Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Cain Mutiny

I have to tell you that this whole Cain thing is a mess. First he can't settle on 9-9-9 or 9-0-9. Then he bobbles the ball on abortion. For or against? Can't really say because he appears to have taken both positions. Then he has not just one, but multiple accusations of sexual harassment. His defense is "Uh, uh!" To be fair, it would be difficult to mount a much better defense. These kinds of things are inherently "He said, she said." And now we have a new accusation of a 13-year affair. From a "friend" (his term).

All of this is, well, hard to evaluate. He could modify his 9-9-9 plan and still be qualified for the job. He could misspeak on abortion and still be qualified for the job. (I have to say that you can't favor the murder of babies and be qualified for the job.) And it is somewhat offensive to me that he is being tried in the court of public opinion on the harassment and affair charges and declared guilty when the American justice system demands "innocent until proven guilty". But the question I have is not about the any of these. The question I have is more basic.

Cain's constant denial is one thing. His lawyer's comments are another. "This appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults - a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public." Let's think about that. When Gary Hart was caught cavorting on a boat with Donna Rice, his candidacy was terminated. When Bill Clinton was accused of affairs with Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones, there was hardly a bump in the road. Ted Kennedy's event with Mary Jo Kopechne didn't seem to bother his political career much. Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky got him impeached ... for lying to Congress ... and not removed from office. Congressman Gerry Studds was censured by the House for engaging in a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old male House Page, but he won re-election. Rudy Giuliani shut down his bid for the GOP presidential nomination when the news of an affair with his current wife surfaced. What makes the difference? When is it acceptable or unacceptable to violate sexual mores?

In the days of the Clinton presidency issues, the question of character came up. James Carville assured us, "Character doesn't matter." Is that the case? Is it necessary for a politician to be a person of good character? Why not for some? I got a hint on this from the news report the other night. Herman Cain, according to his interview with CBN in March, is a Baptist preacher. "My faith is a big part of who I am and at my church now, which is the same one I grew up in, I’m one of the Associate Ministers there because I was called to the ministry." Ah, see? There it is. Could it be that Bill Clinton coasted past the allegations of affairs and stayed in office after the last one because no one expected any better?

It's tough, these days, to expect better. The Bible says that all have sinned, that we are sinners at the core. It appears that the public record is bearing that out. But it would appear that people who profess to be Christians are to be held to a higher standard than those who do not. I suppose that's the way it is. I don't guess that I'm particularly surprised. But I'd like to tell Lin Wood, Cain's lawyer, that character matters and that illicit sex is not "a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public." I would classify that as mutiny, Mr. Wood. And I'd like to tell Mr. Cain that honesty is the best policy and that any damage done to the name of Christ is far worse than damage done to your own reputation. (I'm not saying that he's not being honest. I would simply encourage him to be forthright.) Politics is a messy business. Being a Christian in that particular venue is quite difficult. Finding a viable Christian candidate is rare. I'm just glad that I serve a living God who is not bound by humans to accomplish what He intends.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Forgotten Commandments

While there is discussion among many about what is and is not applicable from the Old Testament laws, we're all pretty much agreed that the "Big Ten" are universal. You know those. The Decalogue. The Ten Commandments. Now those apply to everyone. I mean, sure, no one keeps them perfectly, but we're still pretty much agreed about them, right? Or are we?

Well, we're all pretty sure about murder and adultery. Bad. Well, most of us are sure about murder and adultery. Stealing is certainly a sin unless the government does it to take from one group to give to another. But as long as we don't call that "stealing", it's not, right? Because we're all pretty sure stealing is bad. And making idols ... that's definitely not a good thing. Of course, since modern day idols are much more subtle -- power, money, and so on -- we might find we're on the wrong side of that one at times, but mostly we still understand "idolatry" to be a sin. That whole "you shall not bear false witness" thing we're pretty sure about, too, until we start examining it closely. I mean, is that a prohibition against all lying? If a Christian hid a Jew from the Nazis in World War II Germany and lied about it, was that good or bad? Rahab lied about the spies and was commended for it. So that gets a little hazy. But, yeah, we're opposed to lying in general. Taking the name of the Lord in vain? I don't know. I mean, how bad can words be? Maybe that's not so universal. And, look, isn't covetousness the mainstay of capitalism? Just about. But if you call it "covetousness", we're still opposed to it.

There are two that, in my opinion, have been essentially ruled out in modern society. These aren't merely questionable. They can, in fact, be objectionable. The first obvious one is the Sabbath rule. I mean, look, didn't Jesus say, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27)? Doesn't that mean that the Sabbath is terminated? Of course, if you think that one through, it does not. It merely means that the Sabbath was made for the benefit of mankind. That doesn't mean that it is no longer in effect, as if those things God does that benefit Man are no longer of benefit. So most will point to Sunday as the "Christian Sabbath". And that's all well and good as long as we don't think in terms of "Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work ..." (Exo 20:9-10). No work on the Sabbath. That's a little tough. On the other hand, it's almost sickening to hear of church folk who go out to lunch on Sunday after church and refuse to tip the waiter or waitress because "They shouldn't be working; it's the Sabbath, you know!" Someone somewhere is missing the whole point. Mostly.

The one that most catches my attention these days, however, is the other forgotten commandment. "Honor your father and your mother" (Exo 20:12). Paul pointed out (and, therefore, confirmed that it was still in effect) that it was "the first commandment with a promise" (Eph 6:2). It's a fairly straightforward command. Nothing too flowery or too obscure. "Honor your father and your mother." What could be more clear? Yet, today, not only is it not done, but it is often not encouraged. We shouldn't, for instance, honor bad parents. And while there is no "age clause", no indication that parents cease to be parents when we become adults and, as such, no longer need to be honored, that's the standard view. Adult children have no need to honor their parents. They are obligated, instead, to do what's right for themselves, to do what they feel they should, to seek their own path.

At a church I attended awhile back, the pastor asked the congregation to pray for two teenage girls in the church. They wanted to go on the youth mission trip, but their parents wouldn't let them. "Please pray that they can raise the money to go." I contacted the pastor. "Pastor, what about 'honor your mother and father'?" "Oh, don't be ridiculous," he told me. "They're both 18 and feel led to go, so they aren't required to concern themselves with what their parents say." You see? "Honor your father and your mother" only goes so far ... and the cutoff for that distance is getting shorter and shorter. Age, quality of parents, the perceived wisdom and capability of their instructions, whether or not the kid wants to go along with it, these things can easily serve to eliminate a commandment. And by the time the parents are old and need the assistance of their adult children, you can be fairly sure that in most cases they're going to be carted off to an old-folks home against their will because it's too much work to take care of them and honoring your father and your mother at that age is completely irrelevant.

I would beg to differ. I would suggest that the Bible offers no cutoff. It could be that "obey" is a command to children (Eph 6:1), but "honor" is not. What does it mean to honor your father and your mother? How would that look? Mere obedience? I don't think so. How, for instance, would children of "bad parents" honor their parents without simply nullifying God's command? How would a daughter whose father abuses her honor her father without submitting to the abuse? Is it honoring to shuffle off aging parents to a home because we don't want the hassle of caring for them? (Please note: That is a specific scenario. I understand that some of the needs of the aged are beyond the capacity of their children to care for, and I understand that there are even some parents who would prefer to go to a home to avoid being a burden to their children. These are not the cases in question.)

John wrote a definition of sin. "Sin is lawlessness" (1 John 3:4). The Law is, therefore, eternally significant. One of the clearest commands in all of Scripture is "Honor your father and your mother." Little ambiguity there. And while the outworking of that command may get confusing at times, it is still a command of the Decalogue, the "Big Ten", the Ten Commandments. It would seem to me that finding ways to avoid obeying this command would tend more toward the "lawlessness" side rather than the right side. How do you honor your parents? Or do you?

Monday, November 28, 2011

By This We Know

A short time ago there was a discussion under one of my recent entries about the Bible as a book of rules. There was, obviously, disagreement on that point. In the discussion, one person said, "The only way we can know other people are believers is by their adherence to the Law." Now, to be abundantly clear here, this person had already stated clearly and unequivocally, "Following the rules doesn't produce salvation," but, still, I have to admit that I balked at the statement. Really? Is that the only way we can know?

I'd have to say at the surface that in truth we cannot know that a person is saved. A person might make it abundantly clear that they are not saved. Jesus said, "By their fruits you will know them" and obviously meant that we were to recognize false teachers by their fruits, not by their words. They could say all the right things. Don't be fooled by their words. And Jesus warned about the tares among the wheat, the goats among the sheep, the wolf in sheep's clothing. There will be "lookalikes", people that seem to be "from us", but are, in fact, "not of us".

Having said that, however, I still mulled over the concept. And the next day in my reading I came across this:
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:2-3).
Now, that's interesting, isn't it? "By this we know ..." How do we know? "When we love God and obey His commandments." We are commanded first and foremost as even the casual Bible reader knows to "love God with all your heart" and so on. What does John say that is? "This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments."

There are two impacts with this passage. First, it would appear that, at least to a large degree, our commenter was accurate. We know a believer because he obeys God's commands. Oh, sure, maybe to varying degrees. Certainly not perfectly. But it would appear that a believer makes it a point to live a life of obedience to God's commands. And this is what sets him or her apart from a non-believer. The second harks back to the question of rules. If commandments (at least, God's commandments) make rules and a life of obedience to the rules marks a true believer, I would suggest that the Bible is indeed, at least in the area where God makes commands, a book of rules. How can it not be?

So, I think John cleared up my question with my commenter's comment. All clear now. Thanks, John.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

If I Were King

I don't have any political aspirations. You can keep your governorship. I don't want to be a congressman. I have no interest in the Oval Office. Now, emperor ... that might be interesting. Of course, I've no interest in that either when it comes down to it. No, running a country isn't really something I'd care to do.

You know someone with real purpose? That would be your local pastor. Nations are big and people are important, but, after all, if anything is of the highest importance, it would be God Himself. And a pastor's job is to shape his people into followers of God, disciples of Christ.

Now, contrary to popular opinion, I am not a pastor. (I'm somewhat surprised how many people have assumed I am.) But if I was, what would I do? Where would my focus be? Where would I try to take my church?

First and foremost, I would aim my church for maturity (Eph 4:11-16). I would preach the Word in season and out of season. While many pastors aim for the lowest common denominator, I'd try to give them greater depth. What does the Word say? What does it mean? How should we then live?

Of course, none of that should be news. I tend to take that for granted. What else would I do? I'd try to teach my people the importance of worship. First, worship does not simply take place on Sunday mornings. It is a lifestyle. A sacrificed life is your reasonable service of worship (Rom 12:1-2). Second, the worship that does take place in churches is not as is commonly viewed. In the standard church service today there is an audience sitting in an auditorium paying attention to a performance that is intended, hopefully, to bring them closer to God. I would rearrange that understanding. On Sunday morning there is indeed performers and an audience, but the audience at church is God, and the performers are the congregation. Those up front are simply enablers to help the performers provide their best for God. They are not where the attention should be aimed, and I would try to teach them that as well as shape every aspect of Sunday morning worship to that direction.

What else? I would want to make a focus on relationship. Obviously the first relational focal point would be Christ. How do we form, cultivate, and maintain that relationship? Next would be the people of God. While the world tells us that we need to do what feels good, to serve ourselves first, I would want to focus attention on serving each other. I'd make discipleship a key value. I'd make the hard work of walking alongside others to build them in in Christ a key value. I'd try to encourage a church that includes people. "Oh, you're new here! I've never met you before! Hey, are you doing anything after church? Would you like to come with us for lunch?" I would want it to be an intolerable thought of having people come and go without being noticed. I'd want it to be a given that we don't attend church, but we are part of church. We are all ministers. On the other hand, I'd like it to be the norm rather than the secret desire to be connected, to be bearing one another's burdens, to be accountable and together rather than working at it alone.

If I were king, I'd likely step down. That's not really my calling. That's not really my heart. Neither am I a pastor. That's not my calling either. So maybe my ideas of church are no better than my ideas of how a country should run. I like to think they're not. I like to think that there are some who share those ideas. I even like to dream that some are pastors.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sweet Comfort

I'm in favor of thinking things through. I'm in favor of examining Scripture, for instance, to see what it actually says. I'm in favor of thinking ideas through to their logical conclusions to see how they come out. I think it's a good plan. So here's one that, in my opinion, is rarely ever thought through.

Jesus was not vague or unclear: "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matt 7:13-14). It isn't hard to understand that Jesus (along with the rest of Scripture) was saying that "many" will go to destruction and "few" will find life. Hard, cold fact.

Now, consider the claim of the Bible and, therefore, Christianity that we have "the Gospel", the good news. And if I ask you what that is (and you're not confused by voices hoisting some counterfeit "gospel"), you'll be able to tell me something about how Christ died for our sins and those who place their faith in Him can be saved. You know ... "narrow gate" stuff. And I would agree with you that it's certainly good news. But a skeptic asked me once, "How is that good news? You're claiming that all those who do not put their faith in Christ are doomed to eternal torment. That's good news?"

There are a variety of answers, but I'd like you to think this one through a bit. Purely in terms of reason, of concepts, of principles, of doctrine, we can say, "Yes, that's good news." And we can say it because Jesus said it. and we can say it because saving "a few" is far more than saving no one, the alternative. And we can say it in view of the price paid by Christ on our behalf. We have lots of reasons to say it is indeed good news. But what about the "many"?

No, let's make it more personal. Let's bring this down to our level. We all know some of the "many". We are all acquainted with, friends with, related to, close to those who will not take the narrow gate. So if you are faced with the death of a loved one -- a wife or sibling, a parent or grandparent, your closest friend in school, someone near and dear -- who you know rejected Christ and went to their grave condemned, what then? Where do you find comfort? When a loved ones dies without Christ, where's the "good news"?

This, my friends, is where the rubber meets the road. This is where you separate the sheep from the goats (so to speak). You see, if the "good news" to you requires "makes me feel good" or something like that, you're in trouble. It doesn't feel good to lose a loved one to eternal torment. So where is the Gospel at that point?

To me, I've found my answer in this: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?" (Gen 18:25). As long as "good news" depends on me, my comfort, my well-being, my understanding, my approval, then the Gospel is in jeopardy. On the other hand, when I place it in God's hands, agree that God is good, and trust that God will do what is right regardless of my current capacity to comprehend or feel the truth of it, all of it becomes "Gospel" -- good news. In that I find sweet comfort.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Think About It

I was thinking about the American Atheist campaign I mentioned the other day. You know, where I suggested you go ahead and think about it. Because I'm convinced that a rational evaluation of the facts will lead to a theistic conclusion rather than an atheistic conclusion.

I was thinking further about it after I wrote that piece. No, actually I was thinking about the number of people I know that are religious without religion. These are the practical atheists, the ones who would gladly tell you they believe in God or god or "spirituality", but give little or no indication that they actually believe that. I started to think that perhaps this atheist campaign might not be a bad thing.

One of our big problems in America today is our religious atmosphere. Follow the common thinking. "All religions are protected by law, therefore all religions must be equally valid under the law." In our society it's pretty easy to believe whatever you want. "You're a Buddhist? Fine." "You're Wiccan? Whatever." "You are a member of the Church of Light? Wait ... what's that? Oh, a blending of the Kabbalah, the tarot, astrology, alchemy, magic and ESP? Cool." You see, it doesn't really matter. Whatever you want. It's protected; it must be equally valid. As such, nothing is actually valid.

So, you're a "devout Roman Catholic" who discards the Church's teachings on birth control, abortion, sex outside of marriage, and homosexual behavior? That's fine. Believe what you want. Don't let anyone bother you about what you believe. You classify yourself as an "Evangelical Christian" who doesn't actually believe in Hell, Satan, the Bible, or the Resurrection? No problem. You see, at some point, it becomes ludicrous. Nonsense. It makes no sense.

In a society where being a Christian is dangerous, only those who are really Christians would make the claim. We don't live in that society. (We may some day, but not now.) Since we aren't there and we don't want to go there, perhaps this campaign to make people think about what they believe might not be a bad idea. You see, when you approach someone and tell them, "I'd like to tell you about Jesus", it is entirely possible that they'll say, "Oh, I know all about Jesus." It is equally likely that they do not know about Jesus, that the Jesus they know about isn't the actual Jesus, and that the "Christianity" they think they're familiar with is not even remotely related to genuine, biblical Christianity. Perhaps, by thinking these things through, we can burn off some of that fog.

More likely, though, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. Where do I come up with these ideas?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

I was thinking the other day about the dichotomy of an atheist Thanksgiving. I mean, sure, they use the phrase, "I'm thankful for ...", but to whom are they thankful? It is possible to list things for which they are grateful, but little thought is given beyond that list. It occurred to me, however, that there is often something missing at Thanksgiving for all of us. What's missing at Thanksgiving?

For a sizable number of Americans, Thanksgiving Day is "Turkey Day". It's a day to enjoy a lot of food, gather with friends and family, watch an inordinate amount of football, that sort of thing. That is, the missing component for this group is thanksgiving. There's no "thanks" involved.

Of course, we're not like that. We aim to include "thanks" in our Thanksgiving, right? So we'll try to be conscious about things for which we're thankful. We might have a time around the table where we share things that we're grateful for. We'll maybe write a list or employ some other tool to remind us of how good we have it. And rightly so. We have it good. And we will gather together on paper or in words or in our minds those things for which we're thankful. That, of course, is thanksgiving. So ... what's missing there?

I'll try it in James's terminology. "You recognize that there are things for which you are grateful? You do well. The atheists do the same, and they're not thanking God." Okay, weak. I get it. What's my point? So often it seems Thanksgiving is about us. Either it's about us eating and watching football or it's about us and what we have. And the latter seems certainly better than the former, morally speaking. Still, at what point is Thanksgiving about the One to whom we're thankful? It feels, sometimes, like the best we do is look around our own lives and gather together a list of good things and then pass that list briefly to God. "Thanks for that." In terms of percentage of time spent on this exercise, it feels as if we're consuming 99% of our time thinking about us and 1% thinking about the One to whom we are grateful.

Small stuff, I know. Mountain out of a mole hill. I get it. Still, I ask myself, "Why do I have all these blessings?" Yes, I have many blessings in my life, gifts from God. Undeniable. And definitely important to note. But why has He gifted me (us) with these things? Is it so we can be comfortable? Or even grateful? I don't think so. Since all of life is about bringing glory to God, I would argue that all our blessings are about ... bringing glory to God. As such, in our exercise of gratitude, wouldn't it be good to spend more time and attention on God? Am I grateful, for instance, for the pain He caused that brought Him glory? Do I recognize the opportunities He gave to live in such a way to reflect Him to others? In what ways do the blessings we enjoy reflect honor on God? Do we recognize that the blessings bestowed are gracious gifts to undeserving beings, "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" who are now "vessels of mercy"? In thinking about the things for which we are rightly grateful, are we thinking about the glory it brings God?

Like I said, maybe it's small stuff. Maybe I am making a mountain out of a mole hill. Still, I want to be careful especially at Thanksgiving time not to be merely grateful like those who don't even recognize God. I want to make God the center point of that gratitude. It's not about how good I have it, but about how good He is. So, maybe it's just me. But it's something I want to keep in mind this Thanksgiving. Let's keep God in Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Right Answer, Real Answer, Wrong Answer

A good friend of mine once explained the difference between the right answer and the real answer. The right answer is the answer that people will give you because they know they're supposed to. The real answer is what they actually think. Ask a church kid, "Who is Jesus?" and he might say, "He's my Savior" not because he actually believes it, but because his Sunday School teacher told him so and that's the answer you'll want to hear. It's right ... but it's not necessarily real to him.

There is another category of right answers. That would be ... the wrong answer. Bear with me. It is true that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God. No question. It is true that sufferings are offered as a blessing to followers of Christ. It cannot be denied. It is absolutely true that God is good and God is sovereign in all things. The Bible is not unclear on these points. Yet, given all these right answers, when a mother loses a child and cries out, "Why?!", it would be the wrong answer to tell her these things. They aren't false. They just don't help at that moment.

This, I think, can be part of the confusion when people (like me) say, "The Bible is quite clear that homosexual behavior is a sin." This is a truthful statement. But is it the right thing to say? Just like the truth claims in the previous paragraph, it is correct, but it may not be appropriate. As a bald statement of truth, it is fine and even necessary. As an interaction with individuals, it may not be the truth that will address the situation. As such, it might be the wrong answer.

Truth is important. We are told to stand firm, to contend for the faith, to give a reason. These are all facts. But there is another factor that we are supposed to consider. We are supposed to be "speaking the truth in love" (Eph 4:15). We are commanded, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Eph 4:29).

Let's remember James's admonition. "We all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well" (James 3:2). Let's not forget the power of the tongue.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

One Honest Atheist

To be clear up front, this is somewhat in jest. I'm not actually looking for a name and address ...

Well, they're at it again. The group known as "American Atheists" is launching a new campaign in their fight for "civil liberties for atheists". They plan to put up their "You know it's a myth" billboard this holiday season to assure us that any rational person knows that those pictured on the billboard (Neptune, Jesus, Santa Claus, and Satan) are all myths. Thank you very much.

Let's make it clear. It's not, they say, an attack on religion. I'm not at all clear on how that could be so, but that's what they say.

And it's not an attempt to make converts to atheism. No, it's simply an attempt to get religious people to ask "Why are they going through this ridiculous motion of pretending to believe in a myth just to please other people?" See? Not an attempt at converts or an attack on religion. Wait ... what?

Okay, fine. Let's just take them at their word, regardless of how ludicrous it sounds. They just want us to think. Got it. Oh, wait, don't think too far. Like, don't consider the fact that no serious historian doubts that Jesus was a genuine historical person, that He was, indeed, crucified. Sure, many will stop short of "resurrection" and especially "Son of God", but that's not for lack of evidence, but a bias against anything non-scientific. So, please, when you think this stuff through, don't examine the evidence there.

And, look, don't think the rest of it through, either. For instance, their Communications Director is quoted as saying, "To both groups [the Catholic League and American Family Association] we say, ‘Happy Holidays!’” Um, yes, but the term "holidays" references holy days which they'd like us to drop and the happiness of these days is based on the beliefs they'd like to eliminate. Beyond that, on what would they like us to base "happiness"? With no value basis for "good", what would they offer instead? And thinking it through only gets worse from there. No God means no purpose for life, no meaning for existence. They complain about the cross at the World Trade Center, for instance, because, "their god, who couldn’t be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name, cared only enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross." And what comfort would they offer to those who lost so much. "Oops! Sorry! Don't worry. It's just 3,000 biochemical bags that got terminated. No purpose. No hope. End of story. Don't worry; be happy!" No, no, do not think that through.

And, look, let's be honest here. They don't actually want to eliminate holidays. They take off Thanksgiving and Christmas like everyone else. They might recall what they're thankful for on Thanksgiving without anyone to be thankful to. They might engage in those traditions constructed around Christmas intended to remind us of the gift of God in the birth of His Son. I mean, seriously, just in terms of pragmatism, what would it do to the economy if Thanksgiving and Christmas, religious holidays at their core, were eliminated? I remember when my young son told his classmate that there was no Santa Claus. The outrage from fellow students, their parents, and the teacher was loud and long. Do atheists really want to go there?

Well, if one does, I'd say, "Look, I've found one honest atheist!" Of course, I haven't yet, so I'm not holding my breath. But, by all means, think this stuff through. Start with "How did all that exists come from nothing at all?" Easy one, right? I don't know. I'm in favor of them asking us to think about this stuff. I just don't think it comes out like they want it to.

Monday, November 21, 2011

God Hates Shellfish

Whenever Christians trot out the Scriptures that say things like "A man shall not lie with a man as with a woman", there is almost a collective response. "Oh, yeah? What about shellfish?" Okay, it may not be shellfish. It may be "What about the prohibition to cut your beard?" or "What about the command not to mix threads?" or things like this. The assumption appears to be that if there is something in God's Law that is clearly not applicable, then neither is "A man shall not lie with a man as with a woman." I'd like to look at that theory from two angles.

First, it is, quite simply, irrational. If we're going to say that the presence of a law that is not applicable nullifies this one, then we're going to have to do so rationally. That is, if it nullifies "A man shall not lie with a man as with a woman", it will also nullify prohibitions of rape, incest, adultery, murder, theft, and child sacrifice laws. Since this particular law is not tucked in amongst the shellfish and thread stuff, nullifying one from the other is nullifying all. And I'm not at all sure you're ready to do that ... are you? So, while it sounds like a reasoned argument to say, "Well, God prohibits touching pig skin, so are you going to rule out football?", it's actually, well, pretty stupid to choose instead to dismantle all of God's instructions.

The second angle is generally missed. I think it is important. As I've demonstrated in the past, it is necessary to evaluate the text and context of what any Scripture is saying and to compare it with the rest of Scripture. We know, for instance, that while the Old Testament forbids certain foods, Jesus "declared all foods clean" (Mark 7:19). So comparing Scripture to Scripture, there is reason to question whether or not we still need to be concerned about eating pork, as an example. But the concern I have is this idea that seems to say, "How much of God's Law can we nullify?" The intent, it seems, is to minimize God's instructions. So we'll try to find ways to eliminate "mixed threads" or "cutting hair" or even "a man lying with a man as with a woman". We don't seem to be working very hard toward the goal of "How much more can I do to please God?", but rather, "How little can I do and get away with it?" Along these lines, we tend to bring our skills of reasoning and evaluation to try to make Scripture align with what we know and believe rather than to try to figure out what it says. "There is information in the Bible about slavery. We know that can't be right, so let's set that aside." We lay down any sort of objectivity in favor of personal preference. What we need to do is approach God's Word as the final say. We already know that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. We already know that Natural Man is futile in his thinking. We already know that our first condition is a blinding by the god of this world. We already know that we have a seared conscience in the sins that we have practiced. So why are we expecting to be able to define reality (read "God's view of things") by our natural means?

Here's what should happen. We should ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. Then we should read the text and figure out what it says. Next we should read the context and see how it colors what the text says. We should see where else in Scripture this is discussed and see what that says. It is a large effort here, but God's Word is worth it. But, in the final analysis, what we need to determine in advance and all along the way is "If God's Word says it, I'll agree" rather than "I don't see it, so God's Word likely didn't say it." We may think that eating shellfish or mixing cloth is pointless, but that's the wrong starting point. If, after prayer, careful reading, and evaluation of context and comparison with the rest of Scripture we conclude, "Yep, this passage is saying that we should not cut our beards", then we should not cut our beards. It's as simple as that.

It's God's Word we're talking about here. His ways are not our ways. And we are sinners at the core, in need of renewal. If it turned out that God thought just like we do, that would be a problem. I would suggest, then, that we agree with Paul when he said, "Let God be true, but every man a liar" (Rom 3:4). God doesn't suffer from a deceitful heart or a futile mind. Perhaps we ought to be more concerned about seeing things His way rather than attempting to see His Word our way.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Vague Theme

"You shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all your undertakings" (Deut 12:18).

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; And let them say among the nations, "The LORD reigns" (1 Chron 16:31).

"The joy of the LORD is your strength" (Neh 8:10).

Worship the LORD with reverence, And rejoice with trembling (Psa 2:11).

I have trusted in Thy lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation (Psa 13:5).

I will rejoice and be glad in Thy lovingkindness, Because Thou hast seen my affliction (Psa 31:7).

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones, And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart (Psa 32:11).

Let all who seek Thee rejoice and be glad in Thee; Let those who love Thy salvation say continually, "The LORD be magnified!" (Psa 40:16).

The LORD reigns; let the earth rejoice; Let the many islands be glad (Psa 97:1).

This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psa 118:24).

"Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation" (Isa 25:9).

The afflicted also shall increase their gladness in the LORD , And the needy of mankind shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel (Isa 29:19).

I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels (Isa 61:10).

Do not fear, O land, rejoice and be glad, For the LORD has done great things (Joel 2:21).

I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation (Hab 3:18).
Wait ... wait ... am I detecting a theme here? Is there something in common with these? Is God trying to get something across to us? Oh, I don't know. Maybe it's just the Old Testament stuff we don't really need to pay attention to ...
"Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven" (Luke 6:23).

"These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full" (John 15:11).

"Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full" (John 16:24).

"But now I come to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy made full in themselves" (John 17:13).

The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17).

Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you (2 Cor 13:11).

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Gal 5:22-23).

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord (Phil 3:1).

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (Phil 4:4).

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thess 5:16-18).

To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation (1 Peter 4:13).
Hmm, what do you know? It appears to be a running theme throughout the Bible! Now, one might think that if God took the trouble to repeat that many times (and, trust me, that's just a sampling) the call and command to rejoice, it might be that He really wants that for us. So ... when do we start? Or why should we stop? It seems to me that we should be the rejoicingest people on the planet. (Yeah, I had to make a word up for that.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

By This We Know Love

Look, don't blame me. I was just reading in 1 John because that's where I happen to be reading and this is what I come across. Don't shoot the messenger.
By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:16-18).
How does that work for you? "If anyone has the world's goods ..." which would include far more than the so-called "1%" -- more like 99% -- "and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?" Unless you are one of the rare folk who has a real heart for people in need or, by some unbelievable circumstance, never see a "brother in need", you have to feel the weight of this statement.

This is not a call for higher taxes on the rich. It is not a biblical cry for communism or socialism or any other "ism" you may want to think about. It is a statement from God's Word that those of us who have the love of God should be loving in deed, not in word. Now, if, by chance, you're one of those people that happen to have this particular characteristic of the Christian life down pat, I think it is incumbent upon you to start teaching those around you how to do that. This is a spiritual good that should be shared with brothers in need of it. For the rest of us, I think it's clear what direction we need to go from here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Image of God

So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Gen 1:27).
One of the fundamental building blocks upon which we base the whole concept of the value of the human being is this premise. Man was created in the image of God. It is the God-given reason for the death penalty. "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image" (Gen 9:5). There are some who have raised the question, "Are we still 'the image of God'?" The question is rooted in the fact that Natural Man is fallen, sinful at his core. How is that "the image of God"?

The question of whether or not we are still "the image of God" is easy to answer. While it is clear that God made us in His image before the Fall, the reference to capital punishment in Genesis 9 is after the Fall. Paul also references the fact that we are the image of God in 1 Cor 11 when he writes, "For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God" (1 Cor 11:7). Since both of these references are after the Fall, it is clearly true that humans are still "the image of God". But ... how so?

It would be a mistake to assume that we are "the image of God" in the sense that we have two arms, two legs, a head, feet ... the form that God has. "God is Spirit," we are told. Spirit doesn't have physical form. And while there are biblical references to God's "body parts" ("mouth", "eyes", "hands", "feet", etc.), these are simply anthropomorphic, a way of presenting a Being who is outside our physical world to those of us whose only point of reference is our physical world. No, it's not that we are physically like God. That idea of "image" is too shallow.

Others have offered other ways in which we are "in the image of God". One is that, unlike idols, we're living beings. That's fine, I suppose, except that none of the plants or animals were created in the image of God, and they are living, so that doesn't seem to work very well. Some have argued that it's our capacity for reasoning and art that is "godlike". But if you've ever seen some of the interesting studies done on animal intelligence, you might question that. Crows, they say, have nearly "human-like intelligence", using tools, communicating with each other, and the like. Watch a video on the ingenious squirrel who can manage some extremely complicated tasks to get to food, and you will begin to question the suggestion that only humans have the capacity to reason. Or how about the apes who have been taught to communicate with sign language? Definitely some intelligence there. Beyond that Solomon suggests that the spirit of Man is eternal, but the spirit of beasts is temporal (Eccl 3:21). So it is not in the commonality with animals that "the image of God" resides. It is in the differences. Do animals, for instance, have morals? That's hard to say. They may do some things that imitate morality, but is it because "this is moral and that is not" or is it because "this works and that doesn't"? It is, in fact, this question among humans that causes a problem with the concept of morality. If there is no absolute morality, then we're simply operating on pragmatics. Christians, of course, would argue that this isn't the case. Thus, genuine morality and its consequent liability (you can be judged for your failure to comply) seems to be a human characteristic shared with God alone.

One primary area in which we are in the image of God is in His Trinitarian nature. In the Godhead there is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Son is "God Incarnate", the embodiment of God. But God is not a body. So we have the Holy Spirit, the mind, will, and emotions of God. That would be His "soul", the inner self. But God has a third entity, the Father. The Father is Spirit. He is, then, the spirit of God, that innermost being, the prime essence. In a similar way, the Bible describes us as physical beings ("body") with a soul and a spirit. Many times soul and spirit are intertwined, indistinguishable, and interchangeable. However, there are references to these two aspects of human beings that provide a distinction. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess 5:23). That makes them distinct. The author of Hebrews says of the Word of God that it "is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit" (Heb 4:12). Thus, there is a distinction between the two, even if it is vague to us and hard to determine (because apparently the division requires a really sharp "sword"). Therefore, like God, we are a "trinity".

There are other, smaller ways in which we are in the image of God. We have the capacity for good or evil. We have the capacity to create in ways that exceed the animal kingdom. We also have a level of dominion that is provided by God. Most importantly, while creation in general expresses the glory of God, it is our task and to our benefit to reflect as clearly and completely the glory of God to a degree that general creation cannot. Marring that image is a mistake. Living as a shining reflection of the character of God is our highest calling and greatest joy. Further, since we are in the image of God, what does that say regarding the value of human life? And what are the ramifications for disregarding that image? And how does that concept transmit to other images God has created regarding Himself and our relationship to Him (such as marriage)? Some of these are really large questions.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mixed Messages

It is so easy to send mixed messages. As the language gets more and more confused and commonality diverges, it just gets easier and easier to say one thing while broadcasting another.

Take, for instance, the cry for tolerance. Those who are making this call seem to sound so loving and open. "We need to remove hate. We need to make everyone feel welcome. We need to all get along." And, you know what? There's nothing wrong with any of those messages. Good. Fine. We're all on the same page. That is, until you present an opinion that is counter to their pet idea. You cannot say, for instance, that homosexual behavior is morally wrong, even if you do so without discriminating against those who engage in the act, because that's not tolerant. That is hate speech. And now the position gets garbled. We need to be tolerant ... of beliefs with which we agree, but not with beliefs with which we disagree. Mixed messages.

Take, for instance, Reformed theology. Reformed theology is, by all accounts, the most rational perspective on Christian doctrine. Most can't disagree that it holds the highest view of the Sovereignty of God and expounds on God's grace in ways that exceed the rest. It is a good message. That position, however, gets confusing when there are so many sour folk in the Reformed camp. There is a sense that Reformed theology breeds puritanical, pharisaical pinch-nosed people. Brothers, these things ought not be! There is nothing more liberating than the highest view of God's sovereignty, nothing more joy-producing than the vastness of God's grace. Reformed theology offers the highest view of God. How can it produce such sour-pusses? Mixed messages.

Take, for instance, Christianity. If there is a single word that epitomizes Christianity, it is "Gospel" -- Good News. Paul wrote the entire epistle to the Romans with this premise: "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith'" (Rom 1:16-17). Good news. And what is that good news? While every other religion on the planet either offers no hope at all or a horribly impossible hope of "being good enough" where "good enough" is some fantastically low bar to hit, Christianity offers genuine hope for sinners. And, look, we're all sinners. No one really doubts that. But while every other religion encourages you to be "good enough", an impossible task, Christianity offers grace -- unmerited favor. While every other religion builds on your own ability (which you don't have) to work your way into God's favor and avoid His disfavor, Christianity offers God's plan to restore a relationship with you from God's perspective. No, wait! That's not the end. Christianity offers, beyond that, a life powered by God, a purpose constructed by your Maker, love beyond your wildest dreams (that's no hyperbole; see Eph 3:19-21), joy, peace, oh, it goes on and on. Good message ... really, really good. So why is it that Christians are so often perceived as joyless killjoys searching far and wide for anyone with any happiness in order to snuff it out? Why is it that, despite the well-known and oft-repeated promise that God works all things together for good to those who love Him, we complain so much about our circumstances? Why is it that, although we know that bringing our concerns to Him provides a peace that passes understanding, we are so often worried and restless? Why is it that, although our Master stated unequivocally, "I came that you might have life and that more abundantly", we seem so often to be so narrow in our living? Sure, sure, some of it is tares among the wheat. And, sure, it is a given that the world will hate true followers of Christ. He promised that. Some of these presentations are intentionally garbled by the father of lies. But I'm sure, if you're honest, you'd have to admit that too often these things are true of genuine Christians when they should not be. Mixed messages.

Mixed messages are easy. Claim that "X is immoral" and do it, and you've sent a mixed message. Declare that "Y is good" and don't do it, and you've sent a mixed message. Cry for tolerance while being intolerant and it gets confusing. Hold the highest view of God and be angry with others about it and it gets garbled. Stand on the best news mankind has for all time while muddling about in worry and stress and you're sending mixed messages. There is a word for what I'm suggesting. It is "integrity". You know what in integer is, don't you? It's a whole number. No decimals. No fractions. A whole number. That's what integrity is. No pollution, no mixing, no corruption. It is holding to the truth and living it as well. Integrity does not mix messages.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

At a Loss for Words

Here's a word for you: Erosion. It's the gradual wearing away of something. We normally think of erosion in terms of water and soil or something like that. Typically, the term also requires that the material that is worn off the primary surface gets moved to another place. That, I think, is a fairly reasonable description of the English language.

Take, for instance, the word, "charity". In the King James Bible it is a word for love. But that has moved off from a general affection to mean the generous actions to aid the poor and sick. It has its roots in the word that means "caress" or "cherish", but, of course, we've managed to move it off to "do nice things ... regardless of motivation."

But, that's okay, right? Because we still have the word, "love". Or do we? Certainly "let's make love tonight" has little to do with the sentiment of warm affection we recognize as love and almost nothing at all to do with the description we have in 1 Corinthians 13. And while it's true that the phrase is a singular usage, it is still a fact that a large number of people see "love" and "sex" as intertwined and inexorably linked. This, of course, is problematic for me because, while I certainly love my wife, I also love pizza ... and my kids. So "love" gets a bit murky, doesn't it?

But lots of words are eroding in the English language. "Marriage" used to mean "the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law" (according to Mirriam-Webster). Dictionary.com agrees: "the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments, religious ceremonies, etc." However, the term doesn't mean that today. It means more like "any close or intimate association or union." Thus, "marriage" could refer to a male and female who pledge "'til whatever doth us part" or two guys who promise "we'll be close for awhile at least" or the blend of the lyrics of Ira Gershwin with the music of George Gershwin. In other words, we've discarded "opposite sex", "union", and any serious sense of commitment or family. So is there any wonder when the younger generations question the relevance of "marriage" anymore?

There was a time when a "computer" was the guy who did the math. It used to be that you started a fire with a faggot, but don't try suggesting it today. I remember when "gay" was "merry" or "cheerful", when "happy ending" referred to the pleasant outcome of a story, and "making love" meant performing those acts which engender warm feelings. "Queer" didn't used to be a label of pride, but a reference to an oddity. I remember when "bitch" referred to a female dog with puppies. "Awesome" once included a sense of dread -- a component of fear -- but now it's just totally awesome, dude. There is a vast difference between God as awesome and "we had an awesome vacation." "Really? What was so scary about it?" is not likely a question that would occur. Referring to a child as "precious" doesn't usually mean "valuable", but "cute". And when did "self-image" give way to "self-esteem"? I used to have intimate friends, but "intimate" now has unavoidable sexual connotations. So does "intercourse", although once it simply meant "communication or dealings between individuals or groups."

Sure, sure, the language is not a dead language. The meanings will migrate. Okay, fine. Still, why is it that they migrate away from their original content without leaving their original content? What word can I use today to designate what once was a "marriage"? I guess I can use "happy" instead of "gay", but why should I have to, and why did that word get stolen? And, seriously, why do so many words and phrases get coerced from their harmless, pleasant intent to a more sinister, sexual use? It used to be when the lady of the house had a grand affair, it was a wonderful party. Now it's a prelude to a nasty divorce. When did a baby's warm footwear become a reference to a woman's posterior?

Is it a conspiracy? Not human, I'd guess, if it is. It does seem suspicious, however, when so many words that once meant positive moral things have been subjugated to mean base things. It does raise questions when "bad" now means "good" and "wicked" is really cool. At some point, I fear, we'll end up, in the realm of describing moral things, at a loss for words.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shave and a Haircut

26 "You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes. 27 You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. 28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD" (Lev 19:26-28).
This text is a one of several that are a favorite among skeptics. "Don't hear you lousy Christians preaching on this very much, do we? And you call yourself followers of the Bible!" Well, since I do believe that the Bible is the Word of God and means what it says, I think it is wise to examine ... what it says. So, what have we here?

First, I'd like to avoid the standard pitfalls. One common response is, "Ignore it; it's Old Testament." In fact, many make that argument and then carry it over to "A man shall not lie with a man as with a woman" and other biblical commands. They do the very thing the skeptic complains about and pick and choose what works and what doesn't. We don't want to pick and choose. The other problem occurs if we take this text and, just because we want to, say, "It's about making the Israelites separate" (or something like that). I believe that there are commands given to Israel for that purpose, but here's the problem in this context. If we say, "That's just for Israel", look at what else we're going to set aside.
"Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father" (Lev 19:3).
"Do not turn to idols" (Lev 19:4)
"You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another" (Lev 19:11).
"You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him" (Lev 19:13).
"When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong" (Lev 19:33).
And that's just a sampling. You see, if you say, "That hair cutting thing is just to make Israel separate", then you'll also need to say, "That 'honor your father and mother' thing and that whole prohibition against idolatry is just to make Israel separate. We can steal, oppress our neighbors, and do wrong to visitors because that was just to keep them separate, not Christians." It's the problem I have with those who say, "The prohibition against a man lying with a man as with a woman is a religious thing", because if you look at the context we'd also need to pile adultery, incest, and bestiality as perfectly acceptable behaviors as long as they weren't religious in nature. Doesn't work. Don't go there.

So, avoiding those errors, where do we go? It is really verse 27 that catches all the attention. "Christians shouldn't be getting haircuts if they say they believe the Bible!" That's what it says, right? And, indeed, the (commendable) orthodox Jew has uncut locks of hair on the sides of his head and an uncut beard. I say "commendable" because of the attitude. "If that's what it says, that's what I'll do." Regardless of the text, that should be our attitude as well. But, does the text say that? Notice that it speaks of rounding off hair and marring the beard. That's not quite the same as cutting the sides of your hair or grooming a beard. These appear to be indications of something beyond a shave and a haircut. So, am I splitting hairs (a little humor there), or are there reasons to think that this may not be a de facto command not to shave the sides of your face?

As always, I recommend text and context. What do we learn from the context? Well, I put the immediate context in the quote above because, if you're paying attention, verse 27 is not a verse in a vacuum. It starts with a command ("You shall not...") and ends with a reason ("I am the Lord."). This structure of terminating in "I am the Lord" is repeated throughout the chapter. So we have Lev 19:2-3 tied together, verse 4 as a command, verses 5-10 tied together, and so forth. Each of these is completed in the statement, "I am the Lord." Thus, Lev 19:26-28 is a thought, a set of commands tied together by a central theme and punctuated with "I am the Lord." What is the central theme? It appears to be a central theme of false worship, including eating flesh with blood on it, fortune telling, and cutting or tattooing for the dead. In the midst of this is something about rounding hair and marring beards. These are all tied together. What ties them together? Most obvious is the reason to obey: "I am the Lord." But if these are all tied together and if you don't get mixed up by verse markings, you'll see a second item tying them all together: "for the dead".

"Wow, Stan," I can hear you saying, "that's really stretching it." Is it? Let's trace the idea of "for the dead". In Lev 21, God tells the priests, "No one shall make himself unclean for the dead." Among the ways listed in which the priests should not make themselves unclean for the dead is this: "They shall not make bald patches on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts on their body" (Lev 21:5). Hmmm, the same things we see in Lev 19. Then again in Deuteronomy, the repeat of the Law, we read, "You are the sons of the LORD your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead" (Deut 14:1). I don't think it's a stretch. I think it's the intent. Indeed, the vow of the Nazirites, intended to separate these further, included the command not to cut their hair. If no one was allowed to cut their hair already, what was the point of the vow? No, I don't think that the most reasonable reading of Leviticus 19:27 in context is that God was commanding His people not to cut their hair. It just doesn't fit.

The complaint of the skeptic is that we don't follow the Bible even though we claim to follow the Bible. I would argue that too often they're right ... and that ought to stop. Too often we dismiss stuff that shouldn't be dismissed. It's in there. Let's conform our lives to God's Word rather than vice versa. On the other hand, tying ourselves to a text that doesn't say what they think it says and trying to conform to it makes little sense either. This text commands that we don't perform some religious practices that were intended to honor the dead. We shouldn't eat flesh with blood on it (like the Zabians who regarded it the food of the devils) or seek divinations or mar your hair or beard for the dead (as the Arabians, according to Herodotus, did to imitate Bacchus) or cut or mark your body for the dead (as the Scythians did). Far from dismissing this as "Old Testament" or "That was just for Israel", I would argue that we, too, should avoid all of this as a matter of obedience to God. I simply suggest that we submit to what God says rather than to what skeptics argue it says out of context and content.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pejoratives

Pejoratives, those terms we use that might seem to be harmless, but really are not. You know these terms. They're terms intended to express disgust, to disparage, to belittle. They're often harmless in and of themselves, but in use and context, they're intended to undercut reasoned discussion by provoking an emotional response.

Take, for instance, "homophobic". Find a person who believes that it is not moral for two people of the same gender to engage in sexual relations, and he or she is not principled or morally indignant or "taking the high road". He or she is homophobic whether or not there is any distaste for the people or any phobia for the act. All the accuser has to do is place the label and the investigation into the morality of the act is eliminated.

One I hear too often is "hunch". I can express what I read in the Bible with clear presentation and obvious reasoning, but the best it can be is "a hunch". Do you know what a hunch is? It's a guess, a suspicion. It is a belief without a reason. A coach or a gambler will "play a hunch" when he acts without obvious reason and operates on intuition rather than evidence. Thus, in the example of my case, when I say, "The Bible clearly states that a man shall not lie with a man as with a woman", I'm operating on a whim, a guess, a suspicion, pure intuition. There is no reason, no evidence, no concrete for such a thing. That's the effect of the pejorative, "hunch". And the discussion is done. "You've got your hunch, and I've got my opinion."

Sometimes pejoratives are context-sensitive. You can be "fundamentally sound" but you'd better not be "a fundamentalist". You can seek to conserve our culture, but "conservative" is normally not a good thing. And I'm not at all sure that the people who classify someone as "right wing" believe that such a person can ever be right. It's okay to be spiritual, but not religious. It's acceptable to be principled, but not confident of your beliefs. In the right context, merely pointing out that a woman is blonde or a man is white can be intended as insults.

Pejoratives are effective tools for terminating discussion. Take Rick Perry's recent faux pas. He forgot a name of an organization. It's a mistake that any -- likely all -- human being can make. It's not a big deal. A brain freeze. A momentary lapse. No bearing whatsoever on one's ability to lead a country. Perry said at the moment, "Oops!" In normal use that would mean "a minor mistake." The media picked it up and made it "the oops heard 'round the world", and now "oops" became a pejorative that pundits say will end Perry's run for the presidency. His ideas? Irrelevant. His hopes and plans for the country? Doesn't matter. His "oops" became a term intended to disparage the man in order to terminate the discussion.

There is another term for this process of the use of pejoratives to end debate. It is called ad hominem, a logical fallacy. It invalidates the argument of those against whom it is used by disparaging the person. Unfortunately, too many people these days aren't aware of logic. It doesn't bode well for reasoning people.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Lion of Judah

Hosea quoted God as saying, "For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, And like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear to pieces and go away, I will carry away, and there will be none to deliver" (Hos 5:14).

In Revelation, an elder calmed John by saying, "Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals" (Rev 5:5).

I liked this quote:

"Trying to defend God is like trying to defend a caged lion. He doesn't need your help. Just unlock the cage." (Source unknown)

The Lion has overcome ... and there will be none to deliver. Sometimes Christianity is not the tame, timid religion a lot of people seem to think it should be, eh?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mac Alert

For all you Mac users out there who are so confident that your computer is safe because only PC's get viruses, think again. Apparently, Sophos is reporting that a new virus is stalking about that can take over your computer.

Mac users for the longest time have been told that PC's are dangerous while Mac's are safe. PC's get virus's but Mac's don't. It was part of Apple's advertising scheme, as I recall. When I saw it back then I thought, "Well, yeah, that's because it's such a small target that no one is interested in investing the time in attacking it." Turns out that Apple has been so successful in marketing these computers that the market share has become targetable.

I'm not a Mac user. I have protection all over the place. And still I find I have to be vigilant. Guess what, Mac users? Your time is coming. It has, in fact, arrived. You might want to look into protecting your computer assets. Having someone else gain full control of your Mac is an unnerving idea to me. I just thought, as a public service, I'd let you know.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day, 2011

Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. "Hey, aren't they the same thing?" No, not quite. Memorial Day commemorates America's fallen. It is a day of tribute to all who gave their lives for this country. Veterans Day isn't the same. It is intended to honor all who have served.

I remember talking with a World War II veteran years ago. He told me about his time in the South Pacific during the war. Truth be told, he didn't get shot at ... once. He worked on an island at a depot. He helped provide the needs of those in combat. You see, while we rightly honor those who place themselves directly in harm's way to defend our freedom, they don't do it alone. Someone has to feed them and supply them and give them the medical treatment they need and fix their weapons and even manage their paperwork. Behind each fighting man or woman is an entire army of people working to keep them functioning. It is, then, those who place themselves in harm's way as well as those who support those who do that are being honored.

Today we say "Thank you" to those who tend to families while soldiers, sailors, and airmen are away. Today we show our gratitude to those who answered the call to duty regardless of the roles they played. Well, it really is in the term, isn't it? Today we honor all who are serving or who have served their country. To all veterans, I say "Thank you for your service."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Objective Truth

Yesterday I dealt with the concept of "objective good" ... which I said didn't exist. There is no moral good that is, in and of itself, good. Rather, good is determined to be good as it meets the standards that God makes. Good is defined by God. Well, that was yesterday.

Today I want to ask about objective truth. What is it? Does it exist? Can we know it?

First, what is it? According to multiple sources, objective truth is that which is true in and of itself. That is, it is not relative or subjective. It is true. It doesn't depend on you or I believing it. It is true. It isn't determined by circumstances or perspective. It is true. One site puts it this way: "The idea of truth as objective is simply that no matter what we believe to be the case, some things will always be true and other things will always be false." That is "objective truth". But was is "objective"? The dictionary helpfully defines it (in our context) as "belonging to the object of thought rather than to the thinking subject." That is, it is that which exists independently of perception or individual conception, that which relates to actual phenomena rather than subjective thought or feeling. So there we have "objective truth". It is truth that is in and of itself intrinsically true outside of your concurrence or belief, truth that is true because it is part of reality.

So, does it exist? Is it real or a figment of my imagination? Well, in all honesty, the existence of objective truth cannot rationally be denied. Beyond that, we couldn't really function if it didn't exist. You assume that 2+2=4 every time, and if that was not objectively true, you'd never know what was in your bank account. You know that putting your hand on a hot stove will burn it and if you don't, well, I'm sorry about your hand, but the truth doesn't care. And, of course, we have the biblical claim from Christ, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6). If objective truth doesn't exist, Jesus was lying. So, while there certainly is such a thing as relative truth -- truth that depends on circumstances and perception -- there is and must be objective truth. It does indeed exist.

But the real question is, "Can we know it?" Well, the answer should be obvious. If "objective truth" is that which is true regardless of whether or not you believe it and you believe it, then you know objective truth. In fact, this would be the case whether or not you could prove it. If a 2-year-old stumbled upon the idea that 1+1=2, she wouldn't need careful theorems or logical chains to be correct. So where does this question go? I mean, is there really an objection to knowing objective truth? Of course, this claim comes up when it comes to spiritual matters. What can we know about God? Can we know objective truth about what God believes on a particular topic? You will hear this objection raised over and over. "That's just your opinion! You shouldn't claim to know what God thinks on that issue."

Is this correct? Are we doomed to mere opinions about what God thinks about this or that? Are we stuck with conjecture and personal interpretation, or can we know? Is this an objective truth that we can get our hands around?

First, let me give my top-level answer. No. We cannot know fully what God thinks about all things. The finite cannot grasp the infinite. When the Bible says He is "holy, holy, holy", it is saying that He is so far above us that we can't fully encompass the mind of God. Further, we know that natural man cannot understand the things of God (1 Cor 2:14), so there is a serious impediment there. "Oh, so we can't know any truth about God?" Again, no. Here's what we can know. We can know what He tells us we can know. We can know that "God loved the world in this way ..." (John 3:16) because He said so. We can know that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek 18:32) because He said so. We know that God does not change (Mal 3:6), and therefore there are things that God hates (e.g., Prov 6:16-19) and likes (e.g., 2 Cor 9:7) because He laid them out for us. The agnostic would tell you, "If there is a God, we cannot know Him or know anything about Him." The skeptic will say, "We cannot know anything objectively about what God thinks." The Bible, on the other hand, explains with unavoidable clarity much of what God thinks on many issues. These are facts, objective truth, regardless of our apprehension of them or agreement with them.

The trick, then, is to be about the process of aligning our perceptions of God (subjective truth) with God's own revelation of Himself (objective truth). It is a major part of renewing the mind. It is not our aim to hold that all views about God are subjective and genuine humility is to make no claim about what God thinks. I mean, He took the time to have it written down and took the effort to protect it for us over all the centuries, so claiming we cannot know would seem more arrogant than claiming we can. And, given the biblical claims that sinful Man functions with mental futility, is lacking "ears", cannot understand the things of God, and is blinded by the god of this world, the existing confusion and the subsequent disagreement about what God thinks about these things are not valid reasons to argue that we cannot know the truth. It was Jesus who said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). It is the aim and responsibility of the born-again follower of Christ to hear the Holy Spirit's teaching and renew the mind to know the truth.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Objective Good

What is "objective good"? The term is meant to describe that which is, in and of itself, good. It is intended to stand in opposition to subjective good. This would be that which is good to me (or you, if you prefer). You can see this, right? I remember the story of two villages along the Amazon (which originally was a river in South America, not a book-selling website). A heavy rain came through, and the question was, "Is that good?" The village upriver was delighted. They needed the rain for their crops. The village downstream was devastated. The rain caused a flood that wiped out their fields. That's subjective good. So what would be classified as objectively good?

At first look, it might seem easy to do. Love is objectively good. Easy, see? Well, it's easy as long as you define it carefully. "I loved my wife so much that when I caught her cheating on me, I killed her and her lover." See? Love ... objectively good. Oh, wait. Although such a use of the term might be popular, I'd have a hard time calling it "love". Still, when properly used, I think most people would consider love objectively good. Or how about telling the truth? Objectively good, right? I suppose so, although I think some might wonder if that's the case if a citizen of Nazi Germany told the truth about the family down the street hiding Jews. It would seem, in fact, that the more you go down this line, the easier it is to make the whole thing murky, and those things that we would consider good in and of themselves die the death of a hundred qualifications.

I would like to suggest a different approach. I would like to suggest that our definition of "objective good" is flawed from the outset. If we could clean that up, I think "good" can get a little clearer. It doesn't take long to figure out that one of the better known characteristics of God is that God is good. The theme is repeated over and over in the Psalms (Psa 34:8; 100:5; 135:3; 145:9) and elsewhere (e.g., Jer 33:11; Nah 1:7). What does this mean? I remember a church awhile back that claimed that since 1 John 4:8 said "God is love", therefore "Love is god." This, of course, is manifest nonsense. I could rightly claim "My wife is human", but would be an idiot to conclude, therefore, that all humans were my wife. No, John was saying that love is defined by and contained in God. This is the same concept with good. Jesus said, "There is none good but God." That is, absolute good is defined by and contained in God. It's not that there is "good" out there and God conforms to it. Instead, it is the reverse. Good is only good because God says it is.

Here, let's try this from another direction. "Good" has several related definitions. It may mean "morally excellent; virtuous; righteous; pious," or it may mean "satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree," or it may mean "of high quality; excellent". "Good", then, whether in terms of moral excellence or quality of any type simply means that whatever it is meets or exceeds the standard. What standard? That's the question. A "good dog" is not the same a "good man". Different standards. And the only right standard we have for "good" in terms of morality or virtue is God's standard. Since He sets the standard, He defines "good".

Okay, one more direction to view this. Assume that there is "objective good", that which is, in and of itself, intrinsically good. This would require that God, in order to be "good", would need to conform to that external, objective standard. But if God needs to conform to something external to Himself, then God is not God because that "something external" is higher than He is.

I would contend, then, that nothing is "objectively good". Instead, "good" is always determined by a standard, and God sets that standard and, therefore, defines "good". We all know folks who read, for instance, the account of God commanding Israel to destroy the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 as not a literally factual account. The first reason offered for this is that it would make God "bad". That is, we all know that killing people is bad (I'm simplifying here) ("objective good", then, is in not killing people) and if God did it or ordered it He would be bad, so it could not have happened. Just an example. Not the primary point. The primary point is that if God defines good, then whatever God does is good and our own perceptions of what is good should conform to that rather than vice versa. If God declares something for Himself and we choose to defy that declaration because it doesn't conform to our concept of "objective good", it is neither God nor the declaration that is in error. I'll leave you to figure out where the error lies.

Isaiah has a warning for us. "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" (Isa 5:20). Perhaps we ought to let God determine first what is good and evil and then conform our own views on the subject to His outlook.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Biblical Elders

Have you ever read the biblical qualifications for church leadership? The list is not lightweight.
1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil (1 Tim 3:1-7).

5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you -- 6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:5-9).
I am not alone in my concern today that church leadership is not lining up very well with biblical requirements. As a prime example, just about everyone knows about the concept of the "PK" -- the pastor's kid. The children of the pastor in many churches will often be the most disruptive kids around because, as we all know, a pastor's job is tough and time consuming and he doesn't get much opportunity to deal with his kids. But there is no question that a leader in the church must "know how to manage his own household" specifically in terms of well-behaved children.

But I'm not writing this to complain about pastor's kids. I'm writing this about the listing of requirements. First, it should be noted that these lists are not intended as qualifications for Christians. Just like a "computer programmer" needs to have a special skill set that not everyone requires, "elders" need to have special qualifications. Still, these qualifications leave me with questions.

There are peripheral questions for me. How would you define "self-controlled"? Is a pastor who eats too much lacking in self-control? (It's an easy question since I know of so many overweight pastors.) How would you quantify "arrogant"? That's tougher, since simply holding a view of Scripture can be classified as "arrogant".

From there, it only gets tougher. What, for instance, are we to make of "the husband of one wife"? Some have argued that it is "one wife at a time" (as opposed to polygamy). That would qualify most anyone. But clearly the Bible is talking about managing households and such, so that seems unlikely. The more conservative side says it means "one wife ever". That would automatically exclude a divorced person from being in church leadership. But what if that divorce took place in his youth, before he knew Christ? Would this preclude him from serving in that capacity? And, of course, it would seem to clearly exclude single men from being church leaders. Aren't many youth pastors single? And if "the husband of one wife" is the standard, what about widowers? Or widowers that remarried? It all seems very convoluted. Now, I know that the original text can be read "one woman man", and that would seem to resolve a lot of these questions, but then we're back to the "How would you quantify 'arrogant'?" kind of question. Is he a one-woman kind of man?

What do we conclude about "his children are believers"? One view argues that all of the children of any given leader must be faithful believers in Christ. Another perspective holds that they need to be well-behaved. The term doesn't necessarily have to read "believers", but can be read as "faithful". So which is it? And how do you know? For instance, as a silly question, how many infants are "believers"? Wouldn't that disqualify any man with an infant? And, really, can a father -- any father -- be responsible to raise believers? That is, can a father make his children believers, or is that God's work in their hearts and their subsequent decision?

Imagine a pastor that had two sons. One was "the good son", going to church and leading Bible studies and doing all the good things expected of him and the other was "the renegade son", running off with wild women and mimicking the prodigal son in a marvelous way. As it turned out, decades later, the good son announced that he was an atheist and the renegade son became a pastor. So, here they are. Is the pastor-son now disqualified by the divorce he had in that wild time? Is the father of the two sons disqualified because of the renegade son who repented or is he disqualified by the good son, still well-behaved but just not a believer?

Tough questions. Sometimes I ask myself tough questions. Easy answers aren't always forthcoming. So here's the final question. Should we, then, just decide to ignore these qualifications like some seem to be doing these days?

Monday, November 07, 2011

Definition

The definitions of words is always a problem for me. Marriage has always been defined as the union of a male and a female (with more verbiage behind that) and now we've shifted it. Love meant devotion with attendant emotion and now it means sexual relations. Gay meant happy and now ... well, you see how this is going. As I've always seen, communication is tenuous at best, and the constantly shifting vagaries of language don't make that task any easier.

In the recent discussion over Paul's Moral Relativism, the notion of "opinions" was up for debate. What constitutes "opinion" versus "truth"? It has been suggested that the difference (in this dialog) is between the "essentials" and the "non-essentials". And that would seem to be pretty acceptable ... until you begin to ask the question about defining "essentials". Sigh. And now we're back to the shifting sands of definitions.

Awhile back I did a series on what I believed to be "the essentials". But, of course, the question is "To what are they essential?" I mean, we can all find our dictionaries and figure out what "essential" actually means. It refers to a basic ingredient, an integral part, something that is part of the essence of something, something without which that thing would not be what it is. So, when I did the series, I referenced things that were essential to Christianity, things that made Christianity what it is. Without those things that I listed, Christianity would not be what it is. "But," the argument would come, "are you saying that these things are essential to salvation?" And now you see the problem. Essential to what? In that series, I pointed out that the things that were essential to Christianity were not necessarily essential to salvation. That is, you didn't have to believe all those things to get saved. And that just seemed to make the waters murky.

Beyond salvation, my list was not acceptable as "essential to Christianity". And we're further into hazy definitions. What makes Christianity what it is? Some would have us believe that Christianity is essentially a moral and social enterprise to be good to people. On the other side of the road there are those who would have us believe that Christianity is, in its essence, being different than everyone else. You know, thou shalt not cuss and thou shalt not smoke and thou shalt not swim in mixed male-female company. (Seriously, I've seen this before.) There are those that would argue that Christianity is purely a single moment in time in which you "place your faith in Christ" -- end of story. No fruit, no action, no response. "What are you, a legalist?" (Seriously, I know some of these.) And while one might think that "the essentials" would be a simple matter, we're mired instead in a big mud hole like the blind horse from De Camptown Races.

After awhile you realize that, rather than clarifying definitions, clearing up questions, and dividing between "opinion" and "truth", we're not likely to get out of this endless loop anytime soon. So, is there an answer? Yes, indeed. There is truth. There is absolute truth. And I'll go farther and say that we can know absolute truth. What is lacking -- will never be -- is proof. Proof is evidence or argument that establishes something as fact. Since humans suffer from a queer sort of condition called "suppression of truth" and all need to undergo extensive treatment referred to as "renewing the mind", proof will not exist. When we can cleanly and quickly say quite simply, "I don't accept your argument or evidence", the notion of proof is eliminated. And considering that a large part of our world is blinded by the god of this world, I would think that this wouldn't be uncommon. But just because evidence and argument is ignored doesn't mean that truth doesn't exist. You can know the truth. That's the Holy Spirit's job, isn't it?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Proverbs

Dan Phillips over at Pyromaniacs has written a good blog entry entitled Reading Proverbs Wisely vs Harmfully. The entry is a natural, since he recently published a book on Proverbs. Makes sense. Dan hits squarely on a concern I've had for a long time over how people read the book of Proverbs.

A proverb is a wise saying or precept. It is an adage, a statement of an general truth. It has the function of portraying a truism, something that is often true, but not necessarily always. Here, look at a couple of examples:

Look before you leap. ----- He who hesitates is lost.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. ----- Better safe than sorry.
The only thing constant is change. ----- The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. ----- Out of sight, out of mind.

I'm sure you see the problem. These are truisms, all of them, but they contradict. Oh, so I suppose they are not true, right? No, that's not the case, either. They are true in their contexts and times. To take "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" as a promise or principle would require that every close relationship -- marriage, family, friend, whatever -- would need to make as a function of good relations separation an integral part. In fact, it would probably just be better if husbands and wives didn't live together. Imagine how fond of each other they'd become! And, of course, that's silly. (No, really, that's silly. I see you over there thinking that one over.)

Proverbs are neither promises nor statements of absolute truth. They are ... proverbs. Thus, when we get to Solomon's book of the same name, we need to remember that they are proverbs. Look at some of these examples.

"When a man's ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Prov 16:7). This appears to be a formula, a suitable test. Are your enemies not at peace with you? Must not be pleasing the Lord! Get that fixed. Of course, this is too easily dismantled when we look at the singular person about which it must be said that all His ways pleased the Lord -- Jesus. I hate to break it to you, but His enemies weren't at peace with Him. Must not have pleased the Lord! No, wrong conclusion. It's a proverb. It is generally true. It is often the case. It isn't an absolute truth. It isn't a promise from God.

This one is a real problem for some people. "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov 22:6). Clear as day! So, if, when he is old, he departs from it, you didn't do your job, parents. Can there be any question? And as if that's not painful enough, consider this. If you were supposed to train up your child to have faith in Christ and when he is old he does not, now where do you stand? You are responsible for his/her eternal damnation. And while I know that some would think I'm exaggerating for effect, I'm not. I know people who believe that. Some of them believe it and sternly look at those who failed, and others suffer from self-inflicted guilt because they believe it about themselves. But rather than messing around with questionable fathers to prove that this can't be the case, let's go to the absolutely perfect Father and see how He did. Adam sinned. Israel sinned. God's children haven't been very well behaved. Well, I suppose we know Who to blame, don't we? No, of course not. That was exaggeration for effect.

Then, of course, there is the classic (dare I say "proverbial"?) problem of Proverbs. "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes" (Prov 26:4-5). "Oh, come on, Solomon! What's up with that??!!" If we believe (as we do) that the Bible is God's Word without error or contradiction, then we have a problem here. Which is it? Answer a fool according to his folly or not? This problem goes away when we place the book of Proverbs in the category of proverbs. These are wise sayings about truth in context and time. Sometimes the context would require that you point out the folly of a fool for his own sake and sometimes it's best to ignore it.

Dan Phillips writes, "Proverbs is a book about skill for living in the fear of Yahweh." That's what it's about. It isn't about steps to take to make a happier life, the formula for making your enemies like you, or the 12 step program for raising good kids. These are proverbs with a focus on the fear of the Lord. If we can get that straight, we can avoid a lot of contradiction, misplaced hopes, and heart-rending disappointments. Instead, let's get to work on the fear of the Lord.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Well-Being Checklist

USA Today recently published their "well-being checklist" and identified what has been called "the happiest woman in America". Meet Mary Orenic. What is it that makes for the happiest women?

Well, the happiest women live in California, work full-time for an employer, make over $120,000 a year, are married with no children under 18 years old, do not have care-giving responsibilities, have strong family support and 1-5 hours of social interaction per day. They are happiest when they work as managers or executives, have a short commute to work, and eat 5 servings of fruits and 4 vegetables (minimum) per day. Cool!

Seriously?

There is more, and some of it is a no-brainer, but ... seriously? Have they lived in California? No, more to the point, does it really matter where a woman lives for her to be happy? Oh, sure, individuals, but I know of women who wouldn't dream of living in California. That would be miserable. Been there, done that, don't want to go back.

Indeed, many of these qualifications would eliminate the vast majority of women for all time. The stay-at-home mom is right out. She is not the executive, not making $120,000 a year, not working for an employer, buried under kids under 18, and often social-interaction deprived. Miserable!

Dennis Prager recently put out his Four Legacies of Feminism. It's a good read. According to Prager, these are four of the repercussions of feminism:

1. Women should have sex like men do -- freely, frequently, without commitment.
2. Women should develop their careers before marrying or having a family.
3. It is best if women work outside the home.
4. Men are demasculinized.

I think he's right. I think, on the other hand, that he has only scratched the surface. And the societal shift continues into all aspects of life and even into the church.

In the words of one of my favorite lesser-known biblical characters, "We do not well." (Go ahead, figure out who that was.)