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Friday, June 22, 2018

Who Needs the Gospel?

We talk a lot about the problems of embracing the sin of homosexuality or the sin of murdering babies or the like. Like broken records, we pound our pulpits about the sinfulness of homosexual behavior or abortion ad infinitum ad nauseam while the rest of our world blows us off as "on the wrong side of history". You would think that these kinds of things that we are repeatedly complaining about are the worst of sins and we're hoping to end them. You would think that we think that homosexuals and pro-aborts really need the Gospel.

If you think, based on the frequency of our discussions on these fairly limited issues, that these are our primary concerns in our world today, you would be mistaken. Well, I should only speak for myself. If you think that these are my primary concerns, you'd be wrong. I don't mention them as often as I do because they're "the worst"; I mention them because they're being normalized, and when sin is normalized, no one notices anymore.

Take, for instance, the issue of divorce. In my youth divorce was bad. None of my friends or schoolmates were from divorced homes, or, if they were, they kept it a secret. Divorce was rare (10% in 1960), a sad thing, and most people were ashamed of it. Fast forward 50 years and divorce is rampant. Even among professing Christians the rate is high. I've actually heard Christians speaking of it in glowing terms. "I'm finally free." Now, there is no question that the Bible is not in favor of divorce (e.g., Matt 19:3-11). So how is it that even among professing Christians it has become normal? It's because Christians refused to think biblically and accepted the world's value system on the topic and now no longer recognize divorce as a problem despite what the Scriptures say about it.

That's just an example. It is what happens when we shift from a God-given moral basis to a world-driven relative morality. What I'm saying is that the problem here is not a change in morality, but an inability to recognize sin. That's why we're beating this drum or that one. If "it" -- whatever the current sin issue is -- becomes "normal", warnings fall on deaf ears and hearts get harder.

My point, in the end, is not why it is that we talk about these issues. My point is the question, "Who needs the Gospel?" Do we think that homosexuals need the Gospel? Well, sure. Because they're homosexual? No. Not at all. It's because we need the Gospel. It's because you and I and all of us need the Gospel. It's because heterosexual sin (Matt 5:27-28) is just as bad as homosexual sin. It's because hating (Matt 5:21-22) is just as bad as killing the baby in the womb. It's because all have sinned and fall short (Rom 3:23). It's because every, single, last one of us needs Jesus.

Let's not lose sight of that, those of us who try to stand against the sin du jour. They aren't worse sinners than we have been. We need Jesus and they need Jesus and that is the point we should be making. Who needs the Gospel? Not just them. We all do.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Stand Firm in the Faith

In Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth he makes a very politically-incorrect statement.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (1 Cor 16:13)
Umm ... Paul ... didn't you know that "act like men" is sexist, that this whole military sort of language would be unacceptable to today's culture, that this whole concept is bad? The text sounds exactly like the instructions a commander might give to his men. "Stay alert. Stand firm. Act like men. Be strong. Hoorah!" Not acceptable language in today's world. Besides, everyone knows that this "act like men" concept is simply a social construct and ... well ... you know. But Paul didn't.

It's interesting, then, that -- under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit -- Paul told the church at Corinth to "act like men" as if there is a real "like men" to act. What really caught my attention, though, was the prior phrase: "Stand firm in the faith." We know that there are lots of places where we're told to "Stand firm." It's just that usually the point is against whom we stand firm -- the world, the schemes of the devil, spiritual forces, that kind of thing. But in this instance Paul tells them to stand firm in the faith. That's a specific instruction.

In Paul's epistle to Colossae, he tells them, "As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him." (Col 2:6) He makes it clear that there is a contrast between being "established in the faith" (Col 2:7) (There's that phrase again -- "in the faith".) and the alternative:
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Col 2:8)
In this text, then, we see a parallel to the passage above. "Stand firm in the faith" sounds a lot like being "established in the faith", and the contrast isn't with false doctrine or satanic forces, but with "philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition." To be sure, this philosophy is linked to its source -- "elemental spirits" -- but it is a contrast with a view that is rooted in human tradition rather than "according to Christ."

In both cases "the faith" is a reference not to "faith", but to the body of the Christian doctrines, the embodiment of the totality of biblical truth. It is the thing that Jude urges us to "earnestly contend for" (Jude 1:3). Not just "belief", but the whole of biblical Christianity. It is this corpus, this body of beliefs in which we are to stand firm (1 Cor 16:13), to be established (Col 2:8). This in contrast to human philosophy and tradition which is rooted in worldly basics rather than Christ.

This is the instruction we receive. Stand firm. Be established. In what? In the faith, not in human-based philosophy and tradition. Why? Well, obviously, the human-based version is predicated on the deceitful (Jer 17:9), blind (2 Cor 4:4) human heart. What we need is a solid structure -- "the faith". That structure is built on Christ and His Word. As the song says, "All other ground is sinking sand." So, what is your basis?

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Idolatry

Paul, writing to the churches in Colossae, urges them to put on the "new self."
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. (Col 3:1-6)
Paul indicates that the "new self" is the one that was "raised with Christ" and is obtained by seeking "the things that are above." It's a kind of secret life, "hidden with Christ in God." He describes the contrast -- the "old self." "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." (Col 3:5) He says that because of these things God's wrath is coming.

Our culture disagrees with Paul. And, look, it's not surprising. The new self is a product of dying to self and being raised with Christ. What do you expect? So our culture, alive to self and dead to Christ, embraces and celebrates the old self. Paul calls on Christians to put these things to death, but the culture heralds the joys of sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness. Well, they don't call them "evil" desires, but "if it feels good, do it!" That last one -- "covetousness" -- is literally "greed", and as we all know, "Greed is good." That one is an interesting word in the Greek. It is πλεονεξία -- pleonexia. It means literally "desiring more." Like Rockefeller's answer to "How much is enough?", it is the desire for "a little bit more" where "a little bit" never ends.

There is a debate among scholars about that verse. To what does that last phrase -- "which is idolatry" -- apply? The most common position, of course, is that it refers to the last item -- covetousness or greed. The same concept appears over in Ephesians where Paul writes, "You may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." (Eph 5:5) Greed puts "stuff" above God and, therefore, is idolatry.

I have no doubt that "greed" or "covetousness" amounts to idolatry. I'm okay with that. But I think the argument could be made that all of that list (and the many others like it) could be classified as idolatry. For instance, what is sexual immorality but the blatant declaration that God does not provide sufficient sexual pleasure in the marriage bed and we know better and God is wrong, certainly in the matter of sexual morality? When we declare that the things we are passionate about are more important than what God says we should be passionate about, is that not clearly replacing God in our affections? When we declare that our desires are not evil, even though the Creator and Authority says they are, does that not place our desires as God in our lives? And so it goes.

The discussion of our current culture's growing embrace of all things sinful, a continuous downward spiral, is all well and good, but I hope that Christians can see that embracing as good what God says is not can be only understood, at the bottom of it all, as idolatry. This substitutes "what I think is good" for God and His Word and is simply elevating "I" above God. That's idolatry.
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Rights Conferred

When America started, the founders believed that the Creator conferred human rights. They weren't granted by the government or the individual. It was much higher than that. After the Civil War, the nation approved the position that all persons had equal protection under the law, regardless of sex or race. Why? Because rights are conferred by the Creator, not by government or the individual.

In 1973 the courts ruled otherwise. The 14th Amendment insured that all persons had equal protection of the law, but the courts decided that there was another category of humans -- the non-person human. That person, the courts said, had no intrinsic rights. And the government had become the dispenser of human rights. "If we grant it to you, it's yours. If we do not, it's not."

We are now at a new place. In this battle against the unborn as humans with God-given human rights, it is no longer the Creator nor the government that grants rights. It is the mother. She alone decides if this particular baby has any rights at all. If the mother chooses to disregard the safety of her baby and drinks and smokes, it's no one's business. The mother decides the rights for that child. If she decides to end the child's life, it's no one's business. She decides what rights that baby gets. And if she decides that baby has all the rights of other humans, then you'd better watch out because now killing that child is murder.

On what basis have we decided that mothers now have the role of God in dispensing human rights?

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Jesus I Know

I have a relationship with Jesus Christ. That is what defines me as a Christian. I value this relationship, so I pursue it, nurture it, enjoy it, embrace it. I look at the Word of God to learn about the Word made flesh. I seek to obey Him more because He said if I love Him I will obey Him. This is a big part of my life, this relationship.

Then I hear others who have this relationship. Christian music, Christian speakers, Christian bloggers, Christian "social media" -- all contribute to the view that all those others have of their relationship with Jesus. And sometimes I wonder, do I know the same Jesus?

Many of the songs they sing about Jesus can only be described as "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs. Remove references to Jesus (sometimes you don't even have to do that) and you could sing it to any lover. (I actually heard one Christian musician sing Paul McCartney's Maybe I'm Amazed (which regularly substitutes "baby" for "maybe" in the lyrics) as if it was a love song to Jesus.) Others speak of a smiling, even a laughing Jesus. He's a nice guy, the friend of sinners. No judgmentalism here; He just loves everybody. He's not concerned about your sin; He just wants to love and encourage you. He is, above all, the meek and mild Jesus. He'd never hurt a fly, let alone you. A really, really nice fellow. A mellow fellow.

My Jesus has many similar characteristics. He loves me. (He died for me -- the ultimate love.) He cares about my well-being, saves and empowers me, provides for my needs. But theirs seems to lack some that mine has. Mine, for instance, has some harsh things to say. Their Jesus is an all-welcoming, all-embracing, "can't we just get along" Jesus but mine, on occasion, can be seen in the Temple with a whip (John 2:14-17). Theirs judges not, but mine declares, "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:1-5) Theirs just takes everyone in, no questions asked, and mine says things like "Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not see the kingdom" (Matt 5:20) and "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62) Theirs is as friendly as a puppy with no real demands, but mine commands, "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me." (Matt 16:24) Their Jesus is all about warm feelings and love, but mine demands, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:26) Absolutely, my Jesus loves me, but not in some mushy, semi-romantic way. He loves me enough to say, "O you of little faith." (Matt 6:30; 8:26; 16:8) Their Jesus loves them enough to embrace them with their sin and mine loves me enough to chastise me out of it.

I'm not saying that their Jesus is all wrong. It just seems like their Jesus is only one of the dimensions of the Jesus I know. I'm pretty sure they know Jesus, too. I'm just not sure why He's not the same Jesus I know.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day, 2018

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you." (Exo 20:12)
It's Father's Day. I thought I'd take a minute to look at what Scripture says about fathers. And the first one I came up with was this one.

It's an interesting command, isn't it? I mean, in our day fathers largely get a bad rap. Last month the Minnesota Conference of the United Methodist Church altered the Apostles Creed because "Father" wasn't inclusive enough. If it was a gender "protest", it was poorly done because they left "I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son" in place and "Son" is male, but they removed God the Father and replaced Him with "God the Creator." It looks to me as if it's a "father" problem. And, let's face it; there are too many bad fathers. Are we actually supposed to honor bad fathers? Apparently we are. Note that Paul, quoting this passage, considers obedience to be honoring parents (Eph 6:1-3). Note, also, that there is no "expiration date," either in Testament or age. That is, Paul repeats it, so it's still in effect today, and there is no point at which they cease to be your parents, so we must always honor them even after they are no longer our authority. Interesting. It appears, then, that God considers fathers to be worthy of honor regardless of their quality. As in government (Rom 13:1-2), we need to honor the position even if the man isn't honorable.

There is an undeniable correlation in Scripture between human fathers and God as Father. David wrote, "As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him." (Psa 103:13) That is, as we understand a good father, we understand God. As the father is head over the family, God is head over all (1 Cor 11:3). As the father is responsible for teaching and correcting (Eph 6:4); so is God our Father. As the father is to provide for his family (1 Tim 5:8), so does God our Father (Phil 4:19).

Remember Job? Scripture says of him that he would consecrate his children and offer prayers and offerings for them because "Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." (Job 1:4-5) That's a father's heart -- our fathers for us and our Father for us. Jesus compared a son asking for a loaf or fish to us praying to God. "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:11-13) A father's heart.

Fathers are not to provoke their children (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21), but they are supposed to instruct (Prov 4:1-4; Eph 6:4) and discipline them (Prov 19:18; Prov 13:24; Eph 6:4) as God does (Prov 3:11-12; Heb 12:7). It is, in God's view, possible to both instruct and discipline children without provoking or exasperating them. How? When the instruction and discipline is done in love, of course. When the motivating principle is love, there will be as much (more?) positive as negative reinforcement and much less tension (provocation).

In our society, fathers are often "throw-away" items. That's largely because too many fathers have thrown away their responsibilities. In biblical terms, fathers are critical, first as examples that imitate God the Father, then as compassionate, responsible teachers and providers for the family God provides.

My father has been such a man. Scripture speaks of him when it says, "The righteous who walks in his integrity — blessed are his children after him." (Prov 20:7) Telling you about that is one way to honor him. Scripture has another.
A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother. (Prov 10:1)

"The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who sires a wise son will be glad in him." (Prov 23:24)
Honoring my father on Father's Day (and every other) is my aim. Honoring him by being wise and righteous is my aim, too. Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Postscript
I found this verse in my search for references to fathers:
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous. (Prov 13:22)
To my kids: don't count on your father being a "good man". :)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

News Weakly - 6/16/18

No Bias Here
The media is reporting about Israel killing innocent protesters in Gaza. "At least three demonstrators were killed, including a teenage boy, with over 600 wounded," the report says with a picture of what looks like some praying protesters with a tear gas canister exploding overhead. All while peaceful protesters "burned tires, threw stones and flew flaming kites." "Israel says Gaza's Hamas leaders are using the protests as cover to carry out attacks." And Muslims elsewhere chanted "Death to Israel" and burned Israeli flags and effigies of President Trump. Because it's a peaceful protest and there is no reason at all for Israel to think they're threatened in any way. (I dare you to look at that photo on that story and come to some other conclusion about the evil Israelis shooting innocent people.)

Weaponizing Apologies
After Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted about a good deal he got at a Los Angeles Chick-fil-A, the Twitter world went wild, forcing Dorsey to apologize. Why? He ate at Chick-fil-A during Gay Pride Month. "'You must love the taste of bigotry!' one person wrote in response."

I'd like to point out that "Hate a company because the CEO holds biblical beliefs!" is just as bigoted as what they are claiming. And forcing apologies is simply weaponizing apologies. "Apologize or else."

I thought Stephen McAlpine had some witty-but-insightful comments on the story. And, of course, Democrats have now set out to make it a hate crime to eat at Chick-fil-A. Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

A Keen Video
I don't normally do this, but I'm recommending a brief video here:

Produced by Choice42, it's a nifty video talking about the Magical Birth Canal that confers human rights to non-person humans. Short but pointed.

Anti-Life
Argentina's lower house of Congress has taken a step to legalize the murder of millions more babies. They've approved a bill that would allow abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Most of South America forbids abortion except in cases of rape or if the mother's life is endangered, but Argentina hopes to strip off the concept of intrinsic human value and legalize elective murder for the most defenseless human beings. I mean, hey, what could go wrong, right?

Re ... What?
Have you heard about the "Revoice Conference"? At a PCA church in St. Louis in July, they're having a conference with the stated purpose of "Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality." Lots of people like Jim Shaw (a pastor of a PCA church), Kevin DeYoung, Denny Burk, and Richard Phillips (another pastor of a PCA church) have written on the issues.

As for me, I'm not grasping "Supporting, encouraging, and empowering" those who are involved in things that the Bible condemns and hoping that "they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality." How does one "flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality" when the point is to overturn those historic Christian doctrines? If that is not the point, perhaps someone might want to explain how and why. (Some have suggested that the point is to encourage "LGBT Christians" to observe historic Christian doctrines of marriage and sexuality and, thus, flourish ... by no longer being "LGBT Christians.")

Friday, June 15, 2018

Fighting Fire with Fire

I often write about how "those on the Left" or "progressives" and especially the Left or progressive Christians are missing the point. They argue for social justice as an end rather than a means. They toss the Bible and still try to make a stand without a foot to stand on. They attack Christians whose positions come from God's Word and intolerantly cry, "Intolerance!" They can't seem to grasp that loving someone by urging them not to violate God's instructions is actually love. And so on.

I'm not writing about them today. I'm writing about us.

Peter wrote that we are to always be "prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you." (1 Peter 3:15) That "defense" is the translation of the word, apologia, from which we get our "Christian Apologetics". We are commanded to explain why we believe what we believe, why we hope in Christ. So we do. We mount our defenses. We arm the battlements. We're even biblical about it, ready to "destroy arguments" and "take every thought captive" (2 Cor 10:5). All well and good ... but too often we miss an important point -- the rest of the sentence. "Yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame." (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Does our defense of the gospel and the faith (Jude 1:3) include "gentleness and respect"? Too often it does not. We will fire off a volley of trigger words intended to create heat rather than light. (Please note I am saying "we" here; I'm guilty, too.) We know that "pro-abort" or "sodomite" are terms that merely inflame, but we'll use them with our sword thrusts against baby-killers and homosexuals. (If you weren't paying attention, "baby-killers" is equally inflammatory.) It's not that we need these specific terms to make a defense. We just use them because it suits our mood, our moral outrage, our righteous indignation. We use them because they do. These words, however, are not gentle nor respectful.

We are indeed commanded to defend the faith, to make a defense for our hope. Some of us take that up with vigor. When we do it with words intended to ignite a fire rather than light the way, we aren't doing it in the way we are commanded. We're supposed to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Maybe some of you should consider, as I should, that our choice of words might need some refinement if we're going to defend the faith as we are commanded.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Valuation

"Worthy" is a term of valuation. It is a reference to having the qualities or abilities that merit specific recognition. It is a comparison of a standard to someone or something. We are used to applying standards and making determinations. We do it all the time. "This ship is seaworthy." "The car is not roadworthy." "He is worthy of the award." "God is worthy of praise." We are doing this all the time (with or without the word, "worthy".)

I noticed the other day that Paul uses this term repeatedly.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. (Eph 4:1)

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel." (Phil 1:27)

We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col 1:10)

We exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. (1 Thess 2:12)

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering … To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power. (2 Thess 1:5-11)
And that was just a sampling. (It was, of course, the sampling I wanted on the topic I'm approaching.) Paul repeatedly tells us to be worthy in the way we live. Be worthy of the calling, worthy of the gospel, worthy of the Lord, worthy of the kingdom. We have a standard to meet, and we are told to compare ourselves to this standard and be sure we measure up.

If you are paying attention, you have to admit this can be a pretty stringent standard. Worthy of God? Worthy of the kingdom? I'm sorry ... I'm not. I don't stand up to this standard. That's why I particularly like the verse where Paul prays for the Thessalonians that "Our God may make you worthy of His calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power." (2 Thess 1:11)

We have a standard to meet. It is a high standard. No attempt to minimize it will produce the results the standard demands. Nor does "I can't make it" make a difference. It's not a suggestion; it's a command. Thanks be to God that He will fulfill in us the worthiness we are supposed to supply.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Time

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book titled Outliers examining the factors that contribute to high success levels. What makes those top achievers top achievers? One of the most notable components in the book was the "10,000-hour rule." Gladwell claimed that the way to achieve excellence in anything was to practice whatever it is for a minimum of 10,000 hours.

Okay, maybe. I haven't seen the studies and, frankly, I wouldn't know how to determine exactly how much time I've spent at anything to see if I've attained sufficient time. Besides, it's too simplistic in my view. I mean, spend 10,000 hours playing the trombone without actually having a proper mouthpiece or knowing how to read music or ever playing with someone else, and I'd question the level of expertise even after all those hours. That is, I think it takes more than just time. Natural ability, talent, drive, skills, training, education, heart ... lots of other things.

I think it is true, however, that you can get a sense of what you think is important partly by how much time you spend doing it. I suppose this is more along the lines of "Which dog do you feed?" You know, that old Cherokee story of a grandfather teaching his grandson about hate. He describes the battle within as two dogs -- a good one and a bad one. "Which one will win?" the grandson asks. "The one you feed." In the same way, you will obviously be more highly influenced by the things in which you spend more time than the things you don't.

It's interesting that Paul says something about this on more than one occasion. In Ephesians and in Colossians he tells his readers to redeem the time or make the best use of time (depending on which translation you read) (Eph 5:16; Col 4:5). In the Ephesians passage he tells why: "because the days are evil." Clearly, given the evil nature of days (Paul's and ours), we ought to make proper use of our time to obtain the best result. Paul calls it wise (Eph 5:15; Col 4:5).

What about us? How are we doing? Comparing our time in prayer and our time speaking to friends, which one dominates? Comparing our time spent in the Word and our time in front of television or smartphone screens, which one is larger? Comparing the time we spend in God's work and the time we spend on our pleasures, which one wins? And what does that say about us? If you look at your time spent, ranking from the most to the least, what would you conclude about your priorities and concerns? Do those priorities and concerns align with what you think they should? If practice makes perfect -- if spending time at something is moving you toward perfecting your skills at it -- what are you working to perfect by spending the most time at it? I'm asking myself these hard questions. You might want to consider it as well.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Minority Status

A poster in the building in which I work invited all employees to a seminar "to learn about the challenges faced by sexual and gender minorities." What in interesting phrase. If words are intended to convey an idea, what idea are we trying to convey in the phrase, "sexual and gender minorities"?

That should be fairly obvious. By "sexual minorities" they mean "LGBTQ+" and by "gender minorities" they mean "non-binary genders." Not hard to see. Of course, it doesn't work that easy. By inserting the word, "minority", they are inserting a category and you have to figure out what falls in that category.

The aim is the control of thought here. It isn't new. When the issue of illegal immigration came to the fore, there was outrage that one side would depict the group as "criminals". So they offered a solution. "Let's say they're undocumented." On the face of it, it's fine. The law requires particular documentation to legally immigrate. They don't have that particular documentation. Therefore, they are not legal. Same thing, right? Except that the force of the change was to remove the weight of the term. "Illegal" carries with it a moral stigma. "Undocumented" merely sounds like, "Hey, she didn't dot her i's and cross her t's; no problem." It doesn't sound like an issue. That is thought control. "If we can get you to think of them as 'undocumented' rather than 'illegal', you will view them in a different way, even if in this case the two are the same." Ease off the moral aspect and you push the thinking in a new direction.

That's the impact of "minorities" in this case. The aim is to fend off the moral question. "Minorities" is a matter of numbers while the rest of us are questioning the morality of the situation. "No, no, not moral; numerical." Like the fabled wizard of Oz, it is "Pay no attention to that moral question behind the curtain." The curtain being "minorities". So don't ask.

But here's the real question. Do they actually believe this? Do they -- those who are pushing this language (and thinking) -- actually believe that "minority" changes the problem? You see, when we use the word, "minority", we pull at your heart strings. We want you to support the underdog. We want you to be sure to love and encourage and embrace those who are "minorities" just as much as the "majority". (Do you notice that merely using those two terms in juxtaposition like that you get the feeling that "minorities" are good and "majority" is oppression?) Is that what they really believe?

Of course, it is patently obvious that they don't. Numerical status does not confer automatic support. I would think it undeniable, for instance, that the number of men that prefer rape are a minority, but no one is referring to them as a "sexual minority" whose challenges we should learn about and help with. I'm quite confident that the statistical number of people who would like to engage in incest is quite small, but I know of no one that would lump them in with the "sexual minority" category ... even though they are. (And don't get me started on "gender minority". There are two, almost 50-50 between them. How one feels about their gender is beside the point.) They explicitly deny the right of those who would marry a fence or two or more other people -- absolutely a "sexual minority". They would not (and certainly should not) urge that the sexual minority of people we term pedophiles be loved and encouraged and embraced for their sexual minority status. They don't actually believe what they're urging us to believe.

Of course, it doesn't much matter. They will also refuse to admit these facts. They aren't controlling the discussion by controlling the language. They aren't encouraging thought control by changing the way we think about it. They are not diverting attention from moral questions in order to produce a "warm fuzzy" response. They are not applying their positions capriciously. And, as in other situations, a refusal to see a problem means a refusal to address a problem or seek solutions. But, hopefully, some of you can see this.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Identity

One's self-identity is a big deal these days. We've been used to "I'm a male" or "female" or "I'm an American" and the like. It started getting a bit more edgy when it went to "I'm an African-American" because it was highly likely that the person in question was not actually born in Africa, but we figured it out. Then it became "I'm gay", is if those to whom I am sexually attracted define who I am. Then there is "I'm a gay Christian", sticking together two terms that don't align biblically. And now we can define our own gender but not our race (for reasons I don't understand). Identity is a big deal.

It's a big deal in Paul's letter to Corinth as well.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9-11)
There are, in this text, two categories. One is "the unrighteous" and the other is ... not. There is the unrighteous and the washed, the sanctified, the justified. What is the difference between the two? On the surface it would seem that the unrighteous do the things listed and the righteous don't. But that would be a mistake. We know that "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8) We -- even the "righteous" -- those washed by Christ -- sin. So that's not the difference.

The difference between the two is identity. One group -- the unrighteous -- make a practice of those types of sins and, therefore, are called "the sexually immoral" and "idolaters" and "adulterers" and so on. Terms of identity, not just an act performed. But "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God." (1 John 3:9) So the sin committed by the other group -- the righteous -- would be present but not persistent. The first group would identify with those sins and the second would despise those sins in themselves.

In a case like this, identity is crucial. If you celebrate sin and it identifies you, it is not a small problem; it will keep you from the kingdom of God. If you find yourself opposed to sin, even the sin you find yourself in at times, then you are not identified by sin, but by "the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" who has washed and sanctified and justified you. Which are you? All of us start in the unrighteous category. Paul says "Such were some of you." Is it past tense for you? This identity issue is critical.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Not So Funny

The Peanuts character, Linus, is famous for his statement, "I love mankind; it's people I can't stand." It's humor. That's how humor works. You set up a thought -- "I love mankind" -- and then you take a sudden, unexpected turn. Funny stuff. But not always. Like the parallel version, "I love Christ; it's Christians I can't stand." Oh, of course, it's not generally laid out that way. It's usually more subtle. "I love Jesus, just not the people who ... make up His church."

How does that work? How does one love God but not the people of God? How do we love Christ's presence but not the presence of His people? Why is it so easy for some to be believers but not church goers ... of any sort? "I'm religious but I don't like religion."

There are, of course, reasons given. "Churches have too many hypocrites." Yes, they do, drawn directly from the ranks of the hypocrites outside of church. "I don't need organized religion to be tight with Jesus." Nice sentiment, I'm sure, but Scripture disagrees. If Christianity was merely a relationship with Jesus, perhaps some of this would make sense, would be reasonable. But it's not.

Jesus told us how the world would know we belong to Him. It was not "If you're really prayerful and holy." It wasn't "If you're sincere in your belief." It was this: "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35) Huh ... that doesn't seem to fit, does it? I mean, it is absolutely true that we are saved by having a saving relationship with Christ and He wants worship that is in spirit and truth, but here Jesus seems to say that our primary proof of that saving relationship is not our love for Him, but our love for each other. How does that "I only need Christ; I don't need to be with God's people" sound now?

In His High Priestly prayer, Jesus prayed, "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. (John 17:22-23) Did you catch that? What is our primary proof that God sent His Son? It isn't doctrinal purity, warm feelings toward God, or a really tight apologetic. It is in our unity with one another. What unity? That love He mentioned earlier. Jesus, in effect, gave the world a test. "Here you go, world. Want to know if My claim that I came from the Father is true? Here's how you can see it. Look at My people. Are they united? Do they love one another? Then believe it. Otherwise ..."

Turns out this version isn't quite as funny as Linus was. When we prefer not to be with God's people, we are offering a Jesus-provided denial of His deity and our relationship with Him. Our fierce independence or our reasonable wariness of bad churches doesn't provide the evidence God offered the world. It's only in our unity in love for each other that they'll see it. And we can't do that as Lone Ranger Christians.

What about you? Will you be with believers on the Lord's Day? And, note, attending and leaving is not "love" and "unity". Will you be part of the body of Christ by actually being part?

Saturday, June 09, 2018

News Weakly - 6/9/2018

Did Not See That Coming
Jack Phillips, the Christian baker in Colorado sued for turning down a job offer to make a cake celebrating a "gay wedding", was exonerated by the Supreme Court on Monday. In a 7-2 decision, the court ruled that Colorado had violated Phillips' First Amendment rights. Didn't expect that outcome. Glad to hear it. Of course, while the ruling was 7-2 in his favor, the actual position offered by SCOTUS was so vague as to be almost useless. They sought to rule on the violation of Phillips' right to the free exercise of religion without reference to religion. It appears as if the only reason they ruled in his favor in this case was that Colorado failed to pursue the same ruling against bakers that refused to make cakes with messages opposed to gay weddings. They ruled that the state was unduly opposed to Christianity rather than a 1st Amendment ruling. It's a ruling in his favor, but not a landmark ruling that will reinstate religious freedom in America. Will it make a difference in future issues with Christian businesses? Not likely. (Lawmakers intend to make sure it doesn't.)

As a side note, please notice: The two guys who brought the original suit said of this ruling, "You should not be turned away from a business open to the public because of who you are." This is the fundamental problem. They were not denied a wedding cake because of who they were. They were denied a cake for a wedding that violated the religious convictions of the artist they were demanding to supply it. If they had asked for a birthday cake or something else, they wouldn't have been denied because of who they are. If it is "because of who you are", the story would look different. (As a test, find out if the baker ever made a cake for someone who was gay.)

When an Apology is Enough
Currently #MeToo rules our world. Any male who does anything at all that is deemed "sexual harrassment" -- from actual harrassment to just "made her feel uncomfortable" -- is guilty and no amount of defense, repentance, or apology is sufficient. Unless, of course, you're Bill Clinton who says he did not apologize to Monica Lewinski, does not owe her an apology, and doesn't plan to apologize. He apologized publicly to the nation and that was enough. I guess not everyone is held accountable to the new #MeToo rules.

Me, not You
Speaking of #MeToo, apparently the "me" in "Me Too" doesn't include all concerned parties. Actor Brendan Fraser claimed that in 2003 he was groped by Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) president Philip Berk. The organization investigated and "concluded that Mr. Berk inappropriately touched Mr. Fraser," but that "the evidence supports that it was intended to be taken as a joke and not as a sexual advance." (The description of the confirmed inappropriate touching was no joke.) HFPA still keeps Berk as a voting member in good standing and claim, "All parties consider this matter to be concluded." Except Fraser doesn't. And it doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to see that this case is not handled like the vast numbers of unconfirmed-but-widely-touted #MeToo cases in the news. In every other case the women who felt harrassed were the issue and not the intention of the perpetrator. In this case, the accepted-at-face-value intention of the perpetrator makes it okay. No, Brendan, not you, too.

Defender of the Defenseless
Jon Stewart, self-imposed comedian/political analyst, defended Samantha Bee in a San Francisco event. He mocked people who thought referring to a woman with a derogatory and socially unacceptable term was offensive. It's right and good that some people should be held accountable for harrassment of women, but if Trump doesn't like it, it's okay. You see, Stewart claimed, it's the Right with the double standard.

I just want to point out that, while I thought the word she used was inappropriate and unnecessarily unkind (I would never use such a word in reference to any woman ever.), it wasn't the word that offended me. It was the other part. When Samantha Bee told Ivanka to dress seductively to influence her father, that was above and beyond any "c" word issue. "Do something about your dad's immigration practices ... He listens to you! Put on something tight and low-cut and tell your father to ... stop it!" "Put on something tight and low-cut"? Why is it that the single word has produced outrage, but urging a daughter to make herself a sex object to seduce her father into doing what she wants has not? Look, I get it. Black people can refer to black people with the "n" word when others cannot. Women can refer to women with the "c" or "b" word when others cannot. But when the issue of the day is sexual exploitation/objectification, encouraging it in incestuous form seems absolutely outrageous.

Samantha Bee's Apology
Speaking of Samantha Bee, she was back on the air this week, starting with an apology. She apologized for making the news with her vulgar term. Seriously, that was what she apologized for. She apologized saying, "I should have known that a potty-mouthed insult would be inherently more interesting ... than this juvenile immigration policy." The story said she was just attempting to "encourage [Ivanka] to speak to her father about changing a policy" without noting that she was encouraging Invanka to seduce her father into changing his policy. "'Civility is just nice words,' she said. 'Maybe we should all worry about the civility of our actions.'"

Strange apology. "Sorry for being in the news. Sorry for using a coarse word. Sorry that that word has been used to inflict pain on women." She did not say, "I'm sorry I publicly urged a woman to become a sex object to her father to get him to do what I think he should do." That wasn't in there.

Friday, June 08, 2018

I'll Do Me; You Do You

I've seen this around for a little while now. You get the idea, right? It's in the language of Hollywood -- of play acting -- where each person plays a part. "What will my part be? I'll do me. What about you? You do you." The point is "Be yourself ... and like it."

The idea now has a fancy term: "expressive individualism". Expressive individualism is the idea that each individual determines one's own identity, that living out that identity is good, and that everyone else ought to respect and affirm that identity. "Just be yourself." Because no matter what, "yourself" is a good thing. Like "born that way." "God made me this way; it must be good." They might even think, "If God made me this way and I don't live up to it, it would be an insult to God."

Along the same lines as "Follow your dream" and "Don't let anyone get in your way," this seems to me to be problematic as a principle. Jesus made it clear that sinful desires constituted sin (Matt 5:21-22, 27-28). If your individual expression is an expression of sinful desires, it wouldn't make sense to encourage and affirm people to express it. And, let's face it, we all suffer from sinful desires. We all have deceitful hearts (Jer 17:9). We all suffer from the problem of sin. So it seems patently obvious to me that expressing that identity would not be a good idea and encouraging others to do so would not be loving. And encouraging others to

Of course, it's not something that will go over well in our culture. What started (badly) as "if it feels good do it" has become "expressive individualism", where the ultimate good is to just be yourself. "You do you." As if "you" is patently good simply because it is "you". We buy that, but not because it's right or reasonable. We buy it because most of us still suffer from the blindness of the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4). Which is why we desperately need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2).

Thursday, June 07, 2018

The Miracle of Birth

If I speak of "the miracle of birth" you will immediately envision a little baby being born. And I will have to point out that "miracle" would be the wrong term. In today's vernacular a miracle would be any surprising and welcome event, but it's not the actual definition. "Miracle" requires divine intervention. It isn't explained naturally; it is a "God thing." And as wonderful as the birth of a child is, it is not really that kind of a miracle.

No, the miracle of birth to which I'm referring is not the birth of a child, but the new birth. Funny thing, though. Many times we don't see that as such a miracle. Oh, sure, that whole "buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom 6:4) thing is surely a miracle, but what about the faith it takes to get there? We're pretty sure that comes by natural means.

We're fairly certain that the right words, the correct defense, the best apologetics, a really good presentation will do the trick. It's like anything, right? How did you come to believe that 2 plus 2 equals 4? Well, you were taught it. You were shown it. You saw how two pencils in one hand and two pencils in the other hand, when joined together, came out to four pencils. Easy, right? A good explanation, a good illustration, clear and consistent evidence and argument and demonstration, and we all know now that 2 + 2 = 4. So, how do you come to believe that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again for your sins? Simple. A good explanation, a good illustration, clear and consistent evidence and argument and demonstration, and we're good to go.

You see, that's not a miracle. That's not divine intervention. And many of us stress over the fact that the process -- explanations, illustrations, presentations, etc. -- may not be good enough to accomplish the task. Because many of us aren't convinced that the faith connected to the new birth is a miracle. Oh, a miracle like that of a newborn baby, but, in the end, explainable by natural means ... which would be us.

If it is true that natural humans are dead in sin (Eph 2:1), if it is actually true that the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God (Rom 8:7), if it is a fact that "The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor 2:14), then it would seem to me that process, proof, and presentation would by definition be insufficient to bring about faith. If Jesus was right to say, "you do not believe because you are not among My sheep" (John 10:26), it would appear to be a given that an actual, God-given, unexplainable miracle would have to occur for you or I to come to faith and be born again.

That is the miracle of birth to which I refer. That act of God that makes believers out of unbelievers, that makes living humans out of the "dead in sin", that turns hateful hearts to lovers of God, that is the miracle of birth that truly amazes me.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Concern about Concern

Some people have told me I think too much. Maybe it's true. Sometimes I get too tied up in things.

Consider a recent Sunday -- the one before Memorial Day -- when the entire song selection was patriotic themes. Some of them mentioned God -- "God Bless America" and such -- and some did not. The "special music" was "I'm Proud to be an American." And there I was, all tied up in things. I mean, look, I'm here in church on Sunday to worship and the only thing stopping me from worshiping is, bottom line, me. They (the congregation, the leadership, the building, the atmosphere, etc.) can't stop me from worshiping. That's between me and God. And yet, there I was, distracted from my primary purpose that morning because I'm thinking, "This isn't helpful. I'm not here to worship America; I'm here to worship God." And when they sang that song about "If my people will humble themselves God will restore America," it really pushed me to the brink. That was not helpful.

But I wasn't done. You see, my very next concern was my concern. Should this concern me? Should this be a problem to me? Can I ask anyone about it? That last was a big one. You don't want to come across as petty, picky, or "holier than thou." You know you're just supposed to "go with the flow." "Don't let your views and preferences get in the way of other people." So there I am, pushed by this apparent patriotic worship session, without an outlet. Because now I'm concerned that I shouldn't be concerned and I certainly can't/shouldn't express it to anyone.

I'm not writing here about these events. I'm writing here about my problem. That was just an illustration of my problem. My problem is I think about these things and my problem is I'm not entirely sure what I'm authorized to say about what I think about these things.

Take, for instance, Cory Asbury's very popular song, Reckless Love, where he delights in the "overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God." Christians are singing this in homes and churches everywhere. But ... is it right? Merriam-Webster defines "reckless" as "marked by lack of proper caution : careless of consequences" or, worse, "irresponsible." Are these the marks of God's love? Asbury himself says they are, that God doesn't care about the consequences of His love. I find that amazingly foolish and ... reckless ("irresponsible"). God knows and cares about the consequences of His love and always accomplishes the purposes He intends. But my point here is no to critique a popular song. My point is that 1) I'm not really supposed to be critiquing ... anything, and 2) if I do, I'm not supposed to tell anyone about it.

So how does this work? Are we not supposed to pay attention to things like this? If we do, are we not supposed to talk about it? If we are, when? At what level? I mean, sure, if we don't like the inflection of his voice when he said it or the tune of that song or the blouse she's wearing, grow up, stop being judgmental, and be quiet until you can be less picky. But as this stuff escalates, at some point it seems like it's important, even dangerous. Do we need to pay attention to that? Do we need to say something about that? Jesus did. Paul did. The Scriptures do. But how do we know when it crosses that line of "personal preference" and petty mindedness into serious error? Because, I have to tell you, most people don't want to hear it. "Don't tell me my pastor is wrong." "You know, you shouldn't really be critiquing the worship music." "It's the way we do it at our church. If you don't like it, just leave." Is that love? I am, you see, concerned about being concerned.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Discernment Ministries

There are multiple sources for what is termed "discernment ministries". These ministries have made it their aim to sound the alarm, so to speak. They set out to point out to the flock the false teachers and dangerous ideas that are swirling about in and among the true believers and true doctrines of the church.

In Paul's letter to the church in Philippi he includes a request that they would "join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us." (Phil 3:17) That might sound self-serving, but he explains why he said it.
For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. (Phil 3:18)
That might seem a little odd in our world where we're repeatedly urged to "judge not" and to leave off suggesting such nasty things like "They're enemies of the cross of Christ." I mean, who are we to say? Well, Paul appears to believe that "discernment" is a true ministry and it ought to be practiced. There are genuine "enemies of the cross of Christ" who would certainly be among us and could easily lead people astray.

What does Paul say are the tell-tale signs of this group of people?
Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (Phil 3:19)
We know their end; how do we recognize them? First, note that they are not "believers" -- they are idolaters whose god is their own appetites (Rom 16:18). They sacrifice only to themselves. They operate in the senses -- lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Tim 3:4). They worship self-indulgence and sensual gratification. Second, observe that their values are inverted; the things that should bring shame are the things in which they glory. What God calls error they call valuable. What God calls abominable they call delightful. What God calls sin they call good and right. Underlying all this, of course, is the third item listed. That point is what causes the first two. Their minds are set on earthly things. Their god is not the heavenly one, but the one shaped by worldly values. Their morality is not God's morality, but the moral codes shaped by worldly values. The origination of their perspectives and perceptions are earthly things, not heavenly ones. You can spot this pretty easily, usually. Their positions will begin with self and the world rather than God's Word. Their doctrines will be premised on cultural and societal and self-made origins rather than God's Word. The starting point for their lives is "earthly things", not "things above" (Col 3:2).

So, Paul here argues for so-called discernment ministries, the recognition of false believers who appear to be with us but who are "enemies of the cross of Christ." He gives us some insight into their characteristics so we know what to look for. There is one key point in which Paul differs from most of the "discernment ministries" I've seen. In almost every case I've encountered, the approach of these ministries is one of moral outrage, of righteous indignation. Not Paul. He warned the Philippians "with tears." That's not outrage; that's sadness. You see this back in Romans when Paul wrote about his own people who were not saved (Rom 9:1-3). His outlook was "great sorrow and unceasing anguish." He even says, "I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers." (Rom 9:3) That, dear reader, is not righteous indignation; that is compassion.

It is important that we recognize the false. We are repeatedly told to defend the faith, to watch for the false teachers, to realize that there will be those coming out from among us who will lead us astray if we're not vigilant. Much of the New Testament was written for this very reason. But underlying all of this we have the constant command that was given back in the Old Testament and reinforced repeatedly throughout the Word -- "Love one another." (e.g., Lev 19:18; Matt 22:39; John 13:34; John 15:12, 17; Rom 12:10; 2 Cor 13:11; Eph 4:2; 1 Thess 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 3:11; 1 John 4:7; 2 John 1:5) All the fine discernment of false teachers and false teaching is, in Paul's words, "a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" (1 Cor 13:1) without love. If the prime motivation is "correction" or even "defense" and not love, we're wasting our time. The mark of a true believer, according to Christ, is not "doctrinal purity" or "freedom from error", but "if you have love for one another." (John 13:35) We do need to watch for error, but we need to start with a motivation of love for our neighbors in general and our brethren in particular. Without love, our defense is error.

Monday, June 04, 2018

The Complementarian Problem

If you haven't been in the right circles, you may not be aware of a current debate among Christians. The two sides are the Complementarians and the Egalitarians. So far, so good. Beyond that, it gets confusing.

The Complementarians hold that men and women are equally made in God's image and have equal value, but that men and women were made to complement (not compliment) each other, so they have distinct and differing roles. The Egalitarians argue that there is no male or female in the Body of Christ. They hold that men and women are equally made in God's image and have equal value and that there are no gender-based limitations on functions or roles in the home, the church or society. To be clear, both sides point to Scripture.

The complementarian position has been the traditional position in the church for ... well, always has been until fairly recently. The first organization to call for Christian egalitarianism was established in the U.K. in 1984 and in the U.S. in 1987. Before that almost all groups held complementarian positions until the 19th century or so when some started moving toward female pastors (the Quakers). In 1853 a woman was ordained in the Congregationalist Church but was rejected. In 1863 a woman was ordained in the Universalist denomination. They eventually joined the Unitarian Universalist Association (1961) and became the first large denomination with more female ministers than male ministers. Essentially, then, prior to the 19th century, the Church was nearly exclusively complementarian.

Biblically, it's difficult to maintain an egalitarian position. It comes biblically from a few vague references to people like Deborah, the prophetess and judge (Judges 4:4), Phoebe (Rom 16:1-2), Junia (Rom 16:7), etc., and a thorough stand on Gal 3:28.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
It is required after that to disregard abundantly clear passages like Gen 2:18, 1 Cor 11:3, 1 Tim 2:12-14, Eph 5:22-33, 1 Tim 3:2, 1 Pet 3:1-7, etc. Clearly, then, I stand with the complementarian side. It is textually, contextually, and historically the only possible position.

That being said, it would be foolish, even dangerous to ignore the complementarian problem. In recent times there have been no small numbers of issues for men springing from the #MeToo movement even in the church. There are men on the complementarian side, so it stands to reason that some of them, too are caught up in these issues. The problem is that complementarianism lends itself to abuse of women. A misguided, sinful understanding of complementarianism puts men at the helm of a slave ship, so to speak. While the commands for believing husbands are to love (Eph 5:25), to sacrifice self for (Eph 5:25), and to be understanding and to show honor toward (1 Peter 3:7) wives, some men see the position as permission to offer abuse. Abuse of all kinds -- sexual, verbal, physical, emotional, or spiritual. Abuse to all women, wives or not. Now, given the commands, this makes no sense, but taken "in the air" without biblical moorings, this is exactly what you would expect to happen.

That is the complementarian problem -- the abuse of the complementarian position. The position includes "made in God's image" and "have equal value". The position is not a matter of superiority of one gender or another. The position requires accountability to God (1 Cor 11:3). So when so-called Complementarians abuse the complementarian position and abuse those they are supposed to love and honor, it is not complementarianism. But because they bear the name, complementarianism and complementarians get the blame.

As it turns out, the complementarian problem is the same as the biblical Christianity problem. It is completely possible (has happened over and over again) that someone will use complementarian principles as a guise to violate complementarian principles and abuse people. It is completely possible (has happened over and over again) that someone will use biblical principles as a guise to violate biblical principles and abuse people. The point here is that the principles are not the problem; the abuse of them is. The fix is not to discard the principles; the fix is to observe and report and correct the abuse.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

No Sin Left Unpaid

There are those "kinder, gentler" kind of folk who like to think that God is a nice God and forgiveness is free, that He can just wave His magic wand and make it all go away. The cross of Christ is an offense in this kind of thinking because it makes God seem so mean and narrow-minded. We're told to forgive; why can't God? So they assume He can and glower at those who argue otherwise.

Part of the problem here is the problem of magnitude. In terms of crime and punishment, we understand that the punishment must fit the crime. No one, in our legal system, should go to prison for life for stealing a piece of candy from a Walmart, right? That's not justice. On the other hand, there have been stories of people convicted of crimes like rape who are let off with a wrist slap. That's not justice. We apply this kind of thinking to sin, but we typically have a problem when we do. We have a faulty valuation of the sin we commit. We classify idolatry and treason against the Most High as "misdemeanors" and figure God can just let us off with a warning. That's not justice.

The truth is God is Just. That means that no sin can go unpaid. That means that, in the final judgment, there can be no leniency. Every sin must be accounted for and paid up. Mercy is nice, but mercy is defined as "not getting what you deserve", and that's not justice. It is the opposite of justice.

When Jesus was dying on the cross, His last words were, "It is finished." Linguists will tell you that the word could be literally translated "paid in full". It was an accounting term, apparently. And Jesus claimed to have paid the price. Does this mean that all sin is paid for? Universalists argue it does. Scripture argues it doesn't. It was no less than Jesus who said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 7:21-23) It was Jesus who warned, "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3,5) It was Jesus who said that "the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many." (Matt 7:13) Paul says that everyone will have their work tested (1 Cor 3:12-15). "Each of us will give an account of himself to God." (Rom 14:12) No, Jesus's "It is finished" did not mean "All sin for all people for all time is paid for." Jesus meant that all the sin He intended to pay for was actually paid for.

So there are, ultimately, only two kinds of sin: the paid for and the unpaid for. All sin will be paid for in the end. No sin will be left unpaid. The question, then, becomes, are you going to pay? I, for one, am delighted and grateful and humbled and blessed that Christ "has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach." (Col 1:22) I'll take that payment, thank you very much.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

News Weakly - 6/2/2018

Racial Bias
So, apparently Starbucks has figured out the answer to one of the truly huge problems facing mankind for ... ever -- racial bias. We've talked about it and legislated about it and prosecuted it and deemed it a hate crime, but Starbucks has figured out that if you close all 8,000+ stores in the U.S. for an afternoon so you can give all your employees "racial bias training," the problem is fixed. Okay, no, says CEO Schultz, it's "just a beginning" (a $12 million beginning), but it is a beginning! Now, if we can just close all schools for an afternoon so we can give all teachers and students some "no shooting people training" and maybe "no drug-taking training" we could begin to eliminate so many other problems in America today. Oh, hey, maybe we can get ISIS into some of these "sensitivity" classrooms. Think of the peace that would bring!

If I could offer a little hint, the problem is not a lack of education. You'd think we'd have learned that by now, but ... see? The problem is not a lack of education.

In Other News
It just warms your heart to hear these kinds of stories. "A nine-year-old South Carolina boy has made a whopping $6,000 selling lemonade to help cover his sick baby brother's medical bills." He sold lemonade and t-shirts at a used truck dealership and raised $5,860 to help cover the medical bills for his sick baby brother. In addition, another $1,300 from a benefit concert and $5,600 from a GoFundMe site were added to his efforts for the baby boy. See? Just heartwarming.

Equal Rights Amendment
Back in 1972 Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment. It was to be the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. It was fairly simple.
Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Well, it didn't get the required 38 votes from the states, so it has been on hold ever since. Now, 46 years after the fact, Illinois has voted to ratify the amendment.

You'd have thought it would be a slam dunk. I mean, do we really want to deny rights on the basis of sex? No. Except I need to point out how this goes. First, who gets to define "rights"? Not God. Who? Because if you look at the United Nations version of "human rights", it is a much longer listing than you might have thought, and we would be making them law. Then there is the problem where the 14th Amendment required "equal protection", which was completely eliminated for the unborn in favor of abortion. Applying these amendments is almost random. Then the problem of definition. "Sex" has been redefined to mean a lot of things, like "the sex in which I like to participate" and "sexual orientation" and even "the gender I feel like I am ... and none of your simplistic 'binary gender' garbage!" I am pretty sure that, if passed, this innocuous, seemingly obvious, simple little amendment will be twisted in the very near future to crush whole groups of people and ideas by the sleight of hand our language and our culture has been growing so accustomed to. Should women have the same rights men do? Duh! Of course! Is that where this will end? Not at all.

Bad News for the Home Team
It has been a rough couple of weeks for conservative Christianity. Last week the Washington Post ran a piece about Paige Patterson, president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX. He was accused of covering up a rape of a student and he was accused of being a sexist by encouraging wives who were abused to forgive and pray for their husbands. The rape allegation was devastating; the seminary's trustees asked him to step down and named him president emeritus, leaving him a residence and retirement pay. The trustees indicated that there was evidence that Patterson had complied with reporting laws on the rape accusation and no evidence of misconduct in the treatment of a student worker who was fired from the campus dining services after he tweeted a critical article about Patterson.

The outrage was loud. He shouldn't be retired; he should be fired. He shouldn't be allowed a pension; he should be gone. People like Lauren Chandler, wife of Dallas megachurch pastor Matt Chandler, petitioned furiously to have him eliminated and they succeeded. Patterson is now fired, without residence or pension, and all the sisters in Christ rejoice.

I don't defend a Paige Patterson who may (or may not) have attempted to cover up a rape; these things ought not be. I do bemoan the "Christian" outrage that runs roughshod over their own Scriptures that say, "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted." (Gal 6:1) It's sad that Jesus's "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35) is to be overwritten by #MeToo. That is, it's not Paige Patterson's demise that bothers me; it's the demise of the primary Christian virtue -- love for fellow believers. (Compare, for instance, with the resignation for moral failure of another prominent pastor.)

Reverse Logic
I'm scratching my head, I suppose. Can't figure it out. It doesn't take a genius to recognize that life in the San Francisco area is expensive, but that's because it's a tech center of mega proportions. All manner of tech is there including monsters like Apple, Facebook, Google, and beyond. Lots of jobs, lots of income, lots of people with money to spend. Only in San Francisco, then, would protesters work to block the tech jobs in favor of the unemployed and homeless. "Sweep tech, not tents" the signs said as they threw scooters (which, by the way, are tech) in front of Google buses during the morning commute.

Sure, makes sense to me. Eliminate all those jobs and all those workers and all their money and you will certainly have both plenty of homeless and plenty of space for them to set up tent cities. But is that what you see as an actual "good idea"? Like I said, can't figure it out.

Heartless
Iowa's "restrictive" fetal heartbeat abortion law was halted Friday by Federal Judge Michael Huppert. The law recognized a heartbeat as "life" and a baby as "human", thus, logically, concluding that a baby with a heartbeat was human life deserving equal protection under the law. Planned Parenthood, The ACLU of Iowa, and women everywhere demonstrated that, although the baby had a heartbeat, they had no heart.

Friday, June 01, 2018

The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street

I recently watched one of those old Twilight Zone episodes. It was from 1960, called The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street. It's a typical 1960's neighborhood, then something flies overhead. "I think it was a meteor." But things start going strange. All the power goes out. Someone decides to drive downtown to see what's going on, but the car won't start. When he decided to walk, a kid warns him, "Don't do it! They won't let you! I read about it in my books. They put an alien family here, but they look like humans. It's an invasion!" Yeah, right, kid. But when strange things happen in the neighborhood -- a car starts on its own or lights go on and off in a house -- tensions are high, looking for the alien that looks like a human. Eventually, a neighbor gets shot. And as they pan away, real aliens are talking: "You see the strategy? Just mess with their structures and they'll kill each other for us."

You've heard the story, I'm sure. A couple of black men refused to leave a Philadelphia Starbucks, so the police were called. The outrage was fierce. I was intrigued by the picture of protesters (the middle of which was white ... I thought they weren't allowed to protest on these things) who called for Starbucks to be gone. "#NOMORESTARBUCKS" the sign read. Really. Gone?

You've heard the story, I'm sure. Among all the names already out there, Morgan Freeman came under fire in a CNN report that said that 8 women were accusing him of sexual abuse. Freeman denied it, suggesting that he was misunderstood. It didn't matter. He was immediately out of work, at least for a job in Vancouver and with Visa. Originally we held people "innocent until proven guilty." Later it became "guilty until proven innocent." Not anymore. There are no innocent males. If you're accused, you're guilty, and there is no "proven innocent" possible.

The show was eerily accurate, it seems. Label someone -- "homophobe" or "bigot" or "racist" or "sexist" or ... well, you get it ... and in no time we're shooting first and asking questions later. Are we in the Twilight Zone. No, we're under the prince of the power of the air, what Paul calls "children of wrath." (Eph 2:2-3) We're just proving his point.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

You Can't Say That

Roseanne Barr stepped in it recently when she tweeted a cruelly racist joke. Not worth repeating. She took it down, apologized, said she wasn't herself -- "It was the Ambien" -- but it didn't matter. ABC almost instantly canceled her show. Networks scrambled to pull her reruns from their lineup. Her cast and crew are out of work. She is no longer someone that anyone likes. End of story.

You can't say things like that. There are just things that are out of bounds. Especially racist or sexist (where "sexist" includes anything related to sex).

One might say, "The head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God."1 It would be unacceptable. Another might suggest, "A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. They are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."2 Definitely not allowed. If a person was to urge women to "submit to your own husbands as to the Lord,"3 it would not be tolerated. Make the case that "Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God,"4 but don't expect tolerance or inclusion for it. These are the intolerables, the things that will not be spoken. Or thought. The truly evil things; the things that come from the mouth of God (John 3:20).

You can be fairly certain that if today's culture had anything to say about it, Christianity and our God would not be renewed for another season.
________
1 1 Cor 11:3
2 Matt 19:5-6
3 Eph 5:22
4 1 Cor 6:9-10

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Unusual Water

There are some passages of Scripture that never get read. Well, maybe read, technically, but rarely examined. Take, for instance, this one:
Women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. (1 Cor 14:34-35)
Now, if you are like most people these days, you did not get past the first sentence. What caught your full and unbridled attention, nay, outrage was, "Wait ... what? What kind of male chauvinist sexism is this??! 'Women should keep silent.' Whatever, Paul." What you never got to was the instruction that women should "ask their husbands at home." So while we're agitated about views that appear to be antithetical to modern ideas of feminism, what is missed is the thundering demand that husbands need to be prepared to answer any question their wives might have. That's big.

One that struck me recently was this one:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:25-27)
This one comes on the heels of "Wives, submit" (Eph 5:22), and most people are already dubious. Now it's "Husbands, love your wives ..." Since we already know that love is an emotion that can't be controlled, we're ready to write this one off, too. Paul was so far wrong on that "Wives, submit" thing that we can't really pay attention to this "Husbands, love your wives" thing either. But did you notice what we missed by dropping our attention there? We missed an explanation of how Christ loved the church. And it is so good.

It says He "gave Himself up for her." Husbands, that is a serious (and not emotionally-based) love. No matter what she does, we are to give ourselves up for her. Beyond that, however, it indicates why: "that He might sanctify her." He indicates how: "having cleansed her by the washing of the water with the word." He tells the ultimate purpose: "so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor." He describes the nature of the sanctified bride: "without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." Taking each one on its own, this is big. Putting it all together, and it's massive.

In the little picture, the text is a command to husbands to love their wives in this way. Give yourself up for her for the purpose of presenting her as pure, accomplished by "the washing of the water with the word." Now, ask yourself; how many husbands do you know (include yourself if you are one) who make that their priority in their marriage? And that's the "little picture."

The big picture is really important. Marriage is a picture of Christ's relationship with the Church (Eph 5:31-32). Therefore, Christ's purpose is to present us as pure "by the washing of the water with the word." Now consider for a moment that phrase. Notice anything odd? I think we'd normally leave out one of those "the" terms. You know, something like "the washing of water with the word". Why does "the water with the word" include that first "the"? It's because "water with the word" is a singular entity. You can wash a variety of ways and you can use the word a variety of ways, but this text is referring to one thing; this thing that necessarily includes both washing and the word. Plug that into your big picture of Christ's purpose for His bride, and suddenly God's word becomes much more important than you might have thought. It is pivotal. It is the point here. We are to be washed -- sure -- and we should have the word handy -- got that -- but this points to an ongoing thing, a lifelong immersion, so to speak.

We are commanded to not be conformed to the world, but to be "transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom 12:2). We are told that God works all things together for good for one particular purpose, that we would be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8:28-29). Redemption is only the start for us. The entire Christian life is one of sanctification -- being conformed to that image. And this text says that this occurs by this singular process -- the washing of the water with the word. You may prefer baptism by sprinkling to full immersion. I won't debate that with you. But we should never be satisfied with a sprinkling of the word. We should be lifelong, full-immersion, sanctified pursuers of holiness. We should be thoroughly and always soaked in the word of God. This is Christ's means of sanctification. This was Christ's intention.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Lift the Murder Ban

You've all seen it, I'm sure. While we in America were celebrating those who gave their lives to protect our freedoms, Ireland was voting to be free to murder.

Oh, no, that's not what we're told. The headlines all read something to the effect of "Abortion Ban Repealed." Ireland voted last week to legalize the murder of the most vulnerable humans on the planet. And it's portrayed as a "ban" that was "repealed." The Washington Post puts it like this.
The Irish have swept aside one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the developed world in a landslide vote that reflects Ireland’s emergence as a socially liberal country no longer obedient to Catholic dictates.
"Catholic dictates." Interesting. "Restrictive abortion ban." Odd. It's like calling laws against murder and rape as "murder bans" or "rape bans". And since both are against "Catholic dictates", would the Post praise countries that sweep aside "the most restrictive murder bans" to show that their "socially liberal country" is "no longer obedient to Catholic dictates"?

Called oppressive abortion laws, the law was basically this. Abortion in Ireland was only legal if it was required to save the life of the mother. In fact, the right to life of the unborn is protected by Article 40.3.3° of the Irish Constitution. Interestingly, the laws also protect the right of a woman to leave Ireland to get an abortion, even to receive information about abortions from outside the state. The law wasn't saying, "You can't kill your baby." It was simply saying, "You can't do it here." Dirty, rotten, oppressive laws. Saving the life of a baby because the baby had the right to life? How crazy can they be??

"Catholic dictates" have nothing to do with it. The New York Times assures us "It's not a man's issue," because killing the unborn is the right of women only? The loudest voices rejoice that more babies can now legally be killed. We must not recognize that things like school shootings are not helped when we declare boldly and joyously "We will kill 'em if we want to and you should all rejoice! Freedom!!" Freedom? Well, certainly not for all. Not for the unborn. And, hey, not for school shooters, either. What's wrong with people?