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Thursday, January 31, 2013

That's Not the Solution

Last November Jamie Foxx caused an uproar when he told the audience at the BET Soul Train Awards, "Give an honor to God and our Lord and Savior Barack Obama." Of course, it was not well received by the Christian world. On the other hand, it wasn't completely outrageous given the near god-like view that many of his supporters have of him. There are those who are quite sure that Barack Obama is the answer to our problems. Given enough time (and power) and he can fix our country like no one else could.

This sounds crazy, I know, especially to those who are quite sure that he's actually much closer to "the god of this world", Satan himself. But as crazy as it sounds to them, I believe that there is an equally large number of people who believed prior to the November elections that Mitt Romney was our guy. Just as Obama was the face of evil, they were relatively confident that when Romney got elected he'd solve our problems as well. He was smarter, more conservative. He knew business. He could fix what ailed us.

I hate to tell you this (if you don't already know it), but 'tain't necessarily so. Indeed, I'm absolutely certain that one man -- the one that got elected or the one that did not -- does not have the capability to fix the serious problems that face our nation today. And that's too bad, isn't it? I mean, it would be nice to think that one man could do it. Simple. Put the right guy in office and we're headed toward prosperity and good times. Easy! But I can say without any doubt that one man in the office of President is not the solution.

Okay, then, perhaps the answer is in Congress. You know, if we (whether we're liberal or conservative, Democrats or Republicans or any other stripe) could just get in our folks in Congress, surely that would be the solution. No, it's not as easy as one right person, but it's doable. It's reasonable. We can make it happen. A left or right or even center Congress can move America in the right direction, can make us well again. And I have to tell you it isn't going to happen. You see, in a representative government, the Congress represents its people. Thus, if the people want the government to provide for their needs and give them what they want and take money from the rich to give to the poor and ... whatever the people want that is causing the problem ... then neither the president (one man) nor Congress (a small group of representatives) is going to solve the problem.

What, then, is the problem? The problem is that too many Americans are demanding too much money from the government. We are supporting the elderly and the young, the needy and the poor, the unemployed and underemployed, the healthy and the sick. If a congressman were to vote to cut spending, that congressman could count on not getting reelected because cutting Social Security or Medicare or Welfare or just about any sort of big-ticket spending package the government currently carries will not fly with his or her constituents. That person will have to go. The problem, then, is not that the president is failing to do his job or that Congress is failing to do their jobs. The problem is that the American people have their hearts set on being cared for, to some degree or another, by their government. "Cut what you will from their funds, but don't touch mine" whatever "mine" entails. We are not a moral country anymore. We are certainly not a Christian country anymore. And we are absolutely not a self-sacrificing country anymore. We are a nation of self-centered, self-serving people whose government accurately reflects its people.

The solution then? The solution is changed hearts for the masses. So, while a "one-man solution" sounded nice but was no solution and "a select-few solution" was possibly doable but is no solution, the answer is, in all honesty, not something we can accomplish. It isn't something we can vote in. It isn't a person, a group of people, a political perspective or party. It is changed hearts. Sorry, folks, but that's the only solution to our current political and economic problems.

The good news? There is One who can accomplish this. For a large part of America and even a large part of Christendom, this may come as a surprise, but God is able to change hearts. Most seem to think that God is limited to Man's Free Will, but a biblical, Sovereign God is not. He can call effectively, can work within hearts, can change minds. The solution to our problem, as it turns out, is a God who can do it instead of a man who cannot or a governing body who cannot. That's good news! Of course, I can't tell you if God's plan to change America includes a vast change of American hearts or starts with judgment of America. I can't promise you that things will be just peachy. But I can assure you that God will do what is best. So there is every reason to hope ... as long as your hope is in the Lord and not in your country or your comfort. If your hope is in God and His goodness, then I can say without possibility of error that God works all things together for good to those who love God. That is a solid reason for hope.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Be Prepared

In June, 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America had the right to decide who could join and who could lead its organization. Citing the constitutional rights of freedom of association and freedom of speech, they overturned a lower court's ruling that dismissing an openly homosexual troop leader was a violation of his rights. The Boy Scouts held that homosexuality was contrary to the values of the organization, and the Supreme Court ruled that they were within their rights to hold such a view. The Scout oath requires that they be "morally straight" and they believed that homosexual behavior fell outside that position.

In July, 2012, the Boy Scouts reviewed their position. Despite the many protests and campaigns to change the values of the organization, they ruled that "this policy is absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts." The committee was, in fact, unanimous in their decision. Indeed, according to chief executive Bob Mazzuca, "The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family." But so contentious was this question that the organization would not release the names of those who were on the committee. It wasn't safe.

So now we read that the Boy Scouts of America are poised to rescind this rule after having it confirmed by the courts a decade ago, unanimously agreed upon by the committee 6 months ago, and favored by "the vast majority of the parents of the youth." It is strange, but not. It is strange because it was declared both legal and the position of choice by the organization and the people. It is not strange because of the pressure brought to bear on the BSA. Corporate sponsors dedicated to gay rights and gay rights organizations have made it nearly impossible for them to continue with that position.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation -- GLAAD -- calls it an important "first step". Know, then, that it is not the last. Noting the fall of the Girl Scouts and the U.S. military to the same pressures, they said "that's what we need from the Boy Scouts of America."

You see, as institutions fall, that which the Bible calls "sin" becomes normalized. The very fall of these institutions precipitates the fall of others. And as momentum from falling values increases, it can topple some pretty powerful institutions.

Look for it, Christians. Will the Boy Scouts give in? Sure. The forces are too great. Others have already fallen. Expect marriage to topple soon. No small institution, that. It has stood the test of time, but in America today the force of accepting sin as "normal" stands poised to bring that down, too. And the institution of Christendom won't be far behind. Of course, the Church that Christ built (Matt 16:18) is not touchable, but if you, American Christians, are expecting to retain your unfettered religious freedoms indefinitely, rest assured that today's culture standing boldly on today's immorality has no intention of allowing that to continue. Don't be surprised (1 Peter 4:12; 1 John 3:13). Be prepared.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Believing the Word

I've noticed that among those who claim to follow the Word of God there appears to be two categories. Oh, sure, there is the third category -- those who discard God's Word -- but I'm talking about those who don't. These two categories would be those who allow the Word to shape their world and those who allow their world to shape the Word.

It is undeniable that there are difficulties with Scripture. For instance, it was written in foreign languages long since dead. What does it mean when it says what it says? Take, as an example, the description of the ephod for the priests in Exodus 28. Included in the instructions is this: "in the fourth row a beryl and an onyx and a jasper" (Exo 28:20). Look up the original words used and you'll find that the word for "beryl" is "perhaps topaz" and the word for "onyx" is "probably the beryl". What? Well, we don't actually know what the ancient Hebrew words, tarshı̂ysh and shôham, meant to the ancient Hebrews or exactly to which of our gemstones they correspond. So we make an educated assumption and move on. Of course, if it turns out that "beryl" actually was "topaz" and "onyx" was really "beryl", the theology doesn't change and we're not in danger of heresy or some such. But other troubles arise that are more difficult. John, for instance, writes "No one who is born of God practices sin" (1 John 3:9). So, quite clearly, all true believers enjoy sinless perfection, right? Well, that's a problem because John also writes, "If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). So we do sin. Either we have a contradiction or we've failed to properly understand something here. That is a difficulty.

So, you're someone who wants to follow the Word of God and you are reading along and find "You shall not wear a material mixed of wool and linen together" (Deut 22:11). You stop there and scratch your head. "No one is particularly concerned these days if you wear material mixed of wool and linen, so what does this mean?" Here is a difficulty. Your resolution to this difficulty will demonstrate whether you are one who allows Scripture to shape your world or one who allows the world to shape Scripture.

I remember hearing R.C. Sproul Jr. telling the story of someone who was objecting to Scripture. "The Bible is against women," someone told him. He responded, "Let me say two things about that. First, if it is, we must be." He went on to explain second that it was not true that the Bible was against women, but his comment illustrates what I'm talking about. If you are going to have a biblical worldview -- a view of the world that is shaped by the Word of God -- you will need to be willing to conform your current perceptions and opinions to God's Word whatever it says rather than shape His Word into your current perceptions and opinions.

So the person reading "Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey" (1 Sam 15:3) will have a problem. God commanded Saul to kill men, women, children and animals. Really? The dilemma. Your approach to the solution to that dilemma will be determined by whether you are shaping the Word to your view or shaping your view to the Word. Clearly such a statement would fall outside of that which we consider "good". But if it really means what it says, the answer is not to explain how this text is myth or legend or hyperbole or whatever other approach you might offer, but to realign your definition of "good" to that of God's definition. If this is your approach, then you can examine the text for what it says, conclude what it actually means, and then make whatever corrections in you that might be necessary.

In my experience among those who claim to follow the Bible, those who shape the Word to their world are far more numerous than those who allow the Word to shape their view of the world. Obvious examples are plentiful. Does the Bible say that wives must submit to husbands? Clearly, yes. If you are going to explain that away, you are going to do so with a prior commitment to a modern worldview rather than a commitment to Scripture. Does the Bible teach that women should not teach or usurp authority over men? Undeniably, yes. If you are going to explain that away, you are going to do so with a prior commitment to a modern worldview rather than a commitment to Scripture. Does the Bible say anything about homosexual behavior? Anyone with any reading skills can tell you it does. So if you are going to explain that away, you are going to do so with a prior commitment to a modern worldview rather than a commitment to Scripture.

Let's look at an example. Paul wrote, "Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness" (1 Tim 2:9-10). Three people were discussing this passage. One person argued, "I think it's clear from the text that Paul is forbidding women to wear braided hair or gold." A second person said, "From the context, I think that Paul is saying, 'I want women to adorn themselves with the proper clothing of good works' and was not actually talking about what they could physically wear." The third person said, "It's silly to try to tell women that they shouldn't wear jewelry or nice clothes, so that can't be what this is trying to say." In this example, the first two people were attempting to allow Scripture to shape their worldview. The third (with likely the most popular answer) was not. That is, in the case of the second person, if the first person could convince him/her that it actually did constitute a command about what women should wear, he/she would comply. That's the difference.

Time and time again God's Word will come up boldly against the popular views and positions of the world around us. Working at making the Bible align with those views is standard ... and wrong. Becoming "acceptable" is a fool's errand when our very own Savior promised "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you" (John 15:18). Paul assured us that the truth would not be met with open arms, but regarded as foolishness (1 Cor 1:18ff). Both John (1 John 2:15) and James (James 4:4) warned about preferring the world to God. So what is your prior commitment? Are you going to shape the Word to your view of the world or allow the Word to shape your view of the world? I guarantee that the former would be more comfortable and the latter more painful. But I also guarantee that truth is better than being deceived, that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, and that while every man is a liar, God is true.

Monday, January 28, 2013


"Urgent". You know the word. It means something like "requiring immediate attention." It may mean "insistent". Same basic idea. Its roots are easy to figure out. The word is rooted in "urge". And urge is "a strong impulse". Thus, "urgent" itself is based on urges both linguistically and practically.

I was told a long time ago "Our greatest danger is allowing the urgent to crowd out the important." Eisenhower is quoted as saying, "What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important." There is, clearly, a distinction between that which is important and that which is "requiring immediate attention." We can all see that easily by observing a man who neglects his wife and children (important) because he has pressing business matters to attend to (urgent).

We tend to operate on the urgent rather than the important. Worse, we have become to magnify the urgent over the important. How? Well, in our society today it is much better to "go with your heart" than with your head. It is much better to "do what makes you happy" rather than what is right. No, indeed, we have largely redefined "what is right" to mean "whatever makes me happy". We have become a people defined by our urges.

To be fair, the Bible says this is true of us.
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one. But 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 (James 1:13-15).
You see, the sin we do is a product of our own urges. And that's not a good thing.

Now, here's the question. Do you control your own urges? I would suggest that we all have the ability to control what we do about our urges, but do we control the urges themselves? I would even argue that we can feed urges, so that they become stronger and, in that sense, we control them as well. But I do not believe that we figure out, design, and construct our own urges. I think ... urges happen. Smokers develop urges to smoke by feeding the urge, but they begin to develop those urges due to urges they did not develop. Gamblers feel the urge to gamble more and more as they gamble more and more, but they first started gambling because of urges they did not develop. Urges, you see, primarily start out as things that happen to us, not by us. Low blood sugar can trigger urges to eat. Boredom can trigger a demand for entertainment. Loneliness can trigger a desire for companionship. For men high testosterone can trigger sexual or aggressive urges. They aren't rational or planned or constructed. They're just conditions that produce urges.

You see, most of life is built on the urgent, the impulses that drive us. We can affect them and we can work on them and we can alter them, but we don't, at the outset, cause them, at least not directly. We are, for lack of a better term, "born this way". So the question becomes "Are you going to live in the urgent or in the important?" The two are not the same. Often they are in contention. And while we don't choose our urges, we always choose what to do about them. Are you going to be defined by what is urgent or by what is important, by your drives and desires or by the choices you make in light of what is truly valuable? The false suggestion that "I can't help it; I was born that way" is a lie. It may work for animals. We are made in the image of God. We don't have to do that. We can choose. "Choose this day whom you will serve" (Josh 24:15).

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Problem of Mercy

We like mercy. Two of our favorite characteristics of God are His mercy and grace. Good stuff. Really. We understand that grace is unmerited favor. Grace is getting favor that we don't deserve. Mercy, similarly, is not getting the punishment that we do deserve. And we like both. They are fundamental to the Gospel -- God's grace and God's mercy.

So, what's the problem? Well, to put it simply, mercy is not justice. Justice, you see, is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Mercy, then, stands in direct opposition to justice. Now, for you and me that's not an issue. We can choose to be merciful and forego justice, or we can choose to be just and forego mercy. Both are actually good. Justice is good. Mercy is good. No problem. But we are not defined by either one. Neither justice nor mercy are part of the basic definition of what it means to be "human". A human being may be just or may be merciful or may be neither and it doesn't make him or her any more or less human.

God, on the other hand, is defined by these (and other) attributes. He is good not because He meets some external standard of good, but because He defines good and is, therefore, defined by it. He is just. Abraham asked the ultimate rhetorical question, "Will not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?" (Gen 18:25). Yes, of course! It's what He does! But, wait! If God is defined by justice and mercy is not justice -- is in direct opposition to justice -- then how can God be just and merciful? Ah! That's the problem of mercy.

Some people are perfectly happy with this imbalance. They would like to rejoice in God's mercy. "That's great!" They don't want to look at the conflict. They don't want to see the problem. But God is not so shortsighted. He recognized the problem and solved it. He didn't simply redefine Himself -- "no longer just" -- but He managed to find a way to be both just and merciful. How?
Apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom 3:21-26).
Problem: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Big problem. You see, a Just God is required to respond to this condition with death (Rom 6:23). And not merely death -- eternal separation from God. Eternal death. That's what justice demands. Mercy would like to forgive this debt, but justice cannot. So, in His grace, God sent His Son to pay in full the debt we owe. He sent His Son to be "displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood." The debt was owed, and forgiving the debt would be merciful, but not just. So God paid the debt Himself in His Son and became "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

The problem of mercy is that it's not justice. The problem with that is that God is just. So marvelous is our God that He planned and executed the plan to be just and justifier, just and merciful. Our Advocate when we sin is the One who paid our debt (1 John 2:1-2). Truly Good News! And until you understand the problem of mercy, you don't really get the marvel of God's justice and mercy. "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" (Rom 11:33).

Saturday, January 26, 2013

"No True Scotsman" Fallacy

This was a new phrase to me mentioned by Glenn in a comment to my Defined by Failure article. I had to look it up because I enjoy and am concerned about logical fallacies. Interesting. According to a site I've never seen before, RationalWiki, the No True Scotsman fallacy is defined as "a logical fallacy by which an individual attempts to avoid being associated with an unpleasant act by asserting that no true member of the group they belong to would do such a thing." The story is told of Antony Flew who, seeing a newspaper article about a Scotsman committing sex crimes, asserts, "no Scotsman would do such a thing." Well, of course, all you need is one or two more examples of a "true Scotsman" committing just such a crime and you have a fallacy.

This is a favorite approach among Christian apologists. We're told that Hitler was a Christian and look what he did. We respond with "no true Christian would do such a thing." We are pointed to the horrors of the Crusades and respond with "no true Christian would do such a thing." Same kind of reasoning.

But let's consider it for a moment. First, is it an actual fallacy? While it certainly can be, I would argue that it isn't always. Here's the notion. There are two sets. One is the set of people in Set X. The other is the actions of Set Y. Restating the fallacy in my new set terms, "no true member of Set X would perform the actions of Set Y."

In terms of the logical statement:
1. No one in Set X does something from Set Y.
2. He does Set Y.
Therefore, he is not a member of Set X.

The suggestion from the term "logical fallacy" is that the argument is not valid, but is such a claim ever valid? Well, if membership in Set X is defined as not performing the actions of Set Y, then it would be true and not a fallacy. It is said that the slippery slope fallacy is only a fallacy if it doesn't happen. The same is true for the "no true Scotsman" fallacy. As long as the definition of "true Scotsman" accurately excludes the activity in question, then it is not a fallacy. In this case, this logical argument is only a fallacy when the premise fails. That is, if it is true that "No one in Set X does something from Set Y", then it isn't a fallacy. If, on the other hand, that premise is false, the argument is false.

So, if we're talking "true Scotsman", consider the following. Let's say that Addison Macalister of the clan Macalister is talking with Ralf Bauer. Ralf is telling Addison, "I am of strict German heritage, to be sure, but I'm a true Scotsman at heart." Addison would not be in error if he said, "No true Scotsman is of German heritage." That's because "true Scotsman" has a definition that excludes "German heritage".

So back to this approach from a Christian apologist perspective. Is it a fallacy? I would argue that it can be and, if we're not careful, it often is. I've heard, "No true Christian would ..." and have it end with "vote for Obama" or "be a Democrat". This is simply false. For whom you vote or with which political party you side is not part of the definition of "Christian". That is fallacious. Nothing in the definition of "Christian" requires perfection. Indeed, we understand that no one, Christian or not, arrives at perfection in this life.

"Well, then," our opponents would say, "you are back to the problem of Hitler and the Crusades, aren't you?" Not at all. You see, there are two other factors to consider. First, one argument would be "Hitler was not a true Christian because he did these things." But a better statement would be "Hitler's actions did not express Christian values as represented by Christ (remember, "Christian") and the Bible." The former statement is questionable under the "no true Scotsman" fallacy. The latter is a statement of fact. The other factor, however, is found in the biblical definition of "Christian".

There are a variety of components that Scripture includes as "Christian". "You must be born again" (John 3:3-7) would exclude anyone who is not born again. "I'm a Christian but I'm not born again" would indicate that the statement is just as false as describing a "round square". Clearly faith is a mandatory component. An "atheist Christian" (such as a noted pastor I could name) is a violation of logic. There are, then, various pieces to "Christian" without which one cannot be defined as "Christian" despite their claims to the contrary. While "sinless perfection" is not one of those pieces (and, thus, it is false that "no true Christian would commit such an act"), here's what John does say on that:
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God (1 John 3:9).
There it is. While true believers can and do sin (1 John 1:8-10) -- and when they do they have an Advocate (1 John 2:1) -- what they cannot do (John's term) is to make a practice of, keep on, sinning. So if the claim is "No true Christian sins with impunity", the statement is fact, not fallacy.

The "no true Scotsman" fallacy is out there. Like the slippery slope fallacy, it is something to watch out for. Like the slippery slope fallacy, sometimes it is not a fallacy. If you fancy yourself a Christian apologist -- a defender of the faith -- it would likely be wise to keep it in mind and be careful not to do it. Indeed, Christians -- true Christians -- fail miserably. (Look at Peter as a prime example.) But remaining within the biblical definition of Christian and calling those outside that biblical definition "not Christian" is not a fallacy. Neither is recognizing activities in Set Y (which we would call "sin") as "not Christian". There are those who claim to be Christians who do not meet the definition of Christian, and there are activities that are deemed "unChristian" which are indeed outside of the bounds of good Christian activities. The fallacy exists. We should just be careful to avoid making that mistake.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Complementarianism -- Why?

So now our president has decided to drop the restriction of women in combat. While earlier generations thought that women deserved respect and care, we've outgrown that silly notion. They've now managed to exchange the best of what humans can see for the worst. They don't deserve respect and care. No one does. Our government has decided that women and men are equal enough to both be intentionally placed in the line of fire ...

I am a complementarian. By that I mean I like to say complimentary things about people. No, that's not it. "Complementarianism" is the theological view that men and women are created with equal value, but with differing roles and responsibilities. It stands in opposition to "egalitarianism", the view that men and women are equal and have no gender-based variations in roles, functions, or responsibilities. I am one convinced that the Bible is abundantly clear that the latter is false and that from the beginning God designed male and female to be equal in value but different (complementary) in role.

Now, you can find all sorts of places to find the arguments on both sides. Complementarians base their views on the myriads of Scriptures referencing roles of Father and Son, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, males and females. Egalitarians primary call on Gal 3:28 -- "There is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" -- as their source and then try to align other Scriptures with that notion. The arguments get sticky from there on out and you'll have to sort through them. (Note that in almost every case the two sides end up talking past each other. One side says "Equal worth but differing roles" and the other side says "Equal worth so no differing roles" as if one explains the other.) That's not my purpose here. My goal is to lay out a reason to look. I am a complementarian. Why? What does it matter? Why even bother with the discussion? What difference does it make?

Note first that all agree that the question is not essentially cultural, but theological. Both are theological views. They go back to who God is, what His design is, what the Bible teaches, and so on. These are not minor issues. They are fundamental.

The question is quite clearly pivotal in the question of male and female roles (since the roles of male and female are the primary question of the two positions). What does God intend manhood and womanhood to be? Are they the same or different? Did God design men and women to be the same or different? Did He design men to have strengths and weaknesses that differ from the strengths and weaknesses of women or are these just human strengths and weaknesses? Beyond that, the question works its way immediately into everyday living. Are the roles of husband and wife different? Are the roles of father and mother different? Did God intend that men and women in church have the same roles or differing ones? These things bear on every facet of life. Just as importantly, since it is a theological question, it would seem obvious that knowing what God intended would be of great value. If God intended men and women to be complementary -- filling in gaps for each other and operating on roles designed by God for them -- then it should be something we embrace with pleasure and gratitude. And vice versa. These things matter.

Setting aside (for the moment) the arguments for complementarianism (or egalitarianism), I want to look at the ramifications for a moment. What does it matter? First, it has been for the last 50 years a key issue in many (most?) churches. Are women in charge, or are men? For the first 1800 years of church history there was no question. Women certainly had their ministries, but men were in charge. They got this ridiculous notion from passages like 1 Tim 2:11-14, 1 Cor 11:3, and 1 Cor 14:34-35. But with the advent of feminism starting in the 19th century and its astronomical rise in the 20th century, the trend has been to discard these types of passages in favor of egalitarianism. Roles are not determined by a biblical view of gender, but by personal preference -- "calling".

Feminism also brought about changes in marriage. For almost all of history (let alone Church history) the view of marriage has been that the husband is in charge and the wife is in submission. The Church has agreed, again based on "obscure" passages like Eph 5:22-24 and 1 Peter 3:1-6 (along with, of course, 1 Cor 11:3 ... again). The outcome has been a two-headed monster where each marriage is structured with two heads -- man and woman. "I now pronounce you man and wife" has been deleted from weddings, no brides vow any longer to "obey", and the only "correct" structure in a marriage is that both lead equally. Fitting that into a 1 Cor 11:3 paradigm fails miserably, but it's the view of the day.

Having destructured church polity and restructured marriage, the next question is the basic question. What is the difference between man and woman? Everyone agrees it is not about value. Everyone. But if there is no gender difference in role, what is there? If it is simply anatomy and nothing more, that can be fixed, can't it? I mean, that is obviously something that is changeable. What else? And we end up down at this level with gender confusion. It becomes a question of gender identity. Have you heard that one before? You should have, because it is absolutely the question of the day. Having dismantled church leadership and marriage, we are at the point now to argue that, since the clear teachings on church leadership (male) are not clear and the clear teachings on marriage (patriarchal) are not clear, obviously the other clear teachings on sexual identity are not clear. Who says that it's wrong for a male to be sexually attracted to a male? Who says that females shouldn't be more like men? Your Bible? Don't be ridiculous! Haven't we already settled that question? Call it coincidence if you like, but it appears to be almost universal that those who call themselves Christians and believe that homosexual behavior is moral are also those classified as egalitarians. The egalitarian view -- "no gender difference" -- would produce the logical conclusion regarding the morality of homosexual behavior.

And so it goes. As it has worked itself out, the question of whether or not God intended man and woman to be equal in value but different in roles or equal in value and equal in roles has become a question of fundamental biblical tenets. The question is first and foremost one about the nature of God -- theological. For instance, if "equal" must mean "equal in authority" (as egalitarians assert), then in what sense can we say that Christ was "equal" with the Father when Christ Himself said that He was in submission to the Father. It is a theological question. Then it is about the nature of His creation -- male and female. Ultimately it comes down to the question of roles in church, marriage, family, and even sexuality. These are pervasive issues and not of small or unimportant value. No, no egalitarian argues that men and women are the same. Still, in the final analysis, the result is that men and women are different; it just doesn't matter how. What you need to decide is whether or not that's what God intended. It isn't a trivial question.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thinking It Through

One of the prominent reasons that I blog at all is to think things through. You wouldn't believe the number of ideas I did not offer because, in writing them down, I came to see them as ill-conceived. Writing stuff down helps me think things through and what you get is the result. So this is specifically one of my attempts to think things through.

The question is about masturbation. You see, if you look online you will find a host of sources that will tell you that masturbation is fine and anyone who says otherwise is a religious bigot without any backing for his/her position. Indeed, I searched specifically for "arguments against masturbation" and almost without exception all I found was why "arguments against masturbation" were wrong, wrong, wrong.

So why would I ask the question? Well, here's an interesting thought. I don't think a single, solitary, young person who has engaged in the behavior started out thinking it was a wonderful and morally upright thing. One apparently universal response is guilt. Thus there is a lot of effort spent explaining why the behavior is perfectly moral. I mean, no one is spending a lot of time defending the morality of giving or how it is not wrong to feed the poor. No one does those with any natural guilt. But this behavior seems to carry with it an innate sense of guilt. That suggests that we know internally that there's something wrong. So I ask myself if there are possible reasons that this just might be so.

First and foremost, I want to be clear. The act is not mentioned in the Bible. Forget what you've been told about Onan. It was not masturbation and God did not kill him for it. Make no mistake. Onan was commanded to "raise up offspring for your brother" (Gen 38:8). He agreed to engage in the sex but refused to complete the task. Because "Onan knew that the offspring would not be his" (Gen 38:9), he took steps to prevent pregnancy specifically to spite his brother (Gen 38:9) and God killed him for that. Don't go there.

Is the question answered then? No, not for me. Here are some other considerations ... biblical considerations. First, "Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he [does it], because his [action] is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin" (Rom 14:22-23). Do you think it is sin? Then for you it is. Do you question whether it is sin? Then for you it is.

Second, there is an undeniable warning in Scripture against lust. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "This is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God" (1 Thess 4:3-5). This is no small deal. "This is the will of God," he says. What is? "That you abstain from sexual immorality." In what sense? "Know how to possess his own vessel ... not in lustful passion." That doesn't say "Not in fornication" or the like. It warns against "lustful passion". It seems tacitly obvious that anyone who engages in masturbation with lustful thoughts would be violating the multiple warnings in Scripture against lust.

Pausing here, then, I have to ask. Is there anyone who engages in this activity 1) without doubt or 2) without lust? Seems pretty broad here.

There is another monolith of concern I find in Scripture. In 1 Cor 7 Paul suggests "if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (1 Cor 7:9). Interesting that the alternative to "burn with passion" is "marry" and not anything else. I mean, we certainly understand that to mean that we must not be having sex outside of marriage. So why wouldn't that include all sex? There is no word in the Bible on "masturbation", but there is the very broad term "sexual immorality". Doesn't that include self-gratification? I would suggest it does. Remember in Hebrews where it says we are to "let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous" (Heb 13:4). That tells us that there are two possible conditions. One is keeping the marriage bed undefiled (sex within the marriage relationship). The other is ... sin. It can be adultery or it can be "sexual immorality", but it is sin if it is not sex within the marriage relationship.

There is one other consideration. Is it wise? God designed sexual relations for two primary purposes. The first, despite all they'd like to tell you today, is reproduction. It was in the very first command. "Be fruitful and multiply." It was Onan's refusal to proceed with that command that cost him his life. The second is unity. "The two shall become one." It is a physical unity. It is an emotional unity. It is a spiritual unity. It is a union that exceeds measurement or explanation. And, in that union, there is shared pleasure designed by God for the other. So how does masturbation fit into any of that? It doesn't. Instead, it feeds the fundamental human problem of self-interest. It offers a twisted view of relationships, feeding the ethic of personal fulfillment over all other matters and making the objectification of others an easy process. It bypasses reproduction and union and magnifies instead "eros" -- erotic selfishness. It provides sexual pleasure without sexual responsibility or commitment. It encourages a view that "My body is my own and is for my personal pleasure", a view in direct opposition to a biblical position. Is that wise?

I know. None of this pertains to the unbeliever. And I know that the primary concern in the texts I've mentioned is "your sanctification". If you're not concerned about that, this may not pertain to you. And as I already said, the behavior in question is not mentioned in the Bible. So you're certainly free to disagree. It just seems as if the more I think it through the more I come to the conclusion that the natural guilt experienced by everyone who engages in the activity is very likely a genuine guilt built in by God for an activity He classifies as sinful. At the bottom of the thought process I have to ask, "Does it glorify God?" And, seriously, justifying a behavior solely on the basis that "it gives me pleasure" seems to be a weak approach. In fact, I'd say it is not a key issue in itself. I would suspect that it points to other key issues such as selfishness and lust. Those aren't trivial. But it's your call. You're free to think about it another way if you want. Just don't do so because "It's difficult" or "It might turn out that I've been wrong". Both are bad approaches.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Americans, Behold Your Future

In his second inaugural address our president assured us, "My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment." What moment? The moment when we seize the limitless possibilities of America. We are ending a decade of war, you see, and our "economic recovery has begun", you understand, and now "we will seize it — so long as we seize it together."

What are we seizing, then? Equal rights. The president quoted from the Declaration of Independence that "We hold these truths to be self-evident" and went on to assure us that all "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." That was the premise of his speech. Let's grasp these rights endowed by the Creator!

What rights? Certainly economic "fair play" is in view. (Read "We need to equalize the economy, taking away from those with more so that more with less have more.") Certainly "a great nation must care for the vulnerable" ... as long as "the vulnerable" are not the most vulnerable — unborn children. In other words, the "rights" endowed by the Creator will be carefully distributed by the government. The rich and the unborn will have less than the poor and the women.

How does that make sense? "We have always understood that when times change, so must we." Oh, I see. Got it. So what must change with the times? "A little girl born into the bleakest poverty" must have "the same chance to succeed as anybody else." That does not mean that she has to earn her way like everybody else. It means that we need to take away from those who have so that those who don't will. It means that, while "every citizen deserves a basic measure of security", the "security" in question here is universal health care. It means a nanny state to take care of everyone. And it means, above all else, that true happiness is found in having stuff. So we will need to provide stuff. It means that we'll have to stop climate change because certainly climate change is not security. And have no doubt, fellow Americans. It means that the perpetual, longstanding definition of marriage must change. Remember! This is due to the rights endowed by the Creator! Thus, the Creator demands that all of history and all of Scripture and all of the Church for all time admit its complete and total failure to comprehend this singular matter and agree that we have finally figured it out. Marriage has never been about husband and wife, father and mother, "the two shall become one". It has always been about personal preference and personal pleasure. God demands that we change. We must alter our view so that "our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well." Because, you see, "love" and "commitment" are the only acceptable definition of "marriage" today. And when times change, so must we.

Are you ready, America? You voted for it. You have given the "popular mandate". As understood by the current administration, you have decided that "equal rights" does not include "freedom of religion" if it violates your views. You have decided that those who earn more than others ought to lose that income in favor of those who do not earn as much. You have decided that God has changed His mind (or has lost it) and from time immemorial the human definition of marriage and the biblical definition of marriage has always been wrong. You have decided that "protecting the vulnerable" is a matter of selection, where the most vulnerable deserve no protection and we'll work our way up from there. That's what the president that you've elected understands you to believe. Be ready for the promised changes. You asked for it. As for me, I was not made for this moment. I was not made for the moment when our "limitless possibilities" include shaking our fists in the face of God, radical irrationality, and nonsensical administration. Not my idea of "limitless possibilities". We need to "seize it together" he said. You'll have to do it without me. But you guys go ahead. See how that plays out for you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Marriage Advice

The first nine chapters of Proverbs are a father's advice to a son. They include a lot of stuff about wisdom (of course), especially how a proper relationship with God works toward that. They also include substantial marital advice. One that struck me the other day is from chapter 5.
Drink water from your own cistern, And fresh water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? Let them be yours alone, And not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love. For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress, And embrace the bosom of a foreigner? For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD, And He watches all his paths. His own iniquities will capture the wicked, And he will be held with the cords of his sin. He will die for lack of instruction, And in the greatness of his folly he will go astray (Prov 5:15-23).
I thought I'd pull out a few choice bits for today.

"Drink water from your own cistern" (Prov 5:15). How appropriate for today, when we have so many cisterns to choose from. We have billboards and commercials, television shows and movies, offerings in the office and even in our churches that promise a fresh drink. No need to be satisfied with what you have at home when there is so much available everywhere. And the wise (and God-breathed) father says, "Don't do it! Be satisfied with the spouse God has given you." In an attention-deficit prone world, we are urged to search for the "next big thing" without gratitude for the gifts in hand. That wife, that husband, is God's gift. It should be treasured.

For those who are arguing today that the Bible favors polygamy, try fitting that paradigm into Proverbs 5:18. "Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth." What, did Solomon mean wives of your youth? Still, even though we are not a polygamous society, how do you measure up? Do you still rejoice (rather than endure or tolerate) the wife (or husband) of your youth? Or are you one of those looking for a replacement? If you've ever said with your spouse in mind, "I deserve better", you're not on the right side of that question.

I found the next phrase to be intriguing. "As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love" (Pro 5:19). I thought it was fascinating on two counts. First, what is the idea behind "a loving hind and a graceful doe"? "Well," you might be tempted to say, "they're pretty animals. Think of your wife as a pretty animal." Does that work for you? Not for long, does it? Yes, these are graceful creatures, partly the point, but they weren't just for looking at. They were for hunting. Now, in our experience the concept we carry around is the game begins when we meet and ends when we wed. Everyone knows that you have to work hard at coming across as a "good catch" while you're courting and wooing. Finally, when the wedding takes place, you can put all those fronts to rest and be yourself. You can stop pursuing and start living. The wise father here tells his son, "Don't give up the hunt. Don't stop pursuing her. Don't ... settle." While most of our love stories end, "and they married and lived happily ever after", the truth is that "they married" is the beginning. Imagine a marriage lived in constant wooing, constant care, constant pursuit. Suddenly it becomes a little more interesting, doesn't it?

The other part that was fascinating to me is the word here translated "exhilarated". The King James says "ravished". Young's Literal Translation says, "In her love magnify thyself continually." Okay ... so what is it and why is it so hard? Well, the word used is a little odd, you see. The Hebrew, shagah, means "to stray". Oh, good, thanks, that helps. It is also translated as "to reel" (like when you are reeling from a blow). And now the idea starts to solidify. The Douay-Rheims Bible says, "Let her breasts inebriate thee at all times: be thou delighted continually with her love." And that's a lot closer to the idea. Be "exhilarated", "ravished", "magnified", "delighted" -- be drunk on her love. The ESV says just that: "be intoxicated always in her love." There, my friends, is a wonderful piece of advice for your marriage.

The passage has many good pointers on marriage from father to son. Remember that "the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD" (Prov 5:21). You never sin alone. Remember to keep secrets between just the two of you (Prov 5:17), your personal little treasures. Remember the cost of failure (Prov 5:22-23). It isn't short term. Good ideas for all married people. Sometimes, you know, fathers (inspired by God) can give good advice.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Culture of Death

In the news last week MSN Now reported that two twin brothers, deaf from birth, learned that they were going blind, so they got official permission to be killed. They couldn't bear the thought of not hearing or seeing each other. One tweeter said, "The Culture of Death marches on."

I was amazed at the reactions in the comments. One said, "I believe in Pro-Choice in everything for Everybody!" The comment had hundreds of "likes" and one reply that said, "+ one million thumbs up". I'm thinking, "Really????"

So, how does that work? If someone exercises their "choice in everything for everybody" and executes the commenter and his/her family, was that good? Well, of course not! And why not? Well, the commenter didn't get his/her choice!

The ridiculous notion is that anyone can at any time choose ... death or whatever sin du jour or ... without infringing on anyone else. To that I say, "Nonsense!" Have you not heard? "No man is an island." The mother that chooses to execute her unborn baby contravened the baby's choice to live. The two brothers who chose euthanasia over life violated the choices of everyone who cared about them. There is no victimless crime ... or sin. Even the hidden sins have consequences that reach outside of oneself.

The bottom line, of course, is not "Pro-Choice in everything for Everybody", whether as the commenter intended or as it comes out when you think it through. The bottom line is who gets to choose. The lie "a woman should be allowed to choose what happens with her body" ignores the baby. The lie "porn is my own business" ignores any relationships and their choices. And all of it places ME at the center as if we are the ones who own our own bodies. When the Master of the Universe makes a choice, however, isn't it obvious whose choice should prevail? In our current culture of self-indulgence and death, apparently not.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Humble Yourself

I have difficulty at times with the songs sung in church. Some are wrong. Most are ... vapid. And then there are good ones. I like to think that songs from Scripture are sure things, but even then we have difficulty.

I remember the upbeat ditty based on the Joel 2 passage, Blow a Trumpet in Zion. (If you don't know the song, the link lets you hear it.) You know, lots of hand clapping, very "Jewish" sounding music, very upbeat. All about the triumphant return of Christ. Except, of course, that's not what that text is about. As it turns out Joel 2 is about God's promised judgment on Israel if they don't repent. It's not the sound of triumph, but the trumpet of alarm. "They rush on the city, they run on the wall," it says, and it's talking about an attack of locusts. It isn't a report of victory; it's a call for repentance. Someone wasn't paying attention.

Most songs based on Scripture, of course, are pretty good and very few are as far afield as that example. One of my pet peeves in Scripture-based songs is their failure to get across what the Scripture intends. The popular Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul is directly from Psalm 103 ... and says almost nothing at all. "He has done good things" is what we're asked to remember. David wrote what is now 22 verses of why we should bless the Lord. Done great things? Yeah, but what? Seriously, roll on over to Psalm 103 and read it through sometime and see if you get the same thing from the song that you get from the text. For me, it's not even close.

The one I came across the other day was in James. I'm sure you've heard the song, "Humble Thyself in the Sight of the Lord." The lyrics are "Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord; And He shall lift you up; Higher and higher." Yes, there are repeated lines and perhaps slight nuances (change "He" for "You" perhaps, or something like that), but that's it. It comes straight from Scripture: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up" (James 4:10). Word for word. But it misses the message.

As it turns out, the actual text begins at verse one of that chapter, starting with, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?" James takes his readers down the path of the problem -- self. He warns against friendship with the world. "Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). And he warns us to be humble. "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). So, now what? Submit to God. Resist the devil. Draw near to God. Cleanse your hands. Be miserable and mourn. Oh, he has a list ... a long list (James 4:7-9). It ends with "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord."

What does that even mean? It means (based on the context) that we must recognize that we are the primary cause of our problems, the reason we don't have, the reason we sin, the reason we mess up what God does give us. We are prone to arrogance where God is concerned. We are not worthy of God's favor (which is what makes it grace). It means submit to God and draw near to Him. It means resist Satan and cleanse ourselves. It means stop being double-minded and flippant ("Be miserable and mourn and weep").

I suspect that when you come around to the text, see what is involved, see how deep the problem is, and see what we need to do, "He shall lift you up higher and higher" becomes really insignificant, you see, because the humility called for here would contradict that view. If our problem is "you ask with wrong motives, so you can spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3), then humbling ourselves in order to be lifted up simply proves the point, doesn't it? And even though the song is not wrong, it fails to tell you what God intended to get across from James, and that doesn't seem like a good thing.

Or maybe, just maybe, I'm paying way too much attention to the songs we are singing to God. Or maybe not.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Proving the Point

Recently Denny Burk wrote a piece entitled, "A Sad Tale of Feminism Gone to Seed". It was about a New York Magazine article written by feminist Elizabeth Wurtzel bemoaning her losses as a radical feminist. "Very sad," Denny concludes. (Well, certainly more broadly and eloquently.)

There is, of course, a debate in the comments about the good or evil, right or wrong, effect or lack thereof of feminism. Is it really to blame? (Denny says not really.) Is it really evil? But one Christian woman's response in that thread was very telling to me.

Belle Vierge says, "What you’re describing is a corruption of feminism. ... Feminism taught me that my body is my own, and men don’t have a right to it without my permission." She concludes, "Overall, feminism has been good for women, just as overall, Christianity has been good for humanity."

There it is. Someone swallowed the lie. It festered under the surface until it became normal. "Overall, Christianity has been good for humanity." Not entirely, of course. Just overall. Because there are certainly parts of genuine Christianity that are not good for humanity. Those, of course, we need to avoid.

How, I wonder, does a Christian woman correlate this "my body is my own, and men don’t have a right to it without my permission" mentality with Paul's command to women, "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does" (1 Cor 7:4). Now, to be sure, there is another half to that command and must not be ignored -- a half aimed at men -- but my question is about feminism and a biblical worldview. How does that work? When the Bible is abundantly clear that "Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ" (1 Cor 11:3), how does that fit with "the empowerment of women"? How does feminism fit into a Christian worldview?

I don't believe it does. But this commenter swallowed it whole. She doesn't even know it. It is true that corruption of Christianity is bad for people, corruption of the role of husband is bad for wives, corruption of power is bad for the unempowered. All true. But the answer isn't to eliminate Christianity, the role of husbands, or power. The answer is to eliminate the corruption. And that's not done by creating a new corruption.

I'm pretty sure that Belle Vierge doesn't know how far down that path she has gone. She doesn't see hers as corruption. And, not knowing Belle, I'm not at all sure there's much I can do about it. But I am concerned that we all have a little of that corruption in us. Corruption of Christianity, corruption of our roles, corruption of power. Belle only illustrated this point. My aim is to ask you to join me in carefully examining yourself to see it you are walking in corruption, having swallowed a lie. Often we don't know we did. Often the price is high.

Friday, January 18, 2013


On the battlefield there is a handy dandy technique that can be used where a group can hide what they're doing by blowing smoke. It's called a smokescreen and it covers up your location, activities, and plans. How does it work? Well, there are a variety of ways to make smoke, but that's not what I mean. It works by blocking the vision of the opponent and giving them something else to look at. Smoke is very visible. You are not. Viola! You are now invisible!

Smokescreens are very popular in other battlefields as well. Skeptics like to ask leading questions intended to baffle the Christian not because there are not valid answers or even because they want answers, but because they can use these questions as smokescreens. I've spoken to many atheists/agnostics who have tried that technique repeatedly only to discover that, underneath that screen, they're not unbelievers, but actually mad at God for something. Even without being mad at God, typically they're using the questions and objections to put you off the real issues. Smokescreens.

A current smokescreen in play is being deployed by politicians (whose leanings you'll have to figure out on your own) via the media. We just saw one of these finally drift off the battlefield at the beginning of this last month. The screen was "the fiscal cliff". It was a very effective screen. It warned us of impending doom, of a coming recession and loss of income and, oh, my, the end of the world as we know it!! Do something! Do anything! Just don't let that happen!! And we fell for it. You see, the reason for that "fiscal cliff" was that our government has made a practice of spending way too much money -- far beyond what it takes in. Fixing that, however, was not on the table. There was no plan to take enough from the "rich" to solve the problem and clearly there was no intention of cutting the spending down to a functional level. So if they could just scare you into thinking there was a crisis and then avert that crisis, you'd be grateful ... even though the problem remained.

That was the recent one. The current one is the "debt ceiling". Those rotten Republicans are going to get us all bankrupted because they want to not limit the debt and everyone knows that if we don't borrow the money we need we can't pay our debts. That's what the President told us. We need to be able to borrow the money to pay our debts responsibly. "We've got to pay our bills," the President said. "To even entertain the idea of this happening, of the United States of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible. It's absurd." You see, the smokescreen is the fear of the elderly not getting their checks, the specter of an insolvent nation, the ordeal of not paying our debts, the horror of another financial crash. What is not being said is, "How is it responsible to increase our debt to pay our debt? In what world does that make sense?" According to the New York Times, "Public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product was around 38% in 1965. It is around 74% now. Debt could approach a ruinous 90% of G.D.P. in a decade and a cataclysmic 247% of G.D.P. 30 years from now." That is the real problem, not whether we can borrow more money. Smokescreen, you see. "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" Or, perhaps more appropriate, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."

Smokescreens. Very popular in battle, whether the battle is political, social, or religious. Give the enemy something else to look at while you work. Obscure the facts, your purposes, your activities. Appeal to their senses, their fears, their emotions. Very effective. Watch for them. If you're paying attention, you'll see them. Then you can start to look through them to find what's real rather than what's distracting.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Defined by Failure

The instructor was giving an illustration about communicating with employees. A manager wanted the supply cabinet cleaned out. She wanted her employee to get rid of stuff they didn't need, straighten things up, rearrange, that kind of stuff. She told her worker, "Clean out the supply cabinet." Her worker emptied everything out, cleaned all the shelves, wiped everything down. Cleaned it out, you know? What we have here is a failure to communicate.

As the story peaked, one of the ladies in the class said, "That worker was a husband, wasn't it." (No, it wasn't a question.) I thought (but didn't say, of course), "That's a response from a wife." You see, in this situation, "a husband" was defined as "an idiot who couldn't figure out what she wanted and did all the wrong things." My response was "a wife is defined as a woman who requires her husband to read her mind and then shoot him down for failing (which he certainly will)."

Just an example. Have you ever noticed that we have a tendency to define things by their failures rather than their meaning? "Men" are in particularly poor repute these days because some (not all by far) men are lousy people. But women aren't saying, "That is an example of a bad man as opposed to the good men I know." "Christians" are defined as "hateful" not because they are hateful but because a small number of really poor examples have stereotyped Christians, examples like the Westboro folks, pinched-nosed nuns, and those pharisaical folks who have decided that "mixed swimming is a sin" (just as illustrations) without biblical backing. What is not being said is "Christians are not defined by those who abuse it."

Why do we tend to do that? We know the abuses of a particular role or office, but we don't merely condemn the abuses -- we condemn the role or office. Brethren, these things ought not be. Of course, we do the reverse as well. James warns "My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism" (James 2:1). What is he talking about? It's the tendency to show preference for rich over poor, for well-dressed over shabby, for haves over have-nots. We tend, in other words, to define "well off" as "good" simply because it's "well off", not because it's good. James goes on to remind his readers, "Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?" (James 2:6). Oh, yeah! We forgot!

So, it turns out we have a tendency to be really poor at definitions. We will define "rich" as good overlooking the standard failures of being rich while defining others such as "men", "husbands", or "fathers" as evil overlooking the fact that all roles in God's design are good and their abuse is not a definition. Remember, we all suffer from a shared malady. "The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked." Be on the lookout for that ... especially in yourself.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Don't Judge Me

Recently I was visiting the campus of a College of Medicine whose university name shall not be mentioned. I had some time before a class I was going to take, so I was walking the halls. I was interested to see that each graduating class wrote their own vows. Odd, isn't it? They don't have standard promises. They make up their own. Anyway, the one that caught my eye was for the Class of 2013. Among other things they vowed to their patients, "We will listen without judgment."

I was, in all honesty, completely baffled. I mean, is that what I would want from my doctor? No judgment? Because, you see, as far as I know I hope to trust my doctor's judgment when it comes to my care, and if my doctor is not going to judge, I'd be lost. I thought, "Well, maybe judgment means something other than what I'm thinking it means." So I decided to look it up. has a host of dictionaries and provided a list of possible meanings. Besides the obvious "ruling of a court" which wouldn't pertain to either my definition or that of the doctors, there were a variety of meanings. One was "the faculty of being able to make critical distinctions." Another: "a particular decision or opinion formed in a case in dispute or doubt." A good general definition went like this: "the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense." Good sense. That made sense. A generic one was "the forming of an opinion, estimate, notion, or conclusion." When I hear "judgment", these are the kinds of things that come to my mind. And these are not bad.

What, then, does it mean to them? Well, clearly, first and foremost, judgment, whatever it means, is a bad thing. Patients don't want doctors to have it or use it. One definition from that list of dictionaries included "to assume the position of critic". Maybe that's it? Well, I would hope not. I don't want my doctor to think, "Well, consuming arsenic will kill him, but I don't want to be judgmental, so I won't say anything." So what does it mean?

I'm sure that there is, somewhere in their minds, something beyond "judging" as in "forming an opinion" and more of the concept of condemnation. You know, that "critic" aspect. Suggesting that what you're doing is wrong. That's "judgmental" and "bad". But is it? If a friend steals from you repeatedly, are you not wise in moving that friend to the "not friend" category and taking steps to stop the theft? Or is that just "judgmental", "critical", bad? No! It's normal and wise!

People don't want others to judge them. That doesn't make them commendable. It makes them foolish. "Don't tell me what I'm doing is wrong." But ... what if it is? Sure, there is the whole problem of poor judgment, but that's not in view here. The whole concept of "Don't judge me" is a dangerous path to take. Indeed, if it's what you're seeking from you doctor, don't expect to survive it. Nor should you expect to do well if it's what you demand from those who love you. In Jesus's words, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24). That's the kind of judgment I need from my doctor. That's the kind of judgment I want from those who love me. Please remind me not to get a doctor from the Class of 2013.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Qualified Leaders

I've been pinging off the qualifications of elder/overseer/bishop/whatever-term-you-wish-to-use-here recently and, frankly, I remain a bit baffled. You see, while it should be relatively simple and easy to figure out, it turns out that I'm not finding it so simple.

To Titus Paul wrote about appointing elders in Crete. He included this in his list of qualifications:
... if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination (Titus 1:6).
Okay, bit by bit. "Above reproach." Clear enough. Well, we need to be careful here, of course. "Above reproach" would be a relative term, since all of us have earned some reproach. Let's just say that this person must be a person of good repute. He doesn't have any noxious character traits, any unknown skeletons in the closet, that sort of thing. (The older versions use the term "blameless". Note that "blameless" doesn't mean "error-free", but simply that all things for which blame could be laid have been dealt with. Debts have been paid in full. (I'm not talking about financial debts here.) Sins atoned for. Errors acknowledged and dealt with. That sort of thing. I think that's a good way to look at this.) Okay, good, nailed that one down. Next!

"The husband of one wife." Oh, now, see? That's easy, too. Well, perhaps. Because while it seems abundantly clear that "husband" here demands that these elders (church leadership) must be male, that's in question today. However, since it's not a question from me, we can continue. And clearly the Roman Catholic requirement of unmarried and celibate fails miserably to meet this one in any sense. Still, what is "the husband of one wife"? I go to a Baptist church. They are quite sure that it means that no man who has been divorced and remarried qualifies. Indeed, reputable commentators like Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, Matthew Henry, and Vincent Word Studies all agree that this is a reference that says that neither polygamists nor divorced and remarried people can serve as elder. They even say that remarriage after a wife dies makes a man ineligible. Interesting. John Gill, on the other hand, says that a man need not be married, he may have married after becoming a widower, or he may have remarried after a biblical divorce. Modern commentators point out that the phrase is literally "one-woman man" and they suggest that the man in question should simply have a "one-woman" mindset.

Whatever course you take on this question, you run into problems. Taking the Matthew Henry approach, for instance, would eliminate all sorts of people. Obviously remarried divorcees would be excluded, but so would remarried widowers. Indeed, all widowers (since they are now the husband of no wife) would be out. An elder whose wife dies would be required to resign. Indeed, neither Paul nor Jesus would qualify for that role. On the other hand, Gill's approach leads to difficult questions about "biblical divorce". Gill says "for adultery", but is that biblical? What about Paul's abandonment clause (1 Cor 7:15)? I don't know. Kind of sticky. What does "husband of one wife" mean?

But this third one really gets you bogged down. "His children are believers." So, just like the question of unmarried elders being ineligible, can elders without children serve? But, moving on, note, first, that this is the English Standard Version. The New American Standard agrees. Older versions like the King James and others refer to them as "faithful children". Adam Clarke says it refers to one "whose family is converted to God." Barnes disagrees. He says, "it is descriptive of those who had been well-trained, and were in due subordination." Gill rightly points out that "by faithful children cannot be meant converted ones, or true believers in Christ; for it is not in the power of men to make their children such." So, what does it mean? Well, in the parallel passage to Timothy, Paul told him, "He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?" (1 Tim 3:4-5). (Note that he did not refer to "faithful children" or "children who are believers" in his letter to Timothy.) This principle -- someone who is able to manage his own household well -- coupled with the simple fact that no father, regardless of how perfect he might be, can actually make his children believers, would suggest that the idea of "faithful children" would refer to children who have been trained in the truth and who are well behaved. But ... does it?

Here's the next question I'm wondering about. Just using these three principles -- 1) Blameless, 2) husband of one wife, and 3) faithful children -- regardless of how you understand them, what happens if it changes? If your pastor, for instance (because in the Baptist church and many others the "elders" are the pastors), should come under suspicion (blame), must he resign? If his wife dies, must he quit the pastorship? If she divorces him, is his ministry as elder finished? If he is raising a group of "faithful children" and one runs amok, must he step down? These are things that may not remain the case. If they change, is he done?

Well, as you can see, this isn't one of my "Thus saith the Lord" posts. This is one of my signature "I really don't know" entries. Please educate me.

Monday, January 14, 2013

An Anecdote or Two

The place: Keesler Air Force Base. The year: 1980.

Having completed Basic Training, I sat in a room with another hundred or so new recruits getting our orientation to the Air Force in general and the upcoming technical training school environment in particular. This particular session was with the chaplain. He was just trying to help us feel ... at home. As if you could feel at home in this strange environment. No, no, you're on guard, not sure of what's around the corner, what to expect, what to do or say. But he was trying.

"So," he said, "these are just questions. We won't be taking notes or anything. Just to help you think things through. How many of you are married?"

About half the group raised their hands.

"Okay, well, it doesn't matter if you're married or not. Just think about the questions as if you are. So, in the military it is entirely possible that you could be sent TDY to someplace for some time without your spouse."

TDY was the standard military TLA for Temporary Duty. And, of course, TLA is the standard TLA for "three letter acronym".

"So," he continued, "let's say you are married and you were sent TDY to someplace for 6 months without your spouse. How many of you would expect to have sex with someone other than your spouse during that duty?"

I was kind of confused by the question ... simply because I didn't know it was a question. I was married. I said, "'Til death do us part." "Have sex with someone other than your spouse" was outside of those vows, let alone after 6 months. So I was somewhat surprised when easily a quarter of this group raised their hands.

"Okay," the chaplain said, "you move over to this part of the room." They did. "Now, for the rest of you, what about if you're deployment without your spouse was for a year?"

Another portion moved.

"Eighteen months?"

I'm now in a small group -- two or three of us.

"TDYs can last up to two years without your spouses. How many of you would not expect to wait two years to have sex with someone?"

I was sitting alone. Men, women, married, unmarried, all of them were sitting on the "I'd expect to cheat on my spouse" side of the room. The notion of remaining true to my wife and my vows made me odd, freakish, clearly a stand-out.

I remember in the movie, City Slickers, two of the characters were discussing cheating on their wives (a theme in the movie, of course). One asked the other, "If you knew you'd never be caught, would you cheat on your wife?" You see, that's our question, isn't it? Not, "How far can I possibly go to be more a faithful, more true, more honest, more godly husband/wife?" It's "How much can I get away with?" It's not "Is there something more I can give up for him/her?", but "How much can I keep for myself?"

But, I suppose, that's not just in marriage, is it?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

I don't know why, but I've had this one rolling around in my head the past few days. Written by Philip P. Bliss in 1875, it is a wonderful hymn. Short. Sweet. To the point. The Gospel in a nutshell.

"Man of Sorrows!" what a name
For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
"Full atonement!" can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
"It is finished!" was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
To me the song is a little odd. A little. Because the chorus is a single line. Typically choruses are another entire verse repeated in a song, but this one is one line: "Hallelujah! What a Savior!" Indeed, when you sing it the thing seems to come to an abrupt end. You're almost expecting more. Musically and lyrically it seems like something should follow it. It doesn't. And then, of course, you realize that it doesn't because it mustn't. Given the lyrics, what more can you say but "Hallelujah! What a Savior!"?

"Hallelujah" is Hebrew for "praise Yah" -- praise God. What is it, then, that makes Jesus praiseworthy, makes Him such a marvelous Savior? It is exactly this sacrifice. Bliss has exposited in a sense on Philippians 2:5-8, the passage on how Jesus gave up His "equality with God" to be humbled to the position of a servant, a servant put to death. Bliss references Isaiah 53 for the title, "Man of Sorrows". "He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not" (Isa 53:3). Really? "Man of Sorrows"? This Son of God? Yet, it is true. He took my place. I deserved the worst. The demands of justice required that I pay the ultimate price. And yet the spotless Lamb of God took my place. "Hallelujah! What a Savior!" What more is there to say?

There is, in the last two verses, a transition. It goes from crucified to glorified, from death to resurrection, from vanquished to victory. He was lifted up to die and ended up in heaven "exalted high". And it's not the end. He will return. He will return! Beginning in "Man of Sorrows" and ending in complete victory, it turns the whole mood. The King is coming! "Hallelujah! What a Savior!"

They say that "Hallelujah" is universal. It can be found across languages in slightly altered forms and understood by all. I don't know. It was said that this was the last hymn that Bliss sang in public before his death in a train crash. It is, I'm quite sure, the hymn he's singing now and the hymn we will sing. "When He comes, our glorious King, All His ransomed home to bring, Then anew His song we’ll sing: Hallelujah! What a Savior!" Wrap your arms around the saving blood of Christ and the coming King. I'm pretty sure you'll be singing the same thing.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Banning Prayer

No, no -- no one has done it. Well, sure, in public schools, perhaps, but not entirely. Don't let the title scare you. Nor am I suggesting they will. They might, but I'm not going there right now. I'm just going to chase an argument to its logical conclusion and see where we end up.

In the current debates about gun control, the argument is that guns kill people, so we need to limit or eliminate guns (depending on how far you're willing to go with that argument). No one ever seems to think that one through. For instance, cigarettes kill more people, but they aren't banned. And while you non-smokers are nodding knowingly, cars kill more people and they aren't banned. And no one in the public arena seems to recognize that killing is legal in this country (and just about everywhere else). Yes, according to the CDC, there have been more than 50 million legal murders of babies in the United States alone since 1973. But abortion isn't banned either, is it? My point is that people are not following these things to their logical conclusion. Cigarettes, cars, and abortion kill far more than guns, but guns need to be banned while real killing machines don't. Mayor Bloomberg banned large soft drinks but favors abortion. Can you say "cognitive dissonance"?

But back to the topic -- prayer. You've likely heard that a renowned pastor from Atlanta, Louie Giglio, will not be praying at the president's second inauguration. Why? Because he's unacceptable. What makes him unacceptable? As it turns out some 20 years ago he preached a sermon in which he said that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God. (If you're familiar with your Bibles, that's right out of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.) He went on to say that -- brace yourselves -- salvation is found in Christ alone and that the Bible commands people everywhere to repent. Shocking! Outrageous! You'd think that President Obama would know better than to invite an "anti-gay bigot" to pray at his inauguration. As Dr. Mohler points out, welcome to the new Moral McCarthyism. "Are you or have you ever been convinced of biblical morality? Sorry, you are not acceptable."

So ... what does this have to do with the topic of "banning prayer"? Well, following the same logic of killing and gun control, let's think down the "what you believe" and "should you pray" path. Clearly, taking the position that homosexual behavior is sin (you know, like it says in the Bible) makes you unfit to pray. Obviously, then, thinking that, say, sex outside of marriage is a sin (you know, like it says in the Bible) would make you equally unfit. But wait. It isn't about sex, is it? Of course not. It's about sin. So if you believe whatever the Bible says about sin actually defines morality must likely make you unfit for prayer. Because, you see, if you believe that my favorite activity is a sin merely because the Bible says so, you're clearly an anti-_____ bigot who should not be allowed to pray in public. But wait! If we are to be consistent, we'd need to continue this logic. The Bible is not the only "holy book", is it? So if you believe the Torah and its moral views, you're in the same boat. And given what the Koran teaches about the morality of eating pork and that belief's impact on the pork industry, clearly Moslems are not good choices to pray. Now, wait a minute. When you think this thing to the bottom, it would seem like the only people qualified to pray would be those who have no morals and no belief in a deity. Bingo! Prayer is out!

Of course, no one is banning cars or abortion, so no one is following their own logic on killing. By the same token, no one is actually aiming at being logically consistent with their complaints about Christians and the Bible or religion in general. Indeed, I don't think there would be much kickback if the President invited Dr. Oz (as a Moslem) to pray because, really, it's only biblical Christians that are the problem, right? But if enough loud voices figure out this course, I wouldn't be surprised if my logical imperative becomes a cultural one.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Russell Moore has written an excellent article for Touchstone Magazine on the topic of Christian Honesty about the Harm of Fornication. I liked it, of course, because it went along so well with this piece I wrote on sexual immorality and adultery versus holding the marriage bed in honor. I also liked it because he addresses the very same problem I've complained about on so many topics regarding the changing of the English language.

You see, if you're not careful, you can lose meaning by allowing the changes in the English language that come so regularly. The word in question in Moore's article was "fornication", a word we typically only use today to ridicule Christian virtue. No, no, we don't use that one anymore. "Premarital sex" is better. That says it much better. But, as Moore points out, there is a problem with that term. It suggests that "sex" is the same whether it is "premarital" or "marital" and the problem is the timing, not the sex. "Sex in marriage" = good; "sex before marriage" = bad. "Sex" = no real content. In that subtle but, as it turns out, massive shift in meaning, we have lost the meaning.

It is true that the actions involved in "premarital sex" and "marital sex" may be the same physical action, but that misses the point. You see, fixing the sex that was premarital by marrying doesn't actually fix the sex. That's because we've missed the point. Fornication is much, much more than that ... and so is sex. Even the term "sexual immorality" for fornication comes closer but misses the mark. Indeed, we have come so far from the original intent that the whole concept is completely bizarre to us today, even among believers. In Ephesians 5, Paul compares marriage with the union of Christ and the Church (or, rather, vice versa). In 1 Corinthians 6 he speaks of the spiritual union that occurs in sexual relations that exceeds the physical union. In both cases, Paul refers to Genesis 2's "The two shall become one flesh." When we speak in marital terms of the union of Christ and the Church, what does that even mean? The fact that we don't know says that we've lost the meaning.

The article is very good and I don't think I can improve or expand on it much. Suffice it to say that "fornication" is much bigger than we realize. It is a much broader term than "premarital sex". It encompasses all sexual immorality. But since we've lost the biblical impact of God's intent for sex, even that has become obscure. Read the article. Give it some thought. It might be beneficial for you. I learned from it.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Trick Question

Of course, the sanctity of marriage (as the fundamental core of society and the first relationship instituted by God and the key example of the union of Christ and the Church) has always been on my mind and comes up often in these pages, but the most recent "shot across the bow" is the story that the National Cathedral is now ready to begin performing same-sex weddings. How it is classified as the "National Cathedral" and how that gets to be acceptable in view of all of Scripture and all of history is beyond me. But the message is clear. "We got it right. The rest of you who don't agree are not right and, now, not even American." Got it.

Okay, here's the premise. The fact is that "same-sex marriage" is not prohibited in the Bible. What do you do with that?

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Faithful Wife

When I was young we enjoyed our family hi-fi. That was short for high fidelity, of course. We used it to play records, radio, that sort of thing. A high fidelity stereo, you see, was better than a mere radio because this device would reproduce the qualities and conditions of the music with exact correspondence. The question, then, is how that would look for a faithful wife, a "high fidelity" wife.

The first thing we know about marriage at all is its biblical definition. "A man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh" (Gen 2:24). (Note, by the way, who defined marriage this way. The text in Genesis could imply that it was Adam (see verse 23). Jesus sees it differently. "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?" (Matt 19:4-5). Who said it? "He who created them." As our culture today strives to redefine marriage, it does so not merely against the standard definition or even the longstanding traditional definition, but against God's established definition.) The wife, then, who wishes to faithfully reproduce the music of marriage would be required to "leave and cleave" -- to leave mother and father and cleave to her husband. The parental relationship remains, to be sure, but it is now different, altered, decreased. The single most important relationship to the married woman is her husband.

A key to this marriage music is God's design. Eve was designed to be what the King James calls a "help meet for him" (Gen 2:20). The description is of a "suitable helper", a person designed by God to assist the husband, filling in his shortcomings, shoring up his weaknesses, propping up his failings. A high fidelity wife is the strength behind her husband.

Of course, the defining texts on God's view of the role of a wife in marriage is found in Ephesians 5 and paralleled in 1 Peter 3. Ephesians 5 says:
Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. ... Let the wife see to it that she respect her husband" (Eph 5:21-24, 30).
We all know that it says "Be subject to one another." Paul goes on to explain in what sense. For wives, he says, "Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord." That should really come across with a jolt. "As to the Lord." This is no small submission. Indeed, when he repeats it, he expands it. "Wives ought to be to their husbands in everything." Everything? Not my word. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (and not by some misguided misogyny), used the word. Wives, if you wish to be a faithful wife, truly reproducing the music that God intended for marriage, submission to your husband in everything is required.

"Well, now," some of you might be saying, "submitting to a good husband is a great idea. But we don't all have good husbands." Or, rather, you will be tempted to say that. So Peter interjects, "Wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives" (1 Peter 3:1). Thus, Error #1 in this "wives submit" objection is to limit the scope. Paul disagrees and includes everything. Error #2 is to assume it is only to good husbands. Wives with bad husbands are exempt. Peter disagrees and includes disobedient husbands.

So far, then, God's definition of marriage for wives includes "leave and cleave", the role of "helpmeet" -- a helper suitable to her husband -- and submission that goes beyond an ungodly husband and extends to everything. Indeed, a key task of wives is found in that last verse in Ephesians 5. "Let the wife see to it that she respect her husband." The word used there for "respect" is phobeo, the Greek word for fear. It is commonly used in the New Testament in the phrasing of the concept of the fear of God. "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor 7:1). That kind of fear. The fear that includes respect, reverence, awe, and just a healthy touch of fear. Wives, do you have that kind of respect for your husbands? If you wish to reproduce the music of marriage faithfully, that is a necessary component.

It wouldn't do to finish this thought without touching on sex. I know, I know, not a popular subject. Husbands are typically unhappy about not getting what they want (and I've addressed that first). We prefer to think, in fact, that wives are the virtuous ones on this topic. They're above it. They are romantic rather than lustful, not wrapped up in base desires like men and their testosterone are. So it is with a little apprehension that I point you ladies to 1 Corinthians 7.
Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control (1 Cor 7:3-5).
I figure you astute women reading the previous piece to husbands would see this coming and recognize that it would come back to bite you. Well, you were right. Marriage includes the wife's duty to her husband. One of the biblical components of marriage, despite what anyone might think, is the sexual union of husband and wife. Paul wrote, "It is better to marry than to burn with passion" (1 Cor 7:9). It isn't base; it's a basic component. Further, we have bought a lie fed from the father of lies through the mouths of feminists who have assured us "It's the woman's body; she chooses what she will do with it." Sounds good, I'll admit, but it sounds good in defiance of God's Word. The husband's body is not his own. True. Equally, "The wife does not have authority over her own body." In fact, Paul warns here of a serious danger. Depriving one another can produce satanic temptation. Not good.

Wives need to be as faithful in their marriages as husbands are required to be in theirs. That means more than sexual fidelity. (And let's be honest; women are as prone to lust after someone not their husband as husbands are for those other than their wives. It just likely looks different because it's cloaked in a romance novel or love scene in a movie.) God has designed marriage indeed to be a beautiful song. A godly wife, if she is to fulfill her God-given role, must be a hi-fi bride, faithfully reproducing those tones. They include unity with her husband above all others, a submission that surpasses the character of her husband and extends to all corners of life, a respect for the husband that borders on fear, and providing for her husband's sexual desires. Just as Adam complained to God, "It was that woman you gave me" (Gen 3:16), it's easy to set aside many, even most, of these components and point at that husband. There is nothing in the music of marriage that allows for that. Wives, if you are to be faithful to your marriage as God intended, these are some of the key components. God will hold your husbands responsible for their fidelity. He will also hold you responsible for yours. How faithful are you?