Friday, October 28, 2016

Salty Speech

Given the current idea of "salty speech"1 (that is, filled with expletives), we have to be careful when we read a biblical command to season our speech with salt.
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person. (Col 4:6)
No, that is not a command to "spice up" your language with some swearing. The type of "salt" is specified: "grace". But just what does that mean? Are we to "say grace" before a meal? Clearly that doesn't make sense (except, perhaps, since we're talking about "salt", it is mealtime in view ... no, that can't be it.) Some think it means "saved by grace" grace. That is, "We should always be speaking the Gospel." That hardly seems right, either. So we are to always speak with grace. What does that mean?

I think Paul helps us elsewhere.
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Eph 4:29)
He speaks of giving "grace to those who hear." I think that's what he had in mind in the Colossians verse, too. And he's more descriptive here. No "unwholesome word". Words "good for edification", paying attention to "the need of the moment". This kind of speech is other-centered. It eliminates the "unwholesome", which can be translated "corrupt", "rotten", or even "worthless". It substitutes only speech that edifies.

So that is "salty" speech. We only say nice things!

That would be a misunderstanding. Sometimes to edify you need to remove rubble. Sometimes, like salt in an open wound, words may hurt. It isn't always "nice things" -- pleasant to hear -- but it should always be beneficial, whether or not it is pleasant.

Now, we can complain about the way "those guys" talk about us. They can be mean-spirited, cruel, bullying words. I don't know why believers would expect something else from unbelievers. This command, on the other hand, is to believers. It is our requirement to speak with grace, to edify, to build up. It is our command to know what is required for each person ("the need of the moment"). It is our instruction to season our speech rather than tear down. So, how are we doing there? Do we return verbal slap for verbal slap? Or do we turn our verbal cheek and speak with grace to edify? Jesus was known for His gracious words (Luke 4:22). Shouldn't we, His followers, be known for the same?
1 The term comes from the way that sailors ("salt" is slang for a sailor) speak, as in "swears like a sailor".

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Vows That Age

This is a question post. I don't have a solid answer. Maybe you do. I'd be much obliged.

Do vows expire?

Well, of course they do. Marriage vows expire when the spouse dies. I get that, despite our society's tendency to completely ignore "Till death do us part." Certainly death does part married couples and the vow ends then (Rom 7:2). But what about others?

I'm thinking, in particular, a vow that I and every other person who served in the military was required to take.
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.
That's it, the standard Oath of Enlistment for joining the military. Everyone that joins takes such an oath (or affirmation). Now, as I look at the text of it, I don't see an end date. I don't see a delineation of the circumstances under which the promise is null and void. I don't see where it is terminated.

Is this an oath that all who joined the military are required to keep even after leaving the military? I mean, obviously they wouldn't defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic in the same way or in the same capacity, but what about in whatever capacity they can? They might not go into battle or bear arms to do it, but they certainly could vote, for instance, in support and defense of the Constitution. They could support and encourage defense of the First Amendment, as an example.

Well, you see what I mean. Is this a vow that dies out with the end of one's service, or is there no end-of-life clause on it? I'm not sure. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


If you are one that might use "ambivalent" in a sentence, you will most likely use it as a synonym for "apathetic". As it turns out, ambivalence is much closer to the opposite of apathy. Apathy is the lack of feeling. Ambivalence is not. "Ambi" refers to "both", and "valence" is, at its root, "power" -- power to either draw or repel. Thus, to be apathetic is to have no feeling about something and ambivalence is to be drawn in two directions.

Leaving that for a moment, if Paul had written, "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith" (2 Cor 13:5) on the Internet, I wouldn't be surprised if he had included a link to John's first epistle, because that missive seems to be a large "test of faith", filled with "if" and "if not" and picking up in sharp and glaring terms those who are and who are not in the faith. However, with this weight of "are or are not in the faith", it seems like 1st John is ambivalent. (See? I got back to that.) He seems to write with fervor over testing yourself and with confidence that those who are in the faith will be. Here, take a look.

In the first chapter John asks if we walk in darkness or in the light as tests of whether we have fellowship with Christ (1 John 1:6-7) and whether or not we confess our sin (1 John 1:8-10). Notice, however, that John bounces back and forth on that latter point -- "If we say that we have no sin" followed by "If we confess our sins" followed by "If we say that we have not sinned." And doesn't end there. He goes on to say, "If anyone sins ..." (1 John 2:1). So, which is it? Is sin continuously in need of confession, repentance, and forgiveness, or do we have an Advocate? Ambivalent.

There are lots of other "tests".
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. (1 John 2:3)

The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. (1 John 2:9-10)

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)

Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:23)
And that's just the second chapter. It goes on and on. Lots and lots of warnings, contrasts of genuine verses false believers, that sort of thing. It's full of it.

The epistle is littered with these "ifs", like a test to see if you're a genuine Christian or not. Yet John, speaking of false teachers who "go out from us" (not outside), writes, "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us." (1 John 2:19) There isn't much ambiguity there. John appears to hold that those who are "really of us" will remain -- no question. In a letter dotted with test questions for your faith, John appears to be quite confident that those who are really in the faith must remain in the faith. Ambivalent.

In the third chapter we see something that, on one hand, appears to be quite daunting and, on the other, quite assuring. I've commented on this before.
No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (1 John 3:9)
On one hand you have to ask yourself, "Do I practice sin?" and that might be a scary examination. On the other hand, to the one who is born of God, one of the most troubling questions of all is clearly answered. "Can I lose my salvation?" No! If practicing sin is the means of losing salvation, those born of God cannot do it. It isn't that it's not likely. It is impossible. Those born of God lack the capacity.

First John is full of these two poles. "Are you in Christ?" and "The outcome of those who are once in Christ is certain and settled." It looks ambivalent -- pulled in two directions. It isn't. It actually settles things. You might be wise to go through this and ask yourself the questions. It's good to know, one way or the other.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Feminization of the Church

One of the subjects I have always wanted to approach is the subject of feminism, especially feminism and the church. I think it is abundantly clear that feminism as a mindset has so thoroughly washed over the church that we don't even recognize anymore how feminized the church has become. My problem is this. I don't think I recognize how feminized the church has become nor do I have a clear picture of what a non-feminized church would look like.

Look around. It's in most churches. (I'd say all, but I don't know all.) It's in the pews, given the large absence of males. It's in the music, aimed almost solely at emotions. There is even a segment of church songs that are today referred to as "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs. It's in the decor, with quilts on the wall, plants as decoration, even in the common artistic representations of the effeminate Jesus we see around. It's in the "care groups" and the drive to be "intimate with Jesus" (where "intimate" is so misunderstood today). It is explained in books like David Morrow's Why Men Hate Going to Church. In her book, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, Nancy Pearcey says it's a product of the Industrial Revolution, when men stopped working around home and bifurcated "work" and "home", "secular" and "sacred". This may be, but studies suggest this is primarily a Christian distinctive, not bleeding over to other religious gatherings. Whatever the reason, since women have outnumbered men in churches, pastors began to tailor their message to their primary demographic -- women. There are "ladies clubs" like women's Bible studies and book studies and social gatherings, but not much for men to do "men things". While women are typically relational and nurturing -- characteristics we think of as "Christian" -- men are more goal-driven and competitive, largely characteristics ignored in churches. So they aim at the sharing of feelings and comforting one another without addressing male needs, nature, or issues. If they have a men's ministry it is typically poorly attended often because it is ... well ... feminized. Then, of course, the new Christian ethic that says that women ought to be doing all the same roles that men do even if Scripture seems to think otherwise. To even reference some of these Scriptures (Gen 2:18; 1 Cor 11:3-17; 1 Cor 14:34-35; Eph 5:22-24; Col 3:18; 1 Tim 2:9-14; 1 Peter 3:1-6; etc.) is considered sexist.

I think it's a problem. Worse, I think it's a specific attack by Satan. Is it a product of feminism? Perhaps in part, but I don't think so. I think it's a product of Satan. I think it's an attack on males and I think it is an orchestrated attack. We know, for instance, that school teachers are predominantly female. Why? Watch TV for very long (I'd guess 3-4 minutes ought to do it) and you'll see a common message: men are stupid, useless beings outranked first by women and, ultimately, by children. Real men, we're told, are bad things. What a "good man" would look like would be one "in touch with his feminine side". Otherwise, our entire culture is telling us, "men are jerks." It's not just in the church; it's everywhere.

But beyond the satanic attack, I think a major problem is that we've become inoculated to it. Like the proverbial frog in the pot, we've become so used to it that we don't even recognize it. Not seeing the problem, we will likely do little to address it. But it is a problem. Did you know, for instance, that statistically something like 90% of boys raised in church will abandon it by their 20th birthday? That's a startling number.

What we need, then, is for men to be men and for churches to embrace (See? Another feminist concept.) male needs and male lives. The problem, though, is as I've already said. We don't really know what that looks like. It's obviously not the "male jerk" concept, the chauvinist posturing like a peacock, the hypermasculine guy looking for a fight and demeaning women. Clearly not that. But what is it? What does the godly male look like and how does the church include that influence again? Do we even know how to do it anymore?

I have always wanted to address this because I really do believe it's a major problem, but I don't know that I know what the alternative is. That alone speaks volumes.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Logic Test

Something like this logical argument (a term for the form of the argument, not a value judgment) has been used to prove that those evil Calvinists are clearly wrong. I think it proves something else. Here are the logic statements.
1. God truly loves all persons.
2. To truly love someone is to desire their best.
3. The best for all persons is to be found in a right relationship with God, a saving relationship in which we love and obey Him.
4. Therefore, all persons will be saved.
Now, the anti-Calvinist argues that God can save everyone by giving everyone "irresistible grace". Since He doesn't, the Calvinists are wrong. I have to say that "proving" that Calvinists are wrong here doesn't help the rest. There is a necessary breakdown someplace. We know that #4 doesn't happen, so what went wrong? Does God not "truly love" all persons? Or perhaps His hands are tied and He is incapable of saving everyone? In short, does He lack the desire or the ability to accomplish what this logical sequence suggests must be accomplished?

Luckily for me it is not my assignment to straighten everyone out on this, so you're on your own here. But be careful about going places like "God is incapable" or "God doesn't love" with impunity. You'd better have good, logically consistent, biblically consistent reasons for one of those. I'm not offering answers here. I'm just asking you -- you the Calvinist or you the non-Calvinist (obviously excepting the Universalist) -- to see that you (yes, all of you) have a dilemma to resolve here. There are answers, and we are commanded to "be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in you." (1 Peter 3:15)

It is clear to me from comments and responses that this post was largely baffling. More than one thought it was a "Calvinist versus everyone else" argument. Some thought I was trying to prove Universalism. One said that this argument appears sound and nearly does prove Universalism. (How "nearly" works into this I can't tell.) It appears to be poorly considered on my part to engage my readers with a question of logic when it contains in it a component commonly producing much emotion. My mistake. Most people cannot both think and feel at the same time, and if feelings are first engaged, thinking is typically subverted.

The argument does not prove that Calvinists are wrong. If allowed to stand, it proves that Christianity is wrong. That is, Christ, with all His references to eternal flames and torment, was mistaken. Sinfully mistaken. The argument does not favor Arminians. They, like Calvinists believe that not all are saved, as does anyone else who is a Christian of any biblical nature. It doesn't even favor "Leftist Christians" who like to be more generous with their "salvation" because if the argument stands and all are not saved, God fails for them, too.

A few of you engaged the argument itself, and I appreciate that. The argument, as it turns out, is not sound. Its premises are vague and, in the end, faulty. Therefore, its conclusion is false. There, now we can all go home and forget about those nasty Calvinists ... or Arminians ... or whatever stripe you care to dislike. As for me, I've learned a valuable lesson.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Plan B

Welcome to Plan A. Let me introduce you to the outset of this plan -- Adam. On the sixth day, God made Adam. Adam was without sin. He was made in perfect harmony with God. He had a "walk in the garden" relationship with God. Soon thereafter was the second part of Plan A, Eve. Both made in the image of God, both without sin, both without even a sin nature, they constituted Plan A -- a world predicated on beings made in the image of God reflecting the nature of God to all creation. And it was very good.

Enter the serpent.

"More crafty than any other beast" (Gen 3:1), we get Satan (Rev 20:2) tempting Eve with "Did God say ...?" And Eve, seeing that "the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate." (Gen 3:6) Say goodbye to Plan A.

Most people believe that what follows (effectively all of human history) is God's Plan B. His Plan A was an eternal harmonious relationship between Man and God, but we messed that up, so He had to come up with a Plan B which included the dreadful death of His Son, His resurrection, and the ultimate defeat of Satan. Good plan, as far as alternate plans go.

There's a problem with this line of thinking. The Bible disagrees. In Titus, for instance, we read of the "hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began." (Titus 1:1-3) Wait, promised before the ages began? So that was the plan from the beginning. In Revelation we read of "everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain." (Rev 13:8) Now, wait a minute. This says that those who are saved had their name written in the book of life before the foundation of the world. That means that 1) all who would be saved were already documented, so to speak, and 2) those who would not be saved were not.

This paints a different picture, then. This argues that the idyllic garden existence was the beginning, to be sure, but was not a Plan A to a Plan B. This argues that it was simply the beginning to Plan A which, in God's good time and for God's good purposes would then take a turn into sin according to His own prior knowledge, and that this was Plan A from the beginning -- our sin, the need for a Savior, the death and resurrection of Christ, perfect redemption.

I know. There are some who will balk at this. It seems to suggest that God knew in advance that Adam would sin and bring sin into the world and that this was His plan. If that's what you think, then I'll go along with you there. If God is Omniscient, it is the only thing we could conclude. He knew it would happen, could have prevented it, and didn't. Instead, He intended to show His power and wrath and grace and mercy (Rom 9:22-23) for His glory. Without authoring -- causing or putting into place -- sin, He allowed it into His Plan A along with the remedy, "promised before the ages began." The alternative to this is that God is not Omniscient -- didn't know it was coming -- or not Omnipotent -- knew it but was incapable of stopping it.

As for me, I take a great deal of comfort knowing that we are not on Plan B, God's back up plan for when Plan A failed. Instead, He continues to cause all things to work together for good. It would be comforting to know that He could remedy any misstep, I suppose, but knowing that it hasn't been necessary gives me greater confidence in His Omniscience, His Omnipotence, and His Sovereignty. I don't have a "Plan B" God. I trust a God who always had it under control and will continue to have it under control. It works for me. You can decide for yourself.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

News Weakly - 10/22/2016

The Beauty of Spin
So, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties -- the union for Pennsylvania's university faculties -- has gone on strike for more money and better benefits. More than 100,000 students are on hold for classes as some 5,500 faculty members from 14 state universities hit the picket lines. The union president said, "We are headed to the picket lines, but even on the picket lines, our phones will be on, should the State System decide it doesn't want to abandon its students."

Wait ... the State System is abandoning its students? How does that work? They're still there. They're still ready and willing to educate the students. It's the union members that have walked out ... on the students. Ah, the beauty of spin! "We are walking out because we aren't getting the goods we want and wish to extort the universities at the expense of the students to remedy that, but we'll say it is the State System that is abandoning the students and everyone will agree with us there." As long as it makes the unions look good and feel good, it must be true.

Postscript: Reuters is reporting that the strike ended on Friday because they achieved a tentative agreement. Doesn't change my point.

Did You Know?
Planned Parenthood is celebrating their 100th anniversary. In 1916 Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic. Did you know that she was put in jail for it? Turns out it was against the law to provide literature describing contraception. Talk about changing times! I mean, sure, we Christians aren't happy about Planned Parenthood's involvement in killing the unborn, but most of us aren't too concerned about contraception. That is, merely a hundred years ago it was illegal and now Christians consider the concept of preventing contraception as barbaric. Most people back then thought the artificial prevention of pregnancy as immoral. No longer.

You also may not know this. Interestingly, turns out that Sanger was an opponent of abortion. That's why she favored contraception to help the advancement of women. She considered abortion as a horror and classified it as a disgrace to civilization. Now, she was in favor of eugenics -- the process of eliminating "undesirables" genetically -- and thought that "morons, mental defectives, epileptics, illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, and dope fiends" should be sterilized, but she wasn't too keen on abortion. And since Planned Parenthood has continued to be one of the biggest sources of decreasing offspring in minority races in America -- one of the goals of eugenics and Sanger alike -- I'm sure she'd have come around to it and would be happy with what they're doing now.

I Learned Something New
You think you know stuff, and then a news item like this comes along and you find you knew nothing at all. The story is about US rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) hitting an all-time high. The story says it's worst among the young (15-24) and men who have sex with men (bisexual or homosexual). Then it says this:
The CDC blamed the historic levels on budget cuts to STD prevention programs as well as clinic closures across the country.
See? I did not see that coming. I always thought that the reason for STDs was ... well ... sex. Specifically sex outside of God's instructions on sex. And if I had not heard about STD rates and wanted to make a prediction about them based on today's rising sexual immorality in America, I would have guessed that we were likely getting to the highest rates ever. But I'd be wrong, you see. Sexually transmitted diseases are caused by budget cuts and the lack of clinics. Who would have thought?

Friday, October 21, 2016

Tolerance Test

Instructions: Yesterday I gave you the definition of tolerance. Let's begin with that just for clarity.
Tolerant: showing willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.
Keep in mind that tolerance requires something with which you disagree and the willingness to let it be. Your job, then, is, given the definition of tolerance, rate the following statements as "tolerant" or "intolerant". Good luck.

1. I'm a Christian.

2. I'm opposed to Christianity and think those who follow it ought to be removed.

3. I'm a Christian calligrapher. My business is making fancy wedding invitations. I do not want to be required to make invitations for weddings that contradict my beliefs, but I will recommend other vendors for those people who come to me with such a request.

4. I think that people who refuse service to the LGBT folk on the basis of personal values ought to be fined, jailed, lose their business or some other serious consequence to prevent it from happening again.

5. I oppose abortion and would urge women seeking an abortion to seek alternative help.

6. Deeply held religious values need to be changed in order to keep abortion free.

7. I believe the Bible. I hope that others will, too. You're free to have an opposing opinion.

8. I believe the Bible is misleading, misunderstood, and potentially dangerous. It should not be allowed in public.

9. I think that homosexual behavior is a sin and people who practice it need a Savior.

10. I think that those who oppose homosexual behavior are bigots and haters and deserve whatever bad things come their way.

The End.

(I don't think I need to grade your answers. I'm hoping you can figure it out. Because the irony of those who clamor for "tolerance" while doing so without tolerance as opposed to those who stand for what they believe while being accused of being intolerant is a serious problem.)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Word Play

Allow me to illustrate the problem of language using some extremely common terms we see thrown around these days.
Bigotry: Intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from oneself.
We all know what bigotry is. Like the dictionary says here, it is intolerance towards those who differ with our own view. But wait! I think we need to examine "intolerance".
Tolerant: showing willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. From a Latin term meaning "to endure pain"
So, "intolerance" is not-tolerance. But tolerance is the willingness to allow the existence of views with which one does not agree. It is not the willingness to allow views that one agrees with. That's just normal operation, not tolerance. Tolerance is not embracing a view with which you disagree or it is not tolerance by definition. So a bigot is someone who does not allow to exist views other than his own. Someone who disagrees with them but allows them to exist -- the definition of tolerance -- cannot be called a bigot. Do you see the problem?

Let's try another.
Prejudice: an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason; any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable.
As all of us know, prejudice is bad. We must not be prejudiced. The error of prejudice, according to the definition, is "opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason." That is, our opinions ought to be informed by fact, not by pre-judging without the facts or without cause. So I ask, what if I have an unfavorable opinion of something or someone based on knowledge, thought, and/or reason? Can I then be termed "prejudiced"? Not according to the definition.

Here's a popular one.
Judgmental: involving the use or exercise of judgment; tending to make moral judgments.
We're not supposed to be judgmental. Of course, the definition of "judgmental" is located in its root, "judgment".
Judgment: the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion
Do you see the problem here? If "judgment" is the ability to judge objectively, authoritatively, and wisely -- having good sense -- then why would we not want to be judgmental? How is "judgmental" bad? Why are we being told, "Don't be wise in your decisions"? "Don't have good sense," doesn't make sense.

In my youth, when I wasn't allowed to use swear words, I amused myself by listening to how other people used them and laughing to myself about what they actually said. It turns out that paying attention to what people say can be funny when they don't have a clue what they're saying. Today our society is pinning its primary assaults on us as intolerant bigots, prejudiced and judgmental. They keep using those words. I don't think those words mean what they think they mean. If only they weren't so intolerant (not allowing a different view to exist) and non-judgmental (not making wise decisions), concluding what words mean without knowledge, thought, or reason (prejudiced).

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Turn Indicator

Recently I wrote about how times have changed for Christianity. Some of it was positive. Some of it was tongue-in-cheek sarcastic. We've figured out, for instance, that the Church is not the arbiter of truth or salvation, but that God and His Word is. That's good. We understand now that those in the South who defended slavery as biblical were wrong, and that's good. On the negative side, however, we've reinterpreted Scripture to include women as pastors, for instance, and that's not good. Some have embraced a redefinition of marriage and the murder of babies as perfectly suitable and that's not good. We've largely forgotten about the Sovereignty of God, and that's ... well ... really bad.

What's the difference? Why are certain changes good and others not? How do we decide what is a good and right change and what is a deviation from orthodoxy (right thinking)?

As I've said before, predicated on Jesus's promise to send the Holy Spirit to lead His followers into all truth (John 16:13), I have to believe that the truth has been told to believers from the outset, requiring that the truth can be traced from then until now. So, with a God-breathed Bible, the leading of the Holy Spirit today, and a "fact check" from church history, we should be able to have a fairly constant set of orthodoxy that is truth. This, in fact, was the position of the Reformation when they sought to push Christianity not to newer and better (like some reform school kid), but to re-form it to what it was supposed to be at the start.

So, when the changes we've seen are 1) aligned with Scripture and 2) harken back to church history, we can be fairly confident that we haven't found a new and better path, but that we've simply corrected back to the original. Originally, for instance, we were told that we are not saved by works (a la Roman Catholicism), but by grace through faith apart from works. Correcting then to that was a good thing. Christians didn't argue, prior to the 18th century, that white people could enslave black people because they were offspring of Canaan under God's curse, so a return to the position that this is wrong was both biblical and historical. All good.

When we come, instead, to the point that marriage is no longer the union of a man and a woman as Scripture and history have always held, but some vague relationship between two people for whatever duration for whatever purpose, and you can see that we've departed from both Scripture and history. "Oh, no," some will try to tell you, "we've just finally figured out that they were wrong all along." And that's the problem, isn't it? We, some 2000 years after the fact, have figured out what the Spirit has failed to get across for all of history, that the Church was always wrong and our grasp of the truth was mistaken. This is a problem. It is a problem for the shift to a metaphorical view of Genesis, for the discarding of the value of human life in abortion, and for introducing women as pastors when Scripture and history are abundantly clear that it has never been the case.

There are times that the current church needs a corrective. No doubt. That correction must come from Scripture. And it should align with "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 1:3) These are valid and good, changes we should embrace not because we're "improving", but because we're returning to the truth. Something "new and improved" is problematic. The "New Perspective on Paul", a willing shift from "the intrinsic value of humans made in the image of God" to "women's choice and reproductive rights", redefining fundamental things like "marriage", "family", and the like are all set over against Scripture and history. This makes them problematic. It reflects badly on the Church, on the Body of Christ, on Scripture, and on the work of the Holy Spirit who just couldn't seem to get His act together up until these wonderfully enlightened folk came along to figure it out.

Note this. Generally the latter -- positive corrections that return us to the original design -- are not pleasant. They aren't comfortable. We pursue them not because it makes us feel better, but because we love God and His truth. On the other hand, the negative corrections (as I'm calling them) that are "new and improved" Christianity are certainly more pleasing than the corrected Christianity. They allow us to embrace things we like -- sexual immorality, a "more inclusive" pulpit that includes women, and things like that. We are told in Scripture, "The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (2 Tim 4:3-4) When a change is presented, you might want to ask yourself. Does this push you in a direction you aren't initially comfortable with but aligns with Scripture and history, or does it "suit your own passions"? I think there's an indicator there that might be helpful.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Christian Materialism

There is materialism, and there is materialism. In common usage, materialism is the tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values. In philosophy, materialism is the doctrine that nothing exists except matter. Materialism is already well ensconced in the academic world and, because of that, quickly becoming the philosophy of the world in which we live.

The truth is that we do not live in a merely material world. We live in a world formed, maintained, constrained, and shaped by God. We don't live in a world where gravity, as an example, is the primary force. We understand that if you place a ball on a ramp, it will roll down. Always. We get that. We tend, then, to think of all of life like that. We Christians tend to think of all of life like that. Here are some examples ... taken from Christians. "If Hillary (or Trump, depending on your bent) gets elected, our country will descend into worse conditions than ever before." "If we don't fight for our religious freedoms, we will lose them and God's work in the world will suffer." Something I've actually heard from more than one Christian: "The way things are going I can't imagine that the Church -- Christianity itself -- will survive." This is Christian materialism. It is making decisions and taking positions based on what we see, measure, and understand, not on God.

I heard the story of a man who spent his life teaching seminary. When he retired, he sold all he had and moved to a Muslim country to take them the gospel. Most of the world would say that was nuts. Many Christians would say it wasn't wise. And when we learn that he was killed there, it is simply proof. Bad move. This is Christian materialism, measuring life by what we see rather than what God is doing.

We do it, every one of us, all the time. Some of us worry about where the next check is coming from because the world around us says that you need a job to get by and we just got laid off. This doesn't stump God. He isn't caught off guard. It is our materialism showing. Parents have largely become "helicopter parents", even among Christians, because it's a dangerous world out there and we need to watch our kids every minute. This assumes no God or, at best, a God severely limited by His creatures. "My son is on drugs" or "My daughter is leaving her husband" or "What are we going to do about this election year?" are all cries of genuine anguish, but are not informed by a world that is maintained, constrained, and shaped by God. They are Christian materialism, the trials that arise because all we know and all we can trust is what we can see, measure, and understand in human terms.

The truth is, dear Christian, we don't live in a merely material world. We live in a world held together by God (Col 1:17). He does what He pleases (Psa 115:3; Psa 134:6). Power and might are in His hand so that no one can stand against Him (2 Chron 20:6). To limit ourselves to the world we live in seems a given from a materialist perspective. But we are, in truth, actually strangers rather than citizens (1 Peter 2:11). Our Christian materialism, however, makes no sense in an existence where God is on the throne.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Contradiction

(Introduction. Dan T. didn't like my post on The Fear of God. He assured me that Jesus casts out all fear and that to think otherwise was irrational and unbiblical. Good for him. And good for me. It inspired today's post. Note: This is not in response to anything he said.)

One of the primary conflicts of our day among Christians is the integrity of the Bible. Some say it is bunk. Others say it "contains the Word of God", meaning that some of it is good and some is not and you have to figure out which. On the other end of the spectrum is the view that the Bible is God's Word, breathed by Him to writers so as to be inerrant and infallible. (I think I've made my view clear.) If we could solve this dilemma, we could answer a lot of questions ... either way. I mean, if we could prove that the Bible is God's Word, inerrant and infallible, once and for all, well, then, Christians would need to submit themselves to it. On the other hand, if we could demonstrate that it is not reliable, well, then, all bets would be off. At best we could have a potentially useful religion in some aspects, but mostly we could sumply push it into the dustbin of religions as just another man-made effort. Nice try. No cigar. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

Well, I've got the answer. I've found it. I know what the final verdict is. I have found the genuine, clear, unequivocal contradiction. If God's Word contradicts itself -- no "paradox" or "conundrum" or the like, but an actual contradiction -- then it is not God's Word and we're done. Christianity can take its ball and go home. Last one out turn off the lights. And it clearly does. Because Christians embrace both "fear God" and "no fear in Christ". There you have it! And it's biblical!

First, we read clear passages like these.
Is not your fear of God your confidence, And the integrity of your ways your hope? (Job 4:6)

Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart; There is no fear of God before his eyes. (Psa 36:1; Rom 3:18)

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor 7:1)
Solomon's conclusion to Ecclesiastes was this: "fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person." (Ecc 12:13) Paul declared to the Jews in Pisidian Antioch, "Brethren, sons of Abraham's family, and those among you who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent." (Acts 13:26) Peter commanded, "Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king." (1 Peter 2:17) The angel in the Revelation declares "with a loud voice, 'Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.'" (Rev 14:7) Repeatedly, over and over again, Scripture plainly and clearly commends us to the fear of God and condemns the lack of it.

Beyond the "fear of God", Jude writes about "certain persons", false teachers in our midst, of whom he says, "These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever." (Jude 1:12-13) To true believers he says to "have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. (Jude 1:22-23) Biblically, then, certain fear is good, necessary, godly, right.

Or is it? Doesn't Scripture also say the opposite? Don't we read, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." (1 John 4:18) Now, you poor foolish Bible-believer, which is it? Are we to fear or aren't we? You see, if perfect love casts out fear and God's love is perfect, then there ought to be no fear. That means that no one should fear God and no one should fear anyone or anything else.

There, now, didn't I tell you I had the answer? A clear and present contradiction. Better than that, it is warmly and fully embraced by Christians who both urge the fear of God and embrace the belief that Jesus Christ casts out all fear. It's a beautiful thing, this clutching of contradiction. Just shows how silly Christians are.

Or ... it could be that someone is failing to comprehend some Scripture here. You decide.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

On a Limb with Saw in Hand

I am constantly trying to transform my thinking to align with God's Word. I believe that sin rots the brain (Rom 1:28; Rom 12:2) and that the human heart is deceitful (Jer 17:9) -- and that includes mine. Thus, I am constantly reworking, rethinking, rechecking, and revising my views and their subsequent implications for how I live my life. Predicated first on the reliability of God in His Scriptures, I try to examine my own thinking over against His Word and change my own thinking wherever it becomes divergent.

Now, we don't live in a world that thinks this is a good idea. We don't live in a world that embraces God's ideas of truth or goodness. Indeed, the world in which we live is hostile to God (Rom 8:7) and largely incapable of understanding spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14). My point is that I'm not "going with the flow". I am largely swimming upstream. And, using biblical terms, "many" are those who are following the current and "few" are those going my way (Matt 7:13-14).

In a world increasingly hostile to those who are moving along in the direction I am going, I can often find myself in a precarious position. Sometimes it feels like I'm out on a limb, saw in hand, not entirely clear whether I'm pruning a branch or sending myself falling into oblivion. The world around me says that to agree with God that homosexual behavior is sin is actually hate. The world around me argues that death and suffering is a bad thing while Paul argues that "for me to die is gain" (Phil 1:21) and James says to count it all joy when we encounter trials (James 1:2-4). The world around me says that the ultimate good is "a woman's right to choose" in regards to her "reproductive rights" and my Bible tells me, "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man." (Gen 9:6) (Think about the outrage from the public -- almost all of it -- when Donald Trump suggested that women who have abortions ought to face some consequences. Perhaps you felt the same.) In these and many, many more places I find myself set not in slight but stark contrast to the world around me and even to many Christians. It can get scary.

So I ask myself this basic question: Is God good? Oh, many Christians, asked that question, will echo the perfunctory, "God is good all the time." But do we believe it? Or do we shift to the serpent's position -- "Did God say ...?" When I stand over here in an extreme minority saying, "God's Word forbids women to teach or exercise authority over a man because of the Creation Order" (1 Tim 2:11-15), I'm ready to start ducking from shoes being thrown by the world and Christians alike. I have to ask myself, "Is God good?" He said it. It wasn't something I made up. I can't avoid it or massage it into oblivion. So I have to determine if God is good when He said such an unpopular thing. And when I get past the required answer to the real one -- yes, He is indeed good -- I have to be ready to stand out there on the limb, saw in hand, trusting Him over the hostile crowd around me and even friends along the way who assume I've left my senses and cut off the limb behind me.

Sometimes it can be a frightening place to be. In the end, the only place I can stand is on the Goodness of God. As it turns out, regardless of how comfortable or disquieting it is, standing on the nature of God is the only safe place I can be. Oh, but may I share a secret? Standing out in this dangerous place absolutely safe in the Hand of God can be such a marvelous place to be. Because God is good ... all the time.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

News Weakly - 10/15/2016

(Someone asked me recently about the title, "News Weakly". It is a product of my odd humor. I'm thinking of a "news weekly" -- a once-a-week news post -- and how "weak" my news posts are. See? Odd humor. I wanted to be a mapmaker in Arizona, but it turned out I had a poor sense of Yuma.)

Serious Confusion
Here's a story for you. Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents discrimination on the basis of, among other things, sex. The current application is pushing us not toward equality but obscurity. That is, not gender equality, but gender equals gender.

Meet Harrison Browne. "Browne, a rising star on the Buffalo Beauts of the National Women's Hockey League, is the first openly transgender player in American professional team sports." How's that? "'I identify as a man,' Browne said in an interview in New York City."

Ummm, okay, now we're going to have problems. Setting aside pronouns for a moment, it identifies as a man playing in the National Women's Hockey League. Which is it? Or is this just the end of "Women's Hockey" (and any other sports with a gender attached)? I'd ask them to make up their minds, but I don't think there is sufficient clarity of thought to do it.

"Being a little harsh, aren't you, Stan?" You tell me.
The plan was to medically transition after college -- but the creation of the NWHL in the spring of his senior year led to a decision to put off the transition. Browne acknowledges he is in "limbo" as a transgender man on a women's team but "you have to be your authentic self to be happy ... hockey makes me extremely happy."
Which is it? Which is it? Is it "authentic self" to transition or to not transition in order to play women's hockey? Even Browne acknowledges she is in limbo, but we applaud her being her "authentic self" ... whatever that is ... at this moment ... to whatever she thinks her advantage is. There is indeed confusion here, but it's not gender confusion ...

This is what I was talking about
Some time ago I wrote about my concerns that Trump could do more damage to America and conservative values than Hillary could. In one headline we find that Trump has declared war on the Republicans. (Ironic, I think, that he referred to McCain as "foul-mouthed".) Clearly he's a "if you're not with me, you're against me" kind of guy, with a menacing "and there will be consequences" added in. The consequences in this case could be withdrawal of support for good candidates for the senate and congress because of their lack of support from Trump. That is, it could impact keeping control of Congress. And if Hillary wins and Trump's supporters give away Congress to the Democrats, we're looking at a worst case scenario. (Note, by the way, the inconsistency of Trump. "I'm the Republican candidate so you must support me. I, on the other hand, have no requirement to support Republican candidates.") That's the kind of damage I was talking about. In another story Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, argues that if Trump has done anything at all, "he has snuffed out the Religious Right." (If you want to know why he says that, you'll have to go to the article.) On the minus side, Moore says Trump has killed the religious right in politics. On the plus side, there are valuable lessons to be learned from it.

Christians tell me (with horror in their voices), "You don't want Hillary in office, do you?" One friend said, "I think of it this way. When I wake up the morning after the election, one of two people will be our next president. Which one will do the least damage? That's how I'll vote." And, in fact, I can see his logic. It's just that I cannot tell which of the two would be that "least damage" -- the loud opponent from her father, the devil, or the friendly guy holding a knife behind his back? One cartoonist asked, "Do I want to be pushed off a cliff or run over by a monster truck?" I can't decide.

Conspiracy Theory
So, Sheriff Joe, the self-styled "Toughest Cop in America", will face criminal charges for contempt of court because of his immigration patrols. Fine. So he was only trying to enforce federal laws. Fine. So it looks like he willfully ignored the judge's orders. Fine. So he failed to enforce the law in a proper manner. Fine. So this news comes out just weeks before the election for his office ... you know, the classic "October surprise". Fine. So his initial hearing is the day before the election. Fine. So it took four years for the feds to decided to press charges. Fine. So Arpaio was not one of Obama's supporters and had run ins with him in the past. Fine. And Hillary is an Obama favorite and is getting a pass from the feds on all her stuff. Fine. After all has been said and done, I'm not a great Sheriff Joe supporter anymore. Still, it's really, really hard to imagine that this isn't personal on the part of the federal government versus Sheriff Joe. The man's arrogance is, indeed, only exceeded by Hillary's, but I cannot imagine that, after all this time and after all the ridiculous fighting from Washington against Arizona enforcing federal law that this, timed as it is, is merely "the wheels of justice". Or maybe I'm just seeing a conspiracy theory where there is none. Fine.

Did you know that the United Nations had an "Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls"? I did not know that. Well, they've appointed a new one: Wonder Woman. Because they're really, really serious about empowering women and girls. (Hey! I hear you snickering over there!)

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Fear of God

I was thinking about this the other day. A repeated concern in the Bible is "the fear of God". Now, some will try to tell you that's "reverential awe". That's fine if you haven't lost sight of the actual definition of "awe" which includes a sense of "dread". Paul says that natural man has no fear of God (Rom 3:18), and he doesn't list that as a positive trait. Besides, it would be foolish to fail to fear God beyond mere "reverential aww" (as most people seem to see it). In every biblical encounter between God and Man the response is universal -- terror. Isaiah considered himself "undone" (Isa 6:5). Peter begged Jesus to "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man." (Luke 5:10) Every time it is genuine fear. And if God is truly "Holy, Holy, Holy" (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8), then being not holy in His presence ought to stir some fear just as a wise worker on the freeway center divider ought to fear oncoming traffic enough to stay out of its way.

No, fear isn't necessarily bad. Fear -- wise fear -- keeps us from getting too close to the edge of a cliff. It keeps us from doing dangerous things with dreadful consequences. If it doesn't paralyze, it can serve as a good motivator in the right direction -- away from danger. If the fear is the response to perceived danger and that danger is real, then fear is a good thing.

This is why I do fear God. In fact, I have such a fear that I cannot grasp those who do not. I cannot imagine standing in God's face and saying, "Look, I know you said that you find the act of a man lying with a man as with a woman abominable (Lev 18:22), but I think it's just fine and you don't have anything to say about it." Because I fear God. Mind you, I admittedly lose sight of that fear at times. I'm not perfect -- nothing near. But I can't picture shaking my fist in the face of God saying, "I know You hate the shedding of innocent blood (Prov 6:16-17), but I'm going to call it 'a woman's right to choose' and defend it as a good thing and You just have to keep quiet about it!" To call "good" what God calls evil and to call "love" what God considers sin and to embrace warmly that which God rejects are the kinds of things my fear pushes me to avoid.

Of course, when we're talking about people who have no fear of God, this kind of thing is to be expected. I understand that, foolish as it is. They're hostile to God. It's what they do. But when someone who claims to love God -- to follow His Son -- will with open eyes and firm resolve also defy Him to His face, clearly there is no fear of God there. I don't have that kind of "courage". To me, discretion is the better part of valor.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

By Whose Authority?

In Luke 20 we read of a challenge to Christ by the chief priests and scribes.
One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to Him, "Tell us by what authority You do these things, or who it is that gave You this authority." (Luke 20:1-2)
Now Jesus didn't play their game in this instance. He asked them a counter question. "Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?" (Luke 20:4) And, of course, they never for an instant considered the question, but only thought about the effects of the answer (Luke 20:5-7). The question of authority, however, is critical. That is, their question -- not their intent -- was a good one.

You see, we are constantly facing a hostile world that disagrees with our views and values. We think that sex outside of marriage, for instance, is a sin; they embrace it as not merely acceptable, but normal and even beneficial. We claim that it is evil to kill children made in the image of God in the womb; they think it is "a woman's choice" and "reproductive rights". We argue that marriage is between a man and a woman; they hold that it is between an arbitrary two people. We think the Bible is reliable and authoritative; they think it's bunk. Even among the so-called "Christian Left" they're happy to distance themselves from biblical values in favor of "new and improved" ones while we keep harkening back to God's original values. And always we are told, "That's your opinion" as if it's simply a matter of opinion, where morality -- right and wrong -- and truth are relative concepts. We make our own.

I would, then, ask them, "Tell us by what authority you hold these things, or who it is that gave you this authority." Because authority matters. If, as is so often argued, the authority is "whatever I think", then it has no hold on anyone but the "thinker". (I'm using that term loosely here.) If moral values and truth are relative, then those who hold this view have no authority to foist their values onto others. Their "inclusivity" and "LGBT rights" and "marriage equality", to name a few, are just their ideas and must not be forced onto anyone else. They have no authority. If, on the other hand, our moral values and truth claims are from God, then clearly there is an authority behind them that carries them beyond our mere opinion.

The opposition to our beliefs and values almost universally stand on the authority of the individual. "You have no right to force your views onto us." And, as far as that goes, they are correct. From three directions. First, we can't force them on anyone. Second, if these are merely "our views", we have no right to force them on anyone. Finally, if these are merely "our views", then our views are wrong. On the other hand, if our views are actually from God, then we aren't offering personal opinion; we are urging submission to God. They aren't "our views"; they're His. It isn't our authority; it's His. And we aren't pointing to a more moral, even godly life. We're pointing to salvation from Christ. We're not asking them to submit; we're telling them they have a problem that needs the remedy that only God can supply.

The chief priests and scribes set out to challenge Christ in the hopes of shutting Him down. They failed. I would hope to challenge the skeptics, be it the staunchly opposed or the "friendly" "Christian Left". By what authority do you argue these things? If it is your own, keep it to yourself. If you admit that there is a higher authority, then we should discuss that further. Because generally speaking those who claim to be Christians but oppose our views and values do so by standing squarely on individualism -- on personal opinion and preference and Reason as the final arbiter of truth -- a position without authority.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Problem of Evolution

Yeah, yeah, I'm sure there are some who would love to see me discuss the problem with Darwinian Evolution, and it is no small discussion, but it is not that evolution that I wish to point out. It is the problem of the evolution of language. You know ... one of my pet themes here.

It is true that languages that are alive evolve. Nothing we can do about it. It happens. The problem is that we don't appear to notice. That is, we often think that what one person means by a word or term today is exactly what others mean, or that it has always meant the same (evolved) definition in the past. Consider a couple of prime examples.

Recently, in doing some research, I came across a guy who claimed that the Bible does embrace homosexual relationships. "Look," he said, "at David and Jonathan." Now, my two sons, one named David and one named Jonathan, were partly named because I hoped for the very same kind of relationship for them that the biblical David and Jonathan had, so I was baffled. The author of this particular piece used, as his "proof", a reference by an earlier expositor who said that these two were "lovers". Now, there is no doubt what this guy believes the word "lovers" means because, well, it's how the word is used today without a doubt. It refers to two people who are sexually involved. (In fact, in many cases there doesn't need to be any love at all. Lots of people refer to two people as "lovers" who would more aptly be described as "lusters".) However, this is the definition according to Merriam-Webster:
1. a person in love.
2. an affectionate or benevolent friend
3. a devotee
4. a person with whom one has sexual relations
Today, of course, there is only one possible definition ... the last one. "Lover" today always means "two people in a sexual relationship". That's how we know that David and Jonathan in the Bible were involved in a homosexual relationship. Scripture says that Jonathan and David loved each other (1 Sam 18:1,3; 1 Sam 20:17) and early commentators referred to them as "lovers", so clearly they were involved in a sexual relationship because that is the only use of the term "lover" today. Indeed, David said his love for Jonathan was "surpassing the love of women" (2 Sam 1:26). See? It has to be! (J. Warner Wallace gives a good counter argument on his website.) (Oh, and, by the way, given David's marriages and later fall into sin with Bathsheba over sexual desire for a woman, apparently David was not "born that way" -- problematic for the "born that way" homosexual argument.) So how did we get to this divergent view? The evolution of language and the failure of moderns to recognize that the meaning has changed.

Another example is regarding a book written in the past couple of years by a woman who argued that our relationship with God is largely sexual in nature. "What?" you may (rightly) ask. Taken to task by many Christians, she responded, "Why should that bother you? Even Jonathan Edwards wrote about having intercourse with God." There you have it! Proof! Except that she, like our misguided homosexual sex defender, failed to understand that what we generally mean by the word "intercourse" today is not what Jonathan Edwards and his contemporaries meant by the same term. As it turns out, "intercourse" means, first and foremost, "communication or dealings between individuals or groups." It may be social. It may be economic. It may be interpersonal -- an interchange of thoughts and feelings. It may be sexual (because sex is certainly "dealings between individuals"). But, while in our day it can mean nothing but a sexual relationship, in a previous, less sexually-immersed time, it did not mean that at all. Proof that Jonathan Edwards understood that a relationship with God was sexual in nature? Far from it!

These are just two examples illustrating the problem. Today we cannot speak of "love", "marriage", "gay", or many other things without it carrying widely erratic content. Worse, we cannot refer to them from prior times without it being understood in today's terms. Even worse, this problem gets assigned to God's Word. "Obviously," they might say, "when God says to love one another He is commanding us to engage in sexual relations with each other" as an example. A bad example, but not an outlandish one. It is in keeping with today's evolutionary language, where terms meant something at one point, shift in today's world, and then get shifted back then to today's modern meaning (or lack thereof).

Sometimes it is self-conscious. The King James Bible uses "charity" in 1 Cor 13 to describe something that we no longer understand the word "charity" to mean. We understand it as a voluntary giving of assistance; they understood it to mean benevolence, love, a concern for the best interest of others. So modern translations replace "charity" with "love" and we're okay (for the most part). In this case the problem arises when an older word is subverted to a new meaning and no new word can convey the older meaning. We are there now with terms like "marriage" and, apparently, "man" and "woman". More frequently, however, it is unconscious. A product of language evolution, a word takes on a new meaning and we don't even notice. We happily assign the new meaning to the old use and miss the point entirely. On the surface it is largely the result of post-modernism which claims that words mean what the reader wants them to mean and not what the author intended. And we wonder why there is such a failure to communicate. But don't be deceived. This is not a problem of post-modernism. It is a problem of sin.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

You Were Expecting a Silk Purse?

So, Donald Trump is outed for being a sexually immoral, egotistical male. And the country goes wild. We don't stand for it. He has to go. Even his running mate won't defend him. Republicans jump on the stage and tell Donald to go to his room. McCain stood staunchly behind the Republican nominee until now. He's out. The likes of Carly Fiorina and Condoleeza Rice along with lists of senators and congressional delegates all say he needs to go. Even His wife condemned his comments. The public is outraged and we demand action.

Now, on one hand, I get it. I mean, this isn't good. There is nothing defensible about bragging about groping women -- made worse by them not being his wife -- and bragging about it in graphic terms. Not one piece of that works. Those trying to say "It's okay" haven't a leg to stand on. "It's just locker room talk" doesn't make it good or acceptable. What it does is make "locker room talk" something to avoid at all costs. "Boys will be boys" only makes it worse. Any defense lifted to try to prop him up here simply falls flat.

The alternative is to rail about Hillary. "Well, look at the serial womanizer she's married to." There are accusations of rape to be had. He was one of only two U.S. presidents who were impeached. But it's not just her husband. There is the whole email scandal, the accusations about Benghazi, the Whitewater scandal, Chinagate, Travelgate, the Vince Foster mystery, the Clinton Foundation issues ... suffice it to say that Mrs. Clinton is not without skeletons toppling out of her closet. The problem, though, is not that any of this exonerates Trump. Telling us that the Democratic candidate stinks to high heaven doesn't alleviate the stench from Trump's side.

Here's the problem. I'm completely lost here. I'm looking around wondering, "What did you expect?" It's like the headline I read the other day that Al Gore would be campaigning for Hillary. That's news? Of course he will. To me this whole thing is just that -- What did you expect? Look, we've managed to undercut all manner of sexual morality in our country. We aren't supposed to have any sexual morality left. To have something like that is "hate" and "bigotry". Our movies in theaters are immorality fests. Our television shows are supposedly filtered through FCC "obscene, indecent, and profane" rules, terms so redefined that it's hard to find a television show that is not predicated on sex. And then there is the Internet, where any sexual deviancy you can imagine and lots of stuff you cannot is available for viewing for 10-year-olds. Once limited to secret dark corners, it's now up front and public knowledge. People brag about it. Books-to-movies like 50 Shades of Gray made big bucks by enslaving largely female readers into lusting for abuse. And then a Donald Trump is recorded a decade ago agreeing with the culture we've built, and we're outraged.

I wonder what would happen if we had a comment test, where only those who didn't visit porn sites and who didn't read 50 Shades type books and didn't watch R-rated movies and the like could comment. Not a word out of you folks who enjoy the rap music so prevalent among certain age groups these days that celebrates and encourages Trump-morality and worse. Only those who were not by direct action supporting those things that approve and produce the very thing that Mr. Trump espoused were allowed to speak up. What if the hypocrites that pay good money to enjoy this stuff themselves were required to be quiet when it showed up in a presidential race? What do you suppose we'd hear then? Crickets.

We have undercut morality, tossed God out of schools, eliminated the Ten Commandments from the public square, and castigated anyone who argues for God's view of morality -- even for just themselves. And then we're surprised and appalled when someone exhibits immorality, irreverence, and evil. What did we expect? We cluck our disapproval and shake our heads at the immorality of the presidential candidate(s) and weep over the gun violence and abhor the sexism and racism and police brutality and ... well, you know, the world we've built by eliminating the only available Answer from the public square. What did we expect?

Trump was wrong. So is Hillary. They -- we -- need Christ. Our hypocritical moral indignation doesn't make much sense here. Ignoring Christ doesn't make a better world.

Monday, October 10, 2016

That Little Nagging Thought

This Scripture has been nagging at me for weeks.
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. (Psa 1:1-2)
Now, clearly, this is not a call to monasticism -- to a retreat from the world. God is abundantly clear that we are not called to avoid "the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world." (1 Cor 5:10) So this isn't a command to exit, stage left, and avoid the wicked, the sinners, and the scoffers. On the other hand, there is something we're supposed to avoid doing with these folk. What is it?

At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, it appears that we're not supposed to walk in their counsel, stand in their paths, or sit in their seats. Putting it another way, we can interact with their counsel -- to refute it or examine it and such -- cross their paths without accompanying them on it, and visit them where they sit without taking the same position as they have. There are three things. Don't sit, stand, or walk with them.

Okay, so we've agreed that we don't avoid them, but there are things we must avoid. That is, we must avoid living by their version of truth, taking our stand on their values, or making ourselves comfortable with their positions. In contrast, we take a different position that produces delight and stability. What position? The law of the Lord. It is our constant mindset, our ongoing consideration, the thing we constantly think about and mull over. God's Word. It gives the stability of a tree planted by streams of water that bears fruit in season that doesn't wither, but prospers (Psa 1:3).

This has been nagging at me because it seems that I -- we -- are so cavalier about it. We send our kids to their schools. We eagerly ingest their doctrines and messages on television. We seek our entertainment from them, implicitly or explicitly laced with their "counsel". We get our news from them, shaping our views. We don't run across their paths; we immerse ourselves in them. Our churches imbibe them in music and programs. Our social and economic values seem to be pulled right from their playbook. We think, because we stand aloof from their paths in some areas, that we're not running with them, but it seems as if we are far more with them than we are a counterpoint. Are we immersed instead in God's Word, meditating on it "day and night"? Doesn't seem like it.

Am I missing something? Are we modern-day believers doing precisely the opposite of what this text says we should be doing, or is there something else going on here? If we are not to sit in their positions, stand where they do, or walk in their counsel, but are supposed to be deeply invested in Scripture instead, why do we spend so much time soaking up so many of their positions and so much of their counsel rather than immersing ourselves in His Word with His people? See? It nags at me.

Sunday, October 09, 2016


We know that word. It means to be grateful. You know ... "I appreciate what you did for me." It is when we recognize and enjoy someone's good qualities or actions. The truth is, I'm sorry to say, I think we do it too rarely. Too often we're so focused on our own concerns that we don't see the positives in others. The other truth is I don't think we fully appreciate the word (little play on words there).

The word has its roots in French (appr├ęciation) derived from Latin (appretiatio) based on a verb that means "to set a price" or "to appraise". We can see that in English, as well, when we use "appreciation" to refer to the increase in value of some asset. If something decreases in value, we say it "depreciates" and if it increases, it "appreciates". In this basis, then, we can also see the other definition -- "a full understanding of a situation". In this use you might read that "she failed to appreciate my predicament." She didn't grasp it. Or, she improperly valued it. You see? Again, the valuation.

The term, then, is best understood that way -- a valuation. We might appreciate someone's kindness because we value it and we would be grateful, a valid synonym for "showing appreciation". We might fully appreciate the difficulties people are facing because we have a proper valuation of their circumstances. Appreciation.

I think that this is the key to our failure to be grateful. "Ungrateful?" some might protest. "Us?" Yes, us. All of us. Scripture cites this condition as the root of our sin problem. "Although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened." (Rom 1:21) That's at the core of our error. We know Him, but we fail to honor Him or thank Him. In terms of "appreciation", we fail to properly value Him.

In fact, I'm pretty sure this is a standard problem for humans. Just as we fail to properly value God, we fail to properly value those around us. Wives are not grateful for their husbands because they fail to see his value and husbands are not grateful for their wives because they fail to see her value. We aren't grateful for other people in our lives because we fail to see their value. What we need to do is to appreciate them. That is, we need to increase their value in our eyes. It may be people, things, or circumstances, even the unpleasant ones. When we fail to properly value God and that which He gives us, we will fail to appreciate Him and be grateful for Him and all that He provides. Something to consider on a day we spend attempting to properly value God's worth-ship.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

News Weakly - 10/8/2016

Stand for the Right
Last December in Florida a private Christian school playing a football game against another private school at a public field asked permission to do a brief prayer over the loudspeaker system according to their longstanding tradition. "We are raising godly young men that can make a difference in the world they live in," Coach Bob Dare said. "This is why CCS has committed to praying before every home football game." All well and good. Except the request was denied. Why? First, the facility was paid for by public money, so it is off limits to religion. Second, the FHSAA (Florida High School Athletic Association) hosting the game is a state entity and, therefore, cannot allow it. In other words, the government can and will make laws impeding the free exercise of religion. End of story. I know, I know, you thought the First Amendment forbade that, but you understood it wrong and it's the other way around. "The free exercise of religion is under any limitation the government chooses when exercised in the public square." Check it. I'm sure you'll see ... well ... no.

So, the school filed a federal lawsuit against the FHSAA. And they were right to do so, right? I'm sure the majority of Christians and especially the large numbers of reputable Christian lawyers fighting daily, it seems, to defend our First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion would say so. I'm pretty sure I'd be among a small minority to disagree. We are commanded to pray, but not over loudspeakers and not before every football game. So pray we must, but we don't need the permission of a state organization or a loudspeaker system to do it. We don't even need voices. Remember, Jesus commended the prayer closet idea (Matt 6:6). So, lacking a clear command from God to pray before every football game over the loudspeaker, I would step to the next clear command from God -- submit to the authorities placed over us by God. But, hey, that's just me trying to be a biblical Christian rather than an American Christian. I believe we should stand for the right even if it means we might lose our rights.

David (in the comments) has been taking me to task over this. In retrospection, I think that this is not the same thing as the previous "Take Your Bible to School Day" concern of mine. That one was intended as a civil disobedience, an intentional violation of the authorities. This one is a pursuit through the legal system of a perceived right (perceived, of course, because the First Amendment gives this right). This one is not defiance of the authority God has placed over them; it is a legal defense. As such, I don't want to suggest that it is wrong for Christians to do this. I just want to say that it is not "Christian". It is not "standing for God in the face of an evil government" like the disciples did. I am not opposed to it; I just want to make it clear that it is an "American" thing, not a "Christian" thing.

Bathroom Break
Now, I don't put my trust in science to prove my faith. I don't need historians or archaeologists or the like to demonstrate that Scripture is true. Besides, if my faith is built on science, then when science says otherwise, I'd have to discard my faith. So I don't go there. Nonetheless, this was just a fun story.

Scripture speaks of certain times when godly kings recognized the idolatry rampant in Israel and did a purge. One of them was Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:4). Well, now archaeologists have uncovered something interesting. Digging in the ruined city of Tel Lachish in Israel, they found a shrine from around the 8th century BC (Hezekiah's time) with two altars in the inner sanctum that were, oddly enough, cut off, and ... get this ... a toilet. The idea was that if they desecrated an idolatrous holy place, it could no longer be used. Another king who did some of these purges was Jehu. He went about destroying the cult of Baal. Part of the method of eliminating pagan places of worship was to make them unusable. One way they could do that was to turn them into a bathroom. Scripture says of Jehu's work, "They also broke down the sacred pillar of Baal and broke down the house of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day." (2 Kings 10:27)

Again, I'm not trusting archaeology to prove the Bible, but in this case it does. And that's funny, right there.

The irony is strong with this one
"Protecting all of God's children is America's calling," Hillary said from the pulpit of the Little Rock AME Zion Church in Charlotte. She had her arm around Zianna Oliphant, the little black girl who so movingly begged the city council to treat black people better. For reasons beyond my comprehension not one person seemed to recognize the irony that this candidate is pro-abortion up to the point of full birth to the detriment to the black community and spoke about protecting all of God's children in America. Spoken at a church, yet. Remember, it was Mrs. Clinton on this campaign trail who said, at a conference on the topic of women's rights and abortion in particular, "Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed." Oh, the irony is strong with this one.

(Note: I know that abortion is one issue. I know that we aren't supposed to be "single issue" voters. I just need to point out that a candidate who intentionally chooses to support the execution of innocent humans may be be a single issue, but it is a single issue that speaks to everything else of concern. "I won't do the first and foremost thing that government should do -- protect the innocent -- but you can count on me for tax reform." Really? I'm not buying it.)

Sure, it's from Canada, but interesting anyway
A University of Toronto professor refuses to use pronouns chosen by the elite few. I wonder how long that will last?

Democrat Trolls
Someone pointed me to this news item the other day and I was really shocked. Apparently a SuperPac calling itself "Correct the Record" is working with the Clinton campaign (normally that's illegal, but they found a loophole) and spending $1 million to target Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram users by being Internet trolls. They have people and programs going online cruising for folks that say bad things about Hillary and doing whatever they can to harass and eliminate them. Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip, says he was targeted by these folks, getting him silenced on Twitter, producing fictional reviews of his book on Amazon, and costing him speaking engagements. (He estimates he has lost $1 million in speaking events alone.) It does not speak well of a candidate who allows this kind of personal attack, integrated with the campaign folk, on opponents. I shudder to think what this kind of candidate would do given the power of the presidency.

A Different Inconvenient Truth
Okay, this is just fun. There have been multiple stories from various places on this, but the basic concept is that scientists are finding soft tissue on bones supposedly millions of years old. That's a problem that their theories can't handle.

Another One (Science, in this case) Bites the Dust
Meet Paul McHugh. Dr. McHugh is a psychiatrist. He was among the first in modern medicine to perform gender reassignment surgery, in charge, in fact, of the department at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. McHugh is not doing that anymore. Dr. McHugh is now persona non grata. Why? I mean, this is the kind of guy that should be riding the shoulders of the LGBT folk and their cheerful followers, right? Well, he took a wrong turn. Writing in such prestigious places as the Wall Street Journal, Dr. McHugh has come out against transgender surgery. "Policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention" he says. As it turns out, he finds -- shock of shocks -- no scientific evidence that gender dysphoria is anything but a mental disorder rather than a genuine condition. In The New Atlantis he and Dr. Lawrence S. Mayer have published a report on sexuality and gender. Their report is not a moral argument, but a scientific one. They conclude,
The understanding of sexual orientation as an innate, biologically fixed property of human beings — the idea that people are "born that way" — is not supported by scientific evidence.
They conclude the same on gender. The notion of "a man trapped in a woman's body" or vice versa is not scientifically supportable. They take particular exception to parents who medically delay puberty or alter sex characteristics in children because of this perception of gender dysphoria since the vast majority of children who experience this in their childhood outgrow it. (Remember the Modern Family child actor.)

Even without Scripture or religion, science agrees that this "gender dysphoria" is nonsense and these people need help, not surgery. But, don't worry, I'm pretty sure that these doctors will be soon defrocked and the public outcry will silence them. We live in the Age of Empathy where "I feel" trumps reality, emotions rule over reason, and "I want to help you" is only accepted if it is finished with "do whatever you want."

Friday, October 07, 2016

Original Thought

My son is a writer. No, not professionally. He just does it, like me, for fun. He has told me on several occasions that he thinks of himself what I think of myself. We've never had an original idea. We read stuff and it spawns an idea or we hear something that links to something else already in our heads that takes us down a thought path, but to actually come up with a new idea? Doesn't really happen.

Here's the thing. I'm not at all sure it should. More importantly, when it comes to doctrine, Scripture, and the like, I think it had better not.

Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit to His followers. The Spirit would "teach you all things" (John 14:26). He said, "When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth." (John 16:13)

Based on that, I have to worry when Christians come into "new truth". If Jesus was right and the Holy Spirit leads His own into "all the truth", what would make me think that He leads me into a truth that no one else had encountered? What took Him so long? Why did He wait? Instead, I believe that "all truth" can be traced from the beginning of the Church through today. I believe there is a "thin red line", so to speak, that has been the truth all along. Sometimes it is very thin, almost obscured by the error. Sometimes it is bold, a "majority rule" view. But if, indeed, Jesus was right about the Holy Spirit, then it seems incomprehensible to me that 1) the truth among genuine believers ever fully goes away in history and 2) none of us would ever encounter an original thought, a new idea, a brand new doctrine.

It's a tool I use when I study Scripture, one of the measures of whether or not I am thinking about what I'm reading correctly. Is this new? Or is it straight out of history as it is straight out of the Bible? Because when it comes to God's truth, I don't want a new idea. I want His original intent. Authors may or may not come up with genuinely new ideas, but truth -- God's truth -- is forever. We shouldn't be coming up with original thought there.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Body, Soul, and Spirit

We believe in the Holy Trinity. It's not an easy concept. It is not natural to the mind. Three persons; one God. Not three gods (tritheism). Not one god in three phases (modalism). Not a "becoming", where God inhabits Christ (panentheism). No, a trinity where there is one substance but three "persons". Very difficult concept. So we come up with ideas to illustrate it. There is the popular triangle -- one shape with three corners. There is the egg, consisting of egg, yolk, and (Can you name the white part?) albumen. But when examined very closely they all break down. And, I'm fairly sure, this has to be the case because, after all, God is One. There is no other. He is an absolute one-of-a-kind.

My favorite example of something approaching (but, as I've already indicated, not actually achieving) tritheism is the human being. This would be fitting if it is true since we are made in His image. As such, we should retain something "God-like" in our make up. I think this is at least part of it. I think we are sort of trinitarian in our existence. How? Well, Scripture lists three components of the human being. We all know the body part. We are physical bodies. But no one (almost no one -- certainly not Christians) doubts that we are more than "meat suits". What other components does the Bible list? One of the clearest spots for this is in Paul's first epistle to the church at Thessalonica.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess 5:23)
There are three pieces there -- "spirit and soul and body". All three need to be sanctified completely. All three will be sanctified by God Himself.

There is disagreement among Christians about that "spirit and soul" part. Many -- even some for whom I have a great deal of respect -- argue that we are dual in nature, not three. They hold that "spirit and soul" are one term, one concept. One reason is that Scripture often uses these terms interchangeably. The other reason is that there are those who, believing that spirit and soul are distinct, use this distinction to produce an unbiblical, even heretical condition where you can be what they call a "carnal Christian", where you are saved "in the spirit" (not the Holy Spirit), but it can have absolutely no effect on your soul. In order to combat this heresy, they eliminate the distinction. But we read in Hebrews,
The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Heb 4:12)
So I believe that, while the division is perhaps difficult, it exists.

So, we know what the body is. That's the physical part. We know what the spirit is. That's the metaphysical part. That's the "essence". What is the soul? First, remember that the Bible often uses "spirit" and "soul" as interchangeable. So you may find references to "soul" that do not provide a distinctive to "spirit". As such, for instance, both are used to describe the animating principle -- what we call "life". We use it this way when we say, "There were 30 souls on board." Living beings. But that's the spirit. So assuming there is a division between soul and spirit, what is it? Well, the soul is often used to express desire (Prov 23:2; 1 Sam 1:15; Psa 42:1-2), volition (Isa 26:8-9; Prov 21:10; 2 Sam 3:21), and emotions (Isa 1:14; Jer 13:17; Psa 42:5; 1 Sam 1:15). Thus, the soul and spirit form the real life of the body -- the real person -- but the soul and spirit differ slightly in that the soul would constitute the mind, will, and emotions of the person. And we get this in our view of humans. There is the physical person that we see and know, but we all understand that there is a "real you", an underlying personhood that is formed of how you think and feel and what you choose. That's the "real you". Some people have "beautiful souls" with ugly bodies and others have beautiful physical appearance with "ugly souls". We get that. The spirit, then, is the bottom line, the absolute essence of human life.

Note, then, that the three are one. One being. Not three beings. They are three "parts" of one person. It is possible for the body to die, but the person isn't gone. The spirit lives on. The soul continues. And, in the end, the body is restored as well. A sort of "trinity". (Remember, no human representation of the Divine Trinity is completely suitable.) If this "trinity" is in the image of God, it would follow that each component corresponds to some component of God as well. And it does. We have, at our core, a spirit. In the Triune God, there is the Father. Closely tied and barely distinguishable to the spirit is the soul -- the mind, will, and emotions of each of us. In Scripture, the Holy Spirit is generally referenced in terms of the mind, will, and emotions of God. And, of course, we know that Christ is the physical manifestation of God just as our own bodies are our own physical manifestation.

Now, feel free to take all this with a grain of salt. I'm not offering dogma here. It isn't "agree with me or be found a rank heretic." I'm offering a parallel, an illustration. I think it makes sense. Further, I think it helps sketch out the Divine Trinity by finding an image of it in the creation of God that is in His image. All form one being. Each is distinct but not separate. All have one essence. I think it works. If it works for you, warts and all, you're welcome to it. If not, feel free to discard it. I think I'll hang onto it (lightly) for awhile.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

How Times Have Changed!

Christianity today is much improved over Christianity of yesteryear. For instance, there was no small segment of Christendom that argued that the Roman Catholic Church was the arbiter of all things true. Well, the Reformers arose to change that perception and, while there are still some who hold it, we know better. In American history there were those who argued that racially-oriented slavery was biblical. They were a lesser race, even, some argued, cursed as the offspring of Ham (Gen 9:24-25). It wasn't merely acceptable; it was divine retribution. Well, we know better today. Along with miscegenation rules that prohibited the interbreeding of races (as if whites were human and other skin colors were not), we've managed to figure out, from Scripture, that there have been lots of errors along the way.

Today, we continue to do so. And it's to be expected. We are, after all, human. We will err. And, for the believer, an infallible corrective is God's Word. So where else have we corrected our thinking?

Well, we now know that 2,000 years of Christians and beyond were all wrong when they thought, as Jesus and Paul and all those guys did, that Genesis was historical narrative. Darwin, thankfully, corrected that. We know now that Genesis is myth -- a sort of parable, I suppose -- and Jesus was mistaken, caught up as He was with His culture, and God did not create all that is out of nothing, but did it by Evolution. Thanks for clearing that up.

All this time we thought that Man was created in the image of God, giving Man a special value beyond the beasts. Now we know that our value is just what we make it, so executing babies in the womb isn't such a bad thing. It's birth control ("Reproductive rights"). (Oh, yeah, and that whole "birth control" thing ... we know better on that now, too, don't we?)

All of Judaism and all of Christianity has held for the longest time silly rules about sex as if they were of God. You know, "It's a sin to have sex outside of marriage" or "It's a sin to engage in sex between two people of the same sex" ... that kind of thing. We Christians are so much more enlightened today.

We've been sadly mistaken on the nature of God in the past, but no longer.
"See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god beside Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of My hand." (Deut 32:39)

"I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things." (Isa 45:6-7)
These are both quotes from the lips of God Himself. Both make the claim by God that He does what we consider "bad things". He creates calamity. He wounds and kills. Bad! Bad God! Of course, we're smarter than that. No believer says, "Bad God!" Clearly, then, times have changed. Maybe back then He did things like that, or, more likely, He never did -- they just thought He did. We're much wiser these days. We've figured it out.

Oh, how about women's issues? The Bible is abundantly clear that wives are to submit to husbands (Eph 5:22-24,33; Col 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1-6; 1 Cor 11:3). In today's age we've figured out how misguided that was. We're pretty sure that the commands to husbands in the related passages are still in effect, but not to wives. Paul was not unclear when he refused to allow women "to teach or to exercise authority over a man" (1 Tim 2:12-14), giving as his basis the order of Creation and the Fall of Man, but we understand today much clearer that he was only talking about the education levels of women. So while uneducated people like Peter and John were allowed to have positions of teaching and authority over men in those days, women were not. Today, that issue is ended and we are so much smarter.

These are just a few examples. There are lots of these things. if you think about it. The Church has been wrong for millennia. We've figured it out. Times have sure changed. Good thing God has us on His side to figure this stuff out for the rest of the world.