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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Defining Normal

When "what I desire" becomes the definition of "normal", we're lost. We instituted this faulty premise a long time ago and even codified it, attributing it to, of all beings, God Himself. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." You recognize that, I hope, as coming from our own Declaration of Independence. And it gives all human beings the divine right to pursue happiness. Thus, "what I desire" becomes the definition of "normal". Oh, of course they didn't think that at the time. "What I desire" was limited by "what is right". But we in our 21st century world have moved it away from moral absolutes to relative morality.

You may think I'm referring to homosexual behavior and the shift in the prevailing winds about such activities. I'm not. Those shifted a long time ago. That would be water under the bridge. We gave that up already. No, we've moved beyond that. Now the Mental Health community would like to go farther still. Oh, they removed "homosexuality" from their list of mental disorders a long time ago. Where are they now? They would like to redefine pedophilia as "minor-attracted persons", remove it from the list of mental disorders, and, instead, allow pedophiles to be involved in the revision of the list of mental disorders. It is, you see, a stigma they have to bear, and it shouldn't be! It's simply an attraction.

That, as we are aware, is the way of the world. It is the sequence of God giving them up to their next round of depravity. Unfortunately, it also affects believers. It is a product of our failure to stand on biblical standards on earlier issues like the sin of sex outside marriage, the sanctity of marriage (and the evil of divorce), the acceptability of abortifacient birth control, the definition of marriage, the biblical roles of men and women, and on and on. It will also serve to be a future definition of "Christian morality". Not that we will necessarily agree to it. The church has simply been following the downward moral spiral. We're a few steps behind because we're the moral ones, but we're not where we once were by far. So when "pedophile" becomes "unfortunate" rather than "evil" to the world, then divorce will become acceptable -- even recommended -- and sex outside of marriage a good thing and homosexual behavior perfectly acceptable and ... oh, wait ... we're there, aren't we? See what I mean?

When "what I desire" becomes the definition of "normal", we're lost. Two Scriptures come to mind. The first is from the mouth of our Lord Jesus. "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8). The second is from Revelation. "He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev 22:20).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Whose Faith?

We all know that faith is ours. It is something that we have, something that we exercise, something that we generate. And then I run across Hebrews in which the author describes Jesus as "the author and finisher of our faith" (Heb 12:2). Now, that's odd. And we read from Paul that we are to regard ourselves "according to the measure of faith that God has assigned" (Rom 12:3).

So there I was, reading through the book of Acts. This shouldn't be a jarring experience or containing much in the way of controversial doctrine; it's about what the Apostles did after Jesus ascended. It's a story. I was in Acts 3, in fact, where we find the classic and beautiful line from Peter, "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I to thee." And Peter healed the man born lame. It's a cool story and it caused quite a stir in the temple where the man sat every day to beg. So everyone wanted to know how he did it. Peter's second sermon takes place here and he starts with the friendly lines about how they murdered the Son of God, and then he says this:
And His name--by faith in His name--has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all (Acts 3:16).
Well, I have to tell you, that really struck me. You see, normally we do think of faith as something that is ours, something that we produce, something that we exercise. Peter specifically indicates here that that's not the case. Here Peter says that Jesus healed this man ("We didn't" - Acts 3:12) and He did it "by faith in His name". Okay, good, we're all tracking just fine. But whose faith was it? According to Peter it was "the faith that is through Jesus". Peter says that the faith that healed this man came from Christ. Sure, Peter exercised it. (Some suggest that it mentions faith twice because it references Peter's faith and the lame man's faith, but I see no reference whatsoever in the account to the man even being given a chance to believe.) The faith by which the man was made in perfect health was faith through (instead of "in") Jesus.

There are many biblical references that call on us to have faith, to be strong in the faith, and that sort of thing. No doubt. It appears, however, that we would be mistaken if we thought that this faith is something that we originate and we generate and we build. It appears quite clearly to come through Jesus, a faith "assigned" to us, authored by Christ and returned to Him. Perhaps, when we think of faith as something on our part, we give ourselves too much credit.

Monday, August 29, 2011

An Arranged Marriage

I was going to do this in comments, but I think it's important enough to make an entry out of it.

As you can imagine, my recent post affirming the biblical perspective on God and Sex Slaves (where I denied that Scripture favored sex slaves and tried to show that it was marriage that was carried out, not sexual slavery) didn't really receive a lot of warm responses. The posted comments weren't bad, but you didn't get to see the emails I got. They also were outraged by my accusation in the comments that the objections were "a 21st century value overlaid on a BC culture." It is, you see, not acceptable to suggest that anywhere or any time it might have been a good thing that marriages were arranged rather than our "enlightened" version of today -- "for love". The fact that arranged marriages far outweigh marriages of choice in the history of mankind and the fact that our modern marriages for love have not been so successful (We're at ... what ... a 50-60% divorce rate as opposed to less than 10% for arranged marriages?) is not something I should be mentioning. Clearly our modern method is superior and no one should suggest otherwise. But I'd like to point out that it isn't merely a trivial concept. It is, in fact, a key biblical concept.

Up until fairly recent times, the Jewish concept of marriage had very little to do with love. Not that love was not included, but it was not basis (one of the reasons why it was commanded in Eph 5). Here was the normal process1. Parents arranged marriages, sometimes before birth. The selection was binding, except that generally the bride had the right of refusal. At some point, the bride price was paid. At this point, the two were "betrothed" which was much closer to "married" than our modern version of "engaged". The only way to break this betrothal was an actual divorce (see Matt 1:19). So now the groom-to-be would begin the preparations for a place for the couple to live. When the preparations were complete, he would return with his entourage, often accompanied with a shout and a trumpet, to gather his bride to himself and take her to be with him.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should. You see, a commonly understood description of the Church is "the Bride of Christ". Note all the parallels. "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4), before you or I was born. We were promised by the Father to His Son before time began (Titus 1:1-3). At the proper time, the Son came and paid the price for His bride. Then, as He told His disciples, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2-3). We know that "the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God" (John 14:7), just like the parable of the ten virgins (Matt 25:1-13). And we know that once we are with Him we will enjoy the marriage feast of the Lamb in heaven (Rev 19:6-9). Now does it sound familiar?

You see, we who are in Christ are the subject of an arranged marriage. We were selected by the Father. We were purchased by the Son. We will be joined with Him forever. If the notion of an arranged marriage sounds like slavery to you, then you're in the wrong relationship with Christ. Further, if you recall the reason that Moses didn't make it to the Promised Land, it was because he messed up a picture that God was making of the Rock that was struck once and then spoken to afterwards. The cost of messing up that picture was that he never made it to Canaan. God thinks His pictures are important. If you find it repugnant that a price would be paid for a bride, then you might want to reevaluate whether you want to be part of the Bride of Christ, because that is exactly the marriage God has in mind, and when we mess with that image God has built, we do so at our own peril.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I'd Rather Have Jesus

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
This lovely little song was written back in 1922 by Rhea F. Miller. I've always loved this song. So simple, yet so deep and so rich and so ... true.

Yet, today it begs the question. Is it true? By that I mean is it true for you? Most Christians would nod vigorously, of course, but let me ask this. Imagine a heaven where you get all that you've heard about. There are no more tears, no sadness, no pain, no hunger or thirst. There are streets of gold and glorious light and constant joy. Nothing but peace and harmony. If you had an offer to have all of that without the presence of Christ, would you take it? Or would you rather have Jesus?

The question really hits home, then, because we have Him now. Are we enjoying that reality?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The New Mission Field

Christianity started in the Middle East. It grew out of Judaism and came to fruition with the coming of the Jewish Messiah. From there, according to Scripture, it "turned the world upside down". It spread to Europe and Asia. Eventually it made it to North America. Missionaries were sent to Africa and South America and other remote places to seek out people in need of salvation. And the quest to spread the Gospel continues today.

It seems ironic, then, that the new mission field opening up today would be the Protestant churches of Europe. "Really?" Yes, that's what it looks like.

According to the BBC, the leading Protestant churches in the Netherlands, for instance, are "experimenting with radical new ways of understanding the faith." These new ways do not include a genuine "God" or a historical Jesus. There is no actual Bible to use. Instead, they are "using the Bible in a metaphorical way so I can bring it to my own way of thinking, my own way of doing." They are conforming Christianity to their own image. They are discarding standard Christian doctrines like theism, the divinity of Christ, even truth. Instead, "Here you can believe what you want to think for yourself, what you really feel and believe is true." They believe they are competing in a market of ideas and are "ready virtually to reinvent Christianity." They warn that the Church "has to change to stay Christian." When a leading pastor wrote his book, Believing in a Non-Existent God, there were calls for his dismissal. "However, a special church meeting decided his views were too widely shared among church thinkers for him to be singled out." In fact, a study indicated that 1 out of 6 Protestant pastors in that country are atheists or agnostics.

Such magnificent Christian churches as the Dutch Reformed Church have come from the Netherlands. Now we see a slide away from Christianity ... by Christianity. Well, to be fair, it's not possible to call it "Christianity" when it excludes either God or Christ. Instead, the arena called "the Church" in places like this become some of the most difficult mission fields on the planet. Inoculated by false teachers and time, it becomes nearly impossible to tell them "You're in danger of eternal death" when they're quite sure they're healthier than they've ever been. But without God and without Jesus, there is nothing about this religion that is "Christian". As such, there is nothing about this "medicine" that is restorative and these people need Christianity. Ironic, then, that the new mission field today is becoming the church.

Friday, August 26, 2011

God and Sex Slaves

One of the ever-so-popular objections that skeptics and critics like to raise is the complaint that the Bible approves of slavery. Now, I've already dealt with that. Remember two key points. First, regulating something is not approving of it. (We see this quite clearly in the parallel of divorce.) Second, slavery in the Bible was not the same thing as the slavery we recognize today. But this doesn't smooth too many ruffled feathers (as if reasoned arguments are what would do so), and when they get hold of the more powerful "ammunition", they think they really have something. What ammunition is that?
If a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her. And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters. If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish. And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money (Exo 21:7-11).
Well, there it is in plain language. God has approved of the sex slave trade. Worse, He has approved of selling your daughter into sexual slavery! Talk about morally reprehensible!! What a fiend!!!

Now, remember, we are to "honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15). Is there a response that would "make a defense"? Let's see.

The most common defense I see is appalling to me. "That was then; this is now." It's "Old Testament" and we don't do that anymore. The suggestion is that somehow God changed. I'm not sure how. Maybe He figured out it was a bad idea. Maybe He saw the light and came around to a better way. Maybe He didn't really have an opinion back then, but has a more reasonable one now. This approach admits that God ordained the sex slave trade and we're just past it now. No, thanks. I'm not going with that answer.

Others suggest that this isn't real. It is indicative of a time, written about by men, not condoned in any way by God. It is simply the rules they made for themselves. It should not be used to reflect negatively on God. This, of course, eliminates the Bible as "the Word of God" and, as such, a reliable authority for faith and practice in the Christian life. Not going there, either.

Let's try out the text and see what it says. First, for purposes of transparency, I will point out that older translations indicate that she was sold as "a maidservant", but almost all newer translations say "slave". Having given that caveat, it should be abundantly clear that this is not intended to be a command. No father is commanded to sell his daughter. There is no command to do so. Instead, this is clearly an attempt to protect people in this condition. (We'll need to get to what "this condition" is, but let's finish this first.) The buyer can marry her, have his son marry her, allow her to be redeemed, or release her without obligation. He can't use her, sell her, abuse her, or diminish her. These are not bad things. These are protections.

"Yeah, sure," I can hear the critics saying, "but it's still a sex trade!" Why do they say that? Well, it says, "If she please not her master" which is clearly a reference to how good she is in bed. He takes her for a "trial spin" and if he "likes how she performs in bed", he can marry her. There it is, plain as day. Really? What in the text requires such a reading? Indeed, doesn't it violate the rest of the Law that forbids sex outside of marriage? Are we going to go with an irrational God as well as an evil one? I don't think so. So let's look at what else it might be saying.

First, the various translations do differ. Is it "slave" or not? The question is there because "slave" in the Near East in this time was a different concept than today. A "slave" could be someone owned for work or someone hired for work or even someone who was lower on the social ladder (see A History of Ancient Near Eastern Law (2 vols). Raymond Westbrook (ed). Brill:2003.). These don't really meet our vision of "slavery". Second, that culture operated on a different method of courtship ... as in, not at all. The parents arranged the marriages. Marriages included a price paid for the bride. Indeed, the dowry was called "the bride price". In other words, every father "sold" his daughter. It was a means of insuring her welfare. So there is ample reason to question whether or not this is slavery in the sense that we understand the term, and that is why the various translations differ.

Now, it would appear from the text that the family is in financial crisis and almost all commentators agree. This isn't the normal "bride search" kind of thing. The term applied for this situation is "concubine". Today's "concubine" is a mistress, not a wife, but among the people of those days, a concubine was a secondary wife, usually of inferior rank. It wasn't that they weren't considered married. It simply means that there was a "primary" wife and she was a "secondary" wife. Often, the concubine's offspring weren't considered heirs. So this would appear to be the situation here. The discussion is not regarding a sex slave trade, but protecting a daughter by giving her for the purpose of marriage to someone else for a price. Note that the purpose is clear. It is not a sex slave. No such possibility existed. The one who paid the price could marry her, give her in marriage, allow the debt to be paid by someone else, or release her without obligation. I'm looking ... I'm looking ... nope! Nothing in there about "Keep her around as a sex slave to abuse as he wishes."

It would appear to me that we're the victims again of a smear campaign without any real basis, lazy attackers intent on diminishing God and His Word. Slavery in those days was not the slavery we know. Further, marriages were arranged. Clearly this text is a protection scheme for people in financial problems who need to collect money. Their daughters are protected, offered as wives, and not as sex slaves. The only way to come to another conclusion is to begin with the premise that the only means by which a woman can please a man (Exo 21:8) is sexually. I would suggest that that is a thoroughly reprehensible perspective. We don't sell ourselves into jobs to pay off debts anymore and we don't think it's reasonable for parents to arrange marriages anymore (at least, most of us don't), but these are the things in view here, not selling into lifelong abuse and ownership. Sorry. That just doesn't work with the times, the text, or the character of God.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Fox News is reporting that David Berkowitz, the "Son of Sam" serial killer, has found Jesus in prison. He says he won't be seeking parole because he has found freedom in the forgiveness of Christ.

I have no idea if the claim is true. I have no idea if Mr. Berkowitz has come to Jesus. And at this point it's not my call. Nor is it my topic. My first thought when I read it was "I hope so." My second thought was "Will people think that's fair?"

Christianity stands (or falls) on this premise: You are saved from your sin and from an eternity apart from God if you place your faith in the blood of Christ who died for you. Fairly simple, but fair? The claim, you see, is that the Son of Sam killer might be going to heaven despite his notorious and horrendous murders, but that really nice atheist down the street who was good to his wife and kids and helped out at the food bank is going to Hell. Regardless of whether or not Berkowitz is among the saved, is the premise fair?

The question seems logical, but I'm sure if you think about it for just a moment you'll find the problem. The comparison between that nice guy down the street and that evil guy in prison is using the standard human measuring tape. "I'm much better than ..." and we'll figure out who the worst possible being is -- Hitler is ever popular -- "so I'm okay." Further -- and this is astounding when you think about it -- we would lay the accusation at the feet of God that He would be unfair if He did not recognize our good deeds.

The skeptic isn't alone in this faulty standard. We Christians balk at the idea. It's only natural. And that's the problem. We don't really get that our righteousness is as filthy rags. We don't really grasp that sin in one point is carries the guilt of all sin. What we fail to see is that "fair" would be damnation for all. We don't really want fair. We don't really want justice. What we really need is mercy. If we could actually see the horror of our sin through the eyes of God, then the silly question, "Is that fair?" wouldn't even come to our minds. The real hard part would be asking, "How is it even remotely possible that anyone gets saved?" And that's the first step of recognizing God's truly amazing grace.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


In a recent conversation with someone, we were discussing the problem of "submit" as meaning "respect" rather than "subordinate". This person suggested that we are all required to submit to one another (each of us to everyone) which obviously couldn't mean that all subordinate themselves to everyone, so "submit" must not mean "subordinate". No, we're all to respect each other. That's the only possible answer. Now, it's possible to pull this out of the air like that because my Bible actually does say, "Let the wife see that she respects her husband" (Eph 5:33). "There, see? It is defining the earlier 'submit' as 'respect'." Maybe.

First, I would actually define "submit" in Eph 5:21 by the texts that follow it. Wives submit "as to the Lord". Husbands submit by loving their wives "as Christ loved the Church." Children submit by obeying their parents. Slaves submit by obeying their masters. Masters submit by not threatening or dishonoring their slaves. All submit, but not all in the same way. But, hey, that's just me, right?

Beyond that, I made a simple mistake. I looked up the word "respect" used in Eph 5:33. Yeah ... shouldn't have done that. Why? Because the word used there is not "respect". It is phobeo, the verb form of phobos, our source of "phobia", and meaning the same thing -- fear. It is almost always translated as "fear" or "terror" and almost never as "respect" (or "reverence" in some). So, if we're going to use Eph 5:33 to define "submit", we'll need to do so with some accuracy ... and that would be fear.

But I had to ask myself, "Why do so many translations use 'respect' or 'reverence' here when in almost every other place it is 'fear'?" And then I thought, "Why ask myself? I know an honest-to-goodness Greek scholar. Ask him." This is what he told me:
Protestant translations tend to translate phobos and phobeo as "respect," "revere," or "reverence" because of a general failure to grasp the biblical distinction among the following concepts: "fright," "terror," "fear that," and "fear to." "Fright" or "terror" are appropriate translations of phobos in 1 John 4:17-18. "Fear that" is the kind of fear that subverts and destroys confidence. Anyone who "fears that" he will fall to his death should never go mountain climbing. "Fear that" is the kind of fear that an abused child has toward an abusive father. "Fear to" is proper fear. Anyone who does go mountain climbing had better be governed by "fear to fall," for such fear incites caution, preparedness, and the proper use of climbing gear. "Fear to" is godly fear, "fear to fail," "fear to incur God's anger." "Fear to" is the kind of fear that regulates behavior to be godly, pleasing to God, and to shun sinning that provokes God's displeasure. "Fear to" is the only kind of fear that is compatible with confidence and assurance. In fact, gospel-borne assurance of salvation always entails the godly "fear to fall and to perish."

Hence, when the NT exhorts wives to "fear" their husbands, it is certainly admonishing them to "revere" their husbands, but such "reverence" is generally an inadequate translation, for "reverence" must entail fear, "fear to" incur the husband's displeasure. Such fear is the godly kind of fear that governs a wife's conduct in relation to her husband. Such fear is the kind of fear that we all are to hold within our hearts toward those whom God has placed over us, for to hold such fear is to manifest the proper posture of fear ultimately toward God himself upward through the ranks of authority that God has established. We are to fear those who govern over us, not cowering in fright but fearing to incur their wrath, for God placed them in authority over us for good, not for evil (though many of them choose to do evil toward us). Cf. Romans 13:1-7.
If, then, you want to understand "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord" to mean what Eph 5:33 says it means, please, by all means, go right ahead. It means a fear of incurring the husband's wrath, a right fear that governs conduct, demands respect to those in authority, a fear that drives us to obey. Go ahead. Use that one. I'm okay with that.
Side Note: I wrote this post a day before I read this blog entry. Note just from the summary that "The following context specifies the kind of submission Paul has in mind" ... like I said up there in my second paragraph. The referenced material points out that "one another" cannot mean "everyone to everyone" because texts like Rev 6:4 ("Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another") become impossible. (Seriously, would anyone argue that everyone gets slain?) Imagine if we did that with 1 Cor 11:33, where we are told, "So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another." That would require that we never eat because we need to wait for everyone. Thus, there are obviously limits to "one another". When Paul told us to "bear one another's burdens" (Gal 6:2), he didn't mean "bear all burdens", but "bear the burdens of those who need help." Thus, "submit one to another" does not require "submit to everyone", but is explained in the texts that follow and does not correspond with an egalitarian reading of the text. But, you'll have to read the thing yourself. I just found it interesting to get such support right after writing this.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Does the Bible teach slavery?

Does the Bible teach slavery? Well, of course it does! Everyone knows that! Silly question! Or ... is it?

There is no doubt whatsoever that the word "slave" in its variety of forms (slave, slavery, bond-servant, servant, etc.) appears in the Bible. There is no doubt, either, that there are many regulations given in the Old Testament about slavery. I wish to point out first and foremost that nowhere does the Bible command slavery. So don't let anyone tell you otherwise. The biblical regulations around slavery limit slavery rather than command and endorse it.

One thing that should be noted right off the top is that biblical slavery was not the same thing that we moderns recognize as slavery. For instance, stealing a person and selling them was punishable by death (Exo 21:16). Further, the regulations in Exodus (ch 21) gave real protections to slaves. If a master knocked a tooth out, the slave was set free. Killing a slave resulted in the death penalty. They could only be kept for seven years unless they chose to remain. (Think about that. If slavery then was the same as the slavery we know, why would anyone want to choose it?) Note that slavery was primarily a means of paying off a debt. However, that debt was considered paid after 7 years regardless of how much was actually owed or paid in the transaction. In Deut 15, these laws are expanded. Not only did they have to release their slaves after 7 years, but they had to release them with goods. "You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the LORD your God has blessed you, you shall give to him" (Deut 15:14). Slavery of a sort existed, but it was not the same thing that we know today. Did you know that it was a matter of divine command that you were not allowed to return an escaped slave to his master (Deut 23:15-16)? This is not your great, great grandfather's slavery. It was not a matter of kidnapping or force. It was not a matter of ownership or lifelong bondage. Hebrews sold themselves into slavery. Nor was it a matter of cruelty, but, rather, protection.

Another reason we know this to be true is the repeated terminology of the New Testament. James, Peter, Jude, and Paul all referred to themselves happily as bond-servants -- doulos -- slaves of Christ. Further, Paul assured us that we are either slaves of sin or slaves of righteousness, and that, obviously, we should prefer the latter. Now, assuming that slavery is the evil that we think it to be, in what possible sense would Paul be pleased to be a bond-servant of Christ? How could that be a good thing? So it must be that our version of slavery is not the same thing as their earlier version.

Does the Bible approve of slavery? The Bible does not forbid it. But is that approval? I don't think so. Paul says, "Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) " (1 Cor 7:21). Apparently "free" is better than "slave".

In spite of all this, we end up with a bottom line question. Slavery isn't good. No matter what we say -- "It was different" "It's not the same as today's slavery" "There were regulations and protections" all that stuff -- what we cannot say is that slavery is good. It begs the question. Why didn't God simply outlaw it? Why didn't He say, "No slaves!" The question, of course, requires a delving into the mind of God to which we aren't privy. However, I think there is a possible parallel that might shed some light. In the book of Deuteronomy God gives instructions on divorce. He doesn't command divorce. He regulates it. In fact, He doesn't regulate divorce, but remarriage. Later we read, "I hate divorce" (Mal 2:16). So, wait, God, if You hate divorce, then why didn't You outlaw it rather than simply regulate it? We get the answer to that from the lips of none other than Jesus Himself. "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so" (Matt 19:8). Please note, then, that it may be that God does not approve of slavery (as He does not approve of divorce) but did not outlaw it (as He did not outlaw divorce) because of human hard-heartedness. As such, given what we know to be true about the parallel of divorce, it is not safe to say that the Bible approves of slavery just because it is not forbidden. Nothing in the Bible approves of slavery; it regulates it. It assumes it and gives rules for it. That is not "approval" like regulating divorce is not "approval".

One final point I wish to make. There are those who would like to say that the references to slavery were wrong and that the Bible is in error for it. I'm not speaking here about unbelievers. (From their perspective, the Bible is wrong about most everything.) I'm talking here about so-called believers. I need to point out Paul's statement on the topic.
Let all who are under a yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these things. If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain (1 Tim 6:1-5).
You can say what you wish about the biblical perspectives on slavery. Just keep in mind that Paul said that slaves were to honor their masters, and that those who held otherwise were teaching doctrines contrary to "the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ." That, by definition, is not "Christian".

Monday, August 22, 2011

Does the Bible teach ...?

Maybe I'll do a series here. Maybe an irregular series. I've heard too many of these accusations that the Bible teaches what you and I know to be wrong. Sometimes this stuff can be ignored as too stupid to visit, and sometimes it needs a response. So, does the Bible teach that a rapist is required to marry his victim?
If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days. (Deut 22:28-29 ESV)
And, of course, there it is in black and white. Or ... is it?

In the text at hand, there is a word used that may suggest, but does not require "rape". The text uses taphas -- to manipulate, that is, seize; chiefly to capture, wield; specifically to overlay; figuratively to use unwarrantably. It can merely mean "to overlay" (to lay on) or even "to use unwarrantably" or "to handle". Several commentators seize on "to manipulate" and suggest that the man simply seduces her. Compare this with verse 25:
But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. (Deut 22:25 ESV)
Both texts are translated in the ESV as "seize", but this is not the same word. The reference in verse 25 uses chazaq -- to fasten upon; hence to seize, to bind, restrain, conquer. It is a harsher word, indicating seizing by force. Thus, it would appear that what happens in verse 25 is not the same as what happens in verse 28. These are not the same words. They do not carry the same force. Further, if the author intended for them to be the same, he likely would have used the same word. Apparently, then, the intent is different.

Beyond the terminology, however, is the other text. Here is it in full.
But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her (Deut 22:25-27).
Why is the rapist (for in this case he is clearly that) executed but not the woman? In a previous scenario (adultery) both were executed. Why not in this case? In this case the man attacked and the woman resisted. That's what the text says. Thus, it is reasonable to surmise that in the case of Deut 22:28-29 the woman did not resist, the man did not attack, and this is not the same thing as either adultery or rape. Neither the text nor the context support the accusation that this text requires that a rapist marry his victim.

There is one more reason to think that this is not talking about a rapist marrying his victim. Deuteronomy is intended to be a repeat. The word means "second law" and you'll find that it echoes many sections of the Law from earlier accounts. Thus, this part, Deut 22:28-29, is an echo of an earlier account. As such, they should match. Do they?
If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins (Exo 22:16-17).
First, note that this doesn't even hint at rape. In this case, it is seduction. This is why John Gill says of the Deuteronomy passage that she is "yielding to it, and so is not expressive of a rape, as Deut 22:25 where a different word from this is there used; which signifies taking strong hold of her, and ravishing her by force; yet this, though owing to his first violent seizure of her, and so different from what was obtained by enticing words, professions of love, and promises of marriage, and the like, as in Exo 22:16 but not without her consent." Notice also that in the Exodus account the permission to do such a thing (marry) is in the hands of the father. He can deny it. The point, then, is protection of the daughter either by payment or by marriage without divorce.

One other minor point. Some of the older (medieval) commentators do call this rape. "There, see? They disagree with you!" Maybe. But keep in mind that the older, medieval use of the term "rape" made an unbreakable connection between "rape" and "seduction". That is, "rape" in medieval terms was defined as any unlawful sex. Thus, for a medieval commentator to refer to this passage in terms of "rape" is simply to affirm that such sex is unlawful. And one other minor point. There are no records anywhere in Jewish history of any woman who was raped and married her rapist. There are stories of women who were raped but did not marry their rapists, but none that would corroborate that this was the law.

Summarizing, then, text, context, parallel passages, and commentaries all say that this reference is not to rape as we understand it today. It would seem, then, that those who say it is either prove that God is immoral in His commands or that God is not reliable. Oh, wait, that's the same thing, isn't it? So why would someone who claims to trust God make such a claim? That's a question for someone else to answer.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Biblical Worship

If I use the word, "worship" in a phrase like "worship service", you'll likely have some images in your head. There are friendly faces, warm songs, probably a plate being passed. The pastor will give a good sermon and, hopefully, you will be "warmed and fed". You'll feel comforted and bolstered and ready to face the week. That's what likely comes to mind.

One might be tempted, while looking into worship, to look at what it looks like in the Bible. That is, what does God think it looks like? Look, for instance, at the glorious worship service in Isaiah 6. There are "songs" -- the magnificent "Holy, Holy, Holy" of the seraphim. But there's no "congregation" except Isaiah himself, and he's not exactly "heart-warmed". Or how about the sequel in Revelation 4 and 5. Now here we have a congregation. There are creatures and angelic beings and elders; quite a crowd. And it is indeed uplifting. But, you know, it's not what we imagine in our worship services.

The first thing you will notice in every biblical worship service is that the focus, the primary focus, practically the only focus is God. His glory, His character, His holiness, His majesty, it's all about Him. There doesn't seem to be any need for "relevance", entertainment, comfortable seating, even a plate to pass.

Maybe, just maybe, there's something there that we might want to learn. While we're trying to attract the unchurched and compete with the world's entertainment and provide for seekers, maybe what we really ought to be aiming at in our worship service is ... God. Well, at least, you and I can do that, right? Because if there is anything we can surely agree on, it's that He is worthy of praise.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Mistakes of History

I start this by saying I'm a "Protestant". By that I mean I'm not a Roman Catholic. I do not subscribe to the Roman Catholic structure of authority. In their structure, the way you determine what we are to believe and how we are to live is threefold: The Church, the Bible, and Tradition. By "the Church", of course, they mean mostly "papal authority" as well as whatever else the Roman Catholic Church declares to be true. (That is, it's not the individuals of the Church, nor individual reading of Scripture, nor personal tradition. Nor is it culture, society, or "the norm".) I am not one who is in that structure.

Having said that, I do have a deep respect for Church history. When Jesus promised His disciples to send the Holy Spirit, He told them, "He will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13). I take that very seriously. I believe, then, that the canon was closed by the end of the Apostles' lives (including Paul). It was recognized by the mid 4th century, but it was closed when God's direct Apostles (messengers) finished writing it. "All truth." The part that followed -- some 2000 years now -- has been explanation, clarification, and correction. Given the fact that the Spirit would lead Christ's disciples into all truth, and given the fact that Jesus said, "I will build My church", I believe, then, that orthodox Christianity -- that Christianity which is based on God's true doctrines -- has existed from that time. Thus, if I have orthodox beliefs, I should be able to trace them back to the beginning, or I would be concerned. Therefore, I have a deep respect for Church history because in it I can compare what I believe with what has been believed for the history of the Church and see if I've strayed or if I'm on track.

It is, then, with some amazement that I see so many voices being lifted today declaring something new. Oh, it's not just today, to be sure. The current popular eschatological view of the "pre-Trib Rapture" -- the whole "Dispensational Premillenialism -- didn't make its appearance until the mid 1800's. But it seems like we have a new "crop", so to speak, coming up these days. We're quite sure, for instance, that even though the Church has always held a patriarchal view of authority and family that they were always mistaken and, thanks to modern views, we've finally figured out that such a perspective was wrong. We know today that, even though marriage has always been the union of a man and a woman that today it is simply "a union" which could include any gender (although, apparently, they're not willing to embrace multiple partners or, for that matter, multiple genders, a really new thing). Homosexual behavior has always been seen as a violation of God's law, but today our fine Bible scholars have figured out that it never meant to say such a thing and all those centuries of Bible readers were wrong, wrong, wrong.

It only gets more amazing when you look at matters like the ones I've listed as compared with the matters in which the Church has encountered disagreements. They've fought (sometimes literally) about quite a lot of things. How are we saved? Who is Jesus? What books are in the Bible? What is the nature of the Atonement? What is the proper method of baptism? What is the proper version of the Bible? What do we name our churches? (Seriously, they've actually disagreed on that, too.) Lots and lots of disagreements. So when you find agreement on a topic -- unbroken agreement -- one would think that such a thing should be settled. So, while there have been a variety of eschatological theories and there have been large battles on the divinity of Christ, the Church has always held that wives are to submit to their husbands (to rank themselves under their husbands' authority), that the Bible is patriarchal in its approach to the Church and to family, that homosexual behavior is a sin, and that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. These have been set without question for 2000 years and beyond. Yet these are the new "mistakes of Church history".

It is absolutely baffling to me how anyone decides that "We've figured it out and they've been wrong all this time!" I've never actually heard anyone say that, but there is no other possible conclusion when they hold up as true that which contradicts the Church convictions of the millennia. No, the Church doesn't get to determine what is true or not. On the other hand, if Jesus is to be trusted and if the Holy Spirit is to be reliable, then it would seem to me that new things would be inconceivable, that new doctrines and interpretations would make no sense at all. The alternative, to me, is to say that Jesus was mistaken and that the Holy Spirit was incapable and that would make it, well, not Christian, wouldn't it?

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Bible Front

In a post last week I talked about the reason for particular items being on the "Christian agenda". Why are we so vocal these days about abortion and homosexual behavior, for instance, when there is such greed and sexual sin and adultery around? I said it was because that's where the fight is taking place. The analogy I used was a breach in the wall. I need to point out another such breach that doesn't currently appear to be getting the battle it deserves.

In a recent Barna Group Poll they reported changes in Christendom since 1991. A repeated theme among the changes was summed up here:
The largest change in beliefs was the ten-point decline in those who firmly believe that the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches. Only 43% of self-identified Christians now have such a strong belief in the Bible.
That's where we are today. Less than half of those who consider themselves "Christians" do not believe that they have a reliable source book, an accurately documented set of principles by which to live the Christian life. Is there any wonder, then, that those who classify themselves as "Christians" have such diversity of beliefs? Is there any wonder that we can hardly present a common voice in matters like abortion and homosexual behavior or marriage or even the old standby, sex outside of marriage. We have removed our basis for taking a position.

The funny thing (perhaps "funny" is the wrong word) is that this is a relatively new thing. Oh, sure, it is also as old as the earliest sin. Satan began with "Did God say ...?" But for centuries of Christendom, amidst wild and even violent disagreements, there was no question about the veracity of Scripture; just the meaning. The fight only began in the last two hundred years or so with "higher criticism". We've gone from the liberal attacks in the 19th century to the mainstream disavowal of the inerrancy of Scripture. We're reaping the rewards now.

The Reformation based its entire approach on sola scriptura, the belief that the Bible was the sole authority in matters of faith and practice. Having torn loose from the moorings of the Roman Catholic Church with its authority-base of Church, Scripture, and Tradition, we're now left with ... nothing. Tradition? Discarded. The Church? Nice to have around, perhaps, but certainly not authoritative. And now Scripture cannot be trusted. We've moved from an inerrant Bible to a Bible that contains the Word of God to a Bible that can't be trusted at all.

Scripture says, "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it" (Isa 55:10-11). Scripture says, "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Rom 10:17). Scripture says, " All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16-17). Scripture, then, holds a high view of Scripture. When we surrender that high view and succumb to the Enemy's "Did God say ...?", we end up with nowhere to stand. This is a battlefront worthy of our attention.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What do you do with this?

Remaining consistent with the text and your theology ...
Divine Blinding
But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him (Luke 24:16).

Human Culpability
And He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" (Luke 24:25).

Divine Revelation
And their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him (Luke 24:31).
Does your theology allow for a God who blinds, holds humans responsible for their lack of belief, and opens eyes without permission?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Where Your Treasure Is

We all know that verse, don't we? "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt 6:21). We get that. We know that to be true. You will put your heart into those things that you consider important. Conversely, although you say something or other is important, if you aren't putting your heart into it, it's just not the case. You don't really believe it.

What is it that we treasure? Read the headlines and you might get a picture.
Plastic Surgery Booms for Older Americans
83-Year-Old Gets Breast Implants to Keep Up With Kids

America's Disease is Greed
Fear and greed supplant rationality
There are a couple of items for starters. What do we as a culture treasure? Well, look at where our hearts are. Look at where we are spending our time, energy, efforts. Youth and beauty on one hand, and "more" -- greed -- on the other. You could try, but I think you'd be hard pressed to defend any notion that these two factors are not major "treasures" in our culture. Looking good, being "young", and having "stuff", these are prime movers for so many of us. Other values like "self-sacrifice" and "cooperation" and "generosity" and even "family" are far less important to us when measured on the "where your heart is" scale.

As a matter of worldly views, I suppose it's entirely one might expect. As a matter of those seeking to follow Christ, I would think you'd agree that these "treasures" would be problematic. So, what does your life, your effort, your value system, your time say about what you treasure? I'm not asking what you say you treasure. I'm asking if your life reflects it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Christianity and the Crusades

This is one of those "gotchas", one of those accusations we get where we typically hang our heads in shame and admit, "Yeah, that was bad." One source explains it like this: "One of the most famous examples of religious violence in the Middle Ages is of course the Crusades - attempts by European Christians to impose their vision of religion upon Jews, Orthodox Christians, heretics, Muslims, and just about anyone else who happened to get in the way." Now, if you're like me, you read that and sputter a protest. "Wait, that's not right." In fact, back in 2000, the Pope apologized for the Crusades (and more). So actually answering it can be difficult.

My pat answer has been the problem of "in Christ's name". Just because something is done in the name of Christ or in the name of Christianity doesn't make it Christian. Faced with an accusation from a coworker some time ago -- "Oh, you're one of those Christians, one of those who brought about the Crusades" -- I answered this way. "Imagine that I come to you one day and pull out a gun and tell you, 'I'm going to have to kill you.' You say, 'Hey! Wait! Why?' I tell you, 'Your wife told me to.' You say, 'That can't be; my wife loves me.' Why is it that someone who claims to do something in the name of your wife is immediately discounted because you know your wife better than that, but someone who claims to do something in the name of Christ is accepted at face value even though we know Christ better than that?" Just because the claim is made that "Christianity" did it is no reason to actually accept the accusation as fact when it goes against what Christ taught and what Christianity holds.

That is a decent answer, I think, but there is certainly more. It is decent because it admits that the Crusades (and such) were a bad thing. I wouldn't want to suggest otherwise. It wasn't a Christian thing, but it wasn't a good thing either. It was wrong. And, still, there is more information available to consider when thinking this over.

We live in a day of "correctness" where it's right to insult Christians but wrong to cast aspersions at Islam. This is problematic when you consider the question from a historical viewpoint. As it happens, the Crusades, as bad as they were, took place in a time period of violent Islamic expansion. Right after their prophet, Muhammad, died, the Muslims launched their own Crusades. They set out for conquest, to forcibly inflict Islam on the world. And they were good at it. Islam called the conquered "converts", but the option was "convert or die". And over a period of these Crusades, they pushed through all of the Arab world including Palestine and Jerusalem, northern Egypt, and parts of Spain, Italy, France, Sicily, Ghana, and India. They held large swathes on three continents ... all before the better-known Crusades began. The original seats of Christendom, including Jerusalem and Nicea, fell to the Muslim invasion. Finally, the closest Christian government (governments back then were not divided as much in "Church and State" type divisions) begged for help against the invading forces from the other European Christian forces. And the Crusades that we are aware of were begun.

How did the two Crusades differ? Both were bloody. Both were ruthless. Both were evil. Both were even executed in the name of religion. The first, however, was consistent with the writings of Islam and happily attempted to force their beliefs by use of offensive force. The second violated the teachings of Christianity but tried to stop the advance of Islam in response to being attacked.

Check the facts. You know that the world hates Christ and His followers (John 15:18), so don't expect an unbiased account from the world, but the facts are there for you to read. It wasn't simply a matter of Christian aggression against a peaceful expansion of the "religion of peace". It wasn't some simple act of greed or a lust for conquest and power that fueled these wars. And they were not consistent with Christianity itself. These are facts that rarely get floated when the accusation is set on your table, "You Christians ... you're the cause of a lot of death and suffering!" The truth might be in order here.

(For additional info you might read this interesting blog entry.)

Monday, August 15, 2011


They asked Bachmann whether she would be submissive to her husband and it brought complaints from all sides. "You can't ask that!" Bachmann took it in stride. "Marcus and I will be married for 33 years this September 10th. I'm in love with him. I'm so proud of him. And both he and I -- what submission means to us, if that's what your question is, it means respect. I respect my husband. He's a wonderful, godly man, and a great father. And he respects me as his wife." But she didn't answer the question. Or, rather, she did.

I think it's a viable question. Indeed, I think it's an extremely important question. Unfortunately, popular culture has managed to redefine another simple word. We used to understand that "love" was not the direct equivalent of "sex" and that "marriage" meant "man and woman". And we used to understand that "submit" and "respect" are not equivalent terms. Fortunately we figured out in time that Paul was quite wrong when he said, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord" and the more reasonable among us realized that he really meant "mutual submission" and that whole stupid idea that a wife should actually submit to her husband was, well, totally wrong ... for the last 2000 years.

Assuming, on the other hand, that the Bible actually meant that wives were supposed to submit to their husbands as to the Lord (seriously, how does anyone come up with "mutual submission" there, as if the Lord submits to her, too?), go back to the question to Michelle Bachmann. If the command really meant that wives are supposed to submit, what is the reality of a Christian wife in office? How would it look if a Christian wife actually intended to be a biblical wife and the president of the United States? Now, that really is a good question.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

O Worship the King

By Robert Grant
O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.

O tell of His might, O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space,
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.

The earth with its store of wonders untold,
Almighty, Thy power hath founded of old;
Established it fast by a changeless decree,
And round it hath cast, like a mantle, the sea.

Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.

O measureless might! Ineffable1 love!
While angels delight to worship Thee above,
The humbler creation, though feeble their lays,
With true adoration shall all sing Thy praise.
1 Ineffable: incapable of being expressed or described in words.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Slippery Slope Fallacy

A common logical fallacy that gets tossed around as if it's a "good argument" is the "slippery slope fallacy". You know this one. "If they register guns, that will lead to seizing guns, and then where will we be?" "If they legalize marijuana, how long before meth is legalized??!" "If you make embryonic stem cell research legal, pretty soon they'll be killing babies for testing!" I'm pretty sure most of you won't remember this one, but "If Vietnam falls to the Communist, pretty soon the entire region will be Communist." The "slippery slope fallacy" is a logical fallacy. It is not a good argument.

On the other hand, because such an argument is a logical fallacy does not mean that the slippery slope doesn't happen. So, while lots of people were complaining, "If they redefine marriage to include 'same-sex' couples, how long far behind will polygamy be?", others were waving them off. "Slippery slope fallacy! Bad argument." Yes, a poor argument, but ... it is actually happening. In fact, it's not just in America, but in Canada as well. The Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) has filed petitions with the court to legalize their "marriages" (if you don't know what polyamory is, you will not get the impact of such a statement). In fact, this kind of stuff is upsetting the gay-rights advocates because it really looks bad when the warning comes true.

"Slippery slope" is not a good argument ... but that doesn't mean it's wrong.

Friday, August 12, 2011

He Who Is Without Sin

I write a lot of stuff without tags or labels. It's just "miscellaneous", so to speak. However, on the topics of both "same-sex marriage" and "homosexual", I have labels. That's because I've written about these topics enough to deserve attention. The questions, of course, are somewhat obvious: "Why here? Why now?" Why does this topic make it to my "hit list", so to speak, while so many others do not? Why am I not writing about the sin of greed or the sin of adultery or the sin of taxing the rich (okay, I just threw that last one in for fun)? Why this subject?

Hanging around at the edges of these questions are the echoes of Jesus's words, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone." The ever popular, "Judge not lest you be judged." "Are you saying that you're without sin?" "Are you saying that this is the worst sin?" You see, there are questions behind the questions and suggestions behind the questions.

For the record, I need to say first that I am not without sin. Indeed, in order to be a Christian it is mandatory that you confess your sin, that you admit your need for Christ, that you recognize your utter sinfulness. Good people do not need Christ. And I am not a good person. The only righteousness I possess is that which is given to me by Christ. The only time I do good is when God works in me to do it. And I am certainly not "sin free". Christianity is, in a sense, a "losers' club", and I'm a sin-loser thankful for the grace and mercy offered and received.

For the record, I also need to say this: I would not say that homosexual behavior is the worst sin on the market. I agree that the Bible indicates that there are levels of sin, that some sins are worse than others, and that, while all sin is punishable by eternal death, for some that eternal punishment will be worse than for others. As such I do not believe that homosexual behavior falls in the category of "worst". Clearly rejecting Christ is worse. Clearly idolatry is worse. There are worse sins. And, in my mind, heterosexual sin outside of the context of marriage is just as bad as homosexual sin. All this to say that, well, I would not say that homosexual behavior is the worst sin on the market.

So why is it such an issue? Well, the Bible often describes the Christian life in terms of warfare. You know, "take up the whole armor of God", "your enemy the devil", that sort of thing. How is war waged? Well, you go to where the incursion is, to where the battle is. You go where the breach in the wall is occurring. I mean, you may very well say, "Omaha is important," but if Omaha is not threatened, placing your fighting forces there would be silly. So you go where the fight is occurring. Today, the fight is occurring on the sexual battleground and on the marriage battleground. It is occurring on the sanctity of life battleground. There are problems with greed and adultery and pride and on and on, and those need to be fought as well, but right now the breach in the wall is here. That's why here and now.

The problem that gets lost, however, is the humanity on both sides. While we rail against this sin or that, we often forget the sinners. While we raise the rally flag on this hill or that, we also forget that we ourselves are vulnerable. Both sides. We are not saying that those who commit homosexual sins are worse sinners. They are just as badly in need of salvation as those who commit any other sin. Nor are we saying we are "holier than thou". The author of Hebrews wrote, "We do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb 4:15). Paul wrote, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Cor 1:3-4). Thus, it is with a mind to our own frailty, our own sinfulness, that we must compassionately face these issues. It tends to rule out militance and allow for love while we "stand against the schemes of the devil". We don't need to take moral ground; we need to take Gospel ground. Sinners don't need to become better people; they need salvation. And we aren't morally superior; we're just people that, knowing the pain and suffering of our own sin, are offering a better way to others. We are not without sin. Casting stones just isn't the issue here. Nor are sinners the enemy.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

As Old As You Feel

I was teasing a friend about getting old. She said, "I'm only as old as I feel." Truism, right? A study indicates that there is some truth to it. Women tend to feel old younger and men tend to feel old older, but, as it turns out, the elderly tend to feel 13 years younger than they really are ... and it is to their benefit. Feeling younger, they can be more active which has its own anti-aging benefits. You know, a self-fulfilling prophecy, sort of.

But there are a lot of things lurking around in that statement that ought to be examined. First, notice the determining factor: "I feel." That's where we are today -- determining facts by how we feel. Now that can be dangerous.

Notice the underlying principle: Getting old is bad. That is our culture today. Sadly, it's not biblical. "A gray head is a crown of glory; It is found in the way of righteousness" (Prov 16:31). "Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father" (1 Tim 5:1).

It's good to remain active. I'm all for it. I'm in favor of not worrying about age. It would be nice, however, if we would learn not to determine truth by how we feel, and if we learned that forgotten value of respecting age rather than worshiping youth. Because getting older isn't necessarily bad; it is often accompanied with wisdom. Because while there may be some truth to the adage, "You're only as old as you feel", there is no truth to the claim "You're always as wise as you feel." That just doesn't work.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


The commentaries I read on the passage I posted (Mal 1:2-3) about God loving Jacob and hating Esau often go along these lines: "It isn't an actual hatred, but a comparative hatred." They will often point to Jesus's words "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). That, again, is a comparative hatred. That is, next to the vast love of Jacob, God's perspective on Esau looked like hate and compared to the vast love of God, what we have toward father and mother etc. would look like hate. Maybe. I'm not going to settle that here.

It brings up a point, however. We do live in a world of comparisons. Modern Christians are aware of the threat of relativism and we want to fight it off, but the fact remains that many things in life are indeed a matter of relativism. If we fail to keep that in mind, we will fail to grasp some important things in life.

Take, for instance, the recent Heritage Foundation study that painted an odd picture of American poor. Apparently nearly 99% have televisions and 90% have microwaves and 80% have at least one VCR and cable or satellite TV. Nearly 79% have DVD players, 76% have cell phones, 68% have computers, and 60% have Internet service. None of this is to begrudge them their amenities. The point is that the "poor" in America aren't as poor as you'd like to think. Sure, they fall below the "poverty line", but that's in terms of income. Since the international poverty line is someplace around $1 a day, I'd think that an extremely small number of Americans would be classified as "poor". You see, it's relative. Compared to the rich in America, there is a vast gap. But that is a faulty comparison, given the apparently less-than-impoverished lifestyle of most of America's poor.

Take, for instance, the nature of "good" and "bad". A "good dog" is not the same thing as either a "good meal" or a "good man". No one questions that. Our use of "good" is not an absolute; it's a comparison. Consider the atheist whose standard of "good" is necessarily their own standard since no "Lawgiver", no "Moral Absolute" exists. The best such a person can say is "I'm good by my own standard" and no one can refute it by any absolute standard because there is no such thing. The "good" atheist who helps the poor is no better or worse than the "good" atheist who favors killing humans to save the planet as long as either one is meeting their own standard. A genuine Christian, on the other hand, is in the opposite predicament. Given the absolute standard of God's Law and the example of Christ, no Christian could ever say, "I'm good" because none of us get even close to "good" in relation to that standard.

Along those same lines, we all know that the "Gospel" means "good news", but in what sense is it "good"? It's only "good" in comparison. Comparison to what? The bad news -- "All have sinned." The bad news -- "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." That's bad news. And in that genuinely bad news we can then see the good news -- "By grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." The good news becomes genuine in contrast to the bad -- "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ." If we didn't know we were dead and damned, telling us He made us alive and saved us would be pointless. Now, it's good.

We are often opposed to relativism, and rightly so. On the other hand, we live in a relative world. The poor Americans aren't as poor as we've been led to believe. The good atheists have little ground on which to stand. And the good news of the Gospel is vastly good in view of the bad news of our condition without Christ. I'm sure, if you think about it, you can find even more of these relativistic-but-true things to consider.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Jacob I Loved

I heard a preacher the other day speaking on Malachi. He came to the passage in the first chapter that says, "'Was not Esau Jacob's brother?' declares the LORD. 'Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation, and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness'" (Mal 1:2-3). The preacher went on to say that this passage is echoed in Paul's epistle to the Romans, so it was important to be clear what God was saying here. "He was talking not about individuals, but about groups. He was talking about the nation of Israel and the nation of Edom." And, of course, this is the popular contradiction to seeing Romans 9 as an abundantly clear presentation of the doctrine of Election.

Well, I thought about it. And I had a couple of questions.

The first question was regarding the general referencing of Old Testament passages in the New Testament. As an example, Isaiah speaks of a virgin (or maybe even a "maiden" as if that makes a difference) who will give birth. Matthew says that prophecy was fulfilled in the Virgin Mary's having borne Jesus. Is Matthew's reference the same as Isaiah's? Maybe not. Later Matthew tells how Joseph and Mary spent a couple years in Egypt, fulfilling Hosea's "When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son" (Hos 11:1). Clearly in this example Hosea was referencing something different than Matthew. Hosea was talking about Israel coming out of Egypt and Matthew saw it as a prophecy. This may sound like an error or a contradiction, but given the inspiration of the Spirit, there is no reason that both could not be true. The point, then, is that not all Old Testament references in the New Testament necessarily rely on their Old Testament contexts. So if the Malachi reference is in terms of Israel and Edom, why could it still not be in terms of Jacob and Esau as individuals when Paul uses it?

The second question, though, struck me as I looked at the passage itself. Note that God indeed is talking about Israel and Edom. No question. Still, He speaks first in terms of individuals. I say "first" because He seems to start with individuals (Jacob and Esau) and move on from there. He starts with Esau but then expands "I have hated Esau" to include "and ... his inheritance". The question, then, is this. When God said, "I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau", did He mean "Oh, I don't mean those guys as individuals, but the nations they spawned" or did He mean "I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I carried that on to their offspring"?

It would seem to me that given the fact that the New Testament relies more on the inspiration of the Spirit than formulaic hermeneutical principles when it references the Old Testament, and that God seemed to begin with individuals as He carried out His warnings to Edom that it is entirely possible and even likely that Paul's reference in Romans 9 is indeed a reference to individual election and not some nebulous "group election" concept.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Peace, Man

Peace. It's what so many are seeking. It's what so few are finding. That seems odd given how many voices are out there offering it. There is the Zen approach to life where you picture peaceful things (lack of peace is just a state of mind ... change your mind) and there is the positive thinking approach where you tell yourself you have it. There are psychology experts who attempt to help us deal with the stress of life and financial experts who try to help us deal with the stress of finances. We try to develop tools like squishing a ball or running from life (in a vast variety of ways). "Sex and drugs and rock and roll" was the chant of a former generation, but they remain popular methods of relieving stress. And despite all of this and so much more, peace seems elusive.

Could it be that we're looking in the wrong place? Paul seemed to think so. He said, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:6-7). If you look at Paul's formula, it isn't really a formula. He isn't offer a 12-step program to relieve stress or a positive-thinking approach to get you feel at peace. What he claims is a method that "surpasses all comprehension". Thus, it isn't a method, but simply entering into the rest God provides.

How is that accomplished then? "In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Peter offered the same method. "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7). Admittedly this is counterintuitive. You don't think, "Telling God my concerns will provide peace", but that's the approach. On the other hand, it's a method that "surpasses all comprehension", so you wouldn't expect it to make sense.

In thinking about this, two stories from Christ's life came to mind. There are two separate accounts of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee in a storm. In one of them, He slept. The disciples had to wake Him up and ask for help. (Of course, when He helped them, "They became very much afraid" (Mark 4:36-41).) In the other (most famous) event, Jesus actually walked on the sea in the storm. If you recall in that story, Peter also walked on the water, but his fear of the storm caused him to sink. Note that in both cases Jesus was at peace. This was interesting to me because He wasn't at peace because He had solved all life's problems. The storms remained. He wasn't at peace because He was a positive thinker or visualized peace. He was at peace because He knew the God He served and trusted Him. He was, then, enjoying a peace that passed understanding because He handed His concerns to His Father.

There is a shortage of peace these days, with political and economic and moral and spiritual upheavals. There is no shortage of methods by which to gain peace even though they're not very effective. Perhaps, if you're lacking in peace, you might try the method of the Author of the Universe -- prayer with thanksgiving. Because, after all, He cares for you.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


The Barna Group has brought us another study that tells us of "significant changes" in the church in the last 20 years. That we need a study to tell us that might in itself be a sad statement. But what changes do they see?

They see declines in church attendance, Sunday school attendance, volunteerism, Bible reading, and the claim of being "Christian". There has been a drop in those who claim to have made a personal commitment to Christ and a drop in those who believe that "God is the all-knowing, all-powerful and perfect Creator of the universe who still rules the world today," a sharp decline in confidence in the accuracy of Scripture (even in the principles it teaches), and a drop in those who are "born again".

The news isn't all bad. The numbers of Protestants claiming to be "born again" are up by 8%, and personal evangelism has increased in this group. Still, even among Protestants the Bible is on the "chopping block" as less than reliable.

Any parent paying attention would be a bit concerned. While your children are at home, you have some control. But you know the day will come when they leave the nest. What then? College is, as we all know, a killer. American skepticism is rising. Cultural forces are not in favor of Christ or the Bible. It is a daunting situation. It's a simple matter of statistics that as few as 4% of Christian youth will remain in the church. (Frankly, that's a "worst case" concept. Better numbers from other sources range from 61% at the low end to 88% at the upper end.)

So, given the general decline in the Church in America and the particular threat to young church people today, what are we to do? Will there be a "next generation"? Are we seeing, as more than one pundit has suggested and more than one Christian in private has intimated, the end of the Church in America?

I'd like to encourage you on this, the Lord's Day. All of the above information might be discouraging and worrisome. So here's what Jesus said: "I will build My church" (Matt 16:18). What is it, then, that gets people into the Church? It is not heredity or birth. Neither is it the proper parenting or schooling. It is not good arguments or careful apologetics. It is Christ. It is the operation of the Holy Spirit. It is the omnipotence of a Sovereign God. What is it that will keep the genuine Church of Christ from vanishing? It is that same God of the universe, that same Spirit, that same Christ. What will keep our kids from leaving? It is the change wrought in their hearts not brought about by our care and feeding, but by God's work in them. Or, in Jesus's words, despite any cultural or popular problem, "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out" (John 6:37). Good start, eh? And the end? "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day" (John 6:39).

Do you want to fear something? How about this: "Let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it" (Heb 4:1). Yeah, rest. Fear missing that, because it is available. But the possibility of God losing His Church, of Christ losing His bride, of His Sovereign Will being turned aside, these are not in the realm of reality. Rest, then. Teach your kids. Defend the faith. Demonstrate your genuine relationship with Christ. And rest in Him. He cannot fail.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

An Argument from Silence

As hard to believe as it might be for some Bible-believing Christians, there are actually those who will tell you that "The Bible is not opposed to homosexuality" and certainly follow that with, "And God favors gay marriage." Inherent in these claims is the problem of language (using "homosexuality" like it's a condition rather than a choice of actions, using "gay" for what it was not originally intended, and using "marriage" to mean something it never has before), but there is another inherent problem. The Bible doesn't say any such thing.

Look, I could offer you links to places that argue why the Bible is not opposed to homosexual behavior or why God favors "same-sex marriage", or, most likely, both, but what is missing in these links is the simple truth of the situation. These are arguments from silence. Consider the following:

1. There are no positive references in the Bible to homosexual behavior.

2. All possible references to homosexual behavior are negative references -- sin.

3. All references to marriage in the Bible that include any gender are always in terms of "male and female", "husband and wife".

4. There are no biblical references to two people of the same gender being married.

None of this is up for dispute. Those who argue otherwise openly admit that "it appears as if" the Bible is opposed to homosexual behavior before they go on to explain that it is a mistake to assume that what it appears to say is what it intended to say. Any argument, then, that favors homosexual behavior or expanding the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples does so from biblical silence.

Not only is the Bible vocal in its opposition and silent on its support, but so also is the Church. For the entire history of the Church and Judaism before that, homosexual behavior of all types was considered sin. It has ever been thus up until the late 20th century. Now, if you think about that for just a moment, that is phenomenal. I mean, the Church has had disagreements about a lot of stuff. They've disagreed about everything from which books should be in the Bible to whether or not Jesus was God. They disagreed about how we get saved and how we stay saved. They disagreed about modes of baptism, who to baptize, and the effects of baptism. They have disagreed about so very many aspects of things "Christian" that one might begin to wonder if there has ever been agreement on anything. Well, dear reader, allow me to answer that question. In all the history of the Church, there has never been disagreement on the moral nature of homosexual behavior. It has always been classified as a sin. Further, while the outworking of marriage has had its variations, the definition has always been the same -- the union of man and woman. Look at that! Two things on which the Church in all its phases and infighting all agree!

Enter the late 20th century. Now we're being told that, while the Bible has nothing positive to say about homosexual behavior, it's wrong to conclude that it is opposed to it. You'd be incorrect in assuming that, just because every biblical reference to such acts classify them as sin, all such acts are sin. And just because all biblical references to marriage are in terms of "husband and wife", "man and woman", is no reason to think that this is the only option even though there are absolutely no references to any other kind of "marriage". I just read in John where Jesus told His disciples, "When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13). The conclusion appears to be that He failed to do so for 2000 years, that the Church has always been wrong on this topic and the definition of marriage, and that now the enlightened few have arrived at the correct meaning for which no apparent biblical or historical support can be offered. "It doesn't mean what it obviously appears to mean" is the best argument you're going to get. And the apparent arrogance of the claim, "We got it right even though no one prior to our generation has ever seen this" is lost on those making the claim. It is, at best, an argument from silence. It is, at worst, a lie from the father of lies.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Not Under the Law

It's a happy phrase in Scripture. Paul writes in Romans 6:14 "For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace." Woohoo!! We're free of the law! Yippee!! We're free to sin all we want! Okay, now, most people won't go there, even though the phrase might suggest it. In fact, Paul goes on to say, "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!" (Rom 6:15).

Still, this "not under the law" phrase is very popular among modern Christians. It means we don't have to worry about the law, right? Now, when I ask that question, most genuine Christians will become at least vaguely uncomfortable. "It's a trap!" Some will indeed argue for antinomianism -- the position that there is no law and when you're a Christian you can do whatever you want. But most of us know that can't be the case. And a very small amount of searching tells us that "sin is lawlessness" (1 John 3:4). Thus it cannot mean we are without the law. So what does it mean to say that we're not under the law?

Well, Paul gives a hint over in Galatians. "If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law" (Gal 5:18). Notice in that statement there is a condition, a requirement. To be "not under the law" in this reference you have to first be led by the Spirit.

Over in his first letter to Corinth, Paul says:
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law (1 Cor 9:19-21).
Note here that Paul says that he became "as under the Law" in order to win Jews even "though not being myself under the Law." There it is again. He goes on to say that he became "as without law" to win those who are without the law to win them as well. However, notice what he says there. It's not that he is without the law. He is "under the law of Christ". Thus, while he is not without the law, neither is he under the Law. Elsewhere, in the very portion where Paul assures us that we are justified by grace through faith, Paul also said, "Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law" (Rom 3:31).

Many have used this concept to say that we have no obligation to keep the Jewish laws. There is the artificial construct of "ceremonial laws" and "moral laws" which we can reason through, but isn't actually found in Scripture. (I'm not saying it's not there; I'm simply saying it's not explicit.) And many, perhaps most, use this "not under the law" as proof. Unfortunately, the result, if followed to its logical conclusion, is lawlessness, or what John calls "sin".

What, then, could it mean? If we are not under the law, but not without the law, how does that work? Well, clearly there are two errors to avoid. First is the error of legalism -- salvation by works. You don't get to heaven by doing what the law says. The second mistake is just as wrong, but off the other side of the road. The position that we have no law falls in the biblical category of "the definition of sin". The truth, then, must be between these two errors.

This can become clear if we examine "not under" versus "not without". You see, for those who are "under the law" there are legal consequences. For instance, the Mosaic Law prescribed death for adultery. Clearly that's not the case anymore. Does that mean that adultery is no longer sin? Not at all! We're not without the law; we're just not under it. The law, then, serves as a description of what God likes and dislikes. He describes, for instance, some sins in Scripture as "an abomination", but if you'll note, some of them are abominable "to you" and others are abominable to Him. Thus, those sins that He finds abominable would be good to avoid. (Note, for instance, that the dietary "abominations" are abominable "to you".)

The law is no longer the weight on the backs of those who follow God. The penalty of the law has been taken by Christ. We are no longer under that penalty. But we are not without the law. The law provides instruction. It guides the believer. It restrains the unbeliever. It stands opposed to sin. Paul says that it also ignites sin in the unbeliever, serving the purpose of demonstrating his sinfulness. The law provides a standard for Christian sanctification. We are not without the law while we are not under the law. It's important that we don't jettison the law in our joy of being out from under it.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Other Christianity

I've argued on a range of doctrines for a few years in this blog. I've argued that God is sovereign, that He is absolutely sovereign, that nothing happens without His knowledge and plan. I've argued that God is omniscient and, as such, nothing happens without His knowledge and plan. I've argued that God is the First Cause, that He even initiates calamity and plans for evil which remains evil but that He uses for His good purposes. I've argued that the god of this world has blinded unbelievers, and that Natural Man is dead in sin, hostile to God, unable to respond rightly to God's call for salvation. As such, regeneration must precede faith. There is a Search function on this blog and you can look any of this up that you wish to find it. Or just click on some of the categories like Providence, Reformed Theology, or Sovereignty and Suffering. It's not secret. And, of course, I've recently argued that the one who is born of God is incapable of making an ongoing practice of sin without guilt, remorse, or repentance.

All of this is biblically clear to me and I don't even know how to go elsewhere. You'd think that wouldn't be true because I came from elsewhere, but now that I'm here, anywhere else is just plain irrational to me. Why? Well, let me describe the "other Christianity", my perception of what Christianity would look like if the stuff I wrote in the first paragraph were not true. You can see for yourself how pleasant I might find such a Christianity.

Assuming God is "sovereign" in the sense that so many mean it where God's "sovereignty" is sovereignly surrendered to Man's "Free Will", we would live in a terrifying world. God would be constantly mopping up after our mistakes and working at making all things work together for good. In fact, that would be, practically speaking, impossible. The only "good" then would be "Well, you made it to heaven" and so much of life would be "Yeah, that hurt a lot; too bad." That would be life without comfort. And it would make Man the god of this world. In reality, I supposed, the "sovereign God" who surrendered His sovereignty to Man's Free Will might remain "God", but in practical terms Man would be god and Christians would just have to deal with it.

There are those who assure us that God is not omniscient -- more accurately, that He cannot know the free will choices of human beings before they are made -- and, therefore, we're on our own. Oh, He's getting better. I mean, He's been following human choices for thousands of years and He's pretty good at anticipating, but some folks like Hitler or Stalin or, who knows, Obama(?) sneak through and make choices He didn't anticipate and you are all on your own while He tries to clean up the mess.

There are those who assure us that God never plans for unpleasant things or for sin. This, of course, is the natural conclusion of either the incomplete Sovereign or the lack of omniscience, but some are sure He's both sovereign and omniscient, but this stuff just happens. Evil, then, becomes the winner. God knew it was coming. He didn't plan it. He could stop it. But apparently the Ultimate Good is Man's Free Will. So either God is unable to stop these things because of His commitment to the Ultimate Good or He is unwilling to stop it for that reason. He could have produced a world without sin and it's His will that all are saved, but it's just not gonna happen. This is commonly held Christian viewpoint, and it terrifies me to think of a Sovereign God who is held hostage by Man's Free Will.

Perhaps the most common perspective is the "We choose Christ" perspective. It's the "God did 99.9% and you have to do the 0.1%" notion. How to reconcile all that the Bible says about Natural Man -- the unregenerate human -- with this idea is far beyond my capacity to fathom. Mostly dead in sin, pretty much hostile to God, inclined largely to evil, practically blinded, almost completely unable to understand, I don't find these descriptions in the Bible. So I'm stuck with trying to figure out how to align all of the absolutes listed in Scripture with the certainty that we have every ability to choose Christ all on our own as long as He does the wooing, the calling, the encouraging. It makes, in my mind, for a Christianity of supermen who overcame quite literally impossible handicaps of death, hostility, natural inclination, blindness, and all to come to the right choice after all.

And what about the "cannot make a practice of sin" concept? What if I'm wrong? Well, if I'm wrong, I know of no one who is born of God. If it actually means that we stop sinning as Wesley suggested and all we have to worry about are "mistakes", I suppose it would be an easy thought. However, I know of no Christian near or far, past or present, by reputation or by personal knowledge, who only commits "mistakes", whose only sins are "sins of ignorance". Not one. And that is the scariest Christianity of all -- the empty set.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Crisis Averted

Okay, so here's the deal. Our representation in Washington has managed to avoid our debt crisis. They did so by raising the debt ceiling ... wait ... what am I missing here? Oh, I see, they say that over the next 10 years we will reduce our $14.3 trillion deficit by $2.1 trillion, a 14% decrease. Hold on a minute. Apparently the expectation is that we'd be at $28 trillion in 10 years, so that $2 trillion would come off that amount, not the current amount. Okay, a 7% decrease. This is accomplished by increasing the debt ceiling ... wait, wait, that's not right. Oh, I see, by working together on a larger plan to cut the federal budget deficit ... at some point ... because that $2.1 trillion isn't currently on the books. That won't come around until November.

Announcing this near-miss collision with disaster, President Obama said, "It is an important first step to insuring that, as a nation, we live within our means." So, let's see how that works. The federal government will take in about $2.6 trillion this year and spend $3.7 trillion. So we see how, working together, the two partisan parties have managed to bring our nation to living within its means ... oh, hold on ... oh, man, math is not my strong suit, I guess. Or not the Congress's strong suit. Or the president's? Or is he just saying, "Well, you guys need to live within your means, but we intend to borrow what we want to pay what we want for what we want. If it gets too tough, we'll just take it from whom we want." But, like I said, math is not my strong suit.

Look, there are those who think that "my party" will save the day. It doesn't much matter which their party is. They expect that if "my party" gets its way, we'll be fine. I think it's abundantly clear that we won't. It's a good thing I'm not the kind of guy that expects the voters or the "right party" to save us.