire. The truth is, however, a large number of small businesses depend on Christmas to make them profitable for the year. Not profitable, not in business. How many nations have an economy capable of a $3 trillion crash? Yank out Thanksgiving and it only gets worse. Remove Halloween and Easter and the numbers are staggering. But if they were to be consistent with their demands, all of these would have to go. No more Thanksgiving holidays or Christmas holidays. Indeed, the entire word "holiday" -- short for "holy day" -- would need to be banned.

But Christianity has had much more of an impact on our modern world than most people realize. And not merely economic.

Christianity held that true progress and fulfillment is found only in community. The "lone wolf" mentality of many in America today is a product of the departure from religion, not from religion itself.

Christianity taught that we are made in the image of God. We are, as such, of intrinsic value. This value is not reducible. It is not dependent on actions, activities, skills, talents, contributions to society, income ... anything else. As part of this "image of God" concept we have derived "inalienable rights endowed by the Creator". And in this intrinsic value due to the image of God, we have intrinsic equality; no one person is worth more than another. That crosses gender lines as well as class and economics and anything else you might name.

This is a value equality; it does not mean a sameness. The Bible specifies differences, uniqueness, and interrelated connections. Eve was designed by God as a "helpmeet" (Gen 2:18), a complement to Adam, filling up the deficiencies in the male. Paul describes Christians as a body so that, like a body, 1) all components are important and, therefore, valuable, and 2) all components are different, with varied functionality and visibility (1 Cor 12:14-25). So we see value, equal value, intrinsic value, and, on the other hand, individuality and uniqueness.

The Bible indicates that in the Garden of Eden God assigned Adam work, "and it was good." Christianity puts a premium on work. Paul wrote, "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat." (2 Thess 3:10). (How does that play with the "social justice" crowd that demands that enforced charity is a "Christian value"?)

The singular identifier noted by Christ of a Christian is "if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). The singular Christian value, then, is love. Love for God. Love for fellow believers. Love for your neighbor (which seems to be so broadly defined as to include anyone with whom you come in contact). Out of this key ingredient, then, it is obvious that compassion would produce charities, care facilities, medical help, anything that will serve our fellow man.

Jesus said, "I am the Truth." (John 14:6). Thus, truth is a critical component of Christianity. Jesus promised to send His Holy Spirit who "will teach you all things" (John 14:26). So Christians for the past 2,000 years have made the pursuit of truth a basic aim. By pursuing truth, Christians believed they could "think God's thoughts after Him." It was a Christian duty discovering, as they believed, ways in which nature spoke of God (Psa 19:1; Rom 1:19-20). As such, modern science owes its origins to Christianity.

Years ago I met a young man from China. Actually, he stayed with us for several months, an opportunity offered through my work. He learned of Christ through us. One day he told me, "China needs God." I asked him why. "Without God," he said, "there is no justice, no conscience, no established morality." A quote attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville says, "Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great." It is, in fact, Christian morality that tends to make a nation great. It regulates crime, protects families, stigmatizes wrong. A 2009 study out of Harvard indicated that one of the most measurable effects on a nation's economy is how strongly people believe in Hell (and Heaven). Yes, that's right. If you believe that there is a God and He is watching and there are consequences, it changes how you act. And it changes how you interact. So we have the "Protestant work ethic" and the concept of a "vocation" as a calling from God rather than a mere job. Christian morality has a major impact on society.

Now, imagine all of that removed. They get what they demand. Religion is banned from the public square. At least, Christianity. Remove any basis for human rights endowed by a Creator. Take away intrinsic value. Eliminate equality, an illusion we enjoy today on the back of a Christian value system. Cancel "concern for others" as a fundamental virtue. Delete Christian charities and care facilities. Banish any sense of absolute truth, making all pursuit of truth random and individual. And having removed the ground for rights, the value of the individual, the equality of each person, and the care for fellow man, now tear down Christian morality with its core concept of justice to bear it up. Oh, and you might as well factor in the economic impact I outlined above. What do you have? We've seen hints of this in the news. Children killing children. American-made terrorists. Ponzi schemes predicated on "I have the right to satisfy my own desires and you're no better than I am." But given a complete removal of Christianity from public, the effect would be magnified. The economic breakdown coupled with the moral relativism and the end of intrinsic human rights would be staggering. The mechanisms to help people in such wretched times--charities and hospitals and the like--would be absent, lacking both religious motivation and philosophical basis. The result would be catastrophic.

But, hey, who am I to tell them "No"? Freedom from religion? Easy stuff. Like the disasters of 20th century Soviet communism or Mao's regime. Surely it's a bit of paradise, right? Of course not. Nor would all this happen. Because, you see, society would continue to steal from the religion they banned. They would irrationally cling to rights endowed by a Creator they ejected and hold to morality rooted in the religion they freed themselves from. They would prop themselves up on the system they reject and ignore the consequences. "Just a little more control or a few higher taxes or ..."

You will hear it said that religion is the worse thing to happen to Man. You will hear it argued that religion is the cause of a host of woes. When you do, think again.

Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Wrong Reasons

You may have heard. Mark Driscoll resigned. If you don't know who that is, he was the founder and pastor of the Mars Hill church in Seattle, Washington. It boasts some 14,000 members and is known for its leading edge feel. "Last Easter, for example, the church's 15 locations in five states packed in more than 21,000 attendees for its service, and another 50,000 people watched the downtown Seattle service online."

I am not here to oppose or defend Mark Driscoll. He resigned because "I have confessed to past pride, anger and a domineering spirit." So, okay. I won't second guess him. What I am noticing is that 1) it made the mainstream media (the story I quote here is from MSN) and 2) the reasons they are offering are ... awful.

Driscoll wasn't charged with heresy or immorality. He was just domineering (1 Peter 5:3). But MSN offers, "some of Driscoll’s theological views have been cited as opposing modern sensibilities." Like? "Complementarianism", for example. And here, in front of God and the world, we encounter a problem. A pastor has resigned because his message opposes "modern sensibilities". You know, like Jesus did with His messages. And Paul did with his. And the Bible promises it will. Complementarianism, for instance, is biblical. God created male and female with equal dignity and equal worth, but they have different roles to play ... because the Bible says so. Driscoll wasn't asked to take a leave of absence because he taught biblical values, but that's what MSN would have us believe.

As I said, I'm not here to oppose or defend the man. But when the media fails to understand and offers the completely false suggestion that correct theology should not oppose modern sensibilities, they're just illustrating the problem: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom 1:18).

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mastering the English Language

Language is not, as it turns out, something real. It is merely the means by which humans communicate ideas. It is the expression of thoughts. Language, then, is structured by thoughts and simply the vehicle by which those thoughts are expressed.

It is no surprise, then, that the massive and ongoing efforts to master the English language continues unabated. If we can take your expression of thoughts and twist it enough to make you feel a certain way, we've not only mastered the language; we've mastered you.

So we hear repeatedly from the news media that Adrian Peterson hit his child with a tree branch. Appalling. Horrible. No one thinks otherwise. Except the term "tree branch" does not express what really happened. He used a "switch". A "branch" is a piece of a tree that grows from the trunk. A "switch" is a slender, flexible stick or twig. So when the media again and again tells you that Mr. Peterson hit his son with a branch, I really want to show up and ask. "Hey, in one hand I have a branch and in the other a switch. I'm going to hit you with one. You decide which one you want." Sure, the injuries to the boy were not right and I'm not defending Peterson, but, please, media, stop using terms that stir emotions without having their basis in fact. They are manipulating your emotions by playing with words.

There is a whole world of this kind of twisting of the English language in the realm of homosexuality. First, there is "gay". In 1934 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers played together in The Gay Divorcee, a comedy about a woman trying to divorce her husband, not the story of same-sex attraction. But today the term cannot mean "merry", "bright", or "abounding in social pleasures", the meanings most common in the very recent past. The Flintstones promised "a gay old time", and they surely didn't reference sexual desire in it.

Then there's "anti-gay". Shifting "gay" from "merry" to "sexual relations between the same gender", it moves again to from "same-sex attraction" to a definition of a birth condition. In a recent episode of CBS's Blue Bloods, the Catholic chief of police played by Tom Selleck was asked about one of his officers who was "outed" as "gay". How could the chief defend this officer and remain consistent with his "anti-gay religious views"? You see, it is now "anti-gay"--opposition to a group of people who were "born that way"--to believe as the Bible teaches that a particular behavior is a sin. Funny thing ... no one uses the term "anti-thief" or "anti-murderer" if you consider theft or murder a sin. But switching "gay" from "happy" to "same-sex preference" and from "same-sex preference" to "same-sex orientation", then suddenly "anti-gay" becomes an opposition to an entire class of people rather than a particular behavior.

And it doesn't stop there. We are currently in a massive upheaval of the term "marriage". Multiple states defined "marriage" as "the union of a man and a woman" and are then accused of having a "gay marriage ban". That's the term. They don't have a "ban on dogs marrying cats" or even a "polygamy ban"; it's a "gay marriage ban". Words. A mastering of the English language intended solely to control how you think. No longer is it about "marriage"; it's about equality. "Other people have the right to do x, so if we are to have equal protection under the law, we will redefine x to mean y and then demand our right to have x just as you do." But it is a twist, a hijack, a means of controlling your thinking. Worse, it is working. So obscured now is the language that very few--even among those who favor traditional marriage and oppose "gay marriage"--recognize that the language has changed, the idea has been subverted, and your ideas are being manipulated by your language.

So it goes. "Love" changes to "sex". "Happiness" changes from "emotional contentment" to "indulging my own pleasures". "Pro-life" changes to "anti-choice". "Tolerance" shifts from "allowing the existence of something with which you disagree" to "embracing that with which you disagree so that you no longer disagree with it" and it is now "intolerant" to be tolerant. "Judgment" originally referred to the ability to form an opinion, to decide, to distinguish between good and bad, and now it's "having the view that something that we embrace is wrong" ... and it's not judgmental to attack those who have such a view.

All of this without even touching on Christianity. Because in that realm there is a host of language variations that have been wrought to alter the meanings of concepts, ideas, and doctrines. Words get pulled out of Christianity, rotated to a new meaning, then fed back in and you're supposed to swallow them whole. I would venture to guess that a good part of the entire process of mastering the language in order to alter your thinking is, in the final analysis, aimed at altering your thinking about Christ. Terms like "love your neighbor" are subverted when "love" is redefined and "the Bride of Christ" means something quite different when "marriage" is changed. "Rejoice evermore" moves from "joy" to "happiness" to "doing whatever makes me feel pleasant", and even "sin" is shifting under the pounding that Satan is giving it so that it becomes a "faux pas", a "mistake, so that even if you use the words correctly, they will no longer mean what you intended and you may not even know that you no longer mean what they intended. Oh, no, this isn't mere "evolution" of a language. This mastery of language is war (Eph 6:12).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Blessed Are They

You remember the story of Doubting Thomas, right? In John 20 we read of Jesus's visit to the disciples after rising from the dead (John 20:19-24). He exchanges words with them, and the text, at the end, notes, "Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came." Well, when they told Thomas they had seen the Lord, he ... well, you know ... he doubted. It was the famous skeptical, "Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." (John 20:25). Well, of course, the story ends with Jesus joining the disciples later with Thomas present and offering Thomas His hands and His side. "Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." (John 20:27) And Thomas instantly ran out of doubt.

I'm interested in Jesus's response to Thomas's "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). Jesus answered, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." (John 20:29).

So we have the source and the end of Doubting Thomas. And we have this allusion to ... us. Everyone who has believed in Christ without seeing Him is in the category of "blessed" based on Jesus's words here. I wonder, however, whether we are closer to "blessed" or Thomas.

There is a large thrust lately to produce evidence and argument for Christ. And that's all well and good. I'm not opposed. You know, be "ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15), "Contend for the faith" (Jude 1:3), that sort of thing. All good. And there is a thrust today that suggests it is far better to trust Christ based on the evidence than merely in faith. Evidence is much better than faith ... right?

You see, Thomas required evidence. Jesus said those who didn't were blessed. So it would seem to me that believing regardless of evidence would be better. And then you see this over in 1 Peter.
Prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)
Well, now, isn't that interesting. Apologetics -- the defense of the faith -- is good and right, but Peter says that the hope for which we are to give account is fixed on "the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Hmm. Not "the best arguments and evidence you can find." Peter says that we are to "Prepare your minds for action" with this in mind.

You see, I think, despite all our bravado and bluster, that many of us are much closer to Thomas than the blessed. We prefer evidence and reason over straightforward faith. It is better to believe because you've seen the proofs than just to place your trust in the grace of Christ. And it sounds so reasonable. The only catch is that the Bible seems to disagree.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Separation of Church and State

Most Americans know the phrase, "the separation of Church and State", and we're all equally clear on what it means. It means that the Church doesn't get to tell the State what to do, and the State doesn't get to tell the Church what to do. And, as seems to be too often the case, we'd be largely wrong.

The notion of the separation of these two entities comes from the Constitution -- the Bill of Rights, to be precise. The First Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting and establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." That's it. That's the origin of the term, "the separation of Church and State." Oddly, the phrase doesn't appear in the Amendment. That came first from Thomas Jefferson who wrote in a letter about "a wall of separation between church and state". "See?" they say, "It was the founders' original idea!" Well, okay, but what was their original idea?

In the Constitutional debate of 1789, they argued, "We do not want in America what we had in Great Britain." What did they have in Great Britain? In 1559 a law known as the Act of Uniformity required that all British citizens become part of the Church of England. This was intolerable to some. The Puritans protested. Without relief, they then started leaving the country. Many ended up in North America to obtain the ability to practice Christianity as they believed they must. This was the Great Britain they hoped to avoid, a nation that selected a State religion and required everyone to conform. What they did not seek was what is referred to today as "freedom from religion". Instead, they affirmed, "We do want God's principles, but we don't want one denomination running the nation." (From the official texts of these debates, one suggested wording of that phrase in the First Amendment was "Congress shall make no law establishing any particular denomination of religion in preference to another, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of conscience be infringed.")

Read that phrase from the First Amendment again. What you see there is not, as is popularly believed, the exclusion of religion from government. It is the protection of the rights of the people in religion. Think about it. There are two possible assaults on religious freedom. One is to mandate religion and the other is to forbid it. Outlawing the practice of religion is obvious. Less obvious is the proclamation of a religion. You see, when Great Britain established the Church of England as the required religion of the day, it excluded all other possibilities. And this is just as burdensome to individual religious freedom as the outlawing of a religion.

In a recent speech to an audience at Colorado Christian University, Justice Scalia said, "I think the main fight is to dissuade Americans from what the secularists are trying to persuade them to be true: that the separation of church and state means that the government cannot favor religion over nonreligion." He's right. The so-called "separation of church and state" so firmly demanded in this country is actually the separation of the state from the church. That is, the aim was to prevent the State from infringing on the rights of the people for their "free exercise" of their religion. So Congress could not make a law that would prohibit you or I from the free exercise and no law that would prohibit the free exercise of your beliefs by establishing a state religion. That does not mean that government must exclude religion in its considerations. That was not the intent of the concept.

Back in 2003 the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) shot down Texas laws against sodomy in Lawrence v Texas. Justice Scalia wrote the dissenting opinion. Referring often to Roe v Wade, Scalia saw in this act of the court the end of morality in jurisprudence He wrote, "State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only ... based on moral choices." He foresaw that when murdering the unborn and removing religious morality were Law, the rest of morality in the courts would fall. Back in 2003 he wrote, "If moral disapprobation[1] of homosexual conduct is 'no legitimate state interest' for purposes of proscribing that conduct ... what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising '[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution'?" (This was 5 years before California's historic proof that he was right.) And Scalia has been proven correct ... repeatedly.

The notion of the separation of Church and State was intended to say that the State cannot determine the religious practices of the people. Our society is working at jettisoning that concept. "We'll keep religion out of government, but surely the State can dictate what religious practices you can enjoy." For instance, "We'll give you a tax-exempt status for your religious organization," they smile and say, "but that means you can't say anything about political issues." That's not religious freedom. Bakers, photographers, florists, and many others are required to void their religious beliefs if it contradicts the wishes (wishes, not religious beliefs) of another[2]. When Ronnie Hastie praised God for the touchdown he made, he was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. When they penalized Husain Abdullah, Muslim NFL player, for the same type if thing, the NFL apologized. The populace complains about "corporate greed", and when you point out, "Hey, a corporation can't have greed because it's not a person," they say, "Oh, but it is made up of people, so it is a person." When the owners of a corporation say, "Our religious beliefs don't allow us to pay for the murder of babies," they'll reply, "Corporations aren't people, so you don't get that right", and Hobby Lobby had to fight it to the Supreme Court, where the slimmest of allowances was made for "closely-held corporations". The list goes on and on. Catholic adoption agencies are closed, university clubs that require that a person with Christian beliefs be in leadership roles of a Christian club are cancelled. Protections for citizens with beliefs regarding whom they support are denied. On and on it goes.

Odd, isn't it? The constitutional notion of the separation of Church and State was to protect the individual's freedom to practice his or her religious beliefs, both without restriction and without mandate. As it turns out, the only protection we're ending up with is a defense of the State from religious intrusion. And, as it turns out, that was never intended in the First Amendment or in the minds of the Founding Fathers. Where did we go wrong?[3]
________
[1] Disapprobation: noun; strong disapproval, typically on moral grounds

[2] If you were keeping track, that sentence contained links to 5 different cases, all in the U.S., and all for the same thing. And that's only a sampling.

[2] That, dear reader, is what is known as a rhetorical question. The answer is found in Rom 1:18, Jer 17:9, Rom 1:28, Isa 53:6, Rom 5:12, etc.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Evidence of Jesus

The news is reporting that the Vatican has found an eyewitness, non-Christian, firsthand account of a miracle performed by Jesus. Now, this is really cool stuff. The guy was a Roman, not a Jew. He wasn't reporting on the Messiah, wasn't a follower of Christ, wasn't connected in any way except that he was there and saw it. And wrote it down. When we hear, "There is no evidence for the historical Jesus," we can be quite sure that this is not true.

I like this stuff, but I'm cautious. I believe that Jesus was a historical character, that He actually walked the earth, that He really lived in Palestine at the beginning of our current method of counting years. I believe that the Gospel accounts are accurate, that people knew Him and talked to Him and ate with Him. I believe that He did genuine miracles, performed as signs that backed up His claims to being the Jewish Messiah and God Incarnate. So something like this falls nicely under that structure to undergird it. However, I'm not resting the weight of my beliefs on 2,000-year-old Vatican documents. I'm resting my beliefs on the person of Jesus Christ.

You see, if I plant my flag on physical evidence or historical accounts, what am I supposed to do when someone else offers physical evidence or historical accounts that counter my beliefs? If I am to be consistent, I'd need to change my beliefs, right? I mean, embracing evidence that agrees with me and simply rejecting evidence that doesn't isn't rational. And I am quite confident that belief in Jesus Christ is rational.

Jesus the Nazarene was, I'm quite confident, a genuine historical figure. He lived, did miracles, was crucified, and rose again. I believe it. If natural methods support that belief, good! If not, no problem. Because I have placed my confidence in my Savior, not in the evidence that argues for (or against) Him. My beliefs are the product of a changed heart, not a line of evidence and arguments. And He is completely trustworthy. So evidence or not, I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day (2 Tim 1:12).
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in Him." (Lam 3:24)
Update:
As Josh has so kindly pointed out, the source of the story, the World News Daily Report, is a source like The Onion, a parody news source. It is not an actual news outlet nor does it claim to be. The story above is false. Which only illustrates my point. If we place our confidence in news items and stories like this one and then find them to be false, where do we then stand? Nowhere. If we place our confidence in Christ and in His Word, then where do we stand? In Christ. Much, much better.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Atheist in Me

You may have read or heard about the early Christians in Rome faced with the accusation of being atheists. Now, we laugh at that today, but it was serious. You see, the Caesar of the day claimed to be the God of the day. The Christians believed in only one God ... and that wasn't Caesar. So ... they didn't believe in God (when God was defined as Caesar).

Now, without switching topics too far, any reader of my stuff would know that I have a real issue with definitions. "Marriage" means something ... and it's not what it is being changed to today. There are a host of words that are being shifted, modified, co-opted ("take or assume for one's own use"), or just destroyed that shouldn't be. It destroys communication. Now that "marriage" is on its way out, what word do I use to refer to the union of a man and a woman for the purpose of cooperation and reproduction? No such word exists anymore. So if I'm going to communicate these days, I'm stuck with, "So, are you united with a woman (or a man if I'm talking to a woman) for the purpose of cooperation and reproduction?" Yeah, a bit too much, isn't it?

So, how do these two things -- early-Church atheists and my concern for definitions -- correspond? As it turns out, I have a bit of atheist in me as well. Now, you would think on the surface that it couldn't be a problem because I'm a Christian (See? Another word with shifting meanings.). That is, by definition I believe in God. But then we run into difficulty. What do you mean by "God"?

Well, this guy uses the term to refer to, of all things, Buddha as God. (That's odd, of course, because Buddhism technically has no god.) "What about you?" he asks. "Do you believe in God?" No, no I don't. Not that God. That's not a God. I'm a Buddhist atheist.

I work with a couple of Hindus. These people have an abundance of gods. (I found one website that offered "the top 10 Gods of Hinduism". That is, the top 10 of all of them.) Different sects have different favorites. Are they theists? You might say they are more so than I am because they believe in a lot of gods and I've only got one. But if they are, I am an atheist, because I don't believe that any of them exist.

We are told (over and over) that all gods are the same. Mostly they say this in reference to the Jewish, the Christian, and the Muslim God. All one; all the same. While I agree that the God of the Old Testament (the God of the Jews) and the God of the New Testament are the same, it isn't possible that the God of Islam is the same deity. As far as Islam is concerned, I'm an atheist. Allah doesn't exist.

By far the most popular God in America today is what I would term "God-to-me". This is a shifting (shifty?) character. For some He's a mean-spirited old man out to suck the joy out of most of what we might like to do and for others He's kind of a quiet, out-of-sight-out-of-mind fellow sitting on a cloud in heaven doing nothing much in particular. For another segment He is "me", the suggestion from some spiritual corners that argue that "the divine is in all of us" (without for a moment actually analyzing what that means"). In fact, most put their own spin on God. He's mostly sovereign for this group and hardly sovereign for that, somewhat wise for those people over there and pretty darn smart for these guys. There are even an interesting set of atheists that don't believe in God at all because they're mad at a God who didn't satisfy their personal demands. For the feminist realm God is very feminine. He's not too harsh, not too narrow, and definitely not too masculine. He's warm and affirming, not that "mean ol' God" of the Old Testament that smites a lot. As it turns out, for the bulk of these gods I'm an atheist. I don't believe in them. I don't think they exist.

It's my own fault, really. I'm stuck with the biblical God. Oh, sure ... genuine, serious, Bible-believing believers will come to conclusions that offer slight variations in this God. But the definition of God is set, even if our understanding has a few differences. He's not Caesar, Buddha, Krishna, or Allah. He's not this malleable "God-to-me". He is a real being with real characteristics defined in the real Word of God. In fact, He defines reality, not the other way around. To this God I am a theist. But that's all very narrow, isn't it? Just one God? Out of all those gods out there? In terms of the numbers of available gods, I would have to say I'm more of an atheist than a theist. But the one in Whom I do believe is good enough for me.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Childhood Immunizations

There has been a lot of concern in recent years over childhood immunizations. Are they actually causing problems when they're supposed to prevent them? Are they the cause of such horrors as autism and the like? Do they actually work? The medical sciences assure us that our children are safe and there's nothing to fear. But, like the faulty belief that sugar makes children hyper, it's not a concern that goes away merely on the basis of facts.

I'm not nearly as concerned that inoculating our kids against mumps, measles, and rubella can cause autism as I am about all the other means we are using boldly to immunize our children in much more dangerous ways. I'd like to think that parents and the rest of society responsible for caring for children don't realize it, but ignorance doesn't make it less true or less dangerous.

Look, for example, at the way parents are dressing their little girls. Little girls. These youngsters, barely school age, are donning what on adult women would be the most provocative clothing available. Cut down to here and up to there, they parade around innocently in what would be seductive and even scandalous. "Now," we say, "only a pervert would see those cute little girls like that," and I'm sure that's fairly true, but what I'm talking about is immunization. We expect that, as they grow older when just such attire would be seductive, even vulgar, that they will know the difference. As it turns out, by indulging the mode of dress early in life, we've inoculated them against modesty and they will likely never see it.

Take, for instance, our little boys. "Boys will be boys," we say and let them have their way. They don't learn self-control. They don't learn delayed gratification. They don't learn appropriate or inappropriate behavior. And, having thoroughly immunized them while they are boys against these things, why are we surprised that they don't ever seem to become mature, responsible adults? Why would we be surprised that we can't get them to pursue these good qualities later?

Of course, today's problem is a generation or two of vaccinated parents who are immune to such things. They were raised with it; how could it not be normal? Divorce, sexual immorality, the pursuit of pleasure, and more become not merely acceptable, but recommended. Mothers were immunized as little girls against modesty and fathers were vaccinated as boys against self-control, so how would they even recognize the lack in their own children?

These are just examples. Worst of all, I think, is the immunity we impart to our children against Christ. "Come to Jesus," we tell them. We take them to church and put them in Sunday School and take them to youth group. And we inoculate them against a genuine relationship with God. We do it by not practicing what we preach. We do it by not living Monday through Saturday what we hope our churches are telling them on Sunday. We do it by mechanizing Christianity. "Do these things and not those and you'll be a good Christian." We do it by failing to repent ourselves when we ask them to do the same. We say the right things, but we don't do them. We don't live Christ in front of them. And this "second generation", this next line of little church people to come along, are horribly and sadly immunized against a real Christianity. Try to tell this group about Jesus. "Oh, yeah, I've heard all about that," they'll tell you. Even, "Yeah, I've already accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior" while they happily sin in front of your very eyes. More often these days they "see the light" and jettison the church entirely. Not because they're falling away, but because "they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us." (1 John 2:19). This particular group is the hardest to reach because they think they already know and "It didn't work for me." These kids have been immunized against heaven.

We do it all the time as parents. We allow them total immersion in our world to be blinded by the god of this world, full of television and music, the sin-sick value system offered by the prince of the power of the air. We don't filter or block this stuff; we invite it in. We fail to speak the truth in front of our kids. We give away the responsibility to educate and disciple and train and teach them "to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matt 28:20). "Give that to school teachers and Sunday school teachers and youth group leaders; it's not our job." We fail to think about what we're doing and what we're doing to them, or to get them to think about what they're doing. We try to be their friend instead of loving them enough to be perceived as their enemy. We fail to repent ourselves, to live Christ in front of our kids. And then we wonder why they are immune to Christ.

Autism is a bad thing. The connection of childhood immunizations isn't clear. The medical profession denies it. But caring parents aren't convinced and even prevent their children from risking it. And yet these same caring parents mindlessly and continually inoculate their children against far more important things. Are you that parent?

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Enigma

Enigma. Most of you know that this is a puzzling or inexplicable occurrence or situation. It's a puzzle. I mean, you see it, but it's not quite making sense.

There is something I haven't figured out. Oh, well, okay, if we're being honest, there are a lot of things I haven't figured out. But this one really eludes me. I cannot for the life of me figure out why parents write themselves out of significant portions of their children's lives.

What am I talking about? I watch parents seemingly every day who decide to indulge themselves in immorality. Fathers cheat on the mothers of their children. Mothers take drugs. A mother, abandoned by her husband, will shack up with a man, dragging her kids along. Fathers will teach their sons about pornography. Over and over on obvious issues parents will openly indulge their immoral behavior for their children to see. What they're doing is removing any voice they may have on their children's immoral behavior. And I cannot figure out why they do that.

Now, I'm not talking about parents who, in their youth, did foolish things and then repented of it. That's not the same. A kid asks her mom, "When you were young did you do drugs?" If the mother answers honestly, "Yes, I did," followed by, "and it was wrong and that's why I'm warning you not to," it's not hypocritical. And it doesn't necessarily have to be in the deep dark past. A father who is caught on the Internet in places he shouldn't be by a son can say, "Yes it's a problem! Why do you think I'm telling you to avoid it? Obviously I'm having a hard time with it." These are not the same. These are parents who admit to faults as faults and warn their kids.

But given a mother who leaves her husband for another man (or two or three) and passes it off as "just trying to be happy", on what grounds is she going to encourage her daughter to avoid promiscuity or to fight for her marriage? A dad who drinks too much on a regular basis and tells his wife and kids to stay out of his business will have no means to discourage his teenage son from drinking too much. Parents who divorce because they just can't get along will have nothing to offer to their children who face marital difficulties ... except, perhaps, "Give up."

Raising kids is tough enough. None of us are perfect. And all of us have made mistakes. Some of them have been really bad. So it would seem to me that sabotaging your relationship with your children in order to indulge your own petty pleasures is a foolish idea. A parent who willingly removes his or her (or their) input into important matters their progeny will be dealing with so that they can satiate their own lusts seems like the height of stupidity. And I can't figure out why they do it with such seeming regularity.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Be True to Yourself

That's the conventional wisdom. "You have to be true to yourself." That's what they tell you. I mean, wasn't it Shakespeare who said, "To thine own self be true"? And who was wiser than Bill?

I would suggest, however, that if you are going to take a biblical worldview, this might not be the best course of action. Consider what the Bible says about self.

We all know that God created Man and "behold, it was very good" (Gen 1:31). "That," most people seem to think, "was that. People are, basically, pretty good." But that's only the beginning of the biblical account, because by chapter 3 we're looking at the Fall of Man and the Bible now has some rather drastic descriptives for Man after that.

The proclamation from God before the Flood was "every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen 6:5) and after the Flood it was "the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth." (Gen 8:21). Not an improvement.

John called us "the children of the devil" (1 John 3:10). Paul says, "I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh." (Rom 7:18). And that was as nice as he got. "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these." (Gal 5:19-21). We are "dead in the trespasses and sins" and "by nature children of wrath" (Eph 2:1-3). He affirmed that "the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God", making us unable to please God (Rom 8:7-8). We are ruled by sin (Rom 6:12), blinded by the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), unable to understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14). Jeremiah declared "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer 17:9).

You know, when you boil it all down, the sinner has very little to commend him. So, let me ask you, are you sure you want to be true to yourself? If "self" is supposed to be put off (Col 3:9), perhaps "Be true to yourself" is not the best conventional wisdom to go by.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Fighting the Bad Fight

There are lots of serious problems out there with which we have gone or are going to war. We need to figure out how to deal with that whole ISIS issue. There is global warming or global climate change or whatever it is. There is pollution and poverty and racism and sexism and ... oh, this gets to be a long list. And most of us agree that we have a war to fight, even if we don't all agree where or how. On the "global warming"[1] issue, for instance, some will be fighting to end global warming while others will be fighting to end the perception that such a thing exists, but in either case, there will be blood.

I would suggest that in most cases we are fighting the bad fight. We are attempting to solve problems by means that do not solve the problems we are attempting to solve.

Take, for instance, education. Most people believe that throwing more and more money at that problem will solve it. In fact, most people believe that throwing more and more money at most problems will solve them. If the love of money is the root of all sorts of evils, the possession of money would appear to be the root of all solutions in the public estimation. More money will solve education and poverty and child protective services and law enforcement and fire protection and cancer and ... well, now, this list seems to be a long one. If we could just manage to gain those extra funds, we could solve the world's biggest problems. And I would suggest that those who believe this is true have missed just what is the world's biggest problem.

Even we Christians struggle with fighting the bad fight. We know we're supposed to act like a Christian[2] and we know we're supposed to be good, but we struggle with it. So we find mechanisms and tools to make ourselves better. Or we might find ourselves "wiser" by jettisoning the whole idea[3] and seeking just to be in the grace of God. (Sounds so holy, doesn't it?) We are commanded, however, to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12), which doesn't seem to fit with "just seeking to be in the grace of God". On the other hand, we are told "It is God who is at work in you both to will and to do His good pleasure" (Phil 2:13), which doesn't align with "find better strategies to be godly". Still we work through pastoral counseling and finding ways to be at peace with ourselves ... and forget to "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you" (Col 3:5). We're not supposed to be comfortable with ourselves. We're supposed to "put off the old self with its practices" (Col 3:9). We're not supposed to improve ourselves; we're supposed to die to self.

It is, thus, my opinion that we as a people are going to pursue courses of action to solve problems that miss the problem -- the nature of man. Going to war with ISIS doesn't change ISIS minds. Throwing money at education doesn't change the mindset problems of the educational system. Outlawing racism or sexism or "homophobia" as the case may be doesn't change the minds and hearts of the people who are violating these "new and improved" laws. And for the Christian, neither trying harder to "act like a Christian" nor giving up entirely to antinomian "just enjoy the grace of God" will get you to the heart of being a disciple of Christ. That, too, requires a changed heart.
________
[1] I put quotes around that so you could fill in "global warming" or "global climate change" or "human-caused global climate change" or "that whole global warming farce" as you see fit.

[2] Why are we trying to "act like Christians"? Either we are or we aren't. Acting won't make a difference. James said "Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:17). Either we are believers (having faith) which necessarily produces works, or we are not and "acting" won't make that any different.

[3] This is generally known as antinomianism. It is a dismissal of laws or rules in favor of "just grace". "God didn't call you to be good; He just wants to love you." Nice approach ... except that the Bible, right after we are assured that we are saved by grace through faith, says, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Eph 2:10). Tossing out good works tosses out God's purpose for you.

Monday, October 06, 2014

That's Good, Relatively Speaking

Okay, quick quiz. Who said, "There is none who does good"? Yeah, easy, right? David said it (twice) in Psalm 14. And, of course, Paul said it in Rom 3:12. And, then, there is Jesus. "Jesus?" Yes, He said the same thing. "No one is good except God alone" (Luke 18:18). Yes, Jesus, too. So what's up with that? I mean, Paul said there was none who does good in chapter 3 right after he said, "There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek." (Rom 2:9-10). Okay, now, what's going on here? Does Man do good or doesn't he?

The question, as it turns out, boils down to your definition -- your definition of "good". You see, we use the term loosely -- toss it out there like we all know what we're talking about -- without much thought of what we're talking about. What is good? Good, as it turns out, is purely relative.

No, I'm not talking about relativism. I'm talking about definitions. And we all know it. A good pizza is not the same as a good dog. A good dog is not the same as a good man. All these uses of the term "good" are relative. That is, each has certain standards, certain criteria, certain requirements that must be met in order to qualify as "good". And "pizza" doesn't have the same requirements as "man".

But wait! It gets worse. Even in the realm of man, the notion of "good" is relative. It depends on the topic. A man may be a good carpenter and a lousy husband because he meets the standards of "good" for carpentry but fails miserably at being a husband. It isn't contradictory to say of a fellow, "He does good" and "He doesn't do good" as long as we're talking about two different standards. So Paul, speaking of earthly standards in Romans 2, speaks of he who "does good" whether Jew or Greek, but affirming "There is none who does good; no, not one" in chapter 3 relative to God's standards. A person who is better behaved than another person is classified as "good" because the standard is the other person, but in God's standards it's a different matter.

So, when Jesus said, "There is none good but God" and when David said and Paul affirmed, "There is none who does good; no, not one", what good were they talking about? You see, it's not simply good. We know this because the question Jesus was answering was "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" and His answer was, in essence, "Obey the commandments." That it, "Be good." So, clearly, there was 1) a standard of "good" and 2) the man didn't meet that standard. (In case you missed it, he failed the "No other gods before me" standard when he was unwilling to give up his belongings.) So, by what standard do we say "There is none who does good"? It is God's standard. What is God's standard for "good"?

The simple answer would seem to be "perfect morality", but I don't think that's the right answer. I think the right answer is "God's glory". Paul said, "There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist." (1 Cor 8:6). If God's design is "from whom are all things and for whom we exist" -- if His design is "from Him and through Him and to Him are all things" (Rom 11:36) -- then it would appear that the standard would be that all things be done from Him, through Him, and to Him ... to His glory. If God's purpose in making all that is was to extol His glory, then all that would be classified as "good" would be ... to extol His glory.

Thus, anything that we do that is not from Him, anything that we do that is not through Him, anything that we do that is not for Him would fail to meet this standard of "good". We can be good people and good parents and good spouses and good workers and all sorts of good things. That's as long as the standard of which we speak is not God's ultimate standard of "from Him and through Him and to Him are all things". And it would explain why it is true that "There is none who does good." Certainly not by that standard. Because that standard requires first God, and since no natural man operates on a "first God" mode of operation, there is none who does good. That's "good" relatively speaking. As it always is.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Prithee

Have you ever heard that term? It's an old English interjection, a corruption of "I pray thee". "Prithee, tell me what I can do for you." That is, "Please, I beg of you, tell me how I can be helpful."

It seems that the old English had a better grasp on the concept of prayer than we do today. For many of us, believers and otherwise, prayer has become a tool of petition. Most seem to use it as a method of obtaining what I want. I don't know how many people have told me, "I don't believe in God anymore because He didn't answer my prayers." Like a disgruntled child who dismissed Santa because he didn't bring them their wishlist, people seem to get upset with God because He doesn't respond as they demand to their demands. That's not the idea of prayer.

Prayer is, at its heart, a confession of dependence. It is predicated on need, not demand. The basic notion begins with "I can't." At its core it is an admission of inability. How, then, does it end up as a demand?

Prayer is not a bully session in which we can express our demands to God and expect Him to meet them. It's not our chance to argue God into our point of view. We're not going to give Him information He didn't have or offer new ideas He hadn't considered. Prayer is our hearts' expression of dependence on Him, our wish to share with Him what we think and feel. Does prayer change things? Yes. Mostly us.

God uses prayer. It's one of His means to His ends. He allows us to participate in His plans by answering the prayers that are in line with His plans (John 15:7). That's a really cool thing. Prayer is vital to our relationship with Him because it tunes us to Him and strengthens our bond. But when we make it about us -- our demands, our desires, our dreams -- and not about Him -- "Not my will, but Thine be done" -- we're missing the point.

Pray without ceasing. That's a command (1 Thess 5:17). "I desire then that in every place men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling" (1 Tim 2:8). That was Paul's instruction to Timothy. Jesus taught His disciples "that they ought always to pray and not lose heart" (Luke 18:1-8). Pray. Make it your daily, hourly, minute-by-minute confession of dependence on God. Because at all times in all situations that as an excellent place to remain.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Rules of Hermeneutics

I just wrote about what appears to be biblical contradictions. One was the apparent contradiction between God gifting all with faith (Rom 12:3) contrasted with the clear statement "not all have faith" (2 Thess 3:2). The other was the repeated references that seem to indicate that Christ died for all and all sin is paid for in contrast to the very clear and overwhelming biblical claim that "the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many." (Matt 7:13). Which is it? Universal salvation or ... not?

I offered it not to suggest that there are biblical contradictions, but to urge believers to make sense of Scripture. Paul put it this way. "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." (2 Tim 2:15).

So here I offer my "rules of hermeneutics". "Oh, thanks, Stan," I can hear you say, "but what's 'hermeneutics'." Well, I'll tell you ... and we don't need the sarcasm. Hermeneutics is simply the science of interpreting texts. It is almost exclusively used in terms of interpretation of biblical texts. It is, then, the means by which we can reasonably come to an understanding of God's Word. And if you're a Christian, you really want to do that. So here are a few key principles to keep in mind as you diligently seek to rightly handle the word of truth.
1. Remember the Author.

The Scriptures are divinely inspired ("breathed"). As such, they are right. They are perfect. And they are best interpreted through the Holy Spirit.

2. Scripture interprets Scripture.

All Scripture must be in agreement with all Scripture. Most critical -- context, context, context. Immediate context as well as all-of-Scripture context.

3. From the known to the unknown.

It is important to go from the explicit to the implicit, from the clear to the less clear. Imposing less clear texts onto clear texts isn't reasonable.

4. Interpret the Bible in its literal sense.

That's not woodenly literal, but in the sense in which it is written. History is history, poetry is poetry, prophecy is prophecy, doctrine is doctrine, wisdom is wisdom, parables are parables, etc. Each genre and each type has its own rules. Recognize, for instance, hyperbole, metaphor, idioms, or anthropomorphisms. Also, Scripture uses parallels and contrasts. Look for them, and use them when you find them.

5. Interpret the Bible as it is intended.

Accurately determine the meanings of words. Words can change sense by usage, translation, context, or user. (An example would be the word "salvation". That can refer to being rescued from eternal damnation or simply being saved from something bad.) Usage of the day, usage in context, definitions, verb tenses, subject-object agreement, all sorts of these things can be critical to a proper understanding of Scripture.

6. Start at the right place.

Start with God and work your way down to Man, not vice versa. Allow God's Word to change your worldview rather than your worldview to change God's Word. (Note: Keep in mind the certainty of your "depraved mind" (Rom 1:28) and deceitful heart (Jer 17:9). If you do not come across things that challenge your thinking and your emotions, you're probably not doing it right.)

7. Be logical.

This would preclude biblical contradiction. It would preclude allowing Scripture to oppose Scripture. And it would require that Scripture be consistent with Scripture. You need to figure out how.
These are just my "rules of hermeneutics". Others have others. Unfortunately, most have very few, if any. So, if you are among those who never imagined rules of interpreting God's Word, feel free to use mine until you come up with something better. Don't be a worker who needs to be ashamed.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Accreditation

Most of us are aware of the concept of "accreditation". Institutions of higher learning — colleges, universities, that sort of thing — can be accredited or not. And everyone knows that accredited is better than not. But just what is this thing called "accreditation"?

Accreditation is a process used to verify that a particular institution meets the standards set by the accrediting board. Seems simple enough. Does the institution meet its stated mission? Does it meet its objectives and goals? Does it properly service its students? Does its education meet the standards of quality? Is the faculty reputable? Oh, yes, and does the institution demand the embracing of a licentious homosexual lifestyle? Because, you see, if it does not, the educational standards of that particular institution do not satisfy the accreditation requirements.

"What's that?" you say. "How does the policy of allowing homosexual practices among students on campus affect the quality of education?" Well, I would think that would be a very good question ... one I can't answer. But apparently the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) is ready to discredit Gordon College, a small Christian college north of Boston, for its longstanding, traditional inclusion of "homosexual practice" as a forbidden activity. The college, touting itself as a multidenominational Christian college "that retains its roots in the Christian faith" and maintaining a Statement of Faith on its website, includes a couple of rules not held at other colleges. Since "It is our hope and prayer that at Gordon College we are able to — as Paul phrased it in Colossians 1:28 — present our graduates 'mature in Christ' so they are prepared to serve as Christian leaders wherever God may place them", this would be no surprise. Based on their "identity as a Christian academic community" and "biblical principles of Christian conduct", they have established behavioral standards for the students, faculty, and staff. So they don't allow tobacco products or alcoholic beverages on the campus. They don't operate on Sunday. All well and good. No one is complaining. Oh, and "Those words and actions which are expressly forbidden in Scripture, including but not limited to blasphemy, profanity, dishonesty, theft, drunkenness, sexual relations outside marriage, and homosexual practice, will not be tolerated in the lives of Gordon community members, either on or off campus."

Okay. Let's see. Dishonesty? Check. Blasphemy? Check. Drunkenness? Check. No, we're all good with those. Sexual relations outside marriage? No, no, move on. This is all standard stuff and we don't have a problem with a Christian college that claims a biblical standard having rules like this. Next? Homosexual practices. Wait ... what? Look, if you want to ban blasphemy on or off campus and forbid students to engage in sexual relations outside of marriage, that's all well and good, but if you're going to forbid someone with same-sex attraction from indulging their desires, now you've gone too far! What kind of a quality education can they get? This (according to the NEASC) is discrimination!

This is a Christian university, predicated on a biblical standard, aimed at producing graduates mature in Christ. The simple fact that one gay student was forced to go there against his will ... oh, wait ... no one forced him? Okay, now I'm confused.

We've certainly arrived at an odd place in our society when a quality education requires permissive sexual behavior for a singular extreme minority without even a question of the lack of permission for the indulgence of the sexual behavior of the majority. We've come to a strange point in our country when accreditation — the affirmation of an institution meeting the educational standards — is based the embrace of licentiousness in a single minute corner of society without regard for either the rest of society or the stated aims of the institution. And we are really a confused country when "nondiscriminatory" means "homosexuals can practice their sexual desires whenever they wish, but heterosexuals can't" and "we wish to avoid discrimination, so we will not allow a college to have its standards" (which, by definition, is discrimination) "or Christians to have equal access to university campuses." I remember when Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, stated categorically that he would never allow a Chick-Fil-A to be built in his city because Chicago was an "all-inclusive" city and the owners of Chick-Fil-A had a definition of marriage different than his, and no one seemed to notice the insanity of "all-inclusive" alongside "not here". Indeed, it seems that, more and more, our society is immersing itself in this "non-discriminatory" insanity that includes genuine and conscious discrimination. In short, our society is embracing insanity and calling it "good".
The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer 17:9)
I guess God proves true again.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

That's Not In There

Despite the current trends away from Christianity in America, we still have our cultural roots sunk deep in Christendom. We have Catholic and Baptist hospitals, para-church charities, and Christian-based homeless shelters. We still have rights endowed by the Creator. We still carry around a substantial amount of Judeo-Christian morality. And more. Our culture, in fact, thinks they know quite a bit about Christianity. It should be no surprise, however, that what they think they know might not be right.

Everyone knows, for instance, that when you die you go to heaven where you sit on clouds, play harps, and hope to earn your wings. Now, the simple fact that none of this is found in Scripture doesn't deter most folk. "Don't bother me with facts; I know I'm right." Watch any of the ever-popular horror movies where Satan plays a major role and you'll likely recognize him by his red color, his horns, his forked tail, and his pitchfork. The Bible refers to him as "an angel of light" (2 Cor 11:14), but the horned pitchfork guy still must be the case. And who doesn't know for a fact that the fall of Adam and Eve is due to the apple they ate? No, really! Look it up! Oh, it's not in there? Yes, that's right. It's not. "Fruit", yes, but not an apple in the text.

"Oh," we say, shaking our heads, "you need to know your Bibles better." And we'll proceed to demonstrate ... that we don't. Because we can cite all sorts of Bible verses that, as it turns out, don't exist at all. One of the ubiquitous ones is "God helps those who help themselves." (Hezekiah 5:2). We know that. Odd that the Bible doesn't. In fact, I think the problem addressed by the Gospel is that the opposite is true. We can't help ourselves. Or how about "Cleanliness is next to godliness." (Psalm 152:3)? You know that one, right? Then you know as well that Psalms only has 150 chapters and no such verse is found in the Bible.

Others are oft quoted and, in fact, not as far from the truth. Take "The Lord works in mysterious ways." (Samuel 22:7) Nope. Not in "Samuel". (It actually comes from a 19th century hymn.) And one we all have heard is "Spare the rod; spoil the child." (3 Peter 2:1). Of course, there is no Third Peter and, while the idea can be found ("He who withholds his rod hates his son" (Prov 13:24).), the quote isn't in there.

Now, the bulk of this is the product of ignorance. We as a nation think we know what's in the Bible, but we don't. Unfortunately, we as believers are often just as mistaken. Some of the things we find taught as truth in our churches today isn't found in the Bible. A lot of us are pretty sure that drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes are a sin right out of the pages of Scripture, but they're not. Or take, for instance, the certainty that "God wants you to be happy." I mean, it sounds nice and it almost comes from the Bible (you know, "The Beatitudes", where we read a lot of being "blessed"), but you will also find that God wills your suffering. After losing everything, Job's wife told him to curse God and die. He told her, "Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" (Job 2:10). Peter said, "For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong." (1 Peter 3:17). "If God should will it so." And the author of Hebrews assures us, "Whom the Lord loves, He disciplines" (Heb 12:6) and "all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant" (Heb 12:11). God wants your best, but that may not be happiness.

There is the delightful-sounding, "Love the sinner; hate the sin." As it turns out, it's a Ghandi quote. In Scripture, from a man after God's own heart we read, "Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies." (Psa 139:21-22). Now, sure, maybe David was off the mark, but why, then do we read that God hates all who do iniquity (Psa 5:5)? Now, clearly this stuff needs careful processing and examination, but I'm not at all sure you can argue that Scripture requires us to "Love the sinner; hate the sin."

Oh, I know one that, if I haven't done it yet, should upset you. We all know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves everybody equally. God doesn't hate anyone. Right? Well, don't we? You'll be hard-pressed to find a single Christian who would disagree that it's true. I can only imagine that's true because they haven't really read their Bibles very closely. If God doesn't hate anyone, why would He say, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." (Rom 9:13)? I mean, doesn't that require that God hate at least one person? In fact, isn't that something we just saw in Psalm 5:5? Now, again, this is something that needs careful consideration and study. I'm just pointing out that it's not as clean and pretty as everyone seems to think it is.

A couple other quick examples. Everyone knows that "Money is the root of all evil", right? Well, that's almost right, but the "almost" makes it wrong. First, the King James says, "The love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim 6:10). There is a vast difference between "money" and "the love of money". Beyond that, the NAS goes further to explain "The love of money is a root of all sorts of evil." You see, neither money nor the love of it is the root of all evil; "all sorts of evil" makes much more sense. And then there's the constant claim that when God forgives sin, He forgets it. This one is also problematic. It's a problem because if God does that, aren't we supposed to? I mean, aren't we supposed to be "forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." (Eph 4:32)? So if He forgives and forgets, so must we, right? And, look, doesn't the Bible say, "I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." (Heb 8:12)? So it must be true! Yes, I suppose, as long as you're willing to admit that you know things God doesn't (you remember your sin, right?) and "Omniscient" includes "not remembering". As it turns out, it does not say that God forgets. It says He doesn't remember it. One is to delete it from memory and the other is not to call it up. Not the same thing.

Well, these are just some examples. Our culture thinks they know a lot about Christianity. As it turns out, most of what they know is wrong. They think they know what the Bible says. As it happens, they know very little. Sadly, it also happens that Christians know far less than we think we do. We grab onto things we like and run with them without being careful to rightly handle the Word of God. Perhaps we should be more diligent than that with something as precious as the writings God made for us.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

By a Nose

You may have heard it said, "Your rights end where my nose begins." I'm sure you get the idea. As humans, we have lots of rights, but they do not extend to overriding the rights of others. That's the idea. Defining the limits of your rights by my nose. I've noticed, then, that when we go about defining God, it appears that we often have the same idea in mind.

The Bible refers to God as Sovereign (Acts 4:24; 1 Tim 6:15; Rev 6:10). It says He "works all things after the counsel of His will" (Eph 1:11), does whatever He pleases (Psa 115:3), and cannot be stopped from doing what He wills (Dan 4:35). The psalmist wrote of God, "All things are your servants" (Psa 119:91). Jesus claimed to possess "all authority" (Matt 28:18). Multiple references are given where God intervened in human will (Gen 20:6; Exo 34:24; Exo 4:21; Exo 11:3; Ezra 1:5; Acts 16:14; John 12:39-40; Phil 2:23; etc.). Biblically there appears to be no limits on God's Sovereignty. "Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of your Father" (Matt 10:29). But we've managed to redefine "sovereignty" of late. The Bible portrays it as absolute, but we've limited it ... to the ends of our noses. God has Sovereignly decreed that Man is sovereign in the affairs of Man and God cannot or will not intervene. God's sovereignty ends where my nose begins.

The Bible teaches the unlimited Sovereignty of God. We've redefined that to "somewhat limited". And it's not a heretical cult that believes this; it's mainstream Christians. And it's not just on God's Sovereignty that we've done this. It's other attributes as well. One very popular assault today is on God's Omniscience. Now, the Bible clearly says that God knows everything (1 John 3:20), that His "understanding has no limit" (Psa 147:5). He knows all that is occurring (Psa 139:2-3) even before it occurs (Psa 139:4; Acts 15:16-18; Isa 46:10; 1 Peter 1:1-2, 20; see also every prophecy in Scripture). But, like Sovereignty, there is a move to redefine "Omniscient" to mean "mostly omniscient". He knows what has happened, but cannot know what will happen. "Omniscient", traditionally defined as knowing everything -- past, present, and future -- is moved to knowing everything except the future. "Indeed," they argue, "God cannot know the future because it doesn't exist." They say He is "omniscient" because He does know every possible thing that could happen, but doesn't know the actual things until they happen. The limitation, they tell us, is Man's Free Will. Or, in terms of the theme here, God's knowledge ends where my nose begins.

These two -- Sovereignty and Omniscience -- are not alone in their redefinitions. In Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics he argued, "... all the limitations of man are God’s limitations, all his weaknesses, and more, all his perversities are His ..." (Church Dogmatics IV.1, 158). While Jesus claimed, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You," Man claims that God's abilities are limited. Given Man's Free Will, God cannot intervene in human events. Or, to put it in Jesus's terms, "Not all things are possible for You." God claims to be almighty (Gen 17:1; Rev 19:6). Job proclaims, "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted." (Job 42:2). (Note the link between Omnipotence and Sovereignty in that verse.) But we're redefining "Omnipotent" to mean "somewhat omnipotent". He does have limitations, and those limitations find their core in Man's Free Will. You like to think that everything happens for a reason, which would be supported if God is actually Omnipotent, but you would be mistaken. God is limited by randomness -- specifically random evil. And we manage to redefine omnipotence so it ends where my nose begins.

And so it goes. "Sovereign" is supported in Scripture in absolute terms, but is redefined to "mostly sovereign" and hailed as a better sovereignty than actually Sovereign. "Omniscience" is demonstrated over and over in Scripture to include all things, past, present, and future, but is redefined as "mostly omniscient", limited to past and present, and is considered "better than Omniscience" because He knows all possibilities without actually knowing actualities. "Omnipotence" is explained in Scripture as "all things are possible for You", but moves to "mostly omnipotent" defined as "all things except those things where Man makes choices." And these are just a few examples. Step by step modern Christendom indulges itself in redefining God by the standard of Human Free Will. God stops where my nose begins.

Funny thing. Defining "Sovereign" as "not Sovereign", "Omniscient" as "not Omniscient", or "Omnipotent" as "not Omnipotent" is actually contradictory. So why is it hailed as "better"? And the question I always want to ask in cases like these: What took the Holy Spirit so long to get this across? Because traditional orthodoxy never understood any of these in this "new and improved" way ... which is neither improved nor good. I would suggest that defining God in terms of Man is not a safe thing to do. God warns, "You thought that I was one like yourself" (Psa 50:21) (followed by a rebuke). Letting God's Word define God as God sees fit seems like a wiser approach to me. Expecting that the Holy Spirit actually did His job of clarifying basic things like this seems like a more rational approach to me. But maybe that's just me.