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Friday, January 31, 2014


For quite some time now we've seen a resurgence of the assault on the reliability of Scripture. I'm not talking about skeptics and atheists. Of course, they deny it. I'm talking about those within Christendom, those who call themselves Christians. Some of them argue that the Bible is not reliable, but a "nice to have". Others argue that the Bible is certainly reliable, but not inerrant, as if the two are separable. I mean, if it is reliable but not without error, how is it reliable and who gets to determine where the errors are? The Bible claims to be "God-breathed". As such, it would be given by God and superintended by God and must, by definition, be without error. It isn't, then, a question about the Bible, but about the reliability of God.

Today, however, there is another specter raising its ugly head. This, too, is growing in Christian circles. It's not about the reliability of Scripture, but the sufficiency. Is the Bible enough? The question comes in various forms. There is the well meaning, soft form where people ask, "Why wasn't God more clear in His Word?" The idea is that it's hard to understand (which isn't necessarily false) or, worse, not clear enough to give us what we need today. The intermediate version is a bit stronger. It comes from mainly the Pentecostal circles. They offer new revelation, new words from God. They write books like Jesus Calling and give compelling stories of people who have been to heaven and back. I'm not talking about insight here. I'm talking about new, even sometimes overriding revelation where God tells them something that counters the Bible and we have to listen because you're not supposed to touch the Lord's anointed. The harder form is a complaint about the age of Scripture. You know how it goes. "You know," they will tell us, "the Bible was written long before the advent of such things as modern science or even modern understanding of humans, so it isn't well-suited in today's world to today's problems." They will point to such facts as the new classification of "homosexual", for instance, that didn't exist prior to the 20th century. "How could the Bible address the notion when no one even thought of it before?" So, they argue that it doesn't even address the question and we need to change our views. Very common is this notion that the church needs to change and that our strict adherence to Scripture is foolish in light of science and psychology and all the new stuff we have on hand.

As it turns out, the Bible disagrees. And while some argue that the Bible never says it is inerrant (because, after all, it doesn't), it turns out that the Bible claims to be sufficient. David wrote:
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward (Psa 19:7-11).
That term, "perfect", doesn't simply mean "the pinnacle" or "right in every way". It means "complete". It means literally "entire". Nothing lacking. Sufficient. But David doesn't stop there. He references every aspect of the Word of God. There is the testimony, the precepts, the commandment, the fear, and the rules of the Lord. All of it. And all of it is to be more desired than gold. "In keeping them there is great reward." There is no more robust, clear statement of the sufficiency of Scripture.

What does it mean when we say that Scripture is sufficient? Well, first, let's look at what we do not mean. We do not mean that there are no other sources of information. The Bible doesn't give a handbook of traffic laws. It doesn't offer instruction for doing algebra. It doesn't tell you how magnets work. Other sources would be used for these. And the Bible clearly addresses some other sources as useful and necessary. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to "guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13), so we need the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. Teachers are often discussed in the Bible (e.g., 1 Tim 3:2; 6:2; 2 Tim 2:2; Titus 2:1,3), so teachers are necessary. And we are commanded to encourage one another (1 Thess 5:11,14), to bear one another's burdens (Gal 6:2), and to "consider how to stir up one another to love and good works" (Heb 10:24-25), so we need each other. The Sufficiency of Scripture does not mean there is nothing else involved.

What then? It means that the Bible is sufficient for the task God gave it for. It reveals who God is. It tells us how to relate to one another. It teaches us how to live, how to "do church", and how to worship. Scripture, as God's perfect revealed Word, becomes our authority in matters of faith and practice. It does so because it is sufficient to do so and because God gave it for that purpose. Paul wrote, "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom 15:4). Jude describes Christianity as "the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 1:3). It means that all we need to know God and live the life He intended is in there.

Is the Bible difficult to understand? Sure, at times. But that doesn't make it insufficient. And we are to "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15), so instead of complaining about the difficulty, perhaps we ought to get to work. Does the Bible tell us how to drive a car? No, but that doesn't make it insufficient. In fact, the Bible does tell us to obey the authorities that God has put in place (Rom 13:1-2) and to love your neighbor (Matt 22:39), so it would appear that we already have the makings of a pretty robust set of principles for driving, don't we? And I would suggest that this is true in far more cases than you may realize. Maybe if our approach was more like David's, we might have a more positive view of the Sufficiency of Scripture. He said, "O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day" (Psa_119:97). At least, it would be a good start.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Christianity vs Evolution

There is, in Christendom, a debate over origins. While hardcore Evolutionists will ridicule Christians who take the Bible at face value and will, on the other hand, deny that Evolution tells us anything about origins (because we will always ask, "But ... where did it all start?" and they will tell us "It's not about origins! It's about origins of life."), many voices in Christianity are arguing that we need to give up our silly "God created everything" perspective and especially any notion of a young Earth and surrender to ... Science because, after all, Science has proven that the Bible is wrong. No, that's not quite fair or right. While skeptics will say it, Christians are saying that a literal understanding of the Bible in this case is wrong. Go to another view. So the quesion is "Is a Bible-believing Christian required to accept the Young-Earth view?"

I would want to start with a couple of very important cautions. First, it won't work to reject a biblical position based solely on a perceived conflict with Science1. If your primary motivation for the question is "We're colliding with Science", then it's a wrong-headed question. Don't bother. It can be perfectly okay for Scripture and Science to disagree, primarily because the nature of Science is to be in flux. As should be abundantly clear to the casual observer, science is always finding out that what they knew for certain was actually wrong and new discoveries change it. So I wouldn't be too quick to jump on the "Run for your lives! Science and the Bible disagree!" bandwagon.

Second, it won't work to reject scientific input on the basis of a poorly examined, woodenly literal use of Scripture. It has been argued, for instance, that when the psalmist says, "the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved" (Psa 96:10), it is biblical proof that the Earth is stationary and everything else orbits around it. Come on. Be reasonable. This text does not require that either Science or the Bible is wrong. It requires that you not be so rigid in your reading.

Both errors, then -- either rejecting a biblical interpretation simply because Science says so or rejecting science because of a misguided understanding of Scripture -- ought to be avoided. If your aim is to synchronize the Bible with Science, your aim will be a failure because human Science is rooted in human understanding and we already know that Natural Man is futile in his thinking (Rom 1:21) and the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer 17:9). If your aim is to defend your view of texts simply because it's your view and Science is not to be trusted, then you'll likely have to simply stop paying attention to any rational discussions on any related subjects, become a Flat-Earther, and go away.

Having offered these warnings, I wanted to look at the question. The suggestion from Christian quarters is that it is entirely possible to reject the biblical account as an historical piece and accept it just as mythology, as allegory, as imagery without actually telling the real events. "That way," they assure us, "you can accept both Evolution (with a capital "E") and creation." Well, okay ... or is it?

Here's the problem. The Bible itself has critical functions rooted in the Creation story. The rest of the Bible all speaks of Genesis as historical. The first 9 chapters of 1 Chronicles is an extensive list of family lines beginning with Adam (1 Chron 1:1). Luke traces Jesus's lineage back (through history) to a supposedly actual Adam (Luke 3:38) (and then back to God ... surely He is not mythology, poetry, allegory, is He?). Romans 5 refers to Adam as the one who introduced sin into the world and is the type to which Jesus is repeatedly contrasted in Paul's "one man" series where "one man" (Adam) brought trespass and "one man" (Christ) brought life and so on. Paul writes, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Cor 15:22) and bases his much debated prohibition of women leadership in the Church on the order of creation ("For Adam was first formed, then Eve ...") (1 Tim 2:12-15). Jude assumes that Enoch was "the seventh from Adam" (Jude 1:14). If, as it turns out, there was no Adam, the least we can conclude is that all of these writers were mistaken because, after all, there was no Adam. Remove the historical Adam and you remove all sorts of biblical realities. Then there are the other links to the concept. God told Moses that Israel was to "honor the Sabbath and keep it holy" because "in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth" (Exo 20:8-11). Was God mistaken? Or just misleading? And the entire "Sabbath" concept plays a big role in Scripture. Just to name a few problems that arise if we relegate Genesis 1 and following to mythology or allegory.

I think it is a possible mistake to stand on a 6,000-year-old Earth as a biblical fact. The Bible doesn't say it. Why should we? I know that some of the things we've taken for certain in Christendom were, after careful examination, mistaken, like those who argued that the universe revolved around us or those who said that the world was flat (which was a much smaller number than we were led to believe). Conversely, placing one's faith in Science over Scripture is a dangerous thing. Determining truth by what modern science is telling us is questionable even in science. I mean, how many times have they changed their minds on whether or not coffee or wine or eggs are good for you? How many "known facts" proved to be false? Well into the 20th century science believed that there were canals on Mars. And how recently did they vote out Pluto as a planet? Didn't they just change from "a pending ice age" to "global warming" to "global climate change"? So why are we going with a worldview that itself claims to be in constant flux for our determination of what is or isn't true?

The Bible has clear statements on the origins of the universe and the origins of life. Beyond the clear statements, there are theological ramifications. Before you decide to jettison a historical Creation story, consider the implications. Converting Genesis 1 to "allegory" or "myth" has the reasonable capability of destabilizing the rest of Scripture and, consequently, Christianity itself. Think long and hard before you choose that path.
1 I capitalized "Science" because in today's world, even for some Christians, it has become a sort of "god" (or, for some, an actual god) that determines Truth and demands Obedience.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Learning from Hell

Hell is not a popular topic. Indeed, over the last half-century or so it has grown more and more unpopular. The historical, traditional, orthodox version of Hell -- you know, that concept of eternal conscious torment for eternity -- has become the first offense for many "deconversions", people who claim to have been Christians and then reject Christianity. It has become the prime objection of many who are quite sure that "I could never believe in a God who sends people to Hell."1 Even those "in the faith", those who seem to be otherwise well connected to biblical reality, are balking at the point of Hell. Rob Bell made headlines back in 2011 with his book, Love Wins, where he denied the biblical reality of Hell2, but he wasn't the first ... or the last. Big names like John Stott, Clark Pinnock, Greg Boyd, and N.T. Wright all reject this version of Hell.

The problem, of course, is that it is, frankly, pretty awful. As it turns out, it seems that everyone who rejects the traditional orthodox version of Hell start from this position. "It is really, really horrible ... so it just might not be." The skeptic from that starting point will reject it all. The less skeptical will find a "workaround", some handy method to opt for Universalism -- "Don't worry; everyone gets saved in the end" -- or for annihilationism, the version where everyone who doesn't end up in Heaven simply ceases to exist.

Of course, defending this view from Scripture over against Scripture is pretty tough. All of what we learn about Hell in the Bible we learn from the New Testament, and most of what the New Testament teaches us on the topic comes from the lips of Jesus. Did you know that? Not Paul. Not Peter. Jesus. John speaks of "the lake of fire" (Rev 20). But it was Jesus who gave us the most extreme descriptors. He referred to "gehenna", the local trash heap that burned continually (Matt 5:22), "unquenchable fire" (Mark 9:43), "eternal fire" (Matt 18:8), the "hell of fire" (Matt 18:9), the "worm" that "does not die" (Mark 9:48), the "place of torment" (Luke 16:28), "outer darkness" (Matt 8:12), and "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt 13:42)3. Now, I know that many try to turn all this into a temporary event that results in annihilation, but when John writes, "The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night ..." (Rev 14:11), it's pretty hard to hang your hat on annihilation without simply dismissing "they have no rest".

The traditional, historical, orthodox, biblical version of Hell is without doubt one of the most unpleasant concepts to our minds. Even we who believe in it because, frankly, the Bible (and, therefore, God Himself) demands it are repulsed by the idea. I have never seen any representation of Hell that appears to be too extreme in the torments it depicts. And the fact that most of the descriptions are symbolic suggests not that it isn't as bad as we might think, but rather that it is far worse than we can imagine. So, given that Jesus taught it and the rest of Scripture concurs, what's good about Hell? After all, if God is good and Hell is His idea, there must be some value to it.

The Problem of Sin

When we think of sin, we think of "doing bad things". This is one of our objections to eternal torment. I mean, why would transgressing God's rules on a short-term, temporal basis result in eternal damnation? Seems like overkill ... without the "kill". The problem, of course, is that we don't get it. First, complaining that we only did the crime in a short lifespan is like arguing that the murder only happened over a matter of minutes, so the killer shouldn't have to serve more than that for his crime. Time is irrelevant. What is? The magnitude of the crime. So we all understand that the punishment is determined by how grave the crime was, not how much time it took to commit. So what does Hell tell us about the magnitude of the crime? It is eternal, deserving of everlasting torment. That's big. In truth, sin isn't a violation of rules, but an affront to the Glory of God, an eternal concept of its own. It isn't "doing bad things"; it's Cosmic Treason against the Most High God. At this point, if you're thinking about it properly, you might begin to realize that an eternity of torment isn't sufficient to pay for the violation. Hell, then, tells us that the problem of sin is much bigger than we realize.

The "Bad News"

Without bad news, good news is irrelevant. Telling me, "Good news! There's air out here!" is pointless if there was never any fear of there not being air out there. And if there is anything at all about which we are deeply concerned as Christians, it is the Good News. So if the Universalists are right, the "bad news" is ... "Well, never mind. Everyone gets saved, so go on about your business and be happy." Not much. If the Annihilationists are right, it's only slightly more. "The bad news is that after a lifetime of sinning without coming to faith in Christ ... you'll stop being." Now, I can tell you that this isn't such a bad thing. I can tell you this because during the largest part of all history I was not ... and it didn't bother me much. Okay, at all. So if my punishment is to cease to be, that's not particularly pleasant, but it's much better than that "eternal torment" thing. Whew! But if the historical, traditional, biblical, orthodox version -- you know, the one described most by Jesus -- is true, then the "Bad News" is huge. This problem with God that our sin has brought about is far worse than we can even imagine, and the consequences are far worse than we can guess. It's a bad thing. Consequently, the Good News of the salvation offered by Christ is conversely bigger than we could ask or think.

The Magnitude of God's Glory

Here's something you may not have considered. If Hell is the just reward for those who transgress God's glory, what does that say about God's glory? If Heaven is the place where we dwell in eternal light and life in the presence of God's glory, what is Hell? You see, as it turns out, the worse Hell is, the larger God's glory is displayed. If the punishment fits the crime and the crime deserves eternal torment, how big is that crime? How big is God's glory? If the punishment for violating His glory is eternal fire of any sort, His glory must be far greater than we can imagine. And all the little glimpses here, all the biblical texts and personal experiences and deep imaginings of His marvelous glory pale in comparison to the reality.

Hell is bad. It is biblically a place of eternal torment apart from God. It is far worse than we can imagine. But it has positives. It tells us that sin is worse than we thought. It tells us that the bad news is worse than we imagined. But it also tells us that the Good News is far, far better than we dreamed, and that our God's glory is beyond comprehension. Indeed, if Hell is understandable, then God's glory isn't that big of a deal.

It is my suspicion that the problem of Hell is not a problem of justice or even a problem of biblical warrant, but a problem of a failing to see the magnitude of sin and the just reward of violating an eternal God. It appears not to be a biblical problem, but a personal one. It appears to be another case of "not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man" (Mark 8:33). You know, if God is good, if the Holy Spirit properly informed His people since He was sent to lead us into all truth, and if the Bible can be trusted.
1 Bertrand Russell, famous atheist, wrote in his essay "Why I Am Not a Christian", that since Jesus taught Hell, he was not a good moral teacher.

2 Rob Bell has gone on to reject other biblical concepts since, so I use the phrase "seem to be otherwise well connected to biblical reality" advisedly. In fact, it appears that many who start off rejecting the biblical Hell end up rejecting a lot more of historical, traditional, orthodox views of Scripture.

3 References for these descriptors are singular. Actual references are multiple. There are lots of places Jesus says these types of things.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Right to Rights

The UN has spoken. We have, since 1948, a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Don't miss the signficance. If it is a human right, no one has the right to cross it. If it is a privilege, it can be removed. It is injustice to take away someone's innate rights. So when you read through these universal human rights, you might become alarmed because most of us weren't aware that these were human rights

Take, for instance, this one.
Article 4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
We would nod and say, "Yes, this is clearly a human right." Is it? For instance, Paul classified himself as a "servant" (Rom 1:1; Phil 1:1; Titus 1:1) (as did James, Peter, and Jude). More accurately, it is a "bond-servant", a doulos, referring to, you guessed it, a slave. That would mean that Paul and James (and the like) lost their human rights. Further, if "servitude" refers to being ruled (as the Bible indicates is the case for wives) or lacking the liberty to determine one's course of action (which is often the case of every human being on the planet) or to work imposed as punishment (as in the case of prisoners), then we have a world rife with human rights violations, much of it at the behest of God.

How about this one?
Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Really? Everyone? Really?! Because, as we all know, the unborn have no right to life. As Governor Cuomo indicated, the view itself is not welcome in New York. And, seriously, exactly what is meant by "security of person", because many of us live lives without security of person. That's a violation of a basic, universal human right?

Connected to that, I particularly like this one.
Article 6. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
I like it because the whole debate of "person" was the point of Roe-v-Wade and the non-personhood of the unborn. Apparently the UN disagrees with Roe-v-Wade, right? No??

Did you know that democracy was a right (Article 21)? Did you know that Unions are a violation of human rights (Article 23)? Did you know that paid holidays are a human right (Article 24)? (No, seriously, it's in there.) Then there's this bombshell from Article 25: "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family ..." Wow! It is a right. If someone does not have a "standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family", his rights are being violated. So when Paul wrote, "If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either" (2 Thess 3:10), he was commanding a violation of universal human rights.

Look, I'm not trying to downplay human rights. I think we do indeed have some. I'm just warning about seizing more than we actually have. When we begin to view life through the eyes of entitlement and rights, we become horribly ungrateful. Then we begin redefining things. We could redefine, for instance, "slavery" as "whatever makes you feel enslaved" and it would be a violation of rights to be stuck in a workaday world and someone would owe us an income. We already redefined "everyone" to cut out "the unborn". And our sense of anger -- anger, you see, is a product of a perceived violation of rights -- will grow proportionally to our growing sense of rights. I'm not saying we have no innate human rights. I'm warning about grabbing some we don't actually have (as, for example, demonstrated by God's treatment of humans) and about allowing them to become a problem for you. Life, you see, is a privilege. You'll be much better off if you view it that way.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Idolatry of Sex

Some time ago I wrote about The Theology of Sex. This suggests that there is a theological component to sexual relations -- a "God" aspect. Indeed, I argued that there was. This suggests another possibility. If there is a theological component to sex, is is possible that a wrong view of sex results in or from idolatry?

Well, maybe.

I would suggest, however, that most of our sexual problems -- sins, lusts, etc. -- result from exactly that. Here, let me explain.

We are God's creation made to enjoy Him. As the Westminster Catechism puts it, our chief end is "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." Now, if "enjoy Him forever" is in view here and we're talking about God, it would seem to me that this would be some magnificent, all-encompassing, perfectly fulfilling, end-of-the-question enjoyment.

And yet ... we want ... something ... more. Now, how is that? Well, it has been said that humans are idol factories. We turn them out regularly. Oh, sure, we might avoid the wooden ones or the metal ones, but those other ones seem inescapable. We'll substitute self in a heartbeat. Pride, power, money, fame, lust ... oh, wait ... lust! Yes, that's one very common idol.

And that's where I was headed. According to some studies, some 43% of Internet users view pornography online. A Pew study last year found that 12% (25% of men and 8% of women) of Internet users admit to looking at porn online. Now, what that simply means is that 66% of respondents are liars. It's a problem. It's a big problem. And it's not going away. It's not even being addressed. And that's just the pornographic aspect. There's the fact that 41% of babies born in America are born to single mothers (and if you want to have a broken heart, start looking at the age and race statistics). According to the CDC, the births to unmarried women sent from 18.4% in 1980 to a peak of 41% in 2009, and our current 40.7% represents a decrease to that peak. Oh, yeah, we have a problem.

What is this problem? We've managed, in claiming to be wise, to become fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the creation. We have managed to worship the creature rather than the Creator. Sex is a prime example. What is it that is typically in view? "Sexual fulfillment". They need to "feel whole". It's about chemistry, about identity, about love. Large numbers (they tell me) have sex without even any real pleasure. There are other motivations. There is power and there is self-image. There is naughty and nice. There is personal satisfaction (as opposed to "performance anxiety"). There is connection. There are lots of reasons for the urgency of sex.

And when you think about it, most of it is either explicitly sinful (like pride and lust) or simply a refusal to worship the One who made us. We are seeking to find in sex (when you strip out the sin, obviously) what God has offered in Himself. And we seek it with such passion that it cannot be called anything but worship. Idolatry (1 Peter 4:3).

Odd, isn't it? God wants us to have Himself as our ultimate fulfillment and He gave us love, marriage, and sex as a gift. Not to replace Him, but as a gift. And we replace the Giver with the gift. We think we need fulfillment in sex and identity in sex and relationship in sex and He offered that as a gift, not as a god. Kind of makes it a problem, doesn't it? It should be a glorious gift from a heavenly Father between two people who are enjoying God and, as a consequence, can be completely satisfied with one another. Now, more often than not, it's an occasion for some sin or another. We can't fix that in our world, but perhaps it's something that we should address in ourselves.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bad News - Good News

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth (Rom 1:18).
I've long seen this verse as foundational to the problem of sin. God's wrath is in view. It is against men. The specific problem is ungodliness and unrighteousness that is caused by the suppression of truth. Recently some new insights struck me.

First, some clarification on "the wrath of God". It's not a subject we like to examine. But it is biblical, repeated, serious, and necessary, for without bad news, good news is not good. So what does Paul say here about the wrath of God?

Paul commands elsewhere, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice" (Eph 4:31). Two words that we might see as synonyms: "wrath and anger". What's the difference? Well, the first is thumos. The imagery of thumos is that of heat boiling to a peak and then subsiding, a fiery burst that then trails off and ends. Typically translated "wrath" (among other things). The second is orgē. This version of wrath refers to "long passions", to a stretched out anger. It is a lingering indignation, a disposition to anger. It is typically translated as "anger", but might be "indignation" or "wrath"1. It is this latter that is in Romans 1:18. It refers to a disposition, a character trait, a long-term underlying hatred for sin, a permanent indignation against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.

Then there are these two words. How alike are "ungodliness" and "unrighteousness"? I mean, aren't they basically the same thing? Almost. Not quite. There is a distinction. "Ungodliness" refers to a breech of God's commands as they relate to Him. In 10 Commandments terms, it would be "no other gods" and "no idols" and "no taking the name of the Lord in vain" and the like. "Unrighteousness" would be the rest. It would be the violations of God's commands on how we should treat each other. Or in terms that Jesus used, "ungodliness" would refer to our failure to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." "Unrighteousness" would refer our refusal to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt 22:36-40). Now, as a matter of natural consequence, one follows the other. That is, when we fail to consider God in our lives, our thinking, our choices ("ungodliness"), we will necessarily fail to act righteously in the rest of our behavior ("unrighteousness"). But perhaps you can see the distinction. The bad news, then, is that God's long-term, settled, righteous indignation and hatred is revealed from heaven against our refusal to honor God and our refusal to live righteous lives. That's a problem.

The other new item I just noticed (although now I think it's so obvious that I should have seen it long ago ... and many of you likely did) is this phrase, "suppress the truth." I've always thought of it as "covering up", "ignoring", "not paying attention to", that sort of thing. That's not what's in view here. The word is "suppress". It is a word that means literally "to hold down". It might be to retain something or to hold it back or even to restrain something (like sin, perhaps), but it is not passive. It is active. It is not merely ignoring or hiding the truth. It is holding it down. Truth keeps popping up and we keep pushing it back down. Truth rears its ugly head and we deny it and hide it and cover it up and say, "No, you didn't see that!" "So," they say, "does your Bible actually say that homosexual behavior is a sin?" (as an example)2. "Yes!" you will assure them. But others will say, "No! It doesn't say that at all! It isn't talking about homosexual behavior! It's ... umm ... talking about idolatry and ritual behavior! It's talking about those who act sexually contrary to their nature! It doesn't say what you think it says!" "But," we will reply, "it is unavoidable that every reference to homosexual behavior lists it as a sin and that the Church has always understood those texts to mean that it is a sin and that the language is plainly understood to speak of that behavior as sin." "No, it isn't!" Not merely ignoring -- suppressing. Or perhaps we should use the first example. "Did God say ...?" followed by "You shall not surely die ..." (Gen 3:1-3). Suppression of truth about God that led to all kinds of unrighteousness.

Of course, if you read on, you find that the truth that is first suppressed is the truth that God implants in all human beings regarding His nature (Rom 1:19-20). "So they are without excuse." That's our first problem. And if you read further, this leads to all sorts of problems, the first of which is "they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Rom 1:21) and it all spirals down from there3.

The points to remember, then. God is actually wrathful. This anger is a permanent hatred for sin, an indignation against ungodliness and unrighteousness. By these we mean the violation of God's character and a consequent failure to live correctly with those around us. This problem of God's wrath toward ungodliness and unrighteousness is not due to ignorance, but an active suppression of the truth that God has made plain about Himself. Now, perhaps, you can see why we need a Gospel, some good news. Without it we are rightly in deep trouble.

But, oh, how sweet is that Good News when you realize how bad the bad news is! To recognize yourself as rightly deserving of this divine wrath and then, justified by faith (Rom 1:16-17) ... it seems like it couldn't get much better than that. But it does!
1 It should be somewhat chilling, then, to read Revelation 14:9-10, where the angel warns that anyone who worships the beast "will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of His anger". Both are in view and both are simultaneously present. It is when both are at work that "he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb" (Rev 14:9-10). Scary stuff.

2 I know. Almost everyone, pro-homosexual behavior and con, understand that the Bible does indeed hold the position that it is sin. Most who favor the behavior do so be simply rejecting the Bible's view. I'm referencing here those who choose instead to subvert it.

3 Sin rots the mind.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Our Vines Have Tender Grapes

Talk about obscure. My wife and I recently watched a movie with that name. The movie title comes from Song of Solomon where it says, "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes" (Song 2:15). The idea is to suppress heretics before they can damage young believers, a warning about allowing false teachers among new converts. Okay, fine ... but how does that connect to the movie?

It's a 1945 movie starring Edward G. Robinson as Martinius Jacobson, a Norwegian immigrant surviving in Wisconsin circa 1944. His relationship with his daughter, Selma, played by Margaret O'Brien, is the key topic. Other primary characters include his wife, played by Agnes Moorhead, the local newspaper editor (who is almost always called "Editor"), portrayed by Nels Halverson, who loves the town but is seeking desperately to get into the war and his love interest, the new town school teacher, Frances Gifford playing Viola, who loves Editor but hates the town and longs to get away.

The story is actually fairly straightforward. Poor people during tough times. Some not so nice, others very nice. Selma and her playmate terrify their parents when they get in a tin bathtub and get swept down a rain-swollen river. They're okay. The local young girl who the teacher is working hard to get into school but can't because the girl is emotionally disturbed and has a domineering father dies suddenly. That's sad. The "rich" neighbor, Mr. Faraassen, has a sudden catastrophe when lightening strikes his new barn, burning it to the ground and resulting in the loss of his prize livestock. The townsfolk, spurred on by little Selma who gives the family her own pet calf, rise up to assist them. And the new teacher decides she loves Editor and the town.

All fairly straightforward, except for one little scene. Editor and Viola are standing off as the funeral procession for the young girl goes by. Neither takes part. Viola explains that she couldn't stand to be around the hypocrites who were cruel to the girl in life but mourn her death. "People ought to be kind to other people," she says. Editor makes a keen observation. "You were kind to her," he says. "So why aren't you being kind to the people who weren't kind to her?" She's a bit chagrined. And then the killer line. Editor goes on to say, "You're pretty quick to demand tolerance. Where do you draw the line for giving it?"

Wow! Is that kind of thinking even allowed in Hollywood? Would America hear it today? I doubt it. Is it only this fictional, small town newspaper publisher that will see the clear consistency of such a concept? Probably so.

(And I still don't know how the movie title connects to the source text.)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Life, the Universe, and Everything

The song asked, "What's it all about, Alfie?" It's a question a lot of people ask. What is the purpose ... of life, the universe, and everything? I can tell you without possibility of error that I know the answer.
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen (Rom 11:36).

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities -- all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Col 1:15-17).

So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God (1 Cor 3:21-23).

The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it (Psa 24:1).
Are you detecting a pattern? Is there a consistency here that offers a clue to the answer? Or is it just too blatant to miss?

According to Scripture, Jesus made it all (e.g. John 1:1-3; Col 1:16). Beyond that, Jesus sustains it all.
"In Him all things hold together" (Col 1:17).

"For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings" (Heb 2:10).
Did you get that? Yes, He created it all, but it wasn't a "create and then let run" approach. It wasn't a wind-up clock that He set in motion to run down. He created and now sustains. If He was not actively sustaining the universe, nothing would currently exist.

And then there's the final point. Beyond Creator and Sustainer, He is the Purpose, the owner, the point. "From Him and through Him and to Him are all things," Paul said. He's the starting point, the One who maintains it on its course, and the endpoint of all things. What's the point? What's the purpose? Why are we here? The answer in God's Word is Christ. The End.

Here's what struck me in considering all this. Jesus owns it all. All. Now, how often do we complain about what we have? How often do we complain about how we're being treated? I'm thinking primarily about God here. How often do we complain to God about how He's treating us? We're pretty sure we deserve better. We're quite confident that a child who dies or a loved one that gets cancer or a home that burns to the ground is a bad thing. Why didn't God do something? It was ours and now it's gone. That child, that spouse, that precious possession was ours and we've lost it.

May I remind you (because I need the reminder), that's not yours. It doesn't belong to you. Nor are you the point. It's not about you. And to you brave fathers and husbands and intrepid mothers and wives, you are not the one keeping it going. You may feel like it all depends on you. It doesn't. It is our natural sin-tendency to seek to be like the Most High. It is all His, it is sustained by Him, and He is the point. You and I are not. So "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt 5:16). That would be the point.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Fear of Loss

The argument is made by a significant portion of Christendom that it is entirely possible that a true Christian can lose his or her salvation. More than that, it has happened and continues to happen. This portion of Christendom argues that it is folly to hold that your salvation is eternally secured. "You 'once saved always saved' and you 'eternal security' and you 'perseverance of the saints' types are wrong ... all of you. Beware!" It was one of Rome's biggest complaints against the Reformers. It was a major division between Arminians and Calvinists. It continues to be a divisive point to this day.

I got to thinking about "losing my salvation", considering what it would take. If it actually happened that genuine believers, saved by the blood of the Lamb, were to actually have and then lose their salvation, what would that require and what would be the ramifications? I think it is no small question.

First, what is required in order for someone who has this great salvation to lose it? I don't mean on what basis they could incur such a loss. I mean what has to transpire of such a loss was to occur? There are many sides to this question.

There is, first, the clear biblical statement. If you lose your salvation, it cannot be regained. There is no means by which it can be recovered. If you hold to "conditional security" -- that salvation can be and is lost sometimes -- then you must cling to "once lost, always lost". The Bible gives no room for the warm and pleasant notion that you can repeatedly make the trip back to the throne of God for a reissuance of salvation. Instead, God's Word assures us that, once lost, it is impossible to be restored (Heb 6:4-6).

There is the "eternal life" aspect. John wrote "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life" (John 3:36). Notice the tense of the sentence -- "has". Not "will receive" or "can rightly expect". "Has". Present possession. Thus, in order for a person who genuinely believes in the Son (which isn't a simple concept) is currently in possession of life eternal, and in order to lose the salvation that faith provides, they must lose eternal life. Consider that contradiction. In what sense is it eternal if it can be lost?

There is the "forgiven" concept. On the "negative" side, John said, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). On the "positive" side, Paul wrote, "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21). So this is from two directions. On one hand our sins have been cleansed -- "all unrighteousness" -- and on the other hand we have been endowed with "the righteousness of God". Thus, in order to lose this great salvation, there would need to be some unrighteousness that "all unrighteousness" does not include that has the capability of overcoming our complete forgiveness and the righteousness of God bestowed on us. Now that is some powerful sin that can overpower forgiveness and expel God's righteousness.

Then, of course, there is the whole "adopted" principle. The Bible makes it clear that those who come to Christ -- who are "born of God" -- are adopted into His family (Gen 15:3; John 1:12-13; Rom 8:14-17; Rom 8:29; Rom 9:26; Gal 3:26; Gal 4:5-7; Eph 1:5; 1 John 3:1-2). In order to lose my salvation, I would have to become "unadopted", which, by the way, is not a word. The process would be that we would be not children of God, be adopted by God, and then be unadopted by God.

This leads to the real questions to me. The real questions to me revolve around the nature of God. I know me. I know that I have some massive capabilities to commit horrendous Cosmic Treason. Sin comes naturally to me. If it is possible to commit a sin that overrides "eternal life", overpowers forgiveness, drives out God's righteousness, and forces God to "unadopt" me, I have that capability. But what about God? What are His capabilities? We call Him (rightly) Sovereign, Omniscient, and Omnipotent, just for starters. We know that He is both Just and Merciful. So, if it is possible that I could be saved by grace through faith and given eternal life and forgiven of all my sin and endowed with the righteousness of God and adopted into God's family ... and then lose it, what does that say about God? I would say that it would represent a massive failure on the part of God. He failed to foresee my serious apostasy so is not actually Omniscient. He failed to keep me in His hand where "no one will snatch them out" (John 10:29) so is not actually Omnipotent. He failed to accomplish His own will, negating any genuine Sovereignty. And He will hold me accountable for sins He says were forgiven, canceling any sort of justice on His part. Further, Jesus Himself was mistaken when He assured us "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me" (John 6:39). The requirement would be that He will and has lost some of those given to Him. In human terms, we'd have to conclude that God is just a poor planner. He intended to save all but failed. He willed to certainly save those who came to Him, but wasn't able. He knew that some would fall away, forgave them, and then reapplied their sin to them because of what He knew they would do anyway. He adopted some who He knew would need to be unadopted later. In the end, He would not be sovereign, omniscient, omnipotent, just, or even wise. His forgiveness given would be incomplete and His righteousness applied would be inconsequential. He would not be, in many aspects, the God of the Bible.

I know humans. We are capable of miserable failure. But God is not. When you consider the magnitude of the salvation God offers, the aspects that it includes, and the nature of God Himself, think about what it would mean for that salvation to be lost. I think it's a much bigger problem than the "conditional security" view allows. Bigger, in fact, than they can handle. Is the specter of losing one's salvation a frightening one? If you have the slightest sense of what that means, it should be. It would mean losing eternal life, losing forgiveness, returning to condemnation, losing your adoption, and all without any hope of ever being able to remedy the situation. Neither God nor Man has a correction for this condition. Worse, it would mean that God is not God. Now that is a truly terrifying thing.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sanctity of Life

Speaking of conservative Republicans, Governor Cuomo of New York said this:
Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.
"Extreme", here, includes those who believe that humans have the right to life. People that believe that humans have the right to life "have no place in the State of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are." By inference, then, neither New Yorkers nor Governor Cuomo believe that humans have the right to life. This ought to get interesting the next time someone in the state gets killed, eh?

On a related topic, the war of rhetoric is disturbing. Governor Cuomo used three terms -- "right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay" -- to describe "conservatives". What he was referring to was the pro-life, those who believe in the 2nd Amendment, and those who believe that the Bible says something about the morality of homosexual behavior. I'm pretty sure that very few caught the difference in the terms, even now that I've stated the two versions. They are not the same. As a prime example, the vast majority of those who believe in the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms do not favor "assault weapons". It's not about those weapons. It's about the right to bear arms. And a large number of those who believe that the Bible holds homosexual behavior as sin are not "anti-gay" in the sense that they do not hate those people who practice such things, "anti-gay" in the sense that they despise those who have such inclinations, or "anti-gay-marriage" in the sense that they oppose "gay marriage"1. It's rhetoric. These are biased terms being used to emotionally sway an audience -- terms that are not accurate. "Pro-life" is "in favor of life", not "anti-abortion" (or "anti-choice", as Cuomo later countered). Favoring the 2nd Amendment is not "pro-assault-weapon" (or "anti-gun control" as he later "clarified"). And holding to a moral view on the behavior of a man engaging in sexual behavior with a man is not "anti-gay"2.

Be fair here, folks. It's not just their side that engages in this war of rhetoric. I'm only pointing out that using intentionally inflammatory terms to make an argument is certainly effective, but a lie. The world is under the devil, the father of lies, but let's not do that ourselves, okay? Oh, and if you think that humans have an innate right to life, you may want to move out of New York ... you know, if you believe the words of the governor there. You have no place there. (See how nasty rhetoric can be?)

It is my conviction that the biggest reason that children are shooting each other in school yards and movie theaters and the like is that they no longer believe that humans are intrinsically valuable, that all humans have the right to life. Why should they? We've taught them it's not so. We've taught them with a societal schizophrenia that says that killing babies in the womb is okay if the mother wants to, but a crime if the mother wants it to be. We've taught them by stripping moral values from their entertainment, making the bad guys heroes and violence laudable. "Right-to-life" is not what we're teaching kids these days. But I'm pretty sure that Governor Cuomo does not favor the random killing of people while he downplays "right-to-life". He wants it both ways. It doesn't work. Either the sanctity of life or not. I don't think our people will like the removal of the sanctity of life. At least, so far we don't.

1 To be clear, I am "anti-gay-marriage" in the same sense that I am "anti-unicorn". I'm not opposed to the concept. I'm saying it doesn't exist. I cannot be opposed to something that doesn't exist. Nor do I oppose the equal rights of those who call themselves "gay" to be married. I simply hold that "married" has a definition, and "same-sex" is not in it. And I am opposed to those who try to make it exist by twisting words and wrenching meaning for personal gain. But that's in all cases.

2 You need to be aware of this insidious slip of the tongue here. One side (mine) speaks of "gay" or "homosexual behavior" as an action, an activity, as always a choice because regardless of your proclivities, you always choose what you will do about them. The other side uses the very same term -- "gay" -- but does not refer to behavior. To them it is an innate condition, just like race or sex. In their vernacular, "gay" refers to the inborn condition of a group of people and their entire culture. Thus, while one side refers to an activity and a behavior, the other refers to a person and the surrounding people of similar condition. One side hates an activity and the other accuses them of hating the persons. See the difference? If there were people that were opposed to sliding down slides, one side would say "We're opposed to sliding", and the other side would say, "You're opposed to children who slide." Not the same thing.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Making a Difference

I remember years ago attending one of the Promise Keepers gatherings. There I was in Angel Stadium with 50,000 other men seeking to keep their promises made to God. They were there to become "men of integrity", to transform the world. And one would think with that many men in this Christ-centered ministry that we could not fail to have an impact.

As I watched, however, I knew immediately that my optimism was misguided. In this particular event, there was an ongoing problem. The guys on the upper tiers decided that it would be fun to see if they could make paper airplanes that could sail all the way to the field. Now, the men running the event made repeated requests and instructions that this would stop. They warned that it was a problem to the stadium and a problem to the ministry and a problem to their testimony. But the practice continued without abatement. So much for "men of integrity".

I use this only as an example. It seems to me that Christianity in America today -- genuine Christianity -- is suffering from the same problem. We ought to be making a difference. We ought to be transforming our world. We ought to be impacting our neighborhoods and our towns and our cities and our states and our country. And yet, as the election of Barack Obama to a second term illustrated and as current events show, we're practically a nonentity on the public stage, except perhaps as a nuisance or a pariah. We're not really making much of a difference.

Why is that? Robert Woodberry published The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy in 2012. Woodberry (a sociologist) wrote about how "conversionary Protestants" (CPs -- Protestant missionaries) impacted their environs by improving health, infant mortality, decreased corruption, greater literacy, and higher education (especially for women). Interestingly, he said that this was only true of Protestant missionaries. Roman Catholic missionaries and clergy from state churches did not have the same effect. What was the difference? Well, the CPs1 weren't seeking to change behavior; they were seeking to bring people to Christ. In other words, they didn't seek to change the community; they sought to make disciples.

Why, then, are we not seeing the same sort of effect in America today? I mean, we have enough Christians around. They are certainly seeking to make converts. What's up with that? I would suggest that we're largely missing the point. We are not seeking to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matt 28:20) as Christ commanded. We are seeking to improve our world. We're trying to vote in a better world and legislate in a better world and argue in a better world. The Bible speaks instead of walking in a manner worthy of the calling (Eph 4:1), of bearing fruit in keeping with repentance (Matt 3:8). We are seeking to make the mind hostile to God a friendly mind while Scripture requires that people obtain a new heart. We're looking for reform in all the wrong places.

We're headed down a path of inconsequence. We're being relegated to the "right wing" which is just inside the Exit door. It's not that we don't have something to offer. In ancient Rome when Christians were being tortured for their faith, the people were amazed by their love (you know, like Jesus said). And we can expect similar treatment by society at large (2 Tim 3:12). But let's not take the hits for trying to do what God did not tell us to do. Let's do it for living godly lives, for letting our light shine before men so they can glorify the Father, for bringing Christ to those who need Him. Scripture and history suggest that the rest will take care of itself.

1 Woodberry writes that CPs "(1) actively attempt to persuade others of their beliefs, (2) emphasize lay vernacular Bible reading, and (3) believe that grace/faith/choice saves people, not group membership or sacraments."

Monday, January 20, 2014

How Not To Argue Egalitarianism

Okay, this takes a little setup. First, there was a woman, Candace Cameron Bure, who wrote a book titled Balancing It All, where she writes, among other things, about submitting to her husband. This, of course, causes a problem in today's modern society, so she sought to clarify to the Huffington Post that she is using "the biblical definition" of submission and arguing from Scripture that it's required. Silly girl. So then Sarah Bessey, the author of Jesus Feminist and self-professed "happy-clappy Jesus follower" and "nondenominational charismatic", decided it was important to write In which I disagree with Candace Cameron Bure about "biblical marriage". Whew! So here we are, all ready to examine the faulty approach to an argument with someone defending a biblical position on complementarianism.

Bessey argues that Bure (Keep the names straight. Bessey opposes biblical complementarianism and Bure favors it.) holds a "not necessarily biblical" view. Indeed, she argues "The idea that a Man is the Head of the Home has its roots in secular ancient culture, not in the Word of God or the created order of humanity." (Bold is hers.) Not only is it "not in the Word of God", but she goes on to argue that "the idea that, as a wife, I would need to 'become passive' or smaller or somehow less in order to make my marriage work is damaging and wrong."

Okay, there's the arguments. It's not biblical, and it's damaging and wrong.

Error #1: Sarah has decided to define "submission" as something other than Candace did. Bure specified that "I am not a passive woman" in the book and in her interview with HuffPo. "Become passive" is not in view ... anywhere. Except, of course, for Sarah's view. This is a common logical fallacy called -- you know what it's called by now, right? -- strawman. Build up a false position that the other person does not hold and then explain why it's wrong. Don't argue that way.

Error #2: Sarah argues that the concept of male headship in the home is not biblical. She does so by ignoring ... the Bible. Now, to be quite fair, she doesn't actually ignore the Bible. She agrees that "Patriarchy and hierarchy within marriage were consequences of the Fall (see Genesis 3:16)." Ummm, Sarah, if you agree that it's part of the Fall, in what sense is it not biblical? Okay, moving on. She agrees that Scripture does indeed support Candace's position -- "particularly Ephesians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:18-19, and 1 Peter 3:1-2". Umm, Sarah? I'm confused. Doesn't this mean that it is indeed biblical? So here's the basis of Sarah's position that male leadership is not biblical. "Those passages of Scripture," she argues, "are, in fact, a subversion of the Greco Roman household codes in effect at the time." She goes on to argue in bold that "Paul and Peter used the codes, not because they were perspective or ideal, but because they were familiar and they were showing the church how to move within the world while not being of the world." There you have it. Peter and Paul were wrong. "Peter and Paul worked within imperfect systems because any outright challenge to the law of the land would bring persecution down upon the Church in great number. In fact, the Apostles 'advocated this system, not because God had revealed it as the divine will for Christian homes, but because it was the only stable and respectable system anyone knew about' at the time," she argues (with a quote from the Women's Bible Commentary).

If you're going to argue against a biblical position, you will need to do it with the Bible. Arguing that the Bible is not a divine revelation and that Peter and Paul (among the rest) were not divinely inspired doesn't help in making a case against a biblical argument. It might go a long way toward removing a biblical argument. Arguing that the Word of God is not the Word of God will not go far in this line of discussion. It will certainly allow for discarding the Word of God (since no such thing actually exists), but it doesn't answer a biblical position. Here, let me put it this way. Arguing "It's not the Word of God" doesn't answer the argument "This is what it says." You see?

Bessey argues for "mutual submission". She suggests that "wives submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ" and that this is part of a "never-ending, life-giving circle of mutual submission and love". I'm not at all clear in what sense she sees the Church's submission to Christ as "mutual". Nor is there any reason to agree with her argument since she has already made it clear that Paul's position (which she quotes) is not divinely inspired, but purely cultural pragmatism. Oh, and by the way, if you're going to argue against biblical positions, be careful not to ignore entirely the clearest biblical arguments, such as "I want you to understand 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) for man as the head of the home or "For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake" (1 Cor 11:8-9) for "the created order of humanity."

Skipping clear Scripture doesn't make it go away. Arguing that it isn't at all inspired doesn't make "This is what it says" false. Holding to a false position of what the term ("submission") means doesn't make the actual concept false. Bad lines of argument. Avoid those whenever you can.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Knowing God

There has always been a large segment of people who want to "know God better". They may be Christians or they may not. The current ascendant party is "the Nones", the portion that classify themselves as "spiritual but not religious." Then there is the chunk of the "religious" who certainly want to know God better. They'll pursue a variety of methods from prayer to burning candles to self-flagellation if necessary. They'll travel to the Himalayas or seek some spiritual adviser or do all sorts of gyrations to find ways to "know God better". For the vast majority, they are fruitless efforts in the end.

The question for Christians remains "Do you want to know God better?" The answer must be "Yes!" but the method is in question, isn't it? Today, as in times past, many seek some "greater enlightenment", some "higher knowledge". They'll sit in a quiet room with pen and paper in hand waiting for God to speak or follow the latest guru's "experiencing God" program. They'll go on retreats and take up yoga and do all sorts of rituals to seek to know God better. Oddly enough, for most of these Christians these efforts are also fruitless in the long run.

May I make a suggestion? May I recommend a new approach ... that is not new? It might be revolutionary, but consider. We have the Word of God. Perhaps that would be ... I don't know ... a good place to start?

It's interesting when you look at the Word what it says on the subject. Elihu in the Book of Job assured us, "Behold, God is great, and we know Him not" (Job 36:26). Not knowing God seems to be the natural human condition (John 8:54-55). Not hearing the Word of God, in fact, is more probable than the alternative (John 8:47). And yet we have Jesus saying, "I know Him, for I come from Him, and He sent Me" (John 7:29). Now there's a starting place, isn't it? We know from Hebrews that "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world" (Heb 1:1-2). Clear enough. The starting place of knowing God better would be a living, vibrant, real relationship with Christ.

But it's not that difficult to figure out beyond that. Since the Bible is the Word of God, wouldn't it make sense, if your aim is to know God better, to immerse yourself in His Word? Here, imagine this. You have a lover (someone you love, not today's vulgar "sex partner" sense). This lover is removed somehow. Away on a trip or something. So he/she sends you letters. And in your great and abiding passion for him/her, you ... glance over the letters and stash them away. Then you try to figure out how to psychically contact him/her or you enter a program intended to bring you closer to your love or ... Does this make sense? Wouldn't you start by reading these letters, poring over them, memorizing precious parts, examining every word, every nuance, every thought? Wouldn't that be a good start? At least a better start than some deep breathing exercises and a visit to a medium.

Solomon, speaking as "Wisdom", wrote, "Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them" (Prov 1:29-32). How about you? You have the Word of God in your possession (a commodity you probably don't appreciate as you should). Are you going to allow complacency to destroy you in your search to "know God better"? I can see us pounding on the door of heaven and saying, "God, why didn't you give me more?" God would reply, "But ... I wrote a lot to you. Why didn't you read it?"

The biblical concept of "knowing" isn't simple knowledge. You can get that from a cursory glance of some biblical texts. The biblical concept is intimacy. "Adam knew his wife" (Gen 4:1). It's more than head knowledge. And that doesn't come from cursory Scripture use or from some mystical connections. It comes from immersion. It comes from the renewing of the mind (Rom 12:2). It comes from the washing of the water of the Word (Eph 5:26). It comes from engaging what God has provided in the form of the Scriptures and His Son and the Holy Spirit and seeking diligently in what He has provided to know Him better. Our standard complacency in these matters does not speak well of us. Seeking alternatives does not become us. We have the means to know God better. Let's use it.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Here's one for you. Proof that our academics are finding things that improve our lives. Researchers at ASU have discovered that "people who learn to seek and grant forgiveness for harmful behavior are less angry, isolated and violent." Given our national climate of strife, conflict, and violence, this is a singularly important find.
The researchers have determined that forgiveness is a “teachable” process. It involves accountability for harm we bring to one another, and learning to be empathetic and compassionate. When community members learn that forgiveness is a viable option, they often choose to let go of bitterness, grudges and the desire for retribution. The result can be more respectful and peaceful relationships.
Shocked, I tell you. Completely shocked. That these secular researchers would make these kinds of discoveries and proceed with these kinds of projects is truly shocking. After all, wasn't it Jesus who said, "If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt 6:14-15)? And isn't it in the book of Hebrews that we read, "See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled" (Heb 12:15)? And isn't Paul who wrote twice that we are, among other things, to be "forgiving one another" (Eph 4:32; Col 3:13)? So to have this secular intelligentsia coming out in favor of genuine Christian values is just amazing to me.

Right, but amazing.

So ... isn't someone going to protest or something?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Legislating Morality

"You can't legislate morality." I'm sure you've heard it. You may have even said it. You may actually believe it. But ... is it true?

If, by "legislate morality", you mean "make people good", we're all in agreement there. You can't pass laws that will make people, internally, moral. Indeed, the only one that can alter the insides of a human being is not even that human being himself, but God and God alone. So that form of legislating morality is not possible for humans.

But can you "legislate morality" in the (most common) sense of passing laws based on morality? Is it possible to make laws that, if followed, would build a more moral society? This argument is that the State (human government) has no business passing laws that criminalize behavior based solely on a moral code. In this kind of thinking, laws against sodomy, for instance, would be not merely pointless (pointless because they are unenforceable), but wrong to have. (By the way, in the American military, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice -- the laws that govern the military -- it is still illegal to pretend to be sick to miss work ("malingering" -- Article 115), to make provoking speeches or gestures (Article 117), and to engage in sodomy (defined as "unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal" -- Article 125) among other things.) The argument is that not only is it impossible to make people good ("legislate morality"), but it would be wrong to "legislate morality" in the sense of making laws based on moral codes. Why? Here's the standard answer: "Whose moral code would you use?" You see, if you went with the Moslem moral code, for instance, we'd be abusing women and cutting off hands for theft. If we went with the Buddhist moral code, on the other hand, it would be illegal to kill a bug. "So, you hating Christians, that's why we don't believe that you can or should legislate morality."

Oh, really? So would you favor removing laws based on moral codes? What would that look like? Well, I'm pretty sure we'd eliminate historical, traditional, and religious marriage definitions in favor of a purely humanist version that would redefine "marriage" as any union between two (or more) persons. And, of course, the current laws are moving that way, which should necessarily eliminate laws against polygamy (a husband with more than one wife or a wife with more than one husband) and polyamory (multiple males married to multiple females). Do you consider that a good thing? The basis for some laws on the books appears to be a matter of consent. Laws like sex with minors or bestiality, they tell me, are primarily concerned not with moral issues, but with the ability of the "victim" to consent. So a minor cannot consent (in some sense) and an animal cannot consent and, so, it would violate their rights. Therefore, it is illegal. But is it rational? Can you rationally say that a 16-year-old cannot "consent"? That would be a tough argument, I think. And what rights do animals have regarding "consent"? I mean, I'm pretty sure they don't consent to being killed for food, so ...? So I would think that you'd prefer to have those things legalized, right? And with the suggestion that modern psychology is moving toward making "minor attraction" (a sexual attraction of an adult to a child) a "sexual orientation" rather than a sick mind, it would seem like eliminating laws against sex with minors would be a sure thing. Or how about incest laws? While the argument there is "Keep them because of health and safety concerns" (not moral values), what about a father and son, a mother and daughter, two brothers, or any other non-childbearing permutation? Wouldn't you want to legalize that?

Of course, the argument mostly is that laws should be based on "harm". What harms others? If it harms or has a good potential for harm, pass a law. If it is a "victimless crime" (as if there really is such a thing), don't. But, as I've already indicated, we're not very good at this kind of measurement. We'll classify X as bad for you and then discover that it's actually beneficial, and we'll assure everyone that Y does no harm only to find that it's killing people.

You know, if you think about it, I'd suggest that we really don't want an end to legislation based on morality. That would have another name: anarchy. What we want is legislation based on our moral code. "Make what I find morally offensive illegal, like bestiality because that's icky or Christians who believe that what I'm doing is sin. Make those things of which I approve legal. We're done!" Or, to put it another way, to the question, "Whose moral code would you use?", the honest answer would be "Mine!" Because the truth is that we all know, at some place inside, that legislating morality is good, necessary, and required. It's just hashing out the details that are problematic, and we forget that "the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked."

Thursday, January 16, 2014


You know what an add-on is. You buy a device and discover that in order to use it to its full potential, you have to buy another widget to use with it -- an add-on. Or maybe you don't need it. Maybe it would just be nice to have. Like a GPS unit that has an optional add-on of a traffic monitoring system. Nice to have. Or a car -- you know, to get you from Point A to Point B -- with a radio -- an add-on not necessary, but certainly making getting from Point A to Point B a little less tedious. You get the idea.

Have you ever noticed that it's not just in the commercial world that we find add-ons? Take something simple like friendships. A friendship is simply some connection with another human being. You may decide to add on, just as an example, a friendship between your spouse and your friend's spouse. Or you might not. You might go do things together -- you know, experiences, adventures, that sort of thing -- or your friendship might just be limited to conversations and shared interests or even locations. You may choose to stay in touch, or you may not. Add-ons.

You'll find it at church. "Yes, by all means, come to church! Oh, and if you're interested, you might want to add on an adult Sunday school class or maybe a small group Bible study. Hey, maybe you might want to add on some involvement with others, some ministry, some ... dare we say it ... discipleship? Oh, no, now we're meddling." Because, as we all know, "come to church" is the key component and all that other stuff is "add-on". Or ... is it?

Or how about marriage? What is necessary for marriage? Well, you have a man and a woman and, well, obviously, love. Throw in a little commitment (although, these days, likely not too much -- minding our weight, you know), and you have a recipe for a marriage. Now come the add-ons. Maybe you want kids; maybe not. Maybe you will have shared interests; maybe not. Maybe there will be sex; maybe not. Maybe you'll pray together; maybe not. Maybe you'll study the Word together; maybe not. Maybe, if you're really working this thing -- if you really want the deluxe version -- you just might make the biblical injunctions foundational to your marriage. Or ... maybe not. Add-ons.

It is my suspicion that there are some things that we view as add-ons that are, in fact, not merely options we might choose to include. In our upside-down world, I think it is probably likely that we are getting things turned around. We believe, for instance, that "church" is about attending a worship service and whether or not we get involved beyond that is optional. The Bible indicates that church is about stirring one another to love and good works and encouraging one another (Heb 10:23-25), about discipleship and "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matt 28:19-20), about "building up the body of Christ" (Eph 4:11-14). Odd thing ... there seems to be nearly nothing about "attending a worship service" in all that. Maybe we've got the thing turned around. We think that marriage is love and commitment between two people and much else is purely optional. The Bible indicates that the wife's job is submitting to her husband as to the Lord (Eph 5:22-24) and the husband's job is loving his wife as Christ loved the Church and cleansing her "by the washing of water with the word" (Eph 5:25-33). Strange. "Two people loving each other" seems to be a moot point in all that. "The two shall become one flesh" is certainly there, but if that's where we stop, I don't think we got the point. I think it's entirely possible that we've got some of this stuff completely turned around. What we see as "add-ons" are actually biblical definitions and what we see as definitions are ... well ... changing continually. Now, I wonder who might be behind the process of changing God's definitions and instructions into something else? Hmmm.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Someone's Gotta Pay

One of the things I've seen with Windows 8 is a host of "free games" available. You download them, play them to your heart's content, and don't pay a thing. Of course, that doesn't mean they're free. There are advertisements. There are advertisements on your broadcast television and there are advertisements on your "free games" and there are advertisements on your Facebook. Why? Someone has to pay.

You remember the story last month. Ethan Couch, 16, was given probation for drinking and driving and killing four pedestrians. Probation rather than the expected 20-year sentence. Why? "Affluenza". The boy never learned responsibility or morals from his rich parents. It's not his fault. And, of course, there was a serious outcry over this. Why? Because that's not justice. And just what is justice? Someone has to pay.

Remember Anders Breivik? Okay, maybe not the name. He's the Norwegian mass murderer who set off a car bomb at the government housing for the Prime Minister of Norway killing 8 and wounding more than 200 and then went to an island youth camp where he killed 69 participants of the camp (mostly youth) and injured 110 more in 2011. Well, they found him sane (yeah, I get that ... or maybe not) and "sentenced" him to "preventative detention" for a minimum of 10 years in what Time deemed "the world's most humane prison". Apparently even this resort living is too harsh because he's complaining. And we sit stunned. Really? The worst mass killing in Norway since World War II and they don't put him in prison? They put him in "preventative detention"? Why are we complaining? Because that's not justice. Someone has to pay.

Some always has to pay. When the needy get "free money" to help them out, it's not free. Someone had to pay. When the homeless get a "free meal", it's not free. Someone had to pay. When a thief steals something and gets away with it it's not free. Someone has to pay. And if you are wronged by another and choose to forgive them, it's not free. Someone has to pay. Sometimes it is the person obtaining the thing. Sometimes it's the person providing it. But someone has to pay.

Remember that when you wake up in the morning forgiven. Yes ... you know ... redeemed, forgiven, your sins are blotted out. When you are shown mercy by God by having your sins removed and being clothed in the righteousness of Christ. These are wonderful things, but they are not justice. Justice requires that someone has to pay. Even in the case of mercy, someone had to pay. And we who have competed with Paul as the chief among sinners, who have fought with God, have shaken our fists in His face and declared, "I will be like the Most High", who have committed Cosmic Treason in the form of sin, we who were hostile to God (Rom 8:7) and now find ourselves forgiven, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb ... we need to remember that. We need to remember it in a big way. Someone had to pay. That "Someone" was Christ. He who is forgiven much loves much (Luke 7:47). And, trust me, if you are among the forgiven, you have been forgiven much. We should avoid taking that kind of payment and that kind of mercy and that kind of grace for granted.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Feminists -- Rabid, Man-eating, and Proud of it

Perhaps you've heard about this recent story. Meryl Streep was presenting an award to Emma Thompson at the National Board of Review awards ceremony for her part in the movie, Saving Mr. Banks. Maybe you've seen it or, at least, the commercials for it. The movie is a "pat on the back" to Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) who convinced the author of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers (played by Emma Thompson), to let him make her book into a movie. Streep apparently went on a rant, complaining that Disney (who she never knew) was sexist, racist, and anti-semitic (which seems rather two-faced since she is starring in an upcoming Disney movie) (and the facts of the accusation are in question).

I'll let those who know argue about the legitimacy of her accusation and those who care battle it out. Here's what I found fascinating. In her vitriolic assault (20 minutes on an award show ... really, Meryl?), she praised Emma Thompson as a fellow "rabid, man-eating feminist". Now, that's a news flash. I mean, I've made the same kind of accusation against the modern feminists, but males and females alike felt they needed to correct me. "They're not against men; they're merely seeking equality." Streep disagrees. She classifies herself as a rabid, man-eating feminist. Her words. Not mine.

So those of you who wish to defend feminism in its current crest of a wave, you'll need to do so with Streep's admission in mind. I thought it, but she said it, so you'll have to take that up with her.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Can We be Friends with Mary Jane?

Recently Colorado and Washington opened the door to recreational marijuana use. In Colorado, sales of marijuana exceeded $5 million in the first week. That's not chicken feed. They are projecting $600 million in sales and $70 million in tax revenue in the first year. So, for an average of $520 per ounce, Coloradans can legally get stoned.

In the past, when people used to ask me, "Is it a sin for Christians to use marijuana?", the answer was easy. "Yes." Why? "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment" (Rom 13:1-2). Easy. Now they go and legalize it. So what's my answer now?

I think we all know the answer. I don't think there really is a question. I think, in fact, the fact that we ask the question suggests that we all know that there is something ... wrong ... here. So let's think it through and see if we can find a more suitable answer than, "It's illegal, so you must not."

First, beware of the careful dodge. When God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food", He did not say, "I have given you every plant for recreation." He specified "for food". While some may ingest marijuana to obtain its effects, I know of no one who actually claims to eat it (in things, because who could actually just eat it?) for nutritional value. Don't buy that false argument. It's a red herring.

So what does the Bible say about mary jane, ganja, weed, grass, pot, dope, whatever you wish to call it? Here's the straightforward, honest answer: nothing. Not a word. Not a peep. The word in not one of its forms appears a single time in the Bible.

Well, then, we're done, right? Christian liberty and all that! Pass the joint and lets get mellow!

Hang on. There is more to consider. Let's think a little more clearly (you know, before we addle our brains with the effects of the drug).

First, if you're asking, "Is it a sin for Christians to use marijuana?", there is a high likelihood that you fall in a very real, specific biblical category. I will slightly modify the text (the parts in italics) so you can see it clearly. "But whoever has doubts is condemned if he uses it, because the use is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin" (Rom 14:23). Do you doubt? Don't. Simple as that. If we're talking about a position of Christian liberty here and you have any questions, the Bible calls it sin to proceed. That should clear out a lot of questions.

But let's say you wish to think it through further. Is that all there is? No, I don't think so. In Ephesians 5 we are told "be imitators of God" (Eph 5:1). Paul goes on in that passage to describe, positively and negatively, what that would look like. We would, for instance, "walk in love" (Eph 5:2). We would not have "filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking" (Eph 5:4). We would not be partakers with the sexually immoral, the covetous, the deceivers (Eph 5:5-7). We would "try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord" (Eph 5:10). We should "take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness", but we would "expose them" (Eph 5:11). And so on. In this list we also find this as part of being imitators of God:
Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18).
"That is debauchery" (ESV). Interesting phrase. The King James says "excess". The word is asōtia and means most literally "not" (a) "saved" (sōzō). Yes, startling, isn't it? Now, don't get ruffled ... yet. We use "saved" to mean "saved from wrath" or that sort of thing. This version is any sort of "saved", as in "preserved", "delivered", "protected", "healed", that sort of thing. Asōtia is a noun that refers to dissolution, abandonment, profligacy ... is any of this helping? Here, let's see if this helps. In Titus 1:6 and 1 Peter 4:4 the word is used to indicate "riot", "dissipation", "riotous living" -- going wild.

Okay, so let's see if this makes any sense. We are to be imitators of God as His children. This includes avoiding too much alcohol because being drunk is simply a waste of time, worthless excess, just being wild. Don't do it.

If we examine the Scriptures further, we'll find that there are lots of thoughts on this concept. We are to be "sober-minded" and "watchful" (1 Peter 5:8), to not associate with drunkards (1 Cor 5:11), to avoid excess (Gal 5:21). We are to be renewed in the mind and not conformed to the world (Rom 12:2). In other words, it seems to me that clear thinking rather than "getting high" is the call for Christians.

There is one other consideration. "We are ambassadors for Christ" (2 Cor 5:20). Paul said of the Jews who claimed to honor God, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you" (Rom 2:24). Don't we already hear enough about "You Christians are no better than we are. You fornicate and divorce and sin as much as we do"?

Here's what I would conclude, then. If you doubt, don't. Unquestionably, it is sin for you. If you don't doubt, please reconsider. Is it possible to alter your mental perceptions with drugs (of any sort) in a way or for a purpose that is not "excess", "wildness", debauchery? And, as an ambassador for Christ, what is it you are representing to those around you? Now, would I classify it as sin? Well, clearly for those who doubt. For the rest I would suggest that it may be sin and would likely be folly. Just something to think about.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Thorny Thanks

Twila Paris performed the song, This Thorn. The first verse goes like this:
Thank you for this torn embedded in my flesh.
I can feel the mystery; my spirit is made fresh.
You are sovereign still and forever wise.
I can see the miracle opening my eyes
To a proud heart so quick to judge;
Laying down crosses and carrying grudges.
The veil has been torn
And I thank you for this thorn.
I was talking to a friend a short time ago and he was telling me about a difficult time he was going through. It was a genuine difficult time. It was indeed an unfair situation and most of us would have responded the same way he did with hurt and anger. But he was telling me about how he was praying and learning to set aside the hurt and anger. He made an interesting statement. "I don't ask God to take away the situation. I want Him to fix my heart."

Now, that's a perspective to consider. Imagine if you were more concerned about your heart condition than your comfort. Think what it might be like if you were more ardent for holiness than happiness. What would it look like if your strongest desire was to be what God wanted you to be at any cost? Would that change things?

I'm not saying it's wrong to ask for relief. Paul did it (2 Cor 12:7-8). Jesus did it (Matt 26:39-44). (Isn't it interesting that both of them asked three times? Just an observation.) So asking God to remove a difficult or painful situation isn't an issue. Do it. But if it is true that "He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth" (Dan 4:35) and if it is true that "all His works are right and His ways are just" (Dan 4:37) and He allows a condition to continue (you know, like Jesus prayed -- "nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."), then perhaps we can trust God to do what is right and seek to rejoice to be counted worthy to suffer for His name (Acts 5:41) and "boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor 12:9-10) and give thanks in everything (1 Thess 5:18). Maybe we could thank Him for the thorn and even gain from it. Maybe.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Why Is it?

Why is it that a father who has sex with a woman not his wife would likely do harm to the guy who tried to do the same with his daughter?

Why is it that a Christian celebrity that claims in an interview that the Bible says that homosexual behavior is a sin is fired, but the leader of the biggest segment of modern Christendom is named man of the year by Time magazine?1

Why is it that roving gangs of black men who are assaulting random white people in what has been deemed "the knockout game" are rarely arrested or named, but the one white guy that does it is arrested and charged with a hate crime?2

Why is it that we medicate kids for attention-deficit problems but encourage it in everyone else with our media, our "smartphones", our soundbites, our "tweets", our "tldr"3, in our standardization of "immediate fun now and really, really quick"?

Why is it that Christians need to be more tolerant and of other people's beliefs but no one else needs to be more tolerant of Christians?

Why is it that those who argue for "new things" like Dispensational Premillenialism (mid 1800's), Pentecostalism (1906)4, Open Theism (1994), or the morality of homosexuality and "same-sex marriage" (2000) see no conflict with Jesus's claim that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth? Did He really fail that badly?

Why is it that Christians who argue against atheists who say that Christians pick and choose what Bible verses they will follow are far too likely to not be reading their Bibles?

1 Could it be that the one who stood by the Scriptures is offensive while the one that appears to be waffling about it all is not?

2 This is not a suggestion that it is wrong to arrest the white guy and charge him with a hate crime. It is a suggestion that it is wrong to fail to do so in the other cases.

3 Too Long, Didn't Read ... or is it possible that the sentence was too long and you didn't read it?

4 While Pentecostals will likely tell you it started back at Pentecost, the doctrines and beliefs of Pentecostalism didn't take shape until 1906 at the Azusa Street Revival. Starting at that small point, Pentecostalism with its second wave, the Charismatics, and its new "third wave" in such things as the Vineyard movement, they now hold an estimated 1.1 billion adherents, including Roman Catholics, and are the largest influence in African Christianity. (Unfortunately, their influence there is often more satanic than Christian. I mean, seriously, how does a "health and wealth" preacher get by in Africa?)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Taking a Leap

If you've ever read through Hebrews, you might have noticed a strange thing. The author of the book (we aren't sure who it is) seems to ... take liberties. And it might make you wonder.

Here, let me explain. The first chapter is about how Christ is so much superior to angels.
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs (Heb 1:1-4).
That's the original claim. He is the Prime Messenger (which, by the way, was formerly the job of angels -- literally "messengers"). He is God's glory itself, God's exact nature, and the universe is sustained by Him. (I'm really curious how those who claim that Jesus is not God manage to get around such explicit language.) He is "much superior to angels".

The author goes on to make comparisons. "To which of the angels did God say ..." and he quotes various passages that illustrate how the Son is far better than any angel. And it is these passages that, if you're paying attention, seem odd.

The first (Heb 1:5) comes from the second psalm.
I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you (Psa 2:7).
The author of this psalm (we're not told who) says specifically that God said it "to me" -- to the author of the psalm. Still, quite clearly, the author of Hebrews assumes that it is spoken about Christ.

The second (Heb 1:5) is from 2 Samuel.
I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you (2 Sam 7:14-15).
This is part of the Davidic Covenant. God prevents David from building a temple for Him, but promises to provide an offspring after him who will be His Son. Of course, if you read the text, it seems to run into trouble. "When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men." We know Jesus didn't commit iniquity. Who is in view here? Likely us, His spiritual offspring. So this wouldn't be, at first glance, a reference to Christ. But the author of Hebrews assures us that it is, at least in the text he quotes.

He next yanks a verse entirely out of context and then "twists" it slightly. He says that God says, "Let all God's angels worship Him" (Heb 1:6). Here's the actual reference.
Worship Him, all you gods! (Psa 97:7)
It's the lowercase "gods", not "angels". Oh, and the reference is to Jehovah, not Christ. But the author of Hebrews sees in this text a clear reference to Christ.

He then contrasts a quote from Psalms about the angels -- "He makes His messengers winds, His ministers a flaming fire" (Heb 1:7; Psa 104:4) -- with a quote (Heb 1:8-9) from another psalm.
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions (Psa 45:6-7).
This one is really strange. It is actually from a maskil of the sons of Korah, a love song (Psa 45:1), primarily to the king. It speaks of how God has blessed the king, but it is basically about the king. It's reference to "God" in the verse is actually to David, the lord. And still the author of Hebrews sees it also as a reference to Christ.
Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but You are the same, and Your years have no end (Psa 102:25-27).
The Hebrews 1:10-12 allusion is to this psalm, but the psalm refers to Jehovah. Clearly. And still the author of Hebrews sees it as a reference to Christ.

The last one (Heb 1:13) refers to Psalm 110.
The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool." (Psa 110:1).
This one is confusing ... to the common reading. The earlier Jewish readings suggested that it really should be translated, "The Lord said in His Word" because clearly it can't be referring to David (who wrote it). I mean, David was the lord. So in what sense could David say that the Lord (Jehovah) said to his lord ... anything, since he was the lord? Jesus says that it refers to Himself (Matt 22:41-46). Apparently, then, Jesus concurs with the author of Hebrews. Not clear to those reading it before, this text is a reference to Christ and no other.

What's my point? Am I suggesting that the author of Hebrews was wrong? May it never be! I'm suggesting that the author of Hebrews was operating under divine inspiration. He was able to draw things from Scripture that, frankly, we should not. He was able to make connections that we cannot. They make sense, given as they are. And since it is divinely inspired, they are correct. But we shouldn't be making these kinds of leaps, not having that same inspiration.

What's my point? My point is that clearly the text requires that Jesus was not merely a man, but was divine. He was the Creator. He is the image of God and is God's glory. The texts that refer to characteristics of God -- Jehovah -- also apply the same characteristics to Christ. He is God. My point, also, is that the Scripture is unique. I've heard many ask, "Why didn't God make it clear?" I would argue that He has. It's in there. You just have to look and listen and pay attention. I would argue that it is as clear as it needs to be. I would argue, based partly on the illustration of this entire text, that Scripture is sufficient. That would be my point.