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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

From - Through - To

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever (Rom 11:33-36).
That's what Paul wrote. And we like that. It's good stuff. In fact, it's as if Paul has lost all hope of expressing what he was trying to get across. "Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?" It's as if he ran out of words. "I'm sorry, guys, this is just way too big for me to express." Really good stuff.

It's such good stuff, however, that it's easy to miss what Paul said there. "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things." There is a complete picture there ... and it's not the picture we normally hold in our heads.

Picture, with me, a water system. There is the spigot, a source. There is a garden, the target, something that requires what the source has. And there is a hose, a conduit through which the source will provide what the garden needs. Now, which of these, in the scheme of things, are we? Many consider us the source. Wise Christians know better. We're the conduit. You know, like we're the ones who take the Gospel (whose source is God) to unbelievers (the target). That's common. But that's not what Paul says here. Paul says here that God is the entire system. He is the source ("from Him"), the conduit ("through Him"), and the target ("for Him"). God is the complete picture.

We are not naturally prone to see things that way. We are the source of what we do. Certainly we are the ones who do it. We are most often the target of what we do. You know, like "I will be like the Most High." That's Natural Man. The Christian operates in a different mode. We know, for instance, that Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). That makes Him the source. You know, "Apart from Me you can do nothing." The source. Good start. And if we're careful, we remember Soli Deo Gloria; we remember "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31). This one is harder for us to remember, but it's there. God is the target. Jesus isn't only "the reason for the season". God is the reason for all we do. His glory is our aim. Thus, we are to "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matt 5:16). But surely, surely we are the ones who do them. Certainly we are the ones who obey, who abide, who do good works. While God is the source and God is the target, obviously we're the conduit, right?

The biblical perspective to that question is "Yes!" ... and "No." Yes, we obey. Yes, we work. Yes, we are conduits. But none of that would happen if God wasn't doing it. Clearly you are to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12), but you must not forget that "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil 2:13). Thus, God is the source, the conduit, and the target. Us? We just get to be a part. We get to do what God tells us to and enables us to for His glory. For that, He rewards us, first with "lightweight" rewards like crowns and "Well done, good and faithful servant" and then, ultimately, with His eternal glory and presence. It is in this light that we can start to see what Jesus meant when He said both "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me" (Matt 16:24) and "My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (Matt 11:30).
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen (Rom 11:36).

Monday, January 30, 2012


We are really good, it seems, at identifying problems. Discovering solutions is more difficult. That might seem odd, but I have begun to wonder of late if it's largely because we're not really so good at identifying problems.

Take, for instance, politics. We all know what the problem is. It's the media, with their 30-second soundbites and their liberal bias and their constant coverage-with-a-slant. It's the Super PAC concept with their unlimited money and ability to say whatever they want without repercussion or even honesty. It's "the wrong guy" in office or running for office or maybe just "the wrong party" in charge. It is excessive or inadequate laws to govern all this. If we could only fix these problems, our political woes would be solved.

Take, for instance, abortion. The cause here is obvious. It's the loud mouths of the "pro-abortionist groups" who are forcing their view on our culture. It's the evil "pro-choice groups" who suggest that it's all about "choice" rather than "murder". Or, if you're on the other side, it's those insidious "pro-life groups" who, as you all know, are really just "anti-choice", and if we could just shut them up, the question would go away. The "pro-life" side might say it's liberals in general or perhaps the Supreme Court for its faulty rulings or the government for its faulty laws and its blocking of good laws. Solve these, and we've solved the abortion problem.

Take, for instance, pornography. No one really asks what the problem is here. It's the media, with all that sex available on cable. It's computers and the Internet which make it readily available to anyone all the time. I mean, kids can get it on their smart phones! And it's the fact that most people find it acceptable, expected, normal. Pornography is everywhere. That's the problem. Fix that and we'll fix that problem.

Take, for instance, "same-sex marriage". Of course, when I say that there are two possible responses. One is "Yeah, we shouldn't be allowing that" and the other is "Yeah, they shouldn't be outlawing that." But let's go with the efforts that are being spent on keeping marriage intact. That problem is equally visible. It's, again, the media. In this case it's the infiltration of gay-rights types who are launching an intentional assault to shape public opinion away from "That's not right" to "That's perfectly normal" (even when 2% cannot be called "normal" by any mathematical stretch of the imagination). It's the product of constant assault on television where 80% of the shows have pro-gay characters. It's the flood of the Internet and computers that push the gay agenda. It's the infiltration into the courts and the erosion of laws, where the public can vote a law into existence and then have the courts legislate from the bench. Oh, yeah, we know where this problem lies. If we can shore up the laws and stop the presses, we'd have this problem beat.

The truth? The problem is not the media, the political party, the group that argues for the problem or the technology that abets it. In each and every case, the problem is the person, the individual that buys into it. Mass these persons together and you get a group. Ask them about politics and you get a political party. Give them access to tools and you get technology and "the media", which is a blending of technology and groups. It is the person. Oh, let's not dwell on my opinon here. Let's go to a higher source.
Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers (James 1:14-16).
Clear enough. It is a personal problem, not an external problem. Or how about this?
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (James 4:1-3).
On what, then, does James blame conflicts? "Your passions are at war within you". "You desire and do not have." In both accounts, the problem is you. (Or, in my case, me.)

We could spend all our time attempting to correct the problems. We could alter the media, outlaw Super PACs, vote in the right people, change Roe v Wade, outlaw pornography, get rid of the computer, silence the gay agenda, whatever example you wish to use. It wouldn't make a difference. These are not the problem. The problem is self -- self-centeredness, self-interest, a lack of self-control, self-gratification and on it goes. The answer is not found in better laws, better controls, or better candidates. The answer is found in the Gospel alone. The solution is Christ. We can possibly stem the tide of moral decay by muddling about in those other things, but they are not solutions. And we who know Christ have both the Solution and the clear commission to administer the Gospel wherever we are. And, look, in all honesty, do you think that those who love God have the capacity to fight off those who are hostile to God by legislation or boycotts or voting right? These things are fine and dandy, but remember, we do not war against flesh and blood, nor are we alone in it. It is much better to remember that the battle is the Lord's.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


There are still folks who use the word, "providence". No, I don't mean "the capital of Rhode Island". I almost never hear anyone refer to the capital of Rhode Island. No, I still hear people -- not too many, but some -- use the term in reference to Divine Providence. It is almost always used as an alternative to "good luck" or something like it. Something fortuitous happened, and "It was just Providence, I guess."

The word comes from Latin, meaning "foresight" (pro "ahead" + videre "to see"), but you can see fairly quickly the root of the word. Here, let me "spell it out": "Provide-ence". Divine Providence, then, is God foreseeing a situation and providing the care and guidance His creation needs.

Most people, when they think of Providence, think of "nice things that happen" or the like. I am thinking more and more that this is just a product of American comfortable living. "Nice things" is what we expect. "Have not" is the definition of "bad" and "have" is "good". The biblical version is not quite the same thing.
The joy of the LORD is your strength (Neh 8:10).

Rejoice in the Lord always (Phil 4:4).

I count everything as loss in view of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Phil 3:8).

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Phil 4:11, 13).
Over and over Scripture points us to something other than temporal comfort and the joy of "having". The Providence that God offers is something far beyond such petty things. It is the Providence of Him. It is the joy of Him. It is the value of knowing Him. True contentment is found in Him. It's not in the "stuff" that He provides. It is Himself.

Does God provide "stuff"? Does He give aid in hard times or rescue in times of trouble? Yes, He may. And that's nice. But when I have Him, all that other stuff becomes ... Paul's word was "loss". (Note, in fact, that the word means "detriment".) "Nice things" simply give me a false sense of "home" here when I'm not truly home unless I'm in His presence. Until I find my full satisfaction in Him, I will never be "at home". And full satisfaction in Him is precisely what He provides. This is how Habakkuk can say, "Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation" (Hab 3:17-18). Habakkuk and you.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Think it Out Again

Among the richest Americans you will find Bill Gates (#1, actually), Christy Walton (and three other Waltons), Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin, and more. As of September, 2011, Steve Jobs was 39th on the list. And, of course, many more. These folks represent companies like Microsoft, WalMart, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple. These companies represent the biggest marketshare ... of the 99%. Now, what's up with that?

Last year Steve Jobs and President Obama had a conversation at a Silicon Valley dinner in California. While Apple used to brag about being an American-made product, today its products are almost entirely manufactured overseas. Jobs told the president, "Those jobs aren't coming back." Apple employs more than 700,000 people either directly or as contractors to do work for them. Of those, 43,000 are in the United States. Of Apple, Jared Bernstein who used to be an economic adviser to the White House said, "If [Apple] is the pinnacle of capitalism, we should be worried." Apparently, due to unions and environmental laws and government red tape and more, American industry is not agile enough to get the job done in a timely or economical manner. So the jobs go to Asia and Europe and even Mexico, but not to the U.S.

ABC has had a Made In America series going since last year. They've been encouraging Americans to buy American. They started by pointing out how little we have here that is made here and how much good it would offer toward creating American jobs if we'd just buy American. And people like it. Okay, fine, but understand that there are some products you won't be able to get, like, say, the iPhone or practically any other Apple product. I mean, it's a nice idea, but we've so suppressed American industry and innovation that it's not nearly as possible as it once was. And, look, does ABC really favor buying American? I mean, they prominently enjoy the use of iPads and are owned by Disney whose products are almost entirely made overseas. ABC practiced their "hard news" reporting by investigating gift shops at the Smithsonian and the Capital and finding that their products were made overseas, but completely ignored the stores at Disney's theme parks for the same thing. What's up with that?

The Occupy Wall Street (et. al.) folks want us to stop the richest Americans. The government wants to tax them into equality. It would be easy to do ... just as easy as the Made-in-America thing. If you want to encourage American jobs, buy American products. If you want to discourage the "overly rich", stop buying their products. Don't use Microsoft. Don't shop at WalMart. Don't buy books (or anything else) from Amazon. Don't use Google or Facebook. Don't buy Apple. Say, while you're at it, Mr. Dell is really high on the list, so don't buy Dell computers. The CEO of HP computers is pretty high up there, too. Better avoid HP. And in a really short time we will manage to cripple America. No computers (PC or Mac), no software, no social media, no search engines. Easy! That ought to make things better.

Oh, wait ... in the words of Fagin, "I think I'd better think it out again."

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Evil of Homosexuality

Bear with me. This isn't going where you think it is.

From all around Christendom every biblically-thinking believer is horrified by the rise of the acceptance and indulgence of homosexual behavior. It's marching on our streets. It's in our neighborhoods. It's on our TVs. It is even infiltrating churches. An act that was, merely a half century ago, universally recognized as sin by even unbelievers is becoming "accepted" and "normalized" in society today. Even though hardly 2% of society self-identifies as "gay", our culture is ready to call it "normal". (Do the math. That doesn't add up.) So we have the loose cannons (read "crazies") like the Westboro Baptist Church people who are toting signs at the funerals of American military assuring us that God hates us and these deaths are a direct result of this evil. Right. (Not.) And we have people like me, a bit farther away from that radical fringe, still stumping to hold the line that homosexual behavior is a sin and marriage has a definition that does not include "same-sex".

It would be easy, then, to assume that to ... what was my term ... "every biblically-thinking believer" perhaps the most offensive sin is the sin of homosexuality. That is the ultimate evil. That's where it's at. That's where evil has come to. I would like to stand up as a biblically-thinking believer and suggest that this just isn't true. Homosexual behavior is not the ultimate sin. Not even close.

Recently the folks at Stand to Reason did a noteworthy piece on "Is Homosexuality the Worst Sin of All?" I appreciated the tone and the content. Now I'm going to offer some reasons to conclude that it is not.

If I'm going to make this argument, calling myself a "biblically-thinking believer", I'll have to do it biblically. But first, I'd like to do it, briefly, with reason. Then the Bible. I think that the truly evil sins are the insidious ones, the ones that are "acceptable", the ones that we don't even pay attention to. They're the ones that sneak into our kitchens (like "gluttony") or our bedrooms (I'm sure you can figure that one out). They're the ones that we indulge without giving them a second thought, the "normal" sins that we don't even consider repenting from because we don't even think about them. To me, those are the ultimate sins. The "easy listening" music that encourages fornication rather than the "evil" music that does the same only louder. The "family-friendly" television show that inverts God's family structures and glorifies teenage pregnancy rather than the pornography that we all recognize as bad. These kinds of things that we just let in. We recognize homosexual behavior as a sin and we're aware of it. That makes it not nearly as dangerous as our acceptable sins.

I believe, however, that the Bible agrees; it isn't the ultimate sin. Jesus spoke of one sin that was unpardonable, and it wasn't homosexual behavior. Thus, we can be sure that there is something worse than that behavior. The unforgivable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and homosexual behavior is not that sin. John wrote, "If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life" (1 John 5:16). Regardless of what sin John was talking about, there is a sin that leads to death and there is sin that does not. "There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that" (1 John 5:16). Whatever that sin is, it is not homosexual behavior. Thus, there is sin that is worse than that particular behavior.

There is another biblical reference that suggests that, while the behavior is pretty bad, it is not the ultimate sin. Romans 1 has a sequence of depravity. It starts with the suppression of truth and the exchange of the glory of God for created things (Rom 1:21-23). From there, God "gave them up" to impurity. At this step, they "served the creature rather than the Creator (Rom 1:24-25). So God "gave them up" again, this time to "dishonorable passions" which includes the sin of homosexual behavior -- the exchange of the "natural" for the "unnatural". Please note that this is not the end of the chain. Since, at this point, they refused to acknowledge God, He "gave them up" one more time. This is the bottom of the ladder, the lowest point, the "worst sins", so to speak.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them (Rom 1:28-32).
Notice, then, what is at the bottom of the barrel, the "worst sins". More importantly, compare your ideas of "worst sins" to this list. How about murder? "Yeah, yeah, that one is really up there." Haters of God? "Oh, yeah, really bad." Gossip? "Yeah ... oh, wait ... hold on." How about disobedient to parents? "Oh, come on, now, really?"

Look, I believe that homosexual behavior is a sin. No doubt. But it is not the ultimate sin. It isn't even the worst sin. The reason that it is so "in the news" right now is that it is a battleground sin, a place where sin is being suggested as normal. But it is only one. We glorify disobedience to parents in our society, as an example. And that's just one on the list. Homosexual behavior is one sin on the "sexual immorality" hit parade. It is a bad one, classified by God as an "abomination". But, Christians, let's not lose sight here. Gossips need the Gospel just as much as gays. Liars need to repent just as much as lesbians. Let's not lose sight of the goal here. We need to share with everyone their need for Christ and the answers that are found in Him. An extreme focus on a particular sinful behavior might be momentarily necessary when it tries to become "normal" and "acceptable", but in the end, it is just another sin for which Christ died and for which His blood is payment.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


In the President's State of the Union address, he started with the troops that returned home from Iraq. Turning to the "obstructionist" Republicans, he said, "Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example."

Now, to be fair, he indicated what he meant. He referred to their "courage, selflessness, and teamwork". He spoke of how "they exceed all expectations." He indicated that "They don’t obsess over their differences." He said, "They focus on the mission at hand. They work together." And, of course, he meant that those dirty, rotten Republicans were selfish cowards who fell short of expectations, obsessed over differences, lost focus, and failed to play nice with other children. We got it. Truth or not, we got it.

I wonder, however, what else could be gleaned from this imagination exercise. "Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example." Well, let's see, what else can we get from the example of the military in Iraq? Perhaps we could conclude that some civilian casualties are inevitable? Maybe we could suggest that Americans should just follow orders from their superiors, shut up, and do what they're told? Or maybe we could see it as a call to go in, destroy what the President deems worthy of destruction, and then pull out to leave the mess to collapse on itself?

Now, I know that President Obama didn't mean any of that. I'm just saying that I can certainly see all of that in his words, his actions, and his intents for our future. He is anxious that "everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules", by which he means "the rich lose more of what they earn while we give more to whomever we deem worthy, 'everyone does their fair share' means the middle class workers bear the ultimate load, paying their own way without help while the upper class pays their unfair share and the lower income categories pay less than nothing, and that this is 'the same set of rules'."

I'm not looking for a government handout, but I can also be quite certain that there won't be one for me, as an example. I work hard, pay my bills, don't borrow more than I can afford to repay, don't live above my means. For that my reward from the government is ... nothing. The upper income category (I am already beginning to hate the use of the term "class" in these discussions) works hard, gets a larger income, invests that income wisely, and pays the majority of the taxes gathered by the government (85%). For that, the President wishes to penalize them because it is "unfair". And, of course, for those at the lower income side, the goal is to give them more income because, you see, more income is the answer. Take from the rich, give to the poor, and the poor will be better off.

This is the president's vision. It is the vision of most of the Democrats. It is certainly the vision of the disenfranchised. Take from those who have and give it to ... me! No, not all who are in financial trouble fall in that category. I don't mean to suggest that. But it is naive to suggest that all of America's "poor" (you know, those who have much, much more than the world's poor) are an innocent huddle of humanity struck down by those rich (typically white) folk just in need of a simple handout so they can stand on their own two feet again. So maybe that's what the president had in mind when he imagined what we could do by following the example of the military. Go in and take out the infrastructure, those higher-ups with money. Tear them down and let's see how it works. What could we learn from Iraq? Well, when you take out their structure, they start in-fighting. When you remove the military, they start killing each other. But, no, that won't happen if you create a class difference between those with more money than those with less. No, we're safe. This isn't Iraq. We're much more civilized than that. I mean, look at the Occupy Wall Street folks. Oh, wait, never mind.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Command for Americans

We Christians believe that the Bible isn't just a good book. It's God's Word. We don't believe that it's just a helpful guide. It's God's Word. We don't believe it's kind of nice to have around. It's God's Word. So what do we American Christians do when we run across a clear and present command like this:
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Heb 13:5).
Be content with what you have. Not "Keep up with the Joneses." Not "Why do they have so much more than I do?" Not "Is it fair that they make more money than me doing the same work?" Not "I wish I had more." Not "I deserve better." Be content with what you have.

More convicting, however, is the "why?" to that command. Why should we American Christians be content with what we have? Quite clearly because we have the promise of Christ to never leave us nor forsake us. (As Greek scholars will point out, that is "I will never never leave you nor forsake you.") Why is that more convicting? Because every time I say, "I want more" or "I deserve better" or the like, I am saying, "Christ is not enough for me." Ouch!

Now, go back and read the stack of commands before this one. They are for brotherly love, hospitality, remembering those in prison, and keeping the marriage bed free from sexual immorality. Somehow that pile seems a lot easier when held up against, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." So maybe we have some work to do in our own lives, eh?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Rapture Question

I'm reading in 1 Corinthians these days and I came across this:
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed (1 Cor 15:51-52).
Ah, the Rapture, the End Times, all that good stuff! Last year Harold Camping and clan assured us that the Rapture was going to be May 21, 2011. Okay. He missed. Actually it was October 21, 2011. Turned out that neither of these were any more accurate than his previous predictions. The Rapture, you see, is cloaked in mystery.

Now, my mother reads this and she would know, but I'm going to operate here off of my (elusive, fleeting) memory. I seem to recall, when I was young, that an amazing aunt of mine (great aunt, actually) and her husband had preparations in place for them to survive the Great Tribulation. I know, I know, I could be wrong. But I seem to recall provisions being set aside so they could get through the Tribulation even when those who belonged to the Lord wouldn't be allowed to buy or sell. And I recall thinking that it was odd. It was odd because, after all, didn't everyone know that the Lord was going to call His own out of the world before the Tribulation? So what would all those preparations accomplish?

The notion was this. There would be a time when the Antichrist (not mere antichrists) would come upon the scene. Just prior to that there would be "the Rapture", a calling out of the saved to be with Christ. We call it a "pre-Trib Rapture" because, as everyone knows, it happens prior to the Great Tribulation. Seven years later, when the Tribulation reaches its end, Christ and the "called out" saints will return and wipe out the Antichrist and his minions. Oh, you know that one. That's Armageddon. You know the "big battle".

Funny thing. Turns out that, while I held the majority view of the day, I was in the vast minority in Church history. In fact, not one single writer prior to about 1850 ever once took the position of the pre-Trib Rapture. As it turns out, the standard view was what I recall my great aunt had -- the post-Trib Rapture.

Why would anyone think that? Well, as it turns out, the concept of the Rapture is only documented in two places in Scripture. Oh, you might start with the Rapture concept and try to pull it out of other places, but there are only two explicit spots. The first is that one from 1 Corinthians 15. The most popular is the one in 1 Thessalonians 4.
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thess 4:13-18).
The topic, again, is resurrection (as it was in 1 Cor 15) and the coming of Christ, the Second Coming. Both mention the trumpet. Both speak of the two groups -- those who are alive and those who died -- rising. All of that is pretty clear. So at the Second Coming the trumpet will sound and the dead in Christ will rise first followed by those who are left alive to join Christ and be with Him from then on. (The word, "Rapture", comes from the 1 Thess text where the Latin for "caught up" is rapture.)

Okay, so we have two texts on the concept of the Rapture. Both texts place the Rapture at the Second Coming. No text describes "the Third Coming" or any such thing. Consider the facts, then. We should always interpret the implicit from the explicit. The explicit on the topic of the Rapture is at the Second Coming. Further, prior to the mid-19th century, no one held to a "pre-Trib Rapture" concept. Given both Church history and explicit Scripture, could it be that the oh-so-popular "pre-Trib Rapture" is not a biblical concept?

Monday, January 23, 2012

One Like Yourself

I wrote recently about the value of human life. I wrote about how we need to value human life because God said, "Let us make Man in our image." I wrote that since we value God, we must value human life. The skeptic would then ask, "Oh, so why is it that humans die?" The question would likely be more subtle ... and more diverse. "Why are there hurricanes and tornadoes that kill people?" (because these are clearly supposed to be things that God controls). "Why does God allow abortion doctors?" (because clearly He does ... or doesn't exist). "How do you justify going to war?" (because lots of Christians do -- but not all). (Oddly, a large number of Christians who call all war a sin because it takes human life don't mind at all that babies are murdered in the womb. Isn't that strange? But I digress.) The claim, then, is that while we do value life and while we are supposed to value life, it appears that God does not. At least, not like we do. I mean, from a Christian perspective, who actually determines who lives and who dies? God does. And if God determines that people die, well, how does that work itself out? Isn't He contradicting Himself?

It's not just skeptics with a problem here. Rob Bell, for instance, wrote his controversial Love Wins book because he thoroughly dislikes the concept that people who never heard the Gospel could end up in Hell. "The real question," he told Relevant Magazine, "is essentially if millions and millions of people who have never heard of Jesus are going to be tormented forever by God because they didn't believe in the Jesus they'd never heard of, then at that point we will have far larger problems than a book by a pastor from Grand Rapids." Whether or not you agree with Rob Bell on his views of heaven and hell, the import of that concern has to hit home. If God desires that all come to repentance and not all get that opportunity, isn't He contradicting Himself? Don't we have billions who will die (and God values human life) and go to eternal torment against God's wishes? And, being human, you have to ache for them.

The problem is that we are anthropocentric and God is not. God is theocentric.The problem is that we are human and finite and God is not. He is supernatural and infinite. The difference is that we don't own any of this and God does. Here, let me try to illustrate it with my own little parable.

The art gallery had a grand showing of the works of a famous artist. Lots of people came to see. At one point in the evening, a young man came into the gallery, walked up to one of the pieces, and started writing on it. Writing on it! Before he got too far, security grabbed the man and held him until the police came and took him off in handcuffs. He was now a criminal. Well, the evening went back to normal and people continued to look at the work. Awhile later, another fellow came into the gallery. He walked up to one of the paintings, took it off the wall, pulled out a knife and slashed it from top to bottom and then again from side to side. He pulled it out of the frame and stepped on it until it broke. Then he put the pieces under his arm and walked out. The patrons were shocked. Some went to the gallery owner. "What was that? Your security men stopped the first guy but didn't do a think to stop the second. Why?" "Well," he answered with a shrug, "the first one was a vandal. The second was the artist. The vandal has no rights to the work, but the artist has the right to do as he pleases with his own work."

Different categories.

Psalm 50 has the text from which we get a popular line of thinking. "Every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills" (Psa 50:10). You know, that comforting thought that God can supply all our needs because "He owns the cattle on a thousand hills." That kind of thing. But that wasn't God's intent. His intent was a rebuke. "If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine" (Psa 50:12). To put it another way, "I don't need you." His is a rebuke against mankind in general and the wicked in particular. What is the primary failure? "You thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you" (Psa 50:21). God is not like us. He isn't human. He isn't subject to our rules. He isn't required to meet our standards. He isn't one of us. He's the Owner. For us to kill a human is a violation because we don't have that right. God does. And if God believes that it's in His best interest that people who have chosen to rebel against Him end up in Hell, He will see that it happens and rightly so. Our problem is the same as the Psalm 50 problem. We tend to think of God as just like us. He's not. He's in a different category altogether. Not a good mistake.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Murder in Love

Today, January 22, 2012, marks the 39th anniversary of the Roe v Wade ruling. According to, "Abortion is one of the most common medical procedures performed in the United States with approximately 1.3 million abortions performed each year. Data indicates that more than 40% of all women will end a pregnancy by abortion at some time in their reproductive lives." A staggering number. 1.3 million each year. That's just in the United States. Obviously the numbers have increased, but this has been going on since 1973.

We've had three basic categories of viewpoints on the topic over the years. There is the "pro-abortion" crowd who favors abortion for whatever reason. This group sees "women's choice" as the ultimate right, using the term "right" in both the sense of a right they have and the right thing to do. The "pro-choice" crowd aims toward a middle ground. They consider abortion to be painful and "not recommended", but they still classify "the woman's right to choose" as the ultimate right. Then, of course, there is the "pro-life" side that says that a woman's right to choose does not supersede a baby's right to live.

Of late there has been a slow shift in the public sentiment around abortion. For decades abortion was a given -- "Who are you to tell a woman she doesn't have the right to choose what to do with her own body?" In the past several years, however, there has been a rise in technology that has allowed images of fetuses in their various stages to be shown with ever greater clarity. Within the first 4 weeks of fertilization, the embryo has already developed the initial heart and circulatory system. Arm and leg buds appear in the 5th week. By Week 6, the embryo has a developing brain, eye lenses, nostrils and intestines. Images from the womb, then, make it incontrovertible that what is growing inside the mother is not mere tissue, but a human being. This has made some uncomfortable with their position in favor of abortion.

Some. Not all. Merle Hoffman is the founder of Choice, a pro-abortion organization in New York she founded two years before Roe v Wade, and the author of Intimate Wars, her latest memoir on the topic of abortion. She is not merely pro-choice. She is pro-abortion. "Abortion," she says, "is as American as apple pie." She estimated that one in three women have had abortions. But she's open about it. "You don’t have to argue that abortion stops a beating heart. It does." Her view? "The act of abortion positions women at their most powerful, and that’s why it is so strongly opposed by so many in society." That's right. She recognizes that abortion is murder and she applauds it as placing "women at their most powerful". On her abortion she says, "I was fighting for the right of all women to define abortion as an act of love: love for the family one already has, and just as important, love for oneself." In her eyes, murdering a baby is "an act of love". Clearly, a "loving murder" has managed to kill the conscience.

For most pro-life folks, we figure that demonstrating that a fetus is not mere tissue -- not merely potential life -- but a human being should remedy the problem. Make it clear that they're killing a human being, and the problem should go away. Folks like Hoffman illustrate that this is naive. The problem is not "unwanted pregnancy", but choice. Human life is not as valued as "what I want". And it begins to sound a lot like "I will be like the Most High." Looks like there's a root problem underneath, doesn't it? It looks like people need Christ.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

South Carolina Primary

The Washington Post headline reads "South Carolina primary is Romney rival's last hope." The pundits all around are telling me "If Romney wins South Carolina, it is over." How is that right?

You know, I tried out USA Today's Candidate Match Game just on a lark. Turns out the closest candidate to my views (on those particular questions) is Michele Bachmann. Oh, wait! I can't vote for her. She may be on my ballot, but she's not even in the race. And now they're telling me that if Romney wins in South Carolina my candidate (yes, I'm registered Republican ... at the moment) will already be decided. I like someone else? Too bad. Was I leaning toward the more moderate Huntsman? Tough beans. Maybe Rick Perry? No longer an option. I don't get to choose. Several candidates will likely drop out of the race and it will be all over except for the motions of voting.

I don't get it. If it's supposed to be the choice of the people, why is it that Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina get to make the choice? Shouldn't we all be choosing at the same time? This problem of voting at different times is already problematic on the nationwide November vote when California is 3 hours behind New York, so some Californians don't bother because "It's already decided." This doesn't seem right. But, hey, maybe that's just me.

Update: Well, I suppose, since Romney did not win in South Carolina, all our "suggestions for improvement" are moot. Still ...

Friday, January 20, 2012

What was the Question?

It's interesting to me the amount of time some skeptics (the category that includes atheists and agnostics) spend in attacking, refuting, or denying Christianity. There are a few reasons, actually. One, of course, is that I find it odd that they spend apparently zero time on Islamic, Buddhist, or Hindu (to name a few) sites on the same effort. Strange, isn't it?

It's interesting because they seem to want to ask a lot of questions, but aren't really willing to accept any of the answers. No, it's not true that there is no evidence, no logic, no reason for what we believe. It is simply true that they will not accept it. So, okay, they've heard the arguments and the evidence from able arguers and thinking people and don't accept it. Fine. So ... why are they still beating on the doors of Christianity?

Most interesting, to me, is the fact that they've made their decision. Atheists deny God. Agnostics deny that you can know God. In either case, it's "no God" in either an existential or a practical way. So, having made this decision, live with it. What is the point of arguing with theists (apparently only of the Christian variety)? It seems, in fact, that while they continue to assault Christianity, they refuse to live in their own beliefs.

Look, here's where it is, given "no god". Without God, there is no moral lawgiver. You can argue for pragmatism, but not some moral code that holds any sway over everyone. We're on our own. Do what you think is right. Stop worrying about what anyone else does because you have no basis to decide what anyone else thinks is right. There is no basis on which to judge the Christian God, no basis on which to judge Christian ethics, no basis on which to judge Christians at all. Without God, you are free to do as you please and so are we, so stop fighting us on what we think is right when "what we think is right" is the only valid moral code.

Christians want to tell you that there is purpose to life, that there is hope in suffering. Skeptics are required, in the final analysis, to deny this. Oh, you might make up a purpose to your life, but when the final outcome is disintegration and nothing else, what real purpose is there? What's the point? It's just a manufactured purpose to make you feel better. Bad things (defined as "things that we don't like or enjoy") happen? Too bad. Get over it. There is no sense to be made out of it. It's simply nature. Move on.

So I frankly don't get it. The skeptics don't agree with the Christians. Okay. Fine. It happens. Why, if there is no god, is it such a big deal to skeptics that there are people (the vast majority, as it turns out) who think otherwise? What is gained by fighting it? And when will they start to live within the confines of the universe as they've constructed it? No morality, no purpose, no ultimate answers. Instead of begrudging those of us who have those things, why not just live and let live? I don't get it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The First Principles Principle

In the discussion of theology and practice, there are often complaints about the adequacy of the Bible. "Why isn't it clearer?" "Why doesn't it cover everything?" And, of course, most commonly, "You know, the Bible is silent on that subject, so you can't say ..." It would seem that a large number of people are quite confident that the Bible has, in the final analysis, very little to say about life. Oh, sure, sex outside of marriage is wrong ... but, wait, is it? And clearly the Bible is opposed to lying, right? Maybe not. Now, come on! Isn't there something that is clear?

There is more than one reason that this problem arises. The most obvious one is that many who are reading and interpreting Scripture do so without any genuine relationship with God. We know that "Natural Man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor 2:14). What do you expect? Just as common is the group of people who are trying to decide what the Bible says is right and wrong ... without actually reading the Bible very much. They'll go on whatever they heard without digging into God's Word for themselves. Not helpful. But even among genuine believers with genuine hearts aimed at following God it can get ... dicey. I mean, look, the Bible doesn't say, "Thou shalt not allow a person of one gender to marry a person of the same gender", does it? So how do we know? God's Word does not say, "Thou shalt not have an abortion", so on what basis would we say that it's wrong? And these unclear concepts seem to multiply. I mean, obviously the Bible doesn't talk about, say, the rules of the road or whether or not it's okay to smoke marijuana, so how do we decide? It's just not clear. And equally obvious is the fact that a book finished 2,000 years ago that encompassed every subject for all time would be ludicrous to its authors ("Seriously, God, what is this 'automobile' I'm writing about here?") and ultimately unusable for its size to anyone else.

Is there any hope, then? Are we out of luck? I don't think that God left us that much in the dark. I think that God did a much better job than many of us realize. I refer to what I call the principle of first principles. Here's the idea. God made certain principles abundantly clear in His Word. If we apply these principles to life as the basis of our decisions on what is or isn't acceptable to God, we can hit just about every part of life without a lot of fogginess.

Take, for instance, abortion. God did not say anything about modern abortions or the rights of the unborn. So? Well, what did He say? He said, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image" (Gen 9:6). So, murder is a sin. And God even gives His reason for it: "God made man in His own image." A first principle. So, what about that grumpy old guy on the corner? Is he "man"? Of course he is. Killing him would be wrong. And that young punk who runs the company because his dad owns it? Yes, he's an earlier stage of the same "man". Killing him would be wrong. Oh, now wait. What about that teenage kid who keyed your car for no reason? Everyone knows that teenagers are a breed of their own. No, of course not. That age group is simply another stage of life for the same "man". So is pre-teen, childhood, toddler, and infant. All of these are stages of "man". And so is "unborn". That fetus in its various pre-birth processes is simply going through various stages of human life that started when the sperm fertilized the egg, forming a new entity distinct from both mother and father. So, if "God made man in His own image" (first principle) and, therefore, "man" is under God's protection, killing that fetus would be shedding the blood of man -- murder. No one is unclear on the morality of murder. End of evaluation. Without direct words in the Bible saying, "Abortion is a sin", first principles show the answer without any confusion.

This works itself out all over the place. Some of God's "first principles" make so much of life's choices so much clearer. For instance, if the first principle is "To God alone be the glory", you can only imagine the ramifications when it comes to questions about "Why did God allow that to happen?" or "When is it okay to ignore God's commands?" If the first principle is "You shall love the Lord your God with all your being", the ripple effect goes everywhere in your life. If the first principle is "love your neighbor as yourself", that has a lot to say about so many aspects of every day living. "Is it okay for me to play my music as loud as I want?", for instance, is answered immediately ... without a line in the Bible that says, "Thou shalt not play your stereo loud enough to disturb your neighbors" (as if Moses would have had a clue what that meant when he wrote it). Just a simple example.

First principles are important. They are the basis from which second and third principles are derived. While "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not" statements tell us what we should and shouldn't do, first principles tell us why. And while the imperatives may seem clearer, first principles are far more helpful because they extend beyond the limitations of trying to address every single possible circumstance and give a foundation on which everyone who seeks to please God can stand with some clarity. God didn't leave us in the dark here. We will, however, have to look. That's not too much to ask, is it?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Chance to Win!

I cannot count how many times I've seen or heard "You have a chance to win ..." and they list fabulous prizes ... or not. If I call Taco Bell's line and tell them what I thought of their service, I could "have a chance to win a new iPad2!" (I went to their website and looked at the list of previous winners. The list was empty.) I could sign up with Publishers' Clearing House and "have a chance to win a million dollars every year!" I am so on top of that. It seems like everywhere I turn I'm faced with "a chance to win". Odd. Why don't I ever win?

I joke about it. I tell people I'm unlucky. No luck at all. Indeed, I tell them I'm a "luck sucker", that the people around me become unlucky as well. I am joking. You see, I'm pretty sure that "a chance to win" is simply a lie. Well, okay, misdirection. Not true.

What is "chance"? We think of it as "fortuitous" or "luck", but it's not. Chance is defined as "The unknown and unpredictable element in happenings that seems to have no assignable cause." Do you see that? Chance is not some "lady luck", some "prize fairy", some entity outside of the events. Chance involves the elements of the thing in question that are simply too complex to predict.

Consider a coin toss. What are the chances of getting heads every time? Well, as it turns out, mathematically it is "50-50". What does that mean? It means that there are unknown and unpredictable elements in the process of tossing a coin that make it impossible to actually predict. There is the pressure of the thumb as it flips the coin, the position of the coin on the hand, the air currents as the coin flies through the air, what the surface is on which it lands ... oh, you get the idea. There is a lot of stuff going on. So if every element became known and predictable, chance would play no part in the equation. But chance is not a thing. It is simply the mathematical "guess" we apply because we don't know.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Chance is predicated on not knowing everything. There is, however, someone who knows everything. To Him, then, "chance" does not exist. There is no such thing. Add to that fact the reality that this someone is omnipotent and Sovereign, and you have an entirely different story unfolding here. Not only is the outcome of every contest and coin toss known, but this Sovereign can determine that outcome. So much for chance.

Chance is a factor to human beings. There are many elements of many circumstances that are unknown and unpredictable. It may indeed appear that there is "luck" or "fortuitous circumstances" in the human realm. I'm just letting you know that from God's perspective no such thing exists. There is no "unknown", no "unpredictable", no luck, no chance. The outcome is certain, and, thanks be to God, it is good. The trick, then, is getting my head to the place where I see as good what God sees as good.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Problem of Evil

Why do bad things happen to good people? It's the Achilles heel of most religions. It's the nagging question of almost all skeptics and a good number of believers. If there is an omni-benevolent being with the power to make things happen, why do bad things happen? Why doesn't he do something about it?

There are answers from Christianity. Indeed, I think Christianity is the only religion with answers. Most religions end up with a deity that is either not loving enough to care or not powerful enough to act. He's shrugging his divine shoulders saying, "Yeah, I know, but what's a deity to do?" There are answers, but this article is not about those answers. This article is about the problems associated with the question.

Problem #1. The question is largely posed by skeptics -- atheists or agnostics who are trying to tell us that our belief in God is not rational.

Premise 1: Omni-benevolent, omnipotent God
Premise 2: Evil
Conclusion: The existence of evil is proof that your God is either not omni-benevolent or not omnipotent (or both) and, therefore, is not God. That is, Premise 1 does not exist. QED

And wise theists are quick to point out the problem with this kind of thinking. Eliminate a Universal Lawgiver and you eliminate any transpersonal means by which to demonstrate Premise 2. That is, if there is no God, you cannot define evil. This is pretty simple to demonstrate, and most rational atheists when faced with this claim are forced to agree. Some have posited some sort of "selfish gene" where we assume "good and evil" based on our self-concerns. Some have suggested social evolution where we have simply constructed our own morality based on "Can't we all just get along?". All of it boils down to a non-transpersonal approach based solely on pragmatism. (What do I mean by "transpersonal"? I mean that it applies to more than just one person. If "no God", then there are no moral absolutes, but simply personal pragmatic values.)

In this world, Ted operates under a "Thou shalt not steal" moral code, but Billy sees that he can get away with stealing and does so. No one can say that one is moral and the other not because there is no undergirding moral code to follow. Suzy may operate under a value system that gives away as much as she can to people in need and Kathy may use the more common system that says, "Get as much as you can!" Who's to say which is right? In a world where there is a God, God would. In a world without, no one has that right. It's an individual call. It is, then, not a matter of morality, but pragmatism -- what works. In a world with God, God sets the standard to meet. In a world without God, there is no standard except what is artificially constructed. So an atheist that declares God evil and therefore does not exist is doing so in a vacuum without a basis on which to declare God evil.

Problem #2. The first problem should illuminate the second. The question of "Why do bad things happen to good people?" is laden with further questions. How do we define "bad things" and "good people"? The atheist, as I've already demonstrated, will have to do so arbitrarily. "Well, I think that this person is good and I think that that event is bad, so ..." I know I've read enough stories that illustrate that we have a hard time both in determining who is good and bad and in determining what events are good or bad. Good luck with that.

It is not, however, limited to atheists. Even believers have to ask these two questions. How do we define "bad things" and "good people"? As it turns out, the standard definition for atheists and believers alike boils down to "to me". "Bad things" are bad if they are bad "to me" and good people are good if "to me" they are good. I decide. Take the easiest example you might find. Is it bad that Mrs. So-and-so got a divorce? Well, if Mr. So-and-so was a jerk, then it's a good thing, right? (I had this conversation with a woman once. "My divorce is final," she said. "Oh, I'm sorry," I answered. "No," she said, "it's a good thing.") We determine if an event is bad or good and we determine if the person to whom it happened is bad or good. Bad things happening to bad people is good. Good things happening to good people is good. Good things happening to bad people is not good, and bad things happening to good people is not good. We have spoken.

The problem in all this for the theist is that the premise is wrong. The premise, in fact, is wrong in the original question. The original question posits this notion: "If there is a God, He ought to be concerned about my welfare." Well, of course, we're not that petty. "He ought to be concerned about my welfare and the welfare of other people." What about animals? "No, maybe not. Well, a little, probably, but not as much as people." What about trees? "Yeah, I guess, but not as much as animals who are not as important as people. God's highest priority should be the welfare of people." That, dear readers, is the fundamental premise of the original question. And that is a faulty premise.

So look back at my two questions: How do we define "bad things" and "good people"? As in the case of the first problem, we are operating from the wrong standard. The atheist eliminates any overarching standard. But we theists who don't think this through are applying the wrong standard as well. "Good people" must be defined by God. "Bad things" must be defined by God. Let me put that another way. Here's how the original question should read: "Why do things that are bad for God happen to people that God considers good?"

I want to highlight in that question the word "for" first. You see, if creation is about the Creator rather than the creation, then the question is not about what's bad for the creation, but what is bad for the Creator. That's our first confusion. We think it's about us. It's not.

Then you have to consider who God considers good. Since the biblical statement is "There is none righteous, no, not one", that would pretty much eliminate everyone. Jesus said, "There is none good but God." That eliminates everyone but God. Simple.

From these two standards of measurement -- the "bad things" and the "good people" -- we can come to a pretty easy answer to the question. Why do bad things happen to good people? They don't. There are no good people, and God always does what is best. Next.

Our problem, of course, is our anthropocentrism. We see humans as the most important beings on the planet. Why doesn't God? And, of course, He ought to be judging what is good or bad and who is good or bad by our standards. When He fails to do that, we are offended. Perhaps, then, you can begin to see the problem of the question.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sanctity of Life Sunday

For some churches it was yesterday. For many, this coming Sunday is Sanctity of Life Sunday. Makes sense. In 1973 this was the date of the Roe v Wade ruling. Pastors all over the country will stand in their pulpits and tell their congregations to be pro-life. Life is valuable. Life is important. Killing babies, even in the womb, was bad. True.

But ... why? Well, for much of the world's pro-lifers it's because there is a general sense that human beings are valuable. Even among evolutionists who are quite sure that we're just a few evolutionary steps away from animals typically have the feeling that humans are valuable -- more so than animals. (Rationally defending that position may be tough, but ...) We Christians, however, have a more solid answer. Why are we "pro-life"? Because we believe that human beings are made in the image of God. We know that the original design was that way. "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness" (Gen 1:26). It was on the basis of this fact that the death penalty was attached to murder. God told Noah, "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man" (Gen 9:6). Animals had value, but humans were of the ultimate value because we are in the image of God.

It occurred to me, then, in mulling this over that we are not, most accurately, "pro-life". Oh, we are pro-life, but not because we consider life so valuable. Oh, we consider life valuable, but in the end, it is not life that is most valuable, but God. We value life because we value God above all else. As the most valued of all, we then have value applied to those in His image. Thus, we defend human life not because human life in its final analysis is valuable, but because God is represented there.

I know. That will not be helpful in the fight to remove the legalization of murdering babies. But I am hoping that it might be helpful in your thinking as believers. We highly value the Bible, but not because it is valuable on its own. It's God's Word, and God is most valuable. We don't worship the Bible, then. We worship God. And we highly value life, but not because it is valuable on its own. It's God's image, and God is most valuable. We don't worship life, then. We worship God. Hopefully that "we worship God" thinking will become a trend.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Forgotten Sola

I've written on the "Five Solas" before. I've outlined them. We know that Scripture alone is our authority in matters of faith and practice. We know that we are saved by grace alone (rather than any sort of merit) through faith alone (apart from works) in Christ alone (rather than any other means or savior). Got it. Good stuff. We're good to go.

It is my suspicion, however, that, being human, we are very quick to forget that "last" one: "Soli Deo Gloria". To God alone is the glory. Instead, it appears that we have a large list of people, places, and things that deserve glory.

In Psalm 83, Asaph calls on God to "not keep silence." Instead, Asaph wanted God to address His enemies. And, as you can imagine, Asaph wasn't asking that nice things happen. "Let them perish in disgrace," he says, "that they may know that You alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth" (Psa 83:17-18). (Interesting, if you think about it. Why does God allow evil? Why is there eternal punishment? Apparently this is one of the effective ways of letting people know that God is the Most High. But I digress.) Asaph has his finger on our problem. Too often we do not recognize that God alone is the Most High. We think He ought to be looking out for us. We think He ought to be giving us credit where credit is due. We think He ought to be paying supreme attention to us. The Bible in general and the Psalms in particular disagree.
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, Who alone does wondrous things (Psa 72:18).

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness! (Psa 115:1).

Let them praise the name of the LORD, for His name alone is exalted; His majesty is above earth and heaven (Psa 148:13).
God, as it turns out, agrees.
For My own sake, for My own sake, I do it, for how should My name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another (Isa 48:11).
I know. We Christians aim to give glory to God. Hey, we even have a day set aside for it. Well, we used to. And I know that we Christians certainly affirm Soli Deo Gloria -- to God alone be the glory. But if you're honest, I suspect that, like me, you sometimes have a hard time with that. You are looking for the credit. You are hoping for the glory. You're expecting that your plans, opinions, or viewpoints ought to hold more weight with God. Want a clue? When you find yourself thinking, "How could God allow something like that to happen?", you're thinking in terms of the wrong glory. How do I know? "For My own sake, for My own sake, I do it." God said so. Instead of complaining, I ought to be saying, "Soli Deo Gloria."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

You Don't Say

Last year Rob Bell put out his Love Wins book in which he essentially denies the fundamentally biblical belief that there is an eternal punishment. He denied Hell and basically embraced universalism. It upset the Christian world which rose quickly to point out his errors. Well, one error. It wasn't in line with Scripture. Blogs were written. Reviews came out. Books were published in response. Rob Bell was in trouble for what he said.

Rick Santorum got in trouble last week when he took a stand against redefining "marriage" to include "same-sex". The media has protrayed him as everything from "prickly" to irate to unfair. It was wrong of him to ask "So anyone can marry can marry anybody else? So if that’s the case, then everyone can marry several people ... so you can be married to five people. Is that OK?" That was wrong, you see. You can't ask about polygamy (or bestiality or whatever) when we're talking about two men. Broke the rules, man! Well, I watched the video, and I didn't see "prickly" except that he argued, "If we're going to have a discussion based on reason, we're going to have to use reason or we can't have the discussion." Yeah, that was really irate. The event has rippled throughout the media and the Internet and Rick Santorum is in trouble for what he said.

When President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 including the provision to indefinitely detain American citizens without trial who are suspected of acting against the United States, the mainstream media (MSM) said nothing. Do you know what happened then? Nothing. Nothing at all. No outrage. No upheaval. No one who is loud enough to be heard complained about the position being taken by the MSM. Why? They didn't say anything. You see, for the most part, it's not very often that you get into trouble for what you don't say.

How often do we operate like that? How often do we keep silent so as not to get in trouble for what we don't say? Do you have a stand on abortion that you're not willing to mention because others won't like it? Do you have a view about homosexuals and marriage that you just keep to yourself because "you don't get into trouble for what you don't say"? How often are those around us silent for that reason? Do pastors avoid the tough subjects because they want to avoid trouble? Do your friends not warn you about you doing something foolish because they want to avoid trouble? And, for both myself and for you, we should ask ourselves if it's really better to keep our mouths shut just to avoid trouble. I mean, that's kind of selfish, isn't it?

Update: Good news, everybody! As it turns out, Rob Bell does believe in Hell. He is apparently opposed to God punishing billions and billions of people who never heard the Gospel and adopts a "wider hope" theology that likes to think that most if not all people will ultimately be saved, but he says, "I believe in hell now, I believe in hell when you die." I guess, then, he did not get in trouble for what he said. I stand corrected.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pitfalls of Christian Liberty

The concept of Christian Liberty is a fairly common and likely pretty popular Christian doctrine. I mean, who wouldn't like, "That which God does not expressly forbid is allowed"? Sure, that was the short form and, sure, there are nuances and caveats, but it looks like a wide open field there once you get past those few "Thou shalt nots" that are in there, right? And I wouldn't want to take anything away from the doctrine. It is very unwise to forbid what God has not or to command what God has not. To do so is to put yourself in the place of God. So we need to be very careful when we say, for instance, that abortion is a sin because there is no specific statement on that in Scripture. I don't think it's any kind of a leap at all to recognize "Fetus is a baby" and then understand "Killing babies is a sin" (from one of the best known commands, "Thou shalt not kill"). So I'm comfortable in saying that it doesn't require specific commands from God to fall under God's principles of right and wrong. But we ought to be very careful about commanding that which God has not.

There are, however, a couple of pitfalls in the doctrine of Christian Liberty. Perhaps we'd do well to keep our eyes open as we walk in this area that appears to be so free and easy. It's not all fun and games.

The first problem I see is the concept itself. The general idea that most people have is "I can do whatever I want as long as God doesn't say no." That idea is only vaguely accurate. As it turns out, the fundamental premise offered in the standard texts about Christian liberty is not "I can do whatever I want", but "I will do nothing with my liberty that will cause a brother to stumble." While we're hurrying off to, using Paul's example, eat meat offered to idols, there are believers of lesser faith who are being injured by our freedom. Paul says, "Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats" (Rom 14:20). Even further, "If food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble" (1 Cor 8:13). Interestingly, in this passage on Christian Liberty, Paul declares exercising your liberty to the detriment of your brother in Christ a sin (1 Cor 8:12). The Law of Christ is designed to keep us from licentious living. Christian Liberty is designed to free us from false legalism. Remember, "All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up" (1 Cor 10:23).

The second pitfall to avoid is using Christian Liberty as a starting point. The thinking goes like this. "I can do whatever I want unless commanded otherwise by God. So ... I will." This view offers blinders as a blessing. "As long as I don't know what God commands, I can keep going, right?" This is a serious distortion of the concept. We ought not be trying to figure out the minimum standard. We ought to be seeking the highest. "You are to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matt 5:48). We should, instead, be diligent in seeking what God calls sin. What Scripture commends, we should commend. What Scripture calls sin, we should call sin.

The doctrine of Christian Liberty is biblical. It is personal, requiring each of us to take responsibility for ourselves. "That which is not of faith is sin" (Rom 14:23). It precludes legalism. It's a good thing. Like so many good things that God gives, let's be careful not to abuse it. Let's seek to honor the things God honors, avoid the things God tells us to avoid, call sin what God calls sin and commend what God considers commendable. We already struggle with sin. Let's not use a gift of God as an excuse to do more sinning. Instead, "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31).

Thursday, January 12, 2012

God and Football, the Tim Tebow Question

I don't usually post twice in a day, but I just saw this and thought it was exceptional. You might like it, too.

The Bible on Sex II

I've already written recently about the Bible on sex. In view of the Driscoll's new book as well as Pastor Ed Young's stunt to live stream from a bed on top of the church (Young is a pastor who urged his listeners to have sex 7 days in a row to revolutionize their marriages), I think maybe I should say more.

There are voices all around that would like to assure us that the marriage bed is a safe place to do any sort of sexual activity at all. "Marriage," they assure us, "sanctifies all of it." We know that those dirty, rotten Victorian types are way too high strung and that, as long as it is done in the marriage bed, it's okay. Well, of course there are caveats. Sexual activity can only be between husband and wife, not to include others. And of course there is an element in Christian circles that misses entirely that pornography, by its very nature, is designed to include others, even if they're only on the screen. (I've heard many argue that porn between married people is perfectly okay because the marriage bed sanctifies it. Wrong.)

But, okay, so we'll agree that biblical marital sex excludes other parties, and we'll even stipulate that porn is out. Fine. Got it. We're good with that. But surely we would all agree that anything else goes, right? Well, it appears that Paul might disagree.
This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you (1 Thess 4:3-6).
What am I getting out of this that would disagree? Since it is to "each of you" and since "each of you" would necessarily include married people, it would appear that there is the need to "abstain from sexual immorality" in marriage as well as out of marriage. Or, to put it another way, married men and unmarried men are required to "know how to control his own body in holiness and honor." "So?" you might ask. Well, look at the standard that we are to avoid: "Not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God." I would suggest, then, that there is something in the sex lives of married unbelievers called "the passion of lust" that we need to avoid as married believers. In other words, I do not believe it is so much the activities in the bedroom that are in question here as much as the motivations and attitudes that surround them. Here's what else I would suggest. It appears that the standard ("like the Gentiles") is only found by looking at unbelievers. What are they doing wrong?

First, I would like to point out that some would suggest that the passage in question refers to idolatrous sexual practices. There is no doubt that the pagan world of Paul's day had immoral religious rites. But Paul says here that "it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret" (Eph 5:12). That can't refer to pagan prostitution practices because those were done in the open. This is the stuff they do behind closed doors. You know, like in the marriage bed.

Second, I'd like to point out that ... well, I just pointed it out. By examining what they are doing wrong, I do not mean discussing what they do because "it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret" (Eph 5:12). That is, individual acts are not the question here. The point is not how they're having sex. We're not supposed to be talking about that.

So where else do we look? Well, John says something interesting here. "For all that is in the world -- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life -- is not from the Father but is from the world" (1 John 2:16). Most translations use the word "lust" here, but this one doesn't confuse you with that. It is (rightly) epithumia -- "desires". It is a burning desire. Jesus had a burning desire (epithumia) to eat the Passover with His disciples before He died (Luke 22:15). This "desire" is not sin in itself. So what is John saying? Well in the world there are desires to indulge in fleshly pleasure, to satisfy the animal nature. There are desires to have what you might see, to covet. (I'm sure you can see that pornography would fall in that category.) And there is the ongoing problem of personal pride, of seeking honor and applause. Or, here, we have a very convenient example from Genesis:
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise ... (Gen 3:6).
That would be the lust of the flesh ("good for food"), the lust of the eyes ("a delight to the eyes"), and the pride of life ("desired to make one wise"). So, port this over to the discussion about abstaining from sexual immorality and controlling your body, "not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles". This would move sexual relations between a husband and a wife away from the satiation of physical desires, away from the coveting of what they see, and away from personal pride, which, according to John, "is not from the Father but is from the world."

I would venture to guess that from the world's perspective most of sex falls dead in the center of these three things. I would suggest, in fact, that a lot of what goes on in the bedroom has more to do with these and less to do with the sharing of love, the pleasing of the spouse, or the intimacy of such a union. How much do you suppose is wrapped up in personal power, for instance? They tell us that rape is not about desire, but about power. How much of what goes on in the bedroom is just that? Well, it's a shame to talk about what they do in secret, but I'm pretty sure that a lot of what passes for "lovemaking" is more about personal satisfaction, covetousness, and personal pride than most anything else you might name.

Well, I'm not going to offer specifics here. I'm not going to give you a "how to" manual or a "twelve-step" program. You get to look at it yourself. Peel back the self-satisfying characteristics. Remember that your body is not your own. Tear off the personal pride. Remember both the respect due from the wife and the understanding due from the husband. Now what would such a sex life look like? I'm not prepared to explain, but I think you can begin to see it's not what the world would offer. Neither do I think it's "anything goes" in the marriage bed. "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled" (Heb 13:4).

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The FCC Goes to Court

So, the Supreme Court is going to hear another case asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ease up on its regulations. Since 1975 we've had rules that disallowed certain language and visuals during hours that children were more likely to be watching or listening. Comedian George Carlin was famous for his "seven words you can't say on TV" routine which came out back in '72. We are all familiar with the censors, those bleeps, "expletive deleted", or blurred out body parts that aren't suitable for the American public.

Well, we've come a long way, baby, as they say. The "seven words", of course, were never codified. They were just Carlin's version of humor. Steven Tyler from Aerosmith, of all people, thinks they ought to keep this stuff off television. (I didn't really understand his reasons.) Others see it as a matter of First Amendment rights and all. "We have the right to express ourselves as we see fit, and you don't have the right to live an unoffended life." (Perhaps, I suppose, as long as you're not the one being offended, right?) And in a day when children have ready access to free hardcore pornography on the Internet and parents appear to lack either the ability or the stomach to do anything about it, one might begin to wonder about the grounds for censoring just those areas of our little world.

I'm likely going to surprise some people, but I probably have a different view on the question than you might expect. Well, the truth is, I'm not sure what my view is. There is a part of me, however, that almost wishes they would lift the restrictions. Show what they want on TV. Say what they want. Do what they want. No limits. Just do it. "Are you crazy?" some might object. "Do you know what they'll do?" Yes, yes I do. "So ... why would you say such a thing?" Here's my thinking.

I think that television is an insidious, dangerous device that has wormed its way into our everyday lives so much that it has become a part of the definition of life. For the vast majority of Americans, imagining a world without television would be like imagining a world without sunshine. "Oh, sure, too much is bad, but you have to have some, don't you?" And, of course, there would always be those charred, brown souls who would say, "Who says too much is bad?" But I have to wonder, for all that television takes, what it offers in return?

What does TV take? It takes time. Without even evaluating content, every minute you're in front of that screen you are not doing something else. Time. Time with family, friends, the Word, the Lord, taking care of things that need tending, reading, whatever. Time. It takes imagination. No, I don't mean that it requires imagination. I mean that it requires no imagination. When you read, for instance, you have to conjure images of the people, places, and things. You have to build this stuff yourself from your own imagination. Television, on the other hand, shows you everything you need to see. You get the sights and sounds you need to absorb what they want you to absorb. And you're not thinking about it, analyzing, examining. You're absorbing. No imagination at all. Studies indicate that your brain is more active when you're asleep than when you're watching TV. That's bad. And that's without even examining content.

Then there's the problem of the medium itself. Watching a flat, two-dimensional screen is not healthy for humans. "In the wild", we're used to changing depths, shifting focal points, shades and movements. In small children, studies show that it damages their developing brains. Some studies suggest that it is a key element in the rise of ADHD and the like. Beyond that is the problem of the image you're watching. It's not constant, you know. It's not "analog". If you look at a tree in your yard, that tree is a constant. If you look at that same tree on your TV screen, it's not. It's a flickering image, a series of photos, depending on your brain to fill in the gaps between incarnations. In contrast to that imaginary screen tree, TV shows are worse than that. They're images, jumping around here and there, from viewpoint to viewpoint, radically shifting points of reference not natural to any human being. The result on the brain is to make you spaced out, essentially. We've all seen and likely experienced that "zoned out" look from just being absorbed into the images on the TV. Not the content; just the medium.

Examining the content doesn't get better. In our censored television world the primary content appears to be sex. "Sex sells," they tell us, and so they try to sell us a lot of what sells. Scantily clad women are the norm. Pushing the envelope of "acceptable" or "legal" is the given. Between the advertisements that assure us, directly or indirectly, that we will "get lucky" with their product and the shows themselves that confirm it, it is the message of the day. Look at any given popular TV series. It is about doctors having sex with their peers and, oh, treating patients or detectives having sex with their peers and, yeah, solving crimes, or lawyers involved in all sorts of sexual activity and, sometimes, managing legal cases or ... well, you get the idea. The content has worked hard over the past decades to revise American morality from "Leave it to Beaver" and the like to "Desperate Housewives" and "Sex in the City". "Family" broadcasting used to have some sort of family values, but today it includes "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" which is about ... you guessed it ... teenagers having sex with their peers and, oh, doing whatever else teens do. Yeah, that's "family" programming.

Here's the point. Right now most Christians convince themselves that television is morally neutral. Some try to be careful about what they watch because, you know, there's a lot of bad stuff out there. Others have just jumped right in with both feet because, after all, it's just TV. What's the big deal? It's not like we're actually doing those things. It's just ... entertainment, amusement. So we surrender hours of time that could be used far more productively, allow the stripping of our imaginations, give up our frontal lobes and critical thinking skills, and veg out in front of the screen. Cautious or not, we seem to all succumb to some degree or another. At best television is worthless; at worst, it's dangerous. We know that dangerous is bad. David said, "I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless" (Psa 101:3). So if the tenuous controls of the FCC were lifted and the gloves came off, I wonder if it might not be the slap in the face that Christians need. If the stations simply dumped whatever they thought the populace wanted to see -- nudity, language, and all -- would Christians wake up and say, "Well, maybe that's not the best place to be spending my time"?

I said earlier that "I'm not sure what my view is." That's because I fear that the answer to that last question is "No." I fear that American Christians really have been sucked into this notion that "television is a fundamental right and a key component of any sort of quality of life and you can't really get by without a TV. What were you thinking?" And as we shift our moral viewpoints away from biblical morality more toward the world's perspective, we won't notice it (as we have not so far) and we might even protest against those who suggest that a biblical morality is where we should be. But this problem is something that God is going to have to address with His people because the change of heart needed here is not something that I or the FCC can accomplish.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


In life there are privileges, there are rights, and there are entitlements. Privileges we understand (mostly). That's when you get to do something that not everyone gets to do. It requires permission. You don't, for instance, have a right to drive a car. Those under a certain age aren't allowed. Those over that age are required to earn their license to drive. And it can be taken away from you if you abuse it. It's not a right.

So what about entitlements? Are they the same as rights? Not quite. We may use the terms interchangeably, but there is, in fact, a difference. A right is something that is justly yours regardless of whether or not anyone gives it to you. According to the founders of our nation, governments are instituted to secure rights. You know, those "inalienable" things that are due us. An entitlement, then, is a bestowed right. You didn't have it coming, but now you do. It isn't yours as a matter of your existence, but now it is yours as a matter of entitlement. Most often an entitlement exceeds a right because someone is required to provide it for you. Social Security, for instance, is an entitlement in which the government is supposed to provide money for those on Social Security. You not only have a right to retire, but the government is obligated to pay you; you're entitled to that money.

Consider, then, how rights work. You may, for instance, have the right to keep and bear arms. That, they tell us, is your right. What does that mean? Does that mean that the government in its job to secure your rights is required to issue you a weapon? No! It means that you may, if you so desire, get yourself a gun.

Today, of course, we no longer think of it that way. You have a right to eat and if you don't have the will or means to obtain food, it is the government's job to give it to you. You have the right to healthcare and if you don't have the will or means, they will provide it for you. Of course, the "right to eat" or "the right to healthcare" aren't laid out anywhere in our constitution or anywhere else I can find, but that doesn't matter. It's your right, so the government will provide. "Hey!" I want to cry out, "Where's my gun?!"

Entitlements are even worse. These are things that are not rights until they are assigned. That makes them more like privileges than rights. Still, try taking away an entitlement. Wow! They'll bite your hand off! It's what has gotten Greece and Italy into their current economic condition. Create entitlements that bankrupt the country and then try to take them back. Riots in the streets!

The problem of entitlement doesn't only operate on a national level. It also operates in your home. Kids grow up being cared for. They're given food, clothing, housing, an education. Somehow, when they turn 18, it seems in so many cases to be the job of the parents to continue to provide all this for their children without, of course, any authority. "Why can't I have my girlfriend spend the night? I'm 18." Go ahead, Mom. Try cutting off his income. Be prepared to bandage the hand he bites. Because, you see, we often take privileges, convert them in our heads into rights, and then turn them into entitlements. That is, "I get to do that" (privilege) "so it must they must let me do that" (right) "and provide for me the means to do it" (entitlement).

This is all very disheartening when you can see it in society and when you can see it in your home. It's worse when you see it in the Church. Instead of seeing life as a privilege, an unearned, unmerited gift, we see it as not merely a right, but an entitlement. God owes us. Oh, we don't likely think that consciously, but certainly it's a common perspective. "God owes me comfort, pleasure, food, clothing, shelter, not only the things I need, but the things I want." And if He "fails" to provide? Bad God! Bad, bad God! We've come a long way, baby, from seeing all that God gives as a splendid gift when we turn it into an entitlement. And we do it frequently.

Here's a big problem with entitlement. Entitlement is based on dependency. That is, "You owe me this." In the case of a right, you're allowed to do/have that, but you're responsible to take care of it yourself. In entitlement, you depend on those who are required to provide it. In terms of nations, it has been said, "The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage." In national terms, entitlements lead us back to bondage and collapse. In personal terms, it does the same thing. Perhaps the gratitude that a perspective of privilege brings is a better choice.

Monday, January 09, 2012


In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matt 5:16).
We know this one, right? Let your good works shine as a light to others so they can glorify God. Nice. Good stuff. But ... what does it mean? I ask this because we so often read it in a vacuum rather than in context. Let's look at it in context.

Jesus is just starting off His "Sermon on the Mount". He has just finished off the "Beatitudes". And then He gets into this conversation about "You are the salt of the earth" and "You are the light of the world." In this context He says, "In the same way ..." In what same way? "A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house" (Matt 5:14-15). In that way. Just as you use light to light up the world around you, do that with your good works.

So, what good works? Well, He specifies that in the previous two metaphors. You are salt and you are light. No, these are not calls to be involved. He is not saying "be salt and light". Some people think it means, "Get involved! Start boycotts! Vote for the right candidate! Write to your city counsel!" No, He says you are salt and light. How so? We are salt in the sense that we give flavor to the truth of God. We are light in the sense that we illuminate the truth of God. Note that in either case salt can fail to provide flavor or light can be hidden. Those are faulty components. And Jesus is saying, "Don't be faulty salt and light."

Okay, so now we have a little better idea of what Jesus was saying. Your good works provide a flavor to the Gospel. Your good works light up the Gospel to those around. In your good works, then, God is glorified.

But is Jesus speaking here in a vacuum Himself? Does He indicate what He means by "good works"? Or are we just supposed to fill in that blank for ourselves? No! Jesus is not being vague. He has already outlined the "good works" that He has in mind that will flavor the Gospel and light it up for others to see. What good works? Who is it that provides salt and light? Jesus has already said it. It is the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake.

Well, now, isn't that a strange set of "good works"? I don't think so. We tend to think of "super Christians" and the ordinary believer. Jesus seemed to describe what should be the ordinary believer. "You are ..." salt and light. "Blessed are ..." those who do these things, who have these qualities. These qualities give you flavor and illumination. These characteristics make you useful to God and bring glory to the Father. "What do you think we are," you might ask, "saints?" Well, yes. That's the biblical description. Now, live up to that which you have already attained (Phil 3:16).

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Right Now

In Psalm 16 David wrote, "You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psa 16:11). This isn't the only place he wrote stuff like this. I suppose that's what makes it so odd that we seem to so rarely see it.

According to David, a relationship with God is not merely "safe", "salvation", or even "good". It is pleasurable. It is full of joy. So often Christianity is thought of, even by Christians, as "the sweet by and by". Someday we will find joy. Some day our tears will be wiped away. Oh, not now, of course, but someday. David (and the rest of Scripture) disagrees. Joy is found now in the presence of God now. Genuine pleasure -- not that cheapened, pricey imitation -- is with Him.

Some of us tend to think of life as "tolerable", something we put up with until we get to heaven. That's when the good stuff begins. When we think like that, we're missing out. "In Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Right now.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Under the Radar

On December 31, 2011, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 into law. Big deal, right? I mean, for the past 49 years the president in office has signed the National Defense Authorization Act for that year to specify the budget and expenditures of the U.S. military. It's what they do. It's necessary. So?

Included in this "little" act is Section 1021 on Counterterrorism. Section 1021 includes the authorization to detain indefinitely without trial anyone who "supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces" or anyone who commits a "belligerent act" against the United States. These can be detained without trial "until the end of the hostilities" (which, in a war on terrorism, is indefinite). Note, then, that this includes American citizens. That's right. The President has just signed into law an act that authorizes the military to detain anyone, citizen or not, suspected of a "belligerent act" against the U.S. and they don't get a trial and they don't get legal representation and they don't get out.

Some may think that I'm exaggerating. Apparently the President is not among them. He said, "My administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens." That is, this law authorizes it, but he won't. This law allows it, but as long as he is in office, he won't. It does not mean that the next one will not. President Obama signed the bill with reservations. I get that. He didn't agree with everything in it. I get that. But he saw that it was dangerous, so it is not merely my exaggeration.

The President signed into law his healthcare plan which required all citizens to buy health insurance. How that could be mandated is unclear to me. The courts will hear those arguments soon. Now he has signed into law a termination of the the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution under certain circumstances. "Oh, don't worry," they tell me. "That won't hold up in court." Maybe. But if "due process" is eliminated, will it even get to court?

What really surprises me most is that I pretty much pay attention to the news. So, why is it that I haven't heard about this until now? Why did something as monumental as the indefinite detainment of U.S. citizens without trial go so quietly into the nightly news? How did that fly under the radar? I'm no conspiracy nut ... but in this case I might be persuaded.